Now we’re getting into some really interesting conceptual territory here as this week’s M:tC preview centers on the flavor of Arisen Magic. Let’s take a look at what Malcolm has to say about it:
Aura and Viscera
As some of you know, I worked on Mage: The Awakening a whole lot. That game clings to the motifs people associate with classic sorcery: earth, wind, fire, all that kind of thing. Plus subtle bodies, auras, and other things that glow in the night. Draw some Celtic knots and fire up the Loreena McKennitt playlist!
I’m intentionally exaggerating this vibe to discuss a common assumption — that magic is an immaterial force with material effects. We assume this because of the legacy of Cartesian dualism, subsequent cultural narratives, and other fancy liberal-arts concepts. It also works for us because it makes magic the realm of the soul: an inherently mysterious (and unnecessary, if you don’t believe in such things) domain where all our knowledge about the material world goes out the window, and our imaginations take charge. But these things are essentially modern assumptions. They stick with us because of our particular history, and in games like Mage, we can use them to great effect.
But Mummy’s conception of magic hails from an older tradition — one alien to our modern sensibilities. This is a path of sorcery that predates Plato and a “world of ideals.” It predates loving, omnipotent gods and the easy division of existence into material and immaterial realms. For example, Egyptologists believe that none of the various terms we translate into “soul” have the characteristics we assume. They are not invisible, untouchable things, but fade in and out of different aspects of the ancients’ lives. When the time is right, they touch and they feast, and just as often take out their rage through calamity, disease, and ill fortune.
So Arisen magic has a visceral, material quality, channeled into bodies and objects, with the latter being of especial importance to them. The Deathless know of invisible forces and abstract, magical power, but these things manifest with less of a New Age, power-up kind of “glow” than you might expect. And although mummies are the heirs of a rich metaphysical tradition, that tradition’s laws demand set, pragmatic manifestations “inscribed” into the soul like a charm painted on a sarcophagus… or carved into the shape of a mystic artifact.
So… yeah, pretty heavy stuff over there. I have to admit that unlike the other previews, I’m having a bit of difficulty comprehending this one. And so I turn towards Wikipedia for a quick look at the the Ancient Egyptian concept of the Soul. I remember a smattering of the older Mummy: the Resurrection using the parts of the soul as the basis for the Character types, or dynasties, but I’ll confess that it’s been a long time since I’ve read the book.
I find it interesting though that Malcolm actually mentioned the soul in reference to magic, perhaps in this incarnation, the magic of the Arisen tap into these Soul aspects? Hard to tell, but still very intriguing.
On a side note, that artwork that came with the article is awesome. Definitely enjoying the Persona / Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure vibe I’m getting from that thing sticking out of her back.