Houses of Hermes
The Order of Hermes (also Enigmatic Order of Hermes or, informally, the Order) is the fictional organization to which magi in Ars Magica belong. All wizards in the Order of Hermes know a special kind of defensive magic called Parma Magica and nearly all can use a powerful, flexible form of magic called Hermetic Magic. Most of them speak Latin as a common language, enabling magi from across Mythic Europe to share magical books and spells.
From project Redcap.
The following descriptions are from the 4th edition rulebook:
Magi of Bjornaer (BYORE-nayr) concern themselves primarily with beasts and the animalistic side of human nature. Because of this emphasis in their training, each Bjornaer magus can take the form of an animal, known as his “heart-beast.” Understanding the heart-beast in particu- lar and animals in general is considered more important than Hermetic magic by many in this house.
Due to their nature, Bjornaer magi are unable to forge the necessary links to have a familiar, and the very concept is alien to them. Some Bjornaer deride magi who take familiars, which they call “substitute” heart-beasts. On the other hand, other magi are wary of followers of Bjornaer because of their fascination with the bestial. Furthermore, House Bjornaer is less respected than it might otherwise be because its founder was from a Germanic rather than a Roman mag- ical tradition.
Bonisagus (BOH-nee-SAH-goos) invented the Hermetic theory of magic, and his student, the maga Trianoma, masterminded the formation of the Order. As such, House Bonisagus has always enjoyed a great deal of respect from other magi. Most members of this house believe themselves to be of a privileged, gifted elite.
Some Bonisagus magi refine and expand Hermetic the- ory, while others oversee the continued political develop- ment of the Order. Both types have a strong tradition of using their knowledge and power for the benefit of the Order. Selfishness is strongly discouraged.
This very secretive house is known for its obscure phi- losophy, its disdain for simple power, and its members’ habit of marking their faces and bodies with arcane symbols. Followers of Criamon (KREE-ah-mone) are an enigmatic and otherworldly group of magi, generally having little interest in the politics of the Order.
Magi of Criamon seek the “Enigma,” which other magi characterize as some sort of mystical experience. For follow- ers of Criamon, understanding the Enigma has a great deal to do with discovering the true nature of Wizards’ Twilight and of magic itself.
House Ex Miscellanea
This is a large, diverse, and highly disorganized collec- tion of magi. Though originally founded by a renegade as a rival to the Order of Hermes, this association was eventual- ly accepted as a house of its own. It accepts wizards of all kinds, many only nominally Hermetic, whose magic comes from many disparate traditions. Magi Ex Miscellanea (EKS mis-kel-LAH-nay-ah) are often called hedge wizards by their many detractors within the Order, and in fact, most of its membership originated in the peasant class.
While most followers of Flambeau (flahm-BOH) spe- cialize in fire magic, some study spells of simple annihilation as a more subtle alternative. These aggressive and ferocious magi often cause trouble within the Order and frequently anger mundanes. However, their fearlessness and love of destruction make them invaluable when the Order requires the application of martial force.
House Jerbiton (YARE-bih-tahn) is interested in the mundane world, and sometimes assumes the duty of keeping the Order on good terms with the nobility and Church. This inclination in its members often stems from a noble back- ground—apprentices are usually taken from the aristocracy, and often maintain ties afterwards.
Many members of other houses believe that followers of Jerbiton are too closely bound to the mundane powers to be trusted. On the other hand, Jerbiton magi fear that members of the Order have become isolated from humanity, risking bloody conflict with the mundanes. They try energetically to heal this rift, and pursue aesthetic and Classical knowl- edge with a passion.
The founder of this house lost his magical powers but remained involved in the Order. He assumed a non-magical role valuable to other magi—that of messenger. His follow- ers continue to fulfill that role. All members of House Mercere (mare-KAY-ray, or mare-SARE in vulgar Latin), regardless of whether they possess the Gift, are officially rec- ognized as magi of the Order. Even non-Gifted Mercere spend 15 years in apprenticeship like other magi.
Followers of Mercere are more commonly known as Redcaps because of the headgear they wear as a badge of office. Redcaps are permitted to attend and vote at tribunal, and are under the protection of the Hermetic Code.
This house is focused on the world of faeries, and its members tend to be just as strange as the creatures they study. Merinita (mare-ih-NEE-tah) magi frequently remain isolated, having little to do with the rest of the Order, except to defend faeries from the assaults of other magi. Those of this house eschew the merely mortal, and seek answers within the mysterious world of Arcadia.
Actually named House Guernicus, after its founder, this house is usually referred to as House Quaesitoris (kwy-see- TOH-riss, “investigators”). Members of this house are the judges of the Order, investigating wrongdoing and passing sentence on those who transgress the Code of Hermes and the Peripheral Code. They believe the Order will collapse through internal conflict without their fierce stewardship.
Although House Guernicus trains and inducts their own apprentices, other magi can also join their ranks. One of the highest honors in the Order is to be invited by the elders of House Guernicus to become a quaesitor. Such magi usually retain membership in their original house.
Members of House Tremere (tray-MARE-ay or tray- MARE) emphasize the importance of judgment, strategy, and detailed planning. They believe in the respect of supe- riors and in asserting authority over minions. Dignity is of the utmost concern.
Until recently, House Tremere was considered one of the more sensible and stable Houses, providing strength and courage when needed and refraining from action when peace better served the Order. This all came to an end early in the 13th century when it was discovered that several of the highest-ranking Tremere had become vampires in a mis- guided attempt to gain immortality and power. All the vam- piric magi were destroyed in a bloody Wizards’ March.
The philosophy of Tytalus (TEU-tah-loos) magi is to master all forms of conflict. To this end, they promote inno- vation in all sorts of contests. They do not feel alive unless they are in a constant state of struggle, perpetually testing the strengths and weaknesses of others.
In their never-ending search for conflict, the leaders of House Tytalus went too far in the 10th century, falling prey to demonic machinations. Those masters of intrigue arro- gantly believed they could master the dark forces, but despite their skill, were unable to outwit Hell. The leaders were executed for their crime of diabolism, and House Tytalus has been distrusted ever since.
Magi of House Verditius (ware-DEE-tee-oos) have unsurpassed skill at creating enchanted items, making them invaluable to other magi and non-Gifted persons.
Almost all, unfortunately, have also inherited their founder’s magical flaw, making them unable to cast formula- ic spells without the aid of magical foci. Followers of Verditius are sometimes considered inferior to other magi because of this weakness.