Systems of skills and techniques, closer to what we call ‘science’ than the average image of magic and magicians.
First and foremost, mages were philosophers, seeking to uncovering the secrets of the world; instead of facing the physical world, they turn to the spiritual world, dealing with beings of knowledge. However, as there are limits to how much mental strength a single person can possess, it is often the case that mages borrow the power of supernatural beings. Thus, mages were held in awe and fear, as prophets of divine will, and philosophers who have seen the deep places of the world.
However, as human science evolved and becomes more advanced, our perception and understanding of the world expanded, and the mysteriousness of magic disappeared. Magic itself is no longer used to reach ‘ultimate truth’, but simply for practical purposes – charming or killing another individual, predicting the future, treating injuries, or amassing of wealth. Thus, modern mages should no longer be considered ‘those who exceed’, but simply those skilled at supernatural techniques.
It is also within recent times that magic has diversified based on the types of beings called upon, and the kinds of effects sought. For example, magic which calls upon God or Gods, angels, or saints, and causes phenomena which benefit man and mankind (healing, purification) are known as divine magic, or white magic. On the other hand, that which deals with devils, daemons, and evil spirits for purposes which would harm others are known as the wicked arts, or black magic. Another kind of magic relies not on supernatural beings, but on the heavenly bodies, the rocks and herbs of the earth, the power in words and numbers, and other ‘natural’ powers: nature magic.
Magic (魔術 majutsu) proper is an art cultivated by a solid education and training, and thus beyond regular individuals. Low-level spells, which can be used even without serious practise, are known as sorcery or witchcraft. Sorcery can be considered a sort of charm-work, mainly for solving practical problems: finding lost objects, or stopping pain. Witchcraft is similar, but instead oriented to more malicious purposes, like curses: causing plants to rot, or killing pests. These kinds of low-level magic are generally not recorded in magical grimoires, but passed along by word-of-mouth and local traditions.
Songs can even draw the moon down from heaven.
The words that enact the supernatural phenomena of magic. Not a keyword that ‘activates’ supernatural power, but in itself holding the power and “soul” of words. However, spells are not simply ‘words of power’; they are full rituals which must be sung in verse, containing the will of the caster. Spells are the circuits which allow the caster to shape ‘the power of words’ in a form he most desires.
Spells are mostly divided into three forms based on their required methods and compositions: named spells, unnamed spells, and ritual spells.
A named spell is more or less a fixed spell, with a fixed effect – the stereotypical image of “magic”. The effects of named spells are generally powerful, making them incredibly useful as long as the mage has Mana and the capacity to incant. On the other hand, as the spells are fixed, there is also the negative aspect that the spells cannot be modified. An exception exists in Sagitta Magica, a spell that the mage can easily arrange; not only can the mage freely change the element and quantity of the released arrows, he can change the firing state from a scattered homing model to a concentrated model.
An unnamed spell is closer to an impromptu or a command, giving a strong impression that it is something the mage creates in response to the needs of the situation – for example, Negi’s creation of a love potion, and the manipulation of the brushes were both unnamed spells. As these spells use the power of the words directly, in a way, these are the truest definition of “spells”; magic can be established as long as words of a language of magic are put together as according to its grammatical rules. The effects of unnamed spells are not strong, but they can be freely created based on intents. The majority of magic a mage uses in normal life is most likely of this type.
Finally, a ritual spell is a great magic – a circuit of Mana formed by many participants, over long periods of time, involving lengthy spells, giant wards, points of Mana such as holy grounds, historic ruins, or leylines, and use of living sacrifices; Chao’s Forced Recognition Magic and the bounded field which protects Mahora Academy would fall under this category. As these spells are “order-made” for a specific purpose, they essentially only have a single use. In addition, as natural conditions such as a specific celestial body can vary, the conditions of usage are incredibly strict. However, their effects are extremely powerful, creating effects that a single mage cannot possibly replicate.
Magic and spells have always been intrinsically linked to song and dance. Signs, gestures, steps: all of these are just as important as the incantation itself, and most magic activate only based on a combination of them.
Rakan’s obsession with deciding the ‘best pose’ is due to this. A normal person like Chisame couldn’t help but not understand, but the fact that even Negi thinks Rakan “looked idiotic” is quite telling of his inexperience and lack of training and serious study.
Tracing a symbol or mark in the air with your hand (“carving the sign”) or fingers (“joining the sign”). For example, the Buddhist mantra “rin-pyou-tou-sha-kai-jin-retsu-zai-zen”, or the Christian Cross.
Body language. A specific sequence and form of postures. Dancing is among the oldest of body languages.
The precise art of pacing and stepping. The originally Chinese art of uho (named after Yu the Great) is one system where magic is activated by a specific pattern of walking, or pacing a particular sign. This passed into Japanese Onmyou and Shinto as hanbei.
Geometric rituals. Drawing around or in it representations and names of powerful spirits which you wish to borrow the power of will increase its strength and effectiveness.
By mathematically creating a shape where the set distance in every direction is equal, it becomes a ward against evil. As walking from one point to another is exactly equal in all four directions, it symbolises “perfection” – ie. a God, repelling malevolent spirits.
While a circle similarly represents “perfection” (completion) it also represents a ‘closed world’ – a line separating the outside world and the inside. Thus, they are often used for bounded fields and barriers, to protect the one within against external threats.
The ‘closed world’ aspect makes circles effective as binding or restricting spaces. This is why spirits tend to be summoned in a circle – to prevent their breaking out. In this case, the name of the summoned spirit will be carved within the circle itself.
The methods and procedures required to successfully accomplish magic. Establishing the path the current sorcery will take with a previously determined procedure, and using incantations, body language, symbols, the celestial bodies, magical artifacts, etc. to amplify and stabilise the magic. The more complex or far-reaching the magic, the stricter the procedural requirements will be, and the complexity of the conditions increases.
With certain rites, animate or inanimate objects prepared purely for destruction – a sacrifice (犠牲 gisei) – are needed. Notable are living sacrifices (生け贄 ikenie) – a great existence being exchanged for effects of higher merit and value. Thus, rituals meant to obtain great results will use human beings as living sacrifices. In particular, the most effective human sacrifices are highly spiritual existences such as shrine maidens or saints, or individuals with close or direct flesh-and-blood ties to the caster.
身体強化 shintai kyouka
Contrary to the traditional image of magicians in combat – avoiding the wearing of magic-hindering armour and a direct melee – mages can channel Mana into their own bodies to massively reinforce their physical capabilities. Thus, mages can match trained soldiers in physical ability, and an experienced practitioner can easily exceed what normal humans are capable of.
Negi’s battle preparation spell, Cantus Bellax, is the best example of this magic in effect.
Similar to the physical reinforcement provided by Mana, almost all mages maintain a magical barrier around themselves at all times. These barriers can be specifically enhanced for use against certain types of attacks: protection against magic or physical force, for example.
If prepared in advance, the shield of an average mage is powerful enough to completely stop projectile attacks, including bullets; the density of an experienced mage’s barriers can match full-fledged wards and bounded fields.
Negi’s basic defensive spell, Deflexio, is an example of this magic.
Mana (魔力 maryoku), or Magic Power (MP), is the energy required to use magic. However, this “MP” is not some sort of innate willpower or magical energy, but something taken from the energy in the atmosphere and subdued via willpower and techniques – in other words, it is an energy from outside the practitioner. This means that Mana itself has more or less an infinite source, but the practitioner cannot preserve any Mana if he exhausts his own willpower. In this state, the practitioner can be said to be out of Mana. While there are individual differences when it comes to Mana capacity (魔力容量 maryoku youryou), it is an innate talent or ‘gift’ difficult to develop through training.
One way to increase Mana capacity is to reinforce willpower, which governs Mana. It is believed that by mental growth, and training of the mind, the ability to hold Mana also increases. Another method is to improve the efficiency of the techniques used to convert the energy in the atmosphere to Mana. If the amount of willpower used can be reduced by this process, then Mana capacity can increase as a result.
The theory of Mana is based on the Chinese concept of onmyou (陰陽) or Yin and Yang. While the energy outside of the body would be Myou (陽), the energy inside the body would be On (陰). As On and Myou are the smallest units representing the state of all things in existence, they exist in the foundation of all phenomena. On is the female and maternal component, representing the power of the earth, and of darkness and shadows. On the other hand, Myou is the male and paternal component, representing the power of the heavens, of creation, of light and brightness, and of activity.
Qi (気 ki, lit. “breath”) is one of the pillars of the ancient Chinese magic system. It is both the element which composes all things in existence, and the energy which moves them. It is extremely close to the Western magic concept of prime essences; however, there is a greater emphasis on it being an energy. Qi, as an energy, is similar to the concept of Prana found in Indian philosophy. Qi was born from the chaos before Creation; when Qi and the chaos mixed, ‘time’ was born. Over time, the Qi began to divide. Heavier Qi sunk and formed the ‘Earth’, while lighter Qi rose and formed the ‘Sky’; in other words, On and Myou.
As Qi both composes and is the energy for all things in existence, thoughts developed to put it to practical use by taking it in proactively. One such method is training Kouki (行気), improving the flow of Qi; by using this unique method of breathing to take in Qi into one’s own body, it was an attempt to gain immortality. Another method, Douin (導引), circulates the Qi in the body with gentle bodily movements, a training to preserve the mind and body.
On corresponds to Mana, outer energy; Myou corresponds to Qi, the inner, vital energy. As the two are opposites, there is difficulty in receiving Mana while at the same time using Qi. The only known method which allows usage of both at the same time is Suntaxis Antikeimenon (Xianguafa).
西洋魔法 seiyou mahou
The style of magic based around the Europe’s cultural sphere of influence. With the spread of European culture and Christianity during the Age of Discovery, western-style magic has also spread throughout the world, with magical academies and similar institutions in many countries.
Closely conforming to the classic image of magicians, a western mage uses Mana as energy, and requires spells, incantations, and catalysts to activate magic.
Unlike the amalgamation of ‘schools’ that make up Eastern magic, such as Onmyoudou, Shinto, and Buddhism, there are no ‘styles’ in Western magic. The two languages of incantation are Latin and Ancient Greek, with the former being more common and the latter being solely used for High Ancient (上位古代語 joui kodaigo) – high-level magic.
Another point of note is the lack of ‘divine’ or holy magic or sorcery based on the power of Gods (such as those from the Greek, Scandinavian, or Celtic pantheons) due to the prohibitions of the Christian Church. Rather, most spells borrow and rely on the power of spirits.
In modern science, the phenomenon of fire is the release of light and heat energy due to combustion. However, in classical elements, fire in itself is a “substance.” Magic is tied to a system of four elements, born from the world’s prime essences (第一原質 daiichi genshitsu), and from which forms the basis for all things in existence.
While magically-enabled fire or water are scientifically sound – for example, fire is a phenomenon, water is a liquid – they also ignore factors such as causation or physics, due to magic being born in a different age and cultural background. The substance called “fire” is simply a source of smoke, light, and heat, which burns everything in its surroundings. Regardless of any local conditions, “fire” will never lose these properties.
“Fire” will never burn out and can exist on water or in a complete vacuum; “water” will remain in liquid form regardless of temperature; “wind” will retain its designated velocity regardless of surrounding conditions; and “earth” will never change its physical composition.
However, it is entirely due to the stagnation within the magic societies that these beliefs continue to exist and prevail over modern science. It is quite possible, given time, and further interaction between the worlds of modern reality and classical magic, that even mages themselves will no longer be able to use magic in the future.
魔法系統 mahou keitou
The category or group certain magic fall under, or their elemental alignment. For example, Khilipl Astrape is known as the largest of “lightning” or “shock” element magic. A mage can possess an affinity (属性 zokusei), a particular element (or elements) of magic he excels in. For example, Negi excels at the elements of wind and light, being able to cause tornadoes or wind barriers, and thus control all manners of gases using air as a medium. On the other hand, while he would be able to manipulate solids such as rock or metal, liquids such as water, or heat, he would find it difficult; these are the territories of earth, water, and fire mages, respectively.
Having an affinity for a certain element (and not having an affinity for another) can change the effectiveness of certain spells – for one, reducing or eliminating the necessity of an incantation.
The lines preceding the casting of a spell, which must be completed in their entirety for the magic to activate. The length of the incantation generally corresponds to the power of the spell itself – a spell with a short incantation has a weaker effect, and so on.
As noted, it is not the words that ‘activate’ a given magical phenomena, but the words themselves containing the power to enact or create those phenomena. In effect, what’s important is that the incantation is spoken correctly, and actually understanding the words is secondary. This is why even Asuna can use Adeat to summon Ensis Exorcizans; even the words of a normal human will carry Mana to some degree.
Any spell which requires the caster’s name be cited in the incantation means the spell is commanding the power of a contracted, spiritually-powerful being.
無詠唱呪文 mueishou jumon
An incantation ‘spoken’ internally, in the heart and mind that allows spells to be cast almost instantly. Thus it is possible to cast multiple spells at once, incanting one aloud while preparing another internally. However, it would be extremely difficult to use anything other than an incantation memorised to the point of being able to cast subconsciously.
The more capable the mage, the more powerful the spells he can cast without needing an actual incantation. Conversely, if a mage uses a full incantation for a spell which he is capable of casting unincanted, then the spell itself will become abnormally powerful.
Note that spells do exist which conditionally require a full incantation.
Particular to western magic, this is a specific type of incantation unique to each mage that precedes usage of magic – a password. Taking the ‘power of words’ further, the phrase doesn’t have to make sense or even be in a real language, as long as it feels ‘natural’ to the mage. It is considered a requirement for a proper mage and the setting of one’s activation key is a lengthy ritual.
Activation keys are spoken before the main incantation, but they can be skipped for simple spells. However, what exactly a “simple” spell is depends on the level of the mage; the more capable the mage, the more easily he will be able to cast powerful spells without needing his activation key.
Practe bigi nar is the general activation key used by novices before becoming full-fledged mages.
魔法発動体 mahou hatsudoutai
An activation device possessing certain powers or symbols which assists in the invocation of magic; the ‘gate’ or ‘bridge’ which connects the mage to the world. Most foci are staves, but other possibilities include rings, jewels, or books.
It is possible to cast magic without a focus – its purpose is to increase and stabilise the power output. As with activation keys, while novices will make use of simple wands, a customised focus is considered a requirement for a proper mage. However, it is not rare for high-class mages to dispose of foci entirely.
Even Nagi Springfield, the Thousand Master, uses a staff as his focus – though in his case, it could simply be because he cannot reliably cast magic without it.
A general term for magical texts containing the names and methods of commanding demons, or secrets and incantations of certain spells. Aside from requiring specifically prepared, ritualised writing equipment, the act of carving and imbuing every word with Mana is an act requiring incredible concentration and near-infinite fortitude on the part of the mage. Also, due to the necessary amount of Mana poured into the text, it is possible for the grimoire itself to possess mysterious abilities.
Some famous examples of grimoires include: the Lemegeton, the Lesser Key of Solomon; the Grand Grimoire; the Zohar, Radiance; the Hermetic Canon; the Book of Honorius; the Necronomicon; and the Book of Melchizedek, which briefly appeared in the story. Nodoka’s Artifact, Diarium Ejus, is also described as a legendary grimoire.
東洋呪術 touyou jujutsu
Jujutsu – a term officially translated as magic but more associated with witchcraft – is the general term for the traditional sorcery utilised in the Asian world and practised by Eastern mages, or Jujutsushi (呪術師). Unlike the unified magic theory of western sorcerers, there is an extraordinarily rich amount of variations in spells and the contents of the magic used, based on the many magic styles and systems. In Japan, the main types of magic included in Eastern Jujutsu are Onmyoudou (陰陽道, “way of onmyou“), Shuugendou (修験道, “way of training and trials”), Mikkyou (密教, “esoteric Buddhism”), and Shintou (神道, “way of kami). As Jujutsu is based on traditional witchcraft and sorcery, it is deeply connected to religion, and in the story, much of the magic used are religious or connected to gods.
Unlike western magic, the energy source in Jujutsu is Qi. However, Qi, which uses an individual’s life-force as fuel, would not be enough for large-scale magic such as the summoning of Ryoumen-Sukuna-no-Kami, so Mana would also be used. Comparatively, spell incantations also tend to be short, and there are no activation keys. In addition, there are very few spells with specific magic names. It is unknown whether Eastern mages require a focus to activate magic, but based on known depictions, it is likely that they are not necessary.
Other developments which do not exist in western magic are the use of marks (符, fu) and charms (札, fuda), and Ketsuin (結印, “joining the signs”, ie. gestures), creating a marked difference in the process of magic activation. On the other, while a Eastern mage on the level of Evangeline or Nagi has yet to appear in the story, unlike the High Ancient spells, it is possible that there are few onmidirectional attacks in Eastern magic. Instead, as spell incantations take little time, and charms were developed to enable unincanted magic, it is more compatible for a mage who himself fights on the front lines – a magic knight.