This is the eleventh post in a series on the creation of Divination’s setting and magical universe as defined by the tarot. The first post in the series is Making a tarot-defined setting, and you can find the entire series linked at the bottom of each entry.
Artists change callings all the time, I know from experience.
I began my artistic life in my 20s trying to fulfill my dream of being a rock star. I wrote funny piano-based songs and I dreamed of big, dazzling stages and wild seas of fans.
That dream didn’t come to pass.
So for a while, I made theatre. I didn’t dream of it, exactly (I’m not sure second dreams work that way, exactly), but I learned a lot from it. I learned that making things—songs, albums, plays, games; they all share a similar process of development.
Every art has its own terms, its own tools and rules.
The Roads of the Esoteric are that way. Extremes. Powerful sets of principles and ideals. They don’t “do” the same thing, but they offer a framework for your Artistic hero, and for your campaign.
But like my lowercase-a artistic career, callings change. In the world of Divination, that’s true for capital-A Artists too.
The Roads tend to have a “way” they call an Artist for the first time. The Road of the Infinite Loop is the only one that chooses and calls its Artists from birth. The Road of Scale and Blade calls its brave Artists after they survive a frightening encounter with an Esoteric entity. The Unwritten Road calls Artists in the midst of a traumatic twist of fate—a car accident, a lottery winning, etc.
But any Road could call any Artist at any time, even those that rely on unusual triggers to jumpstart an Artist’s journey.
Three Roads are always calling Artists in a low-grade way: the Garden Road, the Crooked Road, and the Road of Two Lands. An Artist could feel a calling from all three of those Roads at once, a portrait of occult turmoil, feeling the urge to serve, to be selfish, and to achieve greatness all at once.
Some few, extremely talented Artists even figure out how to walk more than one Road at once, having combined the values of both Roads into an acceptable ethos.
That amount of flux means that there are plenty of Artists who just wind up walking their own Road, finding ways to change Roads as they’re pulled, or simply walking with no Road at all. These Artists— known as “Itinerant” in the fine-art-based terminology of modern occultists—are outsiders, exiles, loners, and misfits.
Itinerant Artists are shocking to other Artists. Their presence makes their skin crawl. That’s because Itinerant Artists have no inner guide; no signs, no gifts, no punishments, no inner dialog, no dreams, no omens—absolutely nothing from a Road except, perhaps, callings to return.
To Artists, this seems a cardinal sin, to pursue the Art in any way not governed by a Road. To most Artists, such a path is dangerous, lonely, perhaps even disgusting or sinful.
Itinerant Artists may band together, or work alone. In the pre-Pixie days, these “hedge wizards” would pass on folk magic and offer blessings or curses with whatever Art they could muster. These days, an Itinerant Artist could be a force of nature worthy of fear or respect, even if they operate as outsiders in Artistic society.
That’s because no one can guess what an Itinerant Artist is capable of. While exile from one’s Road may cut them off from enormous sources of a Road’s power, you only underestimate them at your own peril.
An Itinerant Artist has learned to survive alone or nearly alone, using the Art to make sure they don’t face trouble from other Artists for doing so. They’re tough, resourceful, and when they band together they form dangerous blocs that threaten to rewrite the delicate social fabric of trust that exists between Artists generally.
That means there’s all sorts of fun chaos to tell stories about here. Like, a movement exists to persuade all Artists to become Itinerant. These quasi-Libertarian Artists cleave to the belief that only individual freedom should guide an Artist. These Artists regard the wider Artistic world with general distrust and cling to the notion that the Roads are invasive forces seeking to rewrite reality to steal it from humanity.
That means there would be the other extreme, too: the Artists who believe that all Itinerant Artists should be exterminated. That such Artists are aberrations, twisted as if by radiation into shapes that make them dangerous to themselves and others.
And of course, there would be those Artists who would look on Itinerant Artists with feelings somewhere between compassion and condescension, who would be concerned for Itinerant Artists’ dignity and well-being, no matter what the Itinerant Artists had to say about it.
In other words, the same psychological forces that shape us would shape them, with all the good and bad that comes with that, turned up to 11 because the society in question is made of a bunch of weirdos with magic who all want reality to work for them.
I like Itinerant Artists in Divination because I feel like I am one in many ways. I make music, plays, stories, and games, and they all feel the same to me. Mine was a bumpy path of many callings and you don’t know what kind of weird project I might take on next.
I think more and more of us forge our own path every day.
>> Read the next post in this series: The Esoteric Renaissance
Find the rest of the series here:
- Entry 1: Making a tarot-defined setting
- Entry 2: The Roads and Sources
- Entry 3: This game will teach you tarot
- Entry 4: The Road of Two Lands
- Entry 5: The Unwritten Road
- Entry 6: The Shivering Road
- Entry 7: The Crooked Road
- Entry 8: The Garden Road
- Entry 9: The Road of Scale and Blade
- Entry 10: The Road of the Infinite Loop
- Entry 11: Itinerant Artists (this post)
- Entry 12: The Esoteric Renaissance