Order of Hermes
The Order of Hermes is one of the pillars of the Traditions. A Fellowship during the Dark Ages, it draws upon a potent fundus of magical knowledge and has shaped occult history to great deals. Its failings, however, are equally grand. Hubris runs strong within the elitistic Order, and with the Reckoning, many of their traditional ways are challenged. Old, carefully hoarded secrets are gone forever in many cases, while mystical items and powerful patrons are destroyed or locked away beyond the hostile Gauntlet. The survivors on Earth can only hope to remember their teachings and learn all that they can. The Order will survive, but it may not be the same Order that it once was.
ParadigmHermetic philosophy is complex and many-layered. At the heart, the Hermetics profess the drive to perfection. This drive manifests through trials, tests, self-discovery, and the rejoining of fragmented patterns like disparate languages or mathematical conundrums. Ideally, each individual has a Word, a divine imperative that drives the figure's revelations. By exploring the boundaries of that Word and all of its meanings, the individual rises to his inner nature, then beyond. Each step in the process is a challenge that requires a leap of perception but also opens the way to the next path. Eventually, the human passes far enough to become something cosmically divine. In the Dark Ages, the Order of Hermes practiced four Forma based on a Foundation of Modus (formidable discipline): Anima (command of life), Corona (command of the mind), Primus (command of Quintessence), and Vires (command of elemental forces).
Early HistoryThe Tradition traces its roots to the Sumer and ancient Egypt of 5000 years ago, around the time when the first writing systems were developed. Before written language, names were thought to be inherent to the objects they designated as reflections of their true natures. With writing as an ability to catch and manipulate names, the scribe was able to imprison the object and manipulate its very nature. The catching of names was considered a magical act in ancient societies so the ability to write was reserved for the clergy under the direct influence of gods of wisdom and magic such as Thoth. From the summonings of Babylonian priests to Egyptian priest's divining the Nile's flooding from stars to Solomon's seals, which gave him control over world, it was the time of the greatest mages of Western tradition. It was also the time when the greatest grimoires and talismans were created. However, apart from Solomon we don't know their names and so the body of knowledge consisting of theurgia, goetia, astrology and alchemy was known as the work of a single Ascended being called Hermes Trismegistus. Letters provided useful metaphors for abstract concepts, so for the first time in history thinkers were able to ascend from the physical world into whole new realms of ideas. First, Plato formed the theory of realism that allowed a secular paradigm for controlling every element of reality. Mystics then equated ideals with divinity developing manichaean, gnostic, neoplatonic, and other dualistic theories around 2nd century CE, forming the Cult of Mercury as one of the first united magical traditions. But the great intellectual upsurge of the 2nd century was soon squashed by the rapid expansion of Christianity which strove for orthodoxy in the Merranean region. Soon Rome fell, and Western civilization fell onto Dark Times. The Cult of Mercury officially disbanded itself in 415 CE. Hermetic scholars fragmented, the sharing of ideas halted, and wizards secluded themselves in their towers for protection and to study free of the Church's inquiry.
Dark AgesThe Order was formally founded in 767 in the German city of Durenmar, thanks to the efforts of the wizard Bonisagus, developer of the Parma Magica, which allowed mages to meet each other without fearing an attack, and lady Trianoma, who united the disparate remnants of the old Cult of Mercury. In the Pax Hermetica, the joined Houses united their magical knowledge to form the Ars Hermetica, which would later have significant influence on the Sphere model of the Traditions.
The original Order of HermesHouse Founder, Specialization House Bjornaer, Mistress Bjornaer, Shapeshifting House Bonisagus, Lord Bonisagus, Magical Theory House Criamon, Lord Criamon, Enigmas House Diedne, Boann Diedne, Druids House Flambeau, Tempus Flambeau, War Magic House Jerbiton, Augustus Jerbiton, Mundane Affairs House Mercere, Henri Mercere, Messengers House Merinita, Lady Merinita, Faeries House Quaesitori, Guernicus, Justice House Tremere, Tremere, Hierarchy/Magical Duelling House Tytalus, Master Tytalus, Will House Verditius, Lord Verditius, Enchantment These mighty magi signed the Code of Hermes and began the hard work of assimilating other lost hermetic knowledge. They met several enemies in less civilized lands, who opposed the Orders claim of magical superiority. The Houses of Tremere, Tytalus and Flambeau became the foremost soldiers in this conflict, developing the tradition of Certamen for magical duelling. In 817, Pralix bani Tytalus brought an alliance of celtic wizards into the fold. Against protests from some of the more conservative members, a new House was formed: Ex Miscellanea, which would contain all smaller traditions. In 848, the Founder of House Tremere sought to become the Order's sole leader, but was stopped by a cabal of independent mages. Despite this, warnings to the other Houses of the danger of House Tremere went unheeded. In 876, the Order seized its prime covenant, the fortress of Doissetep, from the hands of Infernalists (although critics claim that the Hermetics merely painted the former owners as Infernalists as a justification for their prize) and moved it to the Pyrenees in 891 as their new headquarters. Under their stewardship, magical traditions in Europe began again to consolidate and prosper again. House Tremere, however, schemed steadily to gain more power within the Order. They turned on House Diedne, the most clannish isolate house, and accused them of diabolism. In the Schism War of 1003, House Tremere and House Flambeau turned on House Diedne and destroyed them, with the sanction of the other Houses. It was during the war, that some mages felt a shift in the nature of magic. Spells began to fail and former rituals that worked without flaw began to cease. Tremere, fearful of losing any iota of his power, commissioned researched from the Chantry of Ceoris, which later yielded insight into vampirism, thanks to captured members of the native Tzimisce. Convinced that vampirism was the key to unlimited power, Tremere and seven of his disciples underwent a ritual in 1022 that turned them into vampires, becoming the first of Clan Tremere. The rest of the Order did not notice the corruption of one of their founding Houses. In 1171, thanks to new insight from the Middle East brought home by the Crusaders, the Hermetic Lorenzo Golo of Florence laid hands on the Kitab al-Alacir. His fascination with the text led to the formation of his own House, House Golo and later, in 1188 to his desertion of the Order to throw his lot with the Templar Simon de Laurent, who would form the Natural Philosopher's Guild. The growing of an academic class within the population suited the Order, who found many eager apprentices for their own arts. In 1199, the Order discovered Tremere's crime and declared war upon the rogue House in 1204. The first Massassa War saw an alliance of House Tytalus with the Tzimisce in order to destroy the upstarts, but the Tremere were prepared. Gargoyle swarms and Blood Sorcery, as well as the quicker capabilities of vampires to propagate left both sides of the war devastated and in 1299, the Order simply abandoned the war, hoping that the Tremere would die out on their own. In the conflict, House Jerbiton was demoted and placed amidst the rabble of House Ex Miscellanea, the first of the Founding Houses to fall, later followed by House Merinita in 1300s. Also, the covenant of Mistridge fell to the Craftmasons in 1210, generally believed to be one of the first shots fired in the Ascension War. At the time, no one noticed the significance of the event. The new millennium brought several upheavals. The Bubonic Plague devastated the Order's infrastructure and led to further disgruntlement among the population for the arrogant wizards in their towers, who lorded over the peasants like kings and cared nothing about their plight. The beginning of the Progrom by the newly founded Order of Reason, who sought to end the tyranny of superstitionists and wizards, further destabilized the Order's hold upon the universities. In 1412, the Order adopted the Egyptian priests of Isis into their ranks, as House Shaea. In 1429, the prominent mage Gilles de Rais bani Ex Miscellaneae became barabbi, after a failed attempt to use the young peasant girl Joan d'Arc to drive out the English, and her burning as a witch in 1430. Infighting and distrust between the Houses after the failed Massassa War paralyzed the Hermetics and would surely have doomed them. In 1440, the word of other mages reached the Order who sought alliances to fight against the depleting of magic. A meeting between the witch Nightshade, the priest Valoran and the Hermetic LaSalle in the ruins of Mistridge further cemented the need of cooperation. After the Order of Reason attacked Doissetep itself and forced the mages to relocate it to the Shard Realm of Forces in 1448, the construction of Horizon began to prepare for the Grand Convocation of mages from all over the world. The Order allied itself to several Dragons and declared war upon the Order of Reason. LaSalle, part of House Tytalus, dueled the masters of several Houses to force unity into the Order, aided by House Criamon and House Verditius. It was hard work and lasted eight years before the Order could make its stand at the Grand Convocation. During the Convocation, House Bjornaer split from the Order to join the nascent Verbenae. Hermetic arrogance costed them many friends and proposals that all other magical Traditions should join their Order as Hermetic Houses (or as part of House Ex Miscellaneae) were met with ridicule and scorn. The Order maintained its identity thanks to its exploits against the Daedalans of the Order of Reason. Plans of uniting with the Ngoma or Wu Lung were met with derision from the Order, who didn't believe that anything would be gained by allowing savages and primitives in their ranks. Also, the other Traditions rejected the supremacy of the Order, despite major contributions in the magickal theory and organization of the Council of Nine. The Order then assumed the Seat of Forces within the Council, but many Masters were bitter about this. Some Hermetics wondered if joining the Order of Reason might be feasible. After all, both Orders required discipline, discretion, scholarship and a passion for understanding; both believed a small elite must guide and protect the masses. This was quickly abandoned by the majority of the Order. After Heylel Teomim had betrayed the First Cabal, the Hermetics were the ones that broke his soul with gilgul. The Order began to profit greatly from colonialism, much to the chagrin of Dreamspeakers and Verbenae. The Order hoped to win the Ascension War by influencing the nobility to accept occultism and spirituality, which worked rather untrustworthy and in the end only strengthened the technocratic paradigm. Several new Houses were founded in the wake of the Renaissance and the growing interest in classicism, such as House Tharsis in 1522, House Validas in 1557 and House Janissary in 1700s, aided by the decline and fall of Founding Houses like House Verditius, House Criamon and House Mercere. House Ziracah was weakened by the Great Scourging in 1645 and several Houses were purged after accusations of diabolism. More and more Masters left Earth to contemplate their studies in isolated Horizon Realms, focusing more on politicking in the Council and the Order than aiding the Sleepers.
Victorian AgeThe heavy decline of the Order was tried to be countered by influencing Sleeper society via secret societies like the Freemasons. The power of the Order had been greatly diminished and despite the inclusion of new Houses like House Thig and Luxor, the accusation of House Tharsis in 1897 seemed like a death knell to the Order as a whole. The invigoration of the Order of Reason and the merger into the Technocracy caused many Archmasters to fear anything technological, causing the departure of House Verditius and its joining with the Electrodyne Engineers. Rivalries in Doissetep as well as blatant discourteousness on behalf of the Hermetic emissary on Horizon towards the Ahl-i-Batin and the Verbenae made the Order into a sad, marginal figure in Council politicks.
Modern NightsThe Order of Hermes largely supported the Axis powers, seeing the influence of occultism in the higher ranks of Nazi Germany as a good sign. Later, when Nephandic influence was discovered in the War, two Hermetic Masters joined the mixed cabals with the Technocracy to defeat them near Berlin in 1944. After that incident, the Order slowly reinvigorated, with the promotions of two Houses Ex Miscellenae to full Houses, despite protests from some of the masters. Many Hermetics became attracted by the Internet, seeing it as perfect metaphor for the god Hermes. Other Hermetics distanced themselves even further from reality, spiteful that mortals had accessed powers beyond their reckoning.
Final NightsThe Order of Hermes lost much in the Conflagration that destroyed Doissetep and later during the Concordia War. The conditions the false Heylel accused the Council of, were in no small part the results of backward thinking hermetics. The War in Ruins in the Shard Realm of Forces would later greatly contribute to the advent of the Avatar Storm and when the Ravnos Antediluvian awakened in the Week of Nightmares, House Tytalus turned rogue, beginning the second Massassa War to raid Tremere chantries for knowledge on how to combat the weakening of magic, with many accepting thralldom in exchange for power. The evidence of corruption within House Janissary, as well as their past as the Ksirafai, led to an internal war that weakened nearly all Houses. Although things looked bleak for the Order, many of the younger members rejoiced. The old masters and their intrigues are gone, and mankind seems more accepting of magic than ever. Technology and magic are not enemies, but sides of the same coin. Many crafts have joined the Order, becoming Houses and complement its weakened foundation. The time seems ready for a new beginning.
OrganizationThe Order of Hermes is, without a doubt, the most hierarchical of the Traditions. Neophytes are put through a demanding training regime to learn several languages (Latin, Arabic, Ancient Greek, German, French and Enochian), as well as the Code of Hermes (plus the Peripheral Corrigenda) and the history of his Tradition. Initiates and Apprentices must serve under a mentor, who teaches the basics of magical theory and practice. After a grueling apprenticeship (traditionally, up to seven years, but often cut short in the heyday of the modern world), the supplicant challenges for recognition as a full magus — a challenge that can end with a return to apprenticeship, or even with death. Once accepted, each mage has his own sigil, a symbol of the individual's achievements. Although all mages theoretically have the authority to vote in Hermetic meetings, politics run at the pace set by the Masters and the ambitious. More than once, political leverage has shoved aside the potential for moral or material growth. Each step up the ladder of the Order reveals greater mysteries but also makes the student more beholden to the Tradition as a whole. Those who achieve Mastery are lauded for their high place and given the respect due their powers, but they can also expect to garner political opponents. Each Master is, in turn, expected to recruit and train a new apprentice or set of students. The cycle continues, with members indoctrinated into the Order's secrets but becoming steadily more embroiled in its internal struggles.
DegreesThe ranks of the Order of Hermes are divided in degrees that are achieved via a final exam, which become more and more difficult.
- First Degree: Neophyte - little to no power, testing phase to become accepted as an apprentice
- Second Degree: Zelator - Hedge magic, training towards Awakening
- Third Degree: Practicus - the final test, the end of apprenticeship
- Fourth Degree: Initiate - full membership after achieving the first rank in Forces
- Fifth Degree: Initiate Exemptus - achieving the first rank in another Sphere
- Sixth Degree: Adeptus - Achievement of the third rank in any Sphere
- Seventh Degree: Adeptus Maior - Achievement of the fourth rank in one Sphere, the third in another and one in any other
- Eighth Degree: Magister Scholae - Full mastery of one Sphere, as well as the third rank in two others
- Ninth Degree: Magister Mundi - Achievement of Archmastery in one Sphere
- Tenth Degree: Oracle - Achievement of Oracleship