The Order of Hermes, Early Recruitment

Various entries in the Houses of Hermes books makes it clear that some of the Founders spent time recruiting wizards into the Order of Hermes.

They also make clear that Bonisagus conferred with many of the Founders to obtain information necessary to complete Hermetic Theory.

When you look at the timeline of the Order's development, from when Trianoma met Bonisagus in 731, to her traveling Europe from 731 to 767, somewhere in there she had to have met the other Founders, got them to meet Bonisagus, and each had to have time to discuss their personal magic with him, and he had to have time to integrate each and every one of those elements into his Hermetic Theory, and then he had to open each and every Founder's Arts, and then he (in my opinion) would have had to spend time on Teaching the Founders. Bonisagus thus seemed very busy (a not unreasonable situation).

When I read the descriptions of the other Founders, by and large, they seemed pretty busy, too, what with going out and recruiting into the Order or killing (or whatnot). In fact, they seemed so busy, that they would hardly have had time to spend many seasons on personal Hermetic development. It's not like there were a bunch of Summae and Tractatus sitting about on some shelves, waiting to be read. It's not like Bonisagus really had the time to do Teaching for all of them. Maybe the Founders studied from vis (supposedly there was more back in that era), but even if so, everyone one of them would have been doing it, and that, I think would have made any available stores (which would have come from who knows where) in several categories of vis go down to zero before each Founder was done studying.

Now, beyond the mere development of the Founders in Hermetic magic, here is the thing. What exactly was going on with the recruits getting yanked into the Order under threat of, "Join or die!" None of them knew Hermetic Magic. I have trouble believing they all had the Gift. For those who did have the Gift, they would all need their Arts opened, a season of time for each of them just for that. And beyond opening their Arts, what of the rest of their training? Again, there were no Summae or Tractatus lying about (or very, very few, and none of them high-level, as the Founders did not appear to have many seasons for writing out these works), and any vis stocks would have long since been used up by the Founders.

For those recruits who didn't have the gift*, what happened to them?

  • In Houses of Hermes: Societates, p. 8:

"Varsus was dead before the next dawn; his allied hedge wizards capitulated and joined the Order."

Really? An entire group of hedge wizards, not one of them likely having the Gift (after all, how many hedge wizards do have the Gift), suddenly joining the Order. What did they do? Which House did they join? Ex Miscellanea didn't exist yet, and with either most or all of them unable to learn Hermetic Magic, just what happened to them? Hidden in a corner of one of the Houses, as if swept under a rug? Polite disposal? "Oh, we didn't mean you were joining our Order, we meant you were joining the order of the dead," followed by a few gouts of flame from Flambeau or death spells from Tytalus. This is just one example.

And between the Founding in 767 and 773, there are suddenly regional Tribunals being established, and the requirements for a quorum are set. Did they really have four covenants in every one of those Tribunals? Did they really have 12 magi divided up between each of those four covenants in each of the Tribunals? I doubt it. Was there some desire to create a bunch of nonfunctional political subdivisions? What for?

There seems to be some underlying assumption that the Founders yanked together a large number of recruits and got them functioning as Hermetic magi in the time allotted based on the timeline given in sufficient quantities and spread out over Europe in residence to make all the new Tribunals work just seven years after the Founding. I just don't see how it happened.

Back in the ArM2-3 days, when the early history of the Order was a fog, my own development work led me to believe that it would have taken a while to train up sufficient new magi to even get to Tremere's rise to dominance in the years that led up to the Sundering. I had Tremere attempting to set up the regional Tribunals with Grand Tribunal dominance as a part of his move to take over, but he hadn't quite managed to finish his work when the Sundering struck. After the Sundering, the Tribunals were divided and a revised format of Grand Tribunal ratified as a furtherance of an new vision to stop anyone like Tremere from attempting to take over again.

When I found out in ArM5 that the Tribunal divisions occurred in 773 (which was now called the second Grand Tribunal), I was, in a phrase, taken aback.

There is an aweful lot of "handwavium" in the Foundation of the Order... and a lot of subsequent sourcebooks (especially Hedge Magic, with it's wide range of very different magic systems and the idea of unGifted hedge wizards) have only served to complicate the issue.

Having run an "early Order" saga, back in 4th edition days, the assumption I opperated under was that there was a way to "convert" pre-Hermetic magic into Hermetic magic. Most of the Founders and early recruits came out of the Mercurian tradition and their magic was "almost Hermetic" anyway. Essentially, the Founders and the early recruits weren't starting from scratch but already effectively had scores in many of the Arts. What they gained were powers like Parma, Certamen, Spontaneous magic (or Fomulaic magic for the Diedne) and maybe some Arts they didn't already have.

(This is why, in my saga, we don't use the various sub-systems for Hedge magic. We have Supernatural Abilities or Arts...)

IMO, openening the Arts is unnecessary. Teaching them (Hermetic) Magic Theory was all that was needed and Parma Magica, too, I guess. Their arts had already been opened by their previous master.

Presumably, that could be as simple as visiting Bonisagus, he gets them to write about their magic traditions, and in return allows him to read about his Magic Theory and Parma Magica after he's incorporated their traditions into Magic Theory. Say one season of Bonisagus time and three at most (write their tradition, read about MT while Bonisagus extends MT, read about Parma) and they're done. Perhaps an overly simple analysis.

My own assumptions are something like LuciusT's, in that I've always understood that something very close to Hermetic Magic existed before Bonisagus and the Founders. My early - and possibly incorrect - reading of AM2 materials was that "Hermetic Magic" was a manifestation of "Hermeticism", with roots back to Hermes Trismegistus. The original Order of Hermes book made this explicit and carried it back further to Ancient Egypt and Atlantis. It all seems very heretical against AM5 canon but the early material seemed to support it.

With this as background, my take is that Bonisagus developed an improved form of Magic Theory with the assistance of the other Founders and then proceeded to teach it to other magicians who already followed a basically Hermetic Te/Fo wizardry. Probably in the early days the Magi either attacked or more or less ignored sorcerers who practiced other forms of magic, which must all have seemed decidedly inferior and hedgy compared to Hermetic Te/Fo magic.

This theory allows non-OOH wizards with nearly-Hermetic powers, which I like better than a plethora of new magic rules, and supports the various secrets in the Mysteries as remnants of ancient Hermetic lore, rather than requiring them to all have been developed over the past few centuries. It also leaves Bonisagus as a more believable genius wizard, rather than a veritable God of Magic.


But when you say "The Arts", that might well be very flawed, very incomplete - and now it's "too late to fix" (don't ask me why).

"Improved" may not be the right word.

As I've always understood it, there were (and still are) many, many different theories and understandings of magic, and they vary widely and wildly. Three picts grooving in a cave, and they come up with their own understanding of "magic" - that has no relation to anything happening in the next valley. Some may have been close to what is "now" Hermetic Theory, or was in part, but for each that was there were others that were not. Even in 1220, each non-Hermetic Tradition varies, and some were more or less powerful in what Hermetic magi know as the "Forms" or "Techniques", but they worked well enough. It was "magic", even if it was all different magic.

(This explains some of the "weak" powers and alternative magics that are suggested in supplements - it's not that they are attractive when building a Player Character mage, it's that they are all some NPC Hedge Wizards have to work with. And why some of the really cool suggestions come with painful restrictions - again, these aren't "splat books", they are alternate approaches to magic that some non-Hermetic magi practice.)

What the big B did was find an underlying element that could explain all of them (more or less), a magical GUT. Only it wasn't perfect. In some cases, significant abilities were lost - some of the powers that are found in Ancient Magic, Mysteries Revised, etc. are examples of "Theories" that encompassed some understanding that was lost when translated into Hermetic Theory. Some of the sharper corners had to be rounded off to get it all to fit into that one package.

The power of Hermetic Theory is not that it's "better" - it's that any and all members use the same theory, and that it covers 98% of what's out there. It's the Volvo of magic - sturdy, reliable, works well enough for most any purpose. But it's not a blanket "improvement", not at all.

That's how I understand it.

Those are all excellent ideas. It would certainly explain the class of wizards Trianoma and most of the other Founders were really attempting to locate to form the core of the new Order, just those select few who were already on the inside. Strong hedge wizards (anybody whose powers weren't Mercurian-descendent) would have been primarily a target for death, with few Founders expecting any to join.

Of course, House Bjornaer (I still can't remember the name of the Founder without looking in the HoH:M book) might have seen things a little differently. They're supposed to be at odds to some degree with the rest of the Order, anyway.

This extends on through House Ex Miscellenea. Pralix gathered up a large group of hedge wizards and fought Dav'nalleous. They then came together and founded the Ordo Miscellanea. I am guessing Pralix did not assemble them on the basis that they all had to have the Gift and learn Hermetic Magic. I am willing to bet that most did not have the Gift. Trianoma came along and brokered a deal to pull the Ordo Miscellanea into the Order of Hermes as Ex Miscellanea. Suddenly, we have a large group of non-Hermetic wizards, most of whom probably do not have the Gift and never knew Mercurian anything, and likely never will (most probably can't even learn Parma). So, when they show up at Tribunal meetings, unable to work a simple Parma or even a spontaneous spell, I can see where many full Hermetic Magi would boil with resentment. Because these members were added to the Order through a political action, they did not have to go through the standard acceptance/review at a Tribunal meeting to get their Hermetic Magi status. Now, since they don't know Hermetic Magic, and any apprentices also never will, how do any of their apprentices get into the Order? Can they? Is their legacy shutout of the Order? I can't imagine that would have sat well. Does Trianoma's agreement with Pralix continue throughout all apprentices and their descendants?

Personally, for a time I was operating under the assumption that Ex Miscellenea could admit any wizard at all into its House, and it was automatically approved by the Tribunal without review as long as the individual attended to be identified and registered. However, given the power available at Tribunal to voting members, and the sheer number of hedge wizards that could form a huge block of votes (that may not be able to cooperate together, but could at least vote down the Romans), it seems difficult to believe that the Romans would simply go along with this plan. Eventually, non-Hermetic hedge wizards could completely outnumber Hermetic Magi at Tribunals throughout the Order if this were allowed.

That's certainly a good way to explain things and one that probably fits better with AM5 canon than mine. But it's not quite what I "believe".

As I said, I believe there were recognizably Hermetic traditions before Bonisagus and that he developed his Magic Theory by working with a group of these pre-OOH Hermetics. Certainly Picts and other people have radically different theories of magic but my interpretation (strictly IMO) is that the early order didn't really bother with these magics until the foundation of Ex Miscellanea. The Founders all would have had similar Magic Theories, but with pieces missing. Deidne might not have access to Formulaics, other might not have Spontaneous Magic, some might have Deficiencies, most would not have had longevity rituals or familiars, etc. Bonisagus's Theory was an improvement in the sense that all future practitioners had access to all these things. I agree that other abilities unique to particular Founders could have dropped out and been forgotten or been preserved only through Mysteries. I also think Bonisagus dropped the entire concept of mystery initiations from his magic, since it's not part of the future Hermetic core. That's a loss of breadth that allowed him to remove ideology from magic theory and allowed wizards to cooperate in their developments.

But it's all strictly IMO, based on thoughts for running a game before the Schism War.

Jabir, sometimes I wonder if we haven't run the same games. :smiley:

I came up with the idea of the "Magus minor", a title reserved for individuals who have magical capabilities but no Gift. They have a certain degree of protection, but they don't have a vote at Tribunal or a right to keep a Gifted apprentice if any Gifted member comes to claim him or her. Because they can't learn the Parma (no Gift), there's little "join or die" pressure, and swearing in local hedgies as Magus Minor often acts as a local peace treaty more than as an expansion to the Order.

That said, I'm thinking of redoing a lot of hedge wizard mechanics to all reflect a few underlying themes that don't necessarily rely on the Gift to function - soul/mind magic, natural magic, heritage magic, and bargain/summoning/worship/spirit magic.


If (part of) the premise of the "Join or Die" policy is to regulate rogue "spellcasters" who otherwise would give all magi a bad name, then it makes complete sense to have a policy to deal with powerful non-Gifted persons. (Shades of Larta magi, which I still use).

But I don't see this as contradictory in the least.

If B based his theory on a "proto-Hermetic Roman Tradition" (for lack of a better turn of phrase), or (more likely) just did so in large part, the rest still works without change. He didn't adopt it wholecloth, he stole the name and adapted it to fit and expanded it with visionary genius - and that was a lifetime's work, and that was just to create the foundation that was then improved by others and over time.

Birna was definitely the odd werebear out among the Founders under this interpretation. It's hard to see her practicing hermetic magic before the order. Maybe she established a place among the founders because of personal usefulness or heroic deeds. After all, Mercere got his own house even without retaining magic at all. We need to remember that the Founders were real people and not just the representatives of traditions.

You could argue that Deidne has the same problem being proto-Hermetic but I incorporate occult traditions about "Hermetic Druids" and base them more on Golden Bough ideas of druidism than on the hard historical interpretation. It's a little contrived but no more than anything else to do with Hermeticism. It works better if you assume the Deidne were from Gaul instead of Ireland, a point on which I think published material has gone both ways over the years.

That's logical but perhaps that goal arose later than the time of the Founders. If you picture a bunch of wizards banding together in Germany in the 8th century, it's hard to imagine them placing a high concern on the future reputation of spellcasters. Given time later it makes perfect sense. Also there's the question raised by RainOfSteel in the original posting - if these guys joined the order prior to the days of Ex Miscellanea, where were they organized?

That's the way I see it too, so we're not contradicting each other. I think though that the standard AM5 approach is more that Bonisagus welded together radically different forms of magic to create a system of Hermetic Magic that was completely different from anything that came before. I find this to be a less believable Bonisagus. More imporantly, the approach prevents using anything older as directly hermetic. See for example the recent argument in Legends of Hermes as to whether the spirit lore mysteries could actually be ancient or not.

I think that since the Hermetic Arts were the creation of the Founders, it may have been far easier for the Founders to translate their own powers into Hermetic Arts.

That is to say, for example, that the Art of Mentem is an amalgam of what was understood by Jerbiton, Tremere, Tytalus and perhaps Bjornaer.

Therefore, its not really a case of opening new arts as changing perspectives on Old ones for the existing Founders.

Because of this intimate connection with the Arts, as their creator, the older arts of the Founders would not be lost, but transformed.

So, for example, Jerbiton may have entered the Order with his magical arts translated into strong Mentem and Imaginem arts, and a decent spread of techniques.

Merinita's magic would have translated into Herbam and Animal, obviously, with stronger intellego and Creo than other Techniques, with little if any Perdo.

Bjornaer would have special and wierd incantations, strong Intellego and Muto, but no Elemental Forms. Defficiencies might include all magic needing to be Ritual, or R: Personal (Allowing for Magical senses, self transformation, personal wards and Sensory Magic, but not others.).

And so on.

It should also be noted that he supernatural abilities of House Ex Miscellania are explicitly NOT the full extent of their pre-Hermetic powers - they are simply the remnant residue of part of them, according to HoH: S. The Witches of Thessally could do more than just use "Summoning" and the Celtic Rune-Wizards could do more than Incantation OR shapeshift.

These are both issues I was wondering about. I believe I read that Merinita helped Birna out, perhaps being the one who opened her Arts (heck, Merinita probably took one look at Magic Theory and went, "Oh, so that's how it's done," and turned to Birna and said, "Here, this is how you do it."). I had the same question about Diedne, but I personally assumed that Diedne already knew Latin, so that would have sped up her learning curve. It isn't like there is a House history for Diedne or Founder's information write-up (or at least nothing I have run across yet).

I' never really gave the matter much consideration before, but suspect that the magic practiced by the Cult of Mercury may have included elements similar to the hermetic forms. First, the fact that the Magic realm and its denizens are described in terms of their hermetic forms could be taken as evidence that Bonisagus' theory is essentially correct, albeit imperfect. Secondly, the other example of Classical magic, the Augustan Rites as described in Rival Magic, employ six of the ten hermetic forms albeit in a limited fashion.

The example of Grigori Magic in Ancient Magic also suggests that Bonisagus wasn't the first to adopt the forms associated with hermetic magic though again its difficult to draw any conclusions given the relative lack of information about that magical system. Overall though, I think there's a fairly strong case that Bonisagus was originally trained in a Roman tradition influenced by classical philosophy and used that as the foundation of his own research into the nature of magic.

IMS I am playing around with the idea that at the beginning of the Order of Hermes wizards were being converted to Hermetic Magi by means of Initiation scripts, that converted much of the non-Hermetic wizards magic to the nearest Hermetic equivalent.
Bonisagus only had to develop at most 11 such initiation scripts, one for each of the other Founders. The Founders then took a copy of the initiation script for the conversion of their magic, and used it on other non-Hermetic wizards with the same/similar magic tradition. After all Bonisagus had studied all the other Founders' magic quite thoroughly. For other wizards, either they become Mythic companions or are initiated into the basic Hermetic system and trained the hard way.

Also IMS I have Davnalleous as a Pictish wizard attempting to fight Druids. I have his evil level as ambiguous before the war with the Order of Hermes. Davnalleous is in northern France recruiting allies against the Druids (IMS the heirs to sorceror-king Merovech's magic tradition) when suddenly the Druids of Deidne's Faction suddenly get more powerful, thanks to Roman allies of Bonisagus' group.

D and his allies manage to capture a copy of Diedne's inititiation script and make headway in reverse engineering it. Order of Hermes gets wind of this and go ballistic. First they seek to exterminate D and his allies, and secondly for security purposes all copies of the quick convert to Hermetic Magic initiation scripts are destroyed. Later recruitment is thus by the slow training method.

Veeery good point.

Bonisagus didn't invent his theory from nothing. He used what he already knew, and expanded it with the other founder's help.

Thinking back to Hedge Magic, difficult arts can , through breakthrough, become "normal" arts. Similarly, new guidelines can be developped.

So, say bonisagus used a system with Techn + Form
His techniques were Creo, rego, intellego, and were difficult arts.
His forms were limited forms of vim, animal, aquam (This is just for an exemple).

=> He makes his techniques into "normal" arts. He keeps his XP.
He gets his arts to do more. He keeps his XP.

Flambeau comes to him with a single form akin to Ignem, which is essentialy an accelerated ability at 50, nothing else.
Bonisagus integrates it (a breakthrough), and teaches what he knows to Flambeau (probably through an initiation script).
=> Boni gets a new Ignem score of 0. Flambeau gets scores of 0 in Creo, Rego, vim, animal and aquam, and sees his ability become an Ignem art at 50.

An intriguing idea. I'm really interested in this, as there is largely no canon way to explain how all of Pralix's hedge wizards from Ordo Miscellenea were integrated into the Order of Hermes. This would seem, possibly, to be a way of handling that.

However, if it is possible at all, why do Hermetic Magi ever worry about finding an apprentice with the Gift? They could just grab anyone with a hint of some type of magical talent and initiate them.

Several reasons, i would say:

  1. Integration is not perfect. Look at the exmiscellaneas for that. Plenty of major hermetic virtues and flaws around
  2. initation scripts might require ordeals that cripple the apprentice
  3. Starting learning hermetic magic from scratch makes you more powerful than converting from another system.
  4. Avoid the "hedgie" stigma. I would list it around the same stigma carried by ex-alcoholics/ex-drug-addicts. being looked over the shoulder is not a good thing for you regardless of your raw power.
  5. Not everybody wants to convert to hermetic magic
  6. In fact hermetics do that all the time: the boy that talks to thin air, the child that turns invisible to avoid the bullies in his hometown, the children whose touch burns when enraged or that has a pack of friendly wolves taking care of him. :slight_smile:


Certainly an intirguing idea and one that has interesting possibilities and implications.

My own view is that this is not the case though, for two reasons. First, I don't see why the Order would abandon this method in favor of the difficult and risky canonical way to open a hedge wizard's arts. It's too useful to give up. Second, I don't see "my" Bonisagus as favoring initiations and other mystery cult trappings. There's no suggestion anywhere that his house uses these tools, nor really that any of the core houses do. The Mystery Houses all stand a bit aside from the hermetic mainstream.