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Magic or Psychic?

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Functional Magic and Psychic Powers frequently fulfill similar purposes in a plot. They're mysterious, fantastic, and enable one individual to wield incredible power. They are for the most part intertwined and interchangeable.

What happens when a creator decides to use both in one universe? What if they want to differentiate them? Is there a real difference? Do mages and psychics get along? Are psychics just mages that have streamlined the process of using magic?


Compare Unequal Rites, which is about multiple kinds of magic in the same setting. Compare and contrast Magic by Any Other Name, "psychic" being one of them.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • A Certain Magical Index: The verse has both mages and espers. Mages are defined by being able to learn magic incantations and stuff while espers are stuck with one superpower. Though generally mutually exclusive, some such as Tsuchimikado, are both (with difficulty). For some reason Touma's Imagine Breaker works on mages and espers alike. Likely because the process that empowers espers is Magic-Powered Pseudoscience.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Stands are psychic manifestations of the soul, and Hamon is an sun-elemental martial art used to combat the undead. Both are entirely separate phenomena within the universe, though Hamon can be channeled through a Stand, as is the case with Joseph Joestar channeling Hamon through Hermit Purple's vines.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe: Psychic powers are common mutant or alien powers, while magic stems from a variety of sources. However it seems that nearly anyone, human, mutant, or other, can learn or acquire magic.
  • DC Comics: Psychic abilities are given the same rules as science. Magic, on the other hand, bends the laws of science and can even be a broad weakness for sturdier characters, like Superman.
  • Monstress: Purebred humans can't use magic but a small percentage of women (mostly the witch-nuns of the Cumea) have psychic abilities. The Ancients and their Half-Human Hybrid "Arcanic" progeny do have magic to varying extents while some Cats are "nekomancers".

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has both, and there's a certain degree of crossover between the two, with both able to do many of the same things - to the point where it's easy for one to be mistaken for the other, and the White Council, who have a zero tolerance attitude to Black Magic, have executed psychics gone bad in the past. However, there are definite differences; magic, for one thing, is described as being just a little bit alive...
  • In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, telepathy and telekinesis are considered different from magic powers to the point where magic can cancel out telepathy and telekinesis, unless one is possessed with a great amount of mental energy that comes from engaging in a mindlink, like Empath on occasion with his fellow Smurfs. And there's also power that comes from God, which is greater than either.

  • In Harry Potter, mind-reading and defending against being read are specific schools of magic known as Legilimency and Occlumency, though when Harry describes it as mind-reading, Professor Snape gets annoyed before stating that calling Legilimency "mind-reading" barely scratches its full potential.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: Telepaths get their powers from a gene that is found in a small percentage of many species' populations (and seemingly all of the First Ones) and which was installed by the Vorlons so they could be used as weapons in the Vorlon-Shadow Wars. While technomages have cybernetic implants that allow them to manipulate energy and employ other magic-like abilities and were devised by the Shadows.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: It has one of the more notable distinctions. While magic has a variety of sources, psionics always stem from the user's mind. And psi lacks verbal, somatic, or material components like spells usually do. In addition, in 3rd edition most magic-using classes function by Vancian Magic while Psionics are limited by Mana.
  • Fading Suns: Has both Psychics and Theurgists. Theurgists are priests of the Urth Orthodox Church who believe that they're channeling the divine power of the Pancreator, while Psychics are considered witches by the Church and forced to serve "penance" if not burned at the stake. Though it's not clear where either gets their power.
    • It's also notable that Gjarti, an animistic religion common to "barbarians", also has priests with theurgic abilities.
  • CthulhuTech: Sorcery is taught as a science in universities, while Parapsychics are some sort of mutation or other special ability subject to a Mutant Draft Board.
  • Warhammer 40K: While all magic stems from the same source (psychic powers derived from the Warp), some factions believe they come from a separate source, such as the Sororitas' faith-based miracles and the Space Wolves' rune magic (which they believe involves channeling the spirits of their homeworld). In the latter's case, some of the higher-ups know perfectly well they're using Warp sorcery, but keep up the pretense anyway because nobody's about to question them and it's good for morale, especially when fighting Warpspawn.
  • In Shadowrun, psychics are a form of mage who simply believe that their powers are different, similar to the difference between Hermetic Mages and Shamans. Technomancers, on the other hand, are able to access the matrix without using technology and have abilities that function like programs but are learned like spells.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the Spellcaster and Psychic types. Interestingly, many Psychic-Type monsters resemble what in the past were Machine-Type, Fiend-Type, or Spellcaster-Type monsters (such as "Mutant Mindmaster", "Cipher Soldier", "Mind on Air" and especially "Jinzo").

    Video Games 
  • In Touhou the term "magic" is most commonly used to describe the Sufficiently Analyzed Magic used by magicians and Onmyoudou, but it can also be used as an umbrella term to describe supernatural powers in general, such as Sumireko Usami's psychic powers.
  • There're some Fighting Games in which magic and psychics coexist as powers for different characters, if well the latter is most prominent, the former also appears in certain characters. A good example is The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact series, in which there's the classic psychic of the series, Athena Asamiya, but there'e a couple of magicians that interact with her: the Bears sisters, Mignon and Ninon, both are magic users but they manage white and black magic, respectively.

    Web Comics 
  • In Homestuck the psychic powers of the various alien castes is a normal and accepted part of life, and is purely genetic. Magic, however, is power lent to whoever is willing (and foolish enough) to make a Deal with the Devil with a demon or Eldritch Abomination, and is either dismissed as fake or seen as utterly terrifying.

    Web Original 
  • Metamor City: Mages have existed for millennia and the number of people with the inherent gift to become a mage has remained more-or-less constant. Psis, on the other hand, appeared within the last century and their numbers are increasing, in no small part due to the Psi Collective's breeding project.
  • Whateley Universe: Mages power their spells with essence, while psychics and other mutant powers are just constrained by skill and stamina.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • With their variable canon, magic and psychic powers can differ drastically, ranging from basically the same thing to completely different.
    • Magic Orientation


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