The Ways of Creation
Nothing defines a mage so readily as his ability to wield the reality - bending power of magic. It is this power to impose his own view of reality onto consensual reality that forever sets the mage apart from the ruck and run of Sleeper society. By concentrating his Awakened will, a mage can alter the nature of reality as easily as the average Sleeper might alter her home's temperature by adjusting the thermostat. Still, the modern mage is very unlikely to transform his enemies into swine, divide the sea or blot out the noonday sun. The time of such extravagant displays of wizardry is long past.
Today's mage depends on subtlety, even more so since recent supernatural events have made the blatant use of magic much harder to perform. The wise willworker cloaks his magical Effects in coincidence and happenstance. The timely arrival of a taxi to whisk the mage away from trouble, the sudden collapse of a street into a sinkhole just before a nondescript black sedan rounds the comer and other similar occurrences are in no way implausible to the Sleepers who may view them. By avoiding alerting Sleepers with vulgar displays of magic, the mage lowers the risk of incurring Paradox substantially. By blending quietly into the world around him, the mage avoids the attention of suspicious mortals, hunters, other supernatural creatures and even the conflicting forces of the Tellurian itself.
A modern mage is not any less effective than his predecessors, however. The power to alter reality is an awesome one, even limited as that power has always been by the need to avoid Paradox. The feats performed by contemporary mages are of no less legendary stature than those achieved by the magi of the Mythic Ages merely because they are done surreptitiously. The fact that modern magicians are successful at all, given their countless enemies and hostile reality, makes their feats even more impressive. In a world overrun with science and technology, the existence of a subtle magic is a potent feat in itself.
Types of Magic
Magic cannot exist without the mundane. As counterpart to that which is common, magic gains definition through its touch of the strange. Such mysterious powers and supernatural phenomena exist outside the everyday world of the common man, the perception of "normal," consensual reality. Using magic, the Awakened impose their desires onto reality, changing the world to match their whims. Yet were there not a rigidly defined static reality, there would be no subject on which to work the magician's will. There can be no Awakening unless someone first slumbers, Most people accept the limitations of static reality. Feeling that they exert no control over their destiny, these folk take what is handed to them by the cosmos. These, then, are the Sleepers who make up the vast majority of humankind. O these, a small number realize that reality's laws are not as binding as most believe. They find that it is possible for them to exert certain magical powers within reality's restrictions through elaborate ritual and perseverance. Through ancient practices and rites, they draw out natural power inherent to the Tellurian and shape it in small, stealthy forms. These people can stretch reality's dictates through their castings, but they have no control over that reality itself. They have mastered what is sometimes termed static magic.
It is a deeper understanding of the relationship between himself and the cosmos that distinguishes the Awakened mage from a skilled, but un- Awakened, sorcerer Mages are those few people who realize that they are not defined by reality, but rather, they define reality. These people are the ones who have Awakened fully to magic's potential and may, through enlightened will and belief in their vision, work changes on reality itself.
Put simply, Awakened magic is the ability to reshape reality through force of will. There are theoretically no limits to what may be accomplished magically, beyond those limits that exist within the mage himself. Theoretically, a practitioner could make the seas boil, raise mountains and cause a barren desert to erupt with foliage, but in practice, the high cost in Paradox and the major investment in time and effort would almost certainly preclude any such thing. The power of the Awakened mage does not require that any specific rite or ritual be performed, though most mages still use and believe in the efficacy of such trappings. All that is truly required is a combination of sufficient knowledge and determination to forge reality into the mage's desire. With the proper understanding of reality's diverse elements (which are divided by mages into nine Spheres of knowledge) combined with a sufficient strength of will and belief in his own ability to do so, very little lies beyond the willworker's power.
Several schools of though exist concerning the origin of this ability to produce and wield Awakened magic. Some mages maintain that they are merely a conduit for a power greater than themselves. They maintain that, through their Avatars, they connect directly to Prime, the Pure Ones or some other higher power. Through their Avatars' connection, the mages channel the energies of Awakened magic and remake reality. Others believe that the power of Awakened magic is inherent to all Awakened beings. They contend that each Avatar is composed of a shard of Prime given form by the Pure Ones and anchored to the flesh-and-blood mage. Proponents of this theory believe that all one needs to work Awakened magic is the faith to believe that it exists, the bravery to embrace the divine within oneself and the will necessary to force one's own paradigm onto static reality.
A number of other theories exist, but whichever of these beliefs is the correct one (assuming that there is one single answer) is of little practical consequence. What matters is that the mage may alter reality at will, forever setting him apart from his Sleeper brethren.
Unlike the blatant displays of Awakened magic, static magic or sorcery conforms to the consensual reality of the World of Darkness. This is not to say that static magic in any way corresponds to scientifically accepted dogma, of course.
Still, the collective unconscious of humankind accepts at some level that certain unexplainable phenomena are possible. The proliferation of 1-900 psychic lines and strip - mall soothsayers shows that many Sleepers put their faith in abilities that are best defined as "magic." Even young children's make-believe relates to both the protective rituals and curses of static magic ("Hide under the covers and the monsters can't get you." "Step on a crack, break your mother's back."), instinctively recognizing its powers. History supports the rituals handed down for thousands of years, and in the ancient legends told by grandparents to awed children, a simple magic survives.
The psychics, mediums and sorcerers (called "hedge wizards" in times past) who use static magic must follow very strict rules to achieve very specific results. What they can and cannot do with their abilities conform to clearly delineated paths. While nowhere near as powerful and versatile as the Awakened mages' command of the Spheres, the sorcerers' Paths work without recourse to actually twisting the Tellurian through an Awakened Avatar. Thus, sorcerers avoid the worst of Paradox. Some mages theorize that the powers exhibited by other supernatural beings (like werewolves and vampires) are merely further examples of static magic at work.
The type of ritual used to create the magical Effect doesn't matter as long as it's a ritual that has real power. A psychic's reading of the tarot and a vitki's casting of runes may both give insight on the future, but no sorcerer could simply throw together a random collection of occult mumbo-jumbo and hope to achieve a result. It is the user's belief in his ritual, his consistent use of it and the adherence to the still-viable forms that matters. Similarly, individual rituals must be used to perform each separate magical function. A houngan, for instance, will not use the same spell to bless one individual and to curse another.
There is an upper limit to what may be done using static magic. A hedge wizard may make minor alterations to reality, but he cannot approach the fundamental restructuring possible to the Awakened mage. Even the strongest-willed, most driven sorceress is unable to circumvent this limitation. Only by Awakening may she ever experience such power. Still, sorcery and psychic powers are nothing at which to scoff. Many sorcerers can achieve potent Effects as long as they're careful t conceal their workings from unbelieving eyes. Since they work with rituals that don't rely on recasting the universe in their own image, such sorcerers even avoid the dread bane of Paradox.
Interestingly enough, Awakened mages never use petty sorcery (despite the fact that some Traditions, most notably the Order of Hermes, groom prospective apprentices by schooling them in such magic). The Awakened mage reshapes reality on a fundamental level, while the static magician operates without actually tearing and twisting the Tapestry's threads. Once a mage Awakens, his power flows from his ability to reshape himself and his Avatar to bend the cosmos in turn. Although the Awakened mage can perform some quiet, static Effects that mimic sorcery, his power is far greater, and the consequences are concomitantly severe. Similarly, the hedge magician cannot begin to comprehend, much less wield, the reality-altering magic of the Awakened willworker.
It's interesting to note that the forms of magic handed down by sorcerers often mimic the rituals used by the Awakened. Indeed, Awakened mages still hold dear their own history and cultures, using the beliefs of their people to form their magic. The magician adheres to the proper forms and speaks the secret words, and magic results who can tell the difference between Awakened and Sleeper mage? Although the Awakened mage refolds the universe in his image, the sorcerer's quietly inherent powers are just as magical.
In the past, Awakened mages and sorcerers sometimes squabbled over issues of power and dynamism. Although mages and sorcerers share techniques and achieve similar results, the Awakened mage has experienced an enlightenment that the simple sorcerer has not, and he has opened his eyes to a larger world. Conversely, as people set apart from normal humanity by the shared bond of magic, magicians, wizards and visionaries of all stripes have also found common cause to work together at times. Indeed, few mages make the distinction between Awakened magic and sorcery. Few would even know the difference.
What You Dont KnowAlthough sorcery, hedge magic, psychic phenomena and such terms refer to a different, simpler, ritualistic or path-based form of magic in game terms, the typical mage makes no distinction between this and Awakened magic. As noted before; the sorcerer waves his hands and chants in a mystic language; the Awakened mage does the same. Both achieve a magical result. Where's the difference? Certainly, there's a distinction between the two groups, and some few mages who study Avatars, Essences and Prime intensely learn to scrutinize this sort of separation. For most, though, magic is magic, be it done by someone who's opened his eyes and Awakened, or someone who does it through rote and practice. Most of the Effects that sorcerers perform would be static Effects for Awakened mages anyway, and in cases where a sorcerer tries to perform a really outlandish feat, it simply fails. Paradox may only strike those with the audacity to twist the Tapestry to their ends, but a sorcerer is not inherently better or worse than an Awakened mage. Ultimately, only his means of magical practice differ.
The Limits of Awakened Magic
Since the close of die Mythic Ages, the restrictions Imposed by material reality have come to hamper the castings of the will worker greatly. It has been said wistfully that the first mages had no fear of Paradox, as no single consensual reality yet existed. Whether such a beatific age ever truly existed is unknown, though certainly such an open and free world of magic is a dream for many mages. In the ages since, the unchecked population growth of humankind conspired with the advent of mass communication to unite the planet, creating a truly global society and, thereby, a global reality too. Whereas humanity first existed in only isolated pockets whose mercurial belief systems allowed for great displays of magical power, today's worldwide sharing of beliefs in what is and is not possible serve to shackle modern workings of the Art.
Vulgar magic, also known as dynamic magic, occurs as the result of a mage forcing reality to conform to his preconceived expectations. Using dynamic magic, a mage may let lightning fly from his fingertips or transform his enemies into glass. During the time of the Renaissance, such magic was referred to as "vain," an accurate description even today, as only a mage of monumental hubris would dare such Effects except under the greatest duress. Such reckless castings rend the Tapestry of reality and invite the not-so-tender consequences of such changes. No logical explanation exists for vulgar magic. To Sleepers who may view it, its Effects are patently impossible. Truly amazing results are possible, but only at terrible risk to the mage employing dynamic magic. Static reality abhors vulgar magic and any mage who uses it. The mage who uses such magic will pay the price, in Resonance if not in Paradox.
The smart mage uses vulgar magic only when the stakes are life and death. Think of dynamic magic as the tactical nuke of Awakened society. It is dangerous and messy, and it has far-reaching consequences. Those mages who use such power frivolously don't remain a problem for long.
Coincidental magic is the only choice for mages planning on sticking around for any length of time. By couching magical Effects in chance occurrences, the mage operates in plain sight with potential Sleeper witnesses none the wiser. Such castings are referred to as static magic, as they, like the powers of the sorcerer, work within the confines of static reality. If, for example, a mage experiences financial problems (a common problem for magicians who draw the attention of the Syndicate), it might be possible for her to conjure the money she needs from thin air. Of course, there is no way that static reality will accept such an occurrence a natural. However, a much less dangerous and equally expedient solution might be to return that Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes letter that's on the kitchen table... and guess who the Prize Patrol pays a visit to just before the IRS seizes her assets! Static reality, and the Sleepers responsible for it, would find such a turn of events extraordinarily lucky but in no way magical.
Think of coincidental magic like water flowing downhill; it will flow around obstacles to reach bottom. In much the same way, magic follows the path of least resistance to reach an appropriate resolution if it is not forced to conform to specific shapes and results. The mage shapes a particular desire and empowers it, but he lets the cosmos determine the specific Effect. Confronted with an enemy, a mage might focus his will and hatred, manipulating the flow of Forces around him to await a convenient trigger event like the eruption of a faulty gas pipeline.
Less believable coincidences make magic more difficult, as reality can stretch only so much to accommodate a mage's whims. Also, the more "accidents" that occur, the more their overall probability is strained, which can lead to what's referred to as the "Domino Effect." When an inventive mage uses static magic sparingly, however, she can find a way to perform her Effects coincidentally, and she will find that static reality is much less likely to rebel against these subtle alterations. By shrouding magic in incidents that Sleepers find believable, if lucky, the mage finds that her casting is accepted by humanity's collective unconscious.
It is the act of Awakening that opens the doors of perception through which the new mage peers at the magical world. The mage looks at the world with new eyes eyes no longer clouded by sleep- New truths about the nature of reality are revealed to her, while long-held preconceptions shatter. The newly Awakened mage struggles to make sense of this barrage of new sensations. Those without a strong sense of self and a powerful will sometimes remain overwhelmed by these impressions, unable to decipher or control them. In a world where reality is shaped by perception, who can determine whether an individual is insane or simply seeing a different cosmos?
Awakenings can happen at any time in life. There's no single moment of crisis where every individual goes through a question of magic; the eye-opening may strike in childhood, youth, adulthood or elder age. The majority of mages trace their first moments to the experiences of their early adult life. Awakenings seldom occur in childhood, though it does happen occasionally. Parents satisfy the needs of most children abundantly, leaving them so comfortable with the status quo that they don't have the impetus necessary to Awaken. Awakenings are similarly uncommon among the elderly. Older people, unlike some of the more youthful members of society, have usually discovered something in life on which to focus their attention. Whether it is building a career, raising a family or even drinking themselves numb, they have found some function in life that makes them feel complete and binds them forever to static reality's comforting familiarity in the process. Even those withou such sense of purpose have already discovered a comfortable, familiar niche from which they have little reason to explore. Young adulthood, however, is the time in a person's life where he begins searching for the purpose and meaning to his life. In rare instances, this search leads the seeker to Awaken.
Awakenings are typically triggered by traumatic, life-altering events, although there are exceptions. The Awakening often coincides with a need on the mages part, often a drive to overcome some problem insurmountable through conventional means. When the chips are down and there is nowhere else to run, the mage rises to the challenge, stirring his fitfully slumbering Avatar to wakefulness and empowering himself. Even if the nascent mage denies this power, her new awareness shapes the universe to her will, sometimes with drastic and unpredictable effects. Of course, many mages would dearly love to discover a means of reliably Awakening others, but no such method is known. Would-be mentors keep a close watch on people with strong wills and unusual lives, while erudite magicians try to teach their ways to hopeful novices. None are guaranteed this Awakening. Enlightenment strikes where it will.
Once a mage Awakens, there is no going back to sleep. The truth of reality's subjectivity is laid bare, and the neophyte mage has no choice but to struggle forward in an attempt to understand what's happened. Although he may want to return to his old way of life, events conspire to make that course of action impossible. Family and friends both will notice a change in the budding mage. These people may well slumber, but they are far from dead. The mage's newfound Avatar and awarenes positively radiate "otherness" to those most familiar with the Sleeper he once was, as the two conspire subtly to alter reality at the mage's subconscious urging. Though he may be able to salvage some of these relationships, Awakening will invariably cost the mage most human contact, as even old friends find it disturbing and dangerous to be associated with him. Even complete strangers tend to give this "weirdo" a wide berth. The caress of magic, even when not readily visible, leaves it distinct mark on the magician. Humans instinctively notice and fear this aura, so a mage must either be careful to hide his magic very well or turn to other mages for companionship.
While daunting, the problems of alienation and uncontrolled power are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. He soon comes to realize that there is much more to the world than he ever imagined. Spirits, werewolves, vampires, sorcerers and more become not only things whose existence he must acknowledge but, often, thing with which he must talk, fight and, on occasion, ally with. His very existence leads to him being courted by a myriad of Tradition factions, all starved for allies. The Technocracy will want to either assimilate the mage or eliminate him. The responsibilities intrinsic to being one of those on the front lines, protecting an unknowing world from dangerous reality deviants, leaves room for no other options. Everybody wants a piece of the magic, and the novice mage may not even know what it is. The only option is to change or die. If he's going to survive, a new mage must learn what he is and what he is capable of. Others, a mentor or cabal perhaps, may show the newly Awakened mage the path that he must take, but it's up to him to take the first step. Only by accepting his new state will the mage be able to progress toward enlightenment and Ascension. (More detailed information on Awakening may be found in Initiates of the Art.)
Within every Awakened mage dwell two distinct spirits or sides: her Avatar and her mortal self. The two parts interact with one another in many ways, developing a complex dynamic that may be akin to that occurring between teacher and student, boon companions or even adversaries. Whatever form this relationship takes, its eventual goal is to bring about the mages Ascension.
It is the Avatars function to cajole, coerce or drag the mage kicking and screaming into enlightenment. Mages with more powerful Avatars will be prodded into action more often than their less mystically endowed compatriots. Though few of their fellows would envy the constant goading these mages must endure from their pushy Avatars, they do, in fact, enjoy an advantage over their colleagues. The constant hounding serves to push such mages to excel. They are more prepared to endure the trials and tests demanded of them during Seekings, and consequently, they often find enlightenment more easily than their more relaxed brethren, becoming wise beyond their years quickly.
Another property of the Avatar is the ability to grant its possessor insight into her past lives. The Avatar is the part of the will worker that is eternal. Within its depths lie the experiences of all of its former earthly incarnations. Some mages learn to access this wellspring of knowledge and apply its teachings to their advantage in the present.
In times past, a large number of Avatars appeared to their mages as distinct, tangible entities. Whether it appeared as an angel or djinn, god or hero, the mage is capable of conversing with the Avatar, coming to blows with it or treating it as material friend or foe. In more modern times, it's become much more rare for an Avatar to manifest itself physically to a mage. In fact, in the aftermath of the Reckoning, such an event has become downright unusual. Nowadays, the Avatar communicates through more subtle means, such as in dreams or flashes of intuition. The time of corporeal materialization is past.
As they do about most issues, mages disagree about whether it is the Avatar that allows one to wield magic or whether it is one's own innate magic that allows one to sense the presence of the Avatar. Whatever the truth of the matter, the Sleeper's higher self must Awaken before she becomes capable of exploiting the full potential of magic.
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