A spell to summon a fairy

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There are many spells in existence to summon fairies but, inconveniently, few appear to work. We are told that The Instructions of Belasis contains an excellent spell: however the sole surviving copy of that work was kept close at Hurtfew by Gilbert Norrell (who doubtless availed himself of it when so readily summoning the gentleman with the thistle-down hair to help restore Miss Wintertowne to life)[8].

Bereft of such help however it is only from "vague descriptions in later histories" that Jonathan Strange later attempts to reconstruct this lost magic. Naturally, the fairy he chooses to summon is the one who so nearly lured himself and his Majesty King George III away into Faerie. He is at first only partly successful. By the time he is in Venice in November of 1816 he has, with a great deal of toil, trial and error, actually succeeded several times in summoning the gentleman with the thistle-down hair to his presence - but never in forcing that worthy to reveal himself[51]. Strange's inability to do something which in magical terms is quite simple deeply irritates The Gentleman, who witnesses his efforts with the utmost contempt : "...watching this fellow try to do magic is like watching a man sit down to eat his dinner with his coat on backwards, a blindfold round his eyes and a bucket over his head!"[51].

Pondering his apparent failure Strange gradually comes to realize that an easy ability to see fairies is somehow connected to the state of madness. In fact he has had a glimmering of insight even before he leaves England [49], but it is in Venice, in the course of conversation with the Greysteels regarding Mrs Delgado, that this suspicion hardens into a plan of action[53]. He thereupon composes a tincture of madness from one of that lady's possessions - a dead mouse which she had set aside for her meal - and uses it henceforth to create in himself a state resembling unreason. In this altered condition he is confident he will see any fairy he summons: the difficulty lies in retaining sufficient powers of mind to deal with him properly when he arrives. And it is obvious even to a man as confident in his own abilities as Jonathan Strange that failure in this particular would be an invitation to disaster.

This final difficulty Strange overcomes by making an antidote to the tincture, and placing it in such a way that it will likely have its effect on him even without his actively choosing to take it. (His ingenious method is to attach the antidote to a ribbon hung from the ceiling, calculating that sooner or later during the interview with the fairy he must touch it accidentally and thus restore himself to something like his right mind.)

see also Summoning, Spells of


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One of the many accoutrements necessary in the process of summoning a fairy.

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The physical apparatus of the oracle is contained within a terracotta vessel inside a hollow wooden cylinder. A shelf divides the vessel into two distinct chambers, which are connected by a hole. The mice are placed in the lower chamber and pass through the hole into the upper chamber, in which the diviner has placed ten small sticks (originally, birds' or bats' bones were used). The small sticks are coated with flour and attached at one end with fiber to the shell of an earth turtle. The actions of the mice in the upper chamber change the positions of the sticks, creating a new configuration that constitutes the sign to be translated by the diviner.

Mouse in a tincture, well why not! The use of mice in magic is widely accepted and used. Take this Baulé Mouse Oracle: inside this receptacle, a device composed of sticks records the movements of mice as signs that reveal insights into matters of importance. Mouse divination is one of several divination techniques used in Baulé society; it is practiced in eastern and central Côte d'Ivoire. Regional oral traditions recount that in the distant past mice could speak. At that time they lived in the forest with the earth spirits until a spiritual specialist carried them into the village to be kept in captivity.