November 29, 2011

Hari Ragat: Agimat

Agimat are magical amulets or charms, which in the Hari Ragat setting are obtained as gifts from the diwatas (or, very rarely, the Busaw).  They may take the form of jewelry or clothes to be worn, or a fruit or seed that must be swallowed.  Their powers are usually protective – the ability to soak damage, immunity to a certain weapon or effect, longevity and health, etc. etc.

In Filipino folklore, it was possible to obtain agimat by performing certain rites at specific locations of power – often graveyards, or the wilderness – or by holding nocturnal vigil to be able to catch some enchanted object that only appears at midnight under certain conditions. I’m blending with this the Hindu concept of tapas, spiritual austerities practiced by heroes to gain gifts from the gods, as told in the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

In the Hari Ragat setting, a hero wanting to obtain an agimat must persuade a diwata into doing so.  This is done by making offerings to the diwata, and by undergoing an ordeal in the wilderness.  Diwata are loath to give out agimat, as these things are charged with their own life force; making and giving one away weakens them, possibly for years. 

Thus to convince a diwata to give one away means passing some difficult tests of temptation and fear.  The supplicant must endure repeated attempts to frighten him or her, or temptations to break a taboo, for nine straight nights; if this is accomplished, the diwata has no choice but to relent, for it is bound by the rite.  Sometimes the diwata specifies that an agimat must be returned to it after a set time, so the power may be enjoyed by a generation or so after the first hero who acquired it, and then it must be let go or the diwata who made it will turn it into a curse.

Of course, some diwata have given away agimat not because they were pressured into it, but for love.  Such treasures are of permanent benefit, and eagerly sought after. 

Because agimat often have a form that can be stolen, their possessors are usually secretive about them.  Sooner or later, however, the possession of an agimat becomes obvious, and then the possessor finds that his rivals increase as more and more people want to wrest the magic away from him.

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