Shamanism is a form of magic that relies on the mental and soul energy of the caster, a shaman. It is comprised of totem magic, controlling and speaking to spirits, and shape-shifting. It is most typically practiced in cultures that are generally considered “primitive”, though the definition may not be flattering to many of the practitioners. Anyone of any race could become a shaman, but when there is a readily available education for other forms of magic, most people will opt to follow those.
Shamanism is commonly practiced in the human cultures of the Kaians and Ertians of Kalesten, as well as amongst the Oir’Idayn, Ery’Idayn, and Ur’Idayn. Shamans are also pivotal members in tribes of the Kuzo and Samiss. Each of the above cultures discovered shamanism on their own, and thus, their takes on the practice may vary greatly, and some aspects of shamanism may not be fully implemented by users of each race. When considering the below listed practices within shamanism, remember that not every race’s shamans will follow the same rules. Some individuals show an aptitude for shamanism by having a strong connection to the spirits. In cultures where shamanism is regularly practiced, these individuals are often scouted out as children and readily apprenticed to more experienced shamans to learn the craft.
In totem magic, a shaman seeks out spirit guides, which take the form of animals. These animals become his totem, or key spirits, and they help him guide and shift spiritual favor with other spirits in the area. Usually, a shaman keeps a carving of the specific totems he follows with him so that he can use it to concentrate on, to thank, and to worship his spirit guides.
Different animals have certain aspects to them that the culture generally assigns based on their interactions with the creature. For example, a bear may symbolize strength and independence, while a fox would represent cunning and wit. A totem will have more than one animal on it however, which leads to a combination of traits that often define the shaman individually as well.
- Kaian totems often consist of dragons (as their culture worships the dragon Kaius), bears, wolves, ravens, foxes, deer, elk, eagles, boars, and other creatures common to their region.
- Ertian totems include native and prominent species of mammals, birds, and some reptiles.
- Kuzo have a practice of appreciating smaller animals such as rodents, rabbits, frogs, songbirds, and even insects.
- The Samiss have totems comprised of almost entirely reptilian creatures such as dragons, crocodilians, snakes, terrapins, and large or small lizards.
- The Ur’Idayn include a broad range of jungle fauna; the various species of cats (large and small), deer, pigs, snakes, birds of prey, parrots, lizards, frogs, and other creatures.
Shamans can directly reach out to the spirits often by entering a trance or vocalizing, sometimes assisted by using intoxicating substances. With time, connection to the spirits comes easier, though some individuals are naturally more attuned to the spirit world than others. A shaman does not ask the spirits to do their bidding, instead they channel the spirit into them through a mutual agreement and draw upon the raw elemental power of the spirits that then cohabitate the body with the shaman. This is often aided by the use of guiding spirits, or a totem, but for those shamans that do not use totems (the Oir’Idayn and Ery’Idayn, for example), they must rely on any good faith they have with the spirits. When the channeling is complete, it leaves the shaman in a weakened state, and usually after one spirit a shaman is too tried to continue battling. Though, with time and practice, shamans can channel more spirits over a shorter period of time—though generally not more than two or three spirits a day.
To channel to the spirits of the elements, one must have a connection to their element. This can be quite easy in the case of using Sylph, the air elemental, as the spirit exists in the air all around us, or in the case of Gnome, the earth elemental which resides in the ground beneath our feet, but for spirits such as Undine, the water elemental, or Salamander, the fire elemental, a shaman must have either fresh water or a flame on hand. To channel spirits of nature, for example, Dryads, the spirits of trees, one must have a living tree nearby.
Shamans have the ability to shape-shift, though it is not always a common practice through shamanistic cultures. When they consume the heart-meat of an animal, they can—for a limited time—take the form of that animal. When the heart-meat of an animal is consumed, the shaman takes in a bit of its essence, or its soul, and by focusing on that sliver of essence, one can force a change in their own body.
The transformation is excruciatingly painful as the shaman’s skin and bones shrink and peel, or grown and split as he tears out of his old, limiting form of origin and takes the shape of the creature eaten. It is both mentally and physically taxing, but with much practice, the transition can become fractionally less painful. In this state, the shaman is highly susceptible to reacting as an animal if they do not train themselves.
The essence remains in the shaman for only as long as it takes to digest it, and as many animals have a quicker digestive system than humans, when transformed, the shaman’s time as an animal could be considerably cut short, especially if the shaman has no control over their new body and transformation process. Only fresh heart-meat will do, however. Cooking or smoking the meat, or only eating bits of it over a long period of time will not work, as the essence leaves the body quickly. Consuming the heart’s blood as opposed to the meat itself grants other abilities. Instead of actually shifting into the form of the creature, you gain some ability from it such as camouflage from a chameleon, or the venomous bite from a snake. This practice is followed by some human shamans, Kuzo, Samiss, and the Ur’Idayn. The Ertians, Ery’Idayn, and Oir’Idayn races find it utterly abhorrent, despite the benefits.
Shamans, since they are so close to the spirits, cannot partake the flesh of their own race. If a shaman eats the flesh of one of their own kind—cannibalism—they will become a horrible, cursed being. It is constantly hungry, starving for the flesh they crave, and never able to satiate that diabolical hunger due to their curse. Their appearance becomes gaunt and deathlike, like a corpse recently dug up from its grave. (See the Wendigo mythos of the Algonquin.)
However, if they consume the heart-meat of another race, they will gain the same benefits they would if it were an animal. This can allow a Samiss or Kuzo to walk amongst humans for a brief period. However, the Kaians or the Ur’Idayn would likely not partake in this practice either because other races are too close to themselves for comfort, or they feel vastly superior to other races.