Maho is the Azeshouri term for “Blood Magic,” a particularly reviled form of sorcery as it is fueled by the power of fresh blood, sacrifice, and corruption. A maho spellcaster is commonly referred to as a Maho-tsukai.
Long ago the original form of blood magic, as developed by Naga sorcerers, was a pure, voluntary, and clean source of power, which they later taught to the Shiba family centuries before they becamse part of the Phoenix clan. Ultimately however, the Dark Kami Fu Leng learned how to twist such magic to his own ends. It was he who taught his first disciple, the fearsome sorcerer Iuchiban, how to twist and use Maho for destructive and corrupting purposes by infusing such magic with the essence of Jigoku (the Realm of Evil, source of dark spirits, Oni, and the Taint).
It would be Iuchiban who later spread the knowledge of Maho among his practitioners, known as Bloodspeakers. Shugenja are the predominant Maho users, often those with little patience and/or greed or who desire greater power. While not every practitioner of Maho is a Bloodspeaker, the vast majority are. The knowledge of Maho is generally taught by other Bloodspeakers, forbidden texts, or other times by kansen (evil Shadowlands spirits) who have found easily manipulated souls they can corrupt.
In order to cast Maho spells, the practitioner must call out a prayer to Fu Leng in order to beseech his favor before making an offering of blood – either the practitioner’s own, or a sacrifice’s – the more, the better. Such an act is intrinsically corrupting, and often Taints the spellcaster to a degree that directly corresponds to the complexity and power of the spell.
Many who use Maho naively believe that it is they who bend the Shadowlands and its Tainted corruption to their will and desire.
They are all sadly mistaken. To use maho is to ultimately further the ends of Fu Leng and the Shadowlands, whether they realize it or not.