Invocation

Invocation is widely considered the most fundamental of shamanic disciplines, the one upon which all others build. At its heart, Invocation amounts to bringing another within, becoming other. An Invoker takes on the identity of what he Invokes, thinking and feeling and perceiving the world as it does. As his proficiency increases, he can make the Invocation not merely internal, but external as well, changing himself into the subject of his study. Still more advanced Invokers are able to act as bridges between two subjects, such as a medicinal herb and someone requiring treatment, providing the active compounds of the herb directly to the patient; or between a poisoned person and water, purifying their patient of the toxin. Notably, Invocation is always focused and specific in application; it applies to a discrete concept and requires the central involvement of the shaman himself.

Applications

An Invoker gains a firsthand, intimate comprehension of something else's place in the world, its nature and role and purpose for being. This can be particularly relevant for anyone who interacts with wilderness environments, who cultivates plants or animals, or who works with particular materials. Invocation of appropriate substances can provide resistance to heat or cold.

Invocation lends itself to medicine by bypassing treatments such as salves or tinctures; it also allows direct purification of things such as containers of water or blood flowing through a patient's veins. Note that a patient must either be of the same race as the shaman, or the shaman must have Expertise in Invoking their race for such therapies to work.

Invocation also allows transformation of the shaman, including into plants or nonliving substances such as stone. Note that these are complete transformations of mind and body; an Invoker who becomes a rock is a lump of rock, not a person with stone skin. Transformation into a dispersed substance, such as air or fire, is immediately fatal as their own personal material is lost and cannot be replaced.

Risks

The greatest risk to an Invoker is that he becomes what he Invokes, sharing its drives and desires, eventually to the point of losing his own identity. This can happen in an instant, due to a single Invocation that is never undone; or it can be the consequence of time, as successive Invocations take their toll. The chronic effects are gradual at first, with the shaman slowly losing his own sense of identity, becoming alien to his community, thinking less like a person and more like the subjects he Invokes. With time, this often results in the shaman dying from self-neglect, for example from desiring to eat only raw meat or finding it perfectly appropriate to sit in the sun all day and not eat or drink at all. Others become so subsumed in a physical Invocation that they never change back, and so live out the last part of their lives as a beast or tree or rock, indistinguishable from the wilderness about them. There are rare cases of a Dreamwalker restoring an Invoker to his own identity, but generally that only works on lost trainees, not on experienced shamans who are intimately familiar with the subjects of their Invocations.

There are also substantial risks to the shaman in applying Invocation medicinally, as the shaman provides himself as a bridge between patient and treatment. In essence, the shaman declares "I am the herb, and I am the patient, thus the patient is the herb, and has its special properties to treat his condition". For the duration of the Invocation, there are no ill effects on the shaman, as he shares in both condition and cure; but as the therapy does its work, he withdraws from the patient first and the herb last, exposing his own otherwise healthy state to the effects of the herb. Depending on the medicine in question and the skill of the shaman, this can be disconcerting, debilitating, or even fatal.

Learning Invocation

Invocation begins with knowledge of oneself. A trainee shaman first takes up meditation and self-reflection, learning their own distractions and desires, teaching their mind to become quiescent and immersed in their environment. Mentorship is usually required to guide the trainee towards understanding, and to keep them persevering through their inevitable failures with meditation. Some practitioners prefer to use an hallucinogenic aid such as datura, salvia, or belladonna; such drugs both make the meditation easier and provide a ready means for ending it when the drug wears off, but have their own side effects and ultimately leave the shaman dependent upon a crutch to even perform Invocations. Others train themselves to enter the appropriate meditative state at will, but snap out of it upon a particular signal, usually audible in nature; however, that requires having a ready means to provide the signal, such as a convenient assistant.

When they are comfortable with meditation, the practitioner chooses a specific subject of study, for example a wolf, and observes it to learn its habits and nature — is characteristics, the environment it prefers, its relationships with other creatures and things. When they feel they understand their subject well enough, the Invoker will fast, meditate upon everything they know about their subject, and attempt to losing themselves in its identity. The first few Invocations should be undertaken with an assistant, often their mentor, who monitors the practitioner and provides what support they can, such as keeping them hydrated and trying to jar the trainee back into themselves if they seem to have gone too deep into their borrowed identity.

Success of the first Invocation is marked by the subsumption of the shaman's own identity and their natural senses; rather, they think and experience the world as their subject does. One who has Invoked a wolf would find themselves more attuned to sound and scent; they would go about on all fours, and feel the drive to hunt and chase. One who has Invoked a tree would sit unseeing, attuned to the warmth of the sun and the texture of the soil, listening to sounds passing by the leaves they didn't actually have. Notably, the first Invocations of any subject always have strictly mental and perceptional effects. With time and experience, the shaman learns to delicately balance their own identity with the identity that they Invoke, retaining just enough of themselves to remember their goals and appropriately terminate the Invocation.

Performing Invocation

TBD.

Fields of Expertise

Invocation Expertises are divided into three broad categories — Flora, Fauna, and Substance — within which a PC must specify the particular focus of their expertise, such as Invocation of Flora (Oak), Invocation of Fauna (Wolf), or Invocation of Substance (Fire). Due to the widely divergent natures of subjects, each category is treated as its own skill for progression purposes, i.e. to reach a higher skill level, a PC must accrue Expertises with the same category heading. Notably, gaining an Expertise requires documenting the PC's study of their subject as well as showcasing experiences with Invoking it. PCs must also play appropriately to their skill level, including the risks that come with more extensive Invocation use.

Fauna: The Invocation of any animal life, from insects to fish to mammals. This branch is the easiest to learn, particularly for higher animals — and sapients — who are more similar to the shaman in perceptions and needs.

Flora: The Invocation of any plant life, from lichen to trees. This branch is most immediately relevant to medicine and poisons; it can also have applications in crafts involving wood.

Substance: The Invocation of any never-living material, such as water, fire, or stone. This branch is essential to purification, can provide heat or cold resistance, and also allows a shaman-craftsman deep and intimate understanding of the materials he works with, such as marble for a sculptor or iron for a blacksmith. Physical transformations are exceedingly dangerous for this branch; some substances are near-instantly fatal to transform into, and others simply don't have minds and therefore a vanishingly low chance the shaman will remember himself.

Skill Progression

Trainee

- studying
- mental invocation only
- short periods, likely to be jarred out

Professional

- physical invocation
- first mental changes
- small chance of losing oneself

Exceptional

- bridge invocation
- more mental changes
- modest chance of losing oneself

Master

- direct invocation of others
- quick process, adept at new subjects
- alien thinking
- high chance of losing oneself

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