Spirit world

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The Spirit Lands and the Nether World

For those who live in the valley of Icesus there are two types of servitude of the spirits: the Gaesati call upon their spirit animals for help and the Templar traditional religion focuses on respecting and worshiping the ancestral pre-mothers.

Followers of both religions have a strong connection to the other or ‘spirit’ world. Gaesati calls this other world the Spirit Lands, the Templars call it the Halls of the Dead or the Nether World.

In reality, the wanderers of the spirit world move beyond time and place. Spirit animals and ancestral pre-mothers are not physical beings with they are echoes of both the past and the future. Human beings use their own understanding to dress these echoes in the most appropriate form - be it the wise spirit owl or an ancestral pre-mother who lived a thousand years ago.

Those who walk the spirit paths begin by learning to transfer their consciousness into the world of spirits. More-experienced practitioners are able to step into other times and places. Their understanding is that time is not a true force that binds people, it is only an illusion. They know man has not yet evolved from other animals and that all life has already been destroyed in countless circles of the sun. There is no beginning or end to the present.


Spirits in the Physical World

In the physical world, followers of the spirit paths learn to understand some powers through their mysteries. Such phenomena are ghosts, the walking dead, and the seita. These are seen throughout the Icesus valley, though not all people will see them.


Ghosts

Ghosts appear when something so ‘wrong’ happens in the community such that the community ‘breaks’--something revolutionary, or something terrible happens within the family or the community--and the people most closely involved in the situation cannot handle it. Major tragedies (eg. sickness, accidents) and breaking taboos (e.g. murder, incest, adultery) in the community are the most common causes of ghost appearances.

Once it manifests, a ghost will persecute the community until the injustice or transgression has been remedied. Over time, more people will be able to ‘see’ the ghost and they will talk of it amongst themselves, which makes the ghost stronger.

Example: A Khatun leaves her khan and he hangs himself using a belt she left behind. The Khatun moves back into the manor and several days later an eerie character resembling the the former khan begins to circle the empty halls during the night. Servants and family members see the ghost and say he is seeking his lost love. A solution must be found which will satisfy the ghost to have it stop wandering and possibly move on. The khatun may seek out the ghost and apologize to it, promising to keep company with it one night a week for the following months. A more resourceful khatun might seek out a willing ghost (from another tragedy in a different manor house) that will ‘join’ with the dead khan in a ritual matrimony.

Most of the pagan peoples in the northern lands are afraid of ghosts. In Valkor, the Templars consciously include the ghosts of their ancestral mothers alive in their worship rites. They believe an ancestral mother who is honored with appropriate rites will reward her descendent(s) with a share of her own knowledge of the afterlife.


The Walking Dead

Almost all cultures of the north know the concept of the living dead who have risen from the grave to steal the vitality of the living. The Gaesati call these the ‘vuovru’, the Eskarans call them ‘strigo’, and the Wilders use both words. In Valkor, the Children of Light call them ‘dhampirs’.

Unlike other undead, the walking dead have a physical craving for blood and they can become a physical threat as they seek to satisfy this thirst. Otherwise, the walking dead are similar to the ghosts described above. They arise from crime, injustice, and tragedy, and can only be overcome by identifying the wrong and rectifying it.


Seita

Where ghosts and the walking-dead are human-born, the Seita are born of nature itself. By time it is a century old, every forest has a seita, and the nature of that seita reflects the nature of the forest. Similarly, the mountains, marshes, lakes and hills have their own seita.

A seita is not so much a person or a mind but a ‘being’ that reflects the surrounding nature. Seita do not interact directly with people, there are no discussions or exchanges, but in the physical world there are sensitive people who can sense its essence.

Each seita has a holy place for worship rituals. There are rituals that are spiritually connected to the seita, and if a traveller has acted in the seita's domain with respect for nature in balance and harmony with environment, they may learn some new abilities. A seita exists only through the wellbeing surrounding nature; if the surrounding nature changes or is destroyed, the seita will be changed or destroyed as well.


A Physical Description of the Spirit World

The Gaesati and the templars each have a piece of the spirit world, and the physical descriptions vary. But there are some parts of the spirit world which are common to both.


The Spirit Lands (Gaesati)

Most travelers to the Spirit land are seeking encrypted information and allies from the animal spirits.

The animal spirits of the Gaesati people live in the Spirit Lands and worshiping the seita is the means of entry to the land. It is a wild and natural kingdom of animals, there are few signs of humans. In the Spirit Land everything is larger and more powerful than the human realm - the sun shines with a more brilliant light, the moon fills a bigger part of the night sky, the night sky itself is higher and deeper and darker. The forest is bigger, the trees are taller and greener, and they cast a longer shadow. The scent of a rose is more intoxicating and the sound of thunder is louder and seems to echo endlessly.

In the spirit lands, the more powerful the animal spirit, the more it resembles the ‘essential ideal’ of that animal in the human or corporeal world. Thus, a small spirit bear resembles the bear of the human world in its size and characteristics. On the other hand, a powerful spirit bear is a giant bear, and in every respect it is more bearish than any bear in the physical world. When angry, the powerful spirit bear is fiercer and more dangerous; when plundering, it plunders more greedily and more haphazardly; and when sleeping, it sleeps more sleepily. Similarly, a powerful hare spirit will be more fearful, more alert, and faster than any hare in the human world.

These ‘great’ spirits are strong; they are able to reshape their form, adopting whichever form of their representative species that is best suited to each situation. They do so quickly, even in front of mortal eyes.

The Great Spirits have become truly detached from the shackles of time and place. It is wise to remember that it will be difficult for them to understand that mortals remain bound by these constraints.

The Gaesati believe that if the Great Spirits were to concentrate their minds and wills upon mortals, there would be no hope of survival. But mortals are not important to the Great Spirits and do not deserve their attention. While there are humans who believe they have managed to overcome a Great Spirit; such a fighter did not actually defeat the spirit - he carried his will through the battle because the spirit had no interest in the mortal and had other things to do. These other things need not be important, they are only of more interest to the Spirit than a quarrel with a mortal. Rather like the ant who carries away a grain of sugar.


The Halls of the Dead or the Nether World (Templar)

The Templar worship rites takes the mortal to the Halls of the Dead, where the ancestral pre-mothers rest.

The Halls of the Dead (or the Nether World) is a gloomy and joyless place. In spite of its name, it is made up of barren and gray steppes, with variations provided mainly due to the mouths of dark caves. The roof of the Nether world is a starless night sky, which is sometimes illuminated by the light of the dying sun.

The Halls of the Dead are populated by the spirits of the deceased. Most of these are gray and unintentional masses, they seem to focus on visitors, seemingly staring at them through their empty eye sockets.

But the strongest of the dead are the Templar ancestral pre-mothers, the fabled heroines who have retained some portion of their will and personality.

None of the travelers to the Nether World will experience the ancestral pre-mothers in the same way. One traveller will see a mythical heroine as a deceitful hag dressed in animal skins, another traveller will see the same heroine as a warrior maiden dressed in silk. More interestingly, a single traveler can encounter many different versions of the same ancestral pre-mother during their journey. This is confusing to novice spirit wanderers, but more experienced people tell us that a deep understanding of this truth is the key to the secrets of time and place.

Like the animal spirits, ancestral pre-mothers can be divided into minor, major and great. Minor ancestral pre-mothers tend to resemble their mortal selves, though their empty eye sockets usually have a glimmer of shine as a premonition of their will. Their clothing and weapons are ancient but still clearly identifiable as equipment and weapons.

The major ancestral pre-mothers are stronger, they are much more powerful than ordinary human beings in both size and nature. Their empty eye sockets are clearly distinguished by a steady burning light within, and their outfits are very primitive. The great ancestral pre-mothers are, like the great animal spirits, beyond mortal comprehension. The characters of ancestral pre-mothers are usually dark and wrapped in shadows, although they have brilliant light shining from their empty eyes. The characters of the great ancestral pre-mothers seem to be ever-changing and they may have animalistic features. The equipment they use is difficult to figure out due to their general vagueness, but both armour and weapons generally appear to be rudimentary.

As with the great spirits, should a mortal defeat an ancestral pre-mother it simply means that the pre-mother did not concentrate on the character enough to crush it. Perhaps the mortal has been allowed to achieve its purpose, more likely it was ignored and was able to continue as an ant.


The Spirit World

Entering the Spirit World

A mortal who knows the rites of worship of a particular type of seita, or of an ancestral pre-mother, can only enter the spirit world at a suitable place. This will be either the sacred place of the seita, or in the vicinity of the relic of an ancestral pre-mother. The traveller must then perform a grueling and lengthy rite, which usually involves burning various sacred and narcotic herbs. At the end of the rite, the mortal descends into a coma-like dream where his soul enters the spirit world. His body remains asleep until his soul returns to it. In the spirit world time passes at a different pace than in the physical world - a day in the spirit world may be a minute in the physical world, or it may be year, or a lifetime.

Several people can enter the spirit world together provided they knows the rites. In this case, the spirit world in which they are moving is a combination of the spiritual worlds of the participants. So if the templar and the gaesati decided for some reason to travel together, there would be both animal and ancestors in the spirit world.


Moving in the Spirit World

Upon entering the spirit world, a mortal may roam the spirit world, though an inexperienced traveler should keep his money. In the spirit world, trekking is difficult and very taxing, and takes its toll in order for the mortal to find its purpose. Finding dwellings of the great spirits is extremely difficult, and usually requires the traveler to encounter the small and powerful spirits that try to prevent him from traveling.


Allies in the Spirit World

Wilders function in the spirit world just as they do in the physical world. So they are not vague and obscure characters in the spirit world, they are corporeal animals or ancestors that are actually present.


Places

The Spirit World encompasses both the Spirit Lands and the Halls of the Dead. Like the underlying belief systems, the areas are distinct, but wanderers have found areas which are common to both.


The River of Dreams

The River of Dreams flows throughout the spirit world, including the spirit lands and the halls of the dead. Most travelers see the river as a clear blue or green, but some are known to see it glitter in unusual colors like red or black.

The River of Dreams is wide and said to impossible to cross without a bridge. But the bridges are guarded by an powerful spirit animal or ancestral who challenges the traveler to single combat. Should the traveler win the combat, he can resume his journey with increased caution.

More often, the traveller will fall into the river and begins to drift, drifting through wildly spinning dreams which flow from his past and also from his future. Fighting against the power of the current is difficult. If the mortal is unable to escape from the river, he will drift ever-faster as other streams join to swell the river. Each stream brings more dreams, and eventually becomes senseless, wrapped in his dreams and memories of all the people who have ever lived or are yet to be.

But there are experienced travelers also enter the stream of dreams consciously, because drifting in the current allows them to step into myriad times and places. The mortal who masters the gates of time and place lets the stream carry himself to the common dream of all mankind, before struggling his way back to the beach. On the beach, the mortal will meet his spirit guide, who guides the mortal along a secret path into an alien time, place, and body. If a mortal fails, he will drift to the wrong time and place, and probably land in the midst of trouble.


The Labyrinth

Hidden in the spirit world, in its darkest and hardest approach, is the Labyrinth. The exact shape of the labyrinth is unique to each individual, but it is always a gloomy and rambling place that threatens the traveler with countless traps, delusions, and dangers. Its walls are carved with patterns that bring to life the dreamer’s unconscious fears and the daydreams he has not dared to confess to himself.

The labyrinth is populated by ‘shadows’ and ‘beasts’ which are both reflections of the traveller. Shadows have no physical form, but they carry with them a trait or side of mortal character that the wanderer has rejected in his life. They thirst for the character's vitality and try to absorb it completely. If the shadow succeeds it will overwhelm the character's mind so that as the character wakes up after a rite of sleep, the shadow will continue the character's life. The mortal may play his character normally, but this encounter has, in some way, irreversibly taken a step forward in the direction he once despised or hated.

Beasts, on the other hand, do have a form - they look like a cross between the traveler and an animal. Their aim is also to crush the will of the wanderer. If they succeed, the wanderer will lose the light of his mind for at least some time and sink into madness. In the midst of madness, the wanderer usually imagines himself to be a complete animal and acts purely under the animal instincts. The mortal mind is permanently shaken, and the traveller will be subject to intermittent bursts of madness for the rest of his life.


The Gap

In the middle of the Labyrinth is the Gap. It's a black wound on the surface of the spirit world, a dark tear that continues downwards to an abyss. There is nothing in the Gap; it is the opposite of all living and being, it is eternal and endless emptiness. The last challenge for the strongest spirit wanderers is to dive into the Gap and succeed in the impossibility of maintaining one's own self.

Having thrown himself into the Gap, the traveller will relive his entire life in short flashes, in which he has to make the choices he has made in his own life once again. However, every situation you experience is different from the traveler's past and the memories are surreal anyway (people can be huge, houses and animals threatening, and so on). During these experiences, the traveler either reaches a deeper understanding of his core being, which allows him to rise to a new level of being as a great spirit, or his self will break down into fragments that spread around him into all things living.

The traveller has to understand something new in the world and at the same time be able to give up his old life and its beloved things to survive.


The Forest of Oblivion

In the Forest of Oblivion, the trees seem human-like but familiar, and the atmosphere is so very calm and soothing that the trees appear to invite the traveler to hike the numerous trails.

Once a traveller enters the forest, his mind will slowly start to blend in with the forest so that they can no longer remember who they are or where they came from. Such questions matter little to them, for this forest is eternal and ultimately it is all that matters. Those who are lost in the forest of oblivion are eventually told to become new trees in the forest. While being in the forest, many stray travelers can be encountered, and some of those who were able to flee also swear that they have encountered the forest itself.

As someone who has been lost to the Forest of Oblivion returns from his spiritual journey, his memory is completely wiped out such that he cannot remember his own name. It is said that the spirit traveler could restore their memory by returning to the spirit world, traveling to the forest of oblivion, and helping the lost self return to and clear out from the forest.


Spirits in the Spirit World

All followers of the ‘way of the spirits’ tend to speak to the spirits with deep respect, as if they were their relatives. Minor spirits are referred to as sisters or brothers, major spirits as mothers or fathers, and greater spirits as grandmothers or grandfathers.

For the templars who worship their ancestors, this is natural. The Gaesati believe that all humanoids and animals are related. So they also talk to, and about, the spirits as if they were talking to their relatives.


Animal Spirits (Gaesati)

Some of the more important animal spirits of the Gaesati are listed here.


The Spirit of the Bear

Strength: Body
Weakness: Vigilance
Abilities: Feet, Rising standing on Two feet, Honey lust

Spirit Bears are big and furry, and furious when irritated. They are neither stupid nor slow, but they are usually interested in their own things and do not pay attention to the world around them. (Being the biggest beast in the forest means they don't have to!)

Spirit bears come in many colors. Minor spirit bears usually have the same color as the bears of the physical world, but major and great spirits may be white or even red in color.

Spirit Bears love berries, meat and honey in particular. Like their mortal counterparts, they want to sleep in the winter and hate being disturbed. It protects its territory, and its cubs when needed.

The Spirit Owl

Strength: Mind
Weakness: The body
Abilities: Wise, Silent Dive, Strange screeching

Spirit Owls dwell in trees, high above the land, and they observe the events in the spirit world with their sharp gaze. Their wisdom seeks peer and sharp gaze permeates darkness as well as lies.

Many travellers seek out the spirit owls for advice; it is said there is nothing the owls do not know. But the owls do not always reveal their knowledge, and the traveler does not always understand their strange wisdom. Spirit owls are difficult to reach because their nesting areas are both high and hidden. Powerful and large spirit owls may carry people on their backs (or with their claws) wherever they wish, but they rarely do so.

The spirit owl likes to eat, preferring small, tasty rodents. They like humble and wise travelers - those with whom they can play guessing games, or enter into a battle of wits. They do not like loud or big creatures.

The Spirit of the Wolf

Strength: Toughness
Weakness: Mind
Abilities: Precise senses, Sharp teeth, Howl

Spirit Wolves always move in large herds and they never stay in the same place for long. They are loyal to each other and especially to the leader of their pack. Like their counterparts in the mortal realms, spirit wolves are night creatures that blend into the dark and their howl sends chills running along the traveler's back. Spirit wolves can travel long distances without resting, they have been known to drive their prey for days. The larger, more powerful spirit wolves can carry travelers on their backs and will protect them from the worst of the cold by the heat of their own fur.

The spirit wolf cherishes its pack, the sense of belonging, and the chase. It values ​​loyalty and courage. It has no sympathy for those who betray the pack (even if it is somehow ‘justified’), and makes no room for the weak or the cowards.

The Spirit of the Hare

Strength: Vigilance
Weakness: Toughness
Abilities: Vigilant, Agile, Escape Artist

Spirit Hares spend most of their lives in fear and in constant alertness. Like their mortal selves, the spirit hare survives because he notices the approaching beast and jumps quickly into escape; he has become a master of escape. They live in underground tunnel networks, but finding a spirit hare is not easy as they do their best to hide from all their enemies.

Minor spirit hares are similar size and appearance to those of Icesus. The major and greater spirit hares are not larger than the minor spirit hares, but they are generally of a different color (e.g., entirely black). They also have special powers of escape, including the ability to disappear completely into the shadows or to leap over the widest abyss. The greater spirit hares are able to move deeply underground, through which they can guide their followers across the land of the spirits.

The spirit hare likes to be with safe and peaceful travelers who bring with them something good and green to eat. They also like deep (but not too deep) cavities and sheltered places. Hares do not like travelers who are in union with the animal spirits that prey on hares. If they smell the odor of the predator on a mortal, the spirit hare will quickly disappear.


Ancestral Pre-Mothers (Templars)

Some of the more important ancestral pre-mothers of the Templars are listed here.

Gyokko

Strength: Toughness
Weakness: The body
Abilities: Khatun essence, negotiation, fertile

Gyokko is among the first of the strong tribal chiefs of Templars. She was crippled in her legs, but her mind was said to be as sharp as a polished spear, and in negotiations she showed unparalleled cunning. Gyokko succeeded in bringing together a large covenant of controversial tribes and ruled over them wisely and majestically until her death. Gyokko was an exceptionally fertile woman, having large numbers of children with her husbands and lovers. After her death, her daughters formed the core of the leadership of the forthcoming empire that was born.

The spirit of the pre-mother Gyokko usually appears as slightly stooping older woman, limping through the Halls of the Dead. However, the voice and gaze of her spirit are filled with cold iron; she requires respect and absolute loyalty of others.

The pre-mother Gyokko likes allies and vassals. She prefers polite and peaceful people who do not raise their voice unnecessarily or threaten, unless necessary. In particular, she appreciates patience and patience, as well as her willingness to speak out before grasping the lance, the sword, or the bow.

Teiken

Strength: Body
Weakness: Mind
Abilities: Lightning Fast, Templar Sword, Killing Arrow adorned with an eagle's feather

Teiken gained her reputation for her hunting and war skills. In her youth, she armed herself with the Templar's sword to defeat a stark black bear. However the battle left her face forever scarred by the claws of the bear. Teiken was a brilliant warrior and a duelist who never refused any challenge and became famous for her deadly sword blows. She owned an arrow with an eagle's feather that never missed her target; when she used it to kill a large dragon of the plains with a single shot, she became known as ‘dragon slayer’. Teiken had numerous husbands and lovers of both sexes, but she never bore children. She eventually died of venom, murdered by her enemies, who, despite her high age, did not have the courage to face her face to face.

The spirit of the pre-mother Teiken is tall in appearance, tense and muscular.The mark of the long-ago bear’s claws remain on her face today. She appreciates total fearlessness and courageous deeds without unnecessary judgment. Physical acts and the encounter of enemies in a fair fight against a woman are pleasing to her, as is warfare and looting in general. She does not tolerate lying or any other deception.

Kumogakure

Strength: Vigilance
Weakness: The body
Abilities: Beautiful and pleasant, a small drop of poison, great taste in arts and music

Kumogakure was a famous spy and possibly the leader of a rumoured secret society that has now disappeared into history. She is said to have been naturally kind and gentle, yet skilled in acquiring what she wanted. When her skills of persuasion were not sufficient, she used the assassin's knife or poison to achieve her desired purpose.

In her life, Kumogakure became a mighty khatun and had three daughters. She is said to have been interested in men only because of the need to have offspring; certainly she had numerous female concubines in her court. Kumogakure never used her power directly, only from the shadows. She suppressed any threats to her power mercilessly using assassins before her challengers had time to gather the power needed to subvert her seat. At the same time, she preached the importance of honor and mercy and was loved by her people.

The spirit of the pre-mother Kumogakure is a beautiful woman, she moves softly and speaks with sweet honey. She likes sensuality and beautiful things. She appreciates stealth and implicit solutions to problems rather than straightforward approaches. Kumogakure also likes secret societies and their secret disputes.

Gekkan

Strength: Mind
Weakness: Vigilance
Abilities: Intelligent, Extensive General Education, Interpretation of Signs, Beautiful Handwriting

Gekkan was a learned, wise woman serving under a powerful khatun. She was not interested in power or wealth and she never married or bore children. Instead, she devoted her entire life to collecting and absorbing knowledge, she is said to have read the scrolls with a lead ball in her other hand, so that when she fell asleep, the ball fell from her hand and she woke up to continue reading. Gekkan is said to have developed the basics of the written language and laid the foundation for the laws that her khatun enacted. In her later years, she secluded herself in the cave where she is now buried. In Templar lore Gekkan is considered to be the wisest woman of all time.

The spirit of the pre-mother Gekkan show her as a spindly old woman, stooping and clad in heavy, thick robes. Her eyes are often watery, but they always have an intelligent, calm look. She likes knowledge and learning new things. Gekkan also loves puzzles, writing scrolls, and ancient artifacts that she can explore and experiment with to determine their purpose.


The Spirits and the Spirit World, in summary

In the physical world, mortals do not directly confront the spirits. This is because there is no way for direct conflict between ghosts and seita in the physical world. On the other hand, the animal spirits or ancestral pre-mothers do not manifest in the physical world at all.

The situation is different in the spirit world, where spirits are corporeal and real, just as mortals who travel there. Thus, the mortal travelers of the spirit world can explore its strange and dreamlike landscapes in the same way as in the ordinary world. However, mortals cannot take their earthly followers with them to the spirit world, so they are, in the case of the great and powerful spirits, always an inferior.

Spirits are never directly good or bad (like how any other greater entity in the world is not) but always enigmatic and weird. Their worldview is so different from mortals that their motives and thoughts are often incomprehensible.

The spirit world contains many interesting and marvelous places whose exploration and learning of its secrets can well form the content of entire life of a mortal. The Labyrinth with the Gap in its center can bring the mortal life to an epic conclusion, shaking the foundations of both the spirit world and, through it, the corporeal world. Outwardly, however, this ending is very minor. The mortal simply never wakes up from his spiritual journey.


Music of the Spirit World and the Nether