Keep Columbus Weird
My life, my soul, my magic – MY CHOICE!
Awakening is older than tradition. Long before occult societies appeared to guide and protect their mages, people with talent simply shaped their own Paths. Some gathered together for mutual benefit, whereas others made shit up as they went along. In Ascension War terms, such people are considered Orphans: poor little mages with no home to speak of.
Typically, an orphan either practices by himself or belongs to a small group. Again, there’s no common thread between such groups. One might be a rock band, another a church choir, a third could be a witch family, and a fourth might read Tarot cards in a graveyard each Saturday night. As usual, elders tend to dominate the group; in this case, though, the word “elder” is defined more by mystic accomplishment or personal charisma than by age or an appointed title.
Leaders within an orphan sect can be brilliant, brutal, seductive, or persuasive. One could dominate his tribe through sex, drugs, and occult babble, and another might have a knack for scamming free meals at the homeless shelter. With few exceptions, the group’s rules depend upon a leader’s whims and his ability to enforce them within that group.
In the old days, most societies had initiatory rites that ushered people into adulthood, a trade, or a mystic pursuit. Guided by elders, the initiates would learn the things they needed to know in order to function in that new capacity. Magickal and spiritual initiations were part of most pre-industrial societies, and some of those groups became (or joined) the Traditions and Crafts we know today. Certain regions still have such groups today, but they’re hard to find in the industrialized world.
More often, an orphan mage winds up meeting other folks like himself… usually among street cultures, neotribalists, transhumanists, fantasy fans, New Agers, occult groups, and so on. Thus, initiation can be an exceedingly mixed affair, based more upon the people in charge of the group than upon any shared formalities. Typically, the orphan has to prove herself trustworthy, swear some level of allegiance to the group and its leaders, and demonstrate her skills in service to that group. Consequently, an orphan might wind up in a fringe Christian enclave, a Satanic coven, a Burning Man art collective, a pack of vagabond street kids, a New Age ashram, or any other group that holds a place for people who believe in magic.
Orphans accept almost any worldview that provides a place for magickal powers. Some orphans become technomancers too, focusing their Arts through technological tools and beliefs. Religious creeds, transhumanist philosophy, occult dabbling, and ethnic practices provide the most common focuses for orphan magick, and popular culture that integrates several of them (often known as “gutter magick” or “high eclecticism”) is especially prevalent in the technological world.