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  • Magic-is it all bad?

    I waas just reading the threads when I thought. Wow do people really think all magic is the same in the buffyverse addictive? Because some has been portrayed as bad and some good. How does it all work? Because we have Giles's pure magic and Rack's black magic.

    Because it seems to be a little of a light subject as far as canon goes so we can fanwank away!
    Last edited by Revan; 17-08-08, 11:37 AM.
    "I never learned from a man who agreed with me.'" Robert Heinlen

  • #2
    I think you hit the nail on the head in terms of how one approaches magic. Willow was about control and pursued magic with intellectual rigour in the same way a scientist would pull apart nature to study it. She utilised it but had a very immature attitude toward the consequences, which is what Giles and ara tried to warn her about. This if often why Willow's spells would go awry even if they satisfied the original purpose for which they were chosen.

    I'd say magic is essentially neutral depending on the attitude towards it. Everything is connected, light and dark, even good and evil, so understanding and respecting that can help someone use magic.

    I don't really about about Wicca and Paganism but as far as I'm aware it's a religion first and some of the philosophies of dealing not the supernatural but having respect for what is inherently natural. It supposed to precede spell casting, I guess. Tara may be be more likely to be one than Willow, but even if that is the case Tara seems more like a spell caster who has a healthy respect for nature and the consequences of magic. So in other words they are witches but perhaps not what many would classify as Wiccan. Not really sure to be honest, not an expert.

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    • #3
      I agree except for magic.

      You are saying that magic like Rack used could be good? Willow tried it and look where it got her. She wanted power quickly. And that's what Rack offered. I find it similar to light side/dark side in star wars. Evil more powerful but no control.

      Not all magic is neutral some is inherinately good or evil.
      "I never learned from a man who agreed with me.'" Robert Heinlen

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      • #4
        *shrugs* Canon is a total mess in this respect. Season 6 clearly suggests that magic in and of itself is addictive, but probably not good or evil. After all, Willow was going to use the power she took from Giles to destroy the Earth. The other seasons suggest that the important thing is the source of the power one uses, and that calling upon dark forces often involves paying a dangerous price.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Revan View Post
          I agree except for magic.

          You are saying that magic like Rack used could be good? Willow tried it and look where it got her. She wanted power quickly. And that's what Rack offered. I find it similar to light side/dark side in star wars. Evil more powerful but no control.

          Not all magic is neutral some is inherinately good or evil.
          It doesn't really contradict what I'm saying. The intent with which Rack was using magic (and Willow's general attitude towards) led to consequences that transpired. Magic can be used for hallucinogenic purposes, but it doesn't make magic inherently addictive in itself. Of course what can be addictive are certain spells, and/or the danger and power that can comes with using certain spells. Certain spells and intentions of course can be evil but the force that good or evil spells harness itself is neutral.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Revan View Post

            Not all magic is neutral some is inherinately good or evil.
            Mind elaborating on this a little?
            For now I'll assume you mean for example healing spell = good, killing spell = evil.
            This I don't quite agree with (if this was indeed what you meant) the healing spell could be used to heal a 'good' guy so he can continue protecting others or on a 'bad' guy to let him continue causing death etc. In the same way the killing spell could be used badly by killing innocents, children etc. or be used to kill a demon, just in a different way than the using buffesqe pointy stick.

            Essentially I believe that magic in the Buffyverse is entirely neutral, it's how you use it that matters. It's a tool, just a powerful one. That is where it also becomes dangerous to use however in the clich’ed 'power corrupts and absolute power...' unless the user is able to safely wield the power/tool.

            One idea on this though is that if the user can handle that power then they can grow stronger, if they can handle this then more power makes itself available etc. etc. etc. Giving rise to the view that magic is in fact inherently evil since if lots of it does corrupt then it is only because the ‘good’ people who use it don’t have enough power from it to become corrupted. I don’t really believe this last bit but you see where the idea is coming from.

            With the whole addictive aspect of magic I don't think of it as an actual physical (or spiritual as it could be for magic) addiction like as for an easy example - heroin. But more of a drunk with power kind of addiction, not unlike how faith became in season 3 with the slayer power. Again you could probably tie this in with the whole 'power corrupts...' saying.
            Last edited by spidol; 17-08-08, 05:44 PM.
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            • #7
              I believe magic for the most part is either neutral or bad. Neutral because all things require perception to be considered good or bad. However, I also see it as bad because magic is the power to change the natural course of things. If I believe in nature and the course of events then the desire to alter is one of great hubris and greed.

              And as spidol mentions, "power corrupts." Without respect to natural laws and events, then a person will quickly befall any restraint and be consumed by the belief that they are more powerful than anything and cannot be wrong in their decisions and actions.

              Lydia made the punch!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Ehlwyen View Post
                magic is the power to change the natural course of things. If I believe in nature and the course of events then the desire to alter is one of great hubris and greed.
                The same can be said for using tools, though, and I've never come across anybody who says tools are evil. People can be evil, and if they are, they will find a way to do evil, tools or no tools.

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                • #9
                  I can't say I'd ever consider a tool to be the power to change a natural course of things. That's far too extreme a view of natural for me. In my example, I perceive magical as supernatural and therefore not of the natural course of things.

                  However, yes, humanity has used tools and machines to transform the world from its natural course which is why we have global warming. Perhaps a dream of a better world began it, but pride and greed perpetuate it.

                  Anyway, I was just providing one opinion for how magic could relate to the world. I'm not tied any one perspective as can change from the parameters of each fandom world. I was trying to show how magic as an addiction could be a reasonable analogy in this world.

                  Lydia made the punch!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ehlwyen View Post
                    In my example, I perceive magical as supernatural and therefore not of the natural course of things.
                    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke
                    I was trying to show how magic as an addiction could be a reasonable analogy in this world.
                    Yeah, I'm with you there. I was being a little devil's-advocate-y in my previous post, because I've pretty much said the same thing as you before - magic is power, power is a drug, so the basis for the metaphor is very obvious. But the way you put it made me realize that we need to be careful to distinguish between the source of the power, the power itself, and the one who wields the power. An evil person can create a weapon, and another evil person can use it to harm people, without the weapon itself ever being anything but a morally inert object. Magical energy may or may not be just as morally inert, canon seems to suggest both interpretations in different situations.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by kassyopeia View Post
                      "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke
                      I understand this point. However, I wouldn't say the reverse is automatically true -- that magic is indistinguishable from advanced technology.

                      In fact, I'd say I perceive magic is the absence of technology, if technology is considered the cumulative effect of logical and scientific methodology. Magic just is. It comes into being separate from natural reasons.

                      Yeah, I'm with you there. I was being a little devil's-advocate-y in my previous post, because I've pretty much said the same thing as you before - magic is power, power is a drug, so the basis for the metaphor is very obvious. But the way you put it made me realize that we need to be careful to distinguish between the source of the power, the power itself, and the one who wields the power. An evil person can create a weapon, and another evil person can use it to harm people, without the weapon itself ever being anything but a morally inert object. Magical energy may or may not be just as morally inert, canon seems to suggest both interpretations in different situations.
                      As well you should be! I've been around so long, each time I venture in these threads I try to come up with a new way to see things. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, I put them out there to be examined.

                      I very much see and agree with your point that there should be differentiation.

                      I agree that Buffy canon is not airtight. However, after 7 years, wavering ideas are bound to happen on the part of the writing. I'm actually not very familiar with S7 and S6 is starting to fade somewhat.

                      However, magic situations that immediately came to mind are those of Willow and Dawn each trying to bring back loved ones, which although well meant, are against natural order. And even Willow's sunny day at the beach that reciprocated with a down pour. Seemingly harmless, but still a defiance of nature.

                      In fact, many spells cast through the show were done for good or seemingly harmless intentions. I don't believe that intention of the wielder can be enough to define the magic as good or bad.

                      As far as sources. I can't really say much about Willow's absorption of the "dark magic" as even being evil. Her intentions were already dark. Therefore, how much did they color how the magic was used as opposed to the so-called "dark" source?

                      But most magic on the show doesn't have a clear source. Where does it come from? Does it come from nature and the world itself? If so, it does seem wrong to take from something to alter its course.

                      Does it come from within the witch or spell caster? If so, it seems more acceptable to practice magic, though I can see great hubris developing within a person who themselves can so affect the universe.

                      Whether this fits here or not, I also want to point out that I definitely believe in the law of conservation of energy applying to magic. Actions have consequences.

                      Anyway, I am very big on neutrality and that perception and vantage point determine any gradient, for example good or bad. Good and bad are such loose terms, I wanted to define good this time as natural.

                      So when I said magic is "bad" (sorry so generic a term), I was meaning the removal of whatever essence that embodies magic was wrong (bad). And that collective force termed magic which had been removed from its source was unnatural (bad) because it shouldn't have existed without the outside force working upon it.

                      Anyway, I hope some of that made sense. It's getting late. Brain cells detach from logic and slip into dream. It was fun to work through the idea with you.

                      Lydia made the punch!

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                      • #12
                        Magic can be evil or good. For example a angel's magic would be good. And their are angels out there eg Cordy. And their is evil magic like what Rack uses. Good magic is not about power. And it does not corrupt. It is natural magic and does not go beyond your station. Evil is the rest.

                        Expanding more. Evil magic comes is taken like what Willow uses when evil. While good magic is asked for eg Tara's wiccan magic. And good magic in the buffyverse does not help oneself and bad helps yourself and destroys others. In other words. Good is selfless, and more inherent to the individual. And bad is not, tis taken. And harms others and can't be used for good.
                        "I never learned from a man who agreed with me.'" Robert Heinlen

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                        • #13
                          cordy isn't an angel. she works for the powers that be... and from what we've seen, she seems to more or less be in the same position as when jasmine sent her to floaty land... she can just flutter leaves now... and probably move a slot machine--but remember that got her dispelled. the ptbs don't like to interfere much. as far as we know, jasmine was the one doing 99.9% of the interference. jasmine went rogue and cordy was sent down when the other ptbs were desperate enough to need to get information to angel.

                          "If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
                          "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions."

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                          • #14
                            Fine but there are angels out there! humph!
                            "I never learned from a man who agreed with me.'" Robert Heinlen

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Ehlwyen View Post
                              But most magic on the show doesn't have a clear source. Where does it come from? Does it come from nature and the world itself? If so, it does seem wrong to take from something to alter its course.

                              Does it come from within the witch or spell caster? If so, it seems more acceptable to practice magic, though I can see great hubris developing within a person who themselves can so affect the universe.
                              I really like the way magic is portrayed in "Get It Done", since we get a much fuller insight into what is going on than we usually do:
                              Code:
                              INT. SUMMERS' HOUSE - LIVING ROOM - NIGHT
                              
                              Willow sits in the center of the living room, her hair whipping about, the 
                              eye in the center of the storm.
                              
                              WILLOW
                              (Latin)
                              Via, concursus, tempus,
                              spatium, audi me ut
                              imperio...
                              (English)
                              Avenue, convergence, time,
                              space, hear me as I
                              command...
                              
                              She grits her teeth, unable to bear the strain, and looks through the 
                              maelstrom to see Kennedy looking at her with all the belief in the world.
                              
                              WILLOW
                              Screw it. Mighty forces, I suck at
                              Latin, okay? But that's not the
                              issue! I am in charge here and I am
                              telling you, open this portal NOW!
                              
                              XANDER
                              It's not happening, Will.
                              
                              KENNEDY
                              Give her time, she's getting it.
                              
                              XANDER
                              Or something's getting her. Will -
                              thinking you better back up a little.
                              
                              WILLOW
                              No!
                              
                              Willow, feral, her eyes already dark, SHOOTS out both hands - one 
                              pointing at Kennedy, the other at Anya - and streams of ENERGY 
                              come sucking out of both of them, flowing, fast, into Willow, hair 
                              going BLACK instantly. She opens her mouth and lets out a primal 
                              yell of power and ecstasy.
                              
                              And - WHOOSH! - The DOOR OF LIGHT emanates from the floor up.
                              
                              WILLOW (cont'd)
                              Aahh!
                              
                              Anya and Kennedy both fall to their knees, drained, horrified. Xander 
                              REACHES in through the light and YANKS Willow away. She cannot 
                              take her eyes off the portal - her handiwork.
                              
                              Kennedy looks on, horrified.
                              The way I'm reading this is the following: Buffyverse-magic is the ability of an agent (Willow) to utilize power (Willow's own plus something she takes from Kennedy and Anya) to persuade a supernatural entity ("mighty forces") to affect the natural world.

                              I think pretty much all of canon can be explained within this framework. The rituals used to work magic most of the time are merely a means of persuasion, they have no power or effect in themselves. Willow has reached a level at which she doesn't need to resort to this. Power can have a variety of sources, among them something that everyone has within themselves (in varying degress - Willow has a lot of this, making her a "powerful witch"), and something that comes from the Earth (all the Gaia-stuff in season 7). The supernatural entities more or less seem to coincide with the Buffyverse-deities, e.g. Osiris is called upon for resurrections.

                              When a mistake is made in the ritual or the request/command doesn't ask for quite the right thing, unpredictable (side-)effects may occur. And the granting entities may impose a price the agent has to pay, in addition to the power that is consumed.
                              As far as sources. I can't really say much about Willow's absorption of the "dark magic" as even being evil. Her intentions were already dark. Therefore, how much did they color how the magic was used as opposed to the so-called "dark" source?
                              Right, that's the crux. The Dark-Willow-arc suggests that using magic in certain ways affects the caster. There was definitely something darker at work than Willow's own grief and violence and power. If we work with the above framework, the question is whether this darkness is part of the power she uses or part of the entities she calls upon. Depending on which episode we look at, a case can be made for either interpretation.
                              Originally posted by Revan View Post
                              Good magic is not about power.
                              Of course it is.
                              "Good" is about power just as much as evil is. Power is just the ability to affect the environment. Without that ability, morality has little meaning.
                              Last edited by kassyopeia; 18-08-08, 11:52 AM.

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                              • #16
                                Quote: All of the last post

                                I agree that seems pretty accurate. Except that black magic comes solely from oneself most of the time. Another possibility is that they don't actually appeal to a higher power it is just that the words enable the caster to unlock the energies inside them and shape them into a spell.

                                By the way Kassy love your idea seems just about perfect for most of the explanation. However some creases.
                                "I never learned from a man who agreed with me.'" Robert Heinlen

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Ehlwyen View Post
                                  I can't say I'd ever consider a tool to be the power to change a natural course of things. That's far too extreme a view of natural for me. In my example, I perceive magical as supernatural and therefore not of the natural course of things.
                                  Is the supernatural in the Buffyverse really all that "super" though? Giles tells Willow that "it's all connected to the earth." In the series a lot of people don't know about magic, possibly the majority but does it necessarily make it "un-natural"? I'm not sure if it does, I'm torn on this. It seems as organic to the world as humans, or even vampires do in the show.

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