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Snakes and dragons


Snugz

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It seems to me that Gloranthan serpents and draconic forms have a lot of overlap in Gloranthan myth/beings; e.g. rivers can be snakes (Zola Fel etc.)/dragons (Aroka), Earth snake-beings such as Seshna are often described as also draconic-like, and so on (I know I am forgetting some good examples). This has plenty of parallels in (Western, at least; maybe even more, e.g. Eastern) real-world mythology of course.

But I was pondering, what is the underlying Gloranthan mythology that connects Earth/Water serpents and Draconic nature, if any? I'd love to hear any scholarly takes. Or jokes.

Does this go back more to Hykim/Mikyh and reptilian-snaky nature coming from dragons?

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There may be some deep mythological connection that I haven't pieced together yet, but personally I think the connection is simply because they both look serpentine. Shapes have power in Glorantha, as demonstrated by the Runes, and so when two things both tend to have long slender bodies with wide heads and some teeth the cosmos is bound to say "ooh there's a connection", even if there's nothing relating them beyond said similarity of form (at least nothing that isn't also shared by most other animals).

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On 9/22/2020 at 8:44 AM, Snugz said:

But I was pondering, what is the underlying Gloranthan mythology that connects Earth/Water serpents and Draconic nature, if any?

I thought that the draconic connection was just that Aroka (the Blue Dragon) made some lakes (Aroka Lake) and rivers (Oslir) when he was slain by Orlanth? I'm not sure if his blood was water because he had eaten Heler, or because he's the Blue Dragon and so that's his thing (and other dragons might therefore not be related to rivers and water if they are other colours). So the connection might be incidental or unique there, and not a general thing?

I might be wrong, since I really don't quite get Aroka's deal (he eats water deities like Heler, but he supposedly commands Water Gods, which he led to try and conquer the Earth according to the Glorantha Sourcebook, but I don't know where more info on that is...)

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1 hour ago, lordabdul said:

I might be wrong, since I really don't quite get Aroka's deal (he eats water deities like Heler, but he supposedly commands Water Gods, which he led to try and conquer the Earth according to the Glorantha Sourcebook, but I don't know where more info on that is...)

The Blue Dragon Sshorg is Aroka/Heler is Nestentos/Oslira, insofar as that’s a meaningful statement to make.

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Water is a tricky one, since even the great Oceans (Sshorg, et al.), not just rivers, are described as both serpentine and draconic (and like in the real world, there's not necessarily a difference between the two).

Earth is described as serpentine too, though in that case it seems the idea is more about how serpents a) "burrow" or slither in the ground, and b) shed their skin to be renewed, rather than Earth being particularly elongated, as it were. The idea that certain Earth goddesses are more plant-leaning (Aldrya, Esrola, etc.), while others are more "cthonic-tectonic" leaning (Maran Gor, Kero Fin, Seshna Likita) is another cool idea, with the serpents' coiling and movement then possibly representing c) the heaving and shaking of the Earth.

For beast totem people too, the serpent is significant, since we find Serpent Dancers and Serpent Brotherhood in Western Genertela unifying and organizing Hscunchen people. My personal theory is that since the beasts are derived from Hykim/Mikyh and the Beast Rune is derived from the scale of a dragon, then the serpent acts as a kind of "lowest common denominator" for Beast Totem people, in the sense that maybe serpent animals are the closest to the primordial draconic archetype beasts are derived from, thus making them ideal for communicating between different, more derived totemic animals. This is purely my theory though (at least I *think*, I've mistaken actual lore for my own ideas before, it's a lot to keep track of). 

However, this Beast-serpent/Draconic connection does not entirely explain the Earth connection (even if, admittedly, most of those organized Hsunchen people are land-dwellers and thus intimately connected to the Earth goddesses). Perhaps some level of draconic-serpentness snuck its way into Genert and Pamalt in the early Green Age or later. Difficult to tell. 

The Sea connection doesn't easily come into that, once again. 

Dragons in themselves seem to frequently defy the petty elemental divisions that the rest of the universe seem to lean into as well. IMHO dragons don't really care too much about that kind of stuff. They are what they are, and if they're made of water or solid matter or flesh or spirit or whatever is not really a big concern for them. This means they might feature in lots of different pantheons, maybe moonlightning as theistic gods for a while, but then again maybe not. 

Alternatively, as lordabdul says, it might rather be that the serpentine form is a deeply cosmic archetype in Glorantha, that appears independently in lots of places, almost like a cosmic convergent evolution. In that case, I'd associate the serpent shape with buzzwords like power, potential, movement, etc. since that seems to be the unifying traits serpentine entities seem to share (maybe secrecy and wisdom as well, but who knows).

It's certainly a very fruitful area to think about!

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1 hour ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Dragons in themselves seem to frequently defy the petty elemental divisions that the rest of the universe seem to lean into as well. IMHO dragons don't really care too much about that kind of stuff.

And yet at the same time we have:

  • the Blue Dragon/Sshorg - which seems to embody the Water
  • the Sun Dragon - both the DH Dragon Emperor, the Sun Dragon cult of the Wastes, certain Kralori dragons, and possibly an association with Vithela
  • the Green Dragon - which seems to have an association/affinity with Earth
  • the Black Dragon - Cragspider's "pet", which clearly is associated with Darkness
  • the Red Dragon - which appears to have some association with the Moon
  • the Brown Dragon - which seems to have an association with Storm

Clearly there are plenty of other dragons, but some appear to have become sufficiently entangled with elements that there is a regular association.

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2 hours ago, dumuzid said:

I've read that the monster Belintar slew late in his conquest of the Holy Country, whose back now forms the Lead Hills north of the Shadow Plateau, was called the 'Night Dragon.'  So Cragspider's dragon may not be the only Darkness-associated dragon still around.

I think that's a name for the Black Dragon in the West; e.g. Malkioni? So maybe this was just an aspect of the Black Dragon via one myth, not the Dragon Pass one?

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9 minutes ago, Snugz said:

I think that's a name for the Black Dragon in the West; e.g. Malkioni? So maybe this was just an aspect of the Black Dragon via one myth, not the Dragon Pass one?

 

Or maybe -- dragons being dragons -- the Black Dragon just decided it didn't want to be dead anymore, and went back to hang out with Cragspider some more...

 

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2 hours ago, Snugz said:

I think that's a name for the Black Dragon in the West; e.g. Malkioni? So maybe this was just an aspect of the Black Dragon via one myth, not the Dragon Pass one?

The source I'm referring to is a series of old, old Tradetalk Magazine articles, written from the in-universe perspective of an Argan Argar priest from the Shadow Plateau.

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4 hours ago, dumuzid said:

I've read that the monster Belintar slew late in his conquest of the Holy Country, whose back now forms the Lead Hills north of the Shadow Plateau, was called the 'Night Dragon.'  

I think that's confusing the monster with the Night Dragon Society (which maintained comms between the Shadow Plateau and Dagori Inkarth during the Gbaji Wars). 

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7 hours ago, jajagappa said:

And yet at the same time we have:

  • the Blue Dragon/Sshorg - which seems to embody the Water
  • the Sun Dragon - both the DH Dragon Emperor, the Sun Dragon cult of the Wastes, certain Kralori dragons, and possibly an association with Vithela
  • the Green Dragon - which seems to have an association/affinity with Earth
  • the Black Dragon - Cragspider's "pet", which clearly is associated with Darkness
  • the Red Dragon - which appears to have some association with the Moon
  • the Brown Dragon - which seems to have an association with Storm

Clearly there are plenty of other dragons, but some appear to have become sufficiently entangled with elements that there is a regular association.

Apologies, but that was kinda the point I wanted to make: they're still all dragons. I meant to say that, unlike the elementally-dynastic pantheons, dragons just seem to take on identities on an individual level. 

Also, this does highlight kinda the difference between the "Seas-as-Dragons" (violent, voracious, material) versus the other dragons we know (mystics, transcendent, etc.)

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43 minutes ago, metcalph said:

I think that's confusing the monster with the Night Dragon Society (which maintained comms between the Shadow Plateau and Dagori Inkarth during the Gbaji Wars). 

Funny you mention that.  Here's the quote from Tradetalk #06 p.6, from the third and final installment of Shannon Appel's series on the Kingdom of Night, emphasis mine:

"Ezkankekko fought fiercely.  He even called up the Great Night Dragon but none of this was enough.  Belintar scattered the Only Old One's remaining allies and even slew the Great Night Dragon, destroying its society forever: its body diverts the course of the Creekstream River to this day."

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1 hour ago, dumuzid said:

Funny you mention that.  Here's the quote from Tradetalk #06 p.6, from the third and final installment of Shannon Appel's series on the Kingdom of Night, emphasis mine:

 

If it's the same article series which claims that the Battle of Night and Day took place during the Sun stop, it's hardly canon. 

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38 minutes ago, Scorus said:

Serpents are Ernalda territory.

Snakes are Ernalda territory, and there is not much association between the Earth deities and dragons.  There's definitely a difference/distinction between reptilian snakes and water serpents (which as you note are associated with rivers).  The latter do have strong mythic associations too though - e.g. the 'serpents' of Prax are the occasional water ways.

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There is also the World Serpent in Hsunchen animistic traditions, which are themselves fairly populated with dragons in the upper hierarchy (Korgatsu, Hykimikyh). 

My overall theory is that dragonness is a state of being anyone, including gods, can be in, but that it's also one so withdrawn from material concerns that in surviving mythical cycles, the stories are ones of resisting or overcoming draconic temptations. 

Cutting out the Inner Dragon, as it were. (Or in Aroka's case, cutting out the inner raingod.)

And snakes have strong draconic connections because they share more parts of the original dragon bodyplan- sinuous form, scaled skin. 

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20 minutes ago, aumshantih said:

This topic has me thinking a bit about Wyrm's, and wondering if there is a place for Naga's in Vithela.

Not sure about Vithela, but Nagas would definitely suit Glorantha. 

We currently have Lamias and Serpent Guardians, which are basically similar to Nagas, but there is always room for more half-serpent folk.

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6 hours ago, soltakss said:

Not sure about Vithela, but Nagas would definitely suit Glorantha. 

We currently have Lamias and Serpent Guardians, which are basically similar to Nagas, but there is always room for more half-serpent folk.

No one is sure about Vithela, which makes it a fun place to explore, IMHO.

Lamias are a bit strange - I definitely remember reading about them somewhere.  Are they chaotic?
Serpent Guardians are definitely Earth related.   Vithela's relationship to the Earth rune seems a bit interesting, honestly.

The myths that immediately strikes me as most Naga-esque are the stories of Harantara / Thrunhin Da.   It follows a lot of the Chinese/East-Asian naga myths, where there are frequent Water Rune connections.   Indian naga's sometimes have the aquatic nature, but more frequently they are Earth or Darkness/Underworld creatures.
 

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On 9/22/2020 at 11:44 AM, Snugz said:

But I was pondering, what is the underlying Gloranthan mythology that connects Earth/Water serpents and Draconic nature, if any? I'd love to hear any scholarly takes. Or jokes.

That's a very deep question. Some people preserve vestigial memories of an era when the dominant elemental hierogamy was Earth and Water. Something happens to Water and the struggle to establish a successor sets up the "primal" (actually relatively recent on this time scale) rivalry between Storm and Sky. This is probably related to the flood but what's clear is that it's much older than a lot of the status quo we usually talk about. 

In the time when Earth and Water were united, they generated their own joint ecosystem. Snake forms were popular and beloved by both. The rivers were a sign of their union. Fish and snakes have scales. When a snake or river leaps it can become a rainbow or something like a "dragon," a winged (but probably not feathered yet) snake. The likitas (earth snake women, nagas) represent both tectonic "currents" and the literal flow of fluid energy through the landscape . . . dowsing, what we would call ley lines, the serpent force.  

It starts to look like a primeval dragon complex. Relative to other primeval complexes they read earthy and watery . . . but in the fullness of time the dragon world within itself has diversified to emulate other modern elemental vocabularies, one sheds his skin and becomes "brown," for example, another mirrors the sun, the red dragon from the board game remains a little mysterious. Cragspider's friend may be even more ancient than generally surmised or simply a recidivist looking farther back for a pleasing expression.

The primeval dragon complex runs in parallel with the primal vegetative complex, children of Earth and Water we can understand a little better because they work a little harder to be understood. Different logic, different mythic economy but still contemporaries, fossil cousins cut from roughly the same stratum. 

There's a memory that dragons fought with giants that might conceal the fall of Water and the rise of Storm/Sky. If so, the giants are the shadows of one or more new divine dynasties, massive in "scale" but maybe more human in shape. Man Rune. The dragons are aligned with the older world. Giants and dwarves have an obscure relationship. Dwarves receive or acquire Earth affiliation at some point. Law, Stasis, Stone. As moisture recedes the ground hardens. Generations of elves and dwarves come and go. The world changes.

East is where the old world never rolled back. West is where it recedes. People in the West who remembered the dragon world recede as the giant world and its monomyth comes into historical focus. But with strange aeons . . . . 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

Or perhaps this is that first "war" between Sea and Earth?  A struggle between the fluid and the solid that ultimately produces the Earth cube.

I think, my friend, that beyond a certain scale of antiquity it is literally turtles all the way down.

But this might be one of the primal struggles of that age. Are mommy and daddy "fighting" or is it another form of hugging? Some say one and become one kind of creature. Others say and become another.

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1 minute ago, scott-martin said:

it is literally turtles all the way down.

Ah, yes, of course!  And down deep we discover that the Font of Chaosium is actually a turtle belching its secrets into the world. And when it gets tired and decides to turn around after some 600+ years, all the turtles above come toppling down and then they have to slowly climb back up.

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