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Old 05-07-2022, 11:30 PM   #1
Apollonian
 
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Default Authentic medieval/Renaissance European magic, more or less

I am trying to figure out how to implement "authentic" magic for Europe of the late middle ages and early Renaissance in GURPS. This is a bit ofa place holder post, because it's quite late, but I don't want to lose the thought.

I don't think classic spell magic is a thing, and the classic rational magic models GURPS is used to probably won't work tricky well either. Forms of magical arts I'm considering: astrology, alchemy, goetia, calling on divine power, "folk magic"... What am I missing?
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Old 05-07-2022, 11:34 PM   #2
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: Authentic medieval/Renaissance European magic, more or less

[QUOTE=Apollonian;2429658

I don't think classic spell magic is a thing, and the classic rational magic models GURPS is used to probably won't work tricky well either. Forms of magical arts I'm considering: astrology, alchemy, goetia, calling on divine power, "folk magic"... What am I missing?[/QUOTE]

Summoning of demons, summoning of angels, sumoning of spirits of the dead for purposes of divination.
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Old 05-08-2022, 01:19 AM   #3
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Default Re: Authentic medieval/Renaissance European magic, more or less

There are other things rather than explicit summoning / divination, but those are the mainstays, especially when you do the latter half of the medieval period and go with "intellectual magic" instead of folk magic.

When I went for realistic-flavour medieval magic I went with the Path/Book Magic system. A lot of different traditions fit that quite well with that one and you don't throw the doors wide open like with Ritual Path Magic, which tends to be a bit overwhelming for new players and GMs alike. You can probably throw in standard GURPS Magic alchemy along with Path/Book without too much of a hassle.

Keep in mind that there's not necessarily a clear distinction between magic and religious ceremony in those times. Both were considered effective and some perversion of religious ceremonies also happend like reciting the prayer for the departed in front of a portrait of someone you wanted to die.

There's of course the possibility to pull out all stops and go with most of the more subtle magic systems at once and I would dearly like to see a well-researched worked example of that, but I think especially Late Medieval/Early Modern Age is best served by condensing the traditions a bit. A plethora of options would be better for Late Antiquity/Early Medieval times, in my opinion.
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Old 05-08-2022, 02:52 AM   #4
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Default Re: Authentic medieval/Renaissance European magic, more or less

When I was working on GURPS Locations: Worminghall, one of my sources was Láng's Unlocked Books, a study of medieval scholastic ideas about magic, and particularly the passages about which sorts of magic were considered licit and which not. I made use of it as a framework for standard GURPS spell-based magic, but you could apply the legalistic categories to develop your own system out of GURPS Thaumatology, I think.

As I recall the framework, there was natural magic, which involved using the subtle properties of plants and stones and so on; it was essentially permitted. The same for alchemy, which was a specialized form of this. There was image magic, which involved pictures and diagrams and runes that focused the magical emanations of the planets and other things; that was seen as questionable but allowable if done by regulated professionals. Then there was magic that involved calling on spirits, and that was always illicit, because the invocation was similar to prayer, and the offering of compensation for their services to sacrifice, and thus it was too similar to worship of false gods. In particular, divination by calling on spirits was always illicit, but divination more generally was illicit if it revealed things distant in space and time, because it trespassed on God's omniscience. On the other hand, dreaming, or interpreting dreams, had obvious scriptural precedent and was allowed.

Path and Book magic seems to be conceived as primarily a form of spirit magic, and might thus be prohibited; but other forms might not be.
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Old 05-08-2022, 03:20 AM   #5
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Default Re: Authentic medieval/Renaissance European magic, more or less

Quote:
Originally Posted by Apollonian View Post
I am trying to figure out how to implement "authentic" magic for Europe of the late middle ages and early Renaissance in GURPS. This is a bit ofa place holder post, because it's quite late, but I don't want to lose the thought.

I don't think classic spell magic is a thing, and the classic rational magic models GURPS is used to probably won't work tricky well either. Forms of magical arts I'm considering: astrology, alchemy, goetia, calling on divine power, "folk magic"... What am I missing?
I assume 'folk magic' includes the making of all those various protective charms and wards that were so popular, plus healing, fertility and contraception magics, and all that.
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Old 05-08-2022, 07:16 PM   #6
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Default Re: Authentic medieval/Renaissance European magic, more or less

There were big changes in magical beliefs particularly in the 15th and 16th centuries as the Franks regained the ability to read Greek.

Magic tends to be governed by the principle that the farther away, the cooler it is. So if you want the magic which the average cobbler believed someone in town could do, it will be less exciting than the magic he had heard about in India or Prester John's Kingdom.

Jean Henri Chandler has d20 rules for magic from 15th and 16th century central Europe. I believe the title was Codex Superno.
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Old 05-09-2022, 12:03 AM   #7
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Default Re: Authentic medieval/Renaissance European magic, more or less

"Forms of magical arts I'm considering: astrology, alchemy, goetia, calling on divine power, "folk magic"... What am I missing?"

You pretty much covered most of it A few notes:

Cartomancy

Sortilege was a popular form of divination- usually by casting lots, but sometimes involved opening a book at "random" and consulting the passages within. Sortes Biblicae and Sortes Virgilianae are two that come to mind. The blog Rogue Classicism has daily sortes links.

Murray's witch cult assertions- pagan survival through the centuries and the "underground stream" of ancient occult knowledge. Opponent of Murray's hypothesis, Ronald Hutton, mentions that many witches were found with Solomonic grimoires and the like and were not inheritors of an organized body of ancient magical traditions.

The Vatican had a resident theurgist until the mid 19th c.

Shamanism.

According to some, 75% of ritual magic in medieval/early modern Christendom was used for treasure hunting. The Thinker's Garden has a number of items on these topics. Worth a look.

Ficino and that crowd were into some things, although modern scholars maintain that they were all deeply Christian and weren't really involved with much beyond neoplatonic theme parties. Still, fertile material for gaming.

Don't know a whole lot about Islamic/Chinese/Indian et al, traditions but there could be some ideas in there.

Edit: Hermeticism. Apparently a thing for a while. Some Hermeticists were even granted People of the Book status in the Islamic caliphates.

Last edited by Benway; 05-09-2022 at 12:41 AM.
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Old 05-09-2022, 12:38 AM   #8
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Default Re: Authentic medieval/Renaissance European magic, more or less

Here's The Boke of Secrets of Albertus Magnus, of the vertues of herbes, stones, and certayne beastes, published in the 16th century, probably not written by Albertus Magnus but may or may not have owed something to one of his followers.

https://kupdf.net/download/albertus-...37517fe522_pdf

It appears to take it for granted that all questions about the properties of herbs come under the heading of "magic", mixing science and magic together without any distinction - this kind of thinking is probably part of the reason the Church was so dubious about science. It's a wild mish-mash of things that might almost be considered medicine (in an extremely don't-try-this-at-home way - not sure it ever mentions quantities at all, for instance) and things like how to repel savage dogs or conjure up illusions of snakes.

Note: I can't guarantee that this is a clean link without spyware or other undesirables, but it was recommended by somebody on another forum, and I haven't had any trouble with it (although my computer runs Linux, so it might be immune to some spyware).


Also, here's Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa's Three Books Of Occult Philosophy, 1509-1510, which seems to have been a bit of a "standard work".

http://www.esotericarchives.com/agrippa/op1.htm

Bit more on the theory but a bit less on the practice, although some. A lot of astrology and numerology.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Polydamas View Post
Magic tends to be governed by the principle that the farther away, the cooler it is. So if you want the magic which the average cobbler believed someone in town could do, it will be less exciting than the magic he had heard about in India or Prester John's Kingdom.
Speaking of which :-D
Quote:
Originally Posted by Introduction to Three Books of Occult Philosophy
In 1801 Agrippa's text, in a slightly abridged form, was shamelessly plagiarized and published as his own work by Frances Barrett (The magus, or Celestial intelligencer, London 1801). This work can still be found in print. The latter was in turn plagiarized and published as his own work by L.W. de Laurence (The Great Book of Magical Art, Hindoo Magic & Indian Occultism, (Chicago, 1915)! He managed the 'Hindoo' part by replacing certain of the Hebrew names with pseudo-Sanskrit fabrications.
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Old 05-09-2022, 02:13 AM   #9
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Default Re: Authentic medieval/Renaissance European magic, more or less

Diviniation, divinitation, divination and more diviniation. At least in the Germanic regions IRL you had portents and ways to divine things out the wazoo.

Granted, a lot of that was wrapped in very small rituals and the like, and it might be easier to just roll it all up, but, fate and diviniation were (and still are) huge.

The second face/second sight being something of the more significant ways, but usually it's even stuff like "maidens listen to the chicken coop on a specific day, and if a hen answered, she'd be destined to stay unmarried, but if the rooster answered then she would marry"
Or stepping on a hair on a specific day and the color of the hair will be the hair of your spouse.
Or asking a child first thing in the morning and it can tell you your lover.

But it's not just that, there's also plenty, PLENTY of death omens, probably more death omens than anything.
From dogs howling/barking into a home from the outside.
Horses looking over their shoulders back to the corpse cart.
Walking out of the house backwards at night and getting a vision of death (or fortune).
Walking around the house three times at night.
Moving a cow around on some special days.
(I don't have all the details memorized)
If an ailing child plays with flowers it will die, if it plays with coins it will get better, stuff like that.

Heck, even sillier stuff like if a girl sees a stork and the stork does something, I forgot (I know circling above a group of people meant death), then she will either become utterly lazy, or nice and industrious.

The short story simply is: fate and divination. Divination and fate. With a heaping of the same, drizzled with even more and served on a plate of exactly more the same.
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Old 05-09-2022, 09:29 PM   #10
Polydamas
 
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Default Re: Authentic medieval/Renaissance European magic, more or less

Edit: Richard Kieckhefer's Forbidden Rites Amazon might be of interest. Its a translation of a 15th century necromancer's lab notebook (yes, seriously).

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Originally Posted by Lovewyrm View Post
The short story simply is: fate and divination. Divination and fate. With a heaping of the same, drizzled with even more and served on a plate of exactly more the same.
There was far more than that even before you get into wonder-tales about distant lands! See Chandler's book cited above.

Chapters 860-865 of the Journal of a Bourgeois of Paris describe the deeds of a suspected antichrist who studied at the University of Paris in 1445. He knew all seven liberal arts, was doctor of all four disciplines (medicine, civil law, canon law, theology), and all languages, and painting, and singing, and playing instruments, and fencing with the two-handed sword, and how could anyone learn all that if they lived to be a hundred?
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Last edited by Polydamas; 05-09-2022 at 09:32 PM.
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