Dreams, ghosts, heroes, & exemplars

The World of Dreams

In the World of Isles the collective unconscious is a spiritual reality. And it acts as RAM (or at least PROM) rather than as ROM, as on Earth. Not only is a set of archetypes inherited, but the details of collective belief (particularly emotionally-charged beliefs) can be written into the World of Dreams, where they are accessible to anyone.

For example, if a man's comrades see him killed, it is quite possible for this to make other people who are emotionally close to him dream of his death in specific detail, or of visiting him in the gloomy Gehennese afterlife, before the news could reach them by any ordinary means.


Usually, only the myths and legends of entire peoples make long-term impressions on the World of Dreams, but it is possible for an intense individual impression to last. This is how ghosts are formed: the intense experience of a strong personality (very often the terror which accompanies his or her death) makes a lasting impression in the World of Dreams. His or her loved ones and the witnesses to the event may be racked by dreams of the person and the event, even as long as they live. Since geists can so witness and dream, it is possible for things and places to become haunted, or for inanimate things to leave ghosts of rage and terror.


Another example of the phenomenon is the formation of heroes and exemplars. A person with a very powerful and pure personality can make a lasting impression in the World of Dreams, linking a concept, character trait, or ruling passion to his or her memories, idiosyncrasies, and self-image. This bundle is called an exemplar.

A specialised or localised exemplar is called a hero. Heroes have only a special appeal, correspond only weakly with cardinal archetypes, and bring little power to their avatars. They tend only to be important to a particular community or family, where their avatars can give an uncanny impression of being reincarnations of ancestors or folk heroes.

When another person resembles the original personality of an exemplar, he or she will dream frequently of the exemplar. These dreams will reinforce existing similarities and establish new ones. The dreamer will increasingly resemble the exemplar, and by the time he or she is powerful enough to affect the World of Dreams in a lasting way, will resemble the exemplar very greatly. Each of these avatars reinforces the exemplar, and adds the memories of another apparent incarnation.

As the millennia pass, the exemplars grow in power and definition, acquiring legends and fame, accumulating the memories of countless avatars. The range of personalities that will be drawn into their spheres of attraction grows, and their avatars increase in number.

Exemplars are very numerous. Ancestors, for example, can be specific exemplars for their families, and historical heroes specific exemplars for the people of particular cities. There are also universal exemplars of no great power.

Some exemplars, on the other hand, correspond closely with cardinal archetypes and powerful emotions and attitudes. Avatars of these are almost all capable of performing miracles. A rough score of the most important exemplars are briefly discussed below. These often receive a public cult devoted to dancing out their legends, the goal of which is perhaps chiefly social. Unlike geists, exemplars are not impressed by piety, devotion, or sacrifices, and do not do favours for their worshippers.

Exemplar of cunning and political ambition, Acanthe is patron of dowagers. Her symbol is an owl, and her colour is mauve.
Exemplar of erotic and musical passion, Amaranth is patron of lovers, dancers, and wind musicians. His symbol is a rose and his colour is purple-red.
Exemplar of curiosity, Chansith is patron of scholars, explorers, and flyers. His symbol is a feather, and his colour is sky-blue.
Exemplar of compassion, Coppelia is patron of the healing professions. Her symbol is a dove, and her colour violet.
Exemplar of enthusiasm, Foliat is patron of artists, artisans, and inventors. His/her symbol is a flame and his colour is orange.
Exemplar of joviality, Goth is patron of hosts and publicans and sponsor of the laws of hospitality. His symbol is a duck and his colour is golden-brown.
Exemplar of avarice, Heptakhlor is the patron of misers. His symbol is a dragon and his colour is bright green.
Exemplar of pugnacity, Hylas is patron of boxers and rebels. His symbol is a bulldog and his colour is dark green.
Exemplar of gallantry, Jolian is patron of athletes and swordsmen. His symbol is a lynx and his colour is scarlet.
Exemplar of self-reliance, Khryseis is patron of hunters, sailors, and loners. Her symbol is a dolphin and her colour is indigo.
Exemplar of maternal love and marital fidelity, Lena is patron of married women, mothers, and cooks. Her symbol is a honey-bee and her colour is pink.
Exemplar of honour and dutifulness, Luciphage is patron of heralds, executioners, and bodyguards, and enforcer of oaths. His symbol is a raven and his colour is black.
Exemplar of rage, Morbius is patron of berserkers. His symbol is a shark and his colour is orange.
Exemplar of determination, Persiflex is patron of warriors, archers, and woodsmen. His symbol is a parrot and his colour is dark green.
Exemplar of benevolence, Regis is patron of rulers, judges, fathers, and married men. His symbol is a date palm and his colour is yellow.
Exemplar of spite, Sialosti is patron of vile intrigue and perverted lust. Her symbol is the belladonna flower, and her colour is puce.
Exemplar of self-assurance, Timeon is patron of aristocrats, wrestlers, smiths, lumberjacks, and mahouts. His symbol is a hammer and anvil, and his colour is tawny saffron.
Exemplar of self-discipline, Vesper is patron of ascetics, stoics, and string musicians. Her symbol is Indarian and her colour is white.

Daimons & animism

In the World of Isles every item has a spirit. The spirits of the apparently inanimate are called daimons, and are accorded the reverence usual in an animist culture. People will often address objects unaffectedly, and make offerings to the daimons of their houses every day. A sailor never sets out on the water without little offerings to Pontus (daimon of the ocean), the particular daimons of the waters he will sail on, and his boat. Icons and shrines are everywhere, and nearly every act is accompanied by an invocation or placation: before he fells a tree, a woodsman anaesthetises it with opium or bhang.

These rituals are not superstition. The daimons are real. They can send or appear in dreams, send omens and oracles. The more powerful ones have some control over their 'bodies', and can even manifest as animals, people, or grotesques. The great daimonscan work miracles, and will do so for their own purposes or those of their favourites.

Daimons who are offended can and do bring bad luck, those who are pleased can do favours, great or small. In general, larger, older, and more obviously numinous things have more powerful daimons, things with more apparent character have more active ones. This is why everyone is polite to the wealthy, secretive, generous but temperamental sea. Parsley plants, on the other hand, can usually be treated brusquely.


Sufficiently powerful daimons of both sexes occasionally manifest for erotic dalliance, or even affairs more profound. Though they are not fertile among themselves, daimons can beget and conceive with people of all races and, apparently, with other animals. The resulting demi-gods are extraordinary, but not supernatural, members of their non-spirit parent's kind. They sometimes enjoy the assistance of their divine parent in the form of miracles.


According to Gehennese belief, twins always (and in some accounts only) result from a woman conceiving with a daimons and an ordinary man in the same night (ovulation). Twins are consequently considered lucky. According to one version, one twin is a demigod and the other ordinary, in another, both are demigods and have two fathers.

Temples and cults

The greater daimons of an area often receive so much in the way of prayers and sacrifices that temples are needed to house their wealth, and deputies to distribute their largesse. On the other hand, the goodwill of many daimons is often essential to a community, and priests must be appointed to make sure that each receives its due, and is not offended. Daimons are often flattered with ceremonies, at which the stories of their great deeds and past benevolences are danced out. These ceremonies are often given mythic form, so that their symbolic content co-ordinates the local community. Secret stories, dances, and compacts with daimons form local mystery-cults, initiation into which can define membership of the community, adulthood, or status, and thus plays a critical social role.

The daimon-cults resemble religion, but unlike true religion most do not address profound questions such as the creation, the purpose of existence, and the fate of the soul.

As a result of all this, the daimons are not considered to have a great deal of moral profundity, and stories of their foibles and sins are not ethically problematic. Relations between communities and daimons are on an almost commercial basis, with farmers paying the fields, and fisherfolk the reefs, to give food, and volcanoes threatening to explode if they are not lavished with sacrifices. Except on the island of Thelmond (whose daimon disapproves), geists sometimes demand human sacrifice as a token of their dominance: it is daimonic conspicuous consumption.


Gehennese priests are sometimes favourites of their daimons, but usually they are mere civil functionaries, with authority, perhaps, but no miraculous power. Only because they have access to the places where the daimon listens for prayers are their prayers any more likely to be answered than those of anyone else. More reliable communication may be had with those geists who attempt to provide oracles, and by specialists in the mystic discipline of spiritualism. The psychic gift of psychometry may operate by receive-only telepathic empathy with geists, but this is not true communication.


Oracles are often approached for counsel, and while they are very far from omniscient, daimons can give very good advice in appropriate areas. If an oracle gives a prediction about the future, the daimon will make a point of making it come true, often going to great efforts and calling in favours from other daimons. If the seeker of the oracle attempts to void it the daimon will take that as a challenge, and punish the mortal for presumption.


People who can force their minds to correspond with a force of nature or an archetype can focus inner power to work miracles appropriate to the archetype or force that makes them possible. Of course, this is far easier for people whose personalities already correspond to an archetype or natural force.

Given that thousands of generations have lived, it is overwhelmingly likely that people have lived before who corresponded in such a way. As these people are the very types that form exemplars or become avatars, in practice anyone who can work miracles is perforce an avatar.

Geists, being nature spirits, often correspond closely enough to forces of nature to perform miracles. Indeed, apart from dreaming, miracles may be the only active ability geists have. Geists will sometimes perform miracles for their favourites, even the specific miracles the favourites ask for. This gives those favourites the appearance of working miracles.

Some very good musicians are able to work limited miracles by the persuasive effect of their songs on geists. This is termed spellsinging.


Magic gives access to a suite of supernatural powers quite different in character from miracles.

Ordinary persons can manipulate magical forces only using slow and careful symbolical techniques, and even these are unreliable and dangerous. There are, however, exceedingly rare natural mages, who can control magical forces with much greater facility and reliability, using special techniques. Natural mages are all left-handed, and their talent becomes apparent during puberty, when they are prone to strange delirious illnesses, and when a white streak appears in the hair of each. The talent runs weakly in families, but can show up anywhere.

Magical invocations require the use of the True Tongue. In this nouns are generic True Names, and imperative verbs are magical commands. Magical effects are enhanced by the use of the specific True Name of the target. A person's specific True Name can be divined by a magician who knows him or her well.

Magical operations require elaborate symbolic props, and do not work when the practitioner has any knots or fastenings about his person. Contact with iron will disturb a magician's abilities for up to hours.

There is a field of magic called necromancy, which deals with life-force and the mind. It is marked by sinister symbolism, and presents its student with a scale of increasing temptations to do evil. Ultimately, it offers eternal youth- at the price of aging others in ever-increasing amounts. The depredations of necromancers have given general populations a great fear of all magicians, people with white streaks in their hair, left-handers…

Mystic disciplines

Mystic disciplines are a group of skills that give their practioners limited supernatural powers. Anyone can learn them. All that is required is a skilled teacher, aptitude, and a great deal of self-discipline. Mystic disciplines are accordingly rare, and are usually found in people who have undertaken esoteric study with a mystic adept.

The known mystic disciplines are berserking, dreaming, distant death, healing, heroic leaping, heroic speed, heroic strength, spiritualism, yoga, and zen.


With a little effort, whipping themselves up into an insane fury, berserkers can enter a raging state, a sort of 'killing trance', in which they are stronger and more agile than normal, immune to fatigue, and resistant both to injury and to the effects of any wounds they do suffer.

On the down side, berserk characters are barely able to control their actions, or to distinguish friend from foe. They are maniacally violent and homicidal, and are almost reckless of their personal safety and larger interests.


The mystic discipline of dreaming enables its practitioners to enter the dreaming state deliberately and remain lucid while dreaming. Such a dreamer can roam the World of Dreams at will, reconnoitring the collective unconscious. Skilled dreamers can take others with them, control the transformations of the dream-world, and enter the dreams of others to give messages and ask questions.

Very powerful dreamers can force dreams onto others, and even plunder the memories of dreaming persons.

Distant death

Practitioners of distant death can focus inner energy and project it to distances sometimes up to thirty metres, where it lands like a physical blow.


A mystic healer can transfer a wound, lesion, disease, or infection from another creature to himself or herself. This requires skin-to-skin or analogous contact for a few seconds. They can manage this if they and their patient are of different species, or, worse, genus, family, order, class, or phylum. But it is more difficult.

In the case of diseases, the Healer acquires the disease at the same point in its course as the patient had it. In the case of an injury, degree, not the quantity, of damage is transferred.

Healing cannot transfer genetic or metabolic disorders, poisons, pregnancies, congenital defects, scars, or the disabilities associated with imperfect healing.

Professional mystic healers are usually adepts of yoga as well as healing, for obvious reasons.

Heroic leaping

This mystic discipline enables its practioners to make a standing jump of fantastic height and length. Masters of the discipline can make broad jumps of sometimes thirty metres, and high jumps of sometimes fifteen metres.

Heroic Speed

This mystic discipline enables its practioners to gather a special store of inner energy with a few seconds' concentration. They can keep it latent for sometimes up to thirty seconds, and then release it in a brief burst of augmented agility. Masters of Heroic Speed can achieve superhuman agility, if only for very brief periods.

Heroic Strength

This mystic discipline enables its practitioners to gather a special store of inner energy with a few seconds' concentration. They can keep it latent for sometimes up to thirty seconds, and then release it in a brief burst of augmented strength. Masters of Heroic Strength can achieve superhuman strength, if only for very brief periods.

Iron Robe

This mystic discipline, a secret of a cult called the Iron Stone Men, enables the practitioner to make his skin resistant to cuts, burns, and blows.


Shapeshifters can turn themselves into animals, each of a characteristic type.


This skill, when used successfully, enables its user to see, hear, and be heard by, spirits (such as geists in his of her vicinity. What happens then depends on the character's actions and interpersonal skills.

Sometimes (on a marginal success, or if the character is boosting his or her skills with narcotics) the interactions take place while the adept is apparently in a trance. But often the adept can continue to move about, and to take actions, and to be heard as normal while talking with spirits. Use of this discipline does not make spirits visible or audible to others than the adept, but it, or the user, might induce them to make themselves visible and audible.

Fasting, narcotics, sleep deprivation, and ritual preparation can improve a poor or mediocre adept's spiritualistic powers.

Stepping Sideways

This mystic discipline allows its practitioner to 'step sideways' into another plane of existence, the Shee. It is a secret of the Leshy.


Yoga is a mystic discipline that gives its user control over bodily functions that are normally involuntary. It can be used to go into trances, slow respiratory and heartbeat to extraordinary degrees, neutralise poisons in the body, destroy diseases and infections in the body, heal wounds with great rapidity and without scarring, mend broken bones, and perform similar feats of the type attributed to yogis.

Generally, the more interesting and routinely useful feats are performed while in a trance, and take at least one an hour, sometimes several hours.


The mystic discipline of zen enables its adepts to (at least partially) disregard inconveniencies such as darkness, blindness, and obscured vision that would otherwise impare their perceptions and related activities.

Copyright © 1988-2004 Brett Evill. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.