The Five Colours of Magic

Words are magic.

When you say “pass the salt”, you set in motion a series of events that results in a salt shaker being placed in your hand. When you give a particularly good compliment, the uplifting power of it can endure for years.

Drawing on the system used in Magic: The Gathering, I have codified the five kinds of verbal magic.



Magic that heals, sustains, or in some way increases the joy of others.

Example: compliments


Magic that degrades, hurts, or in some way increases the misery of others.

Example: insults


Magic that is designed to achieve the goals of the user.

Example: requests, orders, demands


Magic that expresses emotion in an unbridled or reflexive way.

Example: yelling, squealing, whooping with joy


Magic that expresses creativity.

Example: stories, songs, jokes


Note that many spells have multiple colours: polite requests are blue-white, road rage is red-black.

This codification allows us to talk about words with increased precision, and compels us to examine the words we use with greater rigour.

Some general rules: 

  • Maximise white spells.
  • Minimise black spells.
  • Be careful with red spells.
  • When using blue spells, mix in some white. If possible, give the white precedence over the blue.
  • Don’t use green magic as camouflage for black spells.

One thought on “The Five Colours of Magic

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