“Magic does not grant you some special insight. That is very important. It is the search for magic that grants insight.” - 5B-901(F)
The first thing is that everyone uses magic, but not everyone is a magician or a wonder-worker. The very act of walking down the road or turning over a rock is filled with magic. Utilizing a skill is a form of magic; banging on the head of an axe in the forge or opening a window is a complex series of interactions between your mana and the mana of the object you are manipulating, relying on bargains and acquiescence of the world to your desires. That is the nature of things.
The power of the magician, however, is in skipping steps. Making the window open on its own, dipping hands in molten metal that does not burn because you have made a deal with it not to burn you and pulling out the head of an axe, these are the things a magician does.
Certain types of magic get what is close to a free pass: if you're higher up on the food chain, you can usually just do it. Locksmiths can open locks with some sweet talk and a tool, awahee are born with the ability to tell their elements what to do (within limits, but that's a whole other story), and most adventurer types can tell their fire to best light itself before they do something drastic. New magicians getting into the game can temper their names by demonstrating mental and authoritative superiority over stuff. Magic is the act of getting things to do what you want by showing them you know better than they do. On the other hand, there's certain things that never get a free pass no matter how good you are, and you always need to go in and punch them armed with arguments and the armor of authority.
These include, but are not limited to: curses (because you are often not the person who placed the curse), diseases (who are just trying to do their job), mind control, mind reading (both because a person's mental geography is a place where they have absolute authority and you have to convince their subconscious mind that you are in charge of that most private of places), and shapeshifting (you are subverting the entire cycle of life itself by saying you know better).
Doing these things usually requires entering a metaphorical geographical location and punching everything you see until it relents or sweet talking it. Again, you can get better at this by cutting your teeth on spiritual things and getting a name for yourself. Your reputation can be a weapon. You also run the risk of making that thing more powerful as it becomes wise to your tricks or your fighting style, which is why this is frowned upon when it comes to the untrained fighting diseases or curses.
Aside from using mana to force an object, process, or spirit into acquiescence, whether by family line or obligation, there are methods by which processes and forces can be combined to achieve work results. Understanding these processes is very important for most forms of metal working; the more you know about how something works before you start telling it what to do, the less you'll have to actually force it to do something to behave in a way that isn't in its primary nature. The vast majority of people just don't have the mana to tell a giant stone block to fly, so they throw it on log rollers.
An item to which you've given instructions can't just endlessly repeat them forever, so utilizing the base properties of materials is often more efficient for the purposes of creating an infrastructure than doing a little song and dance routine. The wonder-workers who first experimented with such things are responsible for a wide variety of advancements and techniques, from complexities such as teotl extraction to simple solutions such as trapezoidal doorways in earthquake-prone areas.
Everywhen: The place where all time exists “all at once,” both past and future. “Everywhen” is any state that is not the current, observable present. It is both a place and a time, when and where great heroes walked and shaped the land. It is a sacred time when the world was created, including all the events up to the observable present and potential creation events in the future. Some faiths consider spirit worlds to exist in Everywhen, being potential times of their own, or pieces of the essential nature of the world.
Paqui: The balance of all things. In theory, all paqui in the body of a member of a race should be in perfect harmony. This is rarely the case. People have moods, eat things, and wear clothes, so in reality, the paqui is in flux all the time. Paqui attempts to reassert itself if left alone. If you don't fiddle with your life too much or the things around you, they attempt to settle into a place of harmony, which can be both good and bad. On the other hand, a life of attempting to compensate for one thing or the other is exciting, and has paqui all its own. It is more than just the personal self, however, since paqui also concerns the way of the world itself. When you put up a building or build a dam, it's important to get a read on the local landscape, since you could have a chained and disastrous effect on the world around you. Essentially, the concept of “paqui” translates to “the state of the universe before a race started meddling with it.”
Pratikshyamana: One of the great differences between a “race” and other species is the presence of pratikshyamana. This is literally a domain in the deep worlds; it is functionally identical to a spirit's domain, and serves as a geographical metaphor for the ideas and thoughts of the being that owns it. Skills related to upkeep of the pratikshyamana are very important for personal growth, whether the individual is aware of their domain or not. This place is sacrosant; none but those with permission may enter it, or even find it. This is theorized to tie directly in to the absence of a spirit that represents that race as a whole: there is no “human” or “maize-cutter,” but instead, each member of that race shares, on a metaphysical level, the potential power of such a spirit, and as such, they are masters of a domain. Summoners house their avatars in such places, and it is much easier for a summoner to dream or sing themselves to their pratikshyamana if they have one or more avatars, which is a necessity to construct housing for the spirit in question. Pratikshyamana are also very important for cultures and religions that practice introspection, as both a safe haven while exploring the spirit worlds and a way to organize or quickly find memories.
Sing-stone: A stone that represents an animal, object, or idea, which marks its appearance in the Everywhen. Going and singing the right song at that stone can extract knowledge, the spirit of that thing, or even produce another. Singing at a green dragonfly sing-stone can potentially create more green dragonflies, for example, so long as you know the right song.
Songline: Planets with strong mana have geomantic lines that extend forward and backward through time, allowing passage through into the Everywhen. Along these lines are events, histories, and potential pasts and futures into which a traveler may find themselves, into which it is easier to drift as you get away from civilization, which has a rooting effect in observable time.
Teotl: The so-called “blood of the earth,” teotl is also known as ichor, and runs in veins under the ground. It is a deep violet substance that exhibits properties of both a gas and liquid, and is associated with mana as strong as fossils, though the resonance pulls in every direction.
I will continue to update this post as things I forgot come to me, but I think I got the basics of how things work here.
Sidenote: Omitlxayacatl family is full of magicians in my head now.