Animalia Magica

by: Tristan Risk "Little Miss Risk"

Last night, I figured out the science of magic. The epiphany came, not after too many pulls from the pipe, or one too many visits to the liquor cabinet. I reserved both of those activities to aid me in the use assembling my new patio set, which I’m uncertain how to approach, but have enthusiasm about, regardless.


I was awarded this insight into universal mystery after reading about not quarks or old ancient texts. This had nothing to do in the slightest about physics papers or psychic inklings. It had everything to do with being trapped in a car and barricading myself with magazines. Allow me to explain further…


Last month, I was on tour with my circus/sideshow collective, The Caravan Of Creeps alongside the East Van band, Blackberry Wood. The ‘collective’ in this case consisted of only Burns and I (well, three of us if you count our red-tail boa, Amethyst, whom I kind of do). We were all shoehorned into a minivan which contained four Blackberries, two human Creeps, one reptile Creep, and gear. And camping equipment. And luggage, too.


To say that we were deeply confined, was an understatement. While I had been spoiled by the luxury of travel in the ‘Dragon Wagon’ up until this point, I was rapidly realizing how commodious an economy sized seat on an air bus would feel after this trip. So while I was feeling gratitude for that particular realization, I was also trying to constantly dodge the moving sun from the sun roof, and reading to pass the time.


I have been, and continue to be, one of the lucky individuals who is able to travel in a moving vehicle and read at the same time. While as we move into this Brave New World, and I see more and more folks on their smart phone and devices, I think we will see this as a trait that gets bred out of our genes. But even friends I have who can read their phone have difficulty focusing on a book in travel, will make them sway with nausea in the backseat of a late-model minivan after hour four.


Employing this unusual genetic perk, I happily passed the time and the kilometres reading, well, everything. Anything I had on me, that I could jam into the seat pocket in front of me - that which was on printed page was fair game. I brought two books, but devoured them in hours. It was pretty brutal, believe me. Thankfully, i had a steady diet of magazines and truck stop novels to graze on to keep my appetite up. 



Of these, came them strange theory that came to nest in my brain. As someone who dislikes having her personal circumstance feel like they are beyond her control (as one may feel on a bucket seat for three weeks with time to ponder this at length), do we have the ability to exert force of will on our surroundings to change them? If we do is this what we’ve called magic? Is this even a thing?


From my time atop said bucket seat, I studied written word and digital, when cellular data permitted, to study this in our greatest mirror: the animal kingdom. At least two types of animals, both of who seem to lack higher evolutional traits, both being insect and invertebrate, served as the conductor’s to this train of thought. And more wondrous, that they both are able to manipulate their surroundings in different ways, one by changing it’s personal environment, and one who’s body has evolved to inflict strength of will on another.


You might think that these are highly complex organisms that can create this kind of bending of nature’s laws to suit themselves, but think again. In fact, of my two examples I will share with you, neither are what we would consider to be at eat top of the food chain (i.e.: the deeper end of the gene pool) but in fact are masters of changing physics to help propel it through the water. They create zones of high and low pressure around themselves, and then switch the two, prompting movement. The bell margin bends up as it draws up high pressure water, then low pressure outside the jellyfish’s bell rolls down under, and the bell relaxs, allowing the jellyfish to push it’s way through the water.


It has no spine, but it has it’s shit together better than I do on an average day.


But let’s just have a moment to really savour the weirdness of this situation. Because this organism that has no eyes, no heart, no spine not only has figured out how to thrive but to alter physics around it to suit it’s purposes. That’s pretty amazing. hat’s some straight up Dr. Strange shit right there. I say with the utmost admiration for the times that I’ve been tweaking a menopausal faucet trying to fine tune a shower, with a full central nervous system, opposable thumbs, and an IQ not too addled by THC. 


My other example of this interspecies sorcery, is the jewelled wasp. When we think ‘magic’ or ‘witchcraft’, what is it that we are saying? Spells, rituals, voodoo, all manner of ways to exert force of will, in some capacity, over individuals or events. Some benign, some ill-intentioned. But mental manipulation without words is what it amounts to, on some scale. It’s in this way that the jewelled wasp pro-generates in a way that seems a hellish horror for the cockroach host to her offspring, was it not for her chemical spell she casts.


The jewelled wasp is a honey of a beauty (see what I did. there?) It’s bright colours and sleek, predatory appearance gives her the look of a fierce alien. She’s not a work of fiction or fantasy. This breed of wasp resides in South Asia, Africa, and the South Pacific Islands. She might reside in your nightmares, too after reading this. The long and the short of it is, that she injects a quick jab of venom with her eggs from an ovipositor into her victim in the thorax. When incapacitated, she gives the cockroach another jab in the head, with a second dose of venom.

Here’s where it gets very ‘evil queen’.


The cockroach first grooms itself, which indicates to researchers that it experiences a dose of dopamine, giving it pleasure. Upon getting it’s chemical reward, the wasp leaves, and preps a burrow to seal the cockroach and her brood into safely. The motor abilities of the roach are unaffected by the venom, which means the venom doesn’t alter it’s senses, merely how it reacts to them.  It goes through specific neurotransmitters in the brain and dulls the reaction of them, and is the neurotoxin tale of horror, leaving the wasp to stuff the cockroach in a burrow, attach an egg to it’s leg, seal it all in, with the cockroach, likely waving goodbye on the inside a la Ralph Wiggum.


So from self serving and sinister, I’ve found that magic, on a level of sorts, does exist. The more I read about these smaller animals and their ability to bend their universe around them to their will continues to fascinate me. It gives me a reason to re-read some Alister Crowley to see how the mortal magician may have fared better on a conscious journey… But then again I never trust a journey that recommends cocaine for flu symptoms. At least, not any jewelled wasp or jellyfish have mentioned it, and if they know, they are keeping it to themselves.

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