Treading the spirit realms can be really difficult. It’s like going to another country: you don’t know the language and the culture’s a bit weird. You make stupid mistakes, and probably end up in a not-great neighborhood at some point.
Getting directions to anywhere in the astral is complication. Super complicated. I’ll explain. The spirit realms are always in flux. There’s always some conflict to avoid, some danger to be wary of. The topography and land itself changes at the whims of residents in the world. Wars and battles cause lots of detours. When a new ruler takes over, the entire land can shift and change. The very land itself can morph to suit the whims and personality of the ruler. The rulers become, in part, land spirits, protecting their territory from harm. It’s not unlike the story of the Fisher King. Even if the land doesn’t adjust to the ruler, there are dangers in the environment to watch for. Then there’s the people. Look at our own world. Look at all the cultures, all the taboos, all the knowledge and secrets that exist in it. Look at the hate and love we have. And we’re all humans, a single species with that much diversity. That diversity exist in every species, without fail. There are uncountable numbers of species and races in the spirit realms. You may be able to make some generalizations but most of the time, you’re a fish out of water. Add onto that each person’s own free will and individuality and you have a mess to deal with. Everyone has agendas of their own. People – and they are people – have , jobs, obligations, families, and lives to attend to. After all, how often do you pause to give strangers directions? The residents here might not pause their lives for you either. And that’s OK. We’re all people and have busy lives. Some folks will help and some won’t. Some people are nice and others are cruel. Variety makes the worlds wonderful, after all. But with all of that variety and flexibility comes a massive problem: how do you to find anything in a world that changes so much?
Asking directions can be a chore in and of itself. You may have to barter something just to get some complex set of instructions. Those directions might not even be accurate. Things change so often that halfway through the trip, there’s usually some change. Even if you get directions that are accurate, the names for things aren’t the same. For example, I live by an ocean when in the spirit realms. It has a lot of names: Ocean of Fallen Tears, Sea of the Giant’s Tears, Sunlight-Glances-Off-This-Body-of-Water-and-Dances-Across-the-Sands-to-Scatter-on-the-Sea-Glass- Castle-and-Dies-at-Sea (yeah, really). And that’s just the three I know. I’ve heard it called other things. The valley I live in itself doesn’t even have a name. The ruler’s been stable for years but hasn’t come up with a name yet for it. How do you give directions to a place with no name? Directions aren’t like google maps either. There often isn’t a “Take a left at exit 64 and travel 6.4 miles to veer right onto Main Street”. Instead it’s more like this: “Go to the Forest of Dean (but not that Forest of Dean, no, not that one either, that one) and talk to the fox spirit there. He’s going to try and eat you but once you deal with that, give him this ball of magic black ooze. He’ll tell you where to go next. He’s going to lie to you at first but wait a few minutes and he’ll give you your next destination.” That’s a lot of work just to get a new pair of shoes or something.
See? Lots and lots of complications. But, never fear. It’s not all that daunting when you have an adventurous spirit. Here’s some tips on how to somewhere in the astral.
- Get the right directions. Ask around and see what directions people give. Spirit allies can probably provide help, if necessary. Seeking out an information broker is a good alternative. Information brokers tend to avoid giving bad directions. Their reputations rely on them go doing their jobs successfully. When in doubt, go to a trusted information broker. Just expect to pay an arm and a leg.
- Check in often to determine your true location and get local news. Inns are specifically designed for this but roadside restaurants are surprisingly excellent too. Detour if necessary but try to stick to your directions. If you detour too much, you’ll end up somewhere else entirely usually with more trouble than you need.
- Don’t tell everyone where you’re going. Instead, pick a location nearby where you’re heading. For example, if I was going to see the ruler of the territory, I might ask directions to the forest the ruler lives in. Save yourself trouble by being cautious with your business.
- If you’re told not to stop, don’t stop. The best example of this in direction is from Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. “Go to the main road outside of the city and follow it away from the mountains,” said the frog. “After a while, you will come to a small pavilion made of gold, surrounded by trees made of silver with emerald leaves. Go straight past it without stopping, and don’t answer if anyone calls out to you from the pavilion. Keep on until you reach a hovel. Walk straight up to the door and knock three times, then snap your fingers and go inside. You’ll find some people there who can help you out of your difficulties if you’re polite about asking and they’re in the right mood. And that’s all.” (Page 11)
- Landmarks aren’t always landmarks. Sometimes you’re given directions that include people as a landmark, like the fox example above.
- Travel in groups. Traveling together will allow for more interpretations of the directions. Extremely useful when the directions are hard to fathom.
- Hire out a means of travel. Hiring a car, ship, horse, chariot, carriage, may be expensive but worth it. You may even hop on the bus or spirit subway to make things much faster.
- Think in alternative means of travel. You might walk everywhere but discover that you need to fly to get over a ravine. So sprout some wings, hover, or ask for aid as necessary.
- Remember that the spirit worlds are intertwined with this one. It is the strangest feeling to realize that you’ve been in this subway station before in the astral. You’ll also want to remember that the spirit world isn’t always an accurate representation of this world. Sometimes walls are missing or there’s extra doors or a staircase to nowhere. In these sorts of liminal places, you can easily slip into the spirit realms. Those with second sight can see a merging of worlds in these places as well.
- Sometimes you can just appear there. Teleporting in the astral is totally doable. You can also slip back into you body and re-enter the astral in your destination. This is a bit like cheating when you’re suppose to be on an epic journey but it can certainly make things easier. Please note it’s rude to appear in someone’s living room so aim for a backyard or something instead.
So that’s it! That’s how you get directions in the astral. It may be really complicated but that’s the fun of it. Now get out there and explore!