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Magical Sensory Effect

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Because tasting magic with your tongue would just be silly.
Jemmie: Venemon magic is gold. It loops out of you so thick sometimes that I can't see past it. It smells like...wood smoke. Honey. Yours is muskier than Alex's. Deeper. It hangs in the air around you like glitter sometimes. Even when you're not casting.
Crowe: No shit?
Jemmie: No shit. Hardy's invictus magic is orange and smells like cloves. Terra magic is pinkish. Cinnamon, flowers, grass, depending on the person and the charm. Do I need to go on?

When we say the word "magic", what does one think of? Witches and wizards on their broomsticks? Fantastical worlds of strange creatures and adventure? Maybe a Stage Magician or two? Some people in the world of fiction would answer that "magic" makes them think of a particular sensation.

That is, the supernatural may have a special effect on one's senses, as a natural side-effect of magic being present; a taste, a smell, a color or two, maybe even a particular feeling or sound. It can be pleasant, like the smell of chocolate. It can be awful, like the taste of blood. It may even be utterly indescribable, carrying qualities unlike anything experienced by mere Muggles. Whatever it is, however, it's distinctive and consistent, although specific supernatural branches may have their own unique qualities to set them apart. With enough familiarity, one could identify certain supernatural beings based solely on the fact that they may, say, have a distinctive blue aura unlike any ordinary human.

Note that this sensation should be distinctive and unique. An Ice Person may always feel cold to the touch, but this is expected; if being near this person evokes the feeling of pins and needles, however, and they always smell conspicuously like mint, that's this trope. The sensation should also be a consistent effect of the magic itself, to the point where the very presence of magic will evoke this in someone, much like how being near fire will always make someone warm, and how coffee will always taste and smell like coffee. It won't be because of the character themselves, it'll be because of the magic that surrounds said character, and this fact is made explicit within the work.

This is likely to make the magic-users stand out more compared to their muggle counterparts, or to set certain groups apart when nearly everyone in the story has some sort of magical abilities. This may even give away the moral standing of said magic-user, because after all, Evil Smells Bad, there are Good Colors, Evil Colors, and very rarely will a dark aura and the scent of death be anything related to goodness and light.

This has nothing to do with any sort of "sixth sense" or other Psychic Powers, although these powers may have a sensory effect. Has some overlap with Color-Coded Wizardry and Fictional Color. Compare Tastes Like Purple and Killing Intent. Picking up on this sensation may require Super-Senses or might be due to having Supernatural Sensitivity. It can also be a Group-Identifying Feature.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ni no Kuni: Yu can sense magic. He uses this to detect that Gnauss has the same black magic scent as the dagger that cursed Astrid.
  • Digimon Frontier: In the CD drama "A Train Called Hope", Zoe says that she was able to see the different winds' colors and hear their tunes when she was Kazemon, and that she still has a bit of that ability left.

    Fan Works 
  • In Rabbit of the Moon, Bell and his belongings get a distinctive and pungent "scent of the moon/moon scent" that can only be perceived by gods, spirits, and the denizens of Yharnam after his first trip to the blood-obsessed city. Gascoigne's daughter and the Chapel Dweller are able to recognize Bell as a Hunter because of this, while Loki and Aiz are repulsed by the scent no one else seems to smell, which gets them asking questions about Bell.
  • In the Triptych Continuum, earth pony magic is always described as "singing" to the earth, and each earth pony has a distinctive "sound". Applejack's magic is described as resembling the sound of an oboe, while Applebloom's sounds something like a clarinet. Snowflake (who is a pegasus, but has earth pony magic due to the work of a Mad Scientist) is described as sounding like a dented tuba missing half its valves.

  • The Belgariad: Sorcery produces a distinctive "noise" to people with Supernatural Sensitivity. Sorcerer characters often have to work around this, such as by avoiding "louder" spells like Teleportation to avoid alerting their enemies from miles away or by concentrating to release a spell slowly to muffle its sound.
  • Beware of Chicken: Meiling has the innate ability to smell chi, and the way any given cultivator smells to her reflects the nature of his or her cultivation: a demonic cultivator smells of blood and oil, Jin smells of earth and the harvest, Bi De smells like the moon, and so on.
  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel Blood And Fog reveals that a magic user can eventually gain a scent that accompanies their spells over time. The Big Bad Jack the Ripper, for example, smells like strawberries and cream.
  • Different aromas are given off when magic is used in the Chicagoland Vampires series. A vampire with the ability to Mind Rape people who appeared in the novel, Dark Debt smelt like Whisky as an example.
  • Devils & Thieves: Jemmie's extreme magical sensitivity allows her to both see and smell magic, even just as an aura surrounding other kindled. Each magical type has a different scent and color, and each user brings more variations; for example, Locant magic smells of mint, while Venemon magic smells like honey, but Crowe's venemon magic smells much muskier than his sister Alex's does.
  • In the Discworld series, magic has a unique colour, octarine, that non-magical people can't see. Magic users can also taste it in the air: the taste is metallic, likened to tin in the mouth.
  • The Dresden Files: Magic, particularly powerful Ritual Magic, usually causes a glow from stray energy escaping the spell. In Battle Ground, Harry's especially concerned to intercept a necromantic ritual with absolutely no such effect, since it means the practitioners are Strong and Skilled.
  • The Empirium Trilogy: Each type of elemental magic has its own distinct scent; firebrand magic smells like smoke, windsinger magic smells like alpine, etc.
  • The Locked Tomb: Unlike lesser Necromancers, the God-Emperor's magic flares with blinding white light.
  • The Monster of Elendhaven: Magic literally flows through a sorcerer's blood when tapped, making their veins glow with an unnatural light. This is a physical effect as well; overused, it can scald and scar the sorcerer.
  • October Daye features the magic signature: a scent that is emitted after magic is used or performed by a Faerie or Changeling. Each individual has a scent that is as unique to them as a fingerprint. The Heroine October Daye produces the scent of copper and cut grass, while her main enemy, Evening Winterrose, has the scent of roses and snow.
  • Old Kingdom: Free Magic spells, effects, and creatures have a telltale acrid odor like hot metal. In high concentrations, like Kerrigor's Leaking Can of Evil, it's strong enough to cause nausea and weakness.
  • Rai Kirah: Demon magic registers to people with Supernatural Sensitivity as piercing, discordant music that feels like it's worming its way into the mind.
  • In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel magically awakened characters have auras that carry both distinct colors and scents. The twins' gold and silver auras smell like oranges and vanilla, respectively.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Surgebinding is fueled by a Mana source called Stormlight, which visibly emanates from the Surgebinder's body in glowing wisps while they're holding or using it. Objects or people being affected by certain Surgebinding techniques show a similar effect, and Stormlight-infused gemstones also have a distinctive glow.
  • Tortall Universe:
    • The Gift, or the main type of magic in Tortall, manifests in a color fairly unique to the user.
      • Family members can have similar colors, like Alanna and her twin Thom (who both have a violet Gift), and Duke Baird and Neal of Queenscove (Baird has emerald green and Neal's is described as "very dark green").
      • Duke Roger has orange (until Thom resurrects him, at which point his magic turns dark to reflect the corruption of his soul and indicates that he Came Back Wrong. It actually becomes a mix of his natural orange and Thom's darker purple.
      • Numair, easily the most powerful magic user in the series, has an unusual Gift described as "black with white sparkles".
    • The Immortals: Wild magic, the far less common nature-specific variant of magic, is copper in color.
  • Warbreaker: People who hold a large number of the Breaths that fuel Awakening magic gain an aura that makes nearby colours more intense. The God-Emperor is so powerful that he generates an intense prismatic effect and needs to live in a black palace for his own comfort.
  • Zig-zagged in The Wheel of Time:
    • Women who are actively channeling the One Power appear to be glowing to other women with the ability. Male channelers get a general sense of awe and menace when another man is channeling nearby, and a vague chill when women are channeling, but can't pinpoint it to an individual.
    • Channelers perceive the One Power itself as threads of coloured light that are woven into the spell. Ordinarily they emanate from the person casting the spell, but they can be "tied off" to persist without the channeler's concentration.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Warehouse 13, artifact-related weirdness tends to be accompanied by the smell of fudge.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: When Juliet reveals herself to be a vampire, she admits she knew of Justin being a wizard due to his scent- brick and pine, which is apparently just how wizards smell.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ars Magica: Each mage has a personal "sigil" that manifests whenever they cast a spell, which can be a sensory effect like the scent of orange blossom or a sudden chill.
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition: Many Psychic Powers cause synaesthetic side effects like an indescribable but familiar odour, a low droning sound, a telepathic chime, or something more exotic. A psion can concentrate to suppress these effects for subtlety's sake.
  • Mage: The Awakening: Each mage has a personal "nimbus" that manifests when they perform vulgar magic, such as a Holy Halo, a drum beat, or the sight of spectral animals. Normally this is only visible to beings with Supernatural Sensitivity, but they can also intentionally reveal it to Muggles with effort.

  • Daughter of the Lilies: Magic is often accompanied by a sparkling effect that showers from the spell or the magus' hands, caused by formless waste magic escaping. The in-universe term for it is "gaspillage" or "cast-off".
  • In El Goonish Shive, Raven mentions that he can taste magic, and the taste indicates what sort of magic it is. Of course, he tastes it with his ears.
  • Goblins is set in a Dungeons & Dragons-based RPG Mechanics 'Verse where powerful characters gain an "Individual Magical Effect" that manifests when they cast spells or use Charles Atlas Superpowers. It's just a glow in a character-specific colour at low levels, but becomes an elaborate visual display at higher ones, like a fallen paladin gaining "wings" of white chains tethering the ghostly heads of his victims.
  • The Order of the Stick: Spellcasters get a brief moment of Phosphor-Essence when they're in the process of casting a spell. This is often localized to their hands, but they might get a full-body aura and Glowing Eyes if they're using powerful magic or are particularly worked up.
  • Unsounded:
    • Sette has a supernaturally sensitive nose that can also smell magic, which is implied to be due to her unique relationship to the Background Magic Field of the Khert.
      Sette: [Watching a Wizard Duel] I'm gonna diiiiie... Stupid wrights, it's like they're fartin' at each other the most hostile way!
      Matty: Farts... You can smell pymary? I think it would smell lovely, like butter toast and Uaid feet.
      Sette: You know balls. Pymary stinks like greasy poo and tar.
    • Spellwrights' hands often glow while casting, as their souls interface with the Khert through their palms. For the same reason, Duane's eye sockets glow when his Magitek prosthetic eyes are taken out. Each spellwright has their own colour, while the Khert itself glows gold.
    • Humans in the setting have some ability to sense disturbances in the Khert caused by magic, an experience with no earthly analogue. The Platinum caste has the most acute Khert sense, but talented spellwrights can hone their own senses with practice.

    Western Animation 
  • In Castlevania (2017), it's mentioned that magic has a very distinct smell. When Trevor first finds the magical dagger he uses to kill Death, he remarks that it "stinks" of magic. Greta mentions that the smell on Alucard is "sweet like spices," while the one on Saint-Germaine is "rotten."