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Magic was the accumulation of all supernatural power that was inherent to all creatures. This force did not violate the laws of nature, but simply a law unto itself that remained a mystery to the wider human population. On Earth, all magic was born and made possible from the Seed of Wonder.
- 1 Function
- 2 History
- 3 Magical energy
- 4 Usage and execution
- 5 Limitations
- 6 Physical effects
- 7 Behind the scenes
- 8 References
Magic did not rewrite the laws of physics, but instead "works off physics"; adhering to the basic physical laws of nature. Consistent with the Law of Conservation, magical energy could not be created nor destroyed, but transferred with the help of a catalyst (for example, Kraken's tooth, skin of Draconis, ground up Baltic stones etc). Willow Rosenberg compared the study of chemistry to witchcraft, claiming it was a lot like the latter, except only "less newt."
The basic components to magic was the energy being transferred, the individual or objects transferring that energy, and the specific actions involved that influenced the result of that energy's transfer. According to Rupert Giles, magic could be considered an exotic form of energy that could be disrupted, not unlike conventional energy.
According to Willow, magic was not only a means for changing reality, but also an essential aspect of life overall as it was responsible for the immaterial gratification experienced by everyday people (especially such things as art, love, music, poetry and even the will to live).
Seed of Wonder
All of Earth's magic, the metaphysical rules it adhered to and the Earth itself originated from the Seed of Wonder, a powerful beacon that — upon coming into being — was responsible for containing all the demons and magical energies that spilled over from another dimension and keeping them in this dimension. The Earth's ties with other dimensions remained along with the magical energies connected to them so long as the Seed was in place, acting as a sort of gateway.
If the Seed was removed from the dimension completely, the Earth would crumble. If the Seed was destroyed within Earth's parameters, the Earth's connection between the dimensions would sever and thus render the magic in those dimensions inaccessible to the Earth and all its inhabitants.
The natural laws governing magic (and by extension the entire world) developed gradually over millennia. These changes were comprehensively recorded in the Slayer Handbook.
In the Primordium Age, three powerful elders by the name of the Shadowmen used their magic to fight the forces of darkness. They captured a young girl and imbued her with the powers of a demon, creating a superhuman warrior with the physical attributes extending above that of most demons. This girl was known as the first Slayer. A separate group, known as the Guardians, forged a special weapon for the Slayer, which they kept hidden from the Shadowmen.
The Temple of Sobek was an ancient Egyptian cult that was heavily involved in dark magic. They manufactured a number of transmogrification spells through the use of mystical bloodstones and an amulet forged by their high priest, Khul, intending on creating an army of reptile warriors by transmogrifying them out of normal reptiles, using different blood stones for different types of reptiles.
Magic usage was present during the time of the Aztec empire. Tezcatcatl was a demon and one of the Aztecs' most powerful warriors who forged a mystical talisman to allow him to access the power of the sun god. When this plan was discovered, Tezcatcatl was sentenced to death on the Day of the Dead. However, Tezcatcatl managed to strike a deal with a shaman prior to his execution who cursed him to come back every 50 years in order to reclaim his talisman.
In the late 15th century, an Inca Princess was sacrificed to the mountain god Sebancaya to defend her people from the nether world. Her mummified corpse was buried inside a tomb with a cursed seal that was used to prevent her from regaining life.
In 1898, a tribe of Kalderash people conducted a powerful ritual that restored the soul of the notorious vampire Angel after he killed their favorite daughter. The return of Angel's soul reawakened his consciousness, causing him to endure the guilt of the many people he killed for over 150 years. Such a powerful spell ceased to exist over the next century as the transliteration annals were lost, rendering the remaining text indecipherable until Jenny Calendar translated it in 1998 using a computer program.
The idea of magic as an actual functioning force was not widely known in mainstream human society. While the Watchers Council was aware of magic and Watchers themselves were known to possess a degree of magical skill as well as employing alchemists; the Initiative, a government agency tasked with studying demons, were unfamiliar with the power magic had and failed to take it seriously. However, Dextralcorp Recycling Technologies, a government-run organization, seemed to possess better knowledge on the subject. According to the Watchers Council, witches were required to be "registered."
Even though some humans did genuinely believe in magic, their knowledge of what magic actually involved tended to be rather limited. For example, the Daughters of Gaea was a Wicca group based in UC Sunnydale that consisted of nothing but "wannablessedbes" who actually didn't know anything about real magic, up until 2003 when they consisted of real magic practitioners. Also, the Dragon's Cove sold genuine magical items, but the majority of purchases made was of Ouija boards and rabbit's feet.
- Ley Line War of '78
- War of the Warlocks
- Age of levitation
- The controversy surrounding resurrection
End of magic
- “This is what I'm talking about, Buffy. You don't realize how the destruction of the Seed affected everyone. You only think about how it affected you. All the Slayers, the vampires, even the demons with the magic mojo. You all got to keep your power because it was inside of you. But everyone else got cut off from what made them tick. For me, it's magic. For that demon, his home.”
- ―Willow Rosenberg[src]
Early in the 21st century, Buffy had multiple Potential Slayers activated worldwide into full Slayers with the help of the Scythe. This unknowingly set in motion the Twilight prophecy; a prophecy which foretold that a Slayer would change the world and bring about the creation of a new dimension in place of Earth: that Slayer being Buffy and that dimension being Twilight.
Twilight granted Buffy and Angel with deity-like abilities and convinced the latter to secretly work against her to protect the world from the inevitable apocalypse involving the Slayer Organization. When Buffy discovered Angel's deception, Twilight manipulated them into having destructive, passionate intercourse that would give birth to Twilight's dimension.
Twilight's birth unleashed an army of demons on Earth through inter-dimensional portals. The demons desired to remove the Seed of Wonder from Earth in order to complete the prophecy. As Buffy and her cohorts attempted to protect the seed, Twilight possessed Angel in order to finish what he started. It was when Twilight killed Giles that his plan backfired.
Overwhelmed by the grief caused by Giles' death, Buffy destroyed the Seed of Wonder using the Scythe. The doors to other dimensions were closed off from the Earth, sending the demonic hordes back where they came from and averting the apocalypse. Twilight and his newly-created dimension was banished from this world and the Earth was safe. However, this also meant that witches and warlocks could no longer draw on magic from demons, deities or other realities. While magical beings, such as Slayers, demons, and vampires already present in this reality continued to exist, the Slayer line was rendered dormant and all vampires sired after the Seed's destruction were mindless. Earth was essentially without magic.
In an effort to restore the Earth's magic and initiate the next step in demon-human evolution, the sibling duo Pearl and Nash collaborated with Whistler to concoct a "plague ball"; a vessel composed of the residual magic found in numerous artifacts. They intended on using it to spread the magic contained inside all over the world, but accidentally ended up dropping the ball into a small district located within Hackney, London.
Such a dense concentration of unfettered magical energy in such a small space instantly caused the area's inhabitants to mutate into monstrous and inhuman beings. These mutations consisted of debilitating afflictions, benign physical changes, mystical transformations or even superpowers. Due to the national coverage of the disaster and the ostracization from the outer world, the thousands of humans affected by the plague formed the supernatural ghetto known as the Magic Town, where the mystical mutations persisted past the initial outbreak.
The plague ball still existed and Whistler continued his plot to spread the ball's magical energies across the world at the expense of people's lives. However, Angel appealed to Whistler's previously-lost humanity and convinced him not to proceed with his plan. Whistler instead merged the plague ball into his body to contain the energies within and prevent it from reverberating outward and possibly destroying the whole of England. This killed him as a result.
Return of magic
- “Music, poetry, everything's going bad. This isn't just me not liking new trends. No one can hit a note, everyone's auto-tuned. Coke doesn't taste right anymore. I see examples everywhere. It's not just that there suddenly aren't witches and the occult around now. Suicide rates are moving up everyday. It's the inspiration, the dreams. All the things that make life so wonderful. It's just not quite... there like it used to be. So I'm setting out to do something about it. To bring magic back.”
- ―Willow Rosenberg[src]
In a dream, Buffy discovered that the Slayer Scythe was the key to restoring magic to the world after being contacted by the First Slayer. Willow took it upon herself to revive Earth's magic with the help of the Scythe. Her plan was to travel to the hell dimension Quor'toth and gather as much magical energy as she could there, using a combination of the residual energy of the Scythe and Connor to open up a portal to Quor'toth.
As a result of her travels through Quor'toth and various other dimensions, Willow discovered a way to draw on the natural magic inherent to all living things; a technique that would restore magic to Earth, however, it's users would have far less power than they once possessed.
Willow descended into the Deeper Well to absorb the massive amounts of magical energy there, having already accumulated a large portion at Quor'toth. As she reached the depths of the Deeper Well, Willow absorbed so much energy that a new Seed of Wonder was spawned directly inside her body and rendered her powerless in the process. However, the Seed needed over a millennia to mature.
Severin proceeded to age the new Seed to completion, restoring magic to the world, albeit with different rules than before.
- “But now magic is new again... Raw and undefined. And I've got the power to bend it at my will”
- ―Andrew Wells[src]
The Slayer Handbook was a focal point in the restoration of magic and the events that followed after it. Following Giles' death, Buffy inherited the book from him while Severin and Simone coerced Xander into sharing some of the handbook's information which they planned on using to defeat Buffy. Both the Scooby Gang and Simone learnt how to access the Deeper Well using the handbook's information where the new Seed came into being.
As magic was restored on Earth, the rules governing it was reset and open to molding through the Slayer Handbook. The pages of the handbook were rendered completely blank when the new seed was created and eventually formed new entries establishing new rules based on intense desires in the universe, and likewise new rules could be concocted by any who wrote them in the book.
Examples of new rules and changes included:
- Newly-sired vampires were imbued with more powers than their pre-magic destruction counterparts. They could shapeshift into different animals at will, walk in daylight, possessed greater strength and were harder to stake. Buffy postulated that this was because vampires wanted to become stronger and that this desire transcribed itself into the handbook and into reality, giving them powers similar to Dracula because he was the most well-known vampire.
- Winifred Burkle was fully-resurrected even though both her body and her soul were destroyed prior to the creation of the new seed.
- Manipulating magic worked entirely different from before, forcing adept magic-users to learn a "whole new operating system" to utilize their powers. For instance, spellcasting no longer required incantations of dead languages. In fact, Willow could conjure a bunch of powers by uttering "boom shaka laka."
- Billy Lane — a male vampire hunter — experienced a vision of the First Slayer, something only Slayers have. Buffy postulated that his desire to be a Slayer altered the criteria on how a Slayer is chosen.
- Dracula was transformed into the form of Maloker after Xander described him in the book as the original vampire. This was subsequently reversed.
The Magic Council was a group consisting of powerful supernatural entities from numerous walks of life assembled by Illyria during the absence of magic in order to preserve what little magical energy remained and to combat the threat of Severin the Siphon.
Following the return of magic, a new council was assembled by D'Hoffryn when many of its previous members were killed in the battle against Maloker. With members hailing from various pantheons and with a wide range of interests, their common goal was to help facilitate the new rules governing magic.
- “It's magic. I'm drawing power from the earth to heal myself. [...] You know, Giles says everything's part of the earth. This bed. The air. Us.”
- ―Willow Rosenberg[src]
Magical energy was the potent force that was channeled and manipulated for magical purposes, and often manifested during these moments as colorful plasma-like matter. This energy — when being extracted or absorbed — usually resembled bright electrical discharges, though its appearance varied between different spells.
Magical energy was a key component in performing magic as this energy fueled the applications magic allowed and using too much magic at any given time would make the user lose that energy thereafter and thus limit their capacity to perform magic for a period of time, potentially requiring the user days to recuperate.
Any being was capable of harnessing this power. This included humans, demons (such as Cyvus Vail), vampires (such as Kumiko Ishihara) and even cyborgs as a whole cell of them employed glamours to disguise themselves and the cyborg duplicate of Roger Wyndam-Pryce could activate the Staff of Devosynn. It's unknown if beings such as robots or ghosts also had the capacity to perform magic.
- “You're expending way too much of your mystical energy to maintain your powers. At this rate you're going to... burn out. And up.”
- ―Rupert Giles[src]
In order for magic use to be accomplished, the user had to channel that energy from a source and exert it through themselves. While more experienced magic users could use the magical energy inside of them, magical energy usually needed to be drawn from external sources. These sources ranged from special artifacts (such as the Scythe), higher beings (like Yeska) which granted this power or even drawn from the Earth itself; which according to Giles was where the true essence of magic came from.
Because the Earth acted as a conduit for magic, a person could draw this power anywhere on the planet as every being and every object was connected to the Earth, meaning that every person had at least a small sum of innate mystical energy. Willow was able to utilize this to quickly heal her wounds by simply mediating in her bedroom, though also needed the help of Buffy to further accelerate the process. A more brutal instance occurred when Willow performed a portal spell using the combined life force of Kennedy and Anya by forcibly pulling it from them.
Certain spells could also cause a significant surge of power into the caster. An example of this includes the Ritual of Restoration performed by Willow, which Giles claimed that this could "open a door that that [Willow] might not be able to close," meaning that this spell led her to becoming a powerful witch.
- “Just relax, I'm not gonna hurt you. You gotta give a little to get a little, right? [...] I'm just gonna take a little tour.”
One way of gaining magical energy was through transferring it with other beings. It could be shared among other users, or forcibly taken. This usually required physical contact, but an exceptionally powerful practitioner could drain that energy without any contact and not only drain the energy without the other person knowing, but also decode it to manipulate as they wished. Draining too much energy from one user could kill or at least weaken them as it also drained their life force. Alternatively, one can drain another's magic in order to naturalize them. Willow was strongly opposed to it and compared it to cutting off someone's hand, while other witches considered it a form of mutilation.
Magic users could also likewise give some of their own magical energy to others, shown when Amy Madison transferred a portion of her energy to Willow via a spell. Absorbing unexpected bursts of magical energy can have unwanted effects, such as vomiting, one's eye color changing and unintentionally magically-affecting one's surroundings.
Willow claimed that absorbing surplus amounts of magic gave a feeling of being over-energized which made it harder to control.
Magic could also be transferred into a host for a limited time, as was the case with Giles, who had immense magical power bestowed upon him by the Devon Coven in England who then sent him to Sunnydale in an attempt to stop a rampaging Willow from destroying the world.
- “She'll find a work-around. More layers of magic hide the magic. Besides, it's not just her. All these Slayers -- we're magic right out of the box. [...] If Twilight smells magic, he'll smell all of us.”
- ―Buffy Summers[src]
When a person casts a spell, they are channeling magic through themselves and a portion of that magic remains within them. The magical energy was detectable by certain beings (such as Sweet and Rack) who could sense that energy from practitioners and could inform them of that person's magical power, including what spells they cast, the magnitude of their power, if that power was depleting and what they intended to do with it.
Jonathan, who possessed some magical ability, could "practically feel" that Willow was running out of magicks, while Rack immediately knew that Amy was previously a rat years after they last had contact, and a coven from Devonshire sensed the dangerous magical force Willow possessed fueled by her grief. Willow was so powerful that she could sense energy from another plane or deduce that some of Amy's spells "reeked" with tech and could trace back to where she teleported from. Willow and Giles were able to deduce the summoning of a storm dragon was a deliberate act from analyzing the energy infusing it. Casting powerful spells could exert a notable amount of energy that was capable of interfering with the casting of lesser spells and make the location of the casting susceptible to being discovered.
The Twilight Group possessed technology that detected large amounts of magic usage, but it wasn't easy to pinpoint the exact origin of the energy as it was abundant in all magical beings (which encompass beings that were inherently magical, possessed magic, and/or used magic). Also, Giles used a lodstone to detect concentrations of magical energy within London.
While all beings on Earth were connected to magic, beings like Slayers, witches, and werewolves possessed a greater concentration of energy. As this fact made the Slayer Organization more detectable to Twilight, they decided to withdraw their energy by practicing the tradition of Bon, which stated that a person could make their internal magical energy flow out of themselves and redirect it back into the Earth. They did this by performing hard labor on Oz's farm without using their super strength. This method also allowed werewolves, such as Oz, to control their lycanthropy. It was later revealed that they were actually redirecting their magic to a trio of earth-bound wrathful goddesses who protected the monastery in exchange (but eventually attacked the Slayers due to their confusion).
It was stated that it took many months for a person to completely clear themselves of magical energy. This was demonstrated when Willow attempted to resurrect Tara without any tools or special preparations after months of not using any magic, being only denied due to the nature of Tara's death.
Usage and execution
- “Magic, General. You still have to learn the rules.”
While in essence, the rudimentary process for using magic was simply drawing mystical energies and manipulating it for a desired effect, there were many factors involved that determined how successfully this energy can used and what it can be used for. Successful magic involved a combination of knowledge, power, resources and experience. Possessing an intricate mastery of these aspects could reduce the need for complex preparation and strengthen the individual's ability to perform powerful magicks without using as much time or effort but will and power alone.
Practitioners of magic employed a number of ways to perform magic.
The most common form of performing magic was by the casting of spells; the recitation of text which summoned a particular force: demons, spirits or deities, in order to affect reality in a determined way. It was the most common way of employing magic.
Many spells simply involved just exclaiming an incantation for it to work, but some others could have additional requirements. Some spells came in the form of rituals: a combination of physical actions, spell recitation and use of talismans, potions and other ingredients to manipulate reality, and may even require specific times and locations. Despite this, the amount of effort put into a spell could simply depend on the individual's level of power and experience. For instance, the ritual to invoke Osiris to resurrect an individual was a strenuous affair that couldn't be completed without an urn of Osiris. The fact that Willow was able to accomplish the spell despite the offering being ruined and surviving the process was nothing short of impressive. Months later, Willow attempted a resurrection again, this time without any tools or special preparations after months of not using any magic, being only denied due to the nature of Tara's death.
All spells left a trace signature after they were cast which weren't perceptible to the human eye unless the ritual Tirer la Couverture was preformed.
Certain objects possessed magical properties, and thus can form the catalyst/s for magic use. For all intents and purposes, magical practitioners may use various tools to perform magic, such as candles, colored sand, crystals, charms etc.
- Talismans: Physical objects that had been imbued with mystical properties.
- Cauldrons: A container used to mix ingredients in.
- Potions: Mystical substances created from the mixing of certain ingredients which resulted in a concoction with magical properties.
- Crystal balls, Tarot cards and casting bones were employed during certain divination rites as well as other non-related spells.
Training and potency
With proper training, magic practitioners become capable of performing feats of magic through sheer will. These acts ranged from minor telekinesis, levitation, and glamours, which were suitable steps for inexperienced practitioners; to more complicated feats of transmogrification, conjuration firing energy blasts and lightning bolts, and even flight.
Some people, Willow for example, had a greater inherent talent for magic than others who had to work "twice as hard to be half as good."
There also seemed to be a commonality between magical power and family heritage, particularly on the maternal side. For instance, both Tara and Amy were powerful witches and both of them had mothers who were also adept at using magic.
Though all living beings, humans and non-humans alike, could perform spells with the usage of artifacts and incantations, witches and warlocks typically had greater knowledge and power over such forces. The technopagan Jenny Calendar, while able to cast spells and use methods of divination, did not call herself a witch because she didn't have "that kind of power."
Having a natural talent for magic didn't necessarily guarantee that one would develop into a potent sorcerer. Giles originally repressed his talent as a young man, diminishing his ability to perform magic as he became older. When he was resurrected in his preteen body, his magical powers surpassed those in his previous life and stated that he had the opportunity to develop it further in this one.
Having a vast array of knowledge wasn't the only factor that determined if someone was sufficient in accomplishing a particular magical action. For instance, Giles was fluent in several ancient languages and well-versed in a multitude of texts about demonology and witchcraft, but didn't possess any amount of the magical power demonstrated by Willow who wasn't nearly as knowledgeable as Giles was. This was shown when they had to combine their essences (along with Xander and Buffy's) in an enjoining spell to use powerful Sumerian spells against Adam, since those spells required both Willow's power and Giles' multilingualism.
Many spells called for or named beings in their incantations. Such named demons and deities and their specialties included:
- Aradia: Guiding spell
- Asmodea: A presumably offensive spell
- Cadria: Blinding curses
- Kali, Hera, Kronos, Thonic and Cassiel: The Thick air spell
- Corsheth and Gilail: Reversal spells and the Curse of Corsheth (Corsheth only)
- Diana: Love spells
- Eligor: The Vampire Restoration Ritual
- Granath: Reanimation spells
- Hecate: Transmogrification spells.
- Janus: Transmogrification spell
- Kokopelli: Presumably spells about fertility
- Minerva: Protective barrier spell
- Osiris: Resurrection spells
- Thespia: The demon locator spell
- Other spells called upon demons such as Proserpexa.
Whether these beings granted the practitioners wish was dependent on the situation. For example, a demon chastised Willow invoking Osiris in an attempt resurrect Tara and defy the laws of nature. Another instance included Hecate, who was known for her impatience, seemingly refused to de-rat Amy when Willow summoned her, even though Amy originally summoned Hecate to turn her into a rat, as Willow wasn't as powerful as Amy at the time. Also, the Davric demon Yeska, falsely considered a goddess among wizards, granted them power on their 50th birthday in exchange for a virgin sacrifice.
Types of magic
There were several branches of magic that focused on a specific application and differed with the level of difficulty associated with performing them.
- Conjuration: involved creating matter out of nothing, one of the few magics that ignored physics. It was considered a powerful form of magic and inexperienced practitioners were discouraged from conjuring as it was hard to control what was conjured.
- Transmogrification: involved transforming the shape and appearance of an object into something different. This form of magic could be preformed by first-year practitioners but wasn't advised as it was harder to reverse the affects.
- Glamouring: involved altering how objects and individuals were perceived, both in terms of how they were seen, heard and touched. It was considered a basic form of witchcraft that could be easily learnt and taught to non-practitioners.
- Divination: involved the use of tools to predict future events. It was apparently a rather simple form of magic as those with little power or experience with magic were known to use it, though this could depend on the method of divination that was used.
- Flesh magic: an ancient form of magic that relied on flesh and blood rather then words or incantations. It was considered more powerful than word-based magic.
The approach to performing magic varied widely and there were different types of magical practice based on what methods the practitioner used and what results they hoped to accomplish. These practices could also serve as the practitioner's religious/spiritual belief system.
Differences aside, mystic was the umbrella term that referred to any individual with some degree of magical potency or skill. Known magical practices and their adherents included:
- Witchcraft: Practiced by witches and warlocks.
- Wizardry: Practiced by wizards.
- Necromancy: Practiced by necromancers.
- Alchemy: Practiced by alchemists.
- Shamanism: Practiced by shamans.
- Technopaganism: Practiced by technopagans.
- Voodoo: Practiced by voodoo priests.
- Druidism: Practiced by Druids.
Good and evil
Different magicks could be defined by their moral implications, power and source.
Dark magic was often associated with powerful spells that posed a risk to others, the universe or the caster, and often involved subjects that were considered against nature, such as resurrection spells. These magicks could be found in certain books and came from a "place of rage and power."
Individuals can be subject to either types of magic. For example, Willow was prone to being consumed by dark magic when upset or enraged.
Magic also had its limits and could have negative consequences on the user and those around them, both physically and mentally.
Overuse of magic could lead to a drug-like addiction which, if left untreated, caused the practitioner to eventually disintegrate or burn out. For instance, a group of African shamans became addicted to dark magicks to the extent that they eventually died.
A prime example of magic addiction was Willow, who originally started to practice magic as a way to aid her best friend, Buffy, in the fight against evil. However, as her powers developed, she began to use magic for her own enjoyment and to solve her own personal problems. The addiction reached a climax after she de-ratted Amy, who introduced her to the warlock Rack. Rack supplied the girls with magicks that fueled them for days without any burn-out factor. These magicks created notable changes in their behavior; making them spaced-out and irresponsible, giving them symptoms characteristic of what one would receive under the influence of stimulants. It also caused physical changes in Willow: her eyes turned black, and she began emitting magical energy from her body.
It was after the event wherein one of her spells caused the creation of a demon when she realized things needed to change. She relinquished all of her magical items, such as crystals, tarot cards, crystal balls and herbs, and vowed never to cast another spell again. She was even unable to make potions. Despite dealing with some problems along the way, such as performing strange acts like carefully arranging straws and highlighting entire pages of a book, Willow managed to overcome her addiction until Tara's death, which caused her to absorb the magical energy from dozens of books and go on a murderous rampage. During this time, she did not exhibit any of the drug-like symptoms she did until she absorbed the collective energy via a coven from Devon. After being convinced not to destroy the world, Willow received rehabilitation in England, learning to draw energy from the Earth while also still struggling to keep herself from becoming addicted again.
- “Totally. And magic wasn't all great. I mean, I won't miss the nose bleeds and the headaches and stuff.”
- ―Willow Rosenberg[src]
Since magic required physical energy in order to function, only so much could be used at any one time as posited by Willow Rosenberg in her battle against the hell goddess Glory and after resurrecting Buffy. Likewise, after a night of heavy magic use, Willow returned home exhausted and unable to use even simple magic to close her blinds. This clearly indicated that overuse of magic and lack of energy had localized detrimental effects on the practitioner's magic use.
Heavy nose bleeding was also common of magical overuse or after completing a very powerful spell as was the case with Willow Rosenberg a number of times, e.g., creating a large force field when the Scooby Gang were on the run from Glory and the Knights of Byzantium and, likewise, when Willow created a force field to defend the Summers' home against a Turok-Han. When the Slayers' base was under attack by Twilight's army, a few of the witches protecting the keep had what appeared to be brain aneurysms through severe overuse of magic, one of them even collapsing dead after having what Willow called a "brain fry."
Despite all the negative effects, using magic can have a good effect on the user. After casting the Slayer activation spell, Willow was overcome with a powerful force of transcendence as the spell took effect, leaving her in a spent yet gleeful state as she collapsed on the floor.
Practicing magic was a risky operation as things could easily go wrong, resulting in an unwanted or even harmful after-effect. Giles once said that it was not wise for novices to perform spells with unfocused energy and unsupervised.
Maintaining control while preforming a spell was challenging in of itself and required concentration. Willow could levitate a pencil at her will so as long as she retained "emotional control" and upon hearing something to her dislike, she accidentally torpedoed the pencil into a tree.
When imprisoned in a frat house under the influence of a demon, Buffy warned Willow, only then a witch practicing since the previous year, that she shouldn't cast a conjuring spell and her spells were just "50/50." A stubborn Willow proceeded to perform the spell anyway and it ended up backfiring. Tara seemed nervous in summoning the goddess Thespia and she, along with many others expressed hesitation that Willow would be able to pull off a resurrection where the ritual itself was a trial of torture. Although Willow ended up successful, the offering was ruined.
Spells could have unwanted results if things were to go wrong during the performance of one. A love spell that Xander had Amy perform on Cordelia went wrong, resulting in every woman in town falling for him as Cordelia already loved him. Willow tried to alter the memories of Buffy and Tara but ending up removing all the memories from them, herself, Xander, Giles, Spike, and Dawn, simply because she unknowingly left a bag of Lethe's Bramble to burn, a necessary ingredient which enhanced the effects of the spell.
- “I'm so angry at me, I cannot believe [my eyes] aren't black.”
- ―Willow Rosenberg[src]
Magic could also have manifestly visible and bodily changes on the caster, the most common of which was the caster's eyes turning completely black when using very powerful magic, or when wielding magic with evil intent or uncontrolled emotions. This was shown in Catherine Madison and her daughter, Amy, when preforming feats of transmogrification and to Willow several times.
Willow was subject to severe physical change after she absorbed the latent magical power confined within dozens of spell books, which turned her hair and eyes black and caused dark veins to sprout up on her face. After this point, whenever Willow over exerted herself, her hair and eyes turned black and her voice often deepened and had a slight echo to it. When Willow used the power of the Slayer Scythe to activate multiple Potentials in the world, her hair turned white and her whole body began to glow. After Tara was shot, Willow's eyes turned blood red.
When combining her essence with the essences of Willow, Giles, and Xander during the enjoining spell, Buffy's irises turned orange and eventually red for the duration of the spell.
Behind the scenes
- Magic had been known by several alternative names. The term "magick" was used as a countable noun (for example, "potent magicks" or "the magicks"). In reality, "magick" was the term used by English occultist Aleister Crowley as a way to distinguish between the occult and stage magic in relation to Thelema. He defined magick as "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will." Colloquially, magical energy or magic in general has been referred to as mojo and the whammy.