Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
UristMcRol

On Truth and Myth.

Recommended Posts

First of all, I would like to clarify that with this text I do not intend to end a debate as complex as that of the truth in Glorantha. I am rather a new person in the setting, attracted thanks to my fanaticism in the "deep lore" of Elder Scrolls that later became an obsession with religion and folklore. I just wish to give my vision about it, a vision perhaps ignorant, but open to corrections and criticism.

I've been reading these pages for a while now in silence. I only uploaded a post once, and since then I have dedicated myself to read and feed myself with the excellent discussions that you guys have here. However, when I encounter certain topics related to certain eternally controversial issues (Yelmalio-Elmal for example) I cannot help feeling that we forget one of the main characteristics of ancient religion and mythology, a serious thing, because ancient religion and mythology is the base of glorantha.

I honestly believe that it is impossible to define a god as a fixed entity with personality, and treat their myths as if they were some kind of historical book (or a thousand historical books) that together will give us a complete and accurate view of the events that happened in that Glorantha's timeless past. This is not something new: I have read it several times here and elsewhere regarding the setting, and yet, I think that many times we do not realize how deep this goes.

No doubt there are primary, cosmic, magical forces that manifest themselves in Glorantha through the cult of the deities, and no doubt heroquesting gives access to powerful magic that defines the characteristics of entire cultures. However, I do not believe that this means or brings with it some kind of literal knowledge about the nature of a deity or its personal tastes: God in Glorantha does not wear masks, as if by removing them we could find a "more true" primal entity than all the other ones. On the contrary, God in Glorantha is a mask, and it needs to be a mask because it is impossible for the mortal to approach what lies beneath without that little help.

Heroquesting, myths, magic, etc. All this tells us more about people and about religion than about God in himself, just like any other cult in our mundane real world. We cannot expect to separate or unite two extremely similar deities as if they were opaque reflections of a third person that we are not able to see clearly, since being one, two, three, four or five thousand is irrelevant: At the end of everything , it will be the community, the cults, the people, who mold this mask and use it as a vehicle to access that reality that the mind can neither define nor understand without help. It is the people who end up shaping the magic and I have no doubt that it is the people who ultimately "create" or shape the heroquest, putting together a narrative from a convergence between history, metaphysical knowledge, truth and metaphor.

I don't see anything said as something negative, complicated or strange; quite the opposite. This is what makes Glorantha the best fantasy setting since it appeared so many decades ago. It is ultimately an environment that speaks not only of epics but of individuals, peoples, cultures, human spirits trying to get in touch with the indefinable reality that has given birth to the most destructive forces and also the most benevolent in our world . Honestly, the more we try to define a deity as if it were an individual (no, not even that: As if it were a cardboard cutout), the further we will be from what makes this setting great.

Again, this is just an opinion and I am still quite new in all this. I apologize if I seem arrogant or ignorant. I just wanted to get this off my chest, hahahaha.

Sorry for a grammar or spelling mistake, I am not the best with English and I have to help myself with the translator when writing.

Edited by UristMcRol
  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, UristMcRol said:

Sorry for a grammar or spelling mistake, I am not the best with English and I have to help myself with the translator when writing.

I couldn't see any problems there and only realised that you aren't a native speaker at the end.

Excellent post, by the way.

14 hours ago, UristMcRol said:

I've been reading these pages for a while now in silence. I only uploaded a post once, and since then I have dedicated myself to read and feed myself with the excellent discussions that you guys have here.

Please feel free to join any discussions.

I know it can be daunting, especially when deep-diving into mythology and history, or the interpretation of those, but new voices and views are always welcome.

That goes for any other lurkers out there.

14 hours ago, UristMcRol said:

I honestly believe that it is impossible to define a god as a fixed entity with personality, and treat their myths as if they were some kind of historical book (or a thousand historical books) that together will give us a complete and accurate view of the events that happened in that Glorantha's timeless past. This is not something new: I have read it several times here and elsewhere regarding the setting, and yet, I think that many times we do not realize how deep this goes.

In the Grand Gloranthan Tradition, yes and no.

Yes, I agree that most deities are not fixed and that we don't know the extent of their history, mythology and powers.

No, in that what has happened and is known is known by many people, so effectively becomes part of History, or GodTime History.

14 hours ago, UristMcRol said:

No doubt there are primary, cosmic, magical forces that manifest themselves in Glorantha through the cult of the deities, and no doubt heroquesting gives access to powerful magic that defines the characteristics of entire cultures. However, I do not believe that this means or brings with it some kind of literal knowledge about the nature of a deity or its personal tastes: God in Glorantha does not wear masks, as if by removing them we could find a "more true" primal entity than all the other ones. On the contrary, God in Glorantha is a mask, and it needs to be a mask because it is impossible for the mortal to approach what lies beneath without that little help.

Heroquesting, myths, magic, etc. All this tells us more about people and about religion than about God in himself, just like any other cult in our mundane real world. We cannot expect to separate or unite two extremely similar deities as if they were opaque reflections of a third person that we are not able to see clearly, since being one, two, three, four or five thousand is irrelevant: At the end of everything , it will be the community, the cults, the people, who mold this mask and use it as a vehicle to access that reality that the mind can neither define nor understand without help. It is the people who end up shaping the magic and I have no doubt that it is the people who ultimately "create" or shape the heroquest, putting together a narrative from a convergence between history, metaphysical knowledge, truth and metaphor.

I quite agree with this.

Each HeroQuesting revelation either adds more to a Deity's character and past, or opens up a new facet of the Deity.

This can be considered to be revealing something about the Deity itself, or joining the HeroQuestor to the Deity in some way, or letting the HeroQuestor take on an Aspect of the Deity. All might be right, all might be wrong or all might have some part that is right or wrong. 

New cults have been born from HeroQuesting to old deities, Orlanth Rex is a good example of this. 

Old Aspects of a deity might be revealed, Alakoring Dragonbreaker is a good example of this, as he both reinvigorated the cult of Orlanth Dragonslayer and became the Dragonslayer Aspect of Orlanth.

The whole idea of HeroQuesting to change or uncover God Time is difficult to grasp sometimes and that's what makes it fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First off - I'm glad to see another Elder Scrolls fan on the forum, as it was also the reason why I looked up Glorantha (being cited by one of the ES creators as a major influence).

Secondly, I agree to a great extent with what you write - in the abstract. However, when we have discussions on these matters, we often approach the issues of divine identity and character from very different points of view. Some, particularly those who are in it more for the gaming aspect I suspect, prefer a straightforward literal view. Others, who are more into textual and meta-textual interpretation, treat the gods and their different names and identities as a sort of puzzle, game or rebus to solve, where one can find the truer identities that emerge from more completed images (much like the Monomyth of the God Learners), then we have those who have a more metaphysical approach, where identifying the overarching Runic archetypes, ideals and mechanisms by which the Gloranthan Cosmos turns and ticks is the goal, as it were. Your points falls, imho, comes from a different perspective, the more anthropological one, where deities and their identity is an expression of cultural self-reflection and self-validation ("Celebrations of the divine are celebrations of the community" as Durkheim might've said), and discussions on deities becomes necessarily particularistic and varies between rigid and malleable depending on whether believers are rigid or malleable (if that makes sense). Hell, I've even seen another perspective: the euhemeristic one, where people have posited that that Glorantha is no more or less magical than our real world, it's just that it's written from the point of view of its inhabitants, and so incorporates their beliefs.

Instead of user "perspectives", feel free to think of them as modes of interpretation or exegesis or whatever. Same thing in the end. We view and consider Glorantha differently.

I practice - as I'm sure you've noticed - most of us actually tend to shift between these perspectives depending on the discussion, premise, mood of the day, last text read, input from other posters, and so on. I certainly know I can't (and don't want to) stick to any of these perspectives completely. It's fun to feel out the terrain, as it were, with different senses. However, it does mean that we can, and perhaps tend to, talk a bit past each other, and perhaps misunderstand our respective premises and presuppositions - although I'd say people here are very good at incorporating and considering different perspectives in general, certainly moreso than most other fan communities I've been in.

Basically, long story short, people come to this forum with different backgrounds, needs and intents, and that shapes the conversations. In such an environment, any attempt to establish a kind of consensus on how the underlying, fundamental "truth" of Glorantha works is neither really possible, nor, frankly, desireable. YGWV, after all. It also means that we will continue to debate, for example,  Elmal-Yelmalio until the (RW) Sun becomes a red giant and the oceans boil because every iteration has the potential to bring new perspective, even if a lot of it is repetition. :P It's also worth mentioning that our different perspectives are shared by the in-universe sources we use. Some do indeed see the gods as literal people, others as metaphors, others as cultically-produced gestalt beings, and so forth - something that is a testament to just how cleverly Glorantha was designed, because Greg and his compatriots clearly knew their stuff, and also evolved as people over time.

So yeah, at a very abstracted level I agree that there probably is no "true" nature of the gods, but also, on the other hand, it's also fun to try to solve textual puzzles to find secret connections, and it's fun to just talk about that time Pamalt straight up dropped the sky on top of some Chaos fools because he's a badass like that. ;) 

After such a measured and deep-cutting post, I hope you stick around to participate. And don't be intimidated. Depending on how long you've been lurking, you probably know that I'm pretty new here too, only really having been immersed in Glorantha since 2015 or so.

Now - let's talk about Tonal Architecture and how it relates to the Amaranth...

Edited by Sir_Godspeed
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/10/2019 at 6:48 AM, UristMcRol said:

I honestly believe that it is impossible to define a god as a fixed entity with personality, and treat their myths as if they were some kind of historical book (or a thousand historical books) that together will give us a complete and accurate view of the events that happened in that Glorantha's timeless past. This is not something new: I have read it several times here and elsewhere regarding the setting, and yet, I think that many times we do not realize how deep this goes.

No doubt there are primary, cosmic, magical forces that manifest themselves in Glorantha through the cult of the deities, and no doubt heroquesting gives access to powerful magic that defines the characteristics of entire cultures. However, I do not believe that this means or brings with it some kind of literal knowledge about the nature of a deity or its personal tastes: God in Glorantha does not wear masks, as if by removing them we could find a "more true" primal entity than all the other ones. On the contrary, God in Glorantha is a mask, and it needs to be a mask because it is impossible for the mortal to approach what lies beneath without that little help.

Heroquesting, myths, magic, etc. All this tells us more about people and about religion than about God in himself, just like any other cult in our mundane real world. We cannot expect to separate or unite two extremely similar deities as if they were opaque reflections of a third person that we are not able to see clearly, since being one, two, three, four or five thousand is irrelevant: At the end of everything , it will be the community, the cults, the people, who mold this mask and use it as a vehicle to access that reality that the mind can neither define nor understand without help. It is the people who end up shaping the magic and I have no doubt that it is the people who ultimately "create" or shape the heroquest, putting together a narrative from a convergence between history, metaphysical knowledge, truth and metaphor.

I don't see anything said as something negative, complicated or strange; quite the opposite. This is what makes Glorantha the best fantasy setting since it appeared so many decades ago. It is ultimately an environment that speaks not only of epics but of individuals, peoples, cultures, human spirits trying to get in touch with the indefinable reality that has given birth to the most destructive forces and also the most benevolent in our world . Honestly, the more we try to define a deity as if it were an individual (no, not even that: As if it were a cardboard cutout), the further we will be from what makes this setting great.

Let me offer a variant on this - myths, rituals and heroquesting are the only ways in which the population of Glorantha get to interact with their gods, so to the extent that there's anything beyond this, it's unavailable to them (except, perhaps, through mysticism). This doesn't mean that the mythology paints a complete picture (because not only is it incomplete, but it can also be contradictory, and this is not a problem - you can heroquest two contradictory myths all you like), but it does mean that the mythology is all they have. Personally, when I think of Gloranthan gods, this is my attitude - there isn't anything beyond their bundle of myths, at least not in any way that matters for play. When someone asks "Is god X and god Y the same god?" my answer would be "How could anyone tell and how would it matter?", and that beyond this, there is no truth of the matter. (This is not saying it can't matter - for instance, it might matter a lot to a Chalana Arroy initiate whether she can successfully worship at a temple to Erissa!)

This also means that the gods, far from being unchanging in the gods world, can be changed through changes in myth - at least as far as their worshipers get to experience. Taking this kind of phenomenological position towards the gods (asking what is experienced by people, rather than what is fundamentally objectively "true") is something I find helps a lot. In a way, gods really are memes in the original Dawkins meaning of the word - idea-complexes that compete, evolve, and die out. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First of all, i would like to thank you guys for this responses: They are really enlightening and I didn't expect less from this community.

 

On 11/10/2019 at 4:17 PM, soltakss said:

I quite agree with this.

Each HeroQuesting revelation either adds more to a Deity's character and past, or opens up a new facet of the Deity.

This can be considered to be revealing something about the Deity itself, or joining the HeroQuestor to the Deity in some way, or letting the HeroQuestor take on an Aspect of the Deity. All might be right, all might be wrong or all might have some part that is right or wrong. 

New cults have been born from HeroQuesting to old deities, Orlanth Rex is a good example of this. 

Old Aspects of a deity might be revealed, Alakoring Dragonbreaker is a good example of this, as he both reinvigorated the cult of Orlanth Dragonslayer and became the Dragonslayer Aspect of Orlanth.

The whole idea of HeroQuesting to change or uncover God Time is difficult to grasp sometimes and that's what makes it fun.

Oh, of course it makes it fun and, as far as possible, even realistic. It is quite difficult to find the exact origin of a myth or a god when, rather than having a precise origin, they simply arise from the convergence of so many factors, previous traditions, metaphors and historical events that trying to define the genesis of a single one can be the task of a life. Hell, many propose that those old conceptions of "the days when the gods walked with men" could refer to the times when the first monarchs openly identified with the deities they worshiped, and people saw little difference between the God and the mortal, hahahahaha.


 

On 11/11/2019 at 11:26 AM, Sir_Godspeed said:

Basically, long story short, people come to this forum with different backgrounds, needs and intents, and that shapes the conversations. In such an environment, any attempt to establish a kind of consensus on how the underlying, fundamental "truth" of Glorantha works is neither really possible, nor, frankly, desireable. YGWV, after all. It also means that we will continue to debate, for example,  Elmal-Yelmalio until the (RW) Sun becomes a red giant and the oceans boil because every iteration has the potential to bring new perspective, even if a lot of it is repetition. :P It's also worth mentioning that our different perspectives are shared by the in-universe sources we use. Some do indeed see the gods as literal people, others as metaphors, others as cultically-produced gestalt beings, and so forth - something that is a testament to just how cleverly Glorantha was designed, because Greg and his compatriots clearly knew their stuff, and also evolved as people over time.

I honestly think your are right, and in fact, one can say that this more literal approach is, at least, a more sincere one in a roleplay perspective. 

I must admit that I also change my perspective according to each moment. There is fun in trying to see some origin, some metaphysical reality after Yelm's rise as a deity in the north, and at the same time, bitch about Orlanth and the terrible barbarism of those dirty southern people and their storms. I suppose that at the end of the day the perspective adopted must be the one that benefits the group

And yes, definitely my approach to Glorantha is usually more anthropological than mystical or literal (unlike Elder Scrolls, which I usually approach with a lot of mysticism and psychedelic music). This is, of course, because Glorantha was the setting that inspired me to enter the world of comparative mythology, and while people like Campbell were quite mystical, anthropology generally dominates the area.
 

On 11/11/2019 at 11:26 AM, Sir_Godspeed said:

Now - let's talk about Tonal Architecture and how it relates to the Amaranth...

Man ... Can we agree that talking about these issues is easier when you're bathing in acid? I barely survived the first time I read a post about it ... But shit, that some good stuff, and it's hard to stop investigating about it once you've started.
 

On 11/13/2019 at 6:37 AM, Akhôrahil said:

Let me offer a variant on this - myths, rituals and heroquesting are the only ways in which the population of Glorantha get to interact with their gods, so to the extent that there's anything beyond this, it's unavailable to them (except, perhaps, through mysticism). This doesn't mean that the mythology paints a complete picture (because not only is it incomplete, but it can also be contradictory, and this is not a problem - you can heroquest two contradictory myths all you like), but it does mean that the mythology is all they have. Personally, when I think of Gloranthan gods, this is my attitude - there isn't anything beyond their bundle of myths, at least not in any way that matters for play. When someone asks "Is god X and god Y the same god?" my answer would be "How could anyone tell and how would it matter?", and that beyond this, there is no truth of the matter. (This is not saying it can't matter - for instance, it might matter a lot to a Chalana Arroy initiate whether she can successfully worship at a temple to Erissa!)

At the end of the day, the main function of a myth, rather than expressing historical realities or facts written in stone, is to form a worldview, a system of feelings that allow believers to develop in the community or individually, added to the already known psychological and metaphorical functions (important the latter, but rarely useful for the average Joe). I believe that the more we relate the myth in Glorantha to the communities that live it, the closer we will be to enjoy its richness. Although, there is nothing wrong with wanting to simply fight on behalf of Orlanth and pee on Yelm's face, hahahahaha.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Consider what tossing in things like Illunimation and the Red Goddess actually means, too. Or the God Learners.  Or HeroQuests.

I start to wonder if the Gloranthan gods really existed or it they were created and sustained by the worshipers who believe in them (and sacrifice POW and magic points to them). It may very well be that Olrranth is the way he is because people say he is, and believe it. If a movement stated up claiming that his favorite color was a Grey like an overcast sky, would that become true? 

Ultimately I think a big reason why the religions tend to tell us more about the people rather than the gods is because the people are the ones telling us about the religion. Almost all the stories about the gods are subjective, and told from the view of a particular cult or pantheon. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
35 minutes ago, UristMcRol said:

Man ... Can we agree that talking about these issues is easier when you're bathing in acid? I barely survived the first time I read a post about it ... But shit, that some good stuff, and it's hard to stop investigating about it once you've started.

It's quite addictive, yeah! Never was one for chemical stimulants myself, but I spent a good deal of my teens in charismatic Christian circles, and I got to know religious ecstacy personally. I always found the sound-metaphor of cosmic influence to be a very apt one. And when I first read the "the Aurbis is a product of sensory deprivation of the Godhead" from Kirkbride (because of course it was Kirkbride, lol) it kinda blew my mind. :P
 

35 minutes ago, UristMcRol said:

At the end of the day, the main function of a myth, rather than expressing historical realities or facts written in stone, is to form a worldview, a system of feelings that allow believers to develop in the community or individually, added to the already known psychological and metaphorical functions (important the latter, but rarely useful for the average Joe). I believe that the more we relate the myth in Glorantha to the communities that live it, the closer we will be to enjoy its richness. Although, there is nothing wrong with wanting to simply fight on behalf of Orlanth and pee on Yelm's face, hahahahaha.

Absolutely. Malinowski wrote extensively on the importance of considering myths less as "flawed history" and more as "blueprints for being-in-the-world" (my terms, not his) already back in the 1910s. Well, less blueprints and more guidelines or ideals, but you get the jist.

And it is fun to just roleplay as an absolute fanatic or a salt-of-the-earth type of person sometimes. Keepin' it simple.

Edited by Sir_Godspeed

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Atgxtg said:

I start to wonder if the Gloranthan gods really existed or it they were created and sustained by the worshipers who believe in them (and sacrifice POW and magic points to them). It may very well be that Olrranth is the way he is because people say he is, and believe it. If a movement stated up claiming that his favorite color was a Grey like an overcast sky, would that become true? 

To repeat myself: "How could you tell and how would it matter?"

I do agree that for what we see about Glorantha from the standpoint of its inhabitants, this is a perfectly fine explanation. Maybe the pre-Time eras never "properly" existed, and were retrocreated by the beliefs and worship of the Gloranthans.

And in my opinion, you could definitely end up in the position that Orlanth's favorite color is now grey. It would involve changing the myths and belief-patterns of huge swathes of people, and plenty of heroquesting to support it, but I believe the God-Learners could have totally done such a thing if they had put their minds to it. I mean, this kind of deliberate mythic propaganda project is how the Red Goddess was created in the first place...

Edited by Akhôrahil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...