Mythic languages

From: Jeff Richard (
Date: Thu 22 Feb 1996 - 06:53:42 EET

Howdy again,

        After the impressive lack of flaming that resulted from my Esrola Magna =
Mater posting, I thought I give y'all something worth flaming. This is =
a message that I sent Nick Brooke earlier this week. Enjoy. :>
- ---------------

        This is something of a clipped summary of the mythic languages between =
Joerg, David, Pam and myself. I've simply pasted semi-cohesive =
statements out of the 100K or so of messages to give you all an idea =
what we've been yammering about. Where there has been disagreement I've =
thrown in a little caveat in the selection. =20

Jeff: (in response to Joerg's comment's regarding my post on the =
Digest): So you appreciated my little bit of semiotic babbling regarding =
the "Lunar Victory KoS" thread. I didn't know if it was even going to =
be comprehensible. I am convinced that the "self-referential language =
game" method of analysing Gloranthan myth is far more useful than trying =
to determine some sort of "objective" (would that mean =
extra-Gloranthan?) Gloranthan myth-structure. =20

        Of course as Wittgenstein demonstrated, deductive reasoning is an =
application of a language based tautology to given a set of empirical =
"facts" (which are of course linguistically constructed). For example, =
the classic syllogism "All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore =
Socrates is mortal" is nothing more than a linguistically constructed =
tautology. For that matter, so is mathematics.

        What does this have to do with Glorantha? Well, to start with, for us =
to say that there is a knowable, underlying, objective truth to =
Glorantha outside of any mythic-language game, we'd have to create a new =
language game (call it the "GM mythic-language), which is a logical non =
sequitur (since the GM mythic-language is just another mythic-language). =
 Secondly, proclaiming that GM mythic-language is a knowable "true" =
mythic-language defeats MGF, because it eliminates much of the mystery =
and ultimately much of the realism of Glorantha (it's lack of a single, =
provable universal truth makes it very different from most game-worlds =
and much like the real Earth). Mythic interpretation becomes an issue =
of subjective ideology, subjective culture, subjective faith, rather =
than some falsifiable scientific theory.
[Note: not surprisingly, my semiotic construction of knowledge is not =
exactly uncontraversial - even with the Seattle latte crowd. Joerg and =
I are still arguing about whether there "necessarily needs to have been =
a historical Spike" for Gloranthan myth (and the Heroplane) to refer a =
Spike. I'll let you guess who is taking what position]

        I tend to look at "Orlanthi" as a mythic-language group, sort of like =
the Romance Languages before mass media and high literacy tended to blur =
the dialects together. You've got several distinct families of =
"Orlanthi" mythic-languages - Heortling, Ralian, Vesmonstran, =
Henotheist, Aeolian, Wenelian, Esrolian, Brolian, Sylillian, Sairdite (a =
hybrid tongue of "Orlanthi", Dara Happan and Pelorian perhaps) and =
others. Within each of these, there are a number of dialects, some so =
pronounced that they are barely unintelligible. Still they share a =
grammatical structure and a commonality of certain symbols.

        I for one have reevaluated my conceptions of the large, cultural =
Gloranthan cults and pantheons after the Orlanth-athon discussion [Note: =
this was a conversation last year between Eric Rowe, Steve Martin, Joerg =
Baumgartner, David Dunham, Harald Smith and myself],and as I result I've =
been trying the mythic-language approach. Personally, I believe that =
amongst most of the Orlanthi, mythic practices are largely learned, =
practiced and taught at the blood-line or stead-grouping level. This =
would explain the mythic diversity even within the clan. However, =
withing the stead-grouping I suspect that there is much uniformity on =
what consititutes the mythic language, even if there is still =
disagreement on matters of nuance.

Joerg: This group is too small to invoke a wyter without explicit =
magical efforts to produce and support one, IMO, but it shares a number =
of quasi-religious spirits, to whom newborn (both human and lifestock) =
are presented, etc.

Jeff: The parameters of the Over-Cult of Orlanth (which we should =
probably try and define) allows other cultural heroes than Orlanth. Big =
O may only be one of three ruling gods, he may be pushed aside to some =
extent by a local cult and become almost like Dayzatar or Yelem. =
Nonetheless, other Orlanthi will generally recognize these local =
variants as Orlanthi - because they are within the parameters of the =
Over-Cult. =20

        This can and should result in an incredible degree of diversity from =
clan to clan about the specifics of Orlanth (and by that I mean Orlanth, =
Ernalda and the pantheon) worship. Obviously in many cases the tribal =
kingdoms or clan kingdoms have managed to ameliorate this diversity to a =
greater or lesser extent. For example, all Orlanth worship has been =
affected by the great "cult-makers" like Heort and Harmast (and once =
Lokamayadon). The lesser "cult-makers" like Alakoring have had a lesser =
impact. But this degree of diversity makes it difficult for me as a =
commentator to ever say "Orlanthi think X", except beyond a banal =
generality and on those universals as per Heort and Harmast's cults. =20

        The thousand plus Orlanthi clans in Genertela will result in there =
being a thousand-plus cults of Orlanth, holding in common the general =
outlines provided by Vingkot, Heort, Lokamayadon, and Harmast, but also =
holding divergent elements as a result of tribal heroes like King =
Colymar, regional heroes like Sartar, lesser "cult-makers" like =
Alakoring, the influences of other cultures like the God Learners or the =
Pelorians, etc. Besides the very general outline provided by the =
Over-Cult, individual clans may hold wildy divergent views. Some clans =
may hold Elmal to be Orlanth's brother, some clans may have wildly =
different stories about the slaying of the Emperor, some clans may =
incorporate strange gods into the pantheon (like Darkness dieties), some =
clans may hold that the Red Goddess is a Lightbringer hero, etc. =20

        Beyond the general outline provided by the Over-Cult, there is no =
uniform Orlanthi POV. The "Orlanthi" societies range is sophistication =
from the wild Brolians to the highly sophisticated and sorcery-using =
Hendriki, from Lunar-hating Volsaxi to the Lunar-embracing Sylilians. =
Other "Orlanthi" subgroups have developed in directions which suggest =
that they are not even contained within the loose parameters of the =

        This approach can lead to some interesting results. Right now I am =
toying with the idea that when Hon-Eel gained the allegiance of the =
Orlanthi of Sylilia and Saird, she introduced Red Goddess worship into =
the ruling clan's worship ceremonies WITHOUT suppressing the Cult of =
Orlanth and without forcing a neo-Dara Happan myth-language into the Red =
Goddess cult. I believe this was done by "translating" Red Goddess =
mysticism into the Orlanthi "myth-language" instead of the modern =
(post-Sheng) Lunar approach of forcing a neo-Dara Happan translation of =
the Orlanthi "myth-language" on the conquered tribes. =20

David Dunham: Since it is known that joint worship works better in =
Glorantha, clans have a strong incentive not to let their worship of =
Orlanth diverge too much from their neighbors, lest they become unable =
to fully participate in Great Temple kinds of deals. For example, =
Orlanth worship in Delela is probably defined by the Great Temple in =
Kilwin (the religion of Delela is the religion of Kilwin, just as the =
language of Japan is the language of Tokyo, despite variant dialects as =
you get further away). Of course, there is no particular need for =
different Great Temples (or use your preferred term for a Religious =
Centre of Orlanth) to converge.

        So it might be that while the greatest divergences in pantheon worship =
are between clans (like who's the patron), the greatest differences in =
Orlanth cult worship are between tribes.

Jeff: Amongst the Colymar, all of the clans hold some common worship =
practices (through tribal ceremonies if nothing else). Still, even =
within the Colymar, there is an incredible amount of mythic diversity, =
and I suspect it even reaches to the relationship between the primary =
gods (I strongly believe that the role of Orlanth and Elmal has subtle =
differences when seen by the Enhyli as opposed to the Orlmath). =20

        The Enhyli view Elmal, not Orlanth as their clan patron and protector. =
Nonetheless, they view Orlanth the King as the patron of the tribe =
(since they participate in the tribe ceremonies, which are no doubt the =
Alakoring cult in practice). The Orlanthi framework is loose enough to =
easily accomodate this sort of heterogeneity. In fact, those tribes =
that have a Yelmalion clans, probably can generally accomodate them into =
the tribal Orlanth Rex framework.

Joerg asked: Now to the really hard cases: 3rd Age Esrolia, the Isles, =
and Caladraland. These are Theyalan in culture. Are they accepted into =
the Orlanthi scheme?

Jeff:The BIG QUESTION. Allow me to give my thoughts:
The Isles: Not "Orlanthi". I think the Islanders are outside of the =
parameters of Over-Cult and are true foreigners. To be honest, I =
suspect that their native tongue is non-Theyalan.

[Note: Joerg and I are in disagreement on this one, although I will =
probably reverse this statement and agree with him]
Caladraland: Probably "Orlanthi". Yep, I think they are within the =
parameters. They know the Greeting, the probably have a legal system =
recognizable as being "Heort's Laws", and they acknowledge Orlanth and =
Ernalda. They just don't find the Big O to be terribly relevant. BTW, I =
do not believe that the "Lodril" of Caladraland is recognizable as the =
"Lodril" of Peloria, except by a God Learner. However, I'm willing to =
toy around with other options.

Third Age Esrolia: Definitely "Orlanthi". They know the Greeting, they =
follow Heort's Laws (at least many of them), they acknowledge Orlanth =
the Husband, they probably even keep the language of rings in their =
outlying marches. Hell, they acknowledge Lhankhor Mhy and Chalana =
Arroy! A Heortling might think that they are strange and even a little =
frightening, but they are not an example of Not-Us. I'm pretty definite =
on this one.

This scheme is deliberately broad and flexible, as is the Orlanth =
Over-Cult itself.

Any comments?

Jeff Richard


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