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Casting a Spell


In writing my Actual Magic series for Young Adults, I drew upon all my favorite story characters I loved as a kid to create my own.  Madam Saboulia, however, represents the very best of my favorite teachers.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madam Saboulia tapped a tiny gong on her podium.  It reverberated at a pitch loud enough to rattle the cauldrons nestled in the cupboards, crack a window, and leave Lilly’s ears ringing.

Every head swiveled to the front of the classroom.

Madam Saboulia cleared her throat.  “During this term the incantations you’ll write in this class will be more like poems and songs than stodgy old spells.  But don’t be fooled by simple verse.  Words are powerful magic.  I’m here to teach you how to choose them wisely.”  With a flick of her wrist, a top hat appeared on her podium.  Gazing thoughtfully at her students, she continued.  “With a well chosen phrase, you can put someone down, bring them to their knees, or drop them at death’s doorstep.  Ultimately, you decide to create something good in the world or destroy someone forever.  That choice is always yours.”

Puzzled, Lilly raised her hand to ask a question.

“Miss Noble, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”  How did Madam Saboulia know her?  Lilly didn’t have a name badge on.  No one did.  And, the teacher hadn’t taken a roll call.

“You remind me of your grandmother when she was your age.  You remind me of your mother, too, but mostly your grandmother,” Madam Saboulia said, as if responding to Lilly’s unanswered question.

Hushed whispers rose from several places in the classroom.

My grandmother?  Madam Saboulia didn’t look old enough to know her grandmother or her mother.  In fact, with her fresh green, wrinkle-free complexion, she looked only a couple years older than Lilly did.

“You had a question, dear?”

“Uh, yes, sorry.  If words can do that kind of damage, how come we’re still here?”

“Ah, your grandmother asked me the very same thing.  Can anyone answer Miss Noble’s question?”  Madam Saboulia waved her hand over the top hat.  After a moment, she yanked out a snake with one hand and a rabbit with the other.

Rapt silence followed.

“Your words craft the spells you cast out into society.  But it’s the intentions beneath your words that set the magic in motion.  If your intentions are good, what you create with your magic will bring love and joy into the world,” she said, holding up the rabbit.  “And if your intentions are evil,” she added, displaying the snake, “well, you get the picture.”

Zymura’s hand shot up.  “Are intentions feelings?”

“Intentions are the way you really think about things.  You have the power to create or destroy.  It’s all in how you think about things.”

Confusion forced Lilly to frown.

Madam Saboulia’s strange slitted eyes roamed from one student to the next and held the class spellbound.  “Let me explain.  You can recite spells full of sweet happy words, but if the thoughts you have about the people and the things around you are dark and foul, your spell work will bring nothing but ruin.  On the other hand, if you believe people are basically good and you want happiness for them, that attitude will reflect itself in the results of your craft.  Your magic will bring abundance and joy.  So, pay attention and beware.  Your real thoughts are always revealed in the results of your incantations.  And remember, what you put out to others will always return to you.”

The room grew so quiet; a pin hitting the floor would have made quite a racket.

Deep in thought about the idea of intentions, Lilly realized how this made perfect sense.

Madam Saboulia took a deep breath and continued.  “The mortals around us pay little attention to what they truly believe about their world and the people in it.  They curse one another and themselves all the time without realizing it.  They criticize, judge, deceive, blame, lie, punish one other, and spread dark untruths as if the intentions behind their words were justified and what they said didn’t matter.”  She dropped the snake into the top hat, shoved the reluctant rabbit in after it, and with another flick of her slender green wrist, the hat vanished.  “Mortals learn this dark trick as children from the examples taught by the adults around them.  As they grow older, talking in this ruinous fashion becomes an automatic habit.  By the time they reach adulthood, they believe this is the normal way for them to think and be.  And the most fascinating thing is they refuse to see the damage they’re doing to themselves and each other, even long after it’s occurred.”

Lilly raised her hand.  How was she supposed to know how to think about the world if she didn’t remember it?

“Yes, Lilly?”

“Is there any way we can protect ourselves against the harmful intentions of others?”

Madam Saboulia nodded as she stepped out from behind the podium.  She was hovering two feet above the floor.  “You protect yourself by believing goods things about yourself and others.  Know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you, and that you are good enough no matter what someone says, or how badly they treat you.  The words of others have the power to enter your mind and change what you think about yourself and your world if you let them.  Never allow anyone to use their words against you to make you doubt yourself.  Always believe good things about yourself and that door of doubt will remain forever closed.”  With that said, Madam Saboulia pointed up to the ceiling.

And then, as if on cue, the bell rang.

Dares readers to believe in themselves and discover the magic within!


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