A Primer: The Great Laws & Ultimate Limits of Magick

As mentioned in “What is Magick?”, magick functions by a set of laws considered much  greater than those of the physical side of existence, that actually govern them. These laws essentially define the nature of the wild beast that is mana, which is the power and essence of the universe, being at one and the same time that of which it is comprised and that which controls it.

The root law governing all existence is the Law of Perpetual Radiance. This law states that nothing is perpetual in all the multi-verse except motion, that nothing actually exists except motion. All manifestations, matter or energy, that one observes (and even those of the Invisible World, aka. Spirit Spheres) are but forms of motion. Motion on some level or other is the only manifestation of energy. Change is the only attribute of energy or motion. Every thing every where is in constant motion. Every thing that makes up the entire multi-verse of matter and spirit and its inhabitants is nothing more nor less than energy. Energy simply IS.

From this principle is derived what might be considered the meta-laws from which meta-physics – “natural philosophy” in the scholars’ parlance of the period of the game – or magick, is derived. There are seven of these (seven being a mystical number in and of itself according to most spiritual traditions).

The first of these laws is rather a subtext of the root law, above. It stems from the fact that energy is and all is energy. All energy is in motion, either evolving or devolving, that is, either rising out of matter into a purer state towards Spirit or descending from Spirit to precipitate into matter. The motion of energy in all things, material or non-material, is generally referred to as vibration, so it is called the Law of Vibration. This law encompasses the two most powerful and basic tools of magick, called Sympathy (or similarity) and Resonance (sometimes referred to as Contagion).

The Law of Resonance states that once any object, creature, or being comes into contact with any other object, creature, or being, especially physical contact, they forever share a vibration. Once together, always together, sharing a unique bond of Resonance. Though the amplitude of the vibration be weak from but brief contact and then begin to decrease with the passage of time from the point at which they part company, that bond will always be there. Thus, these bonds are not all the same strength. The stronger of them, called immediate bonds, are the most desirable for the purposes of magick. Resonance is the principle on which the Spirit Skill of reading objects, or rather their vibrations, is based. This is the Law that is used to circumvent the normal restriction on Range in the use of magick in the game.

The Law of Sympathy states that like produces like. What one dwells on is what one is gives one’s energy to, and thus making oneself into a vibrational magnet for it. Good or bad, whether one wants it or not, one attracts it vibrationally by the simple act of dwelling on it in one’s thoughts. For the purposes of magick, it states that a similar object or act can be that object or act by proxy, to aid in focusing and affixing, and casting a magick. This Law can be used in a similar manner to the Rule of Resonance in circumventing the restriction of Range in the use of magick in the game, but has a variety of other uses in affecting a casting.

The Law of Compliments dictates that the attributes without mirror the subtler powers within, providing clues to how they can be awakened and what they are disposed towards doing by nature. “As above, so below,” is another way of expressing this very ancient magickal principle. There is power – Spirit – in all things. The ancient cultures believed in animism and knew this well. This Rule is the basis for the Doctrine of Signatures, which is discussed later in this Grimoire.

The Law of Rhythm is drawn directly from the first law. It states that everything is moving, to and fro, back and forth, in and out, as the seasons and the swelling and bearing of the fruits of the earth, the rising and setting of the sun, the waxing and waning of the moon, the rising and falling of the tides, the swinging of a pendulum, and so on, and so forth. From this stems the principle that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This Rule can take on dire implications when considered in light of the practitioner’s use of magick. There are consequences to every act.

The Law of Kinship states that everything is related (of course, since every object, creature, and being is nothing but energy and space and time themselves are an illusion), but also that all laws correspond to one another and interrelate. This can be seen simply by reading through them. It also states that there is but one body of law. The laws of the small are the laws of the great. It is also called the Law of Relativity because it states that, as well as being related, all things are relative, one to the next. Nothing can be judged by itself, in a vacuum. Except by comparison to determine their differences, there is neither big nor small, fast nor slow, loud nor quiet, soft nor hard, rich nor poor, even good and bad, and even then the results of such comparisons are relative to the observer’s own point of view, his position or  point of reference in making the comparison.

The Law of Polarity states that everything has its opposite, and interacts directly with the Law of Kinship. As in a circle, which runs on forever having neither beginning nor end, all things meet their opposites and become them. Fear and faith; sound and silence; love and hate; good and bad; Light and Dark. Each of these pairs in fact embodies only a single force (though to say so of Light and Dark is strictly heresy and bordering on blasphemy). Each word in each pair embodies but one aspect of the same force. They differ only in degree, positive or negative makes little difference except insofar as their value of each aspect is relative to the observer. As deeply as one loves is as deeply as one can hate. They are two sides of the same coin. This principle can be seen at work clearly throughout the magick skills themselves, where each skill generally involves not only the ability to work with a principle or force in one direction, but in both ways, both positively and negatively according to what the caster desires at the moment.

The Law of Cause and Effect dictates that, as implied in the Law of Rhythm, to every cause there be an effect and for every effect there be a cause. There is no such thing as “chance” or “coincidence”. Nothing happens in a vacuum. This aspect of the power of magick and how it affects the lives of those who practice it is dealt with amply in the descriptions of the trades. This law is evident in the workings of the Law of Vibration – that what one vibrates on, one attracts, cause and effect. This law stipulates that there are always consequences to one’s actions. Nothing ever escapes the law. As one sows, so shall he reap, BUT this works according to the Law of Rhythm, in. its own time. One must remember that these are esoteric laws, not confined to the physical. When one suffers a misdeed or injustice, the he isn’t necessarily going to be around to see the perpetrator get his just desserts. Causes and effects in the physical world are often easy to spot, but they aren’t the only ones operating. So-called “bad luck” and “accidents” can be effects of causes committed in the past which required some time to gather energy enough to express in the physical. Effects aren’t often so clearly connected to their causes where interpersonal relationships are concerned. When one is done hard by, the villain who apparently got away with it always gets his just come-uppance, and more often than not from a completely out of the blue. For a dastard to get his just desserts from completely disassociated third party is less expected and easier to achieve, from a standpoint of cosmic physics. It is the path of least resistance, requiring the smallest expenditure of energy.

The last is the Law of Perpetuation and Regeneration, also called the Law of Gender. This is more an expression than a law, however. It is the agency through which the Law of Polarity works, the catalyst for the perpetual transmutation of energy and the basis for the Law of Cause and Effect. In the animal kingdom, and even in the plant kingdom, it is expressed as the male and female sexes. It represents the difference between potentials under the Law of Relativity. In the traditions of the Far East it is expressed as Yin and Yang, positive and negative, male and female, personified as the Dragon and the Phoenix.

These laws are rather esoteric, though, and some of them extremely so. Their applications are perhaps not so obvious, especially the first. What the common folk call “magick” is simply the manipulation of the grosser, obvious physical world by use of the spiritual laws that supercede them. All who wield true magick (all types of Druids, and Witches and Wizards) are taught these truths one way or another by the time their apprenticeship or schooling is completed. Due to their philosophical and highly esoteric nature, however, it is far easier to know them intellectually, to bandy them about as mere words and ideas, concepts as ephemeral as cloud vapor, than it is to make them a part of one’s reality and live them as the practitioners of magick must. Realizing them emotionally as truths of the heart so they can be utilized to their fullest extent in the craft is another thing entirely. This level of mastery (for it is indeed Mastery in the truest sense) eludes most Wizards throughout their lives, driving many to seek ways in which to prolong their lives that such Mastery might be achieved at last.

Much of the information presented in the Grimoire is as much for the players’ benefit as for the GM’s. Along with that information needed by the players, a great deal of additional material, much of it of the “behind the scenes” variety provided for the GM’s benefit, is also included.

The material for The Grimoire and the rules governing the existence of, presence of, use of, and interaction with magick have all been heavily researched and written so as to agree with the traditions, folklore and even fairytales handed down in the historical record and also the traditional metaphysical teachings and principles also handed down, along with a fairly sound rationale extrapolated to fill any holes remaining in terms of application in practical game mechanics. Each magick has been measured and tested, balanced against the rest, and each trade against its brother, to provide at least a semblance of balance and logic to the magick of RoM. However, the GM’s game or campaign is a showcase for his own ideas and fantasies. If he does not agree with any part of the reasoning and/or mechanical systems presented and discussed here, he is, as always, free to discard what he does not like.

To avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater, the GM should use the existing text as his guide for judging the effects each portion of the magick rules has on the game. If he doesn’t agree with certain points, he should reason out his own position on them and write it down for future reference, being sure to inform his players. Any changes made should be consistent with the remainder of the workings of magick and the magickal realms, and should be stretched to their ultimate logical conclusions to make sure that they work, that results even at the extremes encompassed by the system are still acceptable to the GM. If the GM doesn’t take this precaution, he may get caught flat-footed, for his players most certainly will test those limits.

The GM is warned against increasing the scale or magnitude of the magicks, even if only for his NPC’s. Anything available to the NPC’s should also be available to the PC’s (eventually, at least). Any taste of power received at the hands of NPC creatures or beings is sure to create a thirst for similar power in the PC’s. In many cases the deadlier the power, the stronger the resulting desire in the players for their characters to obtain it.

This is one of the reasons that over-powerful magick items of any kind can be the death of a campaign. The PC’s must get their hands on such things once they have been seen or heard of, by hook or by crook eventually, and then they become unstoppable. What challenges remain then for them to face?

The Ultimate Limits of Magick

The following restrictions are a deeper expression of the Laws of Magick, a refining of what those the underlying principles mean as they affect game play.

If you tinker with the way magick functions in the game as GM, you must understand these principles and consider the effect that any changes he makes might have on them.

Magick only affects substances, creatures and/or beings as they exist within the material world, the Mortal Sphere.

Its primary purpose is the manipulation of the superficial things of the mortals’ “World of Illusion”. All matter is illusory relative to the rarity that is the Truth of Spirit. This is why so many of the charms that affect physical matter are deemed permanent in nature. Magick is the right and proper means for altering the material state of the mortal world.

The magick of practitioners of the Mortal Sphere cannot reach beyond that Sphere.

The magick of mortal folk cannot touch, much less reach into, the Celestial Sphere, nor its physical manifestations (although it does have some power to affect the border realms that lie within the Ætherial and Astral Realms, but more about those in the Bestiary accompanying the discussion and descriptions of the Fey).

While it may seem that a magick can utterly blot out the light of the sun, to create an eclipse, such effects are only local in nature, even when discussing charms of the highest or, the “Sovereign”, Sphere of Power. The magick of mortals has no power to touch the Sphere of the Sun or that of the Moon, nor the stars, nor any other bodies of the Celestial Sphere. It cannot occlude the sun’s light in any other place but in the area local to the practitioner in the (mortal) world. Beyond those confines within the mortal world, the sun shines as robustly as ever. The same holds just as true of the light of the moon, and that of the stars and all other celestial bodies, as well.

This might be interpreted as precluding wizardry from creating gates from one physical world to another, whereas Mystics should have no trouble doing so (at the height of their power and achievement, at least), BUT it doesn’t preclude the Wizard from opening portals to other mortal/material worlds, or perhaps those in parallel dimensions that might only be a heartbeat away … but these completely and only at the GM’s discretion.

Magick cannot destroy or affect that which is immortal to any permanent degree.

As energy cannot be destroyed, only altered in form, so the immortal soul cannot be destroyed, although it may be bound to certain changes in its expression by those that have the power to do so, but then only for a limited time. If nothing else, mortal death dissolves any such constraints. The immortal spirit shrugs off any such bonds as it shrugs off the mortal body.

One cannot change the immortal to the mortal by means of magick.

While that which is Spirit may be made physically manifest, whether with a physical body or without (as æthereal beings such as ghosts may affect denizens and objects of the material world), when that physical/mortal manifestation is destroyed or wounded unto “death”, the spirit is set free, but generally also barred from even attempting to achieve such a manifestation again for some great measure of time, as is the case when spirits intruding on the mortal world are dispelled by a practitioner of magick such as a Druid, Witch or Mystic.

In this way, spirits of the Darkness and of the Light alike may be diminished, but only temporarily. In the fullness of time they may return to the Mortal Sphere again.

The departed souls of the dead, or ghosts (regardless of their specific manifestation), are the rendered and immortal essence of those that once were physical beings. As such and in this way, ghosts are immortal and their status must be considered when interacting with magick. Spirits that have never had a mortal incarnation, færies, elementals, djinn, efreet, dæmons and spirits native to the highest Spheres of Light and deepest Pits of Darkness, are similarly immortal in nature. These and ghosts, alike, can be conjured or summoned (ghosts especially if not properly laid to rest and sent to their Final Reward). Even when properly laid to rest, the number of mourners + POT of the holy aura of the burial ground = the POT by which it is protected in the Spheres of Spirit, which is added to the DV for the success of any Summoning on such sites.

These spirits can be bound, afflicted and coerced, BUT they cannot be permanently altered in any way, much less destroyed. Even if afflicted to an extent beyond the tolerance of their POT, they are only dispelled. In the fullness of time they may manifest again.

Time is experienced linearly by those who dwell in or are even visiting the Mortal Sphere but, other that this fact, time can really have no impact upon the immortal. Charms that age the body mean nothing to immortals in the mortal world PROVIDED they are composed of Exalted Matter – only Exalted Matter is immune to the ravages of time in the mortal world (but more about this later). Faeries straddle the border between the Mortal Coil and Immortal Spirit, dwelling in the Border Realms. By definition, when they enter the Mortal World they are clothed in Exalted Matter. Spirits of the higher Spheres (Light) and the lower Spheres (Darkness) of Spirit making their way into the Mortal World are similarly composed, UNLESS the means of their entering into the mortal world is to be incarnated (born) into it OR to take up residence in (possess) a mortal body. In the latter case, they are subject to aging normally. Ravaged by time, the spirit that is not a native has the option of trying to transfer its essence to another mortal body when the current one wears out, however.

Where Spirit and Flesh meet as equals, in what is known to practitioners as Exalted Matter, more of the immortal nature of Spirit is revealed, but the body is still subject to the rules of the Mortal Sphere and the power of magick.

Conversely, magick cannot make mortal things immortal.

Magick can certainly make sure that the mortal object, creature or being endures for a very long time BUT, in the fullness of time, they must eventually bow to the march of Time and Entropy. Everything that lives and breathes must one day expire. From dust … to dust.

Magick can neither create higher life, nor truly Restore it once the immortal spirit has departed.

These facts are inviolable.

The second half of this statement may appear not to be so cut and dried, but it only appears so because the border between mortal life and death can stretch into a gray area that is much influenced by the circumstances and the will to live, or HRT, of the one standing on death’s doorstep. Sometimes the immortal spirit takes longer to depart than others … and sometimes it can be restrained from doing so.

While it is true that dead bodies may be bound to the caster’s will and used like marionettes, or provided with an animus (the lowest and most simple of spirits) to follow (simple) directions, neither of these states is considered “living”. The body remains a dead thing, and must rot as time passes unless protected from doing so by additional charms, unless it is a form that was never living and for some reason not subject to rot, in which case it may still suffer from wear due to its activities (as applicable, GM’s discretion).

The resilience of mortals and the power of the immortal spirit they possess is the sole reason certain charms are allowed to work so as to allow life to continue, and those charms are bound by strict time limits that depend upon the HRT scores of the injured/incapacitated and the talent and skill of the practitioner, as noted in their descriptions.

In addition, just as the Celts believed of old, the head is the seat of the immortal soul/spirit. Mortal class Wounds or BP’s in injuries to the head cannot be repaired by magick. Thus, also, the taking of a head bars the spirit from leaving the Mortal Sphere. It cannot move on to reincarnate and becomes “earth-bound”. It may haunt the holder of its head/skull, but the holder may never be harmed by it and can command the services of the spirit so long as the head/skull is held, but only if the spirit has gained sufficient POT to manifest as a ghost of some sort (GM’s discretion, see “Ghosts & Spirits” in the Bestiary, as applicable).

While reincarnation can be commanded, the child must then be brought to maturity and the memories, suppressed during the horrifying ordeal of birth, must later be restored. This can be painful if the memories are not brought back before the subject reaches the age of reason (7). After that point in time he has developed a new personality that will fight for its own survival against the resurrection of the previous identity and memories.

True Resurrection is possible only for Divine Avatars who have achieved a great enough TR – granted access to Sovereign Sphere of Power magickal effects – but even then it is not a power to be bandied about lightly. Just because one CAN do a thing doesn’t necessarily mean that one should. In the first place, the recipient must be deserving and must have been devout, a WORTHY champion or representative of the faith (in whatever capacity his skills/abilities allowed him in life) bearing sufficient Virtue to warrant such dispensation, and ONLY where their dying prevents the completion of some major task for which they were responsible, perhaps even if only in part (GM’s discretion). This is NOT intended to be a “revert to last saved game” mode, however. Under these circumstances the resurrection only lasts until that task is complete. In these cases, the resurrected are translated into Exalted Matter for the duration of the task, and they are taken away by Spirit when they are done, like Elijah in the whirlwind.

While one can conceivably eventually earn the skill to Conjure a beast or being, new and whole, from out of thin air, it bears an animus but no individual, immortal soul. One canNOT conjure any (true, soul-bearing) intelligent mortal being from thin air, at least not one that has an individual, immortal soul. Its physical body can be conjured, BUT it remains subject to the creator and function in the manner of a Servant or similarly conjured spirit, bound in the same manner described for the Servant charm (qv.). The typical animus lacks any will or ability to act on its own behalf, it lacks the natural impulses of the truly living, including that of self-preservation, incapable of warding off an attack or getting itself out of inclement weather without direction, or seeing to its own maintenance in order to eat and drink to sustain itself, nor may it react to physical pain or privation.

Such a being may EARN its immortal soul, however, as seen in some of the later, post-Christian, tales where one seeks “salvation”. This usually requires that a true mortal show the conjured being by means of example one or more of the faculties of the soul, like generosity, love and/or compassion, what it means to be “human” (mortal). This may intrigue the being over the course of time, until curiosity is finally provoked, and eventually, through a sincere desire of its own, it expresses one of the faculties of the soul and is thus “saved” or “redeemed”. This process takes no small stretch of time to achieve and, until it is redeemed, it remains bound to its creator’s will. The act of expressing one of the faculties of the soul translates the creature into a fully mortal form, flesh and blood and consistent with the shape it was wearing at the time. If it was composed of Exalted Matter, as a conjured spirit that has never had any sort of mortal incarnation might well be, the act of expressing the capacities of a true soul transforms it in a way that appears fatal. While earning its immortal soul releases it from the physical world and its creator’s will, the door remains open for it to come back again via reincarnation, however.

In conjuring, however, the practitioner isn’t as likely to be actually making anything out of thin air so much as pulling what he desires from where it is to where he is, as the former is FAR more difficult that the latter, requiring MUCH different charms to accomplish. Those with the knowledge and skill to do either must always clearly state which it is they are doing at every instance.

True Love is inviolable by magick.

True Love is a bond between immortal souls or spirits that transcends the limits of the mortal world and survives even into Spirit. It has a power that is greater than the simple sum of the power of the souls so bound together and, in and of itself, it is as eternal as the spirits that share that bond.

Being itself immortal, Love can neither be created nor destroyed.

Indeed, Death has no power to separate those bound together by True Love. “Until death us do part”, as sworn in marriage vows, does NOT apply when the couple shares True Love.

The bond of True Love can be tracked, traced between those bound by it, it can be masked, suppressed, even changed in polarity, but it cannot be created by magick – it can only be mimicked. The closest magick can accomplish is inspire simple animal Lust and Covetousness, to make of them the illusion of Love, or at least Desire, which is often mistaken for Love.

THIS is why True Love’s kiss can break a number of different charms, especially those that inhibit the proper expression of the nature, true character and will of the target, and those that mask the bond or change the polarity of the bond’s expression. For bindings it can be the ultimate counter spell or Dispelling.

The higher and more spiritual aspect of Love, that borne for friends, family, king and country, even for all of the Living World, is why it is possible to make the sacrifice to take on the burden of another and thus take a Hex away from another and take it upon one’s own shoulders, once one has professed the sincere desire to serve the afflicted in this way.

This weakness is noted in the descriptions of the charms to which it applies.

Notable Exceptions: 

Avatar Miracles

Avatar miracles are woven by the Divine, whether dark or Light, and channeled from the Halls of Light or the Pits of Darkness into the Mortal World by request. By request from a denizen of the Mortal World is the only way such powers can pass the Veil into the Mortal World. Otherwise, the Veil grows stronger the harder Spirit pushes to intrude.

The origins of Avatar miracles in the Divine and the fact that the Avatar must spiritually Ascend (or Descend) beyond the Mortal Sphere to fetch it back makes a serious difference between them and those practitioners of the worldly Arts that perform magick in their own right for themselves – Druids, Witches, Wizards and all their ilk.

While it may manifest in accordance to the description of the magick it emulates, according to the parameters for its proper Sphere, the POT of Mystic miracles should always be treated as if they are of a Sphere one greater than that to which their effects are normally assigned when it comes to comparing them with the POT of magicks of the mortal practitioners mentioned.

The POT of any Avatar miracle is effectively multiplied by 5 when comparing it to any magick cast of the same Sphere by a mortal practitioner, especially for the purposes of Opposing or suppressing the miracle’s effect.

For example, a Common Sphere miracle channeled with a POT of 10 is equal to a Common Sphere mortal magick (Druid, Wizard, Witch) wrought with a POT of 50 when standing one against the other, or a Noble Sphere mortal magick having a POT of 10, where a Noble Sphere mortal magick wrought with a POT of 10 would otherwise have an effective POT of 50 when standing against a Common Sphere mortal magick cast with a POT of 10.

Miracles are actually wrought by the hands of the gods. By their origins they are in essence perfect. The skill with which they are woven largely defies comparison with the works of the hands of mortals within the Mortal Sphere.

For comparison for the purposes of determining a DV for Dispelling, however, the effective SL of any miracle is equal to the Avatar’s [(SPT) + (TR or SL used to channel it, whichever is greater)].

Between the effective enhancement of the POT of their power, relative to that wielded by mortal practitioners, and the largely peerless SL with which they are executed, most miracles are for the most part invulnerable to mortal magick, except to the VERY skilled mortal practitioner or against a relatively low-powered miracle. The nature of the power used to create any miraculous works encountered by any mortal practitioner is immediately evident to their finely honed spiritual senses. The pious among mortal practitioners should think twice about the hubris involved in contravening any miracle they encounter, unless they find it is expressed on the behalf of one who they consider to be their true ideological foe.

True Druids and Smiths, and the Witch heirs of their faith and lore, are rooted in the ancient pagan faiths and draw on the power of Nature itself, tapping the very roots of the Divine running through the Mortal World, so they enjoy some of the same benefits in terms of relative POT also in comparison to Wizards, Brehons, Fathi, Filid, Bards and the Fiana. However, the SL with which they make their magick must be their own, only as fine as their own personal experience allows. Only Avatars of the pagan Green Lords enjoy the full benefits of the power channeled from the Celestial or Divine Sphere.

This is another reason that the religious zealots sometimes come gunning for the practitioners of “worldly” magick. The miracles channeled of the god(s) are stronger against the works of Wizards and their ilk, giving them the grounds to denigrate them. However, all Avatars enjoy the same benefits in the power they wield, regardless of whether they serve the Green Lords, the Lords of Light or the Lords of Darkness.

A Magus (Hedge-Wizard + Mystic) using the power within himself for the purposes of casting Wizardry rather than for expressing one of the Feats wields a POT equivalent to any Avatar in regards to POT, but the SL is solely his own, in the same manner as True Druids and Smiths, and their Witch heirs.

The limit of the Celestial, Lunar or Divine Sphere remains, however. Avatars send their spirits soaring to bring the power of their gods back solely for their own needs and uses as pertains to matters in the Mortal Sphere. They do not have the imagination or consciousness great enough to encompass effects that reach beyond the one world where they live – nor survive trying to manipulate that much power even if they might imagine it. Also, difficulties in commanding spirits caused by the disposition of the body in burial on holy ground do NOT apply when performed by Avatars or Mystics of the same faith as the deceased.