Other Forces

Magic and Magicians

The thing about magic? There's always consequences. Always.
Spike, After Life

    Magic in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a nebulous, but powerful force; easy to call, difficult to master. It requires no innate gift to command the forces of magic - although some have a greater knack and capacity than others (Hush) - only a knowledge of the correct rites, the will to do what is required, and the strength to see the spell through. The greater the spell, the more powerful the forces involved, and the more severely the magician will be tested by the act of channelling them.

The Nature of Magic

"The gift I was given by the coven was the true essence of Magic. Which comes, in all it's purity, from the Earth itself."
Giles, Grave

    In its purest and most essential form, magic is tied to the life-force of the Earth and everything on it. As such, its wielder is likewise connected to the world, able to feel and to touch the very living core of everything and everyone around them; able to sense their pain, and aware of the consequences of every act of magic that they perform. This does not however mean that pure magic is good and nice and fluffy; merely pure and natural. While channelling pure magical energy grants this awareness of others and an involuntary empathy for their suffering, it can still be used to perform hostile and aggressive spells, if one has the will to override that connection. A sociopath would certainly feel no compunctions in doing so, and a sadist might even get a kick out of it.

    Such pure power is rare, however, and can be called up only by the most practiced and cautious of magic-users. Much magical energy is drawn from other, darker sources, and this magic carries the taint of its origins, which has the opposite effect to pure magic. Channelling dark energy desensitises the user, closing them off to all but hate and rage and bitterness, and infecting them with a coldness that makes violent and destructive magic that much easier to summon. It is also easier to channel this kind of power, it being more readily available in a violent and chaotic world, and coming with less inconvenient emotional baggage.

    The price of dark magic is to cut oneself off from the world; to eschew companionship, friendship and love for the pursuit of power. Most of the magicians who fall too far into this world find it impossible to cope. Without the ability to make or keep the friends others rely on to stay sane, they lose every sense and vestige of themselves (As You Were). A small number of dark magicians do manage to maintain at least a limited degree empathy, enough to love and to hold to a sense of honour at least (Enemies), and these are probably those who wield their power with the greatest intellectual caution, instead of going all out.

    In many ways, the magic of the Buffyverse is thus akin to the Force, with dark magic providing the immediate and showy power, but pure magic greater insight and subtlety. Again though, this does not mean that pure magic can not be wielded in violence (Grave), nor that dark magic can never be subtle, or even altruistic (Villains); only that such is not their fundamental nature.

    All magic is draining (Two to Go), drawing mystical energy out of the user to fuel it, the more so when the power is channelled directly, instead of through tools. Unless she takes a break, even the most powerful sorcerer will quickly be worn down by the effort of hurling spell after spell (Tough Love). When drained, a wise and cautious magician will recognise that they have hit their limit, but a more reckless user - especially one steeped in the essence of dark magic, and thus immured to the pain of others - can simply rip fresh power from another source, be that some natural or artificial reservoir, or another magic user. In addition, some magicians have the ability to put their energy into others, such as Rack, who peddled his dark powers like a drug (Smashed).

Magical Method

"You can't just go: Librem incendere, and expect..."
The book bursts into flame.
"Don't speak Latin in front of the books, Xander."
Xander and Giles, Superstar

    The use of magic requires that the basic essence be channelled, either through the magician, or through tools and ritual accoutrements, into the form of a spell. The former method allows for more immediate, intuitive and spontaneous magics, the latter gives greater control and power, and also avoids the worst of the psychic 'infection' and mystical exhaustion associated with direct channelling. In some cases, especially when commanding the most potent and complex magics, the power must be channelled through both (Becoming - Part 2, Primeval, Grave).

    Minor cantrips - such as Willow's floating pencil - are relatively easy to perform, requiring only emotional focus, mental clarity and an understanding of the forces involved (Enemies). The stronger a magician is, the more powerful the feats they can accomplish in this way, but in general the effects achieved are straightforward. Magicians with strong ties to each other, such as Tara and Willow, can form a mystical gestalt to increase their strength, as seen in the exponential increase in the mass that the two can shift together over that they can levitate alone (Hush, The Gift). With practice, a magician or pair of joined magicians can also increase the dexterity with which she can employ such a force, for example Willow and Tara's attempted rose spell (A New Man).

    More potent spells usually require incantations, and often the invocation of one or more deities and spirits. Examples of invocations can be seen in Amy's spells: her love spell, invoked Diana, and the rat spell called on Hecate (Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered). Likewise, the curse which the gypsies placed on Angel called upon the apparently limbo-bound 'Spirits of the Interregnum', as well as some generic 'gods'. At the highest levels, magicians may cast even complex and powerful spells by will and gesture alone (Villains, Two to Go, Grave), but typically only when channelling such vast energies that continued use begins to affect their physical as well as psychic integrity.

    In addition, tools and ingredients are often required. A cauldron or equivalent is often used to mix a potion, or herbs and incense burned. Sometimes ingredients must be mixed as the spell is performed, as for the love spell, and sometimes they must be prepared in advance, as the catalyst for living flame (Revelations). Items connected to the target of the spell, in particular images (Forever) and treasured items (Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered) are often employed. More specific items may be called for, such as a mummy hand for a prosperity spell (Life Serial), or the Orbs of Thesulah used as a spirit vault for rituals of the undead (Passion, Becoming). A spell of particular power may require a unique or nearly unique artefact such as the Urn of Osiris, used in a true resurrection (Bargaining), although to the greatest magicians, even these items may be done without (Villains). Also, a magician might have some particular tool used generically to focus his own power, such as Jonathon's magic bone (Life Serial).

    Particularly powerful magics - especially dark magics - may require sacrifices, often of blood; the caster's own (Halloween), or that of another creature (Bargaining). All magic also takes a physical toll, and requires strength of body as well as will. Just withstand the stress of channelling such vast energies (Blood Ties) can be a trial, and sometimes the deities invoked will demand a test before permitting the spell's caster to wield such power (Bargaining).

    Finally, magic always has consequences; nothing is ever given for free. The power is dangerously unpredictable, and spell books often only tell half of the story concerning a given spell. A mishandled spell can have terrible consequences, possibly effects more powerful than the original spell could have achieved (Something Blue), but even when the spell goes right, there can be side-effects. Jonathon's paragon spell created the opposing force, the evil to counteract his good (Superstar), as well as reducing the competence of those around him, and the resurrection spell thaumagenically created a potent demonic force, as well as restoring Buffy to life (After Life).

    One risk often overlooked is that if a person uses magic too freely, especially if they are a powerful magician, it could become too easy to use magic. The phrase 'if looks could kill' takes on a darker meaning if a magician's power is so great that little more than a look and an ill-wish can unleash a killing force.


It could be witches; some evil witches?
Which is ridiculous, 'cause witches they were persecuted, Wicca good and love the Earth and women-power and I'll be over here.
Xander, Once More with Feeling

    There have been a plethora of magicians in Buffy the Vampire Slayer - good, evil and indifferent - and what 'side' a magician is on often has little to do with the kind of magic which they practice. Instead, the principal difference is in how a magician views his or her power. While those aligned with good use magic sparingly and with caution, those of a darker type tend to see it as simply another tool for their convenience, or as a toy for their amusement. This incautious attitude can be the first downward step on the road to black magic and complete loss of self for even the most well-meaning of magicians (All the Way), but some throw themselves into it with their eyes wide open.

Ghosts and Spirits

    While rarely seen, there are entities in the Buffyverse which exist in a different plane of state of existence from humans, and which are yet neither demons, per se, nor stoners. Such entities are less commonly encountered than demons because they do not usually choose to interact with the human world; not even in a basic, crush, kill, destroy kind of way.

    Spirits and ghosts only come out to play when they have a specific purpose to fulfil, and they often act not only with single-minded intensity, but without true volition (I Only Have Eyes For You). Ghosts - the restless spirits of the dead - usually obsess over the circumstances of their deaths, and over the events leading up to it (Rm w/ a Vu). Spirits, such as the Chumash avenger, Hus (Pangs) typically have an explicit role which they are called upon to perform, instead of engaging in more casual activity.

Demon Hunters

    There have been only a few definite examples of humans choosing to hunt and battle demons, or at least of those who have managed to do so with any degree of success. Aside from the Slayer - who is bound by destiny and has power well beyond human - the Watchers, the Initiative, and the Knights of Byzantium - who are covered in detail elsewhere - examples of demon hunters include:

    The Scooby Gang, Gunn's crew (Warzone), the White Hats (The Wish) and the Sunnydale High student body (Graduation Day: Part 2) have also shown the potential effectiveness of humans against demons. Gunn's crew in particular, with their improvised blades and stake-throwers, have displayed an unusual degree of success in their fight against the vampires. In all cases however, we have also seen the great danger inherent in taking up this fight, with no group of hunters emerging unscathed from their battles.

    Motivations for demon hunting vary. Some seek revenge, others fight in self-defence, and some look to the profit motive. The government's soldiers do so out of a sense of duty and patriotism - or maybe of survivor's guilt - while others act out of a sense of desperate necessity. Methods also vary greatly, from straightforward tracking and combat, through magic, to detective work, to the use of high-tech weaponry. One of the strengths of the Scooby Gang is that they - almost uniquely - combine a wide variety of methods: combat, magic, research, investigation, disguise, computer hacking and reconnaissance, to name but a few.

    Demon hunters tend to be idiosyncratic and isolationist, and hence there does not appear to be much of a community of hunters. Presumably a few keep in touch with each other, partnering up when they are working the same case or each other's turf, calling in a favour when they need back-up or particular skills, sharing intelligence and so forth; but this does not seem to be routine. The Watchers' Council would maintain records of all hunters encountered in the course of their business, but whether they would take kindly to sharing their sacred duty with outsiders is a different matter. The Council would also be likely to maintain its own hunters, as the Slayer can not be everywhere at once, and there must be work to be done around the globe. They might also contract out work to other hunters, if they believed them reliable.

The Key

    The Key is an ancient construct of living energy, millennia old, and designed for a single purpose. The Key opens the door between worlds; when it is activated, the barriers separating the dimensions collapse temporarily, allowing any creature to move back and forth between worlds at will. The origins of The Key, and the reason for its creation, are arcane in the extreme, but its use would inevitably lead to massive destruction in the earthly realm as monsters of all stripes poured across from the hell dimensions (Spiral), which suggests it was not made by anyone particularly cuddly.

    To use The Key, its energy had to be poured into the lock - a particular point in space - when the signs were in alignment. The barriers would fall, the portal would open; when the energy of the Key was expended the portal would close. When The Key was made human, the rituals involved required the shedding of her blood, but this would presumably not have been required had The Key been in its formless state (The Gift). Dawn's blood became necessary because it carried her life-force, and her life-force was the living energy of The Key. All the evidence suggests that Glory had her scholarly worshipper, Doc, research the new rite for her; hence the presence of a copy in his study (Weight of the World). It was also suggested that destroying the human shell - killing Dawn - would have destroyed The Key, and not merely released its energy back into pure form.

    After the ritual was performed, Dawn felt herself to be no longer The Key, or that at least there was nothing left for her to open. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but since she did not bleed out, and is still alive, presumably The Key's energy still exists within her. Whether anyone other than Glory would come looking for The Key - and what might have to be done to store its energy until the next time it could be used - is uncertain.


"For centuries it had no form at all...We had to hide the Key, gave it form, moulded it flesh. Made it human and sent it to you."
The Monk, No Place Like Home

    The transformation of The Key's living energy into human form, and its placement as the Slayer's sister, raises a lot of questions about what is and is not possible. The transformation itself was impressive, but not so incredible: As The Key is alive, even as energy, the monks of the Order of Dagon did not actually have to create life, just transmute energy into matter; into flesh and blood. Glory suggested that in hiding The Key, the monks could have turned it into anything (Forever), and expressed some surprise that they had made it human. In fact, the suggestion is made (The Gift) that the flesh they moulded for it came from Buffy herself, most likely as a template of sorts. The result of this magic was Dawn, a human girl with the power of The Key - its unique energy - bound up in her blood.

    The really impressive part of the spell was the construction of the false reality involved (No Place Like Home). Not only did Dawn have to be given fourteen years of memories, including family, friends and schooling, but those around her needed their own, personal recollection of the events of her life. The Summers family - and presumably all of Joyce and Hank's friends - the Scoobies, school friends, teachers, rivals and even some of the demons who fought Buffy down the years; all of these would need false memories. Xander would have to remember how his love spell (Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered) affected the eleven year old Dawn (either directly, or just because of all the crazed womenfolk rampaging through the house), while Joyce would have to face two years of twice the humiliation over her behaviour under the influence of the band candy (Band Candy). Did Buffy learn any guilty secrets from Dawn when she had her uncontrolled telepathic ability (Earshot)? And was Dawn really left alone in the house all those times?

    The only parallel to this magic is the paragon spell worked by Jonathon (Superstar), which changed the memories of the whole world. However, where that spell was a bludgeon, over-writing every image of good and cool with Jonathon, that which the monks wielded through their ritual was a scalpel, forging a false history of incredible depth and detail. Unfortunately, as with the paragon spell, there were weaknesses, mostly stemming from the monks' lack of experience with family life. Buffy - being the closest to Dawn, as well as being the Slayer - was the most aware of a discrepancy, noting that she finds Dawn's presence more annoying now, although she knew it had always been the same way (Real Me). In favour of the 'Slayer immunity' argument, it was also Buffy who - aside from Adam - had the greatest degree of cognitive dissonance under the influence of the paragon spell (Superstar).

The Final Battle

    Some time in the twenty-first century, the Slayer and her allies will fight a final battle against the demon world, resulting in the banishment of all demons, and all magic, from the Earth (Fray). The vampires were gone, and with them, the Slayer. For over two hundred years there will be no Slayer, because there will be need. But after two centuries, the demons find their way back, and with their return, the Slayer is reborn.

    It remains to be seen exactly how the demons returned, let alone how they were cast out in the first place, but it is of course natural to assume that The Key may be involved. The Key is designed to open the door, but it is in the nature of keys that they can be turned both ways. If you wanted to seal the barriers between the worlds, then The Key would be the logical tool to use. Did the Slayer then use The Key - or if still human, did The Key use itself - to lock the door, sealing the Earth away from the Hell Dimensions? If so, how was this done?

    Presumably, in a world without magic, there would be no place for The Key, and even if it were not destroyed in the final battle, its power would have been ended. If it did survive however, either sheltered somehow, lost and dormant, or cast into the demon dimensions with the Slayer and her foes, then it might have survived the passage of the centuries. In this case, as well as casting out the demons, The Key may have been responsible for bringing them back. This scenario more-or-less assumes a reusable Key - against the postulation above - so what might have become of it since the barriers were reopened?


    Hellgods rate among the highest orders of the Powers That-would-very-much-like-to Be, and are, if not synonymous with the 'Old Ones' or the 'Lower Beings', at least on a similar level of power. We do not know very much about them, only that they are ancient, more powerful than any demon, and apparently don't really care much about the fate of the Earth. The annihilation of every living thing on the mortal coil when The Key was activated was neither a goal for Glory, nor even a particularly important side-effect. It was just something that was going to happen in the course of her returning home. Like all such beings then, Hellgods appear to operate at a 'higher' level than humans, with the little things barely impacting on their consciousness. Individual lives mean nothing to them; the suffering of populations is their bread and butter.

    Also, unlike demons, Hellgods appear to take little interest in the mortal world. It may be that the demonic obsession with reclaiming the Earth for their kind comes in part from a desire to flee the Hell Dimensions, to a place where they might be masters, and not under the thumb of the Hellgods. The Hellgods rule Hell Dimensions, reigning over many - but not all - of the thousands of such worlds that exist alongside the Earthly realm, making of them the kind of Hell that Earth once was (The Harvest). Each Hell is presumably reshaped over the millennia by its gods, forged into their perfect playground, hence their reluctance to leave and take any actions on Earth. On the other hand, Earthly demons do sometimes worship Hellgods, for whatever reason and reward.

The Triumvirate

    The only real reference to Hellgods has been to a triumvirate of such beings, of whom one was Glorificus. These three together turned their world into one of the most unpleasant of all Hell Dimensions, revelling in chaos, destruction and slaughter, and the terrified adulation of their minions. However, this infernal idyll came to an end as the power of Glorificus grew beyond that of her compatriots, and they began to fear that she would overthrow them to rule alone. Instead of waiting, they struck first, and still only barely emerged victorious. They would not - or more likely could not - directly destroy Glory, and instead banished her to the Earth to die a mortal death.

Glory; The Beast

    Glorificus was plainly powerful, even for a Hellgod, as her two co-regnants were barely able to defeat her with the advantage of surprise. When they cast her out, they imprisoned her in a shell of flesh and blood; the body of a newborn male. Spells were put in place to separate the two, to keep her consciousness from bleeding into his. She was supposed to remain trapped, helpless, for the span of the man's life, and at the end of it perish with him. Why her fellows felt the need for such an elaborate arrangement is not known, but most likely they were either unable to kill her directly, or unwilling to do so and set a bad example.

    In time, Glory's power was able to break through the barriers - possibly with the external aid of her faithful minions - allowing her to become active for short periods of time. Either as a side-effect of the dividing magics, or as a later act, a cloaking effect prevented outsiders connecting Ben and Glory, even if they witnessed the transformation between bodies. once released and free to act, Glory's single goal became to search for The Key - whether it had once been hers, she had been present at or heard of its forging, or a scholarly minion such as Doc merely identified it as a possible means for her to return to her own world.

The Knights of Byzantium

"The Key is the link;
The link must be severed.
Such is the Will of God."
- The Devotion of the Knights of Byzantium,

    The Knights of Byzantium are a mysterious group, about whom we know very little. We know that they are an apparently Christian religious order, dedicated to the destruction of The Key. We know that they are relentless, highly-motivated, honour-bound zealots, with deeply archaic sensibilities, and an almost total isolation from modern world. We know that they have no regard for their own lives, save as tools of the Will of God. We know that they are highly-trained - making short work of the Glory's minions (Blood Ties) and even giving Buffy a run for her money (Checkpoint) - but unbendingly traditional, wielding swords, bows and lances, wearing chainmail and riding horses into battle in the modern day. While not unaware of the modern world, the Knights appear to reject it, and its customs are alien to them. Orlando describes himself as "one soldier in a vast army", and says that if the Slayer kills him, more will come; that "if it takes a thousand, we will send a thousand". Given the legion that later descend on Sunnydale it is fair to assume that he was not just mouthing off. (Checkpoint, Blood Ties, Spiral)

    So, what we have is an ancient, militant monastic order, training in total isolation with the weapons of a bygone era, yet keeping sufficient contact with the world to maintain a devoted membership of thousands - presumably all recruits, as exclusively male religious orders rarely have members pass the mantle to their children - and the ability to transport large numbers of men, arms and trained warhorses long distance.

Origins and Organisation

    As noted, the Knights of Byzantium appear to base their organisation loosely on the model of a Christian militant order such as the Knights Templar. This would suggest a foundation sometime in the twelfth or thirteenth century, possibly beginning as a brotherhood of Crusaders who learned too much on the road to the Holy Land to be able to ignore the threat posed by The Key and The Beast. From their name we would expect them to be formed in Byzantium, but it could also be that they were founded following some horrific revelation experienced during the sack of Constantinople by the knights of the Fourth Crusade. On the other hand, as is often theorised about the Templars, it is also possible that the Knights were founded as a new incarnation of some more ancient order, long-dedicated to seeking out and destroying the Key. A militant order on the Templar lines would enjoy many advantages that an older movement, possibly based around one of the early Christian faiths, or even Judaism or a pagan faith, would not have, and be able to move with relative freedom throughout the Christian world.

    Either way, the Knights of Byzantium plainly operated covertly, their goals - and their very existence - a sufficiently closely-guarded secret that even the usually well-informed Watchers' Council did not know of them. They retreated from the world, holding to their faith with such rigid zeal that they rejected all technological advances. They must have continued to recruit or convert at a good rate, although perhaps experiencing some times of crisis and decline. They may retain links with the Church, although their theology appears highly unorthodox, and in any case it would not be easy to say which church they might be affiliated with.

    Members of the order are identified by facial tattoos - a highly unusual practice for a Christian order - which also signify rank: The higher the rank, the larger and more elaborate the tattoo, with additional elements presumably added at each promotion. These tattoos not only mark the knights as members, they also make it harder for them to fit into the world, deepening the order's isolation. They would also make it impossible for a Knight to work undercover, or attempt defection to the order's enemies, as they would likely be killed on sight. Perhaps most importantly, a facial tattoo would be extremely painful to receive, and the pain might form part of an ordeal of investiture. When an initiate became a knight, or when a knight gained new rank, they would swear their oaths, and be required to endure pain as the tattoo representing those oaths was marked on their forehead. This kind of practice strongly hints at origins within a pre-Christian mystery cult.

    While the majority of the Order's visible members are warriors, some must play a less active role. A knightly order would require a substantial support staff, including grooms and farriers, blacksmiths and armourers, almoners and clerks. They must also have some form of information- gathering arm, to maintain their search for The Key. Moreover, this intelligence wing, and many of the support staff, would have to be more techno-savvy than the Knights themselves. The Order also maintains its own clergy, armoured in faith and armed with their own brand of Theurgic magic (Spiral).

The Knights and The Key

    The Knights refer to the Key as "the instrument of Chaos"; not evil, but too dangerous to be allowed to exist, whatever its form. That they do not see it as the Devil's creation shows their unorthodox theology. The Knights may be devout servants of God, but they are apparently no longer 'good Christians', if ever they were.

    As well as seeking the destruction of The Key, the Knights oppose The Beast, and they seem to be aware of all of the circumstances surrounding her ejection from her home dimension, including the terms of her exile. This suggests that the Order have been the enemies of The Beast since before her arrival on Earth, and offers a rare clue as to The Key's origins. Glory repeatedly refers to "My Key", and while this could be just another manifestation of her petulant, possessive spirit, the Knights' dual goals - and reference to "The Key of The Beast" - suggest that in this case she might be speaking the literal truth. The Key may in fact have been created to serve The Beast - or some other Hellgod - by uniting the realms and allowing her and her Triumvirate to rule all of them.

    In this scenario, The Key would presumably be created on Earth, or lost there immediately following its making, probably as part of the traditional 'tricked the maker but he wised up at the last minute' ploy. Perhaps the maker saw at last what his creation would be used for; or perhaps he realised that what he had created possessed a life of its own, and balked at handing such an innocent over to the Triumvirate, whether or not it was self-aware. That the Triumvirate itself, or their willing followers, did not forge The Key is supported by the purity of its nature.

    After its loss, The Triumvirate would not trust each other enough for any one of them to leave their domain to search for The Key, and so it remained lost. As we are told that The Key is almost as old as The Beast, perhaps the Triumvirate had yet to attain power, or were still consolidating their hold on their dimension when The Key was lost. It is possible that for some time they actually believed The Key destroyed, particularly if its creator had hidden it, and then been slain for his disobedience. Yet another possibility is that The Key was forged at the orders of the Triumvirate's predecessor, and that it took some time before any of the three even became aware of its existence.

    Whatever the case, on Earth, various groups learned of The Key's existence, and sought for it. The Knights of Byzantium - or their forerunners - sought its destruction, while another order - the Monks of Dagon - perceived only the purity of its making, and tried to turn its power to good instead of destruction. Eventually, the Triumvirate, or parts thereof, learned of The Key's survival and whereabouts, and minions of The Beast - and perhaps also agents of her co-regnants - were sent to locate it. It is possible that the Hellgods' interest in The Key was renewed when the civil war between The Beast and her erstwhile equals erupted, as each side sought weapons to tip the balance of power in their favour. If we assume that this started at about the time that the Knights came into their present form and the Order of Dagon formed, this would suggest that the battle between the Hellgods lasted for over eight centuries in our world; possibly much longer in a hell dimension.

    When The Beast was exiled, the Knights obviously learned of this, and sought her destruction as well as that of The Key. That Glory recognised Gregor and knew him by name (Spiral) suggests that they almost succeeded, but were thwarted by Glory's ability to force her power through her mortal prison. As Gregor survived that encounter - albeit perhaps gaining the scars he wore to his death - her shell may have been young, and her ability to manifest weak. However, her protective cloaking would still have been strong, and even if the Knights saw the young Ben transform into Glory and/or back, they would not have been able to identify him as the vessel of The Beast.