I am not entirely sure what homunculi are in real mythology (by which I mean, mythology external to Cairn Hill), but I know this much: a homunculus is a child created by a complex, alchemical process, for which human semen is required, though no egg (and the child therefore has a father, but no mother). The child grows from a foetus to a full-grown, fully developed human being, usually of exceptional (especially magical) aptitude. Incidentally, the word "homunculus" is Latin for "little man" (if I remember correctly).
Now, you don't really need to know any of that for game, I just thought you might find it interesting. Here's an internal, Cairn Hill definition of a homunculus. To understand this, you'll need to understand the systems of magic used by Cairn Hill; you can find such information on the magic page.
The spell by which one creates an homunculus is complex, difficult, and very hard to acquire. It is primarily a Cabala spell, but requires quite a high degree of proficiency in all spheres except Necromancy.
It begins with the creation of the body. A mare is killed, and its womb is removed; it is in this that the foetus will grow until it is old enough to breathe on its own. The "egg" is an object known as a Brisingamen Pearl. Into the womb is poured semen (this is generally the caster's own, but not necessarily). The conception itself requires the interaction of Sympathetic and Chaos Magic.
This is the bare minimum required for the creation of a homunculus. Other reagents (invested with spirits, and therefore fetishes) may be used to manipulate the lines along which the child develops; these must be placed in the womb before conception, and remain in until "birth". For example, a section of a bull's skin, infused with a Taurus spirit, is in part responsible for Lucifer's phenomenal strength.
The homunculus' body matures at a rapid speed. They tend to reach puberty within five years, and physical maturity (mid-twenties, for most) in ten. After this, they age much more slowly than do humans, and have been known to live well over two-hundred years.
There are two ways of creating the homunculus' mind.
The first is to simply follow the steps above, and let nature, perverted as she has been, take her course. This method can potentially have serious drawbacks.
There seems to be a much greater risk of "natural" mental defect with homunculi than with normal children; at any rate, in the literature available, a disproportionate number of homunculi who have been raised this way have gone mad.
Also, these homunculi are often unable to use magic beyond the most rudimentary level.
Finally, even under the best of circumstances, the homunculus' "normal" mind develops at a rate normal for children; in other words, his rapid physical growth quickly outstrips his mental. This falling out of sync will correct itself, when the homunculus' physical body slows its aging process; but one can imagine how dangerous it would while the six-year old's mentality is within a body that can crush a human skull.
There is, however, a second way of creating the homunculus' mind.
This involves creating the mind, essentially, outside the body, and then transplanting it in.
An archetypal form for the human mind must first be snatched from the mondus. This is the basic blueprint for the mind to be created; but a skilled magician can distend this in various ways, along various paths, to mould the mind practically however he likes. Metempsychosis is needed for this. This takes great skill to do well; but not too much skill to do poorly, but passably.
The difficult part is to transfer the new mind, which is still entirely conceptual, into the body. This is done by a complex and not entirely understood process of "mapping" Essence onto the conceptual framework; which is accomplished through Animism, Cabala, and Sympathetic Magic. As is often the case, Cabala forms the core of this process, with Animism and Sympathetic Magic being merely facilitary; and therefore, no one quite understands how exactly it is effected.
One now has a Spirit, a mind made to order, existing in the spiritual world (in fact, one account from a mage who could "see" the spirit world described the image of the newly forged mind as being literally that of a floating brain). Using Animism magic, one only needs to either convince or force the Spirit to manifest itself within the physical brain of the homunculus; in essence, this makes the brain itself a fetish.
Finally, Animism and Sympathetic Magic are used to fuse the Spirit mind to the physical one, cutting off all the Spirit's modes of escape and permanently fettering it. If everything goes well, the homunculus now has a perfectly crafted mind. That's a big "if", though.
I won't go into everything which could go wrong; I'll only explain what did go wrong in Lucifer's case.
There have been here listed two processes to create a homunculus' mind. These are usually mutually exclusive; however, with Lucifer, this was not so.
To properly implement the second process, the spell-caster must stop the first from occuring; in other words, he must prevent the native consciousness from developing. This is done by adding a Nothingness Stone, which is a small, sand-swept pebble, with a Spirit-bound mondal nothingness concept invested in it. Apparently, Zosimus was a little hazy about Spirit-binding mondal concepts, because he thought that one could simply Essence-bind the mondal instead (oops! that's a big no-no... in fact, there is no such process as "Essence-binding"). So, the container, being quite improperly constructed, leaked; but it was not entirely ineffective.
While Zosimus failed to prevent the development of a native consciousness, he did stymie it's growth. Normally, if a healthy consciousness has taken root, it can simply and easily throw off the Spirit-mind which is trying to manifest in the physical space which the healthy consciousness is taking up (the Spirit-mind can be forced to manifest, but that get's, well... messy). However, this consciousness was far from healthy; it was also far from non-existent, too, so it did in part prevent the Spirit-mind from attaching itself to Lucifer's physical brain. This is the reason for Lucifer's madness.
The Spirit-mind is not a fully-developed one, no more so that a first-trimester baby's would be. It was expected to take residence in the physical brain, after which it would stop being a Spirit-mind at all, and would simply grow and evolve with the physical one. Therefore, those parts of the Spirit-mind which could not latch on to the physical brain are still in, essentially, a pre-natal phase of development.
To make matters worse, there is a part of Lucifer's physical brain which has no resident consciousness other than the extremely weak native one. So called "free-floating mondals" (in common parlance, these are often ghosts, angels, demons, and such) can use this to make Lucifer their temporary mooring to the physical world. In so doing, they can talk to Lucifer, hear him, and even, to a limited degree, control his actions. It is their voices which Lucifer hears, not his own.
The Golem: A golem is an artificial construct resembling a human and created by magic, much like a homunculus; this is just one of the many legends surrounding its kind.
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