Stronger Arcane Connections?

Reading the Mythic Locations, I realized that it seems there's an assumption that ancient remains can allow magi to summon the ghosts of the long departed, whatever their death date.

This is present in other products, such as HoH: TL, where the Tremere scour ancient battlefields and summon roman armies, some even dating back to before the birth of christ IIRC.

Yet, according to the core rules, non-fixed AC have a duration of Decades at best. I'd say centuries are quite a bunch of decades.

So is it me, or are some arcane connections to the dead, most usually body parts, lasting longer than they should when used with Rego Mentem? It seems like potential breakthrough material

I believe the idea is that a ghost needs to be anchored somehow. Just as my finger will act as an arcane connection to me but only starts decaying as a connection when it is no longer part of me, I expect that anchor would not decay until it and the ghost become magically separated. (Maybe a talisman bond would have made more sense as an analogy.)

Hermetic magic isn't the only thing that can make an AC permanent, and I definitely agree that an anchor should be a permanent Arcane Connection (actually, I might rule that it's metaphysically part of the ghost and thus Touch range, not AC).

So yes, if the remains are an anchor, then you can summon from them.

But in order for that to work, the dead person should leave behind a ghost, which not all dead people do. So not every single corpse would work as an AC, but only those of people who actually left a ghost behind. Serf's Parma, but I kinda recall that Hermetic Projects had some stuff on when/why ghosts would be left behind, in the Living Corpse chapter.

Well, House Tremere has the Leadworker virtue, which allows them to make fixed Arcane Connections with no time expenditure using body parts, and they can create Arcane Connections to any restless dead by writing their name on a curse tablet or representing them with kolossi.

That said, if you can't identify a connection to a ghost in any way, you can't use an AC ritual to summon them. So if someone died in battle without feeling their life was left undone and didn't cause the birth of a faerie ghost, and no Arcane Connections to them are left, then they're unavailable to call up.

I expect that an AC between a ghost and their bones would last for many decades, as in dozens, or even until the actual bones have crumbled. Bones can last for centuries under some circumstances.

The AC between ghost and grave or death site or other haunting site might last many decades more. The haunt of a ghost may well be a naturally permanent AC.

I find that Ars Magica products sometimes blur the distinction between what I would call Ghosts, meaning spirits of dead people who wander the Earth, and what I would call the Dead, meaning spirits who have passed to some sort of afterlife.

I would expect ties to Ghosts to be fairly long lasting Arcane Connections, even permanent in some cases. Using these ACs to summon or otherwise magic Ghosts should be fairly easy, since after all the spirit in question is right here on the Earth.

The Dead, on the other hand, should be much harder for vanilla Hermetic magic to affect. Wherever the Land of the Dead is, it's not in the mundane realm and in general cross-Realm magic is difficult. This explains why "Incantation of Summoning the Dead" is a ritual. There's ambiguous information as to how difficult finding arcane connections to the Dead is. As The Fixer noted, basic AC rules imply that corpses only function in this manner for decades, at best. However, the text for "Incantation of Summoning the Dead" (AM5, pg. 152) states that "You must be on the spot where the person died or must have the corpse (either of these constitutes an Arcane Connection)." There's no warning of expiry and other products do discuss armies of the ancient dead. Perhaps these are meant to refer to Ghosts already wandering the Earth at the sites of ancient battlefields and the like, but I have trouble picturing quite so haunted a Mythic Europe as that.

I think I prefer the more restrictive approach myself.

I agree that there is a rules distinction as well as a metaphysical distinction between these two entities. Here's how I've unpicked it:

The general pattern is that the soul heads on to its final reward (Hell, Purgatory, Paradise, or Heaven depending on its nature, see Locations: The Purgatory of Saint Patrick). The spirit (not ghost) remains with the body for a while. This period usually ends with a burial with Divine rites, otherwise the spirit is released when the flesh has gone. This is the entity communicated with when you cast Whispers Through the Black Gate. Jewish spirits depart their bodies on the first anniversary of their death. The destination of the spirit once it departs the body is to join with its soul. The body of the deceased remains as an Arcane Connection to the spirit as long as it did not have a Divine burial, the same is true of certain other ACs such as the place that the person died; but since the spirit is in another Realm it requires a ritual spell to contact it.

Ghosts are formed through a number of precipitating factors; but in general they are formed when the spirit separates from its body and ceases to be a conduit for the soul, instead becoming an independent (albeit fragmented) entity. Ghosts lack reason since they are no longer plugged into their rational soul. Trauma due to the circumstances of death can cause this separation, including the emotional trauma of not completing a vital task prior to death. A ghost can also be formed if the spirit returns to earth after it has departed. Sometimes a divine or infernal agency will send a spirit back to earth in this way, or it might get summoned through an Arcane Connection with Incantation of Summoning the Dead (or similar necromancy). In my opinion, this spell actually creates the ghost where none existed before, by cleaving off a fragment of the spirit, and it needs a ritual to summon that fragment of the spirit to earth. Ghosts may also be talked to via Whispers Through the Black Gate, but (in my saga at least) their ability to communicate is dependent on the type of ghost (as per Realms of Power: Magic).

In my saga I have spread a fear that Whispers Through the Black Gate can make it more likely for a ghost to spontaneously form from a spirit. It is therefore not used routinely by the rather pious magus who knows this spell.


That's a very interesting approach to the issue and one that seems like it answers a lot of unresolved questions in the game. There's a lot to wrap one's head around in your post.

Here I'd disagree with your idea of "final reward". If I recall correctly, it was more prevalent in Medieval thought to believe that only the souls of saints and prophets go to Heaven upon death and that the rest of us are in some intermediate spot until Judgment Day. What or where this intermediate spot is varies by tradition, Purgatory, Sheol, Hades, etc. In game terms, this is consistent with Ancient Magic, where Canaanite Necromancy allows access to all the Dead who are not in Heaven.

This is a good explanation of why "Ghosts" are lesser entities than simply disembodied versions of the living.

This part I'm not sure about. The Dead are problematic in the game. If the spirit and soul have been reunited in some Realm other than Heaven, then presumably magic (not necessarily Hermetic) can contact a fully rational Dead entity. Magic might even be able to pull this entire entity across the Realm boundaries back into the mundane world.

It's been ages since I've read it but there's a book called Ghosts in the Middle Ages by Jean-Claude Schmitt that has a good rundown of period beliefs, at least if I recall it well.

You'd probably need Divine power to call over an entire soul+spirit combination from Heaven. Then again, what use is rationality? You usually make use of a spirit for either information or servitude, neither of which are especially enhanced by a soul.

Also, minor nitpick, it's not just saints and prophets who get a pass into the heavenly fast lane, but also crusaders who die while crusading. Might makes right in more ways than one, y'know?

But not magic might. Apparently.

I'd like to ask a fundamental question of Mark and anyone else who's given it thought.

What, in Ars Magica terms, is a soul and what is a spirit? What are the functions of each? In particular, which is the seat of rationality and what would a human lacking either one be like?

Sounds like the Pope had to honor a Best Price Guarantee for crusaders who mentioned the old 72 virgins thing.


Tha question is actually answered in Art & Academe, in pages 31-32.

It states that the mind is the link between the body and the soul. The soul provides reason and intellect, the first one providing the power of deduction and the second one the power of understanding. The mind itself only has five wits of its own, which are: common sense gathering the input of the senses, imagination storing the input of the senses, memory archiving experiences and thoughts, cognition using them to make decisions and finally estimation making instinctual responses to external stimuli.

So a spirit is not defined, but I would say that it would consist of a mind without a soul. Hence, it would lack the ability to make deductions and understand what it knows, which makes it look a lot like an animal (who has a mind but not a soul, after all). Given that (I assume) we're talking about a spirit that used to be a link between a sould and a body, I would say that this mind would be more than an animal's, but would lack the ability to make new deductions or understand anything that it doesn't yet understand, being limited to draw its cognition from what's already present in its memory. So I'd personally say it would be focused on its pre-existing thought patterns, unable to learn or understand anything new (including its being dead, if we're talking about a ghost), which seems similar to what happens with actual Ars Magica ghosts, but a bit more restrictive.

I really, really like your take on the subject, and I'll be using it myself, if you don't mind. :wink:

Not exactly so, since at least Orthodox Christianity doesn't believe in Purgatory at the moment, if I recall correctly. And I think there are other branches of the Divine that don't believe in Purgatory either, though I'm not sure right now.

I should have guessed that it was in A&A. I guess this is Mark's view, since he wrote it. :slight_smile:

Unfortunately, like much real Medieval philosophy, this doesn't fit perfectly, or at least obviously, with the Ars Magica world.

For example, if the soul is the seat of reason and intellect, does that mean Magical and Faerie creatures have souls? Canon says no, I believe - although how Magi would possibly know this to be true or not is not clear. Can they not have reason or intellect, then? They seem to.

What about Creo-ing magical animals? Can they have full Intelligence? I can't think of examples offhand but I believe canon says they can. Yet the book says explicitly that magic cannot create souls.

Does Mentem not affect reason or intellect, since Hermetic Magic cannot affect the soul? This doesn't seem consistent with the rulebook.

Then of course, if the mind is the link between body and soul, what's really going on with the old Exchange of Two Minds spell?

Nonetheless, I believe Eastern Christianity also believed that Heaven could (and must) wait, as did Western Christianity before the concept of Purgatory was introduced. I gladly defer to the more knowledgeable on the topic though.

Looks like it's JUUUSSSSTT about to become in vogue as formal doctrine (or at least start to become a formal doctrine), in 1245, in the first council of Lyons: ... the_belief . But yes, it does seem that there is a proto-Purgatory system in place, at least in poetic literature and common parlance.

ArM5 with A&A follows the medieval reception of Aristotelian teaching, as found with Aquinas or Bacon. It is important to understand, that in 1220 these are not yet born, the texts they base their theories on are hardly understood, and most scholars and clergy have quite different opinions.
But even in 1220 only outsiders would attribute ratio and intellectus to animals, faeries or beings created by magic.

Have a look at the Mentem Guidelines in the boxes of A&A p. 32-34. Ratio and intellectus are not directly affected by Hermetic magic, but can be indirectly affected by changes of the inner wits.


That's actually what I was trying to get at in my post. Aquinas, Bacon, and the rest of the greats (sensibly) didn't devote a whole lot of thought to Giants, Dragons, Djinn, and the like. In the Ars Magica context we need to, and it makes the fit awkward.

I read that too, unfortunately after I posted. It's kind of a stretch that magic can raise Intelligence from -5 to +5 without actually affecting reason or intellect, but I'll go with it.

The soul provides perfect reason and intellect (which cannot be altered), but the mind can be improved or harmed to have better/worse common sense, imagination, memory, cognition, and estimation.