Sects of a people known as Druids can be found throughout the continent of Hyathis, all tied together by their core beliefs in the High Spirit, Gaia, and the workings of Nature. Within the Silver Moon Empire, Druidic Circles can be found in any of the seven regions, but Arboria holds the greatest number, for it was there that the Druids first had their beginnings. It is in Arboria that the fabled city of Evergreen lies, home to the High Druid, their spiritual leader.
Druids are very open and informal people, yet at the same time very ritualistic. Significance is placed on even the smallest of gestures. When meeting a stranger, Druids often treat them as though finding a long lost friend, and use a ritualized greeting; the palm of the hand is pressed to that of the other person, hand vertical with fingertips to the sky, and an Elven greeting (deafine, "blessings, friend") is often exchanged. One Druid will greet another Druid in the same way, but their fingers curl into each other, entwining to symbolize joining and recognition of each other's spirituality.
The current High Druid is an Elf by the name of Elcine Rivervale, who took power in the year 1261 after the unexplained disappearance of the only human to ever hold the position of High Druid, Cytorak Brownleaves. Cytorak's rule as High Druid was one of exuberance, full of energy and life, like a spring morning. Elcine's has proven to be more subdued, a still pool in a large river. Even so, all is not well in the Druidic Circles.
It is believed that Druidism was brought to Lyran Tal by the Elves. Ancient tomes of Elven history note that Druidic beliefs were the first and only religion that prevailed in the earliest Elven cultures. This is why most uniquely druidic terms not only have a common tongue label, but also one derived from Elvish, because in the ancient days all the Druidic circles appeared in Arboria, all Druids were Elves.
Since that time, there has been a branching of Elven beliefs and Druidic society. Druidic Circles now have many non-Elven members, for all who seek to learn and live the ways of the Druids are accepted into their tight-knit Circles - much to the chagrin of Elves.
Conversely, the Elven Nation no longer follows the teachings of their Druidic religious leaders as faithfully as they once did. With the exploration of the study of the other six gifts, and primarily with many Elves being born strong in the art of Geomancy. Druid leaders lost their influence and power over the Elven Nation in general. Many Elves and various sects of the Elven Nation still observe some Druidic practices and rituals, but Druidism is no longer the predominant force that governs the daily lives of the Elves.
Most Druid Circles are located in Arboria, simply because it was the Elves that brought the way of life to Lyran Tal, and that is where the Elves first made their home. In the centuries since, smaller Druid Circles have sprung up elsewhere in Hyathis. Basic beliefs remain the same: to exist in harmony and balance with nature. Methods of gathering food, ritual, and dress differ to reflect that harmony in whatever environment the Druids happen to live.
Visitors are welcomed in most Druidic societies, for this gives an opportunity for the Druids to teach the visitor about their ways. However, this open welcome is entirely dependent upon the nature of the visitor as well as their numbers. For example, a large new settlement of loggers will not be so welcome as the casual traveler. Evergreen, the capital of the Druids, is exclusive to Druids, for it is said that the city hides from all else.
A Druid Circle on the Lealóre Plateau. They are a small group, and make their living on the native herds of antelope that are a keystone in the ecology of the grassland. Relations with a nearby human village, Kardeen, are strained, for the ways of the villagers do not match those of the gentler Druids.
Exclusively Elven, this Circle is one located in the central portion of the Selendoria forest of Arboria, along the Aldene River, from whence its name, "River City," is derived.
Cor Emrys, Arboria:
Located in the north of the Sepaleen delta, right on the border of the Selendoria forest in Arboria, it means "City of Ambrose."
The oldest settlement of Druids in Lyran Tal, Evergreen is often noted in fables and legends whispered about the Empire. Home to the High Druid, the location of the mysterious city is known only by the Druids. It is rumored to be in the thickly forested Northeastern portion of the Selendoria forest of Arboria.
Druidism is a religion that provides a structure for Druidic society, yet druidism is more than a religion - to those raised in druidic societies it is the only way of life. Not all Druids have the powers stereotypically associated with 'Druids.' Not all can access the Ley Lines and wield magic, and in fact most cannot. In fact to Druids magic power is an asset, not the core of their beliefs. The ability to use magic is just a fortunate byproduct of their faith and pales in comparison with their philosophy to live in harmony with nature. Ritual is very prominent in Druidism, being a form of prayer as well as a form of spell-casting for those with the Gift.
Druidic beliefs preach knowing how to exist in harmony with the world; understanding how each and every life form has its own purpose and place in the great scheme of nature. All creatures instinctively understand this harmony; however, men - and other humanoids - are so far removed from their basic spirit that they must strive for greater understanding lest they become a hindrance to nature. Much of this understanding is garnered through prayer, meditation, and ritual, drawing on the powers of the world and of Gaia, Mother of All.
All things in the world have a spirit form, from the water trickling in the stream to the rocks that make up a cliff; the sky, the plants, the animals... Druids understand that the energy of life is invested in them all. Their spirits make up an invisible greater force, the High Spirit, which pervades the universe. When the High Spirit makes itself known in physical form, it is then called Mother Earth, or Gaia. Mother Earth is the giver of life, and in Druidic philosophy Mother Earth is personified once a year as the Tree of Life. The Tree can be found in spring and is drawn out by a ceremony called 'The Joining,' that involves a Geomancer, a Vivomancer, and the High Druid. The results of this Joining often dictate the prosperity of the land for the next year, making it very important to all that have druidic roots.
Silence is respected and taught by the Druids, for only in achieving silence, in diligent watch of all that surrounds them, can they hear the voices of the spirits, the Deó (see terminologies, below), and see how life interacts with itself.
A Druid's surname reflects something about him or her, and one's name changes throughout a Druid's life. Those born into a Circle are given a spirit name dictated by a sign as the child comes, whether it is a bird alighting on a branch nearby or the glow of the sun on a stone. When a Druid seeks his or her first vision, becoming an adult, a new name is taken by the Druid to reflect the changes in his or her spirit. This name tends to stay with the Druid, only changing during a significant event.
Prayers stylized in chants and songs are often used in rituals to invoke the power of the spirits. Called 'Spirit Song' in the common tongue of man, and 'Deóran' in the Elven language, Spirit Songs are usually the most powerful form of prayer.
Because all Druids seek to understand the lives and spirits of the animals around them, it is customary to spend much time in quiet observation and meditative trances so that the Druid knows what it is to be the animal. This also allows the animal spirits to learn the Druid's spirit so that they can choose to be his or her talisman. Oftentimes, the Druid may suspect the identity of his or her talisman simply from these trances before ever going on a Vision quest, which takes place as the Druid reaches adulthood.
Visions are a gift and guidance from the High Spirit, enabling a spiritual link to the higher forces. These visions are often brought on by rituals - both private and public - for all Druids seek visions at key times in their lives. Often an animal spirit will visit the druid in the visions to offer its strength, power, or guidance. It should be noted, however, that only druids gifted in magic experience true visions.
Visions are sought first in what is known as the Seeking, where druids on the cusp of adulthood go out to seek their first vision, trying to see if indeed they can touch the High Spirit - to see if they have the Gift. It is through this Seeking that they are officially recognized as a Deóduin ("Spirit Man," if translated literally). Most people outside of the Druidic Circles don't know the difference between mundane Druids (Sìole) raised in a druidic circle and a spell-casting Deóduin.
Seclusion and fasting are often vital ingredients in seeking a vision. Other essential components include the wide variety of herbs that the Druids are known for. Use and effects of the herbs vary widely from hallucinogenic to euphoric, with effects upon both the senses and the body. The most powerful herb that is usually used in invoking visions is a derivative of the rare plant, Fesha'a.
Directions and Elements used in Ritual
The six directions of the world are invoked at the beginning of any Ritual to recognize the world that is outside of one's spirit.
The Elements are also linked to aspects inside one's soul:
Finally, the Spirit, also the source of the Seventh Gift and from whence the Self is born, is invoked at the end of all druidic ceremonies. All things are as the spirit perceives them to be, all things run through the Spirit. In the Spirit can be found the greatest peace, for one cannot gain full understanding of other things until one understands oneself.
Rituals are unique in their components, depending upon who or what they are trying to invoke, but there are many common themes and utensils throughout.
Body Paint (Dannshé): By painting themselves, Druids invoke their own spirits as well as the powers of the High Spirit. They are changed beneath the mask of the paint, as if birthed into a new identity. Often made in patterns similar to Dannsrí, Elven calligraphy, both shape and shade holds meaning. For example, the color black is often worn to represent darkness, and to hide the wearer from the High Spirit, especially before deeds that are violent. Red represents fire, sun, and strength, and white is the color of purity and the afterlife. Green represents birth and renewal.
Circle: The symbol of the circle is sacred to the Druids for it reflects the very nature of the High Spirit and Mother Earth. The sun and the moons move in a circle as they rise and fall; even the shape of the earth is round. The seasons form a circle in their constant change and return, and this sacred symbol is displayed repeatedly in nature as well: even a bird's nest is shaped into a circle. All things fall within the sacred circle of Gaia.
The Burning Bowl (Dathalánn): Of great significance to druidic ritual, especially in herb-lore, there are three basic uses for the burning bowl: sacred rituals, friendship, and simply for the burning of herbs. Dathalánns are carved out of stone with great care by a Druid, either for their own use or as a gift. Such a gift signifies an important friendship, a gesture of trust and faith, and indeed a social gathering of Druids often has one or two burning bowls filled with various kinds of incense and herbs. Druids are renowned for their knowledge in herbs and incense, and they make ample use of that knowledge to enhance their moods.
Prior to any ritualistic use, be it magic spell or simple prayer, a mixture of savan and honey wheat is burnt first in the bowl to purify it. For large rituals, a pyre is used rather than the bowl, but the base of the pyre undergoes purification just the same.
Drums: Often used in rituals consisting of more than one druid, drums echo the heartbeat of Gaia and bring the heartbeats of the druids in synch with that of the High Spirit. Drums are associated with the element of Air.
Honeywheat: A light gold grass that grows in the wild in patches throughout the Sturrbith and Talpeasea Mountains. Its smoke is believed to attract spirits. It releases a thin aroma of sweetness upon the wind where it grows, and when burnt produces a thick, luscious scent.
Hunting: After a hunt, a ritual of gratitude and respect is given so the animal spirit forgives its killers. Appeased, the spirit returns to the Isle of Dreaming, later to return in a tangible form to renew the cycle of life and death.
Moons: The moons hold special meaning for Druids, for in waxing and waning they mirror the circle of birth and death. The moons also represent the dream world. Rodien is the bringer of nightmares, and his sister Anolinde is the crafter of dreams. When both act in concert, dreams take on the power of a Vision.
Savan: This is a sacred plant, for its smoke, when burnt, is believed to chase away evil spirits. When carried in bundles and kept near its wearer, it also is said to ward him or her from malicious forces. Part of many rituals, it is often woven into a wreath worn by the Deóduin.
Staff: A popular yet unique tool used by all Druids, that is able to both hold and focus energy. Made out of wood, its uses usually depend upon the type of wood it is made from, and who is using it.
Talisman: An object that is infused with stored power, be it derived from prayer by the Sìole or true magic of the Deóduin. Talismans are usually carried with a person so that he or she is able to draw upon the stored power of the talisman in times of need. Most often, a talisman holds some sort of animal power or spirit, and is carved out of wood or stones in resemblance of that animal.
Tree: The tree is the purest personification of the mortals ,for it is birthed by the Mother Earth, and grows stretching for the skies and the High Spirit. It is in complete harmony with all of nature around it, bridging the gap between land and sky.
Just like in any society in Lyran Tal, Druids can be born with any of the Seven Gifts, though with small numbers in their Circles, Druidic mages are rare. Usually those possessing the first six gifts leave the Circles to train at the respective schools for their Gift, and most do not return.
While many suppose that Druid magic is a form of geomancy, in truth it deals with the far more obscure Seventh Gift. Becoming a Gifted Druid - a Druid that can access the Seventh Gift - is seen as a spiritual blessing, though the Druids do not name it in such simple terms.
The Seventh Gift manifests itself in different ways. The Druids have developed different powers that are all centered on the spirit as a focus. By way of example: they communicate with living animals, shape change, and speak with the natural spirits of the world. A few Druids are known to be so adept that they can call upon the spirits of the wood and coax the very trees and plants to do their bidding. Spell casting is often done using meditation, ceremony, and song together with simple force of will. The stronger the Deóduin, the more effective the spell.
Gifted Druids are called Deóduin in the Circles. While all that follow Druidism, magic or no, are called 'Druids,' (or Śolen in Elven), only a small percentage of a druidic circle is gifted with magic. Deóduin are well respected within the Circles, looked to for aid in times of uncertainty or duress, and even in daily happenstance. Examples would be good hunting, good harvest, safe childbirth, and success in an endeavor. The High Druid, called the Deódyn, is the most powerful of the Deóduin, and has the closest connection to the High Spirit of Gaia.
In calling upon the power of an animal spirit, a Deóduin unites his spirit with the strength and spirit of that animal. In this the Deóduin gains understanding and guidance from the animal, as well as some of its abilities. Skilled, gifted druids can even assume the form of the animal's shape. Deóduin usually favor one animal in particular over others, their Talisman Animal (see below). In gaining harmony with these pure spirits, one is said to gain healing of one's own soul and mind.
Almost all Deóduin have a Talisman Animal, which the Druid calls upon with the utmost humility and respect. This animal spirit likely makes first contact during a Druid's Seeking, when they receive their first vision, and after this first contact the Druid often experiences some physical changes that reflect his or her chosen talisman. The spirit may make further visitations to a Druid through dreams, meditation, ritual, moments of great and powerful emotions, or when called by another Deóduin.
Note: This is not an exhaustive or exclusive list.
Bear: An animal of hibernation, the bear teaches the power of introspection and revelations in dreams. The previous High Druid, Cytorak Brownleaves, has a Bear Talisman.
Butterfly: The only creature that completely undergoes a total change in appearance, being, and body in its lifetime, preparing for each new stage in its life even as it casts off the shackles of the old. To know the butterfly is to learn of change and transformation.
Crow: This dark avian is said to carry the souls from darkness into the day, and gives guidance while working in darkness. This animal spirit gives free movement within the void, and intellect born of watching and knowing.
Deer: Quick and alert, deer move through the forest and field with speed and caution, placing their hooves with gentle care. The deer lends these traits to a druid, the doe adding her compassion, and the stag his strength.
Eagle: The eagle soars high, his spirit unfettered by darkness. Full of foresight and perseverance, the eagle goes forth to hunt no matter how desperate the search for game, for he can see many things and knows that after every darkness a dawn must come.
Heron: The water bird of elegance, this animal spirit teaches grace, patience, and agility. A heron may spend hours awaiting a single moment, but when that moment comes its motion is quick and decisive. The High Druid Elcine Rivervale possesses the heron as her talisman.
Hummingbird: Despite its tiny size, the hummingbird is fearless in the face of all things. Running from flower to flower, it teaches not only of courage but of joy in simple things.
Owl: A predator of the night air, this spirit represents wisdom, keen perception, and knowledge of the dark and unseen world. A deóduin connected with this animal spirit also seems to have greatest power working under the Anolinde.
Panther: Preferring solitude to companionship, the panther is a clever hunter. It will take its prey high into a tree where scavengers cannot steal it. Druids that call on the panther receive its independence and cunning.
Rabbit: Fleet of foot and quick to respond, the rabbit eludes danger with skill. Sought by all, the rabbit survives by vigilance, speed, and fecundity, and these are the traits the talisman provides.
Spider: The spider spends a day building its web, only to tear down and begin anew, holding no arrogance in the amazing complexity it creates. The value of skill, craft, and artistry belongs to the spider.
Wolf: The wolf knows its place in the pack, and defends its companions with fierce loyalty. This sense of self and family are the purview of the animal spirit, and nothing can break a Wolf talisman's dedication to its community.
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