Project: Redcap; the crossroads of the Order


Pagan Gods

From Project: Redcap

Hermetic Magic has its origins in the pre-Christian past of Mythic Europe. Several Houses of Hermes originated as pagan cults. The extent to which magi still worship or honor these beings varies from one Saga to another depending on the preferences of the Troupe. Pagan gods might be mentioned in an Ars Magica saga through a Mystery Cult or other atavistic cult, through their powers manifesting in the mundane world or within an Aura or Regio, or even by directly interacting with the player characters.

Pagan Gods and Supernatural Realms[edit]

There is plenty of confusion about the Supernatural Realm with which pagan gods are associated because the answer has changed over the lifetime of the Ars Magica line. At various times, different supplements have stated or hinted that the pagan gods were magical beings (2nd Edition), powerful faeries (4th Edition), or even demons (3rd Edition Tribunal books).

In ArM5, most of the pagan gods are powerful faeries, but there may be the occasional magical being mixed in. ArM5 draws the distinction between the Magical and Faerie Realms differently than did previous editions.

The ArM5 rule book doesn't explicitly say whether pagan gods are faeries, but it does give guidance on how to classify supernatural creatures:

  • "Faeries are creatures drawn in some way from the imagination of the human race." (p. 187).
  • "The Magic realm encompasses a wide range of spirits. ... [Magic] spirits include spirits of natural places and natural phenomena." (p. 184)
  • "[A]ny creature that is powerful, alien, and indifferent to human beings is part of the Magic realm." (p. 184). Page 184 goes on to note that a few magical spirits were once human and have become a part of the Magic realm; some believe the Greek god Hermes falls into this category.

The Ars Magica Line Editor has offered some further clarification:

The ArM5 distinction is that Faerie is fundamentally concerned with humanity, while Magic fundamentally doesn't care. Since most pagan gods are concerned with humanity, they are mostly Faerie. Nature tends to be Magic rather than Faerie in ArM5; the distinction is definitely not the same as it was in ArM4 and earlier. Mind you, the problem with the earlier distinction is that it was deeply unclear what the distinction was, and over time just about everything got dumped into Faerie.

-- David Chart, Berkeley Ars Magica List, 29 September 2005.

Bear in mind that faeries are not the only things that care about humans. Divine and Infernal beings certainly care, too. It is more correct to say that magical creatures are the only supernatural beings that don't care about humans. Yet the Faerie realm is unique in that it somehow draws its existence or power from human imagination. The Divine, Infernal, and Magic realms would go on existing if there were no humans at all.

So, the pagan gods are officially classed as Faerie because they have a close relationship with humans. The god Hermes might be an exception, as a human who has gained immortality and become a Magic spirit. Pagans in Mythic Europe worshipped gods, not Realms, so it is possible that each pantheon may have contained a mix of both Faerie and Magical beings.

All of this raises the question, to which Realm should a supernatural being belong? It's pretty clear that shoemaker's elves would be faeries and beasts of virtue would be magical, but there are grey areas like nymphs. A nymph is a nature spirit, but if you've read any Greek or Roman mythology, you will see that nymphs often have a lot of interest in humans (and vice versa). A useful question might be, is a nymph more like some kind of elemental spirit, or more like a very minor goddess?

One thing is clear: just because an older-edition sourcebook says a particular creature is magical or faerie, does not mean that this is still true in Fifth Edition.

Pagan Gods in ArM5[edit]

Maintainer's Note: Please expand this section by listing references to specific pagan gods discussed in ArM5.


  • The Magic Realm, ArM5 p. 184
  • The Faerie Realm, ArM5 p. 187

See also[edit]

Legacy Page[edit]

The history of this page before August 6, 2010 is archived at Legacy:pagan_gods