Magic is an ability to create and manipulate matter. It is aquired by attuning oneself to the world's energy of creation. In Terra Nova this energy is present in almost everything and everyone, but most creatures can't access it. To be able to access it, a prospective magic users must be exposed to raw energy of creation. Elves possessed devices, known as Arcane Furnaces, which stored raw energy of creation and were probably used to "create" new magic users. First human magic users were results of accidental exposure to that energy upon discovering one of the Furnaces. Today, Arcane Furnaces are in possession of magic schools.
Some of my students were saying that when they entered the Furnace Chamber and opened the device they saw a figure. They described it as a human-like figure made of pure light. They say that the figure gave them the ability.
Glyphs are symbols used by magic users to cast spells. Most of the currently used glyphs were recovered by humans from elven ruins, but there are also magic users who experiment and create glyphs. The process of creating glyphs is hard and long as there aren't written instructions for it. Some scholars suggest even that elves didn't create the glyphs, but found them or were gifted with them. One of theories suggests that glyphs are remnants of a civilization older than the elves. That civilization is said to had been completely attuned with the energy of creation. Some say that they were the gods.
In order to cast a spell a glyph must drawn either on a material or in the air. During the process of drawing the magic user imbues the glyph with the energy of creation. The energy then transforms into the effect communicated by the glyph. No one knows for sure how the glyphs work and how energy of creation knows what the glyph is supposed to do.
Shadow magic is a rare and unique form of magic. It is the only form that doesn't require glyphs to use. A user of the shadow magic takes power directly from the Shadow Realm, a dimension of darkness. Because of that it always leaves a toll on the user's body and mind.
Currently, there are only a few shadow magic users in the world. Surviving texts suggest that the practice was much more common in the times of the elves. However, it was seen as evil and frowned upon. Some texts suggest that shadow magic had a role in the extinction of the elves.