The first campus of the Providence Preparatory Academy for the Advancement of the Arcane Arts was established in 1624, when William Bradford, Thomas Morton, and Anne Hutchinson brought their various pupils together and established a place to teach all of them. The school was started in partnership with Galahad Theocratus Bombastus Leodegrance’s Imperial Magischola of Massachusetts Bay, as a place to provide primary education for young mages in the New World. The close relationship between P2A4 and Imperial continues to this day, though the progressive influence of Morton and Hutchinson has led to periodic friction with the determinedly conservative Imperial.
According to the official records, the Providence Preparatory Academy for the Advancement of the Arcane Arts was founded in 1619. Understanding this requires a somewhat creative interpretation of history, as the actual campus was not established until 1624. However, the first students on campus were those who were already under the tutelage of William Bradford, who had indeed been teaching them since 1619. The cause of the discrepancy is generally understood to be Bradford’s pride–Imperial Magischola was established in 1623, and Bradford wanted to ensure that his school of magic could claim to be the oldest school for magic in the New World. Of course, his calculations failed to account for the dozens of pre-existing First Nations magical schools, many with histories dating back thousands of years.
P2A4 and its founders had a close relationship with the early European settlers, with all four founders maintaining active mundane lives in addition to their magical lives. The colonial period was before the formal establishment of the Magimundi, or the declaration of the Edict of Separation & Secrecy. As the Magimundi emerged and developed, the school and its culture became more insular and isolated. Despite that, echoes of the traditions established in the early days of mundane collaboration persist.
William Bradford (1590-1657)
“All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.”
Bradford was a brilliant autodidact and prodigy astromancer who found himself unsatisfied with magical education in Europe. He graduated from the Hermetic School of Natural Philosophy at the age of fourteen, and left Czocha College after only one year, claiming the Professors had “nothing of interest to teach him.” He soon grew dissatisfied with Europe as a whole, and was one of those to strike out for the New World aboard the Mayflower.
Initially, Bradford had little interest in governance. He was more interested in exploring the New World, and seeing what there was to learn. He brought with him a small group of fellow mages, whose children he taught. However, when disaster began to befall the mundane colony at Plymouth, Bradford found himself drafted into Governorship. He attempted several times to resign his post, but each time, upon seeing the mundanes who might replace him, he chose to stay. Bradford’s disdain for mundane life was outweighed by his impatience with incompetence.
Bradford never technically held the title of Chancellor of P2A4, as the position was not formally established until after his time, but he led the school from its founding until 1646. His focus was always on quality of education and quality of teaching. Bradford was known widely as a harsh and exacting teacher, but one who did not care where his students came from. He was willing to teach Unsoiled students, mundane-born students, as well as learners from the local First Nations groups, as long as any of them could keep up with his lessons.
Bradford stepped back from active leadership of the school in 1646, to focus both on governing the colony and on his writings. In his old age, Bradford wrote dozens of texts on magical history and theory, though most have since been replaced by more modern works. Today, Bradford’s writings are seen by most as a historical artifact, save for by his most ardent followers, who hold them as something close to gospel.
Anne Hutchinson (1591-1735)
“As I understand it, laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway.”
Hutchinson rose to prominence in both Europe and the early New World as a vocal Christian witch and powerful healer, mixing magical traditions with her staunch belief in divinity. Many in both the European Confluxes and Christian world saw that as a contradiction, but Hutchinson bridged the gap proudly. To her, magic was a gift from God, one to be treasured and embraced.
In the early days of the first New World colonies, Hutchinson worked as a teacher, preaching religion to mundane women and magic to young witches. She attempted to join Leodegrance’s Imperial Magischola, but was turned away due to her gender. As much to spite Leodegrance as anything else, she accepted her friend Thomas Morton’s invitation to co-found a new school of magic instead.
It wasn’t long before Hutchinson’s outspoken views brought her into conflicts with other settlers. In her mundane life, she was a follower of the preacher Thomas Cotton, and became one of the leaders of a group known as the Antinomians. The Antinomians believed in finding independent paths to God, rather than just following the precise letter of the Bible. Furthermore, they felt that most human laws could be ignored if one felt a divine or moral call to other choices. The Antinomians were declared heretics, and driven out of their homes.
One particularly vehement opponent of the Antinomians was Thomas Shepard, a Puritan Minister. He took Hutchinson’s leadership as a personal offense, and continued to pursue her after she left Boston. Their rivalry continued for many years, becoming more and more violent. Hutchinson learned that Shepard was himself secretly a wizard, and using his sermons to control the minds of his parishioners. Hutchinson undid Shepard’s hexes, and many of the freed followers joined Hutchinson’s settlement at New Netherland–what would later be known as New York.
Shepard did not take this well, and in retaliation murdered most of Hutchinson’s family, blaming the local Siwanoy people for the massacre. A year later, in 1644, Hutchinson defeated Shepard in a famous duel at Split Rock. Hutchinson did not kill him, but used an ancient Guardian rite to permanently seal away his magic. She left him in the wild, stating that she would leave his fate up to the Lord. Shepard did manage to return to Boston, but died of mundane causes not long after. Hutchinson never again interacted with the world of mundanes.
In 1646, Hutchinson returned to P2A4, the school she cofounded. Shortly after arriving, she became its first official Chancellor by unanimous vote of the teachers, a position she retained for almost a century, until her death in 1735. Her early years were a time of change for P2A4, with the departure of both Bradford and Morton, and an escalation in tension with Imperial Magischola. Hutchinson’s leadership brought about many elements of campus life that today are seen as central to the school, such as the Court structure, the three trials, and the inclusion of Loup-Garoux students.
Roger Williams (1603-1683)
“The greatest crime is not developing your potential. When you do what you do best, you are helping not only yourself, but the world.”
Roger Williams was throughout his life a student of languages of all kinds, seeing linguistics as the path to understanding the truths of the world, magic, and the human mind. By a young age he had mastered a dozen languages, and even for a time served as John Milton’s Hebrew tutor, in return for lessons in Dutch. In his magical studies, he was known widely as both a master cursebreaker and as a scholar of ethics and jurisprudence. Many early legal texts date back to Williams, and modern scholars continue to cite his arguments and theoretical work, often finding them applicable to modern laws in unexpected and prescient ways.
Williams was also a strong believer in independent thought and self-development, and staunchly opposed the rule of religious law. He left Europe in 1630, frustrated with what he saw as the corrupt and authoritarian rule of the Church of England. Unfortunately, life in the New World was no better, with the Puritans turning out to be just as controlling as the Anglicans, if not moreso. Williams found a friend and ally in Anne Hutchinson, but despite her advice, continued to speak out loudly. He penned a harsh critique of Plymouth Colony for having simply claimed their land instead of buying it from the locals. By 1635, Bradford’s frustrations with Williams had grown to the point that he did not defend the man when Williams was tried for sedition and branded a heretic.
After walking through a brutal New England snowstorm, kept alive only by his magic, Williams was rescued by Massasoit Ousamequin, leader of the Wampanoag Confederacy. Williams stayed with the Wampanoag for three months, and he and Ousamequin became close friends. With support from the Wampanoag, Williams founded a town of his own, Providence, meant to be a haven for freethinkers and independent minds.
Bradford offered Williams a teaching position at P2A4 in 1643, an act generally understood to be meant as an olive branch between the two. Williams remained active in both the magical and mundane spheres, serving as an active mediator between First Nations tribes and the early settlers, averting and diminishing many wars over the next few decades. He continued his work as a linguist, learning the languages of many tribes and creating dictionaries and grammar texts.
Over the next few decades, Williams invited many First Nations mages and shamans to teach at P2A4, though few stayed long. When Chancellor Hutchinson created a Court in his honor, Williams attempted to have it named Massasoit instead, in honor of his friend Ousamequin, but the other faculty overruled him. Williams was also an early advocate for abolition, and insisted on welcoming people of all races, including freed slaves, at P2A4. Some freed slaves did attend P2A4 in its early days, but with considerable tension with the white students, in part because only the white students could continue their education at Imperial Magischola after graduation.
Unfortunately, Williams’ work towards peace was eventually undone. After Ousamequin’s death in 1661, his son Wamsutta became the new Massasoit. Wamsutta agreed to uphold his father’s peace and went to meet with Plymouth Governor Josias Winslow to formalize the arrangement. Winslow, however, had other plans. His father, Edward, had been both a mage and a Professor at Imperial Magischola, and friend to the Wampanoag, but Josias was born without magic. His bitterness towards his father spread to the Wampanoag, and he hired an unknown mage to hex Wamsutta. Williams attempted to break the curse, but Wamsutta passed away in 1662. His younger brother Metacom declared war on Plymouth, and the fragile peace between the settlers and the Wampanoag collapsed.
In Williams’ later years, he became a strong proponent for the Edict of Separation and Secrecy. He feared that if left unchecked, the ambition of mages would grow until they ruled over mundanes. In the rise of the Magimundi, he foresaw echoes of the rise of religious rule, and sought to prevent the corruption and control he had seen both in England and among the early Puritans. His writings on the subject remain some of the most influential texts about the importance of separation, and are still taught today.
Thomas Morton (1570-1647 (debated))
“According to human reason, guided only by the light of nature, these people lead the more happy and freer life, being void of care, which torments the minds of so many Christians.”
Thomas Morton–often referred to as the Lord of Misrule–is by far the most mysterious of the four founders. There are myriad conflicting reports about the exact details of Morton’s life, in no small part because of Morton themself. Morton was a cryptozoologist, herbologist, explorer, and an early European eschewer of the gender binary. They traveled widely, dabbling in belief systems and adopting cultural ideologies from across the world.
By the time Morton came to America, they had accrued a significant band of followers. Morton’s followers were as unpredictable as Morton themself, prone to wild revels, dancing, pranks, and wordplay. Morton renamed their settlement Merrymount, even the name itself a pun (on mare, the Latin word for sea). Morton’s revelers were contentious among the early Puritans, mixing pagan rituals with flagrant magic in a manner the other settlers found unbecoming and disturbing.
Though Morton and Bradford did not get along (indeed, Bradford once famously marooned Morton on a small island, following a drunken argument about grammar), Bradford invited Morton to teach at his new school, hoping to convert Morton’s followers to his own path. Bradford did not succeed in conversion, but Morton’s students stayed at the school. Morton themself came and went unpredictably, sometimes vanishing for months at at time. Morton would often bring strange creatures and plants and leave them for students to experiment with and examine. One such sapling eventually grew to become the Bartering Birch; Morton staunchly refused to explain where they acquired the sapling, and its precise origins remain entirely shrouded in mystery.
In the New World, Morton at first attempted to support Mundane settlements and foster communications between them and the various First Nations tribes. They wrote a number of anthropological treatises on the First Nations, in an attempt to stave off war between them and the European settlers. Unfortunately, Morton’s work was not well-received by the settlers. Things came to a head when Morton realized that a local settlement was selling slaves, and a disappointed Morton stepped away from the Mundane world entirely.
No one knows exactly what became of Morton, but the last confirmed sighting of them at the school itself was in 1647. One theory claims that Morton attempted an ascension ritual by becoming an avatar of the Babylonian deity Tammuz. Another states that Morton fell gravely ill, but defeated Death itself in a game of cards, and won their immortality. Others say that Morton simply found a particularly nice spot in the woods behind P2A4’s campus to take a nap, and that sooner or later they’ll wake up, well-rested and ready to cause more mayhem.