Codex: Ancient Sorceries (2017)

Ancient Sorceries

Over the millennia of organized sorcery, whether under the auspices of the Arcanum or before its existence, the practice evolved greatly.  Many of the old methods of using sorcery, or, more properly, collecting energy for sorcerous workings have been lost or set aside.  Some of these sorceries are well documented and have those in the modern era who attempt to reconstruct them.  Others are merely vague references, often in obscure texts, that may be nothing more than mere fantasy.

Blood sorcery, or blood rites, is one of the most well known.  We have ample evidence that the practice of gathering energy for sorcery from blood letting was common among ancient sorcerers.  Those among the Aztecs, both nahuatl and those concealed within the priesthood, and the Celts were especially fond of this method.  The Arcanum forbade, and later declared illegal, the practice for the last thousand years.  There are no recorded instances of the practice in the last five hundred, at least beyond isolated incidents of lone, misguided, sorcerers.

The second most well known is sex sorcery, or rites.  There is significant evidence of this method of energy acquisition being popular in Mesopotamia, parts of India, and some Taoist and Buddhist sects in China.  The practice was never expressly forbidden, but fell out of favor, except briefly during the Victorian era, for simpler, more osmotic, means.  Recently, the Society of Sensates, a sect of the Blue Order, is said to be researching and attempting to reconstruct the methods used.

As noted above, there are also some obscure references to other sorceries.  One text, Njal.VII.a3, briefly refers to draining power from spirits.  Another, Asbridge.II.e, indicates the possibility of removing power from magical items and artifacts to fuel spells.  Many Norse and other cultures suggest that runes or other symbols could potentially contain and shape sorcery.

The Arcanum Council, officially, will not approve of the study or reconstruction of any ancient sorceries.  The Council has ruled that the time and effort to relearn them would be a waste due to the prevalence of modern sorcerous methods and their efficacy.  The Council acknowledges that such sorceries may have been useful, even necessary, millennia ago, when sorcery was young and undeveloped.  The Council also notes that such sorceries were potentially necessary in order to combat the overwhelming Ravager hordes, thus requiring greater, more powerful spells.  However, with the advent of the Guardians, such measures are both no longer necessary and threaten the secrecy of sorcerers in relation to humans.  Therefore, they are best left to rest, beyond this brief discussion.[i]

[i] The unofficial truth is the Council thinks these sorceries are too similar to modern witchcraft, maybe theurgy, and they deny an ancient ur-magic.

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Codex: The Elements (2017)

Elements, The

As previously noted, the core of sorcery is manipulation of the six elements that make up all life in the world.  The elements are: air, earth, fire, metal, water, and wood.  Each is useful for particular spells and types of magic, and incapable of use for others.  Under current Arcanum practices, every student of sorcery is required to study the basics of every element.  Beyond the basics, they are free to choose one or more to specialize in, usually based on affinities, personality, or the role that the sorcerer wishes to play in society.

In the past, a sorcerer required a sample of the element to be called upon in hand.  Quite literally.  However, over the last millennium or so, sorcerers have learned to create or summon elements to them, not merely to manipulate them.  Still, some elements are easier to employ than others.  For instance, air is everywhere around us, except in rare cases.  Likewise, water is all around, both in the air and in most living beings.  On the other hand, wood or earth can be difficult to find, particularly in a skyscraper in a major city such as Hong Kong or New York.  Metal has become easier in the modern era as it became plentiful and was used everywhere.  Likewise, the inventions of mechanical lighters, matches, and even combustion engines has made the presence of fire more prevalent.

Some sorcerers cling to an old tradition that states the elements exist in binary oppositions—Air:Earth, Fire:Water, Metal:Wood—but this philosophy has been supplanted.  Most in the modern world hold the view that the elements exist in a metaphysically, complementary balance.  In this view, earth does not oppose air.  Rather, earth’s grounded nature complements and makes up for air’s inherent flightiness and constant movement.  Thus, the two work together to form a powerful balance of energy and strength.

 

Air

The element air allows the sorcerer to clean, poison, move, and shape air.  It also lets the sorcerer levitate and even fly in some cases.  Air can be manipulated to decrease the rate at which the sorcerer, or another subject, falls.  But, these are only the most obvious and elementary spells that air sorcerers are capable of.  Air is also associated with all sorcery that involves movement of any sort, including freedom of movement or restricting a subject’s ability to move.  Air is also the element associated with intellect, of all sorts.  It can be used to enhance the intellect, memory, or information in general.  Air sorcery can be employed to perform divinations and read omens.  It has also been used for communications by aerial means and even mental or telepathic means.  Finally, air is the element of the spirit, or soul if you prefer.  It is said that some air sorcerers, the best and most skilled, are able to contact, travel to, and even manipulated spirits and the spirit realm.

 

Earth

Earth is the element of solidity, it anchors the other elements and the sorcerer.  It is immovable and grounded.  Earth sorcery controls the soil, precious gems, and rock.  It allows a sorcerer to find her way anywhere in the world, on land, and to raise walls in no time.  It ties the sorcerer to the Earth.  According to legend, ancient earth sorcerers were even able to shape the land to their desires and call up earthquakes at will.  Earth is also the element of matter.  As such, it allows practitioners to create, shape, even reconstruct any form of matter, in theory, however they wish.  The more artistically inclined often go into sculpting and other statuary.  Combined with air sorcery, it is even possible for earth to create automatons of different sorts.  Finally, earth is associated with the sensuality of both life and death.  In this way, earth sorcery is often life or death aspected, depending on the proclivities, philosophy, and training of the sorcerer using it.

 

Fire

Fire is a powerful and useful element, but also one that can be difficult to control and direct.  It is easy to lose control of fire and be consumed by it.  Therefore, fire sorcerers need to master themselves as much as they master the element for the two are directly linked to each other.  Fire wishes to burn and consume indiscriminately, so the trick is to focus it toward one’s desires.  However, fire is the element of passion and energy.  Thus, fire inflames and controls the passions of its users and their targets, should they wish it.  Skilled sorcerers can also dampen the passions of others.  Fire can, further, provide or absorb energy to and from others, leaving them frenetic or slothful, fueling other magics or spells, or dampening opposing sorcery.  Those who study this element, or master it, tend to be very open emotionally or tightly controlled and seemingly emotionless, incredibly energetic or seemingly lazy, depending on their form of control.

 

Metal

Metal is a surprisingly versatile element.  It is most commonly known as the element of strength and firmness.  Metal is the element most commonly used for enchanted items, alongside earth (pottery) and wood.  But, metal goes beyond control of its namesake and strength.  It is also associated with determination and patient, including spells that enhance and affect both.  Those who study the element of metal tend to become the armorers, inventors, and warriors of sorcerous society.  The element also influences and affects matters of wealth, particularly wealth associated with precious metals.  Those who wield metal sorcery possess and employ some of the magics and personalities of earth sorcerers.  In fact, metal and earth sorcerers tend to either enjoy their similarities and relations or hate each other because their personalities are too similar to each other.

 

Water

Water is fluid and adaptable, shaping itself to any container and wearing down even the most solid of materials.  Students of this element control water, ice, and steam.  However, water is also the element of change, which is why it was incorporated into the creation of the Guardians.  In some ways, water is the element closest to chaos.  It allows practitioners to change their appearance and form.  Water is also the element associated with intuition and emotions, so it is adept at influencing the emotions of others.  Water sorcerers can sway audiences with a handful of words or calm crowds with a song.  They can become masters of controlling other people, even to the extent of permanent charms and loyalty.  Water is also the healing element, used by the Arcanum’s greatest healers to cure illnesses and repair wounds.  Some believe the use of water sorcery is the source of the Guardians’ regenerative capacity.

 

Wood

Wood is strong like earth and metal, yet flexible like water, yet not to the extent of either.  It combines the best of earth and water into something wholly unique.  It includes the sensuality of both and takes that into the area of fertility.  For wood is the most fertile of the elements, the representation of life and growth at its best and most fecund.  Despite its name, wood is capable of affecting both trees, living and dead, and any other plant life directly.  Wood sorcerers are also able to affect the fertility of any animal, including humans and Guardians, as well as the strength of the same.  Along with earth sorcerers, they seem to be at the forefront of the Society of Sensates among the Blue Order and play a role in the Black Order’s Serpent Circle next to water sorcerers.  Conversely, wood sorcery tends to be rare among the White Order as it appears antithetical to that order.

Codex: Sorcery (2017)

Sorcery

Sorcery is neither good nor evil, and this applies to nearly all of its forms and uses.  Sorcery is a tool.  It is intent and aim that determines the morality of the effect.

Consider: What is the difference between the Guardian and the Ravager?  Both are users of violence, often visually indistinguishable from each other.  However, the Ravager crosses the Pale to fight for the sake of killing and destruction.  The Guardian employs violence when needed to protect others and those who cannot defend themselves, to prevent the Ravager.

Sorcery is life, and life is neither inherently good nor evil, rather how we use life is good or not.  In the past, our ancestors drew blood to call energy.  This could be positive, as in the sacrifice willingly given, or an evil things, as forcefully taken.  But the fuel itself was amoral.  Since those days, sorcery has evolved and we have, of course, found other, less corruptible, means of calling energy.  And, according to some, we lost access to other, forgotten methods.

When we say that sorcery is life, we mean that in a very literal sense.  Sorcery draws upon the energy inherent in all living beings to manipulate the six elements of existence: air, earth, fire, metal, water, and wood.  Each of these elements has its own personality, powers, and affinities, as will be discussed in detail later.  In the earliest days of sorcery, our ancestors had to draw blood of men and beasts to acquire access to the required energy, as noted above, and they needed the elements on hand to use.  Today, we train to touch the power constantly and siphon off trace amounts from every living thing around us, unconsciously.  This tiniest of drains is as noticeable as taking a single drop of water from the ocean.  Unlike our ancestors, we can also create and summon the elements, not merely manipulate them.

The practice of sorcery appears simple and easy, to the untrained eye.  A sorcerer merely waves a hand and twenty candle ignite.  The appearance of ease is both a truth and a lie.  The veneer masks hours, years, of study and practice that make the difficult second nature, instinctive, through rote training and something akin to muscle memory.  The sorcerer must draw upon his reserve of energy, collect energy from his environment, or from a storage device.  Then he must concentrate, shape the energy, and call upon the desired element.  Visualization is key here, alongside concentration.  As with all skills, the more it is practiced, the less conscious the process or action becomes.  In time, the basics become instinct while only the more complex spells require active concentration.

Although not required for sorcery, a staff or wand can be a tremendous aid for focus and concentration.  Both can also be prepared to store energy or even potentially contain pre-cast spells.  But, a staff or wand must be fashioned of formerly living material, usually wood.  Perhaps most importantly, a staff or wand becomes bound to the sorcerer and contains a piece of the sorcerer’s spirit, or soul if you will.

 

Natural Laws of Sorcery

Contrary to the beliefs of many normal humans, sorcery is not without its limits.  Observations conducted by many researchers indicate that at least six rules apply to all magics (Pinol and Ficano; Henning; Wilcox and Ashe; Aurelius; Bayfield; Michaels).

Baylor’s First Law states that dead is dead.  There is no known way to bring someone back from the dead.  Both resurrection and reincarnation are solely the province of the gods, if they are even possible for divinities.

Mullins’s Third and Fourth Laws directly concern the questions of currency and food respectively.  These laws state that neither currency nor food can be created by magic.  Fae glamour is not an exception either, since it merely creates the illusion of food or money, but does not actually create either.  Both can be transported, of course, just not made via sorcery.

Santos’s Second Law forbids the manipulation of time and traveling through time.  There is no known magic that can effect such travel or changes.  This particular law has been tested, perhaps, more than any other, but has held up over at least a thousand years, despite sorcerers’ best attempts.

Baylor’s Third Law relates to his first.  Sorcery, and presumably other magics, is incapable of creating life.  However, it is able to manipulate, guide, shape, reorganize, and change life by a variety of means.  This is the province of wood and water sorcery, primarily.

The sixth law is so universal that it has not been named for anyone.  Any form of magic—whether sorcery, witchcraft, theurgy, or non-human in nature—requires genetic talent to learn and use.  Without proper genetic alignment and make up, it is impossible for anyone to make magic work, possibly even including magical items, according to some theories.

Codex: Great Conflict (2017)

Great Conflict, The

The Great Conflict is the somewhat euphemistic name that the Arcanum uses for our war with the Ravagers.  Despite being mildly euphemistic, it is a true name, for we have been in conflict with the Ravagers, it is a core elements of the Arcanum, and it has been going on for millennia.  The Great Conflict really encapsulates the entirety of sorcerous existence, and the reasons for the Arcanum to exist.  Although not everyone in the Arcanum is directly involved, most who are on the front lines come from the Red and White Orders or are Guardians, all are indirectly involved in support to one degree or another.

The origins of the Great Conflict are shrouded in some mystery, as are the origins of the Ravagers (see Appendix A).  However, the fragments of documentation and artifacts that we have, combined with oral tradition, suggest that the Conflict began within a generation of the first Ravager sighting.  With that being the case, it started long before the creation of the Arcanum.

The early decades of the Conflict were very chaotic.  It appears that most of the fighting was between individual sorcerers hunting Ravagers in a sort of scattershot fashion.  The effectiveness of those strategies, such as they were, is debated, but seems to have at least slowed the Ravager advance for a time.  After a good century, organizations of sorcerers grew and took on the mantle of defense.  It was only with the advent of the Arcanum, though, that the Great Conflict became well organized on a global scale.

As the number of Ravagers has grown, and they have become better organized and hidden in human society, our tactics and strategies have been forced to adapt.  In the early days of the sorcerer organizations, pitched battles against Ravagers happened with some degree of commonality.  Today, those tactics are inappropriate, due to collateral damage.  Only the Arcanum and its leadership have proven to be the best, and perhaps only, way to curb the Ravager threat, or at least to slow it significantly.

Codex: Apostates

Apostates

Traitors to the Arcanum and to their duty to humanity, Apostates are rogue sorcerers who live outside of, and reject, the Arcanum’s authority.  Most Apostates are criminals who were cast out by the Arcanum, on recommendation of the Grey Order’s Justiciar sect.  A handful are misguided, young, rebels, were born to Apostate parents, or were born to normal humans and do not know better.  These are a slim minority, almost all Apostates are rank criminals.[i]  Apostates are a lawless collection of individuals with dubious, or questionable, moral sense who are purely concerned with themselves and have no sense of concern for anyone else.[ii]

Trustworthy sources who have had contact with Apostate society have related tales of brutality, violence, theft, and social darwinism.  They say that Apostates live in barely human conditions and are constantly vulnerable , and victims of, Ravager attacks.  Few, if any, Apostates live normal, or long, lives.  Recent surveys show the average life expectancy of Apostates is 50 to 70 years younger than for Arcanum sorcerers.[iii]

The Council strongly urges all Arcanum sorcerers and Guardians to report any suspected Apostates to the nearest authorities.  In this way, they can be collected or monitored by Arcanum authorities for possible reintegration into society or for incarceration.  DO not engage the Apostate.  They are usually very mentally disturbed and unstable, their training is often random and incomplete, so there is no telling what any spell they cast might do.[iv]  Only by reporting them and letting trained representative of the Council handle the situation can we bring an eventual end to the Apostate blight on proper sorcerous society, and help them to see the error of their ways so they can be reintegrated into the fight to protect humanity that is their duty.

[i] Blatant Arcanum propaganda.  While it is true that most Apostates have rejected the Arcanum, very few were ever deemed criminals before choosing to become Apostates (or being born into the status).

[ii] Completely false propaganda.  Those among the Apostates have formed numerous small organizations to protect and aid each other (see Appendix B) and have established several hidden havens and hundreds of safe houses around the world (see Appendix C).

[iii] Ask to see these surveys or talk to these people.  Neither exists, except in the Arcanum propaganda machine.  Many Apostates live well, are well educated, and are safe.

[iv] Yes, fear the scary Apostate.  Don’t talk to them and find out that they are just like you and have rational reasons to reject the Arcanum.

Codex: Ravagers (2017)

Ravagers

The Ravagers are beasts, creatures from we know not where, driven by a mad, base intelligence.  They appear human to normal eyes, but that façade conceals a seething hunger for death and destruction.  When in a frenzy state, a Ravager will change, physically and psychically.  Its skin will become bony and thick to better protect itself.  It will exhibit fangs, claws, even horn-like protrusions and spikes.  In a frenzy state, the Ravager’s higher psychic functions disappear, consumed by an overriding hunger for the life energy upon which they feed.  Most Ravagers sate this thirst through the consumption of blood taken from their prey, thus giving rise to the ancient tales of vampirism amongst normal humans.  A few, however, discover that blood alone is not enough.  These cases seem to require the ingestion of human flesh as well.

Normally, in a rest state, the Ravager can pass as human easily enough, despite a distaste for direct sunlight which makes them uncomfortable.  The frenzy state enhances their physical strength and speed fourfold, beyond the abilities of any normal human to match.  They also become tougher, more difficult to injure.  Regardless of their state, a Ravager can be destroyed by sorcery, a Guardian’s powers, and by causing enough damage to overwhelm their recuperative powers, usually by beheading or destroying their bodies completely.

We have no definite information about the origins of the Ravagers.  They appeared in small numbers millennia ago.[1]  Then they flooded the world for a time, prompting the creation of the first Guardians as the sorcerers of the era were nearly overwhelmed by the tide.  We believe that the Ravagers originate beyond this world, past a theoretical barrier called the Pale.  Hundreds of theories have been posited over the generations, though, and the Pale is merely the latest in a long line.

Modern Ravagers appear to have evolved from the nearly mindless creatures that fought our ancestors.  Today, there are a growing number of Ravagers who can conceal their hunger behind a façade of respectability.  Still, they must release the drive, the desire, the need from time to time.  And they must feed.  So, they gravitate to areas of human society where they can sate their desires.  They show up in the ranks of organized crime, illegal fight circuits, certain kinds of night clubs, even militias.  They avoid law enforcement and the military, since their nature would eventually be revealed.

A few researchers believe that Ravagers have a complex and civilized society (Berk; Hall and Pollington; Raffel).[i]  These few also claim that Ravagers are intelligent and capable of controlling their hunger under certain circumstances.  The majority of Arcanum researchers disagree.  The current theory is that Ravagers are beasts who are able to conceal their bestial natures for a brief time.  They appear to lack higher functions, although some can mimic humanity well enough to pass, long enough to feed.  They seem to be solitary, ambush predators with occasional, short lived, groups of three or four appearing.  What connects the groups, or causes them, is unclear, though some have suggested a familial relationship or social system (see Howard and Raffel respectively).

The Council’s official policy is that Ravagers are dangerous, invasive beasts.  The Council recommends that they be destroyed on sight, or that appropriate authorities—Council representatives, the Red Order, or Guardians—be contacted immediately and informed of potential Ravager activity.

[1] Some reconstructed sources appear to indicate that the Ravagers were drawn to, or even created by, sorcery (ref. Clareson; Thompson and Donne; Ptahotep; Eclesius, Spinnett, and Isaak).  Such creation or attraction could have been accidental or purposeful, the sources are unclear.  (See Appendix A)

[i] Berk, Raffel, Hall, Pollington, they’re all right.  The Ravagers are intelligent and have a society based on a complex ratio of age, personal power, and appearance of power, possibly with some lineage thrown in.  They follow the direction of lords and masters and are actually highly organized in some regions, while masquerading as chaotic loners.