Re: Ghosts, Gods, God Learners, etc.

From: Nick Brooke (
Date: Fri 01 May 1998 - 13:56:31 EEST

Jean writes:

> The main difference between Glorantha and the RW is the proven existence
> of otherworld beings. A Gloranthan scientist can measure a ghost for
> example.

An intriguing example to choose.

The Brithini (usually treated as "scientists" by the less Glorantha-literate
members of this list) may well be able to measure, use and abuse ghosts, but
they do not agree with other cultures about what a ghost *is*.

To wit: many Gloranthan peoples take the existence of ghosts, summoning of
ancestors, priestly visions of heaven and hell, etc. as "proof" of life
after death; the Brithini, undoubtedly aware of all these "otherworldly"
phenomena, do not accept this claim. To them, Death is Forever.

The various psychic remnants and echoes of a dead person are no more proof
of his continued spiritual existence than the ongoing processes of
decomposition in a corpse are demonstrations of the continuing organic
viability of the dear deceased.

So, yes, Brithini can "measure" ghosts. It doesn't mean there is no room for
doubt, debate, uncertainty (etc.) about what it is that is being measured.

> In a sense a worship ceremony is a summoning ritual.

I agree completely with this. You will see this in my Spirit Cult rules, in
one of the rare, collectible issues of the "Gloranthan Weakly", where I
conflated the ability to summon and worship a spirit into the same spell,
seeing no need for monkeying around with terminology.

> It is morally wrong for a Sartarite to worship the sun (Yelm).

This is similar to saying "it is morally wrong for a Christian to worship
God (Allah)". The Sartarite sun god is not Yelm, so the situation hardly
arises. Anyone who chooses to worship a foreign deity is naturally making
choices which have little if anything to do with the traditional morality of
his homeland. But when there is a somewhat serviceable Sartarite solar deity
(Elmal, natch), bringing Yelm in only complicates matters.

> The Gloranthans don't deny the existence of other powers, they just say
> that it is morally wrong to worship and even contact them.

This is a sweeping statement, largely true but capable of misleading the
unwary. In part, Gloranthans may deny the veracity or validity or value of
offering sacrifices or worship to otherworldly entities, either individually
or as categories. Sometimes this is because of straightforward cultural
prejudice (aka "sophistication"): "*WE* worship the great Imperial Sun God
at his Temple in Raibanth, and will not stoop to dancing around in the
desert flapping our arms to amuse this jumped-up Sun Hawk of the Praxian
nomads." Or, "Through our mastery of the sorcerous arts, we can dominate
every element, power and form within Glorantha. Why, then, should we abase
ourselves before the gross spiritual entities adored by the Pagans, when our
pure Wizardry offers us greater rewards for a lesser sacrifice?" And
sometimes, it's a simple prohibition: "Thou shalt not suffer a (Witch,
Riddler, Chaotic) to live!"

It needn't always be "morally wrong" to worship in a foreign, outlandish
manner. It can be simply seen as "inefficient", "embarrassing", "politically
inept", etc. Besides, strict obedience to the traditions of your own land
seldom justifies your hanging, impalement, or other unpleasantness;
introducing foreign novelties, barbarisms, unwonted sophistication and alien
practices gives your opponents a HUGE target.

> In Glorantha, a worshiper of Death can kill his ennemies at 100 paces
> with a 3 points spell (ie sever spirit). A sorceror can create a basilisk
> who has the same power,

                                 continually. *Not* a very good parallel.

John Murphy suggests that worship "creates" personifications.

> Thus while you may have one sun, you can have many different sun gods.
> Your typical Orlanthi of 3rd age Dragon Pass would not believe or under-
> stand this, but the God Learners did.

Certainly. Indeed, Monrogh's "Vision of the Many Suns" supports your
suggestion that this would sound "odd" to your typical Orlanthi. Monrogh, a
worshipper of Elmal (the Sartarite sun god), aware of the existence of other
solar cults (in both Dara Happa and the Praxian Sun Dome Temple) travelled
to distant Teshnos and witnessed the rituals of the Teshnan sun god, Somash.
At this point, he had a mystical vision -- we're not sure what it was of,
but it certainly helped him reconcile whatever religious turmoil he was
going through. The end result was that he came to terms with the
multiplicity of sun gods, and may even have assisted in the creation of a
new one.

The Lunars, BTW, would have no problem whatsoever with the idea that the
gods present different aspects (or "masks") to different worshippers -- and
not just across cultures.

> My question from this how did the GLers come up with this (or whatever
> great realization they had)? We know the Jrusteli philosphers had
> Malkioni roots, but any speculation on what put them on the path to
> Runequest Sight etc.?

Not beyond what we already know -- cf. Wyrms Footprints for an interesting
explanation of one God Learner methodology for investigating and abusing
comparative mythology. (Frex, by studying several different Sun Gods, which
as a far-flung naval empire they were uniquely well-placed, they were able
to know or deduce enough of the "inner secrets" of any newly-encountered Sun
God to do embarrassingly well against it in their "riddling contests",
thereby stealing power from his cult for their own ends).

> Heroes have a big impact on Glorantha, so who were the God Learner Heroes?

Not known. Their kings were the "Flame Kings", descendents of Gerlant
Flamesword (Arkat's putative son, the ruler of Seshnela at the end of the
Crusade Against Chaos). The Second Age was not notably "heroic" (unlike the
upcoming Hero Wars) -- in my own "History of Malkionism" (cf. my web page),
the initial God Learner achievements were made as a committee. They were
more an academic and philosophical "school", IMO, than a band of lusty
sword-swinging red-handed reavers.

Rich asks:

> First of all, do the different "Ages" of Glorantha reflect the different
> "versions" of RuneQuest?

No. Although the "Day the Magic Changed" is probably a tip-of-the-hat to
RQ3, as are those duff Falangian Diamonds that you can't even give away
nowadays. The primary setting for Gloranthan RuneQuest has always been the
late Third Age. "Mortal Lords" (a First Age Seshnelan RQ2 supplement) never
came out.

> Godlearners: I keep getting this horrible feeling that a group of four to
> eight PC's in a Greg run game just went way WAY out of hand, and the whole
> Godlearner Lashback came from Greg trying to regain control of his world.

Something like that. It's clear that Greg's attitude to the God Learners
changed radically between their first appearance as noble scholars of
comparative mythology (in Wyrms Footnotes: "Their influence upon my own
notes has been immense") and their depiction as evil RuneQuest-playing
rules-lawyers and power-gamers in RQ3's Genertela box.

Now, I *believe* the reason for this may have been that, subsequent to his
first presentation of Gloranthan mythology (as a God-Learnt corpus), Greg
changed his mind (surprise!) about the value of homogenised, mish-mash
mythology (cf. afterword to the "Glorantha Book"), and was also a little
distressed at the soulless, insensitive abuse of his creations by
mechanistic game-players. The God Learners then become a handy stick to beat
such rule- and world-abusers with: if any player starts acting up in your
game, all good Gloranthans will recognise him as a God Learner wannabe and
drive him out.

There's no indications I can recall that the God Learners themselves were
inspired by any particular acts of mythic vandalism by RuneQuest players in
a Chaosium campaign. I think their modern presentation is more a reaction to
the "powergaming" tendency in the general gaming world than a "historic"
record of the antics of some unlovely game-players. (Why would you want to
preserve the memory of such things?)

The way the God Learners are presented today is a seminal reminder that even
if you know all the RQ rules and read up all the cults and learn all their
secrets, you still can't take Glorantha for granted and abuse it any way you
want. It doesn't work that way.

> I like the concept of "Herogates", rituals used to enter the Heroplane.

Like the Six Stones HQ Ritual?

In a sense, any temple or holy spot could be a "Hero Gate", I suppose.

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