Re: How prevalent is magic?

From: Chris Lemens <chrislemens_at_Zrc61ewCbqoX-aVYSbk3G12jTohhzWaMZYFThOqgdCvgDlTUowKn6Zb61-dxS8Dp>
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2012 06:53:35 -0800 (PST)

As usual, I like Bryan's thoughts. I'll clip a few sentences to make a follow-on point:
> When a toddler asks "Why?" the eventual answer is a myth.

> Most people don't have time, inclination, wealth, or focus enough to dive too deeply into magic.
> Nobody knows all of the myths of their own pantheon of gods and heroes, and certainly not of everyone else's pantheons.

> The result is that people do a lot of things for reasons of superstition.
> Some of that really will invoke magic ... , some of it is just general 'maintaining the world' worship. 
> While most cows are just cows, most trees are just trees, etc, it does have a fairy tale world aspect to it too,)

I agree with all of this, but Bryan's point about rational ignorance can be more important in some cultures than in others. Successful, powerful, confident cultures in favorable geography may push the bounds of knowledge. Barely surviving cultures in harsh climes will be much more conservative about exploration.  
For my favorite culture (Prax), this is particularly important. Their mythology his highly fractured. Unlike a lot of cultures whose key gods existed way back when (Orlanth, Yelm, etc.), the Praxians' main god is essentially a silver age hero, plus a run-down fanatic of a dad and a half-dead mom. Praxians, therefore, approach new knowledge with suspicion, and adhere strictly to a lot of superstitions. They have a lot of "fairy tales" about the ages before the silver age. These are a lot of stories that they repeat, but primarily for entertainment value. They don't attempt to re-enact them on the hero plane because they don't know the result. And they do a lot of placation of potentially hostile spirits in every day life. You never know when stepping off the known path lands you in chaos.  
My favorite example of the latter is one I learned in boy scouts. When the smoke from your fire blows in your face, you say, "I hate rabbits." Why? Who the hell knows. But it works about half the time. (And don't you moderns tell me that the wind would have changed anyway.)  

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