The Traditions (formally called the Nine Mystic Traditions) are an alliance of secret societies in the Mage: the Ascension role-playing game. The Traditions exist to unify users of magic under a common banner to protect reality (particularly those parts of reality that are magical) against the growing disbelief of the modern world, the spreading dominance of the Technocracy, and the predations of unstable mages such as Marauders and Nephandi.
The Council has little say in the day-to-day operation of the Nine Traditions as a whole. Each Tradition has its own rules for recruitment, apprenticeship, and promotion, and the Council does not interfere with these. Instead, the Council directs the overall course of the Traditions, negotiating broad strategies to uphold Tradition ideals. They are also responsible for arbitrating inter-Tradition conflicts when they occur, and act as the highest court of the Traditions. It has been generally accepted practice that only the Council can authorize "Gilgul" (destruction of the avatar), the harshest form of punishment a mage can suffer.
The Traditions themselves vary substantially from one another. Some have almost no structure or rules, while others have rigid rules of protocol, etiquette, and rank. Though unified in their desire to keep magic alive, the magic practiced by different Traditions are often wildly different and entirely incompatible with one another. Understanding Traditions as a whole requires understanding each Tradition separately, and then assembling them into a somewhat cohesive whole.
The Hollow Ones are sometimes suggested as a tenth Tradition, and often work closer with the Traditions more than any of the Crafts, the unaligned magical societies.
Akashic Brothers (female members are called "brothers" as well) believe in, and strive to attain, the perfect harmony (an attuned state of "Balance") of one's individual mind with the One Mind. While this is quite a Buddhist concept, this tradition doesn't limit itself to Buddhism, it is intended to reflect all eastern ways of mystical thinking. It includes elements of Vedanta Hinduism, Taoism, Zen Buddhism and variations thereof.
Mystics of the Brotherhood share belief common to most mystic traditions of the world: that internal microcosm of mind is interconnected with macrocosm of nature - "the Cosmic All". However, a difference between European "As above, so below" and eastern conceptions of Akashics lies in assumption that all the universe is ultimately an illusion similar to Maya and the reality is rather Akasha or emptiness (named Shunyata in Buddhism, Brahman in Hinduism and Tao in Taoism).
As previously said, the aim of Akashic Brothers is to attain oneness ("Balance") with both internal and external universe, the peaceful transcendence in creative emptiness of One Mind. They accomplish this through the study of "the Do" which is explained as the roots of a variety of eastern practices, most notably: various martial arts – both internal and external contemplations and meditations. Notice however that some martial arts (like Tai Chi) are meditation exercises and some kinds of meditation just foster focus on the here-and-now in mundane life.
It was founded circa 1200 BC in ancient Egypt by Mentu-Hetep who received a vision of perfect harmony of God’s song. He was instructed to gather a choir able to sing that song. He ushered a call and soon a congregation of holy mystics was found. However after initial success the Choir quickly fragmented and became primarily European first, then Christian domain. All other religious paths were excluded due to hostilities arisen around mundane conflicts like crusades. It was not until the Great Convocation in 1466 that other creeds were accepted again and not until the recent New Age upsurge were they treated like equals.
The philosophy behind this organization is very similar to that of the Gnostics: a faith that there is One – supreme, absolute God. The Chorus also believes that all the faiths are simply different paths to the same Being and different gods from all the pantheons are merely His masks - a notion from the Hinduistic tradition of Vedanta also imported by Gnostics. However, not all members share the Gnostic belief that matter is impure and that one should concentrate on the spirit instead, living in an ascetic way.
The aim for a Chorister is to get closer to God by actually ascending and merging with Him. It is said that to be done, one must walk along set paths and behind set masks that humanity donned upon the One.
Out of music, dance and passion, the Cult of Ecstasy creates the magic of entrancement and exhilaration. Pushing past the boundaries and comfort zones of humanity, they seek the ultimate experience. They're the descendants of ancient ascetists - although now they use drugs, sex, piercing in metropolis instead of meditating alone in the desert (Though Cultists pursue sex, drugs, meditation, holistic living, music, and vision quests as focusing tools, serious Ecstatics consider these to be sacraments, not hobbies).
The Ecstatics are visionaries, shamans, and adventurers of the senses. Their Arts are as old as time, and Time itself is their toy. While they might -appear- stoned and irresponsible, it's because so few outsiders see things their way. Simply because the mage is a part of the Cult of Ecstasy, by no means, does it classify that member as a worthless hippie, addict, sex maniac, dopehead, or dropout.
Early Cultists realized how important structure was; no group built on total hedonism could survive for long. As societies became more repressed, Ecstatics rebelled and threw ALL the rules, including their own, out the window. In the '60's, a great revolution took place, and the Ecstatics led the charge. Sadly, the greatest of their kind fell to drugs, and following generations learned all the wrong lessons from their example. The Cult, and the world at large, lost a lot of ground because people lost sight of the consequences of their actions. Modern Ecstatics are trying to learn from their mistakes and have resurrected the old ways. The Code of Ananda is but one example of the way in which Cultists recognize the responsibilities their awesome powers confer.
The Dreamspeakers were formed at the Grand Convocation. Naioba, an African dream-priestess, and Star-of-Eagles, a Powhatan medicine man, saw the Tradition as a brotherhood for shaman from all lands. To the European magi, the Dream-Speakers were a dumping ground for tribal magi who they didn't want to deal with. Native Americans from North and South America, tribes from Africa's endless savannahs and jungles, Australian Aborigines, and pale shaman from the far North were all lumped together in a single Tradition. This offended many non-western magi who weren't shaman, such as the Ngoma and other TheAscension), who left the Convocation in disgust.
Star-of-Eagles and Naioba led the Tradition until Naioba's assassination. However, the Dreamspeakers quickly found themselves ravaged by the eras of Exploration, Colonialism and Imperialism. The Spanish conquest devastated the Aztecs and Inca Empire and spread small pox to the Mound Builders, while the Portuguese slave trade ravaged West Africa. Led by a delegation from the Iroquois Nation, many Dreamspeakers left the Council of Nine in protest.
By the 1800s, the Dreamspeakers found themselves fighting alongside the Lakota Sioux, Congolese, Afghan hill tribes, Haitian voodoo cults, Australian Aborigines, Rhodesians and other indigenous people. Many supported the Ghost Dance and Zulu warriors. Unfortunately, they saw their people's traditional cultures eroded away by Indian boarding schools and the Stolen Generation. European Dreamspeakers, a minority within the Tradition, found themselves bolstered by the interest in Romanticism and spiritism. Most were spiritualists who spoke to ghosts, faeries and elemental-spirits.
The Euthanatos believe in a cycle of karma that dictates life, death, and reincarnation which they call the Great Wheel. They believe that certain persons can unbalance the Wheel for others (ie, serial killers, child molesters, drug dealers, persons in a vegetative state). Providing a necessary death for these people gives them a chance to be reincarnated with a clean slate, and removes the imbalance from the lives of others. The name Euthanatos reflects this belief: The Good Death (in the Greek language).
At the same time, there is a stigma against the Euthanatos among some of their contemporaries, due to their intimate knowledge and workings with death.
They are also known as the Chakravanti (Tenders of the Wheel, singular: Chakravat).
The Tradition traces its roots to the Sumer and ancient Egypt of 5000 years ago around the time when the first writing systems were developed. Before written language, names were thought to be inherent to the objects they designated as reflections of their true natures. With writing as an ability to catch and manipulate names, the scribe was able to imprison the object and manipulate its very nature. The catching of names was considered a magical act in ancient societies so the ability to write was reserved for the clergy under the direct influence of gods of wisdom and magic such as Thoth.
Letters provided useful metaphors for abstract concepts, so for the first time in history thinkers were able to ascend from the physical world into whole new realms of ideas. First, Plato formed the theory of realism that allowed a secular paradigm for controlling every element of reality. Mystics then equated ideals with divinity developing manicheic, gnostic, neoplatonic and other dualistic theories around 2nd century AD. But the great intellectual upsurge of the 2nd century was soon squashed by the rapid expansion of Christianity which strove for orthodoxy in the Mediterranean region. Soon Rome fell and Western civilization fell onto Dark Times. Hermetic scholars fragmented, the sharing of ideas halted and wizards secluded themselves in their towers for protection and to study free of the Church's inquiry.
From the summonings of Babylonian priests to Egyptian priest's divining the Nile's flooding from stars to Solomon's seals, which gave him control over world, it was the time of the greatest mages of Western tradition. It was also the time when the greatest grimoires and talismans were created. However, apart from Solomon we don't know their names and so the body of knowledge consisting of theurgia, goetia, astrology and alchemy was known as the work of a single Ascended being called Hermes Trismegistus.
It wasn't until 767 AD that the situation changed. Two mages, Bonisagus and Trianoma, gathered together eleven great magi and persuaded them to form an alliance. Thus, the Order of Hermes was born.
The Order was thought to be a group of old wizards who cloister themselves in dusty libraries and had old arcane lore as their bread and butter. However, with the advent of modern technologies, the young and the brave new generation of Hermetics restructured the Order and devised new ways to do magick so that it would survive in the 21st century.
As the Electrodyne Engineers, the Sons of Ether were often seen as strange and quirky by the other Conventions of the Technocracy. Despite this, they were instrumental in developing the field of Dimensional Science, and worked closely with Iteration X on their mechanical soldiers. Unfortunately, their ideology clashed with that espoused by the inner echelons of the Technocracy, and they were not able to abandon their ideal of the 'ether', a mysterious fifth element which filled the spaces between the stars.
In 1904, when the Technocracy voted to write Ether out of the Consensus, the Electrodyne Engineers rebelled. Taking a great number of Technocratic secrets with them, they defected to the Council of Nine Mystick Traditions. Some of the Engineers stayed behind, joining the Void Seekers to form the Void Engineers, who would dedicate themselves to exploring the reaches of deep space while following the Technocratic theories of the void between the stars and general inhospitability of outer space.
Meanwhile, the newly-renamed Sons of Ether filled the then-vacant Seat of Matter on the council, going into hiding within the scientific community and old boys' clubs, and finally letting their theories run rampant.
The Sons of Ether draw on the spark of genius within themselves to create devices which function beyond the normal laws of physics, aerodynamics, chemistry, and neuropsychology. Confined only to what she can justify within her own paradigm, the Etherite creates rayguns, robotic servants, and fantastic flying machines. Central to many Etheric theories is the idea of ether, the fifth element. As time has progressed, however, the Sons have expanded their paradigm to involve anomalous phenomenon, such as psionics, Ufology, parapsychology, cryptozoology, the use of cryptotechnology, and other fringe science or pseudoscience. In addition, certain members of the Sons have left much of the comical pulp imagination behind, and moved on to progressive, cutting-edge technology, such as quantum mechanics, dark matter, or to the fringe social sciences like those popularized by Wilhelm Reich or existentialists.
As the focus of the Tradition is on Science, not magic, a Son of Ether cannot use his mystick powers without some sort of device. To the Etherite, she is merely drawing on the power of the laws of science, unaware that the true effects of her devices originate from her focused will.
The Verbenae believe Life is sacred, and to be prized above all things. That being said, these primal sorcerers work magic the way they embrace life- with determination and raw passion. They embrace suffering as readily as comfort and enlightenment, and aren't afraid to make difficult choices. The tradition traces its path from a group of primordial Awakened known as the Wyck, whom they believe carried the knowledge of magick across the globe. During the late Middle Ages many of these were burned at the stake as satanic witches, hunted tortured and burned.Over the centuries it took for witch-craze to die down, the Wyck came to practice their arts in secrecy and became known for dealing with their foes harshly. Thus the Verbena were born.
On the whole, the Verbena tend to be more passionate, honest and forthright than many other mages. Unlike their Hermetic and Celestial rivals, the tradition balances strong male and female aspects, rather than favoring a patriarchal ideal. They are most at home with the Dreamspeakers of all the other mage groups, and most hostile towards the Technocracy's Technomagicks and bully tactics, though Nephandi also rank among their top priorities.
The Virtual Adept philosophy resembles the real-world Hacker Manifesto, and the imagery and style of the Adepts was influenced by the cyberpunk movement, including works like Neuromancer and Ghost in the Shell. The Virtual Adepts also have a great deal in common with the "hackers" in the movie trilogy The Matrix. Outside of fiction, many ideas from Transhumanism, including man-machine interface and "Uploading" consciousness into a computer, can be found as tools in the Virtual Adept arsenal.
The majority of Virtual Adepts sooner or later find themselves amidst the Digital Web, a virtual plane that exists just beyond the flat 2-d Web Pages the "bleaters" see. It is here that they plan to free humanity from the bonds of reality outside. However, the Web has been greatly damaged over the previous few years, due in part to the actions of sleepers and in part of the major destruction of the Umbral cabal known as "Doissetep." Doissetep, having back-doors into it from the Deep Umbral plane that the Web in fact is, allowed chaos and destruction into the Web. Now, quite a bit of the Web is corrupt data, known as junklands. Younger Adepts are warned against these places, as they are often in a Nephandi format.
Virtual Adepts are the newest of the Nine Traditions, having taken the place of the Ahl-i-Batin in the seat of Correspondence (who were, coincidentally, the oldest tradition). As a former subset of the Technocracy, many of the other mage traditions are more than a little suspicious of them. Likewise, the Virtual Adepts find most other traditions of mages to be too old-fashioned, superstitious, or just plain crazy. They find the most in common with the Sons of Ether, who are also a former Technocracy group turned mage tradition, and are similarly technologically minded. It is common for Virtual Adepts to get useful techno-gadgets from Sons of Ether friends, and in turn, lend them their own style of expertise in computer systems.
Virtual Adepts believe that communication and information are the keys to success. They argue that information should be free and available to everyone, which is represented in their primary sphere of correspondence - that everything is everywhere and that distance is meaningless.
The community of mages in the World of Darkness generally believes the Ahl-i-Batin to be a defunct order of mages, long since forgotten and abandoned, even though they kept the seat of Correspondence on the Council of Nine from its conception up to the 19th century.
The Ahl-i-Batin's sobriquet of The Subtle Ones is well-earned; they have used their magic to hide from view (particularly that of the Technocracy) — for a few mages, it worked too well, removing them from the Tellurian entirely. (In game terms, many Ahl-i-Batin have Arcane ratings between 6 and 10, which is not normally possible.)
The Ahl-i-Batin believe that Unity of all humanity is the final goal of Ascension, and that it was united once before; this was both the ideal and physical and metaphysical presence of Mount Qaf.
The best way to further their cause was without the interference of those who cannot see past their small worlds and pettiness that is the common state of humanity. They developed methods that allowed them to stay behind the scenes and direct the humanity towards Unity from the shadows.
They are credited with creating Islam, but the experiment was mostly abandoned, as it created too much discord and chaos in the long run.
Most of the Ahl-i-Batini are of Middle Eastern descent, but are spread all over the world, and their members span all nations and races. Outwardly, they are of many faiths, but they all agree on one thing: the goal of Unity through togetherness, without the interference of different creeds.