Just because you are an ordinary, mundane human caught up in esoteric affairs doesn't mean you are helpless. There are several kinds of knowledge and status you can have, even in the absence of Kewl Powurz™ like actual magic or the abilities of a supernatural being.
This is the main one and the most ambiguous. You can be un-Sundered and still have psychic experiences, be haunted, or even be possessed, but it will go no further unless you are Sundered. You get Sundered by stubbornly digging into any esoteric matter you come across and by being "lucky," or by being dragged into esoteric matters by someone already Sundered, who will, by the way, need luck or care themselves to pull it off.
Once Sundered, you have no protection against esoteric events, but contrariwise you can participate in such events without prosaic interference as long as you don't push your luck and exert moderate care.
And don't mention it to anyone else unless you find that they've had adventures of the same sort themselves. What's that? How will you know? Oh, you'll know all right. Odd things they say—even their looks—will let the secret out. Keep your eyes open.
—The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis
Analogous to "gaydar," "sundar" is the ability to recognize other people as Sundered without explicit announcement. You don't just glance at someone and know; you have to converse with them for a while, to give them a chance to give those odd remarks and odd looks. It's an intuitive skill, and people vary in proficiency.
If you take or receive prana, voluntarily or involuntarily, there is a good chance you will become prana sensitive. You are then able to resist or assist in such prana transfers, recognize the presence of abnormal amounts of prana, and may go on to differentiate different aspects of prana. (Cf. Detect Psi and Analyze Psi in the FuRPiG rule set.)
If you are exposed to ghosts for some time, especially a variety of ghosts, you are likely to become ghost sensitive — you will always be able to tell a ghost from a living person if you encounter one up close, you will be able to see ghosts that are invisible to the insensitive, and you will even be able to recognize the presence of ghosts that are in a vapor-like state, not in any particular shape at all, such as bottled ghosts or ghosts haunting as a mere "presence."
It is possible to develop similar sensitivities to other classes of spirits, e.g. djinn, though these have much greater ability to pass as normal or go unnoticed — if they realize such measures need to be taken.
If you have much to do with elves, and if they like you, they are likely to tag you as an elf-friend. ("Elves" are, approximately, eldar, sidhe, and adhene.) This may be some subtle but durable glamour, or some variation on the Sundering, or a spiritual change in you. Whatever it is, humans cannot detect it, but elves can. So if you win the good will of one group of elves, you have a reliable entry to the good will of any others you encounter.
This is not an unalloyed benefit. Other fay races can also detect elf-friend status, though less reliably. If they happen to dislike elves, they will probably dislike you.
Other fay races can tag people in similar ways, though less commonly, so there are dwarf-friends, goblin-friends, djinn-friends, and so forth.
Anyone, however mundane, can have a Taken Name — a nickname distinct from their True Name, the True Name being whatever their most "spiritually official" name is. Through most Christian history, this would be one's baptismal name. A Taken Name protects you from any nymic magic used on you against your will via your True Name.
You might, however, consider taking a name geas, if given the opportunity. If this geas is put on you (for, as a mundane, you could not place it on yourself), you can bind yourself to promises by saying "I swear by my name"; this causes the geas to set a magically binding oath. This is the basic entry into the esoteric economy. Many esoterics, especially non-humans, are reluctant to deal with strangers without some such geas. "I give you my word," "On my honor," and "I swear by [supernatural patron]" can work the same way, if you bear a suitable geas (or if the patron takes an interest; you never know).
Of course, if you enter into such an oath, you are bound by its terms. A Taken Name does not protect you from the penalties of a broken name oath, because you have entered into it freely.
Lucid dreaming is the ability to be "awake in your dreams," recognize them as dreams, and control them. It is a real-world skill that most people can learn with practice. By itself, it doesn't get you anywhere esoteric, but you can use lucid dreaming to enter the Dreamworld if you know about various entrances that have been set up, such as the Seventy-Two Steps of Deeper Slumber, the Gates of Horn and Ivory, the Rainbow Bridge, or the Door of the Arrow. Simply dream these things up, based on memory or even description, and you're there.
People don't often reflect on it, but blessing and cursing are a big deal in the Bible (and of course the Inkliverse is biblical).
No one, prosaic or esoteric, pays any attention to a "bless you" at a sneeze or a "damn you" at an annoyance, except in terms of etiquette. But serious blessing and cursing get much more attention, especially in the esoteric world, and anyone can do it.
To bless is to invoke divine favor on the object, or to infuse it with holiness. To curse is the reverse. Esoterics are generally more concerned with the divine than are prosaics. Even if they don't seriously consider the possibility of divine action (which is rarely evident even in the esoteric), they are much more concerned with infusion of holiness — i.e. with divinely aspected prana. (In the case of a curse, this would be a hostile divine aspect.) Anyone might be able to dispense or channel such a thing. There are some rules of thumb for ranking the likelihood of this:
The particulars of a blessing or curse are out of the hands of the one doing the blessing or cursing. Hence specificity is useless. "God bless you and keep you" can work. "God grant that you find Xanadu" is a wish, possibly a prayer, but not a blessing. "God bless your efforts" can work, but not necessarily in any foreseeable way. What if it were really better that your effort fail? Then failure would be a blessing.
This unpredictability just makes the issue more fraught.
"Enter freely and of your own will." So Dracula to Jonathan Harker, and by consenting, however innocently, Harker lets himself in for a world of trouble. Dracula's kind of vampire is geas-bound not to attack unless the victim is, in some sense, "willing." The sense of "willing" is clearly very loose, since all it takes is for the victim to freely enter Dracula's domain or freely invite Dracula into their domain.
But, knowing that there are enemies out there with such bonds on them, and much more, knowing how to identify those enemies, even a mundane human can avoid trouble. Even if you don't know identities, you know enough to be cautious.
Of course, such behavior makes Dracula a terrible host or guest. But then he wasn't bound by any geas of hospitality. Many creatures, human and otherwise, friendly or not, are. (Many magical societies use systems of geas rather than systems of law and enforcement.) Once you are their guest or host, they are bound to treat you well ... unless you yourself break the laws of hospitality. Whether you know them or not.
So it behooves you to know them. If you don't know them for a particular case, try to be grateful, appreciative, modest, and unassuming. Don't steal, pry, make sexual advances, or, if you can help it, lie. At least, don't get caught. But don't be a doormat, since that can invite bullying.
You can tell if a hospitality-bound host or guest is benign if they are willing to cut you some slack for your mis-steps. Too bad that this knowledge can come just exactly too late.
The Inkliverse is the world of Judeo-Christian folklore, to a large degree. So it makes a difference if you are a formal and sincere member of the Old or New Covenant. Being a Muslim, Zoroastrian, or other theist is also useful. This is because:
It is even better, of course, if you are knowledgeable. Better still if you are a solid adherent, far gone in the service of Heaven. Only the flip side of that is that you are therefore a more useful piece in Heaven's aeonean chess game with Hell, and so more likely to be shoved out into play. But Heaven wouldn't do that to you unless you could cope, right?
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010