From the Ashes: The Future of Arda
After the events of the Reckoning, many former Druids and Clerics of the Ainur began to receive mysterious powers akin to their druidic magics but focused more on the spirit. The same people began to proclaim visions and out of body experiences where they found themselves in a world reserved for powerful Fey and nature spirits of almost deific prowess. These were the first Spirit Shamans and became a powerful force on the culture and spirituality of Cormanthor’s people. Since the Reckoning, the majority of the Clans have adopted these new enigmatic practices and beliefs, claiming a greater attunement to the natural world. While many onlookers express skepticism about the beliefs and nature of the Spirits as Fey and not divine, there is no doubt that their clergy are just as valid and imposing as the Pantheon of Heroes. Only time will tell if the Spirits will grow beyond the forests of Cormanthor.
Currently Known Spirits
Auril: Cold, Winter
Chauntea: Summer, Agriculture, Gardeners
Eldath: Springs, Waterfalls
Lathander: Spring, Dawn, Vitality
Malar: Bloodlust, Lycanthropes, Monsters, Hunters
Mielikki: Autumn, Forest Creatures
Nobanion: Lions and feline beasts
Selúne: Stars, Moon
Shar: Darkness, Night
Talona: Disease, Poison
Talos: Storms, Destruction, Earthquakes
Ubtao: Jungles, Dinosaurs
Umberlee: Oceans, Currents, Waves, Sea Winds
Beliefs and Practices
While the specific beliefs and practices of those who worship the Spirits differ, there are several commonly held beliefs
- Spirits exist and they play important roles both in individual lives and in human society.
- The shaman can communicate with the spirit world.
- Spirits can be benevolent or malevolent.
- The shaman can treat sickness caused by malevolent spirits.
- The shaman can employ trance inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstasy and go on vision quests.
- The shaman’s spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers.
- The shaman evokes animal images as spirit guides, omens, and message-bearers.
- The shaman can tell the future, scry, throw bones/runes, and perform other varied forms of divination
Shamanism is based on the premise that the visible world is pervaded by invisible forces or spirits which affect the lives of the living. Although the causes of disease lie in the spiritual realm, inspired by malicious spirits, both spiritual and physical methods are used to heal. Commonly, a shaman “enters the body” of the patient to confront the spiritual infirmity and heals by banishing the infectious spirit.
Many shamans have expert knowledge of medicinal plants native to their area, and an herbal treatment is often prescribed. In many places shamans learn directly from the plants, harnessing their effects and healing properties, after obtaining permission from the indwelling or patron spirits. Before a spirit can be summoned it must teach the shaman its song. The use of totemic items such as rocks with special powers and an animating spirit is common.
Clergy and their Role in Society
Shamanism encompasses the premise that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment.
Shamans gain knowledge and the power to heal by entering into the spiritual world or dimension. Most shamans have dreams or visions that tell them certain things. The shaman may have or acquire many spirit guides, who often guide and direct the shaman in his/her travels in the spirit world. These spirit guides are always present within the shaman though others only encounter them when the shaman is in a trance. The spirit guide energizes the shaman, enabling him/her to enter the spiritual dimension. The shaman heals within the spiritual dimension by returning ‘lost’ parts of the human soul from wherever they have gone. The shaman also cleanses excess negative energies which confuse or pollute the soul.
Shamans act as mediators in their culture. The shaman communicates with the spirits on behalf of the community, including the spirits of the deceased. The shaman communicates with both living and dead to alleviate unrest, unsettled issues, and to deliver gifts to the spirits. Shamans assist in soul retrieval. In shamanism it is believed that part of the human soul is free to leave the body. The soul is the axis mundi, the center of the shamanic healing arts. Shamans change their state of consciousness allowing their free soul to travel and retrieve ancient wisdom and lost power.
Because a portion of the soul is free to leave the body it will do so when dreaming, or it will leave the body to protect itself from potentially damaging situations, be they emotional or physical. In situations of trauma the soul piece may not return to the body on its own, and a shaman must intervene and return the soul essence.
The functions of a shaman may include either guiding to their proper abode the souls of the dead (which may be guided either one-at-a-time or in a cumulative group, depending on culture), and/or curing (healing) of ailments. The ailments may be either purely physical afflictions—such as disease, which may be cured by gifting, flattering, threatening, or wrestling the disease-spirit (sometimes trying all these, sequentially), and which may be completed by displaying a supposedly extracted token of the disease-spirit (displaying this, even if “fraudulent”, is supposed to impress the disease-spirit that it has been, or is in the process of being, defeated, so that it will retreat and stay out of the patient’s body) —, or else mental (including psychosomatic) afflictions—such as persistent terror (on account of a frightening experience), which may be likewise cured by similar methods. Usually in most languages a different term other than the one translated “shaman” is applied to a religious official leading sacrificial rites (“priest”), or to a raconteur (“sage”) of traditional lore; there may be more of an overlap in functions (with that of a shaman), however, in the case of an interpreter of omens or of dreams.