House Criamon, the House of the Wise
Time to read: 7 Minutes
The World Within is the World Without
Criamon himself was always very oblique about his origins; it is known he studied with the keepers of the Eleusine Mysteries on Samothrace, and many believe he was originally Greek, but he is always portrayed in Hermetic iconography as Egyptian in look. Nuno believes Criamon destroyed the records describing his past specifically so his followers would remember his words, but not his life or actions. Moritamis whispers that these kinds of distractions are precisely what the Founder intended to remove, and Magi should follow their own paths.
Trianoma described Criamon as an elderly man, little concerned with vanities. His followers were pacifists and had retreated to the Cave of Twisting Shadows to avoid the chaos that stimulated the creation of the Order. Although he had little to do with its founding, he saw the Order as a positive step as he would no longer fear the intrusions of other Magi. He was instrumental in getting the Code to recognise the importance of a Magus’s privacy, something that Criamon Magi guard jealously.
The Founder vanished beyond the Great White Space in 820AD. Although House consensus on anything is inconceivable, particularly Criamon’s fate, Lena Kessler believes he discovered the equivalent of pure magical being, the godhead, oneness with the powers of the universe, and set down a philosophy of how to achieve that oneness with the Enigma. Twilight is a gateway to true enlightenment, a doorway to a higher level of being, but a doorway that had to be held open, for it would not remain so of its own accord. Criamon sacrificed his own chance to attain enlightenment in order to hold the doorway open for his successors. Whether the House should seek to relieve him of his duty or to use his sacrifice to achieve another end is a constant point of rumination amongst Criamon Magi.
Symbol and Iconography
The symbol for infinity, within a circle, within a square. Depictions of the Founder have Criamon dressed not as a Roman, but as an Egyptian; his staff is a crook, similar to that held by a Pharaoh. His face is stylised and bears the beard of Egyptian royalty. All of his body not covered by clothes is tattooed with indecipherable hieroglyphics. He holds a frog in his offhand at face level, with whom he appears to be holding a conversation. A large ruddy sun is usually depicted setting behind him.
What The House Is All About
Secretive and mystical, Criamon are concerned with finding the ultimate nature of reality, coming to know the universe, and going beyond the limits imposed on them by their bodies and minds. Wisdom is their true end, and magic is their most effective means to it. Criamon Magi are the philosophers of the Order, pursuing their own enlightenment through the search for what Criamon termed The Great Enigma; from his teachings and from conversations with exponents like Lena Kessler, it seems difficult to determine whether the Enigma is a state of mind, a state of being, a concept, a godhead or an experience; every Criamon Magum has their own interpretation and their own path to Wisdom.
They are known in the Order for marking their faces and bodies with arcane tattoos, and are typically apolitical, although their numbers and power in the Tribunal would make them a dominant force in the region if they ever mobilised (or agreed on anything). With exceptions like Avtandil and Acerola, Criamon are the most detached house from the prosaic tumult of Europe, and believe all mundane distractions lead away from the Enigma.
The House encourages freedom and individuality of thought, because all experience and insight enriches the collective wisdom of its gestalt. Although some Criamon Magi rarely leave the heightened magical auras of the Cave, others walk the earth seeking new ideas and experiences which, in time, permeate and influence House philosophy, preventing stagnation and dogma. Kheperi travelled widely in his youth, and the ghosts credit him with bringing Empedocles’ doctrine of reincarnation to the House, although he himself cannot remember doing so. More recently, Abdkypris’ infusion of Islamic ideas, particularly Sufi wisdom, has enlivened debate and renewed exploration of asceticism and the repetitive, whirling cycles of meditation through dance.
The elder Magi of the House command respect accorded by their wisdom and are looked to for guidance and inspiration by younger acolytes. To the unwise, Criamon elders might seem to neglect their powers, ignoring problems well within their capabilities, instead advising and mentoring their juniors in resolving them. This strategy works well for the House in the long run; in addition to seeing problems solved — eventually — it trains and enlightens the next generation through lived experience. Mater Suspirorum believes this process also recognises that the wisdom of the House is imperfect, and the novel insights of the young draw it closer to flawlessness.
Criamon Magi are also perhaps the most knowledgeable about Twilight; the state of magical insanity that can overwhelm an unlucky or incautious Maga and can on occasion carry them off without trace. Criamon Magi, far from fearing this terrifying ordeal, often actively seek it and regard it as an experience that brings them closer to the Enigma. For this reason, if for no other, elder Criamon like Kheperi and Moritamis tend to be utterly strange, as not only centuries of the unique Criamon frame of thought, but the effects of repeated Twilights warp their mindset into an incongruous and on occasion disturbing form.
The House is also greater than the sum of its parts, it is a gestalt entity constantly testing and improving itself through self-reflection and iteration. Each Criamon’s philosophy has to be metaphysically consistent, their world view coherent and even predictable to someone taking the time to understand their particular paradigm, because otherwise how could it survive the rigour of relentless introspection by its proponent or the scrutiny of the wider House? This, of course, does not make it explainable by anything so mundane as words.
Senior Magi of the House, when nearing their final Twilight, are often ritually executed to allow their spirit to remain at the Cave of Twisting Shadows as a ghost; in this way, the accumulated wisdom of the House can be saved as a kind of living library; Criamon magi see this as both right and proper, and cannot understand the revulsion of other Houses at the concept of regularly killing your elders. When a Primum’s time is over, it falls to Nine Leaves, as the current walker on the Path of Strife, to end their lives; adherents to the Path take a burdensome duty; performing tasks which violate the House tenets of apt action, so others do not have to. Many Criamon magi believe that the ghosts are tied in some way to the Great White Space and beyond it, an aura ascends up through the mountain beneath which the Cave of Twisting Shadows sits and penetrates the limit of the Lunar Sphere. This, they say, is the Axis Magica, the pivot around which the tides of magic ebb and flow, and the gateway at which Criamon the Founder stands.
Whilst the House has always had a penchant for apocalypses and prognostication, Exeunt Omnes' prophecy upon coming to Primacy, that "nothing beyond ten years hence matters" has intensified and crystallised opinion, and there is something of a competition to proselytise and promote numerous preferred Eschaton upon the House and Order. Whilst to the wider Order, the constant discussions, deliberations and spiralling counterarguments the House is currently engaged in seem pretty standard fare, those who know the mystics well say this is as mobilised as House Criamon has ever been.
- Exeunt Omnes, Magum and Primum Criamon (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Regina, Maga ex Criamon (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Moritamis, Magus ex Criamon (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Mater Suspirorum, Maga and Quaesitor ex Criamon (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Louis, Magus ex Criamon, Portreeve of the Cave (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Latrunculus, Magus ex Criamon (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Nec Iterare, Magus ex Criamon (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Avtandil, Magum ex Criamon (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Lena Kessler, Maga ex Criamon (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Phalene, Maga ex Criamon (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Kheperi, Archmage ex Criamon (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows)
- Acerola, Maga ex Criamon (Covenant of the Shadow of the Moon)
- Nuno Magus ex Criamon (Covenant of the Shadow of the Moon)
- Abdkypris Magum ex Criamon (Covenant of the Shadow of the Moon)
- Nine Leaves, Magum ex Criamon, Hoplite to the Tribunal (Covenant of the Ends of the Earth)
Also of Interest
- Lothair, Magus ex Criamon - a Criamon from the Covenant of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in Avignon, although they show no visible tattoos.
- Romulus, Magus ex Bonisagus (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows) - a Bonisagus now resident at the Caves.
- Hesiod, Magus ex Bonisagus (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows) - a Bonisagus now resident at the Caves.
- Velum Lachrymarum Magus ex Bonisagus (Covenant of the Cave of Twisting Shadows) - The leader of the Bonisagus now resident at the Caves.
Traditionally each Primum Criamon, upon assuming the role, makes a prophecy of the End Times for the Order of Hermes. These prophecies are recorded and sent to the Ends of the Earth to be secured in the Library of Eschaton. Exeunt Omnes' prophecy upon coming to their power was that "nothing beyond ten years hence matters". What this means, what will happen to the world, to magic and what, if anything, happens after the end is the topic of conversation in the House. Everyone has an opinion and everyone has their own personal view of the Eschaton, or has been convinced by the particular wisdom of an elder. Regina and Exeunt Omnes are attempting to unite the House around a single consensus, but this has literally never happened in any cycle of time, and the Eschaton is something many Criamon have very stong opinions about and will not be easily persuaded. Whatever its cause or effect, the House sees the Apocalypse as an opportunity to do something. That’s not to say the Criamon unanimously want the End Times, but there is some consensus that if it is coming anyway, they may as well do something spectacular with it. Phalene thinks it’s all horseshit, obviously.
Reality Leaves a Lot to the Imagination
House Criamon is the most insular of all the Houses of Hermes. Criamon Magi are usually not much interested in sharing information with those outside their House. Indeed, even within the House these Magi tend to follow private dreams and visions. As much as Criamon Magi might protect themselves from prying eyes, their knowledge is usually of little interest to outsiders, or even to other Criamon. But the future of the Order, the world and reality itself might well be at stake, and if they are to make the best of that opportunity, regrettably, the House may need the support of others in the Order. And in the Greater Alps, House Criamon do not have a monopoly on Apocalypses; some would say it is a buyer’s market. The traditionally apolitical Criamon are going to have to get their sodales to comprehend, if not understand the enormity of the moment, and use their own not-insignificant voting bloc to best advantage, even if politics, as a rule, is one of the most ludicrous pursuits the human mind could conceive of.
...we came in?
Criamon was fond of setting riddles and problems for his followers to solve. His last, before disappearing beyond the Great White Space, was uncharacteristically prosaic; ‘How can we all escape the cycle of time?” Moritamis and Nec Iterare contemplate this mystery as their Enigma, and interest in time and breaking the Limits of current Hermetic theory is a rich tradition that runs through the House. Nine Leaves and Abdkypris, perhaps like the Founder, seek to extend the current cycle to give the House more time to solve The Enigma. Kheperi seeks ways to outlast even the Apocalypse and continue into whatever comes beyond. Acerola enjoys each moment as if it were her last, stretching every second to its limit and seeking escape in its margins. Lena seeks to replace the Founder at the doorway, so she can learn the answer directly. Any hints of ways to escape, stretch or relive time attract the House like bees around a honey pot. Isn’t this where
Player Guidance for Playing Into the Tropes for House Criamon
House Criamon is your education as a wizard, not the description of your character. Every Criamon is utterly unique, and utterly assured that their worldview is not only consistent, but also the right one at that moment. Or at least the best fit for them personally in their journey towards true wisdom, otherwise they would be on a different path.
It’s easy to slip into playing Criamon as ‘kookie’ comedy characters and, whilst their demeanours and views can be absurd, often bewildering and even amusing to others, Criamon are closer to truly understanding the nature of magic and the secrets of the universe than anyone else, and they are differently ethical in their outlook as a result. They are philosophers and critical thinkers and are unafraid to pursue their own paths to understanding, and they certainly don’t care what others think of them or their methods.
Sartorially, Criamon Magi have no overall “style” save, perhaps, that they tend toward the monastic or the outré in their clothing – when they bother with any at all. The one consistent across the House are the Marks of Unfolding Wisdom – the tattoos the Criamon use to mark their advancement in wisdom. Some Criamon, travelling among mundanes, choose to apply the marks on areas of their body usually covered by clothes; others display them proudly, depending on inclination and temperament. Unless you have a marked aversion to using make-up or have it specifically stated that your tattoos are subtle, please assume that you have obvious tattoos, and use make-up or other means to effect them.