On the origins of magic: how the wands came to be. (4/?)
From: Postcolonial resistance in the mythologies of the magical peoples of the South Asian subcontinent ed. Sunil P. Patil (1991).
Old magic. Old magic old magic old magic.
How could people forget?
How could people forget the magic that had helped raise the great stones, that had marked the stars that pyramids pointed to, that had sunk ancient cities and raised rivers from deserts?
How could they forget?
All too easily, the answer rang back, all too easily. They had forgotten how to live, breathe and drink magic. Had forgotten how the men of yore had lived without wands; how without those twigs the magic was channeled through movement and sway and song and sacrifice. How without those twigs the only barrier to the magic you could make was yourself, was your own mind, your own sacrifice. How without those twigs you could do anything when you had enough strength.
Magic was a muscle, the elders said. Practice with it and it shall grow, just as by lifting rocks and timber each day your muscles shall grow. But take one of those sticks, those little twigs and you are using a lever to do that work for you, you are letting yourself be weak when you could be so so so strong.
The young ones ignored them, pointed at them laughed at these elders stuck in their old ways with dreams of a great and ancient past but naught to show for those dreams, and argued that now they were old how could they sway and sing and sacrifice? Was it not better to do less for more? To conserve, waiting for a greater task, The Great Task? Why offer themselves up mind, body and soul to magic when in a moment, with a mere flick of a wrist, with a wand they could do the same thing just as well? And these elders could lament wands all they liked, but they had nothing to show for all their boasts of glory, could not with such precision, with such finesse accomplish the things these children could.
The elders’ faces were impassive.
The elders’ faces betrayed nothing.
So it went, for years and years, the children slowly outnumbering the elders, growing proud and mighty in their strength until the elders worried. Worried that in their pride the children would grow reckless, would forget that magic was no toy but a powerful force, one to be reckoned with - one that would demand its pay.
A great council they summoned, drawing magical folk from every corner of the uncivilized world and told them of their fears - of how they feared the children had forgotten the old magics of the world, had forgotten what it meant to channel power and force, what it meant to be responsible.
They fought. Father against son. Mother against daughter.
And late that night elders from every corner of the uncivilized corners of the world met in an old forest, untouched by time and human hands, still throbbing with the ancient magic of the world, deep and dark. There they breathed their old and ancient magic for the very last time, letting it seep through their veins, rich and heady and intoxicating. Then with calls foreign to all, they rose and bound their children.
You want wands? they asked the magic they worshipped and worked with, You want levers and magic getting weaker?
Then so be it.
They bound the magic and their children all at once, forever cursing those who took in hand the twigs they called wands, weapons, to be doomed to a life torn away from the old magics of the world. So it was that when a child used a wand, working wandless came to be a burden, a path fraught with great difficulty that few except the most dedicated would ever tread.
It is their punishment. The consequence of their folly.
When you see them, with their wands, remember the old magic, the magic that you breathe, drink and live. It is this magic in your veins, the magic of the civilized lands of the world. Dusty, old with time. Exercise it, children, use it, concentrate, feel it, let it flow through you, lest it be taken from you and lost forever.
I am disappointed, of course, that father never got to see this book. I think he would have quite enjoyed it. Would have found plenty of good use for it in his research.
Naturally, as you might imagine, the book is popular only among a few select academic circles in the wizarding world. Wands as punishment? Sacrilege! Though I suppose one ought to be thankful it did not receive the Myths of Magical Europe treatment. A.R.
(Submitted by essayofthoughts, with a few minor edits on my part.)