Lesson 6) Thoughts & Magic

I hope the Midterm wasn't too stressful! Today we'll be going over some preliminary information about thoughts and magic, though there will be no assignment this week! Take the time to relax; next week we'll have some spells to practice.

What is Thought?

To understand how magic affects thoughts, it's important to begin by discussing what thought itself is. Throughout the day everyone has hundreds if not thousands of individual thoughts. I don't just mean the thought to move a finger or take a step forward, those are mostly subconscious thoughts that we do not actively think about. For example, the next time you go to type something, consider that your fingers are already moving to the keys (or areas of a screen if you're using a tablet or phone) and pressing them without conscious direction. Some people need to look at the keys as they press them, but I imagine most can just consider what words they'd like to write and your fingers are able to automatically locate and press the right keys.

The kind of thoughts we'll be working with are actually active thoughts. These are determinations made in your mind, such as what outfit to put on or what to eat for breakfast. Our thoughts are, of course, colored by emotions and memories, even if we aren't currently experiencing an emotion or remembering something in particular. If we eat a dessert we enjoy, that happiness while eating the dessert will make it a more likely choice in the future. By that token, if we open the refrigerator and see that dessert, the memory we have of eating it before likely surfaces, at least for a moment.

That isn't to say that thoughts, memory and emotions are inextricably linked. Doing a math problem in your mind doesn't really involve much emotion (though some frustration may surface if you're no good at math). By the same token, a memory of how to add detergent to a washing machine or whistle isn't particularly laden with emotion. It's even possible to contemplate new ideas, such as taking a concept and learning more about it. The point is, our day to day mental processing and activities, thoughts, are malleable.

Thought-Affecting Magic

Magic can alter thought precisely because thought is malleable. It can be shaped, it's based on a multitude of factors, and magic can act upon those factors.

Recall last year when we discussed objects that act as magical advertisement, enticing the witch or wizard who goes near them to come inside. We called them compulsions. The person affected by the item had little choice but to be drawn in, and this is precisely why the Ministry of Magic has declared them illegal. Fancy advertising and demonstrations are one thing. They give you an opportunity to be delighted by whatever the advertisement says or the demonstration shows, but it's ultimately your own free will to enter and make a purchase.

Most magic that impacts thoughts is not very friendly. There are some good uses for thought magic, such as a charm to help overcome an addiction or for therapeutic purposes for some mental illnesses. This type of magic is applied medically to help with some problems, though in those cases a long-term potion treatment is usually advised because the potion's dosage and effect can be strictly regulated.

The Imperius Curse being cast on a goblin at Gringotts during the Second Wizarding War

The most notorious thought affecting spell is the infamous Imperius Curse. Long used by dark wizards and their minions, the Imperius Curse allows its caster to control the thoughts of the target, overriding the typical process that most emotions and memories would have on the victim. The spell is so devious because it doesn't just work for a few minutes or make someone do what they normally wouldn't. A victim of the Imperius Curse normally acts normally around most people until the spell dictates otherwise.

Have you ever had that almost-irresistible urge to eat a cookie or some other snack just before dinner. Your rational mind tells you it's not good for you and it'll ruin your appetite, but it's your favorite dessert! The Imperius Curse is somewhat like that, but much, much stronger. Without a great deal of will and mental awareness it's extremely difficult to fight the curse off at all.

Of course, part of an effective casting is understanding how the spell works. An experienced wizard can cast the Imperius Curse and maintain it over a fairly long period of time without the victim realizing they have it nor acting suspiciously. Someone who has a faltering will, doesn't really want to rob someone of their own free will, or isn't very talented cannot produce such results. Their victims have obvious signs of fighting the spell or symptoms, such as glassy eyes, that make it apparent that something is off.

Thoughts That Affect Magic

It's important to also spend a few minutes considering the reverse: how thoughts shape and affect magic. Some spells require a memory or emotion for effect, but all spells require some level of thought. The caster's thoughts are, after all, what allow them to cast spells in the first place. The first thought is what effect the caster wants to accomplish, such as lighting a campfire or mending a chair. Then, the right spell must be considered for the job. In our campfire case, perhaps the Fire-Making Charm is suited for the task. Next comes the incantation, Incendio.

The caster's thoughts focus on what they need to accomplish, their wand moving in a practiced gesture as the words tumble from their lips and their mind directs the magic at its source. That magic comes streaming through the caster's body, down their arm, through their wand, and with the combination of incantation and wand movement is shaped into the desired effect, a small stream of fire that connects with the wood and sets it ablaze.

As you've learned more charms over the last several terms, you've doubtless begun to do these steps almost subconsciously, which is a large part of why spells are assigned as practice. Magic is just like any other skill; the more you practice the better you become. I bet if you (safely) attempted the Fire-Making Charm now, you'd be able to produce much more flame than you had been able to before, and likely without even much practice. As you consider the spell and its components, gathering up the power and concentration to cast it should be almost second-nature. As you advance in years the spells we discuss do grow more complex and difficult, of course, to show the intricacy of the more powerful spells. It never hurts to keep an arsenal of easy-to-cast spells at the ready just in case.

Good news for you today students. There will be no homework! You all deserve a little break after the midterm. Next week will very likely have some review questions from this week, however, so be sure you're prepared.

Image credit: Harry Potter Wiki

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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