This Rough Magic
World and History
Editor’s Note: This section is excerpted from a general history called The Hidden World, written by an anonymous individual in the other world. It has been annotated by the present editor to provide a point of reference to the reader in a non-magical world.
Magic has always been part of our world, but it has ebbed and flowed like the oceans’ tides. In some periods of High Tide, magic was common, and magical beasts and beings interacted with humanity on a regular basis. When magic ebbs, the interactions with magical creatures and magical acts become less common.
The last period of high tide was antiquity and the Middle Ages, with magic ebbing into the Renaissance. Historians of magic believe that magic reached its lowest period during the Enlightenment (which was a term first applied ironically by magicians, although it was adopted wholesale by many of the thinkers of that time). Magic started to rise again after the Second World War, and has again begun to reach the highest recorded levels.
Because of the ebb and flow of magic, magic has not always been reliable. Because of this, there are those in the modern world who do not even believe in magic, although they are increasingly rare. Part of this stems from the fact that many magical beings are retiring in nature. In 1534, as Ebb Tide began, some of Britain’s magical beings gathered together for mutual protection, and formed what they termed the Hidden Parliament, which was sort of a mutual protection society for magic and magical beings. It had something of the character of a government in exile. By 1693 it had evolved into the Hidden Court, a more worldwide organization, which enjoined secrecy on its members as an aid to protection. The Hidden Court exists into the present era, and some of its more conservative members believe, even with High Tide coming, that magical is best kept secret. They sometimes run into difficulties with some of their more active and flamboyant compatriots.
The Hidden Court maintains the Great Roll, which is a list of the various types of magical beings. It is probably incomplete, given the great variety of beings encountered in the world. The nature of the ebb and flow of magic can make it sometimes difficult to discern fact from fantasy in stories about magical beings. An entire field of folklore has risen up which concerns itself with differentiating which of the old stories have their basis in historical fact.
Although magic levels continue to rise, and magical beings continue to appear, they are still something of a minority among humanity. Those who are able to change their shape, such as the theriomorphs, and those who are essentially human, such as Atlanteans and nymph-blooded, pass in human society without much of a ripple. Others are pushed to the outskirts, and live on the edges of humanity’s cities and towns. Sometimes they form part of the criminal underground, but often they end up in ghettoes, where the rest of the world just wants to forget they exist.
The governments of the world are, of course, aware of the existence of magical beings, and have taken various approaches to dealing with their magical citizens. North America was hit hardest by the Ebb Tide, and so the United States probably counts the most magical deniers among their citizenry of any First World Country. Because this, in spite of its strong ideological basis, it has been somewhat slow in ensuring the civil rights of many of its more outré inhabitants. Although the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1972, granting the franchise to everyone, regardless of physical appearance or magical status, discrimination still happens at the polls. Intelligent undead—such as mummies and vampires—are currently still denied the franchise, on the basis of being dead, although that decision is being appealed.
Because most local police stations do not have the resources to deal with magical crimes, the Federal Government established the Thaumaturgy and Magic Administration (TMA), an enforcement agency for dealing with such things. The FBI established their own Office of Magical Affairs, which can sometimes lead to issues with jurisdiction. In recent years, police forces in larger cities have begun to have departments for dealing with crimes of a magical nature. It is rumored that the head of the CIA is a magical denier, and that the CIA does not hire any magical beings into their organization. The CIA officially denies this, because it would be contrary to US anti-discrimination laws.
Other countries were hit less hard by the Ebb Tide, and magic is more in the open, although more the more physically different magical beings still face prejudice. As in many things, Canada resembles and differs from the United States. Canada was hit as hard by the Ebb Tide as the United States, but its close ties to the United Kingdom means that it had more contact with Faery during the Ebb Tide. There are less magic deniers in Canada than in the United States, and the Health Canada has recently authorized magical healing under the national health insurance program. Magical crimes in Canada are handled by the Royal Canadian Magical Police, a sub-branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
In the British Isles, both in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, Faery are very welcome. The Republic of Ireland actively encourages Faery to “come home to Eire,” and it is true that Ireland has numerous gateways into the Summerlands. There is currently talk in the Irish parliament of creating legislature to limit the use of ferrous metals in the Republic, in order to encourage the Faery to take up residence there. In addition to the Faery, the largest colony of Selkies in the world live in the North Sea around the coast of Ireland.
For its part, the United Kingdom has an office dedicated to Faery affairs. Non-Faery magical beings are perhaps less welcome in the British Isles than Faery. On the other hand, the premier departments of thaumotology in the world are at Oxford and the University of Cardiff in Wales. There are bursarships set up for British Atlanteans to study at the University of Cardiff, and the Order of Merlin has endowed a Chair there, and at Exeter College in Oxford, to study British magic. Magical crimes in the UK are dealt with by the OSS, or Office of Special Services, colloquially known as MI13. The current head of OSS, Lord Kittering is an Atlantean wizard of some considerable power.
Egypt has struggled in recent years. The Arab Spring overthrew Mubarak, but unfortunately has not brought peace to the country, as the various factions remain divided. Adding to the difficulty was the rise of a mummy purporting to be Ramesses II, and claiming the right to rule as Pharaoh over Egypt. Although he is opposed by Islamist groups, he has gathered a following, further fragmenting the struggling country. The West, used to dealing with certain kinds of terrorists, does not quite what to make of Ramesses, and so he continues to gain in power.
Other parts of the Middle East have fared better. Most of the Wizards in the Middle East are non-Concordat orders, but there is a similar organization in the Middle East, known in the West as the Order of Suleiman, named after the famous Israelite king, famous in Islamic lore for his magical abilities. It has not been enough to keep Syria together, and there are Wizards on both sides of the Syrian civil war. Wizards in the Order of Suleiman are not less than their Western counterparts. In fact, the magical abilities of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are almost as much in demand as their oil.
Israel represents a special case. The ability to make true golems was originally practiced by Jewish Wizards, and Israeli wizards are among the best in the world at making golems. The two most prominent Israeli wizardly orders are the Beney Shlomo (the Sons of Solomon) and the Mekashepey Matzada (the Sorcerers of Masada). Both orders are signatures of the Condcordat, in the European Region. They are not part of the Order of Suleiman. More recently, Israel has recently been deploying golems in IDF units around the settlements in the West Bank, an act which has been questioned by the United Nations and WeTA.
China is, as always, a study in contrasts. It possesses one of the oldest and most powerful magical traditions in the entire world, with major works on all of the magical arts, but the ruling Communist Party denies magic as part of official Maoist doctrine, although this has, as with many things, slowly changed in the last decade or so. Magic is still practiced away from the cities. Hong Kong is, as always, the same and different from the rest of China—it is one of the most openly magical cities in the world. People come from all over the world to visit Hong Kong’s famous Magic Street, a neighborhood were magical charms may be purchased and magical beings of all stripes live in the open. In fact, at least one of the known dragons, Ying Long, makes his home in Hong Kong. He has even been known to have audiences with seekers of knowledge. In general, magical orders in Hong Kong are Concordat orders, while those from the mainland are not.
Japan was not hit very hard by the Ebb Tide, but the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki have done strange things to the magical field in the islands that make up Japan. New, atomic and (sometimes) radioactive versions of traditional magical beings have begun appearing in Japan. On the one hand this is troubling, but on the other hand, it is the very blending of old and new which marks modern Japanese culture. It should be noted that magery is traditionally more supported than wizardry in Japan.
Korean magic is as old as the rest of the Far Eastern traditions, and feeds into the tensions between the two Koreas. Officially, North Korea toes the official materialist, magical-denying party line espoused by Communism. Korean shamans are some of the most skilled in witchcraft, and in the interactions with the Spirit World.
Part of the variety in response to magical derives from the variety in Earth’s magical field. Magic is not universal across the world, and the Ebb and Flow of Magic cannot be tracked by present science or magic.