Praxian Shamans



Send comments and/or criticism to Simon E. Phipp
Created On 20 May 1998
Last Updated On 20 May 1998
Copyright (c) Simon E. Phipp 1998

Pax is a land where shamanism is rife. It is also probably the most preferred place for campaigning in Glorantha/RuneQuest due to the massive amount of source material available. For these reasons, I will try to give some information about the shamans of Prax.

There are many people in Prax who have shamans. The dominant culture is that of Waha which has a shamanic priesthood. Baboons living in the Wastes, Agimori hunters, members of the minor tribes, all have Shamans. Even the broos of the Wastes have a shamanic culture. However, even though most cultures in Prax have shamanic cultures, each individual cultures have different approaches to shamanism and to shamanic practices. What I will try to do here is to give some details of the different shamanic practices of the different cultures.

Waha Shamans

The dominant culture in Prax, the worship of Waha is shared by the Nations of Prax and many of the Independent Tribes. Waha Priests are shamans whose power is institutionalised. Whilst Waha Khans are the leaders of clans, Waha shamans are the spiritual guardians.

Waha Shamans practice shamanism in conjunction with divine worship. Much of their shamanic rituals deal with controlling cult spirits and with banishing cult enemies. As Priests, Waha Shamans have access to magics and HeroQuests which are not normally available to independent shamans.

The duties of a Waha Shaman are many fold, but generally involve protecting and guiding their clan. They act as healers, exorcists and guides as well as avengers and warriors. As healers they have access to a large amount of Lore and may deal with Healing Plants, they can also summon healing spirits and can drive away Spirits of Disease. As exorcists, they can ensure that their people are free of evil spirits, especially those which come from the Wastes and are borne by Chaos. As guides, they can use their abilities to lead their people through the mythical landscapes and also through the Wastes. In times of battle they can summon powerful ancestors and spirits to fight for them. As avengers they will ensure that any slurs on their clan are dealt with through the sending of curses and spirits against their enemies.

Shamans of Waha are essentially clan-based with a certain amount of tribal interaction. They will generally be friendly to those in the same clan, respectful to those in the same nation and possibly hostile or enemy to those of different nations or peoples. Certainly, shamans from another Nation or Independent Tribe will be treated with extreme caution and shamans who do not follow the Waha way will be treated as enemies until proven otherwise. The exception to this are those shamans who belong to the same Secret Society who they treat on par with shamans of their own clan.

Each Waha Clan will generally have two or three shamans. The first will be the main shaman and will be the High Priest of Waha in the clan. He will have superiority and social standing. The second is the apprentice shaman, often a relative of the main shaman. He will be an inexperienced shaman and will be trying to make his way in the world and to rival the abilities and skills of the High Priest. There is often a rivalry between the High Priest and young Shaman, especially when the young shaman approaches the High Priest in power. The third shaman in a Waha Clan is a retired High Priest. He is often elderly and has retired to make way for his old apprentice. Usually he passes on many magic items and medicine bundles to give the High Priest more power. Many people will call on the retired shaman for advice and assistance as he is less busy with ritual and clan activities than the High Priest. The retired shaman often helps train the young shaman and acts as a mentor. There is very little rivalry between the retired shaman and the High Priest. Some large clans may have a number of retired shamans and possibly even a number of young shamans and a corresponding increase in tensions between them.

Waha Tribes have a Chief Shaman who outranks all other shamans in the tribe. When other shamans are present he rules them, but cannot wield influence from afar unless he performs certain rituals. There is a single High Priest of Waha in each Nation. This person is elected from the Tribal Shamans and is generally very powerful. As with the Tribal Shamans, he has no power over shamans who are not present but can wield influence if needs be. High Priests of the Nation are often very old and very rarely retire, usually suffering violent or magical death.

Waha Shamans act as intermediaries between the people of their clan and the Spirits of Prax. They do this in many ways. As Priests they are the spokesmen of Waha and guide their people in spiritual matters. They also can contact minor Spirits to arrange worship ceremonies for their people. This enables the clan to gain other unique abilities and spells. Often they deal with their ancestors, keeping the friendly ones happy and keeping the hostile ones in check. Waha Shamans deal with the Chaos Spirits of the Wastes by normal means and also by controlling Spirits of Law. Tribal or Nation Shamans may well have very powerful Spirits of Law which can defeat the most powerful Chaos Spirits. Prax has very few local nature spirits, so the Waha Shamans do not have to deal with them.

Many of the duties of Waha Shamans are taken up with guarding against enemy shamans or spirits. They remove curses and send curses against their enemies. They may even use Disease Spirits or other Chaotic Spirits to achieve these aims. A common trick is to summon a Disease Spirit to pollute an enemy's water supply then, when the enemy has been driven out, to exorcise the Disease Spirit. Waha Shamans from the same Nation rarely attack each other, but those from other nations or non-Waha shamans will happily attack Waha Shamans or their clans.

Visions

Waha Shamans are social shamans and rarely embark on Vision Quests. Where they receive Visions they do so at the behest of powerful Spirits who need the Shaman to perform a task or take up a duty. Such Visions are attained when the Shaman is travelling through Prax or the Wastes alone. Any Waha Shamans who have a Vision will return to his clan and will try to interpret the Vision himself. If he fails he will ask the other shamans in the Clan for help. If they fail he may even ask the Tribal or Nation shaman for assistance in interpreting the Vision. A particularly difficult Vision may well mean the Shaman must HeroQuest to gain the knowledge to interpret it.

Secret Societies

These are very common in Prax and the Wastes, especially amongst the Waha Shamans. Most Waha Shamans belong to at least one Secret Society.

Shamans gain entrance to Secret Societies by various methods. The most common method is via a Vision, as detailed above. Those who receive certain Visions have to join certain Secret Societies, for instance Shamans having Visions of the Thunder Bird must join the Thunder Society. Some Shamans become members of Secret Societies by performing a HeroQuest, others are members by birth, still others may gain entry by worshipping a Spirit, in which case the Secret Society will resemble a cult.

Membership in a Secret Society has several effects. The Shaman will gain certain gifts and geases. For instance, members of the Thunder Bird Society gain the ability to tell when the weather will change and have to dance in the rain when it rains. The Shaman may also interact with Shamans from other nations or even other cultures. This is particularly true of those Societies which cross normal borders such as the Thunder Bird, Wild Fire or Red Horse Eater Societies. Where Waha Shamans interact with those of other cultures there will be hostility and tension which must be overcome. It is difficult for a Waha Shaman to easily deal with an Agimori or Pol Joni Shaman.

Spirit Cults

Waha Shamans sometimes arrange worship of local spirits for their clans, for instance the women of the Skull Bush Clan of the Bison Tribe worship the Skull Bush Spirit, a Plant Spirit which helps grow the Skull Bush plant, a tough and barely edible plant which is still better than normal Praxian fare. These Spirit Cults help provide skills and spells that would not normally be available.


Agimori Shamans

The tribes of Agimori who live in Prax and the Wastes have a Shamanic culture. Each clan has several shamans to help them survive and to deal with the Spirits. These Shamans normally worship the cults of Foundchild and Daka Fal and often pay homage to local spirits or other Praxian Spirits. They are primarily concerned with the dealings of the hunt and of the family. As leaders of the Hunt, they propitiate the animals to be hunted, track far-off prey with their spirit travelling, draw animals to the hunters and send the souls back to the bosom of the Earth. As leaders of the family they contact their ancestors and founding spirits, heal the sick, protect against enemy curses and send curses on bad people.

Agimori Shamans tend to be loners when they interact with other peoples. Within the family they are congenial and approachable. Outside the family they are aloof and terrifying, often choosing not to speak any other language but their own and presenting a stern front for others to see. Agimori Shamans often embark on Vision Quests in order to find out what they should do. These are generally terrible ordeal Quests as they must suffer great hardships to be affected, far more than normal humans. When an Agimori Shaman has a Vision he will interpret it himself and, once he has the meaning, will act on the Vision. Fairly often, this means embarking on a road that is unusual, perhaps joining a Sacred Society or following a strange spirit. He will almost never discuss this with others, except in the confines of Sacred Societies.

When an Agimori joins a Sacred Society he must swallow a large amount of pride. First, he must recognise that these people are his equal and that he needs them. Secondly, he must accept their customs and rules. Thirdly, he must deal with outsiders and strangers. All three things are difficult for an Agimori Shaman.

Many Agimori follow the Fire Path and learn how to summon and control Oakfed. Many of these join the Wild Fire Society and learn how to make the Oakfed Medicine Bundles that strike so much fear into the hearts of soldiers and magicians alike. Some Agimori become Bullocks and lend their incredible fighting skills to that organisation, although they will still not fight other Agimori.


Baboons

The Baboons of Prax and the Wastes have only shamans as priests, mostly of Daka Fal or Foundchild extraction. They deal with protecting their clan and have no other interests. Some Shamans call on other spirits, such as the Monkey God or Raven, but these are rare.

Baboon Shamans tend their families, keeping them as well fed as they can by invoking the powers of Found Child. They also tend the spirits of the dead, summoning them for worship ceremonies and keeping hostile spirits away. They try to keep the curses of others away but almost never send curses out against their enemies, preferring to be non-hostile.

Baboons almost never undergo Vision Quests and the occasional Baboon who receives a Vision will call on all the Baboon Shamans he knows in order to interpret the Vision. An extended grooming ceremony will be performed in order to calm the Baboon down and to tease out all the details. The baboons will mull over the Vision, sometimes summoning Ancestors to ask for help, until they come up with what it means. Usually Visions relate to new ways of gaining strength by contacting strange spirits and perhaps even joining strange societies.

If a Baboon Shaman has to contact a new spirit he does it in the normal way, although combined with a great deal of screeching, posturing and cowering away from the Spirits. He will try to co-erce the spirit into helping him and, if that fails, will grovel and beg to be its servant.

Baboons who try to join Sacred Societies will take the same approach, first trying to force themselves in, then begging and grovelling. When they are accepted, baboons will try to learn as much of the strange ways without divulging their own secrets. For this reason, they are distrusted in Sacred Societies and do not gain the full benefits.

Baboon Shamans are first and foremost selfish ones, hoarding baboon secrets and trying to gain the secrets of others. This is a product of the baboon personality.


Basmoli Shamans

Those shamans of the Basmoli Berserkers follow their Lion God Basmol and also worship Found Child and their ancestors. They are haughty and arrogant, preferring not to deal with outsiders. Most Basmol Shamans are female and hence stay with the pride all their lives, protecting and guiding. Male Shamans are exiled as bachelors and roam Prax as members of the Basmoli Bachelor Societies. Female Shamans protect their clans in the same way as most other shamans, acting as healers, guides and protectresses. Male Shamans sometimes protect the Bachelor Society they belong to but mainly act selfishly and try to gain control of strange powers and abilities so that when they return to their Clans they will be powerful.

Male Basmoli Shamans try to contact as many different spirits as they can in order to increase the range of their abilities and powers. They prefer to contact Beast Spirits and have no truck with Waha and his allies. If they join Sacred Societies they work hard to gain as much power as they can. Unlike baboons, they will also share the information and spells they have in order to strengthen the Society. They know the importance of having friends outside the Clans and try to foster such friendship and links.

Unlike many Shamans, Basmoli Males quite happily go into combat, entrusting their souls to Basmol as they do so and casting their Transform spells before combat. For this reason, they often try to gain other spells which help their combat abilities.

Male Basmoli often attempt Vision Quests and try to gain Power Visions. When they receive a Vision they will try to have it interpreted by other Basmoli Shamans or even by outsiders. They always try to act on their Visions, believing that to do otherwise would be cowardly.

Female Basmoli Shamans try to gain Fertility and Healing powers in order to increase the birth-rate and to try to produce true lion births. They rarely join Sacred Societies and almost never try Vision Quests. If they receive a spontaneous Vision, they will try to have it interpreted and will only act on it if the Vision will help their Clan.


Pol Joni Shamans

The Pol Joni Tribe is the Bastard Tribe of Prax. It has a little history and no roots, being made up of outlaws, bandits and outcasts or their descendants. Its shamans are often outcasts from the Waha way or one of the Independent Tribes. Few shamans are born to the Pol Joni.

Pol Joni Shamans concentrate heavily on Vision Quests to gain power. Once they gain a Vision, the other Shamans will interpret the Vision and will advise the Shaman on what actions to take. They will quite happily join any Sacred Society and will share the abilities and gifts obtained.

The Shamans of the Pol Joni will generally contact the Spirits of Fire/Sky and those of the Orlanth Pantheon. They also sometimes have access to those Spirits in Dagori Inkarth and hence have a greater variety of spirits than shamans of other Praxian peoples. Pol Joni Shamans organise Spirit Cult worship for their people to spread the powers amongst the clans. Thus amongst the Pol Joni there are many people worshipping many different spirits and deities. This is what makes them powerful.

Pol Joni Shamans have duties to protect and guide their clans in the same way as Waha Shamans, so they heal and bless their people, protect against rogue spirits and prevent others from cursing them. They have no taboos about cursing others and are often quite hostile. They pay little regard to their ancestors since very few of the Pol Joni Clans are based around common descent. Young Pol Joni Shamans quite often adventure around Prax or even as far as the Grazelands and Pent and have no problems contacting foreign Spirits.


Newtling Shamans

The Newtlings of the River of Cradles are bachelors who are spending time away from their Clans until they reach sexual maturity. Their aim is to experience as much of the outside world as they can cope with and then bring that knowledge back to the Clans. For this reason, bachelor newtling shamans try to gain as much knowledge and power as they can. However, this is tempered by the fact that they will return to their clans in under 30 years and hence do not wish to be tied down to any long-term issues or to take extreme risks.

Newtling Shamans specialise in Water Spirits, gaining more and more water powers. They tend to be able to purify waters, to raise and lower water levels, to master boating magics and the magics of the fishermen. They shun the powers of other elements and only rarely gain abilities from those spirits. Where they do have contact with other spirits they will try to gain as much as they can.

Newtling Shamans rarely join Sacred Societies and almost never undergo Vision Quests. The Rolling Serpents have some Newtling Shamans as members. When Newtlings join Sacred Societies they do not fully integrate, fearing that if they do they will become tied to the Society and will be unable to return to their Clan once the Change comes upon them.

Often, Newtling Shamans organise Spirit Cults for their people. These concentrate on the Water Spirits of Prax, so they worship Frog Woman, Dew Maid, River Horse and so on. This is probably in preparation for their role as Priests when they mature.

Very little is known of Newtling Shamans once they mature. It is surmised that they become priests of the Great Newt and protect their Clans as do normal Shamans. If this is the case, then Newtling Pools will be guarded by very powerful, very skilled and very versatile shamans. This makes dealing with newtling pools a very risky business indeed.


Ostrich Shamans

Shamans from the ostrich Tribe come in two types, Waha Shamans and Ancestor Worshipping Shamans. Waha shamans are as normal Waha Shamans, except that they do not honour a single Herd Beast and therefore are not as tribally oriented. They will happily deal with other Waha Shamans and not treat them with hostility and mistrust. Ancestor-worshipping Shamans try to contact the lost Yelm Worshipping ancestors in order to re-establish the Yelmic Lines amongst their people. They are therefore pre-occupied with this task and with gaining the patronage of Light and Sky Spirits.

Ostrich Shamans quite happily join Sacred Societies, preferring those which concentrate on Fire/Sky abilities. They have a powerful contingent of Oakfed Shamans and can also summon up Sun Hawk and Morning Star. They also honour Mother Ostrich and Condor regularly.

Shamans in the Fire/Sky Clans head Spirit Cult worship of Fire/Sky Spirits, of the Stars and deities such as Yelorna. These Spirit Cults give the Ostrich Riders more variety and helps their hunting and survival chances.


Troll Shamans

The Trolls of the Rubble have powerful shamans. As they do not come from a Praxian tradition, they have a different approach to shamanism. They do not undergo Vision Quests and rarely join Sacred Societies.

Troll Shamans are usually women, but there are occasionally males, especially those of supernatural birth. All Troll Shamans worship Kyger Litor, many also worship normal troll deities. Some worship the cult of Aranea but do not honour Crag Spider. Some even worship Arkat Kingtroll and have access to his sorcery. Many of the troll clans have spirit cults based around a local Hero or Ancestor, or even around Dagori Inkarth Spirits. This is far more prevalent amongst trolls than other Praxians and almost seems the norm there.

All this makes Troll Shamans feared amongst the people of Prax. They are known to consort with the Demons of Darkness and to gain power from the likes of the Black Eater, Raven and Night Woman who they know as Xentha. Troll shamans guard their clans deep in the Rubble and rarely make contact with the shamans of the plains. Any shaman invading the Rubble is likely to meet a number of troll shamans and their controlled spirits.


Broo Shamans

The Broos of the Wastes are shamans in nature, although they also follow a different path to normal Praxians. They do not undergo Vision Quests and are not allowed to join Sacred Societies. They gain their Shamanism through worship of Thed and Malia and tend to contact Chaotic spirits of which there is no shortage in the Wastes.

Broo Shamans tend to be weaker than their Praxian counterparts as they have a harsher life and are singled out for attacks from Storm Bull worshippers and the Waha elite.

Very few Spirit Cults are maintained by Broo Shamans as they tend to try and gain individual power through Spirit Contact. Where they do maintain Spirit Cults it is because they force their band to join in the worship, normally of deities such as Cacodemon.