The Harrowing

The Harrowing.

The Harrowing is a test that every mage-apprentice must go through to become a full member of the Circle of Magi. All of their training and apprenticeship is meant to prepare them for this test,[1] it is practiced throughout most of Thedas, with Tevinter possibly employing a similar test.[2] Exactly what happens during the Harrowing is kept a secret from apprentices and people outside of the Circle.[3]

The Harrowing looms large for apprentices in part because the enchanters decide, on their own and in secret, when and if the apprentice is ready for the rite. When they do so the apprentice is taken, without warning or preparation, to face the Harrowing. It can come at any time, and so one must always be ready.[1]

The rite itself is fairly simple. First, the apprentice enters the Fade through ritual use of lyrium. Once across the Veil, 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 succeeds in resisting the demon, he or she earns the title and trappings of a mage, becoming a full member of the Circle, having proven the necessary strength of will and character to master and use magic.
Failed harrowing

A failed Harrowing.[4]

However, if the apprentice is overwhelmed by the demon (or, some say, takes too long to complete the task), he or she is 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.

Apprentices may volunteer to be made Tranquil instead of undergoing their Harrowing. Since passing the Harrowing theoretically proves that a mage is capable enough to resist possession, Chantry law forbids mages who passed their Harrowing from being made Tranquil.

Upon successful completion of his or her Harrowing, a mage is traditionally given a ring of lyrium-infused silver.

Trivia Edit

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Inquisition.

There is a possibility that demons invoked in harrowings are actually benign spirits. According to Solas, a spirit often manifests as what its mortal viewer expects it to be. Spirits of wisdom are sometimes turned into demons of pride by this way, simply because the latter is the expectation. Following that logic, in the Mage Warden harrowing, Mouse may have appeared as a pride demon to the Warden, when, in fact, it was not. The Warden deemed Mouse to be the true challenge of the Harrowing, which the Templars and senior mages warned as a demon. Therefore, Mouse adapted to the Warden's expectation. This theory can be supported by Mouse's choice to spare the Warden, whom it could have easily possessed.

See also Edit

Ico codex entry Codex entry: The Harrowing
Ico codex entry Codex entry: The Tranquil
Codex icon DAI Codex entry: Walking the Fade: A Harrowing

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Image from Dragon Age RPG Core Rulebook, pg. 101.
  2. Dorian's experience during Here Lies the Abyss.
  3. Codex entry: The Harrowing
  4. Image from Dragon Age RPG Player's Guide, set 2, pg. 63.
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