"Okay, I didn't like Thanger", I thought, "He was a punta of epic proportions, but nobody deserved to die like that." These thoughts were crowding out the screaming in the back of my head that we were all still in danger if we did not move.
I saw Peeth kneel down besides the biggest chunk of remains, where the heart was. He reached in under his leathers and pulled out a piece of jade on a simple chain. He placed it on the remains reverently. It was fitting, Thanger died stepping in to protect Peeth.
"He needs this more than I do. Maybe it will keep him out of The Hells."
Full Item Description
Soul Disks are thin bi disks (disks with a hole in the center) of smooth jade or agate. (Glass, once thought to be precious, was used by The Ancients.) They can be of any size, but those used for funerary purposes are from 4 to 5 enc in diameter. (The Enc is an ancient unit of measurement, 4 to 5 enc are about 7.5 cm to 9.5 or 3ish inches, even today the tradition holds to that size.) Those that are worn are from one to two Imperial Inches (3 to 5 cm) in diameter. Those made outside the South Eastern Domains could be of any material that has spiritual/ magical resonance such as opal, quartz, or firestone. It is said that there are ones made for the insanely rich, powerful, or magical made of PowerStone.
The use of Soul Disks starts with the ancient civilization that once ruled the areas of what are now the South Eastern Domains. Even though that culture is lost to the sands of time, bits and pieces have floated to the present day.
Soul Disks were placed over the head or heart of the recently deceased, so when their soul was ready to leave the body, it would have a gateway directly to The Sky Heavens to its next life. This tradition remains strong to this day. There is not a burial or internment in the South Eastern Domains, except for the most wretched of people, without a Soul Disk included.
Among the educated, it was noted that the disks protected the deceased from evil spirits. As they approached the dead, they were drawn into the disks and deposited on the doorstep of the Sky Heavens. And they were taken care of. This protected both the Living and the Dead.
In the early Common Era, soldiers from the South Eastern Domains, and Ylarra, have found themselves fighting in "less cultured" areas. After battles in such places, their bodies, the bodies of the enemies, would neither be properly interned or return to their families. Of course all mothers worry about their children and even worry about them in death. Mothers began to send off their sons with soul disks around their neck. Thus if they died, they would have a portal right there to return to the proper Sky Heavens instead of the skies of some foreign land. Over time, these disks began to shrink in size to a more manageable one.
The practice soon spread amongst the various militaries that allied or fought against these units. Soldiers, whom knew that realistically, their body and soul would probably not be attended to after the battle especially if their side loses. Such portals to The Heavens seemed like a perfect back up plan.
In the Conflicts of the Great Crossings, The Generals from the South Eastern Domains adopted the tradition of "caring for the well being"of their troops. They would often give them to their Western and Northern staff members. Some even supplied them to their troops (though they were cheap and made of glass). Thus the bi disks and the ideas behind them spread. Since the Soul Disks and what they were said to do did not infringe upon the beliefs of The Proper Faiths, those of The Lands could use them as well.
Through the conduit of The Military, the soul disks came into Civilian Life. The beliefs behind them made contact with foreign cultures and changed slightly. They are used in many funerary rights throughout The Domains. In fact even the Silent Towers have a single disk in them to aid any remaining spirits to fly to the Heavens. Mostly, people wear them. Their spiritual insurance aspect is seldom downplayed, but other beliefs were added.
They were thought to be a conduit for luck. As the disks were gateways to the heavens and the heavens were a source of all luck, it seemed natural to those of the Northern Domains to think of them as lucky charms.
The spirit tormented Ylarrans realized that any ghost or spirit approaching them would be drawn into the portal that is the bi disk and sucked up into The Sky Heavens. Thus they would gain a measure of protection from a number of spirits castes.
Several sects of eastern monks have taken to placing them on prayer alters, so their prayers (and the spirits responses) would travel easily between the Heavens and the Mortal Sphere. Other Godsworn are adopting the idea as well.
As the idea of wearing a Soul Disk all the time (when not facing battle or imminent death) is returning to the South Eastern Domains, many of these ideas are returning with it. Those of the less traditional bent are adopting these outside additions to their own ideas. In fact, given the turbulent and troubling times for those living The South Eastern Domains especially those in Yao and Qui where tradition is breaking down quickly- the bi disks are worn to help one skip from this wretched life they are living to their next, better life.. all in this same lifetime. Thus they spiritually die and are reborn free of many of the ties to their old, and obviously troubled, lives.
The bi disk is a powerful symbol. Thought of as a representation of the Sky Heaven, the circle enclosing a perfect hole, conveniently placed for the soul or any spirit to pass through (and for any evil spirits to escape!), the symbolic ideal finds many expressions. Thus the beliefs of the ancients can be seen today in modern cities all over the South Eastern Domains. Many of the buildings still have a round opening, with a round ring around it, through which any evil may pass freely without besmirching the inhabitants.
The disk acts as a portal between the material world and the spiritual world. This allows spiritual things to travel directly to the Sky-Heavens, without having to risk the potentially treacherous and damming gauntlet of spirits and demons between the mortal realm and the Sky Heavens.
Negative spirits are drawn through the portal. Thus they are unable to (or more accurately less able to) effect a wearer. The spirits are sent to the Sky Heavens, where they are either destroyed or driven off.
Other beliefs and advantages may be possible, given the campaign and how the people believe in them.
In terms of game mechanics, these advantages are nominal. A small bonus to resistance against negative spirits and to avoid being made a ghost would be the most appropriate. (The ubiquitous +1 seems appropriate). Activated in ways appropriate for your game system and magic system (drama dice, power rolls with manna, one use since the last prayer), other applications may be possible. Heck, they may make good spell foci for simple spirit charms.
Normally I post an item like this up and many people post comments that show they missed the point of the submission. Then I go off in the comments explaining the submission, and why it is important or at least notable, and so on. Usually this response is longer than the post. I am cutting right to the chase and posting it now.
Bi Disks are perfect static magic, common beliefs that empower items well beyond their actual magical (theurgical or thaumaturgical) powers. In fact these items only have powers because people believe in them. Thus if you want to have effects related to them and that sort of thing fits your world, feel free... nay... encouraged to make it so.
Doesnt matter if the Soul Disks have any spiritual, theurgical, or thaumaturgical effect, the belief is there. Thus they will be a common artifact, found all sorts of places and used by a large number of people (like a crucifix was used in the European Middle Ages or Rabbits Foot for luck). They could just be color or descriptive bits in your campaign or they could have some power... that is up to you.
What is important about these is that they show a belief in things beyond. They show a concern for the Afterlife and that religion will play an important part for most people.
They also can be used to explain or even further superstitions. If you want a ghost haunted culture, then the use of the disks, as shown by the Ylarrans, showing that people believe in ghosts, believe in what they can do, and will take steps to protect themselves from it. And this is even if there are not game mechanic reasons for being scared of ghosts. (What? They cant do damage or cause fear or life drain or anything? Well then I ignore the ghosts.) The Northerners believe in Luck coming down from Heaven. Thus they probably have their own rituals and such for that. But by wearing this, they think they have a short cut.
And unless you are writing your world around my write up, you dont have to use my names or directions, or even the ideas on the societies presented. The Soul Disks and what they stand for is the key. My description here is to give you ideas on its uses and on how to hang it in your world. I mean this piece gives you a current empire/ country that includes many domains that previously had been countries of their own and that it quite large... and that there has been a lot of history on this world.. and towards the beginning of The Important Time there was a great war that drew upon people from throughout the country and there have been several wars (possibly civil) since then... and that there is some kind of main organized religion/ belief set... and it has surplanted many local beliefs... and .. well you are beginning to see. These are here to be used as examples and to give you ways to hand this on your world (Hey, I have an empire and we had a great war 500 years ago... done. But my mystics are in the Northern Mountains... okay that is where the Disks come from... and Again you see where this is leading...). And if you havent done much work on your world, just suck it all down and use it verbatim from the text.
There you go. All wrapped up.
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? Responses (5)
Another thing from you that is useful in any world, whatever the funeral customs might be.
This is an excellent custom that can be used in any genre of gaming...Very Nice
A simple item that basically anyone may have a chance to wear, and you can hang any number of customs, rituals and chrome pieces to... that's what it is. And it is appreciated.
But you know there is always something to expand, even with most angles covered, you can't escape that. Let's see... one thing to note, just in case it was not clear, the mythology featured here does not require heavens or hells at all. The disk may be still serve the passing on of the spirit to the next world, and severing the ties to this one - whether it is a true gate, or a mere symbol.
Anyway: very usable!
An excellent bit of culture - I'm going to link this to my Burial Customs sub.
Quite interesting, and very good, Moon! Not your usual style of sub. I have nothing snarky or sarcastic to add ;)