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  1. #1

    Fantasy with magic based on real world traditions

    Here's the thing, I've grown rather bored with worlds where magic works "just because". However, much to my disappointment, many authors seem to think of it as something to create imagery or close up a plot hole rather than think about how it actually works. I don't care if the character is throwing fire balls, but could you give me a little context? It's a chance to add cultural flavor to worlds that people sadly ignore. As a pagan, this simplistic view of the mystic cannot satisfy me as a person whose world view is immersed in a complex philosophical understanding of what one calls sorcery.

    Anyway, there is a question in this. Are there any series or stories set in worlds where magic functions in a manner similar to that described in real world occult texts? In other words, none of this arcane/divine divide crap. This isn't a recommendations thread, but I do honestly want to know if there are any significant books with this. Furthermore, why do authors seem to ignore these often lost opportunities? One does not have to write a thesis on the matter so why?

  2. #2
    Registered User Seli's Avatar
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    Could you give some more context? I have no idea what type of magic you want to read.

    At a first guess you could try some urban fantasy, say Ilona Andrews or Mike Carey. Those seem to be more likely to use traditional notions of what magic is.

  3. #3
    The closest I can think of are comic books:

    Alan Moore's 'Promethea' (Western Esotericism/Kabbala/Tarot)
    Grant Morrison's 'Invisibles' (Chaos Magick/Voudon Gnosis)

  4. #4
    An argument could also be made for Gene Wolfe. His ideas about magic are more along the lines of myth.

    Also, His Dark Materials by Pullman.
    Last edited by AuldAnxiety; April 15th, 2012 at 08:59 AM.

  5. #5
    Unreasonable reasoner
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    Neil Gaiman might work. Not so much magic, but he does contemporize traditional mythical figures.

  6. #6
    I was thinking in a sort of Alan Moore vein. In other words, instead of oh I just healed someone because I just have magic. I was thinking more like I was able to do this with magic because I knew which spirits to invoke and the peculiar resonances of earth and water as they relate to the concept of healing and renewal, and understood what symbols would draw these divine energies down. A world where one has to know what water is on a cosmic scale and what it represents and what reigns over it(Gods, spirits, devils etc.) in order to make it all work.

    Also, I have no desire to read His Dark Materials. I know that basically any story with a message is a soap box, but reading a story that's a soap box for his atheism makes the whole heroic struggle seem pointless. I believe in science as much as the supernatural, but I think atheists should just shut up. No one cares if they don't believe, there's no point of talking about how much one doesn't believe. If one so convinced the divine doesn't exist then why argue about it. In such a line of thought there is no point to it.
    Last edited by Riothamus; April 15th, 2012 at 03:42 PM.

  7. #7
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    1) I think you might like Kevin Hearne's Hounded series.

    2) His Dark Materials is not a soapbox for atheism. It's a fantasy series. However, it doesn't use a framework of the sort you're asking about.

    3) Your rant about atheists breaks the guidelines of the Forums, on both religious subject matter without story context and personal attacks of other members. Since you're still new here, I'll just warn that you try not to do it again, and remind others not to join in, for or against the opinion expressed. Let's all stick to books, thanks.

  8. #8
    Registered User Seli's Avatar
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    So you are less interested in authors that use well constructed but completely made-up magical systems (eg Brandon Sanderson, Weis and Hickman in the Death Gate Cycle). And not interested in authors that use the flavour of existing magical thought, but do not go into mechanisms or details.

    So that would in my limited experience lead to authors using sympathetic magic (egButcher in the Dresden Files), or ritual magic (egMoorcock), which leads to sword and sorcery as well as the urban fantasy mentioned before.

    How do you feel about gaes type/fairyland magic (egSeanan McGuire)

    Hmm or perhaps Tanith Lee? I don't remember details, but have a feeling she ought to be up your alley.

  9. #9
    There is more to His Dark Materials than you assume. Magick permeates the series. Any series that has a character named Will who uses a knife to travel between worlds should be enough to spark the curiosity of someone interested in Western Ceremonial Magick. The series has daemons and other interesting connections with real world magic. Don't be so dismissive - you might be missing out on exactly what you're looking for.

    Quote Originally Posted by Riothamus View Post
    I was thinking in a sort of Alan Moore vein. In other words, instead of oh I just healed someone because I just have magic. I was thinking more like I was able to do this with magic because I knew which spirits to invoke and the peculiar resonances of earth and water as they relate to the concept of healing and renewal, and understood what symbols would draw these divine energies down. A world where one has to know what water is on a cosmic scale and what it represents and what reigns over it(Gods, spirits, devils etc.) in order to make it all work.

    Also, I have no desire to read His Dark Materials. I know that basically any story with a message is a soap box, but reading a story that's a soap box for his atheism makes the whole heroic struggle seem pointless. I believe in science as much as the supernatural, but I think atheists should just shut up. No one cares if they don't believe, there's no point of talking about how much one doesn't believe. If one so convinced the divine doesn't exist then why argue about it. In such a line of thought there is no point to it.

  10. #10
    whenever I try and do research on the internet about historical traditions what ussually pops up is modern wicca and hoodoo and similar things.

    I wouldnt say the dresden files or iron druid are based on real life traditions. while I'm not certain about iron druid, I know the dresden files has really nothing to do with historical shamans or druids or whatever.

    I do think the op means stuff actually based in history like.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_the_Dead#Spells

    and not the authors adaptions of history.

  11. #11
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    In that case, the novels of Terri Windling, who is a folktale scholar, might be useful, and C.J. Cherryh's Rusalka series, which uses Russian/Eastern European folklore.

    However, Iron Druid's material, while it takes liberties, is pretty on in terms of the gods/mythology/herbal lore sort of thing.

    Historical fantasies, like Cherryh's one and Mary Gentle's Ilario series, are likely the best bet. M.D. Lachlan's Wolfsangel series might also do the trick.

  12. #12
    Kat,

    I'm not up on actual magic practices, but would Tim Powers' work apply? I was thinking specifically of On Stranger Tides, with it's use of voodoo-like magic.

    Randy M.

  13. #13
    I'm sorry you couldn't convince me to touch a book that doesn't seem to acknowledge the real reasons for social injustice but instead attacks the excuse Auld. Furthermore, the cultures seem pretty uninteresting except for the armored bears.Culture is everything and how a society practices sorcery helps to flavor the world, if you look across boundaries, no two groups of people practice the exact same form. I get bored when a world not only lacks a described culture, but cultural diversity. I get equally frustrated by worlds with multiple cultures, none of which are vividly described. Stories are as much about the world one lives in as it is about the lives and trials of the characters
    .
    I'm personally iffy on the Iron Druid Chronicles. I do not take lightly to authors spreading potential misinformation about or potentially insulting the name of a deity I hold sacred. The plot of the first book in this regard doesn't seem to rub me the right way.

    I have had my eye on the Dresden files as the author from what I have researched seems to have a better understanding of such matters than many do.

    If what I've heard about Cherryh's meticulous world building is correct, then her work might be particularly interesting and well researched.

  14. #14
    Nobody in Particular kcf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riothamus View Post
    .
    I'm personally iffy on the Iron Druid Chronicles. I do not take lightly to authors spreading potential misinformation about or potentially insulting the name of a deity I hold sacred. The plot of the first book in this regard doesn't seem to rub me the right way.
    Well, I think the little spat re the Iron Druid Chronicles on this board was way overblown. As a Christian, I had no issues whatsoever with Hearne's writing or characterization of the many dieties he talks about. (though my beliefs are rather...progressive) I certainly wouldn't characterize anything in the books as misinformation or disrespectful. That is unless you believe in the Norse pantheon. Or the Roman Pantheon. Or some of the other old 'pagan' religions. The books are simply good fun and the magic is in line with what you are looking for. And of course, they are fantasy books. I suggest giving the first book a shot - it is short and reads fast, so even if it doesn't work for you, it's not a big investment.

  15. #15
    The Wandering Eye Jop's Avatar
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    Not sure if I'm reading you correctly, but could Kate Griffin's "Matthew Swift" books fit the bill? Urban fantasy - the protagonist is a sorcerer who uses his surroundings in his own brand of magic, from the light from a street lamp to interpreting graffiti on a wall...I found it rather unique...

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