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Francisco de Goya y Lucientes - Witches Sabbath (The Great He-Goat) - WGA10108

Any character can use a Magical Ritual in the Ghastly Affair RPG, but in order to become a true Magician one must first be initiated – either by another initiate, or some spiritual entity. What follows are some ways that a Magician character may have received their initiation. While the list is obviously not comprehensive, it will nonetheless serve to help define character backgrounds, and inspire potential sources of conflict in the ongoing Saga. The sources listed are ones that fit into the Gothic and Romantic themes of the game.

Afro-Caribbean Theurgy: The term includes such things as the Obeah tradition of Jamaica, the Lucumi tradition of Spanish Cuba (popularly known as Santeria), and the Vodun rites of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and La Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans). Both those of African descent, and the members of planter families (raised by enslaved nannies), might practice such traditions.

The Bavarian Illuminati: The actual Bavarian Illuminati was founded in 1776, as an initiatory order within Freemasonry. The founder Adam Weishaupt hoped to spread the ideals of the Enlightenment, combat the influence of the Church in politics, and ultimately reform society. The historical Illuminati were destroyed by a series of actions taken by the Bavarian state in the 1780s, but they have lived on in conspiracy theories ever since. They were widely believed at the time to be responsible for the French Revolution.

The Black Man of the Crossroads: Although strongly associated with the Hoodoo practices of the American South, the belief in meeting the Devil at the crossroads also occurs in European folklore. The Ritual is simple – the postulant goes to a deserted crossroads at exactly midnight on three successive nights, bearing the item that will become their magical Power Object. For the first two nights, the seeker must wait until 1 AM, although they may experience many temptations to depart before then. At exactly midnight on the third night, the Black Man will appear. He will take hold of the item brought, and then give it back. The postulant then signs in blood the book born by the Black Man, thereby receiving magical power, but consigning the Magician’s soul to Hell. The new magician’s Perversity automatically increases by 2 points. [Note: I have altered the traditional crossroads ritual for game purposes.]

Cabbalism: The authentic secret tradition of Judaism was taught from Rabbi to student, and usually only to men. A female cabbalist PC, however, could have disguised herself as a man, or have accidentally summoned an initiating angel while perusing the mystical books of her father (or husband). Alternately, her father might have been a renegade who initiated and instructed her regardless of tradition. Because of the rampant anti-Semitic prejudice of Ghastly Age Europe, Jewish Cabbalists might pretend to be Gentiles.

The Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry: Occultist, adventurer, and physician Count Cagliostro formed his own rite of Freemasonry in 1784. He claimed that it represented the true form of Masonry, rooted in the ancient Egyptian mysteries. Notably, Cagliostro’s Rite admitted women.

The Fairy Folk: Ireland in particular had a tradition of “Fairy Doctors”, healers whose power had been given to them by the Good Folk. As mentioned in the “Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual”, a Fairy Doctor is subject to a Fairy Ban, rather than having their abilities bound to a Power Object. Typically, the Ban prevents them from directly accepting payment for most services. Similarly, a character may have been taken to Fairyland, and then returned to the Mundane World (having been meanwhile taught some magic) when their abductor grew bored. Though only a few months might have seemed to pass in the Fairy world, the returned Magician will find that actually been gone for many years.

The Jesuits: In modern times, the education-focused Society of Jesus is seen as the liberal wing of the Catholic Church. In the eighteenth century, however, it was widely feared as a secret order dedicated to undermining the monarchies of Europe. Both the rumored occult knowledge of the Jesuits, and their undivided dedication to the Pope, caused a hysteria that resulted in them being widely banned (and officially dissolved between the years 1773 and 1814).

Martinism: The hermetic Christian mysticism taught by Martinez de Pasqually and his student Louis Claude de Saint-Martin was very popular in Revolutionary-era France. The highest degrees of de Pasqually’s “l’Ordre des Chevaliers Maçons Élus Coëns de l’Univers” (Order of Knight-Masons Elect-Priests of the Universe) were explicitly theurgic, and taught spirit evocation.

Native American Medicine: Perhaps through extraordinary circumstance a European was adopted into a Native American nation, and initiated into their spiritual healing tradition. Alternately, a character could be a Native American medicine man (or woman) who has traveled to Europe on a quest to find the source of the evil that has invaded their world.

The Near East: The early Romantics were often Islamophiles, and the idea of a secret Muslim society persisting in Europe is explored in Jan Potocki’s “The Manuscript Found in Saragossa”. The grimoire called “The Black Pullet” supposedly records the occult knowledge imparted to a French soldier in Egypt by a mysterious Turk. Even the “Fama Fraternitatis” claims that the legendary founder of the Rosicrucian Order was instructed in the Near East.

Neo-Druidism: The eighteenth century saw a profound revival of interest in ancient Celtic culture, although much of what was offered as authentically “Celtic” was of dubious historicity. Many antiquarians studied (and formed strange theories about) prehistorical megaliths, the “Ossian” poems, were wildly popular, and various people claimed to hold the wisdom of the pre-Christian Celts. The best known of such Neo-Druids was the Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams), founder of the “Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain”.

The Rosicrucian Order: Ever since the publication of the “Fama Fraternitatis” in 1614, European occultist have claimed to represent the mystical order founded by the legendary Christian Rosenkreuz. Casanova was notably fond of claiming to be a Rosicrucian, especially when it gained him money and/or sex.

The Scholomance: The legendary subterranean school of magic taught by Satan is an obvious choice when deciding how a Magician received their initiation, as is the similar “Black School of Wittenberg”. Famous literary alumni of the “Scholomance” include none other than Count Dracula!

The School of Francis Barrett: Francis Barrett’s 1801 occult compendium “The Magus” contained an advertisement seeking twelve students to learn his magical secrets. There is, of course, no known record of whether of not such a school was actually formed.

Tantricism: A character might have been initiated into one of the Indian religio-magical traditions that fall under the loose category of “Tantric”. Contrary to the modern Western stereotype, such groups were never exclusively oriented towards sexual mysticism. British, French, Dutch and and Portuguese soldiers and traders might well have returned from the East with strange powers and abilities. Or, perhaps the Tantric is a native Indian who has journeyed to the strange and exotic Occident.

The Witch Cult: Whether they had been invited to attend the Black Sabbath, or had wandered into it by mistake, characters will have been offered the opportunity to render the Osculum Infame, sign the Black Book, and gain the power to cast spells. Anyone who becomes a witch or warlock at the Sabbath will have been marked on their body with a scar, blotch, or supernumerary nipple. The mark is thenceforth their Power Object. If it is ever removed from their body, the witch or warlock will lose their ability to use magic (but still forfeit their soul after death anyway).