Lesson 5) The Importance of Concentration
Today you have a good deal of work to complete, so it is best that we get started! We will be looking at another of the components you need to be aware of when casting a spell. This component, called concentration, affects spells differently from the wand movement or incantation. It is the act of centering your mind and centering your spell’s effects on the target in order to make the spell happen.
Concentration is a component that is not necessarily crucial in every spell. Saying the incantation and performing the wand movement for the Wand-Lighting Charm, for instance, will cause the tip of your wand to illuminate without the need to concentrate heavily on a target. No matter how you use the spell, it will affect only the tip of your wand, and is essentially untargeted.
Many of the spells we have covered, such as the Levitation Charm and the Locomotion Charm, require you to concentrate on the target you are casting the spell upon and also concentrate upon the effect you are intending to produce. Without the proper concentration, you might find yourself levitating the table instead of the chair you had intended to levitate. You may find that, instead of directing the trunk you had intended to charm with the Locomotion Charm, you are moving your bed around and it has unfortunately crashed into the trunk you had meant to move.
Concentration is also something that, unlike with incantations or wand movements, you cannot avoid if a spell requires it. You will never reach a point where you can successfully cast the Levitation Charm upon an object without concentrating upon it, even if you only need a minimal amount of concentration. In this way, concentration is the shaping of your will toward a specific goal. Lose that concentration and you find that, at best, your spell targets something you had not intended. At worst, the magic is unleashed in an uncontrolled burst from the tip of your wand, its energy undirected.
The hardest part of successful concentration is that your mind must be relatively clear at the moment you are casting a spell. If you're hungry and thinking of the delicious food being prepared in the Great Hall, your attempt to levitate a chair might result in you levitating the leftovers on the table, even if you were giving some attention to the chair. A great way to practice focusing is through meditation. The act of clearing your mind of thoughts and concerns can take considerable effort, but in the long run it will make you a much better spellcaster. You also must avoid letting stray thoughts get in the way. If you are trying to perform the Severing Charm and you suddenly worry about cutting too deeply, you might find that this is exactly what happens. It is important that you focus only upon what your spell is supposed to do and upon what it is supposed to affect.
At the moment your spell is supposed to take effect, if required, your concentration must be solely upon the task of casting the spell. If a friend is in danger and you need to cast the Stunning Spell, but you are thinking about your friend and not where the spell could go, you could end up stunning them instead.
Remember that concentration directs the effect of your spell, which means that your concentration may not always be on the object as a whole. It may also require visualization of the effect to properly direct the flow of magic, and will occasionally require additional thoughts or emotions. You also don't want to just concentrate haphazardly upon whatever you're trying to charm. If you're trying to use the Mending Charm but you just casually wave your wand in a general direction without really concentrating upon what you're trying to mend and visualizing its unbroken appearance, you may find that it was only partially put back together or mended with extra pieces you hadn't meant to fuse together!
Next we will be discussing spell modifiers. Now, a modifier is a word or short phrase added to the end of a spell to modify the target or effect. The Locomotion Charm, for example, can be modified by including the name of the target. We'll be looking at two spells today that have what we will call spell modifiers. Keep in mind that not all spells can be modified. The Levitation Charm, for example, is no easier regardless of what you say after you complete the incantation. Some spells have different behavior depending upon what modifier you use. As you'll see in this lesson, the Sunlight Charm and the Dancing Lights Charm are both modifications of the Wand-Lighting Charm, Lumos.
The Sunlight Charm
In most cases a steady, half-decent light is all a witch or wizard needs. The typical Wand-Lighting Charm allows you to light the tip of your wand, move it as you want, cast other spells, and then counter the charm with a single, simple counterspell. Sometimes, however, it's useful to have a brighter light that's aimed in a particular direction. Instead of a candle casting light in every direction, the Sunlight Charm is like a very powerful flashlight.
Incantation: Lumos Solem (‘LOO-mos so-LEM’)
Wand Movement: Single counter-clockwise loop ending with the wand pointed toward the target.
Willpower: Low to very high; determines color and intensity of light.
Concentration: High; the target of the light.
The charm is affected by several factors. The amount of willpower put into the spell determines how powerful the effect is. The spell requires concentration to precisely target the beam and keep the spell from simply flickering out just after being cast.
Depending upon how much willpower you put into the spell, the beam will range in intensity from a faint white like a flashlight to a brilliant light golden yellow at its maximum. Unlike with the Wand-Lighting Charm, this charm does not turn scarlet if over-charged. Care must still be taken, however, as an intense beam can be a danger to your vision or the vision of others. You should never point your wand toward your own face and never point this spell directly at another’s face either.
This charm is a great way to practice your ability to concentrate. If you cast the spell but are not concentrating upon maintaining the spell to achieve the desired effect, the light will quickly fade out. The spell will only last five to six seconds no matter how hard you concentrate, but if you don't concentrate enough, the spell won't last for even a second. Managing all of the requirements to cast the spell are what make it a great spell to practice with.
The Dancing Lights Charm
The Sunlight Charm allows you to cast a bright beam of directed light, but the Dancing Lights spell allows you to conjure several smaller, floating lights. This experimental charm is great practice for concentrating on multiple things at once. Each orb casts about as much light as a candle. You don’t have to focus on a particular target, though you will need to mentally direct the orbs toward a particular area. Concentration is a key component of the spell.
Incantation: Lumos Numerosa (‘LOO-mos Noom-air-O-sa’)
Wand Movement: Single counter-clockwise loop, then several rapid counter-clockwise loops.
Concentration: High; concentration should be maintained on all the orbs, and determines how many can be created.
The caster must concentrate upon each orb that is conjured. The number of orbs that can be conjured by the spell is limited by the caster's ability to concentrate upon them, though the most skilled caster can only maintain about a dozen at a time. Preliminary testing has determined that a First Year should be able to conjure three to five orbs at a time.
The caster must also concentrate to move the orbs and keep them from simply winking out of existence. Keeping them clustered together is the easiest way to move them all at the same time, though an experienced spellcaster can control them on a more individual level. Typically the caster must choose between more orbs or more control, though practicing concentration increases both of them.
This week is your midterm exam! You have the Lesson Five Worksheet, the optional First Year midterm Exam, and your optional Journal Entries for Lesson Four and Lesson Five all due this week.
I have decided to make the midterm an optional essay and instead make the final more comprehensive; I strongly recommend that you complete this midterm to test your knowledge of Charms to this point. The midterm will cover, at a high level, information contained within Lessons One to Five of this year.