The Houses of the Veil are the eight (or nine) secret societies at Yale University that specialize in occult, magic, and power. Overall, the students selected to participate in the houses are not naturally magical, although those tapped are accomplished, high achievers, and well-connected. Not only are these societies made up of legacies, but graduates also amass a great deal of influence, entering politics and power in nearly every industry. Between magic and networking, the current and past society members can maintain their control.
Each House specializes in a different branch of magic, allowing them various uses. Their rituals center around the nexuses—or places where an abundance of magic gathers—because it is the only way to perform their extravagant spells.
The eight Houses of the Veil include: Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, Book and Snake, Wolf’s Head, Aurelian, St. Elmo’s, Manuscript, and Berzelius. Lethe House is the so-called Ninth House of the Veil, operating as the monitoring body over the societies rather than as one.
Skull and Bones, established in 1832, is the oldest of the Houses. Their motto is “Rich or poor, all are equal in death.” Specializing in divination, the Bonesman read the entrails of sacrificed victims to garner information. Their alumni include former presidents, diplomats, and CIA agents. Their tomb is used for their quarterly prognostications, and their predictions are passed along to hedge-fund managers and private investigators. Whereas they read the future from both animals and humans, they prefer to use the mentally ill with the belief that it makes their readings more accurate.
Founded in 1842, Scroll and Key focused on astral projection and portal magic, used for long-distance travel, entering secure locations, summoning objects from far away, and transporting a person back to a previous version of themselves, etc. Their magic was originally stolen from Middle Eastern sorcerers during the Crusades, although the Locksmiths debate amongst themselves that they came into their magic honestly.
Specializing in necromancy and bone conjuring, Book and Snake was founded in 1863 and was the first society to admit women. The Lettermen pass the information they’ve gained from their dead informants to interested parties, like the state department and the military. Conjuring ghosts for questioning, they rarely raise the dead completely as it yields unpredictable results. Having created safeguards for their rituals, they reduce the likelihood of losing control when a Gray enters a body, but it still happens.
Wolf’s Head, founded in 1883, transforms into animals, focusing on maintaining their humanity while transformed. This allows them to spy: gathering intelligence, corporate espionage, and political sabotage. They consider the term shapeshifter derogatory as the actual shifting is basic magic, and what they do is more complex and takes days to shake off. In the heart of their tomb, they can communicate with the dead, using the river to cross into the borderland between life and death.
Established in 1910, Aurelian uses language to create bindable contracts, unbreakable vows, and inspirational magic. Their magic can be dangerous and unpredictable as they lost their sacred tomb due to the souring of Yale’s union contracts, which has weakened Aurelian as a House. Although the Aurelian’s magic holds less influence, it is more portable, practical, and catered to specific needs. This does allow them to utilize various rooms as long as they aid in the intent of the spell.
St. Elmo’s, founded in 1889, has elemental and weather magics. They used to control weather conditions by summoning storms and creating droughts, but with the loss of their tomb in the 1960’s came the weakening of their abilities. Among their old powers, they could manifest the tempest in the teapot, which could short security feeds or entire electrical grids. In more domestic situations, they could cause blizzards to increase the costs of utilities, droughts to affect the fields, or strong winds to sink battleships.
The newest house, Manuscript was established in 1952. Their magic focuses on manipulating perceptions with mirror magic, illusions, and glamors. Many of their alumni were involved in the arts—film and TV—political advisors, and great scientists. Unable to bend reality, they gain their power from manipulations via mirror magic, which they use in small ways during their Halloween party to siphon enough power to maintain their rites for the rest of the year. They do this since their charisma and glamor take a constant feed of power.
Berzelius, formed in 1848, believes that science is the truest magic, and therefore, they have no specialization. Their creation was in protest to the magical emphasis of the other houses, which also means that they do not hold much influence in comparison. Their members dedicate themselves to new technologies and consider the other Houses to be superstitious charlatans.
The Ninth House, also known as the Lethe House, operates by the motto, “We are the Shepherds.” They appoint a Dante and Virgil, amongst other positions, to ensure that the secret magical societies don’t break the rules to keep the university safe. Punishments may include fines, suspend magical rituals, or most critically, the loss of their tomb. Because of this, Lethe representatives must be present during rituals, and no magic can be used against them. Lethe is also tasked with investigating the mysteries of the Veil, which includes their taking Orozcerio, an elixir that allows delegates to see Grays and prevent them from interfering with one of the Eight Houses’ rituals.
Remember to grab your copy of Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo and join us on February 28 at 1 pm CST for our live book discussion! And be prepared to grab book two, Hell Bent, which was just released in early January 2023.
Get more information about our ILVN Book Club here!