Lesson 3) Wand Properties and Movements

Good day class, and welcome to Lesson Three in Charms! Remember, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me or one of my assistants!

Wand Properties

Today we will primarily be discussing wands. As you all know well by now, the wand is the focus for most magic for most individuals. While some very accomplished individuals can perform magic wandlessly without much practice, wandless magic requires substantially more effort for the same effect and takes much longer to learn. You essentially have nothing with which to channel that power through and therefore must force more power outward to compensate. We do not teach wandless magic at Hogwarts until Seventh Year. We instead rely on wands to focus our power.

The wand is as unique as the witch or wizard that it chooses, and I say this because wands can be considered semi-sentient in their own right. This does not mean that they are living beings, as this would potentially violate one of those pesky transfiguration laws that we all know and love. They are not autonomous agents capable of acting upon their own. They require someone with magical ability to use. However, in the hands of such an individual, wands have been known to perform better (or worse) depending upon the possessor.

For instance, an Ash wand is particularly good when casting defensive charms. Such a wand is fiercely loyal to the witch or wizard it chooses, and passing it on is never wise. Phoenix tail feathers make for wands that are very versatile but might just decide to act on their own accord and bring their user along for the ride. A wand seeks the witch or wizard it most closely identifies with and will usually never perform quite as well in the hands of another witch or wizard.

There are typically four parameters that define a wand: length, flexibility, wood, and core.

Wands are usually found within the range of nine and fourteen inches (twenty-three to thirty-six centimeters). Wands shorter than this usually only select a user in whose character something is lacking, while wands longer than this usually select a user with a physical peculiarity that demands the excessive length (such as a very tall or Half-Giant wizard).

A wand's flexibility or rigidity speaks to the degree of adaptability and willingness to change possessed by the wand-and-owner pair. Flexible wands can be described various ways, such as pliant, spongy, springy, supple, whippy, willowy or yielding. Rigid wands can be described as firm, inflexible, resistant, stiff, unbending, unpliable, or unyielding.

It is a common misconception that wands contain more than one wood. The wood chosen for a wand is an expression of the wizard or witch, and using multiple wood types would naturally create tension that would lead to a wand with greatly diminished power. Sometimes, wands can have one type of wood in the handle and one in the rest of the wand; however, this is more for decorative purposes.

Mr Ollivander introduces his notes on wand woods thus:

"Every single wand is unique and will depend for its character on the particular tree and magical creature from which it derives its materials. Moreover, each wand, from the moment it finds its ideal owner, will begin to learn from and teach its human partner. Therefore, the following must be seen as general notes on each of the wood types I like to work with best, and ought not to be taken to describe any individual wand."

"Only a minority of trees can produce wand quality wood (just as a minority of humans can produce magic). It takes years of experience to tell which ones have the gift, although the job is made easier if Bowtruckles are found nesting in the leaves, as they never inhabit mundane trees. The following notes on various wand woods should be regarded very much as a starting point, for this is the study of a lifetime, and I continue to learn with every wand I make and match." *

A wand's core material is always made from some part of another magical being. While different materials produce different types of wands, any Ollivander wand in recent memory has been made from only three: unicorn tail hair, dragon heartstring, and phoenix feather. Other material (such as kelpie mane, veela hair, troll whisker, dittany stalk, or kneazle whisker) either possesses insufficient power or has a considerable drawback. Veela hair, for example, produces wands that are temperamental. Wands with these cores are usually only found when a witch or wizard has had to inherit one from a family member, though some wand makers may still use them on occasion.

There is never more than one core in a wand. The core is, in some ways, a representation of the creature who gave it. In a few experimental cases, wand makers have tried to put two cores in a wand to increase the power. A wand with multiple cores would have multiple objectives or potentially work for multiple purposes. This not only renders the wand weaker but, in cases where the wand's cores are in direct conflict, can cause the wand to violently explode.

The following description of the powers and properties of the three main wand cores used by Mr. Garrick Ollivander are taken from his own notes.

"Early in my career, as I watched my wandmaker father wrestling with substandard wand core materials such as kelpie hair, I conceived the ambition to discover the finest cores and to work only with those when my time came to take over the family business. This I have done. After much experimentation and research, I concluded that only three substances produce wands of the quality to which I am happy to give the illustrious name of Ollivander: unicorn hair, dragon heartstring and phoenix feather. Each of these costly and rare materials has its own distinct properties. The following represents a short summary of my researches into each of the three Supreme Cores. Readers should bear in mind that each wand is the composite of its wood, its core and the experience and nature of its owner; that tendencies of each may counterbalance or outweigh the other; so this can only be a very general overview of an immensely complex subject." *

Wand Movements

As you have seen in your practice of the various types of “Flight” Charms, wand movement is one of the most essential components of any successfully cast spell. Almost all spells that require a wand also require a series of wand motions. Some describe the shaping of the magic and therefore its effect, while others act to indicate the target of the effect.

Almost all targeted spells require that your wand be pointed toward your target at the end of the movement, a concept that can be unfamiliar. Instead of making the wand motions in front of you, where your wand might end up on one side or the other, you need to become familiar with moving your wand in such a way that it is pointed in the intended direction.

There are many different types of wand gestures just as there are many different kinds of incantations. Some spells require a swish, some a flick, while others both. Some simply require a jab of your wand while others may require a wave, or many waves. An experienced spellcaster can be capable of shaping the magic within their mind, but this also requires years of training and effort.

As a beginner you will find yourself having to remember and carefully conduct the proper movements. Until casting a spell comes as naturally to you as breathing you should seek every advantage you can. Learning how to conduct the proper wand movements will make your time much easier and avoid unnecessary accidents.

Magical Limitations

It’s important to note that one of the greatest limitations of magic is the intricacy with which each individual spell is cast. For every spell you intend to remember you must memorize the precise words and wand movements, and if necessary direct the magic toward the proper target, concentrate on the correct thoughts, feelings and desires, and even then you may need sufficient power.

Forgetting or neglecting a single detail could be ruinous, especially once you are no longer dealing with basic magic. For this reason, most choose to remember only those spells that they will use often. The potioneer may learn to master summoning and cleaning charms and a tailor may master the Severing Charm. Many remember the most common and useful charms, but it takes a particular calling to learn and recall a wide variety. For this class it will be important for you to remember the spells we learn and the lessons each one teaches.

The Mending Charm

We will be looking into two very useful spells, some that I would even go so far as to call essential. The take-away of these spells, both standard charms for First Years, is that they require you to move your wand in a precise manner, and in some cases sustain the movement until the magic has completed its duty. You should begin by reaching for your power and feeling it flow steadily through you as you say the words and make the necessary gestures. A calm, sustained focus will be required as well.

The first spell we shall consider is the Mending Charm. This spell has a very interesting history that I believe you will appreciate. It was created approximately 1754 by Orabella Nuttley, who was a Ministry of Magic employee. The spell became famous when she used it to repair the Colosseum after a particularly rowdy crowd of rival Quidditch fans began to fight following a match. She was able to teach the spell to her helpers simply enough, and by the time Muggles had arrived on the scene the Colosseum had been repaired.

The Mending Charm
Incantation: Reparo (‘reh-PAH-roh’)
Wand Movement: Inward pointed spiral, continued until the object is fully repaired
Willpower: Minimal
Concentration: High; Visualization of the repaired object should be maintained until the object is repaired.

The Mending Charm can repair most mundane (non-magical) items simply enough, though depending upon the level of damage, a sustained effort may be necessary, or multiple applications of the charm. The caster must visualize the target of the spell as it would be fully repaired. This gives the magic, through you, an idea of what repairs to make. This visualization must then be maintained until the repair is completed; let this visualization slip and you risk the spell unraveling, in which case you’ll have to start again. The caster must also continue the wand movement after casting the spell until the effects are complete.

It’s important to remember that only non-magical fixes can be made with this spell. A broomstick repaired with this spell will not have the magical properties that had allowed it to fly previously. A wand fares even worse; the spell will mend the wand back together, but the moment the Mending Charm is complete the wand will simply fall apart again. Also the magical spells that were once laid upon an object cannot be mended if they unravel due to age or force.

The spell also cannot restore something utterly destroyed or transformed. It cannot turn the ashes of a chair back into the chair. A half-burned candle cannot have its expended wax renewed (at least not via this spell). Especially large repairs, such as sections of a structure, require additional power and effort typically only seen in graduate students.

Despite these limitations, this charm is one of the easiest to cast and will allow you to fix the results of small magical mishaps with ease. It is recommended to always keep this charm in your repertoire.

The Unlocking Charm

The other spell you’ll be practicing this week is called the Unlocking Charm, so noted because it unseals locks, both magical and mundane. The spell is also known as the Thief’s Friend for obvious reasons. The spell, which originated in Africa, was brought to the Wizarding World by Eldon Elsrickle. Elsrickle used it to go on a looting spree throughout homes in London until the counterspell was invented by Blagdon Blay. Before the discovery of the Unlocking Charm, there were of course other methods for getting past sealed doors, but those usually involved blasting them off their hinges or smashing the lock, both of which were extremely loud and noticeable.

Unlocking Charm
Alohomora (‘al-LOH-ha-MOR-ah’)
Wand Movement: Backward S curving up at the end
Willpower: None for simple mechanical locks; minimal to very high for locks ranging from complex mechanical to complex magical.
Concentration: Visualization of yourself unlocking the lock

As demonstrated, the charm’s wand movement is a backward S that curves back upward at the end. The caster must focus upon the lock to be undone, whether it is just a physical lock or of magical design. It's important to begin the wand movement as you begin saying the spell and end it as you finish saying the spell, regardless of how quickly you say the spell or perform the movement. Depending upon the particular spell used to create the lock, the Unlocking Charm may prove ineffective.

Assuming the Unlocking Charm will work on your target at all, the complexity of the physical or magical lock must also be taken into account. Complex physical locks aren’t much more of a challenge than simple ones. A magical lock, on the other hand, takes extra willpower to overcome. The power and skill used to make the lock as well as the age of the spell may all affect how difficult the task is. Especially important locks may even be sealed with multiple magical defenses, each designed to make breaking through more difficult, and typically a lock made with this level of detail will have the Anti-Alohomora Charm applied.

Unlocking a door or chest is as simple as performing the necessary gestures and incantation. The trick to this spell is that you need to focus on the object you’re attempting to unlock and visualize yourself unlocking it as you cast the spell. You also need to time your cast with the wand movement so that your wand is pointed toward whichever lock you want to unlock at the end. It’s not required that you be able to see the lock, but in this case it must somehow be attached to the door or chest you wish to unlock, and you still need to target whatever the lock is attached to. The complexity of the lock, or in some cases its weight, can both be limiting factors to this spell’s effectiveness.

That’s about all the time we have for class today. Please note that your Journal Update is due! You should have at least two to five paragraphs from the last lesson and this one. That’s a LOWER LIMIT. I encourage you to use as much as you need without worrying about the limit unless you have less than two paragraphs of information per lesson. Please see the assignment instructions for further clarification.

Your only homework this week is the Worksheet and the optional Journal Update. Have fun and be safe when practicing this week’s spellwork. Remember that even these simple spells can backfire. I will see you all next week!


Image credit: HP Wiki

Year One of Charms presents an overview of the basics of spellcasting. Beginning with essential wizarding laws and touching briefly upon wandlore, we then discuss the components that are present within spells. Along the way you’ll learn of and practice the basic spells that all beginning witches and wizards should know. We’ll explore how such basic spells as the Severing Charm, the Levitation Charm and the Sunlight Charm demonstrate these fundamental aspects of spellcasting. Enroll