The Nine Magics

I hesitate even to write this page, for magic is a diverse and flexible thing of limitless possibility much like the Fantasy genre itself. Still, in my world-wandering I have found that, in general, sorcery both Light and Dark may be divided into nine, often interrelated and intertwined, branches of magic. The first part of this page is thus dedicated to recording these Nine Magics and what I know of them. (The second part relates to how one can make their own System of Magic)

Yet before continuing I must add that, in all of its incalculable forms, magic does have one great commonality: though ancient beyond thought and twice as mysterious, it does have rules. All things have rules.


1. Earth Magic: The deep magic of the land itself and, incidentally, my personal favorite. Earth Magic generally affords the user with a special sixth sense attuning her/him with the land itself – thus telling them when the land is poisoned or something unnatural is occurring. Typically the magic of Druids, rangers, and herbalists, Earth Magic may also grant a special affinity with animals (such as the gift of understanding their tongue). Simply put, it is the magic of, and thus draws power from and affords the user some control over, nature itself and is benevolent almost as a rule. 


2. Blood Magic: A typically foul branch of sorcery, Blood Magic is near always of the Dark, or forbidden, Arts and usually involves mages using ritual (human) sacrifice in an attempt to gather a vast amount of power quickly. As such, its practitioners are 99% of the time ambitious fiends who are willing to advance themselves and their interests via the torment of others (their victims). Put plainly, typical blood-mages draw their power from pain and death (and natural power inherent in blood) – doing so because it is quick and easy and often provides them with a sadistic kind of pleasure.
The dark twin and near opposite of Earth Magic, one can generally tell the rare benevolent user of Blood Magic apart from the rest by the fact that they often use their own blood or, if necessary, blood from a painlessly sacrificed creature. 


3. Time Magic: Usually Time Magic is just non sci-fi time travel with a few extra quirks thrown in. 


4. Ritual/Summoning Magic: Neither good nor evil at face value, Ritual/Summoning Magic typically is the branch employed when a mage wishes to call something from, or effect another via, another Plane of Existence. Think summing Demons and/or Elementals in the first instance, and performing a healing or sacrificial ritual that involves Other Powers in the second.
A cousin to virtually all forms of magery, it also covers the term Spirit Magic (due to the Spirit World being another Plane of Existence). 


5. Soul Magic: A branch that is offhand neither good nor evil, though its most common form is of the latter i.e. Necromancy. Anyway, simply put, Soul Magic is a form or sorcery that either draws powers from one's Soul, in some way affects its nature, summons it, or banishes it. Soul Magic is, as a rule, rare and I seldom encounter it in Fantasy.
It is a cousin of Blood Magic, as a person's blood may often be a used as a tool to manipulate their Soul.  


6. Divine Magic: For good or ill and in countless different forms and ways, calling upon the power of deities. 


7. Rune Magic: Complex as a rule and thus subject to any number of rules, the overriding law of this form of magery is that it is drawn, or in some other way dependent upon, the power of mystical runes/glyphs. 


8. Mind Magic: A very common form, Mind Magic at its purest is drawn solely from the power of the user's mind and force of will. One could call it psychic if one so wished. 
It all really just boils down to the Mind over Matter concept, in my opinion, though it often is drawn from a combination of the user's mental and physical strength. 


9. Physical Magic: A very common form, Physical Magic at its purest is draws solely upon the user's physical strength/energy. Once the mage completely runs out of said energy, she/he dies.
The opposite of Mind Magic, the two are still often mixed together in the manner I described above.


I can hear you all saying, "But what about High Magic?" After all, it is a classical Fantasy term used to refer to types of magery. The keyword here is "types," for High Magic is really just a classification given to the grander and more powerful forms of magery, and therefore is not a branch of magic in and of itself.
The same principle applies to Black/Dark Magic and White/Light Magic; the names generally do not refer to a specific type of sorcery so much as the morality or lack thereof behind its use. 


How to make your own System of Magic


An old friend once wrote to me saying, "I'm working on a myth-based fantasy book for the first time and I’m seriously struggling with building a magic system. Since you’re the master of all things fantasy - How do you usually go about it when you’re writing, or do you have any good reading recommendations for some inspiration, from your vast reading?" 

Naturally this was/is an excellent question because reading about these wondrous & mystical realms is one thing, and writing one is a different matter all together. But often trying to craft your own unique system of magic can seem like the hardest part of all, so here – as I detailed to my friend – is how I go about it:

The first thing you must decide is how ornate and prevalent you want yours to be. Some, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, have a restrained use of magic: You do not see Gandalf casting a lot of spells or throwing fireballs in The Lord of the Rings; when danger comes, Gandalf draws Glamdring (his sword). Yet there is still a steady presence of magic in Middle-earth, subtle yet bright, clear, and elegant.Then there are authors like Rowling, whose Harry Potter is full of flashing spells - but with carefully laid and complex rules behind and them, making the magic system work and adding realism and depth to it.
 
In general, the larger the role a magic system plays the more complex it is. Neither style is better, just different, as while the restrained kind is typically easier to craft, the often complex rules of the ornate system can help drive the story. The restrained kind often lends to a more epic feel, yet the ornate can be analyzed by the reader and bent in truly fascinating ways.

After you choose, the rest
i.e. the actual system of magic you are striving to create depends entirely on the world and characters you have crafted. For example, you will have to decide whether your system will conform/relate to one of The Nine Magics.

Inspirational readings I can also offer: The first five being some of the best myth-based Fantasies around, and the bottom two being the best examples or the more ornate yet unique/excellent systems of magic (beware, the two categories oft blur):
  • The Sea of Trolls trilogy by Nancy Farmer (Celtic and Norse myths) 
  • The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott (All myths, believe it or not) 
  • The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Copper (Arthurian legends) 
  • The Children of the Lamp series by P.B. Kerr (Arabian myths) 
  • In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip (Slavic myths) 
  • The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix 
  • The Vows and Honor trilogy and its companion By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey

Beyond this there is little more I can offer save one final recommendation: read the Sanderson’s First Law article, written by the acknowledged Master of Magic Systems, acclaimed Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson.


Advice to Young Magicians

Kethry
In the meantime and in ending, I could hardly designate half a page to Tarma without paying the same treatment to her equally worthy partner and Oathsister now could I? Hey, I just happen to seriously love Mercedes Lackey because not only are her Valdemar books solidly grounded and deeply moral, but also due to her amazingly diverse and complex systems of magic and magical creatures (such the criminally undermentioned Warrl, for instance).

Hence just as Tarma has some practical advice on adventuring, so too does the White Winds sorceress Lady Kethryvaris (called Kethry, Keth, and Greeneyes) of House Pheregrul wish to give some Advice to Young Magicians.


"The firebird knows your anger
And the firebird feels your fear;
For your passions will attract her
And your feelings draw her near.

But hate and fear and fury
Only make her flame and fly.
You must rule your heart, magician,
Or by her bright wings you die!

Now the cold-drake lives in silence
And he feeds on dark despair
Where the shadows fall the bleakest -
You will find the cold-drake there.
For he seeks to chill your spirit
And to lure you down to death.
Learn to rule your soul magician,
Ere you dare the cold-drakes breath!

The griffon is a proud beast,
He’s master of the sky;
And no one can forget the sight,
Who has seen the griffon fly
But his will is formed in magic
And not mortal flesh and bone -
And if you would rule the griffons will
You must first control your own!

The kyree is a creature
With a soul both old and wise.
You must never think to fool him
For he sees through all disguise.
If you seek to call a kyree
All your secrets he shall plumb.
So be certain you are worthy -
Or the kyree will not come!

Your own heart you must conquer,
If the firebird you would call,
You must know the dark within you,
Ere you seek the cold-drake’s hall.
Here is better read, magician,
Than those books upon your shelf.
If you seek to master others,
You must master first yourself!"

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