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Broadly, on the subject of magic.

There are three types of Awakened, or “mages,” we know of. Hermetic, shamanic, and somatic. Colloquially referred to as the mage, the shaman, and the physical adept. I will not be touching on somatic mages as they are not in my realm of experience. I am writing this post to dispel some common notions about what a mage is and what are and believe.

  • Mages are bookish nerds or lab coats.
  • Shaman are animal worshipping weirdos.
  • They all run around flinging fireballs and slinging lightning.

While all of these things can be true, they are not always. Not even commonly. The fact is mages come from many backgrounds and traditions that frame the way they see their craft or their spiritual charge. As to the last bullet, the realms of mind and spirit are endless and treating magic as a gun is, in my opinion, the least imaginative application. And most likely to humble the inexperienced practitioner.

What is a hermetic mage?

We’re so many things. Our skills are based on knowledge, that is true.

I rely deeply on a knowledge of hermetic traditions, axioms, and theories. But not just that- the knowledge that those of other crafts have transmitted over thousands and thousands of years. Dances of druids, the formulae of the Unified Magic Theory, herbal willwork from the southern American witch, mathematical formulae of Pythagoras, and the black mass of the 19th century. I study them closely and endeavor to understand the threads of reality they pluck and pull. Some call that Chaos. It is not a science. It is a craft. Just as much as the building of furniture or the tailoring of clothing.

But not everyone shares this view. The schools of thought are numerous and there are many who view it as a science, or endeavor to build a structure for magic that all easily understood and shared by the awakened mass. I’ve met hermetic practitioners who believe the key to understanding the rules to reality is found in math. Some who believe we find all the answers in God. Some traditions are even shared between our kind and the shamanic way, though, their understanding of how and what they do may be very different.

What is a shamanic mage?

They are an equally complex group of individuals. Power built on an innate sense, a feeling, or a fervor. Sheer charisma and willpower to twist at the marionette strings that prop up our silly little puppet show. Certainly the word “shaman” conjures up the AmerInd medicine man worshipping animal totems, the likes of Daniel Howling Coyote. The Great Ghost dance made sure we’d never forget that image. I have met a number of those types, given my frequently forays into the NAN. But I’ve also met a homeless man who talks to rats, a woman who pays tribute to the Greek god Dionysus in the form of drunken debauchery and Saturnalia, and people who believed they had no magic at all but were only the conduit for some higher power or spirit. Even once have I stumbled across one who believed themselves to be their totem spirit manifested in the flesh.

It’s so hard to really find a firm footing. We don’t know if the spirits that inspire shaman are truly spirits in the sense that they walk the astral plane freely. Or are they some sort of thoughtform? A tulpa composed from their exceptional power of will, or maybe from their sheer need for such a being to exist? Perhaps they are a true spirit, only local to the reality of that particular magician. Or maybe some sort of god really has chosen them. 

In any case, it doesn’t demean the fact that their power on our plane is very real.


Below is a list of traditions I’m aware of and a short statement on each. No doubt insufficient for real understanding or the depth and breadth of each, but hopefully it will help to give a broader understanding of the modern magician. It is important to remember that these traditions can apply be held by either shamanic or hermetic practitioners, albeit some will be heavily favored by one type of magician over the other.

Aborigine Magic

I’ve read that the Australian outback is quite the wild place. Tens of thousands of years communicated through oral tradition have made the magicians of the outback adept dreamwalkers. Astral travelers. Likely hard to reconcile tribal beliefs like this with hermeticism. I’m told they are mostly shamanistic, favoring animal and nature totems. The badger, crocodile, sun, moon, sea, mountain, etc.

Aztec Magic

Aztlan and Aztechnology have really put Aztec magic in a revival. Reconstructed from… very questionable historical information and focusing on the gods of the ancient Aztec. Animal, human sacrifice, and blood magic have given them a nasty reputation, but the world isn’t as simple as good and evil. This is a tradition that, as far as I know, is strictly shamanistic., favoring totems like the Bat, Jaguar, Lizard, Moon, Plumed Serpent, Snake, and Sun.

Black Magic

Another bad reputation, though admittedly it’s partially earned. Black magic has a few varieties, ranging from fascistic to extremists for personal freedom. Some go as far as to involve sacrificial rituals, while others see it as more of a symbol of rebellion. Heavy use of Christian and pagan symbolism and a huge passion for individualism. Hermetic black magicians tend to be very disciplined and strict. Shamanistic variations, of course, follow totems traditionally referred to as the Adversary, the Horned Man, or the Seductress. Though I admit I’ve heard one or two refer to them as things like “Satan” or various demonic names torn from The Lesser Key of Solomon.

Chaos Magic

Chaos magic is an occult movement of the 1970s. Some see it as a “pure” system, unburdened by dogma or a particular moral system. Eclectic collectors of many cultures, rituals, and practices. I’ll admit, while I don’t really care for the label, it best describes my own system. Highly personal, some describe as “post-modern.” Chaos magicians seem to be predominantly hermetic, but due to the malleable nature find themselves in the company of spirits, totems, and less… structured things quite often. A shamanic chaos mage seems unlikely, but would not exactly surprise me.

Christian Magic

While some in the Christian sphere think magic ‘satanic,’ mysticism is quite an old thing and there are so many variations on it. Reclaimers of Christianity’s gnostic heritage, or even the Catholic church themselves, maintain an order of magician-priests known as the Order of St. Sylvester. On the other hand, there is a shamanic side to Christianity. Preachers of a folksier variety, like found in the Pentecostal or Baptist branches. Giving sermons, offering healing, and performing ‘miracles’ for the loudest ‘hallelujah“ in the audience. Sometimes smiting the particular brand of evil they’ve deemed the work of the ‘devil.’

Druidic Magic

Ancient druids we generally think of were Celtic priests, shaman, and philosophers. Another tradition that has been constructed with the remnants of sources, some very reliable, and some not quite. They have their fair share of both hermetic and shamanic practitioners. English druidism likely came along with the occult revival of the 1700s, often seeing the druid as a wise philosopher, astronomer, and scientist. Shamanic druids, meanwhile, occupy the realm of nature worship, holding animal and nature totems. The New Druidic Movement in England now wields considerable political power.

Egyptian Magic

This is a fascinating subject. The systems of ancient Egypt are complex, dividing the soul into many pieces with different functions, and a deep study of astronomy. “Heka” was a force that gave their magicians its power. With the return of magic in our Sixth World, some have revived his practice as “Heka Magicians,” wielding Egyptian symbols like scarabs or the Eye of Horus. Heka Magicians are, as far as I understand, almost entirely shamanistic, but their style of sorcery resembles hermeticism. Curious, isn’t it?

Gypsy Magic

The traditionally nomadic Romani tribes of Europe have spread far and wide over the centuries. I have not personally had the pleasure, but I am told they are shamanic and very gifted in the arts and metamagic of divining.

Hawai’ian Magic

Another rare tradition, but I’m told the owner of the Star Sapphire is actually a Hawai’ian mage. The Huna tradition practiced by kahunas which are regarded as the guardians of knowledge and wisdom. The Huna experienced a twentieth century rebirth, but there seems to be some controversy as true Hawai’ian kahunas are rare and regard newer practitioners as pretenders. Kahunas are shamanistic naturally, favoring totems of sea animals. An interesting note: many kahunas seem to conjure the salamander rather than the spirit of man. They also have a predilection for singing, chanting, dancing, or even a secret language, as an act of centering.

Hindu Magic

India is a complicated place with a large population ravaged by VITAS. In the wake of that outbreak, many yogis and dervishes proclaim strange supernatural powers, manifested naturally or learned from secret Sanskrit tomes. Sanskrit itself is a powerful mystical language, finding itself used alongside Tantric sex magic or the rituals of Kali death cults.

Islamic Magic

Much like Christianity, the ancient sorcerers of Islam were renowned for their skill and power. Islamic magic tends to consider conjuring a dangerous art, but still finds itself calling upon the assistance of djinn and ifrits, which are likely a manifestation of the elements like we in the western world are accustomed to, seen through the cultural eyes of the magician. Mostly based in deep study of the Qu’ran, Islamic mages are almost always hermetic.

Norse Magic

Worship of the Aesr. The Norse gods. I admit to not having a deep grasp of this tradition, but as I understand it’s dividng into two branches. Galdor, focusing on the study of runes, and seidr, the shamanic technique for achieving trances and astral projection. They favor totems like Wotan the Sky Father, Loki the Trickster, or Tyr the Wise Warrior.

Qabbalistic Magic

The Hebrew system of mystical correspondences, they serve as a map for attaining wisdom and enlightenment. Many traditions have adopted the Sefirot and other structures presented in the Qaballah. You’ll find the vast majority of, if not all, Qabbalists are hermetic mages. Using deep study of the Qabbalah spoken ancient Hebrew in ritual. Even constructing golems and imbuing them with spirit as Rava did in the Talmud.

Rastafarian Magic

Ras Tafari is the Ethiopian king that inspired the beliefs of the 1930s Rastafarian movement. They are monotheists, worshipping “Jah,” the shortened form of Jehovah. They hold a view of Jamaica as hell and Ethiopia as the promised land they would one day return to.  Rastafarians are mostly shamans, likely due it being a religion, a lifestyle, and a product of creolization, rather than a studious endeavor. Music and dance are deep parts of the Rastafarian culture and magical practice.

Shinto Magic

The Japanese worship of ancestors and spirits of nature. The kami represent all spirits, whether they be nature spirits, ghosts, or powerful free spirits. It is the miko’s duty to appease the kami. The Japanese Emporer himself is said to be a descendent of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, and is thus an important figure in the religion. Miko are traditionally shaman, some patrons of the kami themselves. Others follow Sun or Mountain totems. Sometimes animals such as the fox. Rituals involve paper charms, chanting, burning incense, and, of course, much more.


Witchcraft in itself is a very large subject. Some favor Gerald Gardner’s interpretation from the 40s and 50s, Wicca. You’ll find others leaning further into the nature aspect towards druidism. “Will workers” of the early American south bringing herbalism and protections from an eclectic gathering of old world sources. Others influenced by the withcraft of the nineteenth century in England. In any case, witches may be hermetic or shamanic depending on their particular background. Totems involving things like the Great Mother, Moon Maiden, or Horned Man. Maybe Hekate herself.

Schools of Magic

In the more academic view, there are the schools of magic. As you can imagine, being a school of thought, these will mostly apply to hermetics, but there are shamanic branches nested everywhere. Not necessarily together or apart from the aforementioned traditions, but more views and paradigms to expand your understanding of what a mage truly is.

The Classic Schools

Classic Hermeticism

Classic Hermeticists believe the ancients knew best. They were the first successful school of magic, seeing some result even before the Awakening. Classicists that press on the work of Hermes Trismegistus as the core to understanding magic and see alternatives as trying to “reinvent the wheel.” Most readily expand to draw on other ancient sources, Qaballah, medieval grimoires, Egyptian parchments, Rosicrucianism, what have you. The overlap with nineteenth Crowley-esque occultism sees them splinter off into many smaller groups, both hermetic and otherwise.

To them, magic is mind. The highest form of art and far beyond science.

Hermetic Druidism

An offshoot of Classical Hermeticism and the modern inheritor of the ancient druids. If you would believe The Oxford Almanac, that is. They see magic as the quintessence of nature. They view themselves as philosopher-scientists, spending their time focusing on nature elementals, geomancy, astrology, and artificing.

Teutonic Hermetics

Similar to Hermetic Druidism, the Teutonic Hermetic school leans heavily on Norse and Germanic mysticism enough to be classified as a seperate paradigm. They hold the theory of eternal ice, a cosmic force that is the natural opposite of mana. Something that encapsulates the Gaiasphere. They have some relationship to The Order of Thule, though I admit this is not an area I am well educated in.

Minor classical schools of note are Orthodox Qabbalah, Egyptian Magic, Black Magic or “Magick.”

The Modern Schools

Renewed Hermeticism

Renewed Hermeticism is the brother and rival of Classic Hermeticism. Deeply at odds with the classic paradigm, Renewed Hermerticists are the intersection of parascience and hermetic theory. They believe mana a natural energy with its own properties. Spirits being sentient or semi-sentient entities molded by human will. They eschew the New Age spirituality and the idea that somehow the ancients are the only true key to arcane knowledge and wisdom.

Reformed Ritualism

Also known as the German school of magic, Reformed Ritualism is an attempt to recreate the medieval and Renaissance era of hermeticism. It can be seen as the child of Classic and Renewed Hermeticism, emphasizing cooperative ritual as opposed to individual practice. Groups and hierarchies built for the sake of studying and performing ritual magic.

Avant-Garde Thaumaturgy

A school of counter-culture… artists. They believe channeling magic a deeply, and inherently personal creative act. Magic is an art and study is a shackle to the performance of one’s true self. Formed in 2054 to shock the conservative Austrian magical movement with their flashy individualism, Vanguardists, as some call themselves, tend to be too wild and difficult to work with to fit into other traditions.

Unified Magic Theory

The youngest paradigm, but one you hear, espoused an awful lot for its age. Unified Magic Theory is the attempt at a pragmatic approach to magic born in the universities of Prague and Erfurt. They believe magic all stems from a single source, and thusly all variants of thaumaturgy should be seen as different routes to the same truth. The attempt is to build a magical style devoid of dogma and prejudice that learns from all traditions.

Minor Modern Schools

Concordance Alchemique

Concordance mages were the first to remaster the art of alchemy in the modern age. Hermiticism sees mana being channeled through willpower, Concordance believes in the “inner potential” locked inside all things. Unfortunately, the complexities involved in the practice make the barrier for entry very high, so while attractive to particularly brilliant minds, it remains a minor school.


Math is the language of the universe, or so Pythagorean mages would have you believe. A revival of Pythagoras’ math-mysticism, adopting algorithms, geometry, and even highly mathematical music for their ritual and formulae. Many believe themselves on a quest to finish Pythagoras’ work and discover “The Omega Equation.” Their version of The Philosopher’s Stone.

And this is where I’ll leave you. But there is so much more than I can write here in this short time. So many beliefs that are stranger. More personal. Schizophrenic. Or just highly beyond the veil of what we can see as others.


(OOC Note: This is largely a skim of info from MitS and SOTA 2064 to give you an idea of how deep the concept of magic in SR3 goes. Refer to those books, and then to real life for a deeper look at these traditions, cultures, and concepts.)

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