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Spell ingredients in the modern age

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  • Spell ingredients in the modern age

    Spellcasting in urban fantasy usually leads to my wondering how well the modern equivalents of ancient ingredients should work. Highfantasy doesn't lead to the same questions, because you can usually assume that species, environments, populations, etc. won't change significantly without divine intervention or a magic nuke going off or something like that, but urban fantasy tends to be "like reality unless noted."

    And, of course, in reality, things change. Farmers breed their crops to have lower proportions of bitter-tasting chemicals. People move to regions populated by different subspecies of animals. Tiny bits of viral and bacterial DNA cross into the genomes of more complex organisms. Fertilizers alter the microbiomes of plants. Erosion, factory waste, and volcanic eruptions mean that the soil from a given region can have a different composition than it did a thousand years ago. Monsanto keeps weirding up everything.

    So, how do witches know that their sage isn't wildly overpowered for their cleansing rituals? Will a corn god bless GMOs? Does it matter if a chicken's feet are black? (FWIW, Malian animists can vouch that too much breast meat interferes with at least one chicken-related ritual.) If magic were real, how much would you trust the spell components currently on the market?

  • #2
    Via, concursus, tempus, spatium, audi me ut imperio. Screw it! Mighty forces, I suck at Latin, OK? But that's not the issue. I'm the one in charge, and I'm telling you open up, portal, now! ~ Willow Rosenberg

    It doesn't matter, it's magic, not software engineering.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by a thing of evil View Post
      Via, concursus, tempus, spatium, audi me ut imperio. Screw it! Mighty forces, I suck at Latin, OK? But that's not the issue. I'm the one in charge, and I'm telling you open up, portal, now! ~ Willow Rosenberg

      It doesn't matter, it's magic, not software engineering.
      If the ingredients don't matter, why even bother with them? Sure, witches have to have willpower, too, but I doubt they'd devote that much time and money to spell components if the only thing that mattered was thinking really hard. There's a reason why Willow accepts no substitute for "eye of newt"-- she tries to stick to the spell as written. But how much wiggle room is there? Is a newt that's picked up a recent color mutation as good as a newt that hasn't?

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      • #4
        I think that moment in "Get it Done" was meant to represent that Willow had grown so powerful that she could bypass the usual rituals and latin and take command of the "mighty forces" that witches would normally have to appease or ask for help.
        "The earth is doomed!" - Banner by Nina

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        • #5
          The eye of newt name still means something! I think there is wiggle room. A spell is a recipe and there are substitutes for ingredients that will be virtually the same as the original, but there are also substitutes that are nothing like the original, but will do in a pinch. It's a combination of words and ingredients and as long as the ingredients are nearly the same, the words carry the power and will imbue the ingredients with the magic. If the ingredients are nothing like the original, then the spell caster, like a chef, is taking a risk. If they're good enough, or powerful enough, it won't matter much, if they are weaker, never used the spell before, or new to magic, then anything can happen.

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          • #6
            Just wait till I master the finer arts of alchemy...

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