Re: Origins of Myths

From: Nick Brooke (Nick_Brooke@compuserve.com)
Date: Thu 21 May 1998 - 22:41:43 EEST


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Richard writes:

> I wondered how we knew that Gods predated worshippers

It is hard to imagine any worshippers who think that they pre-dated their
Gods, IMO.

> Writings are rare, oral traditions are more common. Some ancient
> creatures may actually remember what happened eons ago. None of
> these methods provide particularly accurate information.

Absolutely. The information contained in ancient writings is, however, a
largely accurate guide as to what was thought to be worth writing down ages
ago. The text of the "Glorious ReAscent of Yelm" has not changed (much)
throughout history, although Dara Happan mythology and philosophy have -- as
has the DH's understanding of what the GRAY actually says.

> How do you know what myths exist so that you can go and see this stuff
> for yourself? Can you look into the Hero Plane? Can you wander about
> until you stumble on a myth and see what's happening?
>
> Answer: No.

Actual answer: not usually. Arkati-style creative heroquesters can indeed
wander around on the Hero Plane, bumping into random bits of other people's
mythology. The question then is how do you recognise and interpret the
unfamiliar and alien scenes you encounter?

> You act according to a script. You learn what myths exist by your
> teachings in your temple - writings and oral traditions - then you
> re-enact them.

This is true for most heroquesters (worshippers), always. You don't
"experiment" with your deity's character, virtues, powers and mythology,
testing them under unforeseeable circumstances: instead, you repeat the
known stories of the god's great deeds, and have your faith and power
reaffirmed by this.

> A few people said how your new interpretation could be wrong, and it
> would be a very imoral thing to do. ISTM that the only way that you
> can tell right from wrong in this sense is according to your adherence
> to a script.

This was essentially my point when you suggested heroquesters might change
history and geography and mythology to suit themselves. That is, knowing how
things "really" happened, you make up some weird variant story and try to
convince people that your lie is the Truth. Knowing the "script", you bin it
and make up some plausible version of your own.

This can be done with the best will in the world. This is how new religious
revelations enter Glorantha. This is how spiritual insights can change
established cults.

But -- in the absence of external influences, inspirations, etc. -- a
Basmoli shaman who wandered around telling his people that Waha was always
defeated by Basmol *knows* that he's talking rubbish; he should also know
that he's endangering them, as they'll attempt to heroquest on a
not-yet-proven path (the "Basmol beats Waha" story, which doesn't have any
mythic resonance or validity, and is directly opposed by the "Waha kills
Basmol" story, which does).

> Are you ultimately reliant on inaccurate written / oral material to
> find out what happened in the past?

Not entirely.

You can also use archaeology, inscriptions, physical remains (buildings,
monuments, relics, landmarks -- "the mark on that stone comes from Arkat's
horseshoe" ... "that mountain is the boulder Umath threw at the Green
Goddess"), place-names, all manner of indicators.

You can heroquest to past events of such great significance that they have
entered into mythology, though your perception of them may be clouded by
contemporary "clutter" -- Shakespeare's Roman clocks; the coat of arms of
Sir Hector of Troy.

You may even believe that the techniques of the Experimental
Archaeologicians have some validity -- see the Convulsion 3D Programme Book
article by Eric Rowe for details.

Finally, in mythic realms, you can take the Way the World Is and work out
*why* -- the sun sets because it was killed, and rises because it was
reborn, and your culture is bound to have a story about that.

> Can you use divination as a research tool?

You can learn stuff that your god and your culture know, but you don't,
through Divination. You can't learn stuff that nobody knows. And you can't
learn the Divine Mysteries by asking your god straight questions -- "Oy,
Orlanth! Who's Ginna Jar, then?" If your cult knows something's a Mystery,
it knows that it should stay that way... unless there's a Secret known only
to the Chosen Few, in which case they know it and nobody else does.

Asking a god if he's crap or erroneous or heretical (or just a big loser) is
usually a bad move, too. Telling him you've worked out better stories about
his life than the ones he actually lived through is begging for a
thunderbolt/sunspear/similar.

> Can you talk to spirits as a way of research history? Do they actually
> tell you about what really happened in the past or do they just tell
> you what the current myths are?

Are spirits immortal? Seldom, I imagine. Besides, even if you could find the
very self-same Spider that inspired Robert the Bruce, and ask for its
(spidery) perspective on bygone Scottish history, exactly what would you
expect to learn from the dialogue? ("Bugger. Windy day. Web broke. Start
again.")

Immortal spirits aren't likely to be interested in the same stuff we are;
the best informants for humans will be humans. And immortal humans have
better things to do with their time than hand out accurate and impartial
accounts of Times Past to their importunate audience.

Say Zzabur tells you what happened in the Kingdom of Logic, or Delecti tells
you about the heyday of the EWF, or Ralzakark mentions Nysalor's
after-dinner conversations. Do you believe them implicitly? More fool you...

:::: mail: <Nick_Brooke@compuserve.com> or <Nick_Brooke@csi.com>
Nick
:::: web: <http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Nick_Brooke>

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