- 1 Andruil: Goddess of the Hunt
- 2 Dirthamen: Keeper of Secrets
- 3 Elgar'nan: God of Vengeance
- 4 Falon'Din: Friend of the Dead, the Guide
- 5 Fen'Harel: The Dread Wolf
- 6 Ghilan'nain: Mother of the Halla
- 7 June: God of the Craft
- 8 Mythal: the Great Protector
- 9 Sylaise: the Hearthkeeper
- 10 The Aeonar
- 11 Andraste: Bride of the Maker
- 12 The Right of Annulment
- 13 Apostates
- 14 The Black City
- 15 The Chant of Light: The Blight
- 16 The Commandments of the Maker
- 17 The Maker
- 18 The Chant of Light: Redemption
- 19 The Imperial Chantry
- 20 Chantry Hierarchy
- 21 Templars
- 22 The Founding of the Chantry
- 23 The Fraternity of Enchanters
- 24 Hierarchy of the Circle
- 25 History of the Circle
- 26 The Fade
- 27 The Harrowing
- 28 Lyrium
- 29 Maleficarum
- 30 Mana and the Use of Magic
- 31 Demonic Possession
- 32 The Cardinal Rules of Magic
- 33 Blood Magic: The Forbidden School
- 34 The Four Schools of Magic: Creation
- 35 The Four Schools of Magic: Entropy
- 36 The Four Schools of Magic: Primal
- 37 The Four Schools of Magic: Spirit
- 38 Beyond the Veil: Spirits and Demons
- 39 The Tranquil
- 40 The Sacred Ashes of Andraste
- 41 The Veil
Andruil: Goddess of the Hunt
Hear me, sons and daughters of the People—
I am Sister of the Moon, Mother of Hares,
Lady of the Hunt: Andruil.
Remember my teachings,
Remember the Vir Tanadhal:
The Way of Three Trees
That I have given you.
Vir Assan: the Way of the Arrow
Be swift and silent;
Strike true, do not waver
And let not your prey suffer.
That is my Way.
Vir Bor'assan: the Way of the Bow
As the sapling bends, so must you.
In yielding, find resilience;
In pliancy, find strength.
That is my Way.
Vir Adahlen: the Way of the Wood
Receive the gifts of the hunt with mindfulness.
Respect the sacrifice of my children
Know that your passing shall nourish them in turn.
That is my Way.
Remember the Ways of the Hunter
And I shall be with you.
—From The Charge of Andruil, Goddess of the Hunt.
Dirthamen: Keeper of Secrets
The twins Falon'Din and Dirthamen are the eldest children of Elgar'nan the All-Father and Mythal the Protector. The brothers were inseparable from the moment of their conception, known for their great love for each other. That is why we often speak of Falon'Din in one breath and Dirthamen the next, for they cannot bear to be apart, not even in our tales.
When the world was young, the gods often walked the earth, and Falon'Din and Dirthamen were no exception. Both were delighted by the many wonders of our earth. They played with the animals, whispered to the trees, and bathed in the lakes and streams. Their days were filled with bliss, and they did not know sorrow.
And then one day, while passing through the forest, Falon'Din and Dirthamen came across an old and sickly deer resting beneath a tree. "Why do you sit so still, little sister?" asked Falon'Din.
"Play with us," said Dirthamen.
"Alas," spoke the deer, "I cannot. I am old, and although I wish to go to my rest, my legs can no longer carry me."
Taking pity on the deer, Falon'Din gathered her up into his arms and carried her to her rest beyond the Veil. Dirthamen tried to follow them, but the shifting grey paths beyond the Veil would not let him. Separated for the first time from Falon'Din, Dirthamen wandered aimlessly 'til he came across two ravens.
"You are lost, and soon you will fade," the raven named Fear said to Dirthamen.
"Your brother has abandoned you. He no longer loves you," said the other, named Deceit.
"I am not lost, and Falon'Din has not abandoned me," replied Dirthamen. He subdued the ravens and bade them carry him to Falon'Din. This they did, for they had been defeated and were now bound to Dirthamen's service.
When Dirthamen found Falon'Din, he found also the deer, who once again was light on her feet, for her spirit was released from her weakened body. Both Falon'Din and Dirthamen rejoiced to see this. Falon'Din vowed that he would remain to carry all the dead to their place Beyond, just as he did the deer. And Dirthamen stayed with him, for the twins cannot bear to be apart.
Elgar'nan: God of Vengeance
Long ago, when time itself was young, the only things in existence were the sun and the land. The sun, curious about the land, bowed his head close to her body, and Elgar'nan was born in the place where they touched. The sun and the land loved Elgar'nan greatly, for he was beautiful and clever. As a gift to Elgar'nan, the land brought forth great birds and beasts of sky and forest, and all manner of wonderful green things. Elgar'nan loved his mother's gifts and praised them highly and walked amongst them often.
The sun, looking down upon the fruitful land, saw the joy that Elgar'nan took in her works and grew jealous. Out of spite, he shone his face full upon all the creatures the earth had created, and burned them all to ashes. The land cracked and split from bitterness and pain, and cried salt tears for the loss of all she had wrought. The pool of tears cried for the land became the ocean, and the cracks in her body the first rivers and streams.
Elgar'nan was furious at what his father had done and vowed vengeance. He lifted himself into the sky and wrestled the sun, determined to defeat him. They fought for an eternity, and eventually the sun grew weak, while Elgar'nan's rage was unabated. Eventually Elgar'nan threw the sun down from the sky and buried him in a deep abyss created by the land's sorrow. With the sun gone, the world was covered in shadow, and all that remained in the sky were the reminders of Elgar'nan's battle with his father—drops of the sun's lifeblood, which twinkled and shimmered in the darkness.
Falon'Din: Friend of the Dead, the Guide
- Main article: Codex entry: Falon'Din: Friend of the Dead, the Guide
- See also: Elven Pantheon, Elves
Lethanavir—Friend to the Dead
Guide my feet, calm my soul,
Lead me to my rest."
In ancient times, the People were ageless and eternal, and instead of dying would enter uthenera—the long sleep—and walk the shifting paths beyond the Veil with Falon'Din and his brother Dirthamen. Those elders would learn the secrets of dreams, and some returned to the People with newfound knowledge.
But we quickened and became mortal. Those of the People who passed walked with Falon'Din into the Beyond and never returned. If they took counsel with Dirthamen on their passage, his wisdom was lost, for it went with them into the Beyond also, and never came to the People.
Then Fen'Harel caused the gods to be shut away from us, and those who passed no longer had Falon'Din to guide them. And so we learned to lay our loved ones to rest with an oaken staff, to keep them from faltering along the paths, and a cedar branch, to scatter the ravens named Fear and Deceit who were once servants of Dirthamen, now without a master.
Fen'Harel: The Dread Wolf
There is precious little we know about Fen'Harel, for they say he did not care for our people. Elgar'nan and Mythal created the world as we know it, Andruil taught us the Ways of the Hunter, Sylaise and June gave us fire and crafting, but Fen'Harel kept to himself and plotted the betrayal of all the gods. And after the destruction of Arlathan, when the gods could no longer hear our prayers, it is said that Fen'Harel spent centuries in a far corner of the earth, giggling madly and hugging himself in glee.
The legend says that before the fall of Arlathan, the gods we know and revere fought an endless war with others of their kind. There is not a hahren among us who remembers these others: Only in dreams do we hear whispered the names of Geldauran and Daern'thal and Anaris, for they are the Forgotten Ones, the gods of terror and malice, spite and pestilence. In ancient times, only Fen'Harel could walk without fear among both our gods and the Forgotten Ones, for although he is kin to the gods of the People, the Forgotten Ones knew of his cunning ways, and saw him as one of their own.
And that is how Fen'Harel tricked them. Our gods saw him as a brother, and they trusted him when he said that they must keep to the heavens while he arranged a truce. And the Forgotten Ones trusted him also when he said he would arrange for the defeat of our gods, if only the Forgotten Ones would return to the abyss for a time. They trusted Fen'Harel, and they were all of them betrayed. And Fen'Harel sealed them away so they could never again walk among the People.
Ghilan'nain: Mother of the Halla
They say Ghilan'nain was one of the People, in the days before Arlathan, and the chosen of Andruil the Huntress. She was very beautiful—with hair of snowy white—and as graceful as a gazelle. She kept always to Andruil's Ways, and Andruil favored her above all others.
One day, while hunting in the forest, Ghilan'nain came across a hunter she did not know. At his feet lay a hawk, shot through the heart by an arrow. Ghilan'nain was filled with rage, for the hawk—along with the hare—is an animal much beloved of Andruil. Ghilan'nain demanded that the hunter make an offering to Andruil, in exchange for taking the life of one of her creatures. The hunter refused, and Ghilan'nain called upon the goddess to curse him, so that he could never again hunt and kill a living creature.
Ghilan'nain's curse took hold, and the hunter found that he was unable to hunt. His prey would dart out of sight and his arrows would fly astray. His friends and family began to mock him for his impotence, for what use is a hunter who cannot hunt? Ashamed, the hunter swore he would find Ghilan'nain and repay her for what she had done to him.
He found Ghilan'nain while she was out on a hunt with her sisters, and lured her away from them with lies and false words. He told Ghilan'nain that he had learned his lesson and begged her to come with him, so she could teach him to make a proper offering to Andruil. Moved by his plea, Ghilan'nain followed the hunter, and when they were away from all of her sisters, the hunter turned on Ghilan'nain. He blinded her first, and then bound her as one would bind a kill fresh from the hunt. But because he was cursed, the hunter could not kill her. Instead he left her for dead in the forest.
And Ghilan'nain prayed to the gods for help. She prayed to Elgar'nan for vengeance, to Mother Mythal to protect her, but above all she prayed to Andruil. Andruil sent her hares to Ghilan'nain and they chewed through the ropes that bound her, but Ghilan'nain was still wounded and blind, and could not find her way home. So Andruil turned her into a beautiful white deer—the first halla. And Ghilan'nain found her way back to her sisters, and led them to the hunter, who was brought to justice.
And since that day, the halla have guided the People, and have never led us astray, for they listen to the voice of Ghilan'nain.
June: God of the Craft
We dedicate all our crafts to June, for it is he who taught the People to bend the branches of trees to make our bows, and to fashion coverings of furs and ironbark. Without June, would we have the aravel, or the harnesses for our halla?
When the People were young, we wandered the forests without purpose. We drank from streams and ate the berries and nuts that we could find. We did not hunt, for we had no bows. We wore nothing, for we had no knowledge of spinning or needlecraft. We shivered in the cold nights, and went hungry though the winters, when all the world was covered in ice and snow.
Then Sylaise the Hearthkeeper came, and gave us fire and taught us how to feed it with wood. June taught us to fashion bows and arrows and knives, so that we could hunt. We learned to cook the flesh of the creatures we hunted over Sylaise's fire, and we learned to clothe ourselves in their furs and skins. And the People were no longer cold and hungry.
Mythal: the Great Protector
Elgar'nan had defeated his father, the sun, and all was covered in darkness. Pleased with himself, Elgar'nan sought to console his mother, the earth, by replacing all that the sun had destroyed. But the earth knew that without the sun, nothing could grow. She whispered to Elgar'nan this truth, and pleaded with him to release his father, but Elgar'nan's pride was great, and his vengeance was terrible, and he refused.
It was at this moment that Mythal walked out of the sea of the earth's tears and onto the land. She placed her hand on Elgar'nan's brow, and at her touch he grew calm and knew that his anger had led him astray. Humbled, Elgar'nan went to the place where the sun was buried and spoke to him. Elgar'nan said he would release the sun if the sun promised to be gentle and to return to the earth each night. The sun, feeling remorse at what he had done, agreed.
And so the sun rose again in the sky, and shone his golden light upon the earth. Elgar'nan and Mythal, with the help of the earth and the sun, brought back to life all the wondrous things that the sun had destroyed, and they grew and thrived. And that night, when the sun had gone to sleep, Mythal gathered the glowing earth around his bed, and formed it into a sphere to be placed in the sky, a pale reflection of the sun's true glory.
Sylaise: the Hearthkeeper
Sylaise the Hearthkeeper is seen as the sister of Andruil the Huntress. While Andruil loved to run with the creatures of the wild, Sylaise preferred to stay by her home-tree, occupying herself with gentle arts and song.
It is Sylaise who gave us fire and taught us how to use it. It is Sylaise who showed us how to heal with herbs and with magic, and how to ease the passage of infants into this world. And again, it is Sylaise who showed us how to spin the fibers of plants into thread and rope.
We owe much to Sylaise, and that is why we sing to her when we kindle the fires and when we put them out. That is why we sprinkle our aravels with Sylaise's fragrant tree-moss, and ask that she protect them and all within.
- Main article: Codex entry: The Aeonar
When the Imperium occupied the area that is present-day Ferelden, they had two sites dedicated to magical experimentation at the extreme ends of the Imperial Highway. The southern one was the fortress of Ostagar, which looked out over the Korcari Wilds. The northern one was Aeonar, although the exact location is now a secret known only to a handful of Templars.
Whatever it was the Tevinter were trying to discover at Aeonar, their work was never completed. The fortress was overrun by disciples of Andraste upon hearing the news of her death. According to legend, it was a massacre—eerily silent, for the invaders caught the mages while all but one of them were in the the Fade.
The site was left structurally sound but spiritually damaged. Possibly because of this, the Chantry chose to put it to use as a prison. Accused maleficarum and apostates are held in the confines of Aeonar. Those who have a powerful connection to the Fade, and particularly to demons, will inevitably attract something across the Veil, making the guilty somewhat easier to tell from the innocent.
Andraste: Bride of the Maker
There was once a tiny fishing village on the Waking Sea that was set upon by the Tevinter Imperium, which enslaved the villagers to be sold in the markets of Minrathous, leaving behind only the old and the infirm. One of the captives was the child Andraste.
The Maker spoke. He showed her all the works of His hands: the Fade, the world, and all the creatures therein. He showed her how men had forgotten Him, lavishing devotion upon mute idols and demons, and how He had left them to their fate. But her voice had reached Him, and so captivated Him that He offered her a place at His side, that she might rule all of creation.
But Andraste would not forsake her people.
She begged the Maker to return, to save His children from the cruelty of the Imperium. Reluctantly, the Maker agreed to give man another chance.
Andraste went back to her husband, Maferath, and told him all that the Maker had revealed to her. Together, they rallied the Alamarri and marched forth against the mage-lords of the Imperium, and the Maker was with them.
The Maker's sword was creation itself: fire and flood, famine and earthquake. Everywhere they went, Andraste sang to the people of the Maker, and they heard her. The ranks of Andraste's followers grew until they were a vast tide washing over the Imperium. And when Maferath saw that the people loved Andraste and not him, a worm grew within his heart, gnawing upon it.
At last, the armies of Andraste and Maferath stood before the very gates of Minrathous, but Andraste was not with them.
For Maferath had schemed in secret to hand Andraste over to the Tevinter. For this, the Archon would give Maferath all the lands to the south of the Waking Sea.
And so, before all the armies of the Alamarri and of Tevinter, Andraste was tied to a stake and burned while her earthly husband turned his armies aside and did nothing, for his heart had been devoured. But as he watched the pyre, the Archon softened. He took pity on Andraste, and drew his sword, and granted her the mercy of a quick death.
The Maker wept for His Beloved, cursed Maferath, cursed mankind for their betrayal, and turned once again from creation, taking only Andraste with him. And Our Lady sits still at his side, where she still urges Him to take pity on His children.
—From The Sermons of Justinia II
The Right of Annulment
- Main article: Codex entry: The Right of Annulment
In the 83rd year of the Glory Age, one of the mages of the Nevarran Circle was found practicing forbidden magic. The templars executed him swiftly, but this brewed discontent among the Nevarra Circle. The mages mounted several magical attacks against the templars, vengeance for the executed mage, but the knight-commander was unable to track down which were responsible.
Three months later, the mages summoned a demon and turned it loose against their templar watchers. Demons, however, are not easily controlled. After killing the first wave of templars who tried to contain it, the demon took possession of one of its summoners. The resulting abomination slaughtered templars and mages both before escaping into the countryside.
The grand cleric sent a legion of templars to hunt the fugitive. They killed the abomination a year later, but by that time it had slain 70 people.
Divine Galatea, responding to the catastrophe in Nevarra and hoping to prevent further incidents, granted all the grand clerics of the Chantry the power to purge a Circle entirely if they rule it irredeemable. This Right of Annulment has been performed 17 times in the last 700 years.
It is not uncommon for the neophyte to mistake apostates and maleficarum as one and the same. Indeed, the Chantry has gone to great lengths over the centuries to establish that this is so. The truth, however, is that while an apostate is often a maleficar, he need not be so. A maleficar is a mage who employs forbidden knowledge such as blood magic and the summoning of demons, whereas an apostate is merely any mage who does not fall under the auspices of the Circle of Magi (and therefore the Chantry). They are hunted by the templars, and quite often they will turn to forbidden knowledge in order to survive, but it would be a lie to say that all apostates begin that way.
Historically, apostates become such in one of two ways: They are either mages who have escaped from the Circle or mages who were never part of it to begin with. This latter category includes what we tend to refer to as "hedge mages"—those with magical ability out in the hinterlands who follow a different magical tradition than our own. Some of these hedge mages are not even aware of their nature. Undeveloped, their abilities can express themselves in a variety of ways, which the hedge mage might attribute to faith, or will, or to another being entirely (depending on his nature). Some of these traditions are passed down from generation to generation, as with the so-called "witches" of the Chasind wilders or the "shamans" of the Avvar barbarians.
No matter how a mage has become apostate, the Chantry treats them alike: Templars begin a systematic hunt to bring the apostate to justice. In almost all cases, "justice" is execution. If there is some overriding reason the mage should live, the Rite of Tranquility is employed instead. Whether we of the Circle of Magi believe this system fair is irrelevant: It is what it is.
The Black City
- Main article: Codex entry: The Black City
No traveler to the Fade can fail to spot the Black City. It is one of the few constants of that ever-changing place. No matter where one might be, the city is visible. (Always far off, for it seems that the only rule of geography in the Fade is that all points are equidistant from the Black City.)
The Chant teaches that the Black City was once the seat of the Maker, from whence He ruled the Fade, left empty when men turned away from Him. Dreamers do not go there, nor do spirits. Even the most powerful demons seem to avoid the place.
It was golden and beautiful once, so the story goes, until a group of powerful magister-lords from the Tevinter Imperium devised a means of breaking in. When they did so, their presence defiled the city, turning it black. (Which was, perhaps, the least of their worries.)
—From Beyond the Veil: Spirits and Demons by Enchanter Mirdromel
The Chant of Light: The Blight
No matter their power, their triumphs,
The mage-lords of Tevinter were men
And doomed to die.
Then a voice whispered within their hearts,
Shall you surrender your power
To time like the beasts of the fields?
You are the Lords of the earth!
Go forth to claim the empty throne
Of Heaven and be gods.
In secret they worked
Magic upon magic
All their power and all their vanity
They turned against the Veil
Until at last, it gave way.
Above them, a river of Light,
Before them the throne of Heaven, waiting,
Beneath their feet
The footprints of the Maker,
And all around them echoed a vast
But when they took a single step
Toward the empty throne
A great voice cried out
Shaking the very foundations
Of Heaven and earth:
And So is the Golden City blackened
With each step you take in my Hall.
Marvel at perfection, for it is fleeting.
You have brought Sin to Heaven
And doom upon all the world.
Violently were they cast down,
For no mortal may walk bodily
In the realm of dreams,
Bearing the mark of their Crime:
Bodies so maimed
And distorted that none should see them
And know them for men.
Deep into the earth they fled,
Away from the Light.
In Darkness eternal they searched
For those who had goaded them on,
Until at last they found their prize,
Their god, their betrayer:
The sleeping dragon Dumat. Their taint
Twisted even the false-god, and the whisperer
Awoke at last, in pain and horror, and led
Them to wreak havoc upon all the nations of the world:
The first Blight.
—From Threnodies 8.
The Commandments of the Maker
- Main article: Codex entry: The Commandments of the Maker
- See also: Chantry, Chant of Light, Chant of Light Verses
These truths the Maker has revealed to me:
As there is but one world,
One life, one death, there is
But one god, and He is our Maker.
They are sinners, who have given their love
To false gods.
Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him.
Foul and corrupt are they
Who have taken His gift
And turned it against His children.
They shall be named Maleficar, accursed ones.
They shall find no rest in this world
All men are the Work of our Maker's Hands,
From the lowest slaves
To the highest kings.
Those who bring harm
Without provocation to the least of His children
Are hated and accursed by the Maker.
Those who bear false witness
And work to deceive others, know this:
There is but one Truth.
All things are known to our Maker
And He shall judge their lies.
All things in this world are finite.
What one man gains, another has lost.
Those who steal from their brothers and sisters
Do harm to their livelihood and to their peace of mind.
Our Maker sees this with a heavy heart.
There was no word
For heaven or for earth, for sea or sky.
All that existed was silence.
Then the Voice of the Maker rang out,
The first Word,
And His Word became all that might be:
Dream and idea, hope and fear,
And from it made his firstborn.
And he said to them:
In My image I forge you,
To you I give dominion
Over all that exists.
By your will
May all things be done.
Then in the center of heaven
He called forth
A city with towers of gold,
streets with music for cobblestones,
And banners which flew without wind.
There, He dwelled, waiting
To see the wonders
His children would create.
The children of the Maker gathered
Before his golden throne
And sang hymns of praise unending.
But their songs
Were the songs of the cobblestones.
They shone with the golden light
Reflected from the Maker's throne.
They held forth the banners
That flew on their own.
And the Voice of the Maker shook the Fade
Saying: In My image I have wrought
My firstborn. You have been given dominion
Over all that exists. By your will
All things are done.
Yet you do nothing.
The realm I have given you
Is formless, ever-changing.
And He knew he had wrought amiss.
So the Maker turned from his firstborn
And took from the Fade
A measure of its living flesh
And placed it apart from the Spirits, and spoke to it, saying:
Here, I decree
Opposition in all things:
For earth, sky
For winter, summer
For darkness, Light.
By My Will alone is Balance sundered
And the world given new life.
And no longer was it formless, ever-changing,
But held fast, immutable,
With Words for heaven and for earth, sea and sky.
At last did the Maker
From the living world
Make men. Immutable, as the substance of the earth,
With souls made of dream and idea, hope and fear,
Then the Maker said:
To you, my second-born, I grant this gift:
In your heart shall burn
An unquenchable flame
All-consuming, and never satisfied.
From the Fade I crafted you,
And to the Fade you shall return
Each night in dreams
That you may always remember me.
And then the Maker sealed the gates
Of the Golden City
And there, He dwelled, waiting
To see the wonders
His children would create.
The Chant of Light: Redemption
- Main article: Codex entry: The Chant of Light: Redemption
- See also: Chant of Light, Chant of Light Verses
Many are those who wander in sin,
Despairing that they are lost forever,
But the one who repents, who has faith
Unshaken by the darkness of the world,
And boasts not, nor gloats
Over the misfortunes of the weak, but takes delight
In the Maker's law and creations, she shall know
The peace of the Maker's benediction.
The Light shall lead her safely
Through the paths of this world, and into the next.
For she who trusts in the Maker, fire is her water.
As the moth sees light and goes toward flame,
She should see fire and go towards Light.
The Veil holds no uncertainty for her,
And she will know no fear of death, for the Maker
Shall be her beacon and her shield, her foundation and her sword.
—From Transfigurations 10
The Imperial Chantry
There are those who would tell you that the Chantry is the same everywhere as it is here, that the Divine in Val Royeaux reigns supreme in the eyes of the Maker and that this fact is unquestioned throughout Thedas.
Do not believe it.
The Maker's second commandment, "Magic must serve man, not rule over him," never held the same meaning within the ancient Tevinter Imperium as it did elsewhere. The Chantry there interpreted the rule as meaning that mages should never control the minds of other men, and that otherwise their magic should benefit the rulers of men as much as possible. When the clerics of Tevinter altered the Chant of Light to reflect this interpretation of the commandment, the Divine in Val Royeaux ordered the clerics to revert to the original Chant. They refused, claiming corruption within Val Royeaux, an argument that grew until, in 4:87 [sic] Towers, the Chantry in Tevinter elected its own "legitimate and uncorrupted" Divine Valhail—who was not only male, but also happened to be one of the most prominent members of the Tevinter Circle of the Magi. This "Black Divine" was reviled outside Tevinter, his existence an offense to the Chantry in Val Royeaux.
After four Exalted Marches to dislodge these "rebels," all that the Chantry in Val Royeaux accomplished was to cement the separation. While most aspects of the Imperial Chantry's teachings are the same, prohibitions against magic have been weakened, and male priests have become more prevalent. The Circle of the Magi today rules Tevinter directly, ever since the Archon Nomaran was elected in 7:34 Storm directly from the ranks of the enchanters, to great applause from the public. He dispensed with the old rules forbidding mages from taking part in politics, and within a century, the true rulers within the various imperial houses—the mages—took their places openly within the government. The Imperial Divine is now always drawn from the ranks of the first enchanters and operates as Divine and Grand Enchanter both.
This is utter heresy to any member of the Chantry outside of Tevinter, a return to the days of the magisters, which brought the Blights down upon us. But it exists, and even though we have left the Tevinter Imperium to the mercies of the dread Qunari, still they have endured. Further confrontation between the Black Divine and our so-called "White Divine" is inevitable.
The Divine is the titular head of the Chantry, although since the schism split the Imperial Chantry into its own faction there are now in fact two Divines at any one time. One Divine, informally called the White Divine, is a woman housed in the Grand Cathedral in Val Royeaux. The other, known as the Black Divine, is a man housed in the Argent Spire in Minrathous.
Neither Divine recognizes the existence of the other, and the informal names are considered sacrilegious. No matter the gender, a Divine is addressed as "Most Holy" or "Your Perfection."
Beneath the rank of Divine is the grand cleric. Each grand cleric presides over numerous chantries and represents the highest religious authority for their region. They travel to Val Royeaux when the College of Clerics convenes, but otherwise remain where they are assigned. All grand clerics are addressed as "Your Grace."
Beneath the grand cleric is the mother (or, in the Imperial Chantry, the father). If a mother is in charge of a particular chantry, "revered" is appended to her title. These are the priests responsible for administering to the spiritual well-being of their flock. A mother or revered mother is addressed as "Your Reverence."
Brothers and sisters form the rank and file of the Chantry and consist of three main groups: affirmed, initiates, and clerics. Affirmed are the lay-brethren of the Chantry, those regular folk who have turned to the Chantry for succor. Often they are people who have led a difficult or irreligious life and have chosen to go into seclusion, or even orphans and similar unfortunates who were raised into the Chantry life. The affirmed take care of the Chantry and are in turn afforded a life of quiet contemplation, no questions asked.
Only those folk who take vows become initiates. These are men and women in training, whether in academic knowledge or the martial skills of a warrior. All initiates receive an academic education, although only those who seek to become templars learn how to fight in addition.
Clerics are the true academics of the Chantry, those men and women who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of knowledge. They are often found in Chantry archives, sages presiding over libraries of books and arcane knowledge. The most senior of these clerics, placed in charge of such archives, are given the title "elder," although such a rank is still beneath that of mother. All other brothers and sisters are addressed simply by noting their title before their name, such as "Brother Genitivi."
—From a guide for ambassadors from Rivain.
Often portrayed as stoic and grim, the Order of Templars was created as the martial arm of the Chantry. Armed with the ability to dispel and resist magic in addition to their formidable combat talents, the templars are uniquely qualified to act as both a foil for apostates—mages who refuse to submit to the authority of the Circle—and a first line of defense against the dark powers of blood mages and abominations.
While mages often resent the templars as symbols of the Chantry's control over magic, the people of Thedas see them as saviors and holy warriors, champions of all that is good, armed with piety enough to protect the world from the ravages of foul magic. In reality, the Chantry's militant arm looks first for skilled warriors with unshakable faith in the Maker, with a flawless moral center as a secondary concern. Templars must carry out their duty with an emotional distance, and the Order of Templars prefers soldiers with religious fervor and absolute loyalty over paragons of virtue who might question orders when it comes time to make difficult choices.
The templars' power derives from the substance lyrium, a mineral believed to be the raw element of creation. While mages use lyrium in their arcane spells and rituals, templars ingest the primordial mineral to enhance their abilities to resist and dispel magic. Lyrium use is regulated by the Chantry, but some templars suffer from lyrium addiction, the effects of which include paranoia, obsession, and dementia. Templars knowingly submit themselves to this "treatment" in the service of the Order and the Maker.
It is this sense of ruthless piety that most frightens mages when they draw the templars' attention: When the templars are sent to eliminate a possible blood mage, there is no reasoning with them, and if the templars are prepared, the mage's magic is all but useless. Driven by their faith, the templars are one of the most feared and respected forces in Thedas.
The Founding of the Chantry
Kordilius [sic] Drakon, king of the city-state of Orlais, was a man of uncommon ambition. In the year -15 Ancient, the young king began construction of a great temple dedicated to the Maker, and declared that by its completion he would not only have united the warring city-states of the south, he would have brought Andrastian belief to the world.
In -3 Ancient, the temple was completed. There, in its heart, Drakon knelt before the eternal flame of Andraste and was crowned ruler of the Empire of Orlais. His first act as Emperor: To declare the Chantry as the established Andrastian religion of the Empire.
It took three years and several hundred votes before Olessa of Montsimmard was elected to lead the new Chantry. Upon her coronation as Divine, she took the name Justinia, in honor of the disciple who recorded Andraste's songs. In that moment, the ancient era ended and the Divine Age began.
The Fraternity of Enchanters
- Main article: Codex entry: The Fraternity of Enchanters
Another aspect of Circle life is the fraternity. When a mage becomes an enchanter, he may ally himself with a fraternity. These are cliques that cross Circle boundaries, mages of common interests and goals who band together to ensure that their voice is heard within the College of Magi in Cumberland. The largest fraternities currently are:
- the Loyalists, who advocate loyalty and obedience to the Chantry.
- the Aequitarians, who advocate temperance and follow a distinct code of conduct which they believe all mages should hold themselves to.
- the Libertarians, a growing fraternity, publicly maintaining greater power for the Circles but secretly advocating a complete split from the Chantry—a dangerous opinion, naturally.
- the Isolationists, a small group that advocates withdrawing to remote territories in order to avoid conflicts with the general populace.
- the Lucrosians, who maintain that the Circle must do what is profitable first and foremost. They prioritize the accumulation of wealth, with the gaining of political influence a close second.
So far, an alliance between the Loyalists and Aequitarians has prevented the Libertarians from gaining much headway, but there are signs that the Aequitarians may throw their support in with the Libertarians. If that happens, many mages predict it will come to civil war among the Circles.
Hierarchy of the Circle
- Main article: Codex entry: Hierarchy of the Circle
It is no simple matter, safeguarding ordinary men from mages, and mages from themselves. Each Circle tower must have some measure of self-government, for it is ever the Maker's will that men be given the power to take responsibility for our own actions: To sin and fail, as well as to achieve the highest grace and glory on our own strength.
You, who will be tasked with the protection of the Circle, must be aware of its workings. The first enchanter is the heart of any tower. He will determine the course his Circle will take, he will choose which apprentices may be tested and made full mages, and you will work most closely with him.
Assisting the first enchanter will be the senior enchanters, a small council of the most trusted and experienced magi in the tower. From this group, the next first enchanter is always chosen. Beneath the council are the enchanters. These are the teachers and mentors of the tower, and you must get to know them in order to keep your finger on the pulse of the Circle, for the enchanters will always know what is happening among the children.
All those who have passed their Harrowing but have not taken apprentices are mages. This is where most trouble in a Circle lies, in the idleness and inexperience of youth. The untested apprentices are the most numerous denizens of any tower, but they more often pose threats to themselves, due to their lack of training, than to anyone else.
History of the Circle
- Main article: Codex entry: History of the Circle
It is a truth universally acknowledged that nothing is more successful at inspiring a person to mischief as being told not to do something. Unfortunately, the Chantry of the Divine Age had some trouble with obvious truths. Although it did not outlaw magic--quite the contrary, as the Chantry relied upon magic to kindle the eternal flame which burns in every brazier in every chantry--it relegated mages to lighting candles and lamps. Perhaps occasional dusting of rafters and eaves.
I will give my readers a moment to contemplate how well such a role satisfied the mages of the time.
It surprised absolutely no one when the mages of Val Royeaux, in protest, snuffed the sacred flames of the cathedral and barricaded themselves inside the choir loft. No one, that is, but Divine Ambrosia II, who was outraged and attempted to order an Exalted March upon her own cathedral. Even her most devout Templars discouraged that idea. For 21 days, the fires remained unlit while negotiations were conducted, legend tells us, by shouting back and forth from the loft.
The mages went cheerily into exile in a remote fortress outside of the capital, where they would be kept under the watchful eye of the Templars and a council of their own elder magi. Outside of normal society, and outside of the Chantry, the mages would form their own closed society, the Circle, separated for the first time in human history.
The study of the Fade is as old as humankind. For so long as men have dreamed, we have walked its twisting paths, sometimes catching a glimpse of the city at its heart. Always as close as our own thoughts, but impossibly separated from our world.
The Tevinter Imperium once spent vast fortunes of gold, lyrium, and human slaves in an effort to map the terrain of the Fade, an ultimately futile endeavor. Although portions of it belong to powerful spirits, all of the Fade is in constant flux. The Imperium succeeded in finding the disparate and ever-shifting realms of a dozen demon lords, as well as cataloging a few hundred types of spirits, before they were forced to abandon the project.
The relationship of dreamers to the Fade is complex. Even when entering the Fade through the use of lyrium, mortals are not able to control or affect it. The spirits who dwell there, however, can, and as the Chantry teaches us, the great flaw of the spirits is that they have neither imagination nor ambition. They create what they see through their sleeping visitors, building elaborate copies of our cities, people, and events, which, like the reflections in a mirror, ultimately lack context or life of their own. Even the most powerful demons merely plagiarize the worst thoughts and fears of mortals, and build their realms with no other ambition than to taste life.
Among apprentices of the Circle, nothing is regarded with more fear than the Harrowing. Little is known about this rite of passage, and that alone would be cause for dread. But it is well understood that only those apprentices who pass this trial are ever seen again. They return as full members of the Circle of Magi. Of those who fail, nothing is known. Perhaps they are sent away in disgrace. Perhaps they are killed on the spot. I heard one patently ridiculous rumor among the Circle at Rivain, which claimed that failed apprentices were transformed into pigs, fattened up, and served at dinner to the senior enchanters. But I could find no evidence that the Rivaini Circle ate any particular quantity of pork.
More than half the wealth of Orzammar comes from a single, extremely rare substance: Lyrium. The Chantry believes it to be the "Waters of the Fade" mentioned in the Canticle of Threnodies, the very stuff of creation itself, from whence the Maker fashioned the world. Only a handful of Mining Caste families hazard extracting the ore, finding veins in the Stone quite literally by ear. For in its raw form, lyrium sings, and the discerning can hear the sound even through solid rock.
Even though dwarves have a natural resistance, raw lyrium is dangerous for all but the most experienced of the Mining Caste to handle. Even for dwarves, exposure to the unprocessed mineral can cause deafness or memory loss. For humans and elves, direct contact with lyrium ore produces nausea, blistering of the skin, and dementia. Mages cannot even approach unprocessed lyrium. Doing so is invariably fatal.
Despite its dangers, lyrium is the single most valuable mineral currently known. In the Tevinter Imperium, it has been known to command a higher price than diamond. The dwarves sell very little of the processed mineral to the surface, giving the greater portion of what they mine to their own smiths, who use it in the forging of all truly superior dwarven weapons and armor. What processed lyrium is sold on the surface goes only to the Chantry, who strictly control the supply. From the Chantry, it is dispensed both to the templars, who make use of it in tracking and fighting maleficarum, and to the Circle.
In the hands of the Circle, lyrium reaches its fullest potential. Their Formari craftsmen transform it into an array of useful items from the practical, such as magically hardened stone for construction, to the legendary silver armor of King Calenhad.
When mixed into liquid and ingested, lyrium allows mages to enter the Fade when fully aware, unlike all others who reach it only when dreaming. Such potions can also be used to aid in the casting of especially taxing spells, for a short time granting a mage far greater power than he normally wields.
Lyrium has its costs, however. Prolonged use becomes addictive, the cravings unbearable. Over time, templars grow disoriented, incapable of distinguishing memory from present, or dream from waking. They frequently become paranoid, as their worst memories and nightmares haunt their waking hours. Mages have additionally been known to suffer physical mutation: The magister lords of the Tevinter Imperium were widely reputed to have been so affected by their years of lyrium use that they could not be recognized by their own kin, nor even as creatures that had once been human.
It has been asked, "What are maleficarum? How shall we know them?" I have been as troubled by this question as you. You have come to me for the wisdom of the Maker, but none have seen the Maker's heart save Beloved Andraste. And so I have done as all mortals must, and looked to the words of His prophet for answers. And there, I found respite from a troubled mind.
For she has said to us, "Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him." Therefore, I say to you, they who work magic which dominates the minds and hearts of others, they have transgressed the Makers law.
Also, Our Lady said to us, "Those who bring harm without provocation to the least of His children are hated and accursed by the Maker." And so it is made clear to me, as it should be to us all: That magic which fuels itself by harming others, by the letting of blood, is hated by the Maker.
Those mages who honor the Maker and keep His laws we welcome as our brothers and sisters. Those who reject the laws of the Maker and the words of His prophet are apostate. They shall be cast out, and given no place among us.
—From The Sermons of Justinia I
Mana and the Use of Magic
- Main article: Codex entry: Mana and the Use of Magic
Mana is that which defines a mage. It is potential that dwells within a person but does not always manifest itself. All men are connected to the Fade; we go there to dream. But only those with this potential may draw upon its power. Mana is, then, a measurement of one's ability to draw power from the Fade, and it is this power that is expended in magic.
As in all other things, it has limits. Just as a man has the strength to lift only so much weight and no more, a mage cannot work more magic at one time than his mana allows. If he wishes to work magic that would be beyond his strength, a mage must bolster his mana with lyrium. Without lyrium, it is possible for the reckless to expend their own life-force in the working of magic, and occasionally, ambitious apprentices injure or even kill themselves by over-exertion.
- Main article: Codex entry: Demonic Possession
Why do demons seek to possess the living?
History claims they are malevolent spirits, the first children of the Maker, angry at their creator for turning from them and jealous of those creations he considered superior. They stare across the Veil at the living and do not understand what they see, yet they know they crave it. They desire life, they pull the living across the Veil when they sleep and prey on their psyche with nightmares. Whenever they can, they cross the Veil into our world to possess it outright.
We know that any demon will seek to possess a mage, and upon doing so will create an abomination. Most of the world does not know, however, that the strength of an abomination depends entirely on the power of the demon that possesses the mage. This is true, in fact, of all possessed creatures. One demon is not the same as any other.
Demons can, for instance, be classified. Enchanter Brahm's categorization of demons into that portion of the psyche they primarily prey upon has held since the Tower Age.
According to Brahm, the weakest and most common of demons are those of rage. They are the least intelligent and most prone to violent outbursts against the living. They expend their energies quickly, the most powerful of them exhibiting great strength and occasionally the ability to generate fire.
Next are the demons of hunger. In a living host they become cannibals and vampires, and within the dead they feed upon the living. Theirs are the powers of draining, both of life force and of mana.
Next are the demons of sloth, the first on Brahm's scale that are capable of true intelligence. In its true form, this demon is known as a shade, a thing which is nearly indistinct and invisible, for such is sloth's nature. It hides and stalks, unaware, and when confronted, it sows fatigue and apathy.
Demons of desire are amongst the most powerful, and are the ones most likely to seek out the living and actively trick them into a deal. These demons will exploit anything that can be coveted—wealth, power, lust—and they will always end up getting far more than they give. A desire demon's province is that of illusions and mind control.
Strongest of all demons are those of pride. These are the most feared creatures to loose upon the world: Masters of magic and in possession of vast intellect, they are the true schemers. It is they who seek most strongly to possess mages, and will bring other demons across the Veil in numbers to achieve their own ends—although what that might be has never been discovered. A greater pride demon, brought across the Veil, would threaten the entire world.
The Cardinal Rules of Magic
- Main article: Codex entry: The Cardinal Rules of Magic
You must not be under the misimpression that magic is all-powerful. There are limits, and not even the greatest mages may overcome them.
No one, for instance, has found any means of traveling—either over great distances or small ones—beyond putting one foot in front of the other. The immutable nature of the physical world prevents this. So no, you may not simply pop over to Minrathous to borrow a cup of sugar, nor may you magic the essay you "forgot" in the apprentice dormitory to your desk. You will simply have to be prepared.
Similarly, even when you send your mind into the Fade, your body remains behind. Only once has this barrier been overcome, and reputedly the spell required two-thirds of the lyrium in the Tevinter Imperium as well as the lifeblood of several hundred slaves. The results were utterly disastrous.
Finally, life is finite. A truly great healer may bring someone back from the very precipice of death, when breath and heartbeat have ceased but the spirit still clings to life. But once the spirit has fled the body, it cannot be recalled. That is no failing of your skills or power, it is simple reality.
Blood Magic: The Forbidden School
Foul and corrupt are you
Who have taken My gift
And turned it against My children.
The ancient Tevinters did not originally consider blood magic a school of its own. Rather, they saw it as a means to achieve greater power in any school of magic. The name, of course, refers to the fact that magic of this type uses life, specifically in the form of blood, instead of mana. It was common practice, at one time, for a magister to keep a number of slaves on hand so that, should he undertake the working of a spell that was physically beyond his abilities, he could use the blood of his slaves to bolster the casting.
Over time, however, the Imperium discovered types of spells that could only be worked by blood. Although lyrium will allow a mage to send his conscious mind into the Fade, blood would allow him to find the sleeping minds of others, view their dreams, and even influence or dominate their thoughts. Just as treacherous, blood magic allows the Veil to be opened completely so that demons may physically pass through it into our world.
In Dragon Age: Origins...
The rise of the Chant of Light and the subsequent fall of the old Imperium has led to blood magic being all but stamped out—as it should be, for it poses nearly as great a danger to those who would practice it as to the world at large.
In Dragon Age II...
Thought for some time to have been stamped out in the Imperium, the practice of blood magic seems to be on the rise in recent years. The current Black Divine has lifted most of the prohibitions against dreamwalking, and so many mages in the Imperium now use it openly in the name of research.
—From The Four Schools: A Treatise, Third Edition, by First Enchanter Josephus
The Four Schools of Magic: Creation
Opposition in all things:
For earth, sky
For winter, summer
For darkness, Light.
By My will alone is balance sundered
And the world given new life.
The School of Creation, sometimes called the School of Nature, is the second of the Schools of Matter, the balancing force and complement of Entropy. Creation magic manipulates natural forces, transforming what exists and bringing new things into being.
Creation requires considerable finesse, more than any other school, and is therefore rarely mastered. Those mages who have made a serious study of creation are the highest in demand, useful in times of peace as well as war.
The Four Schools of Magic: Entropy
To you, my second-born, I grant this gift:
In your heart shall burn
An unquenchable flame
All-consuming, and never satisfied.
The first of the two Schools of Matter, Entropy is the opposing force of Creation; for this reason it is often called the School of Negation. Nothing lives without death. Time inevitably brings an end to all things in the material world, and yet in this ending is the seed of a beginning. A river may flood its banks, causing havoc, but bring new life to its floodplain. The fire that burns a forest ushers in new growth. And so it is with entropic magic that we manipulate the forces of erosion, decay, and destruction to create anew.
The Four Schools of Magic: Primal
Those who oppose thee
Shall know the wrath of heaven.
Field and forest shall burn,
The seas shall rise and devour them,
The wind shall tear their nations
From the face of the earth,
Lightning shall rain down from the sky,
They shall cry out to their false gods,
And find silence.
Sometimes called the School of Power, the Primal School is the second of the Schools of Energy, balanced by Spirit, and concerns the most visible and tangible forces of nature itself.
This is the magic of war: Fire, ice, and lightning. Devastation. This is what the vast majority imagines when they hear the word "magic."
The Four Schools of Magic: Spirit
And the voice of the Maker shook the Fade
Saying: In My image I have wrought
My firstborn. You have been given dominion
Over all that exists. By your will
All things are done.
Yet you do nothing.
The realm I have given you
Is formless, ever-changing.
The first of the two Schools of Energy, Spirit is opposed by the Primal School. It is the school of mystery, the ephemeral school. This is the study of the invisible energies which surround us at all times, yet are outside of nature. It is from the Fade itself that this magic draws its power. Students of this school cover everything from direct manipulation of mana and spell energies to the study and summoning of spirits themselves.
By its nature an esoteric school, as most others know virtually nothing about the Fade, studies of spirit magic are often misunderstood by the general populace, or even confused for blood magic--an unfortunate fate for a most useful branch of study.
Beyond the Veil: Spirits and Demons
- Main article: Codex entry: Beyond the Veil: Spirits and Demons
It is challenging enough for the casual observer to tell the difference between the Fade and the creatures that live within it, let alone between one type of spirit and another. In truth, there is little that distinguishes them, even for the most astute mages. Since spirits are not physical entities and are therefore not restricted to recognizable forms (or even having a form at all), one can never tell for certain what is alive and what is merely part of the scenery. (It is therefore advisable for the inexperienced researcher to greet all objects he encounters.)
Typically, we misuse the term "spirit" to refer only to the benign, or at least less malevolent, creatures of the Fade, but in truth, all the denizens of the realm beyond the Veil are spirits. As the Chant of Light notes, everything within the Fade is a mimicry of our world. (A poor imitation, for the spirits do not remotely understand what they are copying. It is no surprise that much of the Fade appears like a manuscript translated from Tevinter into Orlesian and back again by drunken initiates.)
In general, spirits are not complex. Or, rather, they are not complex as we understand such things. Each one seizes upon a single facet of human experience: Rage, hunger, compassion, hope, etc. This one idea becomes their identity. We classify as demons those spirits who identify themselves with darker human emotions and ideas.
The most common and weakest form of demon one encounters in the Fade is the rage demon. They are much like perpetually boiling kettles, for they exist only to vent hatred, but rarely have an object to hate. Somewhat above these are the hunger demons, who do little but eat or attempt to eat everything they encounter, including other demons (this is rarely successful). Then there are the sloth demons. These are the first intelligent creatures one typically finds in the Fade. They are dangerous only on those rare occasions that they can be induced to get up and do harm. Desire demons are more clever, and far more powerful, using all forms of bribery to induce mortals into their realms: Wealth, love, vengeance, whatever lies closest to your heart. The most powerful demons yet encountered are the pride demons, perhaps because they, among all their kind, most resemble men.
If the Warden/ Hawke/ the Inquisitor is a mage...
Although apprentices do not know the nature of the Harrowing, all of them understand its consequences: They either pass and become full mages, or they are never seen again. Those who fear to undertake this rite of passage, or those who are deemed weak or unstable, are given the Rite of Tranquility instead.
The actual procedure, like the Harrowing, is secret, but the results are just as well known. The rite severs connection to the Fade. The Tranquil, therefore, do not dream. This removes the greatest danger that threatens a weak or unprepared mage, the potential to attract demons across the Veil. But this is the least of Tranquility's effects, for the absence of dreams brings with it the end of all magical ability, as well as all emotion.
The Tranquil, ironically, resemble sleepwalkers, never entirely awake nor asleep. They are still part of our Circle, however, and some might say they are the most critical part. They have incredible powers of concentration, for it is simply impossible to distract a Tranquil mage, and this makes them capable of becoming craftsmen of such skill that they rival even the adeptness of the dwarves. The Formari, the branch of the Circle devoted to item enchantment, is made up exclusively of Tranquil, and is the source of all the wealth that sustains our towers.
If the Warden/ Hawke/ the Inquisitor is not a mage...
The Tranquil are the least understood but most visible members of the Circle. Every city of respectable size boasts a Circle of Magi shop, and every one of these shops is run by a Tranquil proprietor.
The name is a misnomer, for they are not tranquil at all; rather, they are like inanimate objects that speak. If a table wished to sell you an enchanted penknife, it could pass as one of these people. Their eyes are expressionless, their voices monotone. Incomparable craftsmen they might be, but they are hardly the sort of mages to put ordinary folk at ease.
The Sacred Ashes of Andraste
Only one person witnessed Maferath's betrayal: Havard the Aegis. A childhood friend of Maferath, he accompanied his chief to the meeting with the Tevinters, not realizing what was planned. When he understood that Maferath was giving Andraste over to be executed, Havard, unwilling to draw swords against his friend and liege, placed himself between Andraste and the Tevinter soldiers. The Tevinters struck him down, and Maferath left him for dead.
Gravely wounded, Havard made his way to the gates of Minrathous to stop the execution. When he reached it, the terrible deed was already done, the armies on the plains long since dispersed. Havard, cursing his weakness, gathered the earthly remains of Andraste that had been left to the wind and rain, and wept. When his fingers touched the pile of ash, his ears filled with song, and he saw before him a vision of Andraste, dressed in cloth made of starlight. She knelt at his side, saying, "The Maker shall never forget you so long as I remember."
—From Thedas: Myths and Legends, by Brother Genitivi
- Main article: Codex entry: The Veil
I detest this notion that the Veil is some manner of invisible "curtain" that separates the world of the living from the world of the spirits (whether it be called the Fade or the Beyond is a matter of racial politics I refuse to indulge in at the moment). There is no "this side" and "that side" when it comes to the Veil. One cannot think of it as a physical thing or a barrier or even a "shimmering wall of holy light" (thank you very much for that image, Your Perfection).
Think of the Veil, instead, as opening one's eyes.
Before you opened them, you saw our world as you see it now: static, solid, unchanging. Now that they are open, you see our world as the spirits see it: chaotic, ever-changing, a realm where the imagined and the remembered have as much substance as that which is real—more, in fact. A spirit sees everything as defined by will and memory, and this is why they are so very lost when they cross the Veil. In our world, imagination has no substance. Objects exist independently of how we remember them or what emotions we associate with them. Mages alone possess the power to change the world with their minds, and perhaps this forms the nature of a demon's attraction to them—who can say?
Regardless, the act of passing through the Veil is much more about changing one's perceptions than a physical transition. The Veil is an idea, it is the act of transition itself, and it is only the fact that both living beings and spirits find the transition difficult that gives the Veil any credence as a physical barrier at all.