New “old” spell

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    Hans Hellinger

    But I do admit that aside from the fact that I think that while medieval magic did include demonology, it also went in many other directions (and I believe the neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ was the most typical) … I also feel a certain responsibility not to drive young people toward demonology as you say. I want to be at least respectful of the gravity of some of this material and the traditions, because (maybe this makes me seem foolish to say it) I don’t think all of this is purely nonsense. It’s very hard to say precisely where the nonsense leaves off and some things we just don’t fully understand take over.

    I’ve seen this in enough other areas of medieval technology and traditions that I wouldn’t assume that we always know better today.


    Please, don’t think I don’t love Codex Superno just because it doesn’t have an explicit demonology section, I think it’s great, actually, it’s SUPER, NO? 🙂

    Seriously, I think it’s one the most interesting game supplements on magic I have seen these last few years, and since it’s meant for D&D, quite helpful for me. And it’s not like there aren’t other games that do the demonology thing and can easily be used and mined for info and inspiration (like Aquelarre, which even has “demonic” in it’s name). It’s always interesting for me to see how different players and game designers approach a given subject, in this case, how to create a nice low-magic system that reflects and is inspired by medieval practices of magic. Like I had mentioned, Lion & Dragon went a completely different direction, towards a system that doesn’t even have spells, just specific skills the mage uses, and it’s interesting that the fundamental, not subject to choices like the others, skill, is summoning used to summon demons and force them to do things for the mage (give information, perform divination, cast some spell on a third party, provide a familiar or a lesser demon to serve the mage for a while, provide the mage with a temporary talisman that could be used to do some magic operation, etc…). Clearly, the author felt that this was the most common of skills for a medieval mage (or the one that best suited his style of play of course). In later supplements, there is plenty on summoning other spirits, of the hours, decans, etc… But I think it’s maybe too simple (he is in the OSR movement, though, so…) and I do like the idea of there being spells. Maybe a mix of the two concepts would be great.

    I have that book “Unlocked Books” (in PDF), but haven’t read it yet. I am no specialist, just well-read and most of what I know and interests me in magic is because of RPGs. I have been trying to find as many of those books in the “Magic in History” series, and have a bunch of them. I never even dabbled in magic!! 🙂 I have dabbled in Daoist systems of meditation/inner alchemy, and some of them include plenty of (quite cool and interesting) star magic rituals, invocations of various divinities, etc… (this because of my martial arts practice), but outside of meditation and some breathing training etc… don’t do it anymore. My father was a big specialist on the Hermetic Tradition and Alchemy, and I know quite a few practicing alchemists (both Portuguese and French).

    I just like the idea of a high risk/high reward practice like demon summoning!

    I have some ideas about stuff that might be interesting for Codex Superno, will post them later (not about demonology).


    As for this being “pure nonsense” or not: I have a VERY healthy respect for all of these – let’s put it this way, for want of a better term – “spiritual technologies”. I doubt they subsisted for thousands of years (and still do…) if they didn’t have some utility, whatever it might be. Even if you do not subscribe to any supernatural explanation (and I would be hesitant to completely dismiss the supernatural as a legitimate path of inquiry), we know enough about persuasion, hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, conditioning, brain-washing etc… to suspect that much was at stake in all those methods of magic. I have extensive knowledge of “techniques of transformation of the self” from the East, and particularly the Daoist (and to a lesser degree the Buddhist) tradition, and I can recognize a lot of the same “analogical similarities”.

    It wouldn’t cross my mind to actually reproduce some spell or summoning technique in an RPG book. Plus, they are widely available on the internet without us having to take responsibility for its dissemination.

    [ edit: YES!! I did see the thread of Al Barqan’s advice on a … water problem resolution! 🙂 ]

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 2 weeks ago by JoseFreitas.
    Hans Hellinger

    I agree with you fully on all of this. And I’m very interested in any ideas you have including in the realm of demonology. I quite liked your Rope Trick. We will probably do another Superno book at some point as it sold pretty well and there is still a ton of untapped material to draw from. As you are well aware!

    As for the demonology again, yes I agree it’s not hard for them to find things online. And I don’t want to be too much of a prude about it. I’m trying to walk a bit of a fine line. As you say, I have great respect for ‘spiritual technology’ from all parts of the world. There is nothing wrong with learning about even the dark bits.

    It’s like in genre films and novels. I like the scary ones. But sometimes in the pop culture, especially in my country, they emphasize the nasty parts in a way that feels out of context and gratuitous. I want to try to avoid that. But I’m sure you know what I mean.

    This looks very interesting, and I hadn’t heard of it! I love the image they show there…

    Hans Hellinger

    Looking at more art from that game, I am in LOVE! Brilliant!


    Yes, Aquelarre is a cool game. It got a kind of legendary cult aura in Europe for many years, I actually have the first edition in Spanish in black and white, it had a very graphic, stylized type of illustrations. The more recent editions are gorgeous, too. As a book, it never minced its words, LOL, in a very spanish way! They had some problems with conservative traditionalist media accusing them of Satan-worshipping, though not as bad as they would have had in the US, of course (I think).

    You can see some of the black and white illustrations here:


    One thing I was thinking of exploring was “spirits”. A lot of spells in Superno state that the mage must “trace a circle, and write the names of three spirits” or “he must write the name of a special spirit on the object” etc… I think it is obviously good to assume that a mage would have knowledge of perhaps “generic spirit names” usable in their spells, and not complicate things further. Having said this, it could be fun to actually create a library of spirit names and sigils which a mage could learn and add to spells. Adding one of these more “advanced” spirits names to a spell would require a roll, perhaps mnemonics, or calligraphy etc…, with success allowing a bonus on the actual spell roll, or some minor benefit. It could also be possible to create a system by which a mage could call on a spirit for protection at any given moment, perhaps under the form of a memorized first level spell (“Invoke spirit”?), and correctly calling the spirit and tracing his sigil would provide some minor protection.

    Learning the name of one such spirit would require some time, perhaps as a function of the power of the spirit in question, vs. the level of the Mage, and of course, it would be contingent on having either a teacher capable of teaching it or a book containing the information. Learning the name/sigil would involve memorizing the name and the correct invocation words, as well as memorizing and being able to correctly mentally visualize the sigil.

    There is a lot of material to plunder… erh… get inspiration from and establish a list or library of such spirits with minor info on each so the player and DM can decide on which spells or rituals they may be used. And this list could be connected with specific books. The Mage might make it a goal to find copies, etc… to learn specific names. Many spirits are connected to the planets, for example, and could be used, with their sigils correctly traced, as a substitute for a talisman.

    Hans Hellinger

    I like these mechanics though this does get a bit deeper into demonology (potentially). However needless to say the same thing works with the celestial and ‘in between’ spirits too.

    The visualization of the sigils is very Giordano Bruno / Raymond Lull …

    It could certainly be a whole ‘nother type of magic. I think you could do 4 or 5 books the size of Superno on this kind of thing and many others, and I may end up going there (part of the way).

    I cold collect spirit names, of course many of them are in Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and so forth. There are some other directions you could go into –

    Norse (which continues into the Renaissance with books like the Liber Runarum)
    Celtic Magic – as derived from the various late Iron Age sources, Fenian cycle et al
    Cunning magic – which has rich traditions all over Europe but is sourced mainly from various 19th and 20th Century surveys, as they mostly didn’t write books, but there are some sources like the Merseberg incantations. And mythology like the Kalevala.
    Greek / Classical magic – Natural Magic following Ptolemy etc. down to curse tablets et al
    Neoplatonist magic – Both Classical and Renaissance version
    Arab and Persian – Takwin, Jinn and Devs, Peri and Efrit
    German / Folk – The German stuff sometimes makes it into period books
    Soldiers magic – Bellifortis down to the various sword charms I have in the book, but it goes way beyond that
    Hebrew / Kabbalah – Name and number magic, golems etc., angels (Mal’akh, Seraphim)
    Renaissance Magic ala Agrippa, Ficino, Paracelsus etc.
    Elizabethan Magic ala John Dee

    And of course, the type we are mostly referring to here, the Ars Goetia, Early Modern Demonic magic.

    And that’s just for Europe! It gets wilder the further afield we go….

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