Dweomer (Deverry Cycle)
||This article describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. (February 2008)|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2008)|
Dweomer (pronounced "dway-OH-mair") is the fictional system of magic depicted in Katharine Kerr's novels of Deverry. This system is described by Kerr as being rooted in "what we might call 'British revival Rosicrucianism,'" from the late Victorian age to the 1920s, which itself drew from Renaissance Rosicrucianism. According to Kerr, the lines of influence in her fictional magical system trace back through this Renaissance "Christian Kaballah" via the Jewish Kaballah to Late Roman Gnosticism. (As an inside joke, some of Kerr's characters refer to a scroll by a certain "pseudo-Iamblichos": there was a genuine Iamblichos writing (in Greek) in the late Roman world about magical topics.) There are also some similarities between Kerr's dweomer and ideas found in Theosophy.
In the glossaries to her novels, Kerr defines dweomer as "in its strict sense, a system of magic aimed at personal enlightenment through harmony with the natural universe in all its planes and manifestations; in the popular sense, magic, sorcery." Most characters who practice dweomer do not do so out of a desire for personal power, but consider themselves to be the servants the Great Ones, supernatural beings which are analogous to the Buddhist concept of Bodhisattvas.
Although the word "dweomer" derives from Old English, Kerr uses it as an English equivalent to the Deverrian word dwunddaevad (Deverrian, in the universe Kerr has created, is a Celtic language), in keeping with the literary conceit that the novels are English translation of Deverrian books.
Throughout the novels, Kerr repeatedly (if subtly) emphasises that although dweomer magic can produce spectacular physical effects, it is chiefly a spiritual pursuit, and not a replacement for science or technology.
The fictional universe in which the books are set has its own cosmology, in which the normal material world is only the lowest level. Above the physical world, there are numerous metaphysical planes. Although planes are technically collections of supernatural forces, the text of the books usually describes these higher planes as if they were regions of spacetime—albeit with vastly different natural laws.
The etheric plane, which is described as being directly "above" the material world, is associated with the five classical elements used in the novels—earth, air, fire, water, and aether. The astral plane, which is described as being "above" or "within" the etheric plane, can be tapped by characters as a source of magical energy. The glossaries at the end of the books also equate it with the Akashic Record.
Numerous other planes have been briefly mentioned, such as the Green Lands, the Orange Lands, Earth of Earth, and the Land of Husks and Rinds. However, their properties or arrangement are not detailed.
Dweomer teaches that each soul has a responsibility to live and learn in order to advance itself spiritually. This is accomplished by living multiple incarnations, both as a male and as a female, in order to learn more about the true self and eventually establish oneself as a Great One, a spirit that has evolved to a point where it no longer needs to incarnate and is one with the Light behind all gods.
The gods themselves are in fact representations of higher-planar forces, which have been imbued with some degree of sentience by being worshiped. Both dweomer-workers and priests are able to tap these forces, though the dweomer-workers seem more adept at it. Deverrian priests are seldom shown channeling god-force; the only effect they seem able to achieve with it is divination. (Bardekian priests, on the other hand, seem to have knowledge and skills comparable to secular dweomer-workers.)
During the course of the novels, dweomer-workers have demonstrated a number of supernatural abilities.
Second sight (also dweomer sight, etheric sight or Sight (with a capital S)) is the ability to perceive supernatural phenomena. Examples of such phenomena described in the novels include spiritual beings, auras of energy emanating from living beings, and magical constructions.
Scrying: is the practice of viewing distant people, places, or things by magic. In order to scry for something, a dweomerworker needs to have actually seen it first. Scrying is usually described as looking at some bright or reflective object while concentrating on the object of the search.
Elementel Control: With the aid of spirits called Wildfolk, dweomer-workers can manipulate five classical elements: earth, water, air, fire, and aether (light). This allows a dweomer-worker to accomplish such feats as controlling the weather, instantly igniting and extinguishing fires, or creating phantasmal lights.
Dweomer-workers are accomplished at creating thoughtforms, which are objects crafted from the substance of the higher planes. By an effort of will, a dweomer-worker can sculpt etheric or astral substance into a desired shape. A "body of light" is a thoughtform used as an artificial vessel for one's consciousness. By transferring his or her spirit into such a vessel, a dweomer-worker can travel on metaphysical planes in a form of astral projection.
Astral Seal: An astral seal is a magical barrier. It blocks a dweomer-worker from scrying for anyone or anything inside its boundaries of protection. It also prevents a dweomer-worker from entering the warded area in a body of light.
Ensorcellment: To ensorcel a person is to produce an effect similar to hypnosis by manipulating the person's aura. Ensorcellment is much less easily resisted than hypnosis, and can produce much more pronounced effects than hypnosis. Some effects that can be produced by ensorcellment include: stunning or dazing an individual, altering a person's emotional state, causing someone to forget (or remember) certain things, planting subconscious instructions to be carried out at a later time, or controlling the individual by totally subsuming their will. Only a dark dweomerworker will ensorcel an individual without his or her explicit consent. (For those wondering why anyone would consent to this, the Deverry novels feature one example of an
Invisibility:' This spell doesn't make someone truly invisible; it just makes them hard to notice.
Invocation: Dweomer-workers sometimes call on powerful spirits for aid or advice.
Enchantment: One of the least-often seen dweomer workings is that of placing an enchantment on an object. Such objects are very rare. Enchantments which have been discussed throughout the Deverry novels include a talisman of noble virtue known as the Great Stone of the West, an enchanted metal that glows when one of the Westfolk comes near it, and a silver ring which gave its wearer the ability to command the dragon Arzosah Sothy Lorezohaz. In the books "Time of Omens" through "The Fire Dragon", a dark dweomer example of a talisman is a lead curse tablet created by a sorcerer in Lady Merodda's service. Though the precise details aren't given, it's obvious from the first that it's meant to curse Maryn (his name's on it!) and Nevyn manages to discover that the curse is meant to poison the beginning of things and bring Maryn's death should Burcan die. Lilli gives her life to break the curse, although she has already fulfilled it unknowingly.
Glamour: A glamour is a false seeming. It can make an object appear to be something else, or cause a person to appear more charismatic.
Binding of Spirits: Dark dweomerworkers have been shown binding Wildfolk in gemstones as a form of imprisonment, and to recently-dead corpses to create a sort of zombie servant. Dweomerworkers of the light will never bind one of the Wildfolk in this way without their consent. An example of this is the previously mentioned Great Stone of the West, which draws its powers from the spirits who inhabit it.
Shapeshifting: The dweomerworkers among the Westfolk know a working which allows them to transform themselves into animals, usually a bird. The working is extremely dangerous; if not done properly, it can kill the practitioner. The technique is described as an extension of the more common spirit-projection ability. The dweomerworker begins with an animal-shaped body of light, which is used as a "mold" for the substance of the phnysical body. Dweomerworkers who use this technique sometimes exhibit animal instincts while in animal form. This ability originated with the Westfolk, but some human dweomerworkers have also learnt it. Whether human or Westfolk, the dweomerworker has no control over the form they take - it is instead a reflection of his or her true self. In some cases, the form may not even be one known to the Dweomerworker (for example, the Westfolk dweomerworker Dallandra takes the form of a small bird, similar to a linnet, but which no one seems to recognize).
Retrocognition: The ability to see what occurred somewhere at a previous time.
A number of magical objects have been described throughout the novels. Some of them are:
Bronze Knife: Dallandra brought a crude-looking weapon to the physical plane from Evandar's realm. It has the ability to harm Guardians manifesting on the physical plane because it exists simultaneously on both planes. On the Guardians' plane it can change to a bronze-tipped spear.
Crystal Pyramids: A pair of truncated crystal pyramids, one white and one black, which when touched together, allow passage between Annwn and the world the ancestors of the Deverrians originally left. The one use that we see of them, in "The Spirit Stone", leaves the user's hands badly burned. (Although it's very clear he didn't know what he was doing.) In "The Shadow Isle," an underground shapeshifting race, the Dwrgi, have a whole basket of the white and black crystals that they have taken from Horsekin graves, along with other treasures.
Curse Tablet: A lead tablet with Marryn's name and a curse written on it. Nevyn was unable to disenchant it, so he placed it in a special container which sealed its power.
The Great Stone of the West: Nevyn created this talisman of the noble virtues to guide the conscience of Deverry's king. It is inhabited by spirits referred to as "planetary spirits," which can communicate with the Great Stone's possessor, who hears their words inside his or her head. From the way they interacted with Jill, they appear to have a rather coarse and snarky manner. Nevyn explains it as the spirits taking the noble sentiment of pride a bit too seriously.
Rose Ring: This finger ring, made of dwarven silver is engraved with roses on the outside, and with Elvish sylabary characters on the inside, which read "Ar Zo Sa Soth E Lor Ez O Haz." These characters spell out the name of a dragon, whom the ring's wearer can a command. It was enchanted by Evandar.
Silver Casket: Nevyn placed the curse tablet inside a box made of dwarven silver, and placed dweomer seals upon it, to contain the tablet's influence and prevent it from harming Marryn.
Silver Daggers: The daggers which are the emblem of a special band of Deverrian mercenaries and which gives them their name, all have two dweomer workings placed upon them. The first creates a strong antipathy to the spiritual aura of the Elcyion Lacar. As a result, the metal will glow with dweomer light if there are any elves nearby. Dallandra believes that the daggers siphon life-energy from elves to generate the light, so that it would be dangerous for one of the Elcyion Lacar to handle or be near one of them for an extended period of time. In later books, it is revealed that the daggers are capable of causing injury directly to the etheric doubles of elves, resulting in wounds that do not heal.
The other spell causes the weapon to return to its "true owner" by a sequence of seeming coincidences if it is lost. However, because all the Deverrian smiths who know how to create the special alloy the daggers are made of were taught by the Dwarven smith Otho, all the silver daggers created in Deverry see Otho as their "true owner."
Since Rhodry is half-elf, the daggers glow near him as well. In "Daggerspell", after Rhys exiles Rhodry, Cullyn of Cerrmor gives Rhodry his dagger and pledges him to the silver daggers. In "Darkspell" Jill takes Rhodry to Otho to ask the smith if he can change the spell to keep it from glowing -which Otho is able to do. But in "A Time of Exile" it comes clear that in canceling the antipathy spell, Otho also inadvertently changed the "true owner" spell. That dagger sees Rhodry as its true owner.
- See Kerr's own description of her version of magic at http://www.deverry.com/student.html#dweomer.
- For example, see Katharine Kerr, A Time of Omens, (Bantam Books, 1992), p. 392.