Wizards and Witches:
Magic outside the Order of Hermes

          Despite their claim to speak for all mages in Europe, there are numerous magicians existing outside the bounds of the Order. Many of these are individual wizards or small groups which the Order is unaware of and who in turn may never have heard of the Order of Hermes. Most, however, fall into one of a few recognizable types.

          The Order of Hermes is specifically oriented toward the academic study of magic. However, Europe has a long and active tradition of folk magic. For every Hermetic mage slaving away in a magical laboratory to create the perfect spell there are hundreds of witches, hedge wizards, wise men, potion-makers, fortune-tellers, and healers plying their trade among the common folk. Usually illiterate and possessing a hodgepodge of lesser charms, remedies, and spells of questionable efficacy, most of these "lesser workers" are generally ignored by Hermetic magi, who wouldn't accept them into the Order even if they asked.

          A few of these folk traditions are noteworthy for their great power and, unlike the rest, are seen as threats to the Order's magical hegemony. These include a number of local magical traditions in fringe areas of civilization such as the Celtic west, the Pyrenees and Alps, the great forested plains of the Rus, the Balkans, the Mediterranean islands, and other isolated pockets throughout Europe. Hermetic magi are always on the watch for these dangerous wizards. When discovered they are offered only two choices: join the Order or die.

          The most dangerous of the hedge wizards are those of the far north, outside the control of the Order of Hermes. The Order of Odin is known to be active among the Vikings, and many Hermetics blame them for inciting the Viking plague from the north. Norse wise men wield mysterious runic magic and are generally attacked on sight. Even less is known about the wind wizards of the Finns, though it is rumored that their powers put even the Viking wizards to shame.

          Within the Tribunal of Thebes Hermetic traditions are followed by numerous small houses and societies which predate the Order of Hermes and which remain independent. The Order still hopes to bring these recalcitrants into the fold and is generally on good terms with them, usually treating them as colleagues. Though non-Order Hermetics do not have the advantage of Bonisagus's unifying theories, they are acknowledged masters in the more traditional Hermetic practices of alchemy, astrology, medicine, and magical craftsmanship.

          In the Arab world Hermetic practice thrives outside the Order's sphere of influence. In fact most European magi would secretly admit that their eastern counterparts actually know more Hermetic magic than they do, though pride normally keeps them silent on the matter. In practice the two groups have little to do with each other and generally avoid contact. Nevertheless, Hermetic magi assiduously seek out Arabic texts in hope of learning the magical secrets of the orient. There appears to be no over-arching magical Order in the Arab world, but instead a number of independent Hermetic societies which interact in a complex fashion, sometimes cooperating, sometimes competing. They also operate much more openly in society and are often found as advisors to kings and caliphs. Like the independent Hermetics of the eastern empire, Arab Hermetics follow the more traditional Hermetic practices, including the dangerous summoning and control of spirits, a practice normally eschewed in the west.

          Working outside the bounds of the magical realm, but often with historical or philosophical ties to the Hermetics or other wizards, are a variety of mystico-religious organizations. Drawing power from the Divine or the Infernal rather than the realm of magic, they nevertheless function much like the Hermetic Order, wielding arcane powers and operating in secret, beyond the view of the mundane world. Divine power societies have mixed and often strained relations with the Hermetics; normally the two groups simply ignore one another. In contrast, those who deal with the Infernal are hunted down and destroyed whenever they are identified, a difficult task since they often operate covertly within other groups, subordinating and corrupting from within.


More Information on the Magical World of A.D. 875:
History of the Order
Hermetic Houses
Hermetic Tribunals
Hermetic Philosophy
Culture and the Oath
Magic Outside the Order
The Order in Caledonia

Return to the Index of Background Files

Caledonia: A Light in the North