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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. Modern society has settled upon the term Witch to describe this phenomenon. Whilst there is only a small subset of the human race that finds themselves able to tap into these energies in any substantial way, it is understood that the majority of, if not all humans possess the potential to do so, but in such minuscule quantities as to be effectively non-existent.
The source of these powers has been argued back and forth, but the arguments always come back to the belief that witches are somehow tapping into the natural energies of the world, though the mechanism through which this is accomplished is still poorly understood and 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 disciplines of magic are as follows:
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. These rituals need not be flashy or ostentatious, they just need to draw upon the power in an appropriate manner. It is also possible to perform a ritual in advance of when its power will be needed, which can come in useful in stressful or time-senstive situations.
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.1)
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.
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.