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A repository for descriptions of the methodology and metaphysical description of magic in differing semireal environments.
I'm opening up a /Research dept to investigate magic further and determine some firm bases for it.
Please be very very careful about adding new types. The addition of the concept of Will to the /Research dept list was necessary; the addition of the concept of Naming magic below probably wasn't, although Symbolic magic possibly needs to be added.  --CorkScrew
Hmmm, no.  Certinaly not unless you clear up what this page is, in relation to research.  You've drawn (or attempted to draw) distinctions where many schools of magic do not acknowledge them.  I've tried to fit into that for the most part (power vs methodology) but it's not always possible, so I've been adding 'types for consideration' here.  The field of magic is vast - and I don't think that the brainstorming can really be sorted into categories and such until more has taken place.  Unless you want to go with assertions like the golden-bough's and just cram everything into a couple of incredibly broad places.  (And then it still won't fit.)  --Vitenka
I apologise - as I've said elsewhere, I was very much approaching this topic from the point of view of magic in fiction books, rather than anything actually being studied in RealLife. As such, my categories are extremely broad and based mostly on the sorts of magic that fiction books tend to gravitate to, rather than the categories that RealLife groups consider to exist. If I'm interpreting what you've said right (that is you Naath, right?) then you've actually had a look at realworld magic. If you want I can move the fictional stuff to a different section (FictionalMagic? or something) to give you a clear run at building a more realistic wiki page. - CorkScrew
Sorry, didn't sign it.  It was Vitenka said that last bit.  I'd point out that books tend to have wildly divergent magics - categorising them so simply seems wrong, and based more upon which books you happen to have to hand than anything else.  I can't speak for Naath or RealWorld magic.  --Vitenka
The question remains: is the name of this page misleading? Should it be turned over to someone who actually has a clue about realworld magic? Should we move everything somewhere else and leave this page for discussions of paganism, wicca etc (which I would be quite interested to hear)?
The name of the page is fine... and we can discuss both at the same time.  There are, for eg, many books with 'realistic' magic in them.  MZB's Mists of Avalon comes to mind, fiction writters appear to use the same types of magic as people actually use - Naath

Elemental Magic

Traditionally based on the hypothesis that everything in the world can be broken up into basic elements - air, water, fire and earth are the traditional four in western cultures, although Eastern cultures replace earth with wood and metal. The assumption is then that humans can in some way resonate with one or more elements, allowing a kind of quantum-entanglement style action at a distance. This theoretical structure is also the basis for Alchemy

And Spirit.  Generally one calls on Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit.  Obviously there have to be *five* --Naath
Or seven.  Or eight.  Or three.  Or Nine.  Or EightHundredAndEightyEight?.  Or a hundred and sixteen (and counting). The MagicNumber? depends upon your culture of choice.  ToDo: List the elemental tables of various cultures.  (The small ones.)  --Vitenka
Theologen; 1 is prime, 2 is prime, 3 is prime all else is irrelevent.  Fives are everywhere and the harder you look... 888 for instance = 6 which is 5 + 1 which is unity (look, this is how you do numerology OK) and 116 is 8 which is 5+3 *and* 5*2-2 and 2+3 is 5 (watch me make even more crap up...).  666 is a fun number too (9, 5+5-1 and one is obviously terribly important) Kallisti.  - Naath
(Incidentally I believe that Crowley spelt it magick because of the numerological significance of it.  But um, I can't remember how you get 5 into that one and I'm not looking it up, numerology 'tis tedious and dull the Kaballa is even worse - these related things being a source of much magic incidentally, lots of people like to use them) - Naath (again)

Or wood.
Or metal or void.  --Vitenka
Or nature or gravity or shadow...  see appropriate FinalFantasy games --AC

"Tales of Einarinn" series by Juliet McKenna?

Europe from Greeks to Enlightenment
Chinese traditional medicine


Although less commonly arising in RealWorld history (with the possible exception of Scientology), this postulates that Clarke's Third Law - "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - is the basis for magickal phenomena, i.e. magic is a product of incredibly advanced technology. Mostly linked with either aliens or "wisdom of the ancients".

Another type of technomancy involves the application of unknown powers (possibly Cognitive) to control technological devices. Fictional examples include the technopagans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (is this a real group?), the excellent children's sci-fi series "Hex" (author unknown at time of writing) and, of course, "The Matrix".

Many many sci-fi books

Apart from 'cults' such as this, advanced technology is really too new to have entered mythology in any major way, gremlins excepted.
NuhUh?.  Computers have certainly started many mythologies, though most are SelfReferential? jokes.  They are onmipresent and not understood.  They act very much as though posessed of mischevious spirits - and those who can control the spirits are worshipped in much the same way as shamas.  There's a name for this, but I cannot remember it.  On a less fluffy level, I know that I am not the only one who performs small rituals to appease the computer.  This is mostly on the same level as FolkMagic? at the moment, small rituals that work, or worked in the past, for misunderstood reasons and so are taken to illogical extremes.  On another level, I know as fact that I am not alone in performing blood sacrifice to any new computer hardware.  --Vitenka (Suggest a page name for these rituals?  I'm sure other people have got loads too.)

Etheric Magic

This style of magic postulates some kind of universal energy field that can in some way be manipulated by the human psyche. Of particular note on this front is the "Chronicles of the Raven" series, in which magic is primarily controlled by the process of mages mentally constructing complex geometric shapes that, when reified, distort the flow of mana to produce physical effects. Another instance of this magical style can be found throughout the "WheelOfTime" series. This use is noticeable because the bipolar nature of Saidin-Saidar powered magic provides a common thread with the Elemental magic mentioned earlier. Of course, the most popular version of Etheric magic is the Force from StarWars.

Another subset of this magic form concerns the 'importing' of magic from elsewhere. This mostly behaves in the same way as pure etheric magic. An example of this type is the PhoenixFeathers strip, where magical flux is measurable but magic itself is primarily controlled through "gatings" - presumably some kind of link to wherever magic comes from. Another example that many of you may know is found in the Warhammer games in the form of Warp Space, a pure energy antiuniverse which psykers utilise by selectively punching holes in reality. The Warp is, however, inhabited, thus leading us to Daemonic magic.
The MagicTheGathering concept of drawing magical power (mana) out of the land probably fits in this category too. --AC

"Chronicles of the Raven" series by James Barclay
"WheelOfTime" series by RobertJordan
"StarWars" films by George Lucas
"The Farseer Trilogy" and subsequent series by Robin Hobb (excellent books)
"PhoenixFeathers" comic strip
"Warhammer" strategy games

Very few - the metaphysics is apparently a bit too complex to be immediately credible. I suspect that any RealWorld instances of this style tend to get subsumed into the Elemental magic category ("calling on the elements").

Cognitive Magic

Many forms of supernatural power (telekinesis, telepathy, ESP etc) are based on the supposed supernatural powers of the human mind. If this power is (quite reasonably) considered to be spiritual in nature, this category can be extended to cover artifices such as dreamwalking and faith healing, although the latter tends to be considered as more Chi-based (i.e. Vital magic).

The only non-spiritual energy sources I have heard advanced for these phenomena are some kind of mental radiation (not elaborated on), quantum effects (although if the mind is considered a quantum phenomenon then these theories are pretty much analogous to the spirit) and (slightly off topic) the rather amusing magic of the DiscWorld?, where training is needed to prevent levitation spells levering the caster's brain out through his ears.

Much much SciFi

Yuri (?) Geller and co.

Daemonic Magic

The fundamental principle of Daemonic (or Angelic, if the beings in question are of good aspect {Many practicioners refer directly to their power sources as gods.  Others have unaligned spirits.} ) magic is that, where humans lack magical powers, they can barter with other entities for the loan/application of said powers. So, for example, providing a daemon with a good meal of human soul might encourage it to level a city. In the Aztec religion, providing the god Nanahuatzin with regular supplies of human heart kept him able to light the sky as the sun. Most uses of sacrifice are of this sort, the assumptions being that a) if you want powers off of something you're probably not in a position to beat it into submission and b) wouldn't *you* feel positively inclined towards people who went out of their way to supply your needs? A preventative version of this sort of magic is also used to avert disaster, for example exploding volcanoes or earthquakes, although this is possibly close to being Animistic magic.

On a touchier point of view, most religions can be seen as being of this style, being as they are an attempt to act in the way a higher power wants one to, with the side-effects of eternal life and (depending on what you believe) miscellaneous miracles being an added bonus.

All over - can't be bothered to list them

All over - a very common type of magic, possibly due to the notable human tendency to equip natural occurrences with a bushy beard and tetchy personality, and the dark beyond the campfire with more teeth than can possibly be practical.

Vital Magic

Hypotheses concerning some kind of enery field round the human body - a "vital energy" that can be extended to acheive goals not originally anticipated by the body, often considered to be electromagnetic in nature and thus a possible power source for cognitive magic or technomancy. In the form of Eastern "Chi" it is a powerful weapon for the skilled, allowing abilities such as incredibly strong punches, invulnerability and (apparently a lost art, but occasionally seen during advanced chi training) levitation or "lightness of body" ("ching gung" in the original chinese).

I personally find chi inherently more believable than most behaviour of supernatural appearance as most aspects of it can be put down to more focused or controlled motions, possibly with control of normally subconscious/unconscious bodily processes thrown in.

Chi borders on being an energy field concept (the Star Wars backstory was apparently heavily derived from Eastern philosophies). There are strictly speaking three types: heaven chi, human chi and earth chi. Of these, human chi is very much a vital force.

One noticeable exception to the "not dreamed of in our philosophy" western ignorance of Vital Magic is the morphic field. This concept enables shape-changing, eternal youth and so on by means of altering the body's standing field (possibly an etheric construct). First discovered by the great sorceror Terry Pratchett.

Not common in western literature

Eastern healing and martial arts


The most common practice of 'taking the qualities of others into yourself'.  Sometimes practiced figuratively (emulate the motion of a creature in order to gain the ability of that creature - a lot of BadMovie? MartialArts? uses this) sometimes by proxy (Fetishes, such as wearing the skin of an animal) and sometimes literally (Eat things.  Often the justification for cannibalism, included as currently practiced.)


Vitenka's response to my misspelling it Animalism:

Do you mean 'animism' - the principle of living spirits inhabiting everything?  Leading to 'talk to the rocks and trees and weather and ask it nicely to do stuff for you' and following the very RealWorld principle of anthromorphism. (believing things to have human features in order to relate to them)

The text I was planning is as follows:

The attribution of intelligence or soul to inanimate objects. So, for example, a door can be talked into unlocking or a tree into catching fire. The earliest examples of this form I know of are the greek dryads and hamadryads (it's always the greeks...) which provides a clear link to daemonic approaches. My favourite fictional example of animistic magic is the "Wizardry" series by Diane Duane, in which a 'true language' is used to persuade reality to change. Another example is the Earthsea quartet by Ursula Le Guin.

Can't be bothered to add any right now


Not sure if I can claim this as a whole concept, maybe it needs to be moved to methods.  The principle is that everything has a 'true' name (in some way different from its normal name, often in an obscure language - which suggests that this practice is heavily linked to that of 'boggle the onlookers in order to gain credibility') - anyway, everything has a name, and using it, or threatening to use it, is a powerful bargaining chip.
I used parts of this under animism. MaintainMe - I don't think we really need both. Can another home be found for the concept of names having power? Possibly we should create a "symbolic magic" category as suggested by MoonShadow in the apocrypha at the bottom.
Aye, but I would disagree that naming was even slightly a part of animism.  Calling this 'symbolic' might work.
There is an open question as to whether it is the name itself that has power or whether the act of something (The bearer?  The UniverseAtLarge??) hearing it is the driver.  This is subtly different from contract based magic, where you threaten to tell everyone the name, thus reducing its value.  --Vitenka

WizardOfEarthSea? (UrsulaLeGuin?), BabaYaga? (folk), DemonSummoning? (common but not exclusive)

Destiny Magic

A rather fuzzy group. It is generally considered that fate has some sort of power in human affairs and, naturally, the thought arises: how can we manipulate this? Examples abound in the DiscWorld? - Lily Weatherwax using the quantum (it's always quantum) power of stories to acheive her goals and Esme Weatherwax forcing the world along a path where Nanny Ogg's hat explodes, for example.

A possible link here is to the incredible and inexplicable luck often ascribed to heroes - their destiny, it seems, prevents them from harm. In the "Wheel of Time" series, the ta'veren such as Matt Cauthon have the power to bend destiny around them.

Again, can't be bothered right now


A few books treat magic as just a collection of different knacks and skills. For example, in "The King's Buccaneer" by Raymond E. Feist (Riftwar Saga), one 'wizard' considers himself to just be doing 'tricks' which, it turns out, he can teach to non-mages (who normally wouldn't be able to handle magic).  Another example is the magic of Tad Williams' "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn" series, which has no universal rules or methods but instead is more or less the knack of surviving in a magical universe. No further information on the grounding of this magic is given, leaving us in the position of the Renaissance alchemist who has to discover the rules as he goes along.

In my opinion, situations like this are just the inability to find the basis of magic rather than the lack of such a firm basis. Whicls the actual 'spells' cast may be necessarily spontaneous leaps in the dark, they are undoubtedly fuelled by something. Hence, this type of magic is a function of methodology not basis.

Pigeons up sleeves are an entirely different, although in some ways related, department - as Terry Goodkind's master wizard Zed points out, most of magic is just knowing the right trick.

List 'em yourself dammit

Does sympathetic magic (doing X to a representation of Y results in X being done to the real Y) fit under any of the above, or should it go on its own? I suppose the mechanic of manipulating things by describing actions on their true names in some sort of lost language (Earthsea, SoYouWantToBeAWizard?, etc) is independent of how it's supposed to be powered and so is compatible with a number of the above categories - should we split things up into "underlying principle of operation" vs "mechanics of actually doing magic" or some such? - MoonShadow
No, I think I forgot to add that one. I have to attempt some daemonic intervention with my maths homework right now, so I'll leave it to any interested parties to add this.
Also, it might be good to do some kind of breakdown of magic by type such as /PowerSource? (Vital, Daemonic, Etheric or Who Needs Energy Sources Dammit being the most obvious examples), /UserInterface? (Vocal/physical, Mental or Representational), /Aspect? (Good, Evil or Who Cares) and anything else we can think of (/ProsAndCons? maybe?).
Which, looking back, is pretty much what you just said. Curse my attention span!

stuff for MoonShadow to do later: work out if pages on authors/books mentioned above are already present and link to them if so, otherwise just make the names into links.

A couple more, these are more elemental - in that tyou usually would see them in combination with other beliefs:

Belief based.  Convincing someone that you have some form of power over them, and letting them do the work themselves.  Very RealWorld - the healing effects of a placebo for example.
Good one to add to casting methods. Possibly a subset of cognitive magic / will

Gift and contract.  Persuade a more powerful being or spirit to give you a right - often passed down through families.  Call upon that right, usually to control lesser critters of that type.  Close to daemonic I guess.
very much how I saw daemonic magic

Karmic.  The n-fold law, divine retribution, whatever.  The basic principle that deeds return upon their actors.  Most intriguingly seen in a book whose name I forget which had everyone capable of magic but everyone was very very careful not to use it.
an interesting subset of destiny magic

Contradiction.  The opposite - tension with underlying reality causes power, either naturally or through rifts to another dimension.  Probably best expressed by UnknownArmies.  --Vitenka
ooh, nice one. Like electric buzzers. Power to the Paradoxes!
hmm, I think I might make that my /. sig :)

ConsensualReality?.  Magic exists by virtue of our perception altering what we see, reality is not set in stone but is 'caused' by the way we view it (Reality is Thermosofting not Thermosetting plastic).  Changing the way you view a thing will change the nature of the thing (Magic from Quantum Theory...).  Of course, applying any technique with sufficient dedication will result in this occuring, it is not the *method* that counts but the beliefe in the efficacy of the method (placebo magic?).  It applies very obviously to anyone who *knows what you are doing* because they believe that what you are doing will work (faith healing etc.) but it further can be applied to innanimate things, people who don't know you are doing it and people who disbelieve all depending rather on how forcefull your interpretation of what Is is vs how strong their preconceptions about the nature of reality are. --Naath

RolePlaying games are full of 'explanations' for magic. See all the Exalted things I put under 'references'. Sorry, CategoryLookIWasBoredOK strikes again. --WikiExaltedConspiracy
So now I know who to blame for the repeated mention of Exalted... vengeance is mine, says the CorkScrew

CategoryBooks/Fiction? Fantasy CategoryLookIWasBoredOK

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