Divine/ Spirit
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February 26, 2014, 11:22 am

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Cheka Man

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"De Kanaar folk tink all dere gods and medicines are secret. But I live in dese marshes long enough to hear dere gods, whether pointy-ear folk like it or not. I can hear dere comin's and goin's, an' I can make dem see you or skip you as you like."
- Tonis, hillaq of Rakart Village

Religion in Swynmoor

It is said the oldest gods of Swynmoor are those worshiped by its first inhabitants, the elves of the Kanaar. The Kanaarite religious system is ancient and complex, full of exotic gods and bloody ritual. As the Kanaarites are a highly secretive people, their religion too remains largely unknown outside of their domain. Kanaarite priests go to great lengths to keep their rituals secret, sometimes sending their private guards and assassins to silence those who discover their most sacred rites.

Thus when the first migrants came to Swynmoor, they knew nothing of the native gods or practices. They imported the gods of their native lands, here Saulke and there Ophrus the Watcher, sometimes settling together with their fellow congregants and other times mixing freely with those of other faiths. A fair portion of Swynmoor's human immigrants were outcasts, with many holding beliefs that made them heretics in their old homes. No one faith or heresy was dominant, however, and as time went on most of the organized faiths fell into superstition and lore.

The Song of the Kanaar

The first encounters between Swynfolk and Kanaarite - and most of the encounters since - have been marked with violence, the highly territorial Kanaarites and expansionist Swynfolk warring over territorial claims. But from the first moment Swynnish eyes laid on the Kanaarites, a fascination with the mysterious marsh elves took root in the Moor. While the Swynnish Dukes constantly tried to force the Kanaarites deeper into their swamps, Swynfolk peasants and adventurers tried to follow them in, enchanted by the exotic elves.

The further south away from the Ducal lands, the stronger the attraction of the elves. Bards and romantics would make daring trips to the edge of the Kanaar forests just for a glimpse of a fair elvish face or to hear their lilting voices on the wind. Stories were told around fires of Kanaarite elves who would appear to the most devoted to grant them blessings, or teach them powerful spells, or their art of love.

Rumors too told of a colony of elves from the far south, around the Adûrak Delta, who were themselves outcasts forced to live among them gatorfolk. These were even more scintillating: Kanaarites who practiced magic freely and wantonly, making dark deals with powers even their priests wouldn't dare. For Swynnish mystics and adventurers the draw of exotic gods and magicks was too strong, and more than a few made the daring journey south to the Blackmarshes and seek the forbidden knowledge of the Kanaar themselves.

Most that went did not return.

Medicine Men of the Moors

But a few did. They returned with handfuls of Kanaarite language, speaking of gods and medicines and nature spirits. The Ducals dismissed them as cultists, but the rural folk in the swamps honored them as sages who had touched the divine. They called themselves hillaq and aklla, the men and the woman, and the Swynfolk called them any number of things: warlocks and witches, elf-touched, saints, oracles. They set up their own divination houses, claiming to know what the gods of the Kanaar thought and said, and even knowing how to influence them for favorable outcomes. Though some grumbled about driving out the heathens, others went to consult them for their problems, be they fertility or fortune. Other such medicine men appeared over time, some apprenticed to the original and others "self-taught." Generations went on, and they gradually became a part of Swynnish society, adored by some and barely tolerated by others.

Jampiri uses two separate terms for shamans: men are hillaq and women are aklla. In Kanaarite religion these are very distinct roles with different functions; in Swynnish Jampiri, they are essentially the same but aklla women are believed to be more powerful, able to hear the spirits better than males. These "medicine men" (here men being the generic sentient) operate out of a sacred house, typically their own but some have a separate building just for their rituals. In Swynnish society they generally operate quite publicly, making a living of their craft by offering blessings and fortune-telling to various villages. Some are better known than others, and a medicine man's fame can be gaged easily on whether the people come to them, or they have to come to the people. In larger villages where more than one medicine man operates there may be rivalries where one questions the other's credentials and skill. Besides the publicly known shamans some practice secretly, often to hide the fact they practice the darker arts.

Jampiri medicine men hold a unique place in Swynnish society. In the Duchies they are all but outcasts, gypsies who peddle fortunes on the street and are often scapegoats for the town's misfortune. The further south into the swamps one goes, the higher esteemed shamans are. Nevertheless there are detractors of Jampiri shamans in every village, usually adherents of other Decathran faiths. They call them witches, pointy-lovers, devil-kin. But even some of these who publicly denounce medicine men still seek them in the dead of night for things no one else can solve. Such is their strange rank in the Moors.

Jampiri Medicine

The rites these shamans perform are called "medicine," a rough translation of the Kanaarite word Jampiri. Three types are recognized, and called variously by their Swynnish or Kanaarite names:

Green medicine (Kamayoq)

These spells call on nature spirits, often nameless, for a variety of needs. These spells are considered the most basic but also the most essential. Those seeking kamayoq ("nature blessings" in Kanaarite) might be asking for personal or agricultural fertility, healing of minor illness, good weather, good hunting, and the like. When medicine men come to a village to peddle their services, these are the most commonly offered and asked for. Their rituals typically involve simple blessings using a variety of holy plants with chants to call out the friendly spirits.

Blue medicine (Rihuyi)

When the spirits of the swamps are not strong enough to answer a need, Swynfolk ask for blue medicine, rihuyi ("sky magic"). These divine spells call on the higher spirits and gods of Jampiri. These often call for a supplicant to enter the house of a medicine man, which are sacred spaces that grant their owner holy power. Fortune-telling is a common enough blue medicine, with the shaman listening to the gods for clues on a person's fate and relaying the appropriate messages. In extreme forms of this the medicine man is possessed by the god and becomes a mouthpiece for the deity, causing the priest to act unpredictably and sometimes violently.

Rihuyi is also used to remove evil spirits from possessed persons, using chants and mystic salves but also intense heat that turns the holy house into a sweat lodge. There are also some tasks that nature spirits do not answer, and the medicine man knows which gods answer which needs, and how to call upon them.

Red medicine (Riqsina)

When Swynfolk speak of Jampiri shamans as evil witches, they typically refer to practitioners of red medicine, called in Kanaarite riqsina - "blood magic." This sort of medicine is not done by all medicine men: it's considered more dangerous, more difficult, and by some to be morally offensive. Where blue medicine calls on the various gods of Decathros, red medicine often invokes Kanaarite deities, if not devils. Those seeking riqsina come to shamans in secret and ask for dark things: curses and hexes on their enemies, hiding their sins from other gods, or even for death. While green and blue medicines use mostly natural or sacred items in their rituals, red medicine always has a high price. A supplicant might need to bleed for the god as the Kanaarite priests do, sacrifice living things, or offer their own souls.

Folk Rituals

While medicine men and their rites are essential to Jampiri, practitioners have other means of worship as well. A home in the swamp is likely to have a shrine dedicated to one or more gods. These shrines are typically small, sometimes enclosed in a cupboard or cabinet, with a statue the central figure the shrine is sacred to. Offerings are made regularly to the shrine, typically incense or bits of food, but also money, small sacrificial animals (mice, lizards, etc., depending on the god), and even blood. When a medicine man sacrifices an animal at their sacred house, those who partake in the sacrifice will often take a portion of the flesh to place in their own shrines so the god does not forget them. When seeking protection for someone - or harm, as the case may be - an item belonging to the person will be placed in the shrine so the god will recognize them. The size and ornamentation of these shrines is a good estimate of a person's wealth: peasants often have small wooden shrines with hand-carved statues or simple drawings of their gods, while richer merchants and maiers will craft them from metal and hire skilled craftsmen to create the likeness of deities.

Gods & Spirits

Since Kanaarite influence first started to spread to the Moor, it has been wrapped and warped into other various faiths to the point where some consider themselves full adherents of Skaldev Orphus or Saulke of the Spiked Sea while actively practicing Jampiri. It is a syncretic religion with a syncretic mish-mash of gods. These are just small sample.


A figure of Skaldev origin who is called on as a seer and fortune-teller - probably a corruption of "Ophrus the Watcher". Ophro is called on to reveal the future, either through a medium or signs. Likewise, diseases of the eye are healed with Ophro's Salve, a medicinal paste made from native fruits.

Holy Saulke

Exiles from the Spiked Sea were some of the first humans to settle in Swynmoor, so it's no surprise Saulke plays an important role in local religion. A number of villages have Saulke as their guardian, honored in shrines set into ponds to imitate his island bodies. Those looking to marry leave him offerings, an inferred patronage from Saulke's marriage to the Favorims. Those in mourning are said to be "siding with Saulke".


A misinterpretation of the dwarven name for Rainshadow. Cloudmaker is depicted more as a bird than a dragon, but with the same ferocity. Farmers make offerings to the "Great Shadow" for favorable weather, and beg for the Cloudmaker to go away during heavy storms.

Saint Max

Maxilan Carth was a great hunter in life, legendary for how many gatorfolk he slew. That was three generations ago. Here he is revered as a spirit with myriad responsibilities, nearly all having to do with gatorfolk. He is prayed to by Swynnish folk under various titles, depending on their need. Hunters call on "Saint Max Who Ate the Gators" to favor their expeditions. Travelers ask the intercession of "Saint Max Walking on Water" for quick journeys, and "Saint Max with the Long Spear" to keep dangerous creatures at bay.

Icy Alys

Exactly how the goddess of Twyrlandir's elves reached Swynmoor is unknown, but their Alsyrisani is worshipped as Icy Alys. Little of her Twyrlandiri legend remains, Swynfolk knowing her only as the goddess who brings down the icy winds from the Kazan Mountains, but there is a seed of her origin in Jampiri practice: she is called on for contraception, as one might associate with a goddess whose many children are frozen forever.

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Comments ( 8 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Murometz
February 5, 2014, 20:38

I think it succeeds in mirroring a voodoo society, in that cultural mish-mash way, with shrines, different types of magic, and the societal melding of gods, spirits and rituals.

I also like how the origin resonates. The Kanaarites want to be left alone in their swamps, but alas, they're "exotic", so must be infiltrated :)

Decathros continues to be enriched!

Voted Scrasamax
February 6, 2014, 4:59
An enjoyable read, I like how the culture comes across with both exotic and fantastic elements but also things that are very familiar. I also liked the hodgepodge collision of multiple pantheons creating their own hybrid religions, and the non-standard roles of the medicine folk, being favored and outcaste depending on location and time of day.

The division of the magic into the green, blue, and red was an interesting concept, and I like it, and I can easily see pulling spell lists, or clerical domains out of it for making characters.

Good work.
Voted Scrasamax
February 6, 2014, 4:59
An enjoyable read, I like how the culture comes across with both exotic and fantastic elements but also things that are very familiar. I also liked the hodgepodge collision of multiple pantheons creating their own hybrid religions, and the non-standard roles of the medicine folk, being favored and outcaste depending on location and time of day.

The division of the magic into the green, blue, and red was an interesting concept, and I like it, and I can easily see pulling spell lists, or clerical domains out of it for making characters.

Good work.
Voted valadaar
February 6, 2014, 8:28
This is a great way to have a relationship between human and elf populations. The elves feel appropriately mysterious and alien - as it should be.

Great job!
Voted caesar193
February 6, 2014, 11:25
As was said before, you did a good job of making the elves and, to a lesser degree, Jampiri itself, be mysterious. The one thing that I noticed is that you talk about the gaging of medicine men, which I think should be gauging: this would be in the second paragraph of the Medicine Men of the Moors section,

Other than this, it was an excellent piece. It captured the air of Jampiri well, and I like how the elves just can't get rid of this idiot humans.
Voted axlerowes
April 1, 2014, 0:17
I love it.

One of the greatest achievements in world building is a genuine and believable pidgin.
December 9, 2014, 10:42
September 26, 2015, 7:01
Very interesting .
I like me the background conflict between elves and humans and kept wondering how you would work in half elves till the comment on "teaching the art of love" which adds a bit of sexual intensity of a Karma Sutra nature to the exotic desire/curiosity surrounding the elves. It also put the player who goes with a half elf and trying to have the best of both worlds in a position where he will have to role play hard- every third human of importance in the setting may just want to find out what he or she knows about elvish arts of love and naturally the elves will view him or her as a reminder of the human invasion.

I like the handling of magic, it resonates with my anti-Vancian prejudices for a system of magic. It could easily be developed into a near spell-less magic system in my opinion.


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