Paganism and heretical doctrine

Hi there!

Before you point me to a page in ROP:Faerie, I have to say taht I have given my RO:F book to a fellow player, so it is not readily available to see if faerie adoration would be sinful, or HOW sinful. :slight_smile:

We are in the process of investigating the Isle of Mann right now. Laura, one of the players IMS (she plays Severin from Fall & Rise) is thinking about rounding up the character with some weird beliefs. Since infernal and divine auras detract from hermetic magic, and the auras of faerie and magic realms support it, Severin will not be sure if Magic is sinfgul or not. TThe idea is that Severin will recognize God as a Great Power, but not as the only great power. After all God is a god for sure, but not necessarily the only god out there. After all, Odin helps him when he asks for help, and the christian god does as well, but not as much since the christian god opposes his magic.

So far so good.

Now, how heretical are those ideas? I guess the ansswer is "100%" and that a bishop would be terifyed from such ideas, but just to be sure. Take in mind that in Mann the official religion is still that of the Norse, even if the church has a high presence in the island.

Would those ideas justify the flaw of "pagan"? Severin will also try to honor the christian god, but will still think that he is not the only god, but one of the many gods that need to be honored in life. The more I think about it, the more I think the OoH would follow similar lines of thought: the power of God is clear in ME, but not that he is the only power out there.... or that after the christian god there will not be another power on the rise, like happened with the greco-roman or norse gods before....


Absolutely heretic from the Christian viewpoint.
However I suppose it is not heretical from Norse viewpoint.

I think the help of the Christian God is strange because he is obviously a pagan but the ways of God are inscrutable.

It is not just heretical in spiritual and secular society. Hermetic magic embraces the 'divine' that is not just a flavour (like magical or infernal) but a personality... arguably an individual. Take the limit of the divine in the core rules. You can still affets divine things - even the top echelons of the angels with big enough scores- but you cannot affect the divine directly. I.E. you cannot affect Him (although in ArM it would almost certainly be printed a Her).

That there are other things that call themselves gods I am sure, that these creatures of (reakn) are extraoridnarily powrtgull is equally just. Theuy may even be able to bestow eteral life - but I am pretty confident that those things are not the same as the divine or even close. That they are beneath it seems this is entrenched in the theory of Bonisagus. That is not to say it comes out in favour of any of the great religions of the book, or indeed that it is exclusive to these three. But that their is a monothestic force that stands supreme (but fortunately not very active) above all others is hard to ignore in the cannonical ArM.

The problem I always have in Ars is that magi, unlike mortals live with certain extra insights and knowledge. Your gods of old (antiquity)is a good example. Many magi have met these gents, and others like them. They know them to be powerful creatures of magic and /or faerie. They also know that they are not the divine. They know the divine can so whatever it chooses and they cannot interfere with it. Some magi have even experienced that for themselves.

Magi do, however, know are many other routes to paradise and/or eteranl life than just through the Church of Rome. I tend to look on this issue therefore as a choice of conscious. Magi can and do 'choose' to worship a gods, but the one thing they should rarerly do, is worship blindly.

[Just playing devil's advocate, here, but extremely interested in the answers] :wink:

So, in a society where most PC magi are designed to have a spell able to perform a Christian capital sin from the start (to kill) and where one religion system impairs them heavily while other religion systems REWARD them for douing what they do (magic) they will chose the system that treats them as enemies right away?

Sounds rather weird to me.

If a faerie has a MR of 120 it is unlikely that I will breach her MR either, so to my investigations it would be as divine as Archangel Michael.... I can't see why the later should be more divine in terms of me being able to affect him/her than the former...


I don't think magic is sinful per se. Historically it's still being debated in the early thirteen century, with some folks drawing a distinction between good magic and bad magic. Just because a magus has the potential to kill someone with magic doesn't make him sinful. Every person is born with the potential to kill another person. I think magi wouldn't worship pagan gods because they know that they are impostures, either faeries or demonic false gods, and they know that their soul will ultimately suffer God's judgement.

Matt Ryan

Weird? Magi? nahhhh.

One of the more famous heresies is the Manichean heresy, and even if you haven't heard of that you'll recognize their doctrine - that the Evil is an equally powerful force vs. Good, and so the two constantly battle, with the outcome uncertain. (If God were stronger, surely He would crush Evil, or at least there wouldn't be any doubt down here, right?) Heresy.

The Big G is the Big G, shut up sit down thanks for playing.

Now, the first commandment reads "Thou shalt have no other gods before me!" - does that imply that "other gods" are okay, provided they know their place? Risky - in other places it says "no other god, PERIOD" (well, or words to that effect), and that God is a Jealous God. Well, at least he's being honest with himself about his issues, that's the first step toward progress... 8)

Point is, any "sin" is judged by the belief system that you buy in to (or of those judging you). The Norse have a diff belief system than the Christians* - who woulda thunk it?

(* and Muslims are clear on the topic - "There is no god but God" - no wiggle room there. Typical.)

There are very broadly two divisions of every religion - Orthodox and Mystic. Orthodox believes there is The Book and The Law, and they say "Read the Book, then you will know God, and then perhaps you will begin to understand your place in The Order of God." Mystics believe the Book has The Law within it, but that Law requires interpretation before Man can comprehend it. They say "Begin to understand your place in the Order of God, then you will begin to know God, and then the Book will begin to make sense, (and reinforce that continuing process)." Classic Catholicism vs the various Augustinian sects, etc etc.* Why a given magi decide to worship a god that's interpreted as condemning their daily actions, I would believe, has more to do with their unique mystic perspective on those actions than a blind faith in the judgment of men of the cloth.

(* Some Mystics withdraw from the world, some immerse themselves in it one way or another - the process varies.)

Which would be heretical in and of itself! 8)

I agree, magic itself is not really considered inherently sinful. What you do with it can be.

Worshiping the devil is bad, but casting a spell isn't necessarily.

Although the affect of the The Gift should mean that at first blush, mundanes and the church will put the worst possible spin on whatever the magi are doing. Although they could be convinced otherwise over time.

I agree too. Although I think I would qualify that as most magi wouldn't worship pagan gods.

And I would agree with that statement.



I thought it was, depending on the exact time and place, and tended to be more than not. (Or is that more typical of a later period?) I thought that there was a Church policy that "magic = diabolic = sin", a sort of rubber-stamp condemnation. "Don't ask questions of innocence - that leads to the Devil's trap!" (aka "It's a Trick, Get an Axe") - or is that a gross over-generalization?

Before someone throws a hissy-fit (and I could chose to be one of them) we are sticking firmly in the realms of mythic europe here I presume.

There is an inevitability that such threads run the risk of offending people, especially with comments which make interpretations of scripture from people who clearly do not know it very well.

In mythic europe, of course, we can suspend our disbelief whatever our faith and take it to be whatever you want for you saga.

I actually think RoP:D is a very good book which not only shows a fairly good understanding of medieval europe and church history - it manages to keep this issue clear.

Anyway... to my reading, if you have more than 3 points of virtues you are pretty free to choose to believe whatever you wish in your relationship with the divine. I am pretty sure it is stated plainly that magic does not have to be inherintly sinful. That choice is for the individual saga. It also states that magic does lead one to sin and should therefore be avoided.

This has been a recurring topic in my gaming group, this is why I posted it here. Most of us not being very religious nor having much knowledge of doctrine, we totally fail to see WHY THE HECK would the hermetic magi worship a God that dedicates significant resources (read: all the Divine auras) to annoy the hell out of them instead of being helpful to his hermetic worshippers.

In the rules there is not much evidence that hermetics would be able to determine unerringly that the divine is more powerful than say a slavic god of Might 120. Both can grant miracles, both cannot be affected by hermetic magic.... and the slavic god helps his hermetic followers without the need to have them develop Cult virtues (pious magi are obviously a mystery cult that has chosen a certain initiation :stuck_out_tongue:).

See my point?


I think one of the interesting things about ArM is that it has this tension - between a metaphysical truth, on the metagame level, that establishes the Divine as the most powerful, and an in-game truth, on the player character level, that makes worship of the divine counter-productive. I think this works best when you take the Divine to be Good, so that opposing it will be morally and intellectually problematic - but on the other hand, useful. This pushes the players to a more nuances game, where they seek compromise between what is true and right and what is useful and practical.


Well.... in our society, the intellectual elite increasingly does not believe in the Divine. But in medieval society, the more you know, the more you know that there is a divine Creator, a First Cause, probably unitary in nature. The existence of God has been proved, after all. All the great thinkers agree that there is a God, transcendent and blah blah blah. They disagree violently on particulars, but only a fool believes that there's no God or that there are many. Magi, then, are especially likely to appreciate the difference between a powerful pagan pretender and the real thing, even if it's inconvenient. Also, a magus who sets out to penetrate 120 can. It isn't easy, it takes dedication and preparation but it can be done. Finally, a magus who wants to test whether something is Divine might manipulate events to create a confrontation between the Big Pagan God and some smelly guy with True Faith....



(still playing devil's advocate hee...)

Yup, 120. I did pick that number for a reason. It is higher than the assigned MR for archangel michael and the virgin mary. :slight_smile: If they are not performing divine missions they can be kicked in the ass by hermetic magi that want to do it. I find that a breaker of suspension of disbelief I routinely double the MR of all the creatures in the supplements if they have to appear IMS). As written, the dude with a pair of points of true faith would be quite toasted by the pagan god methinks....


grin Anyone remember "Fantasy Wargaming?" This interesting but unplayable game had stats for the Virgin Mary, hit points and all, in case anyone wanted to have a go at her.

Giving a Might to St Michael is simililarly problematic in Ars Magica (FW gave his stats too, of course), even before considering that AM5 continues to have difficulty using Might to represent power. It's a bit better than in previous editions, but not sufficiently. The system works for pixies and nymphs and so on, even for those wolves at Might 20. But Might 30 or 40 is presented as significant, and it really isn't all that.

I also find the distinction of being on divine missions completely weird. Like, if you come across St Michael on a mission from God, he's invulnerable. But if you happen to come across him on his day off, drinking beer at the pub....



To be honest, I'm not sure whether I was asking IRL or in canon - probably the former, altho' the latter is more relevant IG.

I think the term is heterodoxy, "thoughts that lead to sin", and IRL the Church varied on its "proactive" stance on such. Sometimes them heterodoxers was sent to their maker a'fore they could get in any real trouble.

(Been a while since I read RoP:Divine for its doctrinal commentary - looks like it's time again.)

Are you implying that the players have perhaps been seduced into believing their characters are in the right, when in fact "not so much" is the doctrine? Oh, saints preserve us!

If you make an effort to penetrate the divine resistance of the mother of Christ you are way past redemption, almost certainly in league with the devil and probably have already been marched and killed, and now stand restless in an eternity of torment where your ravaged soul is punihed for all eternity.

That it is thematiclly and statistically possible ignores the fact that these forces are not entirely passive. The divine knows your motives and is supreme and will not permit you to do so. Or even come vaguely close.

And exactly how do you expect to meet this agent of God on his day off? I think you can be fairly confident that on such rare occaisions he is enjoying blissfull eternity in the presence of the divine rather than wandering around the lesser world where magi reside, looking to get himself destroyed.

Depends on your exact definition of magic, I guess.

As far as I have read, all sorts of "magic" were fine. Stuff like, divining, visions, healing animals, spells to ensure good crops, healing people, love potions were usually all relatively unproblematic. It depends on what you are doing with the magic --- at least in the Ars Magica period --- and a bit on who you are. So someone with the Gift is probably always going to be considered shady --- but that's because of the Gift, not the magic itself.

Certainly, if the magic was seen as something to do with devil worship, or heresy, then there would be problems. But not all magic was seen in this light.

Also, in later periods, i.e the fifteenth century onwards, society became much more intolerant of "magic".


blink That's what I'm saying: The idea that one ever encounters Michael in the world when he's not working on behalf of God is weird to me.