Devotion Magic in the World of The Curse of Troius
Awhile back, I wrote a post about the general nature of magic in the world the Northreach Saga takes place in. Now that Curse’s younger brother (younger in age, but bigger in both scope and word count by a large margin) Storm is done as a first draft and moves to the editing process, I wanted to go into a little greater detail into one of the types of “magic” present in the world, one that takes on a slightly bigger role in Storm.
This is what I said about Devotion Magic in the prior post:
Devotion magic uses the power of an outside spirit, such as a god or demon, channeled through a person devoted to exercising the entity’s will. The applications of devotion magic are many and varied, according the type of spirit being worshipped. A god of peace and plenty may provide his devout followers with curative and blessing spells, while a demon may grant her devotees spells of fire and destruction. Devotion spells are broken down into Spheres, and each individual spirit would have different Spheres that the spirit provides and can influence.
Those familiar with role-playing games know what priests can do. They walk around and heal people. Occasionally they provide protective enchantments to help in battle. They carry blunt weapons and can’t use swords for some reason. The most common explanation one hears for this is some kind of sacred commandment that priests can’t shed blood. Tell you what. I want you take a 6-pound iron club with flanges on the end and smash someone in the head with it – actually, I don’t want you to do that, so let’s say “imagine” it instead. What do you imagine you will find? If you guessed a big bloody mass of pulped flesh, brains, and an awful lot of blood, then congratulations, you win.
In the world of Curse and Storm, the role of the devout is very different than that perpetuated by Dungeons & Dragons, Everquest, World of Warcraft, and every other cookie-cutter MMORPG that comes out and fades away every few months. Priests are not walking healers of the sick and injured. Rather, the spirit or demon or “god” (generally referred to as Aspects) that provides the power to fuel their “miracles” only provides gifts that fit within the particular sphere of influence that entity embodies. A god of fire is not likely to provide some kind of general cure-all magic to heal the sick, because fire generally isn’t much of a cure. Could a priest of a fire god generate a flame to cauterize a wound? Certainly. Burning someone’s stump sounds like something a fire god would find perfectly acceptable.
Which leads to another important aspect of worship: the priest is someone working actively to forward the tenets and influence of his patron deity. When the priest wishes to do something, he prays to his object of worship. If the action would please the Aspect, or further its power and influence, then the prayer is likely to be granted. These miracles are granted to a priest as a way to attract more followers. The more followers a deity has, the greater its power. It doesn’t provide power to the priest so that he or she can wander around robbing tombs and killing pixies (unless of course the Great God of Archaeology and Pixie Smashing, Borus, is the deity involved). It provides power to further its own. Essentially, the devotee’s role is to win converts and help the faithful.
Helping the faithful often means that the power a priest has is greater when attempting to help fellow worshippers. A rousing chant from a war god, designed to enervate and strengthen men going into battle, is more effective when the soldiers also worship that war god. The power of belief shared between priest and penitent helps magnify the power granted by the Aspect.
Similarly, the strength of the devotee’s faith is the main determinate of the power he or she can wield. A faltering priest who wavers in his belief will find the power granted by the spirit greatly reduced or gone entirely. A priest who attempts to use the power granted in a way that is anathema to the Aspect’s purposes will find himself incapable of creating miracles, and could even be the subject of divine punishment. A simple farmboy whose faith is unshakeable and prays to his deity for something within the god’s Sphere is more likely to be granted the miracle than a priest of many years who is more interested in politicking and interfaith bickering.
Of course, being the object responsible for channeling the power of a god and manipulating the fabric of the world can be very exhausting and dangerous. The mortal shell is fragile compared to the might of the gods, and a priest who asks for too much power may indeed get it, and suffer the consequences. The devout farmboy who prays to the God of Health and Peace to heal his dying family may have his desire granted, but the power it would require might be more than the boy’s body can handle. Of course, every faith loves a good martyr.
Finally, not all churches actually worship an Aspect capable of providing power to its priests. Perhaps, over the course of millenia, a church mangles its doctrine, strays from the principles of its faith, and puts more faith in its human figureheads than in the deity behind the church. Over time, the worshippers are no longer actually worshipping an entity. Their faith is strong, but there is no being to heed their prayers. Without miracles, the devout are forced to spread the influence of the church through coercion, war, bribery, lies, and other means. A church without a god may still flourish, but its devotees actually manipulate no divine power.
There are many gods within the world of Curse and Storm, and here is a few of them, along with the Spheres in their purview:
Hellion – the Aspect of the sun. Spheres include fire and light.
Kor – the Aspect of Battle. Spheres include war and conflict.
Reap – the Aspect of Death. Very few actual worshippers, but near-unanimous believers. Sphere includes death and the dead.
Zonna – the Aspect of Cold. Spheres include ice and wind.