The Circle of Magi is the dominant organization for the training of mages within nations of Thedas. In the south, it has historically been governed and monitored by the Chantry, with the Templar Order working as its guards and supervisors. In the Tevinter Imperium, they are governed by high-ranking Magisters who utilize the Imperial Templar Order.
- 1 Background
- 2 History
- 3 Involvement
- 4 Known Circles of Magi
- 5 Hierarchy
- 6 Fraternities of Enchanters
- 7 Training and education
- 8 The Harrowing
- 9 The Tranquil
- 10 Formari
- 11 Right of Annulment
- 12 Notable members
- 13 Apostates
- 14 Codex entries
- 15 Notes
- 16 See also
- 17 Gallery
- 18 References
The Circle is allowed to take any child from their families as soon as they show signs of magical ability (usually between the ages of four and fourteen), including those from royalty and nobility. Highborn children who are able to use magic lose all claims to their family's estates and titles when they are taken.
Upon joining a Circle, mages have a few drops of their blood taken by the First Enchanter and placed in a phylactery. This ensures the mages' compliance, as templars can track runaways through their blood.
If a mage has deliberately caused harm or death to others, it is customary to imprison them when they are first brought to the Circle until an inquiry is made. The investigating templars will determine whether the mage will be made Tranquil, killed, or released to be trained under supervision.
The child, now considered an apprentice, is then raised and trained by the Circle until they reach adulthood, at which time they must either undergo the Harrowing or be made Tranquil. In contrast, attendance at a Circle in Tevinter is not an obligation, but a privilege, as they are considered prestigious academies, not mage prisons.
The Circles, as Circle fortresses are called, tend to be located in remote and difficult to reach areas, but the Formari have outposts in major cities for the purpose of trade.
The Circle maintains a policy of neutrality, as the Chantry might take action against them if they regularly became involved in conflict (a Blight is perhaps the sole exception to this rule). Nonetheless, it isn't unusual to see the Circle ignore at least one or two mages serving either side of a dispute, either as a courtesy or as a way of not creating too much enmity against the Circle on either side.
The College of Magi, a council of First Enchanters from all the Circles in Thedas excluding Tevinter, routinely convenes in the city of Cumberland, Nevarra, to discuss Circle policy and to elect a new Grand Enchanter.
The daily life of a Circle mage varies by fortress. Many mages come into the Circle with very few personal possessions, as they must typically leave them behind. Instead, the Circle provides for the new apprentices with standard issue robes, education, and room and board — the quality of which may vary. The Fereldan Circle allowed its inhabitants a weekly period of supervised outdoor exercise, until one mage used this opportunity to escape. Conditions vary greatly between Circles. By contrast, many mages in the Kirkwall Circle, where some Templars are heavily implied to sexually abuse mages and Tranquil, attempt to end their misery by jumping to their deaths.
The apprentices of all Circles, though, live communally and are taught by the Enchanters in small classes. They are allowed no contact with their families or anyone from outside with the exception of mail privileges, though this also seems to vary between Circles. They pass the days studying and researching the different schools of magic and alchemy.
The Circle's livelihood is maintained by the selling of Formari goods or magical services they are allowed to provide. The prices of these goods and services are decided by the regional First Enchanter who handles the commerce and finances of the Circle fortress.
Romantic unions between mages are discouraged by the Chantry, though that doesn't stop them from carrying love affairs in secret. Should such an affair produce children, any child born to a Circle mage belongs to the Chantry. Should that child be born a mage, as is in the case of Rhys, the child would be sent to a Circle different than that of their parents. The Chantry goes to great lengths to prevent mages from having family bonds within the same Circle. Romantic relationships between mages and Templars are explicitly forbidden, but are still known to occur. Tevinter does not work in such way, since family ties and magic are intertwined. Nevertheless, there is a pecking order in Tevinter Circles as one's social status is dependent mainly on belonging to the noble class then accolades granted by one's magical talent.
The Circle has a very mixed reception among mages and non-mages alike. Some consider the imprisoning of mages to the Circle of Magi unjust persecution and infringements of the mages' Maker given rights; others believe they are necessary sacrifices to protect both the general populace from the dangers of magic and the mages from the bigotry of the outside world and themselves. Despite the restrictions imposed on its members, it is not a system of slavery, and mages themselves—while not "free"—are not owned by the Chantry and not forced into servitude on its behalf. Nevertheless, due to the limitations on personal freedoms, such as the indefinite confinement of the mages in a Circle fortress, the Circle is tantamount to a prison. By law each Circle is supposed to respect certain mages' rights. Ambiguity or inadequacy in regulations, however, such as a weak First Enchanter failing to advocate a Circle's rights or corruption and abuse from local templars or the priesthood, can affect how much these laws will be respected.
Long before the Chantry there was a Circle of Magi: a society of mages in each city of the ancient Tevinter Imperium. The titles modern Circles use—enchanter, senior enchanter, First Enchanter—all originated there, and the Circles were where the most powerful mages researched and practiced magic.
Ten years to the day after Andraste's death, Archon Hessarian converted to the Chant of Light, claiming that he had heard the voice of the Maker when his blade had touched Andraste, and the beginnings of the religion took root. He declared the Maker the one true god, made Andrastianism the religion of the Imperium (i.e., the Imperial Chantry), and publicly revealed Maferath's betrayal. Most of the high-ranking clergy, including nearly all of the ruling Altus magisters, refused to give up their Old Gods, but the non-mage Soporati class overwhelmingly supported Hessarian, beginning a period known as the Transfiguration. With the High Priests dead, Hessarian repurposed the Old God temples into schools for mages.
In the years before the founding of the Chantry and the start of the Divine Age, Thedas was plunged into chaos. The First Blight had ended, the Imperium had broken apart following Andraste's March, and despite the spread of the Maker's teachings, blood mages and Old Gods cults were widespread. The Inquisition was formed around -100 Ancient with the goal of protecting the people from the tyranny of magic in whatever form it might take; blood mages, abominations, cultists or heretics. A loose association of Andrastian hard-liners, the group combed the land in search of these threats and some say theirs was a reign of terror. Others say they were cast in a negative light by history because their investigations and even application of justice, protecting both mages and common people impartially, crossed too many powerful groups. In these accounts it is suggested that the group was already known as the Seekers of Truth and that the "Inquisition" moniker was perhaps pejorative.
During the Second Blight, Orlesian emperor Kordillus Drakon I enlisted the help of the mages and permitted them to use their full power against the darkspawn. The mages proved essential in the subsequent battles and won enough respect to negotiate greater independence. In 1:20 Divine, the southern Chantry and the Inquisition signed the Nevarran Accord, and created the Circle of Magi to regulate the use and systematic training of magic throughout Thedas. The Templar Order was created to catch mages who refused to join the Circle and monitor the mage societies and the Seekers of Truth created to root out corruption.
As magic had been the source of the Imperium's power, it was all but banned when the Chantry became the new dominant force in Thedas. Blood magic was completely forbidden, and those who practiced any kind of magic were confined. At first, the Chantry detained mages and had them continually light the eternal flame in every chantry in Thedas, with all other forms of magic forbidden. Unsurprisingly, being relegated to using their powers in such mundane ways caused the mages of the Grand Cathedral to protest by snuffing the sacred flames. Divine Ambrosia alone was surprised by the mages' insolence and almost ordered an Exalted March on her own cathedral, until her own templars advised her otherwise. After negotiations, the Circles of Magi established a new precedent of being exiled to remote fortresses far from society where they could practice their magical arts outside of normal society and the Chantry.
Dragon Age: Origins
By right of ancient treaties, the Circle is pledged to help the Grey Wardens during the Blight. However, when the Warden reaches the fortress of Kinloch Hold, they find that it has been overrun by demons and abominations, and that the templars under Knight-Commander Greagoir are on the verge of invoking the Right of Annulment. The Warden can save the Circle, in which case the mages will join in the fight against the Archdemon, or side with the templars and carry out the Right of Annulment, killing every surviving mage in the Circle.A mage Warden may also ask that the Circle be granted independence as a boon.
Dragon Age: Awakening
Wynne informs the Warden-Commander that the College of Enchanters is convening in Cumberland to discuss the Libertarian Fraternity's wish of breaking away from the Chantry entirely. She asks that the Warden-Commander track down her colleague Ines Arancia, a respected mage whom she hopes will be a voice of reason.
Dragon Age II
Living conditions in the Gallows become progressively stricter under Knight-Commander Meredith Stannard. Mages are locked in their cells, denied appearances at court, and made Tranquil for the slightest crimes. Aided by local citizens, escaped apostates form the mage underground to help more mages escape the Gallows and find refuge in far away areas where the templars can't easily reach them.In 9:37, Knight-Commander Meredith invokes the Right of Annulment on the Kirkwall Circle after the apostate mage Anders destroys the Kirkwall Chantry. Hawke can either choose to help the mages, or help the templars carry out the Annulment.
Dragon Age: Asunder
Tensions are rising within the Circles after the events of the Kirkwall Rebellion in 9:37 Dragon. Grand Enchanter Fiona calls for a vote on separating from the Chantry, a motion which the College rejects, influenced by Wynne's arguments for caution. The templars disband the College of Enchanters in retaliation.Over a year later, following the discovery that the Seekers of Truth withheld knowledge that the Rite of Tranquility was reversible, Grand Enchanter Fiona calls for another vote at the White Spire. Lord Seeker Lambert disbands the conclave before the vote can be held; a battle swiftly ensues. Fiona and many First Enchanters flee to Andoral's Reach, where she calls for another vote. This time, the mages narrowly vote for separation, dissolving the Circles. In response, Lord Seeker Lambert declares the Nevarran Accord null and void, separating from the Chantry as well and marking the beginning of the Mage-Templar War.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Divine Justinia V calls for a Conclave at the Temple of Sacred Ashes in an attempt to broker peace between mages and templars. While the leaders of both factions send intermediaries in their place, fearing a trap, a significant number of both mages and templars are killed in the destruction of the temple. The rebel mages are granted asylum in Redcliffe by Ferelden's monarch. However, as their situation grows more dire, Fiona pledges the mages' service to Magister Gereon Alexius in exchange for help. If the Inquisitor chooses to investigate the matter, they discover that Alexius is a follower of the Elder One. Once they defeat him, they can choose to recruit the mages as allies or conscript them into the Inquisition's service. The mages then help the Inquisition close the Breach.
If Cassandra becomes the Divine:
The Circle of Magi is reinstated and reformed under Divine Victoria. If the rebel mages are conscripted by the Inquisition, they return to the Circle and form a new College of Magi named the Bright Hand which soon becomes the dominant force of Circle politics, arguing for reform and close ties to the Inquisition.
With the Inquisition no longer the power it had been after the events of the Exalted Council, the College of the Bright Hand flounders. The newly elected Grand Enchanter Vivienne succeeds in pushing it into the margins of the Circle politics. No longer anyone's hands, its leaders reforge it as the College of Enchanters, breaking away completely from the Circle.
If Vivienne becomes the Divine:
The Circle of Magi is reinstated. Mages rise quickly in the new Circle, having more freedom and responsibility than ever before, even if all true power lies with the new Divine. If the rebel mages are recruited by the Inquisition, they resist joining her Circle of Magi. Vivienne goes to war with the rebel mages and crushes their rebellion; forcing them to either surrender to her or return to the Inquisition. After the events of the Exalted Council and with the Inquisition no longer the power it once was, Vivienne grudgingly allows the Inquisition mages to remain as the College of Enchanters, as a mark of her regard for the Inquisition.
If Leliana becomes the Divine:
The Circle of Magi is formally dissolved by Divine Victoria. Yet after the events of the Exalted Council, the end of the Inquisition as it had been sends shock waves through the autonomous College of Enchanters. Madame de Fer ably plays on the mages' fear. Her followers unite to build a new Circle - with Vivienne as its Grand Enchanter - in direct competition with the College. What the Circle lacks in numbers, they make up for in political connections; soon they are a force to be reckoned with.
Known Circles of Magi
Nation Location Chantry Details Anderfels Hossberg Andrastian See Codex entry: Rat. Works closely with the Grey Wardens. (See Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 2, p. 173) Antiva Antiva City Andrastian See the dialogue between Zevran and Wynne. Ferelden Denerim Andrastian Destroyed in 3:87 Towers. Ferelden Jainen Andrastian In the Waking Sea Bannorn. See Dragon Age Legends. Ferelden Lake Calenhad Andrastian See Circle Tower. Free Marches Ansburg Andrastian See Codex entry: The Basket of Lost Socks. Free Marches Hasmal Andrastian See Answer a Request from Hasmal. Free Marches Kirkwall Andrastian See the Gallows. Free Marches Markham Andrastian See Codex entry: Air of Confidence. Free Marches Ostwick Andrastian See Codex entry: The Maker's First Children. Free Marches Starkhaven Andrastian This Circle was burned to the ground in 9:31 Dragon. Most of its mages were relocated to Kirkwall. Nevarra Cumberland Andrastian The largest and most powerful Circle under the Andrastian Chantry. Seat of power for the Grand Enchanter. Nevarra Perendale Andrastian See The Order's Obligations Orlais Ghislain Andrastian See Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 2, p. 203. Orlais Montsimmard Andrastian Said to be "A place of great history and tradition with the greatest library of magical history outside of the Imperium," as well as incredibly competitive. See Codex entry: Enchanter Illana, Dragon Age: Asunder. Orlais Val Royeaux Andrastian See the White Spire. Rivain Dairsmuid Andrastian Was annulled in 9:40 Dragon under First Enchanter Rivella.
See Codex entry: Shade, Codex entry: The Annulment at Dairsmuid.
Tevinter Carastes Imperial One of the most prestigious academies of magi in the eastern Imperium. See Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 2, p. 232. Tevinter Minrathous Imperial The oldest Circle in Thedas, housing the largest library of arcane knowledge, the Arcanist Hall. Seat of power for the magisters, the Imperial Senators, and the Imperial Archon. Tevinter Vyrantium Imperial See Codex entry: The Venatori
- See also: Codex entry: Hierarchy of the Circle
Each Circle follows a simple six-tier hierarchy where all residents fit, although the Tranquil seem to stand somewhat outside this progression.
- Grand Enchanter – the Circle's direct representative to the Chantry and advisor to the Divine; the Grand Enchanter is elected by the College of Magi in Cumberland; Lothaire Hardouin was the first Grand Enchanter; as of 9:39-9:40 Dragon, the position was held by Fiona, a former Grey Warden
- First Enchanters – are leader of a Circle; first enchanters routinely congregate in the city of Cumberland, at their College, also known as the College of Magi
- Senior Enchanters – consist of a small council of the most experienced mages present in each circle; newly appointed senior enchanters are presented in a ceremony to the Divine in the Grand Cathedral
- Enchanters – are mages who tutor apprentices; they can specialize in a particular field of study; Junior Enchanter might be an alternative title for the position
- Mages – all residents who have passed their Harrowing
- Apprentices – students that are training for their Harrowing
In the time of the Tevinter Imperium, the rank of Magister existed above First Enchanter as supreme authority in each Circle. After the mage Darinius claimed the title of Archon, the magisters became the only noble rank in Tevinter. All Circles outside Tevinter have abolished this rank.
Wynne is referred to as "Archmage", which seems to be an honorary title outside of the regular hierarchy but nevertheless conveys to her an authority approximating that of a First Enchanter in Circle matters.
Fraternities of Enchanters
- Main article: Fraternities of Enchanters
The mages of the Circle are also divided into several fraternities, the equivalent of political parties, which hold diverse views on how mages should act and their place in society.
Training and education
A mage's training consists of extensive study of arcane lore and practice at harnessing and channeling magical energy. The former means that mages are very learned persons. The Circle of Magi encourages scholarship and publishes the completed research. Examples of this are the botanical writings of Ines Arancia and the spirit research of Rhys. Through their education and scholarship, mages are considered some of the most educated members of society and as such may sometimes function as advisers in royal courts.
Early training is aimed at giving apprentices discipline and focus, which helps prevent inadvertent magical outbursts. Later, the apprentice learns the specific forms of common spells. Many apprentices demonstrate a talent or propensity for a particular school of magic, and are allowed or encouraged to focus their studies there.
Circles are war colleges as well. The Chantry never forgets that its greatest use for mages is in fighting darkspawn, particularly during a Blight. Philosophically, this is seen as proper penance for the ancient hubris of the magisters of the Tevinter Imperium. Thus, even in peacetime, much of a mage’s training emphasizes battle magic. Every Circle mage learns to wield and master one or more combat spells. They train to keep their wits about them in battle and wield their powers to defend themselves and their allies.
- Main article: Harrowing
The Harrowing is a secret rite of passage that the Circle administers, without warning, to apprentice mages. The apprentice is exposed to a demon under controlled circumstances in order to prove that they are strong and willful enough to fight off an attempt at possession. Those who succeed become full-fledged mages of the Circle. Those who fail are never seen or heard from again.
- Main article: Tranquil
Mages who are too weak of will to resist demonic possession or appear to be dangerous are forced (or willingly volunteer) to go through the Rite of Tranquility, which involves the use of a lyrium brand to cut off a mage's connection to the Fade, meaning that they can no longer dream or access magic. As a side effect, their emotional center is utterly removed. It was believed that demons couldn't possess the Tranquil.
They keep to themselves, and, if asked directly, will readily agree that having the opportunity to live out a peaceful and useful existence is far preferable when compared to what their alternatives would have been.
Formari are composed of individuals who focus on using their talents to create various items, most notably enchantments. Some Formari also create and sell herbal items such as potions. The Tranquil belong to this group and do all of the enchanting on behalf of the Circle, as working with raw lyrium poses too high a risk to mages whose connection to the Fade isn't severed. They are less a political organization and more akin to a tradesmen's guild. Owain and Solivitus are both examples of Formari. Formari have more contact with the outside world than other mages and as such maintain trading posts and trade houses in major cities and settlements in order to conduct business for the Circle. An example of such a trade house would be the Wonders of Thedas in Denerim.
Right of Annulment
- Main article: Right of Annulment
- Bethany Hawke (conditional)
- The Inquisitor (if a human mage)
- The Warden (if a mage)
- The Warden-Commander (if a mage)
Mages who are not part of a Circle of Magi, whether because they escaped or were never part of one to begin with, are considered apostates to be hunted by templars. If discovered, they are be either captured or killed. With enough secrecy, some apostates can integrate successfully into Thedosian society, such as Malcolm Hawke, Gascard DuPuis, and Anders.
- Codex entry: Apostates
- Codex entry: The Circle of Magi
- Codex entry: History of the Circle
- Codex entry: Rebel Mages
- Depending on player choices during Dragon Age: Origins, Orzammar may have a Circle of Magi that exists outside Chantry supervision, sparking rumors that the Divine was contemplating a new Exalted March.
- If encouraged by the Warden, the dwarven smith Dagna may join the Circle of Magi as an observer, the first such dwarven observer since "Ureldin in the 13th century", and, more recently, Minderel. If not, she is still known to have worked in the Circle known as the Tine Tower.