Research Related to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series, and Kinoko Nasu’s Fate Series
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In literature, the projection of a subject like magic can be difficult especially in the modern age. However, authors who do manage to show the “link” between the worlds of science and magic, or the fact behind fiction, knows of why it is necessary for the sake of “framing” the story. This is the case of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter (H.P.) series, and Kinoko Nasu’s Fate Series. Within literature the origins of magic is often connected to Western or Greek/Roman myths. It is from these origins that every author that delves into the fantasy genre pursues the topic of magic. Based off of their general understanding, they relay thier depictions in their own unique way to their audience. Both stories share the theme of magic once being apart of the world yet at some point prior to the modern era it disappears and fades into myths and legends.
The first subject that separates the two the concept of how an individual is able to use magic within a seemingly non-magical world. For H.P. it is the the “Magic Gene,” a genetic trait that allows an individual to use and perform magical feats. These are treated similarly to the relationship between dominant and recessive traits within DNA attributes. This is how individuals with magical abilities are born and how it is possible for a magically gifted child to be born from non-magical parents. If a Wizard, a male born with the gene, and a Witch, a female born with the gene, conceive a child they would most likely be born with the trait, and if two non-magical parents have an ancestor(s) who had the trait it is not outside the realm of possibility for them to have a magically gifted child but the odds are much lower when compared to the former scenario.
For the Fate series it is much different, rather than it simply being a genetic trait, ones magical abilities are governed by the “Magic Circuits” within one’s body. This trait is akin to a bodily organ only rather than it being present within the body itself, it manifests connected to a person’s soul a form akin to circuits. People in the world are born with different numbers of circuits, and the more a person has the greater their magical ability. Those who practice and use them to perform magical feats are referred to as a magus. It operates similarly to a genetic trait, as if one person was born with a large amount of circuits and they have a child with another person with a large number of circuits their child will inevitably be born with a large number of circuits.
In association to how a person is able to perform magic, it is important to know how each views and defines magic within their respective worlds. In Harry Potter, it is defined as “a supernatural force that can alter the fabric of reality at fundamental levels,” this allows human beings to do what they normally cannot do. This includes the indirect manipulation of the natural elements, influence over non-corporeal or intangible beings and other such feats that would otherwise be impossible without “magic.”
The general idea surrounding the wizarding world is that it exists to keep the non-magical separated from the magical and Wizards and Witches have a duty to maintain the border between the two. To do so they need to be able to effectively utilize their magical abilities in whatever field of magic an individual pursues, such as research of magical arts, or the care of magical creature within their world. In Kern-Ulmer’s Article, The Depiction of Magic, on page 291, it talks about how magic was described as a force that “shapes the world’s on going life.” and how the power of a magician is based on certain energies that can be activated and used against other energies, such as the forces behind natural catastrophes as well as far less significant occurrences in the world.”(The Depiction Of Magic, 291) From this depiction of magic it can be perceived of a magicians abilities to separate one world from another, for probable reasons of maintaining existing beings and to keep them away from those incapable of defending themselves from them.
However, while there were those who wanted to use their powers for other, their were also those who wanted to use it for themselves. On page 302 of the article, The Depiction of Magic, it says Magic was divided into two groups, good/white and bad/black, based off of their actions and acts of religious worship. “Good or ‘white’ magic could be used for destructive purposes under particular circumstances involving the punishment of the wicked. This is in opposition to bad or ‘black’ magic, which is invariably used against innocent people.”(The Depiction Of Magic, 302). H.P. plays on these interpretations giving readers the distinction between the two “groups” and their actions within each of them, namely while one would heal and protect the other would kill and destroy.
Summarized, the magic of H.P. world “…was based in volition; that is, a person used magic to achieve a desired outcome. While magic might combine mechanical and ideological processes within it, volitional causation was not in principle incompatible with these processes.”(N,C&A, 30)
Meanwhile in Fate, they define their brand of magic as “mage-craft” as what they do can be replicated by scientific means. The reason they do not refer to themselves as “magicians” is because true magicians can perform feats that they compare to miracles and incapable of being replicated by any scientific means. For example, if a spell could create a fiery explosion, the same result could be achieved by using the appropriate amount of explosive materials to replicate the explosion. Anything that cannot be replicated using scientific means is typically referred to as either sorcery or “True Magic,” this includes time-travel, and creating matter out of nothing.
A connection to the Fate brand of magic is found in the article the Depiction of Magic. It states that, “In general, magic in antiquity is based on a theory of sympathetic relationships in the world…This theory holds that all events in the cosmos happen either as the result of sympathy or antipathy.”(The Depiction Of Magic, 291) Both the worlds of Fate and H.P. incorporate a similar line of thinking in regards to their presentation of magic. Basically it is like Newton 3rd law, “for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.”
For the Magi of Fate, the purpose of studying, researching, and practicing magic is for one singular objective to reach what is known as the “Root” of the world. Simply put the “Root” is the origin of everything, essentially God, but rather than being a person, God is a place, within which lies untold knowledge and power. This is based loosely on magic’s connection to the divine in Greek and Roman origins. This is brought up in the Article Nature, Cause and Agency, (N,C&A) “The view that magic is intrinsic to nature can also be found outside of the Hippocratic authors and Plato, of course. In literature and myth, for example, the common trope of divinities giving magical aids to mortals, such as Hermes to Odysseus, Aphrodite to Jason, and so forth, seems to acknowledge that magic has both a natural and a divine origin.”(Nature, Cause, and Agency, 28)
Furthering the connection to the Divinity, the article N,C&A also talks about how the divine, operated according to the principle of actio in distans…” Actio in distans or, “Action at a distance is typically characterized in terms of some cause producing a spatially separated effect in the absence of any medium by which the causal interaction is transmitted.”(French) The “Root” is the origin of everything, and thus is treated as a God-like figure.
Next is what separates one who is magically gifted from one who is not. In H.P. what shapes and develops a wizard’s and witch’s magical abilities is based around their knowledge of magic, their experience using it, their focus when using it, and their overall talent. They need knowledge in order to understand the purpose of the spells they are trying to use, its application, and its impact on the world. Through practice it is possible to refine one’s control over a certain spell and temper it with their concentration towards a desired result. Wizards and witches are all born with an innate talent, and those who are have often had an easier time using/performing spells than others.
In Fate, what generally governs over a magus’s ability to use magic is the number of circuits they are born with and their “quality.” To explain, in order to use magic they need to use two fuel sources in order to perform magic, Mana and Prana. Mana is the ambiate magical energy that exists within the world, and Prana, or Od, is the magical energy that exists within an individual. To perform any spell a caster traditionally needs both, but depending on a casters abilities it is possible to use either one or the other. This is where quality comes into the picture, a circuits quality is based on their ability to process mana and prana, similar to water flowing through a dam, or in this case dams. Without proper control over the prana flowing within one’s system the end result could lead to failure to properly cast a spell, meaning it does not matter how many you have, unless it can be properly controlled it means nothing.
Identification of individuals with Magical abilities is another important factor when creating a magical world. In H.P. they are simply referred to as wizards and witches based off of their genders. This has its origin to the past during a time when magic was much more commonplace within the world. In the article The Depiction of Magic, on page 298, It talks about Witches and how they contrast to men, compared to rabbis (A jewish scholar/ teacher/ religious leader) in rabbinic literature, and other additional concepts. It talks about how witches often practiced magic and made incense offerings and how they were done for “idols” or other beings of worship. Other additional facts include how in rabbinic literature they were “portrayed to having limited knowledge” and often ignorant and just as how the rabbis possessed “positive charisma” witches possessed “negative charisma.” “Consequently, the rabbis considered themselves to have far more power, even in the application of magic, than witches…Witches in rabbinic literature could exert unusual influences over other people as well as over certain forces, such as demons.” (The Depiction Of Magic, 298)
In Fate, users of the magical arts are referred to as a magus, or magi, basically a human practitioner of Magecraft, the magical science, as opposed to a Magician, who is capable of bringing forth true miracles that are impossible to be reenacted by scientific means. In the article The Depiction of Magic, on pages 295 and 296 it says “The term ‘magus’ is explained to mean either ‘sorcery’ or ‘SHD, ‘blasphemy.’ The ‘magus’ in this passage may be a pagan priest.” With this is mind it is understandable for the magi of the Fate world to refer to themselves as so, exactly because they are not true sorcerers, and are incapable of performing “True Magic.”
Next up is the concept of rituals, In both worlds rituals are performed as acts of magical feats. In the 3rd book of the Harry Potter Series, there is a lesson where he performs a simple ritual of reading tea leave to predict the future, akin to Scrying. According to Nelson in his Narcissus Article, “Scrying is a means of gaining knowledge preternaturally characterized by falling into a trance by staring at a fixed point until visual (and possibly auditory) hallucinations are experienced.”, With the use of medium such as a reflective surface, or crystal ball.(365) However, in the magical world instead of it being a form of scam, it is instead an actual art to seeing into the future.
In contrast, rituals in the fate World are much more grim and in a word “dark.” Their means of performing any ritual is through the act of making a sacrifice, this could range from human being to small animals. The effects could range from reforming pre-existing matter to accomplishing a desired result.
Further regarding the topic of rituals, in the article The Depiction of Magic, on page 293, it says, “If ritual is the language of religion, it is even more so of magic.” In both the worlds of Fate, H.P. and the article they place emphasis on the pronunciation of words and phrases, stating that if magic is to be properly words must be, “cited in the proper order and with the right emphasis; rhythmic or metric forms have a greater effect.” If they are not properly said the spell will not properly work and either fail or not produce the desired result.
The last, and most important, factor to consider when shaping a world of magic to exist alongside a world of science is, what caused the two to become separated. Properly establishing the environment is essential for the setting of the story.
In H.P. the separation occurred after rise of persecution of those with magic in the past. Forces that likely played apart would include religious forces, many of the overly devout would argue that either such powers belonged to God, or that they obtained such abilities by either collaborating with demons or becoming the “bride of the devil.” In the article The Depiction of magic, on page 293, it says how the magic was viewed as dangerous in the eyes of the rabbis because of its potential “religious nature” which threatened their religious mindset. (293) To prevent this from going on in the H.P. world they decided to hide the magical world away from the eyes of non-magical beings or Muggles, and over the years kept the magical world secret until it vanished from people’s memories and fell into myth and legend. To this end, laws and precautions are constantly taken in order to make sure no one is none the wiser.
In Fate it is a bit more complex. Around the time of the Middle Ages, and the rise of technological advancements practitioners of magic during the time foresaw the decline of magic as part of the world. Thus it was decided that the families of practitioners would drift apart from society and allow the existence of magic to drift into memory. To ensure its secrecy the mages of old came together to form what became known as “The Mage’s Association,” an organization of mages committed to the continued development of magic and the concealment of magic. To this end they will make sure that there is absolutely zero chance of information regarding magic reaching the “real” world.
Both stories create an ideal setting in which the realm of the unknown exists alongside the real world, acting alongside them yet separate from them. The authors take the time to consider the necessary details in order to properly assemble the setting for their stories. Details like this may be small or at time forgotten but they are vitally important nonetheless, regardless of their origins.