Petty Magic for Petty Matters—Part #3: Hedge

We've spoken about Arcane magic, and then Divine… Now it's time for Hedge!

Petty Magic (Hedge)

Petty Magic (Hedge) is the weirdest of the three we're discussing because a) it's by far the most dangerous magic of the three, and the most touched by Chaos, and b) it's by far the most accepted and integrated into normal everyday life, already! Many Hedge spells are more along the lines of Old Wives' Tales (given form). They're little peasant superstitions, except they're real.

Many villages, especially further away from larger towns and cities, contain a Hedge Witch of some sort—whether they're just a local guardian of the Old Faith, or they're actually attuned to the Winds of Magic, and have gone untrained and unnoticed by the Colleges of Magic. Either way, they live in an uneasy halfway between civilisation and the wilds—hence "Hedge", for they live along the hedgerow between the worlds.

Where Hedge Witches are found, you'll also find excuses as to why they should be tolerated. The Hedge Witch is often a healer, or a puller of teeth, or a warder of bad spirits. Whether they're actually doing a good job at this, or not, is up to the individual…but it always seems like villages with Hedge Witches do better than those without (though what are they trading for their prosperity?)

How does this prosperity manifest? Let's have a look.

Protection from Rain

The Witch is protected from rain and other precipitation, regardless of how heavy. This one, at first, seems like a weird spell…until you consider that most folks wouldn't have parasols or umbrellas in this age, and that to catch a cold is to flirt with death!

It may be disconcerting to see an old bent-over woman emerge from the driving rain whilst being bone dry, but I'm sure you'll forget your unease when they reveal your child, safe and sound, and unmarred by the rain. You'll be thankful when the Witch is able to guide your sheep back in, safely, when a flash storm occurs during the rainy season, or when they're the only one able to find a lost trinket out in the storm.

Plus, it doesn't hurt when nasty things come calling, to have a weirdly serene being standing among you, who has even made the rain afraid to fall on them…

Magic Flame

The Witch creates a small blue flame in their hand. In a world without lighters or easy access to fuel, being able to conjure even small flames would be a massive time saver. Sure, the fire is blue, and the edges of it look like skulls, and the back of your teeth taste like last Marktag when you were sure you heard a whispering of grey and worms and shattering and SOMETHING IS GETTING CLOSER!

Ahem. Excuse me.

Yes—the flame is weird, but it's flame. No need to dry the kindling, to labour over the spinning sticks, or to spend all your time tinkering with the flint and tinder.

Gust

The Witch creates a light gust of wind through an area, strong enough to blow out candles and scatter paper, but not to knock over objects of any weight.

Field work is tiring and very exposed to the elements. If the day is particularly hot, and there is no breeze, it would make toiling all the more difficult. Further, days of low-wind would aid crows and other scavenging birds to pick at a farmer's fields, and maybe allow larger raptors to steal young animals!

Quick, sudden, and unexpected changes in the weather, would be disconcerting to any who are paying attention (which would definitely include farmers and birds in the area), which would cause them to scatter and go elsewhere… So, whilst this might seem like a great idea to do over a farm, make sure the farmer knows the Gods are protecting them (or some other convenient lie).

Ghost Step

The Witch leaves no visible tracks for an hour, no matter where they move through.

Whilst the potential benefits of getting behind attackers who are coming to raid a village are unmistakable, I'm more interested in animals, here. There are plenty of situations where tracking animals could come after villagers: a bear has wandered into the area, the wolves of Winter are starving in the forests and are hunting closer to the village, or the Lord has discovered a theft and has unleashed their hunting dogs!

Ghost Step would aid in circumventing these dangers, and could be used to lure them away from the village, and throw off their trails. Perhaps it wouldn't be enough to stop them altogether, but it would buy time for the village to prepare: to hide the stolen goods, to gather their bows and head to the keep, or to lock their doors and hold out the hunting bear!

Ghost Step is also one of the least uncanny spells on the list: it is a talent that is conceivable to be trained (or at least, to trick a peasant that it is trained). This might require some deception on the part of the Witch, but it would be a strange Witch that didn't have to lie from time to time.

Ill Fortune

The Witch enchants an item, so that its bearer is cursed with bad luck.

This one is a little more obscured, but just remember: bad luck for one person is good luck for another. Sort of. The life of a farmer is a competitive one, and one measured in individual days. A single day of missed opportunities may mean the difference between surplus to be sold at market, and just scraping by through the Winter. Thus, cursing someone with failure, even for a day, could disrupt their whole year!

Further to that, the price of grain (as with all things) is set by the supply versus the demand. If the supply drops, and the demand is bumped up (by a farmer not having surplus, and indeed being dependant on purchasing more grain), then the farmer with the surplus will command a higher price!

There are all sorts of other uses: curse the local Lord, so they're less likely to notice their peasants short changing them, or curse the travelling merchant so they're not as savvy with their hard bargaining.

Of course, these curses are very wide-reaching, and they could have massively disastrous effects! The cursed farmer might not just be unable to work the fields properly, but might break their neck! The cursed Lord might take issue with the bad luck, and assume it's the entire village being cursed for harbouring a Witch! The merchant might get robbed on the road, and now the village will never get them back again to trade!

Ill Fortune is perhaps my favourite spell on the list: it's the most Witchy, it's the most unspecific (which means it'll cause the most drama when used at the table), and it's got such versatility. It's also, due to it being the most Witchy, the one most likely to cause the Witch strife if discovered. This sort of thing is why Witches get burnt at the stake, so be careful with its use!

Shock

The Witch touches and stuns one person.

Shock is a relatively straight forward spell: whether you need someone to stop, it has its uses. And there are definitely those times in provincial life… A man gets too drunk and disorderly at the local pub: that's a Shock. A dog goes rabid and pounces towards a young child: that's a Shock. A cow starts acting flighty, and is at risk of setting off a stampede: oh you better believe that's a Shock!

Again, however, this is a spell that looks off. It's not calming them, it's not making them drowsy: it's stunning them via a shock! If someone sees you doing this, they'll be very wary of you, and will start to spread bewitching rumours. Beware!

That's the end of our series! Make sure you read through the first two parts, Arcane and Divine, as well. I hope you enjoyed this little look into how magic can be expanded into the mundane, to make it even more dramatic and exciting!