Magic (also called sorcery) is a powerful force in the land of Albion. It is limitless in potential and has the ability to affect and change the world around the user.
Similar to any power, its morality is reliant to that often user; just as there are those who use magic for their own ends or to harm others, there are benevolent sorcerers who wish to use magic for good.
Nature of Magic
Magic is a natural force, albeit a very powerful one. It is neither good nor bad; it's simply a force that exists and may be used however the user sees fit. It is usually invoked voluntarily through spells, but there are also magical abilities that appear to manifest themselves in involuntary or uncontrolled manners such as Morgana's prophetic dreams.
Magic can achieve a wide range of effects, including telepathy, telekinesis, shape-shifting, slowing down time, energy blasts, and summoning creatures or ancient forces. In most cases, the effects of magic can only be undone by the use of further magic.
It has often been stated that magic is not just a tool, but has rules and laws that dictate its use. Most of these laws are tied to the Old Religion, and as such figures like High Priestesses have a greater understanding of them through their deeper practice and study. One of the strictest laws of magic has to do with the power over life and death.
Humans who practice magic are known as sorcerers. Some, such as Morgana, appear to be born with an aptitude for magic while others, such as Gaius, can learn to use magic through years of study. Merlin appears to be an anomaly in that he was born with magic and could use it instinctively from birth.
Many sorcerers initially unlock their powers while experiencing extreme emotional upheaval. This can, in turn, cause them to lose control of these powers, potentially causing massive damage. If the person in question lives among a magical race or is trained, it is likely that they will come to understand and control their abilities earlier and more safely than isolated magicians. Some of the most powerful sorcerers are tied to a foretold destiny, among them Merlin, Morgana, and Mordred.
Most sorcerers prefer to wield magic with spells, presumably because it gives them a focus to channel their magic. However, more experienced or naturally gifted sorcerers such as Merlin or Morgana have been seen to use non-verbal magic, a practice which appears to be linked to a sorcerer's overall magical aptitude. Merlin, for example, could produce a wide variety of magical effects without speaking.
Spells themselves appear to vary hugely. Some may require the use of specific objects such as crystals, poppets, herbs, or potions while others can have a direct effect without the aid of external objects. The complexity of a spell's preparation relies entirely on the difficulty of the spell being cast and the power of the sorcerer. Longer incantations generally appear to be more powerful, though this has not always been the case. For some areas of magic there are several different spells that provide the same (or a similar) effect, such as healing or stunning spells.
For most magical acts there is a physical sign accompanying its use. In the case of human sorcerers, the irises of the user's eyes briefly glow gold as their magic is channeled. However, this is not the case for all magical abilities. Telepathy, Balinor's healing spell, and some of Morgana's visions, for example, do not produce this effect.
Additionally, among other creatures the change in eye color may be of a different hue. The Lamia's eyes, for example, turned green when its magic was activated, and Aulfric and Sophia (who outcast Sidhe) had eyes that turned red when they performed magic.
Abilities and Powers
Magic is capable of changing and controlling the natural world (people, events, objects, and physical phenomena) through mystical, paranormal, and supernatural means.
Magic is mainly practiced by sorcerers, but it should be noted that there are many other mystical creatures that are capable of it. The Great Dragon, for example, has been able to teach Merlin spells on occasion.
Types of Magic
As an ancient art that has been practiced for centuries by many different lifeforms, magic has varying branches that have developed to suit its different practitioners. Among these are Sidhe Magic, Troll Magic, the magic of the Old Religion, and Dragonlord Magic.
- Sidhe Magic
- The magic of the Sidhe (and apparently Pixies as well) is a very rich and powerful one. Its spells are spoken in Old Irish and produce a red iris color.
- Sidhe Magic can control and possess humans, open portals to Avalon, and channel power through enchanted staves. Humans who are naturally gifted at magic appear to be able to master some aspects of it, as Merlin was able to wield a Sidhe staff against its owner.
- Troll Magic
- Troll Magic is very powerful to the point where Dragons were their allies.
- Trolls appear to use their magic for devious ends, particularly emotional manipulation, mind control, and creating general disorder. They appear to be resistant to human magic and have some control over the elements.
- Magic of the Old Religion
- The magic of the Old Religion is the most frequently seen among human sorcerers and is the root of all human magic. It is also the source of magical power for Dragons, the Dorocha, the Cailleach, the Dochraid, and the Dragonlords.
- Its spells are spoken in Old English and produce a gold iris color.
- Balance is a key principle of the Old Religion; in order for something to be created, something else must usually be destroyed. For example, in order for a life to be created in a barren woman, a life must be taken in exchange.
- Dragonlord Magic
- The magic used by Dragons and Dragonlord is subcategory of the magic of the Old Religion. It is based around a deep and potent bond between a Dragonlord and a Dragon that ties them together. In this way, a Dragonlord may call forth an unborn Dragon from its egg.
- Dragonlord magic is spoken in Homeric Greek. They are able to talk to and control Dragons. The gift is passed down from father to son, but the son only truly inherits the father's powers after the father has died.
- All Dragonlords were wiped out during the Great Purge except Balinor, who was later killed in battle. With his last breaths he told his son, Merlin, how to use his powers.
- Seers are able to see the future.
- Seers with the gift of prophecy are able to see the future in their dreams. This is a rare, innate ability which cannot be learned or unlearned.
- Other Seers can see the future through scrying. Taliesin, for example, was said to divine his prophecies by scrying in the crystals of Crystal Cave.
- Elemental Magic
- Elemental magic relates to the manipulation of the four base elements that make up the world: Water, Air, Fire, and Earth. These may be manipulated by any species of sorcerer and produce a vast array of effects.
- Time Magic
- This form of magic involves manipulating time itself. It can be used to slow down time around objects or certain places, and has mostly been used by gifted magical creatures. It has never required a verbal spell, though whether this is because it requires a non-verbal spell or is a power used instinctively is unknown.
- Goblin Magic
- Goblin Magic is a lesser form of magic practiced by Goblins. It is performed non-verbally and is mostly used to play tricks and pull pranks on innocent people in order to gain gold, which is what Goblins desire most.
- The wielders of Goblin Magic are able to possess other people's minds, use telekinesis, change the effects of potions, and more.
- Dark Magic
- Dark Magic is a form of magic used for sinister purposes. It is normally connected to what is called "the left-hand path" and is mostly used for personal gain.
- Although magic itself is basically neutral, its morality is determined by how it is used and the motives of the sorcerer using it. Dark Magic is mainly used to cause harm, destruction and misfortune, and to injure and kill.
Attitudes towards Magic
In the kingdom of Camelot, the use of magic and enchantments was forbidden. After his beloved wife, Ygraine, died as a result of Nimueh's magical malpractice, Uther vowed to destroy all things magical and instigated the Great Purge. Though not everyone felt as Uther did, magic users were a minority in Camelot and very few people were willing to speak out against the King. As a result, many sorcerers were killed or forced to go into hiding while continuing to practice magic in secret.
Due to the highly personal nature of Uther's grudge against magic, Camelot appeared to be unique in his ferocious persecution of sorcerers. A few of his neighbors appeared to regard his policies negatively and allowed sorcerers and Druids to roam freely. They were even shown to employed them from time to time. However, in order to maintain peace between their kingdoms the other rulers were generally willing to keep their opposing views to themselves.
That said, it has been implied that Uther was neither the first nor the only king to mistrust/dislike magic. Sarrum of Amata, for example, was even more brutal and sadistic towards sorcerers and had a zero-tolerance attitude towards magic. Furthermore, Alator once told Merlin that he had been shunned, persecuted, and sometimes even hunted in every corner of the Five Kingdoms because of his magic.
After Uther's death, his son Arthur succeeded the throne. As he had already considered the idea that not all magic was evil (despite his father's insistence), for many sorcerers Arthur represented hope for change in Camelot's treatment of magic and its practitioners. However, due to the nature of his father's death, Arthur remained conflicted over the issue and did not alter the law, though his hatred of magic eventually diminished after Gaius explained that the old sorcerer hadn't been responsible for Uther's death.
After Elyan was possessed by the spirit of a Druid boy, Arthur confessed that he'd been responsible for the boy's death and profusely apologized for his misdeed. When he tearfully vowed to treat the Druid people with the respect that they deserved, he allowed the spirit to move peacefully into the afterlife. This event ultimately rekindled hope in the end of magic's persecution, and (though Arthur claimed that he only said what he had to appease the spirit), Arthur's noble nature and genuine remorse over the boy's death made it clear that the restoration of magic in Camelot was only a matter of time.