Spirit Court

The Spirit Court
Ancestor Gods; Celestial Bureaucracy; Forefathers; Genius; Saints and Sinners; Spirits

Symbol: A simple figure representing the spirit in question
Home Plane: The Spirit Realm
Alignment: Any
Cleric Alignments: Any
Portfolio: Ancestors, nature spirits
Worshipers: Anyone who wishes the favor of nature or their ancestors
Domains: Animal, Community (Family), Death, Knowledge (Memory), Luck, Plant, Protection, Repose (Ancestors, Souls)
Favored Weapon: Any one simple or martial weapon chosen by the cleric (no exotic weapons)

Physical Description:
Members of the Spirit Court are an immensely varied group of minor divinities. They tend to vary in size depending on their individual importance, from quite tiny to spirits that are seldom remembered, to the size of a mountain for the most important and prominent of spirits. Actually, some of the largest spirits are mountains. Nature spirits tend to remain in an abstract form, though they may take a shape composed of the stuff over which they have dominion if the need arises. Ancestral spirits take on an idealized form of the being that they once were while they were still alive, the size of this form varying as noted above.

Description of Nature, Personality, and Dogma:
The Spirit Court is made up of a loose collection of spirits. Few of these individual spirits has much power alone outside of a very limited sphere, but taken together, they have the power of any other deity. These spirits are usually of two kinds. The first and most common, are spirits of nature, beings that embody aspects of the natural world, like mountains, trees, rivers, and similar important features, though a few are embodiments of cities and other important artificial creations. These spirits vary in power depending on the size and importance of the feature of the land that they represent. The second sort of spirit in the Spirit Court are ancestral spirits, those who were once mortal, but have now died. Instead of passing on to their eternal reward, however, or returning to the Prime Material Plane as a form of incorporeal undead, these ancestral spirits have decided to linger in a state of limbo for a time, until they can be replaced by another mortal spirit that is willing to take up the responsibility of watching over a group of people. Alternatively, some mortals can acquire a demigod state on their own, while still being subservient to other gods, as is the case with saints for good-aligned deities, and especially great heroes.

Each individual of the Spirit Court has a unique personality and set of specific desires that it wishes to make manifest in the mortal realm. However, it can be generally said that the spirits are interested in protecting and nurturing their particular area of interest, be it a feature of the land, all creatures living within a given area, a specific city, a bloodline, a tribe of people, or a race, as a few examples. As a general rule, all spirits in the Spirit Court only have sufficient power to grant spells while their worshipers are within the bounds of their concerns. For a city spirit, for example, this power tends to slack off as soon as a worshiper leaves sight of the city's walls. For a spirit that watches over a particular bloodline, this influence extends as long as the cleric isn't changed by magic into a different race or creature, and hence a different bloodline.

The most powerful and revered members of the Spirit Court can actually become deities in their own right. Examples of such spirits-turned-deity are Sekhmet and the First Emperor.

Clergy, Places of Worship, Important Rituals, and Servitor Races:
Shamans and witch doctors are what clerics of the Spirit Court are commonly called. These special individuals are usually born with the gift to be able to feel the flow of the spirits around them, which sometimes leads them to be considered mentally disturbed by those who can't sense such things (and which, incidentally, does drive many of these clerics at least partially insane with the strain of dealing with forces beyond common mortal ken), though sometimes mortals develop this talent after going through a near-death experience of sufficient trauma. Once members of the Spirit Court recognize such mortals, they quickly start to clamor for the attention of these mortals, requiring one who would draw on the power of the Spirit Court to be very strong-willed indeed, or else go quite mad. If a mortal with the spirit speaking gift is able to weather the storms of demands from the spirits, and then gain a few allies in the Spirit Court by fulfilling some of their desires, then that mortal becomes a cleric, able to draw on the powers of the Spirit Court for casting spells.

Nature spirits in the Spirit Court generally have the features of nature that they represent as their holy sites. These can be general or specific, depending on the exact spirit in question. Ancestral spirits, on the other hand, require shrines to be built in their honor. These may be simple or elaborate, but are expected to be as good as a given family or community can afford.

The Feast of Hungry Ghosts, also called the Day of the Dead, is the single most important day for the entire Spirit Court, a day as autumn turns to winter, when the people of Therafim remember and pay respect to their ancestors and to the spirits of nature that made their lives possible. On this day, little figures representing the things that the dead enjoyed when they were alive are placed at shrines dedicated for this purpose during the day, and general feasting and parties occur as the night draws on. Early on this evening, before it goes completely dark, children are allowed to go from door to door in their communities and petition those in houses for little treats, since they are the future, while the spirits represent the past, and both deserve minor propitiation. It is common and acceptable for either the spirits or the children to play pranks on those who do not provide them with any sort of offering.

Fey and elementals are often willing to serve nature spirits, but generally require favors before they are willing to do so, unless the task required suits their own purposes, or goes along with one of their whims. Similarly, undead and deathless are willing to serve ancestral spirits so long as it also serves their interests to do so. Some especially powerful nature spirits are also spirits of the land (MM2), and so do not usually need the assistance of others should they choose to act.

History and Relations:
The Spirit Court first came into being when the boundary between the living and the dead, and the corporeal and incorporeal, was first established in the mythic past of Therafim, as a means to organize those who were not yet ready to surrender their mortal interests, and had the strength of personality and veneration from the living to achieve a state of minor godhood.

Because it is made up of such a vast number of unique individuals, generalizations about the Spirit Court are difficult to make. Individuals in the Spirit Court regularly have dealings with the other gods, some positive, and others negative. Umnos considers itself the patron of the entire ancestral side of the Spirit Court, since he governs the barrier that determines how much influence they can have in the mortal realm, while Matra governs the nature spirits. Grimrose has many dealings with those of the ancestral side of the Spirit Court, mostly with an amused air about him at encountering beings that he took from life in a new position where they are now his peers, albeit lesser ones. Sin Eater is annoyed at these wandering spirits, which don't seem in any hurry to leave their affairs in the mortal realm when they ought to just go elsewhere through her intervention, and so she tends to be surly towards all of them. The elemental gods, the titanborn, and the fey deities all regard the members of the Spirit Court as poor cousins, generally treating them with a mixture of friendly condescension and occasional contempt, but generally not being unwilling to share their worshipers with the Spirit Court, since their goals often coincide.

Favored Offerings and Justifications for Direct Intervention:
The spirits of mortal ancestors and nature spirits both like similar things, since they are made of similar substance now. Those seeking to honor the spirits regularly leave out little quantities of food or other common items that the spirits cannot make themselves, lacking bodies, at the shrines of the spirits. The spirits are also very fond of the smell and taste of blood, so the occasional animal sacrifice or the dripping of one's own blood onto their altars is especially appreciated. The more vicious spirits, such as some volcano and mountain spirits, especially enjoy the taste of sentient blood, with the more martial spirits preferring the taste of blood from the enemies of a given people that worships that spirit.

The spirits in the Spirit Court are some of the most accessible of all the gods, but at the same time they are also some of the least powerful, since they are not a single powerful entity, but rather a series of lesser beings with weak to moderate power of their own. Each individual of the Spirit Court is a unique individual, interested in unique things, but once the attention of a member of the Spirit Court is gained - not a hard thing to do for one who gives the spirits proper deference - they are able to provide one who has earned their favor and attention with minor gifts of luck and protection and occasional foresight. This becomes especially likely with ancestor spirits who wish to protect and improve the condition of their still-extant family, and even moreso if those ancestors are trying to protect their family from extinction, since this would cause the ancestor in question to lose all power to influence the mortal world completely.

Some Examples of Spirits
Abraxas: A lawful evil simbani (lion beastfolk), Abraxas was perhaps the most charismatic and successful of all the Overlords of Darkland on the the Isle of the Mighty. He gained this notoriety not through open conquest, though he did do a fair amount of that, but by carefully sending out specially-trained agents who infiltrated tribes of evil humanoids, monstrous humanoids, and giants across large swaths of Therafim, and then carefully spread the idea of Abraxas as being an incarnation of evil itself, a living god who would bring destruction to their enemies. When the great, golden-maned Abraxas did, in fact, show up, his powerful personality and natural leadership qualities were all that was required in most cases to utterly convince these tribes of the truth of the rumors. Though Abraxas eventually was slain by great heroes, he is still worshiped as an agent of the gods of evil by many evil-aligned tribes across the face of Therafim.

Pumpkin Jack: Pumpkin Jack, also known as Jack of the Lantern (or just Jack O'Lantern), or the Pumpkin King, is a nature spirit about whom a variety of tales are told, most of them about how a humanoid figure could end up having a hollowed-out gourd for a head. This neutral-aligned spirit is an embodiment of both the bountiful harvest time of autumn and also the frightening long nights that accompany that time of year. He receives regular worship around the world of Therafim by people carving out gourds in a variety of interesting ways and putting candles inside of them, and by people telling ghost stories around fires, including those inside his own effigy heads.

Saint Elinore: In life, the lawful good half-elven Saint Elinore was a courageous if somewhat stuffy missionary for Bahamut. Through her bravery and effectiveness in this effort, she managed to convert several of the clans of the Bloodwit Delta to worshiping the Platinum Dragon, which brought a time of astonishing peace for almost a century to the normally very bloodthirsty raiders, allowing them to open up trade routes with southern lands and acquire a fair amount of culture and education. While those days are now past, Saint Elinore is still worshiped as a personage in her own right, a source of inspiration for virtuous teachers and diplomats, missionaries of the good-aligned gods, and all barbarians who are willing to consider solutions to problems besides smashing them.