Admittedly, it’s weird to see the WordPress write-post screen so frequently lately after so long without writing anything. Quoth Alan Moore’s “Promethea” issue #19: “Man, this is like city transport. You gonna wait forever for a beautiful woman, then three gonna show up at once.” Then again, I suppose that’s the nature of inspiration: having the time, being at the right time, and having the resources available to present themselves.
Like everyone else on Facebook, my news feed (I remember back in the days when we just called them “walls”) is filled with videos, sometimes funny, sometimes stupid, sometimes educational. One such video demonstrated a series of eight physics tricks, often involving magnets and batteries, but there was one in particular that caught my eye because it relied on water and fire. While I couldn’t find the original video in a way to show here, I did find another video from Grand Illusions (whose channel is full of wonderful toys, tricks, gimmicks, and projects demonstrated by an amazing wizened Brit) that shows the exact same thing with a better description and demonstration:
The presenter isn’t sure what to call the thing, but it is similar to the kind of toys known as “pop-pop boats”, which use a tiny boiler to propel a tiny boat in water, making a continuous pop-pop sound. This, however, isn’t quite the same. Rather, it’s better described as a steam-powered top, constructed out of a bit of copper tubing extended through some corkboard, with its ends projecting out underneath and facing opposite directions. The copper tubing is filled with water, then the “boat” is set on top of a bowl or container of water, and a candle is set on top of the platform under the coil. The candle, once lit, heats the water inside the coil, turning it to steam and pushing it out, and then as the vapor cools in the coil not directly heated by the flame, sucks water back in, producing a top with sudden bursts of movement followed by slow periods of inertial spinning. In a way, it’s a neat demonstration of the same principle underlying an aeolipile, but with a different setup and arrangement.
A neat little gimmick on its own, sure, but when it comes to matters combining fire and water, my mind starts thinking about possible occult applications. And, for this, I think the occult applications are shockingly wonderful for how simple this would be as an extra tool in my kit. Consider: it is not uncommon for us to bless, enchant, or otherwise bespooken liquids in our work, yes? We normally achieve this by praying over the water, adding certain ingredients, setting it out in sunlight or moonlight, or extinguishing candles in them (either by setting a candle in the water and letting it burn out into it, or lighting a candle and quenching it in the water). Separately, we often use candles in our work, which forms the entire field of candle magic unto itself in addition to being used as integral parts of other ceremonies. We anoint, engrave, or dress candles, set them atop petitions, or use them as a means to empower other workings. However, it’s not common to see an explicit merging of candle magic and water magic given the intrinsic opposition between fire and water, but the steam-powered top has a way of doing precisely just that using an almost-alchemical apparatus.
My idea for combining the two is, essentially, another technique to empower or enchant an amount of water by using the candle (dressed appropriately) to transfer its power directly into the water, but in a more prolonged and directed means than simply by extinguishing a candle in the water itself. Assuming the copper tubing is clean and the corkboard itself doesn’t disintegrate (and it might be worth it to replace the corkboard with something more stable and hardy at some point), the water isn’t contaminated by any pollutants or additions, making it perfect for an innocuous substance that only the magician would be inclined to recognize as empowered. Plus, instead of another method where one might heat a container of water directly using enchanted fuel (such as a cauldron heated by sacred woods and incenses), this can be done on a much smaller scale with a lot less overhead. Additionally, the steam-powered top does its own job at keeping the water mixed through its constant spinning, though different videos show it spinning in different directions; the YouTube above shows a clockwise-spinning top, but other videos show it spinning in counterclockwise motion. Either way, the tool seems to be useful in transferring the energy and intent of a candle directly to water, in a clean and full way that doesn’t leave residue or candle remnants.
Let’s give some examples of use, shall we? Say that a friend has contracted a prolonged sickness, and some investigation shows a possible spiritual influence. Dress a candle with the intent for health and shaking off spiritual gunk and set it atop a small name paper of your friend on the corkboard, then use the top in a bowl of clean water. Administer the water to your friend in the form of baths and drinks to cleanse them internally and externally. Being “nothing more” than clean water, perhaps with a faint metallic aftertaste, such a water could be used innocuously and without notice, or for those with sensitivities to particular herbs or oils. Instead of giving it to them to drink or bathe with, you could also use the water in a humidifier, or set it in a pot to boil, so as to fill an entire area with the water, or use it in the washing machine for a load of laundry to do the same. Alternatively, for a more malefic use, say you want to get rid of a troublesome coworker in the workplace, but the usual methods of doing so would draw too much undue attention, such as the laying of powders, dressing with oils, or other charms or tricks. Dress a candle with hot-foot or get-fired oil and pray over the water to do the same, then once empowered, bring the water with you to work in an otherwise-normal water bottle (that you may not want to ever drink out of again). “Accidentally” spill the water on your coworker’s uniform, shoes, or desk; it being water, most people would think no-harm no-foul, but you know better, don’t you? Or, if they have a habit of leaving their desk or supplies unattended, put a few drops in their coffee mug on their desk or on their chair when they’re not looking.
If you’re comfortable with doing so, of course, there’s nothing saying you have to use plain old water for this sort of tool; most herbal infusions would likely work fine, though you’d do well to make sure they don’t corrode copper or corkboard too quickly, and that you thoroughly clean the tubing before and after each use to prevent both spiritual and material contamination. Alternatively, the water could be used as an ingredient in other recipes, with the steam-powered top enchantment providing a kind of “pre-blessing” to prime the recipe as a whole. I’d refrain from using this tool with anything with a high alcohol content, of course, given the obvious dangers of open flame around flammable liquids, though with a different construction of such a top in a fire-safe chamber, perhaps this wouldn’t be so much an issue. The YouTube video above links to the Grand Illusions website where you can get your own pre-made steam-powered top for a not-unreasonable price, which I’ve already done and I’m excited to put to work when such an opportunity presents itself. However, it wouldn’t be hard to make one of these yourself, though getting the copper tubing (or some other non-corroding heat-conducting metal) fixed in just the right direction may be a challenge for some.