Re: Opposed Runes

From: David Cake (
Date: Fri 23 Jun 1995 - 07:40:51 EEST

        I really seem to have touched a nerve talking about opposed Runes. I suspect that some of the questions here are pretty much impossible to resolve, but I thought I should try and at least make my position clearer.

>David Cake:
>> 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.
>Given the holistic nature of the Kralorelan mystic world view, I think
>that they don't recognize the opposed pairs.

        Indeed, I think that the Kralorelan mystics will generally advise against taking those Theyalan runes very seriously. I think that they intellectually understand the concept of opposed pairs of runes, and their philosophers think it is a subtle error of Western thinking, and a good reason to avoid the Western set of Runes in favour of the Kralorelan ones. There are probably a few inhiabitants of Kralorela who have fallen prey to this insidious error, though.

        This is different to not recognising the concept. Very different. In fact everything I said originally I still stand by. I am firmly convinced that those Kralorelans who use the Theyalan runes intellectually understand the concept of opposed pairs of runes. Its just that many of them understand it and claim it as an error, and use this as an argument for using the Kralorelan runes rather than the Theyalan ones.

        And in any case, who says the concept of opposed runes is in any way incompatible with a holistic philosophy! Yin and Yang, son, Yin and Yang.

        And let me just have a brief rant against the idea that a cultures central philosophy must be uniformly represented in all aspects of that culture. Cultures are not homogenous! Saying that the Kralorelans don't 'recognise' a concept because it isn't in complete accord with the sayings of its mystics is silly. There is a great deal of diversity within a culture as well.

>For the runes this could mean that the Kralorelans have rune-equivalents
>where e.g. Death and Life are combined, while the Teshnans have a third
>rune representing the balancing between Life and Death.

        I am far from convinced, especially on the Teshnans (who seemed to be developing an interesting cosmology that wasn't overly Indian <sigh>). Rather, I suspect that the Kralorelans simply have runes for Life and Death. Sometimes they might be talked of as opposed, but the mystics claim that Death is part of the cycle of Life, and who would want to argue with them. Your average peasant on the street knows that being dead means being not alive, though, and so if you tell them that Life and Death are opposed, they would probably grant the idea some credence (possibly until corrected by their spiritual teachers).

>From: "Carlson, Pam" <>
>Date: Thu, 22 Jun 95 09:33:00 PDT
>Subject: life & death
>Howdy all,
>David Cake comments that the Pelorians would have the biggest problem
>putting life and death in the same cult. I don't agree. To me they seem far
>more mystical than Theyalans.

        My comment was more about the Dara Happans, and I agree with you in part. I think the 7 Mothers missionaries are far more simply arrogant about it - our cult combines life and death because our goddess is so great that she can combine all powers in one - while the Dara Happans have far more intellectual problems with the idea of a god of life and death - which is why they approach the concept more mystically. I see Yelm as the Underworld sun as having a fair amount in common with the cult of Osiris, a mystery religion.


>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

        My point is probably something like 'so are the Runes, and culturally determined in the same way'. Basically, I think any culture that uses the Runes will have also learnt the basic of their interpretation. Cultures that use the same Runes will have roughly the same concept of opposition. Sure, cultures that use different runes will have different treatments.

>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.

        Well, sure. Yes, the Runes, and the concept of Opposed Runes (specifically, the opposing pairs of power Runes), are both God Learner teachings. Runes that are not part of the God Learner set will have their own different culturally determined concepts and representation of opposition.

        I am not trying to claim any great truth about Runes in general, just that the Theyalan ones probably retain roughly the same interpretation and organisation (including opposed pairs) wherever they are used. Other rune systems may or may not include the concept of opposed pairs. Most cultures probably recognise the idea of opposed concepts, but they may have different attitudes to it.

>Only the die hardest humakti found in Dragon Pass and Carmania are unable
>to be resurrected, IMO.

        So, uh, the Dragon Pass and Esrolia ones that we generally refer to as Orlanthi? Perhaps I should have said Manirians where I said Orlanthi, but I didn't realise that this level of nitpicking was going to crop up.

        I stand by the (revised) comment that Manirians generally consider Death and Life to be generally opposed powers, especially so when we talk about Humakti. I note in support of this that deities that possess powerful healing powers are generally opposed to violence (CA the obvious example, but Ernalda another very good one) and that Humakti are cut off from Resurrection (the ultimate life magic) and often forgo healing as well.

> The Humathi of Ralios and the North War Wind of
>Pent are somewhat more liberal with ressurection as well as being more

        While not as convinced of the truth of the above statement as you are, I can accept it. If they are more liberal with Resurrection, I presume they are less concerned with the sanctity of death? If they are, then they should lose some death related powers.

> 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.

        And worshippers that do not acknowledge it, are probably less connected to the death aspects of Humakt. Makes perfect sense - even without the concept of opposed runes, regarding it merely as a degree of devotion to Death. While Life and Death are not always necessarily opposed, I think Resurrection (normally considered a Life magic) is always opposed to Death (whereas Fertility magic, for example, is Life magic that is not necessarily opposed to Death (cf. sacrifice rituals)).

>> 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?

        Sure. My point of view is that IF you use the Theyalan Runes, you acknowledge the fact that the power Runes come in opposing pairs. The Yelmites did not originally, and may have not seen the Life and Death powers of Yelm (which they may not have acknowledged in that form) as opposed. I think that they do now, and they also use the Theyalan Runes (though not exclusively).

>Last Rebel opposes the fiery rune itself and not the fertility rune (which
>I'm not sure is specifically attached to Yelm).

        The fertility rune may not have been attached to Yelm according to GRAY, but I think it sure is now. Sorry for my unquestioning acceptance of GoG and the Yelm cult write up.

>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.

        The same arguments can be used equally well to define what concepts are just concepts, and which concepts are magical powers with significance to the otherworld. If which powers are opposed is culturally determined, then so is what powers they acknowledge in the first place. Which I think is true, BUT I also think that Gloranthan cultures (especially Genertelan) have some things in common.

        Basically, I think the Theyalan Runes represent one particular way of organising the world. And intrinsic to this is a set of opposed powers. You can talk of life not being to opposed to death, and I am happy to grant that some cultural validity. But I think that the Theyalan Rune Fertility is opposed to the Theyalan Rune of Death, and that to organise your world by the Theyalan Runes is to acknowledge this. Furthermore, I see nothing to convince me that this is otherwise.

>- --Peter Metcalfe




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