Kotodama Spell in Liminal Chronicles | World Anvil


Roughly translated, Kotodama 言霊 means 'word spirit.'   Magic in Liminal Chronicles is based on the idea that a word, once spoken, has a spirit and it can then affect the world around it.  
Kotodama is the "folk belief that a soul dwelling in words has the supernatural power to make an idea in the human brain come true simply by verbalizing it.2".
This belief that words affect the world is behind the Japanese hesitation to speak or cause conflict.  
Silence is a virtue, and speech is a vice.2
  So, people tend to have a public and private view of things, and this reflects how they speak.   This belief that words have a spirit is also part of what is believed to make Japanese a unique language4.
        Examples of kotodama:
A thing and its word are considered the same4. A person's name is a representation of themselves. In ancient times a person would rarely give their full name to others because that could allow that person to control them2.   We find this in modern society with:
  • the avoidance of the numbers 4 (because it sounds like 'death') and 9 (because it sounds like 'pain')
  • martial arts kiai (the shout that goes with an attack to make it more powerful)
  See Notes for refrence information on this topic.


Written Kotodama

In Liminal Chronicles, when written down by a magic user, words will sparkle and flash to show that they were created as a spell.

Click and hold on the calligraphy image of the word Budo (Martial Arts) to see the effect.
Effect Casting Time
In most cases, instantaneous. Large powerful spells like major healing, take longer and sometimes repeated applications, depending on the abilities of the caster.
Dependent on the amount of ki applied.
by Zekkai Chūshin (now in public domain)

Cover image: by Odette.A.Bach (Art), AWV (text)


Author's Notes


If you'd like to learn more about the idea of kotodama, check out these resources.   1. The "Spirit" of the Japanese Language   2. THE WORD "IS" THE THING: The "Kotodama" Belief in Japanese Communication   3. THE WORD "IS" THE THING: The "Kotodama" Belief in Japanese Communication: PART II   4. Kotodama and the Kojiki: The Japanese “Word Soul” between Mythology, Spiri-tual Magic, and Political Ideology   5. Reading the Miraculous Powers of Japanese Poetry: Spells, Truth Acts, and a Medieval Buddhist Poetics of the Supernatural

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6 Nov, 2019 21:53

I *love* the concept behind the Kotodama. I can see entire magic systems or even worlds be formed around the concept :D

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
6 Nov, 2019 22:32

Glad to find a fellow fan for the concept! It was so interesting to read about! Yes! - to the magic systems, worlds, universes, multiverses - so much could be created or imagined with it.   If you haven't read much about it yet, check out the notes for some starting references. If you've read about it in other places and have the references handy, I'd love to read them!

Author of the Liminal Chronicles urban fantasy series | vssCollab very short story prompts | Author Website
7 Nov, 2019 07:57

This is really the first time I hear about the Kotodama. The closest is an idea I had about spells being living entities that you capture, nurture and unleash - somehow. :) So I am super excited to learn about something new and cool like this!   I would love to see the references but it looks like the notes are not visible to me. Maybe I need to be a subscriber or something. :X

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
8 Nov, 2019 16:14

Spells aren't so much living entities, but an extension of using the ki (life energy) that flows through all things. Putting voice to Kotodama 言霊 (word spirit) is one way that energy is released. A magic user (in the Liminal Chronicles setting) can collect the ki where the it flows into a being - thus they can direct more ki into the word, thus creating more of an effect.   But what you said about spells being living creatures you could capture sounds like a really fun offshoot! And now I understand your Kodama 木霊 (tree spirit) wrangling comment! (The words are so close in sound and both have the symbol for spirit at the end!) It is possible to steal magic from others in Liminal Chronicles - but that's very evil.   Let me know if you end up writing about such magical creatures that could be captured to fuel spell! Could they be a crop or farm animal? Or would you have to find them in the wild and convince them you were nice? Would there be a black market for them?   Evidently only I can see the notes. Sorry about that! (Had to look it up in the codex to be sure. I swear I learn something new about WA every day.) So I pasted them in the Author's Notes section above the comments. Enjoy!

Author of the Liminal Chronicles urban fantasy series | vssCollab very short story prompts | Author Website
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