Lesson 2) Non-Verbal Spellcasting
Today’s lesson will be almost entirely theoretical. I know some of you may not be interested in the theory of magic, but it can be extremely useful to understand the “why” behind a concept, rather than just being able to do it. In fact, often knowing why something happens will make it easier to duplicate, or in this case cast the spell non-verbally. We will end this lesson on a practical note, learning spells that are nonverbal by nature.
Non-Verbal Spellcasting Theory
In order to effectively utilize this concept, you must first understand the theory behind the concept. From experience, it will be much easier for you to apply the idea if you understand why it works, rather than accepting that it “just does.”. In this, we will break the theorizing down into the terms that we have thus far been using: our components of spellcasting. By now you should all be intimately familiar with these and how they function in standard spellcasting, so here we will take each component individually and complicate it in interesting ways. We will start with the wand movement, the component that plays into the casting the least (at least on the surface) and will work our way to concentration, the most influential factor in non-verbal spellcasting.
Last year, we began our studies of how to cast spells effectively without being dependent on the wand movement. In order to do this, we said that it was necessary to increase the concentration factor; you have to mentally control your magic because you no longer have the physical representation of the spell to help focus it into the world. This will, to an extent, play a role in your ability to cast spells non-verbally, because the level of concentration will continue to increase. We will discuss this in much more depth shortly, so that will be left for that moment, but I will leave this section with some advice: do not attempt to cast spells both non-verbally and without the wand movement. As we will discuss later, the concentration required to do both increases the potential for backfire, the likelihood of spell failure, and can even cause some unexpected effects to occur (similar to the way we discussed with the Impediment Jinx).
The next component that has a low level of impact on your ability to successfully cast spells non-verbally is willpower. Your desire that you attempt to create within the world (which is the simplified idea of willpower) or the amount of “oomph” that you put into the spell does not necessarily affect whether or not the spell will be successful or not. However, many magical people will increase the willpower that is applied to a spell. For many people, it feels more natural to push more willpower into a spell as they are forcing themselves to concentrate on the desired effect more; it is claimed that it feels more natural to have a level of balance that makes the spell flow out of their wand more naturally. Whether this is true for you or not, I encourage you to cautiously explore this application. Do not drastically increase your willpower immediately, but consider a small, incremental increase that allows you to find what feels right to you. You may find that no willpower increase feels right to you, and that’s acceptable as well.
Now, when you think about non-verbal spellcasting, I am sure that the incantation is the first component that comes to your mind. Of course, it is important that, for non-verbal spellcasting, you are not using the incantation. However, the ways in which we interact with the incantation must still be considered. Even though you are not vocalizing the incantation, you are still using it. At this level of your magical education, I would expect your attempts at casting spells non-verbally to involve “saying” the incantation in your head. As you become more practiced at casting these spells, I would expect that you become less dependent on the mental formation of the incantation in order to cast the spell. In the same way that you have become more comfortable casting spells and may find that you do not have to think as much about the application of each component in order to successfully cast each spell, something similar will occur as you successfully cast spells non-verbally. Each successive cast should allow you to feel what the successful cast feels like. The more frequently that you feel what the successful cast feels like, the easier it will become to just let the spell happen. Today, you may need to scream the incantation in your head in order to make the spell work (if you can), down the road you may only need to whisper the incantation in your head in order to cast the spell successfully and, even more advanced, may reach a skill level where the mental utterance of the incantation is completely unnecessary to cast the spell successfully.
Finally, we come to concentration. Aside from acknowledging the lack of incantation, concentration is one of the most important factors in a successful nonverbal spellcast. This is because you need to direct your mind more intensely to the desired effect of the spell you are casting, as you can no longer utilize language to assist in the physical manifestation of the magical energy. The level of difficulty will be dependent on the complexity of the spell. A spell like the Wand-Lighting Charm - a spell you should be intimately familiar with by now - will be far easier to cast non-verbally than a spell like the Impediment Jinx, which has three possible effects. Without full concentration on both the incantation and the effect, the spell will, at best, not work and seriously backfire at worst. I do not suggest practicing any advanced spells until you have mastered some of the simplest spells. At the end of this lesson, I will provide a list of basic spells you can use to practice.
You may be asking yourself at this point why concentration must be so dramatically increased simply because of the lack of verbal, physical connection to the world around you in order to successfully cast the spell. To keep it relatively short, the incantation provides physical guidance to your magical energy. While you are concentrating on the desired effect, you also need to concentrate on the physical manifestation of the effect. To use the Levitation Charm as an example, you not only need to concentrate on the effect of levitating the desired object, but you also need to concentrate on the object actually lifting off the ground. You must concentrate to the extent that the spell comes into physical existence and happens in the physical world, not just in your mind.
Advantages and Disadvantages to Non-Verbal Spellcasting
Now that we have a basic grasp of the theory behind nonverbal spellcasting, we need to consider why it is that we would or would not choose to use this skill. I will start by covering the two major advantages of this skill. The first will be most applicable to all of you. When entering situations where combat is likely, such as a duel, the use of non-verbal spellcasting can be extremely useful. While it can be difficult to recognize a wand movement in a split second, it is a lot easier to recognize an incantation, since many incantations are based in their effect - for example, Incendio is derived from the Latin “incendere,” which means “to set fire to” - and therefore can more easily alert your opponent to the intent of your spell. It is possible to use spells such as the Impediment Jinx, a spell with three possible effects as your should remember, but there are few spells with that level of versatility. By learning to cast spells without utilizing their incantation verbally, you can provide yourself with an advantage of approximately a second, which can be the difference between winning and losing a duel.
The second advantage will be more applicable to those of you who have ambitions of becoming aurors. One of an auror’s main jobs is going out on missions to hunt Dark witches and wizards. In some cases, this will require a high level of stealth in order to not be caught by the person you are pursuing. By learning to cast spells nonverbally, you increase your chances of not being caught. You will still have to be careful, but at least you can trust that your voice won’t give you away, particularly if you have a naturally loud voice.
However, this skill is not without its flaws. Just the required level of concentration alone makes it more difficult to cast the spell successfully; it will be even more difficult to cast a spell if you are attempting to cast without a wand movement as well as without the incantation (I suggest you not try this until after you have graduated, at the earliest). With this increased level of concentration, it increases the chance that your spells will backfire at worst and simply not cast at best. This can be highly disadvantageous in high stress situations where you are depending on your spells to cast successfully.
There is a second, less well explored disadvantage that has left many magical theorists scratching their heads. There has been a noticeable trend that spells cast nonverbally simply do not have as much power as they would if the spell was cast verbally. In most spells, it is only a miniscule difference, but some spells have been proven to only cause severe injury when they should have been fatal. It is possible to counteract this with increased willpower when casting, but that then decreases how many spells you can cast before succumbing to magical exhaustion. Therefore, it is imperative that you know your own spellcasting ability before rushing in and finding yourself in an intense situation that you cannot get out of.
To bring our lesson to a close, I am going to teach you two spells that have been tested and proven safe by the Department of Experimental Magic, that are nonverbal by creation, and will allow you to feel what it is like to cast spells without verbally using the incantation. This should allow you to transfer that feeling to help make casting other spells easier when doing so nonverbally. These spells, originally created by Potions Master Severus Snape, were used by his classmates at school (most often against him), and then later by Harry Potter and his friends after Harry discovered the spell in a spare Potions textbook.
The first spell is the Ankle-Lifting Jinx. This spell is a nonverbal spell with the incantation “Levicorpus” (levi-COR-pus). The required concentration is high, since it is still a nonverbal spell, and you need to concentrate on causing the effect to become real, rather than just focusing on lifting the target in the air by their ankle. The willpower will vary; it is entirely dependent on how much will is required to overcome the will of the target. Make sure you know, or at least have a good guess, about how much willpower will be required before casting. If you are using this spell as a surprise attack, you only get that opportunity once.
Should you find yourself under the effect of this spell, or a friend or colleague has been affected by it, then you would want to use the counter-jinx, which is the Ankle-Releasing Spell. The incantation for this spell is “Liberacorpus” (LIH-ber-ah-COR-pus). The concentration is the same, but the willpower is much less, because you only need to target the effect of the spell, or the magical residue of the spell, which is much easier to overcome than attempting to resist the will of an animate target.
You should find both of these spells relatively easy to cast and practice your nonverbal spellcasting with. However, I do not want to hear about any of you practicing these spells on your peers. I will have a room set up with practice dummies. You will be able to access this room at any time to practice your spellwork. You would be wise to take advantage of the practice time, as you will be expected to demonstrate proficiency in both nonverbal and without a wand movement spellcasting during your N.E.W.T. exam.
Conclusion and Assignments
Which brings us to the end of the lesson. I know I have thrown a lot of theory at you, but it is important that, at this level, you understand why things happen in our world, not just blindly accept that they do happen. And so I will let you go to complete your assignments: an essay to help you synthesize what you have learned today and an extra credit essay that pushes you to think about the theory on a deeper level. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about the work, you can send me a message. Next class, we will be covering a useful dueling spell and the theory behind it. Until next time, students.