Well a friend of mine said why not do a rant on how Gamemasters and Players portray shamans. I thought about it and figured I covered it in Magick and Munchkins. After thinking about it, I realized that Magick and Munchkins only touched the tip of the Iceberg. I have some trouble with some of the way that FASA has portrayed Shamanism and related Magickal Traditions. They leave out a lot and show only a small part of the equation.
Let me start with things FASA has overlooked. First let it be known I have some friends that follow the Shamanic path and the Wiccan path. I have read extensively to better understand these paths. Shamanism is also a path that interests me greatly as well. One of the things that bothered me is that FASA has only shown Shamanism from the point of someone born into the Culture of the tradition that they follow. With Magick returned, the Totems and Idols would be speaking to those whose connections to that culture are not strong or the Culture’s Shamanic Tradition is lost. Think of a Irish-American in Boston that gets a wake up call from Serpent or Bull, or an African-American in Los Angeles getting noticed by Lion or Ogun even though they had no proper contact to Shamanism or Voudoun. I was glad how they presented that concept from the point of view of the Celtic Druids and Nature Magicians in
However there are several lost Shamanic traditions from
Europe I think they did not cover. One of them is the Seidhr Tradition of the Teutonic peoples. They followed animal totems and revered the Goddess in the form of Freya. That tradition would have been prevalent amongst the Norse, the Ancient Germanic Tribes, and the Saxons of Great Britain. Another idea is the Egyptians could have two traditions side by side a Nature Magick tradition and a Shamanic one. Think of all those Animal headed gods and the like and how they would translate in a Egyptian form of Shamanism.
I also have trouble with the manner FASA has portrayed Wicca. They do it as strictly a Nature Magick tradition. I see it as a mixed Nature Magick and Standard Shamanic. One thing is many theorize that Wicca is the descendant of a European tradition of Shamanism that was Matriarchal. In my campaign some who hear the call of Wicca also hear the call of an Animal Totem. I could easily see a Wiccan follow Cat, Raven, Wolf, and Fox to name a few. Some of those I know who follow that path in Real Life do follow an Animal Totem and they revere a deity. In Shadowrun terms they would only be a Wiccan Shaman but still follow a deity. In my campaign the rare leaders of Wicca are the Nature Magicians. At least three out of every thirteen or so.
Back to the idea of European-Americans being called upon by a totem. First is FASA’s view of Celtic Druids is too restrictive. I would rather say that a Celtic Druid can leave the
Islands and make new sacred circles anywhere they call home. I think one would see groups of Celtic-Americans do just that. Some gain tribal status as a pink skin tribe and so on. Areas I think Groups of Celtic-American Druids would be found is in the Pacific Northwest, Boston Metroplex, Nova Scotia, New Foundland and the former Saskatchewan. In Many Dances of Shamanism I cover many ideas of how a European-American and African-American would approach Shamanism under these circumstances.
In my tenure as a Gamemaster and Player of Shadowrun, I have seen some portrayals of Shamans that had me cringing. First, PLEASE NO STEREOTYPICAL NATIVE AMERICANS. I mean like, Tonto, can smell Bad guy in the Wind, Kemosabe. Give me a break. Native Americans are usually native English Speakers. There is a tribal accent but today and in the Sixth World it would be very slight.
Second, DO NOT OVERPLAY THE MYSTICAL ANGLE. Shamanism is a mystical path, but it is very down to Earth. Its tenants are based on being one with the Physical and Spiritual world. In Shamanic Cultures, the Shaman is the bridge between the Real World and the Spiritual world. Without being firmly anchored in the Physical Plane many traditions believe the Shaman would be lost in the Spiritual plane forever.
Thirdly, NO MR. MIYAGIS. I mean the whole idea of a mystical not get to the point till the last minute is only found in Student/Teacher relationships not between a Shaman and the general public. And the reason for it in the Student/Teacher relationship is the Teacher is trying to teach the Student a new way of looking at the Universe. To do this the Teacher must get past the garbage modern society has dished out to the Student.
Fourthly, NO ULTRA-PRIMITIVE TYPES. In Shadowrun. they exist but they are the exception not the rule. Remember, even a Shaman grew up with TV, Guns and other modern conveniences. I had a friend who played a Wolf Shaman, whose fellow players were surprised his character carried a Predator II. In the Sixth World It is very rare for someone to grow up not knowing what modern technology is. Those areas were they are unfamiliar are the most remote areas of the World and even they have been invaded by Western Man and Modern Technology.
I am not saying you cannot portray a Primitive or a Mr. Miyagi type but understand what is means and the consequences and implications behind such Characters. Also try not to stereotype too many of the Totems. Some have meanings one would not think of. In Native American Lore the Wolf is the
Mentor, Teacher, and Advisor as well as the Warrior and Hunter. He would be fierce with his enemies but gentle with family and friends. Bear can be deceptively slow, because when needed he will be extremely fast. Ever see a Charging Bear not a pretty sight. Plus a totem chooses a Shaman based on internal characteristics not external ones. So one could see a big man follow Hummingbird or Mouse, or a small person follow Bull, Bear or Gator. As Yoda said, Size Matters Not.
I covered some more of my Shamanic Pet Peeves, but by no means all of them. So there may be more to this Tirade. LOL
This once again is My Not So Humble Opinion.