Magi and Magic

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What's a Magus?

TL;DR
* A member in good standing of the Order of Hermes who has sworn the Code.
* a member of a House who has passed an entry gauntlet, and a holder of a Sigil.
* If of Jerbiton or Mercere, may possibly not actually be able to cast spells themselves but may have other magical or quasi-magical talents.
* Magus is the male form, Maga the female, and Magum is used by those who do not define their identity as a magus by gender.

One of the most vexed questions of the Order. Formally, a Magus/Maga/Magum is "a member of the Order of Hermes in good standing". This means they have sworn to The Code in front of a Quaesitor and have passed a gauntlet set by their master or sponsor to join one of the Houses.


They will carry a Sigil - this is usually the symbol of their House, with their name on the obverse, given to them by their master upon passing their gauntlet. This is the physical representation of their right to vote at Tribunal - their "membership card".


There is an implicit expectation that a magus be able to use magic but that's enormously complicated by the Mercere and Jerbiton magi who cannot use Hermetic magic, but who are regarded as mages in good standing with full voting rights. Even in those cases, such magi usually have innate talents or powers that may not be Hermetic magic but are often comparable in scope and certainly in House Mercere, are outfitted with magical devices and talismans to make them the equal of any innate caster.


Magi of more esoteric traditions often abandon notions of gender or physical form defining role - when shape, face and aspect can be completely fluid through magic, some find it unnecessary to define themselves by a single gender. The Order is considerably more accepting of unconventional gender roles than the outside world of the fourteenth century.

On Names

Magi have a formal and informal way of referring to themselves and their House memberships.


  • (Name) ex (House) is informal
  • Name, (Rank) ex (House), (Additional Name or Title) is formal.


So Carpocrates ex Bonisagus would be an informal way to address, and Carpocrates, Archmage and Quaestior ex Bonisagus, Keeper of the Bavarian Common, would be formal.

You may see the term sodalis or its plural, sodales used now and then. This, loosely translated to "Comrade", is how magi refer to one another, as in "Greetings, sodalis'" or "I was with my sodales the whole time, you can't prove anything."


So What's Hermetic Magic?

TL;DR
* A magical system designed and defined by Bonisagus the Founder with the input of the other Founders' various tradiitons but largely drawn from the magic of the Roman priesthood of Mercury
* Based on the structutre of the Latin language; all magic is expressed as verb-subject, with five magical Techniques as the verbs, and ten magical Forms as the subjects
* The core of the tradition, and its USP to the Founders, is the Parma Magica - a powerful, individual countermagic charm unique to the Order which defends against most hostile magic.
* The system is constrained by a series of Limits tied to the belief system of the medieval world.


The Five Magical Techniques
Creo "I Create..." Used to generate the new, make something from nothing
Intellego "I Percieve..." Used to expand the senses and learn what is hidden
Muto "I Change..." Used to transform from one state to another, or one form to another
Perdo "I Destroy..." The opposite of Creo; used to unmake, to age, to make nothing
Rego "I Control..." Used to direct something to act in a way the caster desires
The Ten Magical Forms
Animalem Animals, animal products (wool, leather)
Aquam Water, fluids
Auram Air, gases, weather phenomena
Corpus (sometimes Corporem) The human body
Herbam Wood, plants, plant products (linen) nature
Ignem Fire, light, heat
Imaginem Images, illusions, reflections, shadows
Mentem The human mind, souls
Terram Earth, rock, metals, solids
Vim Magic itself; magic that affects magic

So for instance a spell to read minds would be Intellego Mentem; one to heal an injury would be Creo or Muto Corporem; one to make a smoking crater where one's irritant was standing Creo Ignem; to pass invisibly Perdo Imaginem; and one to take a seven-league stride across vast distances would be Rego Corpus. Once you grasp the syntax, the effect is simple.


Some common effects - such as the aformentioned Seven-League Stride - are well known across the Order and formalised as written spells, but many magi rely on their wits and quick small effects more than memorised spells.


All Hermetic magi are taught the Parma Magica - the Order's crown jewels, the "shield against magic" - as part of their apprenticeship. In most cases, the Parma Magica will ward off the direct effects of magical attack, even from other Hermetic magi, which makes meetings such as Tribunal tolerable.

Parma Magica, if sufficiently strong, can stop almost any magical effect in it's tracks. It can even ward off a sword blow, or the consequences of being under a falling anvil. It is a combination of a passive defence and a set of active enhancements a magus can make on the fly. The assurance it provides both makes Hermetic magi willing to be in one anothers' company, and so dangerous to magicians of other traditions that do not enjoy such protections.


The Limits of Magic

TL;DR
* Magic can effect earth or hell, but not Heaven or anything "beyond the Lunar Sphere"
* Miracles, true faith and the human soul are almost always beyond the ability of magic to affect.
* Magic can sometimes see the past, but rarely the future, and magic cannot reach through time
* Magic can prolong life (at a price - usually sterility and increased risk of Twilight), but cannot grant immortality or resurrect the dead.
  • The Lunar Sphere.

Hermetic Magic affects only the world below heaven. It cannot break through the crystal sphere to the Moon, or affect the stars or the heavens.

  • The Divine.

Hermetic Magic cannot touch the Divine, ascend to heaven, influence divine messengers or stand against true expressions of faith. However, use of the Vim form is very efficacious against demonic entities or those from Hell. It is known other magical traditions - the Jewish Kaballah for instance - can transcend this limit.

  • Time

Hermetic Magic cannot influence the passage of time, save in the most trivial ways. It cannot see into the future or open gateways into the past. The fact there are limited ways to see into the past suggests this limit is not structural.

  • Death

Immortality is beyond the reach of Hermetic magic. Powerful magical applications of the Corpus form can extend the life of a Hermetic mage to three or even four times a natural lifespan, but this comes with a cost - infertility immediately, but as the existing life is stretched thinner and thinner and existence is sustained more by magic than by the spark of life, magi become more detatched from reality and start to fade into a strange state called Twilight.


Rare indeed is the magus who lives beyond 150 without some kind of external help - the Fae used to offer such bargains, as did demons in forbidden pacts, but such always had other hidden costs. Those few magi in their third century guard their secrets fiercely. And the longer one lives, the more complex and expensive longevity potions become to brew.

Death too is a barrier beyond Hermetic magic. While magic can effect and sometimes compel a ghost, the processes by which some who die become ghosts and others pass on to their reward are unclear. While dead flesh can be made to dance or even made to welcome a ghost, what results is not alive. And once a soul is passed on to its reward, it is beyond the reach of magic.


So What's Raw Vis?

TL;DR
* The raw stuff of magic, crystallised into a physical form.
* It normally aligns to a form or technique (so, "Creo vis", "Ignem vis") and can be used to amplify a spell
* It is vital for "fixing" effects - so making a magical item, or a longevity potion
* Magi view it as a currency
* In the Greater Alps, a magus' covenant needs to demonstrate they can command a certain amount of vis per year to secure their seat at Tribunal

Raw Vis is the currency of the Order. It takes many forms - flowers, crystals, bones, weird plants, jewels - and is measured in pawns (a single unit), rooks (10 pawns) and queens (10 rooks). A single pawn of Ignem Vis is enough to make an everlasting torch. A longevity potion for a 150-year old magus may require many rooks of Creo or Corpus vis.


Once, raw Vis was plentiful; found in places of high magical or faerie aura, or locations of legend, gathering it was easy in the early days. Now, with the routes to Faerie all but gone and sources of magical power ever rarer, potent sources become treasured possessions of covenants fought over and fiercely defended. Using it frivolously - such as to boost flashy spells or make trivia - is viewed very dimly.


So What's Certamen?

TL;DR
* Certamen is a formalised, non-lethal form of magcial duelling used to settle arguments between Hermetic magi.
* Where once arguments between magi might have resulted in threats of death and Wizard War, Certamen is seen as a more elegant and civilised way of settling scores.
* It is a formal one on one contest between magi where they match their arts against one another.
* Their power is manifested as illusionary forms which do combat between them.
* Traditionally the loser accedes to the request of the winner.
* Certamen cannot be used to force someone to vote in a certain way.


Back in the days of the Founding, some among the younger and less magically potent of the Founders devised Certamen as a way of settling arguments that did not rely on brute magical force, or squander resources. It was formalised into a structured duel, usually taking less than five minutes, with a clear winner and loser. The challenger chooses a form, the challenged a technique, and the illusionary manifestations of their power do battle.

A Quaesitori usually witnesses a duel and ratifies any legal ramifications of the outcome. Traditionally the only thing sacrosanct is a vote - certamen cannot be used to bully weaker magi into voting against their conscience. Its most common use nowadays is to force an argument, or to challenge for control of a source of raw vis.


So What's Twilight?

TL;DR
* Twilight is what happens when a magus' grasp of their own magic, whether through advanced age or stress, slips.
* The magus enters an uncontrolled fugue state. They may act in a fashion very different to usual, or they may become withdrawn or unusually extroverted.
* Their magic will become unpredictable and unreliable
* Such episodes often have permanent effects on a magus' personality, magic or body, usually negative.
* Longevity potions increase the risk of Twilight incrementally, making older magi more cautious about their use of magic.
* Criamon magi believe Twilight to be a gateway to revelation and trascendence, and actively pursue it. They are known to be able to control the process much more finely than most magi.


No two twilight experiences are the same - it represents a "magical psychotic break" where the gift of magic overwhelms the user. Some magi remain coherent and apparently calm through an episode; others experience major shifts in aspect and then remember little or nothing of what they said or did while in fugue state. They can last for hours, or sometimes months; shorter ones are usually, though not always, much worse than long ones. They may bring on profound physical changes or transformations of appearance, personality and even age or gender. Most magi fear them.


Criamon magi have formalised one of the very few Creo Vim effects as a spell - The Enigma's Gift - to be able to push another magus (or themselves) into Twilight. They view this as a teaching tool; most other magi view it as a profoundly terrifying weapon of war.


Those who undergo multiple such episodes eventually enter a state called Final Twilight - often seeking out a high magical aura and disappearing within it, or transcending their current form or state. They do not come back.




The Basics

Houses - Tribunals - The Code - Titles and Positions - Magi and Magic - Quick Reference


Introduction - The Order in 1346 - A Who's Who of Attendees - Rules and Techniques