Cultural Norms and Ars Magica

Aristotle - or ancient medicine in general - were neither dumb nor biased, and knew about the possibilities of human anatomy.

Here is a decent, short text on Hermaphrodites, which you might wish to read in its entirety. It is from a collection of summaries of conferences of the Beaux Esprits in Paris from the end of the 17th century.

We find there:

Plato saith, that Mankind began by Hermaphrodites, our first Parents being both Male and Female, and that having then nothing to desire out of themselves, the Gods became jealous of them, and divided them into two; which is the reason that they seek their first union so passionately, and that the sacred tye of Marriage was first instituted. All which Plato undoubtedly learn’d out of Genesis; For he had read where ’tis said, (before Eves formation, or separation from Adam is mention’d) That God created Man, and that he created Male and Female.

And about Aristotle:

Aristotle believed that when there was not enough matter to create twins of different genders they came together to make one person with both male and female genitalia. In other words, there were no true hermaphrodites, only excess growth due to the copiousness of matter.

Both concepts of 'monstrosity' and of 'perfection' come up in the summary - and we see 17th century scholars quite unable to agree on an explanation. This might also help to represent the confusion Syagricus might cause in a saga.


FWIW, I'd argue that, even if we dismiss history, mythically speaking, there are lots of room for hermaphrodite characters, gender changes, whatever.

I suck at culture and stuff, so this is the only thing that comes to my mind, but take a look at loki, which, canonically, exists and has been male, female, and whatever else.
It would perfectly make sense for a character with mythic blood related to them to be intersex, or servants of loki to be non-conforming, rebels to cultural norms (just as their patron)

And that is heavy-handed. I don't think we even need such a connection.

And yet, Joan of Arc became a saint.
And even the church represents her in armor, not in a skirt.

So maaaaybe, the Church isn't the Divine? :wink:


Found the thread. Thanks for pointing it out.

I think the thread does support calling it a change in perspective. The flaw apparently was introduced by a trans game developer, but that was in the 1990s and sensitivities even within the trans community have changed.


While the Ars Magica paradigm with the Divine Realm revolves around the idea that, in the game, the "religions of the book", and Christianity in particular, are mostly right, it also unequivocally proves that none of them are completely correct. In the case of Christianity, for example, the mere fact that Islam is part of the Divine Realm is alone proof that Christianity got some things wrong.

I think it's kind of a central idea of the cosmology of the game that the Divine religions got a lot right, but all of them got some stuff wrong. So the idea that there are only two sexes and two genders, male and female, could be one of the things they didn't get right.

In our game, for example, Essential Nature regarding binary transgendered people means they were born with a gender that is not their Essential Gender. And regarding nonbinary people it means that their Essential Nature does not properly align with either their society-assigned role, what they were phisically born with, the ganders supposedly available, or whatever fits their particular circumstance.

You don't need to break the game cosmology to fit a more modern view, it just won't fit with the general Medieval mindset. But then again, other parts of the game's cosmology don't fit it perfectly either. IMHO Mythic Europe works mostly like Medieval people thought it would, but not completely.

I feel Mythic Europe is a world that would make Medieval people's believes more correct than they actually were, but assumes they still got some stuff wrong. Just not as much stuff as they really did.


I'm not a huge fan of essential nature. I like the idea of an instant muto spell turning someone in to a toad permanently. In many fantasy settings magi can make such permanent changes.

To any SG out there you can throw out essential nature or tweak it how you want. It's your game. The point made regarding essential nature is without large tweaks to essential nature or the paradigm, an open inclusive essential nature doesn't fit. Medieval Europe was not open or inclusive, and Mythic Europe is mapped on that.

Well I think there are two problems there, duration of muto spells and essential nature. Essential nature is used to justify why muto spells have a duration, but you can dismiss that if you just assume that muto spells have a duration. Which I think they should, because otherwise you get into this issue of creo spells that have lower levels when they create permanent stuff because they don't need the duration parameter (I know, I know they have to be ritual and so on, but still).

If you want to turn people more or less permanently into frogs get a Merinita, anyway.

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An infernalist could do it too with the sin duration, if i am not mistake. No consequences, of course.

I think you mean forsaken, which may require them to be tainted with infernal energy, unless the spell does so automatically- it is unclear.

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With sex being part of one's essential nature, you can still have a Lilli Elbe in your saga - with standard Hermetic magic and without medical complications. Just craft a MuCo ring device for a particular target (ArM5 p.168), which works indefinitely while put on (all on p.99). No need to fiddle with Merinita or infernal magic.
A Redcap with such a ring among his enchanted devices might well live as a Chevalier d'Éon.


I don't have all of the quotes or sources, however, I have heard of enbrotherment. It is a concept of two men sharing "one bread, one wine, one purse." Sounds kinda close to marriage. And there are some stories of women wearing mens clothing to go to war and fight.
Like a lot of things that aren't mentioned in the history books, it dealt with sin. And the people writing the accounts and literate usually were connected to the church. Just like prostitution was recognized, but no one talks about where the prostitutes came from. No one talks about how the ranks of the prostitutes would somehow grow when a faire was in town, but then go back to lower levels when it was a normal day. It just wasn't discussed.
There are a lot of things we just don't know. I seriously doubt that the level of "gender non-conforming" was a whole lot less than today. But, I'm pretty sure that those who were "odd" would be more accepted in a world where weirdo magicians lived.


That just doesn't hold up. We are a product of our societies. If a society has very strong penalties in either a legal or cultural way for certain behaviours, the behaviour will be curtailed, just as if there are strong incentives cultural or legally, those behaviours will be reinforced and be more prevalent.

Lets look at a practical example. I think most people would consider the Scandanavian societies quite progressive and liberal, and would call them socialist.Yet go back to the medieval era and they are famous for raping and pillaging.

Are we saying now there's the same amount of Scandanavian rapists and violent thugs intent on pillaging, they just control themselves?

I don't know how many times I can say it's a fictional world, do what you want, but can we just stop trying half-baked justifications that fail with any decent scrutiny applied?

Quite. Especially in a covenant. Especially with magi educated for 15 years by weird magi.

That just makes life in a covenant interesting and even fascinating: also for grogs and clergy. :nerd_face:

That's just it. In Medieval times sexual permissiveness waxed and waned, depending on location, local ruler, and era. Sometimes it was extremely permissive, with everyone having sex with everyone (late Medieval Italy). Sometimes it was almost Victorian, at least in outward appearance. And in some locations, such as Nunneries and Monasteries it would go through cycles of permissiveness and crackdown. This is recorded in the new "Rules," permissive monasteries were put under on a regular basis.
End result? This is Mythic Europe. Play it as conservative or liberal as your group can handle. Sometimes you can euphemistically call it "behind the curtain," or "fade to black." Some groups want to know more, particularly when magic is involved. Your milage will vary.


Even if certain practices have strong penalties in legal or cultural ways, that doesn't mean that they aren't done. They might be kept more behind closed doors, but can still exist.
Let's look at the 80's in NYC. If you've seen Pose, you know that gay and trans suffered greatly at the time. From abuse, to police brutality, and other ills. And yet, there were gay and trans people even then.
Heck, there are gay, lesbian, trans, and bi, and of all the wonderful colors of the rainbow in Iran, where it's regime still kills such people.


I said curtailed and reinforced, not non-existent.Of course unusual behaviours will be around, but there will be less of them. One's upbringing, one's society, greatly affects one's world view.

People are making my point for me. Yes, there are rainbow people in Iran, but as a percentage of the population, a lot less than in the West. Why? It's not just that they are hiding, it is due to the culture. An Iranian is more likely to conform to strict conservative cultural norms than a Westerner would confirm to strict conservative cultural norms.

I'll return to my comment about the lack of marauding Scandanavians. Where'd they go? If people don't change much over centuries, where are the Viking raiders?

As it seems a lot of the time a straw man is created, I will clarify. I appreciate Iran has a varied populace and is not one homogenous entity who think the same. I am talking about a generalised group representative of a reasonably average slice of the populace.

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They do, no doubt. They are very hard to count, though, and if you try to compare relative frequency between more and less oppressive regimes we are stuck. We do not know how many they are.

Counting in Medieval Europe is even harder, just because it does not exist any more.

In Mythic Europe OTOH, we can choose. We can tell stories where LBQT+ do or do not exist, and one saga does not set precedence for the next. No canon elaboration of the numbers and natures of genders means that we can make the myths we want to as players.

And this is an important fact about fictional worlds, game worlds and otherwise. They are not defined as complete entities up front. They are defined by the stories we tell, and major aspects are left undefined until a story needs to define them. Since we do not tell every story, many aspects will remain undefined. Requesting authors and publishers to complete the world definition does not make the slightest sense, because even if they did, we would not have time to read the definition.


Please stop comparing the repression of sexual orientation and gender identity to the repression of rape and murder. Thank you. I would rather not call moderators into this thread as it could be a very badly chosen analogy, but I will if you're not respectful.


I haven't had a chance to verfiy the source references menitioned in the Wikipedia article on "intersex people in history", but if you check the sections on Ancient Rome and Christianity, it looks like hermaphrodites/intersex were acknowledged to exist, but laws specified that they had to act as either male or female.

I got a vague idea that I read somewhere that "Decretum Gratiani" is considered the authority in Canon Law in the Ars setting.

I was already disappointed about the nature of discourse in this thread. The amount of pedantry attacking minutae and in the process ignoring the overall concept in the first post; the merit of a passage explaining the world setting should be negotiated.

I feel the earlier part of the thread talked it out as much as is useful. Also, the moment a threat to call the moderator is around, it's the same as a Godwin. No more point talking. Nothing will be achieved.

If anyone wants to segue further in to what this thread derailed to (and I 100% acknowledge I was involved in the derailment) what in the modern day is similar to the medieval era, I would request you create a new thread.

If anyone wants to return to the original thread concept about a passage in the core rules having a passage explaining negotiating the kind of world the players want to adventure in, I'd be happy for more posts.

Admittedly, it's not my place to demand of people what to write, thus my use of the word request. Keep at it if you wish......

... with good reason. This forum far too often derails into the discussion of what Mythic/Medieval Europe must have been, even to an extent that pretends to outperform professional and academic history. The useful and interesting exercise, for all roleplaying and storytelling, is to explore what might have been. We are not looking for true and false, but for plausible and thought provoking.

Thought provoking. Not so much emotionally provocative (which is better handled with great care in groups you know well).