Soothsayers of the Passing Profession in Creus | World Anvil
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Soothsayers of the Passing

"Hmph." Rigana flipped through the book without much in the way of interest, before slamming it shut and pushing it across the table. "Speaking with the dead. What nonsense."   Alistair didn't glance up from the pages he was flipping through. "Ten years ago they said the same about being able to lift objects and boil water with the power of our thoughts. Yet here we are, as magi." The wizard spotted a passage. "Cumin in incense? Sounds like it would make people sneeze. Why did these old Soothsayers keep burning culinary spices?"   "You sure they weren't just cooks?" Rigana pulled the next book off the stack. "Unlike this smoke and wavy nonsense, Magic is grounded in logic. The manipulation of energy, the tapping of leylines, the projection of effort made real. There are binding rules and theory that we're developing, not this, 'oh you can talk to your dead father because it would be nice if the last thing you told him wasn't to die in a fire' wishful thinking."   "That sounded sharp enough to have come from personal experience, Rigana." Alistair took down more notes. "Either way. Part of our development of theory is to confirm what we can and can't do, and part of that is going through the old records and seeing if there's anything there we can try out. There's no harm in it. If Magic can let us speak to the dead, that's just another service we can get paid for."   The other magus leaned back in her chair, then put a finger to her throat, coughing. "Alistaiiiiir." She spoke in a breathy and ethereal voice, far higher than she would normally be capable. "This is your dead girlfriend from back hoooome."   Alistair stayed focused on the text in front of him. "I didn't have a girlfriend back home before I came to the Capital. Phanae is just a friend, and she's still alive."   Rigana ignored the parry. "I wanted to let everyone know.....that Alistair Girault has a small-" Rigana ducked as Alistair flicked his quill at her face.



Depending on the specific religious tradition being followed, Soothsayers had a range of qualifications, either being venerated in the religious priesthood and of age to where people believed they could actually speak with the dead, or young children who expressed childhood visions of speaking with the dead, or so forth. While the role of the Soothsayer of the Passing was widespread across the religious and funerary customs of most of Etoile, prior to the petty kingdom era, the decision of who was put in the role was wildly variant.

Career Progression

The specifics of a Soothsayer's position in their religious hierarchy is dependent on the religion at hand; in some religions, the soothsayer was the most respected and senior of the priesthood; in others, it was merely an entry-level position on the way to formal investiture in the religious brotherhood.

Payment & Reimbursement

Soothsayers were typically paid for their services on-site at the funerals they serve, adhering to ancient custom and tradition. This, quite obviously, led to the rise of hucksters pretending to be soothsayers, a problem that was repeated fodder for comedic song and stageplay, as a sufficiently skilled huckster could pass for a sanctified soothsayer relatively easily.



A universal feature of human funerary custom is the veneration of the recently deceased. One aspect of this veneration is the desire to speak with the dead person 'one last time', a way to resolve final conflicts, tie up loose ends, and similar, a regularly expressed wish of those that are still living. The practice of soothsayers was universal in Saibh even in prehistory, with virtually all cultures having a soothsayer type role presiding over or assisting in funeral rites.    The soothsayer varied in how central they were to the funeral rites, but inevitably there would be a part of the funeral where the soothsayer would meditate, burn some type of incense, and begin to 'speak' in the voice of the deceased, conversing with those present, receiving final goodbyes, and assauaging any leftover guilts. While the religions of the era believed that this conversation with the dead was literal, modern times only consider it a soothing, theraputic ritual, rather than a literal act of communicating with the dead.

Social Status

Soothsayers were typically highly thought of in old societies, and were typically people that the people held in considerable trust (as who else could be entrusted with channeling the spirits of the dead?). The rise of the Principality of Etoile and the elevation of Progress brought with it a general disfavor against old superstition and tradition; Soothsayers were not banned, but instead were subject to rationalist attack and mockery. While there are no extant Soothsayers of the Passage, they continue to exist in conversation as a derisive reference to outdated mythologies, ex. 'next you'll want me to become a Soothsayer'.


The Soothsayer of the Passage is well referenced in the oldest of historical texts, a seemingly permanent fixture of all societies that developed the written word by the time history began being actively documented, around the year Zero. Equally apparent in these writings was the cottage industry of commentary regarding Soothsayers - questioning of their purpose by the intelligentsia, defenses of their practice by the clergy, criminal prosecutions of confidence men pretending to be Soothsayers, criminal prosecutions of Soothsayers themselves for performing poorly, and so forth. Regardless of the commentariat, the profession continued to both endure and be used in various political schemes, as for many years in the most religious of societies, statements by Soothsayers speaking as a deceased person had the same weight as if that deceased person spoke those words themselves. In hindsight this was an obvious problem, and historians can point to multiple wars and crises as a result of a Soothsayer saying inopportune things, whether they did so on their own initiative or were enticed into such.   The rise of Progress after The War of Unification represented a permanent cultural shift towards Progress, the rise of rational thought and justified reason over superstitious tradition. No religion was actively persecuted under the new Principality, but it simply became unfashionable to openly espouse belief in such things as speaking to the dead, especially after several journal reports revealed many Soothsayers to be simply extremely skilled fabricators, when put under question as to certain details of 'their' former lives. No active Soothsayers are present and working in the modern Etoile, but records of their various practices were archived in a project led by The Academy of Etoile around the year 680, when the last Soothsayer finally retired.   The rise of Magic in 715 has led to some interest in seeing whether speaking to the dead is actually possible, through use of Magic; research towards this effect has been inconclusive.



The details of the rituals would typically vary, but virtually all Soothsayers burnt various mixtures of incense in hanging censers as part of the communion with the dead. Some would use a blade to draw their own blood into the censer, while others would use animal blood for the purpose, but it was generally agreed that blood was an important part of the ritual.


Soothsayers would conduct their rituals at funerals, whether the simple funerals of the indigent being buried in a pauper's field, or the grand funerals of pre-Etoilean lords and ladies. What was important was some aspect of physical touch with the corpse; a soothsayer would never be brought to a funeral if there was no body to be buried (naval accidents, volcanic misadventure, etc).

Provided Services

Soothsayers of the Passage provide communion with the dead, the ability for the living to express their last thoughts and settle their feelings. The best Soothsayers were capable of doing this convincingly, leading many in the past to consider their ability to speak to the dead real and magical. Records indicate that this was a mixture of confidence tactics and extensive research; the best soothsayers were actors, able to convincingly play a role of a person in their final hours, and with the research required to pull off the act for multiple hours at a funeral.    While this was merely ritual for most funerals, in some of the theocracies that were present across Saibh in the era of petty kingdoms, the words of a Soothsayer had legal power, and could prompt subsequent action. Soothsayers that made themselves open to manipulation could find themselves paid off handsomely to say the correct words, and incidents of this happening in the historical record are infamous - the war of the Third Crusade in the 2nd century, the soldiers of which captured Qedem, Capital of the Ancients, was likely sparked by such a manipulation.
None, currently
Soothsaying is entirely legal and remains so in the modern Etoile, but what is illegal is to make any factitious claims that the words of a Soothsayer are the literal words or wishes of the departed. This, naturally, dampens enthusiasm for the tradition.

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