ideas on pagan gods as Daimons

Dear Ars Magica fans,
I am now starting to create a new Saga that will be based on some real Portuguese and Spanish legends. The story is more or less as such: in ancient Roman times, there was a spirit in the river Sado that was worshipped as a goddess and used to help the inhabitants of a nearby village, but the cult was abandoned in the Middle Ages. I decided that this goddess will be a magical Daimon (it makes more sense in my Saga than a Faerie) that inhabits the river and its islands, and has been "awaken" by recent events (battles between Christians and Moors in the area and in the river itself), strengthening the magical aura in the village and the river islands. Lots of interesting stories can be developed from this starting point (like recreating the ancient cult and having trouble with nearby religious orders), but I am having some difficulty in finding good justification as to why the Daimon would want to be worshipped after some centuries, why did she stay "asleep" and the like. Do you have any suggestions on how to adapt pagan gods as Daimons and their cults?
Thank you!
Bruno from Brazil

Ars Magica has always been deliberately vague about whether a 'god' is a Faerie, Magic or Infernal creature, and in fact there can be all three versions of such in a single setting!

Powerful, ancient river spirit is a Magical being (possibly a 'named' spirit, thus a daimon). Humans start worshiping it, though it probably ignores anyone who is not Gifted or otherwise connected to the magical realm. A faerie assumes the role of the spirit as a pagan 'god' to use the attention of the mortal worshipers to its advantage. An infernal power does likewise to lure the populace into evil.

Also, technically there's probably an angel assigned to 'watch over' the river as well, though they tend to get ignored.

There's an ongoing theme that the faeries 'took over' from the magical beings due to the extra power that mortal attentions offered them, but it's not absolute. In Ars Magica books there are listed magical beings that integrated with faerie pantheons, or simply magical powers that were not overthrown, probably due to being very powerful but not having a great number of mortal followers, so the faerie that tried to assume its role could not manage to take over. So the temples to this 'god' might have Faerie Auras, but the river itself would be Magical.

Note that the 'worship' that daimons crave comes in the form of ritual summonings (which give them Daimon points which they can use to improve - this is all covered in the Heremetic Theurgy section of The Mysteries Revised Edition). This is a good reason that a daimon would start a cult of Gifted followers, and those Gifted followers can provide magic to the ordinary folk in exchange for physical support (donations). This is a very good explanation as to how some cults would get started. The daimon doesn't care about the mundane worshipers at all, except that they can provide his useful followers with material aid.

Hermetic magi are capable of assisting a daimon in this fashion, though they generally will need Hermetic Theurgy unless the daimon can teach the summoning spells to them directly. Magical spirits are capable of teaching mystery virtues through the Sacrifice/Quest/Reward system presented in Realms of Power: Magic or Guardians of the Forest. Depending on the age of the magi in the saga, the Might of the daimon should be adjusted, though in theory an aspect of a daimon can be lower might than the parent spirit. Magi need to be capable of summoning it in an efficient manner, and anything above Might 30 becomes problematic. The daimon must be able to do something useful for the magi in return, as it costs quite a bit of vis to summon one.

For example, a Might 30 daimon costs 12p to summon in the most efficient manner (6p if done by Mercurians, good luck with that). That requires a level 60 spell with 30 points of penetration, which is hard even for a group of magi not specialized in it. More likely a pair of level 45 spells or three level 40 spells will do the trick, but then it's 18p or 24p of vis. So this sort of activity has to be worth the effort or magi won't do it. Access to vis sources would be an excellent motivator, but the vis sources would have to be greater than the vis used in the ritual. If casting the ritual granted access to 20p of vis per year, then 18p per casting is still a profit and strong incentive for the magi to get 'good' at it and bring it down to 12p. Even if it cost them 24p of vis, if the vis acquired is more useful (lots of Creo, for example), it may still be beneficial even if it's a numerical loss.

Hello Bruno, nice to meet you.
I am also running a saga where pagan god will have a major role, and like you, I decided to make them magical Daimons.

My take is that pagan Gods always want to be worshipped, even if sometimes they seem not to care. So I think you should find a reason that prevented Sado from having contacts with the people. A reason that was later removed by recent events.

For example: once upon a time a pious man came to this valley to spend his last years on earth as a hermit. People began to come to him in search of advice and to bring him food and other stuff to help him survive through the winters. But one day he died anyway, and was soon proclaimed saint afterwards. He was buried by the river's spring, where he had used to dwell, and a shrine was built there. The site became a site of pilgrimage, and small villages spawned all along the river as a consequence of the "turists" business. As it always happens in these cases, the Divine took over the magic aura, forcing the Daimon to retreat inside a hidden Regio (an underground water cave?). Her worshippers couldn't reach her anymore, and her cult slowly dwindled while the christian faith continued growing.
After many centuries, the moors took interest in this valley, and the first thing they did was to burn down the shrine and steal the saint's bones. Because of the war, the valley itself was somewhat abandoned by many and reverted to a more "natural" state. As the Divine shrinked, the Daimon was at last released. She soon began the attempt to relieve her cult, by relighting the small rites and superstitions that still lingered among the old crones who lived here. Now, she also has to find help to make sure the christians don't retrieve the relic and bring it back to the valley lest she be imprisoned again.

Yeah... Something like that :slight_smile:
Matteo from Italy.

Argentarium's idea is good, but works a lot better with a Faerie creature than a Magic one since Magic creatures don't gain any inherent benefit to anything but their ego from being worshipped and thus typically don't bother. I mean, it's not like Faeries couldn't be built with Daimon-like mechanics. Likewise, battles wouldn't boost a Magical aura; if they were story-worthy battles they could improve a Faerie aura and if they're super brutal they could boost the Infernal, but unless the involved sides whipped out their own Magic magic (you read that right) they probably couldn't boost a Magic aura.

One way to do this that I like is that perhaps ancient pagan priests with actual magical ability worshipped the Magic spirit, trading it vis and service for its blessings, but when the Dominion barreled through the place, the spirit's followers were all killed and the spirit moved on to keep doing its river spirit-y things. When the Dominion's lock on the place is broken by the epic battles and the Faerie aura's strength increases, some people find old records of the worship of the spirit, and in trying to find it, they convince a faerie to take on the appearance the people expect of the Daimon, knowing full well that mundane people won't be able to draw the actual spirit's attention. Cue the player magi, who have the opportunity to discover the deception and potentially gain a trove of information about the original Daimon which they could use for summoning.

If you really want a Magic being integrating with whatever muggles find it, then I suppose the easiest justification is that the Magic aura was suppressed until the Divine guys were gone, like Argentarium said.

Yes, that's an option, LuckyMage, and a good one at that. Since the op didn't want a faerie, my idea was that the magic aura shrinked, but wasn't utterly wiped out. And from that little core it grew back again once the Dominion weakened. I don't know if that's a game mechanic, but I think it's feasible. Although Daimons can make use of worshippers, they don't need them to exist. Thus the river spirit may have been "sleeping" even after everybody had forgotten about her.

If the time-table could be changed so that all those events related to the spirit's awakening haven't started yet, then another variant on Argentarium's plot is that it's possible for the spirit to awaken following the PC's adventures in the locale. Due to either sensing their spell casting nearby or the river being directly affected by it. This works best if the adventure involves some powerful magic. After noting that Magic has returned to the valley, the spirit decides to re-send its Aspect to there and starts rebuilding the old cult, as per Argentanium's post. In this scenario, a saint isn't necessary - all that caused the old spirit to disappear from this world was that his Mercurian followers died-off; with the prospects of new ones, it is interested in the region again.

This scenario has the advantage that it's the PCs pushing the plot forward.

Another option is the death of a Faerie cult, rather than a Divine one. Remember, it was the Faeries that bound the Titans in Tartarus aka the Magic Realm. It's possible that a local Faerie cult bound the river spirit, allowing a Faerie godling to siphon its powers instead. If this cult died out - perhaps due to the religious fighting in the region - the ancient Magical spirit might be freed from its chains. In this scenario, the newly-cultless Faerie god would likely also be around, and pissed; but weakened, as it lacks followers.

Why would the Magic Spirit want followers unless it is getting them to cast magic and strengthen the aura? A Coven of Witches would work fine for it with one Gifted and a bunch other non-Gifted. As long as everything they are doing is to strengthen the aura.

Druids would also work :smiling_imp:

Enhancing power of Daimon true ritual is the formal, hermetic ways of proceeding.
If you admit that sacrifice or certain type of offering can have this effect, albeit at a slower rythm, a Daimon can also be interested.

Exemple: a sacrifice of 12 white geese seems very innocuous, but from time to time, a farmer has a goose of virtue amongst them, and the way the sacrifice is performed is codified like a ritual. Without knowing it, the farmer is casting a form of primitive ritual, with the goose as the vis source. The Daimon specified he wanted white geese because he knows that it is more likely that amongst them, there is one animal of virtue, containing the vis to power the ritual.

More powerful Daimons require more powerful ritual, thus request more sacrifice: an hecatomb (I believe one hundred cows and bulls) for Zeus - the large number of sacrifice is their to increase the vis consumed during the ceremony/ritual.

I believe that with a little bit of creativity, you can stay within the rules as written/intended and strech it just enough to tell an interesting story, yet remaining consistent with the overall background of Ars magica.

It should be pointed out that while there are no official rules for sacrifices, there have been very strong hints that such rules exist somewhere...probably in burned Diedne texts. Basically something a storyteller can throw in as a plot device. Details such as whether it allows animal sacrifice or has to be human and what the exact effect is (substitute for vis infernal taint, etc) are left up to an individual SG.

Hermetic Sacrifice, TMRE p. 117, is an attempt at reconstructing the ancient rites for animal sacrifice.

In general, the thing with Daimonic pagan gods is that they're hard to worship - you need to be a trained theurge, with either Hermetic Theurgy, a regular magus with a Daimonic grimoire, or membership in another tradition that allows theurgic rituals (possibly a mystery related to Summoning). In short, you need a priesthood, and they aren't going to care that much about a lay congregation. So Theoi would normally favor mystery cults (not necessarily Mystery Cults) and be worshipped in secret in exchange for magical power.

Faerie gods are accessible to anyone - they just want to receive human attention and tell stories with humans, though their grammar might require a priesthood to lead their traditional rites. On the other hand, with the possible exception of Odin, they're not likely to be giving Magic-realm powers out to their priests.

Odin is Magic Incarnate. He doesn't care about his worshippers or what they do. Which is why they abandoned him. But he doesn't care. He has a plan and wheels are in motion.

We know that genii loci were worshiped in one way or another historically, so it shouldn't be a great stretch of imagination to assume that their AM equivalents would also desire this. I really wouldn't worry too much if the rules fail to provide a mechanical justification for this. The story sounds good to me.

There's a good reason for genii loci to want worship - to protect their area of influence. If people worship the spirit of a forest, they won't abuse that forest. A spirit of place has the most to gain from people worshiping it, at least among the Magic realm spirits.

Indeed. Magic Realm beings generally don't care about humans as such (except when they do), they ordinarily desire survival, growth, and their own arcane interests. The Mythic World being what it is, humans are likely to be relevant to their interests anyway.

The genius loci in question may also want the support of local wizards to prevent faeries from replacing it, depending on how "genius loci turns into faerie" works in Mythic Europe. (We know that jinn who become too interested in humans - particularly human religion - either become Faerie or are replaced by same, but I don't know that that applies to Western genii loci - and if so, whether it's a transition from one to the other or a replacement by a different being, or if it matters).

Dear friends, all these ideas are great, thank you very much!
Let me tell you more about my ideas (and I told my players not to read this forum...):
First, the "real" stuff: The goddess Salacia (Neptune's wife, in ancient Roman religion) was worshipped in the town of the same name, on the north bank of the river Sado. Legend says that the goddess protected the town sending storms to destroy enemy ships. The town was captured by the Arabs in the 8th century and was called Al-Kassar. It was reconquered by the Portuguese in the 12th century, but soon after it was retaken by the Arabs and only in 1217 it was definitely reconquered by the Portuguese. Legend says that supernatural powers helped in this last battle. In the 13th century (and nowadays) the town is called Alcacer-do-Sal.
Now, my ideas to put that in the game: a Magus member of the Neo-Mercurian cult (The Mysteries) was interested in finding the ancient place of worship of Salacia, but since the town was in the hands of the Arabs, it would be dangerous to go there. In the year 1217, this Magus took part in the battle and helped the Portuguese army with his magic, intending both to find the ancient temple and to draw the attention of the goddess (which is an Aspect of the Daimon Salacia). Now he will ask for the players' help to find the ancient temple (which I think will be in a Magical Regio), but he doesn't want to reveal himself as a member of the cult.
I think this would make sense and would be an interesting story, don't you think?

That's cool Bruno, but you haven't told us how and why the goddess disappeared and how she can come back again :slight_smile:

The goddess dispelled her Aspect when the people stopped worshipping her... would it make sense?

Aspects don't tend to be long term things anyways. Since the Daimon cannot advance from what their aspect does, beyond being support for advancements paid for in vis, and requires might to maintain, they aren't going to leave them around for long.