Unsympathetic Magic

If you’re familiar with modern magickal theory and/or reasonable amounts of fantasy writing, you know the Law of Sympathetic Magic, and if that’s the case, you probably think this is fiction. If you’re not, or if you know this stuff but don’t believe in it, you probably think this is fiction. So let’s just assume that I’m lying to you, and therefore, it’s perfectly fine to take in this clearly-not-real thaumaturgical lesson.

Sympathetic magic generally says that “like calls to like”, which is to say that you can use symbols to affect reality. Or, in other words, it says a representation of a thing has a chance to affect the actual thing itself. This is completely ridiculous; for example, who believes that making offerings to some sort of idol will have an actual effect on the world? That would be like, say, listening to commentary about a thing. and believing the commentary, without ever checking the source materials. Nobody would do that, eh?

Unsympathetic magic is repulsion. That is, unlike drives away unlike.

So, while in sympathetic magic one might, say, steal someone’s toenail clippings (ewww) and make from them a doll or figure, and then stick pins into said figure in order to attempt to cause pain to one’s subject, in unsympathetic magic, one does basically the opposite. If you’ve read your Lovecraft, you might recall that the priests of Sarnath practiced secret rites of detestation against the statue of Bokrug, the Water-Lizard.

And, as with everything in Lovecraft, that worked out really well, albeit not necessarily for the priests.

In sympathetic magic, one needs to identify that which is similar to a particular thing. We referenced using discarded bits of body (did we say “ewww” earlier? We did, didn’t we?) in order to have a sort-of direct, organic connection. But it’s quite common to use something symbolic instead, a fact which will not surprise anyone who’s tried to acquire black-market toenails.

The difficulty here is simple. In order to find a reasonable opposite of a thing, you need to have some understanding of the thing.

Magic is not quite as unrelenting as physics; to some extent, magic knows what you want. If you say black is the opposite of white, magic tends to know what you mean, and doesn’t get too hung up on the whole “one is a shade, the other is a combination of all the colors put together” thing. Likewise, it tends to have a reasonable idea of what you mean by ”

Unsympathetic magic is one of the least physically-exhausting forms of magic to attempt. This is because the magic itself can do much more with less. That is to say, ordinarily, if you utterly bungle a spell, or, say, cast something which might be cosmically inappropriate, that spell will draw more energy from you, and then come back to smack you upside the head; usually somewhere in the realm of the parietal lobe, which is essentially fatal to mind and/or body.

But if you bungle unsympathetic magic, it need not do anything else.It’s extremely efficient.

Some people speak of Karma. Some speak of Balance. Some speak of The Threefold Law. Some disbelieve in all of those things, or have no idea what they are. It really doesn’t matter.

The idea that what you do will often come back to haunt you comes from a very simple idea in the Universe:

The Universe is generally out to get you. It just wants an excuse.

Ask any spellworker – or, hell, if you don’t trust those, ask any engineer. Ask any assassin.

If you go around saying, “I don’t understand, I thought I’d washed all the poison off my hands after I tipped the rest of it into his drink, why am I lying on the ground bleeding from within”, you probably have never understood that challenging endeavors involve risk, and fatal endeavors involve potentially fatal risk.

Sorry, friend, it’s late, and it’s time you got out of the gene pool.


Jeff Mach Written by:

Jeff Mach is an author, playwright, event creator, and certified Villain. You can always pick up his bestselling first novel, "There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN"—or, indeed, his increasingly large selection of other peculiar books. If you'd like to talk more to Jeff, or if you're simply a Monstrous Creature yourself, stop by @darklordjournal on Twitter, or The Dark Lord Journal on Facebook.

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