House Jerbiton, The House of Artists

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Time to read: 7 Minutes


Credo

Art Illuminates the Essence of Life


Founder

Jerbiton the Founder was born in 729, in the secluded Alpine valley where Valnastium now stands. He was named Flavius and was a cheerful, pleasant child who particularly enjoyed horse riding. Nearby objects changed colour to match his mood. Jerbiton was the son of the ruler of his valley, so was raised as a minor nobleman. His family were descended from a Roman solider who was granted the land during the early Imperial period, and the remoteness of their home had preserved the community, known as the Ierbi, against the tides of invaders that had washed through the Alps; it is from these peoples the Founder and House drew their name.


Jerbiton was trained in the Arts by Bernice of Thessalonica. Bernice was widely read and travelled, and encouraged her protégé to do the same. Whilst studying in Constantinople, the pair became involved with a group known as The League of Iconophiles, a magical resistance opposed to the Byzantine Emperor Leo III, who had declared that all images of Christ or the saints should be destroyed, and forbade the display of crosses in places of worship. They acted in a number of ways, aiding non-magi who were part of the broader movement of Iconophiles, intriguing against the Emperor’s supporters and performing acts of sabotage against Imperial armies. Its members also transported icons to isolated monasteries for storage, waiting for a time when they could again be used in public. In 753, the Emperor's armies began to systematically sack these monasteries, and Jerbiton smuggled both people and art to the safety of his childhood home; the valley offered protection for the icons and relics of all faiths saved from the Byzantine Iconoclasm, including the Temple of the Muses, which stands in the centre of Valnastium to this day.


Soon after his return home, Jerbiton was sent by Bernice to assist Bonisagus is his refinement of early Mentem and Imaginem Hermetic theory and, in time, a close research relationship blossomed between the pair. It was Jerbiton who convinced Bonisagus to name his fields of study The Arts and the capacity to use magic The Gift.


The League of Iconophiles joined the Order at its inception, but at the time they were more engaged with intrigues against Emperor Constantine V, who was continuing his father’s iconoclasm in Constantinople. Although Bonisagus’ offer of camaraderie and the protection of Parma Magica was welcomed, Order membership was almost a secondary concern to most. Not just exercised with saving beautiful religious artworks from destruction, the League were fearful that the violation of sacred places would weaken the Dominion and give comfort to the Infernal, and Jerbiton argued successfully that the Order membership provided safety against their enemies.


The League were affected profoundly by the surroundings of their new home; the pre-Christian aesthetic ideals retained in the Ierbi culture of the valley extended the imaginations of Jerbiton’s coterie, and this led to research into ancient forms of artistic expression, and the development of the House’s philosophies of beauty which persist today. Whilst, particularly under the influence of the current Primus, the Church is still of paramount concern, Jerbiton Magi display a breadth of rarefied tastes and talents which are all embraced by the House. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and all Jerbiton believe that seeing the hidden beauty in things is the greatest form of wisdom.


Symbol and Iconography

House Jerbiton’s symbol is a tower flying a pennant, symbolising Jerbiton’s noble ancestry, though in the oldest depictions of the House, a candle depicts it. In iconography, uniquely for a Roman-tradition founder, Jerbiton is never depicted in a toga, but in a blue surcoat. He is sometimes depicted as a knight, though he never bears a weapon. Instead, he carries either a candle or a miniature tower in his right hand, and a cat is usually depicted at his feet.


What The House Is All About

One of the most complex Houses, ostensibly House Jerbiton is to do with the relationship between the Magi and mundanes. Many, if not most of its members are drawn from the upper classes – frequently, Jerbiton magi carry on double lives as mundane nobility or notables. The House motto – Art illuminates the essence of Life – illustrates the passion in the House for seeking out the beautiful in the mundane world and preserving it, protecting it and nurturing it. Traditionally, Jerbiton magi, as well as sponsoring artistic endeavour, tend to be active politicians, seeking ever-greater integration between the Order of Hermes and the mundane world, and using their positions of mundane authority to protect magi under their nominal purview.

This has brought the House into contact with the Church, and much of its recent history has been devoted to finding accommodation between the Church and the Order, so that the thornier problem of integrating the Order with the power structures of medieval Europe could be addressed. At times, this has proven effective and beneficial to both parties, but recent years have seen greater division and conflict, culminating with Pope John XXII issuing the Papal Bull Super Illius Specula in 1320 which condemned all ritual magic as diabolism and heresy in the eyes of the Catholic Church, and severed any remaining ties with the House and Order.

Now, many younger Jerbiton see more direct influence to be the best available course of action, even likening it to the Founder’s ancient values; hiding precious works from vandals and covert interventionism. While never warlike, they believe in actively protecting themselves, their families and their way of life rather than watching a decline into obsolescence, and new channels into all strata of mundane society are being formed.

Many of the House have been held in breach of the Code for interfering with mundanes, though there is often a lack of incentive to punish, particularly since the hypocrisy and destruction of House Guernicus, and a growing number of Magi see House Jerbiton’s more active interventions into mundane society as a way of sustaining the Order into the next century and beyond, perhaps despite the letter of the Code.


Attendees

  • Casiodorus, Primus and Magus ex Jerbiton, known as Graf Andru von Schyr (Covenant of Valnastium)
  • Constance, Secundus and Maga ex Jerbiton (Covenant of Valnastium)
  • Kalliope, Tertius and Maga ex Jerbiton (Covenant of Valnastium)
  • Simnel, Magus ex Jerbiton (Covenant of the Icy North)
  • Alcmene, Maga ex Jerbiton (Covenant of the Icy North)
  • Sieur Uillem de Chillon, Magus ex Jerbiton (Covenant of Carthago in Montibus)
  • Albertus Magnus, Archmage ex Jerbiton, also known as Albert of Lauingen and Doctor Universalis (Covenant of Valnastium)
  • Jan Wojciech, Magus Larta ex Jerbiton (Covenant of Valnastium)
  • Vlkava Teta, Maga ex Jerbiton (Covenant of Valnastium)
  • Camelliard, Magus and Quaesitor ex Jerbiton (Covenant of Valnastium)
  • Sourdine, Maga ex Jerbiton, known as the Maskmaker (Covenant of Valnastium)
  • Opizzo, Magus ex Jerbiton, known as the Imperial Vicar General Opizzo Fieschi, Count of Lavagna (Covenant of Valnastium)
  • Diana Aurelia Cotta, Maga ex Jerbiton, known as Diana Contarini (Covenant of the Shadow of the Moon)


Current Interests

The House is very decentralised, with each Magus free to pursue their own aims, interests and tastes. This rarely causes conflict but where it does, Constance and Kalliope are first to intervene and mediate.


Those Who Rule - Politics

The 14th Century is a tumultuous time, whilst the House attempts to maintain its mundane influence and control, it is stretched thin trying to keep seats at the tables of the many conflicting Courts of Europe, let alone the East, where its power once lay. The Jerbiton of the Greater Alps exert some influence over the Courts of Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor and Charles IV, King of Bohemia, both of whom recognise the rights and privileges of the Cantons of the Swiss Confederacy; essentially a free Hermetic State in all but name. Jerbiton relations with the Court of France are actively hostile since the fall of the Provence Tribunal, and King Phillip VI has come into conflict with many of the House’s mundane family and landed interests.


Those Who Pray - Religion

The control once exerted over the Catholic Church is severely depleted, but the House recognises all faiths as equally important to the Great Artist, and continue to work not only in the Catholic Church, but also with other Christian and Muslim faith centres, including the Waldensians and Szerecsens of the region. Whilst the Jewish tradition of Kabbalah is separate to the Order of Hermes, House Jerbiton has fostered cordial relations with its members, and work with them to ensure unnecessary conflict and powerplay is avoided.

Recently, the Primus has managed to open tentative engagement with Pope Clement VI which, if it continues, would be the first dialogue in some time with the Papal Court at Avignon. Clement VI is only recently crowned and is more worldly than his immediate predecessors, opening the Church’s coffers to enhance the regal splendour of his Papacy and recruiting composers and music theorists for his court.


Those Who Illuminate - Art

Art and artistry are of very great importance to the House; Jerbiton taught that art requires skill, exercises creativity, and intends to express beauty. This implies that art is something done best by people who have trained to be artists. Art draws on the gifts of the artist, and is therefore a method of associating with the Divine. It also implies that things done primarily for productive ends are not art.

Art requires skill, which is learned, and creativity, which is a gift from the Divine. Some artists are more skilled than other artists, much as some bakers are better than other bakers, and their art is therefore better or worse, at a level stronger than opinion. Many Jerbiton Magi are artists, and those who lack talent extend patronage to mundane artists who capture their particular tastes.

Creativity, the capacity to design unique art, cannot be learned. It is an innate gift, granted by the Divine, that finds expression through the skill of the artist. To a Jerbiton, creating beauty is acting as an artistic tool wielded by the Great Artist, their Magi believe that even poor artists should continue to express their creativity, while developing their skill, because even poor art brings the artist into the hand of the Divine.


Those Who Teach - Scholarship

House Jerbiton began to heavily invest in universities and schoolhouses in the 1250's, and many of its prominent members become known and respected mundane scholars. There were some disagreements between the more Church-oriented Jerbiton and newer members with a more scholarly outlook, particularly over the rise of humanist movements. Still, these institutions proved a rich pool for potential apprentices, and Jerbiton has done better at maintaining numbers than many of the other Houses, even if their overall magical strength is weaker than most. Last year, The University of Prague was founded, and is widely anticipated to be the pinnacle of these experiments; the House has heavily invested in its construction and charter, and the storage and cataloguing systems of Valnastium’s library have been incorporated into its administrative heart. It is hoped, in time, it will improve prosperity and learning throughout the Kingdom of Bohemia, as well as providing a wealth of talent for the House.



Player Guidance for Playing Into the Tropes for House Jerbiton

Jerbiton Magi don’t look like Magi. They generally have such efficient cover stories for their real lives that they tend to eschew the showy robes of a Magus in favour of the clothes of a noble or cleric. A Jerbiton magus would be almost impossible to pick out of a medieval crowd scene, save you catch a particular fineness of seam, or natural elegance of disposition.

Although the House has produced some powerful Magi, Magic is often one of only a multitude of pursuits for its members; intrigue, art, family, travel, display, etiquette and leisure are all worthy of time and attention, and a Magus who feels compelled to study the magical Arts for life is an addict. Jerbiton magi study toward particular goals, and seek to balance that learning with a more rounded and tasteful life. All the great philosophers agree that a person is not truly free unless they have the right to determine how they spend their time, and Jerbiton live as they like.

Most Magi from other Houses do not live tastefully. They live an ugly, pitiable existence for a person with the wonderful capacity for expression offered by The Gift. Although it is rude to point this out, all Jerbiton magi know this in their soul.




A Timeline of Events - The Houses in 1346 - The Greater Alps in 1346



Introduction to Ars Magica - The Order in 1346 - A Who's Who of Attendees - How the Game is Played