Introduction to Thaumaturgy

Pierce through the s̵̵͘͢h҉̵͡҉͞r̀͢o̶̶̴͟u͡͠d͏̡̛͟ until you draw ichor-blood; you'll know it by the oily sheen, the bitter taste that coats the inside of your t̛ho͝u̧̢gh҉̀̕t̸̢s̶̕; then think like a tick! Drink, but not too much. Nȩ̛͢͏̧v̡́͜͞e̵̵̡͘͞ŗ̛̀͘͘͜͢͠͞ too much. Fill your flesh through the m͏͟ark͝͡s͝ and pour it out into the world around you, and we will bec̸̢o̷̴̡m̀͞͞͝è̵̴̕͠ ̵͝͞͏̵l̵͝͏̷͝í̧͏k̷̡̕͞͡e̡̕ ̛̀͡͞͝t̛̀͜ḩe̵͏ ̧̢͢s͢͜p͞͠͠į͏r̷̷̵͝i̡͘͝͏̢t҉͏ś͜͟͜͞ ̧̕͜͡҉a͏̶n͘͜d̢̛͘͡҉ ̴̡̀͢g̸̨̀͞͞o͜͞͠͠d̵̵͠͠͠s͡,̴͠ ̸̶́w̷̴̨h҉̡͜e̢̨͟ņ̀͠ ̷̴̨̨y҉̶̢͝ó̵̧ù̸̢̀r̵̢͞͡͞ ̨͞͡m̸͜i̴̛n̨͟͏d̨̡́͘͞ ̨́͘͢͟a̶̴͘̕n̶̢͘͜d̵͘͝ ̶͢͞f̶҉͏̡͢l̸͠͏͟͞e͢͟͡ş͘h̸̡̛͟͞ ͜͜͢͟b̢̀͝è̀҉c̢̀̕͜͞o҉̸̀m҉͝͡é̷̢͘ş҉̡̕ ҉͏ļ̧̕͘͞į͘͝k̴͜͡e̢͢͠͞ ̶̛͠t̕͝͞h̵̸̨͘e̢͜҉̧͝i̡̧͜͠͏r̷̶̛͢s̢̨͠҉͘.̴   Excerpt from the Key of the Black Star
    Thaumaturgy, or Magic, is the combined school of occult knowledge for stealing power from things behind the veil of simple reality and pouring it into the world to make it malleable to human will. Like a parasite sucking blood, the occultist draws energy from terrible, alien things into her own flesh to fuel her powers.   But for all their confidence and for all they know, the Theurgs of Araea have only cast a single candle light into a vast darkness.  

The Art of Thaumaturgy


 
Power requires sacrifice. What's a bit of flesh here and there compared to this?  
— Excerpt from the Key of the Black Star
  At its core, Thaumaturgy makes reality more and less than it is. Most theurgs and mystics believe that the world beyond the veil is not one so strictly defined, but one of ideas, thought and possibilities. Thaumaturgy makes Araea more like that world by blurring the borders between worlds. From spears of stone to skewer opponents to the odd fungi-manipulation of the Shroomomancers, Magic reshapes the physical world through will and stolen power.    

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Centering

  To reach the right state of mind required to work Thaumaturgy, Magi use a wide range of techniques and tools that are collectively known as "Centering". To shape a spell requires a rare sort of focus and vision, and the Magi who can do so without aid are rare. Most are dependent on Centering to aid their will and these techniques range from simple mantras and meditation to heavy use of psychedelics and ritual. There are as many ways to Center as there are Traditions in the world, with techniques being passed down from mentor to disciple or scrawled in blasphemous tomes.    

Channeling

 
Shanessa's hair stood on end as she felt the energy begin to flow, a drip at first and then a flood. Her body felt cold and slick, like it had been submerged in icy slime. Her veins felt like they were writhing serpents and something dripped out of the scars on her hands. Judging by the way her attackers suddenly stepped back, she noted with a certain sense of satisfaction, they must have seen it too.
  By piercing the veil between worlds, the theurg can bleed world-altering potential from the beyond and into Araea through their own flesh and bones. This is called Channeling, the act through which the theurg steal power from spirits and act as a conduit to the world around them. Channeling require the magi to be centered, to concentrate on the act of piercing through the shroud with their will and then direct the flow.   The most typical visualization is of a jagged point, though some traditions have other metaphors. Without being able to see, the theurg has to stab through the dark until they find and pierce a spirit, then draw the energy that flows from them into themselves. Only once the energy begins to flow in to them can they begin to shape the spell.   A lapse of concentration can disrupt either the flow or what is already in the magi. Flesh or bone can burst with the sudden release of raw power, or the world around them can violently warp way out of control.    
Power Trip   Some grow addicted to the sensation of strange, alien energy flooding through their flesh and mind, to see cosmic landscapes dance in front of their eyes and hear the whisper of unknowable things. Others see it as an act of communion with the divine, an form or worship and sacrifice all at once. Most see it as madness and those who Channel simply to satisfy their impulses are often called "ticks" by other magi.
    Like they center their minds, Theurgs mark their skin with ritualistic scars to center their bodies. These arcane symbols open their flesh to the flow of energy and allows the Theurg to function as a conduit, directing the flow from the unfathomable beyond and into the world.    

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    While most spirits are blind and mute to the parasites draining them of power, not all are. Some turn their gaze to the magi who drink of their essence and react. The more violent and more deeply the magi drink, the more likely they are to draw a response from beyond; something most strive to avoid.    
Ebb and Flow   The spirits follow their own eternal wandering, with motives and plans beyond the ken of any mortal. How many spirits, and by extension how much power, is in any given area can vary dramatically. With fewer spirits, the magi can draw on less power to fuel their magic.
  In the current age, there is only one way that humanity has managed to draw the ichorous energies of the spirits without scarring their bodies and that is through the dissolution of Desolation. They can hear the whispers of the spirit and, unique among all magi, see them. Most do not envy them, for they describe chthonic horrors with no more concern for humanity then man has for ants.    

Shaping

   
A flickering light cast the shadows into dancing flight around them. It was the only opening Shanessa needed and she centered her will upon the dancing fire. The ichor seeping from her scars smoldered like embers as she released the energies out and towards that needle of candle light. It flickered once, then started to grow with every wild beat of her heart.
  As they Channel energy from beyond, the theurg shape it to acquire the change they are after. It can be compared to pouring water on clay to make it malleable, allowing the theurg to force the world into new, impossible forms. In essence, Thaumaturgy can broadly do three things:   Create or Grow - By feeding the energy into the world, the Theurg can turn a candle light into an inferno or daggers into swords. The change only persists as long as the magic does, crumbling or fading as soon as the energy is cut off. As long as they have access to some of their intended target, the Magi can create more. Matter created through Thaumaturgy is rarely subtle about its origin, warped by the alien origin of the power that created it.   Control or Warp - The Theurg can reshape the world, turning a slope into a set of stairs or make fires dance and shimmer like a rainbow. This is usually used together with Creation but used on its own the effects are usually permanent, though not all changes can sustain themselves when they are no longer reinforced by the flow of power. Two of the most common uses are sculpting or movement.   Destroy or Reduce - With a sharp, sudden flux of power, rock cracks and turns to dust or flesh rips violently. A crude technique on the surface, to destroy can be used either as a scalpel or sledgehammer.   Skilled Theurgs combine the different aspects into the same spell, growing and warping matter with the same thought or destroying something to replace it with something else.    

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    The magnitude of change a magi is capable of is equal to their skill and how much power they can channel. With experience, the magi can learn to do more with less, but only to an extent. Once shaped, the Channeling is used in two different ways: Channel and hold, or channel and pour. One maintains the effect at its current stage, while the other allows the magi to continue affecting their spell.    

The Limits of Power

  Magic can affect anything that the Magi can see, from metal to stone to shimmering fields of radiation... But only what they can see. Time, emotion, minds and other ethereal concepts remain stubbornly outside the grasp of Thaumaturgy, despite the best attempts of Magi. Thaumaturgy focuses on the physical world.   Thaumaturgy require the medium that the theurg intends to shape her spell around. Without it, they have nothing to focus on or anchor to spell into. While Theurgs can in essence create matter or fire out of thin air, they need that first spark to be able to do so. In other words: thaumaturgy cannot create fire out of thin air, but if they have even so much as a tongue of flame they can create an inferno.   Beyond that, the Magi are limited by imagination, willpower and their own skill. For every common school of arcane knowledge, there is one that focuses on something bizarre and unexpected.  
Invisible to the eye, the spirits themselves have been beyond the reach of Thaumaturgy but with one exception: those who suffer late stages of Desolation. As their vision slips between worlds and they see the great beyond, they become the only magi who can work thaumaturgy on the very source of their powers.
   

Tools of Thaumaturgy

  Besides using their own flesh and minds to work Thaumaturgy, theurgs have over the centuries devised a numbers of tools to aid them in their workings. These come in two categories: Foci and Vessels.  

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Foci

  Foci are tools that help the Magi to Channel or Shape. Unlike the incense or drugs that a Magi might take to aid them in their Centering, Foci are capable of either holding or directing the flow of energy directly. As such, they are as rare as they are valuable and any Magi who possesses a Foci will guard them jealously.   Foci are take any number of forms, from staves to gauntlets, but each is made out of the rare few materials capable of the feat. They are engraved with runes and markings similar to those that adorn the flesh of the theurgs, with some traditions maintaining that certain sacred shapes or geometries are more efficient then others.    
Void-Steel   There are only a handful of materials in all of Araea that work for constructing Foci. Void-Steel, found only in the darkest tunnels in the Far Deep, is an ore that can be worked into a form of metal so dark it seem to devour light. The art of working void-steel is known to very few.  

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    No Foci last forever. The strain of channeling the unearthly energies from beyond will inevitably begin to twist and warp the Foci until it becomes useless. The more the Magi rely on it, the more rapidly the Foci will deteriorate. Some cracks and twists can be repaired, but all Foci sooner or later crack from the strain.    

Repositories

 
They thought they'd won. Already, they were taunting, gloating, circling her like Chiwara bugs around a bleeding prey. Shanessa's hand closed around the oddly shaped crystal, her fingers digging into the runes. It cracked, and she showed them the depths of their error.
  Repositories are objects that work as storage for the energies Thaumaturgy uses to shape their spells. Like Foci, there are only a handful of materials in the world that work for the task but fortunately for the theurg, they are not quite so rare. Constantly holding a charge of energy mean the Repositories deteriorate much more rapidly than Foci and they are much more vulnerable to damage. Damaged Repositories are prone to leaking or violently discharging their content.   Attempting to store a great deal of Repositories in the same position often attract the attention of spirits; sometimes, hungry ones. For these reasons, Magi with the ability for crafting Repositories do so when they expect they'll require the extra energy or attempting some great work.    

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    The knowledge of creating Repositories is much more common than how to create a Foci. The correct material must be prepared with markings and runes that allow it to hold the energies, then the Magi channels with the would-be Repository as their focus. Care must be taken not to pour more into the Repository then what it can hold or the Repository will break. Once the Repository has been filled with the desired quantity, the Magi must lock it by altering the runes without allowing their focus to drift away from holding the energy in place.   To use Repositories, the Magi unlocks it again, either by physically breaking it and harnessing the power as it escapes or if the object is too sturdy to break, by altering the runes once more. While Repositories provide a reliable source of power without risking the attention of spirits, overcharging from trying to harness too much too fast is still a risk and a danger.    

Artifice

  While repositories bind energy into vessels, Artifice is the art of binding magical effects to create enchanted items called Artifacts. They range from bauble and trinkets to invaluable relics. But unlike repositories, anyone an use an artifact.   Artifacts hold a rote magical effect inside of them that either unleash on command or remain a constant effect. While what they can do is more limited than a spell, the risk to the user is much lesser. The greater the Enchanter, the more complex an effect they can weave into the object, though most remain relatively simple.  
Magic Markets   As a general rule, enchanted items only rarely find themselves traded away and such transactions are typically done on commission or in exchange for some great favor. Such bargains are common features of myths. Rare and mysterious as they are, there are no markets that trade in artifice.
  Artifacts work one of two ways; either drawing their energy from a repository or constantly leeching it from the other side through powerful runes. Both have their advantage and disadvantage.   The artifacts that draw from a repository are more reliable and can, with careful use, endure for longer. They need to be activated like one would activate a repository for their effect to manifest. They do inevitably run out and only a Magi can recharge them; a slow and draining process.   The other kind draw its energy directly from the spirits and its effect are constantly manifest. There is no danger of running out of power, but the constant exposure to the ichorous power of the spirit world warps the artifact much more rapidly than one powered by a repository. Old relics are barely recognizable from their original shape. They always run the risk of the warping destroying the elaborate runes, rendering them powerless.    
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Forging Wonders

  Artifice call on similar skills as those required to create a repository. The enchanters need to be able to make the runes and work the material with great precision. To imbue an item with magic, they must "trap" the effect in the object and then anchor it to either the runes or the repository. Some describe it as a conceptual "leap", to separate the flow from themselves and create what is more of a loop.   Much like with repository, some material are more easily worked than others. There are rare and wondrous materials in the world that channel magic more easily or resist the warping corruption: these artifacts are priceless and dangerous things.    
Some Magi create simple trinkets to imbue their servants with a measure of their power. Most notorious for this practice are the Corpse-Walkers and their Reapers. Enchanted bones that twist the first limb they touch when flung or skin-drums that extinguish fire.   These flimsy materials do not last long, but they are not meant to.

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by 000Fesbra000

Thaumaturgy Terms

  Theurg - A practitioner of Thaumaturgy. Also: Magi, Occultist, Wizard, Warlock, Sorcerer.   Channeling - The act of focusing and directing the flow of energy used for Thaumaturgy.   Shaping - The sorcerous act of turning the energy gathered through Channeling into the desired effect.   Imbuing - Binding spells into an item (or individual) for long-term use or storage. Also: Enchanting, Artifice   Centering - The disciplines with which a Theurg focuses her will and achieves the necessary state of mind of channeling and shaping.   Spell - The final effect; the magic being unleashed upon the world.    
Spirits   Alien and immortal, the spirits of Araea are primordial things. While not all are hostile, almost all are simply too strange for humanity to effectively communicate with, failing to share even basic concepts like time or space.   Most are ethereal and out of sight, visible and tangible only when bound or compelled by spellcraft; a sure way to earn their full wrath.   Read about Spirits
 

Overcharged

  The energy they draw on was never meant for mortal flesh to hold. Some drink too deeply either out of greed, desperation or ignorance, and suffer accordingly.   There is a limit to how much the human body can hold and if that limit is passed, they begin to bloat, crack or mutate.    
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Traditions of Thaumaturgy

  "Traditions" is a term for a magical convention, of thought and ritual. These schools provide a framework for the Magi to use to help them visualize their channeling and shaping as well as providing tried and true tools of centering. While all draw from the same basic principles, there are endless variations of expression.   Many traditions also teach a great deal of practical knowledge, such as the shroomomancers about all the different mushrooms or the metal-shifters expertise with metal-working.  

Common Traditions:

  Shroomomancy is focused on the vast variety of mushroom, fungi and lichen that grow across the wasteland. While their thaumaturgy is less impressive then casting fire or warping stone, they are usually only underestimated once.   Stone-Singers are not one singular tradition, but many different variants that all focus on the most common element in the deep: stone.   Blight Magic wield one of the most feared forces as a weapon: blight, or radiation. Dreaded as they are, many of them suffer for the constant proximity to the element of their choice. "There are no elders of blight magic" goes one saying, and most burn out brilliantly.    

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Cost and Consequence

  Power has its price. The energies that the magi draw on is unnatural and alien. Thaumaturgy changes those who use it and they begin to take on aspects of the magic they weave as the link between them and what they change goes both ways. Those who draw deeply and often are more quickly change, while the more careful can avoid the change.   Some transformations are temporary but in time become permanent. The more the Magi use her powers to change the world, the more it changes her.        

Learning Thaumaturgy

  Thaumaturgy is a secretive art, its practitioners shunned and feared by the superstitious masses. No matter how powerful or useful, theurg delve into darkness best left alone. It is a lonely path to thread and those who chose it do tend to be either very driven or very desperate, and those who seek it go to great lengths.   The most common way to learn is to become the disciple or apprentice of an existing theurg and hope to learn from them. Others find tomes of occult, forbidden knowledge that unlock the secrets of thaumaturgy, or listen to the whispers of rare artefacts like the Verðandi. The secrets of Thaumaturgy always demand sacrifice.    
Tome of the Black Stars cover
by François Launet
     

Rites and Rituals

  Many occultist use lengthy rituals to work difficult Spells. By working slow, Channeling and Shaping over hours instead of seconds or minutes, the theurg can work Spells that would otherwise be impossible. But working rites present their challenges, and Magi have to stretch their Centering and focus across the entire rite.   The incense, chanting and circles etched into the ground often have no power in them selves, but provide the occultist a framework around which to center themselves; steps to walk through to keep their focus and cope with the strain of channeling and shaping. Some few things, however, directly help the Magi work their ritual magic.  
Sacrifice   While the folk-tale of human sacrifice as the climax to the blasphemous, sorcerous rituals are common, the practice is not. No occultist have ever drawn power from sacrificing another life and the idea does not fit with what they know about Thaumaturgy.   That doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. The delusional or cruel sometimes find a place for sacrificial rites, but in such cases it is about pageantry and religious fervor, rather then practical application

Comments

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4 Aug, 2018 15:34

Great concept! I love the use of corrupted looking text in the opening quote :D


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Check out my worldbuilding in the dark fantasy world of Melior
4 Aug, 2018 15:45

Thanks! :D I wanted to make something not-standard for the world.. That also fit with all the written stuff for the summer camp, lol

22 Feb, 2019 00:14

how do you do that though?

11 Mar, 2019 11:49

http://www.eeemo.net/

littletoes101
Richard Bradley
4 Aug, 2018 21:29

This is a really interesting and unique take on magic! I like it!

5 Aug, 2018 05:15

Thanks! :)

4 Aug, 2018 21:55

Dang. That is really intense. Great job of mixing everything together too. I would not want to be a Magic user here.

5 Aug, 2018 05:16

Thanks :D

5 Aug, 2018 00:10

Interesting concept. What happens if a magic user tries to combine the different methods of shaping? Like if someone tried to combine grow and control?

5 Aug, 2018 05:15

I'll see what I can add about that! It's pretty common, but also requires greater skill.

11 Aug, 2018 17:32

I added a bit about that (and rewrote a bunch of other stuff).

13 Aug, 2018 16:13

Very nice! Now I want to go back and add more detail to my rune casting article

13 Aug, 2018 18:01

Let us know if you do, so we can go check it out!

5 Aug, 2018 17:26

So good, man I wouldn't mind digging around this setting in an RPG format. Well done.


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Check out my worldbuilding in the Ethnis Universe!
9 Aug, 2018 07:31

Figuring out how to turn it into a RPG system is going to be real interesting, for sure :)

Master Rantourus
Zenon Morgan
9 Aug, 2018 06:53

And check another world I don't really want to be any type of mage in here. Wonderful read. My only complaint is the first quote gets hard to read. While it looks wonderful, it did also make me want to skip trying to read it just from first glance. I wouldn't mind a quick "translation" of what was written because I am not sure I grasped the whole meaning or what the words were.

9 Aug, 2018 07:31

Thanks! :D Mages are powerful, for sure, but you might turn into a mushroom-person.   I'll think about that, for sure. The first quote it intended more for setting the mood than conveying any information: was it the last bit you had trouble reading, or the entire thing? :)

Master Rantourus
Zenon Morgan
9 Aug, 2018 07:51

Just the last bit. I got 'the spirit...gods....flesh...mind' and that's about it. I am a curious little creature, to be honest. It did set the mood just made me stop and spend way more time on trying to figure it out than I should have.

9 Aug, 2018 08:08

For the curious: "become like the spirits and gods, when your mind and flesh becomes like theirs."   Though if it invoke that much curiosity, it's working! :D

16 Aug, 2018 06:20

I consider myself pretty good with magic systems (my world has got, like, 6 of them and I've scrapped twice as many) and this...this is just awesome.   Definitely inspirational. I'm building a magic system for an urban fantasy world and I'm really gonna have to force myself not to let this influence me too much. Well done!

16 Aug, 2018 10:20

Thanks for the comment and I'm happy it could serve as some inspiration! :) Always fun to hear from other magic-system-crafters that they think about it!   If you ever need to brainstorm for yours, I am typically somewhere on the discord if I'm awake and not at work. :D

27 Sep, 2018 21:00

That opening quote must've taken some effort. That's quite a job you did trying to make it look corrupted and smeared. Real nice work! Again, your writing skills really make this article shine! Your usage of images and quotes are flawless. Quite an inspiration!

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
28 Sep, 2018 06:45

Thank you so much :D I am glad you enjoyed it

28 Sep, 2018 16:51

This is a great article, and this is an interesting concept!

29 Sep, 2018 08:43

Thank you! :D I'm glad you liked it!

25 Nov, 2019 10:03

How come you named it Thaumaturgy? Isn't that generally associated with flesh-shaping? I couldn't tell from the texts really, but I get the feeling that this is way more "generalised" magic that flesh shaping.

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
25 Nov, 2019 11:15

I've never heard it associated with flesh-shaping, personally, but only as another word for magic. It's also used sometimes for "miracle-workings", but in games like Exalted and Vampire, it is just magic by another name.   Also sometimes used by Pratchett as a synonym for magic, something I learned now while composing this answer!   I'd be interested to hear where the connection to flesh-shaping comes from, though!   As for why; because it sounded more occult than just "magic" and that ties into Araea being less high magic, more dark occult. :)

25 Nov, 2019 12:00

That's fair! Also, you're not wrong. Reading up on more general sources, it really is another term for magic in general. I'm not entirely sure of where my idea that it was flesh-shaping magic to begin with, but it might actually be my old Vampire the Masquerade knowledge that is playing me for a trick here.   It definitely fits as a dark magic/occult thing! I went even more on the nose with my dark magic. It's just straight up "Occultism" XD

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
27 Nov, 2019 13:40

Magic being limited to the physical (or should that be, visible) world creates an interesting and unique limit to something which could easily become overpowered. Great idea.

5 Feb, 2020 15:29

Thanks :)