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Witches are born with various levels of mana, with some having larger pools than others. This determines the strength of their magic and the power of their spells. However, magic is complicated, expensive, and time consuming. Spells require specific materials and enchantments, and can take several hours to perform.

Magic wands have two main functions. When a magic wand is properly crafted and enchanted, it creates an energy focusing tool. Runes for a specific spell are carved into the wand, which activate when a person is ready to use it. After it is activated, energy is channeled into the wand which will focus the energy into a beam that comes out of its tip. This provides a shortcut for magic to bypass the long and complicated steps by having a ready-to-go spell on the fly.

There are some downsides to this. A wand is built to contain only one type of spell (e.g. fireball, levitate, etc.), and is not multifunctional. This limits the spells one has access to. The second problem is that wands only work for non-witches. Although witches that possess Mana create these magical tools, only those without magical abilities are capable of using them.

I designed it in this way to provide a balance between witches and muggles so that one cannot dominate the other. However, I don't have a way to explain why those with magic can create magical tools for others, but be unable to naturally use it themselves. How can this be the case?

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    $\begingroup$ Easy! Ever seen a real witch? No fingers. $\endgroup$ – EDL May 16 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ Are your witches real folklore witches or are they just people who can do magic things? Or are they wicka (a religion of people who believe they actually have magical powers)? $\endgroup$ – user75689 May 16 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Kyu: Wicca with a double c. It's an Old English word, and the Old English alphabet does not use the letters J, K, Q, V and Z (but it has the letters Ð called eth and Þ called thorn). $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 16 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Kyu Actually most Wicca believe that everybody has "magical" powers. Of course, many other people in other religions believe that they can request aid of higher powers through "prayer." $\endgroup$ – NomadMaker May 17 at 4:04
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    $\begingroup$ In your other questions you say that in your world each individual has a "mana pool" inside themself that powers their spells and witches have a big enough pool to cast spells while normal people don't. In order to be consistent you first need to ask "what powers these wands". $\endgroup$ – Daron May 17 at 17:51

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Different wavelength mana

The energy is the same but the polarity is different. Mana coming from witch using a wand will actually cancel the magic from the wands even though both are expending energy. This combined energy will be wasted into stirring up the magic ether. The people who invented wands made it this way on purpose. With effort and research, a witch could start from scratch and make a wand that operated with the same polarity as their native mana but they are not motivated to do all that - they have mana powers already and also have brooms already to focus them.

On the rare occasions a witch really must use a wand (because of some special and hard to duplicate power of the wand) she must do so by proxy, crafting a golem or some other intermediate that will not be so contaminated by witch-frequency mana. This entails a lot of witch mana and the wands still do not work as well as when handled by a mundane person, and so is usually not worth the effort.

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    $\begingroup$ Polarity and wavelength are very different things. You can change wavelength by making the wand longer. A polarity issue means you’re holding the wrong end. $\endgroup$ – candied_orange May 17 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ @candied_orange - I was thinking more like polarization. Of course this is magic we are talking about. $\endgroup$ – Willk May 17 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ not when you use terms from science. It stops being magic when you understand it. $\endgroup$ – candied_orange May 17 at 20:17
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The wand's mana has to connect to the user. The lack of mana in the user lets it reach it -- like a river running through a dry land rather than into the sea.

The spell-like nature of the wand needs this. Other magical objects do not have some lack if they lack the same power. (Though it might have further implications for the development of magic.)

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Witches are natural magic users

This may seem like a weird reason, as it would make sense that someone who's a natural without tools can be better enabled by tools. Give a math genius a calculator, you enhance their abilities. Give a runner a good pair of shoes, you enhance their abilities. Et cetera.

However, what if witches were trained to do all that without tools? They've been taught how to do all the runes and rituals at lightning speed, and as such even placing a wand in their hand provides a great mental block. A true math genius doesn't need a calculator (or much time) to do all but the most difficult calculations (I remember on the show Stan Lee's Superhumans they found a guy who really excelled at mental math, to the point that professional mathematicians calculator input speed was slower than his mental speed. In that case, the extra device would be useless to him).

Social Stigma

Furthering the previous point, witches were proud magicians when wands were first introduced, meaning they refused to touch them because only "those people' needed them for good magic. If you needed a wand, you were no better than "those people," who were so weak in mana they can't cast spells on their own.

This kind of doctrine leads to a kind of social incest, where witches hang around other witches and only reinforce their beliefs, leading to wand makers to be seen as saints/missionaries that give those poor unfortunate souls the table scraps of witch society. Eventually, if enough people believe that it's impossible, then if witches are taught that way in school, they will eventually not be able to believe that they can use wands. Just think about what the US teaches about Soviet contributions during WWII.

I find that if I can't explain something logically, then "tradition" or "taboo" (the negative form of tradition, ie "do/don't do this") is probably the most satisfying answer.

Magic from a wand isn't the same

As much as a wand can hold the spell inside of it, there's a missing component that keeps it from being as effective as real magic. For example, in The Irregular at Magic High School, which has a similar dichotomy between Old and New magic, it's stated that old magic has extra rituals in it to provide extra effect, such as providing stealth casting during already long rituals. Perhaps wands lack some element that makes the spell more effective, meaning that witches, already naturally being able to do better wands can do, would go without (again, wands are witch table scraps).

Witches are magic specialists

Witches act as magic specialists that use their high level of expertise to help with a wide variety of problems using magic. A housing contractor doesn't have all the plumbing, framing, electrical, HVAC, windows, foundations, and landscaping equipment, as they simply can't carry that around to every job. Well, your witches can't even carry around all the spells they need for regular usage on magic sticks, plus they can break, get worn down, etc, and then they need to get some more, which is a loss for them due to lost opportunity. Witches need their complex knowledge to turn a profit, doing complicated runes and rituals for specific spells.

Spells look cooler

Your witches have an image problem. Muggles are scared of witches suddenly blasting away everyone with a wand spell, so Witch Council or whatever banned the use of wands. You now have witches looking cooler doing normal spells to be more entertaining rather than threatening.

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  • $\begingroup$ “I mean, I could use a wand of levitation, but why would I? I’m a plumber.” $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs May 17 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ Math geniuses produce formulas and proofs. They leave calculations to other people. Some can’t even balance a checkbook. $\endgroup$ – candied_orange May 17 at 19:17
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Wands short circuit with the caster's mana pool

My first instinct was that a witch using one of these wands would experience a kind of short-circuit effect with their innate mana pool. The wand is a focus for environmental mana, which is less concentrated and needs to be aggressively harnessed for a spell to work properly. So if you give one a huge pool of mana to draw from, it uses every drop of it and burns itself out in a powerful backfire spell. What specifically happens depends on how the wand is attuned and how powerful the witch is: a fireball could cause an explosion, levitation could cause local gravity to invert for hours. Needless to say, most witches aren't willing to test out these effects, as they quite often mean death.

It wasn't clear by your explanation if these wands are single-use prepared spells, or just attuned to cast a particular type of spell, but I think this works either way. The wand accumulates mana inside itself to cast a spell (either ahead of time or during the casting itself), and then anyone holding it becomes an extension of its available mana pool. This means that witches are prevented from using them because they are powerful enough to create them, which I think works well to explain this balance you want between magic users and wand users in a logical way. Witches would only make these wands as gifts for other people, if they truly had faith in the non-magical world.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your idea seems to be that just the effect itself is dangerous, but why not go a step further and have the incident burn out the witches nervous system (or magical equivalent thereof, if some sort of inner flow of magic exists in the magic system) leading to almost certain death? $\endgroup$ – DarkWiiPlayer May 19 at 7:24
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Witches Are Evolutionary Paraplegics

All witches are paraplegics, born without the use of both arms because the genes for mana are linked to problems in the nervous system. Indeed, it is likely this weakness that lead them to evolve magic use in the first place. Witches cannot use wands because they have no use of hands.

Giving your witches this disability will significantly change your story, but by stepping way outside the easy fantasy conventions, you’ll probably get some very unique and interesting characters. The slang of your world’s language can develop phrases that hinge on this key fact that forms your society: “as useless as arms on a witch”, for example. And if your story lasts long enough to reach into the cybernetic era, you’ll have magic users aligned with science instead of the usual trope of opposing it (“Witches were the pioneers of robotics and bio-enhancing gear...”), and your mundanes had best worry then.

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    $\begingroup$ "Not that unusual, indeed it is similar to the House of Hanover of your planet Earth, all who had haemophilia. Or the leaders of Fendaus Five, who were without limbs" $\endgroup$ – Daron May 17 at 17:56
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Wands let people access their mana pools. Witches can already do that

Everyone has a mana pool but only Witches have the necessary secondary superpowers to cast spells from it. This is unsurprising because mana is a form of life energy and every living person has that. The wand serves as a go-between and allows non-witches to access their pool. But witches already have that, so they have no need of a wand.

This means a single witch is always more versatile than a single muggle with a wand, and probably more powerful, if the mana pool can be enlarged with practice. The balance comes from how muggles vastly outnumber the witches.

While witches have no need of a wand, they CAN still use one if they want. It's just using the Wand of Fireball +3 is no more effective that casting it the normal way.

They might carry around a sack of different blank wands as a form of disguise. Whenever they cast a spell they select a different want from the sack, wave it around, and cast the spell from their pool.

In fact that sounds like a really good plot point. In this world the wander is a type of muggle who specializes in wand use. They travel the country with a wagon full of different wands, doing odd jobs as necessary. Our heroine has a natural aptitude for wand use and starts as an apprentice to such a wander. Then one day the master suddenly disappears. While searching for them, our heroine gradually loses and breaks her wands, and does some unlikely tricks, bending the effects of one wand to do something different. Then when in great danger, they cast a spell without a wand. Oh my gosh, how did I do that? It turns out the master was a WITCH ALL ALONG and was using the "wands" as cover but they were all just sticks.

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  • $\begingroup$ This answer ignores the premise, "Spells require specific materials and enchantments, and can take several hours to perform." $\endgroup$ – InternetHobo May 17 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ @InternetHobo: Dammit you're right! $\endgroup$ – Daron May 17 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Userthatisnotauser Good call, I was looking at the change edits and only noticed the instance that was originally changed. $\endgroup$ – Cain May 18 at 15:30
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Love this concept and it fills me with ideas! Maybe it's just plain annoying or downright uncomfortable or painful for a witch to try to use a wand? You wouldn't ride a bike with training wheels once you know what you're doing... it could be something along the same lines but a bit more visceral as opposed to just annoying or unnecessary.

Another possibility, it's like putting two opposite ends of a magnet together, or something like that. A witch is born with mana, but humans are born with... human energy, which wands are excellent at concentrating into mana, but it's literally pointless for a witch to use.

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Runic script use Blood magic

Runic script is an archaic form of magic predating mana manipulation that was used in ritual magic. One day, the first witch managed to bind/absorb ambient mana by marking it with her life force. Mana Manipulation was born. Mana can be replenished naturally; life force does not.

Meaning using blood magic is reducing their maximum potential. In addition, Witch tend to protect themselves constantly against lifeforce drain. Without this constant protection, an army of fodder could use number to cripple a powerful witch using life drain: even if the battle is won, the individual is lost.

Sadly, it’s easy to mistake the effect of a slight continuous vitality drain for tiredness. Meaning if an enemy army won’t do it, a political enemy could.

Everyone has life force but not everyone has knowledge. Muggles could use blood magic but don’t know how. And even if they managed to learn it, miniaturizing runic script into a wand is by no mean easy with mundane mean.

They can’t have new wands without a witch crafting it but even if the witches stop producing them the existing one aren't limited by charge.

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By Design

Wands don't work for witches, because they were designed not to.

Centuries back, some genius Witch despaired at the disparity between Witches and Humans. In order to help equalize the two races, she designed a tool. One that would allow Humans to use magic. She designed them to be simple to create, and limited to a single spell, so that her fellow Witches would not be too suspicious. She pointed out that is would make Humans more useful, but not too powerful. After all, they can just take the wands away, and each wand only does one thing.

But in order to prevent her fellow Witches from growing more powerful by using wands themselves, she designed the runic language in such a way that wands would only work for Humans. She claimed it was an inherent limitation, gave them an explanation that sounded plausible but also went right over their heads. And proud as they were, the other Witches pretended to understand, rather than admit their ignorance.

The basic concept is like a programming language. The first wand developer designed runic language as a high level programming language like C#, and encoded the Humans only element into the compiler and binary code equivalent. The other Witches can write programs (make wands) in the runic language, but don't understand the underlying structure that builds a spell from the runes supplied.

(Of course, that leaves the door open for a new genius hacker Witch to figure this all out and maybe make some changes).

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Perhaps the witches don't use wands because they don't need to. Maybe they can use them, but it is actually more difficult for them to use a wand than to do the same thing naturally through their magic.

Finally, I really dislike the current trope in fiction where all female magic users are called witches. Are all your magic users female?

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I think, that it have simple reason:

  • the magic wand works like antenna
  • the magic wand have a handle, which should be held in palm and "sip" magic energy thru hand from the body of its user (so no infinite fireball stream, you have to rest to recharge yourself after few spells)
  • the rest of wand is covered with runes, which sips and focus the energy to create desired magic effect
  • it would be (in theory) possible to make much larger "wands", that would be able to sip directly from the body (forming more powerful spells), but in practice there would be really unmanageable and it would be terrible to discover the right combination of runes to form the spell correctly and will not destroy the user (and that would be really error prone anyway) - think of cracking 3 letter password by brute force (too some time, but relatively easy) and 300 letter password the same way - basically impossible

On the other hand the witches are able cast the spells naturally - their all body is able to emit and form spells

  • so witches would be able to use the wands, but then the spell would be powered just by palm, not by full body and much less powerful. Also it would be less effective to cast (lots of mana just burned on powering the wand itself) and really unpleasable for the witch (which would be artificaly drained from the palm without good control of that process and with rest of body itching, as the mana is forced to flow in "wrong ways"
  • so any witch would try to avoid using wand. (Get 1MP effect for 10MP and itching body instead of 10MP effect? Why?)
  • but for non-witches it is the only way (1MP effect + some itching, or no effect at all)
  • it also means, that witches are able to cast more, or more powerful spells - they are witches after all
  • but as there are more non-witches, their sheer number would provide balance in efectivity - it is easier to deflect or redirect one more powerful spell at time, then deflect each and every of one hundred less powerful spells at one time
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Mana occurs naturally in living beings (witches), not in lifeless objects, and the containment measures necessary to bind it into an artefact have an unfortunate side-effect. In order to keep the wand charged and stop its mana 'leaking' out in between uses, it must be encased in a kind of mana-repellent field. Close proximity to this field can be extremely harmful to witches, whose entire bodies are infused with mana. The field is only activated in the final moment of the wand-manufacturing process, allowing witches to craft the items but not use them.

This solution has the interesting corollary that wands will affect witches in inverse proportion to the individual's power level. A witch born with a weak mana pool might resort to using a wand in an emergency, suffering only a nosebleed and a crushing migraine in consequence. If an extremely potent spellcaster tries to wield one, however, she risks instant death as the wand reacts with her massive mana pool with potentially fatal results.

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A wand can only be made of a material with very specific properties in relation to the ambient magical field. Maybe one of the following is true:

  • In practice, this means there's one particular wood out of which wands are made, and witches are simply naturally allergic to that wood (as they might be to peanuts) for some reason: possibly some unlikely genetic coincidence, or possibly because the situation was specifically set up this way in the distant past somehow.
  • Proximity to a material with the magic-warping properties required of a wand causes all of a witch's magic to vent out rapidly into the local distortion.
  • A witch's body is sustained by an aura of magic; when the ambient magical field is distorted, the body very quickly starts to fail.

I'm basically imagining the relation between wand and ambient magical field to be like the relation between a black hole and the ambient gravitational field. Witches can manipulate the field, or even perhaps are partially sustained by the field, but a sufficient distortion causes them harm.

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Witches hates men (especially for Spanish Inquisition and Salem's Witch Trials), and touching wand insults them, because they consider it a phallic symbol of male domination.

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    $\begingroup$ Nothing in the question suggests witches are exclusively female. If the author says that is a restriction then I’d reverse my downvote. $\endgroup$ – SRM May 18 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ Ctrl-f : phallic = This answer (I don't really care what context surrounds it), +1. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 18 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM - "In Early Modern European tradition, witches were stereotypically, though not exclusively, women." – Witchcraft - if the OP didn't choose 'by region', then we kinda get to put w/e slant on it that we want. The author makes no restrictions, because they're a HNQ 'professional'. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 18 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ “ though not exclusively” being exactly my point. $\endgroup$ – SRM May 18 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Mazura what is an hnq professional? I don't have that degree. $\endgroup$ – Incognito May 20 at 1:31
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Tazing the Computer

Casting magic and enchanting objects is fine-detail work, requiring careful and precise application of magic, exactly the right magic in the right place. To become a witch, they or another witch must shape their magical abilities in subtle and delicate ways. building and training a selection of tools, like programs and data structures in software design.

A wand uses the mana pool of its user, but drains it forcibly. Forcing the floodgates wide-open and anything in the way gets wiped away. This isn't a problem for a non-witch, they weren't doing anything fragile with their magical abilities.

It's catastrophic for a witch, the torrent of magic simply destroys their fine-motor-control for spell-casting, essentially removing all the careful work that went into making them witches in the first place. Like applying a Tazer to a computer. Sure it can channel the lightning, but you just lost your design software and controls for the 3D printer...

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Witches have no natural mana, but they can manipulate with mana of others

WARNING: Possible spoiler

Answer to this might lie in the Night Watch series from Sergei Lukyanenko.

In this series, there are Others, people with supernatural abilities. Later in the series the protagonist learns how does magic actually works. Its not that the Others have higher magical background than muggles, they have actually lower magical background, which gives them an ability to manipulate with mana to compensate for.

In this case, magic wand is just a channeling device to channel mana for a specific effect. Muggles have high magical background, so they can use wands without problem.

Witches on the other hand do not have (much) mana. When they cast spells, they weave mana from neighbouring sources (items, plants, animals, people) to cause the effect of their discretion. The more experienced witch, the more is she capable channeling magic from other sources and thus more experienced in creating a better channeling devices -- wands.

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Its normal for people to make tools they can't use themselves.

  • Adults make clothes for babies, but we can't wear them.
  • Fender (the guy, not the brand) never learned how to play guitar.
  • Humans make prosthetic limbs for animals, that can't replace our own limbs.

I don't see a need for a magical explanation for how the witches could create tools that they themselves could not use. They do need motivation though, like money for their craftwork.

I think there's a problem with your concept though:

You say: "energy is channeled into the wand...", and then "only those without magical abilities are capable of using [wands]". If by "energy" you mean some kind of magical ability, then how are the not magically-abled supposed to use the wands?

If energy means something non-magical, then I'm lost... but if my suspicion is right than I think you either need to have the wand contain the magic it needs for the spell (like a battery, possibly rechargable), or your non-witches will need at the very least some kind of passive magic "activating" ability.

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Maybe it's not the witches making the wands... Maybe the wands are being made by normies, but they have to trap part of a witch's soul inside a wand.

Then maybe somebody using a wand is like walking into a haunted house. A normie can walk into a haunted house and be like, "This is just an ugly house," because they can't see / sense any evil spirits within - and the spirits, since they're effectively invisible, leave the normie alone... but when a psychic who's sensitive to spirit stuff walks into one, they immediately get attacked by the evil, angry spirits, because the psychic can see / sense them, and the spirits are all like, "Oh, you can SEE me? I'm pissed and I'm taking it all out on you. It's ON!"

So... Maybe a normie triggers a wand, and the bit of angry witch soul trapped inside can't do anything to the normie... but when a witch with her link to magic grabs a wand, the bit o' witch soul in the wand goes all angry ghost and lashes out. Maybe even tries to swap bodies.

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