The main forms of spiritual predation are prana-theft, spirit-drinking, and spirit-eating.
Mortals, undead, ghosts, ka'u, and jinn are all capable of prana-theft and spirit-drinking. So are almost any incarnate folk, eldila, and even some esoteric animals, but they are not discussed here. Vampirism is only the most famous form of spiritual predation.
Prana is also known as chi, ki, mana, numen, vis, vital spirit, etc. It is available from mortals, undead, ghosts, ka'u, and jinn.
Spirit-drinking is a generalization of the ghost-drinking described under The Ghost Trade, based on the novel Expiration Date by Tim Powers. The spirits are available from undead, ghosts, ka'u, and jinn, but not living mortals.
("Undead" are ghosts animating their bodies, even though those bodies are dead. See the Walking Dead of Expiration Date or the zombies of the Discworld books.)
Possible modes of attack for prana-theft and spirit-drinking are:
Each mode of attack has many styles, strongly conditioned by the traditions of the attacker.
Anyone can teach themselves prana-theft, once they are sufficiently aware of prana itself. Various forms of psychic skill and meditation training can accomplish this. Being the victim of prana-theft oneself will almost always accomplish this.
The attacker generally prefers to have a psychological advantage over the victim, as well as any tactical advantage. It is useful if the victim is of unclear mind, or at least off their guard. It is even more useful if they regard the attacker with dread, guilt, desire, or as an authority – anything but an opponent. A clear-minded victim who recognizes the attacker as an opponent is capable of resistance, even on their first occasion of prana-theft (though they may not know what they are resisting).
The extra prana gives the predator greater energy and health. A high-enough steady intake may even retard or temporarily reverse aging. Sleep, rest, and eating become temporarily unnecessary; predators with a high enough intake may therefore develop eating and sleeping disorders. While not physically addictive, the practice is habit-forming.
At a minimum, losing prana causes lethergy and inhibits the practice of martial arts, psychic powers, magic, and any other disciplines that expend prana. Sustained and severe draining causes anomie, depression, exhaustion, coma, and, eventually, death. Since it is easier to steal prana from someone you have stolen from before, repeated attacks are common.
Nightmares (old sense), night-hags, and incubi (old sense) are prana thieves making aggressive attacks in dream.
Succubi and incubi (erotic sense) are prana thieves making erotic attacks in dream.
Disembodied attackers often appear through telepathic hallucination or through glamour (optical telekinesis). These may fail to have reflections or shadows.
Some disembodied vampires, during an astral attack, produce temporary ectoplasmic bodies, with which they actually pierce the skin and drink blood. They then use the blood to increase the solidity and fleshiness of their bodies. They could get the same effect from eating normal food, but there would be no gain of prana.
An ectoplasmic body can readily change shape or dissolve like mist, giving rise to the reports of these feats by vampires.
An astral vampire with an ectoplasmic body may take on the tell-tale physical features – such as fangs or backward feet – for vampires in their culture.
Because one can learn how to steal prana by being robbed by prana-thieves, vampirism gives the appearance of being contagious.
See also Vampires.
The best-known spiritual predators are classic vampires, characterized by drinking their victim's blood. The utility of this practice is that it puts the vampire in a strongly dominant position over the victim, and both know it; this greatly aids the act of prana theft.
Most vampires do not realize this. They drink blood because That Is What We Do, out of tradition. They may think they really need the blood, and know nothing about prana, or they may think that blood-drinking is the best or only way to take the prana.
Even if a vampire realizes blood-drinking is not strictly necessary to taking prana, they may not have an alternative. Blood-drinking is the way they know how to do it; it takes an unusually talented prana manipulator to come up with a new form of prana-taking.
In cases of dream vampirism and most cases of astral vampirism, there is no real blood-drinking; the act is part of the dream or of the visionary experience. The victim still often exhibits pallor and low blood-pressure, from shock.
See also The Ghost Trade.
Attackers must first be able to be aware of spirits. This is an issue only for mortals, but once again simple exposure is enough. Being haunted or being involved with ghost-drinkers is generally enough to teach one to notice spirits. Psychic practice, meditation, and dramatic spiritual encounters may also sensitize one.
Physically embodied attackers need only inhale the spirit. This requires the spirit to have a suitable physical form. Ghosts and human ka'u have this automatically, their default shape being a small, semi-cohesive volume of air. The default form of a djinn or djinnish ka is a spinning mass of air or fire, of greatly variable size; such victims must be forced or tricked into more managable forms.
For disembodied attackers, the mode of assimilation is simple and self-evident – to them.
The extra prana taken in with the spirits results in the same effects as on prana thieves. In addition, the attacker gets whatever prana the consumed spirit generates. When the spirit is assimilated, their life flashes before the attacker's mental eyes, though only general impressions and highlights remain afterward, unless the attacker is looking for specific information. The attacker also experiences a drug-like rush. This and the prana boost make spirit-drinking even more habit-forming than prana-theft.
If a spirit-drinker becomes mentally weakened (through intoxication, deep fatigue, illness, injury, or the like), they may suffer confusion as the memories of some of their victims surface in their minds. When spirit-drinkers are in such a state, bystanders may hear a sound as of a distant crowd when they open their mouths, and they may seem to speak in a chorus.
The consumed spirit loses all prana to the spirit-drinker and enters a semi-conscious state, suffering dark, claustrophobic nightmares and lack of rational thought. The consumed spirit produces prana at a much-reduced rate, and all this goes to the attacker. This condition persists until the spirit is ejected or the consumer dies.
This condition should not be confused with spirit-eating practiced by demons on lesser demons or the damned, which permanently compromises the victim's individuality. Spirit-eating is discussed next.
There was, no doubt, a confusion of persons in damnation: what Pantheists falsely hoped
of Heaven bad men really received in Hell. They were melted down
into their Master, as a lead soldier slips down and loses his shape in the ladle
held over the gas ring. The question whether Satan, or one whom Satan has
digested, is acting on any given occasion, has in the long run no clear
— Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
Only damned spirits can be eaten, and generally only a damned spirit would eat another. The normal culinary relationship is a devil eating a damned mortal soul, though it is possible for devils or damned souls to eat their own kind, or even for a soul to eat a devil if it encounters one weak enough.
Oh, to get one's teeth again into a Farinata, a Henry VIII, or even a Hitler! There was real crackling there; something to crunch; a rage, an egotism, a cruelty only just less robust than our own. It put up a delicious resistance to being devoured. It warmed your inwards when you'd got it down.
— "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," C. S. Lewis
The digestive process is corrosive, but the predator gets access to all the prey's current prana and such prana-generating capacity, memories, and skills as survive digestion. The predator can use the memories and skills within its own personality or it can deploy them in a subsidiary personality based on the prey, which can act without the immediate supervision of the main personality, in the manner of a ka. The predator can impose any of its own emotions, desires, and goals on the subsidiary, and examine the thoughts as if they were its own. They are its own.
If the remains of Weston were, at such moments, speaking through the lips
of the Un-man, then Weston was not now a man at all. The forces which had begun,
perhaps years ago, to eat away his humanity had now completed their work. The
intoxicated will which had been slowly poisoning the intelligence and the
affections had now at last poisoned itself and the whole psychic organism had
fallen to pieces. Only a ghost was left – an everlasting unrest, a crumbling, a
ruin, an odour of decay. "And this," thought Ransom, "might be my destination;
— Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
The prey's identity is permanently damaged. When it exists as a consciousness of any sort, it is always completely on the terms of the predator, as described in the preceeding section. It can protest against this condition, if permitted that much volition, but this never does anything except amuse the predator and maybe generate some extra prana.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010