Magic is celebrated. Magic is hated. While one can set fire to a village, another can cure the most fatal of wounds. It can save countless lives, or serve as a powerful catalyst for the most depraved acts. Magic is a frighteningly wonderful thing.
No one truly knows who first discovered magic, but it has been a part of Thedas for as long as anyone can remember; woven into the world at its most material level. The use of magic is often strengthened with lyrium, generally a blue glowing mineral. Though its raw form can turn a person insane, and extended exposure can cause death, its liquid form aids mages in replenishing mana or strengthening spells. Massive amounts of lyrium can be used in order to allow anyone to willingly enter the Fade, the realm where Spirits reside, but such a mass is highly expensive.
Because of its close connection with the fade, the practice of magic is regularly dictated by religion and society. The most active generally restrict and police mages, while others praise magical talent.
“Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him”. The Andrastian Chantry is largest faith in Thedas, and it follows this line at its core. Arcane ability is restricted and isolated from society for the protection of its users and others. Those found with magical talent are sent immediately to a Circle of Magi, an isolated location of magical learning which researches under the protection of the Chantry’s sanctioned group named the Templars.
Templars and mages struggle to co-exist, as the former are tasked with managing and controlling mages through multiple means. Templars take a phylactery, a small vial of blood, from new initiates who enter the Circle. Phylacteries are used as a way to track a mage’s location, a method of blood magic deemed necessary by the Chantry. As mages reach a certain maturity with magic, they undergo a test named the Harrowing. A mage proves their capability to control their magic and refuse the will of demons. But if they fail, mages are made Tranquil.
Tranquility is a ritual that Templars use to remove a mage’s power; though it draws away demons looking to possess mages, it robs him or her of all emotions. A Tranquil has a will of their own, but without passion to achieve any ambition. Many who oppose this practice question if the life of a Tranquil is a life worth living, and for that, mages within the Circle question their will and power in a society constantly afraid of who and what they are.
Starkly opposite, the Tevinter Imperium revels in magic. Magical skill dictates social status, as the Imperial Chantry and all Tevinter openly practice it. In the Imperium, it is a privilege to be invited into the Circle of Magi. The nation is debated as the best hub for magic; however, those magic users within the Altus and Laetans social classes suffer from hyper-competitiveness. Tevinter’s prowess in magic is debated as the most advanced within Thedas, despite their inability to share knowledge among themselves.
Nevarran culture has a long history of the Mortalitasi, a group of mages that revere the dead through mummification. They are also known to dabble in necromancy. However, they are accepted as advisors to the nobility and royal family.
Sometimes you don’t need a nation, but knowledge passed down from generations long lost. Keepers, leaders of Dalish clans, train in magic unique to their people. Most magic from the old days of Arlathan are lost, but Keepers hold on to what knowledge of magic they know to protect their clan. Templars normally root out apostates, rogue mages working outside of the Chantry, but surprisingly enough they tend to leave Dalish mages to their own devices.
The term “hedge mage” was created as a derogatory term by the Chantry. It is used to describe mages who are untrained, or develop their powers outside of conventional teaching. Since these mages exist outside of the Circle, they are all apostates. Some of these magically gifted individuals are not even aware of where their abilities come from, and attribute their power to faith or strong will. In popular lore they have been referred to as “witches” or “shamans”.
Only one nation acts fiercely against magic. The Qun, the religion of the Qunari, demands mages to be bound and mouths sewn shut. While most aspects of life follow order, magic is a dynamic and unpredictable thing. Mages of the Qun are forced to serve one purpose: destruction in war. Though looked upon sadly by their fellow Qunari, the one dominating fear is what they will do if not controlled.
In year 37 of the Dragon Age, in a final act of defiance against the Chantry, a mage named Anders destroyed the Kirkwall Chantry in a massive explosion that sparked a rebellion. In response, Templars enacted the Right of Annulment, essentially the slaughter of every mage in a Circle. As mages fight for survival, Templars fight to fulfill their only duty. Does magic have a place in the world? Or does it need to be controlled? Many look to a higher power for the answers to such controversial questions. But that- is a story for another day.