From PathfinderWiki
An oracle and a magus combine divine and arcane magic in combat.

Magic is a mysterious supernatural force used by many inhabitants of Golarion and the multiverse. It is exhibited in many forms, including spells and magic items, and is applied in many ways, including arcane, divine, occult, and primal practices. Due to magic's many different forms, it is sometimes discussed as sorcery, witchcraft, witchery, or wizardry.1


The true nature and source of magical power is unknown.2


Magical power most often manifests as spells3 and acts upon the four essences of matter, spirit, mind, and life.4 In addition to typical spells and spellcasters, magical effects can manifest from rituals, curses, magic items such as potions, and other powerful or unusual events.3

On spells

Oloch, Shardra, and Alahazra combine spells to fend off skeletons.

A spell is a one-time magical effect brought into being, or "cast", typically by a spellcaster. Some spellcasters select their spells from a limited list of known spells, while others have access to a less limited array of options.

Some spellcasters prepare their spells in advance—whether from a spellbook or through prayers—while some cast spells spontaneously without preparation. Despite these different ways spellcasters learn or prepare spells, when it comes to casting them, many of the spells are very much alike, with magic being guided by certain core principles.3

Certain creatures, items, or abilities have a form of spell resistance that can reduce or negate a spell's effects.56


A representation of the types of magic as a wheel.

There are two parallel classification systems for magic: the contemporary magical traditions and the classical types of magic.7 According to modern writings, it is believed that most people in the Inner Sea region subscribe to the four-traditions understanding. This system's scholars hold that occult and primal magic are especially misunderstood, and that assuming those traditions' users to be arcane and divine spellcasters is a common misconception.8


Magic is contemporarily classified through four magical traditions: arcane, divine, occult, and primal.9 Each tradition wields power over two of the four essences: matter, spirit, mind, and life.10

Details of a magical tradition can vary even between a single class's practitioners. For example, sorcerers, summoners, and witches include arcane casters, divine casters, occult casters, and primal casters among all their ranks. Comparably, a monk may channel ki into spells either by learning divine ki magic, or by learning occult ki magic.

While the three-types system focuses on spells and spell-like magic, one of the differentiating aspects of the four-traditions approach is its revelation that not only spells but the majority of manifestations of magic are associated with one of the four traditions: some magic items, almost all magical creature abilities such as a basilisk's arcane petrifying gaze or a hell hound's divine breath weapon, and various other types of magic effects that take forms different from spells.11 Some barbarian instincts are known for supernaturally powered arcane barbarians, divine barbarians, or primal barbarians. Thaumaturges are uniquely diverse in their abilities, as each thaumaturge has the capacity to learn magical powers from all four traditions instead of being dedicated to one.12

Arcane magic

Because the arcane magical tradition manipulates the matter and mind essences, it is most often considered through the lens of logic and rationality.1013 Users of the arcane arts include magi, sorcerers of arcane bloodlines, and wizards.10

Divine magic

Similar to the type of magic, the divine magical tradition draws the forces of spirit and life essences from deities and entities related to divinity or planes such as the Outer Planes.1014 Champions, clerics, oracles, and celestial-blooded or fiendish-blooded sorcerers prominently practice divine magic.10

Occult magic

Unlike classical conceptions of occult rituals, the occult magical tradition has been observed to encompass diverse and intricate practices. Though the tradition is often misunderstood as unsafe or sinister, occult experts command a deep understanding of mind and spirit's esoteric, alien, or ephemeral mysteries.81015 Bards, sorcerers of occult bloodlines, and psychics are known to use this form of occult magic.10

Primal magic

The primal magical tradition draws matter and life essences from the wild's natural cycles, the elements, and raw instinct.1014 The primal tradition is the specialty of druids, kineticists, some rangers, and sorcerers who trace their bloodlines to fey, elemental or bestial creatures.10


Classical scholars categorized magic through three types of magic that manifested in the form of spells and spell-like effects: arcane, divine, and psychic magic. These types are not exclusive; spellcasters who combine arcane and divine magic, for example, are known as theurges. One such example is a mystic theurge.16

This system also designated a fourth type of magic, occult rituals, that is generally practiced only out of desperation, illness, or external influence because it is hard to control and almost always has a significant drawback.17

On Golarion

Magic is relatively well-known among the civilized ancestries of the Inner Sea region, even if it is generally not a part of their everyday lives. Most village commoners will have seen a spell or two cast in their time, seen the use of a magic item, or even been the beneficiary of healing magic. Despite this, most peasants do not count on magic to help them with their everyday lives, seeing it largely as a tool of the wealthy and powerful, a tool that can also be used against them. Because of its relative rarity, its capability of causing untold destruction, and its ability to accomplish the seemingly impossible, it inspires awe and fear in most folk and is often misunderstood.18

In urban settings, spellcasters are much more common. Closer to cities they grow more numerous, and at urban centers, they're ubiquitous. At any tavern or street corner one will see bards performing, wizards selling spells, and clerics tending to churches. Magic is a commodity that can be bought, sold, or exchanged; magic is not only a source of knowledge or power, but many view spellcasting as a skillset that makes a stable career. Magic users hold much the same manner of respect as barristers, physicians, or those of other educated in society.8

Schools of magic

For institutions of arcane learning, see Category:Arcane colleges.

Prior to the prominence of magical traditions, instructors and practitioners categorized the effects and properties of spells across all types of magic into eight schools of magic.19 Though magic has been practised since the dawn of history, it was in the time of Azlant and Thassilon that seven of the eight schools were first defined, in accordance with the seven Azlanti virtues of rule (with divination being defined later in history).202122


Spellshaping, also known as metamagic, is a practice of modifying or empowering spells that dates back to at least the Azlanti empire, remains a popular practice among modern spellcasters.22

At Korvosa's Acadamae, metamagic principles are principally taught in the Hall of Induction where evocation magic is also learnt.23

Variant magic

Several styles of magic deviate from the established schools and methods. These alternate ways are known as variant magic, and many have strong links to specific cultures, locations, or ancestries. Some known types of variant magic include:


  1. Dave Gross. King of Chaos. Paizo Inc., 2013
  2. James Jacobs. (September 27, 2015). Comment on ">>Ask *James Jacobs* ALL your Questions Here!<<", Paizo messageboards. As such, there might not ever be a definitive, canonical explanation of magic. See the talk page for further discussion. Any canon theories about magic presented by in-world sources would be appropriate to add to this section, with the understanding that they cannot be definitive.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Jason Bulmahn, et al. “Combat” in Core Rulebook, 206. Paizo Inc., 2009
  4. Logan Bonner, et al. “7: Spells” in Core Rulebook, 300. Paizo Inc., 2019
  5. Jason Bulmahn, et al. “Magic” in Core Rulebook, 217–218. Paizo Inc., 2009
  6. Paizo Inc., et al. “Appendix 3: Glossary” in Bestiary, 304. Paizo Inc., 2009
  7. Pathfinder First Edition used three types of magic, while Pathfinder Second Edition uses four magical traditions. PathfinderWiki does not consider mechanics to be canon content, and this article assumes both are valid canon.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Paizo Inc., et al. “Magic” in Travel Guide, 74. Paizo Inc., 2022
  9. Logan Bonner, et al. “Glossary and Index” in Core Rulebook, 633. Paizo Inc., 2019
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 10.8 Logan Bonner, et al. “7: Spells” in Core Rulebook, 299–300. Paizo Inc., 2019
  11. Logan Bonner, et al. Bestiary. Paizo Inc., 2019
  12. James Case, et al. Dark Archive. Paizo Inc., 2022
  13. Logan Bonner, et al. “Glossary and Index” in Core Rulebook, 628. Paizo Inc., 2019
  14. 14.0 14.1 Logan Bonner, et al. “Glossary and Index” in Core Rulebook, 631. Paizo Inc., 2019
  15. Logan Bonner, et al. “Glossary and Index” in Core Rulebook, 634. Paizo Inc., 2019
  16. Jason Bulmahn, et al. “Chapter 3: Feats” in Ultimate Magic, 157. Paizo Inc., 2011
  17. Jason Bulmahn, et al. “Chapter 5: Occult Rules” in Occult Adventures, 208–215. Paizo Inc., 2015
  18. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 253. Paizo Inc., 2011
  19. The Pathfinder Second Edition Remaster Project removed mechanics for the eight schools of magic. PathfinderWiki retains references to them as they appeared in canon works, in infoboxes containing Pathfinder First Edition organization, and in categories for school-related traits in Pathfinder Second Edition prior to the remaster.
  20. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 211. Paizo Inc., 2011
  21. James Jacobs. “The Shattered Star” in Shards of Sin, 67. Paizo Inc., 2012
  22. 22.0 22.1 Jason Nelson, et al. “Variant Magic” in Inner Sea Magic, 9. Paizo Inc., 2011
  23. Brian Cortijo. “Appendix 1: The Acadamae” in Academy of Secrets, 29. Paizo Inc., 2011
  24. Jason Nelson, et al. “Variant Magic” in Inner Sea Magic, 10. Paizo Inc., 2011
  25. Jason Nelson, et al. “Variant Magic” in Inner Sea Magic, 11. Paizo Inc., 2011
  26. Jason Nelson, et al. “Variant Magic” in Inner Sea Magic, 14. Paizo Inc., 2011
  27. Jason Nelson, et al. “Variant Magic” in Inner Sea Magic, 15. Paizo Inc., 2011
  28. Jason Nelson, et al. “Variant Magic” in Inner Sea Magic, 17. Paizo Inc., 2011
  29. Jason Nelson, et al. “Variant Magic” in Inner Sea Magic, 16. Paizo Inc., 2011
  30. Jason Nelson, et al. “Variant Magic” in Inner Sea Magic, 12–13. Paizo Inc., 2011