Magic is a word used to describe the indescribable—otherworldly events and fantastic creatures. Some magic is a reward given by the Harvest Gods in exchange for worship, but other types of magic also exist. The entire spirit world is highly magical, and a Ritualist with a strong will can tap into this to solve the needs of her community. Many of it’s uses are beneficial; improving a harvest, healing, good fortune and divining the future for example. Others are at the detriment of others; curses, enforced shapechanging and binding spirits. Magic is rarely violent, though it’s use can lead to violence.
One of my primary references during the writing of Crestfallen was Shamanism: Archaic techniques of ecstasy, by Mircea Eliade, a very famous book in shamanic circles. Crestfallen’s use of magic stems from this book, along with The Celtic Druid’s Year, by John King. We have intentionally chosen to ignore roleplaying game conventions, and construct a magic system that reflects the needs of the communities that use it. It is rare to harm someone directly with magic, though it is possible. Magic is an aid to daily life, not a superweapon.
In hard gaming terms, magic has more of a buff/debuff mechanic (using Fate aspects), it also focuses on binding spirits and shapechanging. A Ritualist tends to be a community leader, not a wizard hiding in his tower. The bigger your congregation, the easier it is to perform magic—so it pays to keep them sweet and be socially competent! Magic allows a Ritualist to be adaptable to the issues of the day. Need to cross a raging river? Bind the spirit of King Salmon and shapechange into him! Need to travel through a fierce snowstorm? Perform a weather ritual to calm it to a few flakes of snow! Need to escape an arranged marriage? Turn your betrothed into a pig!
We speak about the spirit world in another post (here), suffice to say magic is impossible without it. A war is raging over the use of magic itself, the Weavers want to promote the worship of the Harvest Gods and the use of magic. Each time this happens the Veil thins a little, the mortal and spirit worlds knit together that little bit more—the Weavers hope that one day the world will return to the primaeval paradise called An-ki, a supernatural world of animism where every living thing had a wise spirit. The Frost Cults want to promote civilisation and science, this thickens the Veil and pushes the two worlds further apart. Magic is harder to perform, the Harvest Gods weaken and travel to the spirit world is more difficult. This is a surprisingly popular viewpoint, many mortals fear being possessed by angry spirits. The supernatural weather caused by the clashing of mortal and spiritual weather fronts where the Veil is thin is a great calamity, the Frost Cults aim to end this by pushing the two worlds irrevocably apart.