When The Plague
is brought about not via natural evolution or the machinations of science
, but is instead created through the magical powers of a person, creature, or group, whether by accident or design.
Perhaps a necromancer is summoning dark magic to bring about the Zombie Apocalypse
, worshippers of the God of Disease call upon their master to bring vengeance upon their enemies, or a shaman uses a forbidden curse in the vain hopes that it keeps his people from being wiped out. Whatever the reasons behind it, the use of disease-based magic is nearly always seen as an evil act for the sheer amount of suffering it can bring about.
Mystical Plagues need not be limited to just attacking the physical being of those who contract it, and thus are not limited to the standard vectors of transmission of common illnesses. A curse may be designed to infect the spiritual essence of a creature, or even to only infect other magic users
as they cast spells of their own. While this versatility may seem to make a magically created plague more reliable than other types, it is still not uncommon for the caster who created it to be killed as well
, either directly by being infected themselves, or in the aftermath that the disease's spread causes.
A subtrope of The Plague
. Compare Synthetic Plague
, The Virus
, and Depopulation Bomb
. Can overlap with Fisher King
, in cases where the Mystical Plague is caused by the actions of a kingdom's ruler.
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Anime And Manga
- In King of Thorn, "Medusa" is a disease that came from a meteorite; spreading across the globe and turning most humans into statues. (and others into monsters). It's revealed to have a psychic vector; rather than a viral or bacterial one.
- Marvel Star Wars has the Crimson Forever, whose name is rather contrived - "D-dead! Everyone on board, Commander! Most of them fallen at their stations... their entire bodies turned that terrible crimson...! Even their eyes...! All open... staring... like they were looking straight on into forever...!" Luke and a squadron of pilots immediately put on masks and set up quarantine but still fell ill themselves after one of them found a red gem. It turned out there were two such gems, life-forms from beyond this galaxy who were mates, and who reacted to being separated by radiating anguish that manifested as illness and dropped people into comas deep enough that even the best medical tech was fooled. The shock of seeming to contract such a disease made most people die for real, but since Luke had had a fever-dream that gave him insights on what to do, he revived when the gems were reunited.
- J. R. R. Tolkien seems to have liked this trope:
- The Silmarillion mentions a plague apparently sent by Sauron to weaken Gondor so he could regain control of Mordor.
"And in the days of Telemnar, the third and twentieth of the line of Meneldil, a plague came upon dark winds out of the east, and it smote the King and his children, and many of the people of Gondor perished. Then the forts on the borders of Mordor were deserted, and Minas Ithil was emptied of its people; and evil entered again into the Black Land secretly, and the ashes of Gorgoroth were stirred as by a cold wind, for dark shapes gathered there."
- A mystical plague is used in the same work to account for the death of Túrin Turambar's younger sister Lalaith.
- The Dresden Files claims that the Black Death was originally created by Fallen Angels through magic. The book Death Masks centered on Harry recovering a religious artifact before the Fallen could use it to create another plague.
- This occurs in Mark Chadbourn's book The Queen of Sinister, part of the The Age of Misrule Verse. Magic has come back, technology has failed and there is something lurking beyond even the mystical otherworlds of the dead and the gods that kinda, sorta, wants to destroy humanity utterly. A mystical plague that kills human life essence itself (basically 100% fatal, and dissolves its victims flesh leaving them just a load of pus inside a bag of skin and since it comes from the otherworld there is no known vector, source, or cure for the disease) is the chosen tool for this book. Too bad for it that two of the early victims were the son and husband of a woman that is an unknowing mystical champion of humanity, and the plague which was supposed to destroy her wakes that mystical potential. Nice Job Fixing It, Villain.
- In Temple of the Winds of the Sword of Truth series, The Imperial Order unleashes a plague, based on the Black Death and made much worse by magic, on the heroes' capital city. For bonus Kick the Dog points, Emperor Jagang deliberately infects a group of young children as patients zero.
- The Song of the Lioness quartet has one early on: the Sweating Sickness is sent by an evil duke in hopes that it will weaken the kingdom and kill everyone who stands in his way to the throne.
- Same author, different universe. Briar's Book or The Healing in the Vine (depending on where you live) features one called The Blue Pox. Rather than being created deliberately, it's caused accidentally by improper disposal of magical potions.
- Phoenix and Ashes: At one point, Alison summons a disease elemental and sets it loose; it's implied that this caused the 1918 H1N1 pandemic.
- In the Cronus Chronicles, one of our heroes, a British public school student named Zee, is sent to America to get away from one of these, not realizing he is in fact, the carrier.
- In the Labyrinths of Echo series Anavuayna is an ancient magic plague, borne out of an enraged Elven princess curse, that not only slowly liquifies the victim's body, bones and all, while the victim is fully conscious, but also destroys their soul on every level of existence.
Live Action TV
- Twice on Merlin. In the first season, Nimueh puts a creature into the water supply that sickens everyone in Camelot. More recently, a magical creature called a Lamia sickened an entire village AND the knights who went with Merlin when he was sent to try and stop it.
- The plot driver in The Legend Of Dick And Dom; the heroes are collecting Plot Coupons to make a magic potion to cure a plague. They discover in season two that it was magic, caused by the Big Bad.
Mythology & Religion
- Miasma (as referenced in the Oedipus the King example below) was a part of the ancient Greek's cosmological view: If a people or their ruler acted in a way that defied the natural order (as they saw it), this was a logical consequence of said actions.
- A couple of the Plagues of Egypt in The Bible: the plague of pestilence (which only affected livestock) and the plague of boils (skin disease).
- If angered sufficiently, the vicious Scottish fae Nuckelavee could infect horses, crops, and humans with a disease called Mortasheen.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- The Judges Guild adventure "Verbosh" had a new spell called "Plague" which causes 20-70% of the population in a 1 mile square area to be incapacitated for 1-4 weeks as well as killing many of them.
- The 2E supplement Tome of Magic. The 7th level priest spell Breath of Death (reversed Breath of Life) affects an entire community. Anyone who fails a saving throw vs. death magic is infected with a disease that is fatal in 1-6 weeks.
- Warhammer: Nurgle mages get these kinds of spells, as do the Skaven.
- Exalted features, among many others, the Great Contagion. Dug out of a dimensional nexus that instills insanity in all those who view it without proper protection by one of the Deathlords, it killed about 90% of Creation on the first go. The only thing that stopped it from finishing the job was one of the other Deathlords inviting The Fair Folk in to finish the job; the chaotic energies of the Wyld that came with the invasion actually bolstered the immunities of the survivors.
- To clarify; not 90% of Creation's people. 90% of everything. Plants, animals, spirits, gods... anything that could basically constitute "alive" in Creation was fair game. On top of that, the disease was so infectious that mystically observing it was capable of contracting it.
- One rise scenario from zombie game All Flesh Must Be Eaten has the PHADE virus, which is the zombie plague... as an STD. The whole thing started when a guy was so bereaved about the loss of his girlfriend, he used necromancy to bring her back for one last fling. And then he decided he wasn't that into her, and slept with someone else, and it just spread from there.
- Ars Magica. The spell "Curse of the Unportended Plague" starts a plague in a city over a period of 6-12 months. It will kill 10% of the city's population over a period of a few months.
- This is shown in Sophocles' Oedipus the King: Oedipus's actions (killing his father, marrying his mother) unknowingly brought blight and plague ("miasma") to his people. Crops did not grow, stock animals died off, and women suffered from infertility, all because Oedipus's actions went against classical concepts of morality.
- BIONICLE: The Dreaming Plague, caused by Annona, a being that feasts on dreams.
- Warcraft 3: The plague of undeath that turns people into zombies, preparing the way for a demonic invasion.
- The Blight disease spread by the Darkspawn in Dragon Age is said to be a curse by the Maker upon the Tevinter Magisters, who turned into the first Darkspawn themselves under its influence. It twists and eventually kills everything infected by it. The sites of especially large darkspawn raids have been hit so hard that dead bodies won't rot because all insects and bacteria have already been killed.
- Interestingly, Avernus' research into the Taint suggests that it's alien to Thedas, with it's true origins unknown even to the denizens of the Fade, such as Spirits and Demons. Avernus believes that the key to understanding it is tied into whatever caused the corruption of the Black City.
- The similarly named Blight from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is actually a collection of curses cast upon the Tribunal Temple and the rest of Vvardenfell by Dagoth-Ur and spread with the sand storms from the Red Mountain.
- Dagoth Ur plans to turn Corprus (essentially divinity channelled from the heart by Dagoth Ur. It has horrific effects, and causes you to fall under Dagoth's influence to boot) into a full-fledged version of this. As it was, while the origins and effects falls squarely here, it was much too non-infectious to be a true Plague (the only reason why there are a fair number of victims around is that — in the likely event that it doesn't kill you — it makes you into The Ageless, and it's been around for centuries).
- At the start of Neverwinter Nights, Neverwinter is in the grip of one of these. Curing it requires body parts from four magical creatures shipped from Waterdeep. Which are promptly stolen by the group behind the plague after they arrive, forcing the Player Character to spend the first chapter recovering them.
- In Dishonored, the rat plague initially was a virulent plague that the Spymaster brought from the Pandyssian Continent to wipe out the poor in Dunwall. However, the Outsider's interest was piqued and he made the plague more virulent, making all means of quarantine meaningless, and perhaps ensured the infected would become Weepers. Notably his primary 'servant', Granny Rags seems to spread the plague by summoning more and more rats to areas. You can too if you go the High Chaos route.
- In Overlord II, the plague was caused by an event known as the Cataclysm that devastated the lands of the first game and gave rise to the Anti-Magical Faction. The ending reveals that the plague was caused by Florian Greenheart, an elf born without magic who tampered with the Tower Heart in an attempt to gain magical powers. With the help of Rose, he then created the Glorious Empire through the anti-magic sentiment of the humans following the Cataclysm while secretly gathering magic himself.
- Heretic 2 has a mystic plague as a central part of the story, mostly it causes death, insanity and violence, but there is mention of another version that can be used to control people.
- The King of Death in Tears To Tiara 2 summons a plague, clearly based on The Black Death based on the graphics, that devastates Northern Hispania before being checked. And it continued to spread within The Empire, the very side that summoned it.
- In The Gamers Alliance, the Blood Fever is a disease that is fatal to elves as it eats their blood cells from within and makes blood erupt from their bodies in the later stages. At first it seems like a natural plague, but over time and some investigations later it becomes apparent that the plague may in fact have a magical origin and has been created for a special purpose in which elven demise plays a part.
- In one episode of The Smurfs, Gargamel's Evil Plan was to spread a magical disease called the hopping cough, which caused a cough that made the victims jump violently. (The idea was that if the smurfs caught it, he could find and catch them easier.) He even showed some smarts this time, and planned to ambush them at the places where the ingredients for a cure could be found. Unfortunately for the villain, he eventually caught it himself while looking for them, and Papa Smurf did indeed manage to make the cure.
- In the Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light episode "Horn of Unicorn, Claw of Dragon", a Magical Plague strikes Prysmos, affecting all but one of the Spectral Knights and up to five of the Darkling Lords. In this case, the precise cause of the Plague is unspecified, though Merklynn does say that he foresaw it coming and tried (unsuccessfully) to send the Darkling Lords on a quest for the ingredients (the unicorn's horn and dragon's claw referred to in the title) needed for a healing spell.