on the language of magic:

the sundered eagle had a section about the language of magi where it is mentioned that characters not fluent in Greek will have difficulties to recognize spells cast by a Greek magus (-10 on the attempt).

This got me thinking - is it possible for any Magus to cast a spell in his native tongue in order to confuse his foes?
At what point is the decision made regarding the 'casting language' of the spell: when the spell is cast? when it is researched? when the Magus first learns his magical theory?

same goes for casting gestures - are the hand movements of the Magi of the Roman tribunal any different from the ones of Novgord? can any Magus come up with his own style?


There are rules in Ancient Magic for converting Hermetic magic into another language; basically it requires a breakthrough, although a relatively easy one if memory serves. There is a Virtue in Houses of Hermes: Societates (the Ex Misc Chapter) called Exotic Casting, which allows you to have different words and gestures to standard Hermetic magic, as taught you by your master.

Theban magi use Greek because early on in their history a group of magi made the breakthrough and taught the rest of the tribunal. The impetus for this may have been the Sundering of Tremere; the Greek magi were going to war against Tremere and his plans for world domination, and they wanted every advantage they could get -- and being able to foil counterspelling was considered worth the effort. Keeping it afterwards was a matter of convenience and pride.


HoH:Soc, page 107, middle column, bottom: Exotic Casting (minor hermetic virtue)

Not a priori. HoH: Societates has the virtue Exotic Casting, which allows you to do pretty much that.

First learning Magic Theory I'd say.

Only if they are from different traditions - or one of them has the Exotic Casting Virtue :wink:

Certainly! - it's a Breakthrough (as per HoH: TL). A major one as I recall, but it might only be minor.

EDIT: Mark Shirley was right. Ancient Magic has a box (p. 29) on how to do this, indicating it's less than a minor Breakthrough.
Curiously easy then.

what you are saying is interesting - Latin is essentially bound into Hermetic magical theory. It means Magi must learn Latin/Greek (to at least a level of 4) in order to cast spells with words - or suffer a penalty for silent casting.

it would serve to bind the order closer together since a common language is necessary for the working of magic (maybe it was an intentional effect by the wily Bonisagus) A breakthrough, perhaps a major one, to allow all languages to be used for spell casting might impact the cohesion of the order.

i sense a new story forming for my troupe...

Depends on how you view specialties. Latin 3 (hermetic usage) might work?

One other method that I could envision allowing the use of different languages is Obfuscated casting... You're learning to substitute other words and gestures into the construction of the spell, for a specific spell...

I've been working on an article based on this for my blog, based on the way my daughter is acquiring word and gesture combinations. We are teaching Amelia baby sign language, and her sign vocab is broader than her spoken. I'm pondering the two dominant languages of sign (British, which is based on natural signs and stereotypical features of things (or the Law of Similars), and American, which is historically based on deliberately making the signs have nothing at all to do with the thing they signify due to bullying by American linguists, which frankly makes your signs incomprehensible and deeply unmystical) and if this can be thought of in the same terms as the Latin/Greek split in Hermetic magic. Also, British signs are two handed (and so they have dominant sides and are a bit more versatile) and American signs are one handed, so you can make them while carrying coffee, but they seem to talk slower, IMO, because signs have more movements.

The third style of signs, of course, are signs she makes up herself. Much the same way that children make up their own words, Amelia makes up her own signs. The difference being that since some of them are natural signs, their meaning is clear, so we can just keep using them. In part, they are clear because if we don't understand them she changes them until we get it. The first sign of hers I ever caught I didn't understand. It looked like the monster with the eyes in his palms in Pan's Labyrinth, which was creepy because she did it when I switched the lights above the dining table off. She then saw I didn't understand and changed to a sort of facepalm gesture, which is the one she now uses because I understood that it meant "I can't see because it is dark." Now, is that the equivalent of a spontaneous spell gesture, or are the spells of many magi filled with personal gestures? If so, how does picking the spells for counterspelling work? If you know the gesture for "dark" is like two hands drawing curtains, does that stop you guessing what her spell does? If it doesn't, does that mean every fireball caster uses the same gestures, unless they have a virtue like Performance Magic?

(Actually, her first natural sign that wasn't food related was a hand under her chin, which means "sleep", by which she means "daddy". She gets up at half past five and I get up at seven, so she thinks of me as "the guy who is asleep all the time." "Daddy" is hard in Auslan (it's a double F, for "Father", and F is a two handed sign.) so now that she has a single-gesture, single-handed natural sign I doubt she will switch back.)

Interesting thing about the sign language. IIRC there are a lot more variations than Brit and American versions, though, even if there seems to be a fundamental difference between those two that might make language differences fall into either of those philosophic fields :slight_smile: I laughed a lot about the Pan's Labyrinth thing and how she refers to you. She will drive you nuts when she is a teenager :mrgreen:

Yes, most countries have their own. We technically are teaching Amelia Makaton, which is a simplified version of Auslan, which is the Australian sign language. Philosophically, it's closer to British Sign Language, in that signs are based on real world things. So, the symbol for a pear is like the symbol for various other sorts of eating things, but the ate thing is represented by two curved fingers, because "pear" and "pair" are homophones. You aren't allowed to pull stuff like that in American. Or, for example, "mother" is "woman" signed twice, which is tapping the side of the hair (adjusting your hairdo, as women do, apparently) it's not the American one, which is basically thumbing your nose while missing your nose and hitting your chin instead (which deliberately has no real world explanation. They wanted the signs to be arbitrary so that American linguists would top accusing them of pantomime.)