An Arcane Glossary

A list of terms used in the Nancy Werlock Universe.

Ascendency: A magical theory that explains the possibility of achieving a transcendent state equal to that of a god or god-like entity. There are those who believe The Nine are in fact Ascendants, though the Advocates for The Nine refute this claim.

Ascendant: A person who has achieved Ascendency.

Adept: A spellcaster who has only recently developed magical abilities or started delving into the magical craft. Also a term used when discussing low-to-moderately powerful spellcasters who do not officially belong to any of the Colleges.

Aether: A plane of existence that connects all of the other planes together. The Aether is comprised of raw magical power, and witches can tap into that power to perform magical feats.

Apprentice: An adept that has taken an apprenticeship under a higher ranking witch.

The Balance: For the most part, witches are free to do whatever they want so long as they don’t interfere in the work of other witches or upset the Balance. The Balance refers to both protecting the Veil and preventing Mundanes from knowing the full extent of magic’s prevalence in the world. Extreme displays of vulgar magic or excessive use of high level magical powers can create tears in the Veil, causing dangerous levels of exposure to raw magical power. More importantly, after the Inquisition it became clear that magic users needed to protect themselves from the rage of the masses.

Blessed: A term used to refer to a person who has been Imprinted by a divine entity.

Cairn: A Hot Zone that has been partially sealed in order to allow supernatural entities to tap directly into its energy. Cairns are powerful, and dangerous, resources that have been fought over for thousands of years. Many Cairns are considered sacred to the indigenous people of the region. Members of the College of Evocation (who are often responsible for sealing Hot Zones) and the College of Witchery (which include shamans and druids that consider such sites holy) control the majority of known Cairns, though some of the most legendary Cairns are currently under the control of ancient Heirophants.

College: An area of magical study. The term does not generally mean a physical location spellcasters go to for learning. Rather, it is a curriculum of related magical theory.

Coven: A group of witches who support each other in magical study. Coven structure varies from group to group, but all covens are exclusive in member selection and tend to keep their numbers small. Some covens are comprised of witches of a specific College, while others are comprised of witches from different Colleges. In modern times, covens are far more common among witches that are not formally associated with the Colleges. Most College-associated witches join guilds instead.

Cryptid: A normal animal mutated by excess exposure to magical energies.

Deity: A term used to refer to those beings who reside in pocket dimensions within the Aether. Though commonly considered good, the reality is more complicated. Divine entities tend to focus on order, which can encompass everything from upholding the social contract to encouraging dictatorships.

Demon: A term used to refer to all of the supernatural creatures that normally reside in the outer planes. The term covers demons, devils, rakashas, naga, and other outsiders. Though commonly considered evil, in reality it is more complicated. Some types of demons are evil-incarnate, but others are merely mischievous. Some actually mean well and focus on individual freedom. Others are anarchists that just enjoy shaking up the social order.

Elemental: A term used to refer to the supernatural creatures that reside on the elemental planes. The term covers mephits, djinn, salamanders, sylphs, and other elemental outsiders.

Elemental Planes: The Elemental planes are those that directly connect to the physical world.

Fae: A term used as a catch-all for various races that exist simultaneously in the Aether and the material plane. It includes elves, pixies, brownies, changelings, and other races. The primary difference between fae and other supernatural creatures is that fae are considered mortal and can be killed on the physical plane (whereas Demons, Elementals, and other creatures destroyed on the physical plane are merely banished back to their home planes). Many Fae are also capable of shape-changing into a human form at will in order to pass as human. In most cases, this is a “fixed” form (i.e. the fae has its real form and a single human form it can switch back and forth between).

Guild: A group of witches who establish a formal institution of learning akin to a school or training center. Guilds operate very much like private continuing education institutes and provide both independent study resources and classroom training. Guilds are inclusive and open to any witch that wants to study (and can afford the guild dues).  Guilds must be approved by the Council of Chancellors, and some guilds are specifically created by the different Colleges to research a particular subject or train witches in a specific set of skills. In the past, large guilds dedicated to a specific subject have become dedicated schools within a College.

Hereditary Witchcraft: One of the ways a person becomes a witch. Magic runs in some families, with the magical power passed down to children from their same-gender parent.  Hereditary magic still requires training to use effectively, and if a witch refuses to train and never develop his or her powers, over a few generations the magical energy can die out.

Hierophant: A powerful spellcaster who is completely self-taught and not an official member of any of the Colleges. Usually reserved for those who would otherwise be considered at least Rank Two if a part of a College. Hierophants are rare, reclusive, and generally not trusted by witches associated with Colleges. Only the College of Witchery routinely interacts with known Hierophants.

Hot Zone: An area in which the Veil has been torn to the point that magic has permeated the land to a dangerous level. Hot Zones are often the home of Cryptids and Thought-Beasts.

Imprinting: One of the ways a person becomes a witch. Some supernatural entities have the ability to grant magical power to Mundanes. In some cases, an imprinted witch can pass on the magical power to offspring as hereditary witchcraft.

Mundane: A person who does not know how to use magic and is unaware of the existence of real magic.

Nexus: Each College has a Nexus; a central repository of collected knowledge and lore. In classical times, all of the Nexus points centered on Rome. Over the centuries, many have been transplanted to other locations for the security of the collections. A Nexus exists as a local on both the physical plane and the Aether, and as such also serve as a method of transportation between the planes and between Nexus locations.

Outer Planes: The Outer Planes is a catch-all term for the countless planes of existence that exist beyond the Elemental Planes.

Pact: A contractual agreement entered into by a human with an entity from the Outer Planes, normally for the purpose of becoming Imprinted.

Prodigy: A person who spontaneously develops innate magical ability without the benefit of imprinting or study. Most prodigies are psions who develop their abilities after a traumatic experience involving a supernatural entity.

Rank: witches and other supernatural entities are ranked on a scale of one to five, with five being the weakest. Rank is commonly referenced as a sort of shorthand to convey general information regarding an entity’s known level of power. In reality, the ranking system is a complex web of comparative ratings. For example, a Rank Three Demonlogist would be considered higher rank than a Rank Three Evoker, even though Demonology is a specialized school within the College of Evocation.

Thought-Beast: A creature than spontaneously manifests from the collective consciousness of a community, usually due to an influx of magic in a Hot Zone.

Veil: A buffer plane between the physical world and other planes of existence. The Veil is akin to the Earth’s ozone layer, except instead of protecting the world from radiation it protects from the world from excessive exposure to magical energies.

Witch Hunter: A witch that tracks witches and other supernatural creatures for purposes of capture or destruction.

Wizard: A witch that learns the craft through research and study. Wizardry is not hereditary.

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An Arcane Glossary by Julie Ann Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.