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Author Topic: Color Symbolism, Thoughts
Merlion-Emrys
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In my mind a story and a world is forming. In this world, mages walk certain Roads, each one with a color.

White
Black
Grey
Blue
Yellow
Red
Green
Purple

Maybe more too but I know these for sure. The different Roads have both different types/effects of magic and also different philosophies. I know my main character is a White Road mage who used to walk the Red Road.

I already have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to do with it, but I thought I'd stop here and ask for any knowledge people have about color meanings and symbolism as well as any thoughts anyone may have about how these things relate to mages and magic. Traditions and ideas from any culture or source are welcome. Thanks in advance.


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Robert Nowall
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"Follow the Yellow Brick Road" comes to mind.
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Crystal Stevens
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White usually represents peace or the devine. Also virginity, which is why brides wear white... supposedly. LOL

Black in many circles means deseased or deceased... like in dead. I believe it has a history of being connected with evil? Guessing on that one.

I never really read it anywhere, but Grey, to me, feels like insecurity or creepiness. Not knowing what may happen next. Sorta like being caught in a fog or limbo. But that's just my interpretation .

Blue makes me think of clear skies and wide open spaces. Sorry that I can't be of more help with this one.

Yellow gives me a warm glow inside. One of comfort and safety. Another interpretation could be cowardice, as in when someone is called "yellow" for backing down from a dare.

Red always makes me think of anger or rage. It's also the color of fresh blood and is why the U.S. flag has red stripes to represent those that gave their lives in the fight for our nation's independence.

Green can have multiple meanings too. The first thing to pop into my mind is growing plants, trees, wide open fields of grass, that sort of thing. Green is also used for a person with little to no experience in a hobby, craft, or job. These people are called "green".

Purple is a controversial color here in the U.S. I love the deep purples in a beautiful sunset or the light lavender shade of purple when our lilac bush blooms in the spring. But there is another side of the coin for this color. For some reason it's been associated with gays... at least here in the States.

I'm going to add pink to the list, since it's known as a pacifying color and suppose to tone down aggressive behavior. Studies have proven that a certain shades of pink will do this.

I don't know how much help I've been, and much of this is just my own opinion, but what would life be like without all the beauty of color?


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shimiqua
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I'm writing a story with color association as well. Here is what mine mean:

White Healers
Black See the future.
Grey Pewter. Strength.
Blue Talkers. Can make images in people's minds
Yellow Flyers Can't really fly, no wings yet, but really good at jumping.
Red Sparklers, can make fire
Green rare, Strong magic once turned.
Purple Can move things with their mind
Orange Can go invisible
Also I have a spectrum that can do everything. Really rare.

If you notice some of the colors are opposite of what you would think (take the orange for example) But I think it works because it still sticks in your mind.
What ever you do, it doesn't really matter, so long as you are consistent, and remind people.

Good luck.
~Sheena


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Kitti
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My take on it:

White - purity, light, brightness
Black - obscurity, dark, evil
Grey - complicated, neutral, shadowy
Blue - justice, confidence, peace
Yellow - cheerfulness, happiness
Red - blood, passion, anger, hate
Green - nature, regeneration, growing things
Purple - royalty, nobility, wisdom, those who are injured/die in battle


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ScardeyDog
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I tend to associate red = fire, blue = water, green = earth, yellow = um, air? One of them had to be air...

I think I'm pulling this from childhood memories of Captain Planet. What colour was "heart"?


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tchernabyelo
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It might be interesting to go with less obvious associations. In some cultures white is the colour of mourning, for example.

I have a vague idea lurking in my mind, based on the prayer flags used in Tibet, whereby each colour represents a certain god, and so depending on whether you can get hold of particular dyes/colours afects which god you can worship. nd when someone comes along with a completely new dye - a new colour, in effect - they get to "create" their new god with it..


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arriki
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In a large part of the world white symbolizes death.

Red is happiness in most of the far east.

Green is the moslem holy color.

Purple for ages was associated with royalty and nobility although in China, it was yellow. Blue was for commoners there.


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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
It might be interesting to go with less obvious associations. In some cultures white is the colour of mourning, for example


I'm trying to be somewhat cross cultural. Also, most likely each Road will have different aspects and cast a pretty wide net. I haven't decided yet how much redundancy in magical effect I want amongst them.

Chances are much of it won't even play into this first story, but I want to explore it.

I know I have a White Road wizard who used to be Red. I think the antagonist is going to be Purple.


White I plan mostly to be like a Final Fantasy style White Mage...but more focus on protection and defense, some healing. But also an association with creation (going back to the divine thing.) Theres also a thing between the White Road and the Black Road...Black claims association with creation and the begining as well...the void from which everything was born. I'm eschewing, mostly the death/necromancy thing for black and focusing on the Void concept...both positive and negative as a begining or the end. Probably give them gravity effects and things of that nature also.


Red is destruction. Randomness, emotion...admitedly based somewhat on Red in Magic: The Gathering. Some Red Road mages are passionate freedom fighters, some just like to obliterate things. My MC was the second type but he came to feel remorse for all the killing and destroying and switched to the White Road.

Purple I've mostly decided to focus on the royalty/rulership association. I think Purple will be summoning and enchantment/mind control type stuff. Some of them tyrants, some devoted leaders. Purple is interesting because it's a non-spectral color, it can only be prodcued by combining other colors...Violet is the closest on the actual spectrum.


For yellow I decided on an age association...they will probably do time-magic...but theres also that association with happiness that makes me want to do illusion or trickery type stuff. I'm still deciding what all to do with yellow.


Green is a tough one. I don't really want to just do the obvious and have the Green Road types be druids/nature mages. I think there will be some of that, but I think Green may also be the dichotomy color. Nature is cyclical and has life and death and rebirth, predator and prey etc. Its also associated with both life and also things like disease and poison. So the Green types may well do a bit of both...theres may also be the area of liason between the spiritual and the physical.


Blue is kind of hard too. The MTG way is obvious: Water, air and the mind. However in some cultures blue does have connotations of authority and trust. Its also associated with magic and mystery in general, as is purple. Blue is also my favorite color and in much of my stuff the "good guys" tend to use blue, white and/or grey a lot.


Grey is hard too since again the obvious is to put it between black and white...neutrality or ambiguity. I may use it for changing, transforming magic and transitions...transportation stuff maybe?


Anyway thats kind of where my thoughts are going at this point.

I haven't even thought about Orange or Violet yet.


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Zero
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"Studies have proven"

So-called studies prove nothing. Indicate maybe. Imply maybe. Show maybe. But it's a pet peeve of mine when people toss around the words proof and proven like candy on halloween.


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InarticulateBabbler
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Doesn't Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker use colors as a magic system? You may want to check it out so you can something intentionally opposite...

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited November 17, 2009).]


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Merlion-Emrys
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Hmmm...doesn't look like anything remotely similar to what I'm doing from what I can tell, which is good. Thanks for the info.
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Andrew_McGown
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Magic the Gathering uses the colours of magic...

Terry pratchett used the colour of magic and called in 'octarine' just because it was not in our visible spectrum did not mean it could not be a colour....

cultural connotation for colour vary markedly I would look into asian traditions and what colour mean there especially regarding life, death mourning etc it may give not so much clues, but inspiration.


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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Magic the Gathering uses the colours of magic...


Ohh yes, I'm intimately familiar with the colors in MTG...I've played off and on for years. It's definitely influencing this project, but I'm trying not to copy its ideas too much.

Also, MTG doesn't have Yellow, Purple, Grey, Orange etc only White, Black, Red, Blue and Green.


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Robert Nowall
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I'm also kinda reminded of the symbolism of different-colored rooms in Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death."
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Merlion-Emrys
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Ahh I shall have to look into that one.

Ohh also before anyone mentions it, I've read Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept series. Its ok and all but I'm not to wild about what he did with the color thing...one reason being that there seemed to be no real connection between the Adepts colors and their abilities.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Wrote an article for a STAR WARS fanzine (years ago) that suggested that Lucas used black and white, at least, differently from what a lot of people thought. I pointed out that the storm troopers wore white, so it didn't mean Good--maybe it meant shielded or protected or closed off from the Force? Then black could mean open to the Force--the first movie to show seemed to indicate Darth Vader was the only one known to be using the Force, since all the other known Jedi were supposed to be dead.

So maybe the in-between colors represented varying levels of being open or closed to the Force or to other things, like romance. <shrug>

You could pick meaning for your colors to represent various places on a spectrum (which colors are, after all), Merlion.


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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
You could pick meaning for your colors to represent various places on a spectrum (which colors are, after all), Merlion.


Thats an interesting idea, and I imagine there will be some of those elements. Theres a good deal of overlap in color symbolism, and likewise also in magical effects (just look at how much and how many times the Schools of magic have been re-arranged in Dungeons and Dragons.)

Many colors for instance can represent various transitions and/or dichotomies. Also I believe there will be at least some...room for interpretation along the different Roads (I've even toyed with each Road having two or more Paths.)

Again a lot of this won't even come into play a whole lot in the story I'm mentally composing (it involves my White Mage escorting a the magically suspended daughter of a wealthy merchant to her new husband...with the knowledge that a skilled Purple Road wizard has already tried to compel her affections...or thats what he's told) but I definitely plan to do more than one story in this world. It's unfolding in interesting ways, and all the thoughts I get here help that.


About your Star Wars thing though, I'm curious, how did your thoughts change with the later movies? Obi-Wan and Yoda for instance (and later most Jedi) wear primarily tans and browns.


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dee_boncci
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I don't remember much of the specifics, but some native American groups used "colored" roads as spiritual metaphors, associated with their power/magic systems. It might be something to research for ideas. I want to think there was a black road for war, red for peace, etc., at least in the Souix tradition as preserved from Black Elk.
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Merlion-Emrys
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Ooo now thats intriguing ~adds to research list~


The "road" part is actually partially inspired by an anime series called Air Gear...it involves people who ride motorized rollerblades...and there are several supernatural "roads" that most people tend to ride, each with a king (The Flame Road, the Wing Road, the Over Road etc.)

I am, of course, trying to do something a bit different...if nothing else, paths of sorcery are a good deal different from rollerblading...but that was part of the seed or inspiration.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
About your Star Wars thing though, I'm curious, how did your thoughts change with the later movies? Obi-Wan and Yoda for instance (and later most Jedi) wear primarily tans and browns.

Tans and browns are closer to black (more open to the Force) than they are to white. Remember that when Luke went to rescue Han (and Leia) from Jabba the Hut's fortress in RETURN OF THE JEDI, he wore black.

Basically, I figured that black was the official Jedi "uniform" and tans and browns were for "fatigues."


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Merlion-Emrys
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Hmmm interesting.


Also interesting that the red lightsaber is exclusively associated with the dark side (or I guess later specifically the Sith) whereas the Jedi/light side have green and blue and later other colors like yellow. Although later those have been tied to the concepts of the Jedi Knight versus the Jedi Consular...and whats the other one, Sentinel? That all originated with RPGs though I believe, though it seems to have been incoporated into other things.


For myself, I associate Red with evil or negative things at least as much as Black. Possibly because I tend to be calm and reserved (most of the time) and Red is an agressive color. Thats one reason my White Mage will be a convert from Red rather than black...although there are lots of reasons.

I need to look into that game what is it...Chrono Cross I think has colors tied to magic types also...


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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By the way, I've heard that pink has only recently (in the last century) become a color considered appropriate for girls.

As I understand it, because it was the color of red added to white, it was considered symbolic of blood on white clothing, and therefore much too violent for females. The correct color for girls, according to that perception, was blue because it is a calming and cooling (as in temperature-lowering) color.


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Kitti
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I remember reading about how pink was a very manly color. Certain former presidents (Thomas Jefferson) might possibly have had pink bedrooms... ;-)

Other random color thought I just had - in martial arts, the colored belts indicate knowledge. The darker your belt, the more knowledge/experience you have. Which is kind of cool in that it completely divorces white/black from the whole good/evil thing.


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Teraen
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Are these literal roads they walk down, or more like disciplines one studies? One implies magic is bestowed on them, the other that they must learn something. Are the roads assigned to them, or do they get to pick? Whoever makes the choice, by what criteria do they choose?

Can somebody choose wrong? Are you stuck on a path your whole life if you take it? (did your mage who change become and outcast, or is it normal to change?)

Can a wizard do more than one road (Red, Blue, and White: a light shade of purple mage...?)

[This message has been edited by Teraen (edited November 17, 2009).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
in martial arts, the colored belts indicate knowledge. The darker your belt, the more knowledge/experience you have.

Huh! Could that have been the color scheme Lucas was using?


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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Are these literal roads they walk down, or more like disciplines one studies?


Probably somewhere between the two. Mostly disciplines but some times mages say they "see" the roads. I think the roads do have some degree of literal metaphysical existence as sources...or at least conduits...of magic.

quote:
One implies magic is bestowed on them, the other that they must learn something.


As is often the case in my stories, probably some of each again. I generally view magic as an inherent potential in sentient/souled beings of any kind. In this world, however, I'm thinking most people access magic via the Roads both literally and philosophically. For me, there is always an internal component however.

quote:
Are the roads assigned to them, or do they get to pick? Whoever makes the choice, by what criteria do they choose?


Each wizard chooses their road. Generally its probably mostly an issue of taste, desires, inclinations though I could see someone having some sort of vision or spiritual experience leading them down a certain road.

A vicious killer is probably not going to walk the White Road, likewise a meek unassuming scholar is unlikely to walk the Purple Road.

quote:
Can somebody choose wrong?


I think there wouldn't really be a "wrong" choice, but perhaps one that changes later.


quote:
Are you stuck on a path your whole life if you take it? (did your mage who change become and outcast, or is it normal to change?)


I'm thinking that change is not unheard of, but probably rare. Maybe not super rare for someone whose had a major change in their outlook on life. It probably depends somewhat on the road as well, I think some are going to have stronger philosophical/moral tendencies than others.

quote:
Can a wizard do more than one road


I don't think so. I think perhaps some see either the White or the Black roads as the...meeting place or culmination of them all (just as in some color theories White, Black or both are considered to consist of all colors.) I think its possible their may be some people who have the idea of some sort of Rainbow Road that attempts to follow or combine them all at once. I'm not sure about those things yet.


Interesting questions making me wonder interesting things...


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philocinemas
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KDW, here is my interpretation of Lucas's color scheme:

The colors Lucas used to represent the Empire (white, black, and red) were the same colors in the Nazi Swastika. The Empire was largely patterned after Nazi Germany. I would interpret the black as representing dominance, strength, power, supremacy, and control. The white multitude of identical stormtroopers (clones) represented uniformity, conformity, "purity", obedience, and subjugation. Red, the spectral opposite of black and white, is used primarily for the emperor's guards, representing authority, danger, death, and ultimately (or ultimate) evil, such as in the devil often being represented with that color. In addition to these meanings, I see the black and white used together to represent rigidness in thought, action, belief, and expectations.

I don't believe the Jedi colors are from the martial arts due to there being little if any yellow, blue, dark green, or red colors among Jedi, except for lightsabers and skin color. The colors are more tan, brown, and black (but not shiny black). These are the colors of sand, dirt, and wood (not necessarily respectively). They have always reminded me of the Franciscan robes. I feel these colors represent earth-colors, practicality, consistency, contemplation, humility, and poverty. The black of the Jedi does appear to represent a level of mastery (like the martial arts), but then there is an off-white that appears to represent the highest level of mastery. I see the off-white as also representing the highest level of humility (understanding that ultimate purity is unattainable but attempted).

I have never heard Lucas's thoughts on this, but that is how I have always seen his color schemes.

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited November 18, 2009).]


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Phobos
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completely random word association. Take it for what its worth


Perhaps blue... fertility, human life, birth, water, ice, royalty

red... chaotic, blood, fire,

to make purple...witchy voodoo type blood spells, unborn, womb

???yellow... sun, light providing, healing, sight

white... time, beginning, virtue, chastity

Black... power, darkness, blindness, end, ash, abyss

green... poison and cures, flora, abundance

grey... now and nether, void, nothing, present, nuetral, lost


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Zero
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Because it is a somewhat cliched idea, at least in sound, I'd recommend picking less usual colors. Instead of "purple" say Lavender, instead of blue or green go with "teal" maybe toss in "indigo" etc. Might be better. Might not. I dunno.
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Merlion-Emrys
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I appreciate the suggestion but being "cliche" is rarely that big a worry for me. What concern I have for that in this case is focused more on the associations than the names.

I'm more interested in "accuracy" and resonance. The primary and main secondary colors (Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Purple etc) and the non-colors (Black, White, Grey) have much stronger associations and symbolism and are more elemental. Lavender and teal are basically names of shades and while some of the basic color names are a bit iffy, "The Teal Road" just doesn't sound very...serious...to me.

Admitedly purple is a bit weird being a non-spectral color (violet is the closest on the actual spectrum) but most people see violet, lavender, indigo etc etc as forms of Purple and I think purple has a stronger presence in the mind than the other possibilities.


Certianly magical color association has been done, but I believe thats because its a very basic, relatable and resonant idea. I do plan to make it my own...mostly via the associations and by way of each Road being somewhat...open to interpretation. Almost like religions but not exactly.


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Zero
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Ah, with those objectives I think you are choosing the correct strategy. And yes "The Red Road" sounds a lot better than "The Teal Road" so go with that.

I will now try to address your original question.


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Zero
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Note some of these are conflicting, these are just possibilities of things I could be made to think, though not necessarily all together.

White: Purity, cleanliness, goodness, divinity, simplicity, peace, light.

Black: Darkness, corruption, evil, danger, rogue-ness, confidence, death, solemnity, mourning, finality.

Grey: Neutrality, independence, mixed-loyalties, bleakness, evasiveness, distance, conflicted, sobriety.

Blue: Water, life, healing, sapphires, power, serenity, coolness, coldness, storm.

Yellow: The sun, lightning, happiness, bees, honey, lethargia, brightness, ecstasy.

Red: Wrath, hunger, fire, hatred, love, passion, lust, attention-grabbing, arrogant, powerful, confidence, rubies

Green: harmony, life, earthy, money, greed, emeralds, wealth, power, camoflauge

Purple: royalty, nobility ... not sure what else


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Zero
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philo,

I think you give Lucas way too much credit.


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Merlion-Emrys
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Thanks everybody. I'm getting a good feel here for general symbolic meanings. I'd like to get down to more specifics and get peoples thoughts about how these things would relate in terms of magic, spells, magical effects and also the philosophical "road" aspect. Up a ways I talked a bit about my plans so far so use that as a springboard.

I really appreciate everyones thoughts and contributions.


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