By now, we know that magic works differently in The Witcher universe than say, other franchises. Here it all revolves around Chaos. Whether you are looking at the Netflix show, the books, games, or even the short stories, carrying out magic spells in the universe of The Witcher requires using Chaos.
Chaos is a primordial dangerous force that has always existed, but it became abundant only 1,500 years before the events in the books, after the Conjunction of the Spheres.
This reality-altering event caused Chaos from various planes to combine with the magical power present in the Continent, thus, forever changing the nature and future of our lives.
Chaos is also called Power or Force, and it’s drawn from the main elements we are all familiar with- earth, water, fire, and air. And the four branches of magic are based on these primary elements. Although, there are two other branches known as divination and mind magic.
Ether, a more dangerous and fifth element refers to the Chaos drawn directly from the Astral Plane. Note that Ether can also be used by combining all the primary elements. All mages, sorcerers, and other magic users use this system across the multiverse.
Know that innate Chaos users called Sources are the only beings who can truly realize the fantastic potential of magic. After all, simple spells used by Geralt of Rivia like signs can be used by almost everyone at very little cost.
Also, it should be noted that for reasons not yet known, women have a natural inclination for controlling Chaos than men. Also, know that for men the cost of magic is generally greater.
The Witcher focuses a lot on the cost of using Chaos to use magic. Utilizing Chaos and magic need sacrifices to get the desired effect along with the needed magnitude.
This can be seen in Tissaia’s (MyAnna Buring) lessons at Aretuza. During training, mages sacrifice parts of themselves or small living beings to carry out spells.
Generally, there’s a magic rule- the bigger the spell, the bigger the sacrifice needed. This can be seen when Yennefer nearly killed herself and lost her innate Chaos (although temporarily) during the Battle of Sodden Hill to turn the tides.
This is the reason why Sources, i.e, those with Elder Blood like Ciri and other natural magic users are constantly in danger despite their ability to easily unleash amazing powers.
It needs to be said that the physical injuries sustained as a result of harnessing Chaos pale in comparison to the spiritual and mental anguish undergone by the Sources. Many have gone mad with the knowledge of the multiverse.
In traditional fantasy settings, mana is used as a source of magic. But the magic in The Witcher comes at a price, and that price is life itself. This is a reflection of the frequently occurring theme of sacrifice in the series.
This is the reason why some organizations, like the Brotherhood of Sorcerers, either completely forbid or limit certain spells and practices, both for ethical and practical purposes.
For example, the Brotherhood forbids the use of fire magic except in dire circumstances since the cost is thought to be too great for general everyday use. The same is true for death magic or necromancy.
The kingdom of Nilfgaard’s mages reveals that some magic practitioners actually even sacrifice human lives for powering spells. This is a practice that’s more frowned upon compared to necromantic and fire-based magic.
Most magic users follow these rules, but there are exceptions. They ignore these rules and risk their organs, limbs, and even minds just in the pursuit of power.
The rules for using Chaos and magic in The Witcher are a critical examination of the heavy cost of maintaining and attaining power in the world. Now, the effects of Chaos and magic are present in just fantasy, but these concepts are analogs for modern geopolitics, capitalism, and general social interactions.
The slow evolution of Chaos-born magic, as both social commentary and a tool in the multiverse, will surely continue to be seen in The Witcher season 3.
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