Encyclopaedia Arcana #52: Advanced Divination (Part Five)

A little-known fact about divination magic is that it is divided into two subtypes.  Both have gone by differing names over the centuries, but nowadays are most commonly referred to as Apollonian and Dionysian divination, although few would recognise the terms.  The two techniques are not mutually exclusive – nearly all diviners have at least some talent for both – but most show a marked preference for one over the other.

The Distant Archer

Apollonian divination is by far the better-known type of divination, and for most mages is the only type of divination they know anything about at all.  All of the previous four parts of this article have been describing Apollonian techniques, and most of the iconic abilities of divination magic – precognition, path-walking, danger sense – are Apollonian in origin.

Apollonian divination is rational, ordered, and impersonal.  It teaches that the universe is an essentially understandable place which can be analysed and predicted through the application of divination magic.  Since the universe is understandable, the Apollonian approach emphasises that a diviner should be able to spread their intake of data (to absorb as much raw information as possible) while also developing the ability to narrow their perception (to focus on specific chains of events into order to precisely predict them).  Apollonian divination perceives events from afar, in order to see them more clearly, and diviners who follow the Apollonian model often develop a degree of disconnection from their visions of the future, even when they’re watching their own fate.

Apollonian spells tend to be very good at predicting machines, natural forces, and physical events that follow a primarily deterministic pattern.  They’re less good with people and other living creatures (note that ‘less good’ doesn’t mean ‘bad’ – they’re still a powerful tool).  The main drawback to Apollonian divination is that it’s completely unable to foresee the future once enough complicating or unpredictable elements enter the picture, meaning that for any event involving other people there’s an effective hard cap to how far Apollonian divination can see.

Self-discipline is very important to an Apollonian diviner.  They take in vast amounts of information, yet strive to order it rather than letting it wash over them.  As a result, Apollonian diviners tend to be mentally organised and self-controlled.

In Vino Veritas

Dionysian divination works on a very different model from its partner.  It holds that the universe is an essentially mysterious place that can never be fully understood.  Dionysian divination is murky, unpredictable, and above all, personal – what one diviner sees with it will be very different from the visions of another.

The methods and techniques of Dionysian divination are poorly understood compared to Apollonian ones.  Dionysian lore has traditionally been oral, passed down from master to apprentice and rarely recorded in books – Dionysian diviners tend to believe that the essence of divination can only be understood by practice, and written guides are misleading.  In addition, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw sporadic attempts by factions within the Council to suppress Dionysian techniques.  As a result, what Dionysian diviners can do is better known than how they do it (which isn’t saying much).

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