Houston by Night: 1995 to the End of Days
The Verbena is a Tradition of mages in the Classic World of Darkness dedicated to preserving the ancient crafts and wisdom passed down over the ages by witches and warlocks, druids and druidesses, shamans, mystics, and priests and priestesses of the Old Gods. Though modern Verbena have some similarities to Wiccans, they are inheritors of far older legacies from disparate cultures originating around the world. Regardless of their many differing faiths and customs, the Verbena share many principles in common. This includes a deep respect for the Earth and the natural order, a holistic view of people and the world as intrinsically intertwined, and the belief that power and understanding can be found by embracing life in all its passions and pains. Of all the Traditions, the Verbena are perhaps most challenged by the changes brought to the world by advancing technology and expanding civilizations. Each member must find a way to apply the lessons and practices of the old ways to the modern world, or be seen by both mages and mortals as merely a fringe practitioner of a dying craft.
The Magic of Life Edit
Unlike many mages, the Verbena believe there is innate magic that flows through everything in Creation. There is real power in the phases of the moon and positions of the stars, in the combination of plants properly prepared, in the blood and seed of living creatures. Quintessence is the pulse of the universe itself, carrying energy and the potential for change, giving life to the world. Magic is that energy, that life, and whether one is Awakened or not they have it pumping through their veins. In fact, the Verbena count quite a number of hedge-magicians among their ranks and draw little distinction between them and true mages. To be Awakened is to merely intuitively sense the magic all around them, and to to shape it directly with their own life energy as the Verbena’s ancestors once did.
Tools and Practices Edit
The Verbena employ a wide variety of foci based on both their symbolic and mystical properties. Traditional tools include knives and daggers, broomsticks, wands, staves, cauldrons, mirrors, and jewelry. Some keep with them Books of Shadows containing the accumulated secrets of its owners. Herbs and potions are popular means of drawing out and combining the chemical and spiritual properties of plants, which can be especially potent when combined with the Verbena’s will and desire. Much of the knowledge passed down from mentor to apprentice and between members of a coven has to do with what effects different herbs are best used for. Perhaps the most powerful foci to the Verbena are bodily fluids, particularly blood and semen as carriers of life energy and sympathetic links to their source. Music, song, and dance are also used as means to to rouse their passions, give life to the Verbena’s will, and connect them to the people and cultures from which their rituals originate.
Prehistory: The Wyck Edit
Verbena speak of the Wyck as the first mages, beings of mortal flesh and primal spirit who could bend the world to their will. magic was everywhere in their time, and the Wyck wielded it with power and finesse unrivaled by any that followed. They were leaders, protectors, and pioneers of the first human communities. They traveled the Earth and other worlds, lived as one amongst the animals, battled terrible monsters, and brought back to their people knowledge of healing, divination, and crafts. After giving birth to children of their own and passing on their gifts, the Wyck eventually departed from the world, though to where or for what reason no one knows for sure.
Ancient History: The Aeduna Edit
The Aeduna were the heirs of the Wyck, literally and figuratively, and wielded some of their skill in Awakened magic. But whereas the Wyck had been outsiders and travelers, the Aeduna were born among and lived with humans as healers, scribes, priests and priestesses, philosophers, and scholars. They grew in power and prominence Across the Mediterranean, spreading over time throughout Europe and parts of Asia. Many figures of myth are claimed to have been Aeduna, such Circe, Lilith, Medea, Merlin, Morgan le Fey, and perhaps some of the ancient gods.
The Verbena believe that several groups of mages can trace their origins to offshoots of the Aeduna. The first and largest branch was the Dreamspeakers, who valued the spiritual over the living world, and would largely dominate the Americas and Africa for millennia. The second branch was the Cult of Dionysus, which consisted of individuals who basked in the joys of drinking, partying, and sex; they would eventually merge with others to create the Cult of Ecstasy. Finally, the Cosian Circle formed around 400 BCE in Greece from the efforts of Hippocrates to organize the Aeduna’s knowledge. Yet many of his students were ambitious and held little respect for the natural world; they performed dark and gruesome experiments that were condemned by the Aeduna.
The rise of the Roman Empire brought with it the Aeduna’s first adversary: the Cult of Mercury, a methodical and expansionist society of mages that would later evolve into the Order of Hermes. The Cult of Mercury began undermining the Aeduna’s influence in Greece and Italy, then actively aided the Romans in conquering Britannia and lands held by the Gauls, where the Old Ways had long been honored. The people called out to the Aeduna for help against the Romans, and the two groups of mages began to war against one another. The conflict continued for many centuries, and only intensified as Rome converted to Christianity and the Messianic Voices rose to power.
Dark Ages: The Old Faith Fellowship Edit
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Though the Roman Empire declined, the descendants of the Wyck continued to be locked in a three-way war with the Order of Hermes and the Messianic Voices. Yet over time the Order of Reason, an alliance formed from the union of the Cosian Circle with several other scientific traditions of willworkers, became a far greater threat. Using the knights and inquisitors of the Church as their weapons, the Order of Reason aimed to eliminate knowledge of the Old Ways along with all other forms of magic it did not approve of and control. The Old Faith Fellowship was the first attempt to unify pagan mages of disparate cultures and beliefs against their common enemies, but they could not hold back the fires of the Inquisition. Inquisitors put witches to the torch and ruthlessly eliminated evidence of the Old Faith wherever they could find it. Though the majority of those tried and killed by the Inquisitors were not members of the Old Faith, nor even true mages, their numbers were already few and continued to dwindle as a result of the purge.
Renaissance: The Verbenae Edit
LogoTradVerbenaSCVerbena Symbol during the Renaissance
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In the mid-15th century, adherents of the Old Ways banded together to join the Council of Nine, claiming the Seat of Life as the Verbena. Still, the Inquisition continued and the Verbena were forced to hide and practice their arts in secret, passing on their wisdom and secrets to new generations from mentor to apprentice and through Books of Shadows.
Modern Times: The Verbena Edit
By the 20th century the Verbena and their magic were little more than a legend in the mind of Sleepers, yet the 1960s saw a renewal of interest both in the occult and holistic lifestyles that shared a great deal in common with Verbena practices. In the decades since the Tradition has grown for the first time in centuries, particularly as factions within the Verbena placed greater emphasis on exploring new ideas and incorporating different cultures.
The Verbena are very loosely organized, with no official ranks or leadership. Individuals are sometimes given the title of novice, initiate, or elder, with the latter being a sign of great respect if not direct authority. A cabal of Verbena is called a Circle, and is usually formed around a goal or cultural identity shared by the members. Circles rarely exceed thirteen individuals, and are often quite smaller. Each Circle may have its own rules and customs, as well as a shared Book of Shadows. The only common role shared among Circles is that of high priest and priestess, the co-leaders of the group, particularly in regards to matters of ritual. Grand Circles are sometimes formed, if briefly, as Verbena gather to share news and ideas, celebrate the changing seasons, or discuss problems that are too large for a single cabal.