Shamanism

The central principles of Shamanism are harmony, respect, and understanding. Shamanism is the magic of connections, of alignment, of sharing and commonality. A shaman enacts magic not through the exertion of his will, but by bringing himself into alignment with the facet of the world he wants to affect, passing to it his needs and desires. He exists in the context of his environment, as do all other things.

Disciplines

Shamanism is a paradigm, an overarching school of thought that can be divided into several disciplines, each focused on a particular facet of the paradigm. For purposes of expertise, each discipline is considered a separate skill. Any shaman may practice any number of disciplines, but mastery is accrued only within disciplines; expertise in one does not count towards mastery of another.

The shamanic disciplines are:

Invocation: The most fundamental discipline, Invocation is a transformative magic which begins with exchanging one's identity, literally "calling in", taking on the thoughts and perceptions of some other creature, flora, or even inanimate substance. Greater skill allows physical transformations, and even providing a 'bridge' by which properties of the Invoked subject can be passed to another person.

Dreamwalking: A subtle discipline, Dreamwalking is a magic of observation and insight turned entirely inward, allowing the practitioner to plumb the depths of a subject's mind and soul. Best used with great caution, Dreamwealking lends itself to investigation, to therapy, and even to manipulation of the most essential tenets of one's identity. A practitioner may also turn his dreams outward, using them to walk the world a way no waking person ever could.

Ghostbinding: Shamans who practice Ghostbinding have a sensitivity to souls no others can match; from them, no ghost may hide. They have the ability to seal souls into inanimate objects, creating imbued relics. Ghostbinders might draw up shades of the dead, and learn from them of past events, or even lost expertise; others may send their own soul forth, experiencing another life vicariously, or even taking control of it.

Unity: Often considered the grander sibling of Invocation, Unity is a magic in which one can very easily lose oneself, yet which offers the opportunity for truly profound workings. Practitioners of Unity work with connections, dependencies, and interactions; they might trace the history of an object, read and sway the mood of an entire crowd, measure the health of a biome, and predict or even attempt to ameliorate disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Unity shamans also have the unique ability to forge links between souls, binding them together in a way that can echo across multiple incarnations.

Risks of Practice

To practice Shamanism is to manipulate the most essential components of one's identity and soul. Shamans frequently lose themselves in their subjects, becoming a human body directed by an inhuman mind — or possessed of no mind whatsoever. Many shamans transform into beasts or trees or stones one time too many, and fail to return to themselves again afterwards. Others lose their way in the Dreamscape, or make a mistake that severs soul from body, leaving behind an empty husk. Perhaps even worse is the capacity for high-level shamans to make these mistakes with others, condemning someone else to such a fate.

Even more cautious shamans find themselves changed by their magic, for in order to forge a connection with something, one's own barriers must be lowered. Every subject that is called within, every dream that is parsed, every soul that is touched leaves marks upon the shaman's own self. It may be one profound moment that changes the shaman utterly, or the accumulation of influences over time, ultimately altering his inclinations, his personality, his dreams and desires. A shaman who has taken the time to study himself, to understand his own identity and what defines it, can recognize and make some effort to stave off these influences — but never completely.

Prevalence

Kothinar: Shamans are uncommon in Kothinar, but not looked down upon, as the shamanic tenet of harmony dovetails well with the city's cultural fetish for balance. Practitioners of Unity are often sought by landowners to provide advice on the best use of their property, and sometimes in the management of crops or herds. Ghostbinders are also well-regarded, as they provide a variety of useful services.

Okudan: Shamanism is fundamental to the nomads' continued existence, and thus both widely practiced and revered within Okudan. Each band has at least one Hearth dedicated to shamanic practices, and often more than one. The inevitable eccentricities of shamans are recognized as consequences of their magic and tolerated if not indulged. Conversely, due to the culture-wide familiarity with shamanic magic, practitioners who cause harm — even inadvertently, such as by Invoking a wolf, being overwhelmed by its identity, and ravaging the herds — will be quickly recognized and put down.

Rasumbel: Painstakingly excised out of stone and ice, the entirety of Rasumbel exists as an expression of Suari dominion over the environment; as such, its people generally look down on the practice of shamanism, considering its principles rather quaint. Ghostbinding is considered somewhat useful, but is uncommon, and other disciplines are rare to nonexistent within the mountain city.

Learning Shamanism

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