The Will Against the World

A Background In Nomine Sorcerors

by Bevan Thomas

Sorcery is an intriguing and often overlooked element of In Nomine. In a world dominated by powerful angels and demons, sorcery gives certain humans a much-needed edge, allowing them to master powers out of reach of celestials, and even temporarily bind these powerful beings to their will. Sorcerers can make solid anti-heroic protagonists or enigmatic antagonists.

The original rules for sorcery can be found in The Marches, and updated rules are included in The Corporeal Player's Guide. This article lays out a possible history and central philosophy of sorcery, and analyzes various sorcerous archetypes and dark philosophies.

History of the Dark Art

Legends abound on who created sorcery. Many suggest that when Adam (or possibly Eve) ate from the Tree of Knowledge, that supreme act of egotism opened his mind to a power that had not existed before. Others have suggested that it was one of Adam's children, such as Seth or Cain, who first developed the Dark Art. One disturbing theory is that Lilith was the first sorcerer, and certainly the individualistic pride that most sorcerers possess suits the Demon Princess of Freedom's philosophy. Both Heaven and Hell officially deny this theory, and the idea of a Superior practicing sorcery is terrifying to many celestials.

No matter its origins, sorcery quickly spread over the world, for there will always be humans hungry for the power to satisfy their pride. It was practiced by Paleolithic tribal priests who wished to exert dominion over the spirits that they saw everywhere, it was practiced openly by the rulers of ancient kingdoms such as Egypt and Babylon, and it even found followers among the first practitioners of divine religions: the Zoroastrian magi and the Jewish mystics.

One of the most influential and powerful sorcerers was King Solomon the Wise who ruled Israel in the 10th century BC. Though dedicated to God, this famous Jewish king forced mighty ethereals and demons to do his bidding, and much of his city, particularly the Temple of Solomon, was built with the aid of demons, including Aram and Zeresh, two powerful servitors of the Game. So powerful was Solomon that few demons were willing to lift a hand against him, and even demon princes seemed disinclined to confront him directly. A dedicated scholar of the occult, Solomon codified many sorcerous practices and rituals, and his book The Key of Solomon is rumored to be the most complete grimoire ever written (though only fragments have been located over the last few millennia).

Even Solomon constantly struggled with the godless pride that sorcery fostered within him, however, and many other sorcerers found themselves dragged into damnation by their practices. Because of this, Heaven has always taken a hard stance on sorcery, with servitors of Dominic and Uriel particularly eager to hunt down practitioners of the Dark Art.

Despite the attempts of Heaven, sorcery still continued to thrive among those mortals willing to sacrifice all for power. One demon, an ambitious Balseraph of Factions named Leonard, rose to power during the degeneration of the Roman Empire, and was eventually awarded with the Word of Sorcery. Leonard developed various cabals dedicated to sorcery, power, and the satisfaction of baser desires, twisting pagan mystery cults into hellish orgies of blood and demonic exultation. As he preferred to appear as a black furred humanoid with the head of a billy-goat, Leonard would often be referred to simply as "The Black Man" or "The Horned Man."

The Dark Ages were a good time for sorcery. The fall of Rome destabilized the entire region, allowing sorcerers to gain power, and though many angels and their agents hunted practitioners of the Dark Art with zeal, the sorcerers were hidden in all walks of life, some were even members of the clergy. In order to survive and thrive in such a harsh environment, there were many who were willing to ignore the edicts of God and Church and make use of these sorcerers. Many nobles retained a "court magician" to protect them from harm and destroy their enemies, and many villages and towns relied upon "cunning men" and "wise women" for love potions, healing balms, and other useful things. Even King Arthur, one of the greatest heroes of the time, relied upon a sorcerer for guidance, and though Merlin was ultimately a good man, he had his share of arrogance. Few were willing to move against known or suspected sorcerers, for they had much to fear from the Dark Art and dreaded it ever being used against them, and Leonard and his cabals flourished in this environment of fear. The stabilization of the Middle Ages helped the church to gain a firmer grip over the populace, but it did not eliminate all the cabals. Not even the destruction of Leonard in the year AD 730 by Khalid, angel of Faith, managed to end the Dark Art. It had taken root too deeply in the minds of humanity.

After Kronos was proclaimed the Demon Prince of Fate, he decided that sorcery needed to be brought under his control and a replacement found for Leonard, preferably someone less inclined to theatrics. Ultimately, it was his encounter with the white sorcerer Albertus Magnus that spurred him into action, and in the year 1250, Kronos awarded his servitor Hatiphas with the Word of Sorcery.

As Europe moved into the Renaissance, sorcerers began to infiltrate the realms of scholasticism more and more. They were monks, sages, and intellectuals who called themselves "doctors of natural philosophy" and "Hermetic scholars" as they took advantage of the developing universities and became accepted as scientists, thinkers, and even theologians. This was the high age of sorcery, where many of Europe's greatest thinkers were drawn to the Dark Art, individuals such as John Dee, Cornelius Agrippa, Michel de Nostradamus, Giordano Bruno, and the most enigmatic being of all: the Comte de Saint Germain.

The Comte wandered Europe from 1748 to 1786 (at which time he is believed to have died), working as a spy for both Frederick the Great of Prussia and Louis XV of France. He was a master of subterfuge and intrigue, famous for being both a charismatic courtier and a master of sorcery. Various legends developed around the Comte, particularly after his death. Some people believed him to be the greatest prophet since Jesus Christ, whereas others condemned him for a devil-worshipper, if not the Devil himself. Many people claimed to have seen the Comte decades after his supposed death, which caused some to believe that he had achieved immortality through his Art, whereas others have suggested that he never was human. Even the celestials do not know much about the elusive Comte de Saint Germain, and various theories have been suggested in both Heaven and Hell. Some believe that the Comte was probably a vessel of Hatiphas, where as others have suggested that he was probably some immortal human, such as Cain or the Wandering Jew. There's even a theory that the Comte was Eli, Archangel of Creation, though that is a theory that is not looked upon well by the orthodoxy of either Heaven or Hell.

After the Enlightenment, sorcerers went underground, taking advantage of the developing rationalism and disdain for supernatural belief. Many of them became respected as businessmen, philosophers, and "rational men," and rose to power while secretly continuing to delve into occult truths. Others chose to hide in plain sight, posing as stage magicians, con artists, and other dealers in fake magic, selling elixirs to the simple, and earning the scorn of the sophisticated. Many sorcerers were in a position to take advantage of the Industrial Revolution, learning to wield industrial power as well as the supernatural kind. They fed off the Essence of their laborers, sacrificing children and other renewable resources to power their profane rituals.

The publication of The Magus by Francis Barrett in 1801 sparked an "occult revival" among the upper classes of Europe, and magicians proliferated as bored dilettantes and artists tried their hands at astrology, alchemy, tarot, spirit summonings, and anything else that seemed like a counter-cultural lark. Hiding among these "hobbyists" were real sorcerers who used this pool of dabblers to recruit promising individuals. During this period, various demons of Factions and Fate did their part to make sorcerers the darlings of the press, theatrical, and stylish individuals who gained renown through their esoteric secrets, roguish charm, and avant-garde philosophies. When Nybbas became a Superior at the end of the century, he whole-heatedly assisted in this process, fascinated with the idea of making dark rituals the next "Big Thing." Secret societies such as the Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn were created, and various prominent artists and authors such as the poet William Butler Yeats, the painter Austin Spare, and the playwright George Bernard Shaw became fascinated by these orders and the occult truths that they promised.

However, sorcerers are nothing if not egocentric, and their alliances rarely last. At the beginning of the twentieth century, most of the cabals which the Victorian age had produced were beginning to crumble as members fell to petty jealousy or delusions of grandeur and abandoned their brethren to forge their own visions of creation. The most prominent of these soul-searches was the sorcerer Aleister Crowley, who had come under the sway of a renegade Shedite of Lust known as Aiwass. Aiwass first spoke to Crowley in 1904 through Crowley's wife, Rose Kelly, who was the first of Crowley's "scarlet women" (who would serve both as sexual partners and as mediums for the Shedite). Aiwass convinced Crowley to develop cabals that would attract members through sex and debauchery instead of dry scholasticism. This inspired many other sorcerers, who began embracing ancient pagan beliefs to justify their indulgences, and recruiting magicians with similar interests to develop a stable of Essence, recruits, and warm bodies for their rituals.

One of the most malevolent of these pagan cabals was the Thule Society, which developed during the thirties in Germany. This cabal engaged in blood sacrifices to Odin and the other Aesir ethereals and was dedicated to the glorification of "the Aryan race." This cabal influenced Hitler dramatically, and many of the prominent members of his government were agents of Thule. Many of the Allies were not unaware of the dark forces arrayed against them, and agents within the British government sought out those occults left over from the Occult Revival. It is said that Aleister Crowley himself furnished rituals for the Allies, and that many of the most pivotal battles of World War II were supernatural, fought with rituals and songs instead of guns and tanks.

After the War, many sorcerers stumbled into obscurity, coming down from the "high" of shaping countries that the conflicts had provided. Many turned to drugs as a substitute, or returned to their grimoires and blasphemous intellectualism. Nybbas continued to be interested in marketing sorcery for the masses, and this was supported by many sorcerers whose pride became channeled into vanity, and a desire for fame and fortune that the Media was more than willing to provide. This was one of the sparked that ignited the Neo-Pagan movement, and books on astrology, love spells, and other forms of magic proliferated in bookstores as various people became bombarded by the occult drenched in glimmer and glitz. Many sorcerers hid their practices behind this pop-culture veneer. This is the state that modern sorcery presents to the world: it has become sanitized, publicized, and repackaged by the Media, and many people have forgotten the dark heart which beats at its center, and that it is so often a path to damnation.

The Philosophy of Occult Egomania

All sorcerers, even the good ones, are full of pride. The exertion of will that is required to perform sorcery also forces the sorcerer on a permanent ego-trip, for it is the sorcerer choosing to master creation and bending the Symphony to his will. This willful focus usually causes sorcerers to become very self-absorbed, seeing themselves as the center of the universe and more important than anyone else. In turn, this solipsism colors the sorcerers' perception of reality.

A sorcerer's arrogance warps his perception of supernatural reality, and most of them perceive the regulated and resplendent Symphony as a discordant, clashing Cacophony. This discordant view of creation also results in the atheism that many sorcerers have, as to acknowledge an ordered universe, a supreme power, or cosmic good and evil would displace the sorcerer from his place as the dominant being of creation, and ultimate entail subservience to a higher power. God is anathema to most sorcerers' pride. This selfish delusion is one that both demons and ethereals find useful, and so they usually do not dissuade sorcerers from this perspective.

Even sorcerers who believe in God often take a somewhat controversial position on divinity. Most people, as well as most angels, have a somewhat passive stance in their relationship to God. They rely on divine guidance, they submit to God, and they trust the divine plan. The most dramatic example of this are prophets, people who have become receptacles of divine visions, and channel the divine in the way that they have virtually no control over. No sorcerer would tolerate such a surrender of the self, and theistic sorcerers focus on trying to come to God instead of waiting for God to come to them. They believe that God wants humanity to unravel the riddle of creation and bring themselves into His presence. That is why God is so ineffable: He is keeping Himself hidden until humanity proves its worth. These sorcerers often argue that the Garden of Eden was a test that Adam won when he chose knowledge over immortality, and that sorcery was given by God to humanity in order to help solve His riddle and prove their master of the reality that was created for them. This theory has proven the basis for many occult faiths, such as Gnosticism and Hermetica, and is a theory that most angels find repellent.

There is a controversial rumor (particularly favored by some servitors of Judgment) that Eli favors sorcery and has done his best to keep the Dark Art in existence. It is true that part of Eli's philosophy, "the application of will against entropy," is disturbingly similar to the sorcerous desire to bend the Cacophony to one's personal will. Furthermore, it is known that Eli favors religions and philosophies that are developed by humans, and generally endorses humans creating and defining the world on their own terms. Though not even the most zealous servitor of Dominic has been able to uncover any proof about Eli's patronage of sorcery, it is true that the Archangel of Creation demonstrates less antipathy towards sorcery than other archangels do, and is the archangel who makes the most use of white sorcerers.

Specialized Beliefs

Most sorcerers specialize in a particular kind of sorcery, and their tradition helps to define their philosophy and their general outlook. Most sorcerers can be classified either as alchemists, exorcists, necromancers, or summoners.

There are two kinds of alchemy: practical alchemy and spiritual alchemy. Practical alchemy is the process of imbuing objects with the effects of Songs or sorcerous rituals, whereas spiritual alchemy is a philosophy that derives from practical alchemy and is based around the transmutation of the body and the spirit, and the eventual achievement of immortality. In order to achieve this transcendent goal, most alchemists tirelessly hunt for the ritual known as the Philosopher's Stone, which they believe will allow them to brew the Elixir of Life. Most celestials and some alchemists believe that if such a ritual exists, it will probably imbue a material object with the Corporeal Song of Entropy, restoring youth when drunk. Other alchemists claim that the Philosopher's Stone is a more substantial ritual, and some have even suggested that it will transform a human into a celestial. This theory is, of course, scorned by all true celestials, and most humans who are aware of the true workings of the supernatural, but then sorcerers are used to scorn.

Exorcists are often the most well balanced variety of sorcerer (if a sorcerer could ever be considered well balanced), and they are also the most likely to accept the Heavenly perspective as opposed to developing their own bizarre theories. They are only the only sorcerers who have an established position post within the Catholic Church and the Celestial hierarchy, and are often sent by their superiors (both mortal and the angelic) to deal with demonic problems that for various reasons angels cannot attend to (such as situations that require the Symphony to be relatively undisturbed). Still, exorcists remain sorcerers and thus still possess an unquenchable ego. In their situation, that arrogance is focused towards making sure that all spirits that the exorcist has decided are not welcome in his presence stay away. They often have exaggerated views of their important to Heaven, something which many angels find frustrating in the extreme.

Necromancers are almost always fascinated by death, and often believe that as death lasts longer than life, it is more important and must be understood. This often results in necromancers engaging in death-worship, a practice that Saminga is only too willing to cater to. However, along with this death-worship is often the desire to cheat death, and under the dictates of the sorcerous ego, to master both life and death. Becoming a mummy is considered to be the perfect compromise by many necromancers, since it allows them to potentially exist forever, but also places them in a death-like state to best explore mortality first-hand.

Though all sorcerers are extremely arrogant, summoners are perhaps the most so. Alchemists and necromancers each seek their own form of immortality, and exorcists purge their environment of unwanted spiritual influences, but summoners seek to master the spiritual realms and bind the inhabitants to their will. Of all the kinds of sorcerers, summoners are the ones most likely to dedicate themselves to solving "the riddle of God," and there are rumors of an elusive summoning ritual that calls forth an aspect of God that can be directly communicated with. Most people dismiss this as silly superstition, but as with the alchemists who seek the Philosopher's Stone, the summoners ignore the scorn and continue with their research.

Article publication date: June 3, 2005

Copyright © 2005 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to