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The Gloranthan Dead

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The Dead of Glorantha

One of the greatest magics in Glorantha is the living body of a person. There are magics to partake from this magic for other purposes – voluntary sacrifice of magical energy, blood, emotions, even pain and death, but also involuntary donations such as a wraith's or vampire's drain of life, a sorcerer's Tapping, or gruesome sacrifice to enemy demons or deities.

But the dead still retain quite a bit of the magic that the life person had. Why else would there be head-hunters (besides the Thanatari) or reliquiars of ancestors or heroes?

Even in societies that destroy the body (by cremation, exposure to scavenger birds, ritual consumption of the dead by friends and family, or unconserved burials leaving the body to the worms), there are remnants of the dead which can (or need to) be interacted with.

 

Death was introduced to Glorantha via the Sword Story and subsequent branches of that story. Apparently, destruction or annihilation of a person or deity was known before Death entered the world – Umath for instance was shattered into more pieces than could reassemble.

However, Death wasn't the end of existence. It only marked the transition to another stage of being. Something important was lost, but there remained enough that was recognizably the former person.

One of the most important cultural accomplishments in order to start into Time was the Separation of the Living and the Dead, a feat usually assigned to the Silver or Gray Age that followed the Greater Darkness (for those who recognized or remembered such a period). King Heort did this among the Theyalans, and other Darkness survival heroes did so among their own cultures.

Even after this separation, the dead didn't simply disappear, but they were excluded from the activities of the living for most of their existence (time).

 

With Death also came Undeath, where the dead prey on the living. The Vivamort (or in Ernaldan myth, Nontraya) myth is a companion of the Sword Story, of sidestepping Death by giving up an important portion of Life. A common tale of horror and woes is the rise of dead bodies that attack their former kin or foes, usually under the influence of some foreign and malign controlling agent. If the dead rise on behalf of their kin/comrades, these actions may be regarded as laudable and beneficial to the community, and not necessarily as undeath. In other places, the dead are made to mimic the actions of the living, or do so out of their own volition – e.g. the Fonritian or Dorastan plantations tended by the dead, or the zombie rowers of Kralori warships.

Another not so uncommon occurrence in Glorantha is the prescence of a spirit, shade or other uncorporeal remnant of the deceased, as exemplified by ghosts. Sometimes these are counted among the undead – usually when forcefully attached to some remnant of their dead body – but in other cases they are regarded as restless dead. And not all cultures think that the dead should rest – even the Death fanatics of the Humakt cult accept the continuing service of their comrade's ghost to the cult, although they strongly oppose any case of somebody or something else controlling these ghosts than their cult.

Then there are the revenant dead - vampires, liches, draugr, active mummies, or even weirder forms of dead flesh animated by its own spirit/soul/whatever (thinking of the impressive noble undead as seen in Tekumel here), fueled by a self-inflicted or external curse.

 

The different cultures have vastly different ideas about what they are made of, what's important about that, and what changes when they lose Life. The Malkioni regard themselves as embodied intellects and energy, and possibly the impression they make on other minds, including the World Mind. Depending on their school of philosophy, their identity simply disappears (Brithini), enters Solace, enters Joy, or even attains an angelic or saintly existence.

 

Theists say that they are made up of souls (some define their body as one form of their soul), and assign different origins and functions to these souls. They also expect the part of their soul that formed a connection to their god(s) to return to the deity's realm in the Otherworld. (They don't have any problem with that existence to be in different "places" of the Otherworld at once, having experienced the non-linear Godtime themselves in their cultic practices. Hence there isn't a conceptual problem for initiation into multiple cults, either – being in one Otherworld place doesn't preclude a simultaneous existence in another place and/or perception. Illumination makes it clear that these really are perceptions of the Otherworld if viewed from beyond.)

The Kralori think of their souls as a unit that goes to the waiting place to join the god/dragon-emperor when he ascends.

Animists perceive themselves as part of the spirit world to which they will return after their embodied existence. Possibly to be cleansed of identity, possibly to be reborn, possibly to retain their identity in the company of their ancestors (and after a while their descendants, too).

 

All of these cultures accept that they leave something behind, too, and that the stuff left behind still has some connection to whatever notion of self they have. That's why they have funeral rites or commemoration services, even for absent bodies (like e.g. drowned sailors, victims of "natural" catastrophes, or bodies lost on a battlefield yielded to the victorious side.) All fear the abuse of these remains.

 

I wonder if there is (or was) a culture in Glorantha that had its members turn into a trove of memories (like a book, grimoire, clay tablet, seal, or a crystal storing visual memories, to be left in the care of their surviving kin/company.

 

If the Praxians summon their ancestors to stand besides them in battle, is this viewed as necromancy by their foes? If a dead cultist continues as a cult spirit aiding a living member of the cult, is this sidestepping Death? When a dead hero is manifested by its worshippers to aid them, is this breaching the searation of the living and the dead?

 

When the dead claim the place of the living on those special holy days in Nochet, how do the many non-Esrolians deal with that? And are their own dead – probably having received a funeral service in the manner of their own culture – participating in this parade of the dead? Will smoky bodies of cremated Orlanthi walk in stride with mummified buried bodies of Esrolians, and possibly skeletons picked clean by scavenger birds (in Grazer style), and whatever burial customs the other foreigners in Nochet practice? Would Kralori who expect their dead to wait for Godunya's ascension meet the "rest" of their deceased? How do the Malkioni deal with this (and the proximity of the Antones Estates to their own part of Nochet)?

 

 

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I wonder if there is (or was) a culture in Glorantha that had its members turn into a trove of memories (like a book, grimoire, clay tablet, seal, or a crystal storing visual memories, to be left in the care of their surviving kin/company.

That is certainly one of the common roles of Ancestor Spirits among the Uz.

Of course they mostly just remember the really important things, like Slights, Grudges, Feuds, spells, and Trollball statistics...

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I wonder if there is (or was) a culture in Glorantha that had its members turn into a trove of memories (like a book, grimoire, clay tablet, seal, or a crystal storing visual memories, to be left in the care of their surviving kin/company.

As @boztakang said it's what the trolls do, but not just trolls, many other cultures too. Sartarites and Praxians certainly do this as their ancestors are important to them, and they were at many historical/mythological events and can tell about them first hand. There's actually a bit in one of the recent adventures that alludes to this - you meet an ancestor that has been forgotten (can't remember the exact detail on this). Like trolls they also tend to remember the important stuff - Slights, Grudges, Feuds, spells, and why you should listen to what your grandfather said.

In Sartar, Daka Fal is much more widely acknowledged that current publications suggest. This has been an ongoing discussion with @Jeff. There will be a paragraph on it either for the next WF or the Prax book.

 

If the Praxians summon their ancestors to stand besides them in battle, is this viewed as necromancy by their foes? If a dead cultist continues as a cult spirit aiding a living member of the cult, is this sidestepping Death? When a dead hero is manifested by its worshippers to aid them, is this breaching the searation of the living and the dead?

The Praxian ancestors are in spirit form they have a only slight material form and fight with magic weapons and the like, attacking the very souls and spirits of their foes.  Only rarely does an an ancestor take on a body and even then it's that of the family shaman. When a Praxian cultist dies, their spirit goes to the Great herd ruled over Waha and Eiritha, after an undetermined time they enter back in to the cycle of life and their spirit is reborn again. It is while they are in the Great Herd they may become a cult spirit, source of a charm, etc. They have died, their body is gone and their spirit/soul is separated. They have not avoided death.

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In Sartar, Daka Fal is much more widely acknowledged that current publications suggest. This has been an ongoing discussion with @Jeff. There will be a paragraph on it either for the next WF or the Prax book.

Daka Fal as an exclusive cult, or Daka Fal worship on top of normal Orlanth worship?

   

The Praxian ancestors ... have not avoided death.

That's why I mentioned them as an example of dead (and gone) still taking an active role in the world.

I don't mean what the Praxians think of them, I mean what do non-beast riders faced with them think.

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Daka Fal as an exclusive cult, or Daka Fal worship on top of normal Orlanth worship?

along with normal Orlanth worship.

I don't mean what the Praxians think of them, I mean what do non-beast riders faced with them think.

Sartarites, etc - good job we brought our ancestors with us as well...

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It's perfectly obvious:

When people you like call on their ancestors, they are remembering their honored dead and drawing aid from their mighty heritage.

When people who you don't like call on their ancestors, it's foul necromancy and probably trafficking with chaos.

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On 10/23/2015, 5:45:15, Joerg said:

With Death also came Undeath, where the dead prey on the living. The Vivamort (or in Ernaldan myth, Nontraya) myth is a companion of the Sword Story, of sidestepping Death by giving up an important portion of Life. A common tale of horror and woes is the rise of dead bodies that attack their former kin or foes, usually under the influence of some foreign and malign controlling agent.

Such a thing happens at the Sun Dome Temple in Prax at Sacred Time during the Great Winter (aka the Wind Stop). The customary rituals to renew the world utterly fail, the aged high priest collapses at the High Altar, spilling the sacred libation, and the shocked celebrants are unable to symbolically awaken the high earth priestess. Meanwhile, a creeping rot spreads from the spilled libations to the sacrificial food offerings (and is later found to have spread to the granaries). Evil spirits began to assail the assembled worshippers, and in horror they realize some in the crowd are actually the undead of Nontraya; those who had already died of hunger.

The Sun Domers only prevail by desperately enacting Yelmalio's Last Light Heroquest. A part of this involves traveling to the Old Sun Dome, where they find the ruins swarming with vengeful wraiths and ghosts of Sun Folk who have died of hunger. In the blackened temple crypt, a host of undead assail the heroquesters: the animated remains of yet others who had starved, who are being driven at them by demons with scorpion whips.

Later, the dog-headed god Jajagappa and his pack suddenly swarm into the crypt, seeking to drag the Yelmalian heroquesters to Hell. But Count Solanthos, his light sons and their allies successfully fight off Jajagappa, proving they are indeed worthy of the strongest god of light to live in the Darkness. They move on to the next stage of their quest, leaving the dog-headed Hunter of Souls and his Hell Hounds to gorge themselves on the undead infesting the ruins.

 

 

 

Edited by MOB
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On 11/24/2015, 11:08:37, MOB said:

The Sun Domers only prevail by desperately enacting Yelmalio's Last Light Heroquest.

BTW, the Last Light heroquest emulates Yelmalio’s grim and tenacious survival in the Greater Darkness, and is only performed at times of the gravest existential peril.

Although an entire community can take part, the lead participant must have completed at least the Sacred Time version of the Hill of Gold heroquest, where Yelmalio is disarmed by Orlanth, and then ambushed by Zorak Zoran, who steals his fire powers. In most cases this would be the Count. A leader who has gone on a pilgrimage to the actual Hill of Gold in Vanch itself greatly improves the chances of success and enhances outcomes.

The last Light heroquest helped Sun County endure various trials and torments during terrible Solitude of Testing period (1200 – 1575). Before the Great Winter, it was last performed in the reign of Count Skindilli Longlegs (1439-1458), of whom the Light List says, “drove away Daga and made slaves of the Storm Bull men”.

Stations of the Last Light Heroquest

  1. The Son of the Sun falls and bleeds out his life-giving heat, but his wounds do not deter his struggle in the Darkness as he girds his strength and fortitude.
  2. He joins with allies to fight against the relentless approach of chaos. The elves will be one, and there will be others, but one friend is false that only later Truth can reveal.
  3. He fights off those who would drag him to hell like his father and becomes the Last Light, the strongest god of light to live in the Darkness.
  4. He finds his wife Ernalda*, the earth mother who was lost in the darkness, and stands guard over her while she sleeps. (GM note: could be any other earth goddess who has gone to sleep, e.g. Esrola, Eiritha, Aldrya.)
  5. The false friend is revealed and he is wounded again, and bleeds out the last of his firepower into Ernalda and that helps warm her enough to be awakened.
  6. He survives the Darkness, and watches over the ruins of the world until he greets the rise of his father, the Sun, at the start of time.
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9 hours ago, soltakss said:

Thanks, I can see that being used in my current campaign - It seems perfect for Mello Yello (King of Dragon Pass :o )

While he doesn't quite make it to King of Dragon Pass (yet!), Melo Yelo is also a prominent character in the "Future History of Sun County 1621-1627" document I prepared to bring the setting up to the new campaign start date. 

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When the dead claim the place of the living on those special holy days in Nochet, how do the many non-Esrolians deal with that? And are their own dead – probably having received a funeral service in the manner of their own culture – participating in this parade of the dead? Will smoky bodies of cremated Orlanthi walk in stride with mummified buried bodies of Esrolians, and possibly skeletons picked clean by scavenger birds (in Grazer style), and whatever burial customs the other foreigners in Nochet practice? Would Kralori who expect their dead to wait for Godunya's ascension meet the "rest" of their deceased? How do the Malkioni deal with this (and the proximity of the Antones Estates to their own part of Nochet)?

I know that the dead arrive in different forms in Nochet on those days of the Ancestors.  You'll see: walking corpses, ghosts, parades of seemingly living people - a mix of all three (and more).  So, yes expect mummified bodies, skeletons, and smoky ghosts of Orlanthi to arrive. 

Will the dead of foreigners come?  I haven't discussed with Jeff or MOB yet, but I'm inclined to say 'yes'!  Seems like a MGF type of thing - very unexpected the first time, very shocking for newcomers, etc.  And would suggest some very odd behavior by those dead as well.  E.g. the Kralori ancestors complaining that they are separated from their kin, and demanding to be brought back to Kralorela. 

As for the Malkioni, I think they employ their zzaburi on these days to ward Meldektown from the incursions of the dead and send them back to their graves.  Picturing something like All Hallow's Eve or Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain with the dead flooding out of the Antones Estate and the fearful meldeks offering their prayers to the zzaburi to ward the area and drive them back, perhaps with ringing of bells, lighting torches, turning prayer wheels, etc.

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12 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

Will the dead of foreigners come?  I haven't discussed with Jeff or MOB yet, but I'm inclined to say 'yes'!  Seems like a MGF type of thing - very unexpected the first time, very shocking for newcomers, etc.  And would suggest some very odd behavior by those dead as well.  E.g. the Kralori ancestors complaining that they are separated from their kin, and demanding to be brought back to Kralorela. 

I love the idea that foreigners also join in the march of the dead, much the shock of their loved-ones (and them)! It somehow reminds me of one of the causes of the Indian Mutiny, where Sepoys were reluctant to serve overseas because by doing so they thought they would lose their caste. Likewise, the Dragon Emperor finds it challenging to recruit officials to serve in Nochet. A dying Kralori in Nochet will do whatever they can to expire away from the city, so their remains can be safely repatriated.

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7 hours ago, jajagappa said:

As for the Malkioni, I think they employ their zzaburi on these days to ward Meldektown from the incursions of the dead and send them back to their graves.  Picturing something like All Hallow's Eve or Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain with the dead flooding out of the Antones Estate and the fearful meldeks offering their prayers to the zzaburi to ward the area and drive them back, perhaps with ringing of bells, lighting torches, turning prayer wheels, etc.

Sending the dead back to their graves probably is a huge no-go - you can't show your disrespect much stronger short of destroying the walking corpses. And that on their holy day - when they have strong magic backing them.

Warding the houses probably is done.

Are there Malkioni dead among the procession? If so, restricted to the Aeolians, or also including Rokari or (linealist) Hrestoli? How would that interfere with the Malkioni concept of Solace?

This touches on the question whether the Malkioni are soulless or not. (Which, given that the Theyalans regard the body as one of several partial souls, is a hard concept to withstand physical evidence...)

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6 hours ago, MOB said:

I love the idea that foreigners also join in the march of the dead, much the shock of their loved-ones (and them)! It somehow reminds me of one of the causes of the Indian Mutiny, where Sepoys were reluctant to serve overseas because by doing so they thought they would lose their caste. Likewise, the Dragon Emperor finds it challenging to recruit officials to serve in Nochet. A dying Kralori in Nochet will do whatever they can to expire away from the city, so their remains can be safely repatriated.

I wonder how the Kralori view the dead remains of their mortal bodies. We know that Kralori war barges employ zombie rowers, but these may have been recruited from wrongdoers rather than levied from the general populace (of dead bodies). Does the Nochet enclave have a mandarin or minor exarch in charge of expediting the spirits to the waiting place, possibly through a bureaucratic audition(, and the corpses to the home country)? What other cultures present in Nochet may have strange adaptations to this procession of the dead?

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Sending the dead back to their graves probably is a huge no-go - you can't show your disrespect much stronger short of destroying the walking corpses. And that on their holy day - when they have strong magic backing them.

Warding the houses probably is done.

Are there Malkioni dead among the procession? If so, restricted to the Aeolians, or also including Rokari or (linealist) Hrestoli? How would that interfere with the Malkioni concept of Solace?

 

Here's some rough thoughts:

Since the Esvulari and Rokari dwell outside of Nochet, I suspect they bring their dead to either the Temple of Aeol or the new temple to the Invisible God.  There the respective zzaburi conduct the appropriate rites to free the dead and send them on to the Otherworld.  Such dead are not tied to the Antones Estate nor do they linger and participate in the Nochet 'days of the Dead'.  

At times, the Antones Estate has extended to and probably even through part of Meldektown.  Wards protect the houses and temples.  The meldeks may gather in the temples to protect them from the dead.

Those Esvulari and Rokari who die within Nochet and are not retrieved for proper funeral rites are probably condemned/cursed to march with the other dead. Surely a great punishment for those who fail to live in harmony with Aeol and/or the Invisible God!  Perhaps they grieve their fate? Or seek out those who may help free them from the curse?

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Does the Nochet enclave have a mandarin or minor exarch in charge of expediting the spirits to the waiting place, possibly through a bureaucratic audition(, and the corpses to the home country)? What other cultures present in Nochet may have strange adaptations to this procession of the dead?

I do not believe the Kralori have any mandarin or minor exarch in Nochet.  I like MOB's suggestion: "A dying Kralori in Nochet will do whatever they can to expire away from the city..."

Other cultures present:  Teshnans (probably give the dead to the fires of Calyz - whether this 'frees' them or not, I don't know); Fonritians (I'm sure they are appropriately shackled or enslaved to serve with the dead of Nochet!); Handrans and Ralians (probably encounter the same or similar fates as Heortlings); and of course the Vadeli.  There's probably all sorts of interesting rumors about their dead!  I like to think there is a rumor that the Vadeli dead never appear because the Vadeli eat them, body and soul!

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On December 1, 2015 at 3:10:23 AM, jajagappa said:

I know that the dead arrive in different forms in Nochet on those days of the Ancestors.  You'll see: walking corpses, ghosts, parades of seemingly living people - a mix of all three (and more).  So, yes expect mummified bodies, skeletons, and smoky ghosts of Orlanthi to arrive. 

Will the dead of foreigners come?  I haven't discussed with Jeff or MOB yet, but I'm inclined to say 'yes'!  Seems like a MGF type of thing - very unexpected the first time, very shocking for newcomers, etc.  And would suggest some very odd behavior by those dead as well.  E.g. the Kralori ancestors complaining that they are separated from their kin, and demanding to be brought back to Kralorela. 

As for the Malkioni, I think they employ their zzaburi on these days to ward Meldektown from the incursions of the dead and send them back to their graves.  Picturing something like All Hallow's Eve or Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain with the dead flooding out of the Antones Estate and the fearful meldeks offering their prayers to the zzaburi to ward the area and drive them back, perhaps with ringing of bells, lighting torches, turning prayer wheels, etc.

Of course the foreign dead march along as well. Do you really think Necropolis is the city of only the Esrolian dead?

But also remember, most Gloranthans know we all have more than one soul. There is the body, the breath, the spark, and the lower souls (which are typically one, two, or three in number), and sometimes even a Lunar soul. Using the proper rituals, the relevant soul will rejoin the gods, but the other souls go elsewhere. So an Orlanthi whose breath-soul was released to the Air through cremation resides in Orlanth's Hall until it is returned to the material world to breathe life into something else, but his lower souls might be in Ty Kora Tek's cavern and his spark might reside in the Sky World.

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8 hours ago, jajagappa said:

and of course the Vadeli.  There's probably all sorts of interesting rumors about their dead!  I like to think there is a rumor that the Vadeli dead never appear because the Vadeli eat them, body and soul!

I like the idea that no one has ever seen a Vadeli in the march of the dead, although it is documented that Vadeli have died in the city. And that the reason for this is inscrutable. 

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