O is for Occult

In Pursuit of Secret Knowledge

The term occult is defined as the search for secret knowledge, usually in reference to trying to seek out the secrets of the universe. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that occult activities are often linked to an actual cult, because secrecy is a major player in that. That’s more religion worldbuilding than magic systems, though, so it’s a topic for another time/series.

This is where any taboos you’ve created in your magic systems are going to come into play. Anytime there is forbidden knowledge or magic, there will be those trying to learn it. It can also be knowledge that has not yet been discovered, and someone is desperate to know it.

One example from popular culture might be human transmutation in Fullmetal Alchemist. The knowledge of it was concealed, but partially so those in power could easily uncover those who had actually succeeded in it, and in turn use them for their own purposes. The further you read into the story (at least for the manga, and for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) the truth behind human transmutation quickly became occult-like.

Worldbuilding Exercises:

  • Are there any secrets about magic in your world that are concealed, whether deliberately or simply because they haven’t been discovered yet? What do they pertain to?
  • When the secrets have been deliberately concealed, how are they rediscovered? Are there any consequences for those who uncover them?
  • Does the process of uncovering those secrets have any long-term effects, whether negative or positive, on the person who discovers those secrets, or on the populace of your society or world as a whole?

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