Lagakin Spirit Magic

         The Lagakin have their own form of informal magic. All magic revolves around contact with the spirit world and the manitous which live there. Many tribal leaders practice a subset of magic. In adolescence, they visit the spirit world and contact their totem spirit, who passively aids them in their work. A few go further and become buowin or shamans who can travel to the spirit world frequently.

Totem Spirits

         Nearly all male leaders in Lagakin tribes have a sort of passive magic: the aid of their clan's totem spirit. The widespread practice is that young men who are ambitious to become leaders in the tribe will undergo a "visionquest", generally during puberty. This is a grueling ritual which has some mix of sleep deprivation, exposure to the elements, hallucinogenic draughts, and beatings. Eventually, the young man will fall unconcious and his spirit will travel to the spirit world. There, he is contacted by his clan's totem spirit. Assuming that his body survives the ordeal, he will from then on have the indirect aid and guidance of the totem. Once the visionquest is over, the totem spirit cannot speak to him, but it has an empathic link to him and will grant him prowess in certain endeavors.

         A totem spirit may be an animal, but it may also be the spirit of a place or plant or other natural thing. The Lagakin tribes do not have totem poles or other illustrations of their totem spirits. [Although the word "totem" is Algonquian in origin, "totem poles" are an unrelated tradition of the Pacific Northwest.]

         To represent the visionquest, a Lagakin character must have a POW of at least 11 and a Discorporate skill of at least 25. He should select a single totem spirit from the spirit list. He gains the benefits of the totem's favor, so long as he acts in accordance with its wishes. He may roll on his Discorporate skill to sense feelings from his totem spirit about events in the spirit world, but these are vague.


         A select few tribe members specialize in the workings of the spirit world. These are known as buowin. A young man will find an elder buowin to be his spirit guide. Over a few years, he will make many journeys to the spirit world, and learn a great deal about himself as well. With practice, he learns to fall into a trance with relative ease, aided by ecstatic dancing, drumming, and tobacco or hallucinogenic herbs. This is still physically strenuous: the buowin will visibly sweat and tremble as he attempts it, taking at least 5 or 10 minutes. When he succeeds, his spirit enters the other world and his body collapses, occaisionally twitching. While discorporate, each hour of travel is the equivalent of perhaps 4 hours without sleep.

         The practice culminates in a great journey where the young man travels in the spirit world to the realm of the dead. There his body is dismembered and re-assembled. He returns a buowin, giving him "second sight" and the ability to cast rituals. "Second sight" allows him to instantly recognize corporeal spirits for what they are, to see through magical illusions or sendings, and to see the aura of living things as a faint outline (meaning he can tell simply from looking whether something is alive or dead).

         Mechanically, a buowin must have at least 11 POW, and at least a 50 points in Discorporate (to complete the great journey) and at least 25 points in Spirit Lore (reflecting knowledge from past journeys). Second sight is an automatic ability which requires no roll. His magical skills are:

A buowin can automatically travel to the spirit world given time, but a Discorporate roll is required if he is in a hurry, distracted, or unprepared (i.e. lacking drums or pipe). Once there, he may wander around the local area freely. Another Discorporate roll is needed to find any place beyond direct sight of there -- and a second roll to return.
Spirit Lore
This represents knowledge of the spirit world, and relations with the spirits there.
Psychic Combat
This is skill in fighting within the spirit world. A person can use normal fighting skills, but Psychic Combat can be used as both an attack (as Unarmed Combat) and a defense skill (as Dodge). Since normal fighting skills are perfectly usable, some buowin do not use this skill.

The Spirit World

         The spirit world is an eerie, dream-like place. Major natural features of the material world all have a parallel in the spirit world, but they are not identical. The two worlds intersect through dreams, death, and magic.

         The primary use of travelling to the spirit realm is that you can talk to spirits. Most shamans will simply travel to the spirit realm and speak to whatever friendly spirits they encounter there. Lagakin shamans will have contact with the totem spirit of their clan. They will generally develop contacts with a few local spirits in addition. With skill, a shaman can travel around the spirit realm to find the parallel of a particular place and speak to spirits there. However, for the unskilled such wandering is highly dangerous.


     Finding the parallel to a particular place in the spirit world requires a discorporate roll to navigate. A critical failure means that you become lost -- in which case you will have to find your way back to your body. If that roll is also a critical failure, you will be trapped in a trance for some period which could be an hour up to even a few days.

     Spirit Lore is knowledge of the spirit world and it inhabitants. It is rolled like most other lore rolls to determine whether you know particular facts. It is also rolled to contact friendly spirits. A critical success finds a spirit friendly to your cause and/or willing to deal in return for help. A normal success will find a spirit willing to talk to you about the subject, but it will not go out of its way to help you. As with most rolls, a normal failure means only lack of progress -- while a critical failure is a significant setback.

John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Wed Aug 14 23:02:22 2002