December 15, 2011

Flesh and Magic in Hari Ragat

The shamanistic style of magic practiced in the Hari Ragat milieu attaches great significance to human flesh, blood, and the act of sex.  This means that intercourse and consumption of human flesh or blood, particularly viscerae, can result in a transfer of spiritual power.  

We don’t need to go into too much detail on the act (nope, sorry!), but rather we dwell on the story leads this opens up, and the gameable effects.  Many of these details will serve as hooks for villains, leading to encounters with the supernatural.

Binokot Magic
The isolation and enforced virginity of the binokot maidens makes them into repositories of great spiritual power.  The binokot maiden’s first man will gain power from his first night with her, though at no loss to the binokot herself. 

There is a way to gain even more power from a binokot, however, which involves rape and sometimes ritual murder. Such crimes are considered so heinous that its perpetrators, should they be caught, are never granted a swift death but rather impaled alive over fire ant nests or worse.

Congress with a diwata may result in either spiritual power gain or drain for the human partner, depending on who ‘wins’ the contest.  I had this happen in one of my playtest sessions, to the great delight of the winning player, Bots. 

The practice of celibacy, dedicated to the ancestor spirits, can increase spiritual power.  This is the root of the binokot’s power, and also for some sorcerer-hermits and babaylan shamanesses. 

Warriors may also practice celibacy in the days before battle, lest their spiritual power leak away through sexual congress.  Other traditions, however, encourage sex before battle, hoping for both increased power and of course for heirs which can later be claimed to have been conceived on the eve of a great victory.

The aswang fuel their shapeshifting abilities, youth and beauty, and magic by consuming human flesh or viscera.  Viscera yield the most power, but the pollution gained by doing so is much greater, thus the more monstrous and hideous forms of the viscera-eaters like the manananggal.

Babes and Fetuses
Newborn babies and fetuses are also held to be charged with spiritual power.  This makes them the preferred food of some aswang types, and motivates some evil sorcerers to steal them for their own nefarious purposes. 

Newborn children can be ritually slain and mummified to create tuyol, hideous homunculi who act as the slaves of their sorcerous masters.  Tuyol can turn invisible at will, climb like spiders, and are very adept at spying and stealing. Again, Vijadesans consider this crime so horrific that the punishments for it are made equally terrible. 

Women shamans (babaylan) are usually more powerful than males.  However they have a periodic weakness, for just as their blood runs every month during their menstruation, so does their power.  Old babaylan, those who have ceased to undergo this cycle, also cease to suffer from this periodic loss of power.

The rite of swearing blood brotherhood by sharing a drink mixed with the blood of the compact-makers is a time-honored custom.  Those who do this not only gain in Renown, but also each receive an extra point of spiritual power as long as they honor the oath.  When a blood pact is broken, all who participated in that pact lose one point of spiritual power.


  1. The belief of babies and fetuses having power might explain why the practice of Balut emerged... as a way to obtain the spiritual power contained in baby ducks, which is infinitely more acceptable socially to eating baby humans.

  2. That could be why Balut became popular among Filipinos. In origin, though, Balut actually comes from Southern China/Northern Indochina.

    The idea you posited could also explain why suckling pig is very popular.

  3. PS - Marc, this comment of yours actually touches on my family history :). My paternal ancestor, Kim Suy, migrated from Fukien in Southern China and founded the Balut industry in what is now Pateros town. It may be that Balut was already popular then, and he was the first or among the first to make them locally.


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