The foundation of the Order of Hermes was Bonisagus' attempt to create a universal system of magic. While he and Trianoma collected together 12 of the most powerful magi in Europe to combine their teachings into a cohesive whole, ten of these magi were descended from the priests of the Cult of Mercury and used variants of their teachings. Mercurian magic consisted of a body of 38 specific "spells" cast by ritually by large groups of mages over extended periods of time. After the disbanding of the Cult, single wizards adapted that highly-ritualized process into individual practices, albeit weaker than the rites of the Cult.
Bonisagus combined this with the teachings of Diedne, a mage from the druidic tradition, who taught him how to create new spells at a moment's notice without needing to create a ritual beforehand. The two teachings combined to create early Hermetic theory.
The Foundation of all Hermetic magick was that of the Modus (Latin for method or technique). It's the strict doctrine of study, willpower and discipline required to wield the Ars Hermetici. This ethic of perfection reflects itself in all the mage does, enabling him to transcend the boundaries of regular folk. Modus is both the means and the end, the Ouroboros, swallowing its own tail in an endless quest, using focus to beget greater understanding and, in turn, using understanding to further one's focus. The Modus of the Hermetic Master impresses itself upon the Tapestry in displays of raw, unadulterated power.
Standard Techniques included:
- Creo: "I create"
- Intéllego: "I perceive"
- Muto: "I transform"
- Perdo: "I destroy"
- Rego: "I control"
Techniques and Forma (forms) were used to describe Hermetic spells: essentially, verbs and nouns. They typically took Latin (or Latin-esque) forms. For example: creating fire would be a "Creo Ignem" spell. The Forma were the Pillars of Hermetic understanding.
- Anima: Command of Life
- Animál: animal
- Córporem: body
- Herbam: plant
- Corona: Command of the mind
- Mentem: mind
- Imágonem: image
- Primus: Command of Quintessence
- Vim: the power of magick
- Vires: Command of elemental forces
- Aquam: water
- Auram: air
- Ignem: fire
- Terram: earth
The Craftmasons -- an offshoot of the Hermetics who eschewed their aloofness in favor of the ideals of magick for the common man -- replaced the Primus Forma for Materia: giving up a connection to the forces of magick in exchange for being able to manipulate the forces of the physical world.
After the treacherous Tremere left for their new unlives, they continued to use familiar terminology for their new undead magics, operating under the theory that vitae was composed of pure prima materia. For example, their ability to summon unnatural fire is known variously as "Rego Ignem" or "Creatio Ignis."
In time, these Thaumaturgical abilities are given more common names, further distancing them from their Hermetic forebears: Rego Ignem becomes "the Lure of Flames," Rego Aquam becomes "Neptune's Might," and so on.
The Hermetics, in the meantime, were foundational in the creation of a new magickal society: just as the Order of Hermes was an attempt to gather disparate mages who shared a common practice with the disbanded Cult of Mercury, the new Council of Nine Mystick Traditions was an attempt to gather together mystic practitioners of all stripes.
The Hermetics, of course, proposed their own Hermetic system as a shared magickal language, but ultimately the assembled mystics reached even further back to a history many of them shared in the Reed of Djehuty and the Cupbearers of Aset, Egyptian mystics who employed nine Cornerstones of Creation, which the assembled now called Spheres.
As the new lingua franca caught on -- partly because of the Hermetic obsession with ancient traditions -- the practice of using Techniques and Forma to describe their magick passed into history.