The Hermetic Wild West
The Public Schools movement in the United States has led to some innovations in Hermetic education that have become standardized in the Atlantic Coast Tribunal. These ideas have crossed the Atlantic are are being experimented with in Europe, but the old world Magi, bound to their ancient covenants, have been slower to change.
In the modern, industrial nights, where a tradesman can finish an apprenticeship in under fifteen years, the notion of teaching a student for only one quarter of the year and working them as a virtual slave for the other three quarters has fallen out of favor.
In 1815, Harvard University sponsored a joint project with the Covenant of Plymouth Rock to found a boarding school dedicated to the study of the Hermetic arts. The College of William and Mary in Virginia rapidly followed suit in tandem with the Kingsmill Covenant. The curriculum that resulted from these experiments over the next twenty years spread to an assortment of other, privately funded Hermetic schools, commonly founded as outgrowths of existing covenants, and with the encouragement and political support of Houses Jerbiton and Bonisagus.
By 1845, the schedule and curriculum for all Hermetic education became standardized by act of Tribunal.
Apprenticeship formally begins at or around age ten, with the Gifted student being admitted to study at one of the Hermetic schools. These schools are all boarding schools. Over the course of their first year, each student is paired with a Magus member of the faculty deemed most suitable to open the Gift of the student so as to preserve any pre-existing talents. The time not spent re-aligning their Gift with Bonisagus’ theory is spent beginning a curriculum of latin, the liberal arts, natural philosophy, Bonisagus’ theory of magic, and the history and organization of the Order of Hermes.
Basic instruction takes up the first four years of study during which students receive a basic education in the fifteen Arts, as well as the other skills and abilities needed to safely utilize their Gift. At the end of this period, the school holds an open-house, where Magi seeking an apprentice may come, review academic scores, and meet with prospective apprentices. Those apprentices not selected by an outside master are taken by one of the magus faculty, typically a Jerbiton or Bonisagus.
The second four years are spent in intensive study and hands-on education. The magus is obligated to spend at least half the year in instruction, receiving in return a half-year’s worth of aid from a skilled apprentice with the school’s prior education under their belt. Although every magus is spending more time teaching than the older system, the quality of aid they receive in the lab is significantly higher.
At the end of the eighth year of study, the Tribunal’s peripheral code obligates the master to set the apprentice upon their Gauntlet in the tradition of their House. Should the prospective magus fail, they may either serve the master for a fifth year, or appeal to the school. If the faculty of the school finds that the Gauntlet given was unreasonable, the senior Bonisagus staff member will exercise their Hermetic right to seize the apprentice and set a new Gauntlet. If the faculty finds against the student, however, they have the unpleasant prospect of serving under an annoyed master for the next year. The process repeats year to year until the student succeeds, whereupon he is sworn to the Oath of Hermes and proclaimed a magus.
As may be apparent, this system requires each school to have at least one Bonisagus faculty member, and the system also tends to swell the numbers of Houses Jerbiton and Bonisagus if the other Houses are too stingy with their time or their Gauntlets. Some Houses, such as Tremere, make it a point of duty to take an apprentice as soon as possible, and to select another soon after graduation, just to ensure that their House does not fall demographically behind. Other Houses, such as Tytalus and Criamon, have Gauntlets that do not easily fall within proscribed time periods. They tend to discourage students taking the “appeal” route through a mixture of inculcated elitism (“why settle for a lesser House?”), peer pressure and social shaming to keep the apprentice around the extra years necessary to pass.
It should be noted that not all American magi go through this system. There are still holdouts from the old methods of one-on-one instruction, but even they have generally shortened the apprenticeship period to eight years. Also, House Ex Miscellanea still accepts pre-existing practitioners after a minimal period of instruction in Hermetic theory. Still, most American magi have had at least some interaction with one of the east coast Hermetic schools.