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Sorcery is a field of study that calls upon the magic of the planet. Rather than using their own natural energies which are finite, an individual uses the energy of nature and the world around them. This form of magic is unlimited and never runs out. The user doesn't control the magic directly as it is too massive and powerful, but rather guides it in a particular way as it flows through them. A person opens themselves up to the flow of magic through rituals. This requires a combination of chanting, movement, and runes specific to the spell or culture of the participants.

These rituals can also require hours to months of preparation, as well as various materials and a period of ritual cleansing or fasting. Magic resulting from these rituals are not permanent, and last as long as the spell is being performed. An example would be a rain dance, or a spell altering a landscape for a particular amount of time. These rituals always take a particular form. Weaker spells can be performed by a group of up to eight witches. For stronger spells, more participants are needed and both genders are used. One warlock is needed for every group of eight witches that are added to the circle.

Why would rituals need to be set up in this way to work?

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    $\begingroup$ Gender is a social construct. The biological attribute is sex. The use of "both" genders (why are there only two?) can be explained by the culturally determined history of the magic knowledge. The requirement to use both sexes may have a more profound reason linked to the intrinsic properties of the magic. So, what it it? Genders or sexes? Can two people with testicles do it if one is socially to be referred to as she, or is the requirement for a person with testicles and one with ovaries? (And, anyway, in my opinion the question is way too broad to expect a reasonable answer.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 5 '18 at 11:25
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP "Gender is a social construct. The biological attribute is sex." Thank you. As someone who is surrounded by people who obstinately refuse to understand the distinction, it's truly a breath of fresh air to see that fact declared. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Oct 5 '18 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @AngelPray gender might be a social construct, but it's firmly rooted in the biological differences caused in utero and during puberty by testosterone washing -- or not -- through the body (including the brain). No psychologist or neurologist worth his or her salt would deny that males and females have differently shaped and shifted normal curves for IQ, personality traits, size, mental health, etc, etc. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 5 '18 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs on the contrary, I would say that the misuse of a statement does detract from it’s overall truthiness, since that misuse deceives people as to the real meaning of a statement; they learn only the misused meaning. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 5 '18 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH I disagree with an automatic VTC Too Broad or POB on "Why would someone X?", since there are many tropes that can be applied to such questions. In this case, ancient concepts of yin/yang male/female non-overlapping magisteria can be applied to the concept. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 5 '18 at 18:10
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The Earth is sexist.

Magic requires a balance of the Masculine (embodied by testosterone) and the Feminine (embodied by estrogen). However, the Masculine is Stronger than the Feminine, so a 1:8 ratio of testosterone:estrogen is required for the spells to work.

It also requires a "minimum amount" of the Masculine in the Feminine. The amount of Masculine in women (they do have testosterone) isn't that much (this is actual biological fact), so they can't do very powerful spells.

Thus, a warlock "levels up" the Masculine and allows for powerful spells.

(It also means that witches can only function from puberty to menopause, and warlocks are most powerful at age 18 and taper off after that. EDIT: Thus, old witches and warlocks do the same thing grandparents do, which is to assist the young and act as repositories of knowledge.)

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps this is Control vs Power: oestrogen lets you focus and direct the power, while testosterone allows you to channel larger amounts. If the male-to-female ratio gets too high, then the spell goes dangerously out of control, but if it's too low then then each participant does not have enough power available to perform their part. This would also allow individual skill or familiarity with the ritual to mitigate or skew the ratio safely... $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Oct 5 '18 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal that's quite reasonable. Despite all claims to the contrary, men and women are different (when looked at populations and distribution curves), and so would be expected to have different powers/strengths/abilities. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 5 '18 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ interestingly enough, I had the exact opposite thought. Nice answer though! $\endgroup$ – Hueco Oct 5 '18 at 16:26
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Hopefully I don't get too flogged for this...but, my answer is going to take a page out of Peterson's feminine/masculine - chaos/order analogy.

Specifically, nature is chaos. Trying to do a rain dance? You're flirting with hurricanes. It's not that females are the weaker sex in this case, it's that we need them, and lots of them to gain access to nature. It's their influence that allows for the control of nature itself. These women are powerful indeed.

But anytime one deals with influencing nature, things can quickly go out of control, simply because nature doesn't want to be controlled. Enter the masculine. He is the bumper rails on this bowling lane. But, keep in mind that (let's take this analogy further), it's the women throwing the ball, the women knocking the pins, and indeed, the women potentially overthrowing into the next lane.

Your male is there to guide the power and to keep it in check. It's the women causing the rainstorm, and the man stopping the hurricane. So, there's simply less need for men in this case because their role is less in the production of the magic. 1:8 happens to be the golden ratio that your culture has found that:

  • allows for the creation of strong magics
  • keeps the magic from going out of control
  • keeps everyone alive (make it 1:9 and the feminine magic overpowers and kills the male. Make it 1:7 and the bumpers get too restrictive, so to speak)

This scenario will implicate that less amounts of women can easily do magic, and more powerful magic, than the men. But, as in your case, in order to do the really powerful stuff, the two must work together. Neither can exist without the other.

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Chromosome distinction

Strictly speaking the basic difference between a male and a female is that females possess two X chromosomes when male get an X and an Y chromosome (this is at least true for human).

From what I understand, this is the way a magician bends the magic flow passing through his body that make him cast rain or altering landscape. So everything is based on the magic flow shape. Of course, witches and warlocks can influence the global shape of the flow, but they are not able to perform fine-tuning operations. Chromosomes can, unintentionally! In fact, in a much smaller scale, the magic flow pass inside each chromosome of the witch/warlock and this create some very fine differences between a male and a female magic. Complex spells are really difficult to archives as they need very fine shaping of the magic flow. The only way to do so is to disturb the female magic flow by adding a bit of male flow (more turbulent).

This image of chromosomes XX and XY shows that there is a real difference in their shape :

enter image description here

You can compare magic to a river. Witches and warlocks can change the riverbed but are not able to control the smalls vortex that you can sometime see in rivers (see below) which are proper to the way magic passes throught their chromosomes.

What is interesting with this theory is that people with down syndrome or other chromosomic condition will make another form of magic and will be needed to perform some more complexe rituals!

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for including down syndrome or other chromosomic conditions... I like to see "complicating factors" since messy boundaries are much more realistic than neat categories :) $\endgroup$ – Megha Oct 7 '18 at 8:39
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Sun god & Moon goddess

If the two main divinities in your magic order are based on the Sun (male) and Moon (female). This can dictate what gender of magic user is needed based on the time and/or season.

Such that, during the day a spell might only require a Male (sun) practitioner or if it is a spell based on the Moon goddess (or one of the lesser goddess in her pantheon) then it requires both because the Moon spell need to pass through the Sun god (visa-versa for a spell at night). This can also work with seasons as Winter (Moon) & Summer (Sun) have spells which are stronger or only require one practitioner while Fall & Spring (having aspects of both) require both practitioners. You could even have to cast a special spell to entice the Sun to sleep or to "warm" the Moon goddess to move through the seasons.

Life needs both

Another idea, is that "life" (or at least the act of making life with humans) requires both genders. So healing and other curative spells could require both genders for that reason.

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I would give the ratio numerical symbology and plant it in the ways your world is categorized.

For example, take the eight cardinal directions. North, North-East, East, South-East, South, South-West, West and North-West. Each witch would symbolize a direction, which in turn depicts an aspect of nature. Opposite directions would have major aspects that would balance each other out.

Let's say that East is the direction of birth, new things, sparks of fire, and Spring. I would give those aspects a "spirit" or "goddess" to personify them. It's opposing direction, West, would have opposing aspects, such as decay, embers, and Autumn. Its goddess would be diametrically different as well.

Now, the key concept is balance. You can have rituals for 2, 4, 6, and 8 witches before the magic is pulled in too many different directions. In comes the concept of the Axis. The warlock, and the associated god, is basically the focus of the many diverse magics. Basically where you stick the needle on the compass.

The compass was one example, but all you need is a group of concepts that oppose each other and one neutral monitor.

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