Hermetic Spells inspired by Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

My slightly belated contribution to the 30 Days of [Thing] phenomenon. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, is one of my favourite books, and while the magic "system" in that book does not perfectly fit with Hermetic Theory, the combination of...

  • Feuding scholarly magicians
  • Their overlooked and long-suffering servants / friends
  • Alien, amoral faeries
  • A backdrop of real world history

...make it a great thematic fit. It also contains my favourite depiction of how magic and faerie feels in all of fiction. Therefore I plan to convert one spell per day in November (two for today, to make up for my late start) to the Ars Magica system.

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  1. Labyrinth of the Paranoid Magus

Mr Norrell led the other two gentlemen along a passage... Mr Segundus was one of those happy gentlemen who can always say whether they face north or south, east or west... but in Mr Norrell's house his gift deserted him. He could never afterwards picture the sequence of passageways and rooms through which they had passed, nor quite decide how long they had taken to reach the library. And he could not tell the direction; it seemed to him as if Mr Norrell had discovered some fifth point of the compass - not east, nor south, nor west, nor north, but somewhere quite different and this was the direction in which he led them.

The basic effect here is clear - anyone who walks the passage to the library is unable to remember the path they have taken, and is disoriented to boot. There is another element to this - later in the book we see that unwanted intruders are actively misled by Norrell's "labyrinth" (as Strange refers to it).

Luckily we have a spell that does this already! The Shrouded Glen, a level 40 Rego Mentem spell from the core book, makes it extremely difficult for anyone to find a specific location within a Boundary (in this case, the Boundary is presumably the wall of Hurtfew Abbey). However, I would be tempted to add another spell to actively cause the loss of memory and sense of direction - The Shrouded Glen subtly diverts you but does not make you forget things in the long term. Perhaps a level 45 version of the spell is needed, with an enhancing Perdo requisite adding a magnitude.

Labyrinth of the Paranoid Magus
Re(Pe)Me 45
R: Touch, D: Year, T: Bound, Ritual
As per The Shrouded Glen (Ars Magica 5th Edition, 152), with the added effect that memory functions relating to the path to the library are damaged, and sense of direction is similarly impaired until the end of the spell.
(Base 3, +1 Touch, +4 Year, +4 Bound, +1 Perdo requisite)

Final thoughts:
One possibility in Ars Magica terms, is that Norrell's library is actually in a magical regio - the last line quoted above is suggestive. However, we are told that the labyrinth is a spell Norrell has done, and I will be assuming he has not discovered the trick to making regios, nor is he using some mystery of Hermetic Architecture.
Oh, and Mr Segundus clearly has the Wilderness Sense minor supernatural virtue, explaining why he notes the disorientation as unnatural while Mr Honeyfoot does not.

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  1. Library's Unnatural Light

There was a noble fire in the hearth and all was comfort and quiet. Yet once again the light within the room did not seem to accord with the three tall twelve-paned windows, so that once again Mr Segundus was made uncomfortable by a persistent feeling that there ought to have been other candles in the room, other windows or another fire to account for the light.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, p. 13

This strikes me as a fairly subtle Room-sized Creo Ignem spell, presumably used to ensure even quality of light throughout the library without bringing in too many sources of flame. I suspect it is a continuous enchantment in an item, rather than being cast by Norrell whenever he enters the room.

Library's Unnatural Light
CrIg 25
R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Room
Creates an even, pale light throughout a room (hard to distinguish from ordinary light, but a succesful Perception + Awareness roll can reveal it does not match mundane light sources).
Base 4, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +2 Room

Final thoughts:
At this stage, Segundus has definitely been built as a Companion with high Perception, Wilderness Sense, and probably Magic Sensitivity, to deal with magi.

That's all for chapter 1 in terms of magical effects, but I will start an overflow thread statting up the books that are referenced throughout the novel.

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  1. The Library's Secrets Preserved

It was clear to all the magicians that Mr Honeyfoot and Mr Segundus had handled the thing very ill and upon one subject at least - that of Mr Norrell's wonderful library - they did seem remarkably stupid, for they were not able to give any intelligible report of it....
...Mr Segundus said that one of the books had a title that began with a 'B', but that was the beginning and end of his information. It was very odd.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, p. 25

This is a simple Perdo Mentem spell to remove a specific set of memories. Segundus and Honeyfoot can remember that they saw some rare books of magic, but no specific details. This could be a spell to affect anyone but Norrell who enters the library, but I will stat it as a spell Norrell cast subtly on his visitors.

The Library's Secrets Preserved
PeMe 20
R: Eye, D: Mom, T: Ind
This removes a specific subset of memories - those of reading the titles and contents of books - so long as they are from within a single day. As with Loss of But a Moment's Memory, careful introspection might recover some details.
Base 15, +1 Eye

  1. Cacophany of Stone

And then the gentlemen of the York society peered up again into the gloom above their heads in the direction of the first unearthly voice. And this time very few of them had any doubts that it was the little stone figure that spoke, for as they watched they could percieve its stubby stone arms that it waved about in its distress.
Then all the other statues and monuments in the Cathedral began to speak and to say in their stony voices all that they had seen in their stony lives and the noise was, as Mr Segundus later told Mrs Pleasance, beyond description.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, p. 39

My first thought was Rego Terram, but the principle effect is to allow the stones to speak to people. I am inclined to make this an Intellego Terram spell with requisites: Rego (for animation) and Imaginem (for speech). Only the Imaginem requisite will add a magnitude, as the animation is mostly cosmetic but the speech is necessary to project the conversation to people other than Norrell.

Cacophany of Stone
In(Re)Te(Im) 70
R: Arc, D: Conc, T: Structure
Causes all the statues within a structure to which you have an arcane connection to speak aloud to anyone who will listen. You cannot direct this conversation - statues have their own interests dictated in part by the personality imposed on them by the mason, and they do not percieve time in the same way as mortal magicians do.
Base 25, +4 Arc, +1 Conc, +3 Structure, +1 enhancing Im requisite

So... Norrell is an incredibly powerful magician, especially when you consider he is casting this spell on a cathedral, which in Ars Magica should have a Divine aura of 5. This is one of those cases where the systematic differences become very clear - the magicians in JSMN have much less difficulty causing magical effects at a distance, and have no need for Arcane Connections. We get some indication that distance does make a difference, and that the presence of the Blessed Sacrament limits magical power, but neither of these come into play in the novel.

  1. Ships Out of Rain

After two hours it stopped raining and in the same moment the spell broke, which Perroquet and the Admiral and Captain Jumeau knew by a curious twist of their senses, as if they had tasted a string quartet, or been, for a moment, deafened by the sight of the colour blue. For the merest instant the rain-ships became mist-ships and then the breeze gently blew them apart.
The Frenchmen were alone upon the empty Atlantic.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, p. XX

In one of my favourite parts of the early novel, Norrell is (finally) employed by the government to help in the war against Napoleon. His first act (that we see) is to make ships out of rain, enough to form a huge blockade around France, which keeps the French landlocked for eleven days.

Ships Out of Rain
ReAu(Aq) 50
R: Sight, D: Moon, T: Group
Shapes falling rain into watery ships. From a distance, will require a Perception + Awareness roll to tell the ships are not solid matter (vs. the Finesse roll of the caster to simulate realistic ships). Close to, no roll is required.
Base 4 (forceful but calm control), +2 very unnatural, +3 Sight, +3 Moon, +2 Group

I am very unsure about my calculation of this, and I am fudging the definition of "Sight". In this example I am assuming Norrell would be using magic to extend his vision across the English Channel to France, in order to shape the rain into ships. I suspect he would first create the rain magically, to ensure the rain will remain as long as needed. Norrell's ships remain for eleven days, which I am interpreting as Moon duration (presumably he was just unlucky in his timing of the spell, perhaps due to the demands of the government). I am including an Aquam requisite because I'm not really sure if the rain counts as Auram once it has been shaped into the ships (and is no longer falling). For the same reason, it is possible that this should be a MuAu, rather than ReAu, spell.

I have skipped over the most dramatic piece of magic in the early novel (the resurrection of Lady Pole) because (a) it is something explicitly impossible for Hermetic magic, and (b) even within the novel, Norrell does not accomplish it - rather, he summons a faerie to do the deed. This would still be impossible in Ars Magica, though the faerie could perhaps create or summon another faerie in the guise of Lady Pole - in fact, given that this act leads to a very dramatic and emotional story, this is exactly what a faerie might do.

An apology: a visit from in-laws delayed my ability to post. Without further ado:

  1. Visions in a Basin

The Admiralty had lately sent out orders for three ships to rendezvous south of Gibraltar and Lord Mulgrave had a great curiosity to know whether or not this had occurred; would Mr Norrell be able to find it out? Mr Norrell did not know, but promised to try...
A picture appeared upon the surface of the water in the silver basin, a picture of three ships riding the waves of a blue sea. The strong, clear light of the Mediterranean shone out into the gloomy December room and lit up the faces of the three gentlemen who peered into the bowl.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, p. 116

This is strictly impossible unless Norrell has an arcane connection. Let's cheat and say that he does.

Visions in a Basin of Water
In(Mu)Im 25
R: Arc; D: Conc; T: Ind
Conjures up visions of the surroundings of a target to which the caster has an Arcane Connection. The range covered is quite large, though limited by surroundings - at sea, a very large area can be seen, but if the target is in a cupboard, that is all you can see.
Base 1, +4 Arc, +1 Conc, +2 size, +1 requisite

  1. House rule for scrying without arcane connections

That's all well and good, but what if you want to keep the feel of the scrying in the novel? While magicians do not need arcane connections, scrying is repeatedly described as being extremely imprecise - though later in the novel they seem to get better at it. Here is a proposed house rule rejecting an absolute Limit of Arcane Connection, which could be adopted as-is, or used as a Hermetic virtue (perhaps for an Ex Miscellanea tradition focused on scrying). I am counting this towards my 30 days, though it is not a spell

** Imprecise Scrying **
When attempting to cast an Intellego spell on a distant target, this can be attempted without an arcane connection. A stress dice must be rolled, without modifiers, against an Ease Factor of 12 (Very Hard). If succesful, the spell can be cast - despite the lack of an Arcane Connection, the level is calculated as if the range was Arc. The spell cannot penetrate even the most meagre magic resistance, and fails if the target is in a regio. Auras affect the spell as normal, but do not make it impossible.

If desired, to simulate the way Strange & Norrell improve, a modifier can be added equal to 1/5th of the magus' Intellego score (rounded down).

  1. Interrogation of the French Figurehead

His Majesty’s Navy had recently captured a French ship of the line with a very fine figurehead in the shape of a mermaid with bright blue eyes, coral-pink lips, a great mass of sumptuous golden curls artistically strewn with wooden representations of starfish and crabs, and a tail that was covered all over with silver-gilt as if it might be made of gingerbread inside. It was known that before it had been captured, the ship had been at Toulon, Cherbourg, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Genoa, and so the mermaid had seen a great deal of enemy defences and of the Emperor Napoleon Buonaparte’s great scheme of ship-building which was going forward at that time. Mr Horrocks asked Mr Norrell to put a spell on her so that she might tell all she knew. This Mr Norrell did.
But though the mermaid could be made to speak she could not at first be brought to answer any questions. She considered herself the implacable enemy of the British and was highly delighted to be given powers of speech so that she could express her hatred of them. Having passed all her existence among sailors she knew a great many insults and bestowed them very readily on anyone who came near her in a voice that sounded like the creaking of masts and timbers in a high wind.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, p. 117

This spell is obviously similar to that used to make the statues in York Minster speak. I am assuming that, as for InTe, the base to speak with a wooden statue is one magnitude higher than that to speak with a plant.

Interrogation of the French Figurehead
In(Cr,Re)He(Im) 40
R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Ind
Allows the caster to speak to a wooden statue. The CrIm requisite allows the conversation to be heard by others, and the Re requisite permits movement.

Base 20, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 requisite

I ended up abandoning this thread after a death in the family. Though it is no longer November, I have a bad habit of leaving projects unfinished so I have decided to continue. I can't promise one post per day, but my goal is to at least complete 30 by next November!

  1. Thieves to Mice

"In the Bath Chronicle the other day I read about a man called Gibbons in Milsom-street who awoke in the night because he heard thieves breaking into his house. It seems that this man has a large library of magical books. He tried a spell he knew and turned the housebreakers into mice."
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, p. 150

A straightforward one to ease back in: a Muto Corpus spell with a Animal requisite. The target is Room, as the caster did not see the thieves. This is another cheat, because (as Lascelles points out) it is unlikely that this story was true, but it is fun.

Thieves to Mice
MuCo(An) 35
R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Room
The magus touches the entrance to a room as they cast this spell. All mundane humans in the room are transformed into mice.
This spell was designed by a paranoid magus who disliked facing his enemies, and would invariably be cast on his sanctum before entering.

Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +2 Room

  1. Bell of Sorrows

The cook, John Longridge, and the kitchenmaids were troubled by a sad bell. The effect of the bell... was to bring vividly to mind everyone they had ever known who had died, all the good things they had ever lost and every bad thing which had ever happened to them. Consequently, they had become dejected and low and their lives were not worth living.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, p. 155

This is actually the effect of faerie malice, but could serve as a (rather sadistic) Hermetic spell. I have designed it as a spell assuming the sound of the bell is the effect of the caster's sigil, but it would also make an excellent enchanted item.

Bell of Sorrows
ReMe 40
R: Touch, D: Moon, T: Room
The magus curses a room so that all within are moved to dwell on their worst memories, which over time tends to push all but the most strong-willed into depression. The spell is named after the original, invented by Campana of Tremere, whose sigil includes the distant sound of tolling bells.

Base 10 (Imbue all of a person’s responses with a particular emotion), +1 Touch, +3 Moon, +2 Room