[Glorantha]Boxes, webs, fractals - Heortling tribes, clans and land

From: John Hughes <nysalor_at_iprimus.com.au>
Date: Sun, 1 Feb 2004 06:05:01 +1100


Hey folks

I've had a few conversations recently about Sartarite tribes, clans, boundaries, tribal membership and tribal fragmentation, so I thought I might try and summarise them for the Digest.

Greg has stated that tribal and even on occasion clan boundaries can be non contiguous. This has always been my working rule - what I'd like to do is explore the notion a little, including some of the possible game consequences.

When we look at a map, it easy and obvious to define tribal or clan areas as 'boxes' with clearly defined, contiguous, areas. After all, that how countries, states, councils - in fact most of the demographically defined areas of our modern world - work. And because we think with our bodies, clearly defined discrete areas are central to how we process information. Things that overlap, cross boundaries or fit into more then one category, be they concrete, mental or even symbolic, so called * liminal* objects - can cause us a certain amount of distress, and are an important part of religion and ritual.

CLANS & TULAS However, if you think of how a wilderness like Sartar has been settled, and what is concretely important 'on the ground', a rather different pattern can emerge. Sartar has been resettled only recently in historical times, beginning with small numbers of settlers some 300 years ago. Its patterns of settlement are in some ways still characteristic of a frontier society.

How do clan lands evolve? A small group comprising one or several families cut a stead tree on a sheltered site with access to water, hunting, grazing, and agricultural lands. This is usually by a river. Over time, the settlement expands, usually following the river bank. Hunters cut major trails, and quickly learn the areas to avoid - be they haunted ruins, chaos nests, dragonewt or troll hunting grounds, areas governed by hostile or unpredictable powers, or 'goat country' with few harvestable resources. Hunting ranges tend to be large, encompassing considerable areas that are of little worth. Sheep make their way to high country each Sea Season, and these hilltop sheilings become important for several seasons each year. As the richer riverside land is filled by gardens and cow meadows, secondary settlements expand into neighbouring areas of fertile land (where available) or into higher country suitable only for herding or hunting. The tula is marked by a network of trails that resemble a spider web, a fractal pattern of stem and branch. These trails will often be surrounded by large areas of land that receive little attention, seasonal attention, or that are actively avoided. Some areas, like the hilltop sheilings, will attract seasonal interest from several different settlements and even from different clans (the sheep don't differentiate), and will become shared territory, important to trade, courtship and general sociality. Crossroads and major markets will attract markets, and these may also be neutral or shared territory.

When it comes to formally marking clan boundaries with ritual and boundary stones, it is only the areas bordering with other clans that are important to define. There seem to be two types of boundary markers that are important to Heortlings - those that mark off cultivated fields from wilderness (internal) and larger, more scattered markers that define clan territory (external). It is the former that are the more important in my own campaigns, marking the battle lines of an eternal conflict between the Lady and the Queen, and between Odayla and Barntar.

In the real world, sacred sites are seldom defined by a rigid demarcation line, but rather by greater or lesser clines of sanctity, danger and avoidance. I would suggest that this way of comprehending the landscape is also common among Heortlings. A tula will have some clearly defined (probably contested) boundaries, some vague boundaries, and some areas that simply aren't thought much about at all, areas too dangerous or too rugged to be of any interest to anyone.

A tula guardian may well have its own characteristic favourite areas and relative blind spots in perceiving and patrolling the tula. A bear spirit will prefer riversides and forested areas, bird powers will prefer edges and avoid deep forest, while ancestral or cultic powers will be drawn to settlements and altars, with relatively little interest in uplands or hunting areas.

There are alternatives to this general pattern of course - hillforts being one possible exception.And as population increases, competition for land means that demarcating and defending boundaries become more important. However, I don't believe that this is yet a major concern for most of Sartar - most feuds and battles are over honour and cattle, not over land.

There's a further complication when we look at contemporary real world clans - there is often very little correlation between a person's clan membership and where they actually live. However, the ritual and magical importance of the tula is probably enough to keep most Heortling males at least on their home tula when possible. But the diversity of marriage customs, the application of lesser outlawry and exile, and the strong wanderlust typified by the Adventurous cults will mean that a substantial minority of inhabitants on a given tula will be from elsewhere. With the growing importance of the hero band, which favours kayling (cultic) bonds over those of kinship, this can only increase.

TRIBES AND TRIBAL TERRITORIES I suspect that Heortling clans and tribes should really be a lot more scrambled than they are, given the Heortlings propensity for squabbling and their lack of centralised governing structures. Once again, we tend to lump clans in tribes together primarily
because we're looking 'top down' at a map, But demography is just one imperative among several.

In determining what analogues might be useful in describing Heortling tribes, we need to ask how a particular group is constituted, what are the important unifying symbols, and what are the linkages between them. For example for most of the period of absolute monarchy in Europe, people primarily identified themselves as subjects of a particular monarch. So mere *land* could be happily lost or gained, swapped back and forth, be given away (the Orkneys!) etc.because ownership and identity were primarily posited around kingship. In one sense, with the rise of nationalism, 'history', common ethnicity, and other markers of ethos were invented to convince the peasants they had something to fight over.

To use another example, endogamy (in-marrying) will tend to make a group more isolated over time, and particular customs or religious values will tend to grow more pronounced and be used as markers of identity, until there is a real divide between the group and its neighbours. Around 1200 BC, a group of semi-nomadic Canaanites stopped eating pork - we can see it in the archaeological record. This marker gradually became the centre for an incredibly elaborate religious and culture complex that was later systematised and made even stronger through the writing in the last centuries BCE of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, with its elaborate founding myths and ideological history, sense of destiny and strong, exclusionary religious ethic. The 'Israelites' came to identify themselves in opposition to the 'Canaanites' from which they were in fact indistinguishable for most of their history. By contrast, a symbol like 'Rome' came to unify scattered peoples who shared neither language nor religion nor law. And 'Christendom' came to signify a supposed unity with little regard to geography, even when a large proportion of it was fighting with itself. Sound familiar?

Bearing these examples in mind, how is Heortling society constituted? How important are the tribes, and what is the relationship between clans in a tribe? How important is geography?

By far the most important unit in Heortling society is the clan. Land, justice, trade and most warfare is constituted at this level. Clan lands have a spiritual guardian, and so are **relatively** stable and fixed over time (not that we don't have examples of clans expanding their tulas, or even of upping and moving to a new locale when forced to). Clans endure.

Tribes by comparison, are almost an afterthought. They can make living with your neighbours and defending against external enemies easier, and can facilitate justice between clans, but tribal leadership is relatively weak when compared to a clan chieftain. Heortlings have tribes because Orlanth made tribes, and indeed the position of tribal king is largely a religious one - kingmaking rites are Orlanth the Leader heroquests. But the religious imperative aside, Heortling tribal kings have little power apart from oratory and persuasion - the position is seldom hereditary but rather elected, often for a fixed term (seven years), and any clan's membership in a tribe is voluntary. Turning weaponthanes against recalcitrant clans is a big no-no. The strong tribal kings are the ones who remain chief of their clans, in situations where their clans are the strongest in the tribe. Here, as always, kinship counts for a lot.

Strong tribal federations seem themselves fairly recent - largely due to the ingenuity of Sartar in forging the city-rings, and the growing threat over several generations from the Lunar Empire and Imperial Tarsh.

It's interesting that Heort's Law states, "**in dangerous times** obey the King of the Tribe". KOS 253 - emphasis mine. The entire system is voluntary and 'bottom up' - clans willingly accede some of their own power to the tribal king. But when they don't want to play any more, they can simply take their hurley bat and ball and go home. The entire section on the tribe in KOS beginning on p. 253 is well worth reading closely with this in mind. KOS reminds us that in theory at least, *all* tribal affiliations are temporary and voluntary.

I'm sure there are many clans with no or only the most tenuous of tribal affiliations. I'm also sure that these clans have a pretty high mortality rate, but heck, we never said Heortlings aren't thick-headed. :)

Given the Heortling predilection for feuding, squabbling, and sulking, I sometimes think its a miracle that tribes continue to exist at all. Its worth exploring why they in fact *do*.

Luckily, most Heortling clans are exogamous, needing marriage partners from other clans, and they have lots of external enemies, so they make *some* effort in maintaining tribal affiliations. But when honour or opportunism is threatened, when bullying doesn't work or when another clan becomes too powerful on the tribal council, then there's always the temptation to start looking around for a new set of alliances. Tribal membership can be temporary and fluid, and it is *very* subject to the Heortling disease.

That most tribal confederations *do* seem to be largely geographically proximate may be an indication that communication over any distance is still a challenge. In those times when a clan does need to call on the tribe's resources (usually in times of chaos outbreak or raiding by Praxians, Grazers or elder races) it sure helps if they can respond within a day or two.

Now if I've initially overstated the volatility of tribal membership in making my case, its good to remember that nothing stays the same for long in Heortling affairs. The wind is never the same. There will always be tensions and crises in tribal membership, even if clans do tend to stay with the one tribe. And the Lunars are experts in encouraging tribal friction, with so much success that the majority of violent deaths since the invasion have come from inter-tribal warfare, not Imperial engagement. 'Divide and conquer' is the guiding principle.

Its also good to remember that Heortling society is a undergoing rapid change. The land is newly forged, only a few centuries old. Sartar brought radical new ways of doing things (and indeed further weakened the already shaky notion of tribes by adding larger objects of unity - tribal confederations and a nation-state, and by building roads that made long distance communication and alliance forging much easier). Kings like Salinarg and now Temertain have done much to destroy the prestige of the High Kingship. Then along come the Lunars with their own notions of kingship and government, and start imposing them on the locals left, right, and centre. Some off it rubs off. The Hero Wars are bringing new pressures - the rise in importance of hero bands where kinship is no longer so important, the forging of new types of alliances and an incredibly romantic notion of a nation constituted around a Liberator king. So the Heortling polity and ethos is an incredible mix of ancient ideas, new, evolving ideas, and foreign ideas imposed with great prejudice. Because of this, a lot of the present social institutions doesn't work very well at all.

Thank goodness they worship a Change rune.

Think of Heortling clans as the tiny nation-states in Dark Age Britain, ever changing their alliances and allegiances as they fought both expanding Anglo-Saxons *and* their own internecine wars against each other. This only ceased with the rise of the larger scale kingdoms in the late eighth and ninth centuries. Here too hero bands - comitatus- became central institutions that challenged old notions of loyalty and kinship. Sartar once brought temporary unity to the Heortlings, but the old ways have resurfaced with
the collapse of the kingdom. Another
Liberator/dictator/Transformer/Changebringer is surely required.

The fact that tribes and tribal federations still remain primarily geographical says a lot about the fragility of the High Kingship and its nascent apparatus of state. For all his success with the city rings, Sartar and his descendants have never been able to forge a true national ethos, a sense of Heortlings as Sartarites above being Colymar or Kheldon, let alone Maplebark, Black Oak or White Bear. The symbols of unity have always been primarily religious, and the Storm Pantheon is essentially one of rugged individuals and families, not nation builders. The Orlanthi have had empires in the past, but they always let them fall into ruin.

Given the strong centrifugal forces at work among the tribes, what are the symbols and realities that help them maintain themselves?

I think language and dialect are one, an important unifying force that doesn't get much attention in the sources. As the Dinacoli found when they joined the Tarsh-speaking Aldachur Overtribe, its easy to be hated when you don't speak the language.

There will be other markers of tribal identity as well - often arbitrary and stereotypical, but enough for Barbarian Adventures to comment on them. The Lismelder are clever, the Sambari are thrallholders, the Balkoth are great traders but also 'Goatsuckers'. My own Tovtaros are 'Source of Heroes' (though I think I prefer the draft version, which alluded to amorous proclivities with sheep). And you can always tell a Princeros, cause they walk around with a spear shoved up their butt. (No, that's not in BA. Unfortunately. :))

There will be regional variations and fashions in clothing, tattoos, weapons and trade goods which serve as distinctive badges of tribal identity. For the Tovtaros, its their sturdy raincapes with elaborate clan designs or 'marns' (which, incidentally, is the name the Imitherians give to their clans). And they walk barefoot with tattooed feet - a giveaway in any crowded market.

We know that tribes have distinct tattoos - I wonder if they have distinct, magically charged Runes as well - or at least distinct symbols and glyphs?

Given clan exogamy, after a few generations there will be strong kinship ties between the clans, and mutually admired heroes and ancestors. And the ties of birth clan encourage the women in the moot to be conservative and cautious regarding tribal affiliation, even when all the men are cursing the king and extolling the virtues of those Lismelder just down the road.

And there will be ritual ties as well. King-making heroquests (Orlanth the Leader) will no doubt involve locales in each of the clan tulas. Cultic heroquests will favour locales in tribal lands. Both these will persist as c onservative forces even if you're feuding with one or more clans in your tribal confederation. And while cultic rites and heroquests can and do change over time, after being established for several generations a change in tribal membership will necessitate some extreme changes in the magic and ritual of the clan.

So maybe it is best to swap some honest violence, make peace and get drunk together. It's worked every other year...

While territoriality is only one dimension of tribal ethos, religion, ancestry, language or trade can also forge enduring, conservative bonds that forge a collective identity, and encourage tribes to remain at least moderately stable over time. But its never easy.

So raise the tribes for Starbrow. What was her tribe again?

Cheers

John


nysalor_at_iprimus.com.au                              John Hughes
Questlines: http://home.iprimus.com.au/pipnjim/questlines/

The cloaked one's hero heat shakes wide the city wall. With feat and spear and magic bolt the final rite begins. War-band's white bull, a dragon in strife, Feeds he most fulsome the dogs of the Death-Lord.

The Righteous Wind returns to range free! Open your arms, let it hurl against your faces, hair and eyes streaming. You have breath,

               voice, limb and power.
Hurricane rebels, what you must.

From: "Greg Stafford" <greg_at_glorantha.com>

> I can imagine a tula being scattered here and there. Maybe not good ont he
long term, as you said, but certainlypossible. For instance, what if y our clan happened to sieze and keep the central valley between my other two valleys?

> I beleive that this is even in the source books. It has always been a part
of my game. Clans can qit and join tribes pretty much at will, and thus non contiguous tribal areas are pretty much thenorm.
>

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End of Glorantha Digest Received on Sun 01 Feb 2004 - 06:02:47 EET

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