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Old 09-18-2015, 02:15 AM   #14
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Default Re: Making Magic Mysterious and Eldritch

The idea that magic is a force to be controlled is a very new idea, and if you use that idea, it's hardly surprising that it becomes like a science, since the idea that magic is a force is, itself, an idea created by modern civilizations fascination with science. People noted that chemistry had its roots in alchemy, that astronomy had its roots in astrology, and so naturally physics must have its roots in magic.

But historically magic is two things. First of all, it is the knowledge of other realms/domains. A magician is not really someone who weaves spells, but knows lore, things like where one can go in the spirit world to find an answer, or how to control his dreams, or how meditation works. The second thing he has is a relationship with spiritual powers.

Magical thought shares a lot with religious and spiritual thought. If you poke an ignorant man with a scientific world-view and ask "Why does lightning strike," he will say "I dunno. Maybe there's something inherent in clouds and the ground and lightning that makes it so. We should investigate!" If you ask someone who subscribes to a spiritual view, he will say "God willed it so." A magician might then ask "How can I persuade God to strike my foes?"

This is the source of magic's uncertainy. If magic is a force, then you can reliably do the same thing over and over again ("If I cast a lightning spell, lightning will strike my foes"). If magic is the ability to talk to spirits and ask them to do stuff for you, it will not be reliable ("PLEASE strike my foe with lightning? I'll sacrifice a goat to you later if you do! I promise this time, I won't forget!"). The more human-like the spirit, the less eldritch it will seem ("The lightning god is just pissy because the thunder goddess stood him up on a date"), but the less human-like the spirit, the weirder and more incomprehensible and dangerous magic will seem ("The Shadow of the Universe has veiled its face to me. I... I think it disapproves. The stars are not right. I must change the stars in my eyes. I MUST CHANGE THE STARS IN MY EYES!")

So, the first half, knowledge, is more like a force. Once you know how to see spirits, or how to control your dreams, that always works, but it's really just a tool for accessing elements that give you real power, like artifacts that are fragments of godly might, or the favor of gods. It would probably be closer to divine powers than traditional magic, or so is my take.
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