Traditionally, magic has been divided into five distinct schools or branches: magery, shamanism, theurgy, spiritism, and karcistry. Despite these divisions, all schools of magic inherit from the same basic set of laws and universal principles. Magery, astral magery, elemental magery are all subsets of the wider school of thaumaturgy, while theurgy, spiritism, and karcistry are all part of the wider school of spiritual magic. Shamanism, or primal magic, is its own tradition of natural magic, and sorcery typically refers to those who practice magery, shamanism, or spirit magic, but who are not formally schooled as a mage or theurgist. Psychurgy is generally classified separately from magic, as it operates on its own set of psychical phenomena.
All aetheric practitioners must have an innate aetheric attunement called quintessence, which allows them to sense aetheric energy and to tap into the forces of nature, the elements, and the aether, enabling them create empowerments.
Magery is the art of harnessing aetheric energy and binding that energy to produce a desired effect. Like shamans, elementors, and sorcerers, mages must possess quintessence, allowing them to harness the energies of nature, the elements, and the aether. Magery, or thaumaturgy as it is often called in technical writings, is the scientific study and practice of magic, exercising the fundamental laws of nature through advanced mathematics, elemental correspondences, and astrological alignments to harness the ever-flowing currents that ebb and flow in the luminiferous aether. This force provides the energy that all mages harness—an energy commonly called aetheric energy, or aethergy.
Mages are particularly adept at controlling aethergy, manipulating natural forces, projecting illusions, and bending the fabric of space itself. Although mages can summon and control elemental spirits, most prefer to create artificial aetheric constructs known as egregores, which are similar to elemental spirits, but are entirely artificial and designed to carry out a single specific task.
Today, the term “mage” or “Magus” is typically reserved for practitioners of magery who have graduated from a university or academy with a masters or doctorate of magery, or who are recognized in the Archidoxy’s official registry of magery.
Astral magery is a more advanced form of magery that harnesses the energy of the astral light. Astral mages must employ highly technical processes and mathematical equations to tap aethergy directly from the astral currents. The mage must pour over countless astral charts, ephemeris tables, and ecliptic diagrams, performing meticulous calculations and resolving complex formulas to anticipate changes in the astral currents affected by the influence of planetary motions and celestial alignments. The most experienced astral mages eventually learn to intuitively project these patterns and calculations in their minds, just as an experienced architect can intuitively estimate every facet of a structure’s geometry at a glance. With this ability, an astral mage can harness a seemingly limitless source of energy, drawing down the blazing silver flames of the astral light.
Like astral magery, elemental magery is a subset of magery that deals specifically with elements, elemental energies, and elemental spirits. Being a branch of magery, magery and elemental magic are technically one in the same, and both are part of the wider category of magic called thaumaturgy, which covers magery, astral magery, elemental magery.
Although most mages prefer to deal with illusions, conjurations, aetheric energy, and metaplasmic constructs, elemental mages, who may prefer to be called elementors, deal directly with the elements (earth, air, fire, stone, water, thunder, light, and lightning), and with elemental spirits. Mages rarely deal with elemental spirits, instead preferring to create and command artificial spirits known as egregores.
Shamanism is fundamentally the same as magery in that both operate on the elements, the aether, and the forces of nature. Sometimes called primal magery or primal magic, shamanism traditionally deals with plants, animals, healing, natural forces such as wind and rain, and the assorted elemental forces that bind the natural world together.
All practitioners of primal magic possess quintessence, allowing them to harness the energy within nature to empower their art, be that energy from herbs and crystals, meditative communion with earth spirits, or a profound devotion to nature itself. The cardinal rule observed by all who practice primal magic is simple: “For Nature to be commanded, She must be obeyed.”
The main difference between a mage and a shaman derives from their philosophical perspective of nature. While a shaman perceives all things in nature to be living, and works through a harmonious rapport with nature, mages tend to see the world as governed by mathematics and physical laws that can be studied, mastered, and controlled.
Spiritual magic is generally divided into two categories: theurgy and spiritism. Theurgy literally means “divine-working,” and is generally understood to refer to magic practiced by priests. As far as the Archidoxy is concerned, only Archidox theurgists are true theurgists: all others are spiritors, sorcerers, or karcists. Archidox theurgists are those priests of the Archidoxy who possess quintessence, and have dedicated their holy powers of theurgy to the eternal battle against the legions of darkness. Archidox theurgists are said to draw aethergy from the higher harmonies of the empyrean fires, but some mages argue that this “empyrean fire” is indistinguishable from the astral light.
Practitioners of other religions who possess quintessence also practice magic. Many of these are simply called priests, but “spiritor” is more often used to distinguish them (sometimes also “sorcerer”, although inaccurately). Like theurgists, spiritors call upon spirits and entities in the aether to help conduct aethergy and aid in binding their empowerments. Spiritors are identical to theurgists in most respects, but focus on summoning and controlling spirits, conducting mystical energies, and unlocking the secrets of the spirit world. The Archidoxy condemns all form of spiritual magic outside of theurgy, and spiritors must take great care in places where the Archidoxy holds sway. Even so, there are many nations where spiritism is widely accepted, such as northern and central Tarrona, where the religion of the Kaba-sha is practiced, as well as various tribal and shamanic religions throughout Tarrona and Celaphania.
Today, “sorcery” and “sorcerer” are typically used in reference to those who practice magery, shamanism, or spirit magic, but who are not formally schooled as a mage or theurgist, or who have “gone rogue”, or who operate independent of any order or organization. Some sorcerers are entire self-taught, through books and their own experimentation, or who have attended a school of magery for a short time before dropping out or being expelled. Some have also learned from shamans, spiritors, or other sorcerers who took them under their wing or accepted payment in exchange for instruction.
As a result, most sorcerers know an eclectic hodgepodge of empowerments, techniques, and philosophies. They may know some magery empowerments, a few shamanic spells, a handful of theurgical rituals, and a medley of elemental evocations.
Sorcerers are often viewed as dangerous renegades or criminals out for their own gain, or mercenary “sell-spells” who hired out their services to whoever will pay. While it is true that many sorcerers do as they please—for good or for ill—this is certainly not true of all of them. And even sorcerers are a far cry from those most vile, wicked, and deplorable of magical practitioners: karcists.
Karcistry represents the seductive power inherent to the grim realm of darkness, death, and decay. Karcistry is the complete corruption of spiritual magic, and those who practice its vile rites are consumed with the lust for power and control over the forces of entropy and death, hoping to cheat death itself.
Karcists draw their power from the energies of death, chaos, and corruption, and use fetiches of death and darkness as their talismans. They conduct and manipulate necrolic energy to reanimate mortifants and undead thralls. They summon aggressive and tormented spirit such as wraiths and revenants, twisting them with hatred and malice to serve their wicked ends. They commune with Bornless Ones, Darkweavers, and corrupt astral entities, and may even dabble in demonolatry to contact the demon lords of Atracus, hoping to forge pacts of power. Karcists desecrate the virtues of life and spirit through baleful curses of hopelessness and despair, corruption and decay, as well as pitiless afflictions of monstrous disfigurement.
But above all else, karcists seek to become masters of death and chaos, thereby transforming themselves, both body and soul, into a deathless immortal—an undead lord known more commonly as a lich. No shred of humanity remains within the soulless creatures of darkness they become, and all that remains is the bleak emptiness of malice, malignity, and madness. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) few karcists succeed in this transformation, instead either turning themselves into mindless mortifants or inflicting a slow, rotting death upon themselves. But those few who do succeed become villainous foes of the darkest and most terrible sort.
Psychurgy is the power of mind over matter, and its root meaning is “mind working”. Individuals endowed with psychic powers are typically referred to as psychics, psychurgists, or mindmasters, though the terms mindbender and psycher are common colloquialisms. Certain psychic individuals may exhibit talents in particular areas, such as clairvoyance, telepathy, telekinesis, and so forth, and may prefer the corresponding designation of clairvoyant, telepath, or telekinetic.
Triclopes are by far the most powerful of all psychurgists, and while all Triclopes possess some level of psychic ability, Triclops Lords (who were wiped out at the end of the War of Tyranny) had a degree of ability far beyond anything achievable by humankind.