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Can "Safelstran" be called a culture?


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Preliminary: the idea of unified, distinct and internally homogenous units called "cultures" isn't really something that exists in real life, but rather in the minds of people who classify social practices and manufactured artifacts (whether etically or emically), and so forth. I'm just mentioning this upfront so that we don't have to deconstruct the concept of culture later on in the thread, or get lost in intricacies.

For the purposes of my question, let's keep it reasonably simple. 

My question, then, as the title says is this: do Safelstrans make up a "culture" in Glorantha? What I mean by that is whether they have enough common practices, history and beliefs that they view each other as partaking in some kind of commonality that they don't share with other surrounding groups? Or, alternatively, do the writers and publishers look at them that way? 

I ask, because they tend to be grouped together regionally, semi-politically (not unified, but clearly dynamically interrelated, like Greek city-states or the Tamil kingdoms), and historically (being the self-declared heirs of the Autarchy). However, it's very rarely stated outright. More often than not, they seem to be considered another Western or Malkioni group, which is fine on paper, but probably more muddled in practice/play. 

They also seem to be differentiated from their upland Orlanthi neighbors, so there's that. 

What are some major internal differences, or if they can't be seen as a common culture, what are some major splits? 

(Btw, I know that the Guide talks about sorcery, secret societies, kafl, wildly differing political organizations, etc. but these are more game-hooks, since the majority of peasants are unlikely to be hidden sorcerers in secret societies, if you get what I mean. I'm looking for a more down-to-earth, everyday take on them).

EDIT: UNlikely. Wow, missed that.

Edited by Sir_Godspeed
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1 hour ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

What are some major internal differences, or if they can't be seen as a common culture, what are some major splits? 

Love it. Mechanically they've always been considered a unitary "culture" (RQ3) or "homeland" (HQ) so it's probably best to consider the commonalities before dissecting the distinctions. As you note, they all consider themselves the successors to the Autarchy. What they can't agree on is what exactly that means and how to take it forward. The depth psychology is interesting but practically it means endless narcissism of what to us outsiders would be trivial differences. If they could ever agree to anything it would probably change the world. 

From a functional perspective the population looks a lot like neighboring New Seshnela, maybe a tiny bit more urbanized overall with all that entails but still easily 70% of the people work the land or the lake one way or another. Caste seems to be more of a historical guideline than a law with about 65% of the population having access to basic sorcery . . . IMG this would be picked up from mystagogues or otherwise in the marketplace. The other 35% are something like conventional theists, complete with priesthoods. 

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3 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

do Safelstrans make up a "culture" in Glorantha? What I mean by that is whether they have enough common practices, history and beliefs that they view each other as partaking in some kind of commonality that they don't share with other surrounding groups?

Yes, I believe so. They are urban and centered on the great inland sea of Lake Felster.  They are religiously mixed including both Malkioni and Arkati practices.

These aspects distinguish them as a culture from the Malkioni of Seshnela and the Orlanthi that occupy much of the rest of Ralios.

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8 minutes ago, AndreJarosch said:

Safelstran can be a homeland/culture imho. 
Kustrian, Dangan, Estali, Sentanosian, etc = Spanish, Italian, French, German, etc. 
Safelstran = European

Or Florentine, Venetian, Neapolitan... but Italian.

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4 hours ago, scott-martin said:

Love it. Mechanically they've always been considered a unitary "culture" (RQ3) or "homeland" (HQ) so it's probably best to consider the commonalities before dissecting the distinctions. As you note, they all consider themselves the successors to the Autarchy. What they can't agree on is what exactly that means and how to take it forward. The depth psychology is interesting but practically it means endless narcissism of what to us outsiders would be trivial differences. If they could ever agree to anything it would probably change the world. 

From a functional perspective the population looks a lot like neighboring New Seshnela, maybe a tiny bit more urbanized overall with all that entails but still easily 70% of the people work the land or the lake one way or another. Caste seems to be more of a historical guideline than a law with about 65% of the population having access to basic sorcery . . . IMG this would be picked up from mystagogues or otherwise in the marketplace. The other 35% are something like conventional theists, complete with priesthoods. 

That's an astonishingly high percentage of sorcery wielders. The Rokari of Seshnela must be absolutely scandalized. With that kind of numbers one must imagine even commoners making use of sorcery one way or another. That creates an interesting dynamic. The question is, I guess, what for?

2 hours ago, jajagappa said:

Yes, I believe so. They are urban and centered on the great inland sea of Lake Felster.  They are religiously mixed including both Malkioni and Arkati practices.

These aspects distinguish them as a culture from the Malkioni of Seshnela and the Orlanthi that occupy much of the rest of Ralios.

I wish we knew a bit more about how the Arkati practices mixed with Malkionism for your everyday folks, not just the covert sorcerers. 

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5 hours ago, scott-martin said:

Caste seems to be more of a historical guideline than a law with about 65% of the population having access to basic sorcery . . .

I doubt that even with a liberal attitude to teaching sorcery, a culture can get more than 5% sorcery users (knowledge of one spell).  Even the Loskalmi are mostly spirit and rune magic users.   

 

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1 minute ago, metcalph said:

I doubt that even with a liberal attitude to teaching sorcery, a culture can get more than 5% sorcery users (knowledge of one spell).  Even the Loskalmi are mostly spirit and rune magic users.   

 

Just quoting the Genertela box.

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3 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

Just quoting the Genertela box.

Except there's been a sea change between the Genertela boxed set and  RuneQuest: Glorantha.  Back then, people assumed a low sorcery (equivalent to spirit magic) existed, whereas the current ruling is that for low magic, Malkioni cultures just use spirit magic,.  Not really a Gregging as Greg apparently always had this opinion.

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6 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

wish we knew a bit more about how the Arkati practices mixed with Malkionism for your everyday folks

Probably just worship of the "Dark" gods and goddesses: Argan Argar, Xentha, Xiola Umbar particularly. The shadows, the night, these are the places that Arkat's Dark Empire is still spoken of.  The everyday folk probably believe that offerings to these deities will aid Arkat in his never-ending struggle against the evil that lurks in the light.

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1 hour ago, jajagappa said:

Probably just worship of the "Dark" gods and goddesses: Argan Argar, Xentha, Xiola Umbar particularly. The shadows, the night, these are the places that Arkat's Dark Empire is still spoken of.  The everyday folk probably believe that offerings to these deities will aid Arkat in his never-ending struggle against the evil that lurks in the light.

Worshiping these in addition to the ones already worshiped by the Seshnegi and Enerali, you mean? 

If we are talking about Arkat, we mustn't forget Zorak Zoran.

Arkat's career in theist cults went

Orlanth

Humakt

Kyger Litor

Zorak Zoran

or in other words, the ruling god followed by the death/war god for Storm and Darkness

His previous stint in Seshnela quite likely brought him into the folds of Hrestol and possibly Seshna. His Brithos experiences included Aldrya and Horal.

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Elements of Safelstrans culture:

Language:  The Safelstrans speak a Malkioni language compared to their Orlanthi neighbours.

Marriage Customs:  Belemor, Ulemor and bastardry.

Other customs:  Smoking.

Religion:  The Arkati worship the Nine Great Gods rather than the Storm Tribe.  Because of the presence of nearby Nida, their main god would be Arkat rather than Orlanth.

So how would Arkatism work?  There's several model as far as I can see::

  • A vessel for Illumination.  HeroQuest Glorantha p207 describes it as freeing soul from the wrath of the Gods War I would have preferred an explicit mention of Gbaji as a Mara (Buddism) analogue
  • A school of sorcery. Jeff has mentioned in the past that instead of Henosis as Malkioni in general do, they substitute instead the worship of the Pagan Gods.  How this might work out IMO is that instead of studying the Runes, the Arkati uses their Runic Affinity instead.  They would still have to swot up on the Techniques.
  • The Black Arkat cult in the Smoking Ruins suggests that the Arkati can only learn sorcery if they have been illuminated

So the Arkati cults (Peacemaker, Destroyer etc) might teach different magics and illumination.  Only those who are Illuminated are taught sorcery and their illumination allows them several tricks impossible to more orthodox Malkioni (perhaps ignore Spirit Magics when calculating Free INT, use of Runic Affinities in sorcery etc) 

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3 hours ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

Isn't there like a burgeoning Seven Arkats thing, someone help me out, @Joerg?

There is that seven-headed statue of Arkat in the illustration of the Alangellia in the Guide (p.377), listing seven aspects of Arkat (p.376). And there is the upcoming Hero Wars event of the five returning Arkats (p.385), one of whom might come from the Dragon Pass region.

Which ones are going to return remains to be seen, although the Liberator, the Deceiver, the Destroyer and the Chaos Monster are pretty much booked. That's at least three of the five Arkats to come defined.

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17 minutes ago, Joerg said:

Which ones are going to return remains to be seen, although the Liberator, the Deceiver, the Destroyer and the Chaos Monster are pretty much booked. That's at least three of the five Arkats to come defined.

Can you elaborate? Argrath, obviously, but then?

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5 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

Can you elaborate? Argrath, obviously, but then?

 

The Destroyer might be the troll. Argin Terror may or may not be one of these. The Chaos Monster might be the Deceiver, or possibly all of the five.

There is many a candidate cocksure that he is the only possible casting choice, but the audition to the five candidates is still going on.

In the original run of the Rise of Ralios freeform, some people had "the Arkat revelation" in their secret character envelope.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

...the Liberator, the Deceiver, the Destroyer and the Chaos Monster

Can you elaborate? Argrath, obviously, but then?

Argrath seems likely to be the Liberator.

My vote for the Destroyer is Harrek.  It's what he does best.

Ralzakark seems a good candidate for another, but is he Chaos Monster? Deceiver?

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13 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

My vote for the Destroyer is Harrek.  It's what he does best.

Ralzakark seems a good candidate for another, but is he Chaos Monster? Deceiver?

Sure, those both destroy and are chaos monsters respectively, but I don't see either as particularly Arkati. Ralzakark seems to be primarily Ragnaglari with some extra Nysalorianism, and Harrek merely kills shit.

The comic has (supposedly?) Argrath as The Destroyer, after discounting Harrek for the role (and also Ralzakark as Wakboth Returned).Page-17-Flat.jpg

Edited by Akhôrahil
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11 hours ago, Joerg said:

Worshiping these in addition to the ones already worshiped by the Seshnegi and Enerali, you mean? 

If we are talking about Arkat, we mustn't forget Zorak Zoran.

Arkat's career in theist cults went

Orlanth

Humakt

Kyger Litor

Zorak Zoran

or in other words, the ruling god followed by the death/war god for Storm and Darkness

His previous stint in Seshnela quite likely brought him into the folds of Hrestol and possibly Seshna. His Brithos experiences included Aldrya and Horal.

 

Does that mean you can find an arkati sect without "darkness colour"  ?

following sorcery + heroquesting + storm or sorcery + heroquesting + death ?

I don't remember where but I understood that arkati view themselves as something like heroquesting guards (to block any new god learners changes temptation)

In fact, I don't understand what is arkatism. The only source I have are from an Uz perspective.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

Sure, those both destroy and are chaos monsters respectively, but I don't see either as particularly Arkati.

The "reincarnations" of Arkat does not necessarily mean they are "Arkati". 

2 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

The comic has (supposedly?) Argrath as The Destroyer, after discounting Harrek for the role

I forgot about the comic, but yes it could well be Argrath as the Destroyer, particularly given the cataclysm we know he will unleash based on KoS. But that opens up the question as to who fulfills the Liberator role? (Of course, it could be that there are Arkats who can come back from the Hero Plane. Or maybe Jar-eel is the Liberator!)

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Arkat without darkness - no idea if that is possible. A sect without stressing the darkness aspect - sure, possible. Starting with the Ascended Master for Hrestoli?

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1 hour ago, French Desperate WindChild said:

Does that mean you can find an arkati sect without "darkness colour"  ?

Yes, just because Arkat progressed into the Death and Darkness cults over time, doesn't mean the Arkati sects (outside of Black Arkat) need to have such connection/color.

1 hour ago, French Desperate WindChild said:

I don't remember where but I understood that arkati view themselves as something like heroquesting guards (to block any new god learners changes temptation)

They are often "guards" upon the Hero Plane, particularly at critical junctions where many HeroQuest paths converge (e.g. at the Crossroads there is an Arkati hidden in the shadows of the place who protects the Raven there).

1 hour ago, French Desperate WindChild said:

In fact, I don't understand what is arkatism.

It is an Illuminated path where you understand that: 1) the mythic stories are not fixed in stone - they can be altered; 2) the mythic paths cross and can be viewed from multiple perspectives; 3) you can use the crossing points to move from one story into another, thereby changing the story.

From HQG p.205: "An Illuminate can willingly take choices that his cult might reject, but that the Illuminate believes would be in the best interest of his community"

and an in-world example: "Needing to awaken a sleeping goddess, Samastina went to Argrath seeking advice. Argrath had been to the Court of Silence before (“several times, mainly thanks
to Harrek’s short temper,” he confided). He advised Samastina that although in the story the heroes always leave with the goddess, she should not. Instead, Argrath advised her to confront the goddess Asrelia .... Samastina listened carefully to Argrath and slowly she realized that Argrath’s words applied to all myths and all quests – there are other perfectly valid options she could follow instead of the time-honored path of tradition. Not all were wise, not all would be successful, but the choice was hers…"

Also the picture on p.207: "This mystic diagram is from the House of Black Arkat in the Esrolian city of Arkat’s Hold. It depicts an Illuminate who has been guided by Arkat’s teachings to transcend the struggles and woes of the Gods War. She is seated at the symbolic Axis Mundi and holds Arkat in her left hand. With her right hand she makes a mystic gesture of  reassurance and blessing.... [The gods] are locked in the cycle of mythic events known as the Gods War and each represents a passion that the Illuminate meditates to transcend."

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