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Gender-specific Magic


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So, a little while ago, I mentioned an idea that kind of interested me; the concept of make-up or cosmetics being used to facilitate magic. The topic can be seen here, and once again, I want to think everyone who made suggestions; I may not have responded to all of them, but I did read them, and I appreciated the response.


I've been doing a little bit of research into the ideas suggested in the thread, and into the concept of body art... which, as it turns out, is significantly more complex than I had imagined. That's a good thing, obviously, since it provides more freedom for the magic system to work with.


One particular idea I was thinking of playing with was the idea of a protagonist who uses what is commonly called Henna tattoo's. According to my extensive research (wikipedia) the paste used to apply those (Mehndi) used to be reserved for women's palms, but as time has gone on, it's become more natural for men to use it as well.


And that's an idea that I really want to explore; I've fascinated by the idea of transgressing gender roles, so the idea of a gender-specific magic system, being used by someone who isn't that sex interests me.


I was just wondering, though, if anyone had any good ideas or examples of how a gender-specific magic system should look like? The only one that immediately comes to mind is the Saidan Saidar split in Wheel of Time... and honestly, I don't think I've gotten far enough into that series to understand that well enough. Are there any other series which have particularly split magic systems like that?

Edited by Quiver
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That's actually a pretty interesting topic. The more I think about it, the more I realise I haven't seen that many gender-specific magic systems.

This is off the top of my head, and I don't have a particular series to pin it down to, but have you considered seidhr practices? It's not absolutely gender-specific but there's certainly something transgressive [at least the way the literature seems to discuss it] about males practising seidhr. Fantasy books done in a Norse setting usually tend to emphasise this, although I can't recall a good title at the moment.

There's a YA series (YMMV): Chanters of Tremaris, where the magic is...somewhat gender and region-specific. It's not particularly well-detailed, so that's my initial caution, but the element of gender specificity comes because the magic happens through song. So it's supposed to be the case that there are some songs (such as those for illusion) which are too high-pitched for males to sing, and some songs (such as those for 'ironcraft' and fire) which are too low-pitched for females to sing. Though exceptions exist.

If more occur to me, I'll add on to those here. This topic is certainly making me think.

Edit: Claymore (the manga.) But it's sort of like saidar-saidin--there's no real distinction between a male Claymore and a female Claymore (people with powers because of implants) except that the males apparently have a greater tendency to lose control, go off the rails, and become monsters (subjective, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers, so...)

Edited by Kasimir
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Just to check: you've mentioned you've wanted to explore the idea of gender role transgression--of people accessing specific magic of the opposite gender. But I notice that the example you gave there is one in which the system just is: basically, if you're born a female, you access saidar. If you're born a man, you access saidin. Being able to access saidin in a female body isn't impossible, but it requires the person to have a certain...metaphysical history, maybe let's put it that way.

But the idea I'm getting with what you're saying is that you're looking for cases where that sort of transgression isn't restricted to highly theoretical and rare circumstances: it's possible, but people don't do it for reasons of (presumably) culture and socialisation, and perhaps a few other reasons to add on to that. Given that, are you looking for systems that lean towards the saidin-saidar type split, or more of the latter kind?


Edit: I know I'm freely eliding the difference between sex and gender here; the distinction isn't particularly fine-grained in WoT, with one or two exceptions, so I am not as sharp about terminology as I should probably be.

Edited by Kasimir
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Maybe Earthsea could give you some insiration. In those books magic is used differently from males to females, but the magic system itself is not much explored, it's definitely what you would call soft magic. Well, the books are good so you could try them anyway.

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