On Thursday at 11PM on the Fan Tracks channel, the Fantasy Literature track hosted “Culture and Magic.” Panelists D.J. Butler, Doug Burberry, R.R. Virdi, L. Jagi Lamplighter, and Day Al-Mohamed discussed how a culture could influence magic as well as how magic could influence a culture.
The panel began by pointing out that, because they are so intertwined, it is hard to separate magic from culture. The roots of magic lie in beliefs and not necessarily in what can be seen. For example, spirituality, religion, science, psychology, and nature all play a part in the ethos of a magical world. One example cited was the way magic intertwined differently in each of the nations in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Magic can also be a way to explain how the world works. Tasks can be completed and accomplishments made through a system and network of magic. How people use magic and influence others can be seen in things like love spells, abundance spells, and protection or healing spells. Highlighting the short leap from magic to medicine.
Another aspect of magic the panelists visited was how magic affects the dynamics of the world. For example, is there a cost to perform magic such as personal loss or pain? Does a magician ever really want ultimate power or to simply guide others like Merlin and Arthur? Another example was the Force in Star Wars. Jedi use the Force to support good while the Sith try to control it for evil.
The panelists discussed whether or not magic was welcome in the culture and whether it was female- or male-oriented. This led the discussion to consider the difference between generational magic versus anyone using it. In some cultures, the use of magic is feared because people think magicians would use it to take over. In other worlds, such as in Wheel of Time, how women use magic is different from how men use it and Rowlings imagining of magic being so innately British was also brought to mind.
Throughout the discussion, panelists commented on various real-life uses and integrations of magic. The days of the week were named after planets and the (Germanic) gods as well as the arbitrary number seven, a lucky number, used to mark the length of a week. The placebo effect was raised while the panelists discussed a medical study of two groups of patients, one of which was told they were being prayed for while the other was not. The group that was prayed for saw a higher rate of recovery. To close out the discussion, the panel talked about the story of using a statue of St. Joseph to sell a house. If you want to try this one, bury a statue of St. Joseph upside down and say a prayer. Just remember to retrieve the statue once your house sells!