Metamorphosis: Transfiguration For Beginners

Last Updated

05/31/21

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Basic Technique

Chapter 3

Due to the exact nature of Transfiguration, the technique used in order to Transfigure an object must be precise. Technique that is haphazard or incomplete may result in ineffective, imperfect, and even dangerous results. In order to avoid unfortunate consequences, you must pay close attention to every detail presented to you; only a thorough understanding of the nature and practice of the spell will lead to a successful Transfiguration.

Mental Preparation

Before attempting to perform any Transfiguration, a certain degree of mental preparation is required. First and foremost, the most basic concept of any and all Transfiguration is that of mutability, or an object’s ability to change. All witches and wizards that wish to perform any Transfiguration whatsoever must recognize the inherent mutability of all objects in our world. Nothing is truly stagnant. Even the strongest of materials, such as diamond and dragon hide, can be formed and reshaped, through both magical and non-magical means. We do not use our magic to grant objects with the ability to change; rather, our magic taps into the pre-existing mutability of the items we wish to Transfigure, directing and intensifying that capacity.

The second most important concept of Transfiguration is that of universal connectedness – that is, all objects are, by nature, connected to all other objects. They may be connected by similar characteristics, such as their function, substance, or traits, or by magical essence and even existence. Through understanding these similarities, we can recognize exactly what differences exist and need to be addressed in order to Transfigure one item into another. In theory, therefore, any object can become any other object. (Although there are restrictions to the scope of Transfiguration, arguably this is a result of the limitations of human magical abilities. Plausibly, Transfigurations impossible by human magic can be performed by other means – perhaps by other magical creatures. House-elves, for example, while severely limited in many ways, have been shown to be able to Apparate into, and Disapparate out of, areas in which wizards and witches are incapable of either.)

Until these two concepts of mutability and universal connectedness are fully understood and incorporated into your understanding of the world, even the simplest of Transfigurations will prove impossible for you. But once you fully understand the truth of these two concepts to the point that they seem entirely obvious and you can’t understand how you were never aware of them in the first place, you will be able to move on to preparing for specific Transfigurations.

The mental preparation for specific Transfigurations involves an in-depth understanding of the changes that you will be making to the object. Each Transfiguration in this text will be preceded with a description of the nature of the change, what it involves, and the mechanics behind the change. Read this carefully; all information provided in these sections is vital to the proposed Transfiguration, and it is highly unlikely that you will be able to effectively perform the given spell without understanding even the most seemingly trivial facts presented in the chapter.

In order to perform a given Transfiguration, you will have to be able to understand the connection between the initial object and what you are Transfiguring it into. You will have to be able to understand how the two are inherently similar, however dissimilar they may seem, in order to know how the nature of the initial object will flow and become part of the essence of the end result. (Lewis Carroll, a prominent writer but considerably less-accomplished wizard, attempted to portray his frustration with this concept in his novel “Alice in Wonderland,” in which the protagonist and her friend, the Mad Hatter, puzzle over this question: “Why is a raven like a writing desk?”) Once you can accurately identify exactly what will change over the Transformation and what similarity will remain between the Transfigured object and its initial state, you will be able to proceed into the actual spell.

Physical Technique

The physical technique of Transfiguration tends to vary depending on the specific spell, but there are some general similarities. For instance, wand movements are precise and measured, often to the exact degree. Typically, a wand movement in Transfiguration will begin pointed at the center of the initial object and move in a way that is encouraging of the major change of the Transfiguration. There are certain distinctions to these general rules (melting and evaporating Transformations, for example, require wand movements bordering on spontaneous), but in most situations, being as precise as possible in your wand movement will increase the effectiveness of your spell.

In addition, you must keep your body in careful control. While it is not entirely necessary to have a perfectly straight and rigid posture, those who do not slouch tend to find their Transfigurations are easier to perform. You must be completely aware of your body, its position, and the flow of your energy, in order to properly Transfigure an object.

Most important in physical technique for Transfiguration is the control of your energy. In Charms, excessive energy may result in a stronger effect than intended (which is not necessarily always desirable, and, rather, is usually inadvisable), but due to the precise nature of Transfiguration, excessive energy in this field tends to simply nullify any attempt at spell work. For young witches and wizards, for whom their energy is intricately woven with their emotions, meditation and breathing exercises are highly recommended, until such a time that they can control their energy separately from their emotions.

CASE STUDY: Match to Needle Now that you understand the basics, you may try your first Transfiguration – the Transformation of a match to a needle (specifically, a metal needle, not one made of bone or wood). This is one of the simplest Transformations available, due to the simplicity of the objects in question and their pre-existing similarities. However, please be aware that until you have completely and unconditionally understood the overarching concepts of Transfiguration, even this simplest of Transformations will be impossible for you; as it takes some time for most students to grasp such concepts, this spell may prove elusive at first.

In order to Transform a match into a needle, you must understand how the two are similar, what will not change throughout the Transformation. Try to brainstorm a list of similarities on your own, and when you have come up with a few, proceed.

Some similarities you might have thought of are that they are both small, thin objects, around the same length. But now that you understand what makes them alike, you should note what makes them different – indeed, what will characterize the Transformation.

A match does not have the same function as a needle. It is made of wood, and is rounded at one end, where it is also coated with a combustible material that can ignite as a result of the heat of friction. A needle, on the other hand, is metallic, with a point at one end, and a small hole at the other. A needle is more durable, and a match is more flexible.

The Transformation will harden the material of the match (changing from wood to metal), thin one end, remove the chemical coating, and make a hole in the other end. Visualize the Transformation in your head, and remember to think of the mutability of the match and its connection with the needle it will become.

The wand movement for this spell is almost entirely still; due in part to the simplicity of the Transformation, the wand movement is a simple, steady point, and a barely discernible downward flick. The incantation is “Cuspis,” and the flick should occur simultaneously with the second syllable, which is slightly more stressed.

When you feel you understand the mechanics of the spell, focus on the match, visualize the Transformation, and attempt the spell. You will most likely not succeed on the first attempt, at which point you should review the Transformation and discern which concept you did not fully grasp: the mutability of the match, the connection of the match and needle, or the mechanics of the Transformation. Focus on the aspect of the Transformation that feels the most difficult, and study it. It may help to write or draw out the concepts from your own perspective. When you feel you have a better understanding of the concept, attempt the spell again. Continue in this fashion until you have successfully Transformed your match into a needle.

Congratulations, you have performed your first Transfiguration!

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