The idea of Hedge Magic was to create minor traditions which could give magi pause, but not defeat them unless the Hedge Magicans had some advantage, in terms prepaeration, suprise or numbers. I wanted to create a very rules-light group, to test the idea that such a group is easy to learn to play, and therefore would be played more often than members of the other, more difficult to learn, groups. Nightwalkers were perfect for this, their magic simply works, and so is not skill based. This cuts out the need to create a magic system, a training mechanic, and a society that allows apprentices to be trained over many years so that they master their craft. A character can be a nightwalker and simultaneously be something else, like a warrior or a magus, and I thought that a useful element, again making this tradition more playable than a formal, traditional one.
I first became aware of nightwalkers many years ago, and this section was originally about the Benedanti, who are likely the best known group of this type. As my researches continued, and I discovered the links to werewolf myths, it spread out to include far too many groups to appear in this book. I also think they’d make a great origin story and inner mystery set for House Bjornaer, if we were ever to start from scratch with the Houses. Two other suprising elemens cropped up, that phantastica, since they are human, can cross the Aegis of the Hearth, and that Lappish nightwalkers use their phantastica in duels that are obviously certamen. Each of these is mentioned in the text, but has story potential far beyond the simple treatment they are given.
A few books, to follow up the ideas in this supplement
The first two works listed, by Ginzburg, are the ones which I used most heavily in the design of the nightwalker groups for Ars Magica. The later two have interesting pieces, which can be recycled as story seeds, but they lack the systematic social role for nightwalking which Ginzburg expresses.
- Ginzburg, Carlo (1991) Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
- Ginzburg, Carlo (1992) The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century, John Hopkins University, Baltimore.
- Lecoteux, Claude (2003) Witches, Werewolves and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages, Inner Traditions, Rochester.
- Summers, Montague (2003) The Werewolf in Lore and Legend, Dover Publications, New York.
From my files
A large number of minor nightwalking traditions were removed from the final draft of my section, to free up space. They have not been developed in full, but are presented here to spark story ideas.
Lesser Nightwalker Traditions
Nightwalking is a magical practice described in detail in Hedge Magic. It permits practitioners to travel in spirit form, usually when asleep, to distant locations. In spirit form, these characters can detect spirits and fight battles. Most traditions include a technique to force a practitioner into a trace-like state, to allow travel. Many have a sacred herb, which is as a weapon, restorative or soporific. Some traditions, that were more difficult to research, had singular practices, or were less powerful, were trimmed. They are presented here.
Jas Traditions: Burkudzätuä and Kurysdzätuä
This tradition is found at the very edge of Mythic Europe, among the Jas in the kingdom of Alania in the Caucasus Mountains. The two names for the tradition are correct for the Digor and Iron dialects, but do not indicate any great difference in the magical practitioners of those regions. The Jas religion is a mixture of the veneration of the prophet Elijah and mystical experiences similar to those of other nightwalkers. The Jas sacrifice goats to Elijah in sacred caves, and the mystics who live in these caves use the smoke of the Caucasian rhododendron to enter trances. While in trances, they can speak with the dead; stray, mounted on pigs, dogs or rams; and predict the abundance of the harvest.
Becoming a Jas Nightwalker
These nightwalkers are trained in waking life, by one of the other members of their tradition. Methods of training vary between individuals, but include religious instruction and then guided practice of ekstasis. This unusual degree of preparation allows young Jas nightwalkers to have a Lore score of greater than 1 when first called, and to prepare themselves for the moral hazard that Jas nightwalkers face by developing useful Personality Traits, and abstaining from vices.
Battle and Moral Testing
Nightwalkers from the Jas community have a fertility battle, but it is dissimilar to those fought by similar traditions in Europe. The Jas nightwalkers have their fertility ritual as Christmas approaches. To travel to their site they use doves, horses, cows, dogs, scythes brooms, benches and bowls as mounts. If they require one of these items and lack it, they steal from their neighbors, who are used to such things disappearing near Christmas, and often offer protective prayer over their possessions, livestock and children. The Jas nightwalkers arrive at a beautiful field, called burku or kurys depending on dialect and their wisdom is tested.
The field is strewn with flowers, fruit and seeds. Those nightwalkers who steal flowers or fruit become ill, contracting a different illness for each type of flower or fruit. Those that choose seeds, and flee with them back to their village, ensure a good harvest. Those who bring back illnesses are reviled, while those that bring the magical embodiment of the harvest are respected. A player character must make a Personality Trait roll against an Ease Factor of 6 to choose a fruit or grain, and avoid choosing a flower. Any virtuous trait is permitted, but the roll is reduced by the character’s strongest vice.
The dead attempt to drive off the nightwalkers with arrows. The arrows do not pierce the sleeping form of these magi: instead, the points of impact become necrotic. The skin blackens, and without medical aid or good fortune, the nightwalker dies. An arrow strike of the dead is treated as a Medium Wound. The arrows of the dead have a Penetration score of 30, which may be resisted normally.
This flower usually only grows in higher elevations in the Caucasus. It has a white bloom, and roots that can be brewed to produce a herbal infusion popular with local people. The infusion is slightly sweet, can be added to other products (like yoghurt) to slow spoilage, and seems to give the drinker sharper attention and more energy. These last effects disappear with extended use. The drink is rumored to extend the lifespan.
Some Irish recensions of the Historia Britonum note the existence of a werewolf tribe in Ossory, Ireland. These people have the ability to leave their bodies in the form of a wolf, travel great distances and harass cattle and sheep. Injuries suffered by the wolf appear immediately on the sleeping body, and small fragments of red meat appear between its teeth when the wolf kills. If the body of the werewolf is moved while his or her spirit is absent, then the werewolf can never re-enter the human body. Nennius, or the author of the recension claiming to be Nennius, says that these wolves have an Infernal power. Infernal ecstatic might prove useful foes for a covenant of characters.
Another origin story for this tribe is that their tribe was cursed by Saint Natalis of Ulster. A male and female member of the tribe each lived as wolves for seven years, and when the time was complete, they returned home and another member of their clan took on the burden. Nennius says that the descendants of these wolves live on in Ossory: implying that those who have been wolves because of the curse of the saint pass on the power to change shape to all or some of their children once they resume their human lives. Geraldus Cambrensis, writing in 1198, claimed that the two werewolves of the tribe were aided by a priest within his lifetime, indicating the curse is still in effect.
To be fully developed as a tradition for selection by player characters a troupe should decide:
- if there are many werewolves in Ossory, or just two at a time.
- if there are many werewolves of Ossory can their phantastica appear human, or are they always wolves, like the Hounds of God?
- if they can have humanoid phantastica, is a sacred herb associated with this tradition.
- what duty the werewolves bear, that compares to the battles and processions of other nightwalkers.
- if members of the tradition can fight in wolf form outside fertility battles and processions (and therefore require the Versatile Phantasticum Virtue).
- how members of the tradition gain spiritual refreshment.
- if members of this tradition serve only for seven years, or for longer.
- what virtues and flaws wolves have after they complete their term of service.
- what other Virtues and Flaws must a werewolf from this group must take.
Skinchanger Who Requires Clothes
In Petronius’s Satyricon and Marie de France’s Bisclarvet werewolves are described who are similar to a sleepwalker, with one important difference. These werewolves hide their clothes, and need to return to them to take human form. If the clothes are removed, the wolf cannot return to human shape until they are returned. In the Satyricon, the werewolf takes the precaution of urinating in a circle around its clothes, which transforms them into a stone, so that they cannot be removed. It is not clear if these skinchangers, who both take the form of enormous wolves, have been transformed into animals, or merely encased by a hamr. Either explanation is still treated as a variant of the Skinchanger Virtue, where the magician needs clothes to change into the human shape. In animal shape it is very difficult to replace lost clothes.
Straying as a Flaw: Minor Traditions
Some nightwalkers cannot control their ability to stray. For these characters, their role is a Story Flaw. The selection of this Story Flaw does not grant the virtues common to the more powerful traditions of nightwalker, like Second Sight, but players may purchase these for their characters at creation.
Ferryman of the Dead (Minor Flaw)
The historian Procopius records that there is a village on the Frankish coast where a strange type of nightwalker is found. These nightwalkers do not engage in battle, and their processions take an unusual form: they are convoys for the dead.
Those who are rostered to the duty are drawn from their sleep by a voice telling them that it is time to sail. The ferrymen proceed to the wharf, where they find their special ships. Going aboard, the ship seems deserted, but rides very low in the water, as if carrying heavy cargo. The men sail for the island of Britta, an island usually two days away. When sailing in the special ships the trip takes about an hour. During the hour, the ferrymen never see the dead. The voice that called the ferrymen forth gives them the names, stations and final messages of the dead they carry. At the island, the ships lighten as the invisible dead leave, and the ferrymen sail swiftly home, to awaken in their beds.
The ferrymen have a duty to deliver the final messages they have been given, and this provides hooks to stories.
In weaker nightwalkers, such as those who simply have Story Flaws, the phantasticum is sometimes seen as a small animal that leaves the mouth of the sleeping person. Mice are the most commonly described, but flies, moths, lizards and even cats have sometimes been seen leaving the bodies of sleepers. If these animals are captured, the sleeper cannot awaken, and if they are destroyed, the sleeper dies.