Spirit Channellers in Fantasy Fiction: My Friend Goes Boo

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There’s a school of magic that appears in Windemere, which I’m going to try to touch on without giving a certain spoiler.  Hopefully people in the comments do the same.  It’s one of the few secrets I’ve managed to keep and I get the feeling that simply saying this is opening the door for trouble.  Anyway, here we go.

Now there have been two schools of magic that I’ve mentioned.  One is arcane like Nyx and Sari who used their internal to cast spells.  The other is holy like Aedyn Karwyn who gets his casting power from his god.  Both of these have clear sources and are relatively easy for a character to get involved in.  The training is either learning at a school or learning at a temple.  One could say that necrocasters are a third school since they are arcane, but use the energy of others.  Good point and that would put the following as a bridge between them and the straight arcane.

Spirit Channellers

These are characters that use the energy of the dead for various purposes, but it’s not intrusive and evil like necrocasters.  There is an understanding and partnership between the character and the spirit.  Much like the priest, a spirit channeller ask for permission to use the source.  Yet they are incredibly limited compared to the other schools of magic because they don’t alter the ghost energy.  Unless it’s a special circumstance, the willing spirit remains intact or the alterations are temporary.  For example, channelling the spirit of a fallen warrior to possess you in battle keeps the spirit intact while granting you special abilities.

Vixen from DC Comics

Vixen from DC Comics

Another word that gets used in fantasy for these characters is ‘shaman’, which makes one think of speaking to the dead.  This is a common source of information in fantasy quests, commonly in the form of an old man or woman wearing animal hides.  Yet, there are other types that are scattered about fiction.  Aside from the example above, there are those who merge with animal spirits to gain their abilities and others that travel directly the afterlife to do their work.  It’s really down to whatever the author wants to do with the area and how they explain yet.

Now in Windemere, spirit channellers come either work with any spirit for simple stuff or have specific ones that they always call on.  Some might even share a body with their partner, which brings an interesting dynamic into the story.  If you do this then you need to bring personalty to the spirit because it counts as another character.  Even without a body, they can have attitude and verbal tics along with the ‘host’ having sensations of what they will do.  Find ways to do conversations between them, which can include waking visions, mental lines, and dreams.  This also can lead to interesting powers like taking the form of the spirit, which takes over as the primary character.  There are also rules like how close they’re bonded or if there are any side-effects like drowsiness, insomnia, intense hunger, and other things that can denote a change in life energy.

Again, it will depend a lot on the world that the author has created.  Specifically, the afterlife and if there is the concept of spirits.  There doesn’t have to be too much detail and you can even use the spirit channeller to introduce the concepts.  A problem comes about if this character appears after time is put in to disprove the existence of spirits and living things just die and that’s it. One has to wonder where the power comes from if that’s what has been established. To be fair, that could be part of a storyline where the world gets overthrown.  So it is fairly easy to slip a character like this into a story.  I guess it wouldn’t work if you put them in a realistic story like a modern cop drama.

Finally, never be afraid to do some backlash with these characters.  The spirits can turn on the channeller if something happens to upset them or a stronger host comes around.  I already mentioned physical issues, but you can go with mental problems arising too like hallucinations.  Maybe a slash to the shaman’s life-force.  My point here is that working with spirits differs from other schools of magic in that the source is sentient.  The internal power of Nyx has no will of its own, so it wouldn’t have a backlash like a spirit.  So it’s smart to consider the downside to these things.  Like maybe the shaman loses control and becomes a monster, which has to be put down.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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22 Responses to Spirit Channellers in Fantasy Fiction: My Friend Goes Boo

  1. Oooh, I like it. I’ve written about being possessed, but this is a whole different spin. Very interesting. I also like good comic book art and the graphic caught my eye before I realized it was your post.


  2. Excellent post. Incidentally, one of the more interesting variations on that theme was Nat Russo’s book, Necromancer Awakening.


  3. L. Marie says:

    It’s funny that you had that picture of Vixen, because I just finished watching the three episodes of the animated Vixen series on CW Seed.
    Lois McMaster Bujold deals with spirit channeling in her book, Paladin of Souls. I like how she also mentioned the consequences–that the spirit could turn on the caster.


    • Weird. I didn’t see the second picture come up, so I forgot about it. That explains a few things. Didn’t know they did a Vixen series. Cool that she’s getting some attention.

      There definitely should be consequences. Kind of like having two things occupying one space.


  4. Don’t have to worry about me spoiling anything. I don’t have a clue. It all sounds interesting. though.


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