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Magical Society

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"Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians."

An order, club, alliance, union, or other organisation comprised of people who can do magic. Names vary: it may be called the Mages' Guild, the Circle of Mages, the Conclave of Sorcerors, the Arcane Brotherhood, or whatever. A given setting may have one magical society, several, or none. Historical esoteric societies of any variety are often portrayed as these in Historical Fantasy or Urban Fantasy fiction.


Sometimes, a magical society exists for the benefit of its members, while other times, it is a structure created to control them (whether for benign purposes or otherwise). It could be both at once - by creating rules for themselves, mages may decrease the extent to which people consider them dangerous. It might be a loose support network which only comes together for specific issues, or it might be a rigid hierarchy that demands unity and obedience. A magical society may be responsible for keeping track of magic users, which might involve genealogy or even breeding programs if it's dealing with a Witch Species. It may also act as the Magic Police. Joining a magical society may be an obligation, a rare honour, or anything in between.

Some magical societies are politically powerful (perhaps even running the country), while others are persecuted. In either case, they might keep their existence a secret. There can be conflict between a magical society and other powers (The Government, The Church...), between the society and people who are trying to practice magic outside it, and between members of the society itself (the issue of whether to allow Black Magic is a popular subject).


A magical society may be the ones behind a Wizarding School, especially if the society only exists because untrained magic-users are dangerous. Even if it doesn't have a school, it could be involved in setting up master-apprentice deals. In some settings, it's impossible to learn magic anywhere but one of these.

If a magical society has a headquarters, there's a fair chance it'll be a tower.

Possibly a kind of Weird Trade Union.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • There are a number of magical and religious organizations in A Certain Magical Index that fall under this, ranging from smaller independent and semi-independent factions like the various Magic Cabals and the Amakusa Church (a Japanese Catholic-Christian sect with elements of traditional worship and ritual), all the way up to religious organizations like the Catholic Church or governing bodies such as the Royal Family of England.
     Film - Live Action 
  • The Initiation of Sarah: has the two rivaling sororities Alpha Nu Gamma and Pi Epsilon Delta. Both groups are actually witch covens, the girls of Alpha Nu receive their magic from the Eternal Flame while the girls from PED receive their magic from Mother Earth.

  • In Discworld, one of the unspoken functions of Unseen University is to keep wizards tangled up in bureaucracy and academic politics, and to ensure that they can live comfortably without having to actually do very much. That way, they're not turning their magic on everyone else, and over the years since the university was founded, wizardry in general has become more sedate and inward-looking. Which makes the world a considerably safer place: it's noted that "there were still quite deep scars in old buildings that showed what happened when you had the other kind of wizard", and that in the old days, the plural of 'wizard' was 'war'.
    • Witches, by contrast, don't have the same level of organisation. They occasionally have big meetings, and some of them will clump together in groups of three to keep an eye on each other, but there isn't any formal leadership. (Informal leadership exists to an extent - it's noted that Granny Weatherwax is "the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn't have".) One short story deals with someone trying to set up a committee to make their big meeting more organised - it fails.
  • In The Black Magician Trilogy, there's a Magicians' Guild that all magic-users are required to join, since untrained magic-users are a danger to themselves and those around them. The plot of the first book has the protagonist (who doesn't really understand the danger, and just wants to be left alone) being hunted by the Guild for this reason.
  • The Wheel of Time has the Aes Sedai. In theory, long-term membership is not compulsory, but they do insist that anyone with power undertake training, and it's implied that the Aes Sedai are very reluctant to let go of anyone with serious potential. They also crack down on anyone being too obvious about using the One Power outside their ranks, as many people consider "can use the One Power" and "is Aes Sedai" to be the same thing. Over the course of the books, it emerges that they're not actually doing as well as they think - there are plenty of people who would make strong Aes Sedai but who, one way or another, are not signed up.
    • Later, one of the protagonists sets up another group called the Asha'man, which consists of men (while all modern Aes Sedai are women). It works a bit differently.
    • As the series progresses, several more are introduced. The Kin are composed of women who, for whatever reason, flunked out of the Aes Sedai, though they keep their heads down and most people aren't aware of their existence. The Aiel Wise Ones and Sea Folk Windfinders are partial examples, as while both groups recruit all channelers from among their respective peoples, they also have non-channeling members. The mysterious empire of Shara hosts a secretive cabal of channelers called the Ayyad, who are officially subservient to the monarchy but are in fact the true power behind the throne and ally themselves with the Shadow at the Last Battle.
  • In Shaman of the Undead, wizards living under the Masquerade have their own government, the Council, that sets up laws and plays politics, and their own police force, WON, which fights demons and rogue wizards.
  • In The Dresden Files, the White Council exists as a sort of union of the world's more powerful human wizards. Membership isn't strictly compulsory, with it being described as more of an acknowledgement of ability rather than power (though power is required - they have strict minimum criteria and only accept the top one percent of practitioners), with Dresden comparing it to being like having a black belt. However, like the Aes Sedai, they're very reluctant to let someone with real power out of their grasp, and in addition to protecting humanity from various non-human factions (vampires, etc), it enforces Seven Laws of Magic over both its own members and all other human ('mortal') practitioners. As in, if someone breaks one of the Laws, even in ignorance, they're performing dark magic and unless a Council Member is willing to take the offender on probation as an Apprentice and can persuade the Senior Council that they're salvageable, they'll execute them on the spot.
  • Harry Potter has the Wizarding World as a whole. They are organized in a bureaucratic government called the Ministry of Magic, and they have an extensive schooling system, of which Hogwarts is a part. The Order of the Phoenix meanwhile is something of a Secret Circle of Secrets within the larger magic community, and are formed to fight another example, their evil counterparts the Death Eaters.
  • The Witcher has the Brotherhood of Sorcerers, which fell apart, and the Lodge of Sorceresses, a secret organisation created afterwards by a group of women who had belonged to it. Their membership is not particularly large, but they can have a considerable impact on politics, and have reputations as untrustworthy schemers.
  • In The Riftwar Cycle, the Tsurani have the Assembly, which is officially outside the law and can do whatever it wants "for the good of the empire". One of the trilogies makes the struggle between magical and mundane authority a central issue.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's "Magic, Inc." involves an attempt to create a non-profit association that would test and license magicians. It turns out to be a diabolical (literally) plot to take over control of all magic use in the U.S.
  • The Enchanter's Guild in Pratt and DeCamp's "The Mathematics of Magic."
  • The Palace of the Prophets in the Sword of Truth series. It's also suggested that something of this nature existed within the Wizard's Keep at Aydindril, but is no more because there are so few wizards left.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell introduces us to the Learned Society of York Magicians, a group of polite English gentlemen who sit around discussing magical writings and history, and who would never do anything so uncivilized as actually attempting to cast a spell or two. Many such societies exist around England, functioning as nice social clubs... Unfortunately for them, when a "practical" magician finally shows up, he turns out to be of a somewhat anti-social type.
  • The Twenty Palaces Society from Harry Connolly's book series.
  • Labyrinths of Echo had orders formed around every nascent magical tradition. There was an Age of the Orders when these were the main power players, allying, jostling, and fighting with others and leaving little real power to the monarchy until the Order of the Seven-Leaf, allied with the King, won the civil war, outlawing all other magical orders and use of magic above the weakest grades, since overdraining of magic in the World's Heart was about to cause The End of the World as We Know It.
  • The Castle in Septimus Heap has a fully-developed Magical Society that exists almost side-by-side from the ordinary government.
  • In The Broken Crescent, all magical practitioners belong to the College of Man, which points to the potential catastrophes if the Language of the Gods is misused.
  • The Shadowhunters from The Mortal Instruments, most definitely, complete with their own magically-concealed country located on the border of France and Germany. The Fair Folk likewise count for much the same reasons. Vampires and werewolves are a less organized variation, being organized into local clans and packs respectively, and they live within mundane cities. The warlocks are an aversion, being mostly free agents bound primarily by individual relationships.
  • Rignok, a town in The Will Be Done, is one run by a guild of sorcerers; they've apparently done a pretty good job of it, too.
  • In The Witling, the Guild is an organization of "less than six hundred—and a quarter of those are children" extremely powerful Azhiri who are involuntarily inducted as children based on the strength of their Talent. Mostly, it's for the protection of their species; Prou mentions that powerful children missed by the Guild have, in the past, taken over isolated villages and slaughtered anyone who didn't obey them, similarly to the plot of It's a Good Life.
  • In Clariel, there is a group of Charter Mages in Belisaere which concerns itself with threats to the Kingdom, especially those of a magical nature. It includes Kargrin, a magic teacher; Gullaine, captain of the Royal Guard; Roban, a guard in the employ of the Goldsmiths' Guild; and Ader, a schoolmistress. All are current or former employees of the King, who no longer takes an interest in governing.
  • The Iron Teeth web serial has multiple mage guilds that control the production of crystals that mages use to cast spells. This gives them a monopoly on magic.
  • Second Apocalypse has the various Schools of Sorcery, which are a sort of combination Wizarding School and fraternal organization. Because the holy text of the continent, the Tusk, states that sorcery is blasphemy, the schools originally rose as a means of self-protection. Those who resist membership are called Wizards and typically lead very short lives. At the time of the first trilogy, the Schools include:
    • The Scarlet Spires are the largest and most powerful school. They fairly openly run the nation of High Ainon. They are also the only school that dabbles in demon-summing.
    • The Imperial Saik work as Court Mages for the Nansur Imperium.
    • The Mysunsai are mercenary sorcerers who hire themselves to the highest bidder and are generally looked down upon by other Schools as lesser sorcerers.
    • The Mandate are sworn to watch for the return of the Consult and are the only school to practice the powerful form of sorcery called the Gnosis. They're simultaneously envied for the Gnosis and ridiculed for their seemingly pointless mission by the other Schools.
    • The Cishaurim are the only school of sorcery among the Fanim, a minority religion in Earwa. They are an enigmatic school who use a branch of sorcery called the Psukhe that is not recognizable as magic by other sorcerers. They also pluck out their eyes and see instead through snake familiars.
  • The Reluctant King: The Forces of Progress are a wizard organization Dr. Karadur belongs to, and work as a guild. Internally, they're divided into two factions with opposing philosophies: White (Altruists, who want to use magic in helping others) and Black (Benefactors, those that want this kept for themselves). They have yearly conclaves in the Goblin Tower of Metouro, which de Camp depicts as being like academic conferences.
  • Wizard of Yurt: The wizards have an order which provides them with training and jobs, but also mandates rules like celibacy.
  • Guardians of the Flame: The Pandathaway Wizards Guild are one of the guilds which rule the city state.
  • The Crimson Shadow: Long ago a fellowship of mages lived in the Avonsea islands, who designed the great cathedrals which still remain in the major cities. However, over time evil mages who wanted easier power by pacts with demons took it over, driving the good ones from its ranks.
  • The Scholomance: The upper crust of wizards are "enclavers", who have the resources to create a private Pocket Dimension for their community and are by far the best-connected and best-equipped. There's also some coordination and communication across enclaves and with non-enclavers, but for the most part, communities appear to look out for themselves almost exclusively.

    Live Action Television 
  • The Witcher (2019): The Brotherhood of Sorcerers (despite this name, members are of both sexes). Usually simply called the Brotherhood, it controls most of the mages in the Northern Kingdoms and regulates the magic they do along with getting them work. Most although not all of the mages in the Northern Kingdoms are members. They seem to be essentially a mage guild, thus overlapping with a Weird Trade Union. Given the power which court mages have, they also greatly control things behind the scenes in the Northern Kingdoms.

  • Capcom's Pinball Magic has the player's magic skills being tested by The Society of Masters, a group of magicians and mystics: Nostradamus, a Shaman, The Great Hansen, Mr. Mystique, Kenzo, Jadugar, and their leader, Matra Magna.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ars Magica: The Order of Hermes is the main one in the game, including the most powerful and numerous of magic users in Mythic Europe. Within the order itself are several more distinct magtical societies, including the houses of the Order, mystery cults (four of which are also houses), leagues, and various individual magical traditions. There are still societies of magical traditions that exist outside the Order as well, some in Mythic Europe and some without. Likely the largest of these is the Order of Suleiman in the Mythic Middle East. Some magical societies have members both within and without of the Order of Hermes, but these tend to be relatively small groups.
  • Shadowrun products have had a variety of small magical societies, usually informal groupings of like minded magic users. Some were more formal, such as groups set up and run by megacorps.
  • Mage: The Ascension features the Council of Nine, the ruling body of the nine major magical Traditions, which themselves range from mentalist martial artists to Hermetics to enlightened scientists to pagans to reality hackers to shamans to monotheistic heretics to ecstatic seers to reincarnationists. And then there are the many other Crafts that exist beyond them...
    • It also has the Technocratic Union and its five Conventions - Iteration X (engineers and inventors), the Progenitors (biologists and geneticists), the Syndicate (financiers and economists), Void Engineers (explorers), and the New World Order (masters of information and its control). However, many members of the Union see what they do as Enlightened Science, not magic.
    • The 20th anniversary edition introduces the Disparate Alliance, a group of Crafts who informally joined up around the millennium to take down the Technocracy and the Nephandi, the fallen mages. The Alliance comprises djinn-binders, African high ritualists, Western alchemists, the Knights Templar, Middle Eastern mystics, vodouists, xenophobic Chinese high ritualists, Gothic street kids, Polynesian wizard-priests and pagan feminists. (There's a reason the Alliance is informal - they're still trying to figure out how the hell they're going to work together.)
  • Ascension's successor game Mage: The Awakening has the Pentacle Orders on one side, and the Ministries of the Seers of the Throne on the other.
  • Likewise, Wraith: The Oblivion has several Guilds, each of which shows a proclivity towards one of the Arcanoi. Some are ill-favored but looked upon as a necessity (the Pardoners, whose knowledge of Castigate helps keep Shadows in check), some are looked upon with scorn (the Haunters, who use the art of Pandemonium to fuck with reality), and some are outlawed entirely (the Mnemoi, whose knowledge of Mnemosynis allowed them to control memory and resulted in the entire Guild being smashed for hideous crimes).
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The Orders of High Sorcery in Dragonlance. Created directly by the three gods of magic, they have almost total authority in all magical matters, and being a practicing wizard of substantial power without joining (and thereby being subject to the Orders' regulations) is a crime punishable by death. There are three Orders, White, Red, and Black, each with their own distinct philosophy in magic; representatives of all three sit on the Conclave, which governs all magical matters on Krynn.
      • Later in the timeline, other magical organizations (such as the Grey Knights of the Thorn, a subgroup of the Dark Knights of Takhisis/Neraka) start springing up which are powerful enough to exist independently of the Orders, as do other forms of magic-users such as mystics and primal sorcerers whose magic doesn't come from the moon gods and therefore lies outside the Orders' jurisdiction.
    • The Veiled Alliance of Dark Sun is mainly the underground opposition to the Dragon Kings' rule, but it also serves as pretty much the only source of training in Preserver magic.
    • Forgotten Realms, aside of assorted magocracies and arcane corps, has several magical organizations working as behind-the-throne magocracies, such as the Arcane Brotherhood or the Witches of Rashemen. There are also frequent attempts to found local wizard guilds and stable schools, such as The Covenant — some ending in all-out magic battles and exploding towers, some running for many generations.
  • The Victoriana RPG has The Guild. Originally the Mages' Guild, this trade organization acts much like any other: They set the standards (and standard pricing) for their practitioners, police their own, and come down like the proverbial ton of bricks on anyone that breaks the rules. They especially hate necromancers and demon summoners, while petty magics (non-Guild magics that aren't nearly as impressive as "proper" thaumaturgy (and as of Second Edition won't work for Guild mages, as they can't believe that such spells work)) are generally derided as useless foolishness.
  • In Castle Falkenstein, most wizards are members of Orders, which provide magickal training and access to Lorebooks. Since each Order has control over its own Lore, which Order(s) a character belongs to will pretty much determine which specific spells they can cast.
  • Magical oversight in Invisible Sun is done by the Invisible Church, a group made up of the four Orders of magic that sets down the systems, methods, and rules for magic use. Those who decide to use magic but not belong to one of the Orders (or are excommunicated from an Order) are known as Apostates.
  • In GURPS Technomancer, magic-users have unionised. The most powerful mage organisation in the US is the Elementalists' Union ("Big El"), which represents Earth mages in the construction and mining industries and Water mages in the weather control programs, while Mexico has SNTBC Quetzal (Syndicado Nacional de Trabajadores en Brujera y Curandera or National Syndicate of Workers in Witchcraft and Magical Healing). Outside the Manabelt, it's assumed there just aren't enough mages for such organisations to exist.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The Mages Guild is a preeminent one throughout the series. It is a professional organization for the magically inclined with a presence across all of Tamriel at their height. The Guild offers training and magical services in dedication to the study and application of Magicka. The Guild also played a major part in codifying and popularizing the "Eight Schools" of magic in Tamriel. The Guild exists in Arena but is not joinable, only offering magical service. In Daggerfall, Morrowind, and Oblivion, the Mages Guild is joinable with the opportunity for the Player Character to rise to the rank of Arch-Mage. However, in the 200 year Time Skip between Oblivion and Skyrim, the Guild collapses due to years of infighting as well as Tamriel's distrust of anything magical following the Oblivion Crisis. It is replaced by several groups including the Synod (which focuses on recovering magical artifacts) and the College of Whispers (which focuses more on the pure study of magic as well as summoning Daedra). Regional Magical Societies (usually crossing over with being Wizarding Schools) are also prevalent, such as the College of Winterhold (which is joinable in Skyrim).
    • The Order of the Black Worm is another more secretive and morally questionable Magical Society founded by Mannimarco, the King of Worms, the first Lich, and, after the events of Daggerfall, the God of Worms. The Order focuses more on the darker aspects of magic, including Soul-Trapping sapient souls and Necromancy. They are extreme rivals to the Mages Guild and, after the Mages Guild formally banned its members from practicing Necromancy (it had previously been tolerated within the limits of the law though frowned upon), many former members flocked to the Order. The Order serves as the main villain in Oblivion's Mages Guild questline.
    • The Psijic Order is the oldest monastic order in Tamriel, being founded not long after the ancient Aldmer first came to Tamriel. Though usually benevolent, they are a much more secretive and selective Magical Society. Through thousands of years of intensive study in the nature of magic, they have become able to utilize it in ways the rest of Tamriel is unable to match. Their many magical feats include making their home island disappear without a trace (twice), summoning a storm to swallow the Maomer fleet whole, using various forms of teleportation and Astral Projection, Telepathy, and there are even reports that they possess a limited form of clairvoyance and sight into future events. Both the Mages Guild and the Order of the Black Worm were founded by former Psijics (Galerion and Mannimarco, respectively), who disagreed with the Order's policies. (Galerion believed magic should be open to all citizens of Tamriel, while Mannimarco's practice of The Dark Arts got him kicked out.) Though mentioned heavily in background lore, they don't make an appearance in-game until Skyrim's College of Winterhold storyline, where they act as a Mysterious Backer to the Dragonborn and then confiscate the Eye of Magnus while declaring that The World Is Not Ready for it.
  • In Dragon Age, the Circle of Magi basically exists because the religious authorities don't trust mages and want them under control. Mages have varying opinions about this - some of them agree wholeheartedly, some of them think it's better than the alternative, and some of them want an end to it. The religious authorities have special warriors floating around the Circle's tower to put down anyone who is too proactive in their membership of the latter category. There is a semi-secret alternative organisation, the Mages' Collective, which attempts to defy the regulation imposed on the Circle while still (sometimes) maintaining its own ethical codes.
  • Warcraft has the Kirin Tor. Not the only magical group as there used to be a rival group in Stormwind and the trolls have their own arcane traditions but definitely the most prominent. When they became an independent faction in the second expansion of World of Warcraft mage player characters (regardless of race) start out with a slightly higher reputation than non-mage characters.
    • There were also the Blood Elves, but that was pretty much their Magical Society in of itself. The Night Elves also had a Magical Society, the Highbourne. They returned as an explanation for the Night Elf Mage class in the third expansion pack.
  • The Heroes of Might and Magic games have several magic based factions with each game: I had the Sorceress and Warlock, II added the Wizard and Necromancer, III updated the system by having a magic type hero with each faction, with some factions dedicated to magic more than others (the most prominent being the Tower with the Wizards and Alchemists), IV had each faction with their own specialty magic (save for Might), V went back to how I and II did the heroes, with the Academy, Dungeon, and Necropolis for the Wizards, Warlocks, and Necromancers, respectively.
  • From Kingdom of Loathing come the League of Chef-Magi. This is the guild that organizes the Pastamancers and Saucerors. It's also where they learn new spells.
  • The Clans of Book of Mages: The Dark Times. They're training organizations that define the different types of magic, differing in style of dress, Theme Naming, the appearance of their magic bolts, and in the special spells taught to advanced mages. Also, mages as a whole form a very loose society, bound together by the Great Mage, who rules over all mages, and by the institution of the Book of Mages, a Who's Who that ranks the 100 most powerful mages in the world.
  • Dark Souls has the Dragon College of Vinheim. You only hear about it from lore and meet a couple of members, but it's effectively a city state of magic run by the higher ups at the college. Then there is Seath the Dragon and his Channelers, who you fight in game.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Nasuverse's Mage Association is both this and a Wizarding School. It's presently at an uncomfortable truce with The Church, at war with vampires, is riddled with inter-branch rivalry - most notably between the 'Three Great Branches' Atlas, Sea of Estray, and Clock Tower - and the headquarters itself, Clock Tower, is peppered with rivalry between factions of noble magi. And that's not counting the actions it takes against individual outsiders and other magical organizations outside of Europe.

    Real Life 
  • Wiccan Covens are, according to their beliefs at least, Magical Societies.
  • Several Esoteric groups and societies have existed for many centuries and some of them claim to study magic in real life. To name a few: Rosicrucians, Neo-Gnostics, Theosophists, Thelemites, Setians, La Veyans, members of the Ordo Templi Orientis, Dragon Rouge, etc. Most of these groups have a closed membership.
  • Galicia in Spain has been called the "Land of the Witches" due to its culture that relates to witches.

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