Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

image of Xenograg
(Art by Isaura Simon)

I Neither Fear Nor Resist Nature’s Power

I neither fear nor resist Nature's power
Doctor Strange:
I neither fear nor resist Nature’s power! Recognizing that it is but a part of the manifestation…of the primary energy…I allow it to flow through me! Drawing from it, I add to my own power!

— “Doctor Strange Miscellany” #1 (????)

Used without permission.

A Wand Is Gentle With Power

In early times, humankind observed that the branches of trees brought forth life. From season to season, the trees issued leaves, flowers, and fruits. Trees were held to be Sacred Beings, who gave life and provided food and shelter. These Beings were rooted in the Earth and reached upward into the sky. They were bridges between the Underworld and the Overworld. It is not surprising, then, that the ancients chose to “borrow” some of the tree’s power by incorporating a part of it into a tool. Thus was born the wand (or staff) which became a magickal tool as well as a symbol of power (usually carried by the tribal shaman).

…The wood was taken from the bend in the branch, out to the fork. This represented the human arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, because the extending branch of a tree resembles a human arm and hand. Over the course of time, a measure was established. Wands were to measure from the inside of the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. Staffs were to measure to the height of the person, plus the measure of his or her wand (so that the staff was taller than the person; i.e., more powerful). Once formed and prepared, the wand became a tool of Nature’s inner magick. The wand is a tool which is used to request rather than demand, and it is gentle with power. This request possesses great influence, for its source is the Divine itself. It is used for calling upon the gods and nature spirits. It is a symbol of the element of air, and is associated with the east. Magickally it is often used for healing, divination, and astral workings.

Italian Witchcraft, pp. 97-98

Banishing Is Essential in Magical Practice

[Banishing is the] process of causing a spirit or nonphysical force to depart or withdraw from manifestation. Effective methods of banishing are essential in magical practice. As the story of the sorcerer’s apprentice points out, being able to stop a magical process is just as important as being able to start it in the first place! There are at least two effective ways to banish an entity or energy, one using ceremonial magic, the other relying on natural magic.

The ceremonial method relies on specific banishing rituals such as the Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, which uses geometrical symbols and divine names to persuade reluctant or intrusive spirits to depart. The method of natural magic, by contrast, relies on the use of physical substances that are held to be inimical to the entities to be banished. Thus iron or steel is traditionally used to banish nature-spirits of the faery type, and noxious herbs such as asafoetida are burned to drive away spirits of all kinds. In ancient times, this latter approach was taken to much further extremes, as in this recipe from Egyptian sources for an incense to exorcise evil spirits:

Pound together honey, fresh olives, northern salt, piss of a menstruating woman, ass-shit, tomcat-shit, pig-shit, the plant ewnek…so as to make a compact mass and use for fumigation around the man [who is possessed by spirits] (quoted in Lindsay 1970, p. 234).

As the above suggests, banishing is closely related to exorcism…

The New Encyclopedia of the Occult

In Search of Adventure, Prestige, and Fortune

Being a miles did not mean being a vassal, that is, an individual who had been granted lands in exchange for military service. Initially many knights were soldiers in the court of a great lord who provided a livelihood and the accouterments necessary to fight on horseback. Naturally the people selected combined physical vigor and fighting skill with fealty and homage to the lord. The profession of knighthood attracted those who could find the weapons, armor, and horses necessary; as such, it became the refuge of the younger sons of a lord to whom the future may have seemed financially bleak (by custom, only the firstborn son inherited most of the father’s lands). As Duby claims, knighthood was the profession of youth in search of adventure, prestige, and fortune, which they expected to receive from war or sometimes from marriage to a rich woman. Initially it attracted not only the sons of the lower nobility but also better-off peasants who owned the instruments of a heavy cavalryman. This was the case of Guigonnet of Germolles, a rich peasant of the twelfth century. Guigonnet had his living quarters not in a tower or a fortified manor or castle, like the nobility, but in an agricultural center, where the products of the land—wheat, wine, fruits—were gathered. What distinguished him from the other peasants was his higher standard of living. Probably he did not work the land with his own hands anymore; he had subordinates to do that. Moreover, he spent time hunting like the aristocrats and belonged to religious organizations, where he met social superiors. But the most important aspect of his life was that at times he wore the knightly weapons and armor that he owned, rode his strong horse, and joined the other knights.

Guigonnet is obviously the exception, even at the emergence of knighthood….

Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels, p. 173

I Rather Prefer a Dragon

[Ahmed rides back into the pallisade after taking a risk to rescue a child who fell behind the evacuation from the imminent attack by a proported fire-breathing dragon.]
So you saw the fire worm?
It’s cavalry.
I rather prefer a dragon.
Hundreds, with torches.

— “The 13th Warrior” (1999)

Crossbowmen Were Considered an Elite Corps

…[For] most of the Middle Ages the weapon that best typifies killing from a distance was the crossbow…. Constructed initially of wood, it was made of steel by the fifteenth century [C.E.]. It was essentially a bow mounted crosswise that shot metal bolts that could pierce any cuirass at most distances. It could be effective to 370-500 meters. Crossbowmen had two advantages over bowmen: they did not need extensive and continuous training to become adept, and they could prepare the crossbow ahead of time. Yet the complex mechanism to cock the crossbow meant that it was much slower than the longbow (probably six arrows to one bolt) and left the person firing a visible target for enemy bowmen. This meant that crossbowmen often operated in combination with a footman, called a pavisier, armed with a spear and a very large shield (pavise) behind which the crossbowmen could cock his weapon.

The best crossbowmen were considered to come from Catalonia, Gascony, or Liguria, the Italian region where Genoa is located. They tended to be a large component of most medieval armies, considered an elite corps occupying a central position in the battle line and opening the encounter or attempting to outflank the enemy. Membership in its ranks was so highly valued in Spain that service was considered equivalent to that of a cavalryman.

Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels, p. 135

Gift Exchange Revolves Around Three Obligations

Gift exchange is said to revolve around three obligations: the obligation to give, the obligation to receive, and the obligation to repay. If people do not give, no relationship can happen; the refusal to take a gift is the equivalent of refusing the relationship; and once something has been received a form of repayment deemed socially acceptable is absolutely necessary. Moreover, gifts to powerful forces must be an important sacrifice by those giving them; trivial things that will not be missed are not enough. It seems reasonable to conclude that things like metalwork or parts of human bodies deposited in the right places and with due care were gifts to the powers of the world, however these were conceived.

Magic: a History, pp. 223-24

I Give That You Might Give

Transactions with the spirits of place through the giving of objects can be understood through the Latin phrase Do ut des—”I give that you might give.” If a spirit, god or power is nourished or honoured appropriately, it is expected that they will return the favour by maintaining the fertility of the land or of people, or by helping to guarantee general well-being.

Magic: a History, p. 223

Unacceptable Magic Is Usually Attributed to Foreigners

The wishes of an individual can conflict with the welfare of society as a whole, but examples of ‘anti-social’ magic are quite rare in the Egyptian record before the period of Roman rule. Many cultures have divided magic into acceptable and unacceptable types. When unacceptable magic is mentioned in Egyptian sources it is usually attributed to foreigners.

Magic in Ancient Egypt, p. 14

Through Magic We Can Explore Mutuality

Although apparently very different, magic and science have much in common. Both strive to understand how the world works and the manner in which people can benefit from its workings. Science divides the world into matter and energy and seeks the forces that shape them or the chemical and biochemical dynamics that animate all things. Magic sees spirits in the land, considers how people and animals are related, and tries to understand transformations around birth and death. The forces defined by science find echoes in magic’s insistence that spirits animate the world. Beneath our more superficial thoughts and discussions lie deeper intuitions and desires concerning our relationship with the world. Here magic and science diverge. The practices and philosophy of magic come from a sense of kinship with other living things, the landscape and the heavens. Through magic we can explore mutuality: how we are joined to the rest of the universe and the manner in which we can affect things around us through ways of participating, which have as a central element a set of moral concerns. Scientific understanding derives from abstraction, through the quantification of matter, energy and force by means of mathematics, but also through logical reasoning from elementary starting points, such as Newton’s Laws, towards the true profusion of the world. Science separates people from the world, whereas magic immerses us in it, raising also questions of our moral relationship with the universe in a way that science does not.

Magic: a History, pp. 12-13

Emphasis mine.

Evolution of Spiritual Powers

The Athena of The Odyssey, patroness of heroes and innovators, of those who live life to its fullest and live life at the edge, is herself at a transition point. She is evolving from the archaic and militant Mycenean deity of citadels, reflected in the raging war goddess of The Iliad, into the goddess of wisdom, of culture, and of civilization. This evolution of an archetype is an important informing motif of The Odyssey and is, I believe, the reason the entire poem is under the dominion of Athena. At a depth level it tells us as much about the growth of a god as about the growth of a hero. It is as much about the evolution of spiritual powers as it is about the growth of human consciousness. Studied from this perspective, The Odyssey becomes a sacred text and a drama of the highest mysteries.

The Hero and the Goddess, p. 42

Armies Are Like Prize Fighters

Armies are like prize fighters training for a bout: They reach a moment of supreme preparedness—muscles taut, reflexes swift, determination fixed at the highest pitch. But with a lull in activity they start growing flabby. This is what happened to [the Duke of] Parma’s invasion force [in 1587-8 C.E.]. All through that dismal winter, as the snows and freezing rains held the battalions in camp, the war machine began to disintegrate. Provisions were consumed at an alarming rate—Parma had to send the cavalry inland to scavenge—and budgeted funds began to give out. As spring passed, the men went unpaid and unfed, and they began to sicken and to desert. “We are bound to conclude that the delay is for God’s greater glory,” Parma wrote in exasperation to Philip, “but the Enterprise, once so easy and safe, will now be infinitely more difficult, and will incur a much larger expenditure of blood and trouble.”

The Armada, pp. 70

Fear Profits a Man Nothing

The All-Father wove the skein of your life a long time ago. Go and hide in a hole if you wish, but you won’t live one instant longer.
Your fate is fixed. Fear profits a man nothing.

— “The 13th Warrior” (1999)

Ancient Gold Signet Ring

Ancient gold signet ring, Greek, Classical to early Hellenistic period, 5th-4th century [BCE].

photo of the signet ring

Original Twitter post by @GhostOfHellas

Death and Power Are Close Cousins

Emerald Seer:
The temple is at the center of the swamp where three trees grow as one.
Prince Colwyn:
How can anything grow in that place? It smells of death.
Death and power are close cousins.
I don’t think I like your relatives, old man.

— “Krull” (1983)

If You Strike Me Down

Obi-Wan Kenobi:
You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

— “Star Wars” (1977)

The “Johns Quarter”

[Glover] Johns…showed marksmanship for what it ought to be. This full colonel would stroll along the [rifle] range for a while giving encouragement and instruction, then stop by a soldier.

“You got a quarter, son?” he’d ask.

“Yes, sir.”

“Give me your rifle there.” The trooper would hand over his weapon. After taking a good hard look at it, Johns would turn to the kid. “Now you just throw that quarter up in the air. High as you like.”

The trooper would toss up the coin, and before he had a chance to blink, Johns would put a bullet—sometimes two—right through the middle of it. He’d hand back the kid’s rifle as the quarter ricocheted to the ground, and continue down the firing line until he got the urge to display his prowess once again.

The “Johns Quarter,” as it was called, was a sought-after prize. More than that, though, was the pleasure of watching him “produce” one. The troops loved it. Johns was a showman in the truest sense of the word (and he was also the first to admit it)—for him it was a basic principle of leadership.

About Face, Chapter 12

Rare Sighting of a Girdle of Giant Strength

I made this. 😀

The image is a screenshot from the 1961 film “El Cid“.

actor Charlton Heston wearing a leather girdle

Evocative Magical Item Names: Wizardry CRPG Series

This is the first in a planned series of evocative names of magical items from any media. Names that spur one’s own imagination of what they could be outside of their source material.

My first computer role-playing game (CRPG) was 1981’s “Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord“. Still then being new to Dungeons & Dragons, Wizardry had a considerable influence—good and bad—on my early gaming.

Like early D&D, items found as treasure had to be identified. The game would initially say only “Xenograg found a sword.” Via either of the two provided methods, an item would be determined to be mundane or magical (including cursed). This step delayed the player’s gratification and heightened their anticipation.

The original game has three items with names that have stuck in my mind ever since:

  • Blade Cuisinart’
  • Lords Garb
  • Murasama Blade

The game’s sequel, “Wizardry II: The Knight of Diamonds“, has only one name of similar evocation:

  • Staff of Gnilda

I did not get far in the third game of the series, Wizardry III: Legacy of Llylgamyn, and thus never found any of its ‘big name’ magical items.

I am intentionally omitting my imaginings for these items so you may do so for yourself.

The power of names.

I Have Submitted to Your Notions of Honor Long Enough

Armand D’Hubert:
You have kept me at your beck and call for fifteen years. I shall never again do what you demand of me. By every rule of single combat, from this moment your life belongs to me. Is that not correct?
Then I shall simply declare you dead. In all of your dealings with me, you’ll do me the courtesy to conduct yourself as a dead man.
I have submitted to your notions of honor long enough. You will now submit to mine.

— “The Duellists” (1977)

Spoilers! 😀