Song of the Earth
The Dreamspeakers are one of the Nine Traditions. Their focus sphere is Spirit. Jahan was the Dreamspeaker member of the Children of Vision until he became a Virtual Adept; Jianyu Zheung was the Dreamspeaker member of the Avengers. Other Dreamspeakers include Jessica Wilder and formerly Trista Hanford.
Spirit-talkers, animal friends, brothers to wind, and sisters to Earth — these mages walk the boundaries between our physical world and the realm of dreams, gathering wisdom and skill from the spirits that are native to the earth, the sky, and the water. Dreamspeakers are often pigeonholed as shamans, and the name fits. They’re the intermediaries between humanity and Spirit, communicating between the two worlds, maintaining balance, and keeping the relationships between the inhabitants of both realms in their proper state of stasis or flux. Of all the Traditions, the Dreamspeakers have the most difficult role and the strongest centering, grounding influence.
In the beginning, there were people in all lands who knew the way to cross to the spirit lands and communicate with the totems of the land, tribal protectors, and ancestor spirits. These people were magicians and medicine men among their own groups. They didn’t speak of the many other dream-walkers they encountered in the spirit realms, though, and they didn’t gather in groups often. When the Convocation came together to form the Traditions, the mages recognized that these people needed to be a part of the forming alliance, despite how primitive they seemed. The shamans who answered the call became the first Dreamspeakers.
Those Dreamspeakers who joined the Traditions found reason to regret it, though. From the first, the Eurocentric Traditions, led by the prejudices of the Order of Hermes, pressed all of the various spiritual groups into one cachet. The Europeans wouldn’t bother to understand the “primitive and inferior” ways of the many visitors and labeled them all as Dreamspeakers. For their pat, the Dreamspeakers saw the Traditionalists as selfish, greedy, and power-hungry, unconcerned with the sublime aspects of spiritualism and nearly as bad as the Order of Reason. Only the strong vision of the scientific annihilation of their cultures kept the Dreamspeakers involved with the Council — and even that wasn’t enough. By the 1700s, the Dreamspeakers had so splintered in their relations with the racists Traditionalists that fully half the delegation left to return to their native peoples. This schism resulted in the demise of many Dreamspeakers and a rift between Tradition and Council that hasn’t yet healed. By the modern age, the Dreamspeakers have realized that they can survive only with the help of the Council, yet the Council has long turned a deaf ear to them. Prophecy tells that the Council will learn from its errors and finally come to accept the Dreamspeakers — but it may not be in time to save all that the dreamers hold dear.
Of all the Traditions, the Dreamspeakers have arguably undergone the least change. Most members of the group still revere the ancient spirits, old rites, and sacred places. They remember the names of gods and the faces of legends. The powerful oral history and vivid dream-craft of the Dreamspeakers lets them retain a great hereditary knowledge of their ways, and some factions see themselves as reincarnations of great shamans or even personifications of spirits in flesh. With drum and fire, chants and fetishes, the Dreamspeakers tap always into the same ancient Dream that has guided them for eternity.
The Dreamspeakers’ role has gotten much more difficult recently. The Gauntlet, the curtain dividing the physical world from the spiritual, has become much harder to cross. In cities and places where disbelief is strong, it’s almost impossible to pass into the spirit worlds. Even in sacred groves and deserts, stepping into the dream requires more effort than it ever has before. The eldest Dreamspeakers are concerned about this change, and the younger mages see their spirit-council fires as they meet to discuss how best to deal with this new trouble.
Shamanism isn’t limited to Native Americans and African aborigines. Every culture on Earth has a few people who can communicate with the spirits of the land, and they all do so in very different ways. Even so, Dreamspeakers all have a deep love for their home, whether they call the entire Earth home or just a corner of it. Many mages of this Tradition are active conservationists, seeking to preserve what’s left of the wilderness or even to reclaim some of the land that has been developed already. Their connection to the spirits generally shows itself when the mages are young, sometimes in the form of imaginary animal friends, or it begins to manifest when the mage hits puberty. Most young Dreamspeakers go out on a quest to find someone who can teach them how to understand their visions and make sense of their new lives.
Since the first Dreamspeakers came to the Council, the leadership hasn’t gotten much more formal. The Tradition has always been organized loosely at best, deferring leadership to its most respected members almost by unspoken accord. Meetings of the entire Tradition are rare. Before the Gauntlet was strengthened, these meetings would take place in the spirit world, with totems and ancestor spirits sitting in and lending their wisdom as well. Now, however, the Dreamspeakers gather in the physical plane, letting each other know of the time and place of the meeting through dreams and visions.
Dreamspeakers profess as many different factions as there are forms of spiritualism or shamanism. Among them are:
Keepers of the Sacred Fire, in many ways the Dreamspeakers that most personify the Tradition, remain among their native cultures to keep their root alive. They accept that the world has moved on, but continue to support the original practices and heritages of their homes.
The Solitaries are isolationists who remove themselves to the desolate places of the Earth, there to survive in pure communion with the land. They exercise a strident drive to separate the Dream from the modern world that would destroy it. Many take young Initiates into the wastes to teach through vision-quests, then return to guide their native societies back to the Dreaming way.
The radical Ghost Wheel Society argues that the modern world is simply the natural progress of the world, and that the Dreamspeakers must embrace the medicine of the machine. These rugged few look to technology and its underlying symbols for spirits. The techno-shamans of the Ghost Wheel embrace technology and its benefits, but they marry it to their own vision of spirituality. Naturally, they’re treated with suspicion (at least) by much of the rest of the Tradition.
Outspoken activists and warriors join the Red Spear Society, which includes those Dreamspeakers who left the Tradition council but feel a desire to remain in contact with the rest of their allies. These extremists take the war directly to their perceived oppressors, and they lash out against anyone who would destroy their way of life. they direct their energy against the Technocracy primarily, but they attack Traditionalists or even Sleepers of selfish and unfeeling demeanor as need dictates.
Lastly, the wandering storytellers of the Baruti keep old myths and legends alive. Before science explained the world, stories told of creation, tricksters, discovery, love, and mischance. The Baruti retain these stories, and they memorize the new lore o the modern Dreamspeakers as well. in keeping lore and ancient wisdom alive, the Baruti hold many secrets, and they also retain a distinct vision of the unformed world before the coming of science. Indeed, as they say, even though the story can’t be true, it’s the way that things happen.
There’s infinitely more to this world than the things anyone can touch. Beyond the edges of vision are beings that have been with us for aeons, and they’re bound up in the workings and the health of the world. The Dreamspeakers recognize this fact, and they honor the spirits. They’re the gatekeepers between the two planes, serving as communicators and go-betweens. If either side of the Gauntlet is neglected, both will suffer, so the Dreamspeakers balance the two. The balance sometimes requires the mage to perform actions that seem irrational or trivial; other times the mage must make a sacrifice to keep the worlds in harmony. Too many people have forgotten the existence of the spirits of the land, and the Dreamspeakers must always remember for themselves and for everyone else.
Shamanism is the solitary profession almost by definition. There are no group tours into the spirit world. The Dreamspeakers suffer from this lack of cohesion. Because there isn’t really a group identity, there aren’t any group goal or unified movement toward a specific point. The potential power of the Tradition is diffused into many small vessels instead of poured into a larger, more effective channel. On the other hand, all Dreamspeakers are working on some level to counteract the strengthening of the Gauntlet, the other weakness that plagues this Tradition. With access to the spirit world so limited, the shaman-mages have lost access to much of their magical strength. The Dreamspeakers’ inability to even understand one another despite their unification as a single Tradition compounds this loss. They all revere and work for the greater balance of the world yet their approaches are so varied and intuitive that they can’t work together effectively.
Theories And Practices:
In their hearts, the Dreamspeakers all hear the voice of the world — its invisible pulse, the surge of spirits, the rhythm of nature, and the slumbering power of the great Earth. Some answer to totems, others to capricious spirits of natural places. A few commune with the modern spirit of man, the symbols and lines that technology calls forth. In every case, though, magic comes from the Dream, whatever its given name. The Dreamspeakers draw out the images and archetypes known unconsciously by all humanity.
Primitive isn’t now and never has been a word that accurately or wholly describes these mages. They may use methods that pre-technological societies used to communicate with things other people can’t see, but their grasp of reality and the modern world is startlingly strong. In order to understand what’s happening to the dream realms and to interpret the messages of the spirits, the Dreamspeakers have to be intimately familiar with the workings of the physical world. Besides, it doesn’t do anyone any good if a shaman in Alaska has a message for a Sleeper in Venezuela and can’t pick up a phone or send an email to get the message across.
Standing with one foot in this world and one foot across the Gauntlet, the Dreamspeakers have a unique understanding of the consequences of their actions. not only do they see what happens among people and societies, they see the ripples caused in the spirit world, which almost always last much longer. This dual vision gives the Tradition a deep sense of duty — duty to Sleepers, Awakened, and the spirits they deal with. With the fate of two worlds directly on the shoulders, the Dreamspeakers know that they must choose carefully and wisely when making decisions.