Thus marks the start of a new series from me intended to describe the various places and beings of the Shamanic underworlds.
It's important for you to realize I differentiate between the Shamanic underworlds and other ones, and that I consider the Astral a different plane entirely than the Shamanic realms. This is due to my speculation there are millions of planes all dealing with different shit, ad infinium.
A note on making the Atlas: As I understand it, the Realms are always in a constant state of flux. As such, a map, you might guess, is actually a useless endeavor. What I HAVE found is, while the location of "elements" on the planes shift on a daily basis, the elements THEMSELVES tend to be the same, at least in idea. What I mean is, while one day The Forest might be near the Mountain region and another around the Styx, in general the Forest area will always be SOMEWHERE on the planes if you look hard enough. Nothing is ever eliminated from the planes without outside intervention, and even then it's very difficult to achieve.
Now, also important to understand is me describing the various aspects I have beheld in my time in the Realms (the Underworlds in this series...) is not a license to go traipsing around there without proper protection and/or skepticism. (see my post at The Bad Witch Files for more on that...) I won't lie to you and tell you everything is all fine and safe and sweetness and whitelight in the Underworlds. It's, how you say, tough country. A fair bit of it is okay most of the time, but some beings and parts of it are not. I will also say those with a Shamanic bent (obviously) will have an easier time in the Underrealms. It just operates on a very 'animistic' (for lack of a better word) axis that is often "dark" and can be frightening to the inexperienced.
Think of it like a large populated city with good and bad areas. Eventually. when you live there, you learn what those are, right? And you take proper precaution when you can't avoid the bad parts. The same rules apply here.
Now, as to purpose. Why exactly am I doing this? Because maybe, if you're like me, you didn't find a single fucking book describing the things you witnessed and saw. Maybe you had no idea if you were going insane because nobody else seemed to be experiencing this crazy shit. Maybe it's true that people see the same things on the Realms with different names and appearances but it really is the same most of the time. Think of it as an informative social/astral experiment. Also, believe it or not, I've been meaning to write on this shit for a long time because I can't keep my thoughts straight sometimes. Forcing me to do it seems to be the best idea.
A note on names: I call it the Underworlds, Under-realms, etc to differentiate between what I call the Upper and Midway planes. You've probably seen the model of the world tree and the 3 realms? Yeah, that's mostly okay except there is a LOT of spider-webbing between them. Metaphorically. You can bounce out of one and into another by accident, so don't think about it too much. Let's just say the 3 realms model is limiting and too binary but good for the sake of semantics, but because the Underworld seems to have the same weird gloomy/misty tone to it all the time I figured it's different from the lofy feel of the Upper realms and the verdant feel of the Midway area. So Underworlds it is.
A note on edibles & astral potions and shit: I may refer to Underworld vegetation and herbology intermittently. If you've never went tripping (I use this word soberly; I have never and will never touch drugs in any context) on the Realms before, you might be confused by this. You don't HAVE to eat on the planes, but you can. It follows, then, that you can consume plant matter into your own astral body on said planes. And if you know what you're doing, the Underworld has some of the most potent healing plants, herbs and flowers available. Just something to keep in mind.
Onward to Atlassing. First up: The Styx.