Simon Magus
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"Our patron Saints are St. Elagabalus and St. Simon Magus"

Overly loquacious village priest. Darklands

Basic Information

According to some, he was the founder of Gnosticism. He has also been called the author of every heresy that plagued the early Christian Church. He consorted with devils and could fly. He was called Simon the Sorcerer, or more formally, Simon Magus.

He is mentioned in a brief little story in the Book of Acts. He is a man in a city in Samaria who has gained a wide following for his powers of sorcery and was called "the Great Power of God". One day, Phillip1, an early Christian evangelist, came to his town and preached, converting many of the Samaritans; including Simon.

Shortly after that, Saint Peter arrives in the town and visited Phillip's Samaritan church. Peter lays hands on some of the converts and "they received the Holy Ghost". The Book of Acts often uses this phrase without elaborating what it means, but evidently, it was an impressive display of divine power. Simon was impressed anyway. Afterwards, Simon goes to Peter and offers to buy the secret of how to do the trick.

But Peter said unto him, "Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money." — Acts 8:20

Peter warns him that his heart is not with God and that he'd better repent. The passage ends with Simon seeming to repent, and that's the last we hear of him… at least in Acts.

But the Jewish historian Josephus also mentions a magician named Simon in the court of Agrippa II, an important administrator in Judea of that time. Same guy? Maybe. A lot of guys were named Simon. Heck, St. Peter was originally named Simon.

Some of the Early Church Fathers, including Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, describe Simon's teachings in more detail, ascribing to him the teaching that he himself was divine. One of these Simonian teachings was the existence of the Ennoia/, the personification of God's First Thought at the Creation. This being was reincarnated several times over the millennia, each time as an exquisitely beautiful woman. Helen of Troy was one of her incarnations, and Simon was said to have been in love with another one, also a woman named Helen.

There are a couple stories concerning Simon's death. What they have in common is that Simon is trying to demonstrate his divinity by flying. He rises about four stories into the air above the Roman Forum.; then St. Peter, who once again is present, prays that God stop him, and Simon then plummets to his death.

Oh, and he had one more legacy coming from his appearance in Acts. The sin of selling Church Offices has come to be known as Simony.


Game and Story Use

  • In a historical or time travel campaign set in the 1st Century AD, Simon Magus might make an interesting NPC.
    • The more so because your players will be expecting to meet Peter or Paul or Nero, by they might not have heard of Simon.
  • Or, he can be used as a model for a charismatic charlatan.
    • Or is he a charlatan?
  • The story of him and Helen is an interesting one, and possibly an inspiration for the story of Faust. If Marlowe and Goethe can steal from this guy, so can you.
  • A bit of background discussion for an NPC wizard: "…and that's why you should include feather fall in your flight spells. Or learn summon trampoline."
  • Historically, he was probably one of the various Messiahs from around the same time and place as Jesus; there were quite a few. And we only have Philips's account of what happened. No doubt Simon has a different version.
  • He was the author of every heresy? Seems a bit busy for one person. Time traveler or doppelganger, maybe?
    • Possibly a "culture villain" effect - once he had been responsible for a significant number of heresies, he tended to be the go-to man for those looking for someone to blame for an otherwise unattributed heresy (in the same way that Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde are often attributed all manner of quotes that they never said, but sound like something they might have come up with).
    • As noted in the text, there may also be the "which Mary?" problem - more than one heretic called Simon and any amount of confusion can ensue over the centuries.
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