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Author Topic: Witches and Witchcraft. A proposal  (Read 11511 times)
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Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang
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« on: 29 May 2011, 04:02:01 »

A proposal, with an introduction by Archmage Turya Firebane

“We know that magical effects can sometimes be achieved involuntarily, and even by untrained but magically gifted individuals, especially in situations of severe emotional distress or physical exhaustion. As you, venerated colleagues, are well aware, the principle of study that our Academy is proud to represent is that what the untrained individual can but achieve unconsciously, haphazardly, the trained mage can learn to achieve consciously, deliberately, by training his will to concentrate on the cár’áll, its configurations, and its manipulation. Witches, however, draw quite a different conclusion from the phenomenon of spontaneous, chaotic magic: they prefer to observe that these spontaneous effects occur when the person whom they originate from is, as it were, not herself – when fear or pain or  hatred or love have  thrown her out of her mind. The principle of witchcraft is to lose oneself, or, as the witches would say: to surrender. They seek such experiences that bring about altered states of mind where the logic of dreams and nightmares rules, and where reason is silenced. So rather than striving for concentration and control, witches aim for ecstasy and trance; rather than avoiding everything that could disturb the calm execution of the will, they seek to renounce their will and use the forces that lurk beneath it; and rather than training the mind to control what it cannot directly perceive, they seek to subvert the mind in order to overcome its limits.”

(“On witchcraft”, by Kar-ii Turya Firebane, Archmage of the Black Tower of Ximax, 1st century a.S.)




I would like to propose a concept outline for Sarvonian witches and witchcraft. This concept, if accepted, could be a guideline for a collection of entries. First of all, I suggest that the following not-yet-existing entries would be central to the project:

1.   An entry on witchcraft. This would be on the magic forum.

2.   Any number of entries concerning witches in different parts of Sarvonia, e.g. associated with different tribes, regions, or associations of witchcraft-workers. These would be People entries, describing groups or “social types”. There could conceivably also be “Races and Tribes” entries about witches, which might focus on describing witchcraft as part of a certain tribe’s culture.


The entries I am personally most interested in writing are a People entry on Santharian witches, specifically about witches in the provinces north of Brendolan, and the Magic entry on Witchcraft. The ideas for this entries are, of course, linked, and together they would introduce a new concept into our Santharian world. This thread is intended to facilitate a discussion about this concept.

In the next post (Reply #1), I will make and collect suggestions for Santharian witches. The post after that (Reply #2) will collect suggestions for Witchcraft. Both posts will be edited as the discussion develops.

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Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang
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« Reply #1 on: 29 May 2011, 04:03:56 »

Santharian Witches

1.   Witches are neither inherently good nor inherently evil.

2.   Both men and women can be witches. (Maybe more women than men are? But even that might just be popular misconception.) I propose that male witches are also, simply, called witches. Someone has suggested the term “witcher”, but that term was created as a neologism in English for the purpose of translating the writings of Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski, which have since become the basis for a successful solo RPG computer game. I think we shouldn’t import into Santharia a term that is specifically associated with a single other fantasy universe, and anyway has a quite specific meaning that differs from what I propose Santharian witches to be.

3.   Witchcraft, although sometimes called a “Dark Art”, is just as capable of doing good or evil as any other magic.

4.   Witchcraft is taught from witch to witch.

5.   There are associations of witches, called ‘covens’. (At least in Santharia.) In response to persecution and mistrust, these covens are secretive.

6.   Yet not all witches are members of covens. A “witch” is a social position, a trade, a craft – and doesn’t necessarily imply membership of any association. Just as you can be a carpenter without a guild, you can be a witch without a coven.

7.   Witches are magic users whose skills vary widely.

a.   A witch may be an old farmer that knows a single fertility spell, which he uses to increase the size of his cow herd, the quality of his taenishs’ eggs, etc.

b.   A witch may also be a woman living at the fringe of a village (maybe even in a lonely cottage in a dark forest …), feared and distrusted by the villagers, but nonetheless sought after for help and advice on certain matters, eg to heal people or animals, how to curse or bring illness to an enemy; how to charm the girl who keeps ignoring a boy’s advances …

c.   Or a witch may travel with the Butterfly Rovers, offering to tell people’s future from a glass ball, or to help them with life decisions, or to make them look more beautiful etc. Some of her work may be humbug or deceit; some may be honest but non-magical; some may involve magic. There is a blurry line between witches and magically gifted macanti.

d.   Finally, witches may also be powerful magic practitioners. The abilities of the strongest witches may rival those of an archmage. They may lead a coven of witches and, aside from their magic, have power through the fellow-witches who follow their command. Some powerful witches may wander among us unbeknownst to us. They may be your healer, your mayor’s wife, or a courtier at the New-Santhalan court. They are often very charismatic characters, whose magic affords them immense powers of deception and influence over people. Their designs may be selfish or virtuous, avaricious or wise, vengeful or forgiving, just like everyone else’s.

8.   Beliefs and philosophies about witchcraft vary among witches, but in general witches view their craft as a way to help Ava’s dream to expand: this they do by helping to bring new beings into the world (fertility spells), by helping to bring new stories into the world (love charms, for example, lead to complicated relationships, which make for good stories), by helping to bring new emotions into the world (even if these emotions are negative, such as lust for revenge), … What grows is good, and what grows chaotically is even better. The more complicated the dream, the longer the sleep will last.

9.   Also, trances and ecstasy are important to witches as ways of experiencing the deeper levels of Ava’s dream, and as a means to achieve magical effects.



Perception of witches

In popular perception, witchcraft is often understood to be synonymous with dangerous, sinister, harmful magic – but fairy stories and sayings also betray a certain popular fascination with the possibilities of love potions that witches are said to brew, with beautiful witches dancing on mountain tops, or with the idea that a witch could help you to let a wart grow on your unloved neighbour’s nose. Predominantely, though, witches have been treated with suspicion, since they often live outside of established orders, defy worldly and religious authority, and are loyal to none but fellow-witches (or so people think). During the era of consolidation, after the War of the Chosen, when the world was weary of both war and magic, witches were persecuted, as they were often suspected of being in cahoots with necromancers intent of bringing forth creatures from the Netherworld, and with them further deadly strive.

Furthermore, although witches’ covens do exist, their importance, their powers, and the maliciousness of their designs are often vastly exaggerated. A quotation from the entry ”Magic in the world of Caelereth” confirms this: “Even healers, "witches", whose extraordinary talents could not be explained, were often hunted to their death for many centuries to follow as people were convinced that they belonged to the progeny of the Chosen, those who were responsible for so many horrors at the Dark Era of Sorcery. Especially elves were often seen as a seed of evil by the humans race as they bore the talents of spellcasting within themselves from birth on, and many wars against the elves were fought, nurtured by this general suspicion. There are many rumours and confirmed reports about secret orders of magicians being formed during these times.“

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« Reply #2 on: 29 May 2011, 04:06:26 »

Witchcraft

The name

I propose that “witchcraft” is a name invented by Ximaxian mages to refer to a specific kind of wild magic. Those who call themselves witches do indeed often speak of their magical work as “craft” (although not “witchcraft”).


The magic

Witchcraft can be explained by contrasting it with Ximaxian magic.

Thus: Ximaxians emphasize that the mage has to impose his/her will on the cár’áll to create effects (and that the mastery of one’s own will is an important precondition for casting magic). In contrast, witches tend to understand their magic as a submission of their will to the subtle flow of the cár’áll. The witch thinks of herself/himself as deeply connected to others or her surroundings. An individual is but a ‘knot’ in the web of Ava’s dream. Even an activity as mundane as breathing shows the witch that she is constantly exchanging cár’áll with the world around her. Surrendering to this flow means transcending the narrow limits of one’s mind and will. Magical effects are created by creating new openings, new channels for the cár’áll to flow through.

Also: Ximaxians emphasize the importance of concentration to achieve controlled manipulation of the cár’áll. Witches instead emphasize trance and ecstasy – altered states of mind that allow the witch access to the deeper level of reality that our everyday perception fails to recognize. Trance and ecstasy are entered wilfully, and with a willed goal in mind, but the witch achieves the magical effects precisely by surrendering her will to the cár’áll’s flow.

Learning witchcraft, then, is a spiritual path. Waling this path, the witch learns to open herself to the invisible fabric of Ava’s dream.


On the Crafts of Witches

I said above that witches seek “trance” and “ecstasy” to craft their spells. These words have to be understood in a very wide sense. Indeed, the wild dances and hypnotic chanting that some witches engage in during spellcrafting have become predominant in the popular perception, and exaggerated tales linking witches to  naked rituals, orgies and licentiousness abound. Yet in fact, your average witch is far more likely to prefer quieter sorts of “trances”. The key to understanding this is the concept of “craft”, which is so important to witches.

Every witch knows a craft, and it is through its execution that she accomplishes her magic. Thus, a witch trained in tapestry may “weave a spell”, a witch good at woodwork may “whittle a spell”, a witch inclined to poetry may “rhyme a spell”. In this way, depending on the witch’s craft, her work may involve dancing a spell, singing a spell, baking a spell, cooking a spell, sewing a spell, embroidering a spell, plaiting a spell, chiselling a spell, and so forth.

It is not necessarily the case that the witch, by her craft, produces a magical artefact (although magically enhanced brews and potions have certainly been known to be made by witches), but the witch uses her craft to enter a state of mind below consciousness – often through repetitive movement (such as in dancing, or in loom weaving) or through the “surrender” to a tricky task.

It is clear that some “witch’s crafts” are more limiting than others. A witch used to “embroidering” her spells must have access to a needle and fabric to work her magic (although a skilled witch may need no more than a few blinks to quickly stitch a pattern into her sleeve …), while a “rhymecrafting” witch is limited only by her poetic imagination…



Witchcraft and Ximaxianism

The effects of witchcraft continue to befuddle Ximaxian mages, as they defy the neat classifications and hierarchies that Ximaxianism prefers. For example, relatively undistinguished witches, who would fail at something simple such as conjuring a little wind to drive a fly off (an elementary Ximaxian wind spell), may nonetheless succeed in brewing a magically enhanced potion that temporarily change the appearance of anyone who drinks it (say, making their skin radiantly beautiful, or increasing the size of their teeth to give them the appearance of a donkey) – an effect that Ximaxians would consider to be an “enchantment” and a “Level 9-spell”, a level of skill that a Ximaxian can expect to attain only after decades of study.

Many Ximaxians have therefore concluded that witches must have supernatural help, and the theory that witches achieve their results through entering pacts with demons is rather popular even among archmages. Certainly, most mages are proud to distinguish their own profession from the “wild” magic of the witches, and would be greatly offended to be considered in the same category. Yet a few mages have shown interest and genuine curiosity. The archmage Kar-ii Turya Firebane’s treatise “On witchcraft”, for example, presents a dispassionate account of what was known of witches at the time, and a valiant attempt at explaining both the witches’ world view, and the manner in which they achieve their magical effects.
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Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang
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« Reply #3 on: 29 May 2011, 04:06:50 »

All right then – that’s it for now. Comment away, please!
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« Reply #4 on: 29 May 2011, 04:14:19 »

I personally found this to be quite fascinating, and could see this as an true implementation into the world. It isn't over the top, as it has similar characteristics to the earthen witchcraft, but it relies heavily on the perception of those who practice it, which is also a huge part of it.

I may be interested in helping with this project, here and there (as dragons are my main focus), but I think it would be nice to have something other than the Ximaxian magic, or other forms of "organized" magic. Something which will appear much simpler and have more range of imagination (in my mind).

Your proposal seems to be quite thorough and well thought out. I didn't see anything major to point out, but I did just read quickly.  rolleyes
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« Reply #5 on: 29 May 2011, 04:42:40 »

Got to say Shaba, I like it!

Are you familiar at all with Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time work? This echoes (if only faintly) of the use of magic in that setting, without some of the more cumbersome trappings.

I wholeheartedly approve!
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« Reply #6 on: 29 May 2011, 05:31:24 »

Shaba, I love it from the first to the last word!  :)

We have to cooperate closely, to distinguish wild magic from clerical magic, for they are very similar. I can imagine, that clerics most often hate witchcraft, for witches can achieve, what only priest should be able to do (in their opinion), through the help of the gods, through their unwavering faith. The means are similar as well, a priest may fall in trance also, but he feels unity with a god, where the witches feel unity with her surrounding.. So a witch is much less dependent on somebody (a god) , than the priests. That will make many clerics very angry and I fear, they will often denounce witches. etc...

I'm looking forward to more, and will hurry to get clerical magic updated :)
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« Reply #7 on: 29 May 2011, 05:44:15 »

 thumbup from me as well.  This is very well thought out and creative.  Your synopsis has left me with a few questions, but those can always be posed once an actual entry is posted.

Can't wait to see this project take off.  :)
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« Reply #8 on: 29 May 2011, 07:37:17 »

Bravo!   Brilliant.  The description/concept of 'witchcrafting' is to my mind the simplest yet most eloquent summary that could have been achieved.   I particularly like the image of a witch stitching a spell into her sleeve with a few deft gestures.... 
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« Reply #9 on: 29 May 2011, 19:03:12 »

Wow.

*Has to do some work at half term and not spend the whole time gawping at this entry in awe*

That is great. I love the image of a fourth-level Ximaxian mage laughing at a witch's inability to cast a basic spell and then gawping and expostulating incoherently in impotent fury as she smiles sweetly and turns from a 60-year-old woman into a 16-year-old girl before his eyes...

Aura+1 from me.
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« Reply #10 on: 30 May 2011, 19:06:26 »

Just real all you have so far, and this is already very good, Shabakuk! I think the way you set it up works very well, makes some clear distinctions and offers a good playfield for these types of magic practitioners! cool And we can do all sorts of things based on a concept like this! Very helpful!

So aura +1 for your efforts so far - it would be really great to have this important entry finally completed and on site!

In terms of distinction - as Talia also partly mentioned - two things need to be elaborated very clearly I'd say:

- Witches vs. Gifted
Witches, as practitioners of wild magic, probably are gifted from birth (gifted = latent magic can be activated in a person), or are trained by other witches to use a dormant ability (which might be actually in everybody, but it is usually not recognized as such).

So the question arises: When will someone be seen as a witch (with everything that entails), rather than a gifted one? It looks like magic has regained a certain acceptance in Santharian society, but the important thing in the mind of the public seems to be to seek out those that help the gifted ones on their path to use the gift properly. This could be by becoming a Ximaxian mage, a Nehtorian healer, anything that is officially recognized as a proper use of magic.

If you go against that and work on your own, this creates suspicion. Because nobody can supervise you ("covens" aren't really institutions), so the negative association dominates, because you go against the system and it might happen that you cannot control these powers at a certain point.

So a Gifted is not necessarily a witch, but has the potential to be one. So even Gifted ones might already raise suspicion. As long as the magic of a Gifted or a Macanti (difficult to discern for regular people) heals people - or supposedly heals - common people might not yet call them witches, but the danger is always there that the wrath turns against them. So these differences should be made clear.

- Witches vs. Clerical Magic
As already mentioned above, wild magic doesn't want to fit into any system, also not into a religious system. That's why itis suspicious. And clerics especially must object even more to the fact that someone who is gifted (=interpreted as "gift from a God") and decides to do magic on his/he own must be an evil-doer working against the divine plan.

So we can establish a strong opposition here I'd say. That some witches might try to go even a step further and try to draw their powers from false Gods, evil spirits and the like could fit in here as well, which is of course the worst thing a witch can do.

So religious orders might attempt to convert witches and basically attempt show them their "true path". But there could be that dark side as well, not as the rule, but as a sectarian force in the background - witchfinders, which might stand between the witches and the actual intentions of an order to convert them to proper use, and as such provide a nice area of conflict for both opposites.
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« Reply #11 on: 30 May 2011, 19:48:04 »

Art, as I understood Shaba, a witch does not draw his/her power from a god, as followers of Religious Magic do (or think they do, though they would not word it this way) , but are more like Ximaxian mages, just that she

".. thinks of herself/himself as deeply connected to others or her surroundings. An individual is but a ‘knot’ in the web of Ava’s dream. Even an activity as mundane as breathing shows the witch that she is constantly exchanging cár’áll with the world around her. Surrendering to this flow means transcending the narrow limits of one’s mind and will. Magical effects are created by creating new openings, new channels for the cár’áll to flow through."

That could be opposed also of course, or people might mistakenly think, they draw their magic from demons etc, but that must not be the case as a matter of principle.

Of course, great conflict scenarios can be created for certain timespans, but witches could also be seen as non- religious counterpart to Ximax. Ximax for the commoners. Ximax of course will not like them, for they may take gifted people away who they would have loved to educate.

You say gifted means, "gifted by the giods", but are not Ximaxian students also "gifted by the gods", but do not follow clerical paths?
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« Reply #12 on: 30 May 2011, 20:03:10 »

I didn't imply that witches might draw powers from a "false" god, only that such superstition of people is fed by the fact that they don't adhere to an officially recognized magical branch, be it Ximaxian or clerical.

Gifted also does not generally mean "gifted by the Gods", but clerics would most likely interpret it like this. That's what I was trying to say.
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« Reply #13 on: 30 May 2011, 23:43:55 »

Thanks for all the kind comments and ideas!


@ Valan: I've never read anything by Robert Jordan. Maybe I should?


@ Kalina and everyone: Collaborations are possible, of course, and ideas welcome.



Witches and the Gifted

I like your description of the difference, Arti. To summarize in my own words: In general, Santharians see a difference between the (untrained) gifted and (trained) witches. They recognize that there is something one might call "magical talent" (a curse, some would say), that may or may not be developed through training. On the other hand, the distinction between gifted and witches might blur on occastion, so that a"gifted" or macanti who falls from favour may be outcast or even hunted as a witch.

A few further ideas:

1. Witches seek gifted children and try to take them on as apprentices, to turn them into witches. In this, witches are to some extent in competition with Ximaxand  with Twelvern clerics, I suppose? Also, a respectable family won't give their child to a witch, so it turns out that witch's apprentice is often a child from a poor family, a runaway, or a rejected child - rejected because of a disfigurement, say, or even because of her/his magical ability itself (those spooky things she does!). So in terms of apprentices, the Dula myth would mirror what actual witches do.

2. Stricly speaking, we might say that a witch is someone who is magically gifted and who has been taught by another witch, allowing the magical talent to develop.

3. Witches themselves, always ready to ignore neat classifications, might allege that all gifted are in fact witches - just that some know it, and others don't!

4. The friends of a gifted girl - who see that she can command the birds to be quiet, or that she can tell which plants are poisonous, even though nobody has ever taught her - might call her "a witch". What I mean is that the stigma that is attached to the gifted may be expressed through the derogatory term "witch".


Clerics and witches

I like the idea that clerics of the Twelvern faith would be suspicious of witches. I'd say that reactions might range from attempts at conversion to persecution? And I certainly think we should have witchfinders in Santharia. The secretiveness of witches (itself a reaction to persecution) may certainly cause those with paranoid tendencies to want to snoop about. (The mayor's new wife came from far away, and we don't know much about her. People feel uncomfortable in her presence. She keeps this black cat that appears from nowhere and disappears as if into thin air. And ever since the wedding, the taenish in all the streets around the mayor's house have been laying foul eggs ... She often leaves the city for days. Does she really visit her sister, as she lets it be known - or does she take part in witches' rituals? Let's get a witchfinder to investigate!)

So what would the clerical view be? I like the idea that clerics, similar to Ximaxians, think that witches draw their power from pacts with demons. Arti, you mention that clerics would suspect (or claim) that witches serve "false gods". That's also an interesting idea. My question is: who would these "false gods" be? Coór?


It would certainly be interesting if clerics and Ximaxians, who will definitely both dislike witches, each dislike them for different reasons.

Maybe so: Ximaxians dislike witches because witchcraft doesn't fit into their system, because the whole philosophy of witches contradicts the Ximaxian world view, and because witches snatch away some gifted children, who, if educated in one of the Towers, would make excellent mages.

Clerics dislike witches because witches do not care much about the Twelvern Gods, because witchcraft is inexplicable for clerics unless one supposes links with demons or non-Twelvern gods, and because witches snatch away some gifted children  who, if educated in the right Temple, would make excellent clerics.

Any good?
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« Reply #14 on: 31 May 2011, 01:25:55 »

Ermm...... no, what clerics concerns.

I see here the tendency to make all clerics to a bunch of backward orientated, closeminded individuals without the ability to use their brain. Well, exaggerated.

Of course some of them might think, that all witches draw their magic from demons and in certain times this might have been the consens of many, but in our opening contemporary society I want to have an openminded "church" also. At least in Santharia. Why should a cleric think, that all witches draw their magic from demons or evil gods (whom, Coor?), if he knows, that  there is another, non-religious magic possible, Ximax. Why should they not see, that a gifted person can either become a Ximaxian mage or a witch, though, in the case of the witch it is not (yet), or not for all clear, how they do their magic. If priest have to think, that all magic has to do with supernatural forces, then every priest would have to believe also, that every Ximaxian mage is evil, because he obviously does not draw his magic from the gods.  But I don't want the Santharian clerical community guide on that way. I don't see either, why a witchfinder has to be a cleric. Of course, there could be religious fanatics, an order, who does exactly that, but in that order could as well be laypersons, knights, anyone, who thinks that witches are evil, maybe because of an unfortunate encounter he had. This order does not necessarily have the approval of the clerical community in general.

Witches and her magic are not seen as a great concurrence, for priests would not openly say, that gifted ones would be better priests. Everybody can pray to the gods, and everybody has the chance, that the gods hear him and fulfill his prayer, it is the faith which is relevant, not if you are gifted or not.

So please, let us not place the priest in the corner of the 'unenlightened' individual, but see as equal partner in discussions about where from the witchcraft draws its power.

I think, that clerics might not like witches, because they seem to offer a way of life without the belief in god. but, could not a witch belief in the gods as a ximaxian mage could do it? Does the ability to do a different magic than the religious magic exclude the belief in the gods i don't think so.

In contrary, I would say, that a Baveras Aid may well be suspect to be a witch also, they have some things in common - or that even a child which got an education from a witch can hear the goddess' call nevertheless.
« Last Edit: 31 May 2011, 01:33:21 by Ta'lia of the Seven Jewels » Logged

"For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path  that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel looking,  breathlessly. ~Don Juan"
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