Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Virginia temperatures reached a record high in places yesterday.  It was 90, sunny, but NOT humid, which meant I was perfectly content with the windows open and the fans on.  We've hardly had a chance to enjoy spring, though, so I hope that summer holds off a few more weeks at least.

All these changes in the seasons have made me think of the “magic” of weather.  In books weather can contribute so heavily to the feel of a scene.  Each kind of weather has its own energy and can evoke a corresponding energy deep under our skin.

In particular I think there are four “magic” weather days, one for each season.

In winter the magic comes with a blizzard.  It's our inability to control this weather that I think we respond to.  (I didn't say we had to like the magic weather days.  After this past winter I'll be happy if I never see more than five inches of snow at one time again.)  Winter reminds us that despite all of our advances we are still small and puny, and a blizzard strongly reinforces the point.  The magic is in its wildness and uncompromising power.

In spring we have what I call “memory weather.”  I came up with the term back in high school while I was enjoying one of these days and thinking about all the similar days in years past.  Memory weather comes on a day that is cloudless, mild and breezy.  It's the sort of weather that lends itself to nostalgia, to pleasant recollections of other days spent under a benevolent sun.  Perhaps it is because at the time spring meant endings and new beginnings—the end of school and beginning of vacation.  I still feel the same things during memory weather, though, even well after high school.  It's one of my favorite types of weather, particularly when combined with the smell of cut grass.

Summer's magic is a thunderstorm.  It's opposite of winter and yet magical for some of the same reasons.  No one can stop a lightning bolt.  No one can hold back a downpour.  Thunderstorms make our blood race because, like blizzards, they too can't be stopped and they are full of wild intensity.  They make us want to be a little wild too.

And finally fall.  Fall's magic is a bit like spring's, only it's older and wiser.  Fall's changes remind me more of the future than the past.  The sharpness, the clarity of fall translates to a poignancy in heart and mind.  Fall is a season-long high, and its subtle magic is sometimes the strongest.

Thinking of these things makes me wonder if anyone has used weather as the basis for magic in a fantasy novel.  I wouldn't be surprised; it seems logical.  I just don't believe I've read anything quite like that.  In such a magic system I could see the following:

People born in winter would have winter magic.  It would involve cold and ice and could be very destructive but it could also preserve and shelter.

Spring babies would have magic related to growth and renewal.  They would be good healers, but maybe they would have less defense against harsher magic.

Summer magic would be wild and hot.  It would involve flame and could also be destructive, but it could be nurturing as well.

Fall would be trickiest.  I think it would be the most mental of the magics.  Hard to say exactly how it would be used.  (It might be interesting to have a main character with fall magic, which everyone discounts, but then have that character end up being the strongest.)

Though now I've just realized: the four seasons correspond somewhat to the four “elements.”  Winter goes with water, spring with earth, summer with fire, fall with air.  I've told myself I would never use that elemental system in a book since it is so overdone and not very relevant any more (at least in my mind).  But if I used a seasonal magic system I might find myself doing so unintentionally.  Oh dear.

(And yes, I also just realized that other people have probably made the connection between seasons and elements long before I have.  Wow, this post is really making me feel behind.  In my defense, I usually add magic into a story because it fits the story—I don't typically go around studying fantasy magic trends for their own sake.  Though there are some really interesting ones out there—but that's fodder for another post I think.)

Anyway, have any of you seen seasonal magic used in a story before?  What do you think of it as a concept?

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