Holy Magic and Subtle Magic

So, I was designing a Jewish-based Mystery Cult whose idea is to try to convince magi to learn Holy Magic. Specifically, the Mystery Cult is set up so that it makes it easy (or at least less painful) to transition into learning the Holy Magic supernatural virtue, via the Kabbalah tradition.

And is seems that one of the main drawbacks of holy magic is that you can't use the pagan gestures/incantations, as they are essentially sinful. OK - So the Mystery Cult is likely to Initiate into the Subtle Magic (No gestures/Incantations) minor virtues, along with the Limitation: No Pagan Gestures or Incantations. (OK, which really means they can't ever get the +1 bonus for Large Gestures - although that also implies they can't ever use Voice range.)

But ignoring that for now - once that is done, just how sinful is the magic? I'm mainly looking at the other main restriction, which says you have to re-learn every spell. But it also says you don't actually HAVE to do this, but if you fall back into using normal Hermetic magic, you may loose your access to Holy magic due to your sinful ways.

OK - but it seems that the main sin of hermetic magic is the actual calling and gesturing to magical Powers and Principalities. With no Gestures/Incantations, you aren't doing that. From what I understand of the paradigm, this isn't Crowely-style Willworking: it really IS the words and the gestures which make the magic work, plus the Gift.

For example: the Holy Magic rules don't have any restrictions on Spontaneous magic, other than the standard "you can't use gestures" rule. OK - so using Subtle Magic, Hermetic and Holy magic are functionally identical, at least from the magic side. Is this also true for Formulaic magic? Ie, if you don't use gestures/incantations, then it's basically the same?

So, I guess the real question is: What is the Subtle Magic virtue? Has the magus simply internalized the process of calling on Powers? Or is it a realization that such actions aren't necessary? Or is it something else?


A good choice.

I should note that RoP:D notwithstanding, there is nothing in rabbinical Judaism that makes magic more sinful than in, say, Christianity. Complicated digression elided. (Indeed, I might argue that Karaites are more likely to have problems. Would argue, except for elision.)

There should be no reason why equivalent non-pagan gestures couldn't be developed; parts of the hand are numbered, with appropriate mystical significance. Perhaps anachronistic, though, which is a general issue with Qabala. FWIW, I don't see why a rabbi who understood magic would consider these gestures pagan, unless they explicitly derived from pagan practice. But rules are rules.

Taking Subtle Magic should solve the problem. Or just a virtue that lets you use Hebrew and Aramaic words and "kosher" gestures.

Or, take Performance Magic or some kind... Maybe all that stereotypical Jewish handwaving while talking is part of the point! :slight_smile:/2 (I really did have a Talmud teacher in high school who got upset when students didn't speak with a Talmudic singsong and gesture...)

If your mystery tradition is influenced by the Sefer Yitzirah, btw, a good Virtue could combine Aquam and Terram into a single Form: Combine the xp, recalculate the Art score, and proceed from there. Tangent.



I think it is whatever you (the player/troupe) want it to be, and it does not have to be same thing in-character for all characters. For a Holy Magic orientated Mystery Cult it seems entirely appropriate that whatever mystery they have discovered in-character is something that replaces the need for gestures/incantations with "thinking happy thoughts about the tetragrammaton" or something. And another (say pagan) magus with the Subtle Magic Virtue could be doing something entirely different in-character; it just happens to have the same game mechanic effect.

In play, we have discovered that having to re-learn every spell, and not being able to use Hermetic Lab Texts to learn from, is the real killer for Holy Magi. Perhaps, unless there is a substantial pre-existing community of Holy Magi, who have already written plenty of Holy Magic lab texts to trade with.

Although, the game mechanics say that a Holy Magus doesn't have to use Holy Magic, I would be very doubtful about a Holy Magus character who would resort to this temptation in any but the most extreme (say, once in a lifetime) circumstances. I can certainly imagine a character who wanted to be a Holy Magus but routinely fell into temptation --- but such a character is not really a practicing Holy Magus.

Oh, sure - it's the whole "it's up to the troupe to decide if magic is inherently sinful or not" rule. But yeah - The REAL reason I choose Kabbalah was due to the Rabbinical Scholastic tradition, which allows you to learn Supernatural abilities from books. :slight_smile:

That, plus I was trying to justify learning the circle/warding minor virtue from HMRE, and the Amulet ability was kinda-sorta close. That is, you could originally use amulets to ward entire houses, just by dropping them under the floorboards. Similarly, you could ward entire houses with the Warding virtue simply by marking the door. I figured "eh, amulets, lamb's blood around the doorframe. Verisimilitude achieved!"

Ooh, good idea - I was thinking about having a Vim foci be the "big mystery", but that was fairly boring. I like your idea better.

Yeah, the route I was planning on going with this character was going to be that discovery, and his immediate decision to somehow start integrating Holy Magic into Magic Theory, so he didn't have to put with any of that. (And then proceed to get Marched by conservative members of the Order, so maybe he wouldn't brag about it too much...)

Yep. Again, once the character realized that he couldn't actually DO Hermetic Magic any more (Affinity: Magic Theory, Puissant Magic Theory, Lab Genius, Int +5, Magic Theory 11), he'd probably just start integrating Holy Magic into Hermetic Magic - in his head, he'd probably be saying "Hey, Merinitia did it. I can too!" Of course, while he'd be able to learn the Holy Magic ability (simply by reading books), he'd probably be too involved with the Hermetic side of the integration to really be able to ACTUALLY cast holy magic. Which, in and of itself, probably carries a risk of Infernal corruption. ("Trying to integrate Holy Magic while not being able to cast Holy magic and living a life of sin and depravity? Great idea!")

A story possibility around vulnerablity to the sin of pride?

Assuming that there is already a pool of prolific Holy Magi authors, of course.

Sounds reasonable. Although, as a player, I think I would question how fun such a character might be in-play. In my experience, lab rats, especially those working on long-term projects (that may not complete within the saga) with little tangible benefit (most magi can already cast Hermetic magic just fine), can be a bit boring. Unless they are endlessly distracted from their project by other activities (that are more interesting from a player perspective).

Oh, heck yeah.

EDIT - my thought is that the Mystery Cult itself is the previous generation's "story of pride" - the Rabbi who set it up had this grandiose plan about converting the Order, but the MC he put together takes so long to get Initiation through that, at the end of it, nobody who wasn't apprenticed in it really WANTS to become a Holy Magi. (As they're all years through their Gauntlet, and have dozens of spells they'd have to re-learn.) That being said, he's got some good books, and 7 actively-organized Holy Magi (which is better than nothing)...but it's a far cry from what he had planned.

Well, part of that was coming from the Jewish scholastic tradition - I'm assuming there's at least one or two books in the Cult. Plus instructors with Holy Magic Theory that can act as (potential) sources of Inspiration. But after that, yeah - he has to go track down other Holy Magi, and convince them to teach him for a season or two. And then integrate, and deal with the consequences of publishing "healing spells that don't rquire vim, but do require you eat kosher for a season" or "Intelligo effects that consistently and accurate identity demons. Really."

Yep - my thought is that the main Flaw picked up by joining the Cult is "plagued by Supernatural Entity" - specifically, the Angel of Magic (Sepheriel?) tends to come into your house, and check on what you're doing. The fact that he's not actually being a holy mage is probably going to cause some friction.

Also, the magi has the "prove he's a better magi than his paren" flaw - which is why he's out doing stuff like this. (His other projects include "being Primus, despite being completely unqualified", "let's make all the grogs Magisters in Arbitus, because I don't like being surrounded by stupid people", and "I think I can have four apprentices, easy!")

I would think that the main benefits would be the ability to avoid the Limit of the Divine - but it's not actually that. By itself, I suppose Holy magic mainly grants the ability to use Divine auras and Fatigue instead of vis (that last one being kind of nice, actually). To use the actual Holy Magic abilities, you'd need the Powers/Methods. (which are separate integrations, I guess.)

I think that Learned Magician-style amulets and chartae combined with Holy Magic well conveys the look and feel of a Kabbalistic Hermetic Magic. (A more Hedge Kabbalah tradition that has both LM and Divine Magic, is very apt. With a generous interpretation of Learned Magician rules, I would understand an unwillingness to tangle with these guys after the schism war.)

Start with Performance Magic: Scribe (K'tav Ashur) for casting sponts and formulaics while writing some Biblical verse or Aramaic gibberish while calling them out.

Then Sorcerous Magic tainted by Divine.

Then a Major Mystery Virtue that adds one of <Magic, Faerie, Infernal, Divine> Lore to Casting Score, also aligning spell to that realm.

The Amulet virtue is fine, but they should last much longer, given how often mezuzot need to be checked.

The breakthrough from LM allowing fast charged items is also apt, though very owerful.



One thing Jewish magi might want to do is find a replacement for Artes Liberales and Philosophiae in ritual and ceremonial magic. Astrology and "natural magic with herbs and stones" are both explicitly prohibited by mitzvah, if I'm reading the mitzvah right.

strokes chin rabbinically

Depends who you ask.

AL and Ph work nicely, though the books read to develop AL would be different, and some of the correspondences from Ph might also be different. A skim through Sefer Yitzarah in translation might be worthwhile. The "book" is 1000 words, is one of the more comprehensible original source books, and is really not much more than a series of correspondences, including astrological.

Rabbis have debated what is magic or not, what magic is forbidden, why it is forbidden, etc.

A tradition that considers Hermetic Magic to be natural would rule that this is kosher, though pagan practices that go along with it are idolatrous. They might say that the "Hermes" in OoH refers to the person, not the god, so would be ok being members, etc., though might want to change the name "lest people be confused." Using magic to break the Sabbath would be as much a sin as doing it by hand.

Away from Dragon, so done for now