Magic isn't special. Magic is mundane. Magic is as ordinary as writing words down, as the action of your muscles that move you from place to place, as the arrangement of flowers in such a way that a bouquet looks pretty. Magic is a simple fact of the world, as much as 2+2 = 4, or water is wet. Write that down in your books now. Repeat it to yourself often. Magic is mundane. It will serve you well.
Magic is also notoriously inefficient at doing anything. Oh, sure, I could use a Mathematical ritual to move that apple over there a good couple of feet in the air. But, by the time I made the necessary calculations, drew the requisite sigils, and incanted the correct phrases, I could have just as easily - and please, I cannot stress this enough - considerably more quickly, waltzed over there and picked the apple up myself. This is the second thing you must come to understand about magic. Magic is indirect. It never takes a simple route from A to B. It goes from A to F, then F to G, then G to 55, then back to F, and finally to B - and that's if you've done it right. So whilst it is just as natural and fundamentally mundane as picking up an apple with your hand - it's often just not as good.
Magic, you see, is a bit pants.
- Arguably the only sensible part of Mellifluous Algernon's Esoterica Crumblesia
Those who are able to utilise magical powers have been called various names over the centuries, from Sorceress to Mage to Heathen to Devil-worshiper. Nowadays, 'Witch' is the most common way of referring to such people. Whilst there is only a small subset of the human race that finds themselves able to tap into these energies habitually, it is understood that, in theory, all humans have the potential to do so, if not the talent or the inclination.
The source of these powers has often been debated, but the arguments always come back to the belief that witches are somehow tapping into the natural energies of the world - though the mechanism by which this is accomplished is still poorly understood. There are several groups who seek to understand this better, for example, it is currently one of the focuses of investigation of the Slough Institute of Magical Sciences.
Everybody knows about magic, but very few people take an interest in it. This makes witches somewhat strange. Other humans cannot be expected to understand the study of magic as anything more than a harmless past-time (at best). It takes a certain sort of mind to be a witch. It is sometimes said that witches are more intelligent or somehow brighter than other humans. It is perhaps more accurate to say that witches are on a different wavelength. They understand how the world works in a different way. They have the requisite palate to truly appreciate the mundane.
It is unknown when humans first started the practice of magic. Certain scholars have drawn together the study of archeology and anthropology to propose some very convincing arguments that magic has been practiced in some form for as long as we have understood the world and how to shape it to suit us. This is a hypothesis which attracts no small amount of controversy, not least from those who argue that Celestials (though which kind, no-one is certain) first taught us how to use magic in some form or other. The formulation of magic into five broad disciplines has less to do with how magic *actually* works, and more to do with a framework we were encouraged towards -a way of understanding the complexities of magic by breaking it down into elements with like properties.
The five established disciplines of magic are as follows:
The study of beauty, of meaning through perception, of art, of the senses.
Creating a beautiful sculpture, crafting an optical illusion, decorating a house so that it feels revolting to walk through, changing your outfit to blend into a social scene, confusing someone as to who or what you are doing, adapting a novel into a film.
The study of the body, of anatomy, of movement through space.
Running really fast from one place to another, enfeebling an opponent, mending a bone, hardening a body to withstand privations, consuming matter to repair or augment the self, making bodies lighter, quicker or heavier, copying the body language and mannerisms of someone else.
The study of morality, of philosophy and of belief.
Showing something to be false, withstanding temptation, planting a seed of doubt, inspiring loyalty, commanding respect, making a conscious and mindful choice of one thing over another, understanding what your priorities should be based on your moral code.
The study of language, of words, of semantics, and the creation of written works.
Praising someone for their virtues, lampooning someone for their shortcomings, convincing others you are right, hiding the truth - or proclaiming it, copying a manuscript, translating a work from one language into another, reading something remotely, defining someone's frame of reference, cursing someone through the ages.
The study of numbers, quantities, spaces and the application thereof.
Proving a theorem, decoding an encrypted message, adding the pieces of a broken thing together, analysing a complicated pattern, categorising things into groups, dividing an opponent's forces, transposing a small object through space.
Whilst it is possible for the five disciplines to overlap in the possible effects they can have, the ways in which Mathematics magic and Ethics magic would go about accomplishing the same goal would most likely differ substantially and the rituals would be entirely different beasts. Additionally, two witches using the same category of magic for the same outcome may well perform rituals that (from an outside perspective) seem entirely unrelated.
It is typical for a witch to focus on one or two of the discplines, but it is by no means detrimental to have a broad understanding of magic and the overlap between each of the disciplines.
In order for a witch to get any substantial effect out of their abilities, they need to draw on their power in rituals that are (at least symbolically) linked to the intended focus and outcome. Rituals can be done entirely from scratch (this is sometimes known as 'freeform'); a witch can also make use of magical solutions, ways to channel their magical power which they have learned and tested before.
Preparing a ritual is analagous to 'casting' it, though some rituals (for example, time-delayed rituals, or summons) may require subsequent activation, which takes a comparatively short time. The longer you spend preparing a magical ritual, the more powerful it becomes, up to a point - two weeks being about the maximum time it is useful to prepare a single spell. Distance reduces the effectiveness of a spell when casting, activating or casting with others. It is possible for several witches to collaborate together on a ritual, though the effectiveness of the collaboration does depend on the proximity of the witches, the quality of their communication, and the sort of magic they are trying to work together.
Typically, the largest limiting factor on the effectiveness of a spell is the experience of the witch (or witches) involved. 1)
Magic works for witches the way it does because of their connection with the Earth. Celestial magic works differently to standard witchcraft, and the reason for this is because the metaphysical composition of the Aether is, as far is understood, very different.