A Thought Experiment: Post-Apocalypse Magic

4645_post_apocalypticI have a big speech to write to present on Friday in front of the entire faculty which will be many of their first introduction to me and determine how they see me ever more, and am stressed out about it. So of course, I’m going to blog instead!

I’ve found myself wondering lately what would happen to magic should a true global apocalypse happen. Lets not go with the zombies this time, how about something more like what happened in The Stand or perhaps a global EMP pulse that ruins all of our technology (I forget the name that series of books). Billions of humans die out. We are forced into tribal groups once more, possibly nomadic. I would bet any money we would see the rise of the magician shaman, people turning to him/her once more to get things done.

After a few generations this person would have access to bits of lore surviving from the previous civilization. What little literacy remained he would probably learn, seeking out scraps of magical lore. I think more likely is that popular forms of magic that are able to be passed down verbally would evolve and survive. I’m thinking here that Wicca would probably be prevalent. And not the traditional oath bound stuff, I’m taking Llewellyn based stuff here. Something that is practiced by thousands of Pagans before the fall and firmly entrenched in the praxis of it’s practitioners.

Also sigil tech seems pretty ubiquitous, even non-chaos practitioners use them. I know of very few magical folk who haven’t at least tried them. So lets put that in there as well. How about  Hoodoo? A primarily verbal tradition to begin with, it would probably revert back to being so again, and the emphasis on roots and regionally available plants would help it to be practical for the post-apocalyptic magician.

Perhaps in his tribes travels he interacts and compares notes with another tribes mage, who has an ancient weathered  print out of RO’s Angelic Grimiore, which has been handed down as a cherished relic from parent to child throughout the generations, each parent teaching their child Angelic Conjuration via Trithemius, making them memorize each conjuration before their coming of age ceremony (you know, those things we don’t have in our society any more). So our post-apocalyptic mage learns some of this and incorporates this into his repitiore.

So here you have this tribal magician who casts Wiccan circles and calls upon the 4 Greek elements, charges and empowers sigils, and likes to work with commonly found roots and plants to achieve his magic, and now calls on the ancients old benefactors in the form of archangels. Just eclectic as all hell.

You know what? I bet his magic would not only still work, but probably kick ass. You know what else I would bet? That the spirits would answer his call and adapt to his patch worked magical quilt. It would also evolve, he would learn of new spirits, new ways of doing things. Over even more generations his replacements would develop their own threads of magic, as would others from other tribes. Magic would continue to work, be somewhat based on what we know now and probably look similar to what we practice only superficially.

Eventually humanity would get their act together and civilization would rebuild itself, and someone would write down his own ancestors patchwork  magical system and call it “tradition” and make an argument that that’s the ways it’s always been done and we should never do anything different. At that time  people would probably argue about it on the newest post-apocalyptic version of the internet. eventually people would be telling each other how they are all doing it wrong and how only their ancestral tribes derivative is “correct”.  Thus magical dogma will be born anew.

Now I should go write that speech. Thanks for indulging me.

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15 Responses to A Thought Experiment: Post-Apocalypse Magic

  1. syrbal says:

    Trouble is it would take more than sigil magic to forestall REAL apocalyptic stuff. If all the norms fail? All the nuclear plants are going to be power deprived sooner or later, then the cooling waters boil off and they melt down.
    And then….well, need more than a Wiccan circle to guard against radiation!

    • Skyllaros says:

      Well of course magical help within reason 🙂 Assuming we survive all that stuff. It’s interesting to reflect on how much life sustaining stuff we have that needs constant human maintenance. We’ve built the planets own doomsday devices!

  2. Goks1211 says:

    Instantly healers would become valuable. The old remedies and knowledge of plants. From that a generation of medicine men & women taught by their elders would emerge & have value in societies that spring up.

    Keeping that in mind, in an apocalyptic scenario, loot the local library.

  3. lancemfoster says:

    I don’t know about the Llewelyn brand of Wicca surviving. They focus so much on doodads you have to buy, and if things are that bad, all that stuff will be long gone.

    • Skyllaros says:

      Hehe, minus the doodads of course. I still there there is enough there that would make it through if going back to first principles. Either that or you’d have to loot a new age store 😉

  4. Vicky says:

    Really interesting post. I love this sort of stuff. I think the fluffy bunny brand of Wicca would implode in a burst of fluff, fairy bubbles and sobbing but a lot of its foundation would probably survive. The gods would lose the softer edges that 21st century society has given them. They’d return back to the older, tougher forms.

    • Skyllaros says:

      I think your right. We’de loose what is unessesary on focus on the hard realities. I totally think the gods would reflect the times and go back to more feral forms. Interesting thought that perhaps the gods reflect the times?

  5. Lee says:

    Love this post!

    “So here you have this tribal magician who casts Wiccan circles and calls upon the 4 Greek elements, charges and empowers sigils, and likes to work with commonly found roots and plants to achieve his magic, and now calls on the ancients old benefactors in the form of archangels. Just eclectic as all hell.”

    Yes! It would kick ass. And you know what? Llewellyn Wicca is like a cockroach. It is totally servicable and forged through the fire of apolcalyptic flame and eclectic bastardry it is perfectly servicable. This is a practice that I’m inspired by!

    • Skyllaros says:

      Thank you! Yes, you’ve totally got what i’m saying! Despite “popularity” or everyone’s opinion of it, I think it would have what it takes to last though. That cockroach analogy was great!

  6. Lucky I’m a certified herbalist then, will have a job when the world ends… There was a television series that recently finished called ‘Revolution’ and it dealt with a world post-electricity (it all got shutdown). It was an interesting premise, but I think for sure, more earth-based spiritualities or faiths would work because you would need people who understood the land and could work it and work with it.

    • Skyllaros says:

      Hmm I haven’t heard of that one. Right now my only exposure to TV is though netflix 🙂 I’ll look into it, sounds like my kind of thing.

      Yup I totally think a revert to Earth based spiritualists would be induced or those reasons.

  7. Anne says:

    Love this post, oh my! I could hug you, you know that?

  8. Sunny says:

    Yeah more earth based/chaos magic. There is always the chance that a concentrated form of mainstream religion (fanatical or not) might happen, in times of great destress many people turn to their churchs for guidance and comfort. I would think there would be wandering priests like in the middle ages. New religions would also pop up based on regions.
    The role of healer would be in very high demand, but there would always be the snake oil sales man. But were all human beings and as humans anything is possable – good and bad.

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