Factions & Subfactions

Akashic BrotherhoodCelestial ChorusCult of EcstasyDreamspeakersEuthanatosOrder of HermesSons of EtherVerbenaVirtual Adepts

Harmony is found in the flow of What Is. To attune one’s self to that flow is so simple that it can take lifetimes to master. It is, perhaps, the lot of man to strive against that flow; certainly, the modern world is filled with distractions from such purposes. And so, the Akashayana, commonly known as the Akashic Brotherhood in the West, seek harmony in a world filled with chaos.

History & Philosophy: Deeply misunderstood among the Council as “peaceful warriors,” devotees of the Akashayana Sangha (“Order of the Vehicle of Akasha”) strengthen their bodies to cultivate their minds – and, by extension, the Sphere of Mind – in their pursuit of harmony. And yet, harmony often demands conflict. Just as the strings of an instrument must be struck before they can vibrate harmoniously, so too has the Brotherhood endured millennia of war. In the process, the Akashayana refined Do (“the Way,” pronounced doe), the primal martial art from which all others descend.

Do, however, is more than mere war techniques. Encompassing a range of spiritual practices from tea ceremonies to Tantric union, Do focuses a person’s essence, form, and intentions. Through relentless training, the student (or Akashi) develops the concentration he needs in order to discern the essential dissatisfaction of Samsara, the perpetual cycle or flow of existence. A Harmonious Brother (an honorific used regardless of the mage’s gender) strives to help all beings realize samadhi (enlightenment, Ascension) and liberate each Bodhicitta (Avatar) from the cycle of rebirth.

The Akashayana teach that in a Time Before Time, humanity’s world was a single Mount Meru; there, the Meru’ai people lived in harmony. It’s been said that the Celestines Dragon, Tiger, and Phoenix taught the Meru’ai the disciplines that would become Do. Eventually, however, the imperfections of this world sundered Mount Meru from its celestial foundations, scattering the Meru’ai throughout the mountainous region later called Tibet. From there, they supposedly brought their language and ways to India, Nepal, China, and points east. Those origins have followed them wherever they go.

Over the millennia, countless teachers – notably Gautama Buddha, “the Awakened One” – have incorporated elements of Do into Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, hatha yoga, and folk medicine. Akashi helped build Shaolin Temple and Angkor Wat; they overthrew tyrants, and their monasteries reached across Asia from Nepal to the Ryukyu Islands. In modern times, echoes of their teachings have spread worldwide.

The shunyata (primal emptiness) that underlies all things holds karmic traces of all past thoughts and actions. This imprint has several names –Merumandala, Akashakarma, the Universal Consciousnessshared memory, and more; modern Brothers, though, call it the Akashic Record. A quiet mind, freed of ego, can sense the Record, in which all consciousness joins in a single stream. Once immersed in Akashic mind-space, a seeker’s awareness helps him parse the collective memories of Akashayana throughout history.

That history includes awful times: the Himalayan Wars against the early Chakravanti; conquests and revolutions; the sect’s murderous rivalries with the Wu Lung, Dalou-laoshi, and rival Akashic groups; the Boxer Rebellion and its opium trade beginnings; Mongol invasions and Kamikaze Wars; the Screaming Ghost Purge and Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward. Akashics have trained samurai and disemboweled themselves for honor; they’ve raised katars with the Rajput, stormed the Forbidden City, starved in Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, and turned to ash at Hiroshima. The outer calm of an Akashic masks deep pains and passions from every age and every conflict, and the dreadful karma from those times lingers even now.

Several constants link all Akashi, regardless of culture: discipline, which the study of Do demands; empathy, nurtured by connection with the Akashic Record; fitness, honed by the pursuit of Do; respect, sharpened by intense apprenticeships; and focus, without which one cannot attain even the most limited understanding of Do. Across the globe, they share the same terminology even when divided into different groups.

Today: The popularity of martial arts culture has brought many initiates to the Akashic Path; sadly, the modern world’s various distractions make this a difficult Path for all but the most dedicated aspirants.

Organization: The Brotherhood is essentially led by the Kannagara, monastic ascetics of the Phoenix Robe sect. Today, however, lots of power resides with the Shi-Ren (“Benevolent Aristocracy”), a faction of politically active traditionalists who want to expand Akashic influence in world affairs. Tradition mages in the West most often encounter warriors of the Vajrapani (derisively called “Warring Fists”) and the eclectic iconoclasts of the Li-Hai, who seek enlightenment through heroic experience.

There are many regional factions within the Akashic Brotherhood, and in the past, they have not been shy about going to war with each other or in the waging of epic vendettas. It is a great misconception to think of the Brotherhood as having anything remotely resembling a united front except on the deepest philosophical pillars of their existence (such as opposing the Technocracy).

Initiation: At temples, ashrams, and dojos across the world, Sifus (Masters) and Sihings (Adepts) accept disciples who display open minds and serious purpose. Each teacher typically teaches only one pupil at a time. Akashic doctrine maintains that every person must find his or her way to enlightenment; as a result, Akashayana receive very little guidance or encouragement. Many frustrated pupils give up on this Path; those who persist, however, cultivate impeccable fitness of mind, heart, and body.

Views on Fellow Traditions: “The engaging illusions they construct distract them from the transcendence they strive to achieve.”

Affinity Spheres: Mind or Life

Focus: “Magick” is actually self-perfection and cosmic harmony. To master such Arts in the proper Way (Do), a person must expand awareness in all things, clarify thoughts, focus the body, and subdue emotional confusion. Asian alchemy, craftwork, faith, yoga, social dominion, and martial arts training allow a Brother to channel life energy (chi) toward astounding feats of physical, mental, and energetic achievement. As a result, common paradigms include Bring Back the Golden AgeEverything’s an IllusionIt’s All Good, and occasionally Might is Right.

Heretics and idealists from the world’s monotheistic creeds, the increasingly embattled Celestial Chorus heeds the voice of the Divine. All living beings, conjured and animated by the One – by whatever name that One is known – can join that Song and shape Creation. Defying their varied orthodoxies, Choristers teach that the Song has many harmonies. A person of faith can hear it and approach the One through different creeds. And for their tolerance, the Singers have endured a bloodied history of martyrdom.

History & Philosophy: Chorister liturgies tell of unity and division, triumph and heartbreak. The oldest plainsongs recount the First Age, the Shattering, when the One’s pure unity was broken, and the First Singers, mortal heroes of boundless faith, who confronted and subdued the broken spirits of flawed entities.

Pentatonic chants resurrected from Egypt’s 18th Dynasty recall the blind priest Mentuhetep, who brought Pharaoh Amenhotep IV to the worship of the Sun god, Aton. The Pharaoh’s city, Akhetaten; his new name, Ikhnaton; his fellow worshippers, the Sacred Congregation, of disparate lands yet living in harmony – of all these things and more the Chorus sings. Then their chant becomes a dirge: jealous priests of the old faith destroyed Ikhnaton’s city and tried to wipe him from history. The Congregation dispersed across the Middle East.

And then, a rising melody, its counterpoint low and dark: For 16 centuries, diverse and fractious groups of Congregants grew in strength. First came Mithraic mystery cultists, guarded by Roman shields; later, after the Christ’s Ascension, a sect called the Messianic Voices. To suppress corruption in the nascent Roman Church, Messianic mage Claudius Dediticius founded his Knights of Archangel Gabriel, Messenger of God. He could not have imagined that the Gabrielites would eventually become the Cabal of Pure Thought, forerunners of the Technocracy’s New World Order.

Discordant notes herald the War Song: through simony and indulgences, king-making and cruelty, the Cabal amassed temporal power. Its rigid ways and rampant abuses, such as the barbarous Albigensian Crusade, drove away “heretical” magi. During the Western Schism, these Antinomians fostered new movements: WaldensiansHussites, and the Heresy of the Free Spirit. They reached out to like-minded spirits in Isma’ili Islam and the Bektashi Order; to the Majestic Kings of the Zoroastrians; even to the Hindu nationalist scholar-warriors, the Vishnudharadhara (“Vishnu’s Sword”). Such ecumenism was heretical, but Antinomians knelt to no Earthly authority, whether Church or State. And for this, they were hunted. The flames of the Inquisition burned hot. Meanwhile, in wars of words among themselves and of magick against Hermetics and the witch-folk, the Congregants faltered… if never in devotion, then certainly in progress.

A new harmony: Valoran, a French bishop hiding from the Inquisition, reunited the Messianic Voices and made peace with the Pagans. In 1461, with their gravest breaches healed, Congregants from every monotheistic faith presented a unified face to the Council of Nine as the Choeur Céleste.

Slow descending chords: as the Order of Reason rose, the new Chorus declined through persecution, massacres, and intolerance. To divide and conquer, the Cabal – and later the NWO and Syndicate – fostered centuries of culture war among the western faiths. And though fundamentalism strengthens the Chorus’ paradigm (many Sleepers still believe in miracles), it also destroys the message of divine unity.

Even so, Choristers still preach that message. More to the point, they live it. Among the Traditions, the Chorus is perhaps the most compassionate… and it certainly speaks loudest, as a whole, for the welfare of the Masses. Although certain members can be fanatical, not even the primitivist Singers are religious fundamentalists in the way Sleepers understand that term. To hear more than the simplest notes of the Song – and then survive within the Council – a Chorister must transcend dogma and embrace faith.

It’s not all peace and love, of course. Old wounds linger between this group and its companions. Out of necessity and faith, the Chorus still wrangles with this tricky alliance, debating where and when to draw lines with “friends” who practice loathsome Arts. Still, the Tradition’s visionaries present the Council with proof of what united tolerance can bring. “We Sing in harmony,” they insist, “and so might we all.”

Today: With regards to stickier theological nuances (the gender of Divinity, the limits of tolerance, the roles of Christ and the Prophet in the Divine plan, ethno-cultural implications, ‘holy’ wars and that sort of thing), modern Choristers deliberately avoid taking an official stance (having nearly shattered their own sect by trying to find one right answer for every question in the past). This careful ecumenism has disillusioned the more zealous (some few of whom have turned to more dangerous, resurgent philosophies and creeds that many hoped were extinct in the Modern Age), and left others unsettled yet with nowhere else to turn. There’s plenty of tension in the ranks as a result, but at least no one’s getting burned alive over it anymore.

Organization: Hierarchical since the Roman Republic, the Chorus was lead by its Curia for much of the last 1500 years, a 17-member synod of Chancellors and associated finance officers, tribunes, notaries, and liturgical commissioners. The most respected (or best connected) Chancellor would be awarded the ceremonial position of Pontifex Maximus. In the past, each Chancellor would themselves ideally command a territorial staff of Exarchs, sometimes called bishops. Exarchs would then supervise local leaders called Presbyters (priests or elders), who present this Tradition’s human face.

It is difficult to discern as of 2020, especially since the events of the Avatar Storm, how much of this sacred hierarchy has truly preserved itself. The Curia’s handle on events seems patchy at best in the last decade of a world descending into ever more vicious religious and sectarian strife. It has become comparatively rare to find an Exarch who can undeniably trace his authority to a Chancellor, and no way for younger Choristers to audit just who elected that Chancellor whatsoever. This lack of transparency has also fueled a drifting towards smaller yet better organized and more zealous splinter groups.

Initiation: Presbyters seek recruits through social outreach in church organizations. Some worshippers spontaneously Awaken through powerful religious experiences, particularly those involving music. Each new apprentice, or Catechumen, undertakes rigorous instruction from an experienced mage called a Præcept. Like many forms of religious training, this instruction involves matters of doctrine, personal discipline, and – obviously – lots of singing lessons.

Views on Fellow Traditions: “‘My father’s home hath many chambers’. Though I might not understand them all… might even, God forgive me, hate a few… I choose to remember that we all receive Divinely guided grace.”

Affinity Spheres: Prime; Forces or Spirit.

Focus: The Arts flow not from personal achievement or intent but from faith, unity, and harmony with the Divine Will. Singing – especially many voices joined in harmony – provides this Tradition’s oldest and most important instrument. Chorister magick tends to manifest in light, fire, warmth, harmonic vibrations, and sublime music. Faith and High Ritual form the core of Celestial Chorus practices, so the group’s paradigms include Creation is Divine and AliveDivine Order and Earthly Chaos, and, of course, It’s All Good – Have Faith.

Consciousness is both a playground and a trap. Infinite in possibility yet limited by necessity, the human mind is the seat of everything real… at least as far as human beings are concerned, anyway. And so, the Ecstatic Tradition expands reality by expanding consciousness. If you rearrange perceptions, they believe, you also rearrange potential.

History & Philosophy: To members of this “cult,” magick flows from altered consciousness. A mind unfettered is a mind released from limitations and thus capable of anything. Because consciousness depends upon limitations in order to function, though, a mage must be able to slide in and out of an open state. Thus, Ecstatics have crazy eyes and eccentric manners that seem compelling yet frightening.

Despite their image as snuggly hippie-kids, Ecstatics can be the scariest mages around. For starters, they’re intense and unpredictable. Many are not, as the saying goes, good with boundaries, and they tend to say and do inappropriate things, like kissing enemies and laughing at pain. They’re reckless by normal standards and often pull stunts that unAwakened folks could not survive. Passion is a sacrament they indulge to exciting and often uncomfortable extremes. “Extreme,” in fact, is a good way to sum these mages up. They are, by definition, ex: outside, beyond, no longer a part of what has come before or after.

Often linked with the 1960s – perhaps the high point of this group’s influence – ecstasy is among the oldest Paths on Earth. Primal humans, according to Cult lore, ate psychedelic mushrooms and thus opened the conflux between spirit, animal, and homo sapiens. Even now, Ecstatics see themselves as living gateways between flesh, spirit, and imagination, bound to all three and transcending each; in honor of their ancestors, many employ entheogens – drugs that “open the god within” – not as vices but as tools of sacred illumination.

For a while, especially during its psychedelic heyday, this Tradition wore its ‘cult’ moniker with pride, despite the term’s sinister implications in the popular imagination of the West. However, there have always been just as many who preferred the more mysterious and melodic name of Sahajiya (sa-HA-gee-AH, or “the Naturals”) among many other variations. Indeed, to most people, they are simply guru, yogi or teacher.

Since those origins, Ecstatic mages have lived beyond the bounds of respectability, devotees of a left-hand path that embraces sex, drugs, music, dance, pain, pleasure, risk, and even death in the name of divine madness. Seers and shamans, rake-hells and prophets, these mages run with Sleepers who aren’t afraid to go beyond. And yet, largely thanks to their reliance on extremity, Council Ecstatics have powerful ethics. The Code of Ananda – the Cult’s commandments – forbids these mages from forcing their Path on unwilling partners. “Passions,” the Code declares, “are the seat of the Self, and if they bleed, so too does the Soul.”

Today: More than their esoteric peers, Ecstatics enjoy the company of unAwakened folks. Challenging Sleepers to shake off that sleep, these mages favor art, music, and bohemian and neotribal subcultures – environments where they can reward courage and inspire creativity.

Organization: Informal and nomadic, this Tradition’s loose structure reflects its focus on individual transcendence. It has several subsects but few leaders as such. Cultists tend to congregate at festivals, raves, concerts, and other tribal gatherings, mingling with “sleepwalkers” who tread the line between Sleeper culture and full Awakening. For the most part, this group favors influence over organization. Each Ecstatic is encouraged to follow his or her own Path, so long as that Path doesn’t violate the sacred nature of other people. The only rigid element in the Sahajiya Path is the Code of Ananda and its emphasis on compassionate respect. Everything else is negotiable.

Initiation: Five Steps to Ecstasy: 1: Surrender your fear; 2: Focus your intentions; 3. Open yourself; 4. Attune yourself; 5: Repeat Step 1. To help a new Ecstatic into Step 1, a mentor challenges that person to leap beyond his fears and then use his intentions to fly instead of fall. Diksham – the mentor/ student covenant – provides a safe space for the initiate to learn magick and control. Often, mentors and students become lovers, opening a channel of intimacy and trust that goes beyond mere sex. That’s not a rule, though, and compulsion is considered the worst sin an Ecstatic can commit.

After initiation and initial training, a mentor often pulls away from her student, trusting him to find his own way. She’ll provide advice or secondary helpers, but she refuses to become a crutch. In order to grow along this Path, a mage must shape his own triumphs and mistakes.

Views on Fellow Traditions: ” A bunch of tight-assed academics who’re often scared to push beyond the obvious limits of their disciplines and embrace everything they could be on the other side of those expectations.”

Affinity Spheres: Time; Life or Mind.

Focus: “Get out of your own way” sums up the Ecstatic paradigm. To touch the Lakashim (“Divine Pulse”), a person must blow open the doors of inhibition and fear. Magick is the communion between a focused mind and the Lakashim – a dance of possibilities directed by crazy wisdom. To perform it, an Ecstatic guides Ojas (life force) energy with conscious but flexible intentions. Ideally, a mage operates in a flux state in which neither time nor inhibitions block the life force – aware of what she’s doing and yet open enough to do anything.

The Cult’s infamous substances and stimulations are meant to blow open mental doors and blast away obstacles to Enlightenment. That’s the theory, anyway. In reality, those same tools can become obstacles in their own right. Smart Ecstatics, then, keep shifting their tools around to avoid stagnation and dependence on “the same old shit.” Crazy wisdom is the core of this group’s many practices, which include everything from gutter magick, yoga, and martial arts to cybernetic hypertech. And so, paradigms include Creation’s Divine and AliveEverything is ChaosIt’s All Good, and quite often Everything’s an Illusion.

Earth has a voice. Not many folks can still hear it. Long ago, all people listened to that voice – the beat of Life and the song of Spirit. Pride, however, has driven wedges between our world and the spirit realm. It takes strength and vision to hold on to that primal connection in spite of all the distractions of modern life… even more so when that modern world has tried everything in its power to break you. And yet, the Dreamspeakers and their people refuse to be broken.

History & Philosophy: Endurance is perhaps the best word to summarize the Society of Dreams. Its vision has endured. Its people have endured. The Tradition itself has endured ignorance, slavery, division, oppression, betrayal, marginalization, stereotyping, and a simplistic view from outsiders that has likewise endured long past all reasonable expectations. Aside from the group’s staunch allies in the Verbena and Ecstatic Traditions (and often including them as well), the Council’s view of the Dreamers has remained paternalistic and patronizing for over 500 years. And yet, they endure.

It’s appropriate that this Tradition had not one founder but two. Naioba and Star-of-Eagles both heard the call of their spirits in very different lands, yet they transcended their differences to fall in love with one another. The sacred marriage between these female and male devotees inspired a diverse confederation of African, Native American, and Asian visionaries, for while that marriage was a ritual, the love involved was real. Although their romance ended with Naioba’s assassination by a Vision-Mocker, that love, with its many symbolic ties, still holds the group together.

With few exceptions, the Kha’vadi (“those whose vision shapes the world”) come from indigenous cultures or their technological descendants. Some embrace modern fashions and technologies, whereas others favor their ancestral ways. Though the Tradition holds a handful of European, Oceanic, and Asiatic spirit-workers, the vast majority of the group hails from Africa or the Americas. Often referred to by the Siberian word shaman, they’re more properly thought of as medicine-people: folks who use natural healing gifts rather than selfish magick. Instead of bending reality to their will, the Kha’vadi work with reality… not the twisted reality of the Technocratic world but the deeper reality of the World Spirit in its many forms.

Thanks in part to its healer nature, this Tradition gets stereotyped as a bunch of bongo-beating throwbacks. That impression is absurd. Kha’vadi are spirit warriors fighting to save a sick world from itself. Especially in recent years, the Dreamers have become more militant than they’ve been for centuries. Groups like the Red Spear and the Ghost Wheel Society defy the Tradition’s “stoic savage” image, with a newer faction, the Akinkanju (“Unbroken”)  believing some wounds can only be cleansed with fire.

Today: These days, a new vista offers fresh hope: the Internet – a global connection network with its own spiritual aspect. Computer-minded Kha’vadi realize that the Digital Web has a consciousness… and by extension, a soul. The practical tools of social media allow Dreamspeakers from across the world to meet up and reconstruct their roots, and the spiritual side of the Digital Web nurtures a growing technoshamanic movement whose possibilities and repercussions reach further than anyone, even the ’Speakers themselves, can imagine…

Organization: Although the shamanic Path tends to be solitary, medicine-people can be quite social. And so, this Tradition combines a respect for autonomy with the supportive network of a (albeit somewhat loosely defined) tribe. For centuries, many Dreamspeakers preferred to wander their own roads; in recent years, however, the group has returned to the community-centered focus of many pre-imperial cultures. Separation, after all, has been a liability. With stronger bonds between them, the ’Speakers share a greater voice.

In previous ages, Dreamspeakers met in distant corners of the spirit world – even forming Realms where the Old Ways remained untouched. Recently, however, the Unbroken Folk have turned their focus to the material world, meeting in both rural and urban settings, often gathering at powwows, hip-hop shows, block parties, and neotribal festivals. Social media groups, too, provide meeting grounds for the new breed of Dreamspeakers. In all cases, the previous solitude has shifted toward a more social focus.

Even so, Kha’vadi remain distinctly informal. Elders are respected by their younger peers, but youthful vigor feeds the future and earns its own sort of respect. The longwinded titles favored by “the White Council” sound stupid to the average ’Speaker. Deeds and wisdom speak louder than laws.

Initiation: Like his Tradition, a Dreamspeaker survives apparent death. Part of his initiation involves ritual (sometimes literal) demise; that passing brings the shaman into the spirit realm, where he faces trials and challenges. Assuming he survives that ordeal, the kaimi (“initiate”) becomes a so-cha (“disciple”) and returns to the mortal world with fresh insight and greater vision.

Views on Fellow Traditions: ” Despite all their admirable qualities, I trust the ones I must, consider a rare few of them my friends, and keep eyes in the back of my head open for the next inevitable failure.”

Affinity Spheres: Spirit; Force, Life, or Matter.

Focus: Medicine, not magick, is the essence of Dreamspeaker Arts. An avatar is Howahkan: the mysterious voice that speaks to those who are ready to hear it. Sorcery is an egotistical and ultimately destructive Path that leads people away from the Good Road of harmony with the World Spirit. To reach past the illusions of mortal life, one must listen to Creation’s heartbeat, face death, and remain open to the voice through which all life speaks.

Practice-wise, ’Speakers favor medicine-work, craftwork, shamanism, crazy wisdom, and faith. A few pursue cybernetics, yoga, Voudoun, and witchcraft, but their companions often shun them. Common paradigms include A World of Gods and MonstersCreation’s Divine and AliveBring Back the Golden Age, and sometimes Might is Right.

Death is not an end but simply part of a larger cycle. Life picks up where death leaves off, and death finishes what life begins, bringing it back around for another go at things. Sometimes, a life becomes toxic to everything nearby. At that point, death becomes a blessing… a blessing the Euthanatos Tradition is ready to bestow.

History & Philosophy: The Euthanatos… or, more correctly, Euthanatoi… see themselves as keepers of the Wheel. That’s a problematic duty, with fear and corruption its perpetual companions. The will to live is strong, and so the “good death” mages often find themselves cast in the murderer’s role. Even the kindest of them – the ones who become medical professionals, priests, grief counselors, and so forth – spend most of their time around death and its complex passions. Each member of the group has himself died and been reborn. In a literal sense, the Euthanatoi carry a bit of death everywhere they go.

The most common names for the Thanatoics outside North America and Europe is Chakravanti (“people of the Wheel”), or Niyamavanti (“people of our Rule”). These names have become increasingly common as immigration from regions like South and Southeast Asia have greatly accelerated in the last few decades.

Reincarnation forms a vital part of this Tradition. These mages don’t just believe in it – they know from personal experience that reincarnation exists. Rooted in a fusion of reincarnationist creeds from India, Greece, Africa, Tibet, and elsewhere, the group keeps the Great Wheel spinning. In the old days, this was easier. People lived, they died, they joined the Wheel and returned to live new lives. But between the spread of one-life creeds, materialist atheism, resuscitation techniques, titanic wars, and the sheer number of living and dying people, the Great Cycle has been jammed.

Today: Abominations like vampires and other undead things have multiplied. The material and spiritual realms have been packed with ghosts of many kinds, and although the Avatar Storm might have offered a housecleaning of sorts, the Wheel has required… shall we say, more direct forms of maintenance. And so, the Chakravanti have, all too often, been forced to become killers. Even so, life, not death, is the true heart of this Tradition. Above all things, the Wheel must be maintained.

Organization: Like their Verbena and Ecstatic allies, the Chakravanti pursue a sometimes sinister Path that other mages often fear and rarely understand. Yet among the Traditions, this group is perhaps the most ethical. Their awful responsibility demands no less. The group’s strict code – the Dharmachakra, or “Eight-Spoked Wheel of the Law” – emphasizes the Cycle (Samsara); unity of all things (Advaita); acceptance of mortality (Kala); responsible guardianship (Pravitra); self-control (Dama); compassion (Daya); avoidance of temptation (Tapas); and the personal experience of death and rebirth (Punarjanman). Although the group itself lacks rigid hierarchies, all members of this Tradition are expected to know and follow this code, on pain of final death and removal from the Wheel.

This strict code requires strong bonds between mentors and initiates. As a result, although the death-Tradition contains many different sects, the relationship between a teacher (Acarya) and her student (Chatra) is essential. The Chatra swears a Vrata (“life-oath”) to both his mentor and to the Tradition as a whole. Breaking that oath disgraces not only the student but the teacher as well… and compels the Acarya to hunt her student down for punishment.

Initiation: Each Thanatoic mage undergoes the Diksha: a ritualized physical death. Returning from the Shadowlands, that person undergoes a long apprenticeship that includes memorizing the Niyama and learning the many arts of healing, fate, and murder. Such apprenticeships can last for years and typically involve quests, tests, and challenges in which the student confronts the awful implications of his Path. Without that awareness, after all, a “death-mage” is exactly what people think he is: a monster who’s everything this Tradition has sworn to destroy.

Views on Fellow Traditions: “The most fascinating parade of visionaries, misfits, bastards, and heroes ever to walk the Earth and survive the experience for long.”

Affinity Spheres: Entropy; Life or Spirit.

Focus: As masters of life, death, Fate, and Fortune, the Euthanatoi view magick as an extension of the Cycle. By turning the Wheel, these mages control probability as well as the forces of mortality. That turning focuses on the cyclical nature of existence, and so a Chakravat uses practices and instruments like crazy wisdom, faith, High Ritual, medicine-work, reality hacking, martial arts, shamanism, and occasionally Voudoun to direct those energies toward the desired end. Yoga has an essential place in this Tradition’s Arts. Divine Order and Earthly Chaos might be the group’s most common paradigm; others include Everything’s an IllusionCreation’s Divine and Alive, and even, believe it or not, It’s All Good – Have Faith.

Just as Solomon bound spirits to his bidding, as Merlin raised a stable boy to kingship, as John Dee named Elizabeth’s realm an Empire and then anchored it in time and space at Greenwich, so too do the Houses of Hermes turn the hidden wheels of the world. Their Arts are the most refined, their knowledge the most exhaustive, their Wills the most dedicated to excellence. In many minds (most especially their own), the Order of Hermes defines the word mage.

History & Philosophy: As the largest and most organized Tradition, the Order of Hermes has influenced – they would say “defined” – the Western experience of magick. Hermetics command a huge range of secrets and wards. Their wealth is vast, their Wonders potent, their libraries breathtaking. The Order boasts the greatest number of Chantries, Masters, and Archmages. Its achievements include the first codification of magickal study, the formulation of the Spheres, and, indeed, the formation of the Traditions themselves.

Still, the Order has faced setbacks and catastrophes: the loss of both its greatest Chantry, Doissetep, and its leading Master, Porthos Fitz-Empress; the extermination (some say “self-destruction”) of its most powerful luminaries; the devastation of priceless archives. Yet the reaction from other Traditions appears to be a collective sigh of relief. Why?

Because Hermetic wizards are, to a one (and to a fault), meticulous, pedantic, majestic, and haughty. The Preface to the venerable Hornbook – a thick volume presented to each new apprentice – captures this attitude in one paragraph:

“What mage in any rival Tradition, of whatever skill, can boast the comprehensive knowledge of our least Adept? What other mage can offer any shred of theory to support his magick? The aboriginal shaman with his drums and rattle gives over his body to a spirit he knows not. The cleric with his song begs like a child for the favor of deities. The Ecstatic with his vice burns like a meteor and vanishes, and the witch with her blood-rites aspires only to procreate. Even the Akashic with his meditation and exercise seeks passive contentment in false belief. Meanwhile, the Hermetic with firm Will commands, ‘Do!’ And it is done.

This bombast reveals the Order’s obnoxious confidence; the average Hermetic can back it up, too. Among the Traditions, only the Verbena and Dreamspeakers have as violent a history with the hated Technocracy. It’s no accident that the Craftmasons (themselves formed from a renegade Hermetic sect) chose to initiate hostilities by blowing up one Hermetic citadel and to stage the Convention of the White Tower in another. Nor is it an accident that Master Baldric LaSalle chose to host the Mistridge Tribunal – the first step toward the Grand Convocation – in the ruins of that first attack. An Ecstatic might have provided the inspiration, and the Verbena might have secured new allies, but the Order of Hermes forged the foundation upon which the Traditions have been built.

Even rival Traditions accept the Order’s vast and spectacular history. In ancient Egypt, two auspicious precursors invented the alphabet. Archmagus Solomon bound many spirits that still serve the Order today. Pythagoras founded the cult of Hermes in Greece. The Corpus Hermeticum, attributed to Hermes Trismegistus (“Thrice-Great Hermes”), forms the basis of the modern Tradition. Even Sleepers recall a few Hermetics from those storied times: Merlin. Paracelsus. Saint- Germain. Cagliostro. From Gandalf to Crowley to Potter, the popular acceptance of magick has arisen from Hermetic archetypes. In the new millennium, the group enjoys more popular acceptance than ever before.

Today: The Masses might not pursue the Hermetic Arts, but in a subconscious sort of belief, they accept the Order’s ways as the face of Western wizardry. And so, though their various setbacks have cost the Order dearly, Hermetic mages greet this age with renewed vitality. The loss of the Archmages, the destruction of Doissetep, the war against vampires, the purge of corrupt House Janissary… they’re all like the collapsing Tarot Tower: the shattering of bondage that compels transformation. This age’s Hermetics are rolling up their sleeves and remaking the Order from its foundations while keeping those foundations – confidence, knowledge, excellence, and Will – intact. Guided by a vision of the City of Pymander – the ideal of global Ascension under Mystic Will – Hermetics remain committed to perfection. Given their high purpose, they can accept no less.

Organization: The Order is rigidly hierarchical, disciplinarian, and regulated. The Code of Hermes and its Peripheral Corrigenda dictate behavior, protocol, rules for certámen challenges, and the proper inscriptions for Chantry doorways. At least thirteen Houses still exist as factions in the Order’s endless, brutal infighting. Some Houses predate the Norman Conquest (Bonisagus, Flambeau, Quaesitor, Tytalus, Verditius, and the catch-all Ex Miscellanea); others are newer, less established and even quite recent (FortunaeHong Lei, Shaea, Skopos and Xaos).

Initiation: Recruited from academia, esoteric religious orders, science, or the military, a student must survive a punishing apprenticeship under an unforgiving mentor (a mater or pater). The Order recognizes nine Degrees of mystic advancement: NeophyteZelatorPracticusInitiateInitiate ExemptusAdeptAdept MajorMagister Scholae, and Magister Mundi. The training aims to provoke, by the conclusion of the Third Degree, a gradual Awakening more akin to a process than to a single jolting moment.

Views on Fellow Traditions: “Despite venerable practices and occasional insights, our allies lack the discipline to achieve lasting power or control. Even so, they have stood with us for centuries, so they remain worthy companions.

Affinity Sphere: Forces provides the core of Hermetic training. Certain Houses favor Life, Matter, Mind, and Spirit as secondary pursuits, but Forces is always essential.

Focus: A Hermetic mage commands nothing less than the keys to the universe. And so, these consummate scholars master ancient and arcane rituals through constant study and intense practice. Tapping elemental currents through incantations, signs, seals, paraphernalia, and secret languages, the Hermetics are – by necessity – secretive and suspicious. They command tremendous power, after all, and their rivals lurk everywhere.

Alchemy, dominion, and High Ritual form core practices within the Order’s ranks. No Hermetic mage lacks such training. Certain Hermetics add chaos magick, the Art of Desire, hypertech, craftwork, weird science, yoga, and occasional malficia to that core, pursuing such paradigms as A Mechanistic CosmosDivine Order and Earthly ChaosMight is RightTech Holds All Answers and, naturally, Bring Back the Golden Age.

The only thing holding humanity back from achieving its yearned-for Utopia is the smallness of its imagination. So long as individuals allow society and its rulers to dictate the size and extent of their dreams, mundane boredom and all its attendant suffering shall persist. Even the magickal imaginations of most of the Nine Traditions are hampered by what was allowed them in times past by the Powers That Be, whether those powers were shamans, pharaohs, or priests. Only the future is free of these chains, unset and as yet undreamt of. Only the truly bold can make the future real in the present, and the Etherites are nothing if not bold!

History & Philosophy: A society of radical technomantic dreamers, the original Sons of Ether proved unfit for the confined and suffocating paradigm of the Technocracy. Although they adopted their current name at the turn of the 20th century, these Enlightened Scientists are both sons and daughters of their rallying theory: that of Ether, that subtle substance that lies behind the guise of all phenomena in the universe. Sometimes criticized as a boys’ club by modern mages due to its early Victorian customs, the Society of Ether has always valued brilliance over gender.

The Etherites trace their lineage back to ancient Troy, although few outside the Tradition accept this claim. Their foundation of natural philosophy was reputedly established among the pre-Socratic thinkers of Greece and the Mediterranean, recorded in a book titled (by its Islamic translators) the Kitab-al- Alacir, or Book of Ether. As the first Inspired (that is, Awakened) attempt at a systemic natural philosophy, the Kitab is revered by Etherites, many of whom Awakened when reading it.

From a loose intellectual tradition practiced by disparate individuals, the group finally gained a societal foundation with the establishment of Hermetic House Golo in Medieval Italy. This eventually became the Natural Philosophers Guild, and then, in the Victorian Era, the Electrodyne Engineers, whose fascination with the novel power of electricity promised to liberate the common man from physical and metaphysical darkness. Such idealism remains the heart of this Tradition. The Technocracy could not crush it. World wars could not purge it. Neither skepticism nor failure nor claims that Etherites are all mad and reckless can prevent these luminaries from bringing their magnificent Science to the world.

Yes, by the standards of most people (even those lunatics with whom they share company), most Etherites are eccentric. Bizarre. Perhaps even mad. But such madness is the flare of a nova encased by an all too human shell. In a world determined to be small, the Society of Ether breeds heroes. If those heroes demolish labs, companions, even… um, cities… upon occasion, such casualties are the cost of true Enlightenment. And the world is improved thereby. Is not the current age proof of this? Flying machines! Recording technology! People no longer die by the thousands from plagues or starvation! (Well, perhaps except in those lands without much Science… a pity, that.) And so, despite its costs and obstacles, the Sons and Daughters of Ether remain dedicated to the advancement of wondrous Science!

As far as their fellow Traditions are concerned, most Etherites seem like selfish egotists, pushing paradigms wherein individuals can excel while leaving the Masses behind. Only the Etherites (so they insist) seek to bestow the benefits of Awakened Science on everyone. “All, or none!” is their creed. As a result, they strive for recognition – not only from their Enlightened peers but from the Masses most of all. Such acceptance, they know, reflects the striving human spirit – a spirit that looks toward Tomorrow and the many marvelous Things to Come.

Today: In the 21st century, this Tradition has come into its own. The influence of science fiction – especially its Etherian offshoot, steampunk – in popular culture allows them to stand proudly at the forefront of human endeavors. Among all Traditions, only the Virtual Adepts (and sometimes the Akashayana) enjoy similar allowances from Paradox. Modern reality favors this weird Science, and although Etherites occasionally overreach themselves and suffer the Paradox Effect anyway, the Society of Ether manages to get away with… well, “murder” is such an ugly term. Let us say, instead, magnificence.

Organization: Etherites, despite their boisterous talk about society, are often fractious and competitive. Fellowship exists as an avenue for seeking praise; criticism merely prods you to go back to the lab and do better next time. Although many Etherites bury themselves in research for weeks on end with very little companionship, they eventually seek the company of their peers, no matter how obsessive their work becomes.

Initiation: Prospective Etherites tend to be selected by true Scientists, based on some sign or evidence of latent genius. These prospective initiates receive a test designed to force them to confront the implications of their ideas. Most often, the would-be Scientist is left to discover a copy of the Kitab-al-Alacir, whose concepts often serve to Awaken the spark of bigger, brighter accomplishments to come.

Views on Fellow Traditions: “Fascinating allies, I suppose… but they call us mad?

Affinity Spheres: Matter; Forces or Prime.

Focus: Science! Or, more accurately, an imaginative grasp of natural principles channeled through established physical and energetic technologies. Earthier than their Virtual Adept colleagues, these technomancers prefer to employ Science that can be seen, held, demonstrated, and confirmed even by the eyes of fools. To that end, Etherite Science is showy, romantic, and gracefully futuristic, even if that future looks more like classic science fiction than like mundane science fact.

As a practice, an Etherite may use anything that seems to work. Most Scientists, however, favor gloriously esoteric variations on alchemy, craftwork, cybernetics, hypertech, reality hacking, and, of course, weird science. Paradigms focus largely around concepts like A Mechanistic CosmosEverything is DataMight is Right, and Everything’s an Illusion, but they usually boil down to Tech Holds All the Answers.

Life is shit and piss and blood. Pain and pleasure are inevitable birthrights. Our spirits are not some transcendent separate thing but are instead the raw vitality of Life itself. Drawing from among the oldest mystic understandings, the Verbena Tradition views life as a wondrous, implacable cycle – a dance of elements in which a mage calls tunes but cannot herself resist the dance. This view scares the living hell out of most folks, and that’s just how many Verbena like it. If you can’t hang with the truth, they figure, just get the fuck out of the way!

History & Philosophy: Like the herb for which they’re named, the Verbena (or, more correctly, Verbenae) excel at healing, divination, and  purgation. No other Tradition understands Life magicks the way they do. Masters of shape-changing, animal affinities, plant craft, and weather work, Verbenae stay close to Nature in her truest forms… and some of those forms can be bloody indeed. Although it’s rare, the Verbenae have been known to practice animal and human sacrifice. More often, they carve runes in their own skins, endure hideous ordeals, subject themselves to painful deprivations, and perform other acts of self-sacrifice in order to avoid harming other beings. Every Verbena grove has a World Tree, the living symbol of Creation as a whole. These trees have been stained red by the rituals performed in those groves; the darker the red, the more powerful the grove.

Although the Tradition itself formed in the 1400s, Verbena roots run far deeper. Like many mystic societies, these mages trace their origins to primal humanity’s beginnings… and in their case, they’re probably correct. The primordial Wyck, they say, embodied the first fusions of spirit, mind, and flesh. Essentially gods, they soon guided the first human beings toward wisdom and magick. The Old Ways, say these traditionalists, are the inheritance left by those entities, and the Verbenae – and perhaps the Dreamspeakers – are its truest heirs.

These Old Ways are, by most standards, harsh. Blood, sex, passion in its rawest forms – these are the tools most Verbenae prefer. Cold iron, worked wood, fires kindled with your bare hands, natural clothing, organic foods… the simpler it is, the more powerful its effects.

Today: Although some Verbenae make concessions to the modern world – cars, guns, perhaps a favorite TV show or two – this Tradition, by and large, remains stubbornly archaic. And though they can be compassionate in their way, Verbenae have no time or patience for weakness. To them, the comforts of a technological world breed sickness and laziness. “Until you spend a month,” they’ll tell you, “in the wild with nothing but the clothes on your back… or better yet, without them… you don’t know jack shit about reality.”

Organization: Covens – often numbering 13, nine, seven, or three – make up this group’s foundation. Solitary Verbenae exist, but most members of this Tradition prefer to work in groups. Women outnumber men overall, and they’re granted more respect here than in most other groups. Many female Awakened gravitate toward this Tradition for that reason. Two leaders (taking priest and priestess roles although both might be male, female, or transgender) govern the larger covens, with a single witch in charge of three-person groups. Covens tend to favor older members over younger ones, and old-school covens can be quite autocratic. Although disputes often get resolved through votes, those votes might involve ordeals, tests, or combat.

This Tradition respects strong bloodlines. And so, whenever possible, Verbena covens follow family lineage. Each coven has a grove, though that grove might be a garden in the leader’s back yard. Large meetings occur eight times a year, during the two equinoxes, the two solstices, and on Imbolc (Feb. 2), Beltane (May 1), Lammas (Aug. 1), and Samhain (Oct. 31). Plenty of Verbenae also gather at Christmas (Dec. 25) and on July 1, especially as shifts of climate and culture blur the distinction between Nature’s seasonal cycles.

Initiation: Verbena newcomers undergo a ritual death and rebirth. An intense period of study, testing, and meditation climaxes in a distressing ordeal – sometimes illusionary, often real. If and when the coven members are satisfied with the initiate’s trustworthiness and dedication, they call the elements as witnesses. As they were during the Burning Times, most Verbenae remain loyal unto death.

Views on Fellow Traditions: “We’re siblings of the blood – quarreling, dysfunctional, often hating one another’s guts… but we’ll kick anyone else’s ass if they mess with us. One for all, for better and worse.

Affinity Spheres: Life; Forces.

Focus: Verbena Arts concentrate on doing a lot with very little. Their tools are practical as well as symbolic, with uses that reach back to antiquity. “Pagan” in every sense of that word, these magicks hold deep ties to Nature. Shape-changing, transformation, healing and injury, divination, purification, growth and withering, natural cycles, and the tricky ways of Fate are witch-folk specialties.

To all Verbenae, Creation’s Divine and Alive. Because Creation, life, and divinity aren’t particularly nice, other common Verbena paradigms include A World of Gods and MonstersMight is RightBring Back the Golden Age, and Everything is Chaos. Witchcraft is the group’s core practice, with certain individuals favoring Voudoun, dominion, weird science, chaos magick, yoga, martial arts, High Ritual, cybernetics, the Art of Desire, craftwork, medicine-work, and even organic hypertech.

What is real? When you see something, touch something, know something, is it real, or is it simply a collection of signals, bits of information, pieces of data that come together in your mind and make you think “This is real”? To the Virtual Adeptseverything– buildings, tools, plants, animals, people – can be represented as information. Figure out the code behind something, the Adepts claim, and you can figure out how to manipulate that thing, how to change it, improve it, or delete it. Since information is abstract, you don’t even need to touch the thing you want to change. If you know it, you can adjust it just by changing the code. And you can change the code from anywhere.

History & Philosophy: The youngest Tradition began as a Technocratic Convention that was alienated by its former allies. Too radical for their peers, these Difference Engineers questioned too much and aspired too far. And for their presumption, they were punished; Alan Turing, an elite mathematician and cryptographer, was disgraced and destroyed. His death created a martyr, and that martyrdom – combined with other persecutions – led to the Engineers’ defection and their rebirth as the Virtual Adepts.

That Technocratic past left a stigma that many mages remain unwilling to ignore. In return, most Adepts scorn the primitive methods of the other Traditions. Humanity, the Adepts believe, should not be subjected to limiting philosophies like religion, government, or nature. Instead, the Adepts strive toward a technological singularity in which humanity’s limitations get dumped as people remake themselves into something better, brighter, and post-human. Why focus on getting back to nature or praying to absentee gods, after all, when you can change the world – and yourself – so that you no longer need nature and can become a god?

As their moniker implies, Virtual Adepts spend lots of time in a virtual world. If you can interact with other people or even control objects of the real world from your online telepresence, then why bother with the dismal reality of a leaky apartment building and a body made of limited, mortal meat? Even in this banal Meatspace, however, Virtual Adepts surround themselves with computers, monitors, digital notepads, smart phones, and all the latest technological toys. The most elite among them, though, have learned to manipulate reality without tech… a feat that highlights the group’s command of the God Code inside Creation.

Today: For all their futuristic acumen, many Adepts have begun to consider themselves mages in the classic sense (in an interesting contrast to the Conventions they broke with in 1961). This is partly a result of increased exposure to Tradition philosophy. After all, do their Arts not remake reality through vision, technique, and Will? A modern Adept might not call what she does magick (though many of them do), but she regards herself as a child of Mercury, the Trickster/ Messenger God in the Machine. Like the Adepts, Mercury is everywhere at once, undermining assumptions with the audacity of his Arts. Especially in this era, when technology is both a road to freedom and an instrument of oppression, the world needs audacious tricksters. And so, the Adepts of the 21st century are growing far less virtual and far more real.

Organization: Merit-respecting anarchists, Adepts avoid standard organization and loathe conventional hierarchies. In the ‘90s, they based respect on eliteness: a form of peer recognition won through attitude and accomplishment. Though the tradition has matured and diversified since then, an Adept’s personal achievements – rather than titles or seniority – still mean everything in this group’s esteem. Cleverness, wit, technological creativity, and an astute sense of sociological reform mean more than a snappy handle or a keen online icon. There’s a special reverence for Adepts who tear down oppressive social structures… and a vituperative loathing for ones who support such structures in Meatspace or the online world.

Initiation: Virtual Adepts have a socially brutal initiation process. The idea of physical deprivation, master-apprentice challenges, or meditative spirit quests strikes them as absurd. Instead, Adepts typically give their aspirants and initiates cryptic missions to sabotage authoritarian structures, steal classified data, and create amusing pranks that undermine corrupt bastards and expose pompous windbags. At some critical juncture, the initiate gets left to fend for herself; a suitably imaginative (and hopefully stylish) resolution to the problem earns the accolades of peers and a place among the Adepts. In short, then, most Adepts enter the group through the grand Internet tradition of trolling.

Views on Fellow Traditions: “Ghosts in the machine – noisy, cranky, old as fuck, but haunting nevertheless. There’s so much they have to teach, and so much more they have to learn.

Affinity Spheres: Correspondence/Data; Forces.

Focus: Everything is Data. Thus, in this Mechanistic Cosmos, every tool or practice an Adept employs focuses on shaping, altering, manipulating, gathering, storing, collating, influencing, or destroying information. Such tools range from the obvious computer gear (generations ahead of conventionally available tech), clouds, holograms, implants, nanotech, energy drinks, and sense-altering stimuli to the understated chic of dark hoodies, manga-influenced haircuts, fashionable androgyny, and provocative masks. All Adepts, however, keep the implements of their technomagick handy. For many Adepts, computers are a more important part of one’s identity than any attire or accessory. An Adept’s personal devices are almost always the most heavily customized and stylized elements of that Adept’s ensemble.

Perhaps the most accomplished reality hackers alive, this Mercurial Elite also employs various forms of cybernetics, hypertech, weird science, martial arts, chaos magick, gutter magick, and sometimes shamanism, Voudoun, crazy wisdom, or witchcraft with a technological flair.