“Perhaps there’s some truth to the idea that the real danger of blood magic isn’t that it draws its power from sacrifice, or that it tempts the greedy and ambitious into using the suffering of others to fuel their spells. Perhaps the danger is simply that we do not understand it, and that lack of understanding invites disaster even when our intentions are pure.”―Calien d'Evaliste
Blood magic is a school of magic that taps into the inherent power of blood to fuel spellcasting and that can be used for violent corrupting purposes such as mind control and demon summoning. Unlike with conventional magic, its users do not touch the Fade when casting spells and actually find it harder to enter. They are also more susceptible to demonic possession.
The first person known to wield blood magic was Thalsian, a Neromenian dreamer who lived circa -1595 Ancient. He claimed to have learned the art after personally communicating with the Old God Dumat. He used his newfound powers to declare himself king of Neromenian and spread the worship of the Old Gods. Mages of the Imperial Chantry today argue that that blood magic was most likely learned from the ancient elves of Arlathan, though there is no evidence to definitely support either stance. Others yet believe that knowledge of blood magic came from the powerful ancient demons known as the Forbidden Ones.
Whatever its ultimate origin, blood magic was used by the magisters of the Tevinter Imperium to conquer and rule over Thedas. History recounts how the magisters used their power to shatter the elven empire, sinking their fabled capital city into the ground and forcing its surviving people into slavery. However, according to the Chantry, reckless use of blood magic eventually led to the blackening of the Golden City and the creation of the darkspawn and the Blights.
Use of blood magic has been heavily stigmatized by the Chantry throughout Thedas. Even Tevinter publicly disavows the practice of blood magic despite its near-ubiquitous use among the magisters. Fear of blood magic is strong enough that even non-magical fields of research like anatomical studies have been placed under suspicion.
However, not all see blood magic as inherently evil. Some mages argue that it is a tool like any other and that there is no harm in using it as long as it isn't used to hurt others and uses only one's own blood or that of a willing participant. Blood magic does not necessarily have to be used for wicked pursuits either, it can even be used to heal. Others believe that blood magic is the only type of magic that is truly free, as it is tied to the physical and not favors to spirits or demons. Their detractors point to the destructive nature of blood magic and the constant temptation for more power as justification enough for never using it.
Though the Dalish disapprove of blood magic, many Andrastian humans believe and spread the unfounded rumor that Dalish elves routinely kidnap and sacrifice human children for use in blood magic rituals. This rumor has persisted for centuries.
The Grey Wardens fight darkspawn by any means necessary, blood magic included. The leaders of the Chantry and other powerful institutions are generally willing to look the other way as long as it is used solely against the darkspawn. Some mages therefore believe that only within the ranks of the Grey Wardens can blood magic be used freely and allowed to flourish in the name of arcane progress.
Blood magic is strictly forbidden by the Chantry as part of its formal doctrine. The Circle of Magi endeavors to supervise all individuals with the gift of magic from a young age to ensure none of them ever tap into this forbidden school, under the reasoning that any mage left unsupervised by the Chantry will otherwise succumb to its temptation. However, even their constant supervision allows the occasional maleficar to slip through their fingers and out into the world.
In her sermons, Divine Justinia I defined maleficarum as mages who use their powers to dominate hearts and minds or who use blood, especially the blood of others, to fuel their magic. Apostate was the label she applied to those who reject the Maker's law. Over the centuries, the Chantry has gone to great lengths to conflate the two terms, though in truth an apostate is simply a mage who isn't part of the Circle of Magi. Regardless of the actual definition, all apostates are systematically hunted by the Templar Order. While not all apostates start out as blood mages, many turn to blood magic out of desperation to survive or escape imprisonment. Maleficarum and apostates are generally executed on sight.
There is a significant exception to the Chantry's strict ban on blood magic: phylacteries–magical blood vials used by templars to track down apostates. The creation of phylacteries isn't just tolerated by the Chantry, it is standard practice when a new mage is brought to the Circle. Phylacteries are created by the First Enchanter or an Enchanter. The Chantry doesn't seem to recognize this kind of practice as blood magic; for example, Finn identifies it as a "grey area."
The mages of Nevarra are part of the order of the Mortalitasi, also known as the "Death Mages of Nevarra," a group that studies death extensively and experiments with necromancy. While well-respected within Neverra, some mages outside the kingdom's borders believe that the Mortalitasi are a death cult carrying out macabre rituals in the Grand Necropolis. While, according to Mary Kirby, necromancy technically qualifies as blood magic, its practice by the Mortalitasi doesn't seem to be considered as such by the Mortalitasi themselves or the Chantry. Viuus Anaxas directly opposes the suggestion that necromancy is blood magic, pointing out that blood magic consumes life, manipulating and destroying the living, while necromancy honours life by venerating the dead. Mortalitasi mages are still considered part of the Circle; in fact, the seat of the College of Enchanters is located in the Nevarran city of Cumberland. Cullen Rutherford, who was trained as a templar, also states that he "can accept that necromancy is not blood magic."
Under the Qun, mastery of the self is the first and greatest duty. As mages are constantly at risk of losing themselves to demons, the Qunari believe that it makes them inherently dangerous, and call them saarebas, "a dangerous thing." Blood magic is especially abhorrent to the Qunari; those found or suspected of having used blood magic or been corrupted by demons will have their tongues cut so that they may not corrupt others or will be killed outright, as will be those who came into contact with an unsupervised saarebas.
In Tevinter, blood magic is officially discouraged but it is widely, if quietly, practiced. Since Andraste specifically spoke against blood magic, it has been removed from public ceremonies and is not formally taught in Imperial Circles. However, since most heroes of Tevinter folklore used or benefited from blood magic, the practice does not carry as much stigma as it does elsewhere. The traditions of blood magic are quietly passed from master to apprentice and even the most devout mage knows at least a little blood magic. Tevinter does not consider the moderate use of blood magic inherently dangerous e.g., the use of one's own blood or a willing participant. However, "moderate" use can only garner so much power. It's safe to assume that any mage of rank does the forbidden kind, meaning sacrifices and demon-summoning, behind closed doors. Those who protest against such widespread use of blood magic are blackballed from power and shunned by the other magisters. While Imperial Templars are meant to stop magisters when they cross the line, in practice only the weak have templars sent after them.
Spells and powers
Spells powered by blood instead of mana
Blood magic, first and foremost, is the practice of using blood—life itself—as a potent fuel for casting spells. This life may be supplied by either the mage or sacrifices, whether willing or unwilling. As such, the use of blood magic often allows a mage to cast spells that would otherwise be beyond the abilities of any mage, or require the use of lyrium. The magisters of the ancient Imperium were known to keep numerous slaves on hand as blood sacrifices for particularly arduous castings, a practice that is perpetuated by some blood mages in the present day. It should be noted that the more violent the pain or death used in blood magic, the more powerful a spell becomes.
Spells exclusive to blood magic
Originally, blood magic was not considered a school of its own. Rather, it was seen as a means to augment spells from any school. In time, however, magisters discovered certain spells that could only be performed using the power of blood, such as Blood Wound/Hemorrhage. And while lyrium may be used to send the individual waking minds of mages into the Fade, blood magic can be used to find the sleeping minds of others. In fact, with just the sacrifice of another person's life, a blood mage can project another mage's conscious self into the Fade—in a manner similar to the Circle of Magi's Harrowing—without the use of lyrium.
Therein lies the heart of one of blood magic's most potent and dangerous abilities: to influence, and even take control of, the actions of other beings. Blood Control/Blood Slave enslaves a victim by forcibly controlling the victim's blood. Blood magic can also be used to view the dreams of sleeping people, and even influence or dominate their thoughts. The Litany of Adralla is the only guaranteed counter to this mind control—and it can only be used as a preventive measure, not to sever control after it is established.
Blood magic can also be used to summon demons into the corporeal world, either as a physical manifestation (e.g. shades) that can be bound to a mage's will, or through possession of a host body (living or dead). Demonic possession of the living produces abominations, while possession of a corpse results in one of the living dead, a creature whose strength and abilities depends on the power and type of host and demon involved (it is unclear whether or not dwarves and other magic-resistant beings can become possessed). Often, however, the demons will possess, kill, or completely ignore the blood mage who summoned them. It is possible however, to influence creatures of the Fade to do one's bidding by forcing them into servitude through intimidation or by pledging one's heart to them. Demons for example, require little in the way of bribery. Their natural state is one of longing for the world of flesh and blood. If a mage is strong, a demon will seek to possess them not through force but through guile. Should a mage offer them a respite from their eternal search for true life through a deal, a mage can negotiate a demon's compliance for a time. However, one should be aware that demons are well-versed in the art of manipulation and they will seek to possess the mage at any time. Should the demon get the upper hand, it will result in the mage becoming an abomination. If enough lives are sacrificed, a blood mage may use the corpses of the sacrifices to turn one's self into a Harvester.
Just as treacherous, blood magic allows sundering the Veil completely so that demons may physically pass through it into the physical world. The Magisters Sidereal were even able to use blood magic to physically enter the Fade—a feat which required the ritual sacrifice of countless slaves and over two-thirds of the lyrium in the entire empire. However, the Chantry claims that the true cost came when the magisters entered the Golden City, corrupting it with their presence. They were cast down, returning to Thedas as the first darkspawn and unleashing the Blights upon all of Thedas.
Ancient lore and present-day events hint that blood magic holds the key to incredible powers yet undreamed of, or long thought lost. Such power generally requires a terrible sacrifice, however: a debt paid in blood at the cost of the lives of others or the blood mage; or even one's own humanity. As such, while blood magic itself is merely a convenient tool, it is by far one of the most dangerous ones.
Spells that use blood as a component
There are some spells and rituals that use blood as a component rather than as a power source, such as the ritual involved in the creation of phylacteries. These spells seem to be viewed as more of a "grey area" than actual blood magic by the Chantry and the Circle.
Dragon Age: Origins
As a Grey Warden, the Warden can become a blood mage during both Origins and Awakening without becoming a target of the templars.
The blood mage specialization can only be unlocked by making a deal with the desire demon inhabiting Connor Guerrin during the quest Arl of Redcliffe. Once it has been unlocked in one save file, however, the specialization is available to mage Wardens in all subsequent files, and the player can devise whatever backstory they wish. While Wynne and Morrigan can also be given the blood mage specialization, it is never brought up in game. Given Wynne's impassioned lectures on its evils and dangers, the specialization should likely be treated as gameplay only. Regardless of specialization, on the eve of the Battle of Denerim, Morrigan always offers the Warden to perform an ancient ritual, a form of blood magic that Flemeth taught her.
The Warden encounters more instances of blood magic throughout the Fifth Blight:
- When trying to secure the help of Arl Eamon of Redcliffe, the Warden learns that the arl has been poisoned by the blood mage Jowan on the orders of Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir. In an attempt to cure the arl's illness, his young son made a deal with a demon, becoming an abomination that unleashed terror on the town of Redcliffe (and from which a mage Warden can learn the secrets of blood magic).
- When trying to gain the allegiance of the Circle of Magi, the Warden finds that the tower has been overrun by demons and abominations following an attempted coup staged by the blood mage Uldred and his followers.
- While investigating unrest in the Denerim alienage, the Warden discovers that Teyrn Loghain has allowed Tevinter blood mages to operate in the district, kidnapping elves to be sold as slaves in Tevinter.
- When investigating the Wardens' history at Soldier's Peak, the Warden learns that a Grey Warden blood mage named Avernus has been conducting painful experiments on his fellow Wardens to learn more about the secret powers within their tainted blood, and that he used that knowledge to unnaturally prolong his life by hundreds of years and uncover powerful talents and spells. The Warden–even a non-mage one–can choose to learn these talents. They can also decide to let Avernus continue his experiments to learn more about the power contained within the Grey Wardens' blood.
Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
If not previously unlocked in Origins, the specialization can be unlocked by purchasing the training manual from the bartender at the Crown and Lion tavern in Amaranthine. Unlocking the specialization in Awakening also unlocks it for Origins.During Awakening, Anders and Velanna can also be given the blood mage specialization. Interestingly, Anders is the only companion in all of Origins and Awakening who will comment—however briefly—on being made a blood mage: when Anders states his belief that the templars would have eventually branded him a maleficar, true or not, the Warden-Commander can point out that Anders is, in fact, a blood mage, and he remarks on the irony of the situation.
Dragon Age II
Hawke can become a blood mage during Dragon Age II. However, their use of blood magic is never remarked upon, even when performed in front of templars and city officials. How they came about knowledge of blood magic is also left unspecified, though it should be noted that there are an abundance of blood mages in Kirkwall, numbers that have been steadily rising in recent years. Ironically, a portion of this can be attributed to the templars under Knight-Commander Meredith, who have gradually turned the Gallows into a veritable prison and driven good-intentioned apostates to blood magic out of desperation for survival and freedom.
One of Hawke's mage companions, Merrill, is an acknowledged blood mage. Another one of Hawke's mage companions, Anders, is vehemently opposed to blood magic, despite the fact that he could been given the blood mage specialization in Awakening. The discrepancy is never brought up; as with Wynne, it is likely that Anders' blood mage specialization in Awakening is meant to be treated as gameplay only.
Hawke encounters many instances of blood magic throughout their time in Kirkwall. Some of the most notable include the following:
- When investigating the disappearance of templar recruits, Hawke finds that they were kidnapped and turned into abominations by blood mages operating out of the Blooming Rose to sow confusion and fear among the templar ranks.
- The runaway mages of the Starkhaven Circle, who, under the leadership of Decimus, have turned to blood magic in an effort to resist capture or death by Ser Karras and his templars.
- Hawke's mother, Leandra Amell, is murdered by the blood mage necromancer Quentin, a serial killer who had been targeting older women in Kirkwall for some years.
- After Knight-Commander Meredith declares the Right of Annulment on the Kirkwall Circle, First Enchanter Orsino uses blood magic to transform himself into a Harvester.
Dragon Age: Last Flight
Dragon Age: Inquisition
It is revealed that Corypheus, in an effort to gain control over the Grey Wardens, has made a deal with a Nightmare Demon to amplify his Blight magic and produce an imitation of the Calling that every single Warden begins to hear. Taking advantage of their newfound desperation, he arranges for Magister Livius Erimond to join the Grey Wardens at Adamant Fortress, where he teaches them a blood magic ritual involving the sacrifice of dozens of non-mage Grey Wardens to bind an army of demons. The Wardens mean to use this army to invade the Deep Roads and slay the remaining Old Gods, ending the Blights once and for all. It should be noted that, upon learning of the Grey Wardens' actions, Hawke expresses strong disapproval of blood magic, even if they were a blood mage themselves in Dragon Age II.
In reality, the ritual also binds the Grey Warden mages to Corypheus's will, bolstering the ranks of his army dramatically. The Inquisition lays siege to Adamant Fortress to stop them; the ensuing battle leaves the Wardens leaderless, neutralizes Corypheus's demon ally, conquers the fortress for the Inquisition, and gives the Inquisitor the choice to either ally with or exile the surviving Grey Wardens.Eventually, the Inquisitors learns that Corypheus uses a mixture of blood and Blight magic to transfer his consciousness between tainted bodies. After disrupting that process, they are finally able to kill Corypheus once and for all.
Notable blood mages
- Calien d'Evaliste
- Gascard DuPuis
- Livius Erimond
- There is technically no blood magic specialization in Dragon Age: Inquisition. The writers thought that doing it properly it would require a lot more reactivity than other specializations, which would be detrimental to other content.