Also spelled alternately as geisnote
, a geas
is a form of magical compulsion or curse that originates in Celtic mythology
. Those under a geas are required to fulfill certain conditions or risk suffering a penalty bestowed by fate. If you have more than one such geas placed upon you, and they come into conflict, you're screwed. One of the most famous cases is that of Cuchulainn, who was under numerous geasi, including that he must never eat the meat of a dog, nor refuse food offered by a woman. When an old hag offered him dog meat, he was forced to break one geas or the other, which eventually led to his death.
A geas usually takes the form of either a command or a prohibition: "You shall do this," or "You shall not do this." In practical terms, the geas may be prophetic, bringing about its own fulfillment either through manipulation of cosmic events or by simply instilling into the subject a compulsion which he cannot resist. If the geas can be broken, and is, doing so typically brings about the death of the subject, either directly or by cosmic retribution.
Compare: Magically-Binding Contract
(which can have similar effects but is more of a deal rather than a spell or curse), Restraining Bolt
(where an object produces similar effects).
Not to Be Confused with
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- A very interesting case in Bleach is Giriko and his Time Tells No Lies ability. Essentially, it's a contract he invokes on himself or on others, with the spirit of his watch. It can take multiple forms; increased strength, the power to kill by line of sight, and so on. The catch is that no party involved can violate this contract, or they'll be incinerated—the part that makes it a Geas. Wonder what ever happened to Giriko's eye? Sadly, Giriko doesn't see much action.
- In more of a direct mind control example, Zommari the 7th Espada can hit you with a spell from any one of his 50-something eyes, controlling whatever he hits. If he hits your head, he gets your whole body.
- In Code Geass (the title of which this trope inspired), Lelouch has the ability to place a person he makes eye contact with under a geas, as they have to do whatever he tells them to do once Lelouch's "Geass" power kicks in (though it only works once per person). The "Geass" powers in this series often work more like a psychic power or ability (such as making people fall in love or mind reading), which makes the majority of those powers unrelated to this trope. Only Lelouch appears to have the ability to lay a proper geas on people.
- In Hunter × Hunter, it's eventually revealed that Nen can be used this way to provide a power boost, or to become proficient in a Nen style the user isn't normally able to master. For example, Kurapika eventually gains the ability to conjure unbreakable Nen chains, under the condition that if he ever uses them on anyone other than a Phantom Troupe member, it will kill him.
- In Howl's Moving Castle, the Witch of the Waste puts a spell on Sophie that ages her into an elderly woman; one of the provisions of the curse is that she can't tell anyone about what's happened. When Sophie attempts to do so at one point, her mouth quite literally seals itself shut.
- Dunstan in A Distant Soil is a Fair Folk, and he says he is under a Geas that he can't tell a mortal soul who he really is while he's on mortal soil. However, it applies only to soil, that is to say, the ground - which means when he's on a cruise ship or a spaceship, he can actually mention this without violating it.
Mythology and Religion
- This is all over the place in Irish Mythology:
- Diarmuid O'Duibhne was "under geis" not to hunt the Boar of Ben Bulben. But Finn MacCool tricked him into participating in a hunt that tracked the very same boar, and the boar killed Diarmuid.
- Cuchulainn was under geasa never to refuse an offer of food, and never to eat dog meat. Of course, eventually his enemies offered him dog meat. He ate, and was killed soon afterwards.
- High King Conaire Mór was under a whole host of geasa. Eventually events conspired to make him break all his geasa in a single day. The same night, he was killed by sea-raiders.
- The Children of Tuireann: Lugh of the Long Hand was under geis never to refuse a second request. The sons of Tuireann exploit this by asking him to lend them the horse of Manannan, which he refuses, then ask him for the boat of Manannan, which is what they actually want.
- Samson in the Book of Judges of the Old Testament was bound to the terms of the Nazirite vow (he was not allowed to partake of wine or anything else made from grapes, nor cut his hair) due to a promise made by his mother; breaking the vow would result in the loss of the super strength God had blessed him with. Sure enough, when Delilah, who had been hired by the Philistines to trick him into revealing his secret weakness, shaved him bald, he was left defenseless and promptly taken captive. It turned out the effect was as temporary as his baldness. By that point Samson had already broken the other terms of the Nazirite vow. The hair-cutting was just the last straw.
- As befits the genre, the 3rd Edition GURPS sourcebook Celtic Myth has rules for imposing geasa on characters.
- There is a spell called geas in Dungeons & Dragons that forces the character to fulfill the terms. Clerics call the same spell "Quest", and also have a "Mark of Justice" that places a curse on a character who breaks the conditions of the Mark.
- The powers of Wu Jen and characters under the various Vows of the Book of Exalted Deeds have specific behaviors or tasks they must perform to maintain their powers.
- Geasa were used in 3rd edition Shadowrun to recover points of magic that had been lost by shaman/magicians/adepts. Your character had to accept some sort of condition to recover a point of magic. Usually anything the GM wanted/was willing to allow but classic ones were some sort of talisman that you had to keep on your person, having to fast on a regular basis, spend time in meditation, or only use magic in certain circumstances. Breaking the geas reduced your magic back to it's normal level.
- In Mage: The Awakening, geasa can be inflicted by mages who have gained Mastery of the Fate Arcanum. Working against the terms of a geas (or even failing to actively do something required by the geas) inflicts a very debilitating curse. A geas (and the curse for breaking it) can be made hereditary, affecting the subject's descendants as well.
- 7th Sea has the geas, a special ability that can be purchased at character creation. As long as you have the geas, it gives you an extra experience point each session, but if you fail it's condition you lose the geas forever.
- This is the power the demonic lilim have in In Nomine. They can look into a person's eyes and discover their true desires (ranging in intensity from 'needs a light for their cigarette' to 'needs to get a million dollars'). If they then fulfill one of them (or more) for the person, they can (attempt to) attach a geas to the person to do something in return. They're limited only by the scale of the desire (an easy-to-fulfill desire would grant a geas that only lasts an hour or so) and the target's ability to resist the compulsion. The dangerous part is the target is usually not aware the lilim is doing this, and doesn't have to agree to a Deal with the Devil for the lilim to get the geas. The only real defense is a combination of never looking a lilim in the eyes, and never accepting anything they offer, ever.
- Lancer in Fate/stay night, whose true identity is Cuchulainn himself, has a geas that if a man from Ulster uses Caladbolg against him, he must lose the fight, but it never happens. The sequel, Fate/hollow ataraxia has Shirou play a trick on him involving his original two geas, though they are never stated outright: Three female friends of his from school offer Lancer a hot dog, an offer he can't refuse and (were it actually dog meat) something that could potentially kill him. This is actually related to how he originally died.
- At one point in Unlimited Blade Works Rin threatens to use Geas on Shirou.
- In Fate/Zero, Kiritsugu uses one to eliminate Lord El-Melloi as a Master: he kidnaps El-Melloi's wife, and threatens to kill her, unless El-Melloi orders his Servant to commit suicide, removing himself from the Holy Grail War, in which case Kiritsugu will geas himself into never harming El-Melloi or his wife. El-Melloi accepts (as a magus himself, he can see that the self-geas scroll Kiritsugu is holding is genuine), and Kiritsugu's partner immediately kills both El-Melloi and his wife... after all, she wasn't under a geas to do them no harm.
- In Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, as a way of avoiding the But Thou Must faux-choice, the player character gets a geas to kill the evil sorceress Valsharess.
- Yoshimo in Baldur's Gate II is under a geas to betray you at a certain point of the plot.
- Referenced in Wild AR Ms 3 - Janus, after acquiring his demon form is bound to follow the Prophets' instructions, under pain of being blown apart by the remote bomb called Geas.
- In Quest for Glory IV, the Hero is placed under a geas by Katrina, giving him three days to recover the rituals needed to free the the Dark One. The geas is removed once he returns successfully with them.
- In The Order of the Stick, Belkar is put under a spell which prevents him from dealing lethal damage (a D&D rules term, basically meaning any damage that isn't the kind you'd use in a sport fight — and Belkar never bothers with sublethal damage when he can get away with lethal) to any living thing within the bounds of a settlement. He also cannot travel more than a mile from Roy, on pain of suffering from a sickening curse. The curse is eventually invoked when Belkar stabs the Oracle, who had established a village around his tower for exactly that purpose, and then removed by a cleric who needed Belkar to protect him from an invading horde of goons.
- In The Gamers Alliance, the archdemon Malphas ends up under a geas when he kisses fellow archdemon Nina Heeate's enchanted ring, and the geas forces him to serve Nina's every whim. It turns out that Nina was using magic and her female physique to mess with Malphas's mind, which confused Malphas enough to make the geas take effect. Nina doesn't keep Malphas on a tight leash, however, and instead lets him do what he wishes as long as he doesn't stand in her horde's way. The geas also requires Malphas to keep his mouth shut about the whole endeavour, further ensuring that Nina's part in the whole mess stays out of the limelight.
- An unusual example in Gargoyles; Demona once placed Goliath under a spell compelling him to obey the spoken orders of "whoever held the spell." Brooklyn seized the book from her, found the page with the compulsion spell, and tore it out before Demona could reclaim it, so that Goliath would follow Brooklyn's orders rather than Demona's. After Brooklyn and Goliath defeated Demona, Eliza found a way around the spell: holding the page, she commanded Goliath to act as he would if he were not under a spell from then onward. So essentially, for the rest of the show's run, Goliath was under a geas—to be himself.