This is a (loose) transcript of a podcast episode.
Imagine you are an Ars Magica necromancer. The year is 1220 and you are dissecting a corpse to become more magically powerful. This one has a “sport” which is what you call unexpected extra features like additional teeth or calcified internal twins. This one has an extra…thing…at the end of its digestive system. It doesn’t seem to do anything so you can’t describe it functionally. It looks like an earthworm (and because you speak Latin like most Hermetic magi) you think for it as a vermiform (worm-like) appendix (thing tacked on the end).
Initially, this is exciting because you haven’t seen one of these before. When you see new things while doing dissection, your character learns more about the body faster so you become a more powerful magician. You decide to check the books and see if anyone else has seen these. The first person you check, of course, is Galen. Galen is the great anatomist: he’s been the anatomist that everyone refers to for the last thousand years. Galen is your guy, and he has never seen this appendix. No-one has ever seen this appendix.
Now, this is because, in Ars Magica, what people believed to be true in medieval Europe is, generally speaking, true. In the real world Galen didn’t dissect humans corpses to write his books of anatomy. He dissected monkeys and the ones he dissected don’t have appendixes so, in Mythic Europe, no-one has one, but this guy does.
Now this wouldn’t cause you concern except the next person you vivisect also has an appendix. And the next.
So time to do some tests. If you create a corpse – and remember created items are more perfect than items that appear from the real world: they are closer to the holotype to use modern scientific parlance – what happens if it has an appendix. What happens if you use Intelligo magic to look inside your own body and and you have an appendix?
What is this organ, where has it come from, what does it mean?
Now, if it’s only a local event – if you write to necromancers elsewhere in Europe and you say “Gang can you all look for this thing and they say “No. Don’t be ridiculous we haven’t seen it” it could be local warping. Local warping occurs when magicians cast magic either in a single powerful event or smaller spells over and over again over a prolonged period near a local population, sufficient for that population to be slightly distorted by the magical energy.
There are some quite extreme versions of warping already in Ars Magica. There is one community of people where the average body temperature is about 20 degrees lower than that for the rest, so they live perfectly comfortably on Alps, but die of heat exhaustion if they descend to lower altitudes. House Tremere is served by a caste of amber-eyed individuals, who have an inherent sensitivity to magic, are more likely to be homosexual than average, and all of whom can trace their ancestry back to a small group of soldiers whose eyeballs were gouged out by the Bulgars and then replaced in a single ritual hundreds of years ago.
So if you look at your local community and this appendix affect is only found n the very young, you could say this was because of some sort of local cataclysm that occurred recently. You could work back through the population using age to date when occurred, and then you could find the local magician, or rival, or if you yourself were responsible for the appearance of this thing.
But what if its regional: then it could be a miracle, but lets not work on hat basis: God doesn’t need to create an organ: his miracles can be direct. Water, wine, done. It could be that it is a faerie symbiotie There are other symbiotes described in Ars Magica. The main one that’s been described is from Transylvania, and is a sort of thief weed. You cut open the fleshy part of your left hand near the thumb, insert a spring of weed into it and while the weed remains embedded there it makes any lock that you touch fall open. The weed is, of course, vampiric and, like all faeries in Ars, it exists to gain energy by altering your life story.
If you have seen the thief weed you have seen something similar to what a faerie appendix would look like. You might have some ideas of what the faerie who created it is attempting to do. Perhaps the appendix is there as a forerunner of some great disaster; a famine, a plague or and invasion. You’d need to examine it to work out what it does. This could give you hints on the cataclysm. Is your region is going to be on the receiving end, like a plague, or are you going to harm your neighbors. For example if your people can now eat stones, and so no longer have logistical problems with food, it makes invading the surroundign area easier.
But what happens if everyone has an appendix? What happens if you have an appendix?
It certainly wasn’t there before, like most corporeal necromancers, you know all of your internal organs. You certainly didn’t have this weird suqiggly thing where it is now,. What could have caused that?
Well it could have been a cosmological change. If you believe Empedocles, who was an ancient Greek philosopher of great importtance to Helleno-Buddhism and House Crismon, time is a circle. It starts at a point of perfect enlightenment and Empeodcles himself wrecks everything and plunges the world into time. Everything gradually decays from there with life becoming less and less coherent and ordered, until eventually all that’s left are protean shapeshifters who can exists in chaotic, randomly-violent environments. Even these are finally driven to extinction, and all that remains is a swirling void, After a time the chaotic void begins to cohere again, and life emerges. From that simple life organs emerge, and these organs move independently in the world until, as the amount of order increases, they combine, becoming more and more ordered until eventually, at the far end of time, they transcend physicality and become spirit.
So does the appendix signal that, somewhere, something happened that made time briefly go backwards? Now this very important to your magician because the downward spiral of time is what makes destruction magic easier than creation magic. Your character can disintegrate a wall land not spend great magical energy making sure the wall doesn’t reassemble itself, however if you make a wall, you need to spend vis to stop it fading away at sunset – because stones don’t fall up. Except in the counter-cyclical alam: the time of increasing order, things work the other way. If, however briefly, something caused time to go backwards, and if you could, however briefly, cause that to happen again, during that brief time your power of creation would be limited only by the character’s physical endurance, and the physical endurance is regular ted and can be reinforced by creation magic. So: although you wouldn’t have the powers of a god – you’d still be limited to your own senses and your own mystical capabilities – you’d nonetheless be able to permanently alter the structure of the world, if you planned what you were doing quite carefully.
So next time you are playing Ars Magica, and there’s a skirmish, and one of your grogs guts some poor unfortunate bandit, make sure to look quite carefully at his digestive system.