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He doesn't necessarily hit you with his sword arm. He hits you with his faith.
D&D designer Andy Collins, on 4th Edition Paladins

Faith is amazing. Faith is powerful. Faith can start wars, convince someone to live a life of charity and wholesomeness, and move mountains. We all bind up faith in different ways, with different belief systems and different values.

Thing is, some of those belief systems look a bit strange to those outside of them. They may latch on to one detail or another and blow it entirely out of proportion when compared to the main tenets of the faith. And if that faith has a mystical edge to it, you can imagine it's only a matter of time before that faith is seen less as religion and more as magic.

One of The Oldest Ones in the Book, as the "magi" from which the term "magic" is derived were, in fact, Persian priests.

Generally, the more well known religions see this less, as most people will have met a rabbi, a priest, or an imam (walking into a bar optional), and noticed the lack of spellcasting. The connection between religion and the mysterious is still common, as is the portrayal of priests, especially Catholics (and, though not nearly as popular for whatever reason, Eastern Orthodox with the Mysteries), as someone well versed in magic and lore. There are a handful of religions that will nearly always get this treatment, particularly Voodoo and any sort of native faith. The former does have a sort of magic associated with it, but it's called Hoodoo, not Voodoo.

Shinto "magic" is an odd case, as it turns up frequently in anime and manga, where the creators are presumably well-versed in at least the basics of the religion, so it's not a case of ignorance so much as knowingly putting reality aside for the sake of the story. Or possibly just running with the mythology for the heck of it. The Japanese are noted for being low in religion and high in superstition (ex., ghosts) and mixing them together, anyway. It's not so different from some Western fiction where Catholic priests become experts in slaying vampires, or banishing demons. And, of course, many books have been written discussing the difference between religion and superstition, or if there even is such a thing (in either direction).

See Magical Native American for an example of a subtrope of this phenomenon. Related to Clap Your Hands If You Believe and often accompanied by Sadly Mythtaken.

It should be noted that most religions do require a belief in some type of magic from followers, typically in the form of supernatural effects or the alteration of fate through a verbal, mental, or physical "spell" referred to as prayer or meditation. Such prayers, directed at entities that aren't the protagonist of the relevant mythology, usually get their own special name, see Deal with the Devil. For obvious reasons, religious magic tends to focus on treating with spirits of various kinds, though Hermetic magic, Alchemy, and Psionics sometimes show up in religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Exactly how seriously adherents are supposed to take the assertion that magic exists varies a lot form sect to sect: tell a buddhist that you doubt that monks can actually levitate and he'll probably agree that it seems unlikely-- tell a Christian in the US Southeast that people can't resurrect themselves or magically duplicate food and they will look shocked and probably never speak to you again.

Common powers include Turn Undead and exorcising demons. A Church Militant may also get the Holy Hand Grenade.

Contrast No Such Thing as Wizard Jesus. See also Sentient Cosmic Force.

Examples of Religion Is Magic include:


Catholicism

 see Fantastic Catholicism for fictional Catholic Examples

Real Life Edit

  • Holy objects have been ascribed magical or miraculous powers by early Christians and the Catholic Church. Such objects include the Holy Grail, the Spear of Destiny, pieces of the True Cross, and body parts of saints.
  • The whole point of Real Life syncretic practices like santeria and curanderismo, and some aspects of hoodoo and other kinds of folk magic. A lot more common than you'd think. A botánica is present in most cities with a sizable Latino population.
  • The official Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation states that, when a priest blesses the the wine and wafers at Communion, these are changed in substance into the blood and flesh of Christ.
  • Worth noting that several prominent Catholic clergymen had reputations as alchemists and/or magicians during the medieval period ... including Robert Grosseteste (Bishop of Lincoln), Roger Bacon (a monk) and Pope Sylvester II.
  • For an inversion, St Augustine asserted that the Church could not follow the Biblical command of "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live", because magic and witches did not exist and most "magic", such as astrology, did not actually work, so at worse witches were con artists and at best simply dumb. A side effect of this is that, contrary to popular belief, neither the Catholic Church nor any of the Inquisitions endorsed or officially carried out any executions of witches, because witches weren't real. On the occasions that did happen it was either overzealous and ill-informed priests acting without sanction, or much more commonly secular courts or mobs acting alone, especially before the Reformation. In addition, "witchcraft" was vaguely defined and in practice often covered crimes like poisoning.

Egyptian

Western Animation Edit

  • Subverted in The Prince of Egypt, where the priests' "powers" are nothing more than showmanship and sleight-of-hand tricks.
    • Played straight with Moses's miracles.

Real Life Edit

  • The bread and butter of an Egyptian priest consisted of enchanting amulets for sale to customers. There was a certain tendency throughout much of Egyptian history to assume that even the gods could be coerced into obedience with the right ritual observances. "Thou shalt not take the Lord's Name in vain" was in fact a Commandment against attempting to coerce the Hebrew god that way.
    • The above is correct, despite the common notion that it means you aren't supposed to say "Oh my God." That idea is made doubly ridiculous by the fact that "God" is not YHWH's name. The commandment probably also has something to do with not swearing false oaths by God, or using God as an excuse to do evil things, like start wars (at least, wars he didn't tell you to start, which he was pretty big on in the Old Testament).

Hinduism

Film Edit

  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
  • All of Me, starring Steve Martin. It is entertaining but the bits about the "Hindu" character and his "powers" was insulting and had absolutely no connection whatsoever to Hinduism or any existing religion (not even Scientology).

Western Animation Edit

  • Hadji from Jonny Quest is a Hindu boy who uses the all-purpose incantation "Sim, Sim, Salabim" to perform a number of magical feats.

Buddhism

Anime and Manga Edit

  • The Kougonshuu in Shikabane Hime is a fictional Buddhist sect that trains their priests and monks in a variety of magical skills, most notably the creation of undead-slaying Shikabane Hime.

Videogames Edit

  • Mentioned to exist in Touhou (and Shou may actually use it), but the majority of the Buddhist characters use their natural power or other aquired abilities when they need to fight.

Real Life Edit

  • Many Buddhist traditions include monks being developing spiritual powers (flight, control of weather, etc) and having the ability to invoke and banish or bind spirits. As in the yogic traditions above, these powers are seen as a potential distraction from achieving enlightenment and so are to be used sparingly. Additionally, relics of the Buddha and other enlightened individuals are supposed to have particular power.
    • An interesting note is how matter of fact the treatment of the supernatural can be in some Buddhist traditions. For example, in many Tibetan monestaries part of the oath you take when you become a monk is that you are not a spirit disguised as a human being. Other monasteries are placed specifically to be bindings for demons, oracles and divinations are fairly common practice for lamas, and there are many lamas who have repeatedly reincarnated and continued their teaching. Part of the reason Chinas destruction of monasteries and abuse of monks during the cultural revolution was so devastating was the way knowledge of the spiritual landscape and the wereabouts of reincarnated lamas was lost.

Islam, actually all via Sufism

Anime and Manga Edit

  • Rozen Maiden as manga only Kirakishoo's artificial spirit is Sufi!
  • Fullmetal Alchemist as its resident God is called "the Truth"!
    • Jews and a number of other people also call God "Truth" (Sikhs might have got it from Sufis), and FMA's main philosophical underpinnings are actually watered-down
      • In the beginning was logos... and logos became flesh and dwelt among men. Probably taken further by the Gnostics, as usual.
  • Hermeticism.
    • There is a lot of Christian subtext in Fullmetal Alchemist, some Kabbalic elements, and pretty much no Islam. Also, 'Truth guy' is a sadistic grinning silhouette who you only encounter if you break a taboo and trade away part of yourself for knowledge. Ed wants to beat him up. He never actually gets to, nor his older brother the wannabe god, but it'd be nice to see.

Comic Books Edit

Film Edit

  • The kooky holy man from The Jewel Of The Nile may or may not have walked through fire without harm; certainly it looks like he does, and the locals who witness this feat believe it's a miracle, but it could just be the camera angle.

Judaism

Anime and Manga Edit

Comic Books Edit

  • Ragman, from DC Comics, gains his powers from a Judaic artifact ceated as a replacement for the golem of Prague.

Film Edit

  • The dybbuk is a possessing spirit of a dead person from Jewish folklore. Somewhat like The Crow, it has unfinished business in the living world and will leave its host once its work is complete. The Crow doesn't have anybody possessed, though. Eric is just a very pretty zombie.
    • The old Yiddish film The Dybbuk naturally features a dybbuk who possesses the body of his lover.
    • The horror movie The Unborn uses the dybbuk as a completely malevolent spirit. A rabbi uses Jewish rituals to help banish it.
  • Jewish mysticism is somewhat subverted in Pi, where a Kabbalistic sect knows about the hero's magic number, but cannot discover it for themselves. Ultimately they are shown to be no closer to decoding the universe than a stockbroking firm.

Folklore Edit

  • Golems come from Jewish folklore. A particularly holy rabbi can create a golem from clay, like Adam was shaped from clay, and give it life using Hebrew words of power, much like the word of God created the universe. Traditionally, the Hebrew word "emet", meaning "truth" is written on the golem's head. The golem can be killed by erasing the first letter to spell "met," meaning "dead." While Golems have become fantasy stock characters, their Hebrew origins are sometimes acknowledged.

literature Edit

  • The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein

Video Games Edit

  • The video game Vampire: The Masquerade: Redemption features a Jewish Quarter level in which a (sabotaged) rabbi's golem has run amok.

Real Life Edit

  • There are multiple passages in the Torah (as well as the Old Testament for Christians) chastising believers for treating religion as magic. One of the more poignant passages is Isaiah 1:11--

 "The multitude of your sacrifices--what are they to me?" says the Lord. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats."

  • During the early Middle Ages, Jewish magicians (Kabbalists) were often sought out for guidance as it was rumored Jewish magic was very powerful. The traditional five-fingered khamsa (hand) charm to ward against evil found its way into North Africa via migrant Jews, for instance.
    • Aleister Crowley would later go on to base his writings on magic around Kabbalah.

Native American Faiths

Orthodox Christianity

Tabletop Games Edit

  • The RPG Mythic Russia allows Russian characters to wield power via their Orthodox Christian faith, as well as native Russian paganism. Characters from other countries can use Catholicism and various varieties of paganism to the same effect.

Shinto

Anime and Manga Edit

  • Sakura from Blue Seed was a Miko, using her powers as a weapon against the Aragamis. Momiji, while not a miko herself, was a bit more spiritual than usual for Japan.
  • Sailor Mars, from Sailor Moon, was a miko with certain abilities to sense evil and expel minor demons among other things, to the point some people thought she was a witch. Interestingly these are completely unrelated to her superhero powers later. Other adaptation sometimes combine them, possibly to avoid actually mentioning spiritual powers.
  • Tsukuyomi Moon Phase is also chock-full of Shinto magic.
  • Inuyasha is crawling with Shinto Miko and Buddhist priests, but their abilities seem to be more inborn than related to their spirituality, particularly in the case of main character Kagome (nominally identified as a miko).
  • Mikan from Rental Magica is a Miko whose magic is based on actual Shinto chants and rites.
  • Wagaya no Oinari-sama. is practically dripping with Shinto magic; most of the main and supporting characters can use it in one form or another. The title references the god Inari and the god Ebisu is a supporting character, both figures from Shinto religion.

Video Games Edit

  • In Touhou, being a shrine maiden naturally equals having great power. The protagonist of the series, Hakurei Reimu, is considered a terrible shrine maiden of a run-down godless shrine but, even if it weren't for the mostly harmless conflict resolution system of Gensokyo at which she contractually excels, her powers would make losing impossible.
    • Kotiya Sanae, a recent addition, is a shrine maiden capable of performing miracles. This has less to do with her position as a shrine maiden and more to do with her having a god for an ancestor.

Voudon (See also Hollywood Voodoo)

Comic Books Edit

  • In comics, there's Brother Voodoo for Marvel and Empress for DC. Then again, at least both characters go to the effort to name check the Loa they're invoking. The Houngan, on the other hand, an old DC character, used techno-voodoo. How a syncretic religion like voudon got boiled down to zapping little Robo Sapien dolls with a soldering iron is a little mind-straining.
    • In his initial appearance, Houngan seems to be using sophisticated technology and some not-well-researched vaguely voodoo-ish trappings. Or to put it more simply, he's a nutcase with really neat toys.
  • Marvel's short-lived New Universe line back in the mid 80s, which was supposed to be more like the real world than the normal Marvel universe, voodoo magic still "worked". The "magic" was all retconned as Paranormals who were unaware of their powers.

Film Edit

  • Baron Samedi (named after the Loa of the same name) from the Bond flick Live and Let Die. He's called "the man who cannot die", and apparently, he doesn't.
  • Childs Play has Chucky bound up in a doll's body by means of a voodoo ritual. Bonus points for using a voodoo doll to interrogate his mentor.
  • In The Princess and the Frog the "shadow man" proclaims his skills with voodoo, hoodoo, and things he ain't even tried. He appears to be a basic fortuneteller and minor peddler of spells, until his plans get under way.

Literature Edit

  • Whilst not exactly magic, the extremely powerful AIs in William Gibsons's Neuromancer sequels took the identities of Loa when interacting with humans, acting in the same way as their Voudoun counterparts and giving all sorts of gifts to those who dealt with them, if not exactly worshipped them.
  • Voodoo plays a central role in Robert E. Howard's story "Pigeons From Hell".

Multiple Edit

  • Any form of media that has ever used the term "voodoo doll".
  • In fact, most forms of media with zombies that don't treat zombies as The Virus are guilty of this as well.

Professional Wrestling Edit

  • WWF wrestler Papa Shango was a wrestling voodoo priest who used magic to set his opponents' boots on fire, make them throw up, and make black goo ooze from their hairline.

Video Games Edit

  • Saints Row 2 mostly averts this with the Sons of Samedi, a gang of drug dealers who just happen to worship the loa. Then you get in a boss fight with Mister Sunshine, who, in a mostly mundane game, has a voodoo doll that can make you fall down.
  • Gabriel Knight The first game of the series, Sins of the Father, is set in New Orleans and deals with a voodoo cult.

Western Animation Edit

Wicca

Film Edit

  • The movie The Craft has four girls using pagan-derived magic to take over their school and inevitably go all Carrie.

Live-Action TV Edit

  • Willow on Buffy claimed to be a Wiccan, but it was a catch-all for "witch". In the episode "Hush", she's actually disappointed that a student Wiccan group is focused more on their faith, or rather the seemings thereof, rather than raw magical power, and in a combined Lampshade Hanging and Take That, calls them, "a bunch of wanna-blessed-be's."
  • Charmed gets bonus points for adopting the barest elements of Wicca and throwing out everything else about the cosmology, choosing instead to reach into the mythological grab bag.

Western Animation Edit

  • The Scooby Doo movie Scooby Doo and the Witch's Ghost had a field day with this one. (Or possibly several field days.) First, it treats Wicca as an inherited trait with one character claiming she's one-sixteenth Wiccan. Second, it automatically treats Wiccans as good while witches (and warlocks) are automatically evil. Third, it implies there were Wiccans around in the 1600s (and probably living in a Puritan village, no less!) To be fair, it may be possible Fridge Brilliance in that it very well could have been a Take That at "fluffy bunnies" or "McWiccans." Many of these "wanna-blessed-be's" actually think Wicca is an inherited trait, and think of the Salem witch trials as part of the "Burning Times" in which innocent women were burned at the stake for practicing the "old religion".
      • To clarify: though innocent women and men were killed in various ways, they were accused of devil-worship and not pagan religious practices. The confusion comes in because at many times in history the church treated the two as synonymous. And in Salem, the execution method of choice was hanging, not burning.
        • And Giles Corey was pressed to death in the effort to extract confession.

Real Life Edit

  • Wiccans, as well as other pagan and neo-pagan religions, do use ritual magic to varying degrees. The mistake Hollywood and literature generally makes is thinking that the magic is the point. Actually, the magic comes in more of a consequence of the world view than anything else: the idea is that the world is a spiritual place, and the supernatural has an effect on the ordinary world. Since as a witch you are supposed to know something about the supernatural, you can use that knowledge to help yourself or others.

Taoism

Anime and Manga Edit

  • The manga Black Cat features loads of villains who are Taoist adepts, which...gives them psychic powers like materializing attack insects. And super healing. And so on. Also they like fighting.
  • The angels in Steel Angel Kurumi apparently run on a combination of advanced technology and Taoist magic, to the point where the title character's creator had to travel back in time to find a Taoist priest powerful enough to activate her and her combined Angelic/Demonic heart. Then again, it seems a lot of it is based on personal spiritual power; it's implied that the reason Nakahito can't mess with the elements like his brother is because powering Kurumi takes too much already.
  • In Outlaw Star there are a few characters who use "Tao Magic".

Film Edit

  • Big Trouble in Little China has magic practically everywhere, at one point described as 'Taoist alchemy and sorcery.' Elsewhere it's just called 'Chinese black magic.'
    • Actually, they are all treated as slightly different things, or different kinds of msgic; for instance, at the start Egg Shen is asked if he believes in Magic- he says he believes in Chinese Black Magic. Shortly after he says he also believes in Monsters, Ghosts and Sorcery.

Literature Edit

  • In a particularly old example, most of the magic in Romance of the Three Kingdoms is pulled off by Taoists. Good luck figuring out where "Taoist hermit" ends and "practitioner of folk magic" begins, though, even in the real world.

Videogames Edit

  • Touhou treats Taoism as a magic system first, and philosophy/religion second.

All Of The Above

Anime and Manga Edit

  • Ghost Hunt features Taoism, Shintoism, Catholicism and modern metaphysics all used to exorcise spirits. Each is useful in different circumstances.

Literature Edit

  • In The Case Of The Toxic Spell Dump, magical effects can be achieved via any religious belief system, and have been in spades. This results in things like "crosswalks" that are still called that, even though multiculturalism has led to anti-collision wards for non-Christians being incorporated into them as well.
  • The basis of John Ringo's Special Circumstances whose heroine is a Protestant, but which also features or at least mentions practitioners of many other faiths as well.
  • In Manda Scott's Boudicca series, about the Celtic warrior woman both Druids (who are never called druids but "dreamers" instead, and Mithraism are shown to have power and it's hinted that the Celtic gods and Mithra have more respect for each other than their followers do. The Roman gods are implied to have lost their power because their worship has descended into empty ritual that noone really believes in.
  • In S. M. Stirling's Emberverse series this mostly takes the form of visions and exorcism. Members of Asatru, the Catholic Church, Buddhism, Wicca and First nations religion all receive the first, the latter are performed by Juniper, a Wiccan high priestess and Father Ignatius, a Catholic paladin and well as Rudi who is basically King Arthur reborn as a Wiccan.
  • The Breaking the Wall trilogy features this, with many indigenous magical sects of different cultures and/or religions being present. Much like Ghost Hunt above, one character, Tracy Frye, calls herself a Generalist and obtains knowledge of as many of these cultures as she can. Unlike Ghost Hunt, she's repeatedly said to collect them just to have them.

Non-Specific Examples

Anime and Manga Edit

  • A major element of To Aru Majutsu no Index, where each religion appears to have its own brand of magic, since mages identify themselves by which church they belong to. Kaori being a part of a combination Christian/Shinto church effectively allows for her to combine magic styles. In contrast, the series' users of Psychic Powers are influenced by science. Any and all religious objects (crosses, Aztec sacrificial knives, clerical vestments, etc) are enchanted with powerful magic.
  • Though Mikan's listed above, another example from Rental Magica is provided by Honami. Some of her chants used to do her magic call upon Celtic deities or other holy symbols.

Comic Books Edit

  • Alan Moore's trippy-ass Comic Book Promethea treats the Western Magical Tradition (though not precisely a religion) as essentially real. Although so (to over-simplify tremendously for your benefit) Alan Moore himself believes this. A bit of religion comes into as far as the Comic Book (and the Western Magical Tradition itself) incorporating a westernized version of the Cabalistic Tree of Life from Judaism into a major storyline in which two incarnations of Promethea traverse it. Incidentally, Jewish tradition states that only married men over 40 may study Cabala. We regret to say that all incarnations of Promethea fail on this count. Although this falls excellently under Rule of Funny, the Western magical tradition's version of Qabbalah is notably altered from its Jewish origins. Also, the age restrictions seem to be relaxed in the current day--Hasidic yeshivot regularly teach some aspects to their (college-age) students. For example, noted author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel studied the Qabbalah as a boy.
  • In perhaps the biggest subversion of this trope, the sorceress Zora in Brian Michael Bendis' Powers claims to have gained her powers by rejecting all things spiritual and accepting that she was her own God.
  • In the Vertigo comic Fables, strong belief in anything can create magical power.
  • Doctor Strange uses magic by invoking various occult (and fictional) deities, particularly a triad known as the Vishanti. He has also been shown using ascetic practices like retreating from society and fasting.

Film Edit

  • By Word of God, The Force in Star Wars is supposed to represent spirituality or religions in general or something. That makes sense when you think about how the Jedi regard it, but when you look at what they can do with it, it makes it seem like an overdose of this trope. It even gets called a outdated religion by an Empire guy who gets the iconic Force-choke and Vader is disturbed by his "lack of faith." Knight Templar Vader!
    • The Jedi Path, an in-universe textbook, has a number of endnotes. In one of them the writer noted that the Jedi tend to be smug and inflexible, but they have a reason. The Force is essentially God, even if no one in-universe calls it that. When two Jedi discuss the Force, they're discussing God - and they can call on it to perform, basically, miracles.

Literature Edit

  • Rather strangely averted in the Discworld novels. Discworld priests do not gain any magical abilities from serving the gods (who are real and can and do interfere in human affairs), except for a measure of protection against spontaneous lightning bolts. (This is probably because the gods of the Disc just don't care: they are portrayed as the equivalent of absentee landlords - Om lost almost all his believers and power without realizing it, because he never paid any attention to the religion that worshipped him.) Also Pratchett's witches are entirely non-spiritual humanists with little interest in the gods, something very at odds with both witches from mythology (ie. Circe) and modern Wiccans. While presumably based on Pratchett's own secular humanism, it does make his satire of New Age trappings, that some of the younger witches practice unusually shallow by Discworld standards - compare the Take That at the stock 'New Age' type activities of the image conscious young witches in Lords and Ladies with the much deeper look at religion (and Judeo-Christian religion in particular) in Small Gods.
    • This may be because the gods demonstrably exist in the Discworld, so there's as much need to believe in their existence as for that of horses or elephants. The witches (or at least Granny Weatherwax) explicitly think that believing in the gods just encourages them.
      • In Reaper Man, it's explicitly stated that wizards' attitudes toward the gods are of this variety. That they think the gods are real. But so are tables. Both have their function in the scheme of things but there's no reason to go around worshiping either.
    • You can arguably claim that he is not satirizing New Age religions, but those people who pretentiously adopt the external trappings of a New Age religion.
    • While priests don't receive magical powers from their gods directly, faith itself has been known to invest supernatural powers in sacred objects. Dios's staff in Pyramids became imbued with tremendous magic due to thousands of years' accumulated belief in its absolute authority. And Mightily-Blessed-Are-They-That-Exalteth-Om Oats does a wonderful job with his vampire-beheading axe.

 Count de Magpyr: Don't you learn anything, you stupid man? Little stupid man who has a little stupid faith in a little stupid god?...An axe isn't even a holy symbol!

Mightily Oats: [crestfallen]] Oh. [Smiles brightly.] Let's make it so. [Slice.]

  • In the Elenium verse of David Eddings, Magic Is Religion; all magical powers come, one way or another, from gods or even more powerful supernatural beings. The Knight Orders have to call on the Styric gods for spells because their own god thinks giving divine power to mere mortals is undignified.
    • At least that's what his followers have assumed. It's mentioned at one point that no one has ever bothered to ask him about it. It's left unclear at the end of the series if anyone got around to checking this out. And why should they, when the Styric gods and goddesses they use to power their spells are more than happy to help out? And for almost all of the orders of the Church Knights, their chosen patron (or matron) god/goddess even matches their stereotypical temperaments. The Cyrinics, who are Knight Templars, have a god who's also a Knight Templar, for instance.
    • Unless you are one of the gods, in which case you suddenly suffer from a case of Gods Need Prayer Badly. The sole exception to this rule is Sparhawk, whose role as Anakha puts him sideways to the rest of the world. He does ask Bhelliom to depower him, which Bhelliom says it did, and Aphrael implies it did, but well, who knows?
  • In The Dresden Files, religious faith in itself has a certain amount of magical power, which is for example the source of crosses repelling vampires - it's not actually the crosses themselves, but that the fact that they symbolize the user's faith, and the main character achieves the same thing using a pentacle amulet (that being a symbol of magic, which he has more faith in than any real conventional religion).
    • The books also makes MacGuffins out of a few religious artifacts. The Shroud of Turin is the plot of a whole book. Thirty pieces of silver is the basis for a whole arc. Also, the Knights of the Cross can wield faith-magic that Harry can't touch, despite one of them continuously stating that he is agnostic.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories, priests certainly have some magic powers. This is distinct from the Evil Sorcerers, often Necromancers, who traffic with Eldritch Abominations.
    • In "The Tower of the Elephant", thieves avoid the temples, because strange dooms fall on those who violate them.
    • In The Hour of the Dragon, the priests of Asura can see through illusions. One of them can also wield the Artifact of Doom, blurring the lines a little.
    • In "The Phoenix on the Sword", Conan's sword is given the power to kill an Eldritch Abomination; it is the high priest of Mitra who identifies it. This is the only piece of unequivocal White Magic in all Howard's stories.
  • In the Codex Alera, the Canim ritualists are both priests and sorcerers for their people, though what exactly their religion entails apart from an emphasis on The Power of Blood and belief in an afterlife isn't elaborated on.

Live Action TV Edit

  • Merlin has the Old Religion, which appears to be a form of paganism, but not specifically Wicca. There's a lot of magic involved, and usually a female high priestess. (first Nimueh, then Morgause, now Morgana). There are pleny of Druids too.
  • Forever Knight had a form of Native American belief in one season 3 episode, involving a medicine woman who drew the evil out of Nick, then overloaded when she didn't know to channel it into something else.
  • Highlander the Series had a similar thing, referred to as a hayoka. The immortal hayoka Koltec overloaded and sparked a Dark Quickening that Duncan absorbed when taking his head to stop him.
    • The rule about not fighting on sacred ground was assumed to be a social convention until one episode when it was mentioned that the last time an immortal was killed on sacred ground was a Roman temple...in Pompeii...just before Vesuvius erupted.

MMORPGs Edit

  • World of Warcraft largely plays this straight (like most fantasy MMORPG settings), but subtly subverts it too; there are resistance stats for all schools of magic, but no way of resisting 'Holy' damage. Well, it actually does have a resistance stat for it, and there are many Standard Status Effects which would affect it the same as any other magic types, but methods and equipment to specifically resist holy magic are in very short supply.
    • Not all the religious magic is holy anyway. Shaman and Druids are clearly religious (although they worship different gods) and do nature, fire, and arcane damage. Even Priests can also use shadow damage (which is just the yin to holy damage's yang).
      • Druids and Shamans don't draw their power from a divine source as Paladins and Priests do, more from nature/the elemental planes respectively; even though they do recognize the existence of a god or several, their religions don't worship or draw their abilities from those deities directly.
      • Life is the disease. I am the cure.
        • The World of Warcraft tabletop rpg deals with it this way; priests, shamans, druids, and witch doctors(the rpg treats them as a separate class from shamans) all get their power not from gods, or even necessarily from faith, but from generally having a spiritual connection with the forces connected to their powers.
  • In Guild Wars, many of the magical powers of different characters are thought to come from gods, and blessings from shrines to these gods can enhance magical abilities.
  • Runescape offers "prayers" for a variety of effects, such as increased regeneration, boosted stats and protection from various forms of attack. However, its Magic skill also allows the player to "Summon the Wrath of [Insert Deity Here]" through spells like Saradomin Strike, Flames of Zamorak and Claws of Guthix.

Tabletop Games Edit

  • In Dungeons and Dragons, the cleric class gains the ability to cast spells (usually healing) through the service of his/her deity. This has made it usual for RPGs to have a magic-using character class with religious overtones which can heal and bless (or curse) their allies.
    • This gets especially confusing in the Dragonlance setting, where not only are there gods who grant their followers power, there are three specific gods of magic. The only difference seems to be that they do not require worship, and their magic has more of a scientific feel.
    • In 4th Edition, they've separated things more fully; Clerics and Paladins have the "divine" power source and use (cast?) prayers, while Wizards and others still cast spells and have the "arcane" power source.
      • Now there are two other classes with Divine power source. Avengers are like Divine assassins with power to turn invisible, phase through walls and teleport. Invokers are kind of like Divine Wizards who shoot searing light and summon angels.
      • The line will still be blurred if you worship Corellon, though.
    • 4th Edition also introduces the "primal" power source(created to thematically distinguish the Druid from the Cleric; in previous editions both were considered "divine"), which is kind of this trope applied to spiritualistic religions and crossed with Gaia's Vengeance. Primal characters pay respect to spirits born of and reflecting aspects of the world, from famous ancestors to the seasons to the World Tree, and their powers have a very "nature" feel to them. A Warden might call upon the spirit of the mountains to turn themselves into living stone, for example.
  • Mage: The Ascension had several religion-based mystical Traditions, including: the Zen mystic martial artists of The Akashic Brotherhood, the generally Abrahamic (with others thrown in for flavor) and oh-so-subtly named Celestial Chorus, the shamanic Dreamspeakers; and the Verbena, who practice "the Old Ways." Subverted in that the religion isn't actually the source of the magic, but rather a construct that allows them to shape their magic. As a mage gains more knowledge of their art, they begin to transcend their defining paradigm.
    • Hunter: The Vigil has a few examples of this as well. The Malleus Maleficarum, a Catholic monster hunting group, have the rites of Benediction, several of which take the names of saints and are vastly more powerful on their corresponding days.
  • The Fading Suns setting allows priests of the various Church sects to perform "theurgic rites".
  • Warhammer 40000 is really big on this, both in background terms and in-game; the most notable example is the Sisters of Battle, whose faith can have all sorts of physical effects on a game. It is probably worth noting that while Faith can (and will) stop a deamon or psyker in it's tracks, it won't stop that .45 round heading for your face...
    • However, priests don't have any real mythical ability to affect the mundane. Instead they inspire soldiers to rush at the enemy and beat the crap out of them and carry huge chainsaw swords that can cut tanks in half.
      • In Dawn of War, attaching a priest to a squad gives the squad a permanent damage bonus, as long as the priest is with them. They also have an ability to whip the squad into a fanatical rage, making them immune to damage for a short while. "Rise up and strike them down!"
    • Chaos is the opposite, however, where sucking up to the gods is a sure recipe for getting new and cooler ways to horribly kill more people. Or they might turn you into a mindless Eldritch Abomination. It depends on wether they want a laugh, or if they want something dead, of if they regard you as 'disposable' at the time.
  • Warhammer Fantasy plays it straight and averts it depending on the culture. Magic is everywhere waiting to be manipulated, but different civilisations have built up different rituals to do this - some of them directly conflate religion with magic, some don't. In general all clergy can use magic to some degree or other, but The Empire, some of the Skaven, and the Vampire Counts can also field "secular" magic users.
  • The Table Top Role Playing Game TORG both avoids this trope and plays it straight. While sufficiently faithful people can work miracles, and magicians can cast spells, the two work in completely different ways, and may not even be possible at the same time. (For example, one of Torg's alternate universes has no magic whatsoever, but immense miracle-working power for the native religion.)
  • In the Sixth World of Shadowrun, it is implied that belief is more important than the actual religion. If you believe that Hermetic Magic is the way magic actually works, then that's how you get it to work; if you consider yourself to be working miracles in the name of one or more deities, then that's fine too and your spells will be equally effective (mechanically identical). Interestingly, this can cause problems if your way of thinking is more limited; Psions can't throw fireballs because it doesn't fit their Mind Over Matter model, but they can still set you on fire by accelerating your molecules.
  • All the religions above could work in Deadlands, provided the practitioners follow proper form and faith in execution of their chosen miracles. By the time Deadlands: Hell on Earth rolls around, you can just faith yourself up some mushroom clouds, provided you've touched The Glow (and it's touched you back). Having said all that, a Player Character is most likely to run across (or be) a miracle-working Protestant, since they're statistically the most common faithful in the timeline of the game, so your stock "Blessed" is all about healing the sick and whacking bad things with a hickory stick.

Video Games Edit

  • In Fire Emblem, all staff and light magic users are clerics, bishops, etc (except for one well-noted exception in Radiant Dawn). Element-based and dark magic do not have this requirement though.
    • Light magic, yes (except for in the fourth, fifth, and eighth games, and I suppose also games where magic is not broken up into types). Staves, not so much so. Any promoted magic unit can use staves (with the exception of some in the fourth, eighth, and ninth games).
  • In Lords of Magic, the world is divided into 8 "faiths" who worship the standard four elements, plus life, death, order, and chaos.
  • The Dragon Quest series is built around this trope. The priest class does all the healing. In Dragon Quest VIII, your main healer used to be a member of the clergy, and has maintained his healing powers. In general, all saving is done via a church, where confessing to a priest allows "The Goddess" to grant you respite from your journey, allowing you to save and quit. The preists also offer a number of other services- namely; Divination (which tells you how much experience you need to level up), Purification (which removes curses), Benediction (which removes poison), and Resurrection, which does exactly what it says it does. Preists have the power to bring people back to life. Wowzers.
  • Most followers of Oshilasama in Solatorobo are able to cast spells using Nono, thanks to years of rigorous training that looks a bit like stereotypical Shaolin monk exercises (though some degree of natural talent is required for training to do anything, and usually only men are allowed to train, though women can be born with the talent). The name of the religion seems to denote they worship someone named Shila (with o and sama for politeness's sake), but precisely how that worship is carried out is never mentioned - maybe the god/goddess just likes to watch Catfolk sweat?

Web Comics Edit

Web Original Edit

Western Animation Edit

  • Parodied in the South Park episode "Super Best Friends" where the gods/figureheads of several major religions are shown to have Justice League-type superpowers.

Real Life Edit

  • As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the magi were originally the zoroastrian priests of Persia. More accurately, it is a Greek word that refers not necessarily to the actual priests, but to the Greeks' perception of them.
  • University of Wisconsin - Green Bay professor, Steven Dutch, wrote the essay 21st Century Magic, outlining the differences between explicit magic, religious magic, nominal religion, and serious religion. He also demonstrates that magic is not inexorably linked to religion by providing modern examples of "secular magic."