RPGs as Spells
I'm not going to define precisely what I mean by spell here, but it might not be what you think. Or it might.
There's this great-game-I-haven't-played-yet (there are a lot of those) called Sleepaway written by the improbably named Jay Dragon. I'm sure he and Jason Morningstar have a lot to talk about. It is based on "Dream Askew & Dream Apart", another member of the great-game-I-haven't-played-yet club.
I was listening to an episode of the Oneshot podcast where they played Sleepaway. After making characters, just as they were starting to play, they sort of... invoked the Lindworm, the monstrous enemy of the game. From the rules text:
At the beginning of each session, someone must ask the space you're in if the Lindworm is there, and if it would like to play. Give it around thirty seconds to reply.
-- Sleepaway, by Jay Dragon
This struck me as an invocation, an invitation, an opening. Metaphors are powerful things, and conceiving of a monstrous being from your childhood and inviting it to sit down with you and play is powerful stuff. Even if it doesn't always respond.
I'll quote a quote here, from Wikipedia's page on Chaos magic: "...The central defining tenet of chaos magic is arguably the 'meta-belief' that 'belief is a tool for achieving effects'". This procedure echoes some of that for me.
It also echoes a bit of sand tray therapy for me, the clearing away of a space and putting symbols in there to communicate something to others.
I'm thinking about writing a Solo RPG right now, and I want to borrow some of this, I think. I think spelunking into your own head could do with a little magical protection borrowed from these other traditions.