Witchery is a powerful force in the world, and witches have always been able to achieve deeds that seem nearly miraculous. Yet, despite millennia of practice, there are some goals that witchery seems unable to reach. Perhaps appropriate workings have yet to be designed, or it may be that witchery – like most other human endeavors – has some firmly established limits that cannot be exceeded.
Following are five of the most classic goals that no witch has yet been able to achieve, though classic studies of witchery insist that they should be possible.
Living human flight
Air witches have long sought the secret of flight. Some witches of a particularly strong Air Talent have been known to levitate or slow their rate of descent in a fall, but flight itself has not been achieved. No fewer than thousands of witches have crafted workings designed to bestow the power of flight upon themselves or other humans. The closest to living flight yet developed was the Air witch Pierre Duplaise in the early 1900s who created a working that would allow him or any other person to rise into the air and hover for an indefinite period of time. Duplaise could move himself about in the air by pushing off objects and drifting in his chosen direction, but if there were no sufficiently large objects for him, he was limited to mere levitation and hovering.
Some witches have even managed to control their fall from great heights. Not merely controlling the rate of descent, but even allowing themselves to move about in the air. Though close to flight, their movement continued toward the ground, albeit much more slowly than were they purely at the mercy of gravity.
When asked why witches could not fly under their own power, renowned Air witch Orville Wright (who learned to use machines to do what witchery could not since his own Talent was so minimal as to be almost non-existent) replied, “It might be because people aren’t birds!”
True shapeshifting of humans
Witches have long known that a species of shapeshifting supernaturals exists, or at the very least once existed. This has caused many witches of various Talents, primarily Earth, Shaman, and Druid, to seek to create workings that would allow humans to change into other creatures.
An innumerable list of workings and even worked objects have been created with the intention of turning human beings into other animals. None have been truly successful. Some of given the human in question certain animalistic features: cat eyes, donkey ears, kangaroo legs, scaly skin, etc. Bestowing animal abilities onto humans has long been a standard working for many witches, but those have never been more than short-term modifications to a person’s abilities. Even this, however, is limited to enhancing what humans can do rather than bestowing completely new capabilities. For example, a person can be given the agility of a cat, but that is only an enhancement of a human’s natural abilities. A person who is paralyzed, for instance, will still not be able to move, no matter how many “Agility of a Cat” workings might be placed on him.
Witches are far, far from the only people who have sought a way to bypass death and live forever; no one group can put an exclusive claim to that particular ambition. Witches, however, have resources for the work that are not available to Orthos. Given their connection to healing workings, it is not surprise that Earth witches have been very involved in attempts to achieve immortality. Less expected is the fact that many Shamans have also put effort into immortality; their rationale is that there are creatures that are effectively immortal, so the potential to become so is inherent in nature. However, they have not yet found a way to make this potential open up to any except those few creatures for whom it is already a reality.
Witchery is certainly able to increase a lifespan and to heal a broken or diseased body. But the increase to a lifespan seems to be limited to what has already been known to occur naturally in humans. Witchery can extend a life past the century mark, but to date no witch has ever managed to live or make another live past roughly one-hundred-twenty years. Even this degree of life extension has required repetitions of the original working; when the working is not done on a regular schedule, the passage of time seems to catch up with the person in question a very short order.
Creation of life
Folklore, religion, and literature are filled with persons who create living beings either from pure nothingness or by bestowing life upon previously lifeless matter. In the world of the Perfect Coven, this endeavor has been attempted by witches, as well. As might be expected given their affinity for material results and healing, Earth witches have been among the involved in attempts to create life. Equally engaged in pursuing this creation have been a number of Augers. This Talent with its ease of ability to deal with spirits has long given a drive to bring those spirits into a more purely physical existence.
Many Earth witches have physically crafted a variety of objects, duplicates or imitations of living beings, and sought to bring these things to life with their witchery. While the Earth Talent gift for healing is able to mend and repair a living body, it has always fallen short in the attempts to create one. The bodies crafted by these witches have gained a measure of animation, able to move and act, but no Earth witch has yet succeeded in doing more than creating a moving object. There has been no actual life, awareness, nor volition in these creations.
Augers have taken a similar, but slightly altered approach to the goal. They begin with the same creating of a form, but then call a spirit to inhabit it, rather than attempting to animate it with their own witchery. This has resulted in some amazing imitations of life, but the “creatures” brought forth have had no biological functions, the bodies do not develop nor do any of the normal things that living bodies do. These, too, are nothing but witchery-created automatons.
Some scholars have theorized that if an Earth witch were to craft a body and an Auger were then to summon a spirit to inhabit it, the resulting combination might be closer to alive than any other witchery has yet achieved. The difficulty in this has always been the odd quirk in the Auger Talent that makes an Auger working with any other witch so challenging for any save the most skilled witches.
Create lasting emotion
This goal has been the ambition of many Psi-witches and more than a few Bards. Both Talents are well-suited to working the emotions of humans. The creation of a new emotional state in human beings is second nature to Psi-witches. With the power of music as their primary tool, Bards are almost as skilled in evoking emotions. Both of these working can create very strong, but temporary emotions. While in effect, the emotions created by witchery are very real, and the person experiencing them responds as if the feelings were his own, created through normal means.
Love spells exist in plentitude in legend and literature, but true witchery has never been able to make one person truly love another. Creating infatuation is simple for Psi-witches and Bards (a simple working for one, and an empowered love song for the other), but any witch can do a working to raise amorous feelings in a human being. This “love” is powerful, all-consuming, and intense. It is also temporary.
The same applies to any emotions created through witchery. Fear is an easy emotion to create, but it fades and loses its power over the subject.
Real emotions have not just a cause, but they grow, evolve, and adapt. Falling in love is one event, but living in love with someone requires adapting to new experiences with that person, learning more about him/her, and sharing time together. Emotions created by witchery of any form are incapable of this growth, and will thus fade away in time when they prove unable to adapt.
Given that witches are human, for all of their extraordinary abilities, it is a given that attempts to bypass the limitations of witchery will continue. No human endeavor is likely to ever be allowed to rest on only what has already been done.
Perhaps there are some hard and fast limits to what witchery can achieve, perhaps not. Most serious students of witchery believe that Orville Wright his upon a serious truth in his sarcastic response, and that witchery can never change the true nature of anything, only make slight and temporary alterations.
No matter what the truth may be, witches will continue their workings, and someone may someday find a way to live forever or to soar through the air under his own power.
Mickie says: I love this. It gives a nice dose of reality that even magic can’t do everything. It also provides us story tellers with some limitations to follow in the future. There will be no immortal wizards coming forward to answer all our questions. It also shows the balance in our shared world between magic and technology. And when one falters, the other steps forward.
Sid says: Humans, Witch or Ortho, will always attempt to reach past their actual grasp. In this, as in many other endeavors, people will always ask “could we”, but rarely (if ever) ask “should we”. It has been speculated that perhaps limiting that grasp is one of the functions of a familiar – steering a witch away from what they should not attempt. However, witches will never know the truth of this, as familiars do not give away their secrets.
Looking at this from another perspective – as one of the writers involved in this series – having defined limitations on witchery makes for a more complex, interesting world. If all problems were easily solved with a bit of witchery, what reason would we have to write? James has given us some of the big limitations; it’s up to us (and our characters) to determine their individual limitations within these parameters, and others we will discover as we work in and continue to build PCEarth.