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Religion based magic?


I've been doing some thinking on the magic system for my fantasy world, and I've started bouncing around the idea of magic given to people by their gods. Regular prayer to a god would ensure that a person keeps their magic. But the snag I'm hitting is that I have a few different religions in my world, each with its own god/gods. But I also wanted to keep the gods' actual existence vague, instead of outright saying that any of them are real or not. I'm willing to scrap the entire idea if I need to, but how could I make a religion based magic system work if not everyone has the same god?


Myth Weaver
How do they know they are NOT the same deities?
The Abrahamic god goes by several names depending on whom you talk to and where and when you do the asking.
The Greek and Roman deities were often conflated in to similar identities but with different names [Jupiter/Zeus etc.]. The Romans did that a lot; taking over and renaming local God Y as "really" being the Roman God X [Minerva/Sulis].
I think it very possible that the Goddess of the trees in area A could be the God of the Forest in Area B.
I think you have a bigger issue - If magic is based on the worship of a god, then that is the proof that gods are real... Or have I misunderstood?
It could be that there is a part of the pray/worship that opens someone up to magic. Along the lines of meditation clearing the mind, or the "sacred herbs" used as incense... maybe...


^ Exactly what I was thinking.

It could also be that they believe praying to their gods gives them their powers but in reality it's hope / their strong belief to possess that particular kind of magic that does the trick.

Miles Lacey

Who said that one supposedly "true" deity is the one who gives the gift of magic? Why not allow all the gods the right to gift magic upon the faithful?

The other thing is that you could have different gods gifting different magical gifts to specific people. For example a militaristic / warrior god may gift a person with the ability to cast destructive combat spells while a goddess associated with healing may give a person the gift to cast healing magic.

Or you could do what I did: have the gods randomly select one in two hundred people to receive the gift of magic when they reach the age of sixteen. By doing this it means that there's no way to manipulate the gods into gifting someone the gift of magic and, because the gods always give with the one hand and takes with the other, those who gain the gift become sterile. This randomness gives hope even to those who don't live devoutly religious lives that they might receive the gift of magic.


toujours gai, archie
Different magics. God A gives one sort of magic, while God B grants a different sort. Substitute whole pantheons of gods as needed.

By different magic you could go as simple as different elemental magics, but consider also different systems. Alchemy, for example, or necromancy or voodoo. They could work so entirely differently, it's easy for the followers of God A to dismiss the magic of God B as superstition. Or as black magic. Or as laughable.

The problem I have with multiple divinity systems is figuring out how all those gods relate to each other. Where do they live? Is God A aware of God B? And so on.


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
I'm working on a story about sprites and fairies and hobs and all that. There's a fairy realm, with a fairy court of gods. It's underground, in a hollow earth, in a parallel realm. Fairies have access to the magics of that realm.

The thing is, I'm intending to drop all of this fairy worldbuilding into kind of a generic fantasy world, with orcs and dwarves and demons and whatever else. The implication is that these other fantasy races have their own magic, their own deities, their own "equivalent" level of worldbuilding, which I am not really developing much at all.

I know how fairy magic works. It's based on pride, and they store the magic they take from people in a fairy dust, which can be hardened into seelie crystals, which can have a range of effects from enchantments, to flight, to illusions, to jinxes or charms, to cleaning and beauty products. They also have their innate magic, and other magic from their bond with the fairy realm, which can create the same effects (but lesser) without having to bother folk.

None of this precludes orcs from having a type of "blood magic," and orcs gods lending whole clans of orcs as warrior slaves to other gods in exchange for divine favors (a concept I had for them back in D&D). While the fairies live in an underground parallel world, the orc gods might have doors to their realms appear in a conquered city ruins.

The thing is, however, that these magics and creatures would appear world wide. Different fairy types appear in different regions, but they all use the same type of magic. And my story would mention or include a few of the different fairy groups that exist, and strongly let readers feel that there are many, many more.

This makes the world feel like a big, diverse place, with lots of magic and lots of gods, more than people might keep up with, while all of them are real, and have their own stories, happening on top of each other.

It's a fantasy world - why make gods so weak that they only rule a single small country?
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I have religiously based magic, and it is very rare. There's an entity called Yyagaar, who's true nature is not known at all. Its worshiped by a lot of people, who all have different names for it. He is called "the watcher" by some. Magics related to it include fortune telling. There's the crying god, who controls magics pertaining to emotion, and curses. Anyone watched BTVS? Basically, the crying god is like a really massive, incomprehensible vengeance demon.

I'm currently working on other gods, but I'm trying to keep them very vague, I want my magic systems to feel very soft and unpredictable, as well as not being used easily.
I'd possibly take some inspiration from existing cultures and how they use magic. Such as the curse tablets found at the temple to Sulis, a goddess of a sacred spring at Bath Bath curse tablets - Wikipedia Or the Second Merseburg charm invoking Odin Merseburg charms - Wikipedia

You'll see that people in the past have called on various deities for various purposes. As mentioned above you'd go to a warrior god for help in battle or a healing god for healing (or contrarily to curse by withholding health!). I can see no problem with all different religions working magic.

I've referred to the ancient Pagan religions here but there is also magic based around the Abrahamic religions and priests today hold the power of exorcism.

I'd agree that folks who have a devotional relationship with a specific deity and pray to them and make lots of offerings would be much more in that gods's favour than those who don't. You could possible do something with patron relationships - when someone makes vows to serve a specific deity and that special relationship strengthens their magic.