Theorys on Transmogrification, Aberrants, and the Communal Consciousness

first of all, hi, first post, yay

this post is a collection of my theories, thoughts, and ideas revolving around mostly aberrants and there creation and relation to the greater magical system of the novel. this theory includes content up to chapter 200 so watch out, spoilers abound.

first of all “(the) Communal Consciousness” is a term described as the basis for transmogrification. its the collection of thoughts, ideas, and meanings and there connections that one can draw upon to imbue effects into there spells.

what i have pieced together about the Communal Consciousness:

the idea first introduced in chapter 122 (Practical Transmogrification) with

“You may have heard it said that ideas, or concepts, are like drops of dew on a spiderweb. Triggering one can lead to vibrations that trigger another, or a dozen others, in a way that may seem random but is in fact based on the complex logic of associations.”
establishing that there are connected ideas, and (later in the same chapter, not quoted here) the more abstract/further away the connected idea is the more difficult it is to use said ideas.

this sort of “communal consciousness” is a conclusion came to and discussed
by Sebastian with Prof Lacer in chapter 187 (Transmutation Exercises). with Prof Lacer (when addressing Damien Westbay) saying

“you are not a contrarian to the same degree as Mr. Siverling. You have had no trouble with transmogrification, because you do not attempt to force the magic to adhere to your own ideas rather than the ideas of what some call the ‘common consciousness.’ Mr. Siverling is, in essence, trying to force connotations into this common consciousness with his own strength alone. Compared to the thought-weight of a society, of history, he is doomed to fail.”
this establishes that there is a lot of power/effect behind this communal consciousness, and trying to overwhelm it is a difficult thing.

and later in chapter 192 (Full Nine Breaths) we see Siobhan come to an epiphany about using transmogrification

“While transmogrification spells were not meant to use her as the idea-source, that did not mean she had to give up guidance or control. Perhaps the spells should not use her ideas directly, but those ideas should still be the guidelines for, as well as the borders of, what it drew from the greater common consciousness.”

in summery:
transmogrification is described as tapping into this network of meanings, and using one’s will to direct this flow of meaning from the communal consciousness. to use an analogy, its as if your controlling the flow of a river. in essence your not creating the water, or the pressure, just guiding the “thought-weight” of a the network of ideas to bring about an effect relevant to the current spell.

now we begin the theory and speculation.

we know Aberrants can happen when someones will breaks, I theorize that the mechanism of this is the caster losing control of this flow of ideas from the communal consciousness. like a dam breaking, more then just the idea of what the caster was trying to do flows though, making a huge mismatched tangle of magically active ideas and thoughts connected to the effect of the original spell to happen.

this jumble of magical effects and ideas effects the caster, warping them, and there own will is overwhelmed and possibly erased/warped by the weight of these ideas (though there have been some hints at some Aberrant being semi consciousness still)

this somewhat explains the apparent strangeness of the magical effects of aberrants, there a complex jumble of magically empowered warped ideas from the communal consciousness.

this theory works especially well with the transformation of Newton earlier in the story, with the effects of his aberrant form being close to and heavily related to the idea of calming down people (the idea behind the spell he was casting when his will broke) but with stronger and warped around effects.

EDIT: The following theory about the shadow was disproved as of chapter 201, where more about the actually shadow was revealed.

so assuming that Aberrants are something like a empowered jumble of ideas, this has some interesting ramification about Siobhan’s disconnected shadow we see in chapter 200 (the newest chapter as of this writing).

we see the shadow familial spell Siobhan cast disconnected from Siobhan

"Siobhan followed the direction of their head to her shadow. Its shape had collapsed. Instead of the shadow-familiar’s slender, macabre form under a tattered cloak, a roiling, amorphous mass of bubbling darkness writhed on the ground.

She could still feel it, somehow, and thinking of it brought back a momentary flash of vertigo. She tried to get it to reform, but it was as if her Will were trying to lift a boulder twice her size. The response was horribly sluggish, and it felt like the power sources of light and the heat of her breath were not enough."

my idea is that she lost control and the spell has started to be effected by the communal consciousness. this difficulty in retaking the control of the shadow could be her fighting the communal consciousness’ thought weight.

this is similar in idea to how an aberrant is created, although this one encapsulates the idea of the raven queen, and possibly may be subtly different then a regular aberrant, as it seems more clean and exact in the idea of the raven queen, unlike the aberrants we have seen before being jumbled around and mixed with lots of related ideas.

in addition:

it remains to be seen if the lacking human body used as a material in the semi-Aberrants creation will cause other effects.

the possibility to cast though one’s own flesh, witches being able to cast using there familiars as conduits, and celerium being made out of drained beast cores could point towards some sort of connection between conduits and living/magically charged flesh.

possibly part of what enables aberrant to create magic effects continuously could be the use the casters living flesh as a continuous/living conduit, and may represent a connection to self recharging enchantments (people are self recharging in a way)

this points to people’s flesh working as a conduits in some way, and the fact that Siobhan’s shadow is like an aberrant, but not created with any continuous conduit (assuming her shadow itself does not count) may change how the semi-aberrant works, or put it on a time limit if it cant channel enough magical energy to stay stable perpetually.

then again this is just my own pieced together crackpot theory, I’m eager to hear others thoughts and ideas on this subject in the comments. do you agree? do you have any other connections/idea to help support this conclusion? any holes/counterpoints you can see in this theory?


I like this theory, if only because it would be genuinely surprising to me.

If that’s true about her shadow familiar, then that would mean that it was actually created in that moment with the Red Guard, and her dreams about the being with golden eyes were actually just standard nightmares that fed into her will and thoughts during that break, as well as her worries about the drained beast core? That would be interesting.

The biggest gap in this that I see is that it would presumably mean that people don’t have break events while casting pure transmutation, which would be a really big deal in-universe. I might think that Damien’s research might pop that out as a result if it were the case. That would make for a much safer means to train new thaumaturges if there was a transmutation-only school.

I still think the various references to, “a hungry sky” are the plane of darkness and that it influenced her passenger, but that could also just be non-sentient memetic effects from exposure.

yeah i don’t expect this theory to be wholly correct (or even for any part of it to be correct) its more just an interesting way of connecting together lines between the data that we’ve been given plus a lot of guesswork at implications + underling systems.

yeah another possibility with the shadow i could see is it could be connected to what ever manner of beast/Aberrant could be sealed within her nightmares, or connected to the shadow plane.

either way, i feel there is likely an element of perception warping that’s occurring to the shadow. which would be why it took the from of (what people believe to be) the raven queen.

there is also 2 other possibilities i see:

  • the shadow is could be some sort of manifestation of fears/other mentally related phenomena directly from Siobhan, the exact mechanics of which i cant guess at
  • the raven queen is an entity that predates Siobhan, and was not invented by Siobhan, but more discovered, and that the raven queen has some sort of memetic effect that subtly warps people mind to tell stories of her.

though i find the last one to be pretty unsupported, maybe just the weird congruence with the writing created by the unconscious writing spell. but i would be remiss to dismiss it as a possibility (no matter how unlikely i think it is)

also the most likely possibility is something i have not come up with. theirs a lot of missing info, and im not the greatest at puzzling lol.

  1. We already know that people can use their flesh as a Conduit - it damages their mind and their Will, but it can be done. Aberrant post break are clearly doing this.

  2. I suspect you’re at least partly right with Aberrants accidentally tapping into the common consciousness when they break - their mind latches onto one thing right as they break, and that one thing becomes wholly them, and channeling through their flesh doesn’t seem to have a thaumic limit the way gems and celerium do. We see a couple of times that casting spells is fighting against reality itself, hence the danger of backlash when a Conduit or a Circle is broken mid-casting.

  3. i suspect we’ll discover that one of Myrddin’s journals has his information on how to identify and quantify the Will - and that this will give Siobhan insight as to how Aberrants come from break events. I also suspect that the Red Guard already has this information, and occasionally forces break events as experiments and/or new component sources. (This may be rampant paranoia on my part, but so far i see no reason to give the Red Guard the benefit of any doubt.)

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It seems to me that an Aberrant is simple: They are created in the moment that the sorcerers’ efforts to change reality become the sorcerers’ reality. Then the new reality reinforces the intended effect of the spell indefinitely. Lose yourself in the magic, and the magic becomes you.

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note: as of chapter 201, more has been revealed about the disconnected shadow. as thus part of this theory’s implications is discounted now.

however the connection between communal consciousness and Aberrants still stands as a possibility (although on shaky evidence tbh)

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