Dieses Thema im Forum "Unknown Armies" wurde erstellt von Skar, 3. Mai 2006.
Gibt es Gründe dafür, dass UA nur in den Gegenwart spielen sollte?
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Viele der Konzepte sind doch sehr stark an das gegenwärtige Amerika geknüpft. Es mag zwar Ausreißer geben (wie der "True King" oder die "Mechanomanten"), aber die werden dann ja auch explizit als Ausreißer behandelt - das zeigt sich auch in den Beispielen und historischen Verweisen.
Bis dann, Bücherwurm
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Andererseits spielt das UA Abenteuer "Ascension of the Magdalene" um 1610 in Prag...
Irgendwo im Netz gibt es auch eine schöne Sword%Sorcery Variante von UA: Unknown Ages
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Ich misch mich dann mal munter in die Diskussion ein.
In meinen Augen sollte ein Schwerpunkt (ähnlich wie bei CoC) im viktorianischen Zeitalter liegen. Geheimgesellschaften, Séancen, etc. Das ist ein guter Hintergrund, wie ich finde. Und da in UA ja der okkulte Hintergrund real ist - wäre das doch mehr als passend.
Aber ich kann mir UA auch bei einem Hintergrund von Templern, Rosenkreuzern, und ähnlichen Orden vorstellen. Alles, was mit Mystik zu tun hat.
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Das wäre dann kein Unknown Armies.
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
<schmunzel> Ich kann es auch das wilhelminische Zeitalter nennen.
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Und das ändert genau was?
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Ich finde einfach das ganze Zeitalter sehr passend. Von der Art her, wie man mit "Okkultem" umging.
Rudolf Steiner, der Theo- und Anthroposoph (und ja, vieles von dem, was er tat, war recht okkult).
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Und inwiefern passt das nun zum postmodernen und der Popkultur verhafteten Unknown Armies?
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Die Antwort lautet: From Hell.
Gerade den Comic von Alan Moore könnte man ohne Probleme adaptieren.
Und natürlich kann man die Postmoderne Magie von Unknown Armies portieren: Ist halt ein Haufen Arbeit, gerade wenn es um Adeptenschulen geht.
Aber Cryptomantie, Personomantie und Mechanomantie passen halt gut rein. Dann natürlich Wahre Thaumaturgie.
Man müsste sich halt überlegen, was zu dieser Zeit gerade an Weltsichten aktuell ist und auf der Basis eigene Schulen entwerfen.
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Und das ist der Punkt an dem ich sage: Das wäre kein Unknown Armies.
Das wäre etwas definitiv anderes, eigenes, das sich "nur" einiger gemeinsamer Elemente bedienen würde.
Und ich sage gar nicht, dass das keine reizvolle Vorstellung ist (die Idee From Hell für Unknown Armies umzusetzen finde ich sehr schön, genauso wie es andere historische Szenarien beziehungsweise literarische Szenarien aus anderen Epochen gibt, die eine ähnliche Bearbeitung erfahren könnten), sondern ich sage bloss, dass dies eben kein Unknown Armies mehr wäre.
Inspired by Unknown Armies.
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Nochmal zum Mitschreiben:
Bis dann, Bücherwurm
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Nicht nur das, es gibt sogar gute Gründe, daß UA nur in den USA der aktuellen Gegenwart spielen sollte.
Ohne US-amerikanisches Urban Legend/Road Movie/Pop Culture/Postmodernism-Gemenge kein UA-Feeling.
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Bis dann, Bücherwurm
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Wobei ich, obgleich ebenfalls Anhänger dieser These, eine Ausnahme machen möchte (die ich schon seit Jahr und Tag mache, ich weiss ): Gottfried Benn feat. Suzanne Vega. Und mit dem einen kommt eben auch ein wenig Europa.
AW: UA nur für Modern Ages?
Das finde ich halt gerade nicht. In der amerikanischen Mailingliste wird ja im Moment an einem Quellenbuch über den europäischen okkulten Untergrund gearbeitet.
Und auch Europa hat genügend Popkultur, moderne Legenden und abgefahrene Orte, um das zu UAlisieren.
Aber jedem nach seinem Gusto: Das Setting von UA ist doch eher ein Baukasten, als in Stein gehauene Wahrheit. Klar ist da viel Amerika drin (Mak Attax, Die Neue Inquisition, Die Globale Befreiungsbewegung (deren reale Vorgänger interessanterweise auch Ableger in der Schweiz haben).
Aber tauscht man einfach mal den Hardboiled Style eines James Ellroy gegen Luc Besson, ein wenig Nouvelle Vague und ein wenig Philippe Dijan, kriegt man schon ein cooles Äquivalent zustande...
JamesCat on The History of the Underground (part 1 of 4)
Ich fand für meine Sicht auf die UA-spezifische Historie der Magie die in diesem Thread im rpg.net-Forum (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=255689 ab Post #18 ) aufgeführten Artikel des mir dort nicht näher bekannten Forenmitglieds JamesCat recht interessant. Ich lese zwar nicht oft im rpg.net-Forum, bin aber schon vor einiger Zeit über diesen interessanten und erhellenden Artikel gestolpert. Da man im rpg.net-Forum als nichtzahlender Nutzer NICHT suchen kann, hielt ich es für sinnvoll, diese zum Topic passenden Texte hier nicht nur zu verlinken, sondern gleich zu übernehmen.
Ich stelle sie mal unkommentiert in mehreren Teilen hier ein. Ich habe die Zwischenüberschriften unterstrichen, die Kommentare von Stolze, Tynes etc. in kursiver Schrift hervorgehoben und die "boxed text"-Passagen in eine Zitat-Box verpackt. [@Anglophobe: Vorsicht Englisch! Vielleicht erbarmt sich ja mal ein deutscher UA-Fan oder einer der UA-Übersetzer und macht diese Texte auf deutsch zugänglich?]
Wow, I still have my preliminary drafts for a never-finished Occult Underground book around - well, since the line's dead, here we go, complete with comments by Ken, John, Greg, and Chad.
The History of the Underground
In one sense, the Occult Underground has been around ever since humans first began to hide secrets from each other; secrets of power, secrets of sex, secrets of death, sometimes even secrets of wisdom. From the dark rituals of the bear caves to the backroom executions of the New Inquisition, the essential quality of the Underground has always been its hidden nature, its dependence upon the shadows.
At the same time, however, the Underground can be defined more sharply. The simple existence of the supernatural did not create the Underground; rather, it is a very specific subculture of the West; born in Rome and now chiefly found in the United States. Magicians, Avatars, secret groups seeking power; these exist everywhere, but outside of the West they have, historically, interacted with each other and the rest of society in very different ways to those of the Underground. The history of the Underground, therefore, is inevitably tied up with Western culture.
Just as certain places and times seem peculiarly conducive to art, philosophy, and music, so have some times been better for the Underground than others. The Underground depends on a supply of new adepts - avatars have always been a lesser element – and the cultural conditions under which more people become adepts are quite specific. Magick depends on a deep-seated belief in the power of the individual, a conviction that the will of one person can change the world around him, and so adepts flourish when the society around them allows for individualism, opportunity, and adventure. Times when the world itself seems to be changing, and politics, science, or exploration opens up new worlds, have also been critical periods for the Underground; when anything is possible, so is magick.
Total disintegration of society destroys the Underground, however; there’s not the infrastructure to support adepts, and people who feel powerless aren’t open to the possibility of magick. (A short period of desperation, however, especially when a more prosperous society is close by, drives people to extremes; the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the Irish potato famine both produced a large number of new adepts.) The Underground thrives with enough chaos to keep things interesting, and enough order to prevent it all from falling apart. Its great times have always been in cities; Rome, London, New York, Chicago - the Underground is fundamentally an urban creation. While adepts often come from the countryside, where isolation and insularity often makes the break from conventional reality easier to make, many gravitate to the cities like rats or chain stores once they realise where the action is.
One thing the Underground has never been, however, is innovative. Magick is not a creative force; it follows behind and imitates, and the Underground is such a small and hidden sub-culture that it has had a relatively small influence on the rest of society. Even movements like spiritualism, theosophy, and Wicca, which have had some influence on mainstream society, originated outside of, and were only peripherally involved with, the Underground. The power of magick often depends on the values, however twisted, of a particular school being in some degree important to society; a school which is ‘ahead of the times’ makes very little sense. Occultists also tend to be a conservative group.
Whereas normal people are often forced out of entrenched habits by the rest of society moving on, occultists exist within, to some extent, their own little world, and their worldviews are often so tied up with one viewpoint that when the world moves on, they’re left behind. There also seems to be a natural feeling among the kind of people who are interested in the occult - though not necessarily among adepts themselves - that old equals better. Familiarity, comfort, nostalgia, and mental commitment to an outdated way of doing things means that a goodly percentage of the Underground is always out of touch, and ripe for being overthrown by a new generation of hot young adepts - who will themselves be the calcified conservatives within twenty years time. As the pace of social and technological change speeds up, this process of outdating and overthrow has got ever faster; with the solitary exception of the Sleepers, all the major current organisations within the Underground, from the New Inquisition to Max Attax, were founded within the last ten years. I thought I’d written major here already … good catch.
The Mystery Cults
Serious scholars of magick are pretty rare; credible ones are rarer. Establishing anything about the history of magick is tough, because of its secret and paradoxical nature, and crackpot theories abound. The one thing that most theoreticians seem to agree on is that the first glimmerings of magick come with the mystery cults, organisations dedicated to the worship and emulation of a particular Archetype of the Invisible Clergy. How exactly they started is as contentious as the origins of religion as a whole, and everything from primitive humans chanting in bloody primal homage to War through to Babylonian hive-minds and the rarefied rites of Egyptian pharaohs has been imagined.
However they began, the mystery cults were always secretive, though known, organisations. Their attitude towards the Archetypes they followed was deeply religious, unlike the rather more pragmatic approach of many modern Avatars. The first clear indication of the existence of the cults is in ancient Greece, where initiation into various mysteries was a strong element of Hellenic culture. The mysteries of Demeter, goddess of fertility, were especially prominent, and occult historians express little surprise at this, stroking their moustaches and mentioning the Mother, most likely the first Archetype of the Clergy.
These mysteries weren’t simply about being an Avatar; the earliest schools of magick were formed under the aegis of the cults, much as Pornomancy today is based around the worship of the Naked Goddess. The Cult of the Naked Goddess is very similar to the mystery cults, the chief difference being, perhaps, that the Cult wishes to spread the faith, rather than keeping Her wisdom restricted to a chosen few – although they have found themselves smacked down fairly hard by the Sleepers and the New Inquisition. (For other mystery cults operating today, see page XX)
The Glory That Was Rome
The powers of the mystery cults were partially responsible for the continuing prominence of ancient Greece, and Alexander the Great’s knowledge of the secrets of the Clergy aided him in becoming Godwalker of the Conqueror, his attempt at ascension stopped only at the last moment through a ‘chance’ illness. Eventually, though, Greece was conquered by the newly powerful civilisation of Rome. Some occult historians put this down to the Romans having a better perception of the Archetypes than the Greeks, but it seems more likely that individual mystic wisdom, and sometimes even power, was no match for Roman discipline and military skill. A couple of decades beforehand, the Carthaginian cults, dependent on a constant bloody stream of human sacrifice [this is probably true, even if the infant sacrifice stuff isn’t], had proved equally unable to withstand the better organisation and sheer persistence of the Romans during the horrendously bloody Punic wars.
The Romans, however, went on to eagerly absorb Greek culture, slavishly imitating Greek philosophy, art, and religion, and with these, inevitably, came the mystery cults As Rome expanded, new cults arrived from foreign cultures, particularly from Egypt and Persia. Perhaps the most important of these was the worship of Mithras, a god of war, which was hugely prominent in the army, the foundation stone of Roman civilisation. His mysteries combined several archetypes - War, the Masterless Man, and the Martyr - and many a Roman commander had cause to be grateful for their aid.
The cult of Isis was also prominent, but noted mainly for its popularity among somewhat gullible middle-aged Roman matrons. The cults of Horus and Thoth were sometimes followed by those more interested in sorcery (and those interested in impressing young women by their ‘ancient Egyptian wisdom’, a line that dukes use to get laid even today), but the most powerful magicians, however, were part of the cult of Cybele, a Syrian goddess whose worshippers castrated themselves in sexual ecstasy, as part of their initiation into the mysteries of the Mystic Hermaphrodite.
The Birth of the Underground
By the 1st century BC, Rome had become the first modern city, a teeming metropolis of half a million people or more. As the Roman Republic crumbled, the chaos and conspiracies around its drawn-out death inevitably drew in the Mystery Cults. Among the violence, sex, and intrigue, with institutions collapsing and individual leaders becoming ever more prominent, some unknown magician made the breakthrough from magick based around the imitation of a god to magick powered entirely by the force of his own will.
Exactly what this first non-Avatar based school of magick was, nobody knows, but the big three soon popped up (as well as numerous smaller schools); magick based on sex, magick based on money, magick based on the body. Roman magicians practised them in very different ways from modern-day adepts. Their equivalent of plutomancy, for instance, was based not on acquisition, but on the prominent and public spending of one’s money - one reason for the huge festivals thrown by so many Roman millionaires. Their sex magick wasn’t based around a Goddess, but on sleeping with specific individuals; the more politically important, the more power you got from fucking them, and while Roman epideromancy involved abusing your body, it was more along the lines of gluttony than self-injury.
Innumerable cabals soon sprang up. Some were still affiliated with the Cults, some pursued magick for magick’s sake, some were allied with a particular politician, some were simply out for money, some didn’t know anything about magick and were simply looking to rip off gullible widows. They didn’t have much of an impact on the last days of the Republic, being mainly concerned with fighting among themselves, grabbing things and sites of power, and discovering the secrets of the universe.
By the first century AD, magick had been well worked into the fabric of Roman society. The ‘Establishment’ of higher class families which provided almost all of the politicians, administrators, commanders, and governors of the Empire, thrived on conspiracy, and so did magick. By now the various cabals had started to work out some kind of modus vivendi with each other; especially since they were, in effect, confined to Rome, for the simple reason that most magicians were urban types who didn’t feel truly at home anywhere else.
Tynes: I feel like something’s missing here: early Christians. What was their involvement with the OU in those pre-Roman-conversion days? And what about the Jews, for that matter? I realize they were operating more openly and you touch on them a bit later, but perhaps you can better integrate the OU into history by dealing directly with real-world religions in Rome. I think it would be interesting to give Christianity a role in establishing the Roman OU, though that doesn’t mean you have to trot out Jesus-was-an-adept revisionism.
Hite: One could stir in the whole rivalry between the early Christians and magicians like Simon Magus -- but the Roman OU that James paints here is an establishment phenomenon, while Christianity was emphatically not one for 250 years or so. Making the cabals kind of creepy, dubious figures that the great families have to keep around the villa for the icky stuff would allow you to begin the "Occult Underground draws from the other underground" motif, though -- Christianity was a religion of slaves and foreigners, in the early times.
[Nuh, I really don’t see the ancient Jews as having anything to do with actual magick; there’s a little note below about that. As for the Christians, here we go … more further below, too.]
Early Roman Christianity was a religion conducted in forced secrecy, a concealed cult based around the worship of a sacrificed founder, spoken of in whispers and code by slaves, foreigners, and the occasional rich patron. Unsurprisingly, some of the Roman magicians became convinced that this must be a new Mystery Cult of some kind, and made effort to join it. They were disappointed when they discovered that the rituals and beliefs of the new religion were more concentrated on freedom, love, brotherhood, and a fierce belief in the imminence of the end of the world than on the attainment secret wisdom. A few converted; the majority dismissed it as a religion fit only for slaves and women.
During the reign of the stark raving mad Emperor Caligula, some of the more prominent magickal cabals began a major purge of the mystery cults. There were vague rumours that Caligula practised some form of magick himself, accounting for his more extreme practices, the crazed loyalty of his personal bodyguards, and the strange sway he seemed to exert over the Roman public. Certainly his belief that he was a god, or, at the very least, a hero, one shared with the later Emperor Commodus, points towards either some knowledge of Avatars or a severe case of lead poisoning. At any rate, several magicians took advantage of the opportunities for quiet murder and public decadence that his reign offered, wiping out most of the last members of the mystery cults proper, who they saw as being foreign, threatening, and dangerous.
The Mystery Cults themselves were parodied, and some of their power symbolically contained, in the bloody constraints of the Coliseum, where slaves dressed as figures from the Mysteries would be killed, as pre-fight entertainment, in an appropriate manner; a shaking captive dressed as Orpheus would rise through a trapdoor in the floor, for example, in imitation of Orpheus’ return from the underworld, and would then be torn apart by wild animals. The cults continued as religious rituals, and some members found initiation and Avatar status by accident, but they had ceased to be players in the evolving Underground.
What had happened, however, was that some of the Roman occultists, while investigating and persecuting the cults, realised that the power of the gods was not necessarily dependent entirely upon sincere faith; mere imitation and proper symbolism would often suffice to walk the path of the Avatar. This was the start of a new branch of the underground; those who looked for power through the force of the Clergy, not magick per se. Now looking to fresh sources of power and competing for different reasons, they diverged somewhat from the ‘magick’ Underground, a division which has continued to this day.
Rome was constantly receiving new ideas, religions, and cults from abroad, particularly from the East, as well as absorbing new provinces into the Empire, which often came with their own peculiar native magicians. One of the few times the Roman Underground managed to work efficiently as a whole was when it came to crushing these groups, stripping whatever knowledge could be fathomed from their texts, and gloating over the proven supremacy of Roman magick. The British druids, who were fairly talented at rituals, put up the stiffest fight. (Afterwards, pseudo-druidic cabals such as Eenie Meenie Miney [I’m trying to decide whether to make up more Roman cabal names; I don’t think there’s really much point. Lost in the mists of history. The joke here, by the way, is that the cabal just named themselves 1-2-3 without having any idea of its meaning, because it sounded cool. Should I make that explicit?] were not unknown in the Roman Underground, using the reputation and trappings of the druids - largely gleaned from Caesar’s Gallic Wars - to intimidate others.) Some occult conspiracy historians see the hand of the Roman cabals behind the Jewish uprisings, believing that the magicians, unable to understand that this strange group with its hidden sanctuaries, high priests, and esoteric wisdom wasn’t a magickal one, especially given Solomon’s reputation as a magician, deliberately manipulated the Jewish leaders into revolting in order to have an excuse to go in and ransack the Temple
Decline and Fall
Eventually, of course, the Roman Empire collapsed, over many decades, and it took its Underground with it. Two stories drift round about the gradual death of Roman occultism. The first attributes it to the growing power of Christianity, envisioning groups of fanatic witch-hunters burning precious occult tomes. The stories of St. Peter bringing down the arrogant Simon Magus from the sky, and of the burning of the library at Alexandria and the killing of the philosopher Hypatia added fuel to this myth in the minds of 19th century occult historians, somewhat unduly influenced by Gibbon, but, in truth, it seems as though early Christianity was distinctly unconcerned with magicians, except insofar as they were associated with ‘pagan’ religion in general.
Tynes: I understand your thinking here. My wondering about incorporating Christians into the early OU is along the lines of intelligence-sharing, like overlapping conspiracy cells or affinity groups. The Christians and the Mithrans may not have had warm relations, but they could have been part of the same gossip networks that spread rumors about threatening government activity, the latest discoveries from foreign lands, and so forth. No, the other cults weren’t actually persecuted by the government. Look at it this way; being a member of an Isis cult was the equivalent of being a Bahai today in America; unusual, very middle-class and occasionally upper, and not really worthy of anything other than maybe a snide comment. Being a Christian was like being a member of Falun Gong in China.
Darker rumours speak of the bloody Syrian mystery cults brought to Rome by the boy-emperor Elagabalus, harbouring thoughts of thorough revenge against the Roman sorcerers for the secret persecutions of earlier eras. Tales of the mad castrati of Cybele, appearing as if from nowhere in the middle of cabal meetings and using their sacred knives to deadly effect, have persisted for hundreds of years, and old-school occultists still flinch at the mention of Elagabalus’ name.
The truth seems to be, however, that the Roman Underground simply disintegrated along with the rest of the Empire, as over-expansion, barbarian tribes, political and religious discord, and ecological collapse began to take their toll. Without the urban structure provided by Rome, the conditions for magickal development and scheming simply weren’t present, and the cabals collapsed with the cities.
The Darkish Ages
From the final collapse of Rome to the first glimmerings of the Renaissance, the Occult Underground simply didn’t exist. Oh, sure, there were depraved priests binding Unspeakable Servants into bulls’ corpses, king’s advisors using old rituals to blast their political rival’s reputation, isolated hermits slipping into insanity that warped the world around their cell, raped women using poppets and will to curse the men who’d abused them, and other such incidents of the unnatural. The Unpeakable Servant generally known by one of a hunded variants of Geoffrey, an occasional, detached, sometimes benevolent, and generally ultra-violent participant in some of the crucial events within the Underground, dates his entry into this world from 1197, when a Norman noble in Sicily sought a supernatual bodyguard.
However, it was rare that a magician ever found another magician, let alone passed on anything of what they’d learnt. The population was so scattered, cities were so small, and literacy so rare that an Underground simply couldn’t develop. For much of the period, too, life was so static, and the structures of society changed so slowly that the type of chaotic, dynamic conditions in which magick develops and thrives simply didn’t exist.
[Hite: I have no real problem with this, but it undersells Paris and Venice, two cities well suited for occult undergroundery in the high middle ages -- the University of Paris looks to me like the very model of an OU seed bed, and if you allow cabals in Venice, you have a natural tie-in with the later Renaissance explosions.]
Some cities, particularly in the later part of the twelfth century and beyond, did develop nascent undergrounds, of a lesser extent than later periods, but enough to provide a seedbed for the magickal explosion of the Renaissance. The extensive guild system of cities such as London and Paris sometimes provided the kind of cover that occultists needed, and the ritual and pageantry of the guild-sponsored mystery plays occasionally concealed powerful magic. heaving crowds, the terrible, random violence of the medieval streets, and the sprawling, semi-ordered chaos of the city, spawned one of the earliest versions of urbanomancy.
The early universities, especially Paris, often served as focuses for magickal research and experimentation, though on a very limited scale. A loose association of alchemists, theurgists, magicians, and diabolists formed across Europe, often connected only by long and rambling letters. Due to their desire to remain concealed, they often referred to themselves as being sub rosa, ‘under the rose’, a Latin expression for secrecy. The letters written by the sub rosa magicians are highly valued by modern occultists for their relative high concentration of true rituals, sometimes crammed into a margin or concealed in multilingual ciphers. Some historians see the sinister hand of the cryptomancers, a supposedly ancient school of magick, in this.
The intense concentration on the body, particularly the suffering body, within medieval Christianity, also led to the development of yet another form of flesh-magick, whereby the adept would voluntarily suffer in order to cure the ills of others. It wasn’t as destructive or geared towards personal advancement and mutation as modern epideromancy, and it was largely developed and practiced by solitary monks, fanatics, and saints. It took on a much nastier tinge during the Black Death, when flagellants, a few of them magicians, moved across Europe whipping themselves and persecuting others who were sinful elements of the body of society - most notably, the Jews.
Another exception was in some of the Muslim cities, which were well in advance of the Europeans in many fields. Small groups of magicians formed in cities such as Baghdad and Samarkand, and many of them fused with the Islamic mystic tradition of Sufism. Although they didn’t really survive the collapse of the various Muslim empires, elements of medieval magick survive within certain rare Sufi traditions to this day, and have been ferreted out by devious occultists. They’re not much use nowadays, but still, one likes to know. There was also something of a remnant of the Roman Underground in the great city of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire - the art of eikonourgy, the fashioning of art so lifelike as to make itself real, was especially prized. John Comenus, a modern-day Australian-Greek duke of dubious reputation and a liking for the trappings of royalty, is reported to own a dove fashioned from filigreed gold that lives and sings to this day. Eventually, though, it proved too obsessed with mutual backstabbing and metaphysical point-scoring to defend itself and was almost completely wiped out in the sacking of the city in the Fourth Crusade of 1204. Some of the eikonourgic tradition was preserved elsewhere, however, by an organisation calling itself The Brotherhood of Hero, after the famous Byzantine engineer.
JamesCat on The History of the Underground (part 2 of 4)
The renewed emphasis on art, science, and human potential that began in 15th century Italy and spread throughout Europe naturally brought with it a massive revival of magick. It seemed as though anything was possible and that human will was paramount; two conditions which bred magick like wildfire. The discovery of the New World of America was echoed by the discovery of a new world of sorcery.
One of the most important elements of the new magick was the manipulation of composite symbols, powerful images which could be imposed upon the memory or used to influence others. Those who wrote on this issue, most notably the Italian magician and heretic Giordano Bruno, were an inspiration to what might be called the ‘career Avatar’ branch of the newly reborn Underground. That one could, through proper application, make oneself a living symbol and manifest the powers of a god was, for many, worth the cost of taboo. It was widely believed that the Invisible Clergy had only 36 members, or Decans, each of which manifested a particular aspect of the world, and career Avatars were consequently drawn from a relatively small range of Archetypes, of which the Two-Faced Man (commonly known as the ‘Machiavel’), the Pilgrim (a path followed, unconsciously or otherwise, by some of the most famous explorers of the New World), the Masterless Man (the ‘Mercenary’), the Scholar, the Magus, and the Savage were the most common.
The 1520s saw the emergence, too, of a new force within the magickal world; the House of Renunciation. The House had existed for centuries beforehand, but this was the first time that the Rooms of the House manifested as the mutative, active force a few occultists fear today, taking their new form from the chaos and change of the period. Hubert de Roscommes, a mysterious aristocrat and agent of the Room of Upheaval (see page 84-85 of ‘Statosphere’) began to move across Europe, fundamentally altering the course of history. He was assasinated by the Order of Saint Cecil, a society whose own, probably medieval origins remain shrouded in mystery, in 1541; the success of that operation, and the tangible evidence they presented to the Pope of the malign diabolical influence of Roscommes, led what had previously been a tiny fraternal brotherhood, never taken very seriously within the Church, to be given increasing influence and resources in fighting these minions of the devil. They were concealed behind the Holy Office, the new form of the Inquisition, founded the next year.
London, in particular, became a focus of magickal activity. The influence of Elizabeth I, a powerful manipulator of symbolism in her own right and quite possibly an Avatar, and the relative openness and opportunity of the English court, made it a focus of occultism; a goodly part of the nobility dabbled in one form or another, and a very few were even adepts. The London theatre was also far more active and brilliant than in any other city, and play, artifice, and deceit were as much as part of the Underground as the theatre. Cabals and conspiracies were always part of the court, and several of them had a magickal tinge; their names are largely forgotten, but The School of Night, The House of Solomon, and The Bloodied Hounds are still remembered; the first for its distant association with Shakespeare and Marlowe, the second for the intricacy of its magickal architecture, still with some power nowadays, and the last for the horror and violence of its ghostly killings.
Tynes: I’m forwarding along the first draft of Rick Neal’s UA Coriolis scenario. (Coriolis is a new Atlas imprint for D20-based scenarios set in existing Atlas game worlds—Feng Shui, UA, etc.) Rick’s scenario is set in 17th century Prague and includes some stuff worth touching on here (name-dropping, really) to pull the canon together.
[I’ve already name-dropped the Brotherhood of Hero earlier.]
In many ways, the Underground was thoroughly incorporated into mundane society, particularly in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Astrology, alchemy, geomancy, hexing, and prophecy were all taken to be fairly important and real elements of life, and were employed by everybody from monarchs to priests to peasants. Sorcery and science were thoroughly mixed up together, and the two could not be fairly distinguished, resulting in natural philosophers as adept at alchemy as mathematics.
Naturally, the numerous practitioners of magick became thoroughly caught up in the schisms, wars, spying, and general bloodshed which was such a feature of these turbulent centuries. The employ of magicians by government was relatively common, but even more frequent was the use of war and political rivalry as a chance for magicians to seize power of their own. As always, the main concerns of magicians were sex, money, and power, and the Renaissance offered plentiful opportunities for the gaining of all three.
The Myth of the Magus
Around the middle of the 16th century, it is commonly believed among occultists that there was a major ascension into the Invisible Clergy, creating the Archetype of the Magus (see page XX), the all-knowing, all-powerful, semi-demonic worker of magick. Whether it was the mysterious, and rather petty, magician and failed German divinity student Johannes Faust who went up to the Statosphere in around 1540, nobody really knows, but it is genuinely assumed to be the case, given the myths that accumulated rapidly around him and the unrecorded nature of his death.
In truth, the ascension of the Magus, while it did occur, took place considerably earlier, when Zyto, the court sorceror of King Wenceslas of Bohemia (not ‘good King Wenceslas, but a rather nastier monarch), cemented his reputation as a mysterious wonder-worker, so solidly in the imagination of the Bohemian aristocracy, that he was, as contemporary accounts put it, ‘carried off by the devil’ in a blaze of white light. This ascension may have been the impetus for the rapid growth of magic; it certainly helped it along. The emphasis upon individual power of this archetype also meant that individual magicians were much more common than organised cabals, although they often corresponded, occasionally co-operated, and frequently quarrelled.
Zyto, while an adept magician, was not an expert self-publicist like Faust, who was, in fact, only attempting a bid at becoming Godwalker, but managed to leave a reputation behind that substantially exceeded his gifts. He failed his bid, and died a lonely, poor, unrecorded death. At that point, however, other magi were just beginning to catch onto the fact that there was somebody Up There who liked them, and, with Faust’s disappearance and all the stories about him going round, most people in the know simply assumed it was him who’d managed to Ascend.
Zyto remained part of the Statosphere until 1693, when he was ousted by Isaac Newton, long aware of the Occult Underground, but also a deep believer in the power and supremacy of reason. Newton’s explorations into alchemy and obscure theology bordering on theurgy were, in truth, a pose to become Godwalker of the Magus and, from there, Ascend and replace Zyto, becoming a new, more modern Archetype, the Scientist, consequently influencing (though not controlling) the rise of the modern scientific method. He Ascended in his college rooms at Trinity College, Cambridge, leaving behind a golem version of himself, crafted over several years and given an extra dose of power and creativity by its presence at Newton’s Ascension. (Zyto, forced through the House of Renunciation, and with his endless desire to know stripped from him, became a contemplative hermit and reported miracle-worker in rural Poland.) The golem Newton eventually faked its own death and retreated to a sealed laboratory beneath Cambridge (now part of the network of underground tunnels that make up the storage facility of the University Library), where it may be still.
[Just realised; we need Greg’s write-up of the ‘false’ Magus to go in here]
The Anatomy of Magick
Renaissance magick was built around a powerful paradox, on which many types of magick were based. Unlike contemporary magick, it wasn’t strictly divided into schools, but involved numerous workings based around certain basic principles - any one magician might practice any combination of techniques. Its energy, though, came from a combination of these paradoxes and the will of its casters, like all magick.
The chief paradox of Renaissance magick was the conflict between hierarchy and the individual - or, to put it another way, between destiny and free will. There was a deep belief in the idea of a divine chain of being, starting with God and working its way down through the angels, kings, nobles, merchants, commoners, and animals - but at the same time, the individual was suddenly more powerful and influential than ever before, and people could climb the ladder fast. Equally, there was a strong conviction that your fate was predestined, and could be told through the stars, or through your hand, or through the new-fangled Tarot cards - but the idea of free will was becoming increasingly powerful. Magi believed that the destiny of the whole universe was fixed and unchangeable, but that they, as the homo magus, had a powerful will of their own.
Magick was caught up in this paradox, and the actions that surrounded magick, such as ‘perverted’ sex, the use of ‘ancient’ symbols created a few years beforehand, and the peculiar status of magicians as half-insiders, half-outsiders to society, gave them great power. The most common expressions of this power were theurgy, astrology, and psychoerotomachia.
Theurgy worked around the conjuration of airy spirits, angels, and demons, which the magicians bent to his will. In actuality, these beings were neither divine nor diabolical, but in fact ghosts, demons, and revenants, forced by their own and the magician’s power into playing the roles of these creatures, or else disguised by their own wiles in their hunger for flesh. (Edmund Kelley, the charlatan used by Dr. John Dee to contact ‘angels’, was in truth one of the most powerful natural mediums to have been born in this universe; although much of what he passed on to Dee was pure fiction, his ability to see the workings of the Invisible Clergy means that Dee’s papers are still highly valued by some modern-day occultists.)
Astrology took the movements of the stars and applied them to everyday activities, combining the highest and the lowest elements of life. It was a relatively passive form of magick, but a powerful divinatory tool. Finally, psychoerotomachia focused around the power of the unfettered imagination, and the ability to focus desires and make them come true. Simply by imagining that somebody was desperately in love with you, for instance, you could make it so.
The Tiger Strikes Back
The Occult Underground wasn’t really affected by the so-called ‘Great Witch Hunts’ of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which, while they resulted in the execution of some 40-50’000 suspected witches, both male and female, mainly affected rural areas, not the cities in which the Underground was thriving. Some lonely and isolated rural adepts, practising their own weird theories of magick, were caught up in the persecution, but they were a tiny, tiny minority. [[again, see above. I know you’ve got your vision of the interaction between cities and adepts, but consider that a powerful mind without a proper education to focus it is much more likely to veer off on unnatural tangents. Or, to put it another way, a genius at college becomes educated. A genius in the middle of nowhere becomes an autodidact weirdo theorist.]] Very few of the thousands murdered had anything to do with magick at all, but were the victims of a combination of paranoid quasi-religious delusions, rural rivalries, and petty interpersonal squabbles. Real magicians were generally well-in with various political factions, too, and, although an occasional court sorcerer was caught up in mundane intrigue and executed as a witch, the greatest threat to most occultists of the time was other occultists after the same goodies, or the often casual brutality of the age; more magicians died for being Protestants than for being witches.
Early in the 17th century, however, occultists became aware of a more powerful threat moving against them, the Holy Office, also known as the Inquisition. Firstly, magicians in Catholic countries found themselves targeted by efficient, well-organised, knowledgeable foes, ardently bent on their destruction, then Protestant magi discovered black-clad figures sneaking around their sanctuaries, and soon the whole of the European Underground was shaken by secret war. In fact, the Inquisition wasn’t the main force working against occultists; the Order of St. Cecil, a secret organisation within the Holy Office, were the real movers and shakers, the Inquisition being far more concerned with Jews and heretics than magicians.
Tynes: This may be the place to tell the story of St. Cecil’s origins, placing it in the appropriate point in the article’s chronology. Greg, I recall you having some thoughts along these lines but I don’t recall if we ever explored this.
Did I? Or was it Chad?
Hite: I still maintain that "Cecil" is actually code for "caecus" meaning "blind" on the "if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out" principle. If it's tied to the Inquisition, it can't much predate 1231, and the official founding of said batch -- and if they're coterminous, that's another argument for an OU in medieval Paris or Venice or both, since the OSC wouldn't have been established without an OU to whack about. We could set up the OSC with the modern Inquisition, the Holy Roman Congregation ("Holy Office") in 1542, except that in Statosphere, we hint that the Order kacked Hubert Roscommons in 1541. OTOH, the Roscommons op could have been the kind of thing that led the Pope to decide to found a formal group, specifically the OSC, and set up the Holy Office as camouflage at the same time. Which reminds me, the 1520s is when the House of Renunciation appears on the occult scene; should we mention it? Done, back there. I’ve reasoned that the OSC were founded sometime back, but were pretty small in the medieval period, given that the Church wasn’t nearly as obsessed with diabolism and magick back then as it later became, and that the Roscommons op gave them a big boost in power.
The Order had been around for some time, but had waited to make their blitz upon the Underground until they had more knowledge, equipment, and recruits. When they did strike, it was lethal - far more so in Catholic than Protestant countries, although one or two of the Inquisitors did manage to leak information surreptitiously to ardent Puritans, willing to ally even with the Whore of Babylon to take down these foul witches in their midst. English occultists, in particular, suffered greatly under the brutal Puritan dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell, as did most people. The Restoration of Charles II in 16XX, on the other hand, was a boom period; the sudden explosion of play, fashion, and elaborate sexuality resulted in the English Underground briefly becoming the most notorious and innovative magicians in Europe.
According to Sleeper histories, they were founded during this period in order to prevent the Underground from further ravages by the Inquisition. The heroic efforts of the first English Sleepers prevented the Order of St. Cecil from making even more devastating inroads against the Underground through culling particularly blatant sorcerors themselves in order to fool the Church into believing that more efforts weren’t needed. They continued this valiant task through history, working to cover up the real truths of magickal activity with very little thought for their own lives. (Of course, there’s more to the story of the Sleepers than this - see ‘Hush Hush’ pg 34-37)
Ultimately more destructive than the Order of St. Cecil, however, were the advances being made in science, both physical and philosophical. The gradual destruction or outmoding of the paradoxes of humanism and hierarchy on which Renaissance magic was founded meant that it was becoming harder and harder for occultists to teach their magick to new apprentices, who simply didn’t have any enthusiasm for what seemed to them deeply old-fashioned ideas. In particular, Isaac Casaubon’s debunking of the Corpus Hermeticum, one of the key texts of Renaissance magick, in 1614 eventually had a highly debilitating effect on the attempts of any new magicians to use their will in the old fashions.
The Corpus Hermeticum, which explained the principles of Hermetic magic and had its own complicated internal mythology, supposedly dated from ancient Egypt; through his philological analysis, however, Casaubon conclusively proved that it dated from the 2nd century AD onwards. Ironically, however, around the same time that Casuabon debunked the Hermeticum, papers and books claiming that magickal power could be found in the writings of the completely fictional Christian Rosenkrautz, who had supposedly lived in the 15th century but inherited much older wisdom, began to receive wide circulation. In that delicate balance between credulity and scepticism, some cryptomantic adepts managed to work themselves into the newly founded Rosicrucian orders, most of which otherwise had about as much to do with real magic as the Rotarians today.
Some occultists also remained determinedly convinced that the ancient rituals still had power, and began systematically categorising and testing them in accordance with new-fashioned scientific principles, resulting in the discovery of the art of ritual thaumaturgy; the skilled use of rituals by non-adepts. Because thaumaturgists tended to be somewhat more stable than the average run of adepts, if less directly powerful, they had a considerable influence on many of the conspiratorial occult groups of the next couple of centuries, such as the Freemasons. The genuinely magical tradition within these groups, always small, was largely lost in the 19th century, when they became largely social institutions; however, a group of American Rosicrucians fairly recently rediscovered the art of ritual thaumaturgy, which has become increasingly well-known, thanks to its all-round usefulness, in the modern Underground.
Tynes: Yet again, we’ve got Rosicrucians in the Coriolis scenario. Which asks a question: what about the non-UA magic/occult societies of these centuries? They pop up a bit, but I’d like to see more about them even though it swerves us briefly into Nephilim territory. To my mind, the OU has so many overlaps with non-UA historical groups (such as modern wiccans) that you can’t exclude them to the extent that we did in the rulebook. We need to better integrate the UA OU into the real-world OU, despite the differences in their magickal abilities within the game. Part of UA2’s treatment of the Venn diagram that is the OU is dealing with groups such as new age cabals, militias, eco-terrorists, anti-globalization activitists, alternative sexuality groups, and other affinity groups that have overlapping memberships and interests even when their ideologies are in conflict or simply appear to be unrelated. The truth is that the fringe is the fringe, and it’s a small enough segment of society that a lot of fringe groups unintentially recruit from the same self-selecting pool of free-thinking (or whack-job) applicants. Truth be told, there weren’t really pseudo-magickal societies around; there’s a big boom in them in the 17th century when the Rosicrucians and Freemasons turn up. I’ve worked them in a little later. As for the whole overlap thing, it’s covered more in the ‘types of people’ chapter.
JamesCat on The History of the Underground (part 3 of 4)
Conspiracies and Clockwork
By the middle of the 18th century, the Occult Underground was in a state of quiescent decline, gradually sinking away into history. It found itself massively revitalised, however, by the sudden explosion of conspiracies, secret societies, and revolutionary cells that erupted around the 1760s and 1770s. The most famous of all were the Freemasons, closely followed by the Bavarian Illuminati, but similar groups were springing up all over Europe - and in the colonies of America. Freedom! was the word of the day, and that was echoed in the Underground, where a startling new development reshaped the magickal world.
[[A bit that Chad suggested for SpOrd and his St. Cecil book was based on the Freemason layout of Washington DC. We banged it back and forth for a while, and the version I recall coming up with was something like this: Freemason sorcerers try to make DC the magickal capital of the world with all the symbolism in the street layouts – but they fuck it up. They assume that they can use a symbolic human sacrifice at the climax of their ritual instead of the real thing. Consequently, whatever they summoned (or created) is incredibly pissed off and lays over DC as a cloud of mystic funk. If you charge up or discharge there, you get physically hurt. (Avatars are unaffected.) This makes DC powerful bad medicine for adepts and a haven for avatars – and both assume (incorrectly) that the Freemasons INTENDED it to be that way.
Actually John, as I write this it seems to me like a good thing to put in the main book.]]
[See, the more I look at the history of the Freemasons, the less likely it seems to me in UA terms that they actually knew shit about magick, or even cared about finding out. They’re a big boys club and always were, with a smattering of ritual to seem cool; hell, they come out of Scottish guilds. Small individual groups within the Freemasons, sure. Mass conspiracy? Nah.]
In Switzerland, the bastard son of a sorcerous French noble became fascinated with the art of clockworking, and combined it with what he knew of magic, memory, and desire to form a powerful new art. Clockworking epitomised the new philosophical spirit; the potential of machinery, the ordering of time, everything in its place. Even the God of the Deists was a clockworker; setting the wheels of the universe in motion, and then retiring; some clockworkers speculated that the implication of this was that God had sacrificed his own memory in order to form the cosmos.
Clockworkers gave up their memories, because clockworking was a thing of the present, not the past. They began to strike against the remains of the Occult Underground, eager to wipe the old guard out once and for all. A new school of magick was rapidly developed by some to counter them, paleomancy, which sought to recover the artifacts of the past and use them in new, modern ways, but it was no match for clockworking and was rapidly destroyed or assimilated into clockworking. The clockworkers, also known as The Turn of the Wheel, were involved on the fringes of the French and American Revolutions, and they revelled in the shattering of the old orders.
French politics had long been influenced by a loosely organised group of sorcerous nobles known as the Masters of the Line [this needs translation; anyone got high school French? That’s line as in ‘lineage’] Their magick, haemomancy, was based on the ludicrous intricacies of the lineage-based French etiquette, where your status - and, consequently, your allowable actions at court - could be based on such technicalities as whether a noble ancestor had been beheaded or broken on the wheel. With the collapse of the hierarchy on which it was based, however, haemomancy suddenly and catastrophically lost its power, and the Masters of the Line found themselves hauled before revolutionary courts, their magick near-useless.
Numerous other schools of magick were created around this time, and some of them contained the seeds of today’s postmodern practitioners. Helotomancy, where adepts submitted themselves to a set of arbitrary and iron-set rules in order to gain the power to enslave others, was popular throughout the Americas, as was Sucromancy, which drew on the massive popularity of sugar, sweets, and spices to create a form of addiction-based magick; drawing upon ghosts’ traditional fondness for sweets and treats, it was particularly good at summoning and bargaining with demons. Sucromancy and Helotomancy, both popular among slave-traders, were eventually imitated by the slaves and their descendants and incorporated with African magickal traditions to create the various forms of voudoun. The Triangle, a Liverpool based cabal of sucromancers and helotomancers, used its magicks to enforce the control of the Liverpool cartels over the sugar and slave trades, and to influence politicians against the abolitionists, until a sudden wave of popular anti-slavery feeling completely destroyed their efforts.
In fashionable European society, Agapeomancy, a school whose adepts held parties, balls, and orgies in order to gain individual power, and whose members could never be completely alone, was somewhat influential. The youth turned instead to Juvenomancy, youth-based magick, whose practitioners, inspired by Byron and Shelley, sacrificed their future years for current power. Scatomancy, a school supposedly founded by the Marquis de Sade, turned to the basest elements of humanity for higher knowledge, drawing on the old alchemical principle of gold refined from dross and seeking to expose the brute foundations on which society was built; despite these high philosophical ideals, scatomantic adepts tended, in practice, to be callous, spoilt rich brats who used the philosophy of the school to justify their cruelties.
However, by the end of the 18th century, the clockworkers were, at least as far as the French and Swiss Underground was concerned, the only game in town, and they were major players in the rest of Europe. Other adepts, avatars, and ritual thaumaturgists were still around, and deeply involved in various conspiracies of their own, but in terms of pure magick, clockworking dominated. They were organised, they were mean, and they had, quite literally, teeth.
The New Victorian Order
Of course, the dominance of clockworking couldn’t last. The rise of the British Empire at the beginning of the 19th century, half-consciously modelling itself on the ancient Romans, was mirrored by a resurgence of older, more direct forms of magick, and by 1848, when revolution shook Europe, these new schools took advantage of the situation to strike against clockworking. They formed a rough alliance to shatter the crude hierarchies that had evolved among clockworkers, destroy their devices, and break their frail memories. The schools involved haven’t survived, but have instead mutated into new forms.
Hierarchomancy was the magick of class and social climbing, invented by a recently knighted merchant who had started life the son of a baker; its adepts concealed their own humble backgrounds while using their new-found status to trample others, and it contained the essential seeds of plutomancy. Anarchomancy, the magick of freedom, destruction, and chaos, was an early form of annihilomancy and entropomancy, though its more direct descendant was to be a curious Russian school of magick based around the Will of the People. Terminomancy, the magick of borders, was a product of the East India Company; its most direct expression was the immense hedge planted across India as a trade barrier, and it can be seen as an antecedent of cliomancy. The British Company, descendants of Anglo-Indian merchants, still exists in India, now dependent on a stock of rituals and a diminishing store of wealth; they do, however, have a member sitting in the Lok Sabha, the Indian Parliament, and are trying to ride the recent surge of ‘Hindu-based’ magickal groups caused by the rise of the nationalistic BJP.
Haemomancy, a new form of the old French magick of blood and heritage, spawned somewhat crazed adepts who would cannibalise other adepts, and even unnatural beings, for their power, and was partially responsible for the popularity of the vampire in Victorian popular literature. Clockworking, meanwhile, survived chiefly under the more despotic regimes of Eastern Europe and Russia, where the mundane revolutions were more swiftly and brutally crushed than elsewhere, which accounts for its current, near-antique status as the magick of elderly refugees.
The new schools were even more aggressive and evangelical than the 18th century Underground has been. The Victorian zeitgeist, the will and self-belief driving the new adepts, focused not only on personal perfection and self-control, but on the solid conviction that your way was the Only Way, and everyone else ought to realise it just as soon as possible. The evangelical spirit of the adepts was directed, however, not towards the pagan Indian or the heathen African, but towards convincing their fellow magicians; disputes could range from heated coffee-house arguments (as in the famous three-day quarrel between two anarchomancers, one Hungarian, one Italian, in the British Library that Underground rumour boasts was overheard by Marx and turned into the basis for the Communist Manifesto) to covert warfare. The two-year struggle between Grim Peter, Susanne Winter, and the entirety of the Thimble Gang left Prague so magickally booby-trapped that adepts have been forced to be careful in drawing any kind of charge there since.
The new magicians rapidly turned to fighting among themselves over the ruins of the clockworkers, but as rapidly turned away from European infighting to concentrate on the possibilities presented by the new craze for Empire, just as their Renaissance predecessors had fought over the fresh opportunities of the New World. Africa and India became the chief battlegrounds, and the Greatest Game, the hidden conflict for the magickal and monetary resources (and the chance to get some exotic sex in) of the old African and Indian kingdoms - not to mention the slow collapse of the Turkish and Chinese empires - dominated the Underground for most of the century.
India became the centre of the ‘career Avatar’ Underground. Out among the petty princedoms, where the Europeans were regarded with something close to awe by much of the population, it was all too easy to slip into a powerful archetypal role. India’s own native magickal tradition was almost entirely Avatar-based, the Hindu understanding of the role of the gods being, in many respects, quite close to the actual powers of the Invisible Clergy, and some Westerners studied under mysterious gurus and Brahmins in order to learn their mysterious archetypal wisdom. The role of the wandering sadhu, in particular, was a powerful way to walk the path of either the Pilgrim or the Masterless Man.
When it came to facing down native opposition, the European occultists fared pretty well. Remember that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the baddy leaps up to face Indy, does his magnificent twirling sword act, shouts his battle-cry, and Indy casually shoots him in the chest? Much the same principle applied. Sure, some of the natives had powerful magicks, blood-ghosts, earthquake jars, shapechanging masks, unspeakable servants, castings which could rip a man’s heart out, but the European magi had funky magick shit and big guns, and the big guns pretty much tipped the balance (‘Bloody’ Jack Roxton, the death of many an unfortunate African shaman, was briefly infamous in the 1870s for having a Remington warped into a flesh pocket in his stomach). The ‘ghost-shirt’ rituals hastily concocted by native magicians all over the world were next to useless; their magick simply wasn’t adapted to cope with firearms. In the (later) words of Hilaire Belloc
Never forget that we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not.
As a consequence of all this resource-hunting, the Occult Underground became bloated with plundered artefacts. The Sleepers, in particular, have benefited from this legacy of plundered items from all around the globe, but many other European occultists still have inherited ghost-sticks, torture-dolls, soul-capturing mandolins, and other such pleasant legacies of world culture. Countless more sit in antique shops and museums around the world, powerless without the proper application of ritual and focus.
Energy and the East
Occultism experienced a massive surge of popularity again in the 1880s and 90s, partially due to the growing use of electricity, which seemed almost a form of magic in itself, and which popularised the concept of energy, unseen force, untapped powers, and psychic abilities. The fin de siecle mood of the 1890s, too, was particularly suited to the atmosphere of mild decadence in which the Occult Underground thrived. The translation of Asian religious texts in the hugely popular ‘Sacred Books of the East’ series brought the idea of ‘Oriental mysticism’ into the popular consciousness, adding an element of exoticism to new occult organisations, the most successful of which was the Theosophists, whose combination of supposed psychic abilities, ‘Eastern’ wisdom, and a hearty dose of racism attracted recruits in droves. Some genuine Asian magickal organisations, such as the Chinese Brotherhood of Harmonious Repose and the Indian Little Brothers of the Most Holy took this opportunity to integrate some of their members into Western society.
The Occult Underground thrived off this new blood, the older magicians exploiting the gullibility of the new generation for money and sex, while the new generation accidentally stumbled into various powerful new forms of magic, birthing the first schools of today. The Hellfire Club, a revival of a group of cheerful 18th century orgaists, became a notorious Soho haunt, and many a vicious little conflict was played out there, while the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, mainly a refuge of romantic poets and playwrights, sheltered a few genuine magicians inside its ranks. Its offshoots, descendents, and revivalists exist to this day.
The Underground began to really take off in America around this time, too. There had been magickal cabals there as far back as the 1740s, but the explosion of new ideas, religions, and pseudo-sciences throughout America, from numerology through to intimate massage through to Dr. Kellogg’s health regime (which inspired a fitness-obsessed adept called Bran the Blessed to create a short-lived school, an Epideromantic forerunner, that combined intense purging with supernatural bodily ability), gave a peculiar boost to the Underground, which became centred in two important American cities, New York and San Francisco. The Mormons, in particular, set aside from mainstream American society until their abolition of polygamy and with strong elements of occultism and Freemasonry already incorporated into their religious practices, produced a surprising amount of adepts, including the group known as Stones of the Temple, which made several pioneering excursions into South America for both missionary and magickal purposes.
The mass influx of immigrants into America was also a strong influence on the Underground. For the refugees, migrants, and hopefuls pouring into Ellis Island, America was a land of wonder, opportunity, and - sometimes - horror, and magick, to some, seemed a perfectly plausible part of that. Clockwork monsters were no less unlikely than the Empire State Building; it was as plausible that a man could make himself invisible by burning dollar bills and sucking the bone of a cat as that the son of a village pedlar could head a bank or open a chain of stores. Some turned their attention to protecting or dominating their own small communities - the successive Orthodox Jewish Kings of Gotham being the most famous of these, though nobody was ever quite certain whether they were True Kings or Fools; meanwhile, the Russian Night Work and the Chinese Pure Gold Flower Gang acquired a reputation for going to any lengths to protect their ‘people.’ Some adepts had come from the kind of desperation that can drive people to any expediency in order to survive, and a tiny fraction of those had found that the seemingly insane techniques they’d adopted to survive actually worked. The infamous and insane thanatomantic adept Daniel Woods never lost the skeletal appearance he’d had coming out of the Irish famine, and when they returned to Naples the Empty Moon Society had little mercy for the camorra gangsters who had driven them out in the first place.
Mud, Drink, and Ghosts
The First World War only served to further strengthen the European Underground. The numerous ironic paradoxes of the war - civilisation reduced to mud less than seventy miles from Paris, or a day’s journey from London, men ordered to walk towards machine gun fire by their generals - and the sheer insanity of the whole affair created magicians out of some few of the survivors – perhaps one in every ten thousand - and provided a huge number of new demons. One Canadian regiment, near-annihiliated at the battle of Passchendale, saw its seven surviving members acquire a spiritual and magickal link and, as The Friends terrorise the (fairly small) Canadian Underground until they fell apart as the mental breakdown of individual members spread rapidly among the collective mind. Cliomancy was birthed in 1915 by Dugan Forsythe (see HUSH HUSH) and rapidly became the most powerful force in the European Underground. The growth of spiritualism immediately after the war provided many occultists, real and fake, with a source of regular income, and the deadened, hollow generation that followed was ideally suited towards taking up magick, desperate as it was for something, anything to relieve the supposed emptiness of life.
It was noticeable, however, that a rather larger number of women were now present in the European Underground, because most of the men were dead. Previously the Underground, like most things, had been largely dominated by men; they were the ones, after all, who mostly had the education, the money, and the social freedom necessary to participate. There were some notable female occultists, such as the discreet, intelligent, and quite ruthless Duchess of Old Miles, whose soirees were the highlight of the Paris Underground in the 1830s, or the transvestite Pole spirit-sculptor Anna Koltun, three times lover of the Comte de Saint Germain (under an older, darker name) between 1473 and 1596, or the Sicilian wine-cult Daughters of Fury in the 1780s, but they were notable exceptions.
With increasing emancipation, women were playing on more equal terms for the first time in the Underground, and the sheer shock of this was enough to scare many of the old magi away. (‘Why, they’re no better than priestesses! Are we to see a return to the naked orgies of Ishtar and the bloody fury of Diana, sir? No, I wash my hands of the whole thing!’) The sudden opening up of possibilities meant that an iron-set will, the deep belief that you could make a difference on the world, was suddenly a plausible option for many more women. Female adepts tended towards cliomancy and personamancy; many of them were from the upper classes and found the idea of multiple roles or the overwhelming importance of place easy to incorporate into their psyches. The most famous cabal was probably the Boston Poppets, whose seeming cutesiness belied their skill at various painful and manipulative forms of fetish-magick.
In 1927-8, the European Underground became briefly obsessed with the conception of a ‘perfect child’ who would channel the powers of the Statosphere and usher in a new golden age of magick. The first to attempt such a conception were Constance Spring and Hetty McArthur, an American lesbian couple resident in Paris, but the boy born to Constance emerged a perfectly normal, healthy child with not the slightest occult trace whatsoever. The attempt of The Prince of Cats was frustrated when Septimus Orange, the Godwalker of the Pilgrim, shot his pregnant wife, which resulted in Septimus’ own bloody death some months later, and the scattering of his pieces round the back alleys of a dozen cities. The leader of the Empty Moon Society, Clara Salvo, made her own elaborate ritual attempt, aided by what she sincerely believed was the birth caul of Jesus Christ, but the child that resulted was merely capable of seeing spirits and breathing underwater.
Tynes: I hate to say it, but as we’re trying to work the OU into historical occultism more, you need to cover, at least briefly, the whole Blavatsky-Theosophists-Spiritualists-Crowley-OTO-etc. axis. Our UA OU needs to be nestled within the context of real-world occult activity, so that it doesn’t feel so artificial.
Rather than going into detailing all of the various whackos there have been, I’m saving this much more for the ‘peoples’ chapter. Have a look at that in a few days, and then decide what to do here. Also, this chapter is getting really big.
Hite: On the other hand, the "birth caul of Jesus Christ" is just fricking wonderful.
Meanwhile, the American Underground was given another boost by the introduction of prohibition, which produced a whole underground culture of its own that the Occult Underground could feed off. Dipsomancy, naturally, was invented around this time, though back then it was more associated with hard-drinking youngsters than broken old bums. It was around this time, too, that the Underground began interacting seriously with the new underworld of organised crime, which became another source of income for ever-broke magicians, who found that their talents came in peculiar handy for helping the bosses out a little. Some of the new mob lords, of course, were Avatars in their own right, embodying as they did the fear and greed of the American public, and they weren’t entirely afraid of magick. Chicago, the mob city, became a third centre of magickal activity in the USA, and the only one to maintain that status right through to the present day. Ken Hite, mysterious chronicler of the Invisible Clergy, maintains, however, that Daniel Burnham and the Auriga Society had been developing a kind of long-range urbanomancy ever since the Chicago Fire in 1871, and the invention of the skyscraper a decade later, gave them the opportunity to magickally design a city from the ground up.
After the Wall Street Crash, the desperation of the Depression, when people were willing to try or do anything to escape from the grinding poverty and bleakness that seemed to have overwhelmed the country, pushed the Underground into further harshness. Dry Bones, a half-Cherokee, half-Negro calling-man, made a speciality of enslaving the dust-caked revenants of Oklahoma, as desperate for food in life as death, and his song-bound spirit-slaves can still be found, grey people in ragged clothes hanging round lonely roadside diners, awaiting a long dead master or the blessed release of soul food.
Film provided both Undergrounds with extra bite. In America, Hollywood’s dreams became the focus of America’s desires, and magicians and Avatars began to flock to Los Angeles. Perhaps there was some truth in the belief that film captured a portion of one’s soul; certainly magicians who caught their enemies on flickering reels of tape found it considerably easier, back then, to work curses against them. Over in Germany, where the Weimar Republic was becoming a byword for decadence, the first true horror films were being created, and some of the directors would hint at further, darker truths.
For a little while, unreleased movies and director’s cuts became the object of hot competition among the European Underground, partially out of the belief that many of them contained secrets or were artefacts in their own right, but mainly out of sheer fannish enthusiasm. Phobomancy, fear magick, was an offshoot of these horror movies, and thrived among the terror of the 1930s. Epideromancy, incidentally, is believed to have been a by-product of some of the more peculiar clubs of Berlin in the late 1920s, where pain and pleasure mixed together to form one of the nastiest schools of magick around, and the Secret Flesh, the first epideromantic cabal, was a minor player in Weimar politics, eventually becoming mixed up with some of the homosexual sadists of the SA, along with the Stocking Brigade, a transvestite Mystery Cult of the Mystic Hermaphrodite. Both were destroyed during the Night of the Long Knives.
JamesCat on The History of the Underground (part 4 of 4)
The Purging of Europe
In the frenetic atmosphere of the 1930s, when the Western democracies seemed to have failed, minor wars were springing up all over the world, and powerful new leaders, a couple of which were Demagogue avatars, dominated the political scene, the European Underground continued to thrive. To take only a few examples, the aloof Miss. Pym stood in Godwalking judgement over London occultists, Curse and Cure smuggled magickally-spiced opium and whisky between Italy, China, and America, The Wizard briefly channelled archetypal power from early comic books to destroy the influence of the Twenty Skulls in Vienna, while the Straw Men struggled with the Ragtime Band in the American South, Secretly, however, the seeds of its downfall were already being sown.
Russia had had a thriving occult community right up until the Revolution and Civil War, when most magicians sided with the White Russians and were forced into exile. Stalin’s purges of the 1930s destroyed those cabals that remained, as they were caught up in Stalin’s fear of anybody who showed the slightest bit of personal initiative, curiosity, or free thought. Self-aggrandising occult historians claim that Stalin’s main aim was to destroy the cabals, for which the purges provided a cover; in fact, he was utterly ignorant of real magick, though personally superstitious, and destroyed the cabals by accident. Back in Germany, the newly dominant Nazis were implementing their own purges of any group they saw as having the potential to harbour secret revolt, and most magicians, except for those few allied with the occult-obsessed Himmler, found themselves fleeing the country or in detention camps.
This, however, was only a taste of what was to come for the European Underground. When WW2 broke out and Hitler’s armies marched across Europe, the SS followed in their wake, rooting out and destroying any organisation that might provide shelter or aid to Jewish refugees or English spies. Magick proved little defence against the ever-vigilant SS, and many a previously powerful magician perished in a backalley execution or a concentration camp, while thousands of artefacts were smashed, looted, or burnt by the SS or German soldiers. To make matters worse, there was a small but influential group of phobomancers (known variously as Eye Sockets, The Long Knives, or The Rats in the Walls) high-up in the Nazi hierarchy, who targeted the SS against their rivals and provided them with just enough magickal backup to ensure they carried out their tasks successfully.
The English Underground, dominated by Dugan Forsythe and the Sleepers - known among the rest of the Underground as The Enigma - who had made a temporary and short-lived alliance with three Cryptomantic cabals, struck back at the Nazis through the SOE intelligence service, charged by Churchill to ‘set Europe ablaze.’ Cliomancy proved particularly suited for intelligence and propaganda work, unsurprisingly, but Forsythe’s manipulations also led to considerable tension with other intelligence services, who thought, rightly, that SOE seemed to have hidden motivations. After all, Forsythe was just as interested in grabbing the remaining books and artefacts of the destroyed European Underground as he was in fighting Hitler.
As a result of the Second World War, the current European Underground effectively dates only from the late 1960s, when occultism began to seriously reestablish itself in its former birthplaces. The Underground in Eastern Europe, where Communist paranoia kept the secret purges going long after the War, only started growing again in the late 80s. The only exceptions to this legacy of destruction are England and Switzerland; the English Underground only prospered from the war, though it is still far more dominated by the Sleepers, Dugan Forsythe’s legacy, than America, and Switzerland’s neutrality protected its occult community, which, unsurprisingly, still remains dominated by clockworking. There have been rumors of a secret Swiss cabal which uses the resources of the Swiss banks to exercise a powerful plutomantic influence, but canny adepts tend to dismiss stories of the Gnomics of Zurich as unlikely, given the basically conservative, staid, and tedious nature of the Swiss underground.
Dampening Things Down
By the end of WW2, then, the centre of the Underground had well and truly moved to the United States. In the heady post-war rush, things became pretty chaotic, and equally violent. The new rush of European immigrants, many of them occultists of every stripe from kabbalists through to sex magicians, stirred things up no end, as did the development of entropomancy sometime in 1943. The involvement of the Underground with organised crime reached its peak, and the late 1940s saw a number of intensely violent wars between cabals, most notoriously the 1948 showdown in Detroit between the Snapdragons, a group of baby-faced near-psychotic freaks who included the infamous Little Lucy, given to playing with her dolls until they broke, and the quietly insane Snap himself, and Olivia de Quincey, an aging thaumaturgist with all the fading resources of the old Underground behind her. Olivia was broken in half by Snap in front of a terrified crowd, half the Snapdragons having succumbed to madness or death when their entire hotel filled with the smoke of the Grey Opium, but Snap was, in turn, beaten to death by one of Olivia’s old mob lovers. Things were heady, bloody, and nasty.
Two factors combined to quieten things down a little. Firstly, the Sleepers engendered a massive elimination of the Occult Underground in New York, which had previously been the absolute dead centre of magickal activity. In doing so, they also created a deep distrust of magic and the occult among organised criminals, thanks to a series of faked betrayals planted through cliomancy, thus cutting the Underground as a whole off from a valuable source of income. [[I think this gives the Sleepers almost too much credit. The mob had, by this time, probably had ample experience with GENUINE occultist battiness, unreliability, and untrustworthiness. Every adept is, by definition, obsessed with his own quirky thang, not with obedience to the godfather. There are exceptions, but generally they don’t play well with others… Something we may want to stress in descriptions of TNI, now that I think of it…]] [I thought, however, that we already had the Sleepers doing this in canon …] This distrust wasn’t too hard to create; the mob had ample experience with the genuine battiness, unreliability, and untrustworthiness of adepts by this point. In an organisation where loyalty and reliability were all-important, this didn’t bode well. A similar, but less thorough purge went on in California, after one of the most powerful magicians in the country decided to quit the Underground and take out a fairly large portion of it en route.
Secondly, the increasingly conservative atmosphere of the 50s simply wasn’t that conducive to magick - or, more to the point, to providing a convenient stream of suckers for the Underground to feed off. The old-fashioned Hermetic groups and conspiracies made something of a comeback at this point, often hiding within more mainstream freemasonic and Rotarian groups. Perhaps the most powerful was the Red and Rosy Cross, a Rosicrucian group which, rumour has it, had at least two Republican and one Democratic senators in its pocket. Magick moved quietly into the corners, the shadows, and the bloody internecine warfare of the 40s was put aside, producing, at least for the moment, a more peaceful Underground.
A Bitter Chill
During the late 1940s and throughout most of the 1950s, one of the main sources of income for the Occult Underground was, funnily enough, espionage. Some cabals were directly involved in the Cold War; after all, it was a great excuse to go to foreign countries with a lot of money, hang about with odd people, and pinch neat things. Both the English and German Cryptomancers were heavily involved; The Apostles, a homosexual society at Cambridge that the Cambridge traitors – Philby, Burgess, Maclean – belonged to, had strong Cryptomantic elements. The modern form of Personamancy was also strongly associated with espionage, as many of the first personamancers were long-term agents for either the West or the East. The KGB lacked magicians of its own, as magick had been largely crushed by communism, but there were a very few agents who practiced a form of magick based around the individual will subjected before the Collective Will. Their superiors were almost never aware of their agents’ powers, nor did they actively try to recruit adepts, not knowing of their existence; espionage was simply a good place to be if you were an occultist.
However, some cabals weren’t directly associated with the Cold War, but simply managed to squeeze money out of the willingness of both the CIA and KGB to fund groups who claimed to be promoting American or Communist values. They didn’t claim to have anything to do with the occult, normally, but instead pretended to be involved in a conspiratorial underworld; both sides were often all too willing to believe their opponents were being manipulated by old, dark societies. Several cabals caught onto this fairly fast, and exploited the KGB’s naivety about Western life to make it appear as though they were much more influential than they actually were. The KGB found itself funding half the English underground, who were giving themselves names like ‘The High Labour Executive’ and claiming three-quarters of the Cabinet as secret members, while the CIA was similarly gulled by European and Latin American cabals, such as the infamous Coiners, which purported to be a secret Masonic group with immense pull among the Italian, Brazilian, and Spanish establishment, but which was, in fact, two Frenchmen with a talent for accents over the phone . Most adepts didn’t really give a damn about the triumph of either communism or capitalism; they just wanted the money.
Tynes: Rework this section so that we don’t have government-funded adepts doing their thing, and instead posit that many people in the intelligence community were secretly adepts pursuing their own agendas within the context of their work. In other words, it was a great place to be an adept, but that doesn’t mean the CIA had a magick training manual and so forth. It was just a cover career of choice, and a natural wellspring for such activity, without it becoming an official practice.
This was meant to be the implication; they were just parasites, basically …
Unsurprisingly, the Underground benefited greatly from the various cultural changes of the 60s and 70s. Wacky theories were part and parcel of the mainstream, and, yet again, the whole of society seemed to be changing; the opening up of possibilities and the sudden exaltation of the individual against authority made magick, for a few, a plausible method of rebellion. The East was all the rage again, and a half-baked understanding of Hinduism and a sincere, stupid belief in the powers of mysterious yogas and gurus was, ironically, a pretty good qualification for accidentally stumbling into magick. (The loose alliance of cabals that had actually formed while travelling in India was, briefly, known as the Third Eye Movement; it never had much unity, unsurprisingly.) The gullibility, wealth, and unsuppressed desires of the new generation of youth meant that money was pouring into cults, movements, and gurus at a rate that even exceeded the 1890s. Old adepts look back upon the 60s as glory days; many of them got laid and paid to an extent that they’ve never really managed to emulate since.
Many cabals became mobile, moving around the country, following festivals and bands and the money, and the most notorious magickal clashes tended to occur when two groups turned up to try and rip-off the same people. California was the main occult playground of the time, and the Underground there was notoriously bitchy, and given to vicious backbiting, but rarely actually violent. King Solomon, a suprisingly stable urbanomancer, managed to get himself elected a kind of unofficial leader of the West Coast Underground, and even, with the help of Mizz Pym, the daughter of the London Judge Godwalker of the 1930s, managed to hold a kind of court. There were a number of painful incidents involving individual cults, when the leaders became so heady with power that they effectively self-destructed, but things were, for the main part, fairly peaceful. The Funky Color Brothers, a group of white, middle-class teenagers with an ever-changing membership, a surprising amount of power, and an attitude straight from Scooby Doo, made it their goal to enforce the love and harmony they thought the Underground ought to exemplify, and were somewhat successful. (By 1982, they had become intent on keeping the spirit of the 60s going through any means possible, and were wiped out by a group of Entropomancers known as Spin when at a Grateful Dead concert.)
There was a darker side to things, of course, as ever. The Underground was relatively open and tolerant, but the Dionysian spirit quickly overspilled into bloodshed. One of the most notorious incidents, for example, was when Sarah Anne Lawley, a fifteen year old runaway from Louisiana, famous among the Underground for her ability to kill with a kiss and fly without wings, was torn to pieces and eaten by a group of homeless men in Portland, under the influence of a Urbanomancer desperately and perversely in love with her. Pickled portions of her flesh still drift around the Underground, and are supposed to grant a potion of her power when eaten. Speculating as to the identity of the Zodiac serial killer who terrorised the Bay Area in the 1970s is a popular parlour game among occultists; just about every major figure of the Underground is mentioned, though the most popular candidate seems to be the Freak.
Anarchy in the U.S.A.
By the early 1980s, people were tired of the supposed love, harmony, and general sappiness of the 1970s. Punk captured the new zeitgeist; things were harder-edged, tougher, and more vicious. In Britain, annihilomancy, and sometimes entropomancy), were known as ‘The Only Magic That Matters,’ and the London Underground, which had become increasingly dominated by aging refugees from the 60s now more interested in finding ways to keep their dicks hard than in real power, was joyfully torn apart by Na Na Na, Love Boys, Dirty Pins, and other young, powerful, chaotic magicians who then went on to fight among themselves until, by the 90s, the survivors were just as conservative and out of touch as those they had replaced.
In the states, the wash of money from gullible youngsters was drying up somewhat - though the ‘New Age’ continued in California, where the supposed Comte de Saint-Germain exercised a benign supervision over the Underground in San Francisco - and occultists began to fight harder than before. The media became the new focus of competition; the golden goal of many 80s magicians was to get a live showing on network TV. The Sleepers took a different view, and planted informants within most major news organisations, and many of the more media-crazed adepts indeed found themselves on the evening news, albeit with holes in their heads or being fished out of drainage canals. This extended even to a local level; when Ping!, a group of ex-MIT dukes, discovered that personal computers and improvised ritual were enough to carve out whole new worlds of reality, and tried to show this off on their local free access channel, the Sleepers were down on them within forty-eight hours. .
Plutomancy, which had been around since the days of the robber barons in one form or another, acquired its modern form in 1983, when a group of Harvard-educated New York stockbrokers formed a cabal called simply The Universal Bank, and began using the stock market not just to make money, but to tap into power they hadn’t even dreamed of - to truly become masters of the universe. Unfortunately, they’d reckoned without taboo; spending was just too ingrained in their lifestyle to be avoided, and they were easily taken down by the Mafia families of New York, with the aid of information covertly fed to them by the Sleepers.
By the early 1990s, with the collapse of Communism, the ever-increasing power of the media, and the massive expansion of the internet, things were set for the next occult revolution; truly postmodern magick. New schools exploded all over the place, Abel found out about a new world to conquer, and the Goddess went up. Ironically, the creation of the New Inquisition and the Cult of the Naked Goddess, rather than suppressing other groups, seems to have stirred them on in turn; Dirk Allen, who has a vague interest in these things, reckons that more new cabals were created, and more natural magicians sprung up, in the 1990s alone than in the previous four decades combined - and four times that number of con-artists, fools, wannabees, and romantics attached to them.
The Underground is shook up, wide open, and major things are happening every day. Right at the moment, things are anybody’s game; it’s almost as though the Underground is birthing itself anew all over again. Some adepts point back to Rome, and speak in hushed tones of the sleeping Empire rebirthing itself; most just think that their time has come. Perhaps it has …
So, das ist der vierte und letzte Teil des betreffenden Artikels. Mir hat er eine gute historische Perspektive zum UA Occult Underground gegeben.
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