Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Betweens

I was wandering in the bookstore the other day, in the sci-fi fantasy section, and I picked up a book and read the blurb. It started with concepts like ‘the only pure remaining’ and ‘more powerful than anyone…ever…no really…I’m serious g’damnit’ (okay, I paraphrased here). So it was talking about magic. Potent magic. And, as a magical practitioner, and a writer currently working on something that has a little bit of something to do with magic, it got me to thinking.

The most powerful places and times to make magic, and I’m talking big mojo melt the moon kind of magic, are the betweens. The betweens are places and times were space and time are neither this, nor that. It’s not a concept restricted to one cultural specific mythos, either. The most powerful beings are the ones who can shift between planes, or realities, or, the two worlds (mundane and magic: waking and dream: living and dead). These beings are considered ‘betweens’ themselves.

So for places, think the shore: where earth and water and air meet. Add a fire and you have all four elements. Think of the lyrics from Scarborough Fair: “Tell her to find me an acre of land…Between the salt water and the sea strand”. To the average Joe this sounds impossible, yet it hints at the powerful nature of the betweens: in the area between water and earth exists a magical place – more so, a magical potential.

And crossroads: often called “Where three roads come together and join as one”. Picture any of the three, and then they go on as one. You can summon all kinds of things at the crossroads. Hecatae was rumored to roam the back roads, and would visit the crossroads if called, especially to guide the dead home. The thing is, all the roads merge, and it depends on your perspective which are the three, and which is the newly formed one that rises from the union of the others: again: a vague state, an uncertain state, a state of ‘neither this, nor that’.

The most powerful times for magic: not the dead of midnight. Nope. Dawn, or dusk. Neither this. Neither that. Some of one, some of the other, neither more than it’s counterpart.

And the most potent of dreams, where all manner of doors in the psyche can open? Not so much the deep REM state, as that surreal moment when you have not yet emerged from the land of Morpheus, but, you are somehow awake in that very same moment.

For my more science inclined compatriots, this is mirrored in an eminently reproducible experiment with : the magnet. A magnet has two obvious, definable poles – north and south. If you had a longish shaped one, like a pencil, at some point each direction becomes the other. And if you snap it in two at the most precise half way point, you do not get one half that has two ends as north and two ends as south. You get two halves, each with a north and south pole.

This, I believe, is also expressed in science as the dynamic equilibrium of life, or any garden variety chemically balanced equation. To balance on that singularity of the change state, where nothing is certain and everything is possible is to know and to be able to use the most powerful of magic. You are at the ultimate potential point. You are standing in the center of that acre of land, perched between the salt water and the sea strand.

And these people of magic. Would pure this or that make as good magic as someone who embodies the concept of the ‘between’? If the balance point is the singularity we call ‘potential’, where nothing is definitely one way or the other and all possibilities can occur, would not a person or being who is the living representation of the balance point be a more potent magical operator than say, a ‘pure breed’? Perhaps it’s that the ‘pure this’ is good at ‘pure this’ things, which is limiting in scope. But your ‘potential this or that’ is good at harnessing the wildest of magic and making all kinds of crazy things as a result because they themselves are in harmony of dynamic equilibrium. And doesn’t that belief feed the glimmer of hope when all odds would otherwise favor something other outcome? Don't our heroes stand on that point and emerge victorious because they are able to summon the power simply with belief alone: I believe I can do this, beat the odds, maybe because I have no choice, but maybe, maybe because I really do believe I can affect change no matter how unexpected that change will be. (Remember Han Solo: "never tell me the odds.")And isn't that one of the cornerstones of magic: the use of will to shape and move energy to create a desired outcome? Hmmm. I'm seeing some ties ins here: hero or heroine, agent of change, is in essence a person of power because they recognize the infinate potential in the moment, and they brave fear and reason to seize that moment and create an outcome.

It ties back into the Order and Chaos thing, as well. One can’t exist without the other, and to be powerful is to master transmutation and to stay fluid in the magical moment.

So in the end, I put the book back.
Pure reminds me of absolute zero: it’s a point we move towards, but never reach. Like hell freezing over. And magic: real magic: that is firmly wedged in the between for me because I like the thought of all things possible, and I like the thought of hope, no matter what the critics, odds, and scientists say.

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