Magic (Magicka in the Ayleid Language) is the general term used for the focusing of raw energy into various properties and for various purposes. This raw energy, often referred to as magicka, flows from Aetherius into Mundus by way of the sun and stars, and from it the Mundus was created. Magicka comprises every spirit, it is the energy of all living things and can be harnessed in a variety of ways. Despite thousands of years of study, there is an enormous amount of speculation about how magic is generated, how it might be used by Aedra and Daedra, and how it might flow between living things.
Magnus was the god who designed Mundus, the mortal realm, during its creation. After it was completed, however, he ordered the project terminated, and left for Aetherius at great cost. In doing so, he tore a hole in the veil of Oblivion through which the magicka of Aetherius flows into the world. The great rift he left behind, the sun, is itself known as Magnus. Soon, other et'Ada who agreed with Magnus followed his lead, leaving smaller holes which are the stars, through which magicka also flows. This is why the stars under which a person is born have such a great influence on that person's fortunes and fate, and why many materials which fall from the heavens have great magical properties.
Some of the first recorded uses of magic were by the Ayleids of the First Era. Through the salvaging of fallen fragments of Aetherius, they attained great arcane power, which they used to enslave the early Cyrodiils. A common phrase in the Ayleid Language is "Av molag anyammis, av latta magicka", which means "From fire, life; from light, magic". With one or two exceptions, wizards of the early First Era were generally solitary, and there was little collaboration beyond the master-apprentice relationship, or standardization in magical practices. Until the Second Era and the construction of the Arcane University, the Crystal Tower of Summerset Isle was considered the pinnacle of magical research and learning in Tamriel.
Many different magical arts have been developed during Tamrielic history for purposes ranging from warfare to technological advancement to religion and divination, and there is often much scholarly disagreement between various researchers. Notable magical endeavors include the Redguards' Shehai Shen She Ru, the Nords' Thu'um, the Bosmer's Beast Tongue, the Maormer's sea serpent-taming magic, and the numerous innovations of the Dwemer. There are many other little-understood magical phenomena, like the mysterious constructs the Towers, as well as the process of "reaching heaven by violence" known as CHIM. A person's reserves of magicka are determined by numerous, often unknown influences, and some people are naturally very gifted in various ways, but no one has the infinite power of Magnus himself.
The power of the Aedra and other deities is sometimes, but not always, within the meaning of "magic" on Tamriel, depending on the context. The worship of deities is suspected to be desirable to those spirits due to the belief that they transform the energy exuded by the worshipper into another, distinct kind of magic they can wield for the benefit (or downfall) of all.
A myriad of great wizards have come from the Altmer from Summerset Isle and the Breton from High Rock, as well as powerful Nibenese battlemages, Telvanni magelords, and Sload necromancers. Many rulers of the Summerset Isle were advised by the Psijic Order, a body of mages concerned with the practice of Mysticism. In particular, the formation of the Mages Guild in the early Second Era altered the political and societal landscape. By forming the Guild, its ex-Psijic founder, Vanus Galerion, allowed magical items, potions, and spells to be bought by any member of the public that could afford to pay. In effect, magic was no longer dictated by the aristocracy or intelligentsia.
Some time before the Three Banners War, the curricula of the Mages Guild was seen as haphazard and disorganized. Gabrielle Benele saw that the Shad Astula Academy divided magic into eight "schools" and that this resulted in novice mages being trained in half the time, so she proposed the Mages Guild follow this model as well. The Guild did adopt this and while the number of schools have changed over time, the concept has endured since its adoption.
The magical arts are not always met with warmth. Often this has been with good reason, as magical studies have proven to be all-consuming in numerous cases, making the mages threats to themselves and others. The Psijic Order, the oldest known magical organization in Tamriel, is now considered a rogue organization by the Thalmor of the Aldmeri Dominion, and the two have clashed before. Most Redguards consider wizardry both "weak" and "wicked", and it fell out of favor with the Nords in the First Era. Necromancy is reviled in most societies. Daedra summoning\trafficking is also hated in many provinces, especially in the wake of the Oblivion Crisis, which many believed was a result of magic gone wrong. Shadow Magic, while rare, is feared because of its power.
The act of drawing on ones own magicka reserves in order to generate some kind of effect in the physical world is called "casting a spell". There have been seven widely accepted schools of spellcasting over time, each with a number of spells that pertain to its particular purpose:
- Destruction spells harm the target by damaging its health with either elemental or magical attacks, draining and damaging its attributes, skills, health, magic, and fatigue, making it weak to the elements, poisons and magic, and corroding its armor and weapons.
- Restoration spells augment the target by restoring its health, attributes, stamina, and magicka, fortifying its health, attributes, skills, stamina, and magicka, granting it resistances to the elements, magic, disease, paralysis, poison, and un-enchanted weapons, curing it of disease, poison and paralysis as well as harming the target by absorbing its health, magicka, stamina, attributes and skills.
- Conjuration spells call upon otherworldy entities through telepathy, certain skilled Conjuration mages can develop telepathic links with each other. Conjuration spells augment the caster by granting them Daedric and Undead guardians, Daedric weapons and armor, and the ability to repel the undead.
- Alteration spells alter the physical and magical properties of the target. Alteration spells harm the target by making the objects it is carrying heavier and augments the target by making the objects it is carrying lighter, granting it elemental and physical shields and the ability to breath and walk on water as well as opening locks.
- Illusion spells affect light and a sentient target's mind. Illusion spells harm the target by commanding, demoralizing, paralyzing, silencing, and causing it to frenzy, as well as augmenting it by rallying, charming, calming it, granting it invisibility, night-vision, translucency and illuminating it.
- Mysticism is an obscure school, though its spells seem to manipulate magicka itself. Due to its spells that bind the target's soul, this school is closely related to necromancy. Mysticism spells augment the target by granting it the ability to detect life, reflect damage, absorb and reflect spells as well as harm it by dispelling its magical effects and trapping its soul, including the ability to move objects through space with telekinesis. The nature of the School of Mysticism is the subject of much scholarly debate.
- Thaumaturgy does not change the appearance or structure of a force or object, but can manipulate laws temporarily.
The schools of magic have often been subject to revision by existing magical institutes, and some have fallen out of favor. For example, following the Warp in the West the school of Thaumaturgy was rearranged into other schools and was largely replaced by the growing popularity of Conjuration, while in the fourth era the school of Mysticism was gradually consolidated into the other five extant schools.
Enchanting is the act of endowing objects with magical properties through the use of a soul, almost always with the use of a soul gem. An enchanted item's power diminishes with use, in which case additional souls may be used to replenish it. The strength of an enchanted item and the amount by which it can be recharged is directly related to the magnitude of the souls used.
The effects of enchanted apparel may augment the wearer, and the effects of enchanted weapons may harm the target, and vice versa. Some enchanted equipment, such as magical staves, can be used to cast spells without expending Magicka.
It is said that Raven Direnni created the art of enchantment in the First Era, though other sources suggest that the enchantress merely revolutionized a process that, prior to her work, used to fail nine times out of ten.
Alchemy is the act of mixing, boiling and distilling various substances to obtain their chemo-magical properties and create potions and poisons. Potions are (hopefully) imbibed orally and usually grant the imbiber with positive effects. Poisons are introduced into the target's blood stream by pouring it onto a weapon and attacking the target with it and usually gives the target negative effects.
Alchemical ingredients include extracts from plants, animals, undead and Daedra. Certain ingredients are very valuable to alchemists due to their rarity, many of which are extracts from Daedric creatures. Prospective alchemists often need to experiment with ingredients to gauge what effects can be created, usually by eating samples of ingredients. This practice is referred to as wortcraft.
Stationary alchemical stations are often used for the preparation of potions. In the Iliac Bay, they were often utilized by the temple clergy and the elusive Dark Brotherhood as a service to their members. In Skyrim, such stations were not only used by apothecaries, but also installed by court wizards and even some taverns. Some landowners may also have an alchemy laboratory in their own homes.
In contrast, within Cyrodiil and Morrowind it was far more common for smaller travel apparatus to be used by alchemists. These portable laboratories had four components:
- Mortar and Pestle: used for grinding the ingredients together into a paste to be boiled, required for potion brewing
- Retort: used for distilling the brew, increases the magnitude of the potion's positive effects, optional for potion brewing.
- Calcinator: used to increase all effects of the brew, both positive and negative, optional for potion brewing.
- Alembic: also distills the brew, used to decrease its negative effects, optional for potion brewing
Alchemy was formulated into an art and science by Asliel Direnni.
Necromancy, also called the Necromantic Arts, Dark Arts, or Dark Practice, is the manipulation of the souls or corpses of the dead. Dragons know it as alok-dilon. Different groups and cultures have varying positions on what exactly constitutes necromancy. In its broadest sense, necromancy can be understood as any form of soul manipulation. Some might consider it a subset of the conjuration school of magic, as both involve the summoning of spirits and utilizing the powers of Oblivion. However, necromancy is more generally understood to connote the manipulation of the souls of mortals and the reanimation of their corpses. Typically, this soul manipulation is accomplished by binding a soul to a physical form which has been prepared by the necromancer.
Necromancy has generally been considered immoral and illegal in most cultures, as it is believed to contravene the natural process of life and death and violate the sanctity of spirits. However, there have been significant exceptions, and various disreputable groups have employed necromancy as a tool of war throughout history. Much of the knowledge of it is often attributed to Daedric influences, specifically Molag Bal. Molag Bal is also the father of vampires, undead creatures who often practice and have a heightened affinity for necromancy, or work alongside necromancers. Vampirism is often understood to be a form of necromancy.
The thu'um, also called the Storm Voice or simply the Voice, is a form of magic inherent in most Nords and some others which uses the words of the language of the Dragons to form "Shouts", the equivalent of spells, of immense power. The word actually means "shout" in the Dragon language. It is said that dragons makes no distinction between debating and fighting, and so their words have always been magical and powerful, for those who take the time to learn and understand their meaning. The Nords believe that Kyne, the embodiment of the wind who is viewed as the Nordic aspect of Kynareth, breathed onto the land at the Throat of the World to form them. As such, the Nords believe that their voice and breath is their very essence, and that channeling this life essence is how the thu'um operates. Those who can wield this power are called Tongues by the Nords. Most, if not all, Nords have some capacity for the thu'um, but it takes particular talent and many, many years of study and training to become a Tongue. The thu'um can be used for a wide variety of purposes, anything from sharpening blades to quickly traveling across the land, even controlling animals or killing enemies. Some stories suggest that the ancient Tongues even had the power to "sing Shor's ghost into the world". The most powerful Tongues must be careful when they speak and are often gagged for safety, as their voice can cause great destruction.
A Shehai, also known as a "Spirit Sword", was a magical sword created from the soul of a warrior through sheer willpower. Elite Yokudan Sword-singers, called Ansei, were famous for using this technique in ancient times, but knowledge of it was gradually lost to history.
- For game-specific magic pages, see: Arena • Daggerfall • Morrowind • Oblivion • Shivering Isles • Skyrim • Dragonborn
- Ayleid Reference Text — Raelys Anine
- Magic from the Sky — Irlav Jarol
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: Arena Supermundus: The Tapestry of Heaven — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- King Edward, Part XII
- The Monomyth
- Before the Ages of Man — Aicantar of
- 36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 33 — Vivec
- The Firmament — Ffoulke
- The Final Lesson — Aegrothius Goth
- Arcana Restored — Wapna Neustra
- The Apprentice's Assistant — Aramril
- Lost Histories of Tamriel
- Overview of Gods and Worship — Brother Hetchfield
- The Affairs of Wizards — Turedus Talanian
- Origin of the Mages Guild — The Archmage Salarth
- Galerion the Mystic — Asgrim Kolsgreg
- Proposal: Schools of Magic — Gabrielle Benele, Daggerfall Mages Guild
- Ancano's dialogue in Skyrim.
- The Black Arts On Trial — Hannibal Traven, Archmagister of the Mages Guild
- The Infernal City — Gregory Keyes
- Mysticism — Tetronius Lor
- Enchanter's Primer — Sergius Turrianus
- De Rerum Dirennis — Vorian Direnni
- Raven Direnni's Inflammable rug in ESO.
- Once — Beredalmo the Signifier