Although small in size, the island is saturated with supernatural flora, fauna, hedge magicians and Mythic sites. Unfortunately, just as it’s strategic naval position makes it the target of the intense rivalry of nearby Pisa and Genoa at the expense of it populace, Corsica’s magical resources make it the focus of a Hermetic power struggle between Verdi and the remainder of the vis-poor mainland covenants of the Roman Tribunal.
The Divine Landscape
In the thirteenth century Corsica does not have a dedicated patron saint and none of the settlements are sufficiently large enough to warrant a town patron. The island has officially been considered part of the Holy See since 1077 due to a creative interpretation of the Donation of Charlemagne by the Vatican, although in practice is dominated by the Pisan nobility except for coastal enclaves established by the Genovese. The current Corsican church is mainly controlled by the Archbishop of Pisa, who appoints the local bishops from the ranks of Pisan clergymen rather than the local Corsican priests. Genoese influence is strongest in the western areas where Genovese bishops still nominally control three nominal dioceses. As a result of this disenfranchisement of the native clergy, the officials of the Church hold little sway over the Corsican people as a whole. Despite their vows, Corsican priests are often just as enthusiastic in their pursuit of the vendetta as their unconsecrated kinsmen.
Holy Tradition: the Signadori
Favored Abilities: Incantesimo; Folk Magic (Divination), Sense Holiness and Unholiness.
This lesser Holy Tradition is the pre-eminent benign hedge tradition of the island, fulfilling a role similar to the Folk Witch or Faerie Doctor in other parts of Mythic Europe and often replacing the parish priest in terms of level of respect and piety. The majority of signadori are usually unGifted Companions associated with a particular village, although more powerful practitioners equivalent to Mythic Companions can be occasionally found.
The Supernatural Abilities of the signadori are all associated with the Divine Realm. Their primary power is the talent to dispel l’Occhiu, “the Evil Eye” using the Supernatural Ability Incantesimo, which is effectively a local variant of the Accelerated Ability Banishing known to the Hermetic Donatores Requiem Aeternas. In Corsica l’Occhiu is the malign phenomenon manifests as the unwanted attentions of a particular type of hostile spirit of the dead – the imbuscada (see below), a minor demon of the Order of Furies that incites envy, inflicts petty curses on the common folk and incites vendettas.
Required Virtues: Herbalism, Incantesimo (Banishing), Sense Holiness and Unholiness. Required Flaws: Necessary Condition (recite incantations), Oath (secrecy of rites). Common Virtues: True Faith; Folk Magic (Divination), Greater or Lesser Purifying Touch (various), Mythic Herbalism, Wise One.
Common Flaws: Age Quickly, Dutybound.
The rites of a signadora may usually only be learnt by females, specifically those over forty who are the mother of a family and have exhibited a degree of piety. The incantations and prayers of the Incantesimo may only be taught on either Christmas or New Years Eve in a process similar to a Mystery Initiation usually led by the eldest female signadori using their Signadori Lore as the equivalent of the (Cult) Lore Ability.
The Faerie Landscape
The finzione are spectres that appear as harbingers of death to shepherds. Appearing against the skyline as mute silhouettes in white, these faeries feed on the fear their presence brings and strike dumb with fear those they confront before leaving as wordlessly as they came.
The lagramenti is a malevolent Faerie mist that pours down from the mountains, roiling out of the central pine forests in autumn and winter. Sounding like a pack of angry dogs to those they hunt, this swarm of spirits drives wayfarers over cliffs to their deaths or creeps into village houses under doors or through unfastened windows to spread terror. Due to their frequent manifestations along mountain roads, the long dead corpses of unlucky travelers are still regularly found at the base of isolated cliffs in the island’s interior. According to local folklore, the Faerie mist is readily repelled by iron in the form of keys, nails or horseshoes. Although it typically appears at times of upheaval and invasion, as a collection of magical spirits, it can potentially be summoned and controlled using Hermetic or goetic magic.
The lagramenti works best as a swarm of smaller (Size -3 or less) Faerie spirits with a collective size of +2 or greater, perhaps using the basic statistics for a wolf or wild dog as a starting point. Their Sovereign Ward is clearly iron, regardless of its exact form and the estimated Might varies but typically ranges from 10 to 15.
The Palatini of Filitosa
Scattered throughout southern Corsica are individual or grouped menhirs carved with human faces, armour and weapons. Standing 6 to 9 feet tall, the largest concentration of these monuments is the twenty or so palatini (Corsican: “paladins”) at the site of Filitosa in the south. Reached via a narrow track through an olive grove that passes through a surroudning wall, five of the anthropomorphic menhirs are built into the ruins of a torri, an ancient temple tower structure similar to the nuraghe of Sardinia,that surrounds an thousand year old olive tree. The periphery of the site has a Faerie aura of 2, rising to 4 at the base of the ancient olive.
The Infernal Landscape
Populated by a passionate people fixated on honour and pride, home of the murderous vendetta tradition and coveted for its strategic location in the Mediterranean, it is perhaps unsurprising that the island of Corsica is particularly attractive to diavuli (Corsican: “demons”), particularly concerned with the sins of Pride, Envy and Greed.
The Imbuscada, the Devils of the Evil Eye
Order: Furies (or Vessels of Iniquity)
These minor spirits, literally “ambushes”, often lurk near deserted places such as rivers or lonely stretches of highways. Triggered to act by unguarded praise, they seek to stir envy and anger amongst the populace and inflict the effects of the l’Occhiu (“the Evil Eye) upon the unwary, promoting the spread of the vendetta in all its forms (see above).
Infernal Might: 5-15
Weakness: saliva, faire les cornes (“make the horns” gesture)
- Obsession, 1 to 3 points, Init –5, Vim: Envy. See Realms of Power: the Infernal, page xxx.
- Waxing Tide of Humors, 3 points, Init +2, Mentem: the Fury causes passion to overcome sense, and the victim must make a stress roll against an Ease Factor of 9, modified by appropriate Personality Traits (such as Calm or Level-Headed) to keep the emotion in check. The imbuscada uses this power to heighten the effect of its Obsession Power and stir trouble amongst neighbours that can flare into a vendetta.
- Berserker Rage, 1 point, Init 0, Mentem: The demon can grant anyone the Berserk Virtue, which persists until the target calms down.
- The Evil Eye, 1 point, Init -x, Mentem or Corpus. As the Folk Witch power Cursing of the same name. See Hedge Magic: Revised Edition, page xxx.
*Unlike other demons, the powers of an imbuscada are weaker than usual and can only affect a victim if the demon stays within Voice range, a specific application of the the Duration Until (Condition). Driving the demon away through supernatural means such the Incantesimo of a signadori will release the victim from its baleful influence.
Invidia, the Prince of Envy
This ancient and powerful Vessel of Iniquity is responsible for starting many mundane vendetta (see above) through use of its Contagious Obsession Power (see Realms of Power: the Infernal, page xxx). This greater demon can incite both Wrath and Envy, allowing it to trigger and then foster prolonged vendetta, which are unusually resistant to resolution, usually ending only after the successive deaths of several generations of each family involved. Unlike the lesser imbuscada above, the powers of this greater demon are not limited by the lack of its presence near their victim, thus the simple magic of the signadori is generally ineffective against his schemes.
Demons of Disease
The decanus of consumption (tuberculosis) known as Ptheth or Phthisis is a frequent visitor to Corsica, appearing rarely in physical form as a dog-headed humanoid. Possessed victims of this disease spirit “bark” when they cough, hinting at their possession by this demon as opposed to suffering from the mundane form of this disease. Mundane consumption is a Major Melancholic disease similar to scrofula that presents with phyma (tumours) of the lungs instead of the skin. Rules for “Demons of Disease” are presented in a sidebar in Art & Academe, page 45 and details of scrofula can be found on page 50. Decani are members of the Order of Avengers of Evil and are detailed in Realms of Power: the Infernal, page 52. The sample decanus, Metathiax (demon of kidney diseases) can be used as a template for the statistics for Phthisis is presented on page 55 of the latter supplement.
Infernal Tradition: Stregoni
Favored Abilities: Debauchery, Effusion, Flight, Second Sight.
These local witches, also known as surpatori, may appear superficially similar to the mainland Italian Strigae (Realms of Power: the Infernal, page 129), but possess very different powers including some of the favoured abilities of standard Folk Witches. Stregoni are well known for their ability to fly through the night using an aspa, the vertical component of a spinning wheel, as their fetish item and are greatly feared for their compulsion to suck the blood of babies and small children. Despite their wicked reputation they are not commonly associated with the l’Occhiu (“the Evil Eye”), being considered more a type of human vampire than a source of misfortune. Although evil natured, they are believed only partly responsible for their actions, for they are threatened and coerced by their Infernal patron, Invidia, the embodiment of Envy and a Prince of the Vessels of Iniquity Order (see above). Although not directly opposed to the mazzeru (indeed some stregoni belong to the ranks of the mazzeru), they are the sworn enemies of the Divine aligned signadori.
Required Virtues: Infernal Blessing (Drain Blood)*, Flight, Skinchanger (cat or weasel).
Common Virtues: Debauchery, Effusion, Nightwalker; Second Sight.
Common Flaws: Compulsion (drink blood), Corrupted Abilities, False Power (Nightwalker), Vulnerable to Folk Tradition.
* Drain Blood is an Infernal power that inflicts magical wounds on the victim first described in the Stringla entry on page 161-162 of The Sundered Eagle.
The Magic Landscape
Ghosts or murtulaghji are somewhat different in Corsica than the rest of Mythic Europe. The spirits of the deceased typically haunt waterways and cross roads but rarely appear recognisable to mundanes.
The Laestrygonians and Torreans
Favored Abilities: Nightwalker; Animal Ken, Premonitions, Second Sight
The mazzeru are the endemic Nightwalker tradition of Corsica, first detailed in Hedge Magic: Revised Edition, pages 115-116. The responsibilities of a mazzeru include not only the yearly fertility battle or mandrache between the troupes of neighbouring villages and night battles against the evil stregoni but also their feared ability to predict the death of others by symbolic encounters with animals during their involuntary straying.
Although found across the island, mazzeru are much more common in the southern reaches. A type of female mazzeru common to the southern town of Chera engages in night-battles using their teeth and bare hands is known as culpadori dominates the southernmost region. Similar mazzeru can also be found in the more northern parts of Sardinia.
Further details of mazzeru are given in this separate article.
Asphodel of Virtue
Asphodel or taravellu (Corscian: “asphodel”), the so-called “flower of the dead” covers the barren rocky Corsican landscape, growing particularly well near tombs and cemeteries. Due to its association with the goddess Persephone and the underworld it was often planted on graves in older times and is used by some mazzeru as a weapon in the ritual mandrache.
The bulb of an Asphodel of Virtue contains a single pawn of Corpus vis which can be readily extracted by heating the bulb until it explodes like a firework. To enrich the plant, the substance of the bulb can be extracted and then baked into a form of bread that has an effect against consumption (tuberculosis) equivalent to that of the Virtue Greater Purifying Touch.
Shape & Material bonuses: +3 against disease, +3 death
Insert: The Labyrinth of the Maquis
The maquis or macchia is a dense, tall shrubland that covers rocky areas and consists of a mixture of holm oak, stawberry tree, juniper, sage, myrtle and other bushes. On a mundane level it provides ideal cover for bandits, fugitives, and wild animals. On a supernatural level its dense nature helps conceal pockets of wilderness that contain medium strength Magic auras and various entrances to a Regio Network (see Realms of Power: Magic, page xxx) that extends across the breadth of Corsica and the corresponding areas of neighbouring Sardinia, Sicily and scattered pockets of the Italian mainland.
Story Seed: the Honourable and Elusive Bandit
The bandit, like many of the other fugitives before him, has begun to self-initiate a set of Mystery Virtues that allow him to evade capture. The Outer Mystery, Maquis Lore, is a form of Nature Lore (see The Mysteries: Revised Edition, page xxx) gained in return for accepting the Reclusive Flaw. Although he may not yet have initiated all of the following Virtues, the Inner Mysteries likely include Maquis Regio Network, Ways of the Maquis and ultimately Death Prophecy.