For the Tower world, I decided to play with some, continually evolving, ideas about magic. Initially, I decided to divide magics into “low” and “high” categories. Low magic would be slower to use and less powerful, although not generally as effective and wide ranging. On the other hand high magic would be significantly stronger and faster to use, although somewhat more difficult to learn.
For low magics, I decided on three: waerlomancy, witchcraft, and wizardry.
- Waerlomancy involves communing with spirits of various sorts, whether forcing them to act on the mage’s behalf or convincing them to do so. Most practitioners are referred to as warlocks, although those who specialize in dealings with spirits of the dead are necromancers.
- Witchcraft involves rituals and various materials, from herbs to pieces of hair, bits of string to birds eggs. All witchcraft rituals are ad hoc, that is they are created on the spot based on intuition. The same is true of the materials used—a witch gathers and employs whatever materials seem appropriate at the time.
- Wizardry is the opposite of witchcraft. It also involves rituals and materials, but it is rigid and proscribed versus witchcraft’s seemingly random nature. Wizards follow painstakingly researched and formulaic rituals with precise ingredients and motions. In many ways, wizards see magic as a science, compared to witches who see it as an art.
Obviously, these three, as the basic magics, heavily influence how individuals interact with and understand magic in the world. So, all mages learn one of these three basic, low, magics. Which one often depends on the faction they are raised in, as each faction has preferred magics.
The high magics were originally conceived of as individual specialties. Before I started putting together the first typed versions, though, I decided that each of the six high magics would have its own purpose. These purposes broke down into three categories: basics, item creation, and power generation.
- Sorcery (Basic) became the versatile, and gateway, high magic. It is the one that all who study high magic in the modern fictive world learn. From that foundation, they can choose to learn other high magics. So, sorcery contains all the fundamental elements, theory, and understanding of high magic. However, sorcery cannot be used to create long term magic items (although it can potentially create one-use items).
- Alchemy (Item) is fairly traditional, based on medieval and early modern European conceptions. That is, the alchemist mixes myriad ingredients in a sort of magical chemistry to create elixirs (potions, pills, and unguents) that possess special powers. Most study this magic in order to create basic items. This can take the form of the herbalist (witches) or the chemist (wizard) as well.
- Lithomancy (Item) is the magic of gemstones, and it primarily used to create magic items. Practitioners study gem cutting, gem powers, and some trade/craft skills to incorporate gemstones into various items. Gems can be used individually, without being in objects, but this is relatively rare in the modern world.
- Cryptomancy (Item), also called rune lore or glyph lore (my preferred), is the magic of symbols and words. It requires significant study and knowledge of languages and cultures. Most who study it primarily focus on creating items—etched, painted, carved, written, or otherwise visibly part of the item—though the words and symbols can be used independently of other objects. An obscure side branch of cryptomancy is yantromancy, the use of symbols on living beings, via tattooing. The principle is the same, only the subject changes.
- Blood Magic (Power) requires the sacrifice of blood some some living being to quickly generate potentially phenomenal amounts of magical energy. Most mages do not require such levels of energy and recover power naturally, but blood mages can gather a great deal of energy for major workings. Obviously, the source matters—a rat isn’t as potent as a human; and rumors of especially potent sources such as dragon blood or the blood of royal lines, abound.
- Coitomancy (Power) is, in short, sex magic, used to provide power for spells from other magics. For instance, coitomancy could be used to reinforce a sorcerous ward around a building. In this fictive world, it requires two people to work and quality matters more than quantity (a sort of tantric principle). There are rumors that some partners are more efficacious than others, based on species or other factors, as well.
After some further development and consideration of hidden species, I started thinking about hidden or lost magics. To that end, I decided that the last two high magics (blood magic and coitomancy) were the oldest high magics and were at one time much more versatile than they are in the modern fictive world. That knowledge, of course, was lost millennia ago, soon after the non-human species were driven to extinction. At which point, other high magics were developed and rarified, or expanded, in various ways—to alchemy/cryptomancy/lithomancy and eventually to sorcery.