|``Only in silence the word,|
|Only in dark the light,|
|Only in the dying life:|
|Bright the hawk's flight|
|On the empty sky.''||- 'The Creation of Ea', Ursula Le Guin|
The basis of magic in Oneiros lies in Eight Laws. While they may disagree over the exact meaning of the laws and their import -- all scholars agree that they represent fundamental truths upon which the universe is founded.
There are traditionally four branches of magic, each based upon a single element and hence two of the Laws. Each of these is quite distinct from the others, and the practitioners can often develop a different view of the laws and elements.
Magecraft is art associated with the element of Memory and its two laws. It is by far the dominant branch of magic in the world - primarily because it is the most specific and dependable. In modern times, the mage guilds wield enormous power, both political and economic, despite the fact that many folk distrust and shun them.
Mages are powerful, but limited. A mage can only affect objects which he specifically knows about. He can easily control and alter those whom he knows well, but he cannot directly affect an adversary unknown to him. As a result, few people will socially associate with them, including other mages. They tend to be a studious and secretive lot.
This law is also held to imply that knowledge in general about an object gives you lesser degree of dominance -- but this is a more philosophical conclusion.
The sum total of all knowledge about a being, in turn, is contained in a single mnemonic - what is called the Truename of that being. The truename is a symbol which grants access to the sum total of all information of a being. It is possible, using knowledge of the being and a certain amount of skill, to gain access to the truename of the target. When done, this knowledge about a being then rushes through the mind of the person that tapped it. However, a mere mortal is strained to remember even the smallest fraction of that onslaught.
Mages use these laws in three primary ways. The first is simple divination, where the mage guesses the truename of a target, and then notes some specific piece of information from the knowledge rushing through his mind.
The more active technique is a binding. Again the mage guesses the truename, but while the information rushes past, the mage physically creates a representation of it - a spoken word, a written rune, or a articulate gesture. Then the mage incorporates into that symbol a command.
While the truename itself cannot be changed (a different symbol would no longer be the truename), it can be circumscribed to limit what the target can do. This effect will last only so long as the physical symbol is around. A gestured binding ends as soon as the mage stops holding the pose. A spoken binding ends after a few minutes. A runic binding lasts as long as the rune is around, however.
More complex than a binding is a transformation. For this, the mage must summon two truenames at once. Then, he represents one symbol inside the other symbol. The inner object then appears like the outer object -- exhibiting its appearance and characteristics. However, in reality the transformed object is still whole. Thus, a man can be transformed to a mouse, but that mouse will still have inside of it the man.
An important limitation is that mages cannot affect themselves. If any mage summons his own truename, then he becomes 'self-bound'. He becomes fixed in his current state: unable to age, learn, or grow. He cannot summon truenames, and it is not clear whether he is even conscious anymore.
Mysticism is the art concerned with the element of Thought and its two laws. However, in modern times this is a lost art. Due to political and religious differences, the Arrant Empire has repressed the teachings of this art, and its secrets have largely been destroyed.
The general principle of mysticism was to follow a mythic path of enlightenment. A mystic would sit in contemplation or enact this story. By expanding upon each detail, he would gain steps of power. Adding to this, he could explore his path for information on the outside world.
Conjuration is the magic of Artifice, following its two laws. This process is hard to control, and is looked down upon by Mages and many others - who see it as good for parlor tricks but too undependable for anything important. Conjurors can easily create an outlandish being, but it will rarely last long. They can try to conjure more useful and long-lasting creations, but the closer it is to what already exists, the harder it is to create.
The magic of Temperament and its laws is still in its infancy. On the one hand there are uneducated folk who call themselves `mediums' or `shamans' who claim to talk to universal spirits as the eighth law implies. However, these are largely charlatans who throw their voices or otherwise deceive more gullible folk.
On the other hand, there are venturesome mages who seek to extend the principles of their craft beyond the truenames of solitary objects to Words for universal principles. They generally attempt bindings of Essences by incorporating the essence itself into the symbol. Thus they might inscribe a rune and light a candle at the center in an effort to bind the Essence of Fire for some purpose.
The results of these efforts has generally been marginal at best, and marked by some spectacular failures in the awakenings of elementals. It is sometimes said that the efforts have failed because they have ignored the Law of Personification.