Taoist Sorcery

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Taoism's origins may be traced to prehistoric Chinese religions in China. They are found in the composition of the Tao Te Ching (3rd or 4th century BCE), or amidst the activity of Zhang Daoling (2nd century AD). Laozi received imperial recognition as a divinity in the mid second century CE. Taoism gained official status in China during the Tang Dynasty, whose emperors claimed Laozi as their relative. Several Song emperors, most notably Huizong, were active in promoting Taoism, collecting Taoist texts and publishing editions of the Daozang. Aspects of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism were consciously synthesised in the Neo-Confucian school, which eventually became Imperial orthodoxy for state bureaucratic purposes. The Qing Dynasty, however, much favored Confucian classics and rejected Taoist works. During the eighteenth century, the imperial library was constituted, but excluded virutally all Taoist books. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Taoism had fallen so much from favor, that only one complete copy of the Daozang still remained, at the White Cloud Monastery in Beijing. Taoism is one of five religions recognised by the PRC, which insists on controlling its activities through a state bureaucracy (the China Taoist Association).

Taoism has greatly evolved over the years of its existence, expanding philosophical concepts in new directions with every century. What was accepted one generation becomes forbidden the next; what is a folk magic entirely separate from taoist practice in one century has been wholly absorbed and inseparable from it within the next century.

  • The Shang-ch'ing, or "Highest Pure" school of Mao Shan Mountain, as put forth by Lady Wei Hua-ts'un contributed the Huang-tin Ching, or Scripture of the Yellow Court, which describes the connections between the five elements, the human body and Heaven. Its meditative techniques are thought to grant incredible powers to its adepts.
  • Other schools, including the Ling-pao ("Spiritual Jewel") and P'ei-chi ("Pole Star") schools brought to taoism exorcistic prowess, contributing techniques for dealing with unruly spirits and the creation of talismans. These also contributed scriptures describing regimens of meditation and ascetic practice thought to increase mystical power, prolong life, engage in visionary journies, commune with the Tao and eventually ascend to Heaven as a divine immortal.
  • During the 5th and 6th Centuries, Taoism resolved into a system of hierarchies to match the growing bureaucratic nature of China itself, organizing not only its own membership, but the thousand-thousand spirits it called upon into households and courts.
  • The 10th through 14th centuries saw an outgrowth of Taoist factions, many of which were forthright in their practice of magic, and decried by older, more philosophical schools. The practice of "black magic" grew, describing what was believed to be a perversion of pure Taoist ritual for secular, tainted magic, which often did not hesitate to draw on the names of older, more prestigious schools in the search for legitimacy. This spread of black magic was countered with the introduction of "Thunder Magic," a new practice meant for combating black magic. By the end of this time, Taoist masters were made ministers in the Imperial government, and given the right to ordain and rank Taoist adepts.
  • Most recently, Taoists were forced to flee the onset of Communism, though because many masters of its arts did not practice in monasteries or temples, they continued to simply teach under the noses of the government. Recently, however, the government has welcomed the practice of Taoism - primarily as a religion, as any sort of superstition is looked askance upon - back into China as part of its cultural heritage.

Over the years, Taoist practices and schools have occasionally run afoul of the law - whether a case of mystics taking up rebellious causes, or rebels embracing mysticism varies from instance to instance. Some examples include the White Lotus Society (from the 12th to 19th Century), the Golden Elixir Society and the Righteous Harmony Fist, or the "Boxers," for whom the Boxer Rebellion was named. These secret societies invariably absorbed secretive and sometimes even criminal practices; many of the Triads claim to trace their descent to these groups, and even today the Triads embrace taoist symbolism in their naming conventions.

Contents

[edit] Prerequisites

Language (Mandarin or Cantonese), Taoist Status 1, Academics 2, Brawl 1, Occult 2, Specialty: Taoism in Academics

[edit] Tradition Skills

  • Academics: Used in the study of ancient scriptures and legal codes that formed the basis of ancient taoism.
  • Brawl: Used in the practice of tai chi and other martial arts disciplines meant to help bring mind, body and spirit into tune.
  • Medicine: The performance of acupuncture and the application of taoist principles to the human body.
  • Occult: Understanding the various occult correspondences and courts of spirits, the flows of chi through the land as well as the basic rituals of taoist practice.
  • Weaponry: Used in ritual duels, the practice of tai chi weaponry and battles with spirit beings.

[edit] Praxis

  • Fu (Talismans): So-called "prayer strips," fu are essentially government documents in the Celestial Bureaucracy, meant to demonstrate the authority of the magician or priest over some aspect of the world. They are always drawn up using fine calligraphy (and indeed, many use Glyph Lore to hide Atlantean runes into their writings), affixed with the personal symbol of the magician and then wax seals that designate the schools the magician belongs to, and initiations he has undergone. Sometimes fu are burnt to sent them to Heaven, or buried so that earthly spirits may read them. Other times, they are torn in half, with one part buried and the other burnt in order to bring the powers of Heaven and Earth to bear. Other fu are simply nailed or pasted to doors or walls.
  • Lu (Spirit Registers): Each school of Taoist sorcery has a unique register of allied spirits, bound by ages-old contracts to serve the initiates of those schools in specific ways. The use of these lu often involves fu made to appear as Imperial directives and binding contracts.
  • Alchemy: Taoist magic often involves the use of an Eastern alchemy, involving the mixing, concentrating and dilution of elemental qi in a variety of ways. This takes one of two methods: external and internal alchemy.
    • External Alchemy: External alchemy involves the use of various chemicals, plant materials, stones and other ingredients associated with one or another of the elemental qi. Considered a lesser art than internal alchemy, external alchemy is considered vital to understanding how the elemental qi types mix and change one another, so as to avoid poisoning oneself.
    • Internal Alchemy: As the Taoist sorcerer's knowledge progresses, he learns that various organs store different kinds of elemental qi. By processes of meditation, martial arts and the occasional ingestion of various substances, the qi in organs can be strengthened, weakened and channeled to accomplish various supernatural effects. A true master of internal alchemy may also learn the techniques that grant him immortality.
  • Visionary Journeys: In Taoism, many of the heroes of legends take great journeys, seeing strange things, accomplishing great feats and returning to find that their actions have changed the world. Taoist sorcery teaches its initiates how to accomplish these sorts of changes by means of journeying, whether into the world of spirits, into the Astral or even by undertaking actual physical journeys.
  • High Ritual Magic: More than simply ritual, the rituals of Taosist sorcery are community events. Those who would use these arts must be initiated and ordained as Taoist clergy, for the power comes not through the action, but from the right to perform that action by higher powers both bureaucratic and Celestial. Some rituals are performed only by the priest, but many others require not just assistants, but the participation of the community, in the form of setting off firecrackers, performing lion and dragon dances and similar festival activities with a magical purpose.
  • Tai Chi: Developing mastery of tai chi and other forms of martial skill, the Taoist not only develops his body, mind and spirit, but also learns to channel qi and perform both the ritual battles that sympathetically recall the amazing feats of legendary figures as well as the very real fights a Taoist sorcerer faces from the spirit world.

[edit] Correspondences

  • Taoist Cosmology: The beginning and end of all things is the Tao, the One, which is the Great Principle. At this level of understanding, all things are simply Qi, the essential energy of the universe. But unity begets duality, and primordial qi operates in two fundamental modes: Yang, the principle of active force, expansion, light, motion, life, passion and Heaven, and Yin, the principle of passive receptivity, restriction, darkness, stillness, death, logic and Earth. Their interplay is dynamic, and Yang contains within it a bit of Yin, while Yin likewise harbors a touch of Yang. Yin and Yang manifest differently between Heaven, Earth and Man. The trigrams demonstrate this: eight diagrams that cover the possible expressions of Yin and Yang through Heaven, Earth and Man. From these manifestations come the Ten Thousand Things, the term used to denote the combination of belief in abstract, philosophical qi with the concept of multiple gods and spirits. Qi is made manifest in a variety of different permutations (see the Five Elements).
  • The Five Elements: The five Taoist Elements, which make up the universe. At their most base, they are the actual materials used to symbolize them; at their most numinous, they are "flavors" of qi, moving through both the Yang Cycle (wherein one element begets the next, Wood-Fire-Earth-Metal-Water-Wood) and the Yin Cycle (wherein one element limits or destroys the next, Wood-Earth-Water-Fire-Metal-Wood), a cycle usually described with a pentagram (showing the Yin Cycle) within a circle (showing the Yang Cycle). Even the human body contains these five elements, for five of the bodily organs are associated with those elements, serving as the vessels in which qi of that element is stored. These elements and their associations (organ, direction, time of year, planet, color and taste, as well as their associations among the Awakened) are:
    • Wood: Liver, East, Spring, Jupiter, Blue or Green, Sour; Obrimos Path, Forces and Prime Arcana
    • Fire: Heart, South, Summer, Mars, Red, Bitter; Mastigos Path, Mind and Space Arcana
    • Earth: Spleen, Center, Late Summer, Saturn, Yellow, Sweet; Moros Path, Death and Matter Arcana
    • Metal: Lungs, West, Autumn, Venus, White, Sharp; Acanthus Path, Fate and Time Arcana
    • Water: Kidneys, North, Winter, Mercury, Black or Violet, Salty; Thyrsus Path, Life and Spirit Arcana
  • Bureaucratic Implements: Taoist magic often makes use of the implements and tools of bureaucracy. The brush and paper are the tabula rasa of magical workings, with the ability to craft fine letters on a page as the foremost talent a magician can demonstrate. Wax seals, ink chops, official ribbons, certificates, badges and the like are all vital in the performance of Taoist magic, particularly in dealing with spirits - Taoist priests are duly appointed representatives of the Celestial Bureaucracy, and thus entitled to a measure of respect from the citizenry of Heaven, just as mundane bureaucrats are to be accorded honor by the citizenry of a kingdom.
  • Celestial Symbols: The moon, the sun and the stars (particularly in specific shapes, such as the Big Dipper) are all emblems of celestial importance, representing the passage of Yin and Yang through the Heavens. Invocation of these symbols is an act of connecting to the highest principles - the same fundamental concept as Drawing Down power through a Watchtower, generally speaking.

[edit] Higher Mysteries

  • Yin-Cycle Counterspell (•••): In Taoist philosophy, using one Arcanum to counter magics of the same Arcanum makes little sense: they are of the same Element, and adding more of a given Element does not cause that Element to be destroyed. Instead, Taoists have the option of using counterspelling based on an Arcanum associated with an element that destroys the target spell's associated element, within the Yin Cycle of the Five Elements. Thus, because Water destroys Fire, a magician may use a Life-based countermagic effect to counter a Space effect. These are divided along Subtle (or Celestial) and Gross (or Earthly) lines: Prime-Death-Spirit-Mind-Fate-Prime is the Yin Cycle of Celestial Arcana and Forces-Matter-Life-Space-Time-Forces is the Yin Cycle of Earthly Arcana. A mage with this ability using Mage Sight can not only detect all magical emanations of that Arcanum, but he can also detect vulgar spells of the Arcanum it destroys in the Yin Cycle as they are cast.
  • Yang-Cycle Ritual Magic (••••): As an Awakened Taoist may use Yin-Cycle elemental attributions in counterspelling, a Taoist with this level of understanding may act as an assistant in ritual magic to cast spells of Arcana he does not himself possess. Rather than using the same Arcanum to aid another in casting a spell, the Taoist may channel his magic through his understanding of an Arcanum associated with an element that increases or empowers the element associated with the target spell Arcanum, within the Yang Cycle of the Five Elements. These, too, are divided along Subtle (or Celestial) and Gross (or Earthly) lines: Prime-Mind-Death-Fate-Spirit-Prime is the Yang Cycle of Celestial Arcana and Forces-Space-Matter-Time-Life-Forces is the Yang Cycle of Earthly Arcana. Though the mage need not know the spell he is aiding in the casting of, he must possess the complementary Arcana at the same rating as the spell being cast.
  • Yin & Yang Spell Theft (•••••): Mastery of both Yin and Yang Cycles of both Celestial and Earthly Arcana brings with it a subtle and powerful ability which Awakened Taoists refer to as spell theft. In essence, this talent is a combined spell: the first is an effect similar to Dispel Magic, eroding the Potency of a target spell using its opposed Arcanum in the Yin-Cycle, and then those successes are added as Potency to the second spell, harvesting the power of the dispelled spell to aid in the casting of the second spell, of complementary Arcanum (relative to the target spell) in the Yang Cycle. The casting of these spells is still under the normal limitations for combined spells, with the dispelling spell considered a rating •• effect (meaning the Taoist must have ••• in the dispelling Arcanum, and one dot higher in the second Arcanum than that needed to cast it). It should be noted that unlike the previous abilities, these are not limited to divisions between Subtle and Gross Arcana expressions - the sorcerer's understanding of these nuances allow for the interchange of Celestial and Earthly qi. These specifics end up as so (Target Spell: Dispelling Arcanum, Second Arcanum):
    • Forces or Prime Arcanum: Fate/Time dispels, adds to Mind/Space spells.
    • Death or Matter Arcanum: Forces/Prime dispels, adds to Fate/Time spells.
    • Life or Spirit Arcanum: Death/Matter dispels, adds to Forces/Prime spells.
    • Mind or Space Arcanum: Life/Spirit dispels, adds to Death/Matter spells.
    • Fate or Time Arcanum: Mind/Space dispels, adds to Life/Spirit spells.

[edit] Typical Taoist Sorcery Rotes

The following are some of the most commonly taught Taoist sorcery rotes.

[edit] NAME (ARCANA •••••)

  • Spell: X
  • Dice Pool: X
  • Factor Bonuses: X
  • Tradition Rote: X
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