short for Avásh'aellasiasía), are elves, who mostly live
in solitude and whose main purpose in life seems to have become to listen,
understand and sing with the wind in the
midst of places of untouched nature. Because of the latter they are also
derogatorily called "Soughers" by men. In most cases this listening and singing
with the wind serves as a means of retreat
from the world as we know it, preparing the elf's
soul to sink back into the Dream in order to be reborn anew. These ethical and
spiritual exercises dealing with the Windsong have to be seen as very
rather than aiming towards education and outreach. And though
they may appear hardly understandable, strange and unnecessary in the terms of
humans, experiencing Windsingers might be
much more than only fascinating, it may even appear as a revelation, giving a
glimpse of another world and entity beyond our own. It is not surprising that
Windsingers often have a clerical background, which is mostly of
Grotharian nature due to the affinity of
this God to wind and weather.
Appearance. You won't find much diversity in a Windsinger's garments. The unspectacular clothing of the Windsingers needs to be seen as a means to become one with nature. Most Windsingers therefore wear simple grey, wide cowls, with a rope serving as belt around the waist and usual footwear, and that's about it. Footwear isn't even necessary, many go barefooted as well to express their closer contact to the earth. The greyness of the cowls by the way could be interpreted as a representation of wind in general (it is also the colour of the Water Goddess Seyella, Goddess of Destiny, to which the Windsingers are slightly related), but grey also stands for the inconpiciousness of their existence they represent, that life in community, with purpose and direction has lost its colour for them - or is about to lose it. As these elves often prefer lives in solitude, finding the clothes pretty ragged isn't much of a surprise. A hood may be worn as a head cover in case of inhospitable outside conditions, though it will only be used when the elf is on his/her way to or from the location where the listening to the winds takes place - during the process of listening the ears definitely need to be uncovered, so that the experience of immersing mentally into the depths of nature can be felt in the most purest way.
Picture description. A Windsinger standing on top of a cliff, greeting the element of the elves, the wind. Image drawn by Eratinalinfalah.
However, different individuals may prefer different clothing, so some may be
seen in traditional tribe's clothing, some in
Grotharian robes as well. But what seems for sure is that the appearance is
among the many things a Singer doesn't have much interest in. Singing is a very
personal thing, and there are even rumours that some
elves prefer to listen to the
winds with no clothes at all. However, the
latter seems to be pretty rare (and quite questionable we might add).
In this context it should be mentioned that Windsingers often are very healthy people, which is nothing uncommon for elves, as they live in a much closer relation to nature than other races do. Nevertheless, standing for hours at the same spot with - for instance - heavy rain pounding down on oneself, is something a Windsinger doesn't shun. Quite to the contrary, the Windsinger actually seeks these situations. Therefore people who persue the path of Windsinging need to get accustomed to such conditions, and indeed you will find not only people with a strong will among them, but people who are exceptionally resistant against various physical influences, including diseases or magic cast upon them.
Practices. Windsingers like to wander on their own through the lands, searching for untouched locations where they will stop in order to listen for hours to the nature around them. Such locations can be lonely mountaintops, solitary forests, deserted beaches, cliff-faces and large caves, but you might also find them near waterfalls or volcanoes, in short: anywhere, where the elf feels to be able to understand something from the world and the Dream of Avá, in which he/she believes in. Quiet places, however, are preferred by most.
Windsingers don't "meditate" as perhaps humans would interpret their doings, in the sense that they try to discover something within their spiritual self by forgetting about their physical being. They also don't sit or kneel during the process of Windsinging, which is called Xaeriá (Styrásh Xaeriá, "Talking"). A Windsinger usually stands, with arms opened as priests often have while reciting prayers, thus showing that he dedicates himself to his surroundings. Elves, and in the same respect Windsingers, are not focussed on the individual, but see themselves as part of nature around them. A Windsinger, during the process of Xaeriá, may be calm, but he is fully alert - all his senses work, except the eyes, which are commonly closed, so that the mind can focus more efficiently. Mainly listening to the unfiltered howling and soughing of the winds, feeling and interpreting their force, tone, pitch, and even scent, their hidden powers, their "alignment" or "intentions" constitute the process of Xaeriá, which is all in all a very religious thing as the winds are deemed of godly origin by the elves. It is therefore not surprising that the practice of Xaeriá is said to derive from rituals of Grothar, the Santharian Weather God.
Unlike at meditations of human clerics the Windsingers during Xaeriá may move, though this will happen only once in a while. They may change the positions of their arms, lift and turn their heads, spread their fingers to catch rainwater in order to suck in further aspects of their environment. It is also not uncommon that you might encounter barefooted Windsingers, as direct contact of the body to the underground strengthens the sought connection to nature even more. Though the Windsinger cannot see anything, his sharpened senses tell him where there are movements or commotions in his surroundings who complement the Windsong. Such noises include e.g. flying birds, kuatus jumping from tree to tree, clucking springs, or creaking boles when moved by the winds - the skillful listener can identify to which beast, plant or natural phenomenon these sounds belong to, and also what the context "means", either in respect of the local region or if a change in the world as a whole is imminent. The Windsinger seeks to hear the "voice" of the area around him and also to learn about the winds and their influence on all things existing, he hears the voice of Grothar. Grothar, the dancing Weather God, is said to be master of the Auratic Winds, the counterparts to the Darkwinds of the Dark God, Coór, and while the Darkwinds represent malice and chaos, the Auratic Winds stand for virtue and guidance. Listening to the winds consequently has also a cosmological and ethical dimension for the elves. Even though there might not be any concrete generalizable knowledge gained from this listening and feeling, getting in touch with nature in such a fundamental way is and will always remain primarily the elf's personal experience and preparation to sink back into the Dream of the High Goddess he believes in - Avá, the Dreamer of the world.
Another misunderstanding needs to the clarified here: The term "Windsinging" perhaps is a bit misleading. Mostly Windsingers themselves don't sing at all. Only very experienced Windsingers may sing, and if they do so, then they don't sing to the nature (e.g. to express a form of worship), but with it, as a means of deepening the communication and understanding between nature and elf. A Windsinger may stand listening for hours amidst the creaking trees of a forest, swaying in the winds. Then, at some point the elf may suddenly join the wind's howls, imitating them, "singing" aloud with the winds. But until an elf actually thinks himself worth to sing with the winds many years of practice (of which this race has aplenty) are necessary. This practice also earned the Windsingers the nickname and often derogatively used term "Soughers", mainly used by humans, who have little inside knowledge and understanding of the intentions of the Windsingers. Nevertheless, if you had a chance to be a witness of such a singing of an elf with the wind, you'd soon be taken by awe and wonderment due to the incredible accurancy of the Windsingers voice in relation to the howling of the wind. Scholars researching the Windsingers have to admit that their accomplishments in this field are striking, but there is still debate to which extent Windsinging can really help to understand nature and the way of the world as a whole.
Mode of Living. Windsingers don't form any kind of organization, nor do they belong to certain tribes only. Nearly all tribes of southern Sarvonia are known to have Windsingers among them, though it is believed that the origins of Windsinging date back to the time of the now extinct Cyrathrhim elves. The Windsingers are mostly solitary figures of high elven age, of both genders, who voluntarily choose the path of Windsinging after their life's goals have been already reached. They have come to the conclusion to step back, and sometimes to leave society completely in favour of preparations for their passing, which means for an elf to try to get a step closer to nature. There may be exceptions to this rule, though, where Windsingers are consulted in difficult times (see e.g. at the History section), but these occasions are rare.
It is reported that Windsingers seek out isolated places either completely on their own or that some of them may find together in small groups, scattering out from a central supply area, living as hermits for several months on end, only returning sporadically for more food and other necessities. An encounter for instance of a traveller with a Windsinger while he is in the process of Xaeriá may strike him odd - though a Windsinger may realize someone passing by already from far away, he often won't react but continue with his practices.
In general it can be said that many Windsingers don't talk much, as it appears that communication with others seems to be a thing of the past to them and that the interaction with the Windsong is more important for their state of existence. Rumour even has it that after several years of spending their time with nature, they completely lose their ability of talking, but this might be just superstition. Something often very irritating to humans is the fact that Windsinging in not taught from elf to elf nor talked about publicly in elven society - and there won't be any Windsinger seeking out others for advice. Windsinging is personal and intimate, and an elf would never share these experiences as they are deemed worthless for others if they don't make them on their own.
History. It is believed that the first occurrences of Windsinging date back to the time of the now extinct Cyrathrhim elves, the "Gentle Tribe" of the Calmarios Forest, located just south of the Tandala Mountains in today's northern Santharia. The Cyrathrhim are known to have been one of the most peaceful wood elven tribes, but unlike many other tribes they refused to join the High Elven Circle, which they considered to be an instrument working towards conflicts instead of resolving them. Alternatively they sought ways to intensify their relationships with nature, and Windsinging became a common practice, which spread to other wood elven tribes over the southern half of the Sarvonian continent.
In the course of time Windsinging was seperated from Grotharian rituals and was exercised by clerics of other Gods as well, until it became some sort of general religious practice welcomed at every elven home. Though eventually Windsinging ended up as a practice mainly exerted by elves, who prepare for their passing, remnants of Windsinging are still present in the so-called "Iná" exercise (Styrásh Iná, "Standing"). The Iná is a form of gathering one's inner self by stopping on the spot, standing still for a few moments with closed eyes while letting the etherial energies contained in the Auratic Winds flow back into the body and the spirit. Humans might call it a form of meditation technique, though an elf would say that through the Iná nature heals the person, and not the person himself/herself through the using nature.
Famous Windsinders, whose historical, social or political influences are documented, are extremely rare due to obvious reasons. However, a few tales are known when a Ránn or a Rónn consulted a Windsinger when they had important decisions to make which could change the fate of the world and where the winds should help to anticipate the changes of the future. One story for example tells us about the Aellenrhim elf Pherán'Ephtaerín or "Tree Whispers" (390-242 b.S.), captain of an elven contingent of bowers during the Third Sarvonian War:
"In the beginning of the great war
Pherán'Ephtaerín and Kayretan, a captain of a
human division joined their armies
in a legendary encounter to renew the oath between the races, the
sworn for the first time at the end of SW II (501 b.S.).
Together the human and
the elven army intended to free the
located at the conquered Orril.
It is written in the Mène'téka that a prophecy of an old
human woman finally led
Pherán'Ephtaerín to leave the siege of Orril and to head
for the east: The woman told him about her dream that a young elf with white eyes
would save her firstborn son at the Heath
of Jernais from the orcs and that this savior had the signs of an
elven regent on him. In fact
recognized that the woman spoke about Querín'Phár ("Travelling
Leaf"), his own son.
Importance. Windsingers are respected and honourable people among the Santharian wood elves, even though or perhaps especially because they are rarely encountered. They represent age and experience, wisdom, virtues, faith and truth, and the fact that they keep all this knowledge to themselves imparts them with a mystical aura. A traded saying of an unnamed Windsinger of the Bolder reveals us insights about a Windsingers truth: "The truth cannot be told, it can only be felt. For the truth is silent. Only the winds know, and though they howl. So listen, friend, as the voice of the Gods talks to us through the winds, but only if you can hear the silence in the winds' fiercest howls, you will have found what we call 'truth'."
Information provided by Artimidor Federkiel