Totem Spirits of Tairos Myth in Tairos | World Anvil

Totem Spirits of Tairos

You think to kneel at the alter of Atel or Galadir somehow honors the forests? You think a prayer to Corellon is a prayer to the stars? My sun! My mountains! And, MY moon have more love for you than Sandor, Moradin or Wynte ever could. MINE are the gods of Tairos. YOURS the are gods of deceptions, lies, and vanity.
— Godfrey, Nature's Hand
Divinity is far from an alien concept in Tairos. Old Gods like the Scorned One and Krutilix have their stories etched into the ancient walls of caves and lonely monoliths. The New Gods were the architects of the modern world and though their voices have been silenced their impact is impossible to ignore.
Neither the Old Gods or the New could ever have been said to truly be caretakers of the soul of Tairos itself. They were too deeply devoted to their own agendas to be worthy of that great responsibility. It falls to nature itself to be her own shepherd, her own guardian. That is what the Totem Spirits of Tairos are, custodians of the primal world who are without a desire for power or worship. Instead, they are moved only by passion, instinct, urge and hunger.
The nature of these entities has been a source of debate since the reign of Dragons and the Empire of Skyrir. The Old Gods were more akin to alien beings with terrifying innate abilities and a master of forbidden science. It was not worship that sustained them, rather they seemed to feed off of reality itself. They were said to care only for their insidious vision of existence and progress toward their bleak apocalypse was the only worship they deigned to receive. The New Gods were something else entirely. Believed to be beings birthed from the fabric of magic. They were living things, in a strange way. Magical entities whose power waxed and waned based on investments of mortal worship and access to the raw power of the cosmic Leylines. The totem spirits represent a third type of god. Their very underpinnings are linked to the living worlds, to life itself, and scholars believe they are far older than any deity.
Another key difference compared to the gods is that Totem Spirits are not nearly as dependent on the Leylines for interacting with the mortal world. In fact, they dwell so close to material reality that their voices and actions can be much more easily heard or felt than those of the divinities. They exist in that overlapping layer of the cosmos that rests upon our own. It is the place where ghosts walk; known to some as the ethereal plane and to others as the spirit realm. A duality that mirrors the material universe yet is sculpted by emotion and magic. While this has the benefit of allowing totems much easier access to the living realm it has a very tangible downside as well. The veil between the spirit world and the mortal one is so thin that the damage in one can seep into the other with dire effects. While a bountiful rain might bring strong growth and harmony to a totem's place of power in physical reality as well as in the ether a long-lasting drought or toxic event would have an equally negative impact on both sides too. This is why totems do not depend on the worship of mortals but instead rely on their guardianship to protect and bolster their places of power.
The nature of good and evil is often more clearly defined with the gods as well. Selfish and cruel deities easily seen for what they are while goodly patrons are just as distinguishable. While it is true that one man's good may be another's evil the fact of the matter is that the agenda is of that god's choosing. With the totem spirits the line between good and evil blurred. For most of the spirits that means operating somewhere along a spectrum of preserver to predator. For example, Glitterwing the Butterfly cherishes life and mirth while Brother Jaguar is a peerless stalker but both work toward maintaining the perfect balance between all things. Grandfather Bear is perhaps the epitome of this seemingly contradictory existence. He is a fierce defender of the wild and all its kin yet he is also a ruthless master of his realm who feeds on what he pleases. Nature is both kind and cruel, beautiful and terrible. Such is the balance they uphold so that the system may continue unto eternity.
That being said, true evil does exist within the ranks of the totem spirits. They are known as by many names: The Broken Ones, The Corrupted, The Oblivion Spirits. Maintaining the balance is the most important task that Bear and all his kin work toward in their own way. They know that life cannot endure if the system swings too much toward one end or the other. Without death their can only be stagnation, overpopulation and suffering. Without preservation life cannot evolve, prosper and seek knowledge. The Corrupted are those totems who have lost sight of the balance and become obsessed with their task to the point of derangement. These fallen spirits seek only to force their idea of perfection upon nature while breaking the back of anything that might threaten their vision. They are led by the first to fall, Grandmother Hydra, who perfectly represents the many-faceted madness that is their way of thinking. The old stories say that Hydra struggled to understand what the point of her existence was if all her efforts were always to be diluted by those of Bear and the others. Her many heads craved to let loose and fully embrace her destructive potential but such forbidden by Bear for it would jeopardize the balance. It's said she scoured the ether and mortal realm for answers but found known. It was only when she stood on the shores of the Endless Night and stared deep into their hungry waves that she found her answer. The stories... they say she entered Endless Night and rather than be erased as many others had been she returned. Or, something did. The Hydra that came back claimed to know a truth that the others didn't. That their purpose was not to maintain a balance but to decide which way the scales should tip. Grandmother Hydra came back to the ether as a thing of pure, unending, hunger. And she spread that message to other totems, teaching them to embrace their passion rather than temper it. She taught them to gluttonously devour all they desired and to drink deeply of the Endless Night. To harness its hunger to fuel their feasts. And so, the Corrupted Ones were born.
In modern Tairos the responsibility of enacting the totem spirits will upon the land falls to dedicated caretakers such as Rangers and Druids. They're able to channel the power of nature and its spirit through the leylines just like traditional spellcasters. Thanks to The Queen's Rebuke the power of nature is just as hazardous to reach for and while Manacite is a viable fuel for druidic magic the spirits provide much more natural options as well. They can imbue trees, leaves, lakes, stones and other such objects with mana free of corruption. If a totem spirits place of power is sufficient enough they can even become fonts of pure mana as well. Such sites would be cherished places to the custodians of Tairos an defended to the death. Some followers of the spirits even believe that if enough fonts are established that they might even restore the damaged leylines and returning balance to magic.


Knowledge of the totem spirits is extremely limited. Even during the time before the Queen's Rebuke the nature of the spirits was only truly known by those that followed their teachings as well as expert sages and Melanthran scholars.

Variations & Mutation

Just like with the stories of the New Gods there are variations in the tales told about the totem spirits as well. A totem is likely to be the protagonist in their own version of history while easily being viewed as the trickster, mentor, ancillary character or even villain in that of another totem. There are a few facts that are generally consistent though and that's the role of Grandfather Bear as patriarch of the totems and Grandmother Hydra as the corrupter.  
  This is not the case in the stories told by those that carry out the will of the Corrupted Ones. Their versions of the nature of totems are often self-centered and place their individual identities above that of anything else. Some even go so far as to claim their superiority over Grandmother herself. In their stories Bear and his ilk are stuck in a tragic cycle preserving a system that was never meant to be. It's as if they are all participants in a great race and Bear's kin are only concerned about maintaining the starting line.

Cultural Reception

To the Frostmerites the totems spirits are very real and govern every aspect of life. While they may be preferential to spirits with representations common to their bitter climate (such as wolf, eagle, ram, whale and of course bear) they acknowledge and respect all of them, even those that might be alien to them (spirits such as butterfly, toad, monkey and snail).  
  There are some people that have aversions to the totems that range of mild superstition to outright hatred. The people of the logging community of Rylan have clashed countless times with followers of the totems. The elven peasantry see little difference between demons and totems; a notion that was likely engineered by the nobles of Melanthris. Tengu are very cautious about the concept of totem spirits as the idea is very alien to them. The Duergar of Cinderstone see them as another spiritual entity to be harnessed and enslaved just like the devils and demons they already shackle.

In Literature

Totems are rarely, if ever, credited in any of the holy text of the New Gods or the Old. They are also not often spoke of in magical tomes or the histories of the oldest races. This has never been seen as an issue to the totems (with the rare exception of spirits such as Peacock, Rooster, and of course, His Mycological Majesty) because they are not motivated by praise or legacy.

In Art

Most art depicting the totems comes from cave drawings and stone-carved glyphs. The followers of the totems rarely feel the need to create lasting works of vanity for their patrons (again, there are a few exceptions.)

Most Well-Known Totem Spirits

*Grandfather Bear
*Brother Wolf
*Glitterwing the Butterfly
*Old Father the Whale (believed to have been the leader of the totems prior to Bear)
*Mammoth, He Who Thunders
*Brother Falcon
*Dragon Fly, the Witch Doctor
*Boss Crab
*Brother Croatoan the Turtle
*Auntie Spider (often an antagonist in the stories of other totems for she is said to desire Grand Father's seat)

Most Well-Known Corrupted Ones

*Grandmother Hydra
*Sister Hyena
*Old Crone the Gloomwing Moth
*The Viper Sisters
*King Lion (Hydra's greatest foe within her pantheon. He believes the secrets of Endless Night were meant for him)

Cover image: Totem Spirits of Tairos by Ric Ow


Please Login in order to comment!
Powered by World Anvil