The History of Magic

Volume 2: Silver Age Magic

by H. Van Dusen

The Silver Age

From Charles the Hammer to the Interregnum

Also known as the Second Dark Age

These centuries saw dramatic changes, or perhaps they seem more dramatic because they are better documented. In any case, the advent of the Carolingian kings brought an element of order to the Silver Age that even the terrible Dragon invasions could not permanently disrupt. Indeed, many historians place the creation of Europa in this Age, with its characteristic combination of feudal magic within Antique socio-political structures.

Scholae come to the West in the Silver Age, coming to their first maturity under Charlemagne, who promoted them vigorously. Collegia appear as well, as do mageknights. All these had their antecedents in the East, but all underwent significant changes when they appeared in the West. How much was borrowed and how much was simply re-invented is not at all clear.

The Silver Age saw the arrival of Dwarves and Elves, with profound consequences for Human society, but it also had a powerful impact on Human magic. Elven and Dwarven magic were fundamentally different in origin, philosophy, and practice; much, indeed, remained beyond the comprehension of Human mages. Nevertheless, especially in the scholae, Human scholars studied the new magics intently and profitably.

Silver Age magic is much more disciplined and ordered than Golden Age magic. Humans organized its practice and began writing about magic in treatises. These efforts were still only occasional, though, and no one yet was able to formulate general principles. Magic was generally regarded as opus rather than labor, an art that was fundamentally a product of an individual. Many writers still spoke of the role of the genius in the creation of magic.

Even so, in the collegia there were attempts to gather mages of similar temperment or discipline into communities. Some of these even tried to teach the next generation. But their main activity was the preservation of spell books, which were meticulously copied and exquisitely decorated.

Development of Knighthood

Knights were not those who rode armored, they were those who fought with "sword and sceptre" as the phrase went; that is, they could fight with magic as well as with weapons. "By mance and lance" is another phrase.

Magical items tended to wind up in aristocratic families. They might buy, steal or otherwise acquire them. Commoners who possessed them might thereby ennoble themselves (it was only much later that the use of magic was forbidden to commoners). Once a magical object came into noble hands it tended not to leave again, except to pass into another noble family. Over centuries, not only did most imbued objects fall to the nobility, but the nobles came to regard such objects as theirs by right.

Warrior-mages (henceforward called knights) typically rode on horseback but did not typically fight from horseback, notwithstanding modern novelists. They dismounted and fought on foot, using magic first, then with sword or other weapon at close range. Knights might also ride to pursue a fleeing (or flying!) enemy.

The young knight usually studied at the House of a relative from the traditional ages of seven to sixteen. Those nine years were crucial. The "Hausvatter" shaped the young man's character, but he also had to judge his character, to find where his young charge's talents lay and to cultivate them. Some Vattern did this better than others. Some hardly did more than use their charges as house slaves, then giving them an enchanted sword or helmet or some other stock item, just prior to their majority. Plenty of legends were shaped around the figure of The Runaway Knight.

Toward the end of the Silver Age, Human magic underwent a further transformation with the rediscovery of the Codex Justinianus, the single greatest magical compilation of the Golden Age. This coincided more or less with the development of universities, at which the new (old) ideas were extensively debated.


  1. Giles Haversham, Entropy and Dystropy at the Beginning of the Dark Ages: Results from the Fifth Aetheroscopic Research Survey. University of Leeds, 2751 AUC. [return]
  2. Leo Manutio, "Encore the 'Mana Wave' Debate," Journal of Ancient Magic, Vol 59, Second Series, 2717 AUC. But contra Manutio, see V. Ilardi, "Sense and Nonsense in the Controversy over the so-called Introduction of Mana," Vierteljahrschrift für Magikforschung, v. 189, pp. 89-152. 2749 AUC. [return]