Shamans are regarded across many religions as those who have been given the ability to communicate with spirits, plants and wildlife, landforms, and gods via trances and rituals. Their practices span metaphysical themes, or spirit specialties, such as Destiny Study (future-telling / personal destiny), Divination (interpretive communication with otherworlds), Feng Shui (balancing and managing external/environmental destiny), and Healing (medical heritage).
Destiny study, the practice of the shaman in this illustration, is oriented toward 14 major stars that each come with an archetype; the pilgrim in this parable belongs to the Wuqu star, a financial and bureaucratic archetype associated with industrialism, toil, wealth, decisiveness, and lonesomeness. A pained executive, he’s come a long way with a lot of baggage to seek answers he couldn’t find in his homeland. We meet him in the illustration after he has finally made it to the mystic city, only to realize very little has changed for him. Disoriented, he wanders into the shaman’s shop.
In Korean shamanic culture, there are 4 prominent categories of shamans. The dan’gol-type shaman, featured in this parable, leans more toward a priest’s role, where their lifestyle is passed down through generations rather than conferred through an initiation experience. They aren’t associated with supernatural powers and their folk rituals are localized. Themes of matriarchal shamans atop mountains pepper Korean shamanic mythology and most of the shamans in my parables follow this lineage and motif.
In societies that came to embrace the rationalism and practical virtue of Confucianism, shamanism fell out of esteem and became associated as a practice for low-class peasant women, even getting banned from some regions. Despite this split, the two still have a lot of common roots. Confucianism focuses on reading the rhythms of nature as messages on how mankind should live and where to focus its energy and attention; shamanism does this but looks for more explicit messages, especially regarding individual futures. Both honor rituals as an important way to maintain a relationship between heaven and earth. In fact, rites, or “lǐ” (禮) make up one of Confucianism’s four virtues, called “The Sizi” (四字).
Rites and rituals can appear as specific movements and activities from anything in temples, down to everyday life activities such as tea drinking. In my fabled continent Runea, different blends of folk religion exist in each city, with varying tones of Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, and animism.
The city at the end of this pilgrimage is inspired both by life and mythology; in southern Taiwan, the school of Buddhism born from Dashu in the south focuses on a simplified, accessible, and humanistic form of Buddhism that integrates its mindfulness practices into daily life. During my visit to the massive temple complex, called Fo Guang Shan (佛光山), there were so many palace steps, pillars, viewing decks, garden beds, engravings, prayer rooms, and meditation tables that despite all the visitors on its grounds, it still felt empty, quiet, and pensive.
Across Chinese and Daoist mythology, an exotic, mysterious mountain range called Kūnlún reappears as a wilderness paradise made hard to reach by unscalable cliffs and unpassable waters. The few travellers who make it there are rewarded with the presence of poetic and magical gods, shamans, creatures, plants, and perhaps even immortality.
This mystic city in my story, located at the farthest corner of the Runean continent, is seen the same way for many forlorn pilgrims from Tek who have left their modern society in search of meaning. Tek is represented by the corresponding mountain range in mythology, Mount Penglai, a magnificent collection of palaces and clean, built surfaces of metals and golds. Jewels grow everywhere, winters are controlled, and there is an abundance of food, drink, and eternal youth.
Created by Liann Shannon
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