Animist magic [was: Changed magic in 2nd and 3rd Age]

From: Chris Lemens <chrislemens_at_2-9pQEM59xf_gqNxcT4J_cMJRNW3xxw-QiCcJnKK5Bp1UUe00eOmywXAm3RlOyaG>
Date: Wed, 17 Jun 2009 08:06:12 -0700 (PDT)

Something I missed the first time around --

Jeff Richard said:
> Chris Lemens can talk at length regarding spirit magic. But the basic
> model is still there; the shaman uses the traditions of his people to
> interact with the spirits. Sometimes something new happens, and usually
> that is a source of fear and bewilderment.

To which LC asked:
>The three types of heroquests still apply? Or no? Are basic charms
>gathered by the Type I kind of quest. Type 2 is used to bring/bind a
>spirit or fetish and Type 3 shamans wandering off to find new spirits?

And to which Donald Oddy responded:
> For an animist I think type 1 is more a matter of the shaman saying
> "If we wish to camp here safely we must perform this ritual to
> propitiate this spirit". There may be a magical benefit but it isn't
> anything as personal as a charm.

I think HeroQuests for animists are usually like the vision quests that you can find described in any decent book on native American legends. You do some ritual stuff to prepare, then you go on a trip, meet someone, get something from them, and come back. In Glorantha terms, the something you get is a little spirit that helps the big spirit you went to meet. This is typically something that shamans do, beause it is dangerous. Within this type, there is a broad spectrum of risk. A shaman can go to meet a spirit that she's already handled before, whose attributes she knows, and who is friendly to or part of the tradition. Or she can go meet someone new, unknown, or hostile. She'd best do it on a propitious day, in a holy place, after ritual preparation, though. (And roll well on her augment.)

Spirit society members (formerly known as practitioners) can interact with spirits in a more limited way. Think about their abilty as opening a window to the otherworld and talking through it, instead of opening a door and wlking through it. (That's an analogy only.) They call through the window to spirits that are friendly to them, that they know how to handle through their relationship with the great spirit that they worship. If something new happens here, it is truly a source of fear and bewilderment. Shaman expects to meet the unexpected when they step through the door to the otherworld. Society members don't expect strangers to come up to their window.

Mere tradition members look on from the outside. They get their charms from other people. They would only visit the otherworld on rare instances, under friendly circumstances, preferably with a shaman or powerful magical leader present. An example is initiation. This is a special time of year. The clan will have performed ceremonies to protect the young men and women. They open a way to the otherworld in the same way as they always have. The youngsters know the story that keeps them safe and presents them only with the dangers that they know how to face. Straying off the path is a death sentence.

It seems to me that there are four styles of animist worship that get you magic, though some of these distinctions are meaningless in rules terms:

1.    Ancestor worship. I think you get a charm from this. You create a nice home for your ancestor (the charm), who comes to live in it with your for a while. You can also allow your ancestor to possess you. But I think the thing that makes this one really different is that ancestor worship society members can open that window and talk to the ancestors, getting good advice on a successful contest (except for lying Uncle Pogner -- don't listen to him because he's a mean drunk).

2.    Hsunchen-style worship. I think you invite friendly animal spirits to inhabit parts of your body. You invite Razortooth to inhabit your teeth and Runs Like Wind to be your legs, etc. Once your whole body is inhavbited, you can transform into your totem animal. I don't think you normally make charms of your totem animal. That would be unfriendly because it is the wrong kind of home in your tradition. It is important to note that doing this right is something that your tradition teaches. A Praxian can;t jusy go up to a Telmori animal spirit and invite it in. It will certainly come in, but it would be a case of possession. (That might explain werewolves in cultures where there are no Telmori.)

3.    Worship of embodied spirits. We haven't talked much about these, but there is some good non-rules chrome in the HQ1 rules. Basically, you go to the sacred mountain and do one of two things. Either you ask it questions and get advice that might or might not be good. You'd narrate this as a contest, probably uusing your tradition as the main ability or as an augment. Or you ask it for some of its helper spirits: the Big Falling Rock, Mountain Fir, etc. You make charms for them, but they don't like being there. They have a natural place to live. If you release them, I don't think they come back (absent some really good story reason).

4.    Normal animist worship (ie everything else). You visit the great spirits in the otherworld and ask them for their helper spirits. You bring them back and put them in charms, which are the homes you have prepared for the disembodied spirits in the natural world. If you are prepared for it ritually and hold the medicine bundle, one of the great spirits can possess you directly. Of course, the ritual preparation often takes a loooong time, might require you to be ritually selected in the first place, etc. And the medicine bundle might be the one that was created back at the dawn, using things that no one can even identify now, much less find another one of.

There are also animist rituals that result in a specific happening, rather than the acquisition of magic:

a.    Propitiation -- done ahead of time to keep the bad spirits from visiting. Anyone can do these. People do them daily, subconsciously, though not for all spirits. For example, Praxians drop a bit of food into every prairie dog hole they come across, to ward off the bad little spirits that make holes where you galloping herd beast steps.

b.    Placation -- buying off the bad spirit when it arrives. Tradition members can do these, but usually a shaman or magical leader leads the ritual. Often, these amount to scapegoating rituals.

c.    Banishment -- sending the bad spirit away. Shamans or specialist magical leaders usually do lead these. They are really dangerous. If you lose, the bad spirit might possess you.

The question of where the hero plane ends and the spirit plane begins is tougher for me. I think when you go to visit a great spirit, you clearly end up in its home in the spirit plane. Likewise, a society member's window probably opens directly to the home of that society's great spirit. But when a shaman goes traipsing about, visiting the spirits that are not core to the tradition, I suspect she goes through the hero plane to go from "place" to "place" in the spirit plane, unless the two spirits are both entirely native to the tradition. (E.g., a shaman can go from visiting Waha's great herd to visiting Daka Fal's camp without leaving the Wide Plaines (which is what Praxians call their part of the spirit plane. But going to visit Oakfed means going through the fire lands.)  Even when visiting a non-native spirit, the tradition will know the way through the hero plane. (So, the shaman going to visit Oakfed follows Waha's Hotfoot Path.) Does that  make sense?

Chris Lemens

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