Animages are individuals who use their minds to manipulate their own personal animus. Using their animus, they can manipulate mana, and hence the elements and the physical world around them. For all practical purposes, animages are individuals who simply need concentrate in the proper manner to achieve magic or spell-like effects. Consequently, the manipulations of animages are far more basic and simplistic than clerics or wizards, yet also much more flexible. Using their power in a building-block manner, animages can achieve almost any effect imaginable. The cost and difficulty, however, is often higher than that for wizards or clerics to do the same thing.
People actually calling themselves animages are actually relatively rare. This does not, however, imply that there are not very many animages. While there are probably both more clerics and wizards than animages, animages are not as uncommon as the general populace believes. The reason is not exactly that animages are in hiding, although in some regions this is the case. The real reason is that animages often specialize in particular disciplines and the most common of these specializations have names associated with them that many people mistake as a profession.
This confusion is not helped by the fact that certain animage specialization groups have even set up schools, as if they were a separate profession. In fact, it is these schools that really cause confusion. While it is not that uncommon to find a school devoted to a particular specialization, a pure animage school, which goes by such a name is almost completely unheard of. Most animages, outside a few select specializations, are either taught on a one-to-one basis by a single master, or in a few rare cases, semi-self-taught. The various specializations as well as the learning structure of animages are discussed in the Animage School section.
Part of the low profile of animages is due to the fact that with the possible exception of the hermetic druids, the animage is probably the least understood of all professions. The majority of other mana-wielding professions hold animages at some level of suspicion. This suspicion is usually transmitted down to the laymen as well. The reason for this is that most other mana wielders do not understand exactly what animages do or how they manipulate mana. Among the non-magical population, the Animages position is looked upon suspiciously due to trepidation and fear. The trepidation and fear comes from the stereotype that all animages are mind readers and telepaths. This is not actually true.
With the exception of hermetic druids, other mana wielders are, by and large, spell casters. In other words, they use rituals, pronouncements, incantations, etc. as well-defined vehicles of mana transport. Animages, on the other hand, do nothing of the sort. What animages do is to manipulate mana using their own personal animus. In other words, they bypass the traditional frameworks and achieve spell-like effects solely by force of concentration and will.
Actually, this is a slight over simplification. In actual point of fact, an animage cannot simply will something to happen; rather he or she must manipulate his or her animus in such a way as to cause mana to behave in the desired manner. While it may look very easy and straightforward, it is, in fact, a much more difficult, albeit more direct, method of using mana. Learning to manipulate animus, and hence mana, is something that takes many years of intense study, practice, and literal 'soul searching.' Hence, an animage's ability to achieve desired spell-like effects is measured in terms of skill-like abilities. These animage skills are referred to as Disciplines.
The Seer Maelen Serenanus