Re: [Glorantha]Re: Gloranthan reality of magic and religion

From: Peter Larsen <plarsen_at_uri.edu>
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004 09:35:41 -0500


At 05:07 PM 2/21/2004 +0000, Trotsky wrote:

> From the Zzaburi's perspective, the Heortling's lightning bolt is
> perfectly real, but it proves nothing about the nature of Orlanth, still
> less his moral standing. It no more constitutes proof in his eyes than
> weeping statues, liquefying blood and miraculous cures at Lourdes
> constitute proof of Christianity in the eyes of a RW unbeliever. So, to
> my mind at least, the difference between Earth and Glorantha isn't so
> great in this respect as it might at first appear.

         I'll second this (or third it, or whatever). Most of us have been raised in a culture of monotheism, which is mostly about worshipping the only correct god -- belief in other god is at best a delusion and at worst evil. Polytheistic cultures, especially those from the ancient world who were interacting with other polytheistic cultures, had a really different view of things. The gods are honored more than worshipped (in the monotheist sense). There is much more of a sense of contract -- you worship god X because he does Y for you, not because it would be evil to do otherwise. Not honoring the gods of your ancestors is impious, but that's a problem because the gods might get pissed off at everyone, not because there is a moral imperative to do so.

         So, let's get back to Glorantha -- no normal Heortling will suggest that the Red Moon is a) not a god, b) unable to give real powers to Her followers, or c) offers a real afterlife. What they dispute is that She is a good god whose power and existence benefits the world (and, most importantly the Orlanthi). If the Lunar Empire was content within its borders and had left Sartar alone, most Sartari would respond to Lunars only with the normal Heortling bucolic xenophobia; if Aunt Freka decided to marry a Lunar and embrace Natha, she'd be a weirdo outsider, but she wouldn't be evil (Uncle Hraf the Storm Bully might see things differently, but he's a weirdo, too). Only with the social pressures of Lunar occupation are the bulk of Sartari so polarized -- pretty much all cotters and most carls are too busy with life to worry too much about some furriners and their philosophical problems.

         Similarly, an Ernaldan worships the Mother Earth to keep food coming and society together. If she were to have a chat with a Dara Happan farmer's wife, she would find that they have much in common, but she would not be driven to give up her goddess for the rites of the Pelorian nor insist that the Pelorian was incorrect for following her own gods -- after all, the goddesses of the great river valley are not the goddesses of the steep hills. If the Dara Happan was brought to the stead as a thrall, that would be a different matter; who wants foreign goddesses in the stead? It still wouldn't be evil.

         And all of this doesn't prove anything of greater philosophical value. Arroyans can resurrect the dead, which hardly anyone else can do; does this make their creed of pacifism universal? Some Elmali can resurrect themselves, does that make Elmal more attractive that Orlanth? Most people follow their gods because following those gods has keep their people healthy and happy for generations, not because they believe that their gods are the only way for anyone else to live. "Different people have different rules" is a tennent of most cultures in Glorantha, with "and they are weird and troubling ways that aren't for you" as a close corollary -- the cultures with more evangelical religious and philosophical drives have tended to make a big splash but end badly.

Peter Larsen

--__--__-- Received on Mon 23 Feb 2004 - 06:57:16 EET

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