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Sir_Godspeed

Where do the Orlanthi get blue pigment from?

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This might be one of those questions that are so ingrained into the setting that they either have been entirely overlooked (like whether Durulz lay eggs, apparently), or been overthought so drastically that there is 40-odd page mailing list debate somewhere that delves into it ad nauseam.

But, simply put, the Orlanthi seem to have a fondness for blue pigment for tattoing and probably other stuff. Do the Orlanthi forage woad flowers? Or do they do something else?

Not a terribly deep question, but sometimes it's nice to ask the mundane things (unless, of course this is an age-old debate to put the Yelmalio-Elmal controversy to shame :P ).

Edited by Sir_Godspeed
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15 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

But, simply put, the Orlanthi seem to have a fondness for blue pigment for tattoing and probably other stuff. Do the Orlanthi forage woad flowers? Or do they do something else?

It's usually mentioned as woad, yes. But as an alternative i I have a sneaking preference for... blue carrots. Blue carrots are mentioned in Martin, Simon and Duncan's write-up of the Anas Clan in Tales 19 and I've rather taken them to heart. Now, vegetable dyes are often nowhere near as colourfast as we think they are, but I just handwave that away (or assume an appropriate mordant). I like to think ducks just throw their clothes into the soup.

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1 hour ago, Quackatoa said:

It's usually mentioned as woad, yes. 

This, yes.  And, hunh, "woad" and "weed" apparently share the same etymological root. (No pun intended.)  Presumably, unless there's a specific ceremonial/magical attribute to woad itself, other pigments could be used.

!i!

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The use of woad by the Orlanthi has been canonical since Cults of Prax - although first and foremost as (magically charged) skin paint.

But use as a textile or leather dye is more or less inevitable at that point.

Woad (aka Isatis tinctoria) will be one of the non-food plants necessarily cultivated by the Orlanthi, along with flax (for linen).

Both woad and flax fibre requires a process of fermentation in its production. (Flax seeds for oil or varnish are more straightforward.)

The blue pigment in woad is chemically identical to the main component of indigo, but the extraction and reduction process used to transfer the pigment from the plant to the textile gives less stable adhesion of that molecule (in the real world). (Indigo gives a deeper tone of blue also because it contains a number of similar pigments with slightly different light absorption - the first synthetic indigo was better than woad in its durability on the textile, but no better in terms of the deepness of color.)

Everybody knows the pigment won from indigo - blue jeans are known world-wide. It may be less common knowledge that this pigment is applied to a textile through a process of reduction (resulting in a colorless milk) which then is oxidized on the fibres after the textile (or raw leather surface) has been soaked in the liquid. The air prerequisite as the mordant's helper makes woad a very appropriate dye for air worshipers.

Applying the pigment to skin or treated leather probably doesn't use this method, but mixes the pigment with some fatty or waxy substance which is then massaged onto the skin or hide. As long as the coating remains on the skin or hide the blue pigment can work its magic.

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People who claim to know this also say that you can't actually get blue tattoos using woad.

This being Glorantha, it could be woad anyway.

Edited by Akhôrahil
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5 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

People who claim to know this also say that you can't actually get blue tattoos using woad.

This being Glorantha, it could be woad anyway.

Tattooing ink would be yet another form of transfering the pigment into a skin.

I have no idea whether pulverized indigo could be massaged into cuts and remain inside. Woad applied as a pasty skin paint  has adstringent qualities (reducing blood loss from shallow cuts), but these qualities might prevent the pigment from nesting into the fatty surfaces of living cells.

Applying the textile mordant as ink won't work as the reduced form is soluble in body fluids, and subcutaneous oxygen supply isn't sufficient to return it into the colored form. The ink based on the mordant would be diluted and carried away.

But all of this is real world chemistry.

 

Another thing about Orlanthi tattoos that I don't know is how exactly these are earned, and added to. Looking at Argrath's initiation story in Prince of Sartar, we don't see anyone with a needle and ink approaching Argrath. Instead, the magical energies manifested on his Other Side experience remain behind as blue markings on his skin.

But all of that is Argrath's subjective experience of his initiation. The mundane world part is last seen when his clan members enter his sleeping chambers bearing (rather crude) masks representing the Evil Uncles. It is quite possible that the prone body of the initiand receives the care of the clan's ink-master, following the energies the initiand manifests during his subjective experiences on the Other Side. But then, such a "netrunner" experience of the Other Side goes contrary to how I would imagine Gloranthan heroquesting, and it isn't compatible at all with the description of Ingolf's initiation in King of Sartar, commented on in History of the Heortling Peoples p.51. (No idea whether the page numbers there reference the old softcover edition or the new hardcover. I suspect the softcover.)

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I thought it was done by magic, where you capture the wind as it blows through the blue sky and use it to create pictures on skin.

It's what granddad told me anyways.

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Flowers, like woad, are probably the jewels of Ernalda and it is striking that the flower ot the plant giving the blue woad is actually yellow. Maybe the woad flowers were the jewels Ernalda had to wear as handmaiden in Yelm's palace and the fact they ultimately give woad a reflection of her real love for Orlanth, hidden under her sky court duties? In a way it would be the expression of her desire conferring power and legitimacy  to whomever she loves, hence its use for magical marking.

Does it make mythical sense?

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6 hours ago, Minlister said:

Flowers, like woad, are probably the jewels of Ernalda and it is striking that the flower ot the plant giving the blue woad is actually yellow. Maybe the woad flowers were the jewels Ernalda had to wear as handmaiden in Yelm's palace and the fact they ultimately give woad a reflection of her real love for Orlanth, hidden under her sky court duties? In a way it would be the expression of her desire conferring power and legitimacy  to whomever she loves, hence its use for magical marking.

Does it make mythical sense?

If it didn't before, it does now. That's definitely the kind of story a pigment-maker might tell their child or apprentice, imho.

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Woad isn't a product of the flower of Isatis tinctoria but of the leaves.  The plant matter was typically not the only element in the recipe either, though the pigment was obviously important.  It was normally combined with other herbs, alcohol, honey and semen.  In terms of its use, it provided a mild anaesthetic for the skin, as well as a dazzle pattern that was valuable for night raids.  It was also quite possible to use woad for tattoos.  Rumors that woad was used as an hallucinogen are exaggerated.

In terms of Glorantha, blue is a color not of Air (which would be white or grey) but of Water.  I would regard woad as being symbolic of Orlanth's descent into the Bath of Nelat.  Woad is an expression of Orlanthi indestructibility, and triumph over the Water Tribe, and by extension all other enemies and adversities, as if you can survive the Bath of Nelat, you can survive anything.  Remember that woad is the sole privilege of Wind Lords to obtain reusably and serves in place of other protections.

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1 hour ago, Darius West said:

Woad isn't a product of the flower of Isatis tinctoria but of the leaves

Yes, I know this but I think it is all the more interesting. Sovereignity is not residing in the fanciful, most obvious part of the plant, the golden flowers, but in the non-assuming, humble part, the leaves. It is perfetly reminiscent of Ernalda's share of Asrelia's inheritance: "Maran Gor received The Great, Esrola received The Most and Ernalda received The Least". 

For the colour, you certainly have a point there, but Orlanth entered the Bath of Nelat, after it became king, so after it received Ernalda's love.

So maybe the bath of Nelat only made this blessing manifest? Because what would be the bath of Nelat if not some vat where Ernalda would have washed the shaggy woold she sheared from Nelat's sheeps, revealing the clear sky with this shearing (BoHM, p. 21)? Which should be another way of saying giving legitimacy to Orlanth? woad vats would be a nice surrogate/mythical equivalent for the Bath of Nelat. Especially if the blue color of the woad only reveals itself after, with exposure to air (if I remember well how tinctorial process works).

Not sure of any of that just wondering.

 

 

 

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On 8/10/2019 at 11:30 AM, soltakss said:

I think the Orlanthi cultivate woad and use it for their dyes. Also, some might use henna, but that is a lot darker. 

I would assume some kind of henna is what's used by Vingans for red hair.

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5 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

I would assume some kind of henna is what's used by Vingans for red hair.

This isn't ... helpful at all, but I'm pretty sure I read something in a recent publication (like Sartar or the like, i.e. current) that specifically mentioned henna.

I wish I could be more specific but I'm just pulling that out of my brain, if I find it later I'll update this. Kinda don't want to text search through all my books for "Vingans use henna" at 11 pm since I'm 50% through Godzilla, King of the Monsters, which apparently dropped today on Amazon (I rarely can go to cinemas).

On 8/9/2019 at 6:42 PM, Sir_Godspeed said:

unless, of course this is an age-old debate to put the Yelmalio-Elmal controversy to shame

O god you said the Y-E words ;-)

Edited by Qizilbashwoman
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2 hours ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

This isn't ... helpful at all, but I'm pretty sure I read something in a recent publication (like Sartar or the like, i.e. current) that specifically mentioned henna.

I wish I could be more specific but I'm just pulling that out of my brain, if I find it later I'll update this. Kinda don't want to text search through all my books for "Vingans use henna" at 11 pm since I'm 50% through Godzilla, King of the Monsters, which apparently dropped today on Amazon (I rarely can go to cinemas).

O god you said the Y-E words 😉

Please, do it when you have a bit of spare time. I have a Vingan to be in my group, and I know they will ask about it. Yeah, I know their PCs are kids, but they really need to ask about everything more than my 6 year old niece 🙄 ?

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I have checked the material I have, Storm tribe, p. 173 mentions henna ; TT5, p. 32, in the write-up pf the cult that they use a dye which last one year, dying their hair during the high holy day, so difficult to think it is henna. I would go for something blood or rust/iron related considering the cult's orientation. Initially Vinga's hait were not red, they turn red when she flared in anger for being sent back from a fight by Elmal.

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Umm, using henna and some sacrifice (mp?) makes the colour change last for 1 year? If done during the High Holy day of Vinga, of course. Sounds sufficiently gloranthan for me, so I will use this for now.

Thanks a lot.

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2 hours ago, Rojo said:

Umm, using henna and some sacrifice (mp?) makes the colour change last for 1 year?

Man my friends need this

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On 8/13/2019 at 6:57 AM, Minlister said:

Because what would be the bath of Nelat if not some vat where Ernalda would have washed the shaggy wool she sheared from Nelat's sheeps, revealing the clear sky with this shearing

This one is always fun because even a mundane fleece will yield significant potash that can help you do other things. The more "golden" the better. Whatever Nelat's specially prepared flock sweats may also produce a lasting dye, tattoo ink, even make henna relatively stable. It's probably caustic to clear an acid bath.

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On 8/13/2019 at 12:57 PM, Minlister said:

For the colour, you certainly have a point there, but Orlanth entered the Bath of Nelat, after it became king, so after it received Ernalda's love.

So maybe the bath of Nelat only made this blessing manifest? Because what would be the bath of Nelat if not some vat where Ernalda would have washed the shaggy woold she sheared from Nelat's sheeps, revealing the clear sky with this shearing (BoHM, p. 21)? Which should be another way of saying giving legitimacy to Orlanth? woad vats would be a nice surrogate/mythical equivalent for the Bath of Nelat. Especially if the blue color of the woad only reveals itself after, with exposure to air (if I remember well how tinctorial process works).

Actually, this mention of the sheep of Nelat made me make a double-take. There is exactly one mention of this, Heortling Mythology. I wonder whether this is a "thinko" which confused the two brothers of Triolina, and really should read "Heler".

I don't see any other evidence for a connection between Nelat and clouds or sheep other than Heler being his brother (in that case, are there Triolina clouds?). This might have been caused by the name of the ewe goddess Nevala which does sound and read a bit like Nelat.

But then, it is also possible or even likely that someone noticed that possible confusion, and decided to leave it in for amusement value. We have a similar case in Dragon Pass: Land of Thunder, where the annual pilgrimage to Kjartan's pool is made by worshipers of Pelaskos (the open seas fisherman of the coast) rather than Poverri (the fisherman of rivers and sweetwater lakes). Assuming a Gray Age or older origin, the rite would have been interrupted with the Dragonkill in 1120, and probably have been re-instated only with Enjossi's salmon feat.

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Are Orlanthi of the North using Woad, and those of the South (Ulmathela) using Indigofera Tinctoria (Indigo tree)? It could make sense

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1 hour ago, Manu said:

and those of the South (Ulmathela) using Indigofera Tinctoria (Indigo tree)?

Just watch out for Vadeli merchants peddling "Fonritian woad", derived and concentrated from the skins of unfortunate Artmali.

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