The Curse of Innistrad
Types of Geists
Innistrad is a world filled with the ghosts of the human dead. These spirits, called geists, take many forms. Some are protective spirits of ancestors. Others are vengeful creatures bent on resolving conflicts they couldn’t resolve in life.
Malevolent and Benevolent
Geists have always been a presence on Innistrad, but before Avacyn, all such spirits were malevolent, manifesting on the plane only because of a grudge or regret powerful enough to disturb the Blessed Sleep of the body to which they were connected. In Avacyn’s absence, the malevolent spirits were counterbalanced by the appearance of many benevolent and neutral geists, from nurturing apparitions of family members who have passed on to inscrutable ghosts who seem to want to continue whatever duty they had in life.
Avacyn as Psychopomp
This new balance in the spirit realm resulted from Avacyn’s function as psychopomp for the dead; her existence shepherded the souls of the departed back into the plane’s Æthereal space. This metaphysical guidance from Avacyn enabled geists to elect to turn away from reunion with the plane’s essence—a phenomenon that previously occurred only when a geist’s anguish or regret overcame the pull toward the Æther.
Material and Immaterial
Geists exist in the space between the material and Æthereal realms, so to varying degrees they possess qualities of both worlds. Thus some are able to walk through walls and then slash open throats. Others use the beliefs of the living against them; victims believe in the spirit so completely that they harm themselves with the power of their own mind. Some use fear to literally scare the victim to death. Some spirits use cold to freeze opponents or reduce their temperatures down to hypothermic levels when humans become lost on the moors or wander too far into the bogs. Other, more powerful ghosts use their force of will or emotion to condense matter (called ectoplasm) around their hands or weapons for a split second when they attack. Some use psychokinetic power to wrap objects around them (e.g., brambles, chains, spikes, glass, etc.), and then wield them against their foes.
Even in Avacyn’s absence, divine magic is not impotent. With a combination of powerful faith and mana, clergy can banish geists in various ways, from dispersal of the geist’s essence to functioning as a surrogate psychopomp to guide the geist toward its rest in the Æther.
Many white-aligned geists are harmless or even protective spirits of dead family and friends who haunt the living out of a sense of duty, fealty, responsibility, or love. Malevolent white-aligned geists do exist, however, and are usually twisted by guilt, feelings of failure, or unrighted wrongs. Some are ghosts of fallen soldiers that still patrol the moors, looking for their vanquishers.
Some geists are projections of the animating principles of the mind. Vicious or obsessive thinking as well as collective human memories come to life by attracting enough latent aether around them to become autonomous entities. They carry on as obsessive ghosts—repeated knocking, patterning, arranging, stacking, marking, etc. They can also possess one’s mind and cause repetitive movements, speech, epilepsy, obsessive behavior, schizophrenia, and other such maladies of the mind. These are also the geists most drawn to the water, storms, frost, and mist—even the mist of the breath.
These geists eternally hunger for life, power, or the settling of a wicked grudge. These are spirits that must be appeased by offerings of food, goods, and even blood. If not appeased, these geists can be responsible for disease, accidents and death. Whereas geists associated with other colors of mana might be benevolent or neutral, black-aligned geists are almost always dangerous and malevolent.
These spirits have attached themselves to rampant emotions, unfulfilled desires, and thirsts for revenge that were frustrated during life. They can manifest as blood dripping from statues, whirls of dust on roads, minor rockslides on hillocks, cliffs, and mountainsides, and, in the case of possession, as sudden mania or murderous rage. The ghosts of the unavenged are some of the most dangerous geists on Innistrad, sometimes appearing as living fire or as “blood mist” entities that engulf a hapless victim and inflict cuts and welts that are slow to heal.
Some geists long to be reconnected with the nature they revered in life. Energies within the woods that have been called into being by druids or other nature-mages take on form by entwining roots and brambles around their Æthereal bodies. Some of these spirits attach themselves to animals, plants and landforms, imbuing them with special power or mutating them into strange, otherworldly entities. If the spirits that inhabit landforms are not appeased, it can often result in blight, crop failure, and famine.