Dresden Files


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The term Magic has two related meanings. First, it refers to a supernatural force or energy described as "the essence of life and creation. Second, it refers to the practice of harnessing this force to produce changes in reality. An act of magic is called a spell, and the act of performing such an act is called casting. Most supernatural beings are capable of performing magic, as are some mortals, who are referred to as practitioners.


As energyEdit

According to Harry Dresden, magic is life's essence. It is generated by living things, and may be thought of as akin to the concepts of Odic force and prana. However, the human heart and soul are also powerful sources of magical energy. There's more magic in a baby's first giggle than any fire that a wizard can call up. Emotions are a kind of channel for magic, a path to carry energy to a practitioner.[1] Practitioners can draw on their own emotions for power. Black magic comes from negative emotions like lust, fear and anger, which are easy to harness and to make grow. Harry's magic was harder because it comes from a deeper, truer, and purer source—harder to tap, harder to keep but more elegant and more powerful.[2]

As practiceEdit

Harry Dresden describes casting a spell as a three-step process. The first step is to gather energy.  The second is to shape that energy with one's thoughts and feelings for achieving one's goal.  The final step is to release the energy in the intended direction. Harry likens this to using a firearm: first one must load ammunition (gather energy), aim the weapon (shape the energy with intent), and pull the trigger (release the energy). In Blood Rites, Harry remarks it can be very difficult for a single individual to handle all these tasks when performing a large spell, so that three practitioners will work in concert to divide the effort.[3]


"You can't weave together a spell that you don't believe in." Harry Dresden.[4]

In order to successfully cast a spell, a practitioner must have confidence that he will succeed in casting the spell. A practitioner who believes himself incapable of achieving some effect with magic makes himself incapable of doing so, simply by holding that belief.(reference needed)

A practitioner must also believe that casting the spell he intends to cast is a proper thing to do.  A practitioner with a deeply-held belief that violence is wrong would almost certainly fail in attempts to do violence with magic. They can't make it happen if it isn't part of them, inside.[1]


The practice of magic by mortals results in strange side-effects. During the time at which the novels take place, this side-effect is an interference with the operation of electrical or electronic devices. The frequency and severity of this interference increases with the complexity of the device as well as with the amount of ambient magic.[5] Although the term "interference" suggests that the effect is temporary, exposure to magic can and often does produce permanent damage to affected devices.(reference needed)Waldo Butters describes the phenomenon as an intensification of Murphy's Law, increasing the chance that something which might go wrong with a device will actually occur.(reference needed)Ebenezar McCoy believes that the reason the magic of human wizards disrupts modern mechanics and technology—though the magic of Faeries does not—is that human beings are inherently conflicted. Magic responds to emotions and thoughts, and people's thoughts and emotions are always conflicting. This means that there is a turbulence around those with magical talent and its the turbulence, not the magic itself, that disrupts technology. That said, it has been mentioned that magic is woven into the fae in a way it is not woven to mortals, IE, magic naturally leaks out of a wizard, but it doesn't leak from a faery.[6]

Because the metaphysical principles governing the operation of magic are continuously changing (albeit very slowly), the side effects of mortal magic also change. For example, during the eighteenth century, exposure to magic caused dairy products to spoil.(reference needed)

Medical examiners Butters hypothesized that wizards are surrounded by a "murphyonic field" (whatever can go wrong, will), closely linked to the their healing powers.(reference needed)

Harry is often shown knowingly or unknowingly hexing computers,(reference needed) electrical material,[7] firearms, lights, sound systems, explosives, and more.


Most magical practitioners use various props (physical objects) in the casting of their spells. It isn't actually necessary to do so. Any spell can be cast as an entirely mental construct, but the more complex a spell is, the more the practitioner has to divide his or her concentration.(reference needed)

Using props reduces the amount of mental effort needed to cast a spell by providing a visible object which encapsulates the meaning that the practitioner assigns to it.[8] In other words, a prop is a symbolic placeholder for a part of the spell in the practitioner's mind.(reference needed)

A long-duration spell needs to be anchored:

  • Objects: Magic can be anchored to specific objects, usually expensive objects but not always, like Harry's blasting rod.(reference needed)
  • People: There are times when magic can be anchored to a person, who must be a blood relation. Margaret LeFay, Harry's mother, could have anchored her death curse to Harry so that as long as he was alive, the spell was still viable.[3]

Other detailsEdit

  • Left side is the side that takes in energy.[9]
  • The right side projects energy.[10]
  • The proper hand to carry a staff in is the left hand.[11]
  • Magic is time-consuming with Circles, gathering energies, and aligning forces.[9]

The Seven Laws of MagicEdit

Main article: Seven Laws of Magic
  1. Thou shalt not kill by use of magic.
  2. Thou shalt not transform others.
  3. Thou shalt not invade the mind of another.
  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 seek knowledge beyond the Outer Gates.


Practitioner is a generic term for an individual who can use magic, with no reference to the user's power or skill. There are a number of other terms, however, which do have such connotations.(reference needed)

Most human beings cannot use magic at all; the number of practitioners diminishes with the increase of the power they can command.(reference needed)


A wizard is a practitioner who is a member of the White Council. They have a full spectrum of magical abilities known to mortals. The Council only grants membership to the strongest of practitioners; in terms of raw magical strength, Council wizards rank in the top two percent. And yet, the power of even the strongest wizards is insignificant in comparison to a supernatural heavyweight like a Faerie Queen. Only a handful throughout history, such as The Original Merlin have been an exception to this rule.(reference needed)


A sorcerer is a practitioner with a wide (or full) spectrum of magical abilities and a good deal of power, who either does not meet the criteria for Council membership, or does but is not a member. Many of those in the latter category have the necessary power and talent to be a wizard, but are often self-taught, lacking the resources and knowledge base of the White Council. The term is sometimes used as a pejorative by White Council members, with the connotation of a dangerous or destructive individual.(reference needed)

Minor talentsEdit

A minor talent is a practitioner with a small degree of magical aptitude.(reference needed)


A warlock is a practitioner who has violated one of the laws of magic.

Practitioners with a high degree of magical strength have two unusual physical characteristics. The first is great longevity: the lifespan of a White Council wizard is measured in centuries. The second is an extraordinary ability to recover from injury. Wizards don't heal faster than ordinary people, but they heal better. A practitioner's body can recover from injuries that an ordinary mortal's body never could. Furthermore, the recovery is eventually so complete that there sometimes is no evidence that the injury ever occurred.  Wizards get scars, but even serious scars are eventually repaired.[12]

Variation in abilitiesEdit

In much the same way that people have varying talents for art, science, or music, practitioners have varying aptitudes for different aspects of magic. What is easy for one may be difficult for another. Harry Dresden, for instance, is very adept at thaumaturgy (particularly at finding things), but less so at evocation. His apprentice Molly Carpenter, on the other hand, has a knack for veils and psychomancy.(reference needed)


  • Circle: The circle is one of the basic tools of magic.  An empowered circle creates a barrier that magical forces and beings of the Nevernever cannot cross.  A practitioner will place a circle around an area where a spell is being performed in order to prevent magical "background noise" from interfering with the spell.  Because supernatural beings cannot cross them, empowered circles can be used to contain such beings, as well as to keep them out of an area.[13] [14]
  • Name: A being's Name can be used to create a thaumaturgical link to that being. When using a Name in a spell, a practitioner must pronounce it in exactly the same way in which the Name's owner does.  In order for a Name to be magically useful, the correct pronunciation must ultimately have been learned from the Name's owner.[13]
  • Physical Samples: When a piece of an object is removed from the main mass of that object, the piece retains a thaumaturgic link to it. A bit of hair, nail clippings, or fresh blood can be used to aim a thaumaturgic spell at the person it was taken from.  The principle works with inanimate objects as well, such as bits of clay taken from the same large mass. 
  • Mirrors: many things can use mirrors as windows and doors, such as Fetches. Harry doesn't keep any mirrors in his home.[15]
  • Pentagram: A magical symbol, a five pointed star drawn as a single line, forming a pentagon in the center.[16]
  • Pentacle: A pentacle is another magical symbol, essentially a pentagram enclosed within a circle.  Harry Dresden says it represents the five elemental forces of Air, Earth, Water, Fire, and Spirit bound and contained by human will.[16]
  • Focus: A focus is a magically prepared object used to aid a practitioner in performing a spell. 
  • Homunculus: A homonculus is an object used as a temporary vessel for a spirit incapable of manifesting a physical form of its own.  Some practitioners use fresh corpses, but this isn't required; Harry Dresden used a  Cabbage Patch doll as a vessel for Ulsharavas.[17]
  • Cats: are Magic-friendly, they can move back and forth across magic boundaries, like circles, without disturbing them.[18] Cats can also see ghosts and spirits.[19]


Blood has  a kind of power; a magic user can use blood to track the person who spilled it.[20] Once it dries, or is excessively diluted, it's harder, if not impossible, to use.[20][21]

The needed amount of blood depends on the efficiency and skill of the magic user and how much energy is required: the more energy being sent, the more blood is needed. If for a simple tracking spell, not much is needed, if for making a targets heart explode, a lot is needed.[21]

Types of magicEdit

There are two broad types of magic in The Dresden Files: thaumaturgy and evocation.

Thaumaturgy operates by creating magical links between objects. It operates over greater distances and with more precision, but is more time consuming and requires a conduit to the target - usually a physical sample.[1][15]

Evocation is loud, flashy, instantaneous, and often destructive. It works on its target directly without the need for a link, and can be performed quickly, but has limited range, requires a line of sight to the target, and is generally more difficult to wield with precision.[1]

There are a number of terms for more specialized forms of magic.

  • Divination is magic which is employed to gain information, especially information about the future.
  • Summoning magic brings a spiritual being from the Nevernever to the mortal world.
  • Binding magic is used to enthrall (enslave) a summoned being.
  • Charm is a kind of short-term magic.[9]
  • Enchantment magic is used in the construction of magical instruments, such as foci.
  • Curse is a general term for any malevolent spell.
  • Alchemy is the practice of manufacturing magical potions, which create a magical effect when drunk.

Forms of magic can also be named according to what the spell affects, rather than what it does.  These names are typically constructed from a Greek or Latin root and the suffix -mancy, from a Greek word meaning divination, but which in English has taken on the meaning area of magic relating to. Thus "pyschomancy", derived from Greek psyche (mind) plus -mancy is "area of magic relating to the mind," specifically mind-control.

Magic Type Category or Element Description Law Against Reference
Aeromancy Air Using magic to manipulate air; also pertains to magical flight. none
Anthropomancy Divination Divine the future or gain information by reading human entrails First Law", Sixth Law Dead Beat Chapter 14
Ectomancy Ghosts Magic concerned with ghosts. none, as ghosts are not souls and only ephemerally related to the deceased. Dead Beat  Chapter 10
Ferromancy Minerals, Iron; Magnetics, electrics; Technology Manipulation of minerals; synonym for mortal technology.[22] none Dead Beat Chapter 21
Holomancy Holograms; Optical Illusions Creates visual images by manipulating light waves. Different from Verisimilomancy in that the image appears physically. none Changes chapter 35
Hydromancy Water Magic used to manipulate water none White Night Chapter 38
Kinetomancy Kinetics; Motion and Mechanical Energy Using magic to move and manipulate objects; magically- induced telekinesis. none
Necromancy Death and dead things Animate corpses, control ghosts, extract information from a corpse's brain, switch bodies... Fifth Law Dead Beat Chapters 06 and 17
Neuromancy Brain; Memory Art of mind reading, mind altering, and other mental tricks. Third Law Small Favor Chapter 40
Psychomancy Psyche; Personality and Will Concerned with controlling someone's mind. Third Law, Fourth Law Turn Coat Chapter 34
Phonoturgy Sound Magic that blocks sound. none Changes Chapter 04
Pyromancy Fire Magic used to manipulate fire. none
Terramancy Earth Magic used to manipulate the ground; also pertains to terrestrial forces like gravity. none
Thaumaturgy Linking  Creates magical links between an object and a target; used  as tracking spells; needs a part of the target. none Storm Front Chapters 02 and 11
Verisimilomancy Phantasms; Hallucinations Creates phantasms in the mind. Different from Holomancy in that the image is only in the target's mind. none Ghost Story Chapter 22
Vulcanomancy Volcanos Specifically deals with magma none Whie Night Chapter 40
Alchemy Potion magic Creates magical potions of many uses Second Law Storm Front
Transmogrification Transformation magic Changes living creatures into other living creatures Second Law (when used on others) Storm Front

Elemental MagicEdit

Fire MagicEdit

  • Fire Magic is what Harry uses most often: fuego, and variations or combinations. 

Earth MagicEdit

  • In the short story "It's My Birthday, Too" Harry uses the spell Gravitus to concentrate, for just a fraction of second, the gravity of a fifty yards circle into a eighteen inches circle, smashing a Black Court Vampire. Harry explains that he is not good with earth-magic and so he needed twenty seconds to cast the spell.[23]
  • Ebenezar insisted that Harry learn at least one spell of Earth Magic.[24]
  • Harry opened a hole in Lea's garden in the Nevernever to bury Bob, the Swords and other paraphenalia using Dispertius to open the hole and Resarcius to close it.[24]
  • Harry used an anti-gravity spell to smash and kill hundreds of Red Court soldiers—specifically Esclavos de Sangre: "Blood Slaves".[25]
  • Harry uses a blunt force to batter things on occasion, "Forzare".(reference needed)

Air MagicEdit

Harry uses Wind Magic second after Fire Magic with: "Ventas Servitas" [26]

Water MagicEdit

  • Water, especially running water, grounds out most magic.[28]

Ritual magicEdit

Rituals are spells which are empowered by a being other than the practitioner casting it. Harry Dresden derides rituals, calling them "cosmic vending machines." Anyone who follows the steps of the ritual can induce the entity that sponsors it to create the desired effect, so the ability to produce a powerful effect via a ritual spell is not a sign of a skilled or powerful practitioner.(reference needed)

Because the entities that sponsor rituals have finite amounts of power, the effectiveness of a ritual can be diminished by spreading knowledge of it. The more the sponsor of a ritual has to divide its power, the less effective any casting of the ritual will be. For this reason, the White Council actually publishes any dangerous rituals it finds.(reference needed)


Curses, such as malocchio, entropy curse and the death curse are spells intended to do harm. They need some means of directing the magic at a target; body parts like hair, nail-clippings, fresh blood work best.[29] To make a curse long-lasting, it needs to be anchored to an object or a blood relation.[3]

Really strong curses require three people to cast the spell: one to gather the energy, one to shape it, one to aim it.[3]

In the seriesEdit

Storm FrontEdit

Main article: Storm Front

In Storm Front, Harry is angry and nauseated that someone would use a thing of beauty like magic and use it to hurt, kill and destroy when magic taps into the energies of creation.[1]

Blood RitesEdit

Main article: Blood Rites

In Blood Rites: Harry was hired by Arturo Genosa to stop Strega from killing with a Malocchio—an Entropy curse.[30] Murphy asked Harry why he can't do the sunshine magic thing like he did on Bianca St. Claire a few years back.[27] Harry said that he tried it again after The War and found out that he needed to be genuinely happy to be able to fold sunshine into a hankie or it does not work.[31]

Turn CoatEdit

Main article: Turn Coat

In Turn Coat, Anastasia Luccio told Harry how his mother, Margaret LeFay, loved pointing out the ares of "grey" magic, as she called it and questioned their legitimacy. As a consequence, the Senior Council tasked the Wardens with keeping an eye on her.[32]


Main article: Changes

In Changes, Harry performed magic in his mind without the use of any props while immobilized after having broken his back and being desperate to rescue his daughter. He first summoned Uriel who cannot help him.[8] Harry then summoned Mab.[33]

Ghost StoryEdit

Main article: Ghost Story

In Ghost Story, Harry tries to figure out how to use magic being a ghost. He had to access the energy, empower the spell with memories. "Working magic as a ghost was all about doing it au natural." With a tracking spell to find Molly, at first he kept finding himself at some place they were at long ago. When he used a current memory and filled it with details, it worked.[34]

Word of ButcherEdit

According to Jim Butcher, "Magic wasn't always screwing up post-WW2 tech. Before WW2 magic had other effects. It sorta changes slowly over time, and about every 3 centuries it rolls over into something else. At one time, instead of magic making machines flip out it made cream go bad. Before that magic made weird moles on your skin and fire would burn slightly different colors when you were around it."[35]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Storm Front, ch. 2
  2. Fool Moon, ch. 33
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Blood Rites, ch. 27
  4. Fool Moon, ch. 10
  5. Storm Front, ch. 1
  6. Cold Days, ch. 19
  7. The Warrior
  8. 8.0 8.1 Changes, ch. 29
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Summer Knight, ch. 19
  10. White Night, ch. 41
  11. Grave Peril, ch. 1
  12. Blood Rites, ch. 4
  13. 13.0 13.1 Storm Front, ch. 6
  14. Turn Coat, ch. 19
  15. 15.0 15.1 Storm Front, ch. 11
  16. 16.0 16.1 Small Favor, ch. 04
  17. Death Masks, ch. 8
  18. Cold Days, ch. 47
  19. Ghost Story, ch. 10
  20. 20.0 20.1 Fool Moon, ch. 4
  21. 21.0 21.1 Cold Days, ch. 27
  22. Dead Beat, ch. 21
  23. "It's My Birthday, Too
  24. 24.0 24.1 Changes, ch. 12
  25. Changes, ch. 42
  26. 26.0 26.1 Grave Peril, ch. 8
  27. 27.0 27.1 Storm Front, ch. 9
  28. Grave Peril, ch. 21
  29. Blood Rites, ch. 9
  30. Blood Rites, ch. 3
  31. Blood Rites, ch. 23
  32. Turn Coat, ch. 28
  33. Changes, ch. 30
  34. Ghost Story, ch. 21
  35. [1]Jim Butcher Dragon*con Q&A

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit



Tools of Magic


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