Paradigm Basics: Blood calls to blood and life calls to life. The macrocosm of the universe is reflected in the microcosm of each living cell. Each living thing flows with vibrant, pulsating energy. Just a small donation of this energy can work the wonders of magick.
Like the Akashics, the Verbenae believe that each living thing flows with primal energy that can be directed for magickal effects. Yet, in opposition, the Verbena way is one of release and passion, not of control and direction. Blood, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids flow infused with emotions, and the energy released can change the world. This is also true of other living things - imprinted with emotion, surging with feeling, all life can be the conduit for magick.
The primary methods of Verbena casting involve affirmations of being alive: dance, sex, ritual combat, physical trials and ordeals, and, yes, bloodletting and sacrifice. Normally, and especially during rituals, these are augmented with pagan ritual implements - athames, altars, cauldrons, herbalism, and so on - but the basic effect must involve an act of living. When emotions peak and the physical act reaches its climax the magick is released in the way the mage intended.
Blood is the most important element to the Verbenae, for its role as both release of life and as a mythic thread. Blood has an immense weight in the history of the world, and can be used in many different ways. The blood used typically comes from the Verbena, but can be drawn from willing or unwilling sacrifices that can be encouraged into an emotion and state of mind appropriate to the desired effect. Blood letting is also very useful since the climax of the blood loss is the pain it causes, and thus it is very quick.
Verbenae tend to consider death a terrible affront unless the deceased gave up her life for a truly useful purpose. The secret of Verbena magick is to push someone to the brink of death and then benefit from the passion engendered by being pulled back from this abyss. Only when there is no other choice will a Verbena end a life, both due to their belief in life's sanctity and due to the loss of this powerful passion of survival.
Verbena see little difference between Awakened mages and sorcerers. Mages are obviously better at figuring out intuitive uses of power, but sorcerers use and re-use mythic threads and rituals, keeping them valuable for the tradition as a whole. In general, only amongst individuals of demonstrably equal power will a sorcerer defer to a mage.
Paradigm Casting: As noted, casting Verbena effects generally takes as long as the affirmation of life requires to reach its release of emotion. For self-wounding this can be quite quick, while dances and sex can take several minutes and ordeals can take hours. Rituals typically involve slowly building the action, or many actions, such that the emotions when released are incredibly strong and powerfully directed. A Verbena with several assistants can typically pull off a ritual in only a few hours, but a solitary practitioner requires much more powerful and long-term ordeals, taking up to several days for truly powerful effects. While invoking mythic threads such as tools, herbalism, runes, or similar things can make an effect less Vulgar, it cannot be the entirety of an effect. During rituals, however, these threads are very useful for invoking and maintaining the proper atmosphere.
Paradigm Benefits: Verbenae tend to develop a couple of useful abilities related to their study of Life and their particular casting styles.
Firstly, Verbenae tend to be healthier than other Tradition members, due to paying attention to their health and the Life magick so prevalent in the tradition. Even without magickal healing, a Verbena rarely gets sick and heals wounds in about three quarters of the time required for a normal individual. Further, a Verbena will rarely look unhealthy or malnourished unless truly suffering, which is a social advantage (but one without a hard and fast system benefit). As a side note, slash wounds on a Verbena tend to heal without any scar save for a faint dot at either end of where the wound was.
Secondly, Verbenae are so used to physical pain in the course of their magick that they can tolerate greater pain in other circumstances. Verbena suffer one less wound penalty than is indicated by their current health levels. Further, Verbena gain +2 dice for all attempts to resist torture or to use force of will to work against pain.
Finally, Verbenae do not suffer much from blood loss. While shallow cuts will produce enough blood to perform an effect, they will not result in death from blood loss. If any kind of bleeding rules are in effect, Verbena should bleed at a rate one degree less severe (for example, one health level of lethal damage is not enough to start bleeding seriously). If purely narrative rules are in effect, Verbena should drop from blood loss much later than a similar member of another Tradition.
Being masters of self-harm, Verbena get another magick-related benefit. Any Verbena with at least Prime 1 can incorporate the Heart's Blood effect into any other casting without success penalty. Essentially, each Lethal health level the mage deals to herself in the course of a casting counts as a free point of Quintessence to spend on that particular effect. This damage cannot be healed by magick, only time, as is normal for the Heart's Blood effect.
Paradigm Limits: The first problem for Verbenae is that their vigorous casting methods and tendency to be covered in blood makes them easy to track down and generally terrifying to polite company. This is not a system limit, but may be a roleplaying issue. In addition, despite notable public relations successes in recent years with television and movie shows about good witches, Verbenae are still the most recognizable and reviled tradition amongst moralistic Western society. In many locations the witch-burning mentality has not left the minds of people in authority. Many Tradition mages may find their beliefs frowned upon and belittled, but those who find out about a Verbena's beliefs and practices will tend to immediately think "Satanism" and jump to all the conclusions that entails. This can make a Verbena a primary target amongst law enforcement types, perhaps even more than the Ecstatics in some locations.
Secondly, the Verbena paradigm stresses the value of all life. Any Verbena that kills a living thing without justification, especially another human being, will suffer psychologically far worse than other mages. This justification is much less severe for animals killed to eat than is required for any killing of a human. Even a justified killing will weigh on the Verbena's psyche more than it will on that of most other Tradition mages.