The Circle of Magi is the dominant organization for the training of mages within nations of Thedas. In the south, it had traditionally been governed and monitored by the Chantry, and also guarded and supervised by the Templar Order. In the Tevinter Imperium, they are governed by high ranking Magisters who utilize the Imperial Templar Order.
- “The Circle is a prison. You have choices... between joining and suffering various deaths of body or spirit.” ―Mouse
The Circle is allowed to take any child (usually age six to twelve) from their families as soon as they show signs of magical ability, including those from royals and nobility. As such, they are taken from their families while still children, and highborn children who are able to use magic will lose all claims to their family's estates and titles when they are taken.
Upon joining a Circle, mages undergo a process as apprentices of having a few drops of their blood taken by the First Enchanter and placed in a phylactery. This ensures the mages' compliance and the ability to track down any mage who decides to run away, since a templar can track anyone through their blood.
The child 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 mandatory, but a privilege. Tevinter Circles of Magi are 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 neutrality policy, since 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 Circle has a very mixed reception among mages and non-mages alike. 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 confinement of the mages in a Circle fortress indefinitely, the Circle is tantamount to a prison. By law each Circle is supposed to respect certain rights of the mages. Ambiguity or inadequacy in regulations, however, such as a weak First Enchanter failing to advocate a Circle's rights or the local templars' or priesthoods' penchant for corruption and abuse, can affect how much these laws will be respected.
The daily life of a Circle mage varies by fortress. Many mages come into the Circle with basically nothing since typically, they must leave behind all personal possessions from their previous life. Instead, the Circle provides for the new apprentices with standard issue robes, education, and room and board- the quality of which may vary. In some Circles, the mages, driven mad by their confinement, attempt to end their misery by jumping to their deaths. The Ferelden Circle allowed its inhabitants a weekly period of supervised outdoor exercise, until one mage used the time to stage an escape attempt. In the same Circle, the punishment for a crime like that earned the perpetrator three years of complete isolation. Those relatively humane conditions can be sharply contrasted by the Kirkwall Circle, where the Templars are heavily implied to sexually abuse mages and Tranquils.
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. 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 with mages are discouraged by the Chantry, but that doesn't stop the mages of a Circle 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 and secondly accolades granted by one's magical talent.
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.
Before it became the Imperium, Tevinter was ruled by a dynasty of kings. And long before the Chantry there was a Circle of Magi: the society of mages in each city. The titles modern Circles use—enchanter, senior enchanter, First Enchanter—all originated here, and the Circles were where the most powerful mages researched and practiced magic.
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 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 practised 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. For such powerful beings to only use their powers in such mundane ways, it surprised almost no one when the mages of the Grand Cathedral protested. Divine Ambrosia 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 precedence of being exiled to remote fortresses far from society where they can practice their magical arts without too much of the Chantry's overbearing restrictions.
If Cassandra becomes 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 floundered. The newly elected Grand Enchanter Vivienne succeeded in pushing it into the margins of the Circle politics. No longer anyone's hands, its leaders reforged it as the College of Enchanters, breaking away completely from the Circle.
If Vivienne becomes 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 allowed the Inquisition mages to remain as the College of Enchanters, as a mark of her regard for the Inquisition.
If Leliana becomes 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 sent shock waves through the autonomous College of Enchanters. Madam de Fer ably played on the mages' fear. Her followers united to build a new Circle - with Vivienne as its Grand Enchanter - in direct competition with the College. What the Circle lacked in numbers, they made up for in political connections; soon they were a force to be reckoned with.Regardless of who was made Divine, the Inquisition's mages eventually pushed for independence from the Circle and formed the College of Enchanters. The Circle of Magi fell under the leadership of Vivienne and though the Circle and the College clashed, they coexisted tenuously.
Known Circles of Magi
|Anderfels||Hossberg||Andrastian||See Codex entry: Rat. Works closely with the Grey Wardens. (See Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 2, pg. 173)|
|Antiva||Unknown||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, pg. 203.|
|Orlais||Montsimmard||Andrastian||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.|
See Codex entry: Shade. .
|Tevinter||Carastes||Imperial||One of the most prestigious academies of magi in the eastern Imperium. See Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 2, pg. 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.
- The 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 is held by Fiona, a former Grey Warden.
- The First Enchanter, leader of a Circle. First Enchanters routinely congregate in the city of Cumberland, at their College, also known as the College of Magi.
- The Senior Enchanters, 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.
- The Junior Enchanters, based on their title, can be seen as the deputies of the Senior Enchanters or even their chiefs of staff.
- The Enchanters, mages who tutor apprentices. They can specialize in a particular field of study.
- The Mages, all residents who have passed their Harrowing.
- The Apprentices, all students 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 the 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 of 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 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 adult 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.
- Main article: 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 such enchanters among the Formari are not practicing mages as true mages are unable to enchant. 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
The Right of Annulment is the right to purge a Circle of Magi that is ruled irredeemable by ordering the templars to kill all the mages within a Circle. All the grand clerics of the Chantry can invoke this right.
- The Inquisitor (if played as a human mage)
- The Warden (if played as a mage)
- The Warden-Commander (if played as a mage)
Mages who are not part of the Circle of Magi are considered apostates and are hunted and killed or captured by the templars if discovered. Mages who escape from the Circle are also considered apostates and are either killed or brought back to the Circle by the templars. With enough secrecy, apostates can usually integrate successfully into Thedosian society, as with Malcolm Hawke, Gascard DuPuis, and Anders.
- Orzammar may have a Circle of Magi depending on the player choices during Dragon Age: Origins that exists outside Chantry supervision. It would be known as the only free circle in Thedas.
- The dwarven smith Dagna may join the Circle of Magi as an observer depending on the player's choices in Dragon Age: Origins or on her own in Dragon Age: Inquisition. She is the first such dwarven observer since "Ureldin in the 13th century", and, more recently, Minderel.
See alsoCodex entry: The Circle of Magi