Fictional Magic

I’ve sometimes remarked on this blog that I feel like I live in a video game or role playing game of some sort, what with my magic rings and enchanted swords and whatnot.  Largely, this is due to my having been exposed to a lot more gaming than I have magic, and it’s no secret that lots of games like Dungeons and Dragons or other RPGs borrow liberally from occulture and magic literature, though it may not be by the book or realistic in any sense I’m aware of (though if anyone has a fireball spell they’d be willing to share, hit me up).  That said, magic is also guilty of borrowing from literature and gaming as well.  For instance, take the infamous Necronomicon from the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft; although this was just a fictional book from a fictional story, many authors have taken it upon themselves to write their own kind of Necronomicon that fits in with the Cthulhu mythos and related entities.  This kind of magic, fictional though it may be, works all the same, to the point where it even begins to freak me out.

Consider it this way: the more people that believe in a certain idea, the more “real” that idea becomes.  Many people across history have heard of and believe in Christ as the Son of God; as such, the idea of Christ is immensely powerful.  A smaller version of this includes any story, myth, fable, or creature whose tale is told time and time again.  If some number of people have read a particular book, have thought about its characters, spoken their names aloud, dreamed or daydreamed about the things those characters did, then all that happens in that book becomes real to an extent.  The more exposure an idea gains, the more powerful that idea becomes; hell, the more belief an idea gains, the more powerful it becomes.  If even one person believes in an idea, that suffices to accomplish work.  Thus, it follows that stories that are popular can be used, and since magic often makes use of “real” entities such as spirits, angels, gods, and goddesses with their own myths, the characters, magic, and the like from within those stories can be used in magic.  After all, I’ve often heard that the Bible is the greatest story ever told [citation needed], and what’s to distinguish the storiness of the Bible from any other book, or for that matter a game, movie, or anime?

One of my friends is familiar with the SNES game Chrono Trigger to no small degree, to the point of being able to recite all of the game’s lines, whether in the Japanese or English versions.  However, being a magic user himself, he’s also adept at working with the entities and magic system from the game.  He’s mentioned astrally travelling some of the halls of Zeal and the other castles from the game, as well as spiritually hanging out from the realms depicted, learning and gaining much from those places.  In addition, he’s also good with working with the spirits, entities, and magic from the anime series Slayers, to the point where I’ve been able to witness some of the neat effects from his working with fire and water.  Being a chef, he makes use of this magic to no small degree in the kitchen, and his food readily attests to that.  (He still owes me a guest post here eventually on the unique elemental system of Chrono Trigger, which I would greatly appreciate before the next apocalypse deadline.)

My boyfriend, on the other hand, is increasingly working with the magic and spirits of the PS2 game Final Fantasy X.  In that game, there are a group of specially-gifted people known as summoners who are able to work with an ambient magico-spiritual force that appear as floating balls of light, called “pyreflies”.  These pyreflies can coalesce into entities, such as physical apparitions of the dead known as “unsent” or as fiendish monsters.  However, certain holy shrines contain ensouled statues called fayth, and if the fayth deem a summoner worthy of working with them, the summoner can call upon the fayth to summon an aeon.  These aeons are used to protect the people in the world of Spira from a titanic, evil mega-aeon known as Sin.  Leaving much of the plot aside, my boyfriend is beginning to astrally travel to the world of Spira, talk with one of the protagonists of the game (High Summoner Yuna herself), and work with the fayth themselves.  It’s interesting work, especially since the mythology of Spira and Final Fantasy X is rich as far as video games go, but still incomplete enough to leave theory and philosophy wanting.  Seeing how much of the in-game Yevonese religion is based on Shintoism, Buddhism, and Catholic Christianity, it’s not terribly hard to see how much of this can work or put into practice.

As for myself?  Beyond being peripherally involved with my friends’ ventures above, I’ve been dabbling in some fictional magic myself.  Specifically, I’m getting started with the magic from the Wraeththu series of books, also called dehara (literally meaning or homonomous with the word for “gods”).  To briefly review the background, Wraeththu is a race of “mutant humans” who are both androgynous and hermaphroditic, able to reproduce among themselves as well as “incept” young human males (transform via ritual blood infusion).  In addition to being uniformly beautiful, lean, and fit, Wraeththu also possess strong innate magical, psychokinetic, and telepathic powers.  The dehara system of magic utilizes an ambient life force called agmara, out of which the deities and thoughtforms as well as magical actions are created.  There are to be a total of three books total on dehara magic (right now, only Grimoire Dehara: Kaimana is released), each associated with one of the three castes of Wraeththu society.  The dehara magic system is a kind of blend between chaos magic principles, Wraeththu mythology, and neopagan rituals (complete with a Wraeththu variation on the Wheel of the Year).  Refreshingly, it requires very little in the way of physical tools and supplies, with much of the magic done through meditation and projection into an astral temple called a nayati.

Admittedly, working with these kinds of magics can be awkward with my other magical projects, but it does offer interesting modes of working that still augment each other nicely.  It’s a lot like learning different languages: two languages can still arguably say the same thing, but how they say it can be radically different.  The theory behind each system of magic can offer new ideas for exploration when compared against other theories, or help provide explanations and approaches to solving a problem when other theories may fail.  As a result, it’s hard for me to seriously claim that any one system of magic is innately “better” than any other, though I may be biased towards more devotional and Hermetic ceremonial stuff all the same.  Fictional or not, may as well explore magic like any other adventurer.

What about you?  Have you ever thought about using magic known explicitly to be fictional, or have you tried it?  Are there any games, movies, anime, or books you find interesting enough with enough magical content to make use of?  For more talk on this topic, Jason Miller just wrote a post about it yesterday.

15 responses

  1. If I’m reading this right, should enough people work with the Cthulhu mythos some elements from there will actually be brought into reality. Is this a good idea?

    I’ve always considered a possibility: if you imagine a universe, create all the mythology, history, etc. surrounding it, then you end up creating that personal universe and become its omnipotent god. Perhaps your boyfriend has just created a near-copy of the FFX universe.

    • People already work with Cthulhu and the Old Ones; it’s a longstanding thing of chaos magic. Whether it’s a good idea is up to you and them.

      As for Spira (FFX), perhaps the universe already existed. After all, it existed in the minds of developers before it came to the players, no?

  2. One thing I’ve found popular characters to work very well with is influencing people, shifting your aura to someone appropriate. Fights were a regular issue in high school, and I found that I could usually intimidate my way out of them by overshadowing with Wolverine. The work that can be done with them seems to bottom out pretty quickly, at least for me, and was never qualitatively rich in the ways “real” entities have been.

    • I love this idea, but I agree in the difference of “fictional” and “real” entities. “Real” entities, after all, tend to be believed in with more devotion for a longer period of time.

  3. Are you familiar with Alan Moore’s concept of Idea Space? Very good model for working with fictional entities. Also, Robert Anton Wilson was a pioneer in theory within this field.

    I’ve had great success with them for the best part of 30 years – mythos ranging from DC Comic characters to the Minbari religion from Babylon 5. And honestly, I’ve had as good results with them as with “real” deities, if not better.

    I find the trick is – and this applies to all entities – to treat them *as if* they are real, not *as* real. Small but significant difference, but one that will at least prevent the user from losing all connection with quotidian reality. I found the concept in the work of Patrick Harpur, but I believe Spare also suggests this.

    • I’ve only read Moore’s “Promethea”, but I assume its notion of the Immateria is similar. I figure that any non-physical entity is part of the Immateria (hell, so are physical entities); it read like a kind of any realm above the terrestrial but starting at the sub-lunar realm and going upward. Thus, any planetary, astral, divine, or spiritual non-physical “place” is part of the Immateria, and concrete physical reality is just a crystallized, materialized niche of it. Thus, any spirit, angel, god, demon, comic hero, dream entity, etc. walks in the Immateria, as do we in our imaginations, which are like private districts in the overall Immateria. Is that about right to you?

      What’s the difference between “as real” and “as if real”? For that matter, what’s your definition of “reality”, and how do you distinguish “quotidian reality”?

      • Yeah, The Immateria and Idea Space are the same thing. It’s worth reading Moore being interviewed on the subject, or watching the documentary The Mindscape Of Alan Moore (which is legally available in full on YouTube).

        The as if/as distinction – think of it like this:

        You have a paranormal encounter with a figure which appears, and claims, to be the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s got all the details – blue robe, sweet expression, feeling of maternal love etc. Furthermore, at this point you are not a practicing Catholic.

        If you treat this vision *as* real, your only possible reaction is to convert to Mariolatory, if not full-blown Catholicism… because your only option is that this vision is a single perfect Truth.

        If you treat it *as if* real, you have other options, while still expressing a connection with/appreciation of the vision: you can interpret it as a phenomenon which is either choosing to express itself in that form, or your perceptions are interpreting in that manner. It could be a hallucination (or greater or lesser personal synchronicity). It could be a trick. Etc. The adding of the distance of *as if* also lets you communicate with the event in a respectful and apt manner without actually having to buy into its reality fully.

        The thing with interpreting paranormal phenomena *as* real only is this leads to narrow-mindedness and even fundamentalism. *As if* thinking – what RA Wilson called the multi-model approach – allows flexibility rather than hardening of the thought process.

        As for ‘quotidian reality’ – it’s the reality once described by Philip K Dick as “that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away”. The place where you have to deal with solid objects and people who disagree with your mindset. Interpretation of perceived phenomena can only go so far to influence and alter this!

  4. I’d call a pissed off genius loci I’m too inobservant to notice and that attacks me “real”. Then I notice the damned thing all right. Real as a bullet. YMMV

  5. I’m still working on it! But thinking on it too much causes all manner of trouble. Forgive my delay.

  6. Fireball Spell: Gather ye a can of hairspray and a lighter, and hope you don’t blow your hand off.

  7. Amusingly, it was a game I played that got me into magic. The magic in the game was based on ceremonial magic, similar to the rituals in the Lesser Key of Solomon. References were made to these grimoires which I thought were fictional until I checked them out…Lemegeton, Black Pullet, etc…

    The thing is, the way magic was done in the game felt so real, so much so that I was compelled to check those aforementioned grimoires. The Bible references were so appropriate; it couldn’t have been completely fiction.

  8. Supposedly, some of the Mesopotamian demonology in the (Simon) Necronomicon was traditional, although of course the Lovecraft component was crafted and the sigils were just slapdashed together by an amateur. So working with the Lhuvu-Kerapht legacy though the Simonomicon, at any rate, is not a pure example of fictional magic. (See the book reviewed at for way more on the Necronomicon in all its forms).

    I wonder, though, why so many modern thinkers are rehashing Plato (and his successors) without naming him (them). Are we just that averse to being intellectually pwned by people who lived 2500 years ago? Contemplating the theory of the eidolon for a while resolves all this, anyway. The world of forms is realer than the world of sense; we’re just so overwhelmed by sensory input, most of the time, that it’s hard to “get real.”

    This is not to diminish the awesomeness that is RAW: he was almost as intelligent as an average student in the Academy at Athens, which almost no one is today.

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