spirit binding with totemic animal spirits?

I’m trying to iron out what American Indian shamans will be able to do in my Weird West game, and I definitely like spirit binding from the MaBu. I’m replacing Circination with a shaman training skill that will let the shaman use Sing and Ritual for the tasks Circination would do in a European setting.

I’d like spirit binding shamans to be able to bind animal spirits in addition to nature spirits, since it’s a major trope for Amerindians to call on the bear spirit, wolf spirit, etc, but I’m not sure how to implement it in the spirit binding system. I could say that the medium would be blood, bones or furs belonging to those animals, but there’s not a well-defined domain for the shaman to enter and exit to have access to the spirit and dodge retribution.

As for the idiom for the animal spirits, I could make a little list with traits associated with the animals to define their idiom. Something like this:
[ul]
[li]Bat - nighttime, hearing, secrets
[/li][li]Badger - underground places, persistence
[/li][li]Bear - healing, strength
[/li][li]Beaver - crafts, family
[/li][li]Buffalo - generosity, strength, food
[/li][/ul]
I imagine a character being badly wounded, and the shaman paints protective icons all over his body and wraps him tightly in a bearskin, then sings over him until daybreak. If he’s successful, he can call a bear spirit into the bearskin and it will give bonus dice to the wounded character’s Health check for recovery, or to the Surgery check of the man treating him. Retribution will come in the form of hindrances to Health, Power, or Power-based skills later on, or maybe bonuses to enemy Power in a fight.

I admit, it’s a little vague right now and I may just drop it and do spirit binding “as written.” Has anybody tried something like this?

I’m not sure about that, though I don’t really know a lot about american native traditions. Many nomadic peoples had places they associated with particular spirits. The assumption that such spirits are necessarily elemental and not animal spirits is a fallacious one born of our modern conceits [and the rules of the game we are playing]

I see the possibility that many animals spirits were associated with particular environments; Bears are mountain woodland animals, Buffalo are plains animals, Beaver is a woodland river spirit, etc. So placing them in their particular domain makes sense to me.

For a quick reference I found this in a couple minutes search.
“The Black Bear has long been a symbol of the mountains, and a sacred animal to the Cherokee Indians” from this web page http://www.ashevilleguidebook.com/wnc/cultural-attractions/cherokee_indian_reservation.htm
I can’t speak for the veracity of it, but it suits my argument so I’ll assume here I’m X% correct with my argument. :wink:

So, you might have a deal with the Black Bear spirit of Thunder Mountain, but his powers are limited elsewhere and minimal on the plains.

[EDIT]
I haven’t had time to read this yet, as it’s time for bed now at the end of a long week, but you might get some fodder from the Navajo creation myth page on Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diné_Bahaneʼ

Also, if you want spirits with personality and awareness–a rabbit or wolf that can actually speak to someone and convince them to do something foolish–Summoning is a better choice than Spirit Binding. That’s what we did in several games with a shamanic focus. Sanctified Dead are the revered ancestors and most spirits are Corporal Spirits of some form. Great Spirits like Wakan Tanka could be deities.

Durand Durand, great thinking, thanks! You’re right, I could limit invocations to animal spirits to the domains where they would live. That would make certain spirits pretty ubiquitous, though, like rat and hawk. Maybe that’s not a problem, though… after all, you can call on air and earth spirits pretty much anywhere already…

Thor, I’ll take another look at Summoning. :slight_smile: