I said that I’d make another post where I talked more about the tooling I did on the Utility Quiver: Why I picked the symbols that I did, that sort of thing.
The first thing to know is that this isn’t just a generic example of what I can do. It is made to fit a very specific character, though in a way that I hope will be something other future characters can utilize as well with minimal modification. All of the symbology goes back to the character. She’s what the game calls a shaman. In this setting most folks who can call upon animal related magics can only call on one specific animal because their bloodline or spirit has been affected by that animal in some significant way. Shamans on the other hand practice a secret set of philosophies that bring them to a sort of epiphany through which they are able to contact and mantle the spirits and magic of several Animal totems. The process of mantling these magical energies is very taxing on the Shaman, and thus they can only call upon a handful of the Animal Spirits with whom their own Spirit has the most in common.
This character’s totems are the Spider, Eagle, and the Raven. A trinity which to her represents the full cycle of life, in all its vicious glory.
Her eagle is golden and closely tied with the sun, light, hope, growth, and pride.
The Raven is softly dark, deeply in touch with the fact that all lives must eventually end, while acknowledging that we all need guides in times of great change. As much as the ravens guide the spirits of the dying to their destination, for her the raven equally represents the responsibility of the wise to comfort those who remain behind when a loved one passes.
The Spider is a lot of things for this character. It is a connection to home and clan (her clan is called Frost-Spider). And it really is the Frost-spider which she envisions when she calls upon these magics. In the (entirely fictional) glacial highlands from which she hails, the frost spider is the ultimate predator. A clever trapper that conserves its energy, acting when the time is right, striking hard and without remorse. The spider’s lessons are important to remember in the harsh realities of a war torn land that rarely sees the summer. No matter how much hope, or wisdom is cultivated in the world, there will always be a need for hard decisions and the spider reminds its people to make those decisions and move forward un-crippled by regret. You have to do what you must to survive if you want to make any kind of difference in the world.
Regarding the execution of how I worked these totems into the quiver.
I felt like it was really important to show the Eagle and Raven interacting in some way, to represent how integral their myths are to each other. A lot of the idea came from ye olde Yin-yang, since the idea was to represent how their concepts are unified and balancing each other within this character. The rest came from browsing the net and being really drawn to the romantic images of various birds or dragons twining around each other. I never really found one that had two different animals twining together, but I’m sure I could if I looked harder.
Working the spider in was harder, since I didn’t have much room, and it kind of threw off the balance imagery. I thought about trying to do some kind of triskellion thing, but my design sketches for that just did not work. Things really clicked when I remembered that you don’t have to see the spider itself to know it’s there. All you need are its webs. And that played really well, not just aesthetically, but also symbolically as something to “tie things together”. The character’s use of the spider totem have always been more of a background of practicality and respect for the necessity of unpleasant things, a sort of grounding and unifying philosophy that her eagle and raven ideals rest within.
The stylized cloud crest is purely there for aesthetic reasons. It ties everything together, gives a spot for webs to hang on, and shifts the feel of the art to a slightly more eastern culture which is more appropriate to the amalgamation of cultures that the character’s fictional clan draws from.