In the 1890’s REAL magic is a lost and almost forgotten art. The stories of ancient wizards like Merlin or great societies like Atlantis are dismissed as fictional by all but a handful of scholars. Adepts and Mystics are the last of a dying breed.
Although interest in the Occult is huge throughout England, Europe and America, most of what passes as ‘magic’ is stage magic. Illusions, sleight of hand and elaborate prop devices meant to awe and entertain the crowds in theaters and public events. But, there ARE those who follow another path.
Most of those who research and study the ancient texts and artifacts are academics, archaeologists and historians who are oblivious to the possibility that what they contain may be something more then mere superstitions intended to explain phenomena that science is now revealing. But a few, very few, recognise that there is more here then meets the eye. Perhaps there is something in their natures, their brains are wired differently, or some racial memory lingers that allows these few to pull together the scraps of knowledge that remain and are able to actually make it work!
Centuries of active persecution by the Catholic Church and the other great religions, coupled with the sheer gulf of time, natural disasters and blind ignorance has destroyed, obliterated, scattered and corrupted most of the knowledge needed for real power, so learning anything at all is an expensive, labor intensive and time consuming task. It is made all the more difficult by the inherent risks in the the study itself. Things can go wrong, back lashes of unexpected power can injure, maim and even kill. It is not unheard of for such scholars to go mad or simply disappear! So to pursue the Real Occult one must be deeply committed, driven and perhaps a touch mad. And none of this is helped by the whispered rumors, amongst those in the know, that the Church, and others, continue their watch and hunt for practitioners of what they perceive as the ‘Dark Arts.’ They believed, and still believe, that wizards, sorcerers, warlocks, witches of what ever stripe, are in league with the Devil and draw their knowledge and powers from the Pits of Hell and the Fires of Damnation!
However, even as the Religious authorities condemn the Arcane studies, they embrace (somewhat warily) the seemingly miraculous powers displayed, rarely, by some of the Devout, the Holy Men and Women that are blessed (?) with powers from above. Loosely lumped under the title of ‘Mystic’ these gifted, but rare, people seem to be found scattered through most of the worlds religions, including faiths that the more “conventional” faiths don’t even consider religions.
The Christian Churches, Judaic Scholars and Rabbis and Muslim Mullahs, the faiths born of the Book, consider their gifted Mystics to be displaying the Power of God (Allah, Yahweh…) through the Rituals, Prayers and Ceremonies of their Faith. These Mystics are considered Ritualists and even if they are of a different faith, say Jewish vs Christian, they are granted a sort of “immunity” by the other religions of the Book. However, Mystics coming out of different religious traditions, for example Hinduism or Buddhism, are treated more warily by the Ritualist Faiths. These Mystics are considered ‘Naturalists’. In part because the Traditional Judeo-Hebrew religions don’t understand their texts or traditions and in part because the same Judeo-Hebrew faiths lump the Shamans and ‘nature oriented’ faiths found in distant lands, into the same category. (When they aren’t branding them Devil Worshippers!)