Metamorphosis: Transfiguration For Beginners
Working With Animals
The next step in your study of Transfiguration is the Transfiguration of animate objects. In this section, you will ONLY be expected to turn a non-magical animate object into an inanimate one. The Transfiguration that animates an inanimate object is much more complex than the process of in-animation, and will, therefore, be discussed more in-depth later in your study. Also, magical beings may prove more challenging than non-magical ones because magical creatures often have a variety of defense mechanisms that make spell work more difficult. In addition, you will only be working with small animals at this point, such as worms and mice. The larger an animal is, the more difficult it is to Transfigure. Indeed, many animals, such as dragons and whales, are entirely impossible to Transfigure by the use of human magic.
The most important aspect of Transfiguration concerning animals is the presence of a life force. A life force is an extremely powerful force that can neither be created nor destroyed by human magic (see Gamp’s Law). Successful Transfiguration of an animate object cannot be completed until you understand how to control the life force you encounter in living creatures; unless, of course, you wish to Transfigure a rabbit into a pair of living slippers that hop away from you in fear every time you try to wear them.
All living creatures have some amount of life force, but the exact amount differs depending on several factors, which are: mobility (sometimes referred to as energy), intelligence, magical ability, and size. In general, the higher each of these factors are, the more life force the creature possesses. However, it is important to note that these factors do not all effect the amount of life force to the same degree. Mobility and intelligence tend to have the greatest influence on life force, size has the least, and magical ability varies greatly depending on the type of magical ability in question. Flobberworms, for example, have only marginally more life force than your average garden grub, but Firecrabs have more than twice the life force of a blue crab. It is important to note that the more life force a creature has, the more difficult Untransfiguration will be. In some cases, Untransfiguration is entirely impossible, and even if the subject returns to its previous species, it remains trapped in a comatose state. For this reason, the Transfiguration of creatures of human or near human intelligence that crosses the living-nonliving boundary is expressly forbidden by the Ministry of Magic. The punishment of such a crime can be a fine of up to ten thousand Galleons or fifteen years imprisonment in Azkaban, depending on the species of the victim and the circumstances behind the Transfiguration. A complete list of creatures that cannot be turned into an inanimate object by law is listed in Figure [?]. However, here is a good general rule of thumb to follow: if you can’t make that creature out of a teapot, don’t turn that creature into a teapot.
A life force is always centered towards the core of the creature, most often close to the lungs, provided that the creature in question possesses lungs. In humans, for example, the life force resides in the middle of the chest – not in the heart, but in the center of the chest and lower down, nearer to the stomach. The Latin word for ‘breath’ is spiritus, and indeed, breath is a source of life force, or spirit, for many creatures. (In addition, some studies have shown that witches and wizards who die from suffocation are much less likely to return as ghosts, suggesting that perhaps even our after-life spirit can be diminished as a result of the lack of breath.) If you breathe deeply, allow your lungs to fill entirely, and focus on your center, you may very well feel your life force expand.
Even Muggles have been known to discover the connection between breathing and life force, as breathing is an essential factor of Muggle meditation exercises. Many students, in fact, find such meditation helpful in learning to Transfigure living creatures, as meditation helps students learn to manipulate their own life force before working on that of others. A helpful breathing exercise is listed at the end of this chapter for students having difficulty Transfiguring their animals.
When Transfiguring an animal into an inanimate object, you must first make the superficial changes, Transforming your animal into the object in shape, size, and pattern. You must do this without removing the life force, so that essentially, you have a living pair of socks, or whatever else it is that you are Transfiguring your creature into. A life force is so strongly anchored on any living being that it is not until the vessel is entirely unrecognizable that the life force can be removed. (To get an idea of how strong this connection is between vessel and its life force, note that the concept of “the will to live” is actually based almost entirely on the bond between vessel and life force.)
Once you have successfully Transfigured your object in all other necessary aspects, the life force will have been shaken lose from its vessel, and at this point, it is removable. Imagine reaching out and snagging the life force with the tip of your wand, and then carefully pull it from the vessel.
Remember that a life force cannot be destroyed; you will need to manage the life force and give it a new vessel with which to reside. You have a number of options in regards to what to do with the life force. One of the most popular options is to store it in your wand, where it can be used again in Transfigurations that animate an inanimate object. Another option is to draw it directly into yourself or another living being around you, which may cause a temporary sensation of high energy and general well-being. We recommend against simply leaving the life force free floating in the atmosphere, as an uncontained life force can be disastrously unpredictable at times. Albert the Absent-Minded, for example, Transfigured a dog into a stone and did not properly dispose of the life force, which eventually resulted in him being followed around by a multitude of rather affectionate writing desks for the next twenty years.
The wand movement for the removal of a life force is a small upward pull directly after the wand movement for changing the vessel into its inanimate form. There is no separate incantation, and in well-executed Transfiguration, the two wand movements should flow seamlessly into one another, almost indiscernible as a separate step to any outside observer. The wand movement and incantation for the Transfiguration of the vessel will differ greatly depending on which specific animal-orientated Transfiguration you wish to perform, but all spells that turn an animal into a non-living object will finish with the upward pull of the wand.
CASE STUDY [WORM INTO STRING]: At this point, you should be able to Transfigure a worm into a piece of string. The wand movement begins with the wand pointed at one tip of the worm. Next, move your wand horizontally, but with a curve, as if drawing a wave in the air, so that your wand finishes six inches to the right of where it started. Without pausing for more than half a second, pull your wand upwards to remove the life force. The incantation for this spell is “Ligamen,” said with stress on the second syllable.
Remedial Breathing Exercise
Students who are having trouble grasping the concept of life force may find the following breathing exercise helpful.
1. Lie flat on your back, and have some pillows available to tuck under your knees and neck to reduce strain.
2. Place your hands at the base of your rib cage, and arrange them so that your middle fingers are just barely touching.
3. Take a slow, deep breath, so that your fingers are slowly pulled away from each other as your belly expands. This is called “belly breathing” and uses your lungs fully. Focus on your inner energy and feel it grow with your inhalation.
4. Exhale slowly, and feel your energy recede slightly.
5. Repeat for five minutes.
When you feel you have a strong understanding of your own life force within you, attempt to Transfigure your worm again. If still unsuccessful, repeat the breathing exercises.