Animistic Magic
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Less well understood than Arcane, Divine, and Ritual Magic, Animistic Magic is nevertheless one of the oldest recorded forms of magic in existence. An early theoretical framework for this kind of magic was established by the scholars of the old Atalan Empire, who believed that each locale had its own "genius loci", or "spirit of place", which could be contacted and appeased via rituals. As the Atalans came into contact with other civilizations and barbarian tribes, they recorded similar beliefs and magic in these societies and thus gave later scholars valuable insights into how such practices developed.

Current magical theory holds that objects, places, and even animals can develop a spiritual presence of their own as humans interact with them on a regular basis - especially if this is done in a ritualistic way, or if humans develop specific beliefs about the object. This spiritual presence is usually very weak and can at best be used in Ritual Magic to ascertain the history and impressions left on the object (such rituals are commonly known as "object reading"), but truly ancient locations can develop a strong spiritual power of their own, and even a limited self-awareness. A "sacred spring" might develop genuine healing powers, while a "haunted forest" might become wreathed in shadows and spontaneously generate eerie lights. A problem with this theory is that some places seem to have a tremendously strong animus ("soul" or "spirit") despite being far from any human (or other sapient) habitation. Some scholars have speculated that these places might be remnants of pre-human habitations, but the truth remains unknown so far.

Some people have developed the ability to draw upon these animi to create supernatural effects, imbuing them with various powers reflecting the spirits in question. Frequently they learn how to use these powers in a classical master-apprenticeship relationship not dissimilar to the way Scholastic Magic was taught in the Feudal Ages, but in other case they develop them spontaneously as the spirits are calling to them. The most widely known practitioners of such magics are the various barbarian tribes living on the fringes of civilization who have often resisted the encroachment of the city-states fiercely, which contributed to giving Animistic Magic a bad reputation in more advanced regions. Their myths and legends often tell of "great spirits" empowering them and protecting all the lesser spirits, but whether these entities are the gods well known to civilization in other guises, some kinds of proto-gods, or complete fiction is unknown at present.

However, in recent times a new phenomenon has been on the rise - practitioners of Animistic Magic arising from the cities themselves, who frequently claim that the cities themselves are "alive" somehow and speaking to them in their dreams. As the majority of these people have a history of either mental or physical illnesses, drug or alcohol abuse, anarchism, poverty, or all of the above, their testimony is not generally considered credible - yet the observed phenomena are too common and too consistent to be ignored. Even the more lucid practitioners are at a loss to explain precisely how they attained their powers, only that something is speaking to them in their dreams. Many feel compelled to "defend" their city, or turf within their city, in some undefinable way, frequently leading to vigilantism. While many of the more "respectable" universities refuse to even discuss this phenomenon, a number of organizations have taken a keen interest in this. The most active research efforts are currently being undertaking by the Society of Architects, but so far they have not published any results.

A number of scholars in this field have brought up the rather disturbing idea that Shaprat might be the "transcended" genius loci of a long-lost city (possibly even Oreanor itself) which has begun preying on the spirits of other cities, now that cities have become large enough to possibly develop strong genius loci themselves. Perhaps these spirits are now initiating some of their inhabitants into Animistic Magic in order to defend themselves against Shaprat (and possibly other metaphysical threats of a similar nature) - but if the theory is correct, Shaprat might have some followers of its own who are capable of practicing the same kind of magic…

Many other cultures have their own variants of Animistic Magic. The elves have the longest uninterrupted tradition (although their sidhe rulers tend to focus on Arcane Magic instead). Dwarves also have an animistic tradition, but they tend to focus on the spirits inhabiting made and crafted things as opposed to natural locations. Finally, the Tsan Empire has turned Animistic Magic into a scholastic art that is hard to distinguish from Arcane Magic for outsiders.

See Also

Adventure Ideas

Designer's Notes & Resources

Primarily, this is intended to cover something like the "Primal" power source of D&D4E - but as you can see, the possible range of applications is far wider than that.


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