by Stephen Michael Sechi
Magic is not "native" to Talislanta. When the primitive Archaens found that strange ship they discovered the secret of how to use a new form of energy. They called this energy Magic.
From the beginning, the Archaens never fully understood what magic was all about. They just interpreted what they found in the ship as best they could, based on their culture and level of intellectual development.
So it was that the early Archaen version of magic probably resembled some form of paganism. They developed a few simple spells of witchcraft and elemental magic - things that were related to and/or important to their culture (predicting weather, locating food and water, healing wounds and illnesses, getting rid of "bad luck").
As time passed and the peoples of Talislanta grew in number and became more diverse, so too did the practice of magic. As magic spread among the population, each people altered, added to, or (sometimes) subtracted from the existing body of magical knowledge according to their needs. As new cultures came into existence, new forms of magic were developed. And sometimes, when old cultures/civilizations died, they took their own magical secrets with them (see The Great Disaster).
Here is the Unified Theory of Magic:
1. Magic is both a form of energy and a means of manipulating energy. All magic originally came from the same source.
2. There are certain "laws" governing the use of magic, but magic may take any number of forms. These forms are mutable, and are dictated by cultural prerogatives; i.e., if a society is agrarian, its magicians will work to develop horticultural magics. If a society is militaristic, its magicians will focus on combat-oriented magics, and so forth.
3. Only magicians can use Magic (talking about spells here, not magic items). Therefore, anyone who uses Magic is a magician, whether his/her title is priest, shaman, witch, thaumaturge, or whatever.