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Witchcraft in this world is practiced openly by witches and is exclusively female. Magic works through long, complicated rituals that require multiple components. The most powerful of these demand human sacrifice, in which an individual is killed and their mana (life energy) is used to fuel a spell. Mana is continuously produced by the body in order to keep a person alive and functional. It exists in various quantities in different places, such as the heart, blood, intestines, liver, etc. Certain rituals require certain parts to be used (burned, eaten, etc) in order to release the mana that resides there and fuel a spell. Some examples would be cutting out the heart of a person and devouring it in order to add their mana to yours and temporarily increase your strength before going to war, or hundreds of people would be burned in a pit to fuel a battalion of soldiers. Sacrificial victims could be criminals, prisoners of war, and other undesirables that society deem fit to be killed. This would depend on the state and their laws and customs.

Witches who are sentenced to die for whatever reason are routinely just killed with no special circumstances. Again, depending on the policy, this could be brutal or humane. Males, however, are regarded as better components for these kind of spells. Why would this be the case?

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    $\begingroup$ uh... they are outside and thus more easily reachable? $\endgroup$ – Tom Sep 17 '18 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ Just saw this in HNQ right next to a question about "really, really hard wood", causing me to completely misinterpret the latter. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Sep 17 '18 at 15:33

11 Answers 11

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witchcraft in this world is practiced openly by witches is exclusively female

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Mana is continuously produced by the body in order to keep a person alive and functional.

Males can't use magic therefore they can't spend the mana their bodies produce. This results in more mana stored in the organs that can be transferred to the witch.

Females are revered as the noble gender, and non-witches cannot be sacrificed in rituals for two reasons.

  1. They could perform very powerful magic involuntarily like in HP universe (due to large amount of unused mana).
  2. The person being sacrificed consumes a portion of the mana involuntarily in order to heal, this portion is large enough even in the absence of mana channels and pathways (present in females) that can spend mana more quickly making the sacrifice even more difficult and mana wasting.
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  • $\begingroup$ Perfect. This reminds me of (spoilers!) the way magic works in Sergei Lukyanenko's Watch series: normal humans actually have more Power in them than Others (magic users), who have the ability to channel and use that Power thanks to having less of it than their surroundings. The most powerful magicians in history were zero-point Others, with absolutely no Power whatsoever. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 17 '18 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ What about females that aren't witches though? They wouldn't use their mana. Maybe by combining this with the other answers it would make sense by I don't believe it is fitting answer by its own. $\endgroup$ – El Nitromante Sep 17 '18 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ @ElNitromante Could be handled by explaining that a woman's cycle naturally consumes mana, regardless of whether it results in pregnancy. $\endgroup$ – Marisa Sep 17 '18 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @ElNitromante Females are revered as the noble gender and cannot be sacrificed in rituals for two reasons. One: they could perform very powerful magic involuntarily like in HP universe (due to large amount of unused mana), Two: the person being sacrificed consumes a portion of the mana involuntarily in order to heal, this portion is large enough even in the absence of mana channels and pathways (present in females) that can spend mana more quickly making the sacrifice even more difficult and mana wasting. $\endgroup$ – workoverflow Sep 18 '18 at 6:39
  • $\begingroup$ Even if non-witch females could be sacrificed, it would be easy to end up with a policy of not doing so from history, power dynamics, cultural expectations... perhaps not realizing or not remembering it is possible after some time of a policy of not doing so. $\endgroup$ – Megha Sep 18 '18 at 16:35
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their mana (life energy) is used to fuel a spell. [...] Males, however, are regarded as better components for these kind of spells. Why would this be the case?

Males have higher level of testosterone, resulting in higher metabolism. Mana production is also related to metabolism, so it makes sense that males are preferred, having higher mana levels.

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Males, however, are regarded as better components for these kind of spells. Why would this be the case?

Because they're -- statistically speaking -- bigger, stronger and more aggressive than women. That means they have more mana.

Certain rituals require certain parts to be used (burned, eaten, etc) in order to release the mana that resides there and fuel a spell.

The phallus -- being the symbol of that power -- and testicles -- being the source of that power (via testosterone) are the most valuable.

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    $\begingroup$ Surely this only makes bigger, stronger, more vital people better for spells? A weedy and unhealthy man is unlikely to be better for mana than the healthily robust farmmaid who can carry a fully grown sheep under each arm... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 16 '18 at 9:21
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs quite true. Note, though, that OP says "Males ... are regarded as better components", not perfect or "the only". $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 16 '18 at 14:15
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Women's bodies are (biologically speaking) built to have children. Its likely no different in the supernatural world. After puberty, women's bodies naturally dedicate some small portion of their mana every month to jump-start the life-force a embryo would require to be conceived. This constantly drains their body of mana over the course of their lives, meaning men have higher background mana.

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  • $\begingroup$ But do men lose mana when they ejaculate into women? (And do women gain mana from that?) $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 16 '18 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ Well in order for this to be an answer to the question rather than just a random idea for a magic system i'm going to have to say no. That being said that's for a good reason I mean IRL almost all the calorie requirements for producing offspring fall upon the females of the species why should it be any different for magical calories? (mana) $\endgroup$ – Ummdustry Sep 16 '18 at 18:50
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It is simply :)

Only female may be witches. Only witches are killed straight, mans are used as mana sources. So I conclude, that the mana of witches is already warped by their witchery (as a virtue) and cannot be used as frealy as unwarped mana of mans (who have no witchery in them).

Side-effect - women, which are NOT witches could be used as well as mans as their mana is not warped.

  • but maybe all women are witches, so this is just theory
  • or maybe it is hard to say, if any particular woman is NOT a (latent) witch, until its mana is tested (and that can be hard to do reliably and take lot of time/ingredients/risc, so it is probabley more economical kill ANY woman (ande lose possible mana source), than to rics using warped mana (and lose much more in ongoing accident)
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Witchcraft in this world is practiced openly by witches and is exclusively female.

Witches have power, and this would also mean political power.

Witches who are sentenced to die for whatever reason are routinely just killed with no special circumstances. Again, depending on the policy, this could be brutal or humane.

She who holds power, decides how stuff gets done ! :-)

A group of politically (and actually magically) powerful women certainly won't want to encourage the notion that they're an acceptable target for disassembly into components.

Likewise that same group isn't remotely interested in encouraging the idea that one of their own can be killed without their own group's consent. And killing them in nasty ways is certainly going to make them very angry. The expression "that could be me" is one that focuses the mind a great deal.

Males, however, are regarded as better components for these kind of spells. Why would this be the case?

They have less power both politically and magically. They're a lot more expendable.

Over a long time ( generations ) what starts as a political expediency (can't do anything to annoy the witches) ends up as custom and accepted social norm and a social taboo. Rationalizations will be made to why men being sacrificed in this way is "glorious", "holy", "duty" (and other nonsense). If there's a religion involved this becomes even more likely. If there are lawyers involved it starts becoming actual written down law and almost harder to avoid.

So the usual reasons why a social group without power ends up being first used because it's convenient, then used because it's socially normal, then because it's a religious dogma and finally because it's written in law.

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A Witch used as a sacrifice can alter the spell being cast.

Usually, you get careful when using magic, but if you’re being burn alive, you can as well go all out, and make that spell you’re literally dying for fail with extreme prejudice. (Warriors feeling so strong they rush into the enemy lines a la Leeroy Jenkins, “augmented” troops going insane and leveling the town they were sworn to protect)

Some even say that witches can booby-trap their own organs before one can use them. We don’t know if it’s true, or what they can do, but no one is willing to take a chance.

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When you kill a woman, you are killing a potential or confirmed caster. That is a loss to the magic community as a whole.

Men, however, are useless in that aspect. Therefore no big loss is felt when one is sacrificed.

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Some ideas:

  • It is possible do the harvesting without killing the man right away. A woman usually dies before the extraction process is complete, wasting the mana.
  • The witches, being all women, lack the masculine mana needed to complete their powers. They supply their own feminine mana.
  • Masculine mana brings focus, dedication and the ability to target spells. Feminine mana is more of an area effect weapon, you can't really target anyone with it.
  • A woman's mana, when harvested, fights back, whereas, a man's mana can be "seduced" and bent to the witches' will. (A woman who can be seduced by another woman is probably a rare trophy, and a man who can't be seduced by a woman for whatever reason is useless, so that's probably why witches try to seduce their victims first, to appraise their potential in this regard.)
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Root Chakra

The primary male organ is centered upon a primal eddy of accumulated life-energy and is thought to regulate life-forces associated with instinct and survival. It is easier to harvest and combine and makes for a more effective spell.

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Solution

In your worldbuilding, create a causation relationship between Testosterone and Mana production.

Further Explination

Testosterone is an important signalling hormone in a mana production pathway within adult males. Physically large and athletic young men produce the most Testosterone. Mana builds up over time and can be boosted before harvesting after a testosterone spike. Conduct your witchy rituals it after a sacrificial dance, joust, or orgy (a la Ahmad ibn Fadlan's Viking Funeral).

Further Worldbuilding

Enforce a physically hypercompetetive society or adjust beauty preferences. Give women a closely associated Estrogen system but allow them to leverage their own mana. This option is extra-reasonable due to the connection to a real-life Sexual Characteristic. It would certainly affect gender politics and could lead to a believable Matriarchy where the magical edge towers over the physical and reproduction power disadvantage.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Dwnt7777 how would that affect gender politics? If magic is complicated and ritualized, what would be the advantage? $\endgroup$ – Incognito Sep 16 '18 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Incognito If magic is any use at all, then the people who posses it will use it as a tool. These people will have an advantage over people who do not have magic by definition, and it traditionally takes less work to do something through magic than manually. Magic might allow someone do to something they couldn't without it. It might have economic value, religious value, military value, social value. If only witches can be women, and being a witch has value, then society will value women more than if everyone could be a witch. $\endgroup$ – Dent7777 Sep 16 '18 at 17:02

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