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by Aubrey Beardsley

by Aubrey Beardsley

Sagacia glared at her companion.  “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!”

“Me!!?” I’m just the messenger!” Simplia explained. “It was Groping in Gretna who said wingnuts wouldn’t hold a spell!”

“Oh, yeah? Well just listen to this email from Nick Smith!” Sagacia scrolled through her inbox, clicked open Nick’s letter, and read:

Speaking purely theoretically, in case there are any witchfinders perusing the replies, it’s not that you couldn’t enchant a button, it’s that you couldn’t enchant a button to do a sword’s job. As the old stories remind us, even magic has rules. Many of the folktales use enchanted items that depend on the Rule of Similarity. That rule basically says that you could enchant a bowl of water into becoming a lake more easily than you could turn a bowl of water into a flying bull. In the latter case, the two just have too little in common. Thus, a comb into a forest [well, they look a little alike at a distance, anyway] or a bean into a giant beanstalk, and so on. A bottle cap just won’t turn into a beanstalk very easily, and would be scarcely worth the magical effort if you did.

So, you COULD enchant a button or a wingnut, but only to do things that in some way relate to a button or a wingnut in purpose or appearance. For instance, you could enchant a wingnut to hold shut the great iron doors of a vault, and the wingnut could only be loosened by a hero who possessed the correct virtues and/or the secret knowledge of which way to turn it.

Not that I’ve officially ever done that…yessirree, not a smidge of witchery around here, you can move along now…

“Hmmm….Simplia said excitedly. “Or maybe a wingnut might be a fairy with wings turned to iron by a sorcerer, and if you had the correct virtues or the secret knowledge, you could free her, like a jinn from a bottle,” Simplia mused. “And then she would grant you three wishes or something.”

Sagacia rolled her eyes and continued. “And Priscilla Howe says…”

Porridge pots, kettles, salt grinders, red caps, red shoes, capes, wands, looking glasses, pebbles, rings, eggs, various animals…are you certain bottlecaps and wingnuts aren’t also talismans (or is that talismen?) as well? Maybe you need the proper incantation to make it work.

“Incantations!” Simplia repeated. “Incantations! I could release the fairy in the wingnut with the proper incantation!

               “Wingnut, Wingnut on the wall
                Who is the fairy of the mall?”

Sagacia groaned “I don’t think so!” she said. “It’s deeper than that. Here’s how Mark Goldman explains it:

Dear Groping in Gretna,
I, too, have been, and still am a magician. Like you, I have produced coins, and other objects where it first seemed none existed. But here’s the key: they were not produced out of “thin” air, but rather “thick” air.
Yes, the air around us is thick, not only with objects and talismans, but ideas, emotions, images and characters that exist to entertain and enlighten us. Our task, like other magicians is to recognize them, and pluck them out so that mere mortals can share in the delight.

And regarding talismans: When you say you are having difficulty “imbuing” some objects with magic, here are my thoughts. I do not think you can imbue an object, I believe it already has a soul. It is our job to find what that soul is.

A wing-nut may not seem to have any special qualities in the moment. But to the pilot (in real life or in a fairytale) who sees the glint off the sun, feels something eerie, then turns and tightens the loose nut, that wing-nut has clear significance. It has a soul that spoke to him, and perhaps, saved his life. It is not just any wing-nut…it is this “specific” wing-nut, that now becomes a talisman.

In Eric A. Kimmel’s story, The Soul of the Menorah (from the book, A Jar of Fools), a hayfork is mistaken for a menorah. There is much consternation about whether it is a hayfork or a menorah. Eventually, the great seer of Lublin proclaims, “It may be a hayfork, but it clearly has the soul of a menorah.”

“Oh, thick air,” said Simplia.  “Now I get it! Those magical objects are out there! Groping in Gretna just needs to search for them amidst all the other talismans and emotions and stuff floating around in the thick air!”

Sagacia heaved a sigh, but then brightened suddenly. “Let’s go over to the Fairy Tale Lobby.  Some of our magical friends might be over there talking about this very thing.”

“Okay!” Simplia leapt from her seat.

“You get the cat food, and I’ll get the key!” Sagacia ordered, closing her laptop.

“The enchanted cat food,” Simplia corrected, feeling her power rise.

“The enchanted cat food,” Sagacia conceded.

“The key at the world’s end,” Simplia hummed.

“The key at the world’s end,” Sagacia sighed. “Come on! Before it starts raining!”