Magic is a supernatural force in the known world. It is rare enough for many to doubt its effective or even existence, particularly in Westeros and especially the Citadel, where it its known as the higher mysteries.
Types of magic
Magic is a little-understood force in the world. It has been so long since magic was truly potent that most understanding of it only lives on in superstition and rituals of questionable validity. Blood, life, and death seem to be keys that can help unlock the secrets of magic.
In Westeros and most of the lands west of Valyria, magic is held to be a mythical force only. The maesters of the Citadel may apply for a Valyrian steel link for the study of magic, but they believe it to have faded away following the Doom of Valyria, since there has been no record of its use in Westeros since that time.
Magic has remained a potent force in Qarth, where the enigmatic warlocks of the House of the Undying are said to possess great powers. All manner of wizards, sorcerers, necromancers, spellsingers, aeromancers, bloodmages, and more are said to gather and practice their arts in the lands by the Jade Sea and Asshai by the Shadow.
Some of the abilities exhibited by those who practice magic are:
- Elemental control: Firemages and the red priests of R'hllor seem able to control the element of fire, being able to evoke fire with their bare hands in order to engulf their weapons in flames, to use the fire alone as a means to attack enemies, or just to amaze crowds. The wizards of the Rhoynar were able to use water magic to manipulate water, such as the river Rhoyne. It is possible that other wizards and sorcerers know ways of using other elements.
- Divination: Some people exhibit the ability to see the future either through dreams or looking in the fire in the case of the followers and priests of the Lord of Light. This is called greensight if following the way of the old gods or dragon dreams if it is done by a Targaryen.
- Skinchanging: The ability to enter the mind of an animal and control its actions. It is a rare ability with only one man in a thousand being born a skinchanger. Having the blood of the First Men may make it more likely for someone to be a skinchanger.
- Raising the dead: Some followers of R'hllor have been capable of performing the extraordinary feat of raising a man from the dead after performing the last kiss. However the reborn person may have difficulty remembering parts of their past life or exhibit a change in personality. The revived additionally still have any wounds incurred before their passing.
- Necromancy: Some are rumored to dabble in necromancy, the ability to raise the dead as mindless automatons bound to serve a specific purpose. Necromancy is said to have been practiced by the Bloodstone Emperor, Dagon Drumm, and Morgon Banefort.
- Glamoring: Some wizards and sorcerers can change their appearance or the appearance of others by using light and shadow. Some glamors are associated with specific objects. Years of practice can be needed for effective glamor use.
- Bloodmagic is said to be darkest and possibly the most powerful of magics. Practitioners of bloodmagic have dark spells to save a man from death, though some say death is cleaner.
- Alchemy: a diverse range of practices involving the creation of substances or materials with magical powers. The Alchemists' Guild in Westeros specializes in this, claiming that in the past they were able to transmute base metals into gold, along with other powers. In recent centuries their power has waned, and they focus on creating the incendiary substance known as Wildfire, which burns much hotter than pitch and cannot be extinguished by water. They claim that wildfire's power is magical in nature, though the exact ingredients are a closely guarded secret. Most surviving books about alchemy have been distorted by amateur practitioners, and study of them rarely yields practical results. It has been something of a fad for absent-minded, bookish lords to "dabble" in alchemy research (such as King Aenys I Targaryen), usually archiving no more than parlor tricks.
Other than the children of the forest, who are said to have been strong in magic, native magic in Westeros is rare. In days past, the greenseers of the children possessed incredible powers over nature, including skinchanging, slipping into the minds of beasts, and greensight, the power to foretell the future. Though the children of the forest and their greenseers have long passed from Westeros, there are still descendants of the First Men who possess those powers. The knowledge of the existence of skinchangers is exceedingly rare in Westeros, except perhaps among the free folk that live beyond the Wall.
All Valyrian magic was rooted in blood and fire. It is said that they could set dragonglass candles to burning with strange, unpleasantly-bright light. With the obsidian candles, they could see across vast distances, look into a man's mind, and speak with one another though they were half the world apart. It is often said that the old wizards of Valyria did not cut and chisel stone, but worked it with fire and magic as one might work clay. The people of Valyria were strong in magic, and they used their powerful wizards and their dragons in conjunction with their armies to conquer most of western Essos. Dragons were controlled by whips, dragon horns, and sorcery.
In Qarth, the enigmatic warlocks of the House of the Undying practice curious rituals. Qartheen warlocks once bathed Samwell Tarly in aurochs blood to make him brave. Shadowbinders, spellsingers, and aeromancers from Asshai are capable of great and terrible feats.
There are firemages who can conjure ladders from the air that are made of fire and can stand forty feet high. The mage can climb up the ladder, each rung disappearing behind him, leaving nothing but silvery smoke. When he reaches the top, the ladder and he are both gone.
A Game of Thrones
Mirri Maz Duur sacrifices Drogo's stallion and, unbeknownst to Daenerys Targaryen, the unborn Rhaego in her attempt to restore Khal Drogo. Daenerys then burns the maegi on Drogo's funeral pyre and wakes dragons.
A Clash of Kings
In Qarth Daenerys sees a firemage creating a ladder of flames that stands up to forty feet high and then dissappear along with the ladder. Quaith explains that, half a year before, the man could bare wake fire from dragonglass and perform tricks with powders and wildfire until Daenerys, by hatching the first dragons in centuries, has caused the firemage's powers to grow.
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows
A magical Valyrian glass candle in Marwyn's chamberas at the Citadel has ignited anew and it seems that the potency of magic in Westeros has increased. Miracles and abilities that were long thought lost now appear to be returning, although this is commonly neither known nor accepted.
A Dance with Dragons
Perhaps magic was once a mighty force in the world, but no longer. What little remains is no more than the wisp of smoke that lingers in the air after a great fire has burned out, and even that is fading. Valyria was the last ember, and Valyria is gone.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 64, Daenerys VIII.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 72, Daenerys X.
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- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 23, Daenerys III.
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- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 40, Daenerys III.
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- georgerrmartin.com: WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE SAMPLE
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- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
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