Order of the Golden Bough

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Goals

The Esoteric Order of the Golden Bough is dedicated to self-illumination through the study of the mystic arts.  Members study magic with the idea it will lead to some deeper spiritual fulfillment or understanding of the universe.

Methods

The Order of the Golden Bough considers itself a secret society, though its existence and even details of its membership are widely known.  Regardless, many of the Order's activities include secret rites and elaborate ceremonies their members are forbidden to talk about in public.  Those former members of the Order who have gone public have revealed these ceremonies usually involve a lot of chanting, singing, and imbibing of strange bubbling potions that make people light-headed and sociable but can cause headaches in the morning.

The Order has a deserved reputation for ceremony and self-importance, and higher echelons of the Order are notoriously self-interested self-promoters, more concerned with their positions in the organization than with any sort of spiritual enlightenment.  That said, the Order is one of the best resources available for students of magic, maintaining a massive library full of rare books and esoteria from a thousand worlds.

The Order is also a massive social network for young wizards, putting apprentices in touch with masters and offering neutral ground for wizards to meet and exchange research and techniques.  From the outside, the Order looks like a bunch of silly old wizards playing at campus politics, but inside the Order there is actual research and learning going on beneath all the politics of the leadership.

Membership

Joining the Order of the Golden Bough requires at least some small aptitude for magic, though notably several celebrities have been granted membership despite a total lack of ability.  A candidate for membership must be sponsored by a current member in good standing.  The candidate will be subjected to a series of tests, which include memorizing several long, rambling oaths to the Order and the spirits of magic and enlightenment and so on, ending in an hours-long initiation ceremony that will test the patience of even the most dedicated candidate.  There is also some ceremonial blood-letting, though ultimately no actual spell-casting takes place at this initiation ritual.

Once a candidate's initiation ceremony is complete, he is a member of the Order with the rank of Initiate of the First Level.  When he has suitably proved himself to his superiors, and following another lengthy ceremony, he will be promoted to Initiate of the Second Level.  Then Initiate of the Third Level, and so on.  There are, in total, sixty levels of rank from Initiate to Grand High Pubah and Supreme Sorcerer.  Only the most dedicated and political of wizards will reach the upper-most echelons of the Order, but fortunately almost all Order services and resources are available even to a lowly Initiate.

Leader: Grand High Pubah and Supreme Sorcerer Grunblix Sizzlewarp

At a hundred and seventy-three, Grunblix is terribly old for a human.  The ancient man looks very much the part of grand wizard, with a long white beard, thick glasses, and flowing blue robes.  After decades of playing politics to reach his high rank, Grunblix now treats his Grand High Pubah-ness as a sort of retirement, a chance to actually study magic again while younger hundred-year-old men vie for position in the lower ranks.  He rarely takes an active interest in Order business these days, preferring to delegate and concentrate on his elaborate magic-powered model trains.  Grunblix has no intention of resigning his office, and would take the title to the grave with him if it were possible.

Headquarters: The Grand Librarium

The official headquarters of the Esoteric Order is the Grand Librarium of Understanding, located in the Night Canton.  The Librarium is a massive archive of magical books and tomes from across the multiverse, gathered over generations and stored under the Order's watchful eye.  Initiates have access to all but the rarest books, and may be granted special privilege to them by members of Journeyman (rank 16) or above.  A rare few books are judged too dangerous to be handled by anyone but Masters (rank 27), but rumour holds that this is exaggeration, and anything truly that dangerous has already been removed from the Librarium by a different, less silly faction.

Emblem

The symbol of the Order is a simple tree branch in gold.  New Initiates are given a small golden pin upon joining, and encouraged to wear it somewhere on their person at all times.  By the time they reach apprentice level, members are expected to have discovered the pin is actually wood enchanted with an illusion of gold.  The pin is then either quietly replaced by the owner or transmuted magically into actual gold.

As they rise in rank, members tend to make more and more elaborate pins for themselves, adding jewels, other precious metals, and sometimes small magical tokens and charms.  At high levels these pins can be quite ostentatious, and there is rarely any accounting for taste among wizards.

The Esoteric Order of the Golden Bough is intended as a somewhat comical take on a mage's guild.  The knowledge in the Librarium is real, and a useful resource to any magical character who can stomach the Order's self-important ceremony.  No permission is required to be a member of the Esoteric Order, and the comically inclined are encouraged to come up with their own nonsense ranks and titles.