The Fifth World

Encyclopedia

Journeying

Journeying refers to traveling by magical means across space, time, or to entirely other realms. Everyone has some ability to do this, as experienced in dreams, but many families recognize wizards as the most skilled experts.

Experience

Journeying usually involves first achieving an altered state of consciousness, whether that means sleep or ecstatic trance. The methods to achieve this state vary widely. Some families use dancing and drumming. Others use fasting and other ascetic practices. Still others rely on entheogens. Many families combine several different techniques in various ways.

In such a state, one might fly overhead or swim in a stream, seeing the same territory from a new perspective. She might go to some distant land and see things there, or even backwards or forwards in time. She might even enter some other realm, like the underworld or the overworld, the land of the dead, the fairy realm, the mirror world, or the realm of the animals.

Wizards rely heavily on journeying in their work, often journeying to the realm of the animals to negotiate with the family's other-than-human neighbors — which often leads them to other realms to investigate and solve the problems that may arise in such negotiations.

Scientific Consideration

From an etic perspective, we can understand these techniques as a way to enhance a phenomenon called “thin slicing.” Every adult in the Fifth World has decades of experience closely observing her family’s territory, making her an expert in its ecology, as well as extremely subtle hints and signs that only a skilled tracker might notice. This means that the average person has an enormous amount of ecological data stored in her subconscious mind. Thin slicing refers to the ability to derive correct conclusions even from limited observation, without conscious thought, in situations where conscious consideration of all of the factors involved would quickly become overwhelming. This certainly applies to, for example, trying to estimate how many animals a family can sustainably take from a local herd. With a lifetime of close observation, a wizard can come to a reasonably accurate number. Ecstatic techniques can help wizards do this even more effectively.

From an emic perspective, the wizard may experience this as a journey to the realm of the animals, where she bargains with Pig for how many of his herd her family can take this year. Pig may demand something in return, like the family agreeing not to disturb certain designated wallows, and then name a number, like five or six. The family may kill that many pigs, but any beyond that would count as murder, and risk certain anger and vengeance.

These two perspectives might at first seem quite at odds with one another, with the emic perspective offering a quite naive version of what really happens, but a Fifth World wizard would most likely see the etic perspective as nothing more than a long-winded way of saying the same thing. What does it really matter whether she speaks to Pig in a vision or over a year of close ecological observation, after all, so long as that negotiation takes place and they strike a good accord?

Of course this approach can also produce unreliable information, particularly when used by those who do not have the decades of careful ecological observation that would make thin slicing work. Charlatans can certainly take advantage of this. Most wizards dedicate their life to practicing this as a skilled art, and can achieve remarkable results with it. The variation in effectiveness, from the most skilled and honest wizards through to the most incompetent pretender, fuels speculation as to the varying levels of magical power from one wizard to another.