Monday, April 16, 2018

Animism (religion)

An advanced form of shamanism, which expands the notion that all entities, including animals, plants, objects, even storms, shadows or fire, possess a spiritual essence. Like with shamanism, practitioners of animism seek to contact these spirits in order to affect the world magically, better channeling their control over the world's wild magic. Animists cannot cast spells or cantrips.

The foundation for this practice argues that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical world, and that souls and spirits of persons continue to exist regardless of their apparent state of being.

Unlike shamanism, which employs a number of mechanical apparatus, dancing and singing and an altered state of consciousness in order to contact the spirit world, animism accomplishes the same effect with minimal movement and ceremony, by achieving a state of trance. The animist shaman (witchdoctor, medicine man, mundunugu, isangoma) requires between 2 and 8 hours to obtain an altered state of consciousness, after which the animist shaman is then able to bring certain benefits upon the environment:
  • the fertility of a woman can be assured for a period of one day - if copulation occurs during that time, the woman has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant.
  • the effects of a curse can be lifted for the space of one week, regardless of the nature or origin of the curse.
  • the damage effects of an injury (not the ordinary loss of hit points) can be completely healed.
  • the soul of an animal can be 'released' so that a large game animal will present itself within close range of a hunter, who may then kill the animal knowing that the animal's spirit is no longer incorporated in its body, which cannot now feel pain. This helps in times of ready food being greatly needed.
  • knowledge can be gained regarding the background and lineage of a person, helping to identify who is the rightful son of a chieftain or who is truly a member of the clan's tribe.
  • cure disease in one creature.
  • bring rain with an 80% chance.
  • turn back an insect swarm with a 50% chance.
  • calm a threatening volcano with a 40% chance.
  • perform safe burials of creature.

An animist shaman can bring about these effects (or attempt to do so) only one time per week. Each time the magic is used, the animist shaman will suffer a 5-30% loss in hit points.


Animist do not recognize gods; however, the spirits of the dead are celebrated in shrines, places that each tribe recognizes as a place of great import. Typically, every member of a tribe will voyage to these places at least once in their lives.

The sites themselves are very crude. Primitive shamanism does not allow for the creation of permanent markers, cairns or carved stone (which requires masonry). However, cave painting - where art is preserved from the elements - or dry deserts where dyes applied to exposed rock does not weather away, enable primitive persons to experience something very special. If they perform the rituals that a shaman would, without the training of an animist shaman, they can yet have one shamanistic experience for one time in their lives. This ability does not include the creation of totems or fetishes, however.

Therefore, they will travel hundreds, even thousands of miles, to have this experience once, to then share the tale and the moment with their families, clans and tribes forever after.


Unlike shamanism, animists do not make tokens. The practice has been replaced with the creation of totems, a sacred object or symbol that is then inhabited by a spirit friendly to the settlement in which the totem is made. The shaman directs the manner in which the totem is carved, though many people in the settlement may in involved in performing the actual work.

Totems are more commonly made of carved wood, but existing blocks are sometimes repurposed.  Practitioners at higher development levels will make them from stone. Totems will feature animals or other natural figures that spiritually represent a given tribe. Once erected, totems are intended to have many of the effects that an animist shaman is able to perform, to a lesser degree or with less frequency. Fertility [placeholder] is increased 10%, accidents that would cause injuries are allowed a saving throw against magic, a disease will be spontaneously cured in the community 1 time in 10, droughts are lessened in length by 10%, there will be 1 in 6 less insect swarms, a 1 in 4 chance that the volcano will not erupt and so on.

Totems will also function as a tribal standard, so that if a tribal warrior fights within 12 hexes of a totem, they receive a +1 on their attack die and +1 to their morale.


Fetishes are objects that are possessed of magical power, that enable the bearer to have power over others. The following is an attempt to separate this practice in my world from the corrupted and largely misunderstood development of 'voodooism,' or 'Vodou,' in later centuries, which is far, far from the practice that actually occurred in Old World primitive cultures. In creating rules for fetishism, I have chosen to ignore cheesy ideals that have long since become awful cliches in film and the Caribbean tourist trade. I simply am not interested in this, and don't feel it would be a good fit for my world - particularly as I am attempting to present many possible animistic regions, not just those of the West African slave states.

Retaining the idea of being able to affect others with fetishes, or talismans, the emphasis here is on positive effects. Fetishes, unlike shamanistic tokens, do not require the sacrifice of an animal or a humanoid - but they do require considerable skill in their creation. (note: this is a skill I would like to eventually add to the bard, but I do not have the necessary rules at this time].

The fetish talisman is created by the animist shaman as follows: the object must be made of a material that has been formed from a living creature: wood, wax or even dung are the most common materials. This is then fashioned in the form of a specific humanoid subject, though the likeness is not expressly important. The subject's hair must be cut directly from the humanoid's head, either willingly or without the subject's knowledge - hair taken by force will not serve. The figure must be made with cloth that the subject has worn more than once. Finally, once the talisman has been made, it must come into contact with the subject for the space of one round (12 seconds). Thereafter, the talisman/doll will serve as an effective animist fetish.

This empowers the animist shaman to perform two forms of control. The first transfers a condition or ability from the shaman to the subject; the second reverses this, so that a condition or ability is transferred to the shaman. Note that this transfer will last only as long as the shaman concentrates upon the fetish, so that in most cases it will not enable to shaman to take on powers that can then be used, since focusing on the use of that power will cause it to recede.

However, the shaman can bestow the subject with better ability stats (since the subject can take advantage of these, having no need to concentrate), a better to hit table (if applicable), a superior saving throw, greater morality and so on. Hit points cannot be transferred. However, were the shaman intoxicated, that could be transferred; likewise, the shaman could transfer an injury, taking it away from the subject to make the subject were more effective as a combatant, or giving it to the subject in order to cripple him. A disease could likewise be transferred. The shaman could drink poison and transfer that as well; or accept poison from the subject, empowering the shaman to save vs. the poison and survive it while the subject could be sustained before the effects of the poison was returned. There are numerous other ways in which the power of one individual or the other could be shared one way or the other.

Note that the effects of some circumstances, such as a fire or suffocation, could be not be transferred, as the animist shaman could not effectively concentrate on the fetish while on fire or, say, drowning. In general, if the experience is something that would suspend the concentration necessary for casting spells, the fetish cannot be used.

An animist shaman's magic can only support one fetish at any one time. To make another fetish requires that the prior fetish be destroyed, smashing it first with the hand and then setting it afire. This destruction does not affect the subject, as it is not what the talisman/doll experiences that is transferred, but what the shaman feels.

Animism is most common among development 6 and development 7 cultures, though there are cults of animism that exist in all cultures above development 6.

See Religion

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