From Breaking Worlds
Evocation is the magical art of summoning, appeasing, and binding spirits. A person who treats with the spirits to worship and gain enlightenment is generally called a priest, while a practitioner who uses them to gain more immediate power is called a witch - though the distinction is often blurred.
Evokers are capable of calling spirits from the Spirit World into the mortal plane by ritual magic. The more powerful the spirit is, the more powerful the ritual must be; a spirit of the least degree can be summoned with a couple of minutes of incantation, while a greater spirit requires an elaborate performance and usually a substantial sacrifice.
It is possible to perform a summoning ritual without a specific spirit in mind. An evoker can perform a ritual to call a spirit of a particular element and degree, or an ancestor matching a broad description. Where possible, however, it is best to call a spirit by name; temples, scholarly institutions, and similar organisations sometimes record the names of significant spirits for this reason.
A spirit is able to speak to the evoker and to people within hearing of the place it was summoned. More powerful spirits will create the image of a body. This is normally a mere apparition, unable to act directly, but since the Breaking there have been instances of elementals taking on a real physical form and forcing their way into the material world wholesale. Obviously this has made evocation a rather riskier business.
When evoking a spirit, it is common practice - though not strictly necessary - to mark out a summoning circle on the ground with rope, chalk, powder, or similar means. This is done partly out of tradition, and partly because it helps to remind mortals to stay out of the space that the spirit will use to take its form.
All but the very weakest spirits have minds and wills of their own and will only assist mortals if they consider worthy. Accordingly an evoker must be able to persuade spirits of their worth - but each individual spirit has its own way of deciding who makes the cut.
- Sacrifice: The loyalty of many spirits can simply be bought. Gold and silver are widely appreciated, but sometimes a more powerful or exotic offering is demanded - rare items, secrets, blood, or even human souls. While a single offering is often sufficient for lesser spirits, many powerful elementals require regular sacrifice in exchange for their services.
- Contest: Sometimes spirits will challenge mortals directly or pit them against each other. The element and interests of the spirit will determine the nature of the contest - it might be single combat, a game of dice or cards, wit and trickery, a test of agility, or many other things.
- Conduct: Spirits will often consent to be bound to someone who they believe will adhere to their principles, and so may set out particular conducts as a condition to being bound. This might be a prohibition - against, for instance, telling falsehoods or striking another person - or a requirement - for instance to accept any challenge of single combat. Some spirits (especially those of Metal) will insist on a contract being drawn up and followed to the letter.
- Challenge: On a few occasions spirits have challenged mortals to complete a quest or challenge. The nature and difficulty can vary enormously, but successful completion is valued very highly as it proves that the evoker is both capable and willing to further the spirit’s interests.
Binding and artifice
While some evokers are content to speak to spirits and learn from them, many priests and nearly all witches seek to bind spirits and draw on their power directly.
Any evoker can bind a willing spirit to themselves or to another willing person or item. However, keeping a spirit in control takes willpower and practice, and most people without skill in evocation cannot have spirits of more than the least degree bound to them without suffering adverse effects.
Magic items provide a safer though more restrictive way for other people to draw on powerful spirits. Evokers can learn to use silver and gold to create suitable anchors for spirits, which any person can then use.
A few elementals (most commonly those of Earth) can be bound into dead bodies. This is unpopular in Arginet and condemned by most animist orders but it can be used by an evoker to create strong, biddable servants and guardians.
A willing spirit can be released from an person or item with a simple command; if there is a suitable person or anchor nearby they can usually be bound to that in the same action. Forcing a spirit to leave requires a ritual called the Rite of Dismissal - which is almost always effective if performed with sufficient power, but may cause the (now hostile) spirit to manifest physically...
The Rite of Dismissal is also apparently very damaging to revenants if it is focussed on them.
Making offerings to a spirit is a common practice in animism and among evokers of all creeds.
Any mortal can make an offering to a spirit that is physically present in summoned, manifested, or bound form. An evoker with the correct knowledge can perform a ritual to send a sacrifice to a spirit that is not present, and will gain additional favour for doing so.
Almost anything can be given as an offering. Silver and gold are most common. Other items are also popular choices, and the greater the material and sentimental value to mortals, the more valued it will be by the spirits.
It is even possible to sacrifice living beings - this is considered widely distasteful, but it is known to grant the spirits a significant amount of power as they drain the life force from the offering. Human (or fay) sacrifice is the most powerful of all and allows the receiving spirit to subsume the soul of the victim; few spirits openly demand this, and in Arginet it is considered a criminal act of murder, sacrilege, and slavery and usually punished by death.
Interestingly, it seems to be possible to make sacrifices to the ancestor spirits that animate revenants. A sufficient offering of coin or valuable items will heal or even temporarily strengthen them.
An experienced and skilled practitioner can attain what is known as the mastery of evocation: the ability to improvise new effects and combine their powers with others. In general these affect summoning, magical items, and spirits.
Experiments undertaken since the Breaking indicate that this ability is even more effective than channelling for studying and manipulating the mysterious rifts. It can certainly be used to push through the Veil and affect the Spirit World given sufficient power.
One of the most dreaded - but poorly-understood - abilities of a master evoker is the power to break a soul into pieces. This seems to prevent the soul from continuing its existence in the Spirit World, and given that it can be used as a punishment that continues after death it is considered a criminal act of sacrilege.
Almost incredibly a small number of past evokers are known to have deliberately split their own souls. This is believed to grant the ability to command more spirits than an entire person could, and creates the possibility of binding soul shards into anchors or even other people (for whatever purpose). However, few indeed would consider sacrificing any possibility of an afterlife for even the greatest power in this life...