Magic (魔法, Mahou) are systems of skills and techniques, closer to what we call ‘science’ than the average image of magic and magicians. Magic as a whole requires a complex amount of calculation, theory and practica in order to make efficient use of the powers they had. As such, spells alone of not simply something a person can cast, but require knowledge of the subject, how the spell works and what the incantation is in order to shape the magic correctly.
Rite (儀式 gishiki) are the methods and procedures required to successfully accomplish magic. Establishing the path the current sorcery will take with a previously determined procedure, and using incantations, body language, symbols, the celestial bodies, magical artifacts, etc. to amplify and stabilise the magic. The more complex or far-reaching the magic, the stricter the procedural requirements will be, and the complexity of the conditions increases.
With certain rites, animate or inanimate objects prepared purely for destruction – a sacrifice (犠牲 gisei) – are needed. Notable are living sacrifices (生け贄 ikenie) – a great existence being exchanged for effects of higher merit and value. Thus, rituals meant to obtain great results will use human beings as living sacrifices. In particular, the most effective human sacrifices are highly spiritual existences such as shrine maidens or saints, or individuals with close or direct flesh-and-blood ties to the caster.
Spell (呪文,Jumon) are the words that enact the supernatural phenomena of magic. Not a keyword that ‘activates’ supernatural power, but in itself holding the power and “soul” of words. However, spells are not simply ‘words of power’; they are full rituals which must be sung in verse, containing the will of the caster. Spells are the circuits which allow the caster to shape ‘the power of words’ in a form he most desires.
Spells are mostly divided into three forms based on their required methods and compositions: named spells, unnamed spells, and ritual spells.
A named spell is more or less a fixed spell, with a fixed effect – the stereotypical image of “magic”. The effects of named spells are generally powerful, making them incredibly useful as long as the mage has Mana and the capacity to incant. On the other hand, as the spells are fixed, there is also the negative aspect that the spells cannot be modified. An exception exists in Sagitta Magica, a spell that the mage can easily arrange; not only can the mage freely change the element and quantity of the released arrows, he can change the firing state from a scattered homing model to a concentrated model.
An unnamed spell is closer to an impromptu or a command, giving a strong impression that it is something the mage creates in response to the needs of the situation – for example, Negi’s creation of a love potion, and the manipulation of the brushes were both unnamed spells. As these spells use the power of the words directly, in a way, these are the truest definition of “spells”; magic can be established as long as words of a language of magic are put together as according to its grammatical rules. The effects of unnamed spells are not strong, but they can be freely created based on intents. The majority of magic a mage uses in normal life is most likely of this type.
A ritual spell is a great magic – a circuit of Mana formed by many participants, over long periods of time, involving lengthy spells, giant wards, points of Mana such as holy grounds, historic ruins, or leylines, and use of living sacrifices; Chao’s Forced Recognition Magic and the bounded field which protects Mahora Academy would fall under this category. As these spells are “order-made” for a specific purpose, they essentially only have a single use. In addition, as natural conditions such as a specific celestial body can vary, the conditions of usage are incredibly strict. However, their effects are extremely powerful, creating effects that a single mage cannot possibly replicate.
Magic and spells have always been intrinsically linked to song and dance. Signs, gestures, steps; all of these Decisive Pose (決めポーズ, kime-) are just as important as the incantation itself, and most magic activate only based on a combination of them.
Sign (印 in): Tracing a symbol or mark in the air with your hand (“carving the sign”) or fingers (“joining the sign”). For example, the Buddhist mantra “rin-pyou-tou-sha-kai-jin-retsu-zai-zen”, or the Christian Cross.
Gesture (身振い miburi): Body language. A specific sequence and form of postures. Dancing is among the oldest of body languages.
Step (反閇 hanbei): The precise art of pacing and stepping. The originally Chinese art of uho (named after Yu the Great) is one system where magic is activated by a specific pattern of walking, or pacing a particular sign. This passed into Japanese Onmyou and Shinto as hanbei.
Ward (陣 jin) are geometric rituals. Drawing around or in it representations and names of powerful spirits which you wish to borrow the power of will increase its strength and effectiveness.
Magic Square (魔方陣 mahoujin): By mathematically creating a shape where the set distance in every direction is equal, it becomes a ward against evil. As walking from one point to another is exactly equal in all four directions, it symbolises “perfection” – ie. a God, repelling malevolent spirits.
Magic Circle (魔法円 mahouen): While a circle similarly represents “perfection” (completion) it also represents a ‘closed world’ – a line separating the outside world and the inside. Thus, they are often used for bounded fields and barriers, to protect the one within against external threats. The ‘closed world’ aspect makes circles effective as binding or restricting spaces. This is why spirits tend to be summoned in a circle – to prevent their breaking out. In this case, the name of the summoned spirit will be carved within the circle itself.
Western magic (西洋魔法, Seiyou Mahou) is the style of magic based around the Europe’s cultural sphere of influence. With the spread of European culture and Christianity during the Age of Discovery, western-style magic has also spread throughout the world, with magical academies and similar institutions in many countries.
Closely conforming to the classic image of magicians, a western mage uses mana as energy, and requires spells, incantations, and catalysts to activate magic. The two languages of incantation are Latin and Ancient Greek, with the former being more common and the latter being solely used for High Ancient (上位古代語, joui kodaigo) – high-level magic.
The Western school of mages emphasizes the mage as a part of a team; the mage casts spells, whilst the partner or allies provide support, protecting the magician. In this way, many of the spells have a focus on two main sections: support powers, such as magic barriers, healing, and precognition, and assault powers, designed to either fire too many attacks to dodge, or to make an extremely powerful attack to break through any magic barriers. Even in this grouping however, many of these spells are designed for sealing, capture, and disarming rather than for outright destruction of the enemy.
Mana (魔力 maryoku) is the energy required to use magic. This is not some sort of innate willpower or magical energy, but something taken from the energy in the atmosphere and subdued via willpower and techniques – in other words, it is an energy from outside the practitioner. This means that Mana itself has more or less an infinite source, but the practitioner cannot preserve any Mana if he exhausts his own willpower. In this state, the practitioner can be said to be out of Mana. While there are individual differences when it comes to Mana capacity (魔力容量 maryoku youryou), it is an innate talent or ‘gift’ difficult to develop through training.
One way to increase Mana capacity is to reinforce willpower, which governs Mana. It is believed that by mental growth, and training of the mind, the ability to hold Mana also increases. Another method is to improve the efficiency of the techniques used to convert the energy in the atmosphere to Mana. If the amount of willpower used can be reduced by this process, then Mana capacity can increase as a result.
The theory of Mana is based on the Chinese concept of onmyou (陰陽) or Yin and Yang. While the energy outside of the body would be Myou (陽), the energy inside the body would be On (陰). As On and Myou are the smallest units representing the state of all things in existence, they exist in the foundation of all phenomena. On is the female and maternal component, representing the power of the earth, and of darkness and shadows. On the other hand, Myou is the male and paternal component, representing the power of the heavens, of creation, of light and brightness, and of activity.
Reinforcement (身体強化, shintai kyouka) magic is an important part of a western mage's repertoire. Contrary to the traditional image of magicians in combat – avoiding the wearing of magic-hindering armour and a direct melee – mages can channel Mana into their own bodies to massively reinforce their physical capabilities. Thus, mages can match trained soldiers in physical ability, and an experienced practitioner can easily exceed what normal humans are capable of.
Negi’s battle preparation spell, Cantus Bellax, is the best example of this magic in effect.
Similar to the physical reinforcement provided by Mana, almost all mages maintain a magical barrier (障壁, shouheki) around themselves at all times. These barriers can be specifically enhanced for use against certain types of attacks: protection against magic or physical force, for example.
If prepared in advance, the shield of an average mage is powerful enough to completely stop projectile attacks, including bullets; the density of an experienced mage’s barriers can match full-fledged wards and bounded fields.
Negi’s basic defensive spell, Deflexio, is an example of this magic.
While magic is a complex art-form akin to science, some people have the natural ability to pull of spells that are considered high level skills in moments. A mage can possess an affinity (属性 zokusei), a particular element (or elements) of magic he excels in. Having an affinity for a certain element (and not having an affinity for another) can change the effectiveness of certain spells – for one, reducing or eliminating the necessity of an incantation.
Incantation (詠唱 eishou) are the lines preceding the casting of a spell, which must be completed in their entirety for the magic to activate. The length of the incantation generally corresponds to the power of the spell itself – a spell with a short incantation has a weaker effect, and so on. It is not the words that ‘activate’ a given magical phenomena, but the words themselves containing the power to enact or create those phenomena. In effect, what’s important is that the incantation is spoken correctly, and actually understanding the words is secondary. This is why even Asuna can use Adeat to summon Ensis Exorcizans; even the words of a normal human will carry Mana to some degree.
An unincanted spell (無詠唱呪文 mueishou jumon) is when an incantation is spoke’ internally, in the heart and mind that allows spells to be cast almost instantly. Thus it is possible to cast multiple spells at once, incanting one aloud while preparing another internally. However, it would be extremely difficult to use anything other than an incantation memorized to the point of being able to cast subconsciously.
The more capable the mage, the more powerful the spells he can cast without needing an actual incantation. Conversely, if a mage uses a full incantation for a spell which he is capable of casting unincanted, then the spell itself will become abnormally powerful.
An Activation Key (始動キー kidou) is particular to western magic, this is a specific type of incantation unique to each mage that precedes usage of magic – a password. Taking the ‘power of words’ further, the phrase doesn’t have to make sense or even be in a real language, as long as it feels ‘natural’ to the mage. It is considered a requirement for a proper mage and the setting of one’s activation key is a lengthy ritual.
Activation keys are spoken before the main incantation, but they can be skipped for simple spells. However, what exactly a “simple” spell is depends on the level of the mage; the more capable the mage, the more easily he will be able to cast powerful spells without needing his activation key.
Practe bigi nar is the general activation key used by novices before becoming full-fledged mages.
Some of the known activation keys are as follows:
- Negi Springfield: Ras tel Ma Scir Magister
- Nagi Springfield, "The Thousand Master": Man Man Terro Terro
- Evangeline A.K. McDowell: Lic Lac La Lac Lilac
- Chao Lingshen: Last Tale My Magic Skill Magister
- Mei Sakura: Maple Naple À La Mode
- Natsume Megumi, "Nutmeg": Lapp Chapp La Chapp Lugpool
- Kataragi: Dig Dir Dilic Volholl
- Fate Averruncus: висю тал ли сютал вангэит (Visju Tal Li Sjutal Vangèit)
- Thurdonzi: Nettos Natos Nayatos
- Mitsuru Nijuin: Nicman Pizaman Fuchahireman! (Nikuman (steamed pork bun), pizaman (pizza-like steamed bun), fukahireman (steamed shark-fin bun))
- Yue Ayase: Foa Zo Cratica Socratica (apparent reference to herself as a philosopher) []
- Collette Farandole: Annet Ti Net Garnet
- Emily Sevensheep: Tarot Carrot Charlotte
- J Von Katze: Haiti Mighty Wendy
- S Du Chat: Pacnam Tinuts Coconuts
- Anya Cocolova: Fortis La Tius Lilith Lilioth
- Beatrix Monroe: Mintir Mintis Freesia
- Nii: Mera Lega Mera Sad Nasi Goreng
- Septendecim: Aquari Eterna Dead Sea
- Konoemon Konoe: Murakumo Rurakumo Yakumotatsu
- Albireo Imma: Papryus Tarpis Ron Jinkou
The Magic Activation Device (魔法発動体 mahou hatsudoutai) contains certain powers or symbols which assists in the invocation of magic; the ‘gate’ or ‘bridge’ which connects the mage to the world. Most foci are staves, but other possibilities include rings, jewels, or books.
It is possible to cast magic without a focus – its purpose is to increase and stabilise the power output. As with activation keys, while novices will make use of simple wands, a customised focus is considered a requirement for a proper mage. However, it is not rare for high-class mages to dispose of foci entirely.
Eastern magic (東洋呪術 touyou jujutsu) is the general term for the traditional sorcery utilized in the Asian world and practized by Eastern mages, or Jujutsushi (呪術師). Unlike the unified magic theory of western sorcerers, there is an extraordinarily rich amount of variations in spells and the contents of the magic used, based on the many magic styles and systems. In Japan, the main types of magic included in Eastern Jujutsu are Onmyoudou (陰陽道, “way of onmyou“), Shuugendou (修験道, “way of training and trials”), Mikkyou (密教, “esoteric Buddhism”), and Shintou (神道, “way of kami).
Unlike western magic, the energy source in Eastern magic is Ki. However, Ki, which uses an individual’s life-force as fuel, would not be enough for large-scale magic such as the summoning of Ryoumen-Sukuna-no-Kami, so Mana would also be used. Comparatively, spell incantations also tend to be short, and there are no activation keys. In addition, there are very few spells with specific magic names. It is unknown whether Eastern mages require a focus to activate magic, but based on known depictions, it is likely that they are not necessary.
Eastern Mage schools emphasize the mage as a lone operative, with many of the spells devised to disrupt and confuse rather than to play a role in direct combat. In addition, the Eastern mage's talismans are highly specific. An assault demon, for example, will last until it is either destroyed, or until no more enemies remain, and then dissipate. In much the same way, a defensive demon will only last until it defends the mage from an assault. Once there are no possible threats, they dissipate. Talisman monsters, such as the assault (zenki) and protective (goki) demons, are an exception; these talisman monsters last until their purpose is accomplished, or until they are destroyed. In the case that no orders are given to talismans, they will take whatever task they are first given, and attempt to complete that. Once that task is completed, they return to paper.
Ki (気, breath) in an of itself, is a rare ability, unique to Mundus Vetus, the lack of magic, as well as the establishment of Eastern religion and martial art lead to the discovery of Ki, the ability to release magic power from inside of your body through training and physical exertion allowed for an easy transition into martial arts, where the two become intertwined. As well as martial arts, Ki found it's way into the esoteric ways of buddhism through various sects, mainly Vajrayana Buddhism, whose bestowed powers onto their acolytes, which eventually spread through to Eastern Magic and Martial arts by endowing them with special abilities on the level of super-humans. All manor of Japanese and Chinese martial arts rely of the fundamental basis of exerting Ki to perform duties, much like the magic of western societies today.
Complete magic nullification (完全魔法無効化, Kanzen Mahou Mukouka) is the “power to begin and destroy worlds” and one of the abilities maintained by the royal bloodline of Vespertatia from the Age of Gods. The Princess of the Twilight was born with Magic Cancel as an innate anti-magic field (反魔法場 hanmahoujou). The most extreme example of the Dispulso spell effect, by causing mana to decay and dissipate.
Magic Cancel is a rare ability that completely nullifies magic. Certain magic cast or used on a person with this ability has no effect. However, not all types of magic are nullified, magic affecting a fixed space around its target can overpower this defense: the ‘infinite loop’ trap in Kyoto, for example. Magic that harms the person is stopped, (excluding spells not directly harming but disabling such as a disarm spell) while magic that helps the person is not. It is unclear how one gets this ability, as it is rare. The only person known to have this ability is Asuna, which may have something to do with her and the Thousand Master, Nagi Springfield.
Main article: Pactio
Pactio is a magically binding "Contract" between a Magister/Magistra Magus and his Minister/Ministra Magus. The pactio enables the Magister casting the spell to transfer some of his/her magic power to the other person involved in the "pactio", improving the Ministra's natural capabilities, by an average of ten times their normal capacity, according to Chamo. Another advantage included in having a pactio is the ability for the Ministra to summon a "magic artifact". Each magic artifact reflects the Ministra summoning it, and as such, the vast majority of magic artifacts will be quite different. In the case of Nodoka, she received a magic picture diary, which reflects her title as a librarian. With Haruna, she received a magic quill and sketchbook, which ties in with her personality as an artist. As Chamo stated, there is no real way of determining just what kind of artifact is given to each new Ministra, but one can assume that the artifact will reflect an aspect of the Ministra's personality.
When a pactio is established, a card is created as proof of the contract. Copies can be made (the Magister keeps hold over the originals), and these cards allow for telepathic communication between the Magister and Ministra by using the incantation Telepathia. It also allows the Magister to summon the Ministra at any time. This ability has so far been shown four times in the Manga series, when Negi called Asuna and Setsuna in Kyoto, when he summoned Asuna later in chapter 60 (much to her horror since she was taking a bath at the time), when he summoned Setsuna, and when Fate Averruncus summoned his Ministra in chapter 215. Apparently, there is a limit as to how far away a magister can summon his/her ministra. According to Chachamaru in chapter 189, the maximum distance is around 10 km.
If the Ministra should be left to his/her own wits, he/she can use the copy of the "pactio" card to borrow magical energy from the Magister, or to summon his/her artifacts. To summon forth the artifact, the Ministra invokes the phrase Adeat, meaning to "bring forth" in Latin. This causes the copy card to transform into the artifact. To return the artifact to its card form, the phrase Abeat is used. The Magister can also make the artifact to appear by using the Master Copy.