Lesson 2) Surface-Layer Physical Charms

Welcome back to Charms! It's good to see that everyone has been practicing. I have seen many new tattoos on our strolls around the castle but only a handful of injury reports from the infirmary! Let's aim to keep that number low throughout the year; our nurse isn't pleased to see careless spell trauma after all.

As you know, this year we will be focusing on spells that affect you (and by extension, humans) personally. In Lesson One, I introduced you briefly to the Tattoo Charm. If you haven't quite managed to make that work for you yet, come and visit me during office hours. I am happy to help you figure out where the block is before you move onto more advanced spells. Remember: it's important that you stay on top of your studies this year as backfires with the charms we'll learn can be rather dangerous. You’re not just softening or levitating the wrong thing; making a mistake while casting charms this year can be rather painful or embarrassing.

Charms of the First Degree

We began with the Tattoo Charm because it's a relatively simple spell overall despite appearing to be very complex (though the skilled witch or wizard can certainly make very intricate designs). It only affects the skin and its range is limited to the epidermis (the outermost layers of your skin where there are no nerves or blood vessels to get in the way). This layer of skin is renewed and replaced often, which results in the tattoo’s magic quickly breaking down. To avoid this, Muggle tattoos insert ink into the lower layer of skin, the dermis, where the marks are permanent. This kind of surface-level-only magic is sometimes referred to as First Degree physical magic. It only affects the surface of the body and even at its most malevolent (for example, the Boils Hex -- which we do not condone), such spells will only go skin deep. First Degree spells are the easiest to cast on yourself or any other living thing for this reason.  

It’s important to understand the differences between non-living, inanimate objects and living material. Most inanimate objects are fairly simple at their basic level (the molecular level), at least compared to living things. A chunk of iron is composed of a single element, wood is mostly just repeating strings of a single cell called cellulose and no longer living once removed from the tree, and the majority of each type of stone you’d find is mostly composed of a few materials with some others sprinkled in. Comparatively, a single cell (and your skin is made up of millions of them) has thousands of different types of molecules constantly moving about. This creates very subtle shifts in how magic flows throughout your body. To cast a spell on a living thing, you have to overcome the obstacle with more focus and willpower. This is just for the surface of the body. When you start digging deeper you have to take multiple types of cells into account as well as things like helpful bacteria that live within you. You don’t have to keep this level of complexity in mind for every spell, but it’s important to know the reason why it’s harder to cast these spells than anything you have cast before.

As previously noted, natural and living things all have a little bit of magic within them, even if it’s just a small amount, and that can affect the way your magic interacts with that thing. Every living thing has magic of its own "flavor" and it can interact favorably or unfavorably with your own power. For dangerous curses, perhaps it's sufficient to throw enough power behind your spell that it will have the desired effect, but for gentler, subtler casting, it's very important to account for the interaction of magical energies. A living target's magic, however weak (even Muggles and other non-magical beings do have some amount of magic in them, even if they can’t use it), will need to be considered to cast a spell upon them properly. Usually this means redirecting the spell, using the being’s own energy, or suppressing it, to achieve the desired effect. As you practice casting spells on various types of lifeforms, you’ll grow accustomed to the differences within each and the subtle mental cues that lead to the best results when you cast a spell.

It’s also important to note that magic works easiest and best on a target that is willing! When a mindful beast or being resists your spell, the magic within it responds by trying to protect the target and stop the spell. You may find spells cast on a willing friend easier than on someone who is nervous, but working with friends can make things more difficult as well. If you’re afraid your spell will fail or hurt you then the spell will be that much more difficult to cast successfully. Confidence is key! If you're hesitant to cast a spell upon yourself, your body will react accordingly and try to protect itself from whatever spell you cast. Remember that most of the spells we’ll be practicing this term shouldn't be very painful. You may end up with pink hair or twitchy legs, but Madame Pomfrey or I can set you right in a jiff. I've spotted many of you practicing with friends, and while it’s alright to practice with someone else, your only target this term should be yourself! You wouldn't want to come to resent someone for accidentally burning you, and practicing casually on others can lead to the sort of careless mistakes that you need to avoid.

Spells To Practice

These are again some fun and useful charms that can add a little spice to your wardrobe!

The Color Change Charm
Incantation: Colovaria (co-loh-VA-ree-ah)
Wand Movement: Point at target.
Willpower: Moderate; Depending on the size of the object you're coloring.
Concentration: Low; Make sure to keep the color you are wanting in mind. If you begin to lose focus on the color you want before the entire object has changed, you may end up with a different color, or sometimes a sort of muddled brown.

This is the most basic charm for changing something's color, and works on pretty much everything non-living, including your hair and nails if you’re careful. Since it’s important to maintain eye contact when casting, try starting with just the tips of your hair.  This spell, though basic, is widely considered to be the best for changing colors, even though it fades after a few days (depending on the concentration and willpower used).

The Flashing Color Charm
Incantation: Colovaria Revolvere (co-loh-VA-ree-ah re-VOL-ve-ray)
Wand Movement: A small circle with your wand upright in the air (as though twirling a lasso) ending with pointing your wand at the target.
Willpower: Moderate.
Concentration: Low; Like the Color Change Charm, loss of focus will probably result in off mixing of colors. Make sure to keep the colors you chose in mind, clearly and in the correct order.

This charm allows you to cause something to change colors. When cast correctly, the object will cycle through the chosen colors, for example blue to green to purple to blue. As a variation of the Color Change Charm, it's very similar, but a little bit more advanced. When you start out, the color changes will probably be rather abrupt. As you practice, you can start to make the colors fade  into one another and also gain control over the length of the changes. With a bit of finesse, you can control the pattern and speed of the changes too -- for example, the new color originating from one corner of an object and spreading out, or appearing in spiral patterns -- which can give some pretty spectacular results! It's best to start with two colors, in starkly contrasting shades so that you can be sure to visualize the different colors very clearly. More similar colors -- cycling through dark to light, for example -- can be harder to maintain consistently. Try to work your way up to five or so colors before Lesson Three! Note that the object will quickly return to its original color once concentration is lost.

The Tinting Charm
Incantation: Tingerus (TEEN-jeh-roos), followed by the Latin word for the color closest to what you're looking for (see list below).
Wand Movement: A zig-zag motion directed at the target. For a fading effect, the back-and-forth motion should be larger where the color should be more saturated, getting smaller as the wand moves toward the fading color.
Willpower: Somewhat low.
Concentration: Low; It takes a few passes to reach the desired shade, and this color should be in mind. Keep the color of choice, at its most saturated (brightest, non-faded), in mind.

Color Words:

Prasinus (PRA-sin-oos)


Aterus (AH-tehr-oos)


Caeruleus (say-ROO-lay-oos)   


Albus (AHL-boos)


Flavus (FLAH-voos)


Ravus (RAH-voos)


Ruberus (ROO-bear-oos)


Purpureus (pur-PU-ray-oos)   


This is actually a less powerful version of the Color Change Charm, but many witches find it a bit more useful because it affects living things and it offers a bit more control. The Color Change Charm usually results in a fairly saturated color, but the Tinting Charm is more like watercoloring, with each pass of the wand and casting of the spell adding another subtle layer of color to the previous one. It's a less powerful spell, but is used more often for temporary hair dying. Because it just tints the hair, instead of completely covering the original color, you'll find that your natural highlights and darker streaks are still there, adding a sense of realism.  It's also easier to get some neat fading effects using this spell. The downside is that this works more like Muggle hair dye, so trying to tint your very dark hair a very light blue might not result in much except for a bit of a shine in direct sunlight. It also takes a bit longer to cast, since it often requires multiple passes.

This charm also works on nails or even skin. This is also one of the few charms that interacts favorably with the Tattoo Charm we discussed in the last lesson. If you concentrate on a tattoo created with the Tattoo Charm as you cast this spell, you’ll be able to change just the color of the tattoo. If you’re precise enough, you can even make neat patterns like tiger stripes or leopard print!

This charm will fade after a few days, depending on the focus and willpower used to cast it.

Examples: Tingerus Flavus - Turns the target a yellowish hue. Tingerus Albus - Turns the target a whitish hue. Note that the list above is not exhaustive, and Witches and Wizards who use this spell frequently will take it upon themselves to memorize a much longer list.

The Concealer Charm
Incantation: Velo (VEY-loh)
Wand Movement: Press the tip of the wand onto the point to be concealed (make sure it's clean!).
Willpower: Low.
Concentration: Low; this is a quick spell to cast, but if you lost your concentration, you could wind up causing further irritation. Visualize what the area should look like blemish-free.

The Concealer Charm is more advanced than the others, but many students find it more useful day-to-day. Though closely related to the Color Change Charms above, this spell is targeted toward the skin instead of hair or clothes. Rather than changing your skin any color of the rainbow, it will change the color of the targeted spot to your natural skin color based on the shades nearest to the region you’re concealing. This will work for pimples, cold sores, small cuts or scars (although there are better and more permanent ways to heal those), moles or freckles, small sunburns or, as you advance in your abilities, awkward tan lines and permanent tattoos.

Be very careful with this spell! Most of your targets will be on your face, where a backfire will always be more dangerous. At best, you'll end up irritating your target with sloppily-applied magic and making it more apparent rather than less, or accidentally turning it a completely different color. At worst -- well, let's just say you don't want to end up in St. Mungo's instead of the infirmary. Any magic pointed at yourself can result in burns, bruises, or disfigurement, and I have it on good authority that Madame Pomfrey is less than gentle when treating injuries that result from negligent casting. Never practice these spells alone!

All four of these spells will probably fade within a few minutes the first time you cast them. As you improve your casting, willpower, and concentration, their duration will naturally increase. The Concealer Charm, in general, will last about a day at most. The Color Change and Tinting Charms can last three or four days, but there are other spells one can use to "set" the color when more permanent changes are desired.  

Practice, practice, practice! You must be able to successfully cast these and the Tattoo Charm before the next lesson. If you’re struggling at all, don’t hesitate to let me know, so that I can help you! The spells we learn next class will be considerably more advanced, so it’s important that you understand this set first! I look forward to seeing you all next week!

Charms Year Three will delve into the body and mind. We will spend the year discussing personal spellcasting and how spells can be cast upon other willing people. We begin with physical magic, discussing healing briefly, and then explore how Charms can affect the mind. Each lesson will include spells to practice and there will be a midterm and final exam.
Course Prerequisites:
  • CHRM-201

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