Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Rules of Magic: Grounding and Centering

Hi. My name is a Marie and I am a witch. Yes, a real one. Though the term most people are familiar with is Wiccan. (All Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccan.) But as a witch, what surprises me sometimes is how unfamiliar some writers are with magic and how this unfamiliarity affects their story. So, I'm going to chat about magic. Sometimes real magic and sometimes fictional. Of course fictional magic won't follow the rules of Wicca, but being familiar with theories around magic can help keep it under control in a novel.

Today I'm starting with the very basics -- grounding and centering. Two lessons any witch learns before she or he starts working with magic. (Yes, male witches are called witches. The term "warlock" is more common in fiction or in old episodes of Bewitched.)

Grounding is a process of connecting with the earth and drawing energy from it. Though it can also be a process of returning excess energy to the earth either to release stress or to release built up energy from a ritual. The most common exercise for grounding is to visualize oneself extending tree-like roots into the earth and pulling energy up and into the body. This energy can then be used in ritual, to perform spells or just to get through a boring meeting.

Centering may be done as a prelude to grounding or as an exercise on its own. Centering is the process of pulling one's focus inward and finding one's energy center. This creates a greater balance that can be used before drawing in energy or even to shield oneself from negative energy.

Grounding after using magic. There is a second type of grounding that you may hear Wiccans refer to. This is grounding that is done after a ritual or spell casting. It's also known as "cakes and ale" because the process is simply to eat something to physically ground one's being and energy and replenish any energy used or lost during ritual. Keep in mind that "cakes and ale" in real life can be cookies and juice or any food and drink that fits the occasion.

Now, how do you apply this to fiction? Keep in mind the first law of thermodynamics - Energy is neither created or destroyed. Your magic user, shaper shifter, even ghost, must draw energy from somewhere. Using that energy depletes it, which should place some limits on how much energy can be expended in one go. So think about where you character draws energy from and how they use it. Even if it's as simple as your werewolf needing to eat in order to have the energy to shift.

Have questions you'd like to ask a witch? Let me know and I'll try to answer them.


Arlene said...

Cool. So combine yoga techniques, suck energy from the keyboard, splatter out some magic to finish a mind-numbing synopsis or whatever, and then eat ice cream. And make sure I stay real, grounded, in the un-reality of paranormal fiction. Fuel the hero after he-she strangles the villain. Kay, sign me in.
Thanks for sharing!

Courtney Johnson said...

Great post! A critique partner and I were discussing yesterday how frustrating it sometimes is when writers have no understanding of magic. Things can get pretty off-balance sometimes.

Rebecca Leigh said...

This was a wonderful post! I enjoyed reading about the basics :)

Barbara Elsborg said...

Absolutely fascinating!!! I've learned something new. Thanks so much.

Cate Masters said...

Very cool Marie! Any reliable witch handbooks out on the market? I recently bought A Witch's Guide to Faery Folk for reference for a story I'm writing - are you familiar with it? Any good?

Marie Dees said...

Thanks all.

I'll put together a post on basic references and books. It would be a bit long for a comment.