The Origins of Magic Physical / Metaphysical Law in Zheng-Kitar | World Anvil

The Origins of Magic

The origins of magic, and the different ways it can be utilized and mastered


Magic on Zheng-Kitar, as on the rest of the planet of Ea, is the manifestation of any being's connection and ability to manifest the ancient and ineffable power that permeates the cosmos and the entire Planescape, an unlimited energy source that flows through all things that is the last and greatest gift left behind by the creator god Atlas after he gave his divine existence at the beginning of reality to birth the planes, life, and all realities past, present, and future. This force, which permeates all things and all people and can warp all of reality to the will of they who have the gift of wielding it, is referred to as "Atlen", "Mana", or "Atlas Energy".   This "force" known as Atlen permeates all things and beings - an invisible force that ties the universe and all its inhabitants together, from the smallest blade of grass to the mightiest god; Atlen embodies not only magical energy, but life energy itself - a great, ineffable tide that others can call upon ever so briefly to enact changes in effects that utilize it which have come to be known as "Magic". It is, as mentioned, made up of the last remnants of the great cosmic Overdeity Atlas(Read more about Atlas here: The Cosmology of Ea) - though, much like Huofeng embodies flame and all its concepts both literally and metaphorically across the entire Planescape, Guanyong and Xu-Jie make up the "Light" and "Dark" sides of Atlen, and thus magic as a whole.   These two Spirit Kings form the "Yin" and "Yang" which, together, make up all magic and Atlen in the cosmos - and together, govern and control the respective Planes of Light and Void respectively, as their sibling Kings control the Planes of Fire, Water, and so on. This has historically brought them into conflict with The Lattice - the great "canvas" or "interface" created by The Yema god of magic to bind the otherwise esoteric and ineffable force known as "Atlen" and codify it, binding it to a series of tangible laws and systems to allow for not only mortals, but for gods as well to properly and reliably interface with it. Ever at odds with The Lattice and The Yema that oversee it, Atlen's semi-sentient nature means that it ever yearns to be free from the rigidity of the shackles placed upon it; even if those shackles are what the sum total of mortal magical knowledge is based on.  

Different Methods of Use

  Even the most unlearned and basic of commoners on Zheng-Kitar and the planet Ea as a whole can recognize the various ways which Atlen, or Mana, can be used to manifest magic in the world, however rudimentary that understanding might be. These uses of magic are largely broken down into four broad categories which all casters fall under in one way or another, described and linked below - however, it should be noted that by and large, most means of wielding magic(With one exception) wield Atlen or Mana as an "ink" of sorts to create magical effects with the aid of The Lattice; using the caster as the brush, Atlen as the ink, and The Lattice as the canvas upon which the magic is invoked and brought into being. This system is the greatest advantage of The Lattice, despite its origins with The Yema - without it, all the inhabitants of the planescape would find themselves having to serve as Brush and Canvas both if they wished to invoke magic in any sort of notable way; a much more monumental task that would rely as much as on instinct as it would on luck.  

Arcane Casters

  Arcane magic is the art of drawing power based solely on one's own personal power - whether that power be due to study or innate bloodline ability. Arcane Casters rely on no one but themselves and their own innate magical talent to draw on Atlen, or Mana, to fuel their various spells and abilities. It is a talent that cannot be learned - one must be born with a certain "spark" to use magic in this way, though whether that "spark" comes from one's own blood or is fostered through dedicated training and study is a wholly different matter.   The ability to use Arcane Magic is tied inexorably to one's own immortal soul, and while not every being can claim to possess the gift of magic and thus will never glimpse into the mysteries of it, Arcane Magic's incredible power and variety of use can be seen by all who witness a magically gifted being use this ineffable wellspring of power to power their spells, convocations, rituals, and arcane might to shatter mountains, incinerate forests, summon tsunamis and more all at their merest whim. To grow older and stronger is said to open one up even more to the power of The Atlen, and as such those skilled in its use as Magic Users generally grow stronger and more powerful in its usage as years pass and they age, their growing wisdom and knowledge allowing them to more easily understand the infinite mysteries of The Atlen.   Long ago, the first Magic Users were said to be not sentient creatures in the traditional sense, but the legendary and primordial Warlock Bugs, the first creations of Guanyong which dwelled at the bottom of the World's oceans, supping deep from the world's leylines which eternally run deep with Atlen(Mana) to channel its might through them for sustenance and survival. As the first humanoid life found these ancient insects channeling this foreign and strange power, it is said, they mimicked the bugs' techniques and thus learned how to draw Atlen into themselves and channel it into spells and arcane power. Thus, it is said, did Guanyong teach the first life how to utilize this ancient force...however, many others dissuade this notion, claiming The Atlen still resonates with a will of its own...a remnant of the Overdeity Atlas's divine will that even now, still thrums with a fragment of his intellect that sought out the first humanoids worthy to wield it and taught them of its power.  

Divine Casters

  Divine Magic is the art of drawing power from a higher power, and relying on them for all of one's prowess and talent. Whether that higher power be a true god or a patron, this method of magic relies on others to fuel one's talents - another, divine being bestows the spark of magical prowess and power in exchange for prayer, tribute, or in the case of patrons, service and servitude. To those born without the talent for Arcane Magic or those who wish to serve a higher power, this is their true calling and only method of using magic - but this method also behooves one to the creature or being that gave them their power, meaning it can be taken away if one fails to uphold their agreements with said entity.  

Natural Casters

  The ability to use Natural Magic is, unlike the mysteries of Arcane Magic which tends to flow from the self and one's own soul and potential, a thing that comes from the world around you, from the trees and from nature itself, and from the vibrant life that lives all around everyone. Rather than tap into one's own potential and the soul like an Arcane Caster, a Natural Caster such as a Druid, who pulls their power from nature, instead relies upon the latent Atlen or Mana present in the forests, thickets, and places of nature in the world, drawing upon the massive amount of Atlen or Mana that such places have at their disposal and offering themselves up to such places as vessels, emissaries, or messengers for their power. Since life, naturally, all holds some amount of Atlen within it, forests and other large gatherings of nature tend to accumulate massive latent stores of Mana, and can even develop dim "souls" to them, or a "spirit" of sorts that pervades the forest and gives it a life and vibrancy all its own.   Natural Mages such as Druids cast their magic by taking the Atlen present in the life around them into themselves, borrowing it gently and with kindness, to use for their own purposes, spells, and invocations before releasing it and returning it to the nature from which they borrowed it. In this way, Natural Casters are servants of the natural world, and serve the overarching "spirit" of the forest or home in which they reside from, drawing power from the very trees and grass themselves in a unique bond between man and nature that sees them as the conduits for something far greater than themselves, a power that takes a much different form than the Atlen wielded by an Arcane Caster - though one that makes them reliant on the forests or natural locations they draw power from. A druid whose forest is burnt to cinders is a Druid no longer, after all.   In contrast to the Magic wielded by an Arcane Caster which is powered from themselves and their own intelligence and drive for power that lends itself well to forceful evocation and manipulation of the fundamental aspects of reality, Natural Magic utilized by druids is more gentle in nature, more suited to heal and to protect and shepherd than to harm or evoke titanic firestorms...though, the Atlen gifted to Natural Casters is like Nature itself, and is capable of wrath untold of should Nature be threatened, or the natural balance be upset. Druids wield power that is foreign and incompatible with Arcane Magic, and that carries altogether a different spirit than Arcane Magic does. It is gentle, healing, and equal parts furious and wrathful...its touch soothes nature and life because that is the very stuff with which it is made such, though they can draw upon similar spells and invocations that a Wizard might, a Druid or Natural Caster's power is wholly unique, and special. Carrying such natural Atlen within them, Druids and other Natural Casters thus become incredibly in tune with the world around them...being conduits for the power of the natural world and its Atlen, these Natural Casters are naturally empathetic with wildlife and beasts of all kinds, and can even sense the feelings of plants and trees. They have a sense for plants, alchemy, poisons, and all sorts of natural remedies and concoctions that more studious Arcane Casters would never take the time to understand...for serving a higher power and consciousness is alien to them, and anathema to the source of their Atlen.   Long ago, the first Natural Magic users were said to be humanoids who, after seeing their fellow man find the Warlock Bugs and begin to learn the ways of Arcane Casting from them, sought solitude in the forests and natural sanctuaries of the world...and in doing so, they stumbled upon and became fast friends with the latent souls of their forest homes, became capable of feeling empathy with its denizens, of sensing the condition of life itself, and carrying within them a natural spark that their Arcane Kin could not fathom. They thus became servants of the first great forest, gifted their power by the ineffable soul of the forest born from the forest's collection of Atlan that had given it a sort of consciousness. They commanded life itself, and their touch could heal and harm with equal measure...and thus, they became the guardians of the natural world that had given them their power.  

Bardic Casting

  Though in many other places around the world Bardic Casting is not differentiated from Arcane Casting, on Zheng-Kitar the art of Bardic Casting is closely associated with the legendary and infamous Witch-Kings of Bhorsis-Razghûl, creators of Goblins and some of the most notorious and vile casters in the history of the continent. It was these Witch-Kings who discovered these strange words of power, and formed the basis for Bardic Casting - of weaving words of power and stringing together a power most ineffable and vile to create and manipulate Atlen itself. They claim mastery over "The Blacktongue" - the ancient and profane language discovered and coined by the Witch-Kings to power their ancient rituals and dark chanting magicks.   The art of the Bard is the art of profane chanting and wizardry most ancient, and those who have learned it are those who have learned an art more ancient than arcane magic - the words they sing and chant carry immense power in their own right, and the power they tap into requires no spark or inborn talent as Arcane Casting does - with proper training, any creature can learn to master the profane words of power that give Bards their might. Long rumored to corrupt in body and soul, the art of Bardic Casting is the art of literally speaking magic itself, of stringing together attacks in the songs one sings...of manipulating the fundamental forces of reality with ancient words of power so mighty the mere act of speaking them can rend flesh, create fire, or twist minds.   These casters are seldom trusted, but no link between Bardic Casting and corruption has been definitively proven - though the mere fact that the creators of Bardic Casting were the Witch Kings of Bhorsis-Razghûl darkens the reputation of these mighty songsters and men of magic. Most famous of all Bards is the man long thought to be the progenitor of Bards not under the yoke of the Witch Kings - the Elf King Rodeth'lo whose mastery of the poisonous power words of Bardic Magic was so mighty that his battle with the Witch Kings atop their Black Iron Citadel is the stuff of foremost legend - of hero's words and songs of hope clashing with the taunting vileness and blackened chants of the Witch Kings. Though he was ultimately defeated, the legacy of Rodeth'lo lived on and carried countless others to master the blacktongue and, in time, become the pivotal force which spoke down and unraveled the mighty wards of the Witch Kings in their final battle.   Though any creature can master the blacktongue and learn the ways of bards, Elves of all breeds tend to have more affinity for it - a lasting mark of Rodeth'lo and his powerful mastery of it.
Mages(Arcane), Clerics(Divine), Druids(Natural), Bards(Bardic Casting), Blackspeakers(Bardic Casting)
Metaphysical, Arcane
It's an interesting thing, isn't it? Mana, I mean. Atlen. Using a small part of this infinite force to your own ends...sounds frightening. I've seen men level continents with I have to wonder...if that's just a small part of it, what would it look like to claim mastery over it all? To find the source of Atlen itself? That, must be a truly frightening thing.
— Theodore Dynarus, Ancient Philosopher
It is difficult to understand, to comprehend. There is difficulty in giving oneself over to the soul of the forest, to the Mana that flows within the roots of trees, within the leaves of plants and the hearts of serve such an ineffable thing, and to accept one's own small worth in the cycle is a difficult task, one many cannot bear. But there is nothing more rewarding.
— Yonnigan Leafwarden, Grandmaster Druid
None remain alive today who can fathom the depths of profane mastery that the ancient masters of the Blacktongue had. The Witch-Kings of Bhorsis-Razghûl had complete and utter mastery of the Blacktongue Songs of Power - no single creature alive could outspeak them, nor hope to match their soul-wrenching speech - it took a legion of Blackspeakers to bring them down, in the end...a hundred voices united as one to match the voice of one vile, pitch-black soul.   But, don't be disheartened. Though the weapons we wield were born of pitch-black evil, it is up to those who wield the blacktongue to decide its use - to use it to sing the ballads of legends and inspire the masses, or to damn the souls of others. This weapon is defined by us - we are not defined by the weapons we wield.
— Unknown


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