In shadowrun we have both shamanistic spellcasters and hermetic spellcasters. Now thanks to different tv shows,... I can imagine quite easily how a hermetic spellcaster casts his spells (with hand signs / mumbling,.....).

But for a shamanistic I'm not so sure. For shinto priests I can imagine sheets of paper, their strange staffs and small bells being used with a sing song, but for other types of shamans I'm not sure how to imagine it.

So my question is: Is there ANY fluff info on how the spells of shamans are cast? (if an example is needed: A more eastern oriented rat shaman as example).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Which edition are you asking about and did you read the respective book on magic? \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt May 12 '17 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt I have 4th and 5h and read through both, but aside from general infos what a tradition is about (so just general description) I did not find anything. Thus not any infos or examples how casting a spell looks like fluffwise (if they dance, or sing,...). As SR often "uses" previous edition fluff and rules unmentioned (and not changing fluff too much between editions) I would say regardless of edition the info is holding true if there is any printed anywhere. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. May 12 '17 at 14:14

Short Answer

Your best source of fluff would be the novels. Most of my collection has gone missing, so I can't make any particular recommendations. Be aware that they don't always follow the rules of the game very closely - consider them inspiration alone.

Long Answer

SR4 and SR5 do not make much of a distinction in the way spellcasters of different traditions function, because they've homogenized the rules for all traditions in an effort to create more diversity in traditions. Effectively, each character can cast his spells differently, so it's left as a subject for the player and GM to determine.

Each version features rules to "notice" spellcasting, usually based on the Force of the spell, but later editions have no hard specifics on what it is that attracts a person's attention to a spell-in-progress.

In previous editions, there were significant differences in the way spellcasters were described, because they were initially only two traditions - Hermetic Mages and Shamans. The most notable difference was that hermetics usually included hand motions, making casting pretty obvious and serving as the source of the (sometimes pejorative) term "finger wigglers". They would often use specific languages or special markings.

Shaman casting, on the other hand, was made obvious by the manifestation of a "shamanic mask". All shamans (and only shamans, in previous editions) had a totem animal. When they cast spells, the magical energy would have a side effect of making them look like their totem animal - Eagle shaman would appear to have clawed hands and a beak-like nose, Bear shaman would appear burlier and seem to have more hair, and so forth.

However, none of this is enforced by the rules, as spellcasting components are in other games (like D&D's verbal, material, and somatic components). These "traditional" components become part of Shadowrun spellcasting as either a Geas (to recover lost Magic), Centering (to improve effectiveness), and Fetishes (spells explicitly learned with a specific, built-in crutch to make them easier to cast).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Geas, Centering and Fetishes are explained in detail in Street Magic for 4th edition. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras May 12 '17 at 16:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras - I know, but I was speaking of them in general terms as they relate to prior editions. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. May 12 '17 at 18:10

Recent versions of Shadowrun have not gone into any significant detail on what Shamanism looks like, because it is explicitly based on RL Shamanism. The idea is that practicing Shamans suddenly found their rituals and rites were producing obvious magical effects after the Awakening. And then many were approached by the actual Spirit Totem they had already been following prior to the Awakening. The only thing that really changed is that their spirit totems taught them new rituals to produce new effects (new spells), but all followed the same patterns they were already using.

(In fairness, Shadowrun doesn't go very deep into what most practices look like for this exact reason. The Shinto tradition mimics RL Shintoism, same with Vodou, Wicca, Hinduism, Christian Theurgy, and basically all the rest)

Thus, Shamanism in Shadowrun looks a lot like Shamanism does in the real world. Because that's exactly what it is...Real World Shamanism, that has obvious magical output.

So, to give a very brief primer on what that might look like...

Shamanistic rituals encompass an extremely broad variety of actions and behaviors, partly because 'Shaman' is a term applied everywhere from Mongolia to the Native American tribes. Half a world away, there are obviously going to be enormous differences in how they work. But there are a few common threads...

Shaman often follow ritualistic behaviors, even when not trying to do magic. This may include restrictions on diet, behaviors, and so on. Some of this is purely practical, because some of the psychoactive substances used in shamanistic rituals can react very badly with certain kinds of food. For example, Tyramine, a compound found in many fermented foods and preserved meats, reacts very poorly with the active compounds in an Ayahuasca brew, and can cause a massive, potentially lethal blood pressure spike.

As for actual 'spellcasting...'

Contacting spirits would generally be done by way of meditation, often surrounded by incense or, at times, psychoactive substances. In essence, to 'contact the spirit realm,' the Shaman puts themselves into a trance either via a form of autohypnosis, or using psychoactive compounds to induce the state.

Casting 'spells' could be interpreted through the lens of the more active shamanistic rituals which may include dance, music, chanting, and other such things. If the particular shamanistic tradition in question includes Totem Animals, then the movements during these rituals may be intended as a mimicry of that totem. Steady stalking motions for a Wolf, broad movements of the arms for an Eagle, and so on.

So, I clearly can't provide a full primer on RL Shamanism here, it's far too broad of a subject, but hopefully this is enough to get you started. Beyond this, I'd recommend hitting up Wikipedia and Youtube.

But, just to give an example...

Suppose two spellcasters were trying to cast a Fireball spell...a hermetic caster and a shaman. (Note: This is me-generated flavor text....descriptive, not prescriptive)

The Hermetic Mage would perform very precise movements, recite a precise magical formula, perhaps offer specific material components, and use these to shape his magic to create the fireball. Because long research and study has shown that this is how you cast Fireball.

The Shaman would perform movements intended to evoke the idea of Fire, possibly chanting and vocalizing in a way that sounds reminiscent of the crackle of fire, intended to call the Spirits of Fire to come together into a weapon that he may cast at his enemies. If he uses reagents, it would be something like leaves or dried wood...something that fire would catch on quickly. The spell might not even look exactly the same every time it is cast...

  • \$\begingroup\$ To tack in this aside: This is why the Shamans were among the first to master magic...hence the Great Ghost Dance. They didn't have to learn how to do magic from scratch, they just had to keep doing what they were already doing. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty May 12 '17 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ We could just say they never forgot it. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras May 12 '17 at 17:01

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