The “Hermetic” tradition is a general grouping of various traditions
that all take an ordered, formulaic view of magic. Hermetic
traditions make use of formulae, correspondences and complex
symbolism for their magical effects. They also tend to be the
more “techno-friendly” of the magical traditions, making use of
computer media, technological tools and other modern conveniences.
Christian mages? Why not? Christianity has a very strong mystical
tradition dating back to the First Century Gnostics, and it is not
unbelievable that many Christians would attempt to reclaim some of
their faith’s magical heritage following the Awakening.
Catholics and other fairly conservative Christian sects would
carefully regulate magic according to the tenets of their faith.
Conjuring especially would be considered with care, lest the faithful
be led into sin through such practices. It is established that there
is a Catholic order of magician-priests, the Order of St. Sylvester,
that investigates matters magical for the Holy Mother Church. A
player-character who is a former (or even current) member of this
Order would be an interesting one. Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books
contain some good examples of Hermetic-type magic with a strongly
Other Christian sects will have varying attitudes towards magic: the
more liberal Unitarian sects can be almost Shamanic in their practice
of magic while some of the more conservative will consider magic a
tool of the devil, resulting in magicians who don’t believe that they
use magic at all (see Non-Magical Traditions, below).
Enochian is a language discovered in the 15th Century by an English
mage. Dr. John Dee. Dr. Dee claimed that Enochian was the “secret
language of the angels”, the primal tongue spoken before the Tower of
Babel and that it had great magical power. Several hermetic
traditions (including the Golden Dawn and Thelema, described below)
make use of Enochian as a ritual tool. Knowledge of the language
would be a useful centering skill for these mages.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a magical group in England
in the late 1800s that strongly influenced magical thought and
practice in this century. Much of the work of the GD( Golden Dawn) is consideredthe basis for modern Hermetic practice and it is likely that their
work would continue to pervade much of the Hermetic philosophy of
Shadowrun. Most of the baseline concepts of Shadowrun magic are
influenced by the GD material.
A good (but somewhat heavy) reference work is The Golden Dawn by
Israel Regardie. It contains very complete information on all of the
group’s rituals and practices.
Much like Christianity, it is likely that many followers of Islam
would also hearken back to the era of their ancestors when Islamic
sorcerers were considered some of the most skilled in the world.
Islamic mages would be very skilled in the various formulae and
equations governing the use of magic and they would make excellent
researchers and scholars of the Art. Islamic magic would likewise
cast a careful eye on conjuring, but Arabian folklore is somewhat
kinder with regards to spirits and Islamic mages would be more likely
to call upon djinn and ifrits than their Christian counterparts.
The Qabbalah (spelled several different ways in English) is a Hebrew
system of mystical correspondences intended to serve as a map for
attaining wisdom and enlightenment about the universe. Many magical
traditions have adapted and use the Qabbalah as a “psychocosm”(model
of the universe). Practitioners of the Hebrew mysteries would make
use of the Qabbalah and its symbolism as a way of performing magic.
Knowledge of the different Sephirot (spheres) of the Tree of Life
would make a useful Centering skill for Qabbalistic mages.
There are several distinct and active Satanic churches in the United
States and abroad today. It is highly unlikely that these
organizations with do anything by benefit from the Awakening, so
they, or something quite similar, will no doubt continue into the
Despite their bad reputations, most Satanic magical groups aren’t
really “evil”. Most follow a credo that is part neo-anarchism and
part hedonism, advocating freedom from all constraints imposed
by “straight” society.
Steeped in Christian, hermetic and pagan symbolism, Satanist groups
are usually quite Hermetic and orderly (ironically) in their magical
outlook. Some practitioners are more shamanic and follow an Idol
probably not unlike the Horned God from The Germany Source book (which
did likely form the basis for Christian beliefs in the Devil).
Taoist philosophy forms the basis for many magical practices in the
Orient, and the Taoist system of elements and correspondences (Earth,
Water, Fire, Metal and Wood) will form the basis of the post-Awakened
magical system that is much like Western Hermeticism.
Taoist mages are less likely to work with elemental spirits, as this
is a concept that is foreign to most of them. They are likely to be
skilled in dealing with ghosts and other such spirit-creatures
through Banishing and various protective rituals. Taoism also has a
highly evolved system of Alchemy, making Taoist magicians skilled
talismongers and enchanters.
Theosophy was a spiritualist movement formed by Madame Helena P.
Blavatsky in the late 19th Century. It focused on the development of
psychic and spiritual abilities, mediumship and communication with
spiritual beings from the past and outside of our reality.
By the 2050s, many of the concepts of Theosophy will seem quite dated
and even “quaint”, but some of the groups practices will still be in
use and the possibility of a secessionist group is not out of the
question. The Theosophists also had many interesting ideas about
Atlantis and Mu that could see renewed interest in light of some of
the beliefs in the Sixth World.
Thelema (a Greek word meaning “will”) is a magical movement begun by
former Golden Dawn mage Aleister Crowley, based on various messages
that were received by Crowley from his “Holy Guardian Angel” named
Aiwass. Thelemic tradition draws heavily on Crowley’s work while he
was in the Golden Dawn and thereafter, with some unique variations
and accents. Any of Other Great Beast’s various biographies and
prolific writings detail a great deal about Crowley’s magical
theories, many of which form the underpinnings of Sixth World
The shamanic tradition is based on the importance of inspiration, intuition and insight. Shamans draw their power from their relationship with the natural world and the power of their emotions as expressed in their rituals and ceremonies. Shamans are an even less cohesive group than mages are in terms of tradition. There are shamanic and native traditions all over the world that vary greatly in their practices and philosophies. In highly the multi-cultural Sixth World, any of these practices could have made their way into the heart of the metroplexes.Aztec
Aztec magical practices are pretty well covered in the Aztlan sourcebook. A player-character who followed the Aztec tradition who wanted to do something about the bad name his magical tradition had developed would be an interesting one to play.Brujeria is a magical tradition that is descended from an Aztec and Christian gestalt in much the same way as Voudoun is descended from African practices. It is still practiced in and around Mexico and would likely be considered “impure” by the more traditionalist magicians of Aztlan. Brujos would be useful “street magicians” in Aztlan and elsewhere when an Aztec flavor is called for in magic. Brujos would tend not to practice Blood Magic as it is practiced in Aztlan. If they used it at all, they would use only blood drawn from self-sacrificeDreamtime
The mythology of the native people of Australia is rich with imagery and ideas for the world of Shadowrun. The aborigines have a culture that dates back tens of thousands of years and includes a great deal of mystical knowledge that has been handed down from generation to generation through oral tradition. In the Sixth World, much of this knowledge likely came from previous Ages of Magic and the aboriginal Dreamtime is a timeless realm of magic and creative power much like the metaplanes of astral space in Shadowrun. Aboriginal shamans would be skilled travelers through the astral world and would have a great deal of knowledge about dealing with the various powers that dwell there. Australia’s current state in 2056 is directly the result of the dying aboriginal culture, which left no one to direct and nurture the power of the Awakened outback, which is now running wild. The work of the few remaining aboriginal shamans to restore the Dreamtime would make an interested adventure or campaign.Aborigine shamans are touched upon in Bob Charette’s Secrets of Power Trilogy and an interesting aborigine shaman is also presented in the Wild Cards anthology series.
The ancient traditions of India are quite shamanic in nature, and Sixth World India is a land of mystery. It’s population decimated by waves of VITAS, India is home to yogis and dervishes with strange, mystical powers (many of them physical adepts). It is also home to esoteric knowledge from the secrets of the Sanskrit language (considered by many to be one of the most mystical of tongues), to Tantric sex magic and the secret Thugee cults of the death goddess Kali. The Wild Cards science fiction anthology provides an interesting look at a Tantric magician in the form of the ace Fortunato and the less than fantastic Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom offers a look at some of the more fantastic settings of India.
The Hawai’ian tradition of magic is described briefly in Paradise Lost and mentioned in House of the Sun. The Huna tradition was practiced by the Kahunas, who were the guardians of knowledge and wisdom in ancient Hawai’i. With the work of occultist Max Freedom Long (whose books are recommended), the Huna tradition enjoyed something of a rebirth in the 20th Century, both in Hawai’i and elsewhere in America. By 2056, it is likely that haole practitioners of Huna are looked upon with considerable scorn on the part of the “true” Hawai’ian kahunas.
Shadowrun makes something of necessary generalization regarding “Native American” traditions. In truth, the native peoples of North America had numerous different spiritual and magical practices that could provide some interesting variations on the “vanilla” shamanism of Shadowrun.
The Navaho made extensive use of sand paintings for their ritual magic workings. The secrets of the most powerful sand paintings were held only by the shamans and spirit-men of the tribe. Alan Dean Foster’s novel The Cyber Way has an interesting use of a Navaho sand painting worth looking at.
The Kachina dancers of the Pueblo are an interesting group that is touched upon in the Native American Nations sourcebooks. There are also the Ghost-Shirt men of the plains Indians and the medicine men of the Five Nations tribes in the East. The fate of some of the Eastern Indian nations would be an interesting topic for an adventure. While the peoples of the west recovered their land from the old United States, the tribes from the East of the Mississippi lost out.
Rastafarians are best known for reggae music and smoking marijuana, but they also comprise a strongly religious group with their own unique faith and magical practices. The basic religious beliefs of the Rastas are based on an Ethiopian king who took the name Ras Tafari. They believe that Jamaica is Hell and the Ethiopia is the Promised Land and that one day they will return there to paradise.I believe once described how the Rastas in his campaign used their magical abilities to reclaim their promised land of Ethiopia and began healing the damage that had been done to that land over the years while keeping all of the non-Africans out of their land.
The Shinto religion of Japan is strongly focused on ancestor worship and the veneration of the spirits of nature. The kami are all manner of spirits, from humble nature spirits and ghosts, to powerful free spirits that the Shinto miko can deal with an attempt to appease.The ancient shamanic traditions of Japan make an interesting counterpoint to its modern, ultra-tech image in the Sixth World. The ancient spirits still stir in the Japanese forests and the snow-capped peaks are home to powerful kami. The Japanese imperial family plays a strong role in the Shinto religion and the Emperor is considered to be a kami in his own right, descended from Amaterasu the Sun Goddess herself. Perhaps some time during the last Age of Magic it was indeed possible for a kami (free spirit) and a human to mate, resulting in a family line with a strong talent for magic. The same may have happened in other places around the world, resulting in many human tales of divine offspring with magical gifts.
The samans of Siberia give us our modern word “shaman”. They are the classical shamans of anthropology: studied extensively. Their practices of travel into the Underworld and trance-working are well-described by Mircea Eliade (whose book Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy is required reading).
As described in Awakenings, Voudoun a magico-religious system composed of part African shamanic tradition, part Carib Indian ritual and part Catholic veneer. It is based around the worship of spirits/gods known as the Loa. Voudounistas can call upon the Loa to enter their bodies and possess them, allowing them to become the god for a time and speak with His or Her voice.
Macumbe is a Brazilian form of Voudoun. It technically refers to the many various offshoots and branches of Voudoun practiced in and around Brazil. There are many variations of the different Loa/Orishas. Macumbe is likely still practiced in parts of Amazonia, although much of it may be supplanted by other shamanic forms imported during the formation of that nation.
Santeria is a Spanish-influenced form of Voudoun based around the worship of Orishas, many of whom are similar to the Voudoun Loas. It is practiced in various areas of Central and South America. The tradition shares a great deal in common with Voudoun and makes use of divinatory rituals using coconut shells and seashells, as well as a great deal of herbal lore.
The division in Shadowrun between the Hermetic and Shamanic traditions in Shadowrun is at least partly artificial. Many real-world magical traditions draw upon techniques from both points of view, while others have followers who are either hermetic or shamanic in their outlook. In the game world, these magicians must be either mages or shamans, but it is possible for a single magical tradition to include both.
Astaru is the modern incarnation of Norse rune magic. Practitioners follow the ideals of the Norse gods, Odin, Thor, Balder, Loki and others and make use of the eddas and runes of the Norse mysteries for divination and spell symbolism.
Most Astaru practitioners are likely to be Nature Magicians in Shadowrun (as described in the Germany Sourcebook). Some will be mages who use runes as part of their magical “vocabulary”.
Chaos Magick is a 20th Century magical movement intended to create a “pure” magical system that is devoid of any one dogma or credo, a system that works with any particular belief system but which transcends all of them. Much of the work of Chaos Magick will likely form some of the underpinnings of the post-Awakening Hermetic system, but Chaos magicians also use some shamanistic practices in their work and cannot be classified as truly Hermetic (indeed, most would strong resist classification of any kind).
Discordians are really Chaos magicians, but followers of a credo of freedom and randomness. Most claim to follow the Goddess Eris, Lady of Discord, and practice messing with other people’s ordered world-views as much as possible. Discordians make great rebels and punks and their tradition would thrive in the post-Awakening 21st Century.
The Druids were ancient Celtic priests, shamans and philosophers as described in the London Sourcebook and Tir na nÕg. Modern Druids in the Sixth World are divided into shamanic nature worshippers who follow various totems and more Hermetic druids who embody the idea of the druid as a wise philosopher, astronomer and scientist.
There are several American (and international) branches of Druidism such as the Reformed Druids of North American and Ar nDraiocht Fein.
I’m not really sure where Chinese geomancy fits into the whole Hermetic/Shamanic scheme of things, so I’m putting it in here. Feng shui (literally “wind and water”) is a Chinese system of understanding the flow of chi in the landscape and through the Earth. It is generally used in architecture and landscaping to ensure that an area is in harmony with the natural energies there. The “dragon lines” of Feng Shui are almost certainly the same type of manalines exploited in Great Britain (see The London Sourcebook) and Chinese sorcerers would tend to use Feng Shui to located and make full use of these valuable magical sites.
Wicca or the Craft of the Wise exists in both shamanic and Hermetic forms. Most Witches are followers of Nature Magic, with the Great Mother, Moon Maiden or Horned God as their Idol. Others (usually more British and American) are mages who incorporate the religious observances of Wicca into their lives, but whose magic is distinctly influenced by Hermetic traditions in England in the 19th Century. Modern Gardenarian and Alexandrian Wicca are strongly Hermetically influenced. Wicca is a widely practiced religion and magical tradition that will likely see a great surge of believers after the Awakening, although many of them will lose interest after they find out that witchcraft isn’t the “quick fix” they thought.
Gypsy Magic is practiced by the Romany tribes of Europe as described in the Germany Sourcebook. Some Gypsy families have made their homes all over the world and it is possible to meet a practitioner of the tradition almost anywhere outside of Europe.
As Awakenings points out, there are magicians in the Sixth World who don’t even know that they are magicians or using magic. They describe their abilities in terms of a power other than magic. These types of characters, while rare, can be used to intrigue players who are otherwise jaded with the idea of magic. Some magicians might rationalize their beliefs as psionic powers, casting spells that conform to their model such as Mind Probe, Manabolt, Levitate, Magic Fingers and Ignite. They could even rationalize spirits as thought forms, manifestations of their own consciousness composed of psychic energy. Radically conservative religious magicians could manifest their powers as “faith healers”, speaking in tongues, laying on hands and casting out evil spirits through banishment. They might well be strongly anti-Awakened and deny that magic is the real source of their abilities.
Some real off-beat magicians might even manifest their magical abilities based around some detailed fictional universe such as Star Trek, Middle Earth, the Wheel of Time, or even Star Wars (21st century Jedi-wannabes, anyone?) I’ve even seen an interesting character with a magical tradition based on Doctor Who!
Author: by Stephen Kenson