Hermetic Culture and the Hermetic Oath
As a general rule, magi are a solitary lot. The study of magic requires long hours of intense, individual study and is not well accepted in society as a whole. Most wizards in the Dark Ages keep their powers secret, and those who practice openly are usually feared, shunned, and even persecuted. Because of this, Hermetic magi have begun the practice of founding covenants, small communities in which magi congregate for protection and to share resources. Most covenants are dominated by a single house, though the Order encourages multi-house covenants to promote cross-fertilization of knowledge. Covenants are generally located in isolated wilderness areas, both for privacy and to avoid the effects of the Dominion.
The relationship between the Order and the Church is quite complex. In strict Christian ethics the practice of magic is anathema, and the influence of the Dominion naturally diminishes the force of magic. Nevertheless, Hermetic philosophy is partially grounded in Christian theology, albeit a heretical doctrine that was rejected by the Church centuries ago. Most Hermetic magi are at least nominally Christian and the Order of Hermes is almost completely co-extensive with Christian civilization. There are many magi who resent the power of the Dominion and try to limit it, but also many who actively aid and support the Church. Similarly, for every priest determined to condemn all sorcerers to hell there is an open-minded monk or church father willing to recognize the hand of God in unlikely places. Both priests and magi are still working out their relationship, often on a case-by-case basis.
All Hermetic magi are expected to train at least one apprentice during their career (which, with the aid of longevity spells, may span centuries). Standard apprenticeships last for thirteen years, during which time the apprentice is little more than a slave to the master. Shorter apprenticeships, as short as a single day, are common when "adopting" outside wizards into the Hermetic Order, but these are only available for wizards of proven power. Most masters prefer to select new apprenticeships before puberty in order to mold their students into proper magi from an early age.
In addition to the magi themselves, most covenants also support a number of companions and servants. Companions are often the family or friends of the magi. Both companions and servants are often outcasts from mundane society, pariahs who have found shelter within the reclusive Hermetic society. Others, however, are accepted in both the magical and the mundane world. Such individuals are valued for their ability to handle a covenant's external relations, as even the most isolated covenant must usually maintain good relations with a local lord, trade for food and other goods which they cannot produce for themselves, and deal with the occasional unwitting visitor. Servants who guard and protect the magi are typically referred to as grogs.
Relations among magi are governed by the Hermetic Oath. (Note that the term "mage" throughout the Oath refers solely to other members of the Order. Wizards and sorcerers outside the Order are not considered fellow magi.) In summary, the Oath states the following rules:
More Information on the Magical World of A.D. 875: