The Arcanists and their Great Tree divide magic into numerous practices based on what they have observed of their characteristics, their uses, their restrictions, forming a collective body of knowledge that can be tested and rigorously improved. But a form of magic, one that Arcanists are always reluctant to talk about, exists outside of their scope. In the temples and monasteries, in the shrines devoted to Spirits, in the sacred reliquary places, there exists a form of magic that defies their categorization. A cleric need only sing the sacred verses in the voice of the spirits to cause miracles to happen, miracles that while so very close in effect to Arcane magic, are incredibly apart in source.
Spirits And People
Before embarking on the subject of Hymn magic itself, it is important, though perhaps annoying, to remember again that the culture of Adel is pervasively religious and the reasons why. To not be religious is to deny the very real, very powerful influence of the Spirits on the land and its people. There is not a person on Adel that is atheistic, as this belief cracks in the face of a transcendental being, the likes of which are not uncommon at all. Since the dawn of civilization, Spirits have existed and mortals have worshiped them. While the relationship was at first a very enigmatic one, as Adelians began to expand and discover more of their continent and their true history, their relationship with the Spirits grew closer, although no less colored by superstitions. Past the age of discovery, there was no doubt that Spirits had a very real, although very esoteric, transcendental role to play in the world. They were not mortals – they did not play by the same rules.
Spirits are both battery and valve for the natural and divine processes of a world ravaged. The society that existed before the Cataclysm destroyed their world, and Adelians live on one that cannot exist by itself. They live in a natural machine, its prosperity tied to the creatures practically made of raw magic, that fuel its ability. Spirits do not actively shape the land. An Earth Spirit can make a mountain, perhaps, but it does not do so. There are no spirits going around performing macro-landscaping on vast swathes of the continent. Rather, the existence of Earth Spirits fuels these processes so they can occur as close to “natural” as it is possible for the planet as it is now. The entire state of affairs is a miracle – without this miracle, the Cataclysm would’ve left the world a wasteland, devoid of life, left dead after its previous owners killed it, with no chance of a resurgence.
Adelians realize this, though they are hard-pressed to explain it without resorting to superstitions, analogies, fables and stories. The Spirits realize this, and have explained it to the Adelians as best as they could, in the few instances where a Spirit old enough and an Adelian smart enough have managed the conversation. But mostly, it is something unsaid in the terms that have been said above – it is just something known.
Spirits and People have effect on one another. Many Spirits have become part of the Adelian civilization, trading in their coins and products, making use of their conveniences, marrying with them. Despite being made of magic, Spirits are still biological, and their flesh still longs and hopes and breathes. It does so particularly when humanized by the presence of mortal civilization. Many more Spirits reject this, but still skirt along the edges of civilization, making mischief or merriment at their leisure. Many others just disappear altogether, opting for the peace of unexplored wilderness instead. Past the Age of Discovery, Spirits aren’t a rarity. They are as though travelers across the world, as though animals in encyclopedias (though more exalted or feared, or both), as though citizens.
The larger effect that they have on one another is symbiotic, and is known as religion.
Religion In Eden
Adelians are polytheists. Being a monotheist is something trendy that high-society people might say they do, to sound unique, but they probably don’t really mean it. Most Adelians have a lot more things to pray to than that. A farmer might pray to the rain spirits, and while plowing sing a verse or chant to the nature spirits to make his land fertile, and while harvesting thank spirits of plenty for his good fortune. All these spirits exist, somewhere. There might be just one, or there might be dozens, or even hundreds of them around Adel. They exist in part because they are worshiped.
This worship validates their existence and gives them power. All Spirits came from a primordial pool of essence directly after the Cataclysm, but their forms back then were less diverse – as the mortals of the land grew in complexity, so did the concepts they believed in, and in turn so did Spirits. This is the reason why the majority of Spirits look just like people, with humanoid bodies, with faces like people, with form that, while they do sport some marks of their conceptual purview, are stunningly alike. One can look at a Spirit’s face and see one’s own, because the Spirits are a product of the mortals – mortals being anthrocentric in thought.
The farmer might never meet a Spirit of Nature or Plenty. And these spirits might never give him back all that the farmer has given to them in the form of worship. But between them, there is a small but strong oath that is its own form of magic. It is in part what allows the farmer to farm in a beautiful green land that, without these oaths from time primordial, would be a hellscape of magical scars and the burning blood of the planet.
But the prayer in itself is something special. Over time, words spoken to spirits begin to mean something, particularly if many speak them and many believe them. They take on the character of the Spirit’s own language. In this state, they do nothing but perpetuate the oath. Belief is incredibly powerful in Adel. Stories of great heroes, verses of powerful Spirits, folk tales of love and tragedy, chants of hope and despair, prayers to mighty powers, all hold a great, hidden potential in spirit. To tap into this power is to utilize Hymn magic. A cleric is trained in the Spirit language, taught the songs and verses, and invested by a Spirit Power, a Spirit of a concept of great import, with some of its own essence, allowing the cleric to turn these simple verses into great power.
Next time, we will look at the organization of a church, the process of the young aspiring monk, and the act of Hymn magic itself.