What flavour of Divine Realm do you prefer?

  • The divine should be unknowable and abstract
  • The divine should be present but open to interpretation
  • The divine should be tangible and make its purposes clearly known
  • None of the above

0 voters

  • One Mythic Faith should be the correct one
  • The divine should encompass all monotheistic faiths
  • The divine should encompass more than monotheistic faiths
  • The divine should encompass all religions, including polytheistic ones
  • None of the above

0 voters

  • The divine should be more powerful than the other realms
  • The divine should be equal with the other realms
  • The divine should be weaker than the other realms
  • None of the above

0 voters

There has been a fair bit of (slightly off-topic) discussion in the "What new games would you like to see in Mythic Europe" thread about how the divine realm might be changed. So I thought I'd make this new thread with a few polls to see what the general feelings on this topic are.

Personally I like the divine to be something like "the One" from Neo-Platonism and (real world) Hermeticism, rather than an active Abrahamic god. "Angels" and similar should be filtered through human preconceptions, being pure souls with no physical form, making contact with the divine very much up to the interpretation of the human mind. A Christian sees an angel, a Zoroastrian sees a Yazata, a Neo-Platonist sees a god, all from contact with the same being.

Religions I would like to see as more systems for connecting with the divine realm through ritual, like the magical systems used to tap into the other realms in a structured fashion. I do not like the idea of any religion having direct contact with the divine in the form of actual instructions. I much prefer the idea of each faith being an imperfect system with no way to prove they are correct (but also evidence to suggest they aren't entirely wrong).

What do other people think about the divine? Was it better in previous editions, is it just right in 5e, or could it be improved? How do you use the divine in your sagas?


My thoughts are that the Divine should not be automatically aligned with Christianity/Judaism/Islam and be more about the divine force of existence. That the Divine is the wellspring of existence, of creation, of universal energies. That the highest element of it should be unknowable and beyond approach, but that its middle to lesser elements should have a knowable personality. When acting in certain specific focused areas the power of the realm is either supreme or super high but that in general it is either equal or lesser than others. My thought is that there is nothing wrong with saying that not only is there a universal creator but there are also other divine forces that can be worshiped - the gods of other faiths.

I especially like the idea that there is nothing wrong, and in fact everything right, with using Magic and worshiping a divine force. I could even see the idea for a Divinity of Magic being a being of the Divine with influence over the Magical. That the whole idea that magic is reduced in a Divine aura should be removed or modified, maybe having it so that in a Divine aura magic used for pure purposes (with that being defined by the particular religion) is either boosted or made easier while magic used for impure purposes is either reduced in power or made harder to use.

In this the Infernal could be the shadow of the force of creativity and energy, the absence of it or even the negative space when something is created. Though it is the opposite it is not the equal.

Magic is power and lifeforce and the ideal, maybe even the shadow of the manifestation of the Divine. It is natural and without morality, being capable of both great acts of good and great acts of evil, but mostly just great acts.

The Faerie, I don't know. It could be either removed - as its significance in divinity is moved to the Divine - or it can be changed to be maybe the mindscape or the soulscape of living beings. It might also represent something like the First World, the one that came before the world as it is. Which while being just as real is a bit more emphereal then the world we know as the mundane material.


I like your thinking, and I think that there is a certain logic to the cosmos of Mythic Europe being an emanated one where the divine is the prime mover/creative force, magic is the 'template' the realm of platonic forms and an echo of the divine plan in certain ways, then the material world, then faerie (maybe?) and the infernal as you get further and further from the original source and more degraded.

I think even in 5e it is definitely implied that magic and the divine can be used together without contradiction (holy magic) - I even wrote a thing for my "30 Daimons for November" thing about a tradition of holy magi theurgists who summon magic beings as a part of their religious practice. What your suggesting builds on the same framework as holy magic and cthonic magic (for evil/infernal magic), I think.

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I think there is some interdependency of questions here. For example, I would like to see AM in a generic fantasy setting, with fantasy deities, where the divine would be tangible and make its purpose clearly known. in mythic Europe though I believe it should be unknowable and abstract. Splitting the difference with present and open to interpretation gives the impression of a divine that is almost a trickster type entity- presenting hints of itself but vague enough to cause confusion and division. Similarly I think if the divine is anything other than unknowable and abstract then it needs to include polytheism from a game design perspective. Worst case would be the divine clearly known, monotheistic only, and overwhelmingly more powerful than the other realms, at which point you might just as well call it the storyteller's club.

For me the most interesting part of the divine realm isn't the actual supernatural beings (I try to avoid using angels etc. entirely) or the nature of the divine itself, but the people linked to it and social structures built up by people trying to interact with it.

The church, holy men calling down miracles, holy orders, religious societies, worship and how it gives rise to dominion auras - all interesting aspects to me. An angel descending from heaven and intervening in something directly - not so much.

The human aspect of the divine is where the compelling stories come from in my personal opinion and that's where I'd like to see the focus be. That works best, I think, with a slightly more distant and less clear cut divine. When the divine is mostly non-interventionist religious characters have to actually have faith. When the divine is too present faith isn't necessary - there is actual evidence for the validity of religion there for anyone to see. Believing in an active god who intervenes is less like having faith and more like acknowledging gravity exists...

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I would say it relies on different values of faith- I have faith in people, which doesn't merely mean that I believe they exist. Some people do not believe in the government, but it most assuredly does exist. In ancient (pre-medieval societies the question regarding deities was not about whether they existed- in a world where most people were to some degree animistic in their outlook this was a given assumption, but rather whether they could be relied upon to support the people who looked to them. Even today when someone speaks of skepticism to the idea of sun worship the question is not whether or not the sun exists. If the whole of belief is dependent upon the existence or non-existence of the deity in question then it seems to me like a very shallow religion. Even the "yes Virginia there is a Santa clause" letter shows more depth than that...

From a metagame perspective I like that the Divine inhibits the use of magic. I like that for several reasons. It forces magi to be more creative about how they approach problems and provides an in-game reason for why magi need to respect mundanes. 2. I like that the divine provides a way for mundanes to protect themselves against a scary world of magical and faerie monsters. Since divine auras are relatively easy to create.

As stated before the existence of holy magic strongly implies that practising magic and being comfortable with the divine is quite possible. I think that within the ArM canon this can unproblematically be extended to include hermetic magi given the breakthrough presented for Conciatta of Bonisagus in Legends of Hermes.

I dont necessarily want the divine to be more powerful than the other realms but I dont mind that it currently is either.

In particular i would not want the game to exclude certain religious subgroups, e.g. have cathars be infernal aligned and catholic be divine aligned, exclude gnostics or sufis from divine auras etc.
I see no problem in having members of pagan religions demonstrating true faith or having divine auras emanate from their temples but I also see no problem in certain religions being affiliated with other realms. e.g. having original Indo-european religions be affiliated with the magic or faerie realms.

I am aware that my above statement is not a coherent rule for how things should be, but rather a wishlist for what a rule should do.

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pre-medieval societies the question regarding deities was not about whether they existed- in a world where most people were to some degree animistic in their outlook this was a given assumption, but rather whether they could be relied upon to support the people who looked to them

Is this accurate? There were plenty of people who questioned the existence of the gods in the classical world. Anaxagoras was exiled from Athens for claiming the sun was a ball of fire and not divine, the Atomists were entirely materialistic, the Sophists were agnostics, the Epicureans were accused of atheism as well...

Medieval theologians spent enough time writing proofs of of the existence of god to imply that there were people who had enough doubts to need it proven to them.

Even writers as famous as Euripides had characters who espoused disbelief in the gods: "Doth some one say that there be gods above? There are not; no, there are not. Let no fool, Led by the old false fable, thus deceive you." (from Bellerophon).

Belief doesn't rely on there being doubt in the existence of something, but to have faith in something does imply some measure of doubt and choosing to believe anyway.

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Okay, faith was not primarily about the existence- and nobody questioned the existence of the sun. But when you come from a culture that thinks in terms of the personality that items have the idea of gods (if not necessarily above) is not much of a stretch. The significant point is that they were far more dubious about the character (and nature) of the gods that their existence. I suppose you could say that today there are in fact people who doubt that the world we observe actually exists, and some who doubt it is round, but overall these are not things which are generally doubted, but doubts abound regarding details such as its age and the nature of tectonic drift, and there are plenty of people who want a chance to find a new world to live on because they feel too vulnerable having the entire human race on a single planet.

I'd like to point again to David Chart's Letter from the Line Editor in sub rosa #16.

"Ars Magica is set in a world that looks very much like medieval Europe (and now, with the release of Between Sand and Sea, North Africa as well). One defining feature of that world was the dominance of the Abrahamic religions, particularly Christianity and Islam, and that means that we must portray those religions in the game. Obviously, the religions portrayed in the game are not the historical religions, because they exist in an entirely fictional world, much less the contemporary religions, which are significantly different from how they were in historical 1220.

In early editions, the Divine aura was really for Christian churches, and we had to think about how to handle Judaism and Islam. We chose to bring them under the mantle of the Divine, even though there was probably no-one in historical Europe who thought that all three religions were valid approaches to the same truth. It was, we thought, the best way to be respectful, and we attempt to combine it with the most accurate research we can manage. Even this approach presents difficult issues. The immediate issue that prompted someone to call me an anti-Catholic bigot was my presentation of an aspect of theology, which, I was told, was obviously from a Protestant polemicist. In fact, it was taken directly from St Thomas Aquinas. The historical beliefs of these three religions do not always sit well with their contemporary adherents, and so we try to avoid putting too much emphasis on those aspects. Even so, Mythic Europe is supposed to be "Europe as medieval people believed it to be, plus the Order of Hermes", so we have to make judgement calls. When is it best to maintain historicism, and when is it best to jettison accuracy to avoid giving offence? The blood libel, the claim that the Jews used the blood of Christian children in their rituals, is not true in Mythic Europe despite being widely believed in historical Europe. That, however, is an easy case, and even the Abrahamic religions present us with tough decisions."

So the Divine is a game construct for Mythic Europe and ArM5, and can never be anything else.

I am very much in favor of representing 13th century thought on religion and philosophy in Europe and the Middle East as we know it from the sources: including Joachim of Fiore, Maimonides, Averroes and Thomas Aquinas.
Provided my angels stick with RoP:TD p.26f Storyguiding Angels, do not get gabby or interfer with scholarly debates, I can do that with the Divine as in ArM5.


It's a fair point, and it's worth saying that despite my grumbling about how the divine could be changed I'm actually a fan of how 5e handled things (I just de-emphasise certain parts of it to get the feel I want in my games).

The simplest option was always going to be to make the Catholic Church be right, and that actually makes a certain amount of sense when only focusing on Europe proper. However, the world of Europeans in the 13th century wasn't limited to Europe proper. Once you expand out to the point where you have groups of people who believe fundamentally opposed things then the paradigm of "as people of the time believed things to be" stops working - because you can't have a setting that encompasses the belief "X is right and Y is wrong" and "Y is right and X is wrong" at the same time. Even within individual religions, the nature of god is not agreed (the Albigensian crusade is happening right at the start of a 1220 saga) so how do you reconcile those conflicting beliefs.

You either decide somebody has the right interpretation, or you end up creating something that tries to make all of those beliefs something approaching correct in the setting, but not entirely, a sort of gestalt. This is the 5e approach and, I think the best way to handle it in terms of sensitivity to real world beliefs and also player and storyteller freedom.

I think this process could have gone slightly further, however, because once you get out of the major sects of the Abrahamic religions it starts to get back into weird territory.

Take the Druze for example, who believe in an unknowable, transcendent god who emanated the world in Neo-Platonic style, and also have reincarnation as a central tenet of their faith. Hard to handle under the 5e divine realm without making them just plain wrong in almost every aspect.

Or the Yazidis, who from the surface would appear to be infernalists, venerating satan - that was and is a common belief about them irl, which they find very offensive. Similar to the 'blood libel' thing with Judaism. Again, hard to fit into the divine framework of 5e.

Dualistic religions such as Zoroastrianism and Mandaeism also sit uneasily in the divine paradigm of 5e.

I think to really incorporate the full range of religious thought in the period you need to have a divine realm with more flexibility and mystery,

A more radical approach would be to have multiple godlike entities in the divine realm. Make everyone right, sort of, in a different way. Have Ahura Mazda, and the trinity, and Allah, and the demiurge, and YHWH etc. all exist as distinct entities. 'Gods' are to the divine realm as protogonoi are to the magic realm.

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Druzes and Cathars are tricky in 13th century Mythic Europe and Middle East. At that time they are openly persecuted whenever possible by the dominant religions of their area. I am not a student of middle eastern history, but tries to reconstruct 13th century Yazidi/'Adawiyya religion, which relied on oral tradition in Kurmanji, seriously risk hit and miss.

Doing even one of these 13th century religions justice when putting them into ArM5 sagas requires a lot of study by the main SG. Expecting more than minimal support for this by ArM5 does not make sense. How the ArM5 construct Divine Realm affects this is quite secondary indeed, as long a the SG does not use it to put down her foot and establish 'the truth (tm)'.

If a SG e. g. wants to base a saga on the religion of the Cathars, she has to cope with contradicting teachings among them and biased sources about them. Inventing credible characters without relying on the records of Jacques Fournier's inquisitions from 1318 to 1328 is very hard. So is representing their teachings without reference to the radical Liber de Duobus Principiis, which argues with the contemporary Catholic exegesis of the bible. She has to continuously take into account the persecutions and their direct effects on the Cathar religion. The ArM5 Divine Realm has nothing to do with these serious problems: as it covers and protects both Cathars and Catholics.

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I don't think there needs to be a huge amount of support in the core rules for what are, realistically, not going to be major aspects of most sagas unless you go out of your way to make them so. I do think you need to not have things in the core rules which directly contradict them though, otherwise it makes portraying them much more difficult.

For example - the existence of angels in a hierarchy that is fundamentally Abrahamic in tone as in RoP:tD raises huge problems for non-abrahamic faiths, or ones (like the Druze) who don't believe in an active god. If the archangels of Abrahamic myth exist as distinct entities with a specific appearance and character, why are they only known to the Abrahamic faiths? It implies that other monothesitic faiths are less important and only get to interact with the lower parts of the celestial hierarchy.

It all comes back, for me, to how people perceive divine entities. I think you solve almost all problems by making what you, a character in Mythic Europe, perceive when you witness something divine be filtered through preconceptions. You see what you want to see, something coloured by your expectations of what the divine is, not the definitive truth. This solves the above problem, because the celestial being a Christian perceives as an Archangel might be perceived as a Yazada, or a Hyper-Cosmic god, or a prophet, or any number of other things depending on who the witness is.

I think that 5e does a great job for Abrahamic religions, and mostly works for any monotheistic religion if you don't think too hard about it, but a little bit of "in the eye of the beholder" for celestial beings would add an extra level of flexibility for players and storyguides.



A SG who has studied the religion of a character sufficiently may easily describe an angel with the concept of Tajalli to the player of a Druze and as one of the angels to the player of a Yazidi. Their names and stats do not matter then - even if mentioned in RoP:TD. But they help those many, many SGs who did not venture to study rare and ancient beliefs.

I think what this all fundamentally demonstrates is the folly of having a mythic Europe which is "Europe as the medieval people believed it to be", because ultimately all we can do is present Europe as we believe the medieval people believed it to be. That may be better informed through research, but at the same time any research will be biased depending on the sources that are used, and realistically beliefs did vary by time, location, and individual throughout medieval Europe. Finally the beliefs of medieval Europe are simply not well balanced for game play. People who helped shape those beliefs had a vested interest in making sure that people living in a dangerous world felt safer if they followed the lead of the people shaping those beliefs. The same can be said today, but without a press, much less freedom of the press, skeptical voices are far less likely to be recorded. ideas about what people believed have shifted dramatically through various versions, and at some point we have to go back to this being a game not a history lesson, and especially not a graduate level discussion about historical accuracy. A lot of discussion in the period about witchcraft centered on the idea that belief in magic itself could be considered heretical- but in ars magica magic clearly exists, and that alone would radically alter the beliefs and conversations. It would be like asking how the industrial revolution might have gone differently if we changed the laws of thermodynamics, but tried to keep history the same despite the alteration. It wouldn't happen.


I think 'folly' is a bit of a strong way to describe it. The paradigm works great as a central guideline, and has helped create a very unique setting with a strong theme. Yes, there are some circumstances where it has to be moderated or ignored - whether because the beliefs in the period are not sufficiently attested, are directly contradictory, or would make for a part of the game that just isn't fun to use. Additionally, of course, when we are determined what "people at the time thought" we are making a judgement call based on what sources are available and how complete they are.

Still, I think that as a guideline, not a hard rule, the mythic paradigm is one of the great strengths of Mythic Europe as a setting.


IMO the changing expectations and beliefs of ordinary people between 1220 and 1230 at the center of Mythic Europe can make worthwhile ArM5 adventures.
You might check sub rosa #20 'Franciscan Doubts' and #21 'The Hill of Hell' as examples.


Once you have distinct highest entities, though, you can claim Crusaders Were Right.

I do not want distinct entities.

I'm happy with our current, weak syncretic dispensationalism. I put it in setting as the belief of the Primus 9f House Jerbiton in Sanctuary of Ice.

If forced to go again, I'd probably use de Chardin as a way to make Empedoclean Magic a form of Christian thought. Or at least Sufi thought. As described here https://wp.me/pVOkQ-32q

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The problem is that religion is an inherently and deeply personal matter. I expect most players will take a neutral approach (God is unknowable and religion is people, therefore flawed) but some of the more noxious atheists will go for 'religion is eeeeevil!' every time, and a game set during the crusades will invariably attract neo-nazis going out of their way unpleasant about Islam and Judaism.

The best you can really do is present the factual beliefs of the major faiths at the time, stat angels/saints/miracles for most of them, then note that no-one really has God on their side more than the others and that everyone, being human, is slightly awful. The players, also being people, will still be as awful (or not) as their inclinations, but you do then have a decent lump of disclaimer if anyone gets their theological knickers in a twist.

If the divine does need an explanation then 40k (yes, I know) does have one useful approach in that it heavily implies that belief influences gods as much as the other way around. Therefore you could posit a God who is the underlying, platonic, motive force of the universe, but whose apparent actions (angels/saints/miracles/etc.) are mostly emergent properties arising as much from the beliefs of worshippers as any conscious will on His/Her/Its part. The actions of God can then be as contradictory as need be and everybody can be both mostly right and very wrong at the same time.

But I'm a student optometrist not a medievalist, so I'm very likely talking out of my arse here.


It's been a long while since I looked at Sanctuary of Ice and I had entirely forgotten about that particular hook. It's a pretty solid explanation and it lines up very much with my own thinking (maybe I'm just regurgitating things I read long enough ago I forgot where the idea came from...).

The one thing I'd do differently is to make it explicit as the basic description of how the dominion works, and that not only miracles etc. but also celestial beings like angels are shaped in that way. If that's given as the framing device for everything the 5e dominion works pretty close to perfectly imo.

Distinct gods isn't a winner for me either, I was just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks with that one.

The de Chardin thing is interesting, I'm totally unfamiliar with him (that's another thing to add to the reading list) but I realy like the idea of the Criamon being right, sort of. For me the Criamon have to have some real insight into the nature of reality to be compelling - otherwise they're just crazy old people living in a cave and eating mushrooms, both metaphorically and literally in the case of their domus magnus.

I think if you really went hard into that idea you could add some really interesting stuff to all the realms, not just the divine. There are already plenty of ways in Ars to transform mortals into what are essentially supernatural post-humans: the becoming, sainthood, the Criamon paths, ascended daimons and other transformed humans... The idea of it all advancing to a sort of spiritual/supernatural supercomputer or something to that effect really gives a purpose and direction to those kind of things.

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