Opposed Runes

From: Peter Metcalfe (P.Metcalfe@student.canterbury.ac.nz)
Date: Fri 23 Jun 1995 - 02:08:54 EEST



David Cake:


Takes issue with some of my replies to Sandy. It gets rather longish and I'm forced to invoke Dara happan mumbo-jumbo so I profusely apologize in advance:

>>I am taking issue with the idea of _opposed_ runes...
>>Everybody who has read
>>RQII will automatically come up with Life and Death being a Prime
>>Example of opposed runes and only held together by Cults of Dubious
>>Standing (Yelm, the Seven Mothers etc).

> Well, I will agree that not everyone thinks that combining Opposed
>Runes is necessarily Bad, but I do think the concept has some validity.

huh? I am saying that the concept of which runes are opposed to what is really only one determined by the Culture rather than the other way around. There is nothing intrinsically opposed in the runes (after Death is really Seperation and its primary manifestation to the humans is Death thus making it opposed to Fertility/Life but not necessarily Love).

>In fact, I will even go so far as to claim that the 8 opposed pairs of the
>Power runes is probably intellectually understood by just about everyone
>that actually uses the Runes. They will have very different interpretations
>of what 'opposed' means, but the basic idea is there.

And who uses these Standard Opposed Format of Power Runes? Everybody brought into contact by the God Learners, that's who! Circular reasoning so to speak. Look, I bring up an example of an opposed rune not recognized by the God Learners or the Malkioni who would be the most proficient in Western Runic Lore nowadays in an attempt to prove that its largely cultural.

The Law Rune is used both right side up and upside down by the Malkioni (see the Wizard Pic in Gods of Glorantha). They make no distinction between the two usages. However in Dara Happa, Basko is represented with an upside down triangle with a dot in it cf the Gods Wall (The dot is an addition and the meaning of it we won't go into here). The Dara Happan Rune for 'Y' (the Fortunate Succession) is surprisingly not the Fire Rune but a Rightside Up Triangle with a Dot in it. The 'Carver' of this rune according to the Priests of Yuthuppa is Yelm. We know that Yelm and Basko are opposed gods (Kingdom of ignorance and Dara Happa). So the Dara Happans clearly see the two triangles as opposed runes (rightside up = Order, upside down = Disorder/Irrationality, etc IMO) which is something not recognized by the Malkioni.

>> Yet the Orlanthi see Humakt,
>>Death, as being in the Service of Life and do not really comprehend
>>the point of 'opposing' runes in this context.

> If anything I would say that the RQ2 view IS the Orlanthi view, and
>it is the Dara Happans who would have the most problem with the concept.

Really? The only runes I saw in the KoS were the EWF gravings. The tale of the First Harp which is our best source for the Orlanthi view on the Celestial Court speaks of Seven Powers being unified by Harmony and makes no mention of the fact that one of these powers is Disorder who would be opposed to Harmony. In the PoV of your average clan Orlanthi, Runes are for the Urbanized Lunar Symps...

> Humakt are closer to Death, so they are unable to access the most
>important life power (Resurrection), in the Humakti scheme of things.

Only the die hardest humakti found in Dragon Pass and Carmania are unable to be resurrected, IMO. The Humathi of Ralios and the North War Wind of Pent are somewhat more liberal with ressurection as well as being more 'windy'. I don't think the inability to be ressurected is an automatic consequence of worshipping the primal Death Rune. It may be a powerful tool for getting to know Humakt but that doesn't mean it's the only tool.

> I think the Lunars acknowledge the opposition of Death and
>Fertility and feel clever and smug about their religions ability to combine
>them.

'We surround the Red Moon with the Life and Death Runes from their local tradition. Believe me, it really spooks the natives...'

> The people most likely to have a problem with it are the Yelmites,
>but I think perhaps even they see the Life and Death aspects of Yelm as a
>Mystery aspect of the Yelmic religion. The Yelm mythology may not have
>originally acknowledged the opposition, but I think it probably does now.

So you admit that opposing runes is a cultural artifact? From what I can tell, Yelmic myth sees the Death rune as symbolic of the Last Rebel (similar intonation to the Last Decree of the Roman Republic IMO). The Last Rebel opposes the fiery rune itself and not the fertility rune (which I'm not sure is specifically attached to Yelm).

>>Anybody who mentions Bijiif, the Ashen Yelm as an example will be
>>roundly set upon. Bijjif seems to be a cult of Dead Fire Worship
>>(ie ashes) based in Darjiin. The fact that he is sometimes called
>>the rival merely reflects the numerous scraps Darjiin and Alkoth
>>have had over the many years.

> I find your attempt to interpret the myth of Bijiif purely in terms
>of cultural history just as bad as the concept you lambast below. Bijiif is
>not 'the rival' merely because of a number of historical altercations
>between cities - the Dead Fire being opposed to the Live Fire makes perfect
>mythological sense in a number of ways.

And Horus becoming Osiris upon death makes perfect mythological sense for the Egyptians but they are still seperate Gods, IMO.

> I never really thought of Bijiif as really having a cult in any
>case - I assumed that Bijiif was an aspect of Yelm important only
>internally to the Yelmic religion. But then again, what do I know - I
>haven't even read TFS yet.

You can assume that the Parts of Yelm have their own cults. Vrimak and BernEel Arashagern are implied as being worshipped in the GRAY. The 'Sacrificial Priests' of Envirinus are mentioned in the Fortunate Succession. Basko is honoured with a Writeup in Troll Gods. Antirius was worshipped in Dara Happa when Yelm was in Hell. And Bijiif is the odd god out being 'important only internally to the Yelmic Religion'?

>>[1] 'Cultural Materialism'. The concept I'm railing against here is the
>>tendency to simplistically ascribe an cultural practice to an environmental
>>effect.

> The environmental effects responsible for separating the runes into
>opposing pairs here being what?

I'm saying that the runes are _neutral_ with respect to each other. The God Learners organized them into opposing pairs because it suited their magic to do so. Naturally this has carried on with its intellectual successors.

All I'm saying is that the fact that whatever determines what runes are opposed to which is primarily dependant on the needs of the Culture. They have to have a need of making signposts in the invisible world. They see some power which they can obtain magic from. But to know it better they must define it with repect to what they know. One of the ways to do this is to define it with respect to what it is not.

For instance let us say that a hypothetical tribe in Dragon Pass worships Mastakos at the Travelling Stone of Larnste (Mobility Rune). They carry out a fierce war with the staid conservative mostali who rever the Stone Rune. Thus to become more stronger with their magic, they define their god against the character defects of the supposed God of the Mostali ('Mastakos is not staid'). Mastakos becomes closer to his people as a result and thus they can do better magic. Thus Movement becomes seemingly opposed to Stasis. The Mostali having myths of their god being smashed to pieces by someone who Refused to Follow the Housing Construction ByLaw #1847235876, define their ways against the Mastakos tribe accordingly and so Stone becomes opposed to Anarchy.

Soren Petersen:


>Wizards not being allowed to
>shave etc. Heh, I can see it now - suddenly, every Rokari Wizard in
>Glorantha sprouts a huge, bushy beard (The God Learners strike Back!)
>Poor, fastidious Arlaten is going to be *very* surprised when he wakes
>up in the morning :)

Strictly speaking Arlaten's a mere clerk according to SiP. They may not have the same strictures.

End of Glorantha Digest V1 #326


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