Charlie Homberg, author of the Paper Magician Series, shares with us how and when magic came to be cast through man-made materials in the world of “The Paper Magician” series.
Excision, the use of flesh and blood as a medium for spells, is by far the oldest materials magic. Its roots dig deep into the soil of pre-history. Because of this, Excision spells are spoken in a language nearly impossible to translate. Historic linguists—at least, those willing to study the taboo subject of Excision—believe the old tongue has a few similarities with ancient Sumerian, but unfortunately not enough to derive clear translations.
Excision is far more complex than any other materials magic. It’s theorized that this is because the material, humans, is the only organic substance known to be castable, and therefore vastly more complex than other bondable materials. Due to its violent nature, Excision is illegal in most countries and often subject to capital punishment. The few men and women permitted by government to learn this “dark art” for purposes of healing and law enforcement are called Binders, and their existence is a secret closely guarded from the general public.
Pyromancy, or fire magic, is also incredibly old. There is no known date for its discovery, though historians believe it was first used 7,500–7,800 years ago in Africa. The oldest written records for Pyromancy are found in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The Romans are credited for expanding Pyromancy, especially pertaining to warfare. Early documentation details its use in the Roman-Sabine wars. The Romans, for obvious reasons, were quite proprietary with their fire magic. However, Flavius Odoacer, the first King of Italy, is at least partly responsible for sharing spells with Germanic tribes sometime around 470 AD, ultimately contributing to the final fall of the Western Roman Empire.
The next materials magic to be discovered was Folding: magic cast through paper. Folding originated in Japan during the late Heian period, about 1100 AD. Animations of Folded paper, or ikite iru origami, were the first spells documented. Folding spread to Europe in the sixteenth century after Portugal’s early interactions with Japan, and spells involving cutting, tearing, and drawing on paper emerged in the centuries following.
Despite the early use of glass in many ancient cultures, Gaffing wasn’t mastered until 1304 AD in China—most likely brought about by competition with Japan. An early example of Gaffing was found in the Shenyang Imperial Palace, where mirrors were disguised as windows and doors with spells that created the illusion of wealth beyond the frame.
Siping, or rubber magic, was discovered in 1850 by Englishman Thomas Hancock, founder of the British rubber industry. Hancock published multiple papers on the topic, and Siping grew rapidly as a result. He is credited for discovering both the “Bounce” spell, which will make a rubber ball bounce continuously, and the “Quicken” spell, which is placed upon the rubber soles of shoes to give their wearer the ability to run more swiftly.
Hancock’s discovery and subsequent fame launched broad interest in magic across the world, setting off a race to find the next castable material. The winner was American chemist Marcus Dunn. Not only did he invent plastic in 1872, but he also learned that the material could be bonded. He discovered the “Melt” command shortly thereafter. Polymaking—plastic-based magic—is the newest and least explored materials magic to date.