Wizarding in the Wild West
Table of Contents
Why a New School?
What is Alchemy?
The Three Magical Peoples
How Wizarding Came
to the Wild West
A long time ago, two very unique brothers left their native land of Ireland in search of adventure and opportunity. They were Irishmen, and wizards, and young men with lots of energy.
Then Utah was a territory, and completely outside the United States. It was a time of opportunity and freedom; the opportunities of an old life of Ireland and the UK were not nearly as attractive as this new life in America. Too many restrictions and regulations made this wild and wonderful place well nigh irresistable to two ambitious and magical young men.
In the West they built a new life. Knowing international law, as well as being acquainted with the long history of negative attention wizardry had garnered over the centuries, they knew they had to keep somewhat secret from the locals; they tried their best so as to not draw an undue attention to themselves, though the isolation of Utah initially had made that pretty simple.
Over the years, they had many adventures and made countless friends and connections, both at home, and abroad.
As the first wizarding folk in what would eventually become a sizable magical community, they had every advantage of getting in on the ground floor of business opportunities, which they embraced whole-heartedly.
In time, their invested energies paid off in three unique business ventures that continue to this day. The Blackburn Boarding House for Witches, Ghouls, and Monsters, Master Mortimer's Magical Mercantile, and the Blackburn Academy of the Magical Arts to be specific. (though the name eventually changed).
These businesses have always, and continue to offer the public a chance to participate and engage in the Wild West Wizarding community.
the Blackburn Twins
The more gregarious of the twins, Mortimer Blackburn is the entrepreneur. He emigrated first, and got a footing in the new country before being followed by his brother. Though his home country will always hold a place in his heart, Mortimer was a perfect fit for America with his enterprising wit and appetite for independence. He originally took up residence in upstate New York, where he met friends whom he followed west. Once in Utah, he and his brother opened the various businesses due to the varied dearth of existing opportunities to magical kind, and the desire to help.
In addition to his role in the school, Mortimer has made a name for himself through Master Mortimer’s Magical Mercantile, where he provides for the material needs of the general magical population in almost every corner of the world.
Benjamin Blackburn the Third
The Blackburn brothers come from a well-known line of European wizards going back many generations. Ben is the principal of the Blackburn Academy, as well as the landlord of the Blackburn Boarding House for Witches, Ghouls, & Monsters. His greatest desire is to carry on the magical tradition by perpetuating the skills and knowledge to the young of the magical community, and to assist underprivileged creatures to find their purpose and reach their potential.
The Origins of The Blackburn Boarding House
for Witches, Ghouls, and Monsters
The Blackburn Boarding House was established in the year 1888, when the brothers Blackburn determined to purchase a permanent residence after years of gypsy-like wandering.
Benjamin had always expressed a desire to provide a place where he might better provide protection for the many dark and damaged creatures that tended to find him and follow him home. So his brother and primary financier, Mortimer, obliged and they settle down.
They chosen Springville as a place of operations, mainly for the benefit of it being largely out of the main flow of the regular goings-on of the larger non-magical community. Experience had informed this decision; the isolation of Utah hadn't spared them completely from the influence and impact of the greater magical community that they had wished to leave behind so many years previous.
And while the brothers had had many friends come to stay with them over the years, to their great mutual benefit (some had even stayed with them long term), none of these characters had expressed an interest in achieving with them a permanent situation.
In fact, until setting up the boarding house, the twins had always agreed that permanent housing for anyone other than themselves and their family would be strictly out of the question. (Not only was it a financial commitment, but more importantly, it was a great risk to have unhinged dark creatures about.)
But after devising an elaborate magical network of spells of concealment, as well as a strict promise from Benjamin that he would impress upon the boarders in the strongest way possible the most stringent standards of conduct, Mortimer relented, and assisted his brother in building up this safe-house for those fortunate creatures whom his brother so desperately wanted to help.
The Roots of Master Mortimer's Magical Mercantile
When Mortimer Blackburn arrived on the shores of North America he had already had an idea of what he wanted to accomplish in his life. He didn't know what it would be, or how it would look, but he had a pretty good idea of the direction he would go. He wanted to start a store. He'd already found entrepreneurial success as a small business owner while a student, to great effect. His wheeling and dealing had accomplished a lot in the short time he'd spent at his old alma mater. And there were a few students who would never forget him, for good or ill.
But this was no Hogwarts, and he was no longer a child. But the same wit and enthusiasm that had made a name for him would come in handy once again as he navigated and negotiated this new frontier.
So the magical mercantile as we know it first was started out of need. Mortimer was a fresh new emigrant trying to make heads or tails of his new home, and having a bit of a time of it. Everything was unfamiliar, and his tendency to avoid use of magic was a bit of a tax, at least from the perspective of his fellow wizards. He did admittedly use it in the initial set up of the tent, but as usual, he was very careful to avoid it whenever he could. He wasn't not a wizard, and he was wise enough to use it when that reality presented a need.
But rule number one for success in his first merchandizing attempts was this: don't rely on magic when something more practical will do. Too many wizards rely so heavily on magic that they undercut themselves! That's where his specialty shined: not all magic solves problems, and not all problems are truly benefitted by magic (as we know it).
He'd also learned to never use it in regards to relationships; magic was no substitute for a friend, and love comes of no involuntary spell (or at least its a magic for beyond the corporeal stuff he'd been taught by his instructors). Even in running the business he learned quite quickly that to rely on magic could be a short cut to pain and headaches (a saying he would pick up later from one of his World War II companions was, "Easy come, easy go.") Whenever possible, it was always better to establish understandable, repeatable systems, rather than wave a wand at his problem.
His father had been in the merchant/shipping business, and Mortimer had spent a summer with him after leaving school "prematurely" (not his words) on deck of his ship, or the ship he was commissioned on. It was definitely more than he had expected, but exactly the kind of "education" he'd left his alma mater in favor of.
That little adventure on the high seas had ultimately bourn fruit in a relationship with some rather gregarious and friendly American chaps who'd not only invited him and his father to come see them in America.
He'd reconnected with these friends upon his arrival, but had be set on making his own way.
The Beginning of the Blackburn
Academy of the Magical Arts
Learning has always been important in the Blackburn Family, but the means whereby that was accomplished has taken on different forms.
For the record, Mr. and Mrs. Blackburn were very supportive of the choices of their sons, for as far as their role extended. Those roles were quite important, if severely limited.
The essential thing to understand about this family was that magic was unusually kept back from their children. Not out of a cruelty, or warped sense of control, but rather to help them to get more out of life.
Coming from a long line of well practiced and capable witches and wizards, Mrs. Blackburn had become disillusioned and apathetic towards the traditions of her people. She had seen so many of her kind become dismissive and complacent. Most wizard-kind really had little deference or no respect towards themselves and what it meant to be magical. It was almost like life didn't matter to them. And when you can just wave a wand to solve your problems, who could blame them?
She saw apathy everywhere she looked, and she wanted to solve this. It just so happens that at that time, there was a movement of like-minded witches and wizards who as a group had decided it was better to reject magic entirely. They'd live and work together, using the old ways of taking care of themselves. They believed it was better to live without an easy solution by learning to appreciate the difficulty and struggle of life than to skate by without a care, and waving your problems away with the flick of a wrist.
This idealistic and motivated woman set out to live her convictions, literally snapping her wand in half and burning all her books, parchments, and every last residual trace of her magical training, clothing, and culture. She'd already met and married someone without a scrap of magical training or ability, moved away from her home town, and proceeded to distance herself from her family in order to make a fresh start. Then she'd gotten pregnant, and had set out to have a completely natural childbirth.
But as things go, reality was so much harsher than even a witch hippy might plan for. Conditions surrounding her pregnancy had made her susceptible to complications even a twentieth century physician might miss. Before a competent wizard might be apparated in, she passed. She had a chance to hold her boys, but soon after gave up the ghost, bequeathing this new tradition of understanding and vitality to her first-born sons.
And so this is how, only a short time later, a kind but overwhelmed woman had found herself helping raise twin baby boys in an unfamiliar but not so distant land. Aunt Sarah was not the kind of woman to deny the last wishes of her dying sister. In fact, she had been the only one she'd trusted to know where she was living when the sad word came that her sister had died. While the family had discounted and undermined her sister, she had seen value in her philosophy, and had respected her for her character. And she had kept her word to her sister: raise the boys outside of wizardry, and give them a life of meaning.
At least she had done her best. Life in early nineteenth century Ireland was not easy for every day folks. But for a single woman, (her brother in law was at sea most of the year) it was downright awful.
But she did her best, and got by for the most part. At least for the first couple years. But two young boys take the wind out of the best parents, and she was only one. Plus, to not be able to use witchcraft to solve so many problems was just a tragedy, and deep down, she couldn't deny that she had these thoughts.
She was quite proud of herself. She had done so well! She had become quite good at milking a cow, and sewing. But she was rubbish at keeping house, and it always was getting on top of her. So much so, that on one dark evening, she finally gave in and pulled out her dusty wand.
No consequences followed. The boys slept soundly, and she had a clean house. All the chores were done, and she could finally get to finishing that frock that had been dragging on for months! The next morning, the boys didn't notice anything (not that typical boys would).
But as these things go, she quickly grew accustom to the extra help.
She was always careful to use wizardry after the boys had gone to sleep.
It wasn't until a month into her reemerging wand use that, in the middle of the night, one of the boys had caught her mid-cleaning incantations (boys may not notice clean floors and dishes, but they do have a thing for dancing brooms and animated scrub brushes).
After the initial shock and attendant fear surrounding the substitutionary locomotion subsided, she had to explain herself. It took a full week before the boys would stop having her account for the entire experience in detail: the fact of what she was, how she did it, that magic was, indeed, real. That their mother was a witch, their father knew it, and that they, themselves could in fact, could learn to use it by going to a special school when they came of age. And that their aunt AND mother had both attended this school for developing wizards (and witches). And that they had kept all this from them in order to help them.
This was the part that gave them pause. Especially Benjamin.
But that was many years ago.
Fast forward to Utah, and the brothers, having had different experiences at that school, had developed opposite philosophies regarding the importance of formal education. Mortimer was a bit more hands off, and relied more on life experience and learning-as-you-go. Benjamin, on the other hand, was much more interested in institutional instruction.
When they came to Utah, the first thing Benjamin sought to do was open a house of learning. While it didn't actually happen for a long while, it eventually did, and when it did, it took on the form of that old-world wizarding school he had had the privilege of attending as a young man.
Significance of the Pentacle
It is no secret that the pentacle, or upside-down five-point star and circle has held fear in the hearts of many since the mid-nineteen century. This directly came about because of the claims of a man named Éliphas Leví, who took it upon himself to characterize it in a sinister context. This inaccurate and painfully incomplete association of this symbol with evil has long deserved to be corrected or redeemed.
The truth is that the pentacle has a much more ancient origin than the Victorian era. It has come down to us through thousands of years.
Before it was associated with all things evil, it was actually a symbol of the order and power of God. It was through this symbol, inscribed on a ring, that supposedly gave a king power to build a holy temple.
Even within the Victorian era, a contemporary of Éliphas Leví, Joseph Smith, saw the upside-down pentacle's intrinsic value, so much so that he put it into the windows of the Nauvoo Temple.
In truth, the first chronologic connection of the pentacle to the supernatural, either good or evil, comes in the apocryphal Testament of Solomon. God gives Solomon a ring inscribed with this symbol. According to tradition, the son of David received this magic ring, and uses it to control and dominate various demons, who were then forced to help him build the iconic temple.
The Temples of God generally have always been associated with symbols. These figures imply many beautiful and power ideas to those with eyes to see. And further, they are most often given us through archetypal stories in order to provide context and convey their deeper meaning.
The question then arises, why would God inscribe a ring with this symbol if that figure was intrinsically evil? If God puts a symbol on something, what does it imply about that object? Moreover, what does it imply about the symbol itself that He uses?
What is he teaching us through this story?
Not only does the pentacle deserve to shed the unsavory associations put upon it by an ignorant advocate and his fear-mongering followers, but we must seek and knock and learn to understand the implied meaning God has placed in it by his usage of it; there must be deeper meaning and truth at the center of what this symbol means. And if we are patient and discerning, perhaps we may gain godly power from a more complete understanding and integration of meaning of this symbol.
In the world of Wizarding in the Wild West, the pentacle is a prominent symbol on the distinctly non-magical Blackburn Family Crest. The brothers were born in 1803 in Cork County, Ireland to otherwise totally magic-less parents and well before the days of Éliphas Leví, so there would definitely have been no association to black magic, or even magic in general.
If there was any occult association with the symbol, it was with Free Masonry; their sailor father was heavily involved in the local lodge, and had had this tradition passed down to him from father to son.
Why A New School?
The founding of Masters Mortimer and Benjamin Blackburn's School for the Alchemical Arts is a curious thing to consider. The Blackburn Academy of the Magical Arts has had a long and useful history in the world of witches and wizards in the West.
So why change it?
The shift from focusing exclusively on magic arts to alchemy is an important distinction. Magic is a subset of alchemy, while alchemy incorporates a deeper set of skills and understand that applies in realms far beyond that of magic.
It was important to the Blackburns that their educational approach incorporate a wider interpretation of what they term to be "magic."
While tradition magical schools isolate themselves exclusively to the teaching of witches and wizards as they define them, the Blackburn's shift their focus from this to allowing all peoples to be taught. And yet focus on teaching in this way doesn't deter a witch from developing one's magical abilities; it is from studying the principles of alchemy that witches and wizards to be true masters of their craft.
* * *
Even in his early days at his alma mater, Mortimer Blackburn had felt there was something weird about the idea of limiting education to witches and wizards. For one, house elves were obviously far superior in their inherent abilities, and yet they got put in a box so-to-speak by the self-assured wizards of the magical community.
Beyond this, he'd always felt like the definition of what they even considered magical to be terribly limited. Granted, the magic of the wand waving sort was sensational, but honestly it kind of grew tiresome once you got past the sparks and shimmery lights. He saw a numbness and complacency in his fellows that he couldn't shake. This is partly why he ended up leaving early; he wanted more, and though he wouldn't have describe it like this then, he grew anxious for a deeper connection to life.
As he explored and gained experience, he became convinced more and more that he was on to something.
He found that those who had a heavy reliance on "magic"(as they considered it) were at a gross disadvantage to those who didn't. At least they were just less likely to actually think to solve problems. Knowing they could just wave a wand, they grew lazy and were prone to bullyish behavior. And with all the regulation and laws surrounding wizarding behavior, it was far more sensible to at least mix magic with other unregulated means aka. using your brain to solve problems. (So many times it was those who would never be thought of as magical amongst wizard kind that had saved his backside)
This different kind of magic was inward: a gift of creativity and resourcefulness and ability to adapt to any situation. Rather than just waving a wand at a problem, he'd learned to think and imagine solutions to situations on the fly in a way that no wizarding instructor in a cold castle could ever teach him.
This ability was hard won though, and he wondered if he and Ben might be able to incorporate some formality into the process of learning in order to help students of all peoples and backgrounds to gain the insights and skills as they sought it.
But more than just advocating street smarts, Mortimer had learned a deeper formal knowledge and system of teaching along the way that not only incorporated magic, but illustrated on the deepest level how to negotiate and harness the power that is there for all.
That formal system was alchemy.
Alchemy wasn't exactly a formal science when the brothers came upon it in is disparate forms. It was actually pretty broken. And not everything they were taught was actually relevant. But the idea of alchemy seemed to be everywhere. Glimpses of it seemed to be woven into a variety of places and stories, always on the borders, but never at the center of the story. Occasionally it would play into the story more directly, but at first it was subtle.
In retrospect, they didn't see it for what it was because it first had to be discovered inside them; rule number one of alchemy is that it is only truly understood as it is experienced or practiced. But along the way, they got just enough to teach them what they needed to know, but never enough to know it all at once. It wasn't until they had sufficient experience and showed adequate strength of character that they could finally piece it all together.
What is Alchemy?
Alchemy is the science of change in the world. It is internal, and it is external, but not necessarily at the same time. It is the study of and the implementation of the principles that bring about change. It encompasses the means, the principles, and the motivation that inhabit us. It is control, and it is being controlled, and the wisdom to know which and when and why. It incorporates the methods, meaning, and the means that bring about those changes. It is mechanics and methods and motivation. It is the knowledge and wisdom. It is the power to master the fundamentals of reality.
Specifically, wizarding magic is a manifestation of the power and principles of Alchemy, but not Alchemy itself. Alchemy enhances and inhabits magic, but magic is also a medium, not the means. Alchemy is the mechanism that manifests through magic. Without the principles of alchemy, magic falls flat.
And alchemy is not an art exclusive to the sidhe. It is more fundamental than magic, so its scope incorporates the world of wizarding, but it is ultimately beyond it.
It is the power whereby all peoples act and create. In fact, it is creation, or the power undergirding creation, or creativity.
So by definition, it is accessible to all who might have the potential to create.
Alchemy took many diverse and deviant forms over the years. It was possessed by the three magical peoples in the days of Avalon and Atlantis, so naturally when those places disappeared or dissolved, the traditions continued.
Later, well after the dissolution of Avalon and Atlantis, many shee have attempted to reunite the three magical peoples and again bring about Avalon, but in their conceit had looked down at muggles and considered them lesser; they discounted them and did not discern their true identity. The incomplete knowledge and their own lack of character kept them from this lofty ambition.
But being well outside the culture, conventions, and traditions of the wizarding community, the brothers were able to see past the biases and false ideas of their culture. They were open minded enough to see the other magical peoples for what they were, and to value them and recognized the part they might play in the bringing back of Avalon and Atlantis from the old days.
And so alchemy was almost an accidental discovery for them. They had already found the mechanics that undergirded magic and helped non magical students to tap their potential. They just didn't know what it was.
Even alchemy as it stood when they found it was flawed from what they'd found worked. They could tell there were a few things that had become warped over the years. Once they changed them, they adopted the name of Alchemy, seeing this as the closest approximation to what they were doing. But they called it New Alchemy, or alchemy as it was taught once upon a time. The believed that what they taught was the most ancient and fundamental foundation of magic.
The Three Magical Peoples
The three magical peoples are the Sidhe, Jann, and Man. All three races are magical, though it manifest in different ways.
Sidhe are wizards and witches, but also centaurs, faeries, elves, house elves, and any and all fantastical creatures of all kinds.
Humans are, well, humans. The dreary, mediocre, and average people often referred to as "muggles" in the stories of J.K. Rowling.
The Jann are the disembodied spirits that control, possess, and influence this physical world. They can deceive, empower, or enlighten. In biblical texts they are referred to as either angles or demons. In arabic stories, they call evil jann by the name "djinn" or genies. These forces manifest in the physical world by those representatives who invite and allow their influence. They can influence both human and sidhe, so their magic can be either through ideas, or through spells and sparks.
The Blackburn Brothers met individuals from all three peoples in their travels. They themselves were Shee, but have a human father. They met those under the influence of the jann, and learned to distinguish the influence of good and bad of that race.