The Order of Hermes is an organization of Magi that spans Mythic Europe and beyond. It is made up (in 1220) of roughly 1200 members, who reside in thirteen Tribunals dividing up the continent along roughly geopolitical lines. The Order was created so that Magi could coexist mostly in peace, with one consistent theory of magic allowing them to share information and learning in a common frame of reference. The Order also offered Magi protection from each other with the discovery of the Parma Magica, a defense against hostile magic, with which they could meet to share information without the ever present paranoia that had sabotaged previous attempts to unite gifted individuals.
The use of magic by those with the Gift goes back to the very beginnings of civilization. Throughout time, Gifted individuals have attempted to dominate those without the Gift. As it always happens with those who abuse power, envy, suspicion, and hatred engendered by their tyranny and the mere presence of The Gift brought them to ruin.
There were several early attempts to form magical societies, the most successful of which was the Cult of Mercury. There were several things that always worked against these attempts to those with The Gift together. Because of the mere presence of The Gift, there was a natural mistrust that Wizards had for one another and they could rarely agree to work together. This was exacerbated by the second factor which was the lack of magical resistance. If a disagreement did occur, this almost certainly guaranteed that the wizard that struck first would destroy his opponent. Finally, every wizard had his own understanding of how magic worked and sharing this knowledge with others was difficult and time consuming. This meant that there was very little information that could be readily shared among those with The Gift.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Cult of Mercury was torn apart by internal conflict, leaving isolated wizards scattered across Europe. For three long centuries, magic entered a dark age that it would not emerge from until the foundation of the Order of Hermes.
The Order of Hermes owes it every existence to the wizard Bonisagus and the two great discoveries that made such a gathering of wizards possible. The first was the discovery of Parma Magica, which itself had a two-part effect. It meant that with magic resistance Magi could defend themselves against the magic of other wizards. As a secondary effect, it also protected magi against the antipathetic effects that their Gift had on each other. Parma Magica lifted the heavy aura of paranoia that had always defined their meetings with one another.
It was the grand vision of the sorceress Trianoma, who realized that the discovery of Parma Magica would make a true society of wizards possible. Without the ever present fear of a pre-emptive strike, wizards could meet to resolve their differences, and live and work together. After Bonisagus taught her the secret of Parma Magica, she traveled across Europe, seeking out the most powerful wizards she could find. Trianoma found eleven wizards and these were all willing to meet with Bonisagus, from who they too learned the secret of Parma Magica. Bonisagus, in his discussions with these eleven powerful wizards, learned many things which led to his second great discovery.
Bonisagus took what he had learned from these eleven great wizards and consolidated it all into a single theory of magic. The result was the theory of Hermetic magic. In the year 767, these thirteen wizards met together at Durenmar in the Black Forest and the Order of Hermes was founded.
Those original magi who met in Durenmar are referred to as the Twelve Founders. Although there were in fact thirteen magi there at the orders founding, Trianoma refused to put herself on the same level as those other magi, a clever political move that enabled her to mediate disputes within the fledgling order. The Order quickly entered a period of rapid growth as many magi flocked to this new organization. The followers of Tytalus and Guernicus traveled throught Mythic Europe, Giving an ultimatum to those who did not. They would join the order or die.
Within forty years of its foundation, the Order of Hermes dominated the Magical landscape of Mythic Europe.
The Order divides Mythic Europe into thirteen Tribunals, each of which is overseen by a Praeco. Whithin each Tribunal there reside a varyng number of Covenants, individual communities of Magi varying in size and purpose. Every seven years, Magi from a Tribunal gather to meet, traditionally at the Covenant of the Praeco. Every thirty-three years, each tribunal sends elected delegates to the Grand Tribunal, which is always held at Durenmar.