Cosmology, as taught at Doissetep

Origins:

In the beginning, there was the One, and nothing else.  For reasons unknown and likely unknowable, the One chose to create beings from itself, the Aeons.  The Aeons also felt the urge to create, and they created Preceptors, who themselves created other beings, and so on down the great chain of being.  They created many different worlds in which to dwell, great works of spiritual art.  The Aeons lived in peace for a time, but then some of them rebelled against the One, lead by Idabaloth.  There was war, and Idabaloth's rebels lost.  They were cast out into the far reaches of the universe.  Many of the Nephandi serve these rebel Aeons and their spawn.

But the war wrecked the heavenly order, and the once perfect order of the world as well.  The Golden Age of the world was destroyed, and the Solar System as we knew it had to be made anew.  The world was remade, and the Silver Age began.  The men of the Silver Age drove forth the remaining servants of the rebel Aeons, and built the Horizon around the Ten Worlds of the Solar System.  This was an age of ancient glory, when the Hermetic Lore was first codified and set forth.  The stories of Atlantis, and Mu, and Lemuria are all shadows of the memory of the glory of this age, when men sailed across the sea of space from world to world and reshaped them all to be fit for habitation.

Yet, the Silver Age too fell.  It remains unclear how.  Perhaps the men of the Silver Age probed unwisely into secrets they could not handle.  Perhaps they fell to warring among themselves, and neglected the defense of the Horizon, which allowed the Nephandi in.  All that is known for sure is that the Silver Age perished in some horrible war, during which one of the Ten Planets shattered and became the Asteroid belt (certain legends claim some major Nephandic being had laid an egg inside it at some point in the distant past, which hatched, destroying it).  The Silver race of men perished, and the Horizon collapsed in around the Earth, only protecting it.  Left open to the Nephandic Lords, the rest of the worlds of the Solar System were ravaged and destroyed, becoming as they are now.  There is reason to believe that Mars may have been the last world to fall, for ruins remain relatively intact on it, and unlike many other worlds, it still possesses a Penumbra.

A new race of men had to be created on the ravaged Earth.  It was at this time that the Aeon of the Earth, Terra, created the Men of Bronze, or as many in this world think of them, Pre-Diluvian man.  She also created many half-human/half-animal creatures to defend the Earth, for she remembered the fall of the Age of Silver, and she knew it would be long before the Men of Bronze grew strong and wise enough to defend themselves.  The first man was Adam the Namer, first of the Magi.  The avatars of the Men of Bronze were the reincarnated souls of the Men of Silver, and the power they wielded dwarfs ours.  And Adam's was strongest of all.  He named all things in the tongue we call Enochian, and lived for centuries, perhaps even millenia.  Indeed, some believe he became the first of the Oracles, along with his wife, Eve.

The Men of Bronze multiplied and filled the earth with wonders.  They dreamed strong dreams, and it was at this time that the ancient faerie lords of the Dreaming were born, that Arcadia was dreamed into existence.  Some passed beyond the Horizon to explore the worlds beyond it, while others transformed the world inside it.

It was at this time that the being known as Caine arose.  Some believe Caine was Adam the Namer's son, others argue he likely was born much later in the Age of the Men of Bronze.  Whatever his exact origins, Caine angered Terra, and was cursed by her.  Under the guidance of the mysterious Lillith, Caine learned to draw upon the power of his blood, and became the first Vampire.  He soon came to rule over one of the many nations of the men of Bronze, creating what Vampires call 'The First City'.  It was at this time that the Shifters began to war with the Vampires.

In the First City, vampires openly walked among men, and many dark cults were encouraged by the Vampires, who sought to flaunt their opposition to Terra, who had cursed them.  Corruption spread from the First City.  As time passed, it became evident that some men had vastly more magical might than others.  They rose to rule over the cities of the Men of Bronze, while those with weak Avatars were forced to serve them.  Many made war on each other.  Some turned to dark arts and made bargains with those beyond the Horizon for power.  It was one such fool who brought about the end of the Age of Bronze.  His name remains unknown.  Whoever he was, he sacrificed an entire city to open the way for one of the Nephandi Lords.

The result was a horrific war which destroyed most of the great Magi of the Age of Bronze.  They sacrificed themselves to reseal the gateway.  But the powers unleashed were catastrophic.  Terra opened the great vaults and flooded the Earth, trying to purge it of the evils unleashed.  Many species of Shifters perished in the flood.  And the very avatars of the great Magi were split apart, and some even devoured by the Nephandi before they were repulsed.  Worst of all, the very fabric of reality twisted and broke.  The Gauntlet arose, seperating the worlds of Spirit and Matter.  Many of the surviving Magi were trapped beyond it, and vanished into the Umbral Depths, becoming spirits of great power.  One clever Magus (Noah) and his family is known to have escaped the flood, carrying many of the secrets of the Men of Bronze with him, preserving much ancient lore, while carefully discarding the lore which had helped to bring about the Sundering.

Ironically, it was those in whom the power of magic was weakest who survived the disasters in greatest numbers, though they were left leaderless and confused.  Civilization collapsed in the wake of the flood; only where Noah landed and assumed leadership of the survivors did any vestige of the Age of Bronze survive.  Now men entered into the Age of Stone.  It was the Shifters who dominated this era.  Concluding that humanity was to blame for the devastation wrought upon the world, they began the Impergium, a program of Shifter rule over humanity, in which the human population was kept enslaved to the will of the Werewolves, and that will was that men would be little more than animals, trapped in primitive villages. Those who invented new ideas were killed.  Those who were too strong were killed.  For thousands of years, most of humanity was little more than slaves to the Werewolves.  Yet, this program caused divisions among the Shifters.  Many seem to have felt that the Werewolves were too harsh on humanity.  In some cases, they may simply have feared their own human kinfolk would be slaughtered.  The result was a war which wiped out many of the surviving Shifters.  But the bloody rule of the Werewolves continued.

Only two groups of humans lived free of Werewolf oppression.  Lead by the descendents of Noah, one group of humans lived free and prospered, building a civilization.  A second group formed around the Second City, where Caine's vampire children tried to rebuild the First City's 'glories'.  But Noah's descendents somehow called down a curse upon themselves in what many believe to be the first Paradox Backlash, in the Babel disaster.  Divided in language, they scattered among all the nations, carrying the ancient lore to all the corners of the Earth.  The Second City dissolved in treachery and death as the Vampires turned on each other like rats in a cage.  The vampires too scattered to all the corners of the Earth.

It was during this era that three of the Werewolf tribes lead some humans into the Americas for reasons known only to the Werewolves.  This is believed to have happened post-Babel, as the humans who crossed over seem to have possessed some of the ancient lore.

Several factors combined to bring about the liberation of humanity from Werewolf rule.  The post-Babel scattering of magical lore enabled many tribes to begin to develop magical protectors capable of fending off the werewolves.  Secondly, the vampires spread out and became a threat which distracted the werewolves away from mankind.  But for the most part, the Werewolves seem to have finally decided that their Impergium was too cruel.  Though many protested, the Impergium was abandoned.  The inevitable result, combined with the final end of the Ice Age, was the rise of humanity and the beginning of the revival of the practice of Magic and Magick.

We now enter the realm of recorded history, which is covered elsewhere in more detail than you could ever want.

Magi

What is a Magi?  A magus is someone who possesses an Awakened Avatar.  We believe that those Avatars most likely to awaken are fragments of the souls of the Magi of the Age of Bronze, whose own Avatars were but Fragments of the Avatars of the Men of the Ages of Silver, and so forth.  Still, potentially, anyone can reawaken, and new souls and new Avatars seem to be born every year, in addition to the reincarnation of older souls.  In fact, it seems that most people today are in fact completely new souls, given the number of humans alive today is vastly greater than any previous period since at least the Age of Bronze and most likely even earlier.

So what is an Avatar?  Everyone has one; it is a part of the soul possessed by every true sentient.  But most people's Avatars are weak, asleep, or both.  It is the possession of an Avatar which enables Magi to work Magick, Sorcerors to work Sorcery, and Sleepers to subconsciously reshape the world en masse.  Every tradition has a different view of what exactly it is, but Avatars seem to be one of the highest part of the souls, guiding Mages on the path of Ascension and empowering them to do Magick at all.

Every Magus possesses a paradigm, an understanding of the universe which shapes how he uses his Will to reshape the universe.  This paradigm dictates what foci he must use in order to perform his magics, structures his understanding of how the universe works, and guides him in the creation of new magics.  As a Magi rises in understanding, he eventually transcends the need for tools, but he never escapes the need for some sort of paradigm (though he may modify that paradigm vastly over time as his enlightenment grows).

All workers of Magick are Magi by definition.  So what is Magick?

Magick vs. Magic

Magick is dynamic will-working.  Magic is static will-working.  Magick is flexible; a Magus has incredibly broad powers and grows ever more so over time.  Magic and the Magical powers of Supernatural Creatures are much more limited and focused.  Though a Sorceror or a Vampire or whatever can in a narrow field, sometimes easily overpower a  Magus, magic is static and formulaic.  It consists of specific powers and tricks which produce focused effects.  While any given act of Magick is itself also a focused effect, it is much easier for a Magus to vary his effects.  Despite what many may think about Technomancer triumph, the existence of Magic shows that the victory of the Technocracy is tenuous.  The powers of Vampires, Sorcerors, Changelings, and the like, all are part of the Sleeper Paradigm.  Too many Sleepers still believe in magic for it to have truly been vanquished.  Magick attracts Paradox because it goes far beyond the things the Sleepers accept and because it is too dynamic, and shakes things up too much when used.  Only when Magic vanishes will we truly have been defeated.

Sorcerors

Many Magi begin as Sorcerors.  The Traditions welcome them, though Magi typically hold the leadership positions within the Traditions, as Sorcerors cannot climb to the heights of power and enlightenment of the Masters of the Art.  But their freedom from Paradox makes them welcome allies.  Should the Technocratic Paradigm truly triumph completely, their powers too will fade.  Nor are their powers anything to sneeze at, limited as they are.

While not fully Awakened, Sorcerors possess Avatars, and like Magi, are not fully subject to the powers which hide Werewolves, Faeries, and Wraiths from the eyes of mortals.

The Major Supernaturals

Faeries/Changelings

Until the thirteenth century, Faeries travelled fairly freely back and forth between the waking world and the Dreaming.  The same forces which drew down the Scourge in that century also seem to have hampered this travel by the faeries, and most of them fled to Arcadia to avoid being trapped in this world.  Some apparently bred with humans, producing the half-breeds known as 'Changelings', who were able to continue to function in this world.  For centuries, travel to Arcadia was next to impossible.  However, in the nineteen-sixties, this seems to have changed, and now certain roads to Arcadia have re-opened, leading to sightings of many kinds of Faeries who have not been seen in centuries.

Faeries and Changelings wield a static form of magic known as Glamour, which involves tapping dream-oriented Quintessence to create effects which are often either illusionary, very temporary, or both.  They seem to be strongly tied to the primordial principle of Dynamism, and as a result, both Fae and Changelings seem to be quite vulnerable to sinking into Marauder-like Quiets.  The human side of the Changelings also seems to make them vulnerable to Static Quiets, in which they suffer the delusion that they are not actually supernatural beings, but ordinary mortals.

Faeries and Changelings maintain strongholds known as Freeholds, which tap the power of the Dreaming.  Mages can use these locations as nodes, though one gets Dream-resonanced Quintessence from them.  Faeries and Changelings are able to absorb and store properly resonanced Quintessence.  Some of them, unfortunately, prey on innocent mortals in order to obtain it, while others seem to able to somehow absorb it from creative acts.

Faeries are blatantly supernatural, though most learn arts which enable them to mask this in human society.  Changelings cannot be detected as such unless one either eats their food, possesses some form of supernatural senses, or is the recipient of a deliberate revelation of their status by them.  Both appear to be somewhat vulnerable to Unbelief, though they cope with it better than the Bygones.

Faeries remain rare, while Changelings are somewhat more common.  It is hard to measure their numbers, as many Changelings retreat into Freeholds (which are often larger on the inside than on the outside) for weeks, months, or even years at a time.  Still, it can be assumed that any major city probably has a Freehold for the local Changelings, and that a large number of Freeholds are tucked away in the wildernesses of the world.  Changelings appear to be organized into a feudal society, dominated by the Sidhe (also known as the Alfar).  Faeries, on the other hand, are organized into loose courts, each of which represents a philosophical viewpoint, rather like our Traditions.  The fae seem to see themselves as all being involved in some sort of giant cosmic game.  Whoever gets the most points in it will win...something or another.  They aren't quite sure of that.  And each court plays the game in a different way...

Faeries and Changelings mostly respond poorly to Technomages of any kind, including the SoE and the VA.  The mere presence of such seems to bring down Unbelief upon them and helps to induce Static Quiets.  Changelings have few preferences with regard to other Magi.  The Faeries remember ancient pacts with the Verbena and the Order of Hermes, and many of them seem to see the Cult of Ecstasy as kindred spirits.

There are too many kinds of Faeries and Changelings to catalog here, although a few that mages have common dealings with will be briefly described.  The Sidhe, fairly human in appearance, seem to lead Changeling society and strongly dominate many of the Faerie courts.  Violent and thuggish and often murderous, the Redcaps are responsible for many of the worst atrocities of the Fae and Changeling kinds.  The Verbena have friendly dealings with the Dryads, faeries linked to forests and trees.

Shifters

The dominant nation of Shifters is the Werewolves, thanks to them slaughtering most of the other tribes of Shifters.  Thankfully, the Werewolves seem to be dying out.  Given the damage they've done to humanity and the world, it's about time.  Still, they're not completely useless.  They spend a lot of their energies these days fighting the Nephandi and Nephandic Spirits, and thus help to protect this world.  Except for the groups of werewolves who like to rampage through urban areas, killing everything that moves.  Thankfully, the Technocracy and the Vampires tend to kill the ones who indiscriminately rampage.

Werewolves derive their powers from Luna, the Aeon of the Moon, Terra, the Aeon of the Earth, and from many nature spirits who teach them various tricks.  The condition appears to be a combination of genetics and reincarnation of older souls (This has led some Dreamspeakers to speculate that there can only be so many Werewolves at one time, and thus their apparent decline is only because the human population is growing faster than the Werewolf population).  Werewolves possess many powers, but only a few are common to all werewolves.  They all seem able to shift between human, wolf, and wolf-man forms.  They quickly heal most damage, although fire, acid, and silver inflict wounds they cannot so easily heal.  They can enter the Umbra at will, though it doesn't always work if the Gauntlet is too thick.  To a greater or lesser extent, they have superhuman strength, stamina, and speed.  Their claws inflict wounds not easily healed.  They are known to possess a class of sorcerors who practice magic in the style of the Dreamspeakers.  Finally, Sleepers tend to flee screaming from them, and quickly forget they ever saw them.  It is theorized by House Bonisagus that this is a conditioned reflex instilled in humanity during the Impergium.

Werewolves are organized into many tribes.  For the most part, these tribal divisions are of little relevance to Magi, since most Werewolves will hate you and want to kill you on sight.  They believe we're all out to turn the Earth into a big ball of webs or some such stupid primitive fear.  A few tribes are worth knowing, though you will likely have a hard time figuring out what tribe any given Werewolf is anyway.  The Silver Fangs lead the Werewolves.  Many of them are insane, but the rest have much respect.  The Red Talons are psychopaths who wish to exterminate humanity.  They typically remain in wolf or wolf-like forms most of the time, and are the number one source of Werewolf rampages in cities.  The Glass Walkers, unlike other Werewolves, like to live in cities, and are usually much more sane than the rest of their kin.  The Uktena tribe act as jailors for powerful spirits imprisoned long ago by the Werewolves.  If an Uktena tells you not to go somewhere, it is usually wise to listen unless one enjoys being eaten by marauding Umbrood.

Werewolf society is centered around Caerns.  These are nodes which have been attuned to the Werewolf Paradigm.  If you are truly insane, raiding a Caern is a great way to get lots of quintessence if you don't mind a dozen or more powerful Spirit-magic wielding hard to kill psychopaths hunting you to the ends of the universe for revenge.  Some Caerns are run by a single tribe, others are run by multiple.  Like wolves, Werewolves tend to run in packs; if you meet a lone werewolf, it probably means his friends are hiding in the Umbra, watching you to see if you need to be eaten.  Most Caerns, and most Werewolves live in the depths of the wilderness, though they are known to breed with humans, which one can assume means they come out into civilization sometimes.

There are many other species of Shifters, as the Garou proved unequal to the task of exterminating all their relatives.  Were-sharks, bears, crows, rats, snakes and spiders are known to exist.  Rumors speak also of were-coyotes, wombats, foxes, cranes, crocodiles, falcons, and cows.  They possess a handful of caerns, but for the most part, they are even more shrunken and weak than the Werewolves.  At one time, each of them performed some special function, but with them all in hiding from the Garou, they have become generalists to survive, so far as we can tell.
 

Vampires

It seems likely that Vampires are in fact the most common supernatural creature in existence after Spirits.  At least in the context of Earth.  While it remains debatable as to how many of them actually exist, almost every single city on Earth seems to have them.  The main reason for this is that they can 'reproduce' much faster than other supernaturals.  They primarily live in cities, since they must fear the sun, and it's easier for them to find victims there.

Vampires seem to come in many different bloodlines, known as Clans, each of which claims descent from a common vampiric ancestor, and each of which has its own set of powers.  Most of these bloodlines are known only to experts, but a few of them are well known by Magi.  The Tremere were once a house of the Order of Hermes; they possess powerful magics which tap the power of their blood.  The Malkavians are all insane, making them very dangerous.  The Tzmisce possess strange body warping powers and tend to be demented freaks; they are best avoided or destroyed, depending on one's ability to smite them.  They also weild many blood magics.  Vampiric society is feudal, with each city ruled over by a Prince who allots feeding grounds to his vassals.  There is a great assembly of these Princes which oversees Vampiric society, though most Princes are largely autonomous.  There is a strong rebel movement against the Princes, known as the 'Anarchs' or the 'Sabbat'.  (Sabbat appear to be Anarchs who have sold themselves to Demons and had most of their brains removed.  The Technocracy seems to intervene most of the time when the Sabbat successfully unseats a local Prince.  This has led to many rumors that the Princes have some sort of secret alliance with the Technocracy.  Others believe that the Technocracy simply doesn't want rampaging, demon-worshipping vampire freaks taking over any cities.)

Vampires must feed periodically to survive, but don't seem to need to kill their prey.  Vampire blood can be drunk by other beings, making them stronger and faster and able to heal more effectively, but also swiftly turning them into slaves of the Vampires they drink from.  Vampire blood is, in fact, Tass, and can be used as such.  Many of the traditional remedies against Vampires do not work, but they do fear the sun, which burns them, they can be paralyzed by a stake through the heart, and they are rather vulnerable to fire and acid.  Vampires tend to be very touchy, and like Werewolves, easily go berserk with rage or fear.

Vampires possess a lot of influence in mortal society; some cities are virtually controlled by them, while others are mostly free of Vampiric influence.  This is most common in cities controlled by other supernaturals or in cities of such great importance that all the factions competing for power cancel each other out.  Oneof the major reasons why Vampires bother to control mortal society is in order to maintain the Masquerade, the attempt by Vampires to avoid being discovered by mortals so that humanity doesn't deploy its 100,000 to 1 numerical advantage to exterminate vampire-kind.
 

Wraiths

The fate of the dead remains debatable.  Some people seem to be reincarnated after some passage of time, especially the Awakened.  The fate of many people remains unknown.  But some become Wraiths.  It would appear the main cause of this is exactly what Sleepers believe to be the main focus of ghosts:  unfinished business.  Wraiths stick around to interact with their loved ones, avenge their deaths, finish some great work of art, or otherwise get things done that death prevented them finishing.  Many wraiths seem to pass on once they accomplish these goals, although there is known to be wraith societies in the depths of the Low Umbra which have few direct dealings with mortals and play their own political games in the dark.

Wraiths are spirit entities with heavy entropic resonance who dwell in the 'Dark Umbra'.  The geography of that place will be discussed in the Umbra section.  Wraiths have their own powers, many of which are geared towards affecting the world of the living for good and ill.  Their powers are fairly feeble compared to those of many other supernatural beings, though a few Wraiths gain levels of strength that would enable them to take on even powerful Magi.  On the other hand, it's very hard for us to do anything to them.  They can pass through solid objects in the material world, and virtually any magic which effects them has to penetrate the Shroud (the Gauntlet of the Dark Umbra) and is usually vulgar as hell.  Worse, you can kill a wraith dozens of times, and within days, he will be back, coming to get you again.  Sleepers have a tendency to forget encounters with Wraiths.

Rumor has it Wraiths feed on passions in some manner, but it remains unclear how this works.

Wraiths do not really come in any sort of tribes or breeds, though it's believed many Wraiths belong to 'Guilds' which teach specific powers.  There's also rumors of some sort of army of Wraiths and wraithly governments.
 
 

Why Hasn't the Technocracy Wiped Out the Supernaturals?  Why hasn't Unbelief or Paradox done the job?

We can, of course, only guess at the Technocracy's motives, but most people believe the Technocracy wants to avoid open, bloody war, and hopes that since all of the major supernatural groups hide from humanity anyway, they will eventually be written out of the paradigm and will die from Unbelief.  This seems to have worked for the Bygones, but Wraiths, Vampires, Faeries/Changelings, and Shifters seem to stubbornly resist this.  Why?

Vampires are simply burned into human consciousness, despite the Masquerade.  Millenia of interaction has so far made them too much a part of Sleeper culture to have yet fallen under Unbelief.  It is also possible that by feeding on humans, they are able to fight off Unbelief's effects; their transformation of human blood into Tass in their own systems would seem to indicate this.

Shifters have interbred with humanity for millenia, and influenced us to the point that Sleepers have innate Shifter-inspired instinctive behaviors.  Only by successfully breeding away those instincts could Shifters be made subject to Unbelief.

The Faeries were driven out for a time by Unbelief; their return would seem to indicate that the tide may be turning.  As for Changelings, they struggle with Unbelief in the form they call 'Banality'.

Finally, the Wraiths largely live on the other side of the Gauntlet, and thus don't have to worry about it.

Sleepers and Consensual Reality

The vast majority of the sentients of this Earth are Sleepers.  They go about their ordinary lives without any understanding of the struggles hidden all around them.  But they possess the ultimate power:  They determine the laws of reality.  At one time, the laws of nature were set by the will of powerful spirits.  But humanity has now grown in numbers to the point that the subconscious will of the Sleepers can make changes that even the Aeons must respect.  Consensual reality is at its strongest in places where Sleepers dwell.  Thus it is that the Gauntlet is strongest in cities and weakest in deep wilderness, at Nodes, and at the bottom of the seas.

The Sleepers have, by choice or often against their will, bought into the paradigm the Technocracy espouses.  Still, this triumph has not yet been complete, for if it was, then Dynamic Magic would cease to work for anyone but the Technocracy, and perhaps not even for them.  Many forms of Magic still work, even if Paradox scourges Magi.

Some Sleepers can be described as Drowsy; those Sleepers are people who have come to believe in Magic, but don't have the power to actually perform it.  A sufficient number of such in a place can enable even Vulgar magics to avoid the scourge of Paradox, so long as other unbelievers are not about.
 

Cosmological Geography

There are many cosmological theories among Magi.  This is but one of them. Almost all of the Universe is in fact, the Deep Umbra, where Spirit and Matter are one, and Paradox does not exist.  There are no sleepers and no consensual reality; every being makes reality into what they wish it to be.  Most of the Solar System is actually in the Deep Umbra.  An invisible barrier known as the Horizon protects the Earth and the Near Umbra from the things which lurk in the Deep Umbra.  Many groups of mages build pocket universes attached to the Horizon known as Horizon Realms for various purposes.  Inside the Horizon are the Three Umbras and Consensual Space.  Consensual Space is the world where mundane folk live, the Earth and Moon that we know.  It is seperated from the Three Umbras by a barrier known as 'The Velvet Curtain', the Gauntlet, or the Shroud.

The Three Umbras are known as the Astral, Living, and Dead Umbras.  Magi, Shifters, and Wraiths tend to visit them respectively.  Each of them begins closest to Consensual Space in a region known as the Penumbra (or the Shadowlands in the case of Wraiths).  This region mirrors the mundane world, as seen through the lense of intellect, spirituality, or death respectively.  From the Penumbra, one can follow spirit trails to various realms to be found within the Near Umbra.  Some realms can only be reached from specific layers of the Umbra, while others seem to overlap.  For example, only within the living Umbra can one find Pangaea, the memory of the Earth in elder days; only within the High Umbra will one find the Court of the Hermit (one of the Preceptors of the Tarot); only through the Dead Umbra can one reach Stygia, city of the Dead.  Other realms seem to overlap, such as Dystopia, a city of the nightmares of urban decay and future shock, which can be reached from both the High and Living Umbra.

The High Umbra is the realm of most interest for Magi, since most Magi find themselves there upon passing the gauntlet.  (Though Dreamspeakers and Verbena are able to open the way into the Living Umbra, and the Euthanatos are said to know how to enter the Dead Umbra).  This can be done via Mind 5 (Astral Umbra only, regardless of Tradition) or Spirit 3.  The Penumbra of the High Umbra reflects each Magi's mindset, and thus may appear quite different to different mages, even of the same tradition.  From there, one enters the rather Ditkoesque realm of the Astral Near Umbra, where one travels by attuning one's mind to the concepts one is seeking.  The realms of the High Umbra tend to reflect Symbols and Intellectual Constructs.  One could find, for example, the realm of Communism or the Number Five.

At the 'heights' of the High Umbra, one comes to the Courts, where the Aeons and Preceptors hold court over the many Umbrood who serve them.  It remains debatable as to how many Courts exist and how they are organized.  Known Courts include the Elemental Courts, the Angelic and Demonic Courts, and the Tarot Court (Which is ruled over by the Arcana of the Tarot, and served by four subordinate Suit Courts).  Beyond them are said to lie realms where the Oracles dwell.

Also of interest in the High Umbra are the Shard and Shade Realms.  Most of the Shard Realms, except for Luna, rest in the Deep Umbra. They are the 'planets' of Sleeper belief, each linked to one of the Shade Realms, which can be accessed from inside the Horizon.  The Shade Realms each incarnate one of the Spheres, and seem to form 'alternate universes', in which that Sphere is dominant.  Several of the Shade Realms are dominated by various Ancestral Chantries, such as Doissetep's dominance of the Shade Realm of Forces.

To further complicate matters, certain 'Zones' run through the Umbra, touching the Astral, Living, and Dead Umbras.  They tend to operate under their own strange rules:  the Mirror Zone, the Dreaming, and the Digital Web.

Umbrood

The origin and nature of spirits remains debatable.  All that is known for sure is that there seems to be a two way feedback between spirits and the material world.  Spirits are sustained by human belief or by the material things they embody.  At the same time, spirits then influence the mortal world to ensure the flow of mortal belief to empower them or to protect the things they embody.  They cannot easily cross the Gauntlet to the material world, and if they do, they must take on bodies of flesh or 'inanimate' matter to act here.  But in the Umbra, their bodies are made of pure spirit.

There are endless arguments about the hiearchies of spirits and the levels of spirit power, but certain broad divisions tend to be recognized by all the Traditions.

Aeons

The Aeons are the most powerful and rare of the spirits.  They rule over the various Courts and over the Shard Realms.  They can snuff you like a light, so unless you have no other choice, they are best avoided.  Whereas other spirits usually exist only in one of the Umbras, the Aeons frequently have aspects suitable to each of the Three Umbras.  The Wyrm, who embodies the principle of Entropy, often manifests as the Defiler Wyrm in the High Umbra, Beast-of-War (an animalistic, murderous aspect) in the Living Umbra, and as the Consuming Wyrm in the Dead Umbra.  The Aeon of the Earth appears as Terra in the High Umbra and Gaia in the Middle Umbra (her identity in the Low Umbra is unknown to this Chronicler).  And so forth.

Preceptors

The Preceptors are the most powerful servants of the Aeons.  It is possible for mortals such as ourselves to have dealings with them, though they are often too busy for us.  Some of them seem to be avatars of the Aeons, others are not.  (For example, the Aeon Luna has a Preceptor avatar named Phoebe who meets with Shifters and Magi who seek out the Shard Realm of Prime).  Some of them seem to watch over specific groups, nations, and so on.  (Each of the Shifter Tribes is believed to have a Preceptor Patron).  The Arcana of the Tarot Court are Preceptors, as are the Archangels of the Four Corners in Hermetic theory.

Minions

Minions are often free-roaming spirit agents of the Preceptors, or may overlook the operations of many minor Umbrood.  Where Aeons are inhuman and Preceptors are god-like, Minions often have human-like personalities.

Minor Umbrood

Minor Umbrood come in classes and vary little from individual to individual.  Many of them are tied down to very focused concepts or to incarnating specific physical things, such as tobacco spirits, wind elementals, and so on.