The Thyrsus are a magical path whose ruling Arcana are Life and Spirit, and suffer penalties when trying to learn the Arcanum of Mind. They are also known as the Shamans on the Path of Ecstasy, Scions of the Watchtower of the Singing Stone in the Realm of the Primal Wild, Kingdom of Totems and Abode of Beasts. Their theme is Instinct and their mood is Passion. They approach the Supernal through Boundaries and Intercession.
Mages who Awaken with a link to the Realm of the Primal Wild tap directly into the primordial forces of vitality that drive creation. Their hearts beat with the pulse of the world, and they are moved by a passion and vigor that sets them apart from their Awakened peers. The emphasis on impulse, instinct and urge often gives Thyrsus mages an inclination toward powerful emotions, and some of these mages are more capable of controlling their passions than others. Those who gain a modicum of control of their impulses can manage to be just as socially acceptable as any other mage, but those who isolate themselves grow unaccustomed to wearing the polite (or, as they see it, fake) mask of society and may find it difficult to interact with others. Such isolated mages are, unsurprisingly, blunt in their appraisals of others, not just with regard to criticism, but just as commonly in their appreciation of physical beauty and the like. When something has a Thyrsus mage’s attention, the mage’s intensity is hard to match (or keep up with). Others find the Thyrsus’ laser-like focus uncomfortable, and though it can be inconvenient under some circumstances, it also makes those on the Path of Ecstasy incredibly diligent in whatever task they have set for themselves. When a mage on the Path of Ecstasy invests herself in a task, she devotes herself to it wholeheartedly (some say obsessively).
The body is the temple of all Thyrsus mages. They know exactly what’s necessary to keep their bodies in peak condition. They never suffer from that little extra paunch, or minor allergies, or warts or acne. Their skin is clear and taut; their eyes are bright and their muscles are firm beneath their skin. Youth and health linger in Thyrsus mages late into life. These mages don’t stop aging, but they never look old. They could be over 100 and still appear to be no older than a vigorous 60 years old.
Shamans are most accurately described as “earthy.” They’re very no-nonsense. They have the clearest understanding of the physical realities of the human condition of any of the Awakened. Nothing about the function of a healthy body bothers the Thyrsus in the least. They don’t have shame or concern about any of the body’s functions. They don’t giggle and smirk about them; they aren’t shy. At times, Sleepers and other mages alike can find the Thyrsus attitudes a bit too comfortable.
Thyrsus mages understand the mysteries of the Greek concepts Bios and Zoë: both the fragility of an individual life and the incomparable tenacity of the life force itself. They witness the infinitely complex dance of spirits that underpins all life and natural phenomena, and they see the physical results of that ephemeral dance as they manifest in the world. Thyrsus mages see, with an unmatched clarity, the consequences of vices, and they habitually direct their lives toward the greatest sources of vitality. Thyrsus mages are sensitive to the pulse of the world’s rhythms — the waxing and waning of the moon, the change of the seasons, the chirruping of crickets, the beating of hearts — and cities make such sensitivity difficult, if not impossible. What the wise Shaman recognizes as wisdom, the shallow urbanite may well interpret as eccentricity, if not outright madness. Though other Paths may have their strengths, Thyrsus mages see themselves as the sturdy roots supporting all other branches of magical knowledge. Theirs are the most fundamental secrets: those of life and the animating forces that make it worth living.
In nature, there is neither right nor wrong; there are only consequences. Mages on the Path of Ecstasy understand this almost implicitly, and many of them quickly develop a reputation for amoral behavior not long after their Awakening. Morality is a non-issue for them, and they quickly lose all hang-ups about any aspect of the natural world (although they find a lot of what takes place in the “civilized” world sickening). Sex is a form of passionate play for Thyrsus mages, and need not be tied up and twisted in an unnatural web of moralist strictures or expectations. Shamans can be just as amoral about killing. As the cat feels no remorse at the death of the mouse, so it is with Thyrsus mages and those they feel are below them — in theory. They don’t kill for fun, but they don’t shrink from it either. Death is the lot of the weak and the old, and there is no story older than that of predator killing prey. And one day, all Shamans know, they, too, will be prey instead of predator, a fact they strive to accept with equanimity. That understanding contributes to the passion with which Shamans lead their lives. Thyrsus mages are well aware that they’re fair game in the food chain. A key truth held tightly in the Shamans’ hearts is this: any predator, however fierce, will become prey when age or weakness overcomes him. And that, too, is a healthy part of the cycle they so revere.
Ecstasy is an important focus to those Awakening on this Path. Indeed, the Thyrsus Path is called the Path of Ecstasy for a reason. Some among the Awakened never fully understand what ecstasy is, or can be, or how it is connected to magical practice until and unless they walk the Thyrsus Path. The ecstatic state sought out by many Thyrsus mages is a means of transcending or bypassing thought. These mages tune their minds to the primordial and unsullied “frequency” of the Primal Wilds, and thereby render themselves immune to judgment, illusions or other weaknesses to which conscious thought is prone. Using this, the Thyrsus transcends his mere physicality to connect with the wider world.
For the Thyrsus, the Material and the Shadow are part of the same whole. Everything is alive and breathing in some way, even immaterial objects house spirits that thrive. These beings are interconnected as a vast whole, like a superorganism, through songlines, that reveal themselves in the throes of Ecstasy and later rearrange, similar to an ever-transforming nerve system.
Most Thyrsus draw on correspondences from native cultures from all parts of the globe, as their primal ways are more in tune with the Supernal Realm that offers their power. Other strong concepts are the Mystery cults of ancient Greece dedicated to Orpheus and Dionysus, as well as nature gods like Pan and Cernunnos. Others focus more on the ecstatic part and find correspondences in figures like Shiva and certain Voodoo practices. Additionally, many modern Thyrsus mages draw on Wiccan and other neo-pagan traditions as links to the Supernal.
In Western culture, the element of Water is nearly always associated with the Thyrsi, while Eastern Cultures assign it the element of wood (in the Hiden Gogyo Bujutsu) or, too, the element of water (in taoistic influenced consilia). In the Neolithic Age, the Thyrsi were associated with Blood, as its pulse symbolized life and its similarities to the flow and pulse of Essence mirrored Spirit.
The Free Council assigns to the Thyrsus the Tarot Cards of the Hermit and the Moon. The Hermit symbolizes the Path itself, while the Moon symbolizes the approach and the nature of Mysteries that a Thyrsus is likely to encounter.
A mages Nimbus accompanies his casting of magic. The Nimbus reflects his personal style of magic, as well as his advancement in the Ars Mysteriorum. The Nimbus of a Thyrsus usually affects the bodies and primal instincts of animals and humans alike in his vicinity.
- Arousal- Those watching the mage cast his magic find themselves exceptionally, inexplicably sexually aroused. For the duration of the casting, the onlooker experiences all the symptoms of powerful sexual arousal, possibly to the point of spontaneous orgasm. This is a relatively common nimbus for those near a mage using shapeshifting magic.
- Bestial Witnesses- Animals may converge on the place of the casting. Dozens or even hundreds of birds might land on every available perch, or pets might break loose from their owners to come be in the presence of the Shaman’s magic. Harmful magic might elicit more disturbing animals: a cloud of locusts or flies might enshroud the caster, or rats might pour up from the sewers, their beady black eyes intent on the mage.
- Claws- Those affected by the mage’s nimbus might find their fingernails and toenails growing by as much as a half inch in the case of powerful magic. The nails are thicker and courser than usual and seem sharper.
- Hair Growth- Not only does the mage’s nimbus cause viewers’ hair to stand on end, the nimbus causes the hair to grow. A clean-shaven man might suddenly have three days of stubble on his face, while a bald individual might find himself growing hair again.
- Hunger- Onlookers suddenly find themselves ravenous, overcome by powerful cravings for very, very rare steak, or possibly sushi. This craving will last until the person eats or goes to sleep.
- Impulsivity- Sleepers near the mage might experience an overwhelming instinctual impulse, a purely random amplification of some normally innocuous urge: a momentary irritation drives the person to punch the object of his irritation or a mild attraction causes the Sleeper to sexually grope the person he’s attracted to. A vague sense of nervousness or disease, on the other hand, might trigger a full blown panic attack and cause a person to bolt like a rabbit fleeing a pack of hounds.
- Muscle Tremor- An onlooker might develop a pronounced facial tic or experience a surge of involuntary muscle tremors rippling through her body. This won’t cause the person to fall down, but might cause her to stagger or drop something held in her hands.
- Scent- Strange scents waft from the mage or her target. These fragrances might be musky (such as a wet animal), spicy (such as ginger or nutmeg) or florally sweet (such as lavender, roses or gardenia). The scents vary according to used Arcana and intent.
- Predator’s Song- Those near the mage might hear (or imagine that they hear) the sound of some triumphant beast after a hunt: the roar of a lion, the mad shrieking of a chimpanzee, a howling wolf or some similar noise.
- Unveiling- For a brief moment in the presence of powerful magic, the mage’s nimbus might momentarily allow onlookers to see a flicker of the same animalist world the Shaman sees. Sleepers might sense waves of emotion coming from objects or natural phenomena — eagerness from a sports car, stability from a chair, anger from a fire and so on. Mages who specialize in the Spirit Arcanum often manifest this Nimbus.
- Vibrant- Adjacent onlookers feel a “runner’s high” as their blood beats faster, their hearts feeling strong. The hairs on the napes of their necks rise, sending a thrill down the spine. Onlookers see movement out of the corner of their eyes, or think they see shapes in random patterns, such as faces peering at them from the abstract patterns on wallpaper. With powerful magic, they might even hear growls, whines or insect buzzing coming from inanimate objects such as lamps, staplers or cars.
- Dreamspeaker – The Dreamspeakers are shamans and spirit-talkers, who claim to be the oldest of all soulcrafting Legacies. Their magic grants them communion with powerful entities in the Astral Planes called the Dreamborn, whom the Dreamspeakers believe to have created the universe in the furthest depths of the past.
- Chrysalides – The Chrysalides are mages that have been uncomfortable with their physical appearence. To end this, they have created a dual personality for themselves, their original body (derogatory called the Husk) which declines more and more, and their idealized self (called the Ideal) which manifests everything the mage ever wanted to be.
- Fallen Pillar – The Fallen Pillar mages seek to escape the prisons of their bodies, which they see as crude and useless shells. They live monastic lifestyles in a manner totally alien to the typical Thyrsus, abstaining from physical pleasures (including food and drink) and mortifying their bodies in an attempt to overcome all want, need, and fear.
- Imagineer – The Imagineers believe that everything of science, magic and art is born directly from the human mind, placing the collective consciousness of humanity at the apex of their vision of reality. They’re masters at manipulating Astral Space and the ideas and memes that lurk in the back of the collective minds of humanity.
- Katsinam Suukya – The Katsinam Suukya are Thyrsus shamans that have dedicated their life to the preservation of many native beliefs and rituals that ensured a peaceful coexistence with the denizens of the Shadow. Additionally, they heavily rely on spirit guides and totems for personal guidance.
- Keeper of the Covenant – One of the oldest Legacies in the Awakened world, if they are to be believed, the Keepers of the Covenant serve as ambassadors between the Awakened and spirit worlds. Their magic is heavily tied to the Shadow Realm, and serves them as bargaining tools amongst the spirits with whom they liaise.
- Lord of the Inanimate – The Lords of the Inanimate deal with the spirits of matter and tools. They hear the voices of the slumbering spirits of the myriad everyday objects that surround them in the Fallen World, and can rouse these spirits from their slumber and command them as they please.
- Neocologist – These mages believe that humanity has been inadvertently destroying the natural world since the Industrial Revolution. They don’t intend to stop this process – they haven’t anywhere close to the manpower – instead seeking to rehabilitate the natural world and the spirits thereof into the artificial world of humanity before they are destroyed by the oncoming wave of urbanisation.
- Orphan of Proteus – The Orphans of Proteus are shapechanger mages, reclusive and wild Awakened who live on the periphery of society and who grow rarer each year as civilisation advances. Their powers over their bodies are quite formidable, and mark them even while they are in human form.
- Sodality of the Tor – The Sodality of the Tor bases itself on British Isles style witchcraft, and is based at Glastonbury Tor. Their magic allows them to draw down their archetypal soul – their ‘god-self’ – to aid them in tasks related to that god-self’s calling. They can also grant Mage Sight and prophecy to Sleepers for a little while.
- Tamer of Rivers – This Elemental Legacy specialises in the element of Water. The Tamers of Rivers are healers and wanderers, whose philosophy compels them to continue healing and aiding the world's Sleepers even after they have become Awakened.
- Illumined Path (both right-and left-handed) – The mages of the Illumined Path seek to aid Sleepers to Awaken to the Realms Supernal by slowly leading them near the Truth. They believe that there are many degrees of Sleep and that an exposure to the Truth in the right moment can turn a assiduous prepared Sleeper into a Sleepwalker, and a Sleepwalker into a mage. Left-handed members of the Legacy, however, seek to obscure the way to the Supernal Realms and actively hinder Sleepers in their Awakening, believing that only they and the current Awakened have a right to the Supernal Realms.
- Devourer of the Flesh (left-handed) – The Devourers of the Flesh are a Legacy of cannibal warriors who take the vitality and power from the flesh of their victims. They are zealously devoted to hunting, slaying, and devouring the enemies of the Pentacle Orders, but are commonly insane and in any case practise an extremely taboo art, and are almost universally outlawed from Pentacle society.
- Haruspex (left-handed) – The Haruspices are Thyrsus diviners that tell the future out of the intestines of living creatures, usually animals, but occasionally, they use humans for especially potent prophecies.
- Tamer of Blood (left-handed) – One of the more obscure Elemental Legacies, the Tamers of Blood use the blood of their victims to forge competent sympathetic chains that allow them to control their bodies and minds.
Thyrsus can be the most solitary of mages, establishing themselves far from the civilized world. Consequently, they are the least organized of the Paths. When Thyrsus do work together, they are strong believers in a strict meritocracy. These gatherings, which last at least a weekend, and sometimes as long as a month, are held as far from civilization as possible, and with all manner of spirits and animals posted as guards to keep Sleepers from wandering in. In the company of other Thyrsus mages, the normally guarded Shamans become open, animated and talkative — or aggressive, if there’s preexisting antipathy.
In the first version of Mage: The Awakening, the Watchtower of the Thyrsus was referred to as the Watchtower of the Stone Book. In the Fallen World Chronicle, it is instead referred to as the Watchtower of the Singing Stone.
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