by Dr. Catherine Romanova
Professor of Arcane Studies, Solar University
Magic is the art of manipulating the universe by control of various sources of supernatural energy. There are thousands of different ways of manipulating this energy, but only a relative handful of actual sources, although the stories surrounding those sources shroud this fact. Or possibly we're oversimplifying in our drive to rationalize the unknowable.
Anyway, there are four major sources of magical power:
There are two major ways in which magic is typically invoked: by accessing some set of magical laws or by invoking some being of power to grant you power. Magi of sufficient experience and will often transcend this and become able to do magic by pure will alone. Some speculate this may be the origin of many of the beings who are often invoked for aid: they were once magi who reached a state where they could directly tap the energies without props. This remains unknown.
While magic may appear to be free, it is not. Every known form exacts prices in the form of transforming its wielder and the world around him. Powerful magi become nexi of unlikely probabilities and coincidence which coerce them down certain paths of action. His or her body may alter gradually, along with his personality, either exalted or corrupted by the power he wields. Power may not always corrupt, but in changing the world, the magi also changes his/herself.
Sources of Power
The Silver Force:
In the time of the Moon Kingdom, benevolent natural magical energies were known as the Silver Force, a font of power which is stronger in some locations, but has no apparent source or cause, and thus was seen as one of the Forces of nature. The Silver Force is strongest in places where no great evil deeds have been performed and where acts of kindness and love have taken place. It is attuned to healing and creation, although it certainly can be used for destruction: created fire will burn, lightning will electrocute, ice will freeze, etc. Different cultures have given this force many different names. The Jurai Power, and the Kasuga clan's Power derive from this source, as does the power of the Sailor Senshi, the Zodiac, and the Silver Crystal. The differences in capabilities between these various groups is often cited as an argument that this is really a broad category of power sources. The truth remains unclear.
The cost of the Silver Force is responsibility and a general twisting of the personalities of its wielders towards benevolence. It demands deeds of its wielders, who it calls to greatness. Many fail that call and can tap it only weakly if at all. Those who call upon it with ill intent either fail, or end up calling upon dark forces instead with the usual effects.
This is a loose catch-all category for the power the universe gives to those who do evil deeds. Like the Silver Force, it has no apparent source and suffuses the universe, being stronger in some places than others. It is strongest in places where evil deeds have been done, places of death, rape, and destruction. It is attuned to destroying and corrupting things, though it can be used to create twisted parodies of things. The Black Moon family and the Things from Beyond often tap this source of power, along with Youmas, Cardians, and used-car salesmen.
The Dark Force is most insidious, because it seems to be free, with no strings attached. Those who call upon it slowly warp themselves, becoming monsters in body, mind, and or soul, finally ending their days as some hideous parody of what once they were. Often the wielder is oblivious to these changes, or even comes to revel in them, which usually acclerates the process. Once you step down that road, it becomes harder and harder to turn back.
While Divine and Demonic power is the same everywhere, most worlds have different mana levels, which influences how much power you can tap over time. Mana tends to be at a fairly average level in most regions of deep space, but varies greatly by world. Worlds with too high a mana level become toxic and uninhabitable as even animals warp their environment in unpredictable ways. Trying to summon a simple palm flame burns down entire forests. Other worlds may have virtually no magic at all. Magic tends to alter in cycles as most worlds fluctuate over millenia between high and low levels of mana, and this shift sometimes becomes one of the levers driving historical development.
This is benevolent power from the Kamis of Lights. The Kamis of Light rarely grant power to mortals, but sometimes intervene in specific cases or with specific individuals. The Goddess of the Goddess Relief Office tap this source of power, which ultimately filters down from Kamisama. Like the Silver Force, it is best at healing and creation. Many of those able to tap this force have some kind of character on their forehead which manifests at certain times (or all times). Belldandy, Urd, and Skuld are noted weilders of divine power.
The demons weild this power source, drawn from their masters, who in turn draw power from their masters. Demons can also extract this power from those who have been corrupted by Dark Power or who have rightfully passed into their hands. One classic demonic scam is to buy someone's soul with a promise of power, then use that person's soul to provide the power they are granted, which is usually less than the soul is capable of weilding. The demon then keeps the rest of the power for itself. Demons sell their power cheaply, but there's always a catch, above and beyond its corrupting effects. Those who call upon this power frequently are either damned or likely to join the ranks of demonkind soon.
Methodologies of Magic
There are a million and one ways of tapping magical energies.
The following are examples, rather than an exhaustive encyclopedia.