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  1. #1

    Fantasy informed by real world occult

    I've posted a similar thread to this before, but that was a more broad thread. One thing that has bothered me about fantasy is that despite looking to real world mythologies and cultures for inspiration, much of it lacks a sense of being informed by the related occult teachings, instead choosing a "just because" approach to magic.It has no flavor to it truly in this sense.It's just Deus ex Machina that happens to appear often in a story. It also doesn't explain certain conundrums such as "if this magic is so widespread then why do we have this problem". Which the occult gives us an explanation for. While mastery does give you astounding power, it's not as simple as snapping your fingers, it has rules, and it requires a great deal of skill and study of rather expansive spiritual concepts, and overuse or incorrect use can be dangerous. Of course I can understand how one might be afraid to turn half the story into a discourse on esoteric religion and such things, but it would really help.I was honestly wondering if there is any non-urban/contemporary fantasy that has been clearly informed by real world occult traditions? I'm not saying that people should totally rip them off, or tell me of any total rip offs, but are there are any informed by these traditions at the very least?

  2. #2
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    I'm utterly confused by the OP.......

    What are the real world traditions you speak of ?

  3. #3
    I'm confused as to why you're confused.How one could not know what traditions I speak of confuses me more.Christian theurgy, Druidry, Hindu mystical practices, Wicca, general western ceremonial methods, etc.

    What I call the problem of magic is similar to the problem of evil. If the problem of evil is "If there is a just all powerful God why do we suffer?" which I have my own opinions on, the problem of magic is "If we have these great mystical powers with which we can do so much why do we still have all these problems?" That is part of what I'm addressing, and I'm suggesting basing it on traditions of mystical belief in our world this problem is explained by the complex nature of occult belief and laws of magic. The problem of magic as I call it, has been an annoyance for some others who I know.

    It also just irritates me that people will be inspired by all manner of mythology and ancient religion and yet when it comes down to it, they are hardly able to apply the related spiritual principles to the world they're writing about,and seemingly just use them as imagery without understanding the meaning behind any of it. Some people might be displeased with the idea of having a treatise on esoteric spiritual thought worked into the story, but saying nothing hardly does the source material's complex nature justice.

  4. #4
    Magic is subtle, personal, and for these reasons, probably not particularly interesting if realistically portrayed in fiction.

    People read fantastic literature to escape, to tackle strange ideas, to feel heroic, to be entertained. Folks aren't likely to find what they are looking for if an author writes occult fiction based on historical traditions - not if the writer is accurate anyways.

    You would probably be better off reading spiritual journey novels like 'My Life with the Spirits', 'It's Here Now... Are You', 'William S. Burroughs vs. the Quran', 'the Zelator', 'Aghora', etc.

    You could check out the stories in 'Bright From the Well'. 'Erbeth Transmission' is science fiction based on the Temple of Set. The Icelandic Sagas and Edda both are the foundations of epic fantasy but also connected to reconstructed heathenry.

    The Voudon Gnostic Workbook is a magical text, but strange and interesting in its own right.

    Comic Books by magicians:
    Promethea by Alan Moore
    Invisibles by Grant Morrison

  5. #5
    I have a small personal library about these traditions.Some are works by members of small, largely unknown "orders". Others are classics of occult discourse.I have read most ancient legends about which a great deal is known. So these things are not what I seek.I know where to find them whenever I should desire to seek them.

    I also have have no problem suspending disbelief whenever a character tosses a fireball.It's the "just because" nature of the authors answers about how it is done that bothers me. I find it more boring in that sense. I generally find "just because" as an answer unsatisfying in any inquiry. Eventually their comes a point where all inquiries lead to that, but the longer it takes to reach that point, the more satisfied I am. One does not need to dedicate half the book to describing all mechanics down to the tiniest detail,just enough to confirm it and some basic philosophy.The religions of described cultures will fill in the rest.I also find that the character having to go through certain meditative exercises, or ritual actions and invocations adds a sense of peril no matter how God-like a mage might be. Now while I ultimately have come to have a certain distaste for characters who are half-spirit being (half-demon, part-dragon if you really look at the old legends, half-elf if you look at Norse mythology, half-fae) a character who is some how more like them than the average human can make a just because explanation more possible since it's a greater part of them. The way I see it, the occult is to religion what quantum physics is to science, and sufficiently advanced understanding of physics can result in fantastic things. So I view magic as the sort of quantum physics of fantasy.

  6. #6
    Registered User Seli's Avatar
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    Steven Erikson has some of this approach to magic in his series, but it is a tiny portion compared to other types so probably not your cup of tea. Moorcock perhaps, although he uses this system written large.

    Perhaps works focussing on alchemy, but I cannot think of any examples right now.

    The problem is that the systems you are looking at were basically stacks and layers of smokescreens, and not many authors like to focus on those. I think I mostly have seen them as the folk/poor people magic in the background of books where progress has marched on.

    Perhaps it is worth it looking through tvtropes, they might have a category that approximately fits your wishes.

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