The Role of Spirit
The underlying idea is that Spirit connects all the elements that represent matter and forces in the physical world--something similar to the 18th century concept of the ether, an intangible substance/energy form surrounding and flowing through objects.
Humans and other self-aware beings (including most higher animals) have souls that bind Spirit energies into intricate patterns (Soul-Knots) that store and process information, producing perception, intelligence, and insight.
Elementals are manifestations of the physical forces and energies in the world that also contain Spirit binding patterns, but of a less complex and more focused nature. As a generalization, Elementals tend toward expressing themselves and interpreting the world in terms of emotion, intuition, or will as opposed to rational thought.
Over the centuries, as beings with souls have died, fragments of many of those souls have become linked to Elemental patterns with which they shared an affinity. The result has been a gradual increase in the "personality" and awareness expressed by Elementals with multiple soul fragments forming a sort of gestalt identity within their pattern. Some have hypothesized that the increased practice of Elemental Bonding (see below) will result in Elementals acquiring more and more characteristics of humans, perhaps eventually becoming fully sentient beings in a rational sense. The impact of such a transformation is unknown.
It is by creating connections between these Spirit patterns (their own and those of the targeted Elemental) that humans and other intelligent beings communicate with Elementals. To facilitate a more powerful and coherent connection, a person has two choices.
- First, they can build up a familiarity with the Elementals of a specific location over time. This can involve repeated rituals and sacrifices, as well as regular mental exercises and visualizations to attune ones' self with the Elementals. The goal is twofold: enhance one's ability to empathize with the desires and perceptions of the Elementals and to insert ones' own pattern into what passes for Elemental memory.
- The second, more drastic option involves a person bonding him or herself with a particular Element, attuning their personal pattern to be more compatible with that of the Element they have chosen. Think of this as increasing both the bandwidth of the Spirit connection and improving the quality of the symbolic language used to communicate. At this level one can communicate with and control Elementals of the proper type in any given location. However, the price paid for this power includes physical and mental transformation of the bonded person.
What follows is a brief description of the physical effects of elemental binding. Waterbound people grow very fat and though graceful may tire easily on land, but move with seal-like ease in the water. Firebound individuals have very little body fat, with a dry, leathery texture to their skin (like a person with too much sun exposure, except they are not necessarily tan!). They also become infertile. Airbound people shrivel to skin and bone, and their bones themselves become more fragile. Earthbound people have stiffer joints and develop various fungal and mossy growths on their bodies.