Their face glinted in the moonlight like a mask, or like a mirror, reflecting the moon's pale shade. Like a thief in the night, they stole amongst us, but to give, not to take. They scattered the dust of dream, and we dreamt, and our eyes opened to the way things really are. Beyond instinct, we grew to imagine, to reason, to think. There were those amongst us who, despite their new imaginings, had no choice but to commit cruelties on the rest of us in order to keep breathing. The White Raccoon shook their head, and this was no longer true. All feed now on the unthinking things of green, and the fruits that sprout from them. All live in harmony, as much as we choose. Some wept as their new friends died much sooner than they. The White Raccoon shook their head; this would not do. And so it ceased to be, and now, though death remains, it comes to all creatures in a similar stretch of time. The White Raccoon scampered off, and has not been seen since, requiring no thanks. Their bounty was immeasurable.

– From “The White Raccoon” (one of many ballads and tales sharing the same title)

Humans and animals are not the only beings to have inhabited the world of White Raccoon. Before the animals were sentient, perhaps before the humans were, there were the Spirits. They are little-comprehended by animal-kind, to the extent that some, particularly deeper in the City, doubt their existence. But there are enough attestations that most in the wilderness places at least know them to be real, however they interpret them. Glimpses of the inexplicably numinous, in the deep forests and waterways. Glimpses of actual creatures, combining the forms of many known animals and plants and stranger, less-known things. And stories of interactions, where words and gifts and promises were exchanged.

Spirits have shaped animal society in countless ways, and thus much animal folklore concerns tales of them. Some afford them religious reverence. Some consider them as dangerous, fickle beings to be placated rather than loved. Some believe they are ultimately just people, despite their strange powers, capable of being friends, enemies and in between.

Unlike animals, who can travel between places if they choose, even if they have optimal habitats, one relative constant of spirit-lore appears to be that, for all their power, they are confined to places. Some postulate that they are places, in some sense, the blood and bone of them, the thing that allows them to endure, to evoke feelings of beauty and wonder in observers.

[OC note: Spirits are not intended to evoke the specific spiritual traditions of real-world cultures, which is partly why we are leaving the City's location undefined.]

The most famous spirit is the White Raccoon (usually given they/them pronouns), who is credited with the exploits described above by a variety of stories with relatively convincing oral pedigrees stretching back to the First Days of Dreaming. They are the spirit who is most often treated with religions veneration, although the notion that the White Raccoon does not require anything of us in exchange for their gifts is also a common (though not undisputed) one. Most see them as the kindest of spirits, who after the vanishing of the humans gave animal-kind the intelligence it now possesses, and gave those who had previously been carnivores the ability to survive without meat in an act called the Blessing. They are thus the founding parent of animal society as it exists today, in the City and all its environs. Some whisper they spread their gifts in the lands beyond, too, and this is why they scampered off and have not been reliably sighted since. There are, of course, claimed sightings, but most are dismissed, where other spirit-sightings are not.

Stories of other named spirits tend to be significantly less coherent than the White Raccoon corpus, which displays an unusual degree of consistency as a foundation myth shared by many (though far from all) the regions' animals. Nevertheless, there are frequent reports of the web-weaving, riddle-loving Granny Mothspider (she/her), one of many to be found in the tangled by-ways of the Forest's Deep-Wood Places. In the dark and cold of the deepest depths of Great Lake, animals tell of It That Hungers (it/its), a vast and terrifying spirit that snatches unfortunate animals that come too close.

And, as Winter draws in, colder names are whispered. But things are not yet desperate enough that we need risk repeating those.

  • spirits.txt
  • Last modified: 2023/07/17 14:39
  • by gm_aric