Thaumaturgy, Magical Syntax, and Slood Dynamics Inclusive of Reasonable Predictability
It's often disagreed how and where magic first came to exist. The Indus people of Asia Minor told stories of a light striking from heaven and turning people into monsters. But it was before that that the Akkad people of Mesopotamia told of a beast that came out of the ocean and imbued people with the power to shoot fire from their fingertips. But it was even before that that the Mayans of the Yukatan told of a Cave that led to the underworld and those who made the pilgrimage would be unstoppable warriors and great lovers. The Mayans did not go half way on their fairy tales. But it was even before the Mayans were talking themselves up that a tablet was carved by a civilization that has been forgotten for centuries that told the story of a city surrounded by walls so high that even the clouds could not pass. The city disappeared in one night, leaving nothing behind. The tablet was found at the bottom of an impressively deep mineshaft in a region of Canada that has oddly variable gravity to this day.
While the origin of the mystery forces might be resolutely mysterious, ever since then people have strived to discover what it is, how it works, an what else it can be used for. At its simplest, magic is energy, like heat, electricity, or speed. It works in fairly predictable ways (with a boatload of exceptions), which, once understood, paves the way for more complex uses. Understanding the simplest operation is the building block for every complex mechanism.
Heat for example, produced by rubbing two rough surfaces together, used to keep warm on lonely cold nights, all fairly straight forward. Rub the two surfaces together long enough you'll get fire, or combustion. Combustion can be used to affect all kinds of changes. It can turn rocks in to iron; water into steam; pigs into bacon. Combine the iron, fire, and steam in the right pattern (what the hell, throw in the bacon) and you've created a steam engine. This engine (with or without bacon) can swiftly move huge, heavy loads vast distances. Time the freight right, and put the rails in the right places and you have functional infrastructure of large scale, thriving economy.
What's true for the long term benefits of rubbing sticks together is also true for magic. Take pure Earth Element thaumatalurgical energy. It can be arranged in a tetrahedral, syzygic, or a Hadron array to conjour a variety of ferrets, transfigure a teacup into a waterfowl, or varnish a deck chair. By logical extension, an Ornithological varnish conjugation can be effected to shield a large filing cabinet from ashwinders, redcaps, and muskrats. An arrangement of these well defended filing cabinets, pentagon shape, ten to fifteen layers deep can create a dampening field, extending seventy kilometers in any direction, excluding south by southwest, that will prevent earthquakes. This arrangement would be useless in New Guinea without the preliminary Ornithological inclusion of at least four nuthatches. This is probably a bad example, if for no other reason than it is impractical to varnish a deck chair.
There are four basic rules to remember when understanding magic.
First is how magic is measured. If you want to build a house, you have to know how long the planks are. If you want to bake a cake, you need to know how much flour you need. And as every child can tell you, overestimate energy consumption, your attempt to make an egg timer do a summersault is going to end in exploding timekeepers. The basic unit of magic is the Thaum. One thaum is the amount of magic needed to pull a rabbit out of a hat. The unit can be fractured or compounded to measure smaller or larger amounts. One thousandth of a Thaum is a millithaum. One thousand Thaums is a Kilothaum. (In the era before metric, 1/5th of a thaum was a therin, 1/20th of a thaum was a ducat, 1/100th of a thaum was a ping, 7 thaums was a kinnea, 10 thaums was a rhea, 4 kinnea was a krona, 5 krona and 4 rhea was a planchet, 6 krona was falstaf, 2 falstaf was a furlong, and half of a furlong was a langly. The International Confederation of Wizards resisted metricizing for decades because they believed it was too complicated.)
The tool used to measure magic is the Thaumometer. You're average thaumometer looks a bit like a cross between a telescope and a mirror, if either were made of wood. If you don't have a precision instrument handy, which people generally don't, it only weighs a few kilos, but it's the size of a passenger bus, there are some rules of thumb to estimate thaum usage. The object to be enchanted would use 3 thaums for every cubic meter. For every meter per second it's moving, if it wasn't moving before, thaum usage is multiplied by one and a half. Depending on the color of the finished product, add between 4 (periwinkle) and 17 (burgundy) thaums. So a breadbox turned into a lime-green cement mixer that can make the trip between Totleigh and Heathrow in under four hours would use 84 thaums.
It's important from a safety perspective to know how many thaums you, personally, can use before fatal exhaustion sets in. Internal thaum reserves are different for each person. Unlike muscle strength or alcohol tolerance, an individual cannot increase their personal thaumatic reserves; what you get is what you get. It is important to note that magical power is a different animal from magical skill. A person can have enough power to levitate an island and still have trouble managing transfiguring a paperclip into a fountain pen.
Second is the syntax of magic. As any child, and many species of parrot, can tell you, if you want to cast a magic spell, you have to know the magic words. And while 'Please' and 'Thank You' will help with most things, no amount of pleading and thanking will make a coffee pot sing 'Someone Like You'. A skilled wizard can make an item levitate just by concentrating, and many young witches have been known to make things explode when in high dudgeon, but these are special cases, expatiated on in rule four. Wizards can cast wordlessly, sometimes even wandlessly, but the right incantations must at least be thought. It's generally assumed that magical incantations are Latin (Latin is a dead muggle language that refuses to die). Lumos, clearly is Latin; Ducklifors, clearly isn't.
The fact is magical syntax is actually its own language unto itself. Research from the most ancient Magical Library in the world (found in Elmore County, Idaho) revealed that Latin sounding incantations date as far back as the Early Egyptian dynasty. A time when Latin wasn't even a suggestive glint in the Romans eyes. We can deduce that it was actually Magical Syntax inspired the Latin language. In fact, throughout all of human history, from the Akkad people to the Jersey Shore, we see words that are homophonic with Magical Syntax. The implications of this is that A) Magical Syntax predates every other language and has outlasted every one of them. B) It has inspired every other language in civilizations that wizards have had contact with, which means that C) Wizards are not as secretive as they are supposed to be.
Where this language originated from and why it is inextricably linked with magic is anybody's guess. The magical historian, Iwakona Hariyama, postulated that it was the language spoken in the city of walls that vanished so long ago. She attempted to translate the tablet that spoke of it into magical syntax. She had significant success, but made the horrible mistake of reading the translation out loud. She was never seen again. Well, she was, several times, for decades, but not in the way that decent people would describe in print. (For further reading on the subject, see Hariyama's biography: AAAAHAHAAAAAHAAHHHH!)
It would seem to the layperson that, with a fully functioning language, all you would have to do is phrase the correct sentence and you could do anything. That is, in many cases, true. Several sophisticated charms are several pages long, such as the Fidelius Charm. In Culinary magic, making a pot of coffee just right requires chanting for half an hour. Most spells, though, have simple keywords such as Alohomora, or Jellylorum. Magic is not so much a servant that requires careful instructions, but can be compared to a lover that needs to be wooed, and in some cases a politician that needs to be bribed.
An additional difference to conventional communication is the importance of the number 7. Seven is the most magical numbers (Three is the most perfect number, but that's for something else altogether (Additionally, it is generally agreed that the number 4 is a complete skank)). Every magical society, both present and past, has acknowledged its significance and it is always of integral importance in executing the most powerful spells. In reflection of this, the field of arithmancy, the math of magic, calculates in base 7. Instead of going 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, counting would go 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, and going a little further 64, 65, 66, 100, 101, 102… and so on. It's only the graphical representations that are different: e.g. the number 11 in base 10 and the number 14 in base 7 both represent the same empirical amount.
Third is Slood Dynamics. Slood is a naturally occurring substance that can be found easily and abundantly. On the scale of difficulty, it's easier to produce than fire, but harder to find than water. Slood is not, itself, magical, but Slood Dynamics affects every type of magic. In 1745, the Alchemist Panzeer Bjorn attempted to make a Slood free environment and then to use magic within it. He described the results as "A bit like trying to dance to funeral music without a floor."
For whatever reason, Muggles have never discovered Slood. This is not due to wizard intervention, as is the case with Dragons, Unicorns, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster; they simply never found it. They've gotten along fairly well without Slood, but they always have the feeling that something is missing, and this has caused a lot of psychological issues.
Slood has a rhythmic cycle that lasts exactly 2 years, 27 days, 6 hours and between 19 and 60 minutes. The Slood Cycle is divided into seven seasons, each of which is named after one of the Beatles. The length of each individual season is variable, influenced by a combination of lunar cycles, pigeon migrations, attendance at horse markets, and celebrity gossip.
Slood has weather patterns. There are Slood floods, slood tides, slood rain, slood snow, slood blizzards, slood typhoons, slood quakes, slood eruptions, slood drought, and more.
Each Slood season lends itself to certain weather patterns. It slood snows more often in Ringo than Paul, and never in Sutcliffe. Each slood weather pattern has an effect on certain spells. To name a few: if you apperate during a slood blizzard you will arrive at your target late. Summoning charms executed in when the slood is at high tide will attract snakes. Curses used during a slood quake will backfire on the user. The list goes on. Slood weather and cycles are fairly predictable. You can find a variety of slood calendars at any book seller with intensive explanations of the different effects, so we won't delve into it in this text.
Fourth, please remember, by all means, plan for the fact that rules can be, frequently are, broken. Magic is not like the other fundamental forces that make up the universe. In the case of gravity, if you drop a brick the brick will make its way toward the ground. If magic was in charge of the same operation, an occasional brick would pause on the way down to punch you in the crotch. When water gets below a certain temperature, it will turn into ice. If magic was the authority in that domain, every so often cold water would turn into good whiskey to avoid freezing.
Magic is a capricious force, most of the time it follows the rules people have come to expect, but once in a while it will fly off the handle and throw a right tantrum. You can cast the same cheering charm the same way 100 times and get the same result, but the 101st time the same spell will make the sitting room sofa explode. Magic has a unique personality onto itself. It has moods, it has desires, it has ice cream preferences. A skilled wizard can try and use magic when it's feeing lazy and be unable to transfer a teabag. A young wizard can accidentally Apparate to the top of a tall building simply because magic was feeling bored. It is this distinctly human inclination to cause trouble that makes the study and implementation of magic difficult and very often dangerous.