Theban Tribunal and Ancient Magic

This could probably be dismissed with a "it works like X in my saga", but I just wanted to pick some brains. Now just so you know, I am doing this away from my books, so I can't give page references; please forgive me on this point.

I have been working on some material for a game set in the Theban Tribunal (a play-by-post saga). I have been re-reading The Sundered Eagle for background material, especially as the covenant I am supposed to be working with is filled with incomers to the Tribunal. To this end, suddenly they need to learn Classical Greek asap.

Then, out of a sense of simply going back through under-read material, I was reading Ancient Magic, particularly the chapter on Adamic Magic. There is a sidebar there talking about how Bonisagus worked to make Latin the magical language of the Order and how use of another language would make matters difficult, at best.

The question, then, is obvious -- how does one reconcile the use of Classical Greek in the Theban Tribunal with the use of Latin in the rest of the Order, not in terms of communication and social intercourse, but rather in terms of spellcraft. Does the use of Classical Greek mean that any language can be used under current theory or is the Bonisagian form of magic innately tied to Latin?

(As I said, I know this could be worked out on a by-saga-basis, but I would be interested in opinions.)

I would say latin is a convenience due to being a widespread "language of the learned", not because the magic is in any way what so ever directly and actually linked to the language.

Since i dont have the TT book i wont even try to get into the other question. Although my guess would be something along the lines of "stubborn as mules". :mrgreen:

I've never worried much about language restrictions on magic. At various times and places within the Middle Ages Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, among others, have all been considered holy and/or magical languages. If you do go by the Ancient Magic rules, it's almost trivial to adapt Hermetic Magic to a new language anyway, so you might as well assume Greek was integrated centuries ago. The same might go for Arabic, the Deidne might have used some Celtic language, and I wouldn't put it past House Tremere to use an obscure Balkan language to hide their spells from outsiders.

I do wonder how you'd go about translating a spell from one language to another, mechanically.

This has bohered me as well - I could see it as a cornerstone of a new schism war to be honest.

I'm fairly certain the Sundered Eagle actually indicates that this was a break through achieved at some point, but noble's parma on where :slight_smile:

It is explained in the sidebar "magic in other languages" in "Ancient Magic".

To cast spells in a language other than Latin an hermetic magus must perform original research for integrate the new language.

This is a lesser form of minor breakthrough and is suggested that this integration was already made for Arabic and Greek.

There are two things going on here - one is the Latin of the Hermetic Tradition, from Bonisagus, and the other is the Greek of the Tradition of Hermes, from ancient cults of Greece. Only where the two intersect (or parallel languages do so) does this question become significant.

The Hermetic Tradition expanded out to all parts of Europe and beyond, where there were already many existing, if smaller, traditions. Most of these disappeared into the Order and the learning-language abandoned as the new Theory replaced the previous understanding, but some few retained their traditions - and language - either within lesser traditions within major Houses or as sub-traditions within House Ex Miscellanea. This would happen where ever Latin was not strong and/or "the local" was entrenched in the alien tradition. The "join or die" invitation would be issued (or seen on the horizon by the perceptive outsiders before being issued), and Latin would come as part of the teaching if/as necessary. Some in House Ex Misc might use other languages, but those would also most likely be using non-Hermetic theories (and suffer because of both).

But in Greece, it seems, a core pre-element of Hermetic Tradition, so central that The Order bears its name, was extant - in part the tradition of the Cult of Hermes. And, apparently, this existing "non-Hermetic" tradition had so much in common with Hermetic Theory that any distinctions were insignificant enough to be overlooked without loss of the Hermetic Theory itself, so the language was still completely useful as Hermetic Theory was being learned and the new Latin terms not at all necessary. It's similar to English/Metric measurement - you can move to France or to England, and it's just as hot/fast/large/massive, but the terms are not immediately (or always easily) translatable (only with magic, it's far more complex and abstract, natch).

So, the magic is (essentially) the same, but the way the different magi think/talk about it is not.

(edit - Warning - Some level of actual intellectual effort may be invited ahead. Proceed at your own risk.)

[i](If anyone is familiar with linguistics, they may know the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the idea that different language creates different ways of thinking, that language is "the tools" of thought. So, without technical language, we don't have the ability to think technically about a subject, and if two people have different technical vocabularies (such as springing from two different languages), the thoughts that arise from those vocabularies can be subtly different, reflecting the differences in the "tools" the thinkers have available.

To put it another way, it's the difference between denotation and connotation, of a dictionary definition (what the word denotes) and what it "means" on a broader level to the person who hears it (what the word connotes) - and then what thoughts those connotations invite/inspire. It's the diff between mother and mommy, of carcass and corpse, of delusion and hallucination. Almost any translation is going to fail to mirror the identical "meaning" accurately, and with the subtleties of magic these differences become even more pronounced.

In Japanese, there is a concept called [/i]zanshin, which is simultaneously several things: the knowledge to take the correct stance for a martial art, and to be aware of the combat situation (which is necessary to take that correct stance), and to project that knowledge and awareness to intimidate your opponent. The "From this stance, Miyamoto Musashi cannot be assailed"[i] concept, where the combatant with weaker zanshin knows he has lost before any weapon is drawn. Without that word, that concept can be explained (as I have just attempted), but with less effectiveness than if the word were part of our mutual vocabularies.

In English, we might call this a combination of "mastery of the art" and "unspoken intimidation/looking bad-ass", which English-speakers recognize are both desirable things in any martial art, and inarguably powerful when combined. Same idea, but also not the same because it's not combined into one, clean word-concept.

Something similar would be going on here with different language of the shared magic(s). The same concepts exist in both Latin and Greek, but the vocabulary creates subtly different avenues to the same result. Not enough to change anything, but enough to yield a noticeably awkward translation.)[/i]