Shamanism is the art of interacting with the spirits of the land. It’s mostly about interpreting the signs of the spirits to determine their wants and needs but also about invoking their power to wield great and powerful magic.
In their interaction with the spirits shamans are the same as druids. The difference between the two is that druids wield political power in their own right while shamans mainly serve as advisors to those with power.
It has been scientifically proven beyond any reasonable doubt that spirits of the land don’t actually exist. Rather than to undermine the trust in shamans this has actually strengthened the position of shamanism in society, both as a source of knowledge about the state of the world and as a subject of academic study.
The shamans themselves largely ignore the scientific proofs and still refer to the spirits of the land by their traditional names. After all, their arts still work like they used to; their divinations come true and their rituals produce results. Why should they change?
The majority of the work of a shaman in this day and age is done through various forms of divination. Paying attention to the desires and needs of the spirits has repeatedly turned out to pay off. If the spirit of the land is happy and content it is reflected throughout the land, animals grow stronger, plants bear more fruit and inhabitants are healthier. Conversely an unhappy spirit may lead to the direct opposite; weak or sick animals, failed crops and an unhappy, unproductive citizen.
The state of the spirits is important information for governments and private interests at both the local and national level. A skilled shaman with close ties to their land is a valued asset and they eventually come to enjoy at least modest wealth and respect within their local society.
A shaman is generally associated with a limited geographical region in which tey practice their art. The nature of spirits is such that they are tied to the land they represent. The longer the shaman stays within that land the better they get to know the spirits and the better they become at interpreting their signs.
Most shamans will stay within their lands their entire lives and eventually develop very close bounds to their local spirit; they become able to divine the state of the spirit far quicker and far more accurately than a younger, less experienced shaman. When the words of two shamans stand against each other it is almost universally accepted that it is the older shaman that is right.
While shamans don’t move around much it is not unheard of that they do travel the world. Usually these are younger individuals who have grown up in an area with plenty of other active shamans and who are looking for somewhere else to settle down. Shamans are not territorial and they are generally able to coexist peacefully within their land, often working together or seeking out the help of each other.
Despite this, younger shamans sometimes leave their homes to see the world. This is jokingly referred to as following the spirits of the roads and the winds, but is really just a desire to travel and find somewhere else to live.
Becoming a shamanEdit
A shaman is not necessarily a wielder of magic. It is not uncommon for persons able to weave or channel the aether to take up shamanism, but most shamans have no magical abilities of their own at all.
While the underlying principles of shamanism can be taught it is generally accepted that in order to succeed as a shaman a person needs to have at least a basic talent for it. The talent mainly lies with the ability to determine what signs of the spirits are meaningful and which ones aren’t. Failure to recognize the correct signs will lead to incorrect divinations, which in turn will lead to incorrect advice given to those needing it.
A person interested in taking up the shamanistic arts generally receives training and evaluation from an older more experienced shaman of the region. If the student turns out to have the required talent they may be taken on as an apprentice and receive further training in the arts. Such training, while important is usually short. Much of a shamans work is based upon intuition and once it’s been determined they have the knack for shamanism the biggest step towards becoming one has been taken. Training then usually revolves around teaching the student commonly accepted good practices as well as warning them about well-known malpractices. The rest is something the new shaman will pick up as they go once they’ve settled down and made a home for themselves.
As mentioned previously, much of a shamans work revolves around divining the wants and needs of the spirit of the land. Each shaman has their own favorite method for doing this, but they almost always have at least one thing in common; the need for the shaman to observe the world around them.
The spirit of the land is, as the name implies, very closely connected with the land and the best way to keep up to date with the spirit is to keep up to date with the land. In rural or countryside areas this is often done by observing natural occurrences, like the movements of birds and animals; the way the wind blows and the rain falls; patterns in the dirt or the way the water flows in a stream. In highly populated areas like modern cities other methods, like observing commuters or newspaper stands are commonly used.
While most active shamans are unable to wield magic of their own magic they may still invoke the powers of the local spirit to perform magical feats for them. This type of magic is usually very powerful but also unrefined, hard to control and occasionally unreliable; it is most commonly used to manipulate the weather, like calling for rain in times of drought etc.
Shamanistic magic can also be used to cure ailments of the land, such as plagues of locust or pollution. It is also common to use shamanistic magic to attempt to ensure a bountiful harvest for farmers.
Most invocations of shamanist magic require lengthy and complex rituals to be performed. A single shaman may take days or even weeks completing a ritual calling for rain and even then it may not always be successful. A ritual of this type is usually made up of several lesser rituals that can be performed repeatedly in various locations independently of each other. Spreading some salt to the wind from a cliff-top at sunrise or coating the branch of tree with honey are examples of such lesser rituals; simple yet significant actions that together add up to a greater whole.
It’s also not necessary that the same shaman performs the entire ritual; multiple individuals can take part and each do their own part. The participants need not even be shamans in their own right; as long as they have their instructions and follow them carefully their actions will serve their purpose.
Additionally, it is possible to substitute some of the complexity of the rituals with large amounts of participants. One of the best examples of this is the large number of farmer’s festivals taking place around the world when it’s time to plant the crops and when it’s time to harvest them. These festivals aren’t just big parties for the enjoyment of the farmers; they’re also shamanistic rituals performed to ensure healthy crops and a rich harvest.
By collecting large numbers of happy celebrating people in a single location a certain amount of the joy of the festivities will seep into the land and strengthen the spirit, resulting in a better harvest. Many of the activities required by the ritual are incorporated into the festivities as games or competition. With these activities performed repeatedly and with joy by a large number of people the rituals are almost guaranteed to be successful, even if the actions themselves aren’t always performed correctly or at the proper time.
In many places these harvest festivals are among the biggest celebrations of the year, attracting enormous crowds, superstar DJs, celebrities and world famous artists and musicians. People will travel from far and wide, leaving the big cities all but deserted, in order to take part in the festivities. Needless to say, in countries where this happens, the harvest is almost always rich and bountiful.
With time a shaman grows closer and closer to the spirit of the land on which they live. For human and anfylk shamans who don’t get very old the main consequence of this is simply that an older shaman is more powerful, trusted and respected than a younger one. For the immortal elves and for the dwarves, who share the memories of their ancestors, it’s not so easy.
Ancient elven shamans, who spend thousands of years living in the same spot will eventually become so closely attuned to the spirit of the land that they become one with it. The land becomes an extension of their own body. These ancient shamans feel what the land feels and they are able to wield the power of the land at a mere thought, as were it their own. Eventually they even lose track of where the border is between their own physical bodies and the land itself. This however is an extremely lengthy process and the number of documented cases where it has happened is small.
Once a shaman starts developing this kind of connection with the land they become unable to leave it and travel is no longer possible for them. This is why they’re commonly referred to as being landlocked. Removing them from the land will hurt them beyond even what an elven body is able to heal. This is why non-shaman elves rarely stay more than a few hundred years in the same location.
Among dwarves the connection with the land is similar, but not as complete as among elves. Where an elf merges completely with the land on both a mental and physical level the dwarves connection with the spirit is only mental. As the memories of past generations of dwarves are shared among all dwarves so is their understanding of the local spirit of the land they live in. Their ability to interpret the state of the spirit becomes intuitive; it becomes as natural to them as a sixth sense, often referred to as feeling the rock or feeling the mountain.
Dwarves do not become landlocked the same way elves do though. Their bodies are new and short-lived and they do not have time to develop a physical bond in the way elves do.
Most established dwarven digs have a strong connection to and understanding of their local spirit. The individual inhabitants born within the dig all share the same memories and all know how to deal with the spirit. Due to this dwarves have less need of shamans than the other races; in a sense they’re all shamans. A dwarven dig usually keeps at least one active high-shaman though, sometimes more if the dig is large. The high-shaman is the one who leads the rituals that need performing and who has the final say in the rare cases where there are conflicting opinions about the state of the spirit.