A glossary of people, places & objects in Earthsea

Now showing glossary items relating to magic

Acastan Spells

Spells of unknown purpose, one of which is said to be made powerless by the Emanations of Fundaur (see Black Well of Fundaur). The spell was rewoven by Heleth and Ogion

Sources: The Bones of the Earth, TfE


Also known as: Rune of Ending

The rune of Ending, which closes roads and is drawn on coffin lids; probably one of the True Runes. Also the constellation of Ending of the South Reach, which includes the yellow star Gobardon

Sources: The Dry Land, FS; Winter, T

'…with his staff he drew in lines of fire across the gate of rocks a figure: the rune Agnen, the Rune of Ending, which closes roads and is drawn on coffin lids.'

[The Dry Land, FS]

Related entries: Runes


Magical transmutation of materials, usually into gold; apparently practised at the School of Wizardry on Roke, but no details are given

Sources: Orm Embar, FS

Art magic

The greatest arts of magic: changing, naming, summoning and patterning. A subset of the high arts, art magic was practised only by (male) wizards after Archmage Halkel's decree of 730

Sources: A Description of Earthsea, TfE

Balance, the

See Equilibrium

Base crafts

Also known as: Witchcraft, Base spells

The lesser arts of magic, as defined by Archmage Halkel in 730, including finding, mending, dowsing and animal healing; as opposed to the high arts. Under Halkel's rules, all magic practised by women or witches was considered to be a base craft

Sources: A Description of Earthsea, TfE

Related entries: Curer

Bond Rune

Also known as: Lost Rune, King's Rune, (Lost) Rune of the Kings, Rune of Peace, Sign of Peace

When the Ring of Erreth-Akbe was broken in two, one of the nine True Runes was on the fracture line, and that rune was destroyed. The Lost Rune is the Bond Rune, the rune that binds the lands, the sign of dominion and of peace, described by Lebannen as 'a mighty enchantment of blessing'a; no king could rule well without it. It is restored when Ged makes whole the Ring of Erreth-Akbe

Sources: The Ring of Erreth Akbe, ToA; Palaces, OW (a)


Transforming the true nature of matter or bodies, usually reversibly, by changing their name; uses Spells of Shaping and Great Spells of Change from the Book of Shaping. Some changes are irrevocable, for example, Heleth's transformation of himself into the earth. One of the high arts of magic, also considered a part of the art magic. Taught at the Roke School of Wizardry by the Master Changer, it is among the most perilous arts, especially when the change is applied to the wizard himself (shape-changing) who can become trapped in the assumed form

Sources: The Loosing of the Shadow, WoE; The Bones of the Earth, TfE; A Description of Earthsea, TfE

'…the true Spells of Shaping. He explained how, if a thing is really to be changed into another thing, it must be re-named for as long as the spell lasts, and he told how this affects the names and natures of things surrounding the transformed thing.'

[The Loosing of the Shadow, WoE]


Knowledge of the oral lays, deeds and songs, as well as sung spells. Considered one of the high arts of magic, though witches traditionally teach the songs to children. Taught at the Roke School of Wizardry by the Master Chanter

Sources: A Description of Earthsea, TfE

Related entries: Songs

Craft with iron

Also known as: Iron, craft with

Magic which makes a compass needle point at will rather than to the north; a secret of the Seamasters

Sources: The Shadow, WoE


Also known as: Balance, the, Balance of the Whole

The world is considered to exist in equilibrium, not static but ever-changing: '"The Balance is not a stillness. It is a movement -- an eternal becoming."'a True wizards or mages strive always to maintain this state of equilibrium by using magic only at need and with due regard for all the various consequences, both direct and indirect. This principle applies especially to spells of Summoning and Changing, which 'can shake the balance of the world'b, but also (as the quotation from 'Magelight' given below makes clear) to everyday, non-magical actions of humans.

The Equilibrium also encompasses the concept of the balance of light & dark, life & death, with each being necessary for the existence of the other; as Ged puts it, '"There are two, Arren, two that make one: the world and the shadow, the light and the dark. The two poles of the Balance. Life rises out of death, death rises out of life; in being opposite they yearn to each other, they give birth to each other and are forever reborn. And with them all is reborn, the flower of the apple tree, the light of the stars. In life is death. In death is rebirth."'a

Sources: The School for Wizards, WoE (b); Magelight, FS; Orm Embar, FS (a)

'…"an act is not, as young men think, like a rock that one picks up and throws, and it hits or misses, and that's the end of it. When that rock is lifted the earth is lighter, the hand that bears it heavier. When it is thrown the circuits of the stars respond, and where it strikes or falls the universe is changed. On every act the balance of the whole depends. The wind and seas, and all that the beasts and green things do, is well done, and rightly done. All these act within the Equilibrium. From the hurricane and the great whale's sounding to the fall of a dry leaf and a gnat's flight, all they do is done within the balance of the whole. But we, in so far as we have power over the world and over one another, we must learn to do what the leaf and the whale and the wind do of their own nature. We must learn to keep the balance. Having intelligence, we must not act in ignorance. Having choice, we must not act without responsibility.'

[Magelight, FS]


Art of finding, binding and returning; ranges from finding a lost household object to prospecting for underground water or minerals. Originally considered one of the high arts of magic, Halkel relegated finding to the base crafts, practised by witches, sorcerers and specialised finders. Medra is a finder

Sources: The Finder, TfE; A Description of Earthsea, TfE

'The first sign of Otter's gift, when he was two or three years old, was his ability to go straight to anything lost, a dropped nail, a mislaid tool, as soon as he understood the word for it. And as a boy one of his dearest pleasures had been to go alone out into the countryside and wander along the lanes or over the hills, feeling through the soles of his bare feet and throughout his body the veins of water underground, the lodes and knots of ore, the lay and interfolding of the kinds of rock and earth. It was as if he walked in a great building, seeing its passages and rooms, the descents into airy caverns, the glimmer of branched silver in the walls; and as he want on, it was as if his body became the body of the earth, and he knew its arteries and organs and muscles as his own.'

[The Finder, TfE]


A spell to gather mist or fog together in a single location temporarily; the mist can also be shaped into transitory images. A discipline of weatherworking

'The fog had closed and thickened all over the village, greying the light, blurring the world till a man could hardly see his own hands before him. … The Kargs began to run, all of them, downhill, stumbling, silent, until all at once they ran out from the grey blind mist and saw the river and the ravines below the village all bare and bright in morning sunlight. Then they stopped, gathering together, and looked back. A wall of wavering, writhing grey lay blank across the path, hiding all that lay behind it.'

[Warriors in the Mist, WoE]

Further Runes

See True Runes


Rune which gives endurance; one of the nine True Runes engraved on the Ring of Erreth-Akbe

Sources: The Ring of Erreth-Akbe, ToA

Related entries: Runes


Also known as: Medicine

Healing is a skill of wizards, physician-sorcerers, healalls, herbalists, bonesetters and many witches, and is based on herbal remedies, magical spells, charms or talismans, chants, runes and symptomatic treatment, which are sometimes used separately, but often in conjunction.

Herbal remedies include corly-root, white hallows, witch hazel and cobweb-wrapped perriot leaves. Herbs may be ingested as tea, applied to the skin in ointments, salves or poultices, or burned for their scented smoke. Spells range from calling the spirit back from the spirit world to simple spells of feverstay, blood-staunching, wart-curing and against seasickness, as well as non-specific curing charms. Charms or talismans include emmel-stone charms against rheums, sprains and stiff necks, and a sailors' talisman of petrel breastbone and seaweed, used to avert seasickness. Spells and charms are also used to ward off illness, eg: 'he laid charms of heal and ward on children who were lame or sickly.'a Chants are said to 'aid the sick body or the troubled mind'b and include the Nagian Chant. The rune Pirr is used for burns. A highly gifted mender, such as Lily, can heal broken limbs, though this appears to be a rare skill.

Symptomatic treatment mentioned includes bed rest, poultices, cooling fever with cold water, bandaging wounds, setting broken bones, salving cuts, disinfection of wounds/sores with salt water and massage with warm oils.

There is no mention of anything akin to hospitals, though Roke School of Wizardry has healing-chambers presided over by the Master Herbal. Healing lore is taught on Roke

Sources: Iffish, WoE (a); Orm Embar, FS (b)

'…Master Herbal had taught him much of the healer's lore, and the first lesson and the last of all that lore was this: Heal the wound and cure the illness, but let the dying spirit go.'

[The Dragon of Pendor, WoE]

Related entries: Curer; Disease; Midwifery

High arts

The greater arts of magic, as defined by Archmage Halkel in 730, including human healing, chanting, weatherworking (all practised by both sorcerers and wizards), as well as the art magic, including changing, naming, summoning and patterning. The art magic was practised only by (male) wizards. As opposed to the base crafts (witchcraft)

Sources: A Description of Earthsea, TfE


Also known as: Illusion-Change

Apparent change which, though convincing to all the senses, does not alter the true nature of the object; giving the object's true name in Old Speech will negate the illusion. Taught at the Roke School of Wizardry by the Master Hand, it is considered among the easiest, and the least, of the high arts of magic

'"By the Illusion-Change, you can make it look like a diamond -- or a flower or a fly or an eye or a flame --" The rock flickered from shape to shape as he named them, and returned to rock. "But that is mere seeming. Illusion fools the beholder's senses; it makes him see and hear and feel that the thing is changed. But it does not change the thing."'

[The School for Wizards, WoE]

Iron, craft with

See Craft with iron

King's Rune

See Bond Rune

Lore of Paln

Also known as: Pelnish lore

Pelnish lore is an ancient tradition of magic distinct from that taught at the Roke School of Wizardry (though likewise based in the Old Speech). It's much concerned with immortality; the Pelnish wizard Seppel was taught that 'the goal of wizardry was to triumph over time and live forever'a. Pelnish lore calls upon the Old Powers, and includes great spells related to crossing between life and death, which can be used to summon the spirits of the dead. The most powerful were created by the Grey Mage of Paln a thousand years ago, and rarely used since, being considered dangerous; such lore was practised by the (Havnorian) necromancer Cob

Sources: Sea Dreams, FS; Dolphin, OW; Rejoining, OW (a)

'"Most of our art of Summoning comes from the Pelnish Lore. Thorion was a master of it… The Summoner of Roke now, Brand of Venway, won't use any part of his craft that draws from that lore. Misused, it has brought only harm. But it may be only our ignorance that's led us to use it wrongly. It goes back to very ancient times; there may be knowledge in it we've lost."'

[Dolphin, OW]

Lost Rune

See Bond Rune


A bright magical light conjured by wizards and often associated with powerful magic. Unlike the weaker werelight, the light appears to emanate from the wizard himself, as well as his staff. Examples include Ogion banishing the shadow and Ged rescuing Lebannen from slavers

Sources: The Shadow, WoE; Magelight, FS

'The fog grew bright, as if a light were blooming in it. … Alone on the port side stood a man, and it was from him that the light came, from the face, and hands, and staff that burned like molten silver.'

[Magelight, FS]


See Magic


Also known as: Witchwind

Magical wind raised by wizards and weatherworkers to allow boats to travel against the natural wind or when becalmed. Such winds could also be used as weapons, for example, to sink rival ships, as was common during the Dark Years

Sources: The Finder, TfE


Also known as: Wizardry, Magery

Magic encompasses a wide range of disciplines from chanting and the use of herbs, to illusions and true magic involving the changing of matter or the summoning of energies, such as light or heat. The various disciplines are finding, mending, weatherworking, changing, healing, summoning, patterning, naming, illusion and chanting, the knowledge of the songs; these were divided by Halkel into high arts (including the art magic) and base crafts (witchcraft). The earliest mages are said to be the Rune Makers, a thousand years before the first kings of Enlad (around 2250 years before the Earthsea cycle). Most lore originates in Roke, Paln, the Enlades, Ea and Soléa, the ancient regions where magic was practised.

Magic is linked with the Old Speech, in which all spells are made, and with True Runes. Many spells also require hand gestures or body movements, such as stretching out the arms in invocation which opens all the greater spells; these are annotated in lore-books: 'the markings of how the spell must be woven with the sound of the voice and the motion of body and hand.'a

True wizards and mages use magic only at need, with consideration for the effects on the Equilibrium or Balance. Magic is also limited in extent by the need to name precisely all the objects affected: 'The sea's name is inien, well and good. But what we call the Inmost Sea has its own name also in the Old Speech. Since no thing can have two true names, inien can mean only "all the sea except the Inmost Sea." And of course it does not mean even that, for there are seas and bays and straits beyond counting that bear names of their own. So if some Mage-Seamaster were mad enough to try to lay a spell of storm or calm over all the ocean, his spell must say not only that word inien, but the name of every stretch and bit and part of the sea through all the Archipelago and all the Outer Reaches and beyond to where names cease. Thus, that which gives us the power to work magic, sets the limits of that power. A mage can control only what is near him, what he can name exactly and wholly.'b A wizard's power seems to be channelled to some extent by the wooden wizard's staff, which is the badge of all true wizards.

Magic is almost universally practised in the Archipelago and the Reaches, with all villages having their witches, and all towns and islands their wizards, sorcerers and weatherworkers. It's said to be the oldest of the arts of man. The everyday uses of magic here are too many to list: healing humans and animals, warding off evil and ensuring safety, purifying water in wells, controlling the weather for crops, making flocks, herds and crops increase, conjuring fair winds for safe and swift travel amongst the islands, as well as for sheer entertainment

Sources: The School for Wizards, WoE (b); The Loosing of the Shadow, WoE (a); The Finder, TfE; Darkrose and Diamond, TfE; A Description of Earthsea, TfE; Rejoining, OW

'…the uses of magic are as needful to their people as bread and as delightful as music…'

[The Masters of Roke, FS]


See Healing


Mending encompasses restoring shattered pottery or glass, broken tools, stockings with holes, frayed ropes and dried-up wine barrels. A really gifted mender, such as Lily, might knit together broken bones. One of the base crafts of magic, practised by witches, sorcerers and specialised menders, such as Alder

Sources: A Description of Earthsea, TfE; Mending the Green Pitcher, OW

'…he watched Alder's hands. Slender, strong, deft, unhurried, they cradled the shape of the pitcher, stroking and fitting and settling the pieces of pottery, urging and caressing, the thumbs coaxing and guiding the smaller fragments into place, reuniting them, reassuring them. While he worked he murmured a two-word, tuneless chant. They were words of the Old Speech. … His hands separated from the pitcher, opening out from it like the sheath of a flower opening. It stood on the oak table, whole.'

[Mending the Green Pitcher, OW]


Knowledge of names in the Old Speech for things, places and beings; also the art of giving people their true name. One of the high arts of magic, also considered a part of the art magic. The art of naming is said to have been invented by the Rune Makers a thousand years before the first kings of Enlad; they used it to lay 'a great net of spells upon all the western lands, so that when the people of the islands die, they would come to the west beyond the west and live there in spirit forever'a. Naming is taught at the Roke School of Wizardry by the Master Namer

Sources: The School for Wizards, WoE; Rejoining, OW (a)

'… in this dusty and fathomless matter of learning the true name of each place, thing, and being, the power he wanted lay a jewel at the bottom of a dry well.'

[The School for Wizards, WoE]


Art of meaning and intent. One of the high arts of magic, also considered a part of the art magic. Ged uses what he calls a Patterning to make the two halves of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe 'whole … as if it had never been broken'a. Taught in the Immanent Grove at the Roke School of Wizardry by the Master Patterner

Sources: The Anger of the Dark, ToA (a); A Description of Earthsea, TfE

Pelnish lore

See Lore of Paln


Rune drawn on houses which protects from madness and from wind and fire; also used in treatment of burns. One of the True Runes and one of the nine Runes of Power engraved on the Ring of Erreth-Akbe

Sources: Iffish, WoE; The Ring of Erreth-Akbe, ToA; A Bad Thing, T; A Description of Earthsea, TfE

'…the rune Pirr he wrote on the roof-trees of the huts, which protects the house and its folk from fire, wind, and madness'

[Iffish, WoE]

Related entries: Runes

Revelation Spell

Spell to affect the spellcaster's vision to reveal the true nature of surroundings

Sources: The Open Sea, WoE

Roke wind

Also known as: Roke-wind

Magewind that defends the island of Roke from evil powers

Roke, Rule of

See Rule of Roke

Rule of Roke

Also known as: Way of Roke, Roke, Rule of

Rule governing the use of magic by which all those of the Roke School of Wizardry are bound. Later came to mean teaching of high arts only to men, the exclusion of women from the Roke School, and the practice of celibacy

'They saw the Rule of Roke established, though never so firmly as they might wish, and always against opposition; for mages came from other islands and rose up from among the students of the school, women and men of power, knowledge, and pride, sworn by the Rule to work together and for the good of all, but each seeing a different way to do it.'

[The Finder, TfE]

Rune of Ending

See Agnen

Rune of the Closed Door

A rune preventing access

'When Alder left the ship at the docks at Thwil Town, one of the sailors had drawn the rune of the Closed Door on the top of the gangplank to prevent his ever coming back aboard.'

[Mending the Green Pitcher, OW]

Related entries: Runes

Rune of the Closed Mouth

Rune used as signature by Ogion

Sources: The School for Wizards, WoE

Related entries: Runes

Rune of the Talon

Rune used as signature by Ged; possibly one of the Hardic runes

Sources: Palaces, OW

Related entries: Runes


True Runes or Runes of Power, such as the Six Hundred Runes of Hardic, Further Runes and Runes of Éa, are used for magic. Non-magical Hardic runes are also used for general writing purposes in the Archipelago

Sources: A Description of Earthsea, TfE

Related entries: Books

Runes of Power

See True Runes


See Shape-changing


A form of magic in which the sender transmits an image of himself to a distant point; sendings do not cross water. The image can speak and hear, but has no power and casts no shadow. It need not be an accurate representation of the person. A related power is that of sending thoughts to a distant recipient, which may likewise be limited to a single island

Sources: The Rowan Tree, FS; Selidor, FS; Dragonfly, TfE

'[Ged] shut his eyes as if resting, and sent a sending of his spirit over the hills and fields of Roke, northward, to the sea-assaulted cape where the Isolate Tower stands. / "Kurrenkarmerruk," he said in spirit, and the Master Namer looked up from the thick book … which he was reading to his pupils, and said, "I am here, my lord." … under his tree, the Archmage Ged … withdrew his sending …'

[The Rowan Tree, FS]


Also known as: Self-transformation, Shape-change

Art of assuming the shape of another thing; a true change, not an illusion. Shape-changing is commonly into the form of animals; for example, Ged changes into a hawk and Medra an otter. Changes into inanimate objects are also possible; Heleth transforms himself irreversibly into the earth, and changes into trees, fire, a hillock and a waterfall are mentioned. A highly perilous art, as the wizard can lose his sense of self in the thoughts of the animal, and so become trapped in the assumed form, as did the wizard Bordger of Way who became a bear and killed his son. Not the same as the change of form possible for dragon-humans, who, according to Ogion, are simultaneously two beings in a single form

Sources: The Rule of Names, W12Q; The Shadow, WoA; The Hawk's Flight, WoE, Going to the Falcon's Nest, T; The Finder, TfE; The Bones of the Earth, TfE

'In all the sunlight and the dark of that great flight he had worn the falcon's wings, and looked through the falcon's eyes, and forgetting his own thoughts he had known at last only what the falcon knows; hunger, the wind, the way he flies.'

[The Hawk's Flight, WoE]

Related entries: Changing


A rune meaning 'speed well' painted on, for example, ships; one of the True Runes

Sources: Hunted, WoE; A Description of Earthsea, TfE

'…her high bent prow carven and inlaid with disks of loto-shell, her oarport-covers painted red, with the rune Sifl sketched on each in black.'

[Hunted, WoE]

Related entries: Runes


A rune meaning 'work well' drawn on tools; one of the True Runes

Sources: Iffish, WoE; A Description of Earthsea, TfE

'…he set the rune Simn on the spindles and looms, the boat's oars and tools of bronze and stone they brought him, that these might do their work well;'

[Iffish, WoE]

Related entries: Runes

Six Hundred Runes of Hardic

The most commonly used True Runes; they have been given non-magical names in Hardic. Despite the name, not the same as the Hardic runes used for general writing purposes in the Archipelago

Sources: The Shadow, WoE; A Description of Earthsea, TfE


Summoning of spirits of the living and the dead (mainly derived from the Lore of Paln), and of energies such as light, heat, magnetism, weight, form, colour and sound. Summoning living people is forbidden by the Rule of Roke: '"Only the dead may we summon. Only the shadows. You can see why this must be. To summon a living man is to have entire power over him, body and mind. No one, no matter how strong or wise or great, can rightly own and use another."'a It was, however, practised during the Dark Years eg by the mage Early, and was abused by Irioth, and possibly also Thorion, 'to use men, to control them wholly.'b One of the high arts of magic, also considered a part of the art magic. Taught at the Roke School of Wizardry by the Master Summoner, summoning is considered one of the greatest and most perilous arts

Sources: The Loosing of the Shadow, WoE; On the High Marsh, TfE (a); Dragonfly, TfE (b)

'He dealt with no illusion, only true magic, the summoning of such energies as light, and heat, and the force that draws the magnet, and those forces men perceive as weight, form, colour, sound: real powers, drawn from the immense fathomless energies of the universe, which no man's spells or uses could exhaust or unbalance. … As for calling of real things and living people, and the raising up of spirits of the dead, and the invocations of the Unseen, those spells which are the height of the Summoner's art and the mage's power, those he scarcely spoke of to them.'

'The Summoner, though, dealt not with bodily things but with the spirit, with the minds and wills of men, with ghosts, with meanings. His art was arcane, dangerous, full of risk and threat.

[The Loosing of the Shadow, WoE/Mending the Green Pitcher, OW]

True Runes

Also known as: Runes of Power, Further Runes, Six Hundred Runes of Hardic, Runes of Éa

True Runes or Runes of Power, such as the Six Hundred Runes of Hardic, Further Runes, Runes of Éa and others unnamed, are used for magic. According to some sources, True Runes were invented by the Rune Makers; other accounts say that they date back to the creation of Earthsea, Segoy having written them in fire on the wind. The Ring of Erreth-Akbe bears nine Runes of Power including Pirr (protects from madness and from wind and fire), Ges (gives endurance) and the Bond Rune, the sign of peace. Other True Runes mentioned include Simn ('work well'), Sifl ('speed well') and Agnen, rune of Ending (closes roads and is drawn on coffin lids)

Sources: The Shadow, WoE; A Description of Earthsea, TfE; Rejoining, OW

Way of Power

Principle relating to the wise use of magic, taught to wizards. Possibly relates to maintaining the Equilibrium by using magic only at need, and with due regard for all the various direct and indirect consequences

Sources: Kalessin, T

Way of Roke

See Rule of Roke


Also known as: Windbringing

Calling upon wind, water and weather; used both for safe and speedy passage on ships and to guarantee favourable weather for crop-growing and harvests. One of the high arts of magic, practised by wizards, sorcerers and specialised weatherworkers. Taught at the Roke School of Wizardry by the Master Windkey

Sources: The School for Wizards, WoE; Lorbanery, FS

'…practising steering by word, and stilling waves, and speaking to the world's wind, and raising up a magewind. These are very intricate skills …'

[The School for Wizards, WoE]


Also known as: were light

Bluish or greenish faint magical light conjured by wizards, sometimes focused in the tip of their wizard's staff, sometimes as a free-floating ball. One of the first arts of true magic taught at the School of Wizardry on Roke it seems to be used relatively freely, without worrying about the Equilibrium. The practice isn't confined to wizards: witches are also occasionally mentioned as conjuring werelight. Unclear how it is related to magelight, which appears to be a stronger form of magical light

Sources: The School for Wizards, WoE; Light Under the Hill, ToA; Dragonfly, TfE

'…Vetch came to the door, a little bluish ball of werelight nodding over his head to light the way…'

'Not bright, but dazzling to the dark-accustomed eye, was the light that worked this wonder. It was a soft gleam, like marshlight… The light burned at the end of a staff of wood, smokeless, unconsuming.

[The School for Wizards, WoE / Light Under the Hill, ToA]


See Weatherworking


See Base crafts


See Magewind


See Magic



WoEA Wizard of Earthsea
ToAThe Tombs of Atuan
FSThe Farthest Shore
OWThe Other Wind
W12QThe Wind's Twelve Quarters
TfETales from Earthsea

Earthsea and its inhabitants were created by Ursula Le Guin, and no infringement of her copyright is intended in this fan site