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Animist Heroquesting


Brian Duguid

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I'm interested in any thoughts about animist Heroquesting, and how it is similar to or different from theist Heroquesting. This is for a book on the Hsunchen that I am writing, hopefully to be published on the Jonstown Compendium.

This previous thread was helpful:

As are pages 154-162 of Guide to Glorantha.

The way I see things: the Spirit Plane exists within Time alongside the Middle World / Mundane Plane. The spirits that Animists deal with can be found either embodied in the Mundane Plane or the Spirit Plane.

Dead animists may pass through a cycle of reincarnation (e.g. Hsunchen die, spirits drift off somewhere, come back again as fellow Hsunchen or totem beasts). Or they become Ancestor Spirits who can in some cases be summoned. Are these Ancestor Spirits sitting handily in the spirit world (i.e. within Time), or in the Underworld (having been judged by Daka Fal)?

The great totem spirits of the Hsunchen people generally have a mythology that happened within the God Time, pre-Dawn, for example the myth that it was Telmor who ate the Sun and brought about the Great Winter/Darkness. The deeds of the immortal beings of the God Time provide the unchanging basis of the Gods World that, like the Spirit Plane, sits alongside the Mundane World within Time.

If I'm understanding it right, the Hero Plane is where mortals go when they interact with myth i.e. with anything that happened pre-Dawn. This can happen within the Mundane World (for theists this is some kind of liminal space straddling the Mundane World and Gods World); or by leaving the Mundane World and entering the Gods World more fully; or by passing beyond the Mundane World into the Outer Worlds, Underworld, or Sky World.

For animists, my sense of this is that there may be Spirit Quests where they enter the Spirit Plane, as a shaman or accompanying a shaman, or seek entities within the Mundane World who are embodied from the Spirit Plane (nymphs etc). There are not Heroquests if they do not interact with myth.

There could be animist Heroquests where they interact with myth, and my sense is not to get hung up about whether "myth" is the Gods World, but that myth can be accessed through a liminal Hero Plane just like a theist. My only thought is that the animist could access myth through a Hero Plane straddling the Mundane and Gods World; or straddling the Spirit Plane and Gods World. For the Hsunchen, this gives a range of ways they can Heroquest, including pursuing paths through the Spirit Plane by contacting Ancestor Spirits, who eventually lead them to Ancestors who do not exist within Time, such as Telmor, Rathor etc.

I'm interested in other thoughts.

I'm also thinking: what *kind* of Heroquest would the Hsunchen want to undertake? It was a Heroquest when one of them killed the White Bear totem spirit Rathor (GtG p.229). Could a Heroquest be used to recover the White Bear spirit (noting there's some text somewhere about some of the Rathori believing the White Bear is asleep)?

I'm also thinking that Hsunchen wishing to recover a more primal, better-integrated relationship with their totem spirit (and be able to take beast form for longer, or ultimately at will), could Heroquest to follow the myth where their totem became divided into two-legs and four-legs, and reenact it with a different outcome.

What else might they want to do? Some kind of Serpent King revival in Ralios or Seshnela? Prevent the (many) death(s) of Basmol?

Edited by Brian Duguid
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The Silver best-selling The Children of Hykim offers over 150 pages on Glorantha's shape-changing totemic animal people, the Hsunchen. "Magisterial ... highly recommended" - Nick Brooke. "An amazing labor of love" - Evan Franke, Exploring Glorantha. "A deep dive" - Joerg Baumgartner. "Excellent sourcebook, well-written and well-researched" - Niall Sullivan.

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The way I see it is that a heroquest is a heroquest, whether you're a shaman or a priest or a sorcerer. The act of directly interacting with the pre-time stuff of the universe is more fundamental than any of the big three magic systems, and while your magical background might color how you perceive some things it won't terribly affect the core elements of how quests work.

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2 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

There could be animist Heroquests where they interact with myth, and my sense is not to get hung up about whether "myth" is the Gods World, but that myth can be accessed through a liminal Hero Plane just like a theist. My only thought is that the animist could access myth through a Hero Plane straddling the Mundane and Gods World; or straddling the Spirit Plane and Gods World. For the Hsunchen, this gives a range of ways they can Heroquest, including pursuing paths through the Spirit Plane by contacting Ancestor Spirits, who eventually lead them to Ancestors who do not exist within Time, such as Telmor, Rathor etc.

Animists use the same techniques as other people when HeroQuesting.

They enter the Hero Plane in the same way and re-enact myths in the same way. Jeff has been speaking about the Proximate Realm a lot recently, but that seems to be what used to be called the Hero Plane.

2 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

For animists, my sense of this is that there may be Spirit Quests where they enter the Spirit Plane, as a shaman or accompanying a shaman, or seek entities within the Mundane World who are embodied from the Spirit Plane (nymphs etc). There are not Heroquests if they do not interact with myth.

They are a particular type of HeroQuest.

You don't just jump on the Spirit Plane, get a Spirit and come back. What you do is to follow the ways that the Horned Man or your Totem Spirit taught you. So, Telmori might enter the Spirit Plane and track down a spirit using the techniques that Telmor taught you. A Hunter would hunt down a spirit using the techniques that Foundchild taught you and so on. You find the spirit and return with it, but it is still a HeroQuest.

Shamans do this kind of thing all the while, so it is very common. Non-Shamans find it harder, but having the right techniques makes it a bit easier.

Of course, after the first few times, just gloss over the magical techniques bit and just get the spirit, otherwise it gets a bit repetitive.

2 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

I'm also thinking: what *kind* of Heroquest would the Hsunchen want to undertake? It was a Heroquest when one of them killed the White Bear totem spirit Rathor (GtG p.229). Could a Heroquest be used to recover the White Bear spirit (noting there's some text somewhere about some of the Rathori believing the White Bear is asleep)?

The HeroQuest will be the same but Animists might get Spirits as rewards from the HeroQuest.

2 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

I'm also thinking that Hsunchen wishing to recover a more primal, better-integrated relationship with their totem spirit (and be able to take beast form for longer, or ultimately at will), could Heroquest to follow the myth where their totem became divided into two-legs and four-legs, and reenact it with a different outcome.

Yes, that is entirely possible.

Don't forget that even animist spirits grant Runemagic, so it is entirely possible to get Runemagic from a HeroQuest.

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6 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

The way I see things: the Spirit Plane exists within Time alongside the Middle World / Mundane Plane. The spirits that Animists deal with can be found either embodied in the Mundane Plane or the Spirit Plane.

I don't think of the Spirit Plane as existing within Time.  Instead, I think of it as that part of the Otherworld that is closest to the mundane world such that things of the spirit can at times touch upon it (or even nourish it).  But it is separate, and timeless.  And there are some beings that are able to shift between the two:  shamans, nymphs & dryads, some elementally related spirits that can be easily summoned.

6 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

I'm interested in any thoughts about animist Heroquesting, and how it is similar to or different from theist Heroquesting.

It may be useful to differentiate quests intended to gain spirits (or the powers of spirits) from Heroquesting.  The first are those regular quests that shamans make to particular Spirit Plane locations in order to bargain with, ally, or bind spirits to their aid.  Generally these are straightforward if the shaman knows the way (though certain mundane world locations may make it easier to start or get to the right place). 

The latter are those that may lead you into any number of "God-time" locations/myths.  You might well confront gods, demons, Chaos, or whatever.  You might enter these in an "embodied" form, as with theist Heroquests.  Or you might enter in a disembodied form where you follow the Spirit World to points where it overlaps with mythic events.   Dream quests are a variation on the latter where non-shamans might find themselves in a convoluted myth-ridden dream world (and may be lucky if they can free their spirit from the dream). 

6 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

There could be animist Heroquests where they interact with myth, and my sense is not to get hung up about whether "myth" is the Gods World, but that myth can be accessed through a liminal Hero Plane just like a theist.

Correct, don't get hung up on whether it is in one "world" or another.  There's the mundane world of living beings, and there's an Otherworld which may be perceived differently by different groups, but overlaps, interweaves, and swirls through each other. 

6 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

For the Hsunchen, this gives a range of ways they can Heroquest, including pursuing paths through the Spirit Plane by contacting Ancestor Spirits, who eventually lead them to Ancestors who do not exist within Time, such as Telmor, Rathor etc.

Yes, this is perfectly reasonable.  If you're a Rathori, your ancestors might guide you into the Great Forest of Plenty.  There you can meet Rathor or the Lady of the Wild.  You pursue the Great Prey, but find that the Great Forest of Plenty has been rent and torn.  The Storm Gods are there, and they too pursue the Great Prey, but they have destroyed the Great Forest in the process.  Maybe you confront them.  Maybe you follow them until they rest and try to steal a secret from them.  Maybe you save the Great Prey from them, which helps restore Harmony to the wild.  Etc.

6 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

What else might they want to do? Some kind of Serpent King revival in Ralios or Seshnela? Prevent the (many) death(s) of Basmol?

It's useful to think of the progression from the Happy Place where there was no Death, and all Beasts lived in Harmony; to the Time of Troubles - violence came, disorder came, some Beasts became Prey, some became Predators, Death came; some Beasts allied with Gods (e.g. Yinkin) and betrayed the Beast-folk (and there were Wars between the Beasts); Men came and they hunted Prey and Predators - the Hsunchen learned this Form, and fought against other Men to drive them off; more things went out of place and became Unpredictable; eventually Chaos, and the fight to save the world.

There are lots of opportunities within this frame. 

If put into the context of the current world, then you need to look at each location, or from within each Hsunchen culture, to see what you might wish to quest for. 

Can you bring back the Great Forest of Plenty?  Maybe you want to ally with the Elves and aid the spread of their seeds and groves, and destroy the vestiges of Civilization. 

Maybe you want to restore the Lion King - the original Ruler of the World?  Then you need to quest to his Many Deaths and defeat Basmol's foes (or trick them so that Basmol wins the fights). 

Or maybe creating a new Serpentbeast Alliance is best?  The Serpent Kings knew how to create Harmony with the Earth Goddesses.  If you can restore them, then the treasures of the Earth might become yours - but they are assailed by the soulless ones, and they are a dangerous foe....

7 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

Could a Heroquest be used to recover the White Bear spirit (noting there's some text somewhere about some of the Rathori believing the White Bear is asleep)?

Yes, except you discover that it is joined/bound to Harrek, and the combination Harrek/White Bear is very, very, very difficult to defeat - even for a god, let alone a mortal.

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9 hours ago, Richard S. said:

The way I see it is that a heroquest is a heroquest, whether you're a shaman or a priest or a sorcerer. The act of directly interacting with the pre-time stuff of the universe is more fundamental than any of the big three magic systems, and while your magical background might color how you perceive some things it won't terribly affect the core elements of how quests work.

Agree. The shaman can also go on quests in the Spirit World, but that’s not the same thing. Although it might not matter much in practice.

Edited by Akhôrahil
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10 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

I'm also thinking: what *kind* of Heroquest would the Hsunchen want to undertake? 

Telmor Eats the Sun? Telmor fights Yinkin? 

Reasonably, there’s a Sofali HeroQuest where Sofala carries the Lightbringers…

Edited by Akhôrahil
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20 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

I'm interested in any thoughts about animist Heroquesting, and how it is similar to or different from theist Heroquesting. This is for a book on the Hsunchen that I am writing, hopefully to be published on the Jonstown Compendium.

It's no different, except it has access to some "gateways" in the spirit world. Using the two RQG spirit travel examples I've done, it's fairly easy to transcribe them to Hsunchen animism:

Spirit travel example https://basicroleplaying.org/topic/7955-im-still-confused-about-spirit-travel/#comment-114593

Gaining a new shamanic ability example https://basicroleplaying.org/topic/9621-gaining-shamanic-abilities/#comment-141711

In the Gaining a new shamanic ability it's effectively a heroquest.

It's easiest to view the spirit world as circles with circles with the shaman's axis mundi at the centre. There are about seven circles with the outermost being the primal plasma, then inward, Earthmakers realm (where the horned man lives), then the God's War (it has it own subdivisions), then the All World (the first common area for animists, where Hykim and Mikyh live), then a common area shared by all hsunchen, which is in the spirit world, then local areas (clan and clan areas) then the shaman's axis mundi.

20 hours ago, Brian Duguid said:

Are these Ancestor Spirits sitting handily in the spirit world (i.e. within Time), or in the Underworld (having been judged by Daka Fal)?

Ancestor spirits are in the appropriate hsunchen founder's after life, where they wait to be reborn. That's where Daka Fal sends them. In the case of Telmori, they likely hunt in the Great hunting lands with Telmor. The axis mundi directly connects this area.

Within each area are are access points to other places and times. So prepared Telmori HeroQuesters could step directly from the axis mundi to the Happy hunting ground to meet telmor. Who is with a hidden place called the Cave of Ancestors within the Guardian Forest which has to be found and Guardians passed to meet the him (and Telmora).

A telmori shaman will have their own map of the spirit world and beyond. Look at this Burmese spirit map, in the middle you can see the tree which would be axis mundi surrounded by the spirit world of the local area. The other coloured areas are local regions (likely with their own spirit vortex's and entrances to other places).The left hand grey is Delecti's Marsh. Beyond the line is frontier zone (The coloured circle is the happy Hunting ground). The spike is visible in the centre but not from the inner area. At the bottom of the map are vortices that the shaman hasn't fully integrated into their world and outside are parts of the All world. The one at the bottom is Hykim and Mikyh's home and on the right is Mother Mammal's home.

18606172.jpg?fit=1200,675

Transpose your hsuchen's area into that.

In this zulu pictograph, you can see the axis mundi centre circle, with the local area outside that, then beyond that the All world.

 San-rock-painting-South-Africa-of-a-trance-dance-depicting-a-shaman-extracting-arrows.png

or have a look at the Praxian ones here: 

https://basicroleplaying.org/topic/7955-im-still-confused-about-spirit-travel/#comment-114510

https://basicroleplaying.org/topic/7955-im-still-confused-about-spirit-travel/#comment-114771

 

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23 hours ago, soltakss said:

You find the spirit and return with it, but it is still a HeroQuest.

I think this is a bit that I'm struggling with. I'm happy that it's the same "sort" of thing (a transition to the Otherworld with some degree of interaction with myth), but something a Shaman may do daily doesn't seem to merit the Heroquest label. I think perhaps a useful point to make here is that the Heroquest label suggests something binary, black-and-white, but there are many shades of grey in how someone in the Mundane World interacts with the Other World.

23 hours ago, soltakss said:

Don't forget that even animist spirits grant Runemagic, so it is entirely possible to get Runemagic from a HeroQuest.

Indeed. I'm looking at giving examples of this.

18 hours ago, jajagappa said:

I don't think of the Spirit Plane as existing within Time.  Instead, I think of it as that part of the Otherworld that is closest to the mundane world such that things of the spirit can at times touch upon it (or even nourish it).  But it is separate, and timeless.  And there are some beings that are able to shift between the two:  shamans, nymphs & dryads, some elementally related spirits that can be easily summoned.

This is another one my brain is struggling with. I see spirits (at least those that are closest to the mundane world and which interact with it directly e.g. stream spirits) must exist within time as they can have memories that relate to what happens in the mundane world, lay plans that affect it, and so on; whether or not they are embodied in the mundane world. They deal with cause-and-effect in a sequential way, which is why a Ghost can be dismissed and maybe why Ancestor Spirits will retain memories of the last time you talked to them. They may be constrained by their nature (a nymph's gonna do what a nymph always does), but are not constrained against intervention in the mundane world, unlike the Gods. Time passes in the real world when a Shaman spends time in the spirit world, although no doubt differently. Again, a shades-of-grey explanation makes more sense to me: the extent to which spirits in the Spirit Plane are "within Time" would depend on how close to the Mundane World boundary they are: it would get more timey-wimey as you get further away from that.

3 hours ago, David Scott said:

Using the two RQG spirit travel examples I've done, it's fairly easy to transcribe them to Hsunchen animism:

Thanks, those examples (and the whole threads) are incredibly helpful. Do any of the quotes come from any kind of forthcoming Prax publication? 🙂

Many thanks to you, and everyone else, for all the comments. I will resist trying to be too "mechanistic" about any of this, but I think there is a need to provide some explication for a society which is so dominated by animism.

Edited by Brian Duguid
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The Silver best-selling The Children of Hykim offers over 150 pages on Glorantha's shape-changing totemic animal people, the Hsunchen. "Magisterial ... highly recommended" - Nick Brooke. "An amazing labor of love" - Evan Franke, Exploring Glorantha. "A deep dive" - Joerg Baumgartner. "Excellent sourcebook, well-written and well-researched" - Niall Sullivan.

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