The Draigsffau School of the Wizardly Arts

What would a school of Wizardly Arts teach? What does a Wizard need to know? What exactly is a Wizard anyhow?

In the modern imagination, a wizard is an old man with flowing white whiskers, flowing blue or grey robes, pointy hat and staff or wand, making lightning fly or stirring bubbling, odd-colored potions. To some, a wizard is the guy who comes in and cleans up the mess when your hard drive crashes. In ancient days, a wizard was an elder of the community, respected for possessing the wisdom of age and experience. To us a Wizard is all of these things, or none, but a person who has the breadth of knowledge to face a new situation and be immediately able to assess problems and work out possible solutions. We think that one cannot be entitled to wear the title of Wizard without having certain basic skills, which form the beginning of the curriculum. While the use of magic is associated with wizardry, we consider it important that these basic skills be in place before being especially concerned about learning magic.

The central notion of the Draigsffau School of the Wizardly Arts is to provide a generalist education. The curriculum includes fundamental understanding of a wide range of subjects and emphasizes the commonality between disciplines and the kinds of problem solving that can only be done well by someone with a foundation in two or more areas of knowledge.

While we do not possess the resources to create a physical campus for the School, we consider the Web to be ideal as a source of information on a wide variety of topics, so that informed and mindful surfing of the Web can lead the student to ways of learning enough to gain the beginnings of competency. Some skills, of course, can't be taught on the web, just as one cannot learn everything from books, but we trust that students will be resourceful enough to be able to find, for instance, a baby with whom to practice diaper changing. [Well, how did you think that Merlin took care of little baby Arthur, anyway?]

So in our assumptions about what a Wizard would need to know, we start with essentials of survival, which can then be elaborated upon to the extent that it interests the student to follow a particular line of inquiry. As one progresses through the subjects, keeping a linear approach to thinking becomes more and more difficult, because everything really is interwoven.

We use more than one metaphor in thinking about the curriculum and the sequence in which the knowledge should be acquired. On one hand, each thread of inquiry leads to relationships which spread outward like branches or roots. On the other, we look at the accretion of knowledge on a particular subject to be cyclic, so that in traveling a spiral, one returns to a subject at a deeper or higher level, not unlike the building of understanding multiplication upon the foundation of understanding addition. In the listing below, we are following the branching model in description, while indicating possible concurrent studies of basic skills in red text.

The Curriculum

The Elements of Survival and their related directions of inquiry

Air. The first thing we need to stay alive is to breathe. Seems obvious, doesn't it? Now think of breath control for stress-reduction, Lamaze breathing for less painful childbirth, altered states of consciousness that are reached through meditation and breath control.

Extend to the study of how air moves, and what clean air means. Follow that to the study of meteorology and pollution control. If we wish to generate power with wind, how do we design a windmill that balances a reasonable power generation with the needs of birds not to be mangled?

Then there's speech and language, song and music, flight and telecommunications, which leads into electronics, computers and programming.

Water. Now that we are assured of not suffocating, we can live only a few days before we totally dehydrate. Why do we need water? How does it work within our bodies? How do we find water in places where it is scarce? How does dowsing work? How can we desalinize salt water?

How does water flow and why? We follow the threads of knowledge about water, which connect to meteorology as well, and hydroponics, and waterwheels. What are global currents? This leads us into oceanography and marine biology, shipcrafting and the history of aquatic exploration. Tidal effects lead us to astronomy, which leads back to navigation or forward into astrology.

Earth. We're wet enough now, but we're hungry. How do we get food? What plants native to or common in our areas are edible, and how are they prepared? Are we going to be vegetarian or are we going to hunt? Will we settle and create farms on which to grow the plants we find desirable? Can and should we domesticate animals? If so, how will we care for them? This leads into seasonal cycles and weather, biology, botany, and animal husbandry. If we choose to eat meat, we have to cope with learning butchery and face the moral, philosophical and/or religious issues of whether the animals we eat have souls. How will we use the non-meat parts of the animal, the bones, sinews and skin?

The food need not be boring, so how do we combine and prepare ingredients to make food that is really satisfying? This leads into multicultural cuisine. Anyone who has had to cook in a badly designed kitchen will have ideas about kitchen design, which leads us into the next phase.

Shelter can be as simple as a cleared patch of ground with a ring of stones for a firepit or as elaborate as Neuschwanstein Castle, with forms in between such as tents, yurts, haybale, adobe and igloo forms, woodframe, stone and sprayed foam construction techniques. We look at structures from practical, physical and æsthetic viewpoints. Interior design and architecture lead us to furniture making, woodworking, upholstery, electric wiring, and plumbing. We can step back outside to look at landscape design, tying in with farming and leading out to forestry, geology, ecology, chemistry and physics, which can lead to higher math.

Dancing between earth and fire are metal smithing in iron/steel, copper, brass/bronze, silver and gold; smelting, casting, wreaking and recycling; and glassblowing, glazing and stained glass window making.

Fire. How do we stay warm? What source of energy will we use to cook? Conversely, how do we protect ourselves from wildfire or arson? Do we want to make machines to lighten our labor? Energy generation in general leads to dynamos, solar energy, and combustion of various fuels, which leads to engines, motors, and transportation.

Clothing. Where do the fibers come from? Will we grow flax or cotton? Keep sheep? Silkworms? How do we get from source of fiber to garment? By cutting and threshing or shearing, washing, carding, spinning, dying, weaving, and tailoring. Will we choose to work with leather? Aside from the purest function of staying warm, how and why do we use clothing? How does it go together? What determines the best shape for a piece of clothing? How about related textile arts such as knitting, crochet, tatting, embroidery, quilting and appliqué?

Now we are at the edge of decorative and æsthetic arts leading into design, painting, color, sculpture, ceramics, basketry, and again the asking of why, which leads to psychology, behavior, counseling, etiquette, linguistics, and artificial intelligence.

Now, let's take a deep breath and start again:

Life cycles

Birth and childhood. Examine conscious conception, prenatal care, midwifery, infant care and development, first aid, theories of education (Steiner, Montessori, Pierce, et alia), puberty and endocrinology.

Beginning adulthood. By this we mean the things that everyone should know upon turning 18, but that most are not taught directly: sexuality, relationships, responsibility, theories of family structure; survival within modern culture, basic business and economics, assessing purchases, budgeting, checking, credit and savings accounts, investment; household management, finding housing, starting services/utilities, supplies and cleaning, counseling, health issues.

These lead into exercise/sports, body awareness and energy movement, massage, herbalism, psychic healing and allopathic medicine, which leads back to biology.

History, geography, sociology/anthropology, politics, archeology are areas that give insight into the workings of a variety of minds.

Old age and death are too often ignored by our culture. Gerontology, death, transformation, and grieving are useful to study before personally suffering debility or loss.

But there's so much more that goes between birth and death

Literature. A survey of Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, African, Roman, European, Pan-American, Australian and other literature gives perspective and increases cross-cultural understanding. The student should also practice writing, and learn the value of fiction.

Theater. Drama, comedy, Kabuki, opera, dance, and again music, lead into studies of film, TV, video, radio and telecommunications.

Spirituality. At a minimum, the student should briefly survey attitudes toward the existence of the soul and basic theology of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Paganism, and any other religions of personal interest, seasonal celebrations and their meanings, and have some familiarity with philosophy and ethics.

Magic and divination. At last! We explore the realm of magic: world view, structure, scale, effects, responsibility, comparative systems, tools.

This is, of course, only a partial listing.

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© 1999 Elsa Die Löwin