Home Forums Glorantha Glorantha Discussions Some thoughts on spirits and gods

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  • #5368
    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard
    Keymaster

     

    Spirits are discorporate entities that are present individually in all parts of nature – animals, plants, rocks, winds, fire, soil, waters, and so on. The Brithini classify them as an incorporeal but ubiquitous, not-quantifable energy present individually in all things and natural forces.

    Everything has a spirit, often several. Spirits inhabit the Spirit World, but the Spirit World touches every part of the Middle World, the Underworld, and the Above World. Our spirit is what animates our corporeal body and gives it life. It is analogized as “breath” (by the Orlanth, Praxians, and many Hsunchen), “heat” (by the Doraddi), “beast soul” (by the Pelorians), and so on. When it is gone, we are without life.

    Not only do humans, animals, and plants have spirits, but everything else does as well. Every wind has a spirit that animates it. Every drop of water has a little spirit that inhabits it. Big winds have more powerful spirits than little breezes, and the spirit of a river is more powerful than that of a drop of water. The most powerful spirits are called “gods.” For example, the vast storm that permeates all of the Middle Air has a great spirit that its slaves call “Orlanth,” but powerful shamans know as Storm King. The gods are the masters of the Runes, who made Glorantha and then nearly destroyed it in the Great Darkness.

    Those with the ability to communicate with spirits can see these discorporate beings, commensurate with the strength of their spiritual organs. Most spirit magicians can communicate only with those spirits that are comparable to their own; the gods are too immense for all but the most powerful shamans to even fully perceive, let alone communicate with. Storm Bull is too great a spirit for any but the most powerful shamans to normally communicate with, but he speaks with and aids the Praxians because of his kinship with them.

    Most spirits are embodied in the Middle World – as the spirits of animals, plants, and things – but some spirits are disembodied and long for bodies to inhabit. Spirits without their own bodies want them, or want to feed off of those who do have bodies. These are the spirits of the dead, disease, and other malevolent things.  Some are benevolent, but most are harmful and dangerous. Only shamans know how to deal with all sorts of disembodied spirits, although some cults and sorcerers know magic that can cast out specific types of spirits (e.g., Chalana Arroy can cast out disease spirits, Humakt can fight the spirits of the dead, etc).

    In game terms, spirit magic generally employs charms that houses a spirit. When a charm is made, the maker negotiates with the spirit to see what it wants. A spirit who can Light Fires might want want to be in a firestick, or a spirit who is Sharp as a Bulls Horn may be content in a wooden ring. Spirits have their own ideas of what they want and they may or may not be the same as human needs or desires. The spirit also informs the maker of the taboos that must be obeyed if the spirit is to remain helpful.

    #7322
    Profile photo of Roko Joko
    Roko Joko
    Spectator

    The Guide does use the term great spirit, as a category rather than a title, on p. 21, 160, and 461 of the final draft.

    I can’t say the Guide text is inconsistent with this article, but without the text of this article, I found it confusing.

    I think what made it most confusing for me is that other publications have described great spirits as more of a distinct thing rather than different perceptions of the same thing, and so with the text of those other publications in mind, it was hard to be quite sure what the Guide meant by the term.

    Even taken together with this article, the Guide is still a little confusing about what the spirit world is and what is there, but maybe that’s something that doesn’t need to be so clear.

    #7325
    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard
    Keymaster

    To be honest, I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that a little deliberate blurring about the difference between a god and a spirit is needed and desirable. Since the four paths to magic are how we mortals interact with the Absolute (or the Great Mystery, the Otherworld, or the Sacred, if you prefer), the difference between a god and a spirit is not an absolute, objective thing but one made by the perceiver.
    So one might see a big storm. Another, trained with his spirit vision, might see a vast collection of wind spirits swirling around. A priest might recognize that as Orlanth, accompanied by Air gods (who might be called spirits by the priest). A shaman might see that as the great spirit Storm King, made up of countless lesser wind spirits. A Second Age sorcerer, trained with Runequest Sight, might see this as the Burtae Worlath, surrounded by countless lesser Srvuali. And they are all correct.

    #7332
    Profile photo of Roko Joko
    Roko Joko
    Spectator

    I guess you could, likewise, interpret the otherworlds themselves as existing primarily in the mind, or at least in one’s approach to magic. (I see that the Guide explicitly suggests that as a possibility, on p. 160). That might make some of the four worlds cosmology easier to swallow.

    The Rival Worlds myth in tBoHM talks about different worlds each having a copy of the sea, sky, and emperor. You might say that’s about different peoples having different perceptions of those things.

    Intro to Glorantha in HQ1 talks about the otherworlds interacting as peoples interacted, and (mixing in suggestions from other sources) that people separated from gods at the same time. You might say that in the earliest ages of myth it didn’t matter that different peoples had different approaches to magic because they were much closer to the gods, or because they were innocent about other approaches, or because the world was at peace. As people separated from gods, the differences between different approaches to magic became more important, and in a sense, that caused the otherworlds to become places separate from the ordinary world – or, it caused them to become states of mind that you have to practice magic to reach.

    #7337
    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard
    Keymaster

    OK, if I was re-editing tBoHM I would not include the Rival Worlds myth. I think it is a LM story and not something widely believed by Orlanthi.

    This was something previous rules systems made way too big of a deal, and forced epistemological certainty on something that should always beyond certainty.

    #7344
    Profile photo of Harald Smith
    Harald Smith
    Spectator
    Quote:
    the difference between a god and a spirit is not an absolute, objective thing but one made by the perceiver

    To me, this ends up feeling like a devolution into the God Learner point of view. I can certainly see that there can/would be overlap, but I don’t see why all perceptions of storm have to end up at the same point. Seems much richer and interesting if they don’t.

    #7348
    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard
    Keymaster
    Quote:
    Quote from Harald Smith on April 5, 2014, 00:42

    Quote:
    the difference between a god and a spirit is not an absolute, objective thing but one made by the perceiver

    To me, this ends up feeling like a devolution into the God Learner point of view. I can certainly see that there can/would be overlap, but I don’t see why all perceptions of storm have to end up at the same point. Seems much richer and interesting if they don’t.

    Harald – it is intended to be the opposite of that. All perceptions of storm end up at some big magical entity. What that is called, how we interact with it, how we perceive it – that’s open-ended. But it is neither necessary or desirable (IMO) to have to decide before-hand what this magical entity “truly” is. A spirit specialist will say it is a spirit. A priest will say it is a god. A sorcerer will say it is magical Air energy, and so on.

    I think the terms “spirit” and “god” overlap in many Gloranthan languages, with “god” usually indicating a more powerful being. I don’t think gods and spirits are necessarily viewed as being in opposition like devas and asuras, and the Malkioni hold that many “spirits” are devolved parts of gods – often so devolved that they are largely useless (at least to sorcerers). The Orlanthi view spirits as being everywhere, but largely reserve their worship to their powerful Rune gods, demigods, and heroes (although they have specialists who deal with those spirits who don’t serve their gods). The Pelorians have the Lunar cults, the Enverinus Priests who perform the rites for the public cults (including Lodril), local cults of gods, demigods, and spirits, as well as a variety of specialists (often existing on the margins of life) who deal with spirits, and elite intellectuals who study sorcery. And so on.

    Gloranthan religions should be a tremendously rich tapestry with endless variations and permutations of the core monomyth (including always some contradictions) – it should not be a universal set of parallel god, spirit, “essence” columns. At least in my opinion!

    #7367
    Profile photo of jonathan quaife
    jonathan quaife
    Spectator

    “To be honest, I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that a little deliberate blurring about the difference between a god and a spirit is needed and desirable.”

    Hear hear.

    I think it is true that, “previous rules systems made way too big of a deal, and forced epistemological certainty on something that should always beyond certainty”, although, on the other hand, the first set of HQ rules also included rules on misappropriated worship (I loved the idea, but never really understood the rules!). I think that was exactly about the ambiguity, in fact.

    As an Arkati Shaman, I think Greg often started from a standpoint of structure and delineation, and afterwards moved towards blurring the boundaries. Later material, like Fortunate Succession, included elements from both perspectives, generally encouraging subjective reflection more than a notion of objective truth, but nonetheless including documents that conveyed both. Before that, Glorantha itself went through this transition–a great change occured in Glorantha, for example, when the concept of a ‘Gloranthan document’ became currency; all of a sudden the doors were open and the dogs of permissable contradiction were let loose! (I think Nick Brooke was quite influential in this sea change, but may be mistaken.) My impression from the ’80’s was that the very early Gloranthan material was actually all about continuity, not contradiction: it seemed to me in the early days that Yelm was Yelm and the Lightbringers were the Lightbringers. Since then I grew up (well, to some extent) and as in life I discovered grey where before I had seen black and white, Glorantha somehow seemed to make the same transition (maybe I imagined that?)

    So, going back to the idea of misappropriated worship, Greg is a man who I hold in huge admiration, as I do his work, and I enjoyed this concept since it seemed to marry to the old way of structure and delineation with the new way of subjective perspectives and of reality rooted in experience, this time in game terms. It seemed very true to Greg, somehow, and I imagined his hand was at work behind the concept. (But it was rules heavy, and I never really understood it in game terms… and in game terms, why bother?)

    All that said, I agree that the distinction needs to be blurred, and maybe even ignored for all the reasons already outlined in this thread.

    So, onto acronyms: I assume that tBoHM = “the Book of Heortling Mythology”?, but what is a “LM story”?

    #7375
    Profile photo of Pentallion
    Pentallion
    Spectator

    I’m pretty sure he means a Lankhor Mhy story. At least, that’s how I read it.

    #7385
    Profile photo of Harald Smith
    Harald Smith
    Spectator
    Quote:
    a little deliberate blurring about the difference between a god and a spirit is needed and desirable

    I’ve not got any problem with this, and I think this helps resolve a lot of particular issues.

    Quote:
    Gloranthan religions should be a tremendously rich tapestry with endless variations and permutations of the core monomyth (including always some contradictions) – it should not be a universal set of parallel god, spirit, “essence” columns.

    Fully agree with this as well.

    Quote:
    All perceptions of storm end up at some big magical entity.

    This is the bit I have problems or concerns with. If I always end up at Orlanth as the big magical entity no matter the starting point, then I think something has been lost. And I’m not saying that you can’t get to Orlanth through any of the starting places, but it shouldn’t universally equate say Orlanth = King Storm. That strikes me as the monomyth and just seems to lose a lot of the local flavor of the many regions of Glorantha.

    #7387
    Profile photo of Scott Martin
    Scott Martin
    Spectator
    Quote:
    Quote from Harald Smith on April 5, 2014, 22:30
    This is the bit I have problems or concerns with. If I always end up at Orlanth as the big magical entity no matter the starting point, then I think something has been lost. And I’m not saying that you can’t get to Orlanth through any of the starting places, but it shouldn’t universally equate say Orlanth = King Storm. That strikes me as the monomyth and just seems to lose a lot of the local flavor of the many regions of Glorantha.

    What gets me excited is that I haven’t heard anything yet that necessarily forces the chain of equations to stop when you get to Orlanth, son of Umath, husband of Ernalda, storm god of the Theyalans. The great symbols still have many names. Other people still have different names for the good wind and interact with him differently, through whatever systems they have. Maybe he’s Doburdun or she’s Entekos. Maybe he’s that terrible thing Loko Moko loved, or Kahar or Worlath or some more secret name. If you have a good storm where you are, that’s your truth and your monomyth. You’ll see all the other storms of the world through that perspective.

    Compared to the days when I had to keep track of whether a given sacred river needed to be contacted via theism or shamanism or sorcery, it’s truly a breath of fresh air. The river is the river and the storm is the storm. They are both awesome. It’s up to me to forge a relationship with them, learn their names and ways, court their elementals. Your experience with the storm won’t be mine, but finally we might not have the worries about whether this particular cloud has a spirit or a soul or an essence. Maybe its servants are technically daimones or sylphs or umbroli or raw winds. As long as they help me do my thing, it’s all good.

    Also because the theist model remains dominant in the materials, tearing down the classification walls keeping me from the river and the storm is a win for those of us who liked the old shamanistic tissue of the world, the parliament of spirits & the bush of ghosts. There’s a little more room for that kind of thing again. So not the monomyth at all. A way to defy the monomyth by refocusing on the here and now of the world. And the river is a brisk and leaping thing again, the storm is wet. But of course that’s just me.

    #7388
    Profile photo of Harald Smith
    Harald Smith
    Spectator
    Quote:
    What gets me excited is that I haven’t heard anything yet that necessarily forces the chain of equations

    It may well just be my reading of it.
    Scott’s thoughts/interpretation of it makes sense and provides, I think, the openness that I’m looking for. Interacting with the storm and learning this is Doburdun and learning how to experience Doburdan works fine. “Tearing down the classification walls” is very good and helps open up a lot of experience and interaction, though hopefully in ways that provide some interesting roleplaying (e.g. your priest wonders why you’ve taken to making strange pentagons). Following a line of reasoning that seems to say Doburdun IS Orlanth, just a different name, is the equation I don’t respond to.

    #7389
    Profile photo of Scott Martin
    Scott Martin
    Spectator

    Fingers crossed.

    I don’t buy a forced “Doburdun IS Orlanth” either but if I’m truly an ecstatic devotee of the storm, I’ll follow it where it blows me, no matter how many times it changes its name and local rites. I’d like to think the storm will teach me the secret identities that lie behind the masks so we can understand each other more deeply when it’s all said and done. Then Doburdun and Orlanth are one.

    That said, it’s an ecstatic approach and Gloranthan history shows that it is likely to eventually get me killed if I get too mouthy about it. No need to push people who want to see a bright line between what we have and what the sorcerers on one side and the barbarians on the other get up to. In the meantime, the people who have Doburdun seem well-fed but dull, the people who have Orlanth have spark. Some can thunder and some cannot.

    Plus a door that swings one way can swing the other. If people try to tell you old Orlanth is this Doburdun fellow, you can remind the Doburdun people what real thunder is like and then the empire has trouble. This has happened before. Harmast showed the people how. If people try to tell you old Orlanth is just a complex of bound forces called Worlath, sneak up close to Worlath, whisper his name back to him and watch the fun. This is apparently going on from Pent to Carmania to Ralios, and God Himself only knows what they’ve been getting up to in Charg.

    #7390
    Profile photo of Bruce Turner
    Bruce Turner
    Spectator

    Not all storms are Orlanth. There are a lot of storm gods out there and not all of them are going to be the same. This is part of what makes the blurring wonderful: two entities might be masks of the same thing, or they could be different but similar. And both we and the inhabitants of Glorantha face the difficulty of telling the two apart. The God Learners had that process down to a science, to the point where (arguably) they could take two things that were distinct and force them to be the same. This gave them a lot of power, but ultimately destroyed them. The Lunars are not nearly as good at the game, but they don’t need to be. They pushed worship of Doburdun not to convince the Orlanthi that Doburdun == Orlanth, but to sole the purely political problem of making their troublesome subject peoples less troublesome. I think they would be very, very surprised if it turned out that Doburdun really was just a mask of Orlanth.

    #7391
    Profile photo of Scott Martin
    Scott Martin
    Spectator
    Quote:
    Quote from Bruce Turner on April 6, 2014, 01:50
    Not all storms are Orlanth. There are a lot of storm gods out there and not all of them are going to be the same.

    Sure! But until we find out, we don’t know which ones they are. The old strict walls between the worlds kept facile identification at bay but made this equally vital process of discovery harder.

    Everything else quoted for truth, especially the delightful prospect of giving the Lunars yet another big surprise when their tame air remembers who he really is:

    Quote:
    This is part of what makes the blurring wonderful: two entities might be masks of the same thing, or they could be different but similar. And both we and the inhabitants of Glorantha face the difficulty of telling the two apart. The God Learners had that process down to a science, to the point where (arguably) they could take two things that were distinct and force them to be the same. This gave them a lot of power, but ultimately destroyed them. The Lunars are not nearly as good at the game, but they don’t need to be. They pushed worship of Doburdun not to convince the Orlanthi that Doburdun == Orlanth, but to sole the purely political problem of making their troublesome subject peoples less troublesome. I think they would be very, very surprised if it turned out that Doburdun really was just a mask of Orlanth.
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