The first person known to wield blood magic (circa -1595 Ancient) is Archon Thalsian, a Neromenian dreamer. He claimed to learn the art after personally communicating with the Old God Dumat. Mages of the Imperial Chantry today argue that it is more likely that the blood magic was learned from the ancient elves of Elvhenan but there is no direct evidence of either stance being true. It may even have been that Thalsian or another mage simply made a deal with a demon.
Whatever its ultimate origin, blood magic was used by the magisters of the Tevinter Imperium to rule over the whole of Thedas. History recounts how the magisters used their power to shatter even the mighty elvish empire of Arlathan, and force its surviving people into slavery. But, according to the Chantry, its reckless use eventually led to the blackening of the Golden City, the creation of the darkspawn, and the First Blight (and thus the other Blights that followed).
In present-day Thedas
In the contemporary world, blood magic is described as being one of the more sinister types of magic. The efforts of the Chantry and the Templar Order to stigmatize this forbidden discipline over countless years have all but eradicated its practice outside the Tevinter Imperium; the sole exception being the creation of Phylacteries. Though the art can be taught by a blood mage to an apprentice or self-taught via manual, it can also be learned by contacting a demon, with the risk of becoming an abomination.
Common wisdom holds that there is no way to use blood magic with good intentions. Even blood mages who tap their own blood often find a need for the power of others. They are also known to try and control other's minds and to summon demons. The use of blood magic itself is treacherous; as it allows the Veil to be opened completely so that demons may physically pass through it into the physical world. Fear of blood magic has stigmatized even some non-magical fields of research like anatomical studies.
However, not all see blood magic as inherently evil. Despite the stereotype that blood magic is limited to madmen and monsters, this is not factually true. Solas states that blood magic is no worse than any other magic if properly used. Mages such as Dorian and Merrill also sees no harm so long as blood is tapped from one's own blood or a willing participant that doesn't lead to the sacrifice of another's life. Blood magic may not necessarily be used for depraved means. Rather it could be used for nobler purposes. Ferelden's Blood Band for example, is an Old Gods cult with a blood mage leading them. The head mage uses his magic for the good of the group, protecting them, healing their crops, and their bodies. In exchange the members of the Blood Band known as "bleeders" provide him with their blood. Though it remains an undeniably violent and self-destructive discipline, many see blood magic as the only form of magic that is truly free since it's tied to the physical, not favors to spirits or demons. Some believe it can be used ethically so long as it is not abused or becomes a crutch.
Even if the application of blood magic may not be inherently evil, the Chantry recognizes the dangers of its use and strictly forbids the usage of blood magic as part of its formal doctrine. Mages using blood magic are labeled maleficarum and hunted by the Templar Order, which was created for the purpose of controlling mages, killing demons, and hunting down apostates. Generally, all known maleficarum are killed on sight.
All apostates are hunted, regardless of their origin, with the Chantry reasoning that any mage left unsupervised by the Chantry or the Templars will ultimately succumb to the temptation of blood magic. While all apostates are not necessarily maleficarum, the Chantry appears to go great lengths to make it seem so, and a significant number of rogue mages turn to blood magic out of desperation to survive or escape imprisonment. The Circle of Magi endeavors to supervise all individuals with the gift of magic from a young age to ensure none of them tap into this forbidden school. However, even their constant supervision allows the occasional maleficar to slip through their fingers and out into the world.
In the Tevinter Imperium, blood magic is discouraged but it is widely, if quietly, practiced there. 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 the master to the apprentice and even the most devout mage knows at least a little blood magic. According to Fenris, the Imperial templars have to stop Magisters when they cross the line. To elaborate, 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. The moderate use of blood magic can only garner so much power however. The line is crossed when mages start using sacrifices and demon summoning and it's safe to assume any mage of rank does the forbidden kind behind closed doors while the others are quietly shut out of power. Those who protest against such widespread use of blood magic are blackballed from power and shunned by the other magisters.
Spells and powers
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.
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. 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. 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, manifesting physically (e.g. shades) which can be binded to a mage's will or by possessing 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 via intimidation or 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 him or her 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 though one should be aware that demons are well-versed in the art of manipulation and it 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.
The most powerful magisters who reigned at the height of the ancient Imperium were even able to use blood magic to physically cross the Veil into the Fade—a feat which required the ritual sacrifice of countless slaves and over two-thirds of the lyrium in the entire empire (and which has never been accomplished since). The true cost, however, came when the magisters failed to conquer the Golden City and instead returned to Thedas as what the Chantry believe to be the first Darkspawn. The Chantry believe their actions unleashed the Blight and the taint 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 the most dangerous means to any end in the realm of Thedas.
Blood magic and the Grey Wardens
Despite blood magic being banned in almost the entirety of Thedas, the Grey Wardens occasionally use it as a means to fight the darkspawn. This is confirmed if the Warden speaks with Duncan on the topic during the Magi Origin.
The main characters of Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II can become blood mages, depending on the choices of the player. While blood magic is expressly forbidden throughout most of Thedas and reviled by the populace at large, the protagonist will never be confronted for their decision to harness the Forbidden School of magic. This is understandable, given the limitations of game design, but it can lead to some very odd circumstances. The protagonist can perform blood magic in front of First Enchanters, Templar Knight-Commanders, the Viscount of Kirkwall, and the entire Landsmeet without receiving so much as a reprimand.
Dragon Age: Origins
Under the vigilant eyes of the Chantry, the Templar Order, and the native Circle of Magi, blood magic has become all but extinct in the land of Ferelden. The Grey Wardens, however, operate outside the jurisdiction of most authorities in Thedas in their fight against the Darkspawn. Blood magic is generally permitted within their ranks as a means to an end, and the leaders of the Chantry and other powerful institutions are generally willing to look the other way as long as its powers are used solely against the Darkspawn. As such, the Warden can become a blood mage during both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening. In fact, the Warden can even supplement his or her skills with the Power of Blood abilities found within the ancient Grey Warden Avernus's research. These abilities are blood-based talents that vary depending upon the Warden's class and are very close to blood magic.
In Origins, the 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 back-story they wish.Once the specialization has been unlocked by the Warden, it can be taught to any of the Warden's companions. Wynne can become a blood mage, and for all her impassioned lectures on its evils and dangers, she will never comment on her obvious hypocrisy. Morrigan can also become a blood mage in addition to an apostate, and regardless of her professed distaste for bargaining with demons, will never remark on her choices under the Warden's directive either. Either way on the eve of the Battle of Denerim Morrigan will offer the Warden to perform an ancient ritual, a form of blood magic that Flemeth taught her.
Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
In Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, the specialization can be unlocked by purchasing the training manual from the bartender at the Crown and Lion tavern in Amaranthine, a much less unsavory alternative for morally-inclined characters who don't want to sacrifice a child to a demon (even though it only needs to be done once in a save file that can be immediately scrapped, see above). Unlocking the specialization in Awakening will subsequently unlock it for Origins and reverse, this path is more desirable for those who'd rather not bargain with demons to unlock this powerful specialization.During Awakening, Anders can become a blood mage, which is quite ironic since the templars were likely to brand him as such sooner or later, despite the fact that he was merely an apostate. As soon as he finds succor within the ranks of the Grey Wardens, he can possibly commit the crimes that he would have been accused of. Interestingly, he is also the only companion in all of Origins and Awakening who will comment—however briefly—on being made a blood mage.
Dragon Age II
Especially in recent years, the city-state of Kirkwall has seen a dramatic increase in its number of blood mages. Ironically, a significant portion of this can be attributed to the templars under Knight-Commander Meredith, who have gradually turned the Circle of Magi located in the Gallows into a veritable prison for mages.
In Dragon Age II, a mage Hawke can choose to become a blood mage through one of the available specializations. Unlike Dragon Age: Origins, it is unclear how Hawke would have come by this knowledge, but it can be assumed that the proliferation of blood mages in Kirkwall makes such teachings relatively easy to come by.One of Hawke's potential mage companions, Merrill, joins the party as an acknowledged blood mage. While it remains up to the player to decide whether or not to actually teach her the blood mage abilities in her unique specialization tree, the game still treats her as a full blood mage with regard to the plot. Interestingly, Anders—another potential companion for Hawke—appears to have no additional dialogue on his experiences using blood magic if you import an Awakening save file in which he was given the Blood Mage specialization.
Notable blood mages
- See Category:Blood mages for for a complete list.
Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
Dragon Age II
Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker
Dragon Age (IDW comic)
Dragon Age: The Masked Empire
Dragon Age: Inquisition
- There is no Blood Magic specialization in Dragon Age: Inquisition. The writers decided that in order to do it properly it would require a lot of reactivity from other characters in the world compared to other specializations, which would be detrimental to other content.
- Mages who experiment with blood magic are more susceptible to demonic spirits, such as pride demons. As such, they are more at risk of becoming abominations by way of possession.
See alsoCodex entry: Blood Magic: The Forbidden School Codex entry: Responsible Blood Magic