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The Scenic Route

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Everything's a Shambles

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So I was interested in textiles and their use as spells. The idea, although not used often is not a new one. If you enjoy stories about witches and witchcraft, of course I recommend Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, and in particular his later witchworks surrounding Tiffany Aching (starting with Wee Free Men). 

A shamble is an instrument put together by a witch who needs a little help in deciphering a feeling or decide something, or perhaps see a little into the future. It is comprised of a bit of string and whatever else she has in her pockets at the time, ideally including something alive (an egg, bug, root etc). The main character has a lot of trouble with them, but it is because it is like putting glasses on someone who already has excellent vision. (If my memory serves me correctly.)  I imagined it to be something like cat's cradle with a bunch of things stuck in it. Tiffany may have used a wee free man in hers once. Cheeky and altogether very confusing.  

Some research has led me to the practice of making witch ladders, which is where  one essentially weaves a line of rope with things like crow feathers and herbs stuck into it. I liken it to the prayer bracelets that some wear, with the expectation that the wish or prayer comes true when the bracelet eventually wears out and falls off, but this is a bit more purposeful. I understand this may still be used in a different fashion in modern Wiccan practice, with knot magick, comprising 3, 9, or 13 knots. 

From 1621-1623 in Vardø, Norway there were held witch trials, in which one woman, Else Knutsdatter, confirmed that in the Christmas of 1617, the witches had tied a fishing rope three times, spat at it and untied it, after which "the sea rose like ashes and people were killed." Else was arrested after she was seen in the company of demons in the shapes of black cats and dogs, and was exposed to the ordeal of water. Approximately 150 people, including men of the Sami minority died, executed if they survived torture. The whole thing was set in motion by a severe storm in 1617, where ten boats and forty men died. Prior to 1620 there were no laws on the books that permitted the persecution of witches. 

Witch hunts continued throughout Europe, so it is not surprising that the International Statue of Wizarding Secrecy was signed into law in 1689. Magical families withdrew from anyone who associated with muggles out of fear of being fingered or drawn into the trials themselves. 

Anyway, back to the point of interest. Textiles as spells (or prayers as the case may be), we know that hair holds importance and power even after the being or creature who donated it has passed. Otherwise all of those unicorn hair wands, and mosts especially the Elder Wand would have lost their oomph long before and most likely at an inconvenient moment. Cutting off one's hair as a sign of grief has the weight of power, although it can be renewed. Samson, I salute you! Did the truly paranoid wizard vanish his toenail clippings and shed hair? Perhaps Tom Riddle was completely hairless as a matter of paranoia? Sure suits me to think that Hermione would never be able to polyjuice into him. She had a tough enough time with Bellatrix Lestrange! 

Braids in the hair could be used as wards, which the knots we see in celtic works and modern theatre are inspiring, but what if beautiful was also powerful? Back to the shamble idea, a charm made of hair may be able to serve as a guide to find a lost loved one. Such a charm need not be romantic. I can imagine a desperate mother in 1601, preparing for her son to go to sea with her husband, wishing to send with him protection and a way to get home should he become lost. How strong would such a protection be? 

Many of these arts must be lost to the milennia in Harry Potter's time, but I like to think that there are still some repositories of old knowledge still waiting to be discovered. 

Anyone else do any research on such a topic? 

In the meantime, always take care to carry a length of string with you, and a few bits and bobs in case an ill wind blows your way, or you need second sight to see the truth of the world. Be well. 

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This is a really interesting blog entry. I never put much thought into the potency of "bits of you" like hair or toenails, etc. after death, but you make a good point about how wand cores retain their power. In a one-shot I wrote, I implied that a charm wore off when the caster died...but I think you could argue it either way (and that had nothing to do with anything physical other than casting a spell).

I do like it when people make connections to other aspects of magic or lore and the Harry Potter universe. I definitely think there's room for exploration there, especially if you start looking at cultures outside Britain. If objects and potions can be imbued with magic, as they can, why not textiles and the like? I think it could also work as a way for people to channel or direct their power, much like wands allow them to do.

The theory that Voldemort is hairless out of paranoia is interesting. You could make a compelling argument for it. I think it was representative of him becoming more snake-like and less human, but implying that it's at least in part on purpose (especially if you write it such that he is that way BEFORE attempting to kill Harry the first time) doesn't sound far-fetched at all.

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9 hours ago, Alopex said:

. I think it was representative of him becoming more snake-like and less human, but implying that it's at least in part on purpose (especially if you write it such that he is that way BEFORE attempting to kill Harry the first time) doesn't sound far-fetched at all

I agree with you that it was part of the Horcrux evolution, but still is altogether interesting. Thanks for commenting! 

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