"Said the straight man to the late man"

From: PMichaels@aol.com
Date: Sun 04 Feb 1996 - 17:42:53 EET


OK. Here's a few more mixed-up jumbled thoughts, responding
to David Dunham's response to my original post about various
East Ralian deities.

Me:
>>I think Lankoring is more like the Pagan Shore deity Midir
>>(the God of Lawyers); his worshippers are like the
>>Breitheamn, who arbitrate disputes based on their
>>knowledge of Irish Law. I agree with David that Lankoring
>>is the God of Lawspeaking, but I don't think he's the god of
>>ALL knowledge the way the Manarian Lankor Mhy is/tries to
>>be. I think Lankoring's knowledge is focused solely on the
>>Truth as it relates to the Law and has little to do with
>>knowing about history, geography, or the "natural" world
>>(minerals, plants, etc...) as areas of study. In the East Wilds
>>Lankoring is the Lawspeaker, the Lord of Wisdom, the
>>Arbiter.

David:
>Right, that's what I believe. ... Although I believe that
>Lankoring priests... would frequently learn more about the
>natural world in order to better interpret some oracles.
and (later):
>I think Lankoring is a far better deity for figuring geases.

What? Lankoring combines both the prophecy role of the fili
and the adjudicating role of the breitheamh?

"Why do you have to disembowel a bird to decide this case?
Aidan admits he stole my best milk cow!"

"Aargh! Quit speaking in rhyming riddles and just tell me how
much I owe Ognar for his damned pigs!"

"What do you mean I owe Dangus eineach because I saw a stag
heading north right before he killed my cousin?"

I know I'm being facetious here, but I just don't see it. What
does foretelling fate (and then setting a prohibition to avoid
that fate) or interpreting oracles have to do with arbitrating
legal disputes? It makes sense for Lhankor Mhy, the God of
(All) Knowledge, to provide Divination. It doesn't make sense
for Lankoring, the God of Lawspeakers, to provide Divination
and Divine Geas. (I could now ask "So, who does provide these
spells in the East Wilds?" but as we all know I believe this is
Eurmal, I won't.) ;-)

David (regarding Eurmal):
>East Ralios is Orlanthi, and I don't think there's a "good" role
>for him.
And (earlier):
>And why anyone would ask the Liar for a divination is beyond
>me.

Let me start by pointing out that I believe the Orlanthi are also
like the Celts in that their culture is spread over a large
geographic area and their beliefs and customs vary from place
to place. The VAST majority of info we have on the Orlanthi is
specific to the Sartar and Heortland Orlanthi. I believe that
this info gives little sense of the great diversity of religious
beliefs and customs of the Orlanthi people across Glorantha.
This why I am thrilled with stuff like Harald Smith's Imther,
and your East Ralios. (And hey! Did anyone else catch how
David Hall and Nick Brooke have HUMAKT as a Lightbringer in
Otkorion? Wonderful!) It's also why I'm disappointed with the
East Ralian Orlanth mythos as described so far.

So just because Eurmal is reviled and disliked in Heortland as
an untrustworthy liar and drunken sot doesn't mean that
ALL(100%) Orlanthi view him that way.

"(I)nterestingly, the Gaelic words for 'druid' and 'fool' or
'jester' are virtually the same." (Pagan Shore, p.44) "In
demeanor, the druids appear variously stately, superb, and
insane." (Pagan Shore, p.77) The fili are depicted as either
"Mad," "Bitter," "Greedy," or "Mysterious." (Pagan Shore, p.79)
Whether dispite this foolishness, insanity, and madness, or
because of it, the Irish people went to the druids and fili for
the laying of geases and for prophecy.

And since when is knowing your geas necessarily a good thing?
I think it's a real mixed blessing, if not sometimes a curse! A
geas doesn't tell you what you must do to live well, only what
you must _not_ do or face bad luck, dishonor, and eventual
death. Knowing your geas doesn't necessarily allow you to live
any longer. It certainly doesn't allow you to live any better, or
make you happier. And, geases sometimes have a way of
putting people into terribly difficult situations. A man with
the geas "never fight a wolf at a river-ford at night" ends up in
a quite a quandry when the Telmori he has been chasing (and
who has stolen his infant daughter) decides to make his stand
at a river-ford! Or something like that. Also, if your enemies
manage to guess your geas, they may be able to figure out a
way to trick you into breaking it. Lastly, to paraphrase an
Irish friend of mine, "A geas was basically good for only one
thing; you knew a sure-fire way to commit suicide!"

Now, doesn't that sort of thing sound right up Eurmal's alley?

David:
>If you want a "good" role for Eurmal, the bard described in
>Pagan Shore is better than fili: "A poet and musician with the
>special function of praising good nobles and lampooning bad
>ones." Perhaps this is why Orlanthi chieftains keep a resident
>Eurmali -- they receive poetic praise.

The Pagan Shore bard "constitutes a weaker, Christianized
version of the fili." (Pagan Shore, p. 6) If I didn't make it clear
before, I think the East Wilds Eurmal fills both functions;
prophet and praiser, seer and satyrist. As I said before,
Eurmal can praise or lampoon, making or breaking a man with
his words. With his words he can affect his listeners, creating
or dispelling emotions. He is beyond the Law; laws do not bind
him or apply to him. He is a mysterious and powerful force of
change, to be both feared and respected. And for most people,
like with so many mysterious and powerful things, that
probably means he is more feared than respected.

>According to the official Trickster writeup in Questlines, ...

Although I have not yet seen Questlines (my copy is still in Oz
with Pam Carlson, as far as I know), I'm willing to bet the
Trickster write-up has probably not been significantly changed
from the approx. 10 years old version I have. If it has not been
significantly changed then, while I understand it's usefulness
to GM's, I must denounce it as the rankest of reductionist God
Learner documents! It combines such diverse gods as Bolongo,
Catsup Slob, Eurmal, Hare, Invisible Jayoran, Rankenveg, and
Raven into one "meta-level" archetypal Trickster. If this is
presently a valid approach to our understanding of Gloranthan
deities, why not just combine such goddesses as Aldrya,
Aleshmara, Asrelia, Dendara, Eiritha, Ernalda, Faranar, Voria,
and Yanmorla into the archetypal Goddess? Or combine such

gods as Humakt, Shargash, Storm Bull, Vangono, Yanafal
Tarnils, and Zorak Zoran to make the archetypal Warrior? (Of
course, this is where the GL's were going, and look what
happened to them!)

My point about the archetypal Trickster write-up is that it
gives NO cultural context for understanding the Trickster in
ANY of his/her/its incarnations. It was that document which
led to my trying to outline and describe (and maybe understand
a little) the major Trickster figure in each Gloranthan culture.
Thus, my Raven (Prax) write-up, my Raven (Pent) write-up, my
Hare (Pent) write-up, my Eurmal (Sartar) write-up, etc. [Most
of these are works in progress, but I know I've posted at least
the two Raven cults to this Digest.] It's also why I'm
struggling to describe Eurmal in the East Wilds.

>...the Trickster aspects found in Ralios are Dismembered
>(since East Ralios is now a Theyalan culture); Firebringer;
>Fool; Fright; Imp; Shapechanger (a shrine in Naskorion has
>Become Dirty Shirt); Thief.

Please remember that "Ralios" includes Safelster,
Vesmonstran, etc... Not all of those aspects are found in all
areas of Ralios. I also believe that the "found in all Theyalan
lands" description is an Orlanthi "all," meaning that not every
Theyalan area has the Comic Fool, Dismembered, and
Shapeshifter aspects of Trickster.

My whole point in this is that since (presumable) the East
Wilds culture has elements which make it uniquely "East
Wildish," what makes the East Wilds Eurmal unique? What's
his role in the East Wilds culture, that he doesn't provide
anywhere else? These are the questions that have been guiding
my thinking. And they are why, when I ran across the Pagan
Shore description of the fili, a little bell went off in my head.

(Yeah, yeah, I know. I should see someone about that. But then,
I'm already in therapy at least 12 hours a week right now,
so... ) ;-)

Michael P. Carroll's article "The trickster as selfish-buffoon
and culture hero," in _Ethos_ magazine (1984, v12, p. 105-131)
has also helped me to understand this part of Trickster better.
In that article he discusses how:

     ...the Amerind trickster is often the agent responsible for
     creating the conditions that allow for the development of
     human civilization. Thus, for instance, the trickster might
     be the individual responsible for stealing fire and giving it
     to human beings, for instructing human beings in useful
     activities (like agriculture, boat-building, etc.), for
     clearing the land of obstacles and monsters, and so on.

I think this is the sort of thing Greg was reaching for with the
Firebringer aspect, but I think his vision was too influenced by
Jung's focus on the Prometheus myth in his analysis of the
Trickster. I think a more proper name of the aspect is Culture
Hero. (Note however that this is NOT a Hero in the traditional
sense. It is tied into all the other Trickster aspects, and is
part of the paradox of Trickster, and this is recognized by
those for whom he is a Culture Hero.) So while many may
"agree that Trickster, in one form or another, stole fire from
the Darkness," I think many credit him with doing other "good"
things. Or at least other things which were required for the
survival of the people. And what these "good" things are varies

between Gloranthan races and cultures. For instance, I think
the elves honor their Trickster (I'm not sure I know his name
yet) as the Monster-Scarer; he frightened away Darkmother
Troll (Kyger Litor) and Hatefather troll (Zorak Zoran) after the
one time they utterly defeated the Protectors and were about
to eat Aldrya. I think Bolongo eating all the red headed women
of the Pamaltelan grasslands (currently part of the Murderer
aspect description) falls into this category too, since it was
"necessary." Also, even though the Praxians have a story about
how Raven stole fire from the Sun, for them it is about the
Thief aspect, not the Firebringer.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Sorry. To get back to Eurmal, I think
the Culture Hero aspect varies among the Orlanthi cultures,
depending upon what it is Eurmal is supposed to have done to
help in the Lightbringer's Quest. Thus Eurmal is always a
Lightbringer, but he is not always the Firebringer.

To better illustrate this, below is my version of one of the LBQ
stories told in Sartar. It illustrates the so-far-only-official
role of "Eurmal Firebringer" and provides the cultural context
for the Hide Fire spell. It also describes how Eurmal breaks
(or "breaks," or whatever) the Cosmic Compromise.

     Then, for some reason, Eurmal began seeking to halt the
     ruination he had helped to cause. Some claim that he began
     trying to reduce the pain and suffering in the world despite
     his success at destruction (or maybe because of it), and
     that he voluntarily helped Orlanth. Others claim that
     Eurmal only stopped seeking to destroy the world after
     Orlanth caught him and extracted the Bondsman's Oath from
     him, forcing him to help the world. Still others say that
     Eurmal chose to restore disorder to order so that he could
     enjoy destroying all of creation again after it was rebuilt.
     And, some say Eurmal simply followed his nature and
     changed.

     Whatever the reason, Eurmal joined the Lightbringer's
     Quest. But even while on the Lightbringer's Quest, he
     remained the Trickster. He saved Sofal's children from
     being killed, but did so by betraying an old friend. He
     convinced Golod to allow the Lightbringer's safe passage
     across the ocean, but did so by lying to him. He distracted
     Sinjota at the gates of Hell so that the other Lightbringers
     could slip by, but was eaten by her afterwards. When he did
     decide to speak Truth he offended Subere and betrayed
     Orlanth, resulting in Orlanth being thrown into the Pits of
     Darkness. Eurmal found his way to the Halls of the Dead,
     but arrived alone after he had abandoned the other
     Lightbringers along the way. He found fire, which he knew
     would light Orlanth's way and free him from the Pits, but
     decided to steal it instead of asking for it. Hiding the
     flame in his belly, he went back to set Orlanth free, but
     then abandoned Orlanth again to sneak back to the Surface
     World. While there he shared the secret of fire with others,
     but was killed again when he tried to give it to the elves.
     When he again met up with Orlanth in Hell, he failed even
     himself by offering to renew his Bondsman's Oath.

     To his own and everyone else's surprise, he kept to this
     Oath for the rest of the Quest. He found the other five
     Lightbringers and rested with them, and they found
     themselves enjoying his company before the final ordeals
     of the Quest. Despite all the temptation and opportunity for
     tricks and jokes which present themselves in the Halls of
     the Dead, he caused no trouble or disturbance. (This has led
     some to say, "The only good Eurmali is a dead Eurmali.") He
     did not insult the broken Gryphon who greeted them at the
     entrance of the Halls of the Dead. He did not make fun of
     Humakt when he was found dull, rusty, and broken amid the
     dead. He did not attempt to steal from the dead. He did not
     scoff when the pitiful creature Maggotleige claimed to be
     the Bright Emperor. He spoke true words of wisdom and
     encouragement to Orlanth during the contest to release the
     Glory of the Sun. He even graciously accepted the gift
     which was given to him by Yelm, and did not complain that
     another received a finer gift nor secretly switch gifts with
     another. (Of course he received the gift of fire, which he
     had already stolen.) Eurmal was the first to recognize
     Arachne Solara, and was the first to swear her Oath of
    Compromise, and he was among those who joined with
     Orlanth as he strode out into the Dawning. And it was then
     that Eurmal returned to his true nature, and he broke the
     Cosmic Compact by refusing to be bound by Time.

     Of all the gods and goddesses since the Dawn, Eurmal is the
     only one who has broken the Cosmic Compromise and been
     active within Time. (Even Gbaji and the Red Goddess were
     eventually bound by Time.) Eurmal can still consciously
     alter the world as an individual entity, and he often turns
     his attention to it without being called upon to do so.
     Eurmal continues to manifest bodily on the Mundane Plane,
     and actively intervenes in the realms of both mortals and
     immortals in new and annoying ways. Despite this, or
     maybe because of it, he and those who would follow him
     have still achieved no great successes. (There are some
     who say that Eurmal's place in the Cosmic Compromise is to
     break the rules, and that he is still as bound by the
     Compromise as any deity. They claim that for him to really
     break the Compromise would require him to go against his
     nature and act consistently, truthfully, responsibly, and
     thoughtfully.)

***NOTE: Although you are certainly free to post disagreement
to the above version of the LBQ, I will most probably decline to
respond for the moment.

So here we see how during the LBQ Eurmal steals and then
hides fire in order to bring it to Orlanth (and others), thus
becoming "Eurmal Firebringer."

Now, although I haven't yet found a copy of the East Ralian LBQ,
my belief is that what the East Ralios Eurmal did was to
prophesy the geases of the Lightbringers. This led to them
_not_ doing something (to _fail_ to do something), which
(paradoxically) led to their success in the LBQ. Thus he is
"Eurmal Geaslayer" or "Eurmal the Fili," or whatever.

Also, I don't think the East Ralian Eurmal ever swore the
Bondsmans Oath. In fact, being beyond the Law, I don't think
East Ralian Eurmali _can_ swear oaths! The culture recognizes

that laws, even the law of their own word, can not bind them;
such is the strange and dangerous power of Eurmal. So, why
bother having them swear? The Eurmali are also beyond
eineach. That's why you're free to get away with whatever you
can against a Eurmali! (Mind you, I think one of the spells
available to East Ralian Eurmali is Wordwound, so...)

Wordwound/1 Point/ Self, Temporal, Stackable, Reusable
 Allows the caster to cause bodily damage using verbal satire
and/or insults. Each melee round the spell is in effect the
caster can try to use his or her Insult skill. If the caster is
unsuccessful, the target is unharmed that round. If the caster
is successful, the target can try to make a resistance roll. If
the resistance roll is successful, the target remains unharmed
that round. If the target fails and the caster had a "normally"
successful Insult, the target takes 1 point of general hit point
damage per point of spell. If the resistance roll fails and the
caster had a "critically" successful Insult, the target takes
1d3 points of general hit point damage per point of spell.

Insult (Uncommon Skill)
Communication skill, base 10%
 This skill allows a person to successfully ridicule, jeer,
mock, taunt, lampoon, or otherwise verbally abuse and make
fun of somebody. The effect of a successful roll is to insult
the target (probably angering them, providing they understood
what was said) and make them a laughingstock to any listening
bystanders. A failure means that nobody is amused, and the
target is mad at the insulting person. A fumble means that
everybody is angry at the insulting person.

Well, I've rambled on long enough for now, and have
undoubtedly brought a storm of controversy upon my head.
(See? Trickster makes fools of us all, and brings nothing but
misery! Beware! Beware!!) ;-)

It's a good thing I have absolutely nothing to do for the next
few days except my normal family duties with my wife and
kids, see my therapy clients, work on my thesis, study for
classes, keep job searching, try not to catch another cold, and
await the arrival of the RQDU audiotapes! ;-D

Peace,
     Peter

------------------------------

End of Glorantha Digest V2 #359
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