Becoming invisible is one spell or technique that most people have wanted to use at some point. This accounts for the popularity of the invisibility cloak in the Harry Potter series, and the numerous “invisibility suit” videos on popular video sharing sites The latter always turn out to be caused by poor resolution cameras unable to cope with perfectly visible, but fast, movements such as someone running. Conventional science is doing well hiding things such as people and vehicles with specially arranged mini TV cameras and screens that record and project the surroundings enabling the item to be almost invisible. However, there is enough time delay to make these hidden objects noticeable, especially with peripheral vision.
Stage magic and illusion have been particularly effective in hiding large troop movements, or making targets appear to be somewhere they weren’t. A classic example of this was used during the Second World War to make the naval base of Portsmouth ‘invisible’ by lighting up the neighbouring island of Hayling in exactly the same way and blacking out Portsmouth. Since both islands are almost identical the correctly lit, but mostly empty, Hayling was bombed instead of a major urban area. A similar technique was also used by the illusionist Jasper Maskelyne to ‘move’ the Suez Canal during the same conflict.
With advancements in science, such as meta materials and being able to hide events in time, if only for forty picoseconds, an actual invisibility cloak looks like becoming reality within the lifetime of most people reading this. It will probably work by bending the electromagnetic energy of light around the user, allowing just enough to be absorbed for the wearer to see where they are going. Provided all the light is absorbed or deflected the person or object it covers will be literally invisible.
The art of magick has approached the principle of invisibility from several other angles. From suggestion to highly effective camouflage Mages in different countries and eras have come up with ways to make you unnoticeable that don’t involve expensive high technology. Perhaps the most famous exponents of this are the Ninja of Japan. Best known in the West for their martial arts skills, they are better known in Japan for their skills at magick.
Using the Japanese five Elements as a guide, much as Occidental Mages used the tree of life from the Kabala, the Ninja codified all aspects of their art from combat to working magick and illusion. The latter began in the physical world, and progressed into the realms of internal energy, Saiminjutsu – mind control of self and others - through to working with the Devine, depending on their training and experience. They began by learning how to use the literal elements of earth, air, fire, water, combined with intent, to hide them and blend into nature.
To better blend in with their surroundings they wore neutral coloured clothes in shades of brown, green and grey, rather than the black that fiction assigns to them today. The combination of colour plus staying very still can make someone very hard to spot even without any other technique. A Witch from a traditional coven told me how in the 1970’s they were celebrating an Esbat (Full Moon Rite) near a crossroads in the early hours of the morning when a lorry (truck) stopped on the road, the driver obviously having seen them. After a minute it sped away and instantly the coven members thought as one “He’s off to get the police”
Quickly they put the top on the cauldron, thus extinguishing the fire they had been dancing around and, carrying the cauldron by suspending it on a staff held by two of the members, ran across the road an into the apparently open field beyond. They stashed it in a ditch and then spread out, some in the ditch, and others in the field. Covering themselves in their green and brown robes and pressing themselves into the natural dips and hollows of the land.
Sure enough in less than ten minutes the police turned up, got out of their car and started looking near where the Estbat had been. This being England the moon had been hidden by cloud and there were no streetlights so it was pitch black. Obviously not country people the two coppers started waving their torches about, ruining what little night sight they had, and wandering all over the ground messing up any traces of the covens activity. Then the lorry driver turned up and the following (abridged) conversation carries to the hidden Witches:
Copper #1 “Now then Sir – where did you see these er..witches?”
Driver “Right Here!”
Copper# 2 “How many of them were there Sir?”
Driver “Dozens! (the coven was a traditional 13 members) All dancing around a big fire! With pointy hats and brooms!”
The last part was accurate about the brooms, and the Witch telling the story thought that the pointed hoods of the cloaks could have been mistaken for hats
The police take their time checking the area obviously looking for any signs of a fire which, since it was in a cauldron, there aren’t. Also the idea of running across the road was to get down-wind of the slight breeze so there wasn't even a smell of smoke. The grass in the ditch was very damp, and the cauldron lid tight fitting so there was no tell-tale smoke to give away its’ new position. Which was good, because after a while the police started pointing their torches at the adjacent fields and all the coven members can do is literally and metaphorically become one with the land
Copper #1 “Are you sure it was this field Sir?”
Both policemen then focused their attention and torches on the field the Witches are in.
Copper #1 “Are you sure it couldn’t have been that field Sir?”
Driver “No! It was definitely right here!!”
Copper #1 “In which case Sir, it would appear the witches have flown off on their broomsticks and taken their fire with them!”
Shortly after this exchange the driver was breathalysed, which was found to be neutral, and the two policemen suggested he have a few hours sleep at the next available safe stopping place. They all drove off and, after waiting half an hour or so to make sure driver and police had gone for good the coven regrouped, ‘wound down’ and ‘sent’ the energies raised by the interrupted ritual, then called it a night.
When I commented on the similarities between the Ninja concealment techniques and the ones used by the witches she pointed out that both may have had similar roots. Either that or similar camouflage techniques involving mind and body had developed convergently from similar backgrounds. This is something we will look at in the next article which goes more deeply into the use of psychology and personal energy to become unnoticeable in a crowd or in the wild.