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Becoming a Hermetic Wizard

(from the diaries of Alys Kinnear)

Becoming a wizard isn't an overnight task. And even though you might earn the title young, it's truly the work of a lifetime.

Every child with magical aptitude - which, since the Black Plague of 1346 − 1350, is pretty much least in Europe, Asia, Africa and India - learns basic spellcasting in primary school. This is, frankly, a self-defense mechanism; after all, there's few things more disruptive to a household than an uncontrolled magical talent. So by the time they're ten or eleven, most children have at least learned to cast a few basic spells. Magelights and Wisps are the most common and a favorite of every child in Albion, but more importantly they learn how to control their talent. Most kids don't have enough ambient Anima to do more than nudge a coaster around a table, but when you're angry it isn't hard to lash out without meaning to.

By the time kids are thirteen, most have been taught to control their Anima so well that they've stopped thinking about it. But every once in a while you get a wild talent with the right mix of problems at home (real or imagined), and you get one of the various types of Poltergeist activity. I’ve been called in to deal with a few of those.

In secondary school, all students are tested for magical aptitude. Everybody takes Home Thaumaturgy and learns basic cooking, cleaning and household spells, but students who have the talent and interest are offered advanced classes. Lots of professions benefit by having trained spellcasters - Mages - on staff. Law enforcement and construction especially are always on the lookout for magically-talented employees.

Anyway, not everybody has the requisite raw talent - a combination of several factors, including personal Anima reserves, intelligence, ability to tap into ambient environmental Anima, and most importantly a natural inclination towards the Hermetic tradition - to become a Wizard. You can start the training at any time, but I'm told it's easier when you're young.

For example, I grew up in a region of Éire dominated by Druidic magical talents. I went through school learning basic magic with my classmates, but where I found some elements easier - especially transmutation and shapeshifting - I found others practically impossible. For example, I have never, ever managed to make a plant grow with magic. When my Hermetic talent was identified and the amount of Anima I possessed was tested, the option was put before me - I could study to become a Wizard.

Oh, how my mind lit up with the possibilities. My mom agreed, and off I went to Dublin at the tender age of thirteen to study under a professional Wizard. Jonathan Tremane not only handled my magical education but also my mundane, making sure I continued to study art, literature, mathematics and science (especially those last two, since they have such an enormous impact on Hermetic Wizardry). It's surprisingly easy to fit all of those studies into the day when your study time isn't limited to normal school hours.

It isn't unusual to start studying to become a Wizard very young. After all, the two initial stages…Apprentice and Journeyman…take a minimum of six and four years respectively, even if you excel. I began my apprenticeship with Jonathan about a week after my thirteenth birthday, and completed my Mage's licensure exams about a month after my twenty-fourth. Believe it or not, the Mage exams took most of that month. It's intense and utterly exhausting.

Once you've completed your Mage licensure exams, you have a decision to make. Either stop there and enter the workforce as a professional Mage, the same as any other student who went to university for it, or find another teacher - and probably an employer - to begin studying for the Wizarding licensure exams. There's absolutely no shame in stopping to become a professional Mage instead…becoming a Wizard is hard, exhausting, and can devour your life if you aren't careful to manage your time.

There is no set time for how long it takes to achieve the lofty title of Wizard. It could take months, years, or decades…or you might simply never achieve it. In the meantime, you can work at any number of professions, or even try out ones that sound interesting. And there's nothing that says you need to finish your studies…at any time, you can let the Order of Hermetic Wizardry know that you've decided to settle into a job as a professional Mage.

Becoming a Wizard isn't easy, because it's not just about studying magic. Being a Wizard comes with many responsibilities, ranging from aiding law enforcement when they need a specialist to helping deal with supernatural threats - which happens more often than most people would like to think - to translation and negotiation. Additionally, most Wizards do private consultation when people are having problems of a paranormal nature…even a Wizard needs to make a living, after all. All of that adds up to tons of additional research and studying and makes the Wizarding licensure exams extremely difficult.

I was fortunate enough to have Hollis Ellister waiting to take me under his wing, both professionally and to foster my education. Events then conspired - be it fate or the intervention of intelligent beings doesn't matter really - to push me harder than I'd ever imagined being pushed. I achieved my Wizard's license before I was thirty, one of the youngest Wizards ever.

I have never regretted my decision. Magic is an art (and is sometimes referred to as The Art, for it can encompass all others), one that can be magnificent and terrifying by turns, and one whose depths I doubt I will ever completely plumb. No day as a Wizard is ever boring, and that's the best part about studying magic. No matter how much you've learned, there's always another mystery around the corner.

Mind you, that's just how Hermetic spellcasters do things. Druids have a different but equally formalized structure, as do most faith-based spellcasting traditions. Norden Runecallers and Runecasters are said to be chosen by Odin himself - which might be why many of them voluntarily have an eye put out and favor ravens as familiars - and are told of their destiny through prophetic dreams when they're little. No matter which magical tradition you favor, one thing is true: it's not about how much power you have…it's about having an aptitude for the spellcasting tradition.

I mean, look at me. I grew up in a Druidic community, but have no affinity for Druid magic at all. Instead, I turned out to have an aptitude for Hermetic magic. I guess some things are just meant to be.