Seven Laws of Magic

The Laws of Magic are a set of rules of The White Council concerning the use of magic. They are intended to prevent the abuse of magic, and protect wizards and normal humans from harmful magic.1 A wizard violating the Laws, on purpose or unknowingly, is termed warlock. Being found violating the Laws has dire consequences, and the punishment sentenced by the White Council and its Wardens is often death.

The Laws

  1. Thou shalt Not kill by use of magic.
  2. Thou shalt not transform others.
  3. Thou shalt not transform others.
  4. Thou shalt not enthrall another.
  5. Thou shalt not reach beyond the borders of life.
  6. Thou shalt not swim against the Currents of Time.
  7. Thou shalt not swim against the Currents of Time.

Explanation of the Laws

The First Law

The First Law of Magic is Thou Shalt Not Kill. It forbids the killing with magic, specifically the killing of humans.

Wizards of The White Council are forbidden to kill human beings through the use of their power. This is the Law that Harry broke in killing his mentor, Justin DuMorne. Self-defense is very occasionally allowed as a mitigating factor. This Law is also a primary reason Wardens wield swords. Several times throughout the series, Wardens have fought to kill with magic against other human wizards; it’s possible Wardens are given somewhat of a free pass in regards to this Law in combat circumstances. The Law is very flexible, however, in regards to things that are not actually human. A wizard may kill, for example, a vampire, ghoul, or any being of The Nevernever without penalty.

The Second Law

The Second Law of Magic forbids the shapeshifting of other beings.

Thus demonstrating why, despite Harry’s occasional threats, we will most likely never see him actually turn anyone into a frog. Even if done successfully (it is an extremely difficult spell), transformation of another’s body against their will – changing a man into an animal, for example – creates an imbalance between body and mind that ultimately degrades the transformed subject’s mind to an animal state as well. (Transformation of oneself through magic is not necessarily as destructive, but still risky and potentially hazardous)

The Third Law

The Third Law of Magic concerns the use of psychomancy.

Forcible magical violation of someone’s mind by extracting knowledge against their will is inherently destructive – Harry describes it as not black, but “dark, dark, dark gray”. Mind magic is so dangerous that the Council has not even dared trying to explore how to build better defenses, which gives an advantage to black wizards less bound by scruples.

The fourth Law

The Fourth Law of Magic forbids the binding of any being against its will.

Enthrallment is the term for dominating another human’s mind and personality through magic by binding their will to your own; it is not the same as compelling beings of the Nevernever through arrangements or exchanges. So long as the wizard in question does not actually control the being through magic, the law is not broken. A popular alternative is trapping the creature in a magic circle until it accepts the terms of a bargain, though some Wardens have ignored this distinction in their zeal. As with mind-probing, magically controlling the mind of another person is an inherently destructive and evil act – it is almost impossible to control safely and precisely, and taints the user of the power as well as the subject even if done for the best of intentions. This taint often sends the user into a self-destructive downward spiral, where every act of magical mind control further twists the user and makes more such acts likelier; if the cycle progresses far enough, the user becomes functionally sociopathic, and impossible to rehabilitate.

The Fifth Law

The Fifth Law of Magic forbids the use of necromancy.

This prohibits the research and practice of necromancy, described as the summoning, binding, and exploitation of the unwilling dead (the psychic talent of mediums for speaking to willing spirits is called ectomancy, and is not governed by the same Law). It would also theoretically prohibit any attempt to genuinely resurrect someone from the dead back to true life. In the universe of the novels, nobody is presented as knowing for certain what kind of afterlife, if any, exists; ghosts, even the most apparently intelligent and self-aware, are stated to be only psychic echoes of people created by violent death, not the actual souls of those people themselves. As the Laws are intended to protect humans against the abuse of magic, a loophole in this law allows the use of necromancy on non-human dead, though the practice is still heavily frowned upon and viewed with a wary eye.

The Sixth Law

The Sixth Law of Magic concerns the use of magic in relation to time.

This prohibits any attempt to change the past through temporal manipulation for fear of paradoxes. Even divination of the future is frowned upon in all but the vaguest, most general instances.

The Seventh Law

The Seventh Law of Magic is Thou Shalt Not Open the Outer Gates. It forbids the contacting of Outsiders.

The Outer Gates are described as large (possibly the largest) entrance to the universe. Set in a gigantic wall, between two towers each the size of the Chrysler building, they are powerfully warded, and constantly defended from Outsiders by the Gatekeeper and the immense army of The Winter Court.

Seven Laws of Magic

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