Dragon Age: Ascension
The Circle of Magi
The Circle of Magi is the dominant organization for the training of mages within nations of Thedas. In the south, it had traditionally been governed and monitored by the Chantry, and also guarded and supervised by the Templar Order. In the Tevinter Imperium, they are governed by high ranking Magisters who utilize the The Imperial Templar Order.
The Circle is allowed to take any child (usually age six to twelve) from their families as soon as they show signs of magical ability, including those from royals and nobility. As such, they are taken from their families while still children, and highborn children who are able to use magic will lose all claims to their family’s estates and titles when they are taken.
Upon joining a Circle, mages undergo a process as apprentices of having a few drops of their blood taken by the First Enchanter and placed in a phylactery. This ensures the mages’ compliance and the ability to track down any mage who decides to run away, since a templar can track anyone through their blood.
The child is then raised and trained by the Circle until they reach adulthood, at which time they must either undergo the Harrowing or be made Tranquil. In contrast, attendance at a Circle in Tevinter is not mandatory, but a privilege. Tevinter Circles of Magi are prestigious academies, not mage prisons.
The Circles, as Circle fortresses are called, tend to be located in remote and difficult to reach areas, but the Formari have outposts in major cities for the purpose of trade.
The Circle maintains a neutrality policy, since the Chantry might take action against them if they regularly became involved in conflict. (A Blight is perhaps the sole exception to this rule.) Nonetheless, it isn’t unusual to see the Circle ignore at least one or two mages serving either side of a dispute, either as a courtesy or as a way of not creating too much enmity against the Circle on either side.
The College of Magi, a council of first enchanters from all the Circles in Thedas (excluding Tevinter), routinely convenes in the city of Cumberland, Nevarra to discuss Circle policy and to elect a new Grand Enchanter.
The Circle has a very mixed reception among mages and non-mages alike. Despite the restrictions imposed on its members, it is not a system of slavery, and mages themselves—while not "free"—are not owned by the Chantry and not forced into servitude on its behalf. Nevertheless, due to the limitations on personal freedoms, such as the confinement of the mages in a Circle fortress indefinitely, the Circle is tantamount to a prison. By law each Circle is supposed to respect certain rights of the mages. Ambiguity or inadequacy in regulations, however, such as a weak first enchanter failing to advocate a Circle’s rights or the local templars’ or priesthoods’ penchant for corruption and abuse, can affect how much these laws will be respected.
The daily life of a Circle mage varies by fortress. Many mages come into the Circle with basically nothing since typically, they must leave behind all personal possessions from their previous life. Instead, the Circle provides for the new apprentices with standard issue robes, education, and room and board- the quality of which may vary. In some Circles, the mages, driven mad by their confinement, attempt to end their misery by jumping to their deaths. The Ferelden Circle allowed its inhabitants a weekly period of supervised outdoor exercise, until one mage used the time to stage an escape attempt. In the same Circle, the punishment for a crime like that earned the perpetrator three years of complete isolation. Those relatively humane conditions can be sharply contrasted by the Kirkwall Circle, where the Templars are heavily implied to sexually abuse mages and Tranquils. The apprentices of all Circles, though, live communally and are taught by the Enchanters in small classes. They are allowed no contact with their families or anyone from outside with the exception of mail privileges. They pass the days studying and researching the different schools of magic and alchemy.
The Circle’s livelihood is maintained by the selling of Formari goods or magical services they are allowed to provide. The prices of these goods and services are decided by the regional First Enchanter who handles the commerce and finances of the Circle fortress.
Romantic unions with mages are discouraged by the Chantry, but that doesn’t stop the mages of a Circle from carrying love affairs in secret. Should such an affair produce children, any child born to a Circle mage belongs to the Chantry. Should that child be born a mage, as is in the case of Rhys, the child would be sent to a Circle different than that of their parents. The Chantry goes to great lengths to prevent mages from having family bonds within the same Circle. Romantic relationships between mages and Templars are explicitly forbidden, but are still known to occur. Tevinter does not work in such way, since family ties and magic are intertwined. Nevertheless, there is a pecking order in Tevinter Circles as one’s social status is dependent mainly on belonging to the noble class and secondly accolades granted by one’s magical talent.
Some consider the imprisoning of mages to the Circle of Magi unjust persecution and infringements of the mages’ Maker given rights; others believe they are necessary sacrifices to protect both the general populace from the dangers of magic and the mages from the bigotry of the outside world.