Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Category: Book Excerpt

Japanese Versus Chinese Martial Arts Styles

November 23, 2022

“…The movement patterns here are typical of Japanese as opposed to Chinese styles of unarmed fighting—the Japanese think of the torso as a cylinder that should be kept upright when fighting. The Chinese are a bit more flexible….”

Tengu, Chapter 10

Human Beings Have Affinities with the Physical World

November 20, 2022

It’s important to understand the particular way in which human beings have affinities with the physical world according to the ancients. They believed in a quite literal way that nothing inside us is without a correspondence in nature. Worms, for example, are the shape of intestines and worms process matter as intestines do. The lungs that enable us to move freely through space with a bird-like freedom are the same shape as birds. The visible world is humanity turned inside out. Lung and bird are both expressions of the same cosmic spirit, but in different modes.

To the teachers of the Mystery schools it was significant that if you looked down on to the internal organs of the human body from the skies, their disposition reflected the solar system.

In the view of the ancients, then, all biology is astrobiology….

The Secret History of the World, p. 39

Author’s emphasis.

Power of Reflection

November 20, 2022

Human nature is so formed that any power I may have to resist my animal desires—indeed what stops me from becoming a mere animal—derives from my capacity for thought and reflection. Venus was traditionally depicted holding a mirror, but not out of vanity as is nowadays supposed. The mirror was a symbol of the power of reflection to modify desire.

The god of reflection was the god of the great reflector in the sky—the moon. In all ancient cultures the moon regulated not only fertility but thought.

The Secret History of the World, pp. 95-96

Author’s emphasis.

Aims of Magic: Malign Magic

November 2, 2022

Interestingly, this is a smaller category in terms of the varieties of activity found, but it has nonetheless been given a great deal of attention: the literature on modern witchcraft alone is vast. It is an interesting question as to why malign magic is not more common, and it is possible that creating and maintaining good relationships have always been more central to life than efforts at harm, though this might be seen as a romantic and unrealistically positive view of human groups.

Witches, witchcraft, and sorcery. These are people or activities that cast spells, effect unwanted transformations—such as turning someone into a frog (and counter-activity, often unwitting—kissing the frog to turn it back into a prince)—or cause harm. Such practices are very widespread: European witches are well-known, but witchcraft is also very prevalent and feared in Africa. Specific cultural differences are important: sorcery is found throughout coastal Papua New Guinea but is absent from New Guinea Highland cultures, a division that is widely recognized but poorly understood, deriving in some way from the separate historical trajectory the Highlands have followed.

Curses. Most common in competitive cultures, such as those from the Middle East to Greece and Rome, as were counter-curses. Curses can cause personal harm or illnesses, but they can also be used to help a sports team win or to make an opponent lose. Cursing is very well developed in the Mediterranean world but is probably global in its scope.

Magic as counter-culture. Ceremonial magic can be developed to deliberately attack or invert general cultural norms. This takes the form of so-called Black Magic, most famous in the recent West through Aleister Crowley and Thelema. Such attempts may involve a deliberate inversion of religious practices (the Black Mass) and use symbols in a manner similar to protective magic (mentioned above).

Magic: A History, p. 24

Aims of Magic: Benign Magic

November 2, 2022

Much magic involves attempts to do good in the world, or to avert bad outcomes. Benign magic is more common than its malign twin.

Relationship work. This is a very broad category, as people have multiple relationships with significant others, which can include the land on which people live, plants, animals, artefacts, houses, fellow humans and so on. Each relationship might have its own magic, so that if relationships have gone wrong in some way, or need to be rebalanced or readjusted, effective action can be taken….

Apotropaic/protective magic. This is linked to relationship work above and seeks to protect people, animals, plants, landscape or ancestors from harm, and involves practices such as those found in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (immuring cats or shoes in walls) or symbols, such as those used to keep out the devil.

Foretelling the future. This can often concern relatively local or personal issues—the health of a child, personal career prospects and so on. Here local fortune-telling or divination may take place, which we think of colloquially as reading the tea leaves. More learned forms of prediction came into being through astrology. Scrying the future can be even grander and more cosmic, through inspired prophecy, often of momentous events such as war or even the end of the world….

Understanding the past. Looking at the causes of things is also very important, with oracles a powerful technology for finding out the cause of an accident, a death or another misfortune. People want both to diagnose the cause of what happened and then to take appropriate remedial action. The classical anthropological case is the Azande poison oracle, although looking for past causes takes many forms.

Dying, death and the dead. Notions of how to die, what happens immediately after death and becoming more stably dead in the form of being an ancestor are all of great interest—the Ancient Egyptians created very elaborate means of dealing with dying and the dead, although this is a theme relevant to all humans. In addition to becoming an ancestor, widespread preoccupations include talking to the dead and making sure they do not bother the living.

Medicine, sickness, health and possession (mental and physical). Prior to the existence of germ theory (and even after its rise) people’s ideas of health often involved relationships with a range of spirits, demons or bad human relations that needed to be counteracted. Frequently, as in the case of Ancient Mesopotamia, dealing with relationships involved herbal remedies but also a series of spells or practices to negate the effects of demons or other malign forces. In most cases, little distinction is made between mind and body, something found increasingly in “Western whole-body approaches to well-being.

Understanding and effecting transformation. This involves activities such as craft production, with concerns about the practices of the smith, who is able to wield and control powerful forces, being common. Craft production often involved a series of magical practices vital to its efficacy. Alchemy was a series of varied attempts to transform base metals into gold, giving rise to more recent chemistry. People also worry about monsters and hybrids (griffins, sphinxes, etc.) or more usual transformations, such as a predator eating its prey. The arts shared between the Steppe and Europe in the first millennium BCE exhibit an obsession with transformation and ambiguity.

Manipulating desire. Siberian hunters feel they have to make reindeer desire them so that they will give themselves up during the hunt. People have ancient relationships with reindeer, going back to the Last Glaciation, and it is possible ideas of physical closeness have developed over millennia. Similar notions of sexual desire are also found in Aztec contexts. Many other cultures, such as those of Ancient Greece and Rome, concentrated efforts on love magic, with occasionally comic outcomes.

Magic: A History, pp. 19-24

Heroes Always Emerge In A Time Of Dying

October 26, 2022

Heroes always emerge in a time of dying—of self, of social sanctions, of society’s forms, of standard-brand religions, governments, economics, psychologies, and relationships. In answering the call of the eternal, they discover the courage to perform the first great task of the hero or heroine—to undergo all the gestations, growth, and trauma required for a new birth. This occurs so that they can then serve as midwife in the larger society for the continuum of births necessary to redeem both the time and the society in which they live and bring them to a higher level of functioning.

Thus, the second great task of the hero or heroine—as The Odyssey and many other myths show us—is to return to the world. Plato tells us that, after receiving illumination in the vast world of eternal realities, philosophers must go back into the cave of ordinary society. In just such a fashion, Jesus comes back from the desert. The Buddha returns from his ascetic meditations. And Odysseus returns, at last, from his voyage into the depth world. All are deeply changed; some are transformed. And they immediately begin teaching the lessons they have learned of palingenesia, of life renewed and deepened.

The Hero and the Goddess, p. 73

Author’s emphasis.

Tricking Monsters To Death

October 24, 2022

Another way to deal with monsters is to trick them to death. Almost any creature can be a mythic Trickster—an insect (grasshopper, spider, ant), a prey animal (rabbit, muskrat, mole), or even a small carnivore (lynx, fox, coyote, raven). All that’s required is that the creature display some trait or behavior that allows it to trick or confuse a predator (eye spots, crypsis and dynamic camouflage, autotomy, ingenious escape patterns, deftly hidden dens, the ability to misdirect predators by play-acting at being injured). By using these naturally occurring mimetic survival mechanisms, the mythic Trickster honors the life-sustaining cleverness of escape artists wherever they are found in nature.

Deadly Powers, p. 183

Author’s emphasis.

Subject to Divine, Human, and Demonic Manipulation

October 21, 2022

The story of Agobard and the sky sailors takes us to the heart of tenth-century [C.E.] cosmology, to the way people viewed the world. Natural events were not natural in the sense that nature was an interacting, self-explanatory, independent system. Rather, it was something subject to divine, human, and demonic manipulation. Today we understand the dynamics of nature as independent, interconnected, and self-regulating and ultimately explained by science. For tenth-century people, the borders between the natural and human worlds were permeable. Magic, miracles, and a whole constellation of intermediaries, such as the Blessed Virgin and the saints as well as those in league with the devil, could influence what happened for good or ill through weather, sickness, pestilence, and all types of disasters.

The Birth of the West, pp. 13-14

A Bad Age For a Man

October 16, 2022

Sharina watched the young man. He’d paused at the stern to let the woman precede him off the ship. “He’s only a boy,” she murmured.

“About twenty, I’d guess,” [Nonnus] said, this time with dispassionate appraisal. “Nobles don’t age as fast as common folk.”

As the youth strode across the ramp, his black cape fluttering in the sea breeze, Nonnus added, “It’s a bad age for a man, twenty. You have the strength to do almost anything you want, but you don’t have the judgment to know what the price of some of those things is going to be in later times.”

Lord of the Isles, Book I, Chapter 10

The Power To Crush Diamonds

October 5, 2022

“Mistress?” Cashel asked in a thick voice. “Is Benlo as powerful a wizard as you are?”

Tenoctris laughed and patted him on the arm. “Cashel,” she said, “I’m not powerful at all. I’ve read and I see, those are both important. But the skill I have is that of a diamond cutter who knows where to tap to split a stone on the line of cleavage. If you want raw power—Benlo could crush diamonds if he knew how to use the strength he has.”

Cashel opened his big, capable hands. “What good’s a crushed diamond, mistress?” he asked.

Tenoctris laughed again. “You’d be amazed at how few people understand that, Master Cashel,” she said….

Lord of the Isles, Book II, Chapter 12

Herleva

September 1, 2022

William’s mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was also the most wonderful. She could bring down the moon and make the sun dance with her singing. Flocks of spirits followed her wherever she went; when she worked her magic, so many of them crowded about her that one would think she could barely move.

He loved to watch her work magic. He would sit in a corner, safely out of the way, and fold his arms on his knees and rest his chin on them, and watch while she made the world more beautiful. Sometimes she made medicines, filling them full of light and laughter as well as herbs and simples. Other times she sat at her loom and wove light and shadow into the threads of linen and wool, so that the cloth carried blessing and goodwill, and a little beauty, when it was made into a cloak or a shirt or a gown. And sometimes, though that was not often, she called on the great powers for some purpose that he was too young to understand, summoning the whirlwind and bringing down the lightning.

When he was very small, he had only watched, but as he grew older, she called him to her in the middle of the working, and showed him how to do what she was doing. Once in a while she would even let him do the working. She would tell him what she wanted, and he would do as she had taught him, and brew a medicine or summon a spirit or scry in the silver bowl that she kept, wrapped with great care in a scrap of silk, in her chest to which no one else had the key—because the key was made of magic.

Rite of Conquest, Chapter 6

Japanese Sword Etiquette

August 31, 2022

To touch another’s weapon, or to come into collision with the sheath, was a dire offense, and to enter a friend’s house without leaving the sword outside was a breach of friendship. Those whose position justified the accompaniment of an attendant invariably left the sword in his charge at the entrance or, if alone, it was usually laid down at the entrance. If removed inside, it was invariably done by the host’s servants, and then not touched with the bare hand, but with a silk napkin kept for the purpose, and the sword was placed upon a sword-rack in the place of honor near the guest and treated with all the politeness due to an honored visitor who would resent a discourtesy. The long sword, if two were worn, was withdrawn, sheathed, from the girdle with the right hand—an indication of friendship, as it could not be drawn and used thus—never by the left hand, or placed on the left side, except when in immediate danger of attack. To exhibit a naked weapon was a gross insult, unless a gentleman wished to show his friends his collection. To express a wish to see a sword was not usual, unless a blade of great value was in question, when a request to be shown it would be a compliment the happy possessor appreciated….

The Overlook Martial Arts Reader, pp. 44-45

Officials in a Baronial Household

August 28, 2022

By the middle of the thirteenth century [C.E.], however, certain features seem to be characteristic of all [European] baronial households. There was a seignorial council made up of both knights and officials which fulfilled the same function of advice and consent for its lord that the curia regis did for the king. There were auditors who normally travelled around the baron’s lands, overseeing and checking the complicated system of accounts. Two officials dealt with financial matters, receiving income and making expenditures. Their titles varied on different estates, and they might be known a treasurer, receiver-general, or wardrober. The keystone of the baronial household was the steward: he held courts, headed the lord’s council, occasionally acted as an attorney at the king’s court, supervised, and often appointed, such local officials as bailiffs and reeves, and acted as his lord’s deputy. These various officials were the important nucleus who carried on the day-to-day affairs of the barony. Their number and their exact function depended on the importance and wealth of the lord whom they served.

A list of officials for the barony of Eresby in the last quarter of the thirteenth century gives a good idea of the actual household of even a minor baron, and also suggests the large number of officials and servants concerned with purely domestic affairs. The lord of Eresby had a steward who was a knight, and a wardrober who was the chief clerical officer and examined the daily expenditures with the steward every night. The wardrober’s deputy was clerk of the offices, and the chaplain and almoner could be required to help write letters and documents or act as controller of expenses. There were also two friars with their boy clerk who could substitute for the chaplain. The purely domestic officials and servants were numerous. They included a chief buyer, a marshal, two pantrymen and butlers, two cooks and larderers, a saucer—the medieval term for the sauce cook—and a poulterer, two ushers and chandlers, a porter, a baker, a brewer, and two farriers. These men were assisted by their own boy helpers. This actual list has the great advantage of illustrating the dual character of the officials who made up the baron’s household, and the number of individuals who travelled with it on its many moves. The most important officials were only incidentally concerned with daily affairs. They dealt primarily with the long-range problems of the administration of the scattered lands and the collection of the various revenues of the barony, serving as the overseers and directors of such rooted local officials as reeves, bailiffs, or constables. But the nucleus of officials also included those whose total concern was with the daily domestic routine, and one man above all—the steward of the household—was primarily responsible for the smooth running of daily life.

A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century, pp. 54-55

The Real Power of the Dark Side of the Force

August 22, 2022

[Count Dooku] called upon the Force, gathering it to himself and wrapping himself within it. He breathed it in and held it whirling inside his heart, clenching down upon it until he could feel the spin of the galaxy around him.

Until he became the axis of the Universe.

This was the real power of the dark side, the power he had suspected even as a boy, had sought through his long life until Darth Sidious had shown him that it had been his all along. The dark side didn’t bring him to the center of the universe. It made him the center.

He drew power into his innermost being until the Force itself existed only to serve his will….

Oh, [the two Jedi] were certainly energetic enough, leaping and whirling, raining blows almost at random, cutting chairs to pieces and Force-hurling them in every conceivable direction, while Dooku continued, in his gracefully methodical way, to out-maneuver them so thoroughly it was all he could to do keep from laughing out loud….

They didn’t even comprehend how utterly he dominated the combat. Because they fought as they had been trained, by releasing all desire and allowing the Force to flow through them, they had no hope of countering Dooku’s mastery of Sith techniques….

They allowed the Force to direct them; Dooku directed the Force.

He drew their strikes to his parries, and drove his own ripostes with thrusts of dark power that subtly altered the Jedi’s balance and disrupted their timing. He could have slaughtered both of them as casually as that creature Maul had destroyed the vigos of the Black Sun….

Revenge of the Sith, Chapter 3

Author’s emphasis is in italics. Mine are in bold.

Ultimate Sources of Power

August 11, 2022

“To a wizard,” Tenoctris said, “the sun is an ultimate source of power and Malkar is an ultimate source of power. But no one can reach an ultimate source directly. The forces that a wizard works with aren’t pure, any more than the water you drink is pure.”

“You’re saying that Malkar isn’t evil?” Garric said with a frown…. “That you serve Malkar?”

“No,” Tenoctris said, tapping her finger on the wall beside her with sharp emphasis…. “No one serves Malkar. And as for using the forces that stem largely from Malkar, I don’t drink seawater either. There are differences of degree.”

Ilna turned her head to watch the waves dancing in the sunlight. Near shore the water was dark, almost purple, but beyond that and as far as her eye could reach the Inner Sea had a pale green translucence like that of the finest jade. It was much more beautiful than the colorless fluid brought up from a well; but of course no human could drink seawater….

Lord of the Isles, Book I, Chapter 18

Powers Beyond Human Comprehension

August 10, 2022

Tenoctris wasn’t a great wizard in the practical sense. She had a scholar’s mind and a jeweler’s soul; large-scale works were for other folk. She saw and understood the forces which had to be shifted; she simply didn’t have the psychic strength to manipulate them.

And perhaps she saw and understood too well. Tenoctris couldn’t possibly have struck the blow that the Hooded One had delivered; but she realized that actions of that magnitude must have consequences beyond those the wizard intended. Consequences that even Tenoctris couldn’t predict….

The Hooded One refused to give his name, but he’d claimed that the chair he brought to Yole with him was the Throne of Malkar. One who sat on the Throne of Malkar became Malkar, became the essence of the black power that was the equal and opposite of the sun.

Tenoctris knew the Hooded One’s throne was a replica, built according to descriptions given by the great magicians of ancient times who claimed to have seen or even sat in it. The original was rumored to be older than mankind; older even than life….

…Tenoctris knew that the Hooded One’s success was a much greater danger [to Yole] than ever [the enemy’s] flame and swords could be. A wizard who used powers beyond human comprehension could not have the judgment to use those powers safely.

Lord of the Isles, Prologue

Author’s emphasis.

A Period In Which Politics Did Not Exist

August 4, 2022

When we retreat from the early modern age into the Middle Ages the distinction between government, army, and people becomes more tenuous still. The term “feudal” implies this was a period in which politics did not exist (the very concept had yet to be invented, and dates back only as far as the sixteenth century [C.E.]) So closely intertwined were a man’s political power and his personal status that his ability to conclude alliances could well depend on the number of marriageable daughters he had sired. Politics were entangled with military, social, religious, and, above everything else, legal considerations; feudalism before it was anything else comprised a network of mutual rights and obligations. The resulting witches’-brew was utterly different from the one we are familiar with today, so that to use the word politics probably does more harm than good. The medieval context hardly even makes it possible to speak of governments, let alone of states….

The Transformation of War, p. 52

Emphasis mine.

Compelling Deities To Yield Their Boons

August 4, 2022

The means by which the priestly caste in India gained the mastery over the nobles—gradually, perhaps, but surely and securely—was the awe that they managed to inspire in all around them by the chanting, and apparent power, of their Vedic charms. In the earliest period the gods were implored. But when it was reasoned that since the gods could be conjured to man’s will the power of the conjuring rites must be greater than that of the gods, the deities were no longer implored but compelled to yield their boons to the warrior clans; and the magic of the Brahmins, the knowers of the potent spells, became recognized as the mightiest, and most dangerous, in the world.

The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology, p. 189

Why Muskets Supplanted Bows

July 4, 2022

…[The Native American] self bow and the seventeenth-century musket had comparable effective ranges (50 yards optimum, 100 to 150 yards at the outside)….

…For Amerindians, because the bow or the musket had to serve in both war and the hunt, something in the technology had to satisfy the needs of both pursuits…. A musket ball was less likely than an arrow to be deflected by vegetation, and it also had a greater kinetic impact on the target. A deer hit with an arrow receives a very deep wound…, which, though eventually lethal, might require the hunter to pursue the bleeding deer for some distance. In contrast, a musket penetrates flesh, shatters bone, and creates a larger wound cavity. It “smacks,” whereas an arrow “slices….” A military musketball at 50 yards hits a target with 706 foot pounds of kinetic energy. An arrow from a typical modern bow hits at 50 yards with 50 to 80 foot pounds of energy. This is more than enough to penetrate flesh and tissue and produce a killing wound, but it is much less likely to drop an animal in its tracks.

The musket has similar advantages against humans. Much of a human target is limbs, especially when walls or trees are used to cover the trunk of the body. An arrow wound to the leg or arm is rarely lethal, although it can be debilitating. But a musketball strike to the arm or leg may shatter the bone and is more likely to carry debris into the wound, lead to infection, sepsis, and death.… In the immediate term, a man with a shattered leg or arm, flung to the ground by the weight of a musket shot, also makes a better target for being taken prisoner…. Unable to flee, he becomes vulnerable and may hold up his fellows trying to carry him away from the field…. More obviously, bullets cannot be dodged, whereas arrows in flight over any distance (especially on an arcing trajectory) can be seen and dodged. Modern film footage of the Dani people’s arrow and javelin battles in New Guinea shows this process clearly, and numerous European witnesses commented on the Amerindians’ ability to dodge arrows.

Empires and Indigenes, pp. 56-58

Emphases mine.

Players of fantasy RPGs should note the quoted effective range for bows. Many games have much longer distances, but those are derived from battlefields where archers are loosing volleys at large enemy formations. Gamers should further note the ease of dodging an arrow at anything beyond short range.

Strong and Subtle, Restless and Powerful

June 22, 2022

“You need one more thing,” Elric said.

“I can’t fit another thing,” Galen said, turning to face Elric.

Across his open palms, Elric held a staff. Given during the welcoming ceremonies that ended the convocation, a staff or other gift of magic was a teacher’s acknowledgment that his apprentice had become a mage. Elric nodded.

Over four feet long, the staff was a lustrous black, with golden etchings of circuits in finest filigree. It fit perfectly into Galen’s hand, warm and smooth and balanced, as if a new limb had sprouted there.

“Associate,” Elric said.

Galen looked to the chrysalis on his table, found that it was missing a small piece from the end of its “tail.” Elric had incorporated it into the staff, making the staff a part of Galen, an extension of him. The staff was a combination of the advanced tech of the Taratimude, which powered the staff and connected it to him, and the technology currently within the power of the mages, with which various tools had been built into the staff.

Galen closed his eyes and focused on it, visualized the equation for association.

It awoke, echoing his equation. A subtle vibration of energy slipped into him. The vibration was echoed back by the implants, echoed again by the staff. The echoes came faster, growing stronger and sharper, reflecting back and forth like the ringing of a bell in a bell tower, swelling in rapid reverberation. His mind raced. He didn’t know if he could control it. Wild energies could escape. Elric could be injured. Elric could be disappointed. Galen must figure out how to prevent that. Galen must not allow that….

And what was happening to him?

The energy from the chrysalis had combined with the undercurrent from the implants to produce a surge of nervous anticipation, as if he’d been injected with adrenaline. He’d read of this effect—parallelism, they called it—and knew that mages became accustomed to it, over time.

He recited the prime numbers, silently, deliberately. The orderly progression echoed back to him, calming him. The vibration remained, yet its intensity lessened.

The staff was now a part of him, a new limb. A menu of options appeared in his mind’s eye, reflecting the more traditional part of the staff’s technology. He studied the possibilities. It could control, hold, and channel energies. It could observe; it could record. It could destroy itself, if he deemed necessary.

He closed his eyes, carefully visualizing the equation to dissociate. The connection broke, the vibration died. His limb went to sleep.

Yet the undercurrent of energy from the implants felt stronger than ever. Galen realized he had begun to grow accustomed to it. Now that he was attuned to it, he began to realize how truly strong it was, a resonance more intimate and subtle than that with the chrysalis, one that was quickly becoming a part of him. It was restless and powerful, quick to respond. No wonder mages got in so many fights. He must control it, always.

“In time, you will feel more comfortable with the staff,” Elric said.

Galen nodded, holding the smooth, sleeping surface away from his body. “Thank you.”

“You will find it unnecessary under most circumstances. Yet it can be helpful when a sophisticated channeling of energy is needed.”

Casting Shadows, chapter 7

Emphasis mine.