Lesson 7) Magic Carpet Ride
Welcome students! We can put away the broom polish today! Instead of our normal fare, we’ll be talking about magic carpets, as I’m sure you can tell by the richly embroidered textiles around us. Those of you with very keen minds may be wondering why and how a former Ministry official is teaching you how to use these when I clearly stated that they were a form of illegal magical transport back in the second lesson. The answer for that is simply that I oversimplified.
As magic carpets were produced right up until the mid 50s, anyone can own a flying carpet as long as they don’t intend to use it illegally. It’s the improper use that’s the issue. In fact, the United Kingdom is one of the few nations that regulates the use of flying carpets, whereas in other countries (notably those in Asia) flying carpets are completely acceptable forms of transport. What this all boils down to is that, first of all, carpets are a valuable form of transportation to learn if you plan to travel, live, or work in foreign areas, and that carpets (as long as they are used privately) are permitted. As with most magical things, the only problem is if Muggles see them, which means most magical residences cannot use them. However, Hogwarts is free to use them on the grounds, as our property is quite expansive and protected with many Muggle-avoiding charms. So, feel free to take advantage of this rather rare opportunity to learn about a different form of airborne transport today!
History of Magic Carpets
I suppose the next place to start is to talk about the history of these luxurious forms of transport, how they started, and why they were outlawed here in the UK. Let’s start at the beginning, then, shall we?
The broad picture of magic carpet development over time is actually quite similar to the story of broomstick evolution. Somewhere before the start of the Common Era (also known as 1 AD), tales of enchanted carpets began to circulate and appear to have been based on actual experimentation and use, rather than fanciful tales about the basic idea that it might be possible. It can be quite different to sort through all the ancient accounts and myths, though, so it is hard to know for certain, as tales of the idea of magic carpets existed a bit before this.
But I digress! In these early years (and in fact for the first roughly 500 years) flying carpets were much like early brooms. Inconsistent and often unreliable carpets were the norm; they were only as good as the knowledge and experience of their creators, and each one was completely unique. There is some evidence to suggest that more famous or revered individuals (royalty, mainly) did employ or pay others to make more elaborate carpets than they could make themselves, but this was not a widespread practice and there was certainly no mass production, or even production for anyone else other than the one particular royal.
This may have been what happened in the case of Tupi the Maker. Also known as Itzani Ibn Prachi, or shortened to Itazipcho, it is noted in several documents that Itazipcho was a great inventor and thinker. By all accounts, he had hundreds of partial inventions attributed to his name (in some cases he co-invented something, in others, he got part of the way there, but never saw the project all the way to completion). This, as you can guess, includes the magic carpet! By 500 C.E. (where records about his life and inventions taper off), he had no fewer than 200 spells attributed to him and at least 50 different kinds of magically enchanted items. Of course, like many inventors around the world, simply being the first to record his ideas does not mean that idea was his alone, and his idea has certainly been improved upon throughout the years, but we’ll get to that in just a moment.
By that token, it is unclear if he was contracted by royalty to create a superior carpet in the hopes of competing for prestige with other nearby empires or if he stumbled upon it on his own. In the latter case, some suggest he may have meant the carpet to serve as some sort of emergency transport for the injured, but sadly we will never be sure. While we may not know if the magic carpet turned out exactly the way he’d planned, many today are certainly happy with the result. From more intact parts of his notes, we know that the spell he used to bring carpets whooshing to life differs very little from one of the spells used in animating carpets today. This spell, Samunnam, or the Ascension Charm, is just one of many used by manufacturers in the Middle East and other parts of Asia.
However, as with any newly minted invention, there were a few oversights and snags. One of the most problematic of them was that climbing onto an already undulating strip of fabric was no mean feat, and often caused minor injuries like trips, falls, and sprains. The spell as it is used now is modified by many others that delay its rise into the air, but ancient Asians had no such advancements to help them. Because of this, many modifications were attempted. However, none were quite so famous (and none of their modifiers were quite so famous either) as Ali Wabishini, who added his two Knuts almost 500 years later at the turn of the first millennium His most notable accomplishment was the Suspending Spell, thus called because it kept the carpet completely still for a moment or two, just enough time for people to clamber onto the carpet and get seated. He later went on to invent cosmetic spells related to magic carpets, such as spells that enhanced their ornamentation, changed their color, even one that turned the carpet invisible (though as modern day Concealment Charms are much more effective, this is not his true claim to fame). However, it is unknown if he benefited financially from these spells, performed them himself on other’s carpets, or taught them to people. But we do know that this brief moment of suspended animation was inspiration for the delayed activation in the spells that work on magic carpets today
Opening the UK’s Eyes
Now that we’ve covered a bit of not-quite-ancient history, we will be talking about something much more recent, though no less important. We turn our attention to the year 1995, at which point magic carpet use in public (or otherwise non-sheltered areas) became illegal in the United Kingdom.
As you may expect, outlawing an otherwise harmless form of magical transport was not on a whim, and was instead due to many egregious breaches of the International Statute of Secrecy, culminating with an incident with an Erumpent, and a not-too-small fire. Curious? Excellent! Let’s get on with it.
We open on the strange summer of 1954. Children had just returned home for the holidays and strangely, this summer gave birth to a baffling trend. There had been an enormously dramatic rise in incidents with flying carpets, typically among school-age children attending Hogwarts. Despite the comparative non-popularity of the flying carpet, these youngsters were found out and about, usually at night, zipping around the bustling boroughs of London and beyond. While typically nighttime flying was safest, these carpet riders would often head directly for houses, hanging around under window sills and often attracting the attention of the children inside! As you can imagine, it was an ongoing catastrophe and led to a general wariness of the enchanted items. After all, the sanctity of our secrecy is paramount.
On one particular night in the small parish of Bremilham, this negative opinion was permanently fixed when, suddenly, the lazy silence of the warm country evening was broken by loud shrieks and trumpeting bellows. A pair of recent graduates from Hogwarts, Opal Malone and Ambrose Brabble, both Muggleborns, had enchanted the Brabble family’s rather impressively large dining room carpet to fly over the nearby countryside, transporting a hippogriff, a capuchin monkey, and a Crup. Due to the ruckus caused by the wild animals and the strain it took to keep everything aloft, the pair lost control of the carpet and crew and crashed right into a barn hosting the town’s inhabitants for their annual elderflower festival. Upon impact, the Erumpent’s horn came into contact with the side of the barn and, well... those of you keen on magical creatures will likely have a vivid mental image of what happened next. Fortunately, there were few casualties for such a wild incident, due to the quick thinking of the two former students and one wizard on the scene, but the damage was done.
It is unknown what these youths were flying off to accomplish (or, indeed, where and how they procured an Erumpent), as they never did confess, opting to serve their full time in Azkaban. But whatever the goal, it was the last straw for the United Kingdom’s magical population. The next morning, the Ministry was swamped with protests about the danger of flying carpets, and it was mere weeks until it became an official Ministerial decree; the carpet was defined as a Muggle artifact by the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects and therefore illegal to enchant. In the time that has elapsed since 1954, there have been some calls to lift the ban, however, none have been successful.
Finally Taking Flight
And without further ado, we finally come to the hands-on portion of the lesson! Fortunately, maneuvering a magic carpet is much the same as flying a broom. You lean forward to speed up, lean backward to slow down. Lean to the left to turn left and the opposite to go right. You pull up on the front corners to ascend, and push down on the corners to descend. And, as before, your intent and visualization aid all of these endeavors. The main area where people run into problems, though, is the fact that everyone on the carpet (at least those with magical ability) must do this in tandem. So if one leans right while the others lean left, your carpet will likely judder and zigzag. To this end, each carpet should have one person in charge of “directing traffic,” so to speak. You can either all copy what that person is doing, or they can call out directions, such as forward, left, or speed up, or slow down.
The one thing I will insist on is no standing. If I don’t make this clear, there always seems to be one a year who thinks this would look cool, but I assure you that a fractured collarbone and snapped wrists are not as fun as you might think. Standing on a magic carpet, even when it’s not actively flying around, is incredibly difficult as evidenced by the need to create the Suspending Spell. It’s a bit like trying to ride a feisty flying eel. This is particularly important as you’ll not only be putting yourself in danger, but everyone else on your carpet as well. So stay seated.
With that out of the way, who’s up for a little practice? Good! Everyone walk up to a carpet, there are plenty to go around. Only five of you to a carpet, though! We don’t want to exceed the weight capacity or not have enough room for you to maneuver. Now, everyone climb on and be patient. You’ll need to activate these just like your brooms. To do so, simply visualize and say Samunnam -- see history is useful. You may want to try saying it all at the same time. From there, see if you can try flying straight first, and once you’ve mastered that, go ahead and attempt a left turn. Stay close to the ground, though! In the meantime, I’ll be monitoring from below. Ready? On my mark: one, two, three! Don’t pull too hard there, Ms. Groke. Ah, work together boys, your timing is a bit off! You’ll see the best results when you perform the action simultaneously. Not bad at all!
Well done everyone! I’m quite pleased with how well you worked together -- that can be tricky for even the most accomplished broom flier, and many find they are much worse on carpets than expected. Teamwork is key here! I do hope you enjoyed your brief experience with carpets and that, should you travel elsewhere in the world, it will prepare you for anything you encounter there. As a word of warning, don’t think to try casting the Ascension Charm on any old carpet in order to make it take off. I assure you, that won’t work -- but it may make other things take flight around you, which is not always ideal! These carpets work this way because, like brooms, that word has been used to trigger the artifact’s contained magical enchantments. Others will still just be woven thread no matter what you shout at them!
For now that’s the end of our formal lesson, though if you are interested in a bit more practice, feel free to stick around after the lesson. We have the pitch for the afternoon and I plan to take advantage of that! If you’re interested, start off in that direction, and I meet you there. If not, I will see you next week!