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Other New England wizarding stuff - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Other New England wizarding stuff
Despite the many long travelogue passages in "Making the Crossing," I didn't manage to cram in everything that occurred to me. So, hey, what's LJ for if it's not to go on... and on... and on...

  • This was going to major issue at first, but once I finally got a voice in my head for the story (Rebecca's), it didn't fit into what I was writing. Anyway, the idea was that there's a big debate about "Middies" or "Sortas" or several other terms for what is essentially a low-power Muggle-born witch or wizard--someone who could never graduate from a magic school (complex spells are way outside of his or her ability), but who does have enough power to, say, read a fortune properly from time to time, or make a protective amulet, or whatever--something that has a "prop" attached to it, which the person uses to augment a weak power. The overseas debate is whether or not there is such a thing (with the negative opinion being that they're all either frauds or Muggle-born witches that the American system didn't catch and educate) and that does occasionally show up on our side of the Pond, but the major arguments tend to be (a) what to do about them--bring them into the magical community as full members even though they can't participate or leave them to their mostly perfectly happy lives in New Age bookstores or wherever--and (b) why do they appear with such regularity in the States, when they don't seem to exist anywhere else? (The advocates' response is that they do appear everywhere else, but since people don't believe they exist, they're ignored and left out of the communities.)

  • Many of the families in New England, including Rebecca's, came over with the Puritans, and voluntarily abstained from magic because of their own deeply held religious beliefs. The witch trials made some of them re-think this decision, as the witchcraft with which everyone seemed concerned had nothing to do with what they practiced, and those folks made the first tentative contacts with one another to build the hidden magical community. These old families are the ones with the "Mayflower-family" reputation--kind of snobbish, concerned more with the past than the future, meticulous keepers of family trees (though not in the Black family sense; even their detractors don't assume they blast anyone off). This is partly fair (they do have a fairly advanced sense of history) and partly unfair (they also have a right to take pride in their past, as long as they don't dwell on it, which they actually don't, and they do participate in current politics).

  • Various kinds of Native American magic worked their way in, to a point where most of the kids don't even know they're not dealing with European spells. Their teachers like to shock them by pointing out how many such things were "stolen." Many of these spells have to do with working with animals, and a city girl like Rebecca really wouldn't have had much call for them.

  • The Boston Public Library has a Sork-Av branch, which is kind of useless since it's not hooked into the system, but gosh-darnit, it's there. There's a magical conduit between the Sork-Av branch and the Rare Books room at Copley Square.

  • The reason there are so many conduits is that the city's wizarding population grew kind of haphazardly. Sork-Av (an Unplottable street that runs roughly from Copley Square to Downtown Crossing) was built in the 1800s, along with the filling in of the Back Bay, but there were already little shops that existed behind Muggle-shops, tiny enclaves in the immigrant neighborhoods in the North End and South Boston, randomly placed Spell-Houses, where witches and wizards could just go and relax, etc. Because it was the habit, these continued to form even after Sork-Av was built. Along Sork-Av, there are booths with rotating portkeys--each has the name of a destination, and a portkey that takes you there. When you go, the corresponding portkey at the destination goes to the booth.

  • The "witch hammer" that Rebecca thinks tourists expect to find Cotton Mather waving at them is, of course, Malleus Malificarum, a book, but Rebecca's idea that it's stupid to expect this is true--there's a weird belief that Muggles have an object called a "witch hammer," and they used it in Salem to detect witches. People have gone out of their way to explain that not only is it not what a witch hammer is, but that the trials didn't detect actual witches. Unfortunately, it's a longstanding urban legend as venerable as the Vanishing Hitchhiker, and no one can totally shake it. And just so that there'd be someplace it would be useful, an enterprising wizard built a bar called The Witch Hammer, which is one of the few places popular with locals and tourists both.

  • The Lady In Black, who haunts Fort Warren, successfully ran a campaign to be elected to the magical city council in the early part of the twentieth century, and has dutifully won re-election each term since. The initial problem with her was less that she's a ghost than that she was a Confederate and had been hanged for treason, but people got used to her, and she figured that as long as she was stuck here, she might as well get something done. (I figure she was a witch in life, which was how they managed to burrow under solid rock.) (Another Lady in Black page, with a little picture; I'm surprised there aren't more pictures.)

  • Sork-Av is lined with specialty ethnic magic stores.

  • Muggle Boston has two major newspapers and dozens of minor ones. The much smaller wizarding community has four major newspapers and close to a hundred minor ones... it's a community fetish to run newspapers.

I think that's it. Just had to pass it along.
5 comments or Leave a comment
riah_chan From: riah_chan Date: October 3rd, 2004 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
You ideas sound cool. I'm sad that I didn't have/make time to write my own story... I had alot of fun ideas dealing magic integrated into Las Vegas, the Nevada Test Site (and Area 51), along with wizarding technology. I enjoyed seeing you extra ideas.

sonetka From: sonetka Date: October 4th, 2004 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd still like to read that, even if you wrote it a long time from now. I have to wonder just what kind of magic is going on at Area 51, though; I'll bet, whatever it is, the wizard head honchos are pretty annoyed that the Muggles got wind and are tramping all over the place and setting up souvenir stands and so forth :).
mafdet From: mafdet Date: October 3rd, 2004 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is all very interesting! I got sidetracked with my own contribution and discovered I couldn't do the backstory correctly. I was going to have wizarding California as part of Mexico, a distinctive Southwestern culture.

I had to laugh at the "New Age Bookstores" part. So that's where they come from!
ivylore From: ivylore Date: October 4th, 2004 04:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow Fern. That's great backstory material!
sonetka From: sonetka Date: October 4th, 2004 11:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the Lady In Black story (why does the east coast get all the best ghosts, anyway? Probably because they've had longer to accumulate). I'm impressed she managed to get as far as she did - but of course, your explanation makes it much easier to understand :).
5 comments or Leave a comment