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The Grimorum Arcanorum

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Curses and Prophecies, Fate and Free will

By Jurgan

(Warning: This essay contains minor spoilers for Harry Potter books five and six. It's mostly about Gargoyles, so if you don't read HP you'll still understand this, but if you plan to read them soon, you may wish to stop reading now.)

Like most people reading this, Gargoyles had a major impact on my life. For me, the best it ever got was City of Stone. In fact, I would say that CoS was one of the highlights of my childhood. I still distinctly remember, when I was twelve years old, reaching the end of Part Three, seeing Demona advancing on stone Elisa with a mace, and then the words "To be Concluded." "You're telling me I have to wait a whole day to see what happens? I'm supposed to go to school? Screw that, I want to know how Elisa survives!" I've thought long and hard about CoS, and the key to it is the relationship between Demona and Macbeth. In fact, I think the Weird Sisters' spellcasting is, from a classical sense, the climax of the entire story. On the surface, the spell seems simple enough: Demona and Macbeth are linked so they feel each others' pain, and they will live forever. If someone were to kill one of them, (s)he would die and then quickly come back to life. If one of them were to kill the other, though, then they would both die. As I say, it seems simple. After reading Greg Weisman's numerous responses on the subject, I began to think about whether there was more to it than meets the eye, and it slowly dawned on me that it was much more subtle, deep, and brilliant than I'd ever considered.

For years, Greg has received questions like "What would happen if Macbeth got his head cut off? Would it reattach itself? Would it grow back immediately?" He has always answered something like, "Well, that hasn't happened, has it?" At first glance, that seems like just a weak cop out, with Greg trying to avoid a question he has no good answer to. In fact, he seemed to get pretty flustered at the way people kept projecting Highlander concepts onto Macbeth, which was probably inevitable given that they're both immortal Scottish nobles. Unlike Highlander, though, there are no explicitly stated rules as to how immortality works; all we have to go on are the Weird Sisters' words, and they clearly are not the most trustworthy or forthcoming of people. Remember that Luna is supposedly a representative of fate, and then think about the fact that the spell doesn't really talk about "what if this or that happened," but rather "what will happen." The final words of Luna to Macbeth in the past were that "you both shall live, eternally linked, sharing each other's pain and anguish, with no release until one destroys the other. Only then shall both finally perish together." From that, it's clear that the Sisters are not interested in playing hypotheticals about all the different ways things could happen: they simply pronounced what will happen. Rather than the spell being simply a safeguard against their dying, it could instead be thought of as a prophecy declaring quite simply what will happen to them in the future.

It turns out that at no point in the entire series do we see anything happen to either Demona or Macbeth that would be sure to kill them. In fact, there are only two times it really seems likely that one of them could die. The first is when Macbeth was stabbed in the back by Canmore- painful, to be sure, but not necessarily lethal. Certainly there are those who have survived a poorly aimed stab. The second is when Elisa shot Demona with Macbeth's electric gun. That one seems even less likely, as about three gargoyles get shot with one of those things in any given Macbeth episode. One might make a case that the roller coaster collapse in The Reckoning was potentially lethal, but that falls under the old comicbook rule of "if you don't see the body, the guy's not dead," and the fact that we know Thailog survived as well makes it clear that magic was not necessary to live through that incident. So, we have established that we have never seen anything unquestionably fatal befall Demona or Macbeth. Furthermore, Greg has told us that no such thing has ever happened. Knowing that, it follows that it is meaningless to ask what if such a thing were to happen- it hasn't! Such speculation is what is known logically as a vacuous proof: If A occurs, then B occurs, given that A is an impossible event. Consider the statement "All pink elephants can fly," or, more precisely, "If A is a pink elephant, then A can fly." This statement is absolutely true, since every pink elephant in the world can fly- there are none, so anything you can say about them is true. A simpler way of thinking about it, though less rigorous, is that the statement "all pink elephants can fly" could never be disproved, since to do so one would have to find a pink elephant that could not fly, which can never be done. It is equally true that every pink elephant cannot fly. What this means, then, is there's no point asking "what if Demona or Macbeth were beheaded" if it cannot happen- it's true that if Macbeth were beheaded, he'd die, and it's true that if he were beheaded, he would be revived, and it's true that if he were beheaded, they'd both die, etc. All of those statements are true, because they are all based on an impossible hypothetical.

So let us then accept that neither of them has ever been beheaded. That still doesn't prove that neither of them could ever be beheaded, in which case it would still be relevant to ask what would happen. To answer that, it's worth thinking of the Weird Sisters' pronouncement as a prophecy rather than a spell. Suppose we think of the Macbeth/Demona connection in these terms: The spell allows them long life and they share each others' pain. Since they share pain, if one of them were killed, then the other would die too. Then we see that what Luna meant by saying that they would live on until one destroys the other is not that they are somehow magically protected from injury, but simply that she was predicting what would happen, as an avatar of fate. Such a prophecy brings Harry Potter to mind. When Harry was an infant, a prophecy was made which roughly stated that either he would kill Voldemort or Voldemort would kill him. That prophecy was overheard and found its way back to Voldemort, who immediately acted on it by attempting to kill Harry and fulfill it in a way favorable to him. In so doing, he nearly destroyed himself and gave Harry powers that would enable him to finish Voldemort once and for all. Moreover, he gave Harry a desire to end Voldemort. Harry lost his parents and knew first hand the sort of pain Voldemort inflicted on others, and so he would not rest until Voldemort was finished. On the other hand, Voldemort believed in the prophecy, and thus saw Harry as the greatest danger to him, so he would not rest until Harry was dead. So the result was that the two enemies were both determined to kill each other. As such, it was inevitable that one of them would eventually succeed, and the prophecy would be proven true. However, it was not true because of some incomprehensible hand of fate hovering over them, but rather it was based on simple extrapolations from the subjects' characters, and the fact that they knew about the prophecy (fittingly enough, Rowling has acknowledged Shakespeare's Macbeth as an inspiration for the prophecy).The same can apply to Demona and Macbeth. At the time of the spell's casting, they were already great warriors, and with unlimited time to practice, they would become even greater. So it is highly unlikely that anyone else would kill them. Yet based on the events of their falling out, an intense hatred blossomed between them, one that would keep them hunting each other and make it inevitable that one would eventually kill the other. And since Macbeth heard the Weird Sisters' pronouncement, he believed that he could not die without killing Demona. It never would have even occurred to him to jump off a tall building and see what happened, because he believed that it would fail. Thus, the prophecy has the added bonus of controlling any possible suicidal tendencies Demona or Macbeth might develop by telling them it's impossible to kill themselves, since while Luna's side of their personality may simply be prophesying, Selene's needs them to survive for their future plans. Plus, even if Macbeth thought it would work, he probably would still feel the need to settle the score with Demona first. With all of that in mind, it is not hard for the avatar of fate to predict that one of them will end up killing the other, and the fact that she makes the prediction helps it to occur.The question then is this: Is there a difference between saying something cannot happen and saying it will not happen? Suppose a man plans to stay home one day. Can we then say that it is impossible that he will get in his car and drive to another state that day? Let's say it's early in the morning, so he's got plenty of time. He's got a full tank of gas. He's not in Alaska or Hawaii, so there are connecting states he could go to. However, he has no desire at all to do so. Without that desire, it simply will not happen. We can then say that it is impossible. Now the obvious objection is that one never knows for sure what might happen, and if an emergency came up, he might have to leave the state that very day. For that reason, we distinguish between what can happen and what will happen- something can happen if it would happen provided the will to do it existed. If we knew for sure that the man would choose not to leave that day, it would then be fair to say that it was impossible for him to leave. Likewise, if we know with certainty that Demona and Macbeth will not die until one destroys the other, then we can say that it is impossible for anything else to happen.

This theory may seems very complicated at first, but if you take the time to think about it, it makes more sense than most other explanations out there. Rather than rely on vague magic powers and convoluted rules of "what if Demona were smashed in the day?" this theory eliminates all of the guesswork and gives an answer without the ambiguity; one that ultimately is simple and inevitable, yet firmly in the hands of the players. By thinking of Weird Sisters' spell as a prophecy, we can help resolve the fate vs. free will argument. Luna is an embodiment of fate, and so she is able to make predictions in the future, yet they are based simply on reading the characters of the subjects. While the prophecy that Demona and Macbeth will eventually die when one kills the other is a pronouncement of fate, it is only made true because of Demona's lack of trust and irresponsibility and Macbeth's lust for vengeance. The same could be said of the prophecy that Macbeth, Lulach, and Canmore would all become king- it wasn't hard to see that Duncan's paranoia would lead to him moving against Macbeth, a confrontation which would ultimately lead to Macbeth's ascension. If I'm right about all of this, then a final reckoning is still in the works for Macbeth and Demona, despite the fact Macbeth seemed almost ready to end the feud after Sanctuary. However, we don't know how it will come- maybe it is due thousands or millions of years in the future, after the stars burn out and they're the last people left alive in the galaxy, at which point they mutually decide that it's best for them to die together. I can picture them taking each other in their arms and together going to their final rest. That's kind of a beautiful image. We have no way of knowing what will truly happen, but one thing seems sure: they have not seen the last of each other.

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