This is an excerpt of a review that appears in Issue 1 of The Seelie Crow.
The memories and dreams don’t quite do it justice. No matter how many times the scene replays in my head, I can’t quite capture the experience of the first time I encountered the Seelie Crow. When I discovered the true nature of magic, it was like a supernova of emotions, perceptions, and wonder opened my mind to limitless possibilities. However, getting there was an incredibly trying time for me. So, I have worked with the editor of this magazine (named in the honor of my crow friend) to give you a crash course in Fantasy. The memories may not do it justice, but if you can for a moment bind yourself to the idea that you can experience what I have through story, then you may find yourself benefiting from the crossing without being deterred by its hardships.
Imagine everything you ever wanted to learn about Fantasy lies through a door that you can clearly see in the distance about a mile (or 1600 meters) away. All you have to do is walk up to it and open it. However, the moment you make the decision to approach it, you hear the words Zenos Paradoxum rumble from a place that seems to be from everywhere and nowhere all at once. After you hear the voice, you appear to be closing in on the door rather quickly. Take one step and the door is 800 meters. Another, and the distance between you in the door is something around 400m away and so on and so forth. “This is magic” you think as every step you take it is as if you are twice as close to the door.
You feel like the door is calling you as you get closer to the door at an exponential pace.
After a mere ten steps the door is so close that you can almost touch it. Yet every additional step you take only closes half the distance to the door and it is still just out of your reach. Eventually, it feels like you’re not moving at all, and after becoming confused and frustrated you break out into a full sprint. Yet, you seem to get no closer to the door as if there is an invisible boundary between protecting it.
When you are out of breath and then stop running, decide to take a closer look at the door that seems right in front of you but desperately out of reach. On the door there are some runes:
It looks like math and you don’t know how but you recognize that read aloud it says those words that you heard before; Zenos Paradoxum. Still, you know a bit of mathematics so you try to read it in the language you know and try to decode the runs. You determine that in the ancient language f(x) is your distance from the door and x is your number of steps. After you think it through you realize that no matter how many steps you take the distance to the door f(x) will never equal 0.
This is why people hate math. It gets difficult to understand sometimes. Now, it seems to stand between you and magic. The spell that you thought was expediting your approach to another world was in fact a curse. But, should magic be simple to understand? Maybe they’re not so different.
When you’ve just about given up, a crow bursts through the barrier holding a small stack of comic books. Thumbing through the stack you find that you hold in your hand all 5 issues of Mamo by Sas Milledge. Questions might begin to swirl through your head.
What am I supposed to do with some comic books?
Why can’t I get past the barrier?
Is this crow here to help me?
You look into the crow’s eyes when it turns to you. It speaks.
“This is a boundary. What does it mean to be bound by something? To be bound to something? To bound into this world of magic?”
It is as if the crow knows what you were thinking, and he’s telling you that you’re asking the wrong questions. You begin to contemplate the answers to his questions and realize that bound has many…seemingly contradictory meanings. You think that maybe this is a question of language and not mathematics.
The way that crow burst through the barrier you think it might be a seelie being. You’ve heard of them before. You know the fae, the seelie, and other magical creatures live in a constant commune with magic. It comes as natural to them as tinkering with tools is to man, so they have an almost instinctual understanding. Humans, on the other hand, cannot access magic so easily. The fae and the seelies act as both teachers and merchants of magic so it must be here to help you in some way.
Eventually, the mysterious crow flies off leaving behind that stack of comic books. You surmise that somewhere in this series are some answers to the nature of the crow’s questions and the magic that lies beyond the barrier. All of the crow’s questions place you in a particular frame of mind as you flip through the story and begin to find answers.
bound(n.): Something that limits or restrains from Anglo-Latin bunda, from Old French bonde “limit, boundary, boundary stone”
//A tree will never grow beyond the bounds of its pot.
Most tales of the fae consist of rules and boundaries, because, as a part of nature, it keeps the world in balance. A human cannot control magic at will. Systems of magic always require a sigil, ingredients, verbal components or perform a deal with a fae to use it. The witches, wizards, and warlocks are bound by the rules of this exchange, and that limits their power.
In Mamo, the titular character was the only witch in all of Haresden. The small town on the coast relied on magic in their everyday life, but knew not how to see it or to harness it. Mamo herself was a hedge witch. She drew power from boundaries like the one that stands before you right now. In a perversion of that understanding she surrounded herself with boundaries she could control to make herself more powerful.
Mamo was the only witch of Haresden by choice. She set a boundary between the people of Haresden and magic by hoarding all knowledge about it. She helped people become reliant on the town’s strong connection to magic, thereby creating a culture that kept them within its bounds. At the onset of our story Mamo is dead, but our adventure is bound to one last act of control she exerts on the town.
Most witches arrange their own burials to ensure the magical energies they harnessed during life are returned to nature. In a final act of control Mamo scattered her bones across Haresden, magical energies of the town out of whack. Now, as trees grow wildly across town and people grow sick from Mamo’s curse the townsfolk begin to view the dead witch with disdain.
As you close another issue of the comic book, you begin to garner your first insight about magic. You realize through the titular antagonist that magic just… is. You don’t have it, the faes do not even have it; it exists all around us. That is true in Haresden, true in our world. Those who use magic are simply harnessing the powers that exist naturally in our world and transforming it. These transformations have rules and boundaries just like the laws of physics.
You think back to that question: What does it mean to be bound by something?
You realize through Mamo it could be many things, and the answers are complicated. Boundaries, binds, and bonds can be sources of power, they can protect, they can create space as they had for the townsfolk who enjoyed much of their lives. However, you can be certain that boundaries can be restraining, and even suffocating, when used selfishly. Ideally, boundaries that maintain the proper balance must be respected and understood by those who are affected by them.
No one thinks about what it means to be bound as much as Orla, the granddaughter of the witch of Haresden, who spent her youth confined by her grandmother. Her upbringing was full of her grandmother’s cruelty, and she was given no room on her own. Haresden, for her, represents a place where she was trapped and she holds few fond memories.
Orla is a hedge witch like her grandmother before her, but in gathering the courage to leave her grandmother behind she found a new kind of magic. The boundaries she harnesses magic from are crossroads. She says they represent “a sense of choice, of possibility.” She found magic in the boldness to leave from under her thumb and bound forward toward a life she can define on her own.
It is reminiscent of the crow’s third question. You sit with it and realize that bound has many meanings and you have begun to discover its second. We all come to a crossroads in our lives, and you are at one now. When you first saw the portal into the world of Fantasy you thought it was calling you. When you got stuck at the barrier you thought it was cursing you. However, at this critical junction, the desires of the portal are not important. If you wish to find magic of your own at this critical juncture, you have to stop moving aimlessly toward attractive objects. To make a choice and then proceed carries its own form of magic that can allow you to bound forward in the crow spoke of.
bound(v.): “to leap, spring upward, jump,” from French bondir “to rebound, resound, echo,” from Old French bondir “to leap, jump, rebound”
//If you bound off the edge without looking, you have no control over where you land
You can read the rest of Lucius’ review in Issue 1 of The Seelie Crow “Foundations of Fantasy” and follow Lu on The Power of You in Fiction.