Saturday, 14 April 2012

Were-Creatures in Griffin Mountain

In some areas of Glorantha there are tribes that have no problem with blurring the line between man and beast and people like the Rathori and Telmori celebrate those members of their tribes who can change forms. Not so in Balazar, where prevailing opinion is that men should be men and beasts, beasts, and while the clan totem spirits are admired and emulated and called on for aid, no one in his right mind would want to be an actual animal, even for a little while.

Nonetheless it does happen. Shamen can use spirits by binding them into fetishes, using them as fetches, as guardian spirits or incarnated by taking them temporarily into their own bodies. They are usually pretty careful about what spirits they use for which purpose, but once in a while someone is tempted to incarnate an animal spirit rather than the more usual ancestor spirits.

This might look like a good idea; a fetish of a bear spirit might be used to give extra strength, OR maybe a bears toughness OR skill at wrestling; incarnating it gives all of these at once and many other bearish talents besides. But the bear spirit might not leave the shaman's body completely when the magic is over, and bit by bit such a residual spirit takes over. The bear-spirit gradually asserts itself, the human host becomes addicted to honey and fish, becomes bad tempered, grows slightly larger and hairier and becomes lethargic in the winter. He will insist nothing is wrong, but one Wild-day he will take the final step and transform into a bear (or wolf, or sabretooth tiger or whatever animal spirit he has unwisely taken on board). He can only be cured by exorcism.

The animal is apparently a normal one of its species, but has the intelligence and charisma of the human host, and the ability to use all his common magic, though spirit magic fetishes usually fall off or are destroyed with the clothes during transformation. This transformation is always complete. Halfway forms might exist in other parts of the world, but not in Balazar.

If a were-beast is slain the now homeless beast spirit will attempt to possess a new victim, having got used to the idea of parasitism on humans.

The Grey Wolf clan are considered especially prone to this problem. Back in the God Time Foundchild and Brother Dog had many confrontations with Telmor the Wolf. During the First Age the Telmori and Votanki lived side by side, and fought many battles. It was Jarzangai Cleareye of the Black Dog clan who finally solved the problem, capturing the entire Telmori tribe and offering them a choice; have the wolf spirits driven out of them by exorcism or die. Many escaped to foreign lands, but many others accepted and were purified at a now lost location called 'Last Howl'. The clan were renamed the White Dog clan and banned from contacting wolf spirits, but over time they returned to their old totem, but without the curse and without any overt enthusiasm for transformation. The other clans have not forgotten the origins of the Grey Wolf clan and are sure they still freely break the taboo against animal incarnation.

Shamen are sure that many creatures in Balazar originated in a similar way – the Trolls were a tribe that became possessed by night spirits, Elves were men who unwisely incarnated tree spirits, Dwarves are men possessed by stone spirits and giants and giant animals are possessed by mountain spirits. It is therefore theoretically possible to turn all of these back into men with an appropriate exorcism, but Balazar's shamen do not know the rituals.

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