Without further ado, M. K. Hobson:
Making things go poof
While we write in slightly different genres (historical versus kick-ass urban fantasy) there's one thing Kalayna and I obviously agree on: witches are seriously cool. So when she kindly invited me to do a guest post, I thought I'd head straight for our common ground and talk about my magic system and how I created it.
My debut novel THE NATIVE STAR was released from Spectra at the end of August. Set in 1876, it follows the adventures of a timber camp witch from California and a stuck-up warlock from New York City as they race across the United States by horse, train, and biomechanical flying machine trying to escape the clutches of evildoers.
Because THE NATIVE STAR is a historical fantasy set in a recognizable period in American history, I had to follow a few rules. Whatever magic system I created had to be able to account for the kinds of magical practice that actually existed at the time (e.g., southern hoodoo, Ozark folk magic, Native American magic, etc.) In studying those magical traditions, I decided all magical practice could be broken into three fundamental components: spirit, faith, and blood. In my book, each of those became its own unique strain of magic.
- Animancy, like its name suggests, is essentially animist. The essences of earthly things, both living and dead, are used to effect works. The least aggressive strain of magic, animancy is fundamentally collaborative, requiring the practitioner to cooperate with—or at the very least have sympathy toward—the essence of the thing that he or she is asking for help.
- Credomancy derives power from human faith—the more intense the better. Credomancers are as powerful as people believe them to be, so much of their effort is put into building and maintaining an imposing façade. They are not above using social and mental manipulation to build their power, and they must never allow their power to be questioned or examined for fear of losing it entirely. In our real world, any kind of religion in which a priest (or priestess) acts as a conduit to the divine is an example of credomancy. While less violent than sangrimancy, the practice of credomancy is not without ethical baggage.
- Sangrimancy is blood-magic. In my world, power does not come from the blood itself, but from the human emotions stored within it. The emotional state of the victim at the time that the blood is harvested for magical use is of great importance—thus, a sangrimancer must be accomplished at instilling terror, hatred, passion, or other powerful emotions into his or her victim before bleeding them. Without a doubt, sangrimancy is the most brutal of all the magical strains, and practitioners who employ heavy elements of sangrimancy in their practice are generally not very nice people.
Creating a magic system that worked within real-world history was challenging, but it was one of the most enjoyable parts of writing the book. I invite Kalayna's readers will give it a look and let me know how I did!