The Spanish Meiga, Antonia Calatrava talks to Paco Garcia Jaen about this terrific role playing game and its origins:
If you are a witch, like I am, and a woman, like I am, and are very old, like I am, medieval times sucks. Make no mistake. Living in the middle ages is horrible horrible horrible.
For starters we don’t have boardgames or role playing games and barely a few card games. Social Security is a joke. Public transport atrocious. The tax system total chaos. Oh, and Internet connection is just not right. Not nice!
To make matters even worse, the Devil is out there to get you. And so is God.
You know all they say about witches, demons, lammias, gnomes, avenging angels and the whole plethora of not-so-supernatural creatures that Hollywood has made you believe don’t exist?
Well, they do. Or, at least, did until the likes of Galileo, Leonardo, Copernicus and others brought you the concept of “science”. Them and that horrid “Industrial Revolution” with all its progress that put a lot of people out of work.
What is the point of believing in witches flying on brooms when you can’t really see them ever? For the record,we didn’t really ever fly on our brooms. I mean, we could have, but it was too hard work to just get them too take off. And have you ever sat on a stick? Even if you do sideways, it leaves you with a very sore bum. Why do that when we can use a horse?
However, Ricard Ibanez and Antonio Polo, for reasons that will stay between them, God and the Devil, wanted to let you know what it is like and they came to me, through various rituals better left unexplained and undescribed, so I could be their guide. A consultant, if you please.
The first time they did was over 20 years ago, they were just lads, not knowing what they were getting into. And I didn’t tell them either. I am no fool! Then they came back some ten years later and I told them a few more things. And they came back again not too long ago, but this time they wanted to delve deeper into my knowledge. The wanted to “revolutionise the book they started all those years ago”.
Pah!! Revolutions. Look where your revolutions have got you, fools!
Still, it is repeat business that keeps a witch going and with Devil’s Dust going up in price like it’s nobody’s business, I can’t let a chance like this go. Besides, it amuses me to see all the hard work they put into their so called “game”.
I must say, when they came back to give me my copy (no point in writing my own grimoire when they can give me one for “services rendered”, right?), I was rather impressed. They even called it Aquelarre again after the ritual gathering where we met. That was sweet of them!
It seems it wasn’t an easy thing to do, though they were very clever about it. They sent an “email”, whatever that is, to a list of some sort where people who like this sort of thing gather, and said “if you can help us do this, that’d be nice”. And people helped right away. Quite amazing! They paid for the book months before it was even finished or totally written and had to trust they’d get what they paid for. Is not something I would recommend, but it is credit to how well loved and respected those two lads are! How they managed that is a mystery… if only the world knew what I know!
I was very upset, though, that they’ve written it in Spanish and not in Latin, as it would be proper. Now, pretty much every one can become a witch. Even a saint, if they manage. I tell you though, career progression in the sainthood business is jolly tough!
I’m really pleased, though, that they have taken my advice to the letter for this new book. I told them they should be more realistic in their depictions of medieval life. You know… nothing of this silly Arthurian glamour with round tables and shiny armours. Oh no!
In this book medieval life is told as it really is. It is dark, it is dingy, it is dangerous and it can be very, very short. They have left a few things behind, but generally the main professions are there. Artisans, students, monks, priests, soldiers… You know, the typical ones. But they have been good lads and also included professions for the other religions present in Spain in the Middle Ages. After all we threw out the Arabs and brought their kingdom to ruins, but we weren’t going to throw them all out. You know equality and all that.
Oh, and we have Jews too. A lot of them.
So in this book you will learn about them, their lives, their traditions, professions and even their deaths and how they could end up in hell. Oh, and how you could be in trouble if you are seen with them. They are indeed tolerated, but liked?… that’s a different matter.
Once I told them all the needed to know, sorry, all they *wanted* know about life and cultures, I took them shopping. There is no good knowing what a soldier can do if you don’t know where to get your sword, or your armour, or a decent pair of pants. And if you are a student?… Where do you get your booze, huh?
Well, they cover everything you need to know to buy whatever you need to get well equipped and ready to go out there gallivanting for whatever holy or unholy reason you might have in mind.
Of course you have to fight sometimes and you don’t have to worry, Ricard and Antonio have put down everything from how fast you can move when you are wearing thin clothes, so how hard it is to swim when you wear a full armour. Not that you will ever get to see one. They are VERY expensive. And who the hell you think you are to deserve one anyway? Full armours are for wealthy generals and the like. You’re nowhere near them!
Oh right… so you are actually pretty rich. Right. That must be one of your blessings. I bet you have some disadvantages, though. I doubt very much that you can choose to be that rich and not having to get something to compensate. You see, there is no such thing as a totally blessed man… or woman.
Oh, sorry. Forgot what I was saying. Yes… combat and movement.
Well, in the Middle Ages things work very simply. We don’t have a lot of maths, you know; small science and all that. So look at it this way. If you are the best of the best of the best, you will have 100 at doing something. One hundred whatevers; it doesn’t matter and don’t be anal. It gives you bad breath. If you are not good at something, you have less than 20 whatevers. Then is all down to the luck of the dice. If you are lucky, then you roll under your number. If you are unlucky, then you roll over your number and you screw up. You can be super lucky, or super rubbish, and then things go better than you expected or much worse than you could have possibly imagined.
Talking of holy and unholy… Get ready to take sides. Sitting on the fence is just as dangerous and will mean no one will truly like you anyway.
Getting used to the concept of magic took some doing. “Thanks” to your science, you have forgotten what I use in my daily routine and you think we are all stupid. Just you wait! The problem is that you *choose* to believe or not. You see, you have your little way to rationalise everything. That is because God keeps your mind attuned to His will, somewhat. But then, we have the devil, who is a rather present and influential character here, and decides to show you things that you can’t rationalise. Like seeing a demon coming out of a portal when we do an aquelarre. That can be much fun if there is a newbie to the group. It’s great to see someone having a panic attack!
So basically, the more you believe in God and all his fancy army of angels and saints, the more rational you are. The more you chose to follow Lucifer and practice magic, witchcraft or whatever, the less rational you are.
Not that that will make you crazy, mind you. We are so used to seeing things you consider weird, that it doesn’t bother us. We go crazy for other reasons, though, like when we are cursed. Now THAT’S fun!
So if you choose to practice one side or another, you get to do fancy stuff with spells and rituals. Don’t think both are alike, though. Oh no!
If you are a follower of God and you do black magic, then God, in all his mighty goodness, will come and mess you up good. If not in this life in the next. That purgatory thing sounds like a rather messy place. I bet they have lots of therapists to help you see the wrong of your ways (there, I have learned a few things too. Ricard told me about this therapy thing. Sounded fun!).
Whatever side you chose, if any, don’t expect to know more than a handful of spells or rituals. That Merlin fellow you’re thinking of is a fraud. You can’t just wave your hands, say some words and make something happen every time! I mean, yes you can, but to learn those things take a lot of time and a lot of components, some of them so rare you’ll have to put yourself in the way of danger to obtain it. Trust me, a Basilisk is not going to donate an eye on your say so!
Nop, the way of God is not easier either. Be prepared to pray, and pray that your prayer pleases Him, otherwise you might waste months of preparations. If you succeed, though, demons will fear you and will run away, or leave the cosiness of the virginal body they’ve possessed. Don’t expect them to be grateful, though. The demonic house market is a tough one to get into and they love to occupy young bodies and have a party!
They took all the spells I know too, those two rascals. All the spells from my magic book are in this book of theirs, and I tell you, you can do some terrific stuff with them. Expect to only get to master a few, though.
I had to go out of my way to get them the information about the rituals the priest and nuns can do. Still, they made for interesting reading and I got some holly wafers that will be terrific when I next have the girls around. Halloween looms! (you didn’t think you invented that, did you?).
Just in case you couldn’t understand something, I told the boys to talk to some friends of mine. They have been out and about a lot and have lots of stories to fit any of the parts of this book. I must say, I found rather amusing some of their stories, although I didn’t like the gothic font they have used. I must be dyslexic or something (though not sure what that means).
I told them it would be a bad idea, but they insisted they wanted to have a list of demons and minor demons, as well as creatures that worship or serve those demons. So I resigned myself and gave them it, and very comprehensive that it is too. Who you think you’re talking to?
No detail was spared. How tall they are, how heavy, do they have wings…. Everything!
And the same with Angels, by the way! Oh, and all sort of creatures both of God and the Hells. You won’t be able to say you didn’t know this or that because it is all there and it is very informative.
Of course, as I said when I started, life in the Middle Ages is pretty crap and I wanted you to know how good you have it, so I told you the boys to add a chapter to their book on history and life in Spain in the Middle Ages. You will find out here how tough peasants had it, how good the rich people had it, what they thought of women, homosexual (yes, we had them too… you haven’t invented anything!), prostitutes, monks, etc.
I gave them a spell so their writing would be irresistible and it has worked. You will not learn history in a more interesting and honest way anywhere else. It’s about time you knew about all the injustice that await you when you visit my time thanks to this book.
Of course they weren’t going to let you come without guidance. They did that all that long time ago when they first came to ask for my help and they’ve learned their lesson the hard way. You don’t have to. They tell you how to navigate this book, how to navigate my time and how to navigate other people too! Handy if you have friends. Big if!
The last bit annoyed me. I told them four stories, personal and full of flavour and information. What do they do? They turn them into what they call “adventures” for you who is foolish enough to want to come to my world.
Are they kidding me? Four? And arranged in a way that go from the easiest introduction to the tougher scenes in my time?
C’mon! I said this is a TOUGH time, it’s not fair to make newcomer’s work easy. What’s the fun in that? At least they should have let them to their own devices to find their way in… noooooo… they had to also give them all they need to get them started!
Oh well.. it’s something I can forgive them. I must say they have done me proud. By the time you read this my time on this planet will be gone and I will be looking up from hell and laughing at the fact that this book is going to bring you to a new world you are totally ignorant of.
And thanks to the charm spells put on this book, you won’t be able to dislike it or get away from it ever again. And you will want more, and more, and more and more. Oh and it looks rather gorgeous. Those byzantine illustrations and drawings they’ve added to the book are just the right thing. And it is easy to read too! I didn’t even have to put my glasses on to see what they wrote down!
The main five stars in the skies, the stars that still light the way for the angels to come to the Earth are shining on this so-called game, and you would be silly to miss this chance to learn what you’re missing for being born 800 years too late!
Now, if you may excuse me, there is a stake surrounded by timber that awaits me.
If you speak/read Spanish and would like to buy this book (and you should, really), click the image below: