He doesn't necessarily hit you with his sword arm. He hits you with his faith.
designer Andy Collins
, on 4th Edition Paladins
Faith and power have always gone hand in hand. And not just power in the spiritual and social senses — religion and magic were the same thing
for most of the world's history
. Every religion's most devoted practitioners are associated with supernatural powers — often by people within the religion itself, and almost universally by those outside it. And going the other direction, having magical powers has, historically, meant that person was associated with some sort of supernatural entity, whether calling upon the gods or consorting with the Devil. With the exception of Greek mythology, where magic was the "art of controlling the secret forces of the cosmos", that said, priests still begged higher powers for favor.
This is also true of Eastern religions such as Buddhism, but treated somewhat differently; many Asian traditions ascribe mystical powers to those who have, through meditation and spiritual growth
, become more closely attuned to the truth of the universe. They are not seen as contacting a specific supernatural entity; rather, through religious experience, they attain a mental state of connection with the living universe that grants them abilities beyond normal humans.
Even the word "magic" comes from religion; it is derived from "magi", the Persian astrologer-priests
. (The word is translated as "wise men" in some versions of The Bible
The Bible began to split the two concepts apart — it mentions followers of "false gods" being able to perform magic, usually in contrast to much more impressive miracles performed by God (and explicitly not
performed by the prophet himself), but generally explains this as power granted by the Devil
The modern idea of a 'wizard' — somebody who can just do
magic entirely on their own, whether born with the gift or trained in mystic arts — did not really develop until the 20th century, and was not solidified until Dungeons & Dragons
made a strong distinction between Priests and Magic Users ("divine" and "arcane" magic, respectively). The increasing importance of science and technology in our world has trained people to think of even amazing and wonderful events as being under human control and within human understanding, and our concept of magic has similarly changed into something closer to "science we don't understand
", with comprehensible, repeatable rules
, rather than begging for favors from entities greater than us. Though that may still be an option.
This change in understanding has affected our view of some historical forms of magic. Hermetic Magic
tend to be presented today as "science-like", though their practice actually involved a great deal of calling out to spirits, angels, and other such entities.
Common magical religion powers include Turn Undead
, exorcism of demons or other spirits
, and other variations on Holy Burns Evil
. A Church Militant
may also get the Holy Hand Grenade
Subtropes of Religion Is Magic
include Fantastic Catholicism
, Magical Native American
, and Sentient Cosmic Force
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Anime and Manga
- The Kougonshuu in Shikabane Hime is a fictional Buddhist sect that trains their priests and monks in a variety of magical skills, most notably the creation of undead-slaying Shikabane Hime.
- Rozen Maiden as manga only Kirakishoo's artificial spirit is Sufi!
- The Kabbalistic Tree of Life is a major part of SEELE's master plan in Neon Genesis Evangelion, and can be seen in the opening credits as well as on the ceiling of Gendo's office.
- And in End of Evangelion◊.
- It also makes an appearance in Genesis of Aquarion, which drew inspiration from Evangelion (among other mecha anime series), though it's given much less attention in this series than in Evangelion.
- It, or something very like it, also appears in Fullmetal Alchemist, on the Doors of Truth.
- Sakura from Blue Seed was a Miko, using her powers as a weapon against the Aragamis. Momiji, while not a miko herself, was a bit more spiritual than usual for Japan.
- Sailor Mars, from Sailor Moon, was a miko with certain abilities to sense evil and expel minor demons among other things, to the point some people thought she was a witch. Interestingly these are completely unrelated to her superhero powers later. Some adaptations sometimes combine them, possibly to avoid actually mentioning spiritual powers.
- Tsukuyomi Moon Phase is also chock-full of Shinto magic.
- Hellsing has a few mild examples. By smelting silver crosses into weapons and by dipping weapons into holy water, they are thereby enabled to kill vampires with. Also, Alexander Andersen can use copious amounts of Bible pages to teleport somehow. He also stabs himself with a Helena's Nail, one of the nails that was nailed into the hands of Jesus Christ himself during the crucifixtion. The result is him turning into a mass of magic thorn vines that can set vampires and ghouls on fire. One character uses decks of razor-sharp magic flying playing cards and another uses a magic flying silver musket ball that, once shot, can home in on a target and sharply change trajectory to pepper the target repeatedly. However, whether or not the cards and musket balls were the result of religion was completely unspecified.
- InuYasha is crawling with Shinto Miko and Buddhist priests, but their abilities seem to be more inborn than related to their spirituality, particularly in the case of main character Kagome (nominally identified as a miko).
- Mikan from Rental Magica is a miko whose magic is based on actual Shinto chants and rites.
- Honami, as well. Some of her chants used to do her magic call upon Celtic deities or other holy symbols.
- Wagaya no Oinari-sama. is practically dripping with Shinto magic; most of the main and supporting characters can use it in one form or another. The title references the god Inari and the god Ebisu is a supporting character, both figures from Shinto religion.
- The manga Black Cat features loads of villains who are Taoist adepts, which...gives them psychic powers like materializing attack insects. And super healing. And so on. Also they like fighting.
- The angels in Steel Angel Kurumi apparently run on a combination of advanced technology and Taoist magic, to the point where the title character's creator had to travel back in time to find a Taoist priest powerful enough to activate her and her combined Angelic/Demonic heart. Then again, it seems a lot of it is based on personal spiritual power; it's implied that the reason Nakahito can't mess with the elements like his brother is because powering Kurumi takes too much already.
- In Outlaw Star there are a few characters who use "Tao Magic".
- Ghost Hunt features Taoism, Shintoism, Catholicism and modern metaphysics all used to exorcise spirits. Each is useful in different circumstances.
- A major element of A Certain Magical Index, where each religion appears to have its own brand of magic, since mages identify themselves by which church they belong to. Kaori being a part of a combination Christian/Shinto church effectively allows for her to combine magic styles. In contrast, the series' users of Psychic Powers are influenced by science. Any and all religious objects (crosses, Aztec sacrificial knives, clerical vestments, etc) are enchanted with powerful magic.
- As the series goes on, it seems it may be more correct to say that magic is based on systems of belief rather than religion specifically. One magician introduced in the New Testament series has powers based on the story of Cinderella, for example, and others have powers based on folklore. It just so happens that major religions are among the largest systems of belief, therefore they are what most magic is based on.
- The 99
- Ragman, from DC Comics, gains his powers from a Judaic artifact ceated as a replacement for the golem of Prague.
- In comics, there's Brother Voodoo for Marvel and Empress for DC. Then again, at least both characters go to the effort to name check the Loa they're invoking. The Houngan, on the other hand, an old DC character, used techno-voodoo. How a syncretic religion like voudon got boiled down to zapping little Robo Sapien dolls with a soldering iron is a little mind-straining.
- In his initial appearance, Houngan seems to be using sophisticated technology and some not-well-researched vaguely voodoo-ish trappings. Or to put it more simply, he's a nutcase with really neat toys.
- Marvel's short-lived New Universe line back in the mid 80s, which was supposed to be more like the real world than the normal Marvel universe, voodoo magic still "worked". The "magic" was all retconned as Paranormals who were unaware of their powers.
- Alan Moore's trippy-ass Comic Book Promethea treats the Western Magical Tradition (though not precisely a religion) as essentially real. Although so (to over-simplify tremendously for your benefit) Alan Moore himself believes this. A bit of religion comes into as far as the Comic Book (and the Western Magical Tradition itself) incorporating a westernized version of the Cabalistic Tree of Life from Judaism into a major storyline in which two incarnations of Promethea traverse it. Incidentally, Jewish tradition states that only married men over 40 may study Cabala. We regret to say that all incarnations of Promethea fail on this count. Although this falls excellently under Rule of Funny, the Western magical tradition's version of Qabbalah is notably altered from its Jewish origins. Also, the age restrictions seem to be relaxed in the current day—Hasidic yeshivot regularly teach some aspects to their (college-age) students. For example, noted author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel studied the Qabbalah as a boy.
- In perhaps the biggest subversion of this trope, the sorceress Zora in Brian Michael Bendis' Powers claims to have gained her powers by rejecting all things spiritual and accepting that she was her own God.
- In the Vertigo comic Fables, strong belief in anything can create magical power.
- Doctor Strange uses magic by invoking various occult (and fictional) deities, particularly a triad known as the Vishanti. He has also been shown using ascetic practices like retreating from society and fasting.
- Spider-Man foe Kraven the Hunter's former lover, the now deceased Calypso, was a rather memorable villain herself and a practitioner of voodoo, who clearly could use black magic, apparently having sacrificed her younger sister to gain unholy powers. Mostly she was able to charm and enchant victims (including the Lizard, who she used as an Unwitting Pawn, and made his regeneration powers far more potent in the process) and after her first apparent death, she possessed Gloria Grant, using her to perform some unholy ritual to restore her own body to life. (Hasn't been able to do the same thing twice, apparently, as she was murdered by Kraven's son Alyosha.)
- The comic Greenberg the Vampire is about a Jewish vampire plagued by Lilith, mother of all succubi. Both his mother and a rabbi use Kabbalic magic to combat her although only to limited effect. In the end it is The Power of Love that defeats her. He also mentions that Jewish symbols would burn him but Christian ones wouldn't.
- The first three Indiana Jones movies featured magic artifacts and powers from Judaism, a corrupted version of Hinduism, and Christianity. The fourth was more psychic powers / sci-fi, but as the film itself says "it depends who your god is".
- All of Me, starring Steve Martin. It is entertaining but the bits about the "Hindu" character and his "powers" were insulting and had absolutely no connection whatsoever to Hinduism or any existing religion (not even Scientology).
- The kooky holy man from The Jewel Of The Nile may or may not have walked through fire without harm; certainly it looks like he does, and the locals who witness this feat believe it's a miracle, but it could just be the camera angle.
- The dybbuk is a possessing spirit of a dead person from Jewish folklore. Somewhat like the protagonists of The Crow, it has unfinished business in the living world and will leave its host once its work is complete.
- The old Yiddish film The Dybbuk naturally features a dybbuk who possesses the body of his lover.
- The horror movie The Unborn uses the dybbuk as a completely malevolent spirit. A rabbi uses Jewish rituals to help banish it.
- Jewish mysticism is somewhat subverted in π, where a Kabbalistic sect knows about the hero's magic number, but cannot discover it for themselves. Ultimately they are shown to be no closer to decoding the universe than a stockbroking firm.
- Baron Samedi (named after the Loa of the same name) from the Bond flick Live and Let Die. He's called "the man who cannot die", and apparently, he doesn't.
- Child's Play has Chucky bound up in a doll's body by means of a voodoo ritual. Bonus points for using a voodoo doll to interrogate his mentor.
- In The Princess and the Frog the "shadow man" proclaims his skills with voodoo, hoodoo, and things he ain't even tried. He appears to be a basic fortuneteller and minor peddler of spells, until his plans get under way.
- The movie The Craft has four girls using pagan-derived magic to take over their school and inevitably go all Carrie.
- Big Trouble in Little China has magic practically everywhere, at one point described as 'Taoist alchemy and sorcery.' Elsewhere it's just called 'Chinese black magic.'
- Actually, they are all treated as slightly different things, or different kinds of magic; for instance, at the start Egg Shen is asked if he believes in Magic- he says he believes in Chinese Black Magic. Shortly after he says he also believes in Monsters, Ghosts and Sorcery.
- By Word of God, The Force in Star Wars is supposed to represent spirituality or religions in general or something. That makes sense when you think about how the Jedi regard it, but when you look at what they can do with it, it makes it seem like an overdose of this trope. It even gets called a outdated religion by an Empire guy who gets the iconic Force-choke and Vader is disturbed by his "lack of faith." Knight Templar Vader!
- The Jedi Path, an in-universe textbook, has a number of endnotes. In one of them the writer noted that the Jedi tend to be smug and inflexible, but they have a reason. The Force is essentially God, even if no one in-universe calls it that. When two Jedi discuss the Force, they're discussing God - and they can call on it to perform, basically, miracles.
- Golems come from Jewish folklore. A particularly holy rabbi can create a golem from clay, like Adam was shaped from clay, and give it life using Hebrew words of power, much like the word of God created the universe. Traditionally, the Hebrew word "emet", meaning "truth" is written on the golem's head. The golem can be killed by erasing the first letter to spell "met," meaning "dead." While Golems have become fantasy stock characters, their Hebrew origins are sometimes acknowledged.
- Whilst not exactly magic, the extremely powerful AIs in William Gibsons's Neuromancer sequels took the identities of Loa when interacting with humans, acting in the same way as their Voudoun counterparts and giving all sorts of gifts to those who dealt with them, if not exactly worshiped them.
- Voodoo plays a central role in Robert E. Howard's stories "Pigeons from Hell" and "Black Canaan".
- In a particularly old example, most of the magic in Romance of the Three Kingdoms is pulled off by Taoists. Good luck figuring out where "Taoist hermit" ends and "practitioner of folk magic" begins, though, even in the real world.
- In The Case Of The Toxic Spell Dump, magical effects can be achieved via any religious belief system, and have been in spades. This results in things like "crosswalks" that are still called that, even though multiculturalism has led to anti-collision wards for non-Christians being incorporated into them as well.
- The basis of John Ringo's Special Circumstances whose heroine is a Protestant, but which also features or at least mentions practitioners of many other faiths as well.
- In Manda Scott's Boudicca series, about the Celtic warrior woman both Druids (who are never called druids but "dreamers" instead, and Mithraism are shown to have power and it's hinted that the Celtic gods and Mithra have more respect for each other than their followers do. The Roman gods are implied to have lost their power because their worship has descended into empty ritual that no one really believes in.
- In S. M. Stirling's Emberverse series this mostly takes the form of visions and exorcism. Members of Asatru, the Catholic Church, Buddhism, Wicca and First Nations religion all receive the first, the latter are performed by Juniper, a Wiccan high priestess and Father Ignatius, a Catholic paladin and well as Rudi who is basically King Arthur reborn as a Wiccan.
- The Breaking the Wall trilogy features this, with many indigenous magical sects of different cultures and/or religions being present. Much like Ghost Hunt above, one character, Tracy Frye, calls herself a Generalist and obtains knowledge of as many of these cultures as she can. Unlike Ghost Hunt, she's repeatedly said to collect them just to have them.
- In Monster Hunter International all teams have at least one person of devout faith for dealing with those monsters, such as vampires, affected by faith. So far they've had a Mormon, a Baptist and an orc shamaness who is also a powerful healer.
- Rather strangely averted in the Discworld novels. Discworld priests do not gain any magical abilities from serving the gods (who are real and can and do interfere in human affairs), except for a measure of protection against spontaneous lightning bolts. (This is probably because the gods of the Disc just don't care: they are portrayed as the equivalent of absentee landlords - Om lost almost all his believers and power without realizing it, because he never paid any attention to the religion that worshiped him.) Also Pratchett's witches are entirely non-spiritual humanists with little interest in the gods, something very at odds with both witches from mythology (e.g. Circe) and modern Wiccans, though not much different than traditional European witchcraft. While presumably based on Pratchett's own secular humanism, it does make his satire of New Age trappings that some of the younger witches practice unusually shallow by Discworld standards - compare the Take That at the stock 'New Age' type activities of the image-conscious young witches in Lords and Ladies with the much deeper look at religion (and Judeo-Christian religion in particular) in Small Gods.
- In the Elenium 'verse of David Eddings, Magic Is Religion; all magical powers come, one way or another, from gods or even more powerful supernatural beings. The Knight Orders have to call on the Styric gods for spells because their own god thinks giving divine power to mere mortals is undignified.
- At least that's what his followers have assumed. It's mentioned at one point that no one has ever bothered to ask him about it. It's left unclear at the end of the series if anyone got around to checking this out. And why should they, when the Styric gods and goddesses they use to power their spells are more than happy to help out? And for almost all of the orders of the Church Knights, their chosen patron (or matron) god/goddess even matches their stereotypical temperaments. The Cyrinics, who are Knight Templars, have a god who's also a Knight Templar, for instance.
- Unless you are one of the gods, in which case you suddenly suffer from a case of Gods Need Prayer Badly. The sole exception to this rule is Sparhawk, whose role as Anakha puts him sideways to the rest of the world. He does ask Bhelliom to depower him, which Bhelliom says it did, and Aphrael implies it did, but well, who knows?
- The Knight Orders got a special divine deal that involved not being converted to their patron gods. Going by another incident, otherwise using the magic of a god would give that god a claim on your soul. According to what the characters say, Stragen inadvertently swears himself to Aphrael by combining being really observant around Pandion Knights with knowing Styric to cast a spell to contact Aphrael. As he says, there are worse gods that could have happened with.
- There is a special exception in Zalasta, a wizard of such skill and practice that he can perform magic of incredible power and finesse without serving any god at all.
- In The Dresden Files,
- Religious faith in itself has a certain amount of magical power, which is for example the source of crosses repelling vampires - it's not actually the crosses themselves, but that the fact that they symbolize the user's faith, and the main character achieves the same thing using a pentacle amulet (that being a symbol of magic, which he has more faith in than any conventional religion). Further, as faith in what one is doing is an absolute must for human practitioners, some can even use any religion as part of their magic.
- The books also makes MacGuffins out of a few religious artifacts. The three Knights of the Cross carry swords and in each sword one of the nails that pierced Christ is in the hilt. The Shroud of Turin is the plot of a whole book. In Skin Game, set ten years after the Shroud of Turin escapade, the other items from the crucifixion and resurrection, an “ancient wooden placard”, a “circlet woven from thorny branches”, a “clay cup”, a “folded cloth” (the real Shroud), and a “knife with a wooden handle and a leaf-shaped blade”, are found and described as weapons. Thirty pieces of silver is the basis for a whole arc. Also, the Knights of the Cross can wield faith-magic that Harry can't touch, despite one of them continuously stating that he is agnostic.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories, priests certainly have some magic powers. This is distinct from the Evil Sorcerers, often Necromancers, who traffic with Eldritch Abominations.
- In "The Tower of the Elephant", thieves avoid the temples, because strange dooms fall on those who violate them.
- In The Hour of the Dragon, the priests of Asura can see through illusions. One of them can also wield the Artifact of Doom, blurring the lines a little. Both the Asuran and Mithran priests are mentioned as having magic, just not nearly as powerful as Xaltotun's.
- In "The Phoenix on the Sword", Conan's sword is given the power to kill an Eldritch Abomination; it is the high priest of Mitra who identifies it. This is the only piece of unequivocal White Magic in all Howard's stories.
- In Codex Alera, the Canim ritualists are both priests and sorcerers for their people, though what exactly their religion entails apart from an emphasis on The Power of Blood and belief in an afterlife isn't elaborated on.
- Keith hartman's Drew Parke books feature both a Cherokee shaman and a Wiccan circle.
- In L. A. Banks Neteru series, prayer, blessed earth and water and holy items are all used to combat the forces of Hell. This includes not only Christianity but a number of other religions as well.
- Some powers are granted through the religions of Captive of the Orcs. But whether these are living gods or an offshoot of more mundane magic is a question never answered.
- In Daniel Gonzalez's Lágrimas de guerrera the old woman Hagan is both priestess and witch.
- In the Bernard Cornwell series The Saxon Stories, the Vikings have this attitude, frequently assuming Christianity is simply an opposing form of magic to that of the Norse Gods. Cornwell, with his usual anti-religious asperity, highlights this when Ivarr the Boneless demands, after being told of the power of St Sebastian (shot full of arrows then healed) by King (later St) Edmund, a demonstration, with Edmund as test subject. It ends as you might expect.
- In The Chronicles of Narnia, it's Aslan, the closest thing Narnia has to a deity, who creates the world. Among the ordinary animals, he creates animals that can talk and think like humans and magical river and forest spirits. Throughout the series, faith in Aslan tends to lead to beneficial magical things happening (which makes sense, since Aslan can only help people who show faith in him).
- Subverted in Everworld; when Senna was a child her mom went through a Wiccan phase. While both mother and daughter are legitimately witches, Senna could always tell that this was her mother trying to find a connection between their powers and spirituality where it didn't actually exist.
- In the Iron Druid Chronicles there is of course the title character. There is also a coven of Slavic witches and kabbalistic magic.
- Both of the spellcasters in Spirit Hunters are priestesses. Kitsune Sura is a Taoist exorcist while Nezumi Chiri is a shugenja.
Live Action TV
- Willow on Buffy claimed to be a Wiccan, but it was a catch-all for "witch". In the episode "Hush", she's actually disappointed that a student Wiccan group is focused more on their faith, or rather the seemings thereof, rather than raw magical power, and in a combined Lampshade Hanging and Take That, calls them, "a bunch of wanna-blessed-be's."
- Charmed gets bonus points for adopting the barest elements of Wicca and throwing out everything else about the cosmology, choosing instead to reach into the mythological grab bag.
- Merlin has the Old Religion, which appears to be a form of paganism, but not specifically Wicca. There's a lot of magic involved, and usually a female high priestess (first Nimueh, then Morgause, now Morgana). There are plenty of Druids too.
- Forever Knight had a form of Native American belief in one season 3 episode, involving a medicine woman who drew the evil out of Nick, then overloaded when she didn't know to channel it into something else.
- Highlander: The Series had a similar thing, referred to as a hayoka. The immortal hayoka Koltec overloaded and sparked a Dark Quickening that Duncan absorbed when taking his head to stop him.
- The rule about not fighting on sacred ground was assumed to be a social convention until one episode when it was mentioned that the last time an immortal was killed on sacred ground was a Roman temple...in Pompeii...just before Vesuvius erupted.
- Used a lot in Farscape; almost every single priest encountered had some kind of supernatural powers.
- On True Blood, Maryanne the Maenad was a literally ancient devotee of Dionysus who wielded incredible powers by way of Theurgy and Blood Magic practiced in the name of her god. However, the deity himself remained unresponsive, to her dismay, leaving the implication that her own belief fueled her magic as much as any higher power.
- World of Warcraft largely plays this straight (like most fantasy MMORPG settings), but subtly subverts it too; there are resistance stats for all schools of magic, but no way of resisting 'Holy' damage. While it actually does have a resistance stat, and there are many Standard Status Effects which would affect it the same as any other magic types, there are scant few methods and equipment to specifically resist holy magic.
- Not all the religious magic is holy anyway. Shaman and Druids are clearly religious (although they worship different gods) and do nature, fire, and arcane damage. Even Priests can also use shadow damage (which is just the yin to holy damage's yang).
- Druids and Shamans don't draw their power from a divine source as Paladins and Priests do, more from nature/the elemental planes respectively; even though they do recognize the existence of a god or several, their religions don't worship or draw their abilities from those deities directly.
- Life is the disease. I am the cure.
- The World of Warcraft tabletop RPG deals with it this way: priests, shamans, druids, and witch doctors (the RPG treats them as a separate class from shamans) all get their power not from gods, or even necessarily from faith, but from generally having a spiritual connection with the forces connected to their powers.
- In Guild Wars, many of the magical powers of different characters are thought to come from gods, and blessings from shrines to these gods can enhance magical abilities.
- Runescape offers "prayers" for a variety of effects, such as increased regeneration, boosted stats and protection from various forms of attack. However, its Magic skill also allows the player to "Summon the Wrath of [Insert Deity Here]" through spells like Saradomin Strike, Flames of Zamorak and Claws of Guthix.
- WWF wrestler Papa Shango was a wrestling voodoo priest who used magic to set his opponents' boots on fire, make them throw up, and make black goo ooze from their hairline.
- The RPG Mythic Russia allows Russian characters to wield power via their Orthodox Christian faith, as well as native Russian paganism. Characters from other countries can use Catholicism and various varieties of paganism to the same effect.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, the cleric class gains the ability to cast spells (usually healing) through the service of his/her deity. This has made it usual for RPGs to have a magic-using character class with religious overtones which can heal and bless (or curse) their allies.
- This gets especially confusing in the Dragonlance setting, where not only are there gods who grant their followers power, there are three specific gods of magic. The only difference seems to be that they do not require worship, and their magic has more of a scientific feel.
- In 4th Edition, they've separated things more fully; Clerics and Paladins have the "divine" power source and use (cast?) prayers, while Wizards and others still cast spells and have the "arcane" power source.
- Now there are two other classes with Divine power source. Avengers are like Divine assassins with power to turn invisible, phase through walls and teleport. Invokers are kind of like Divine Wizards who shoot searing light and summon angels.
- The line will still be blurred if you worship Corellon, though.
- 4th Edition also introduces the "primal" power source (created to thematically distinguish the Druid from the Cleric; in previous editions both were considered "divine"), which is kind of this trope applied to spiritualistic religions and crossed with Gaia's Vengeance. Primal characters pay respect to spirits born of and reflecting aspects of the world, from famous ancestors to the seasons to the World Tree, and their powers have a very "nature" feel to them. A Warden might call upon the spirit of the mountains to turn themselves into living stone, for example.
- Note that depending on the edition and campaign setting, it was sometimes faith that powers clerical magic rather than a god doing anything—not only is the existence of gods unconfirmed in Eberron, but two of the more-or-less major religions doesn't even have powerful spiritual beings that could in theory provide the magic.
- Mage: The Ascension has several religion-based mystical Traditions, including: the Zen mystic martial artists of the Akashic Brotherhood, the generally Abrahamic (with others thrown in for flavor) and oh-so-subtly named Celestial Chorus, the shamanic Dreamspeakers; and the Verbena, who practice "the Old Ways." There are also a number of religion-based Crafts, such as the Christian Templars, the voudonista Bata'a, and the primarily Islamic Ahl-i-Batin. Subverted in that the religion isn't actually the source of the magic, but rather a construct that allows them to shape their magic. As a mage gains more knowledge of their art, they begin to transcend their defining paradigm.
- Hunter: The Vigil has a few examples of this as well. The Malleus Maleficarum, a Catholic monster hunting group, have the rites of Benediction, several of which take the names of saints and are vastly more powerful on their corresponding days.
- Magic: The Gathering has the dark plane of Innistrad, where humanity uses fate powered magic provided by Archangel Avacyn to fight against the worlds monsters. Subverted somewhat in that Avacyn's powers are not the only form of magic on the plane. Various forms of regular sorcery, shamanism and necromancy also exist.
- In the Theros Block, enchantments are seen as gifts from the gods, and indeed there's a mechanic that expresses the religious nature of magic in the plane, Devotion.
- The Fading Suns setting allows priests of the various Church sects to perform "theurgic rites".
- Warhammer 40,000 is really big on this, both in background terms and in-game; the most notable example is the Sisters of Battle, whose faith can have all sorts of physical effects on a game. It is probably worth noting that while Faith can (and will) stop a daemon or psyker in its tracks, it won't stop that .45 round heading for your face... (unless you're a Sister, in which case there's a 1/6th chance that it will)
- However, priests don't have any real mythical ability to affect the mundane. Instead they inspire soldiers to rush at the enemy and beat the crap out of them and carry huge chainsaw swords that can cut tanks in half.
- In Dawn of War, attaching a priest to a squad gives the squad a permanent damage bonus, as long as the priest is with them. They also have an ability to whip the squad into a fanatical rage, making them immune to damage for a short while. "Rise up and strike them down!"
- Chaos is the opposite, however, where sucking up to the gods is a sure recipe for getting new and cooler ways to horribly kill more people. Or they might turn you into a mindless Eldritch Abomination. It depends on whether they want a laugh, or if they want something dead, or if they regard you as 'disposable' at the time.
- Warhammer Fantasy plays with this to different ends depending on the culture. Magic is everywhere waiting to be manipulated, and different civilizations have built up different rituals around how to do this—-some of them directly conflate religion with magic, some don't. In general all clergy can use magic to some degree or other, but The Empire, some of the Skaven, and the Vampire Counts can also field "secular" magic users.
- The Tabletop Roleplaying Game TORG both avoids this trope and plays it straight. While sufficiently faithful people can work miracles, and magicians can cast spells, the two work in completely different ways, and may not even be possible at the same time. (For example, one of TORG's alternate universes has no magic whatsoever, but immense miracle-working power for the native religion.)
- In the Sixth World of Shadowrun, it is implied that belief is more important than the actual religion. If you believe that Hermetic Magic is the way magic actually works, then that's how you get it to work; if you consider yourself to be working miracles in the name of one or more deities, then that's fine too and your spells will be equally effective (mechanically identical). Interestingly, this can cause problems if your way of thinking is more limited; Psions can't throw fireballs because it doesn't fit their Mind Over Matter model, but they can still set you on fire by accelerating your molecules.
- All the religions above could work in Deadlands, provided the practitioners follow proper form and faith in execution of their chosen miracles. By the time Deadlands: Hell on Earth rolls around, you can just faith yourself up some mushroom clouds, provided you've touched The Glow (and it's touched you back). Having said all that, a Player Character is most likely to run across (or be) a miracle-working Protestant, since they're statistically the most common faithful in the timeline of the game, so your stock "Blessed" is all about healing the sick and whacking bad things with a hickory stick.
- Specifically, the first of the games has at least four Arcane Backgrounds based on this; the Blessed practice general "cleric" type magic and are usually some sort of priest or nun (mostly Christians), the Shamans are Native American shamans who can contact the spirits due to their faith, Conjure Doctors are Vodoun priests who can really talk to the loa, and the Anahuac, who practice a syncretic mixture of traditional Aztec mythos and Catholicism that functions as more or less a shaman variant. Hell on Earth adds Toxic Shamanism (worship of spirits of pollution and radiation and the generally messed up life of a post-nuclear-apocalypse world), the Templars (a more militant descendent of the Blessed), and the Doomsayers (aforementioned radiation/mutation/evolution-worshippers).
- The setting's Black Magic can also have the trappings of this, at least a Religion of Evil variant. Reverend Grimmes is a unique example, because he practices "holy miracles" that are actually religious Black Magic disguised as holy magic.
- The Protectorate of Menoth from the Iron Kingdoms uses hymns to their patron deity to buff their units. Paladins are immune to anything short of magic attacks. The Hero Unit Severious can use More Than Mind Control to convert enemy units into friendlies, and the High Reclaimer can use a divine form of necromancy to make dead Menites into living ones; and the grand Poobah herself the Harbinger literally flies because she's Too Holy To Walk. and their Character Warjack is actually a purpose-built body for Menoth's divine will.
- In Ironclaw each major religion has its own system of magic, the Phelan have Druids, Lutarism has the Blessed, and the Church of S'allumer has clerics who perform White Magic. Though in S'allumer's case there is some doubt that the spells actually come from the holy light and not the caster's own power like most non-religious magic, but a rare few priests can perform sacerdotal prayers that definitely are and even fewer manifest apparently miraculous "charisms".
- Magical Buddhism is mentioned to exist in Touhou (and Shou may actually use it), but the majority of the Buddhist characters use their natural power or other acquired abilities when they need to fight.
- On the Shinto side, being a shrine maiden naturally equals having great power. The protagonist of the series, Hakurei Reimu, is considered a terrible shrine maiden of a run-down godless shrine but, even if it weren't for the mostly harmless conflict resolution system of Gensokyo at which she contractually excels, her powers would make losing impossible. Kotiya Sanae, a recent addition, is a shrine maiden capable of performing miracles. This has less to do with her position as a shrine maiden and more to do with her having a god for an ancestor.
- Touhou also treats Taoism as a magic system first, and philosophy/religion second.
- These all come to a head in Hopeless Masquerade, with each character's magic being tied to one of the three faiths (Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism), and a character fight differently based on what religion she's currently aligned to.
- The video game Vampire: The Masquerade: Redemption features a Jewish Quarter level in which a (sabotaged) rabbi's golem has run amok.
- Saints Row 2 mostly averts this with the Sons of Samedi, a gang of drug dealers who just happen to worship the loa. Then you get in a boss fight with Mister Sunshine, who, in a mostly mundane game, has a voodoo doll that can make you fall down.
- Gabriel Knight The first game of the series, Sins of the Father, is set in New Orleans and deals with a voodoo cult.
- In Fire Emblem, all light magic users are clerics, bishops, and so on (except for one well-noted exception in Radiant Dawn). Element-based and dark magic do not have this requirement.
- In Lords Of Magic, the world is divided into 8 "faiths" who worship the standard four elements, plus life, death, order, and chaos.
- The Dragon Quest series is built around this trope. The priest class does all the healing. In Dragon Quest VIII, your main healer used to be a member of the clergy, and has maintained his healing powers. In general, all saving is done via a church, where confessing to a priest allows "The Goddess" to grant you respite from your journey, allowing you to save and quit. The preists also offer a number of other services- namely; Divination (which tells you how much experience you need to level up), Purification (which removes curses), Benediction (which removes poison), and Resurrection, which does exactly what it says it does. Priests have the power to bring people back to life. Wowzers.
- Most followers of Oshilasama in Solatorobo are able to cast spells using Nono, thanks to years of rigorous training that looks a bit like stereotypical Shaolin monk exercises (though some degree of natural talent is required for training to do anything, and usually only men are allowed to train, though women can be born with the talent). The name of the religion seems to denote they worship someone named Shila (with o and sama for politeness's sake), but precisely how that worship is carried out is never mentioned - maybe the god/goddess just likes to watch Cat Folk sweat?
- Priests in Pillars of Eternity use the power of their faith as the source for their magic, which revolves mainly around buffs and debuffs based on the Eternity Wiki description. The influence of D&D clerics is quite clear.
- Many Roguelike games (NetHack, ADOM, etc) let the players build up goodwill with a patron deity, allowing them to pray for useful effects when in distress. Some also have a "cleric/priest" spellcasting class independently of this, confusingly.
- Transcendence lets you gain religious magic, despite being otherwise entirely science fiction.
- Buffs in RuneScape come from prayers. One adds to their pantheon to get more, and deepens their faith (ie grinding their Prayer stat) to make them better.
- Dark Souls: "Miracles", along with Sorcery and Pyromancy, are one of the three types of magic. Miracles are obtained by looting corpses, receiving them directly from the gods themselves... or from certain NPCs who give or sell them. That's right. Not only does religion give you super powers, it lets its practitioners give other people powers too.
- In J E Dash's (who's Wiccan)The Challengesof Zona Tula get's her magical powers from the Earth and Moon goddesses while Gruach gets his from Shuach the Fire god.
- In Homestuck, Vriska asks John who Jesus is, and he describes him as an "adult male bearded human who was magic!" Vriska finds that boring.
- In the verse of Random Encounter and New Game, magic is derived from gods. Trickster magic is grounds for stoning to death, apparently because all other gods hate the Trickster's guts.
- Open Blue's Back Story features the Iormunean Imperium, which worshiped a giant snake goddess. A Virgin Sacrifice helped bolster the economy, while military matters called for the sacrifice of a great warrior. Its Praetorian Guard used weapons enhanced with elemental powers and are in the present time period artifacts of doom highly sought after by the dominant superpowers.
- This is actually a minor plot point in Tales From My D&D Campaign. For millennia, the drow were ruled by a theocracy worshipping the goddess Lolth, until one day all Lolth-based divine magic stopped working. Though the drow didn't know this at the time, this was a consequence of Lolth being destroyed by The Death Equation.
- Subverted in The Prince of Egypt, where the priests' "powers" are nothing more than showmanship and sleight-of-hand tricks. Played straight with Moses's miracles.
- Hadji from Jonny Quest is a Hindu boy who uses the all-purpose incantation "Sim, Sim, Salabim" to perform a number of magical feats.
- X-Men: Evolution Canon Foreigner Hungan is able to control Storm with his magic staff.
- The Scooby-Doo movie Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost had a field day with this one. (Or possibly several field days.) First, it treats Wicca as an inherited trait with one character claiming she's one-sixteenth Wiccan. Second, it automatically treats Wiccans as good while witches (and warlocks) are automatically evil. Third, it implies there were Wiccans around in the 1600s (and probably living in a Puritan village, no less!).
These could be intended as a Take That at "fluffy bunnies" or "McWiccans." Many of these "wanna-blessed-be's" think that Wicca actually is an inherited trait, and that the Salem witch trials as part of the "Burning Times" in which innocent women were burned at the stake for practicing the "old religion". In reality, both innocent men and women were accused of devil-worship and not pagan religious practices. The confusion comes in because at many times in history they were treated as synonymous. In Salem, the execution method of choice was hanging, not burning—although Giles Corey was pressed to death in the effort to extract confession.
- Parodied in the South Park episode "Super Best Friends" where the gods/figureheads of several major religions are shown to have Justice League-type superpowers.
- In the Christmas Special Frosty's Winter Wonderland, Parson Brown explains to the kids that he can't marry Frosty and Crystal since they aren't humans, and suggests they build a snow-parson who can do the job. They do, and Parson Brown brings him to life by giving it a Bible ("A parson's not a parson without the Good Book in his hand!" says Brown.)
- University of Wisconsin - Green Bay professor, Steven Dutch, wrote the essay 21st Century Magic, outlining the differences between explicit magic, religious magic, and nominal religion (as opposed to serious religion). Part of his essay demonstrates how Judaism and Christianity "have fought a constant rear-guard action against creeping magic," as is visible in passages from The Bible. He also demonstrates that magic is not inexorably linked to religion by providing plenty of examples of "secular magic."
- The Danes and Norsemen had this view towards Christian religion. Indeed, they were remarkably easy and remarkably difficult to convert at the same time; if they could be shown an actual miracle (whether faked or otherwise), they would often convert on the spot - especially as all it involved to them was, in essence, washing oneself in a river. However, their "conversion" generally involved simply incorporating Jehovah into their current pantheon of Odin, Thor, and all the others.
- As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the magi were originally the Zoroastrian priests of Persia. More accurately, it is a Greek word that refers not necessarily to the actual priests, but to the Greeks' perception of them.
- Holy objects have been ascribed magical or miraculous powers by early Christians and the Catholic Church. Such objects include the Holy Grail, the Spear of Destiny, pieces of the True Cross, and body parts of saints.
- The whole point of Real Life syncretic practices like santeria and curanderismo, and some aspects of hoodoo and other kinds of folk magic. A lot more common than you'd think. A botÃ¡nica is present in most cities with a sizable Latino population.
- Worth noting that several prominent Catholic clergymen had reputations as alchemists and/or magicians during the medieval period ... including Robert Grosseteste (Bishop of Lincoln), Roger Bacon (a monk) and Pope Sylvester II.
- Although in Sylvester's case this may have been rumors and lies his enemies spread to discredit his affinity for Eastern—read Islamic—learning (he liked Arabic numerals over 200 years before they gained wide acceptance in Europe).
- For an inversion, St Augustine asserted that the Church could not follow the Biblical command of "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live", because magic and witches did not exist and most "magic", such as astrology, did not actually work, so at worst witches were con artists and at best simply dumb. A side effect of this is that, contrary to popular belief, neither the Catholic Church nor any of the Inquisitions endorsed or officially carried out any executions of witches, because witches weren't real. On the occasions that did happen it was either overzealous and ill-informed priests acting without sanction, or much more commonly secular courts or mobs acting alone, especially before the Reformation. In addition, "witchcraft" was vaguely defined and in practice often covered crimes like poisoning.
- The bread and butter of an Egyptian priest consisted of enchanting amulets for sale to customers. There was a certain tendency throughout much of Egyptian history to assume that even the gods could be coerced into obedience with the right ritual observances. "Thou shalt not take the Lord's Name in vain" was in fact a Commandment against attempting to coerce the Hebrew god that way, despite the common notion that it means you aren't supposed to say "Oh my God." That idea is made doubly ridiculous by the fact that "God" is not YHWH's name. The commandment probably also has something to do with not swearing false oaths by God, or using God as an excuse to do evil things, like start wars (at least, wars he didn't tell you to start, which he was pretty big on in the Old Testament).
- Many Buddhist traditions include monks developing spiritual powers (flight, control of weather, etc) and gaining the ability to invoke and banish or bind spirits. As in the yogic traditions, these powers are seen as a potential distraction from achieving enlightenment and so are to be used sparingly. Additionally, relics of the Buddha and other enlightened individuals are supposed to have particular power.
- An interesting note is how matter of fact the treatment of the supernatural can be in some Buddhist traditions. For example, in many Tibetan monasteries part of the oath you take when you become a monk is that you are not a spirit disguised as a human being. Other monasteries are placed specifically to be bindings for demons, oracles and divination are fairly common practice for lamas, and there are many lamas who have repeatedly reincarnated and continued their teaching. Part of the reason China's destruction of monasteries and abuse of monks during the Cultural Revolution was so devastating was the loss of knowledge of the spiritual landscape and the whereabouts of reincarnated lamas.
- There are multiple passages in the Torah (as well as the Old Testament for Christians) chastising believers for treating religion as magic. One of the more poignant passages is Isaiah 1:11—
"The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?" says the Lord. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats."
- There's also 1 Samuel 15:22-23:
Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams! For rebellion is like the sin of divination; and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
- During the early Middle Ages, Jewish magicians (Kabbalists) were often sought out for guidance as it was rumored Jewish magic was very powerful. The traditional five-fingered khamsa (hand) charm to ward against evil found its way into North Africa via migrant Jews, for instance.
- Aleister Crowley would later go on to base his writings on magic around Kabbalah.
- Wiccans, as well as other pagan and neo-pagan religions, do use ritual magic to varying degrees. The mistake Hollywood and literature generally makes is thinking that the magic is the point. Actually, the magic comes in more of a consequence of the world view than anything else: the idea is that the world is a spiritual place, and the supernatural has an effect on the ordinary world. Since as a witch you are supposed to know something about the supernatural, you can use that knowledge to help yourself or others.