long term social change and magic

as written at its core ars Magica is set up to utilize a snapshot of Mythic Europe- I have been thinking about and wanting to discuss things in a broader context, along the lines of what things could happen and what kind of success or failure they might have.

My founding concept is that the medieval period began agricultural and drifted towards urbanization, which certainly seems to benefit the dominion if you assume that towns and cities will inherently be centers of divine aura and power.

However it is possible to have a city oriented to nearly any realm, under certain circumstances, and a ot of how things develop will depend on how one views the underlying cosmological factors that don't get discussed- for example it is suggested that worshiping a faerie god in the same place for centuries may create magical tethers from the activity. Can the same happen with divine worship (perhaps an underlying purpose to near constant theologically driven warfare is to destroy items that have become magical tethers before the magic auras can overwhelm the divine auras...)

Interdicts can weaken divine auras, and while emphasis is placed on infernal auras gaining strength magic auras would also resurge, and faeries could easily take the role of the otherwise banned divine and slip easily into a similar place, but supporting the faerie rather than the divine realm. Cities often have a reputation for godlessness, and a city with faerie clergy might well contribute to that reputation... also making it a much better place for magi to have a covenant. Beyond which even if divine rituals cannot build tethers faerie rituals masquerading as divine might...

My other line of thought here is whether covenants can gain social power as the feudal systems fade and nobility are no longer bound by oaths of fealty which the magi are forbidden to take by the code...

I think in terms of weakening divine auras, faeries would be the most likely to take advantage of the situation (ignoring the Infernal). A general issue that faeries run into is that they cannot "spread their glamour" and create a faerie aura within the dominion unless they are specifically invited. As the divine aura weakens, perhaps more "open minded" or sufficiently guillable clergy invite faeries (perhaps cleverly disguised, perhaps blatantly fabulous) into the purview of a weakening dominion and overpower it.
Magic auras would take longer to form probably, and magical beings in general often prefer to isolate themselves from "mundane" folk. That being said, The Learned Magicians have been taking up shop in universities and employing their magics for at least a century. Over time, perhaps magica auras will develop in universities as a result of this, although this would be still pretty slow since tethers originating from magic use over a period of time occur in centuries.

I agree that faeries may be likely to be invited in and prosper when the dominion weakens, but they find it hard to survive generations of suppression because they depend on human interaction. Magic entities can much more easily lie dormant for centuries, and then rise when the dominion drops and the magic aura becomes dominant. In short, you can make a case for whichever story you want to tell.

It is also the case that new religions blend with old religions, and Christian customs in Northern Europe are far from their Greek/Israeli roots. Some of it, surely, addresses native faeries and possible magic entities. (Let's not get into any blending Greek paganism at this stage.) Could some cities be faerie with just a tad of dominion for flavour, rather than the other way around?

I do think, however, that a story about magic and faerie cities would be easier to tell if rolled back 200-300 years, to before the schism, and before the Church took hold complete hold. That would also make cities and communities much more insular, with less trade. (Not sure how much less.)

The effect of interdict is iffy in my view. An interdict won't make the populace less devout. There should be more things in play than just the interdict, but I guess there usually will be.

1 Like

If you are willing to speculate on some advances that hermetic magic might make over time then there are some cool possibilities for how magi might operate going forward in a world where the dominion is even more dominant than in 1220.

For one thing holy magic might stop being seen as hedge wizardry and become more common. Someone with access to holy magic can operate without difficulty in even powerful dominion auras (so long as they don't want to sin, which is admittedly quite problematic for some magi).

Maybe someone will rediscover the ReVi guidelines for supressing auras (in LoH). In that scenario urban covenants aren't limited to those rare and often awkward Lacunae where magic auras persist despite the dominion, they just have to find somewhere that has a subsumed magic aura and use a ritual to temporarily suppress the dominion aura to reveal it. I imagine subsumed magic auras are much more common. Worst case scenario supressing the dominion aura with no subsumed aura at least means no penalty to casting and lab work.

This would pretty much just be a second ritual in addition to the Aegis of the Hearth. However, a problem with this is that to suppress a level 3 dominion aura (which is common in cities) for a year with boundary target as with an aegis is going to be in the order of a level 60 spell, and it has to be cast with the penalty of the dominion aura - so in practice it's more like casting a level ~70 spell. Casting at night when the aura is lower might help a bit.

If you limit viable locations to weak spots in the dominion maybe you can get away with a level 55 spell (~60 after aura penalties) or even a level 50, but that's the floor. Still, that's not so easy for one magus unless they are quite good at ReVi. So maybe in this future there are magi who specialise in this kind of magic and are hired by covenants to perform such rituals. Perhaps the neo-mercurians, with their bonuses to ritual magic, take on a more prominent role in the order for this reason.

On that note maybe the structure of covenants changes. Urban covenants end up having to be centred around one or more magi powerful enough to learn and cast spells to negate the dominion, and wizard's communion becomes as common as pilum of fire.

But that's all fairly tame, the really interesting innovation in this vein is someone integrating (fully integrating into hermetic theory, that is) either the complete research of Conciatta, or new research based on original work or the Learned Magician magic, allowing magi to use realm lore to be unimpeded by hostile auras.

If you accept the ideas in the Conciatta chapter of LoH then if the confluence of the realms is integrated any magus with a dominion lore of 3 can operate pretty much unimpeded in an urban environment. Dominion Lore of 6 is basically immunity to dominion lore penalties except in the holiest of places.

So perhaps in that possible future all magi learn a smattering of realm lores as part of their standard education and covenants can be pretty much anywhere with only a mild loss of power from not being in a magic aura.

That's all not really addressing the main topic here and is more about how magi might continue to operate in a highly urbanised society, but it does built to a really interesting radical idea that could have pretty big societal ramifications - those high level rituals mentioned earlier could be cast over entire cities. I wonder what would happen if magi started negating the dominion aura of entire settlements for multiple years? Would the dominion begin to fade? Would other auras be able to grow in power again? Or would the divine simply intervene and smite the hell out of anyone who tried for daring to replicate an interdict with magic?


Part of my thought on the interdict is that aside from dropping divine auras like a stone (compared to the normal time for them to drop) and giving a mild boost to the infernal, they are also literally a directive by the church for clergy to stop providing services.
Historically this was not universally observed, with some priests offering sacraments despite the ban.
Now in terms of ars magica doing so could be seen as deliberate disobedience of the church, imperiling the soul of the priest and thus creating an infernal aura.
However if the priest is a faerie, there is no soul to imperil. The people of the town will certainly welcome them in as they want their rituals whether they are actually divinely ordained or not. I mean when a young woman has 7 months to get married she needs a priest now.
So the faerie priest becomes imbedded in the community as the divine aura dwindles. They remain a part of the community after the interdict is lifted, and since they are not providing an actually divine service the dominion aura may continue to fall, albeit more slowly, and the faerie aura slowly replaces the divine over the community.
The issues, as I see it arise when a city is large enough to have more than one church...
Given the massive numbers of interdictions leveled by Pope Innocent II, I would expect such replacements to be, probably not common but fairly widespread. Obviously things get more complicated in Provence where you have Catholic interdicts, Cathars, and faeries all mixed up together. There the faeries have the advantage of being able to die repeatedly...

Another point here is that apparently one of the drivers towards establishing early medieval cities was to allow the citizens to free themselves of feudal structures and obligations. From this perspective long standing covenants could easily become the core of a city.