The Harrowing is a test that every apprentice mage must go through to become a full member of the Circle of Magi. It is practiced throughout most of Thedas, with Tevinter possibly employing a similar test. Exactly what happens during the Harrowing is kept a secret from apprentices and people outside of the Circle.
The Harrowing is a secretive rite of passage that is the cause of much fear and speculation among apprentices. All of their training and apprenticeship is meant to prepare them for the test, though they are never told what the test consists of or when they will be made to take it and as such must always be ready. When deemed ready by the enchanters, the apprentice is taken without warning or preparation to face the Harrowing. Apprentices generally go through the Harrowing in late adolescence or early adulthood.
Apprentices may choose to be made Tranquil instead of undergoing their Harrowing. Apprentices who are deemed too weak or dangerous may be denied the Harrowing and made Tranquil outright. Apostates who have never taken their Harrowing are usually made to undergo the test as soon as they are taken to the Circle.
The rite itself is fairly simple. First, the apprentice is taken to the Harrowing Chamber, where numerous senior spellcasters and templars stand ready. Then, they use lyrium to project their mind into the Fade. There, the subject must face and overcome a demon that wishes to possess the apprentice's body and enter the living realm. This involves navigating whatever challenges have been set up and seeing through whatever ruse the demon puts on. The demon itself would have been summoned by Circle mages to the same part of the Fade the apprentice enters, lured by the promise of a living body waiting for it. The Harrowing is more a test of will, common sense, and the ability to resist temptation, than one of magical ability.
If the apprentice is overwhelmed by the demon (or, some say, takes too long to complete the task), they are killed by templars, who are standing by to prevent the tragedy of an abomination. One templar, who remains unidentified to the mages present, is assigned the killing blow in advance, while the rest keep danger at bay and stand ready to replace the 'designated slayer' if necessary.
Upon successful completion of his or her Harrowing, a mage is traditionally given a ring of lyrium-infused silver.
- Dorian's experience during Here Lies the Abyss.
- In Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights, Three Trees to Midnight, Myrion mentions taking a test on resisting demons during which a desire demon took the form of a boy he liked.
- Codex entry: The Harrowing
- Image from Dragon Age RPG Core Rulebook, p. 101.
- Wynne was almost seventeen, years ahead of her peers; Malcolm Hawke was nineteen.
- Dragon Age: Asunder, Chapter 3
- Image from Dragon Age RPG Player's Guide, set 2, p. 63.
- Codex entry: Journal of the Tranquil
- As was the plan for Jowan.
- Letter: Family Letters
- According to Hawke and Anders during Dissent.
- Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 1, p. 100