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RossN

'Civilized' Spirit Magic Users?

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Hello all, I'm a long time dabbler in things Gloranthan but more recently have started getting into it properly via HeroQuest. I've been toying around with a character idea but I'm not sure how plausible it is so I was hoping to get some wisdom from the more experieced!

Basically are there any such things as 'civilized' Spirit Talkers and Shaman? By civilized I don't mean in terms of morality but just in the sense of coming from an urban, cosmopolitan background like Esrolia. I understand that those cultures are overwhelmingly theistic and that men and women with the Spirit Rune are going to be uncommon, but could an individual born to say a family of merchants in Nochet find a way to use Spirit Magic without abandoning his cultural identity or upbringing? Would he have to take up a wandering life in the wilderness permanently forsaking the luxuries of the city?

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9 minutes ago, RossN said:

Basically are there any such things as 'civilized' Spirit Talkers and Shaman? By civilized I don't mean in terms of morality but just in the sense of coming from an urban, cosmopolitan background like Esrolia. I understand that those cultures are overwhelmingly theistic and that men and women with the Spirit Rune are going to be uncommon, but could an individual born to say a family of merchants in Nochet find a way to use Spirit Magic without abandoning his cultural identity or upbringing? Would he have to take up a wandering life in the wilderness permanently forsaking the luxuries of the city?

Ancestor worship is widespread in rural and urban cultures; the Guide states: Ancestor worship is popular in many Pelorian families. The same is true in many other areas, so a merchant clan in Nochet might well venerate their ancestors, with a small shamanic ancestor cult. It would be a very small family cult, based on blood-kinship.

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RossN:

Yes there are civilised shamans and spirit talkers. A Pavis Witch (shamaness) from the Big Rubble was an NPC back in the day in the Strangers in Prax supplement for Avalon Hill's version of RuneQuest (RQ3) and I remember reading somewhere that Notchet had urbanised shamans and that one had travelled to Pavis, but I can't remember clearly enough to give you a citation for that. It might have been in the Pavis Old Mint or the Zebra Fort supplements done for both RuneQuest and HeroWars/HeroQuest, but I not sure. All I remember is that the urban-shaman NPC was associated with some Esrolian mercenaries working in the Big Rubble.

If an urban person from Esrolia is born into a pagan or Aeolian tradition then there is a good to reasonable chance that they would use spirit magic regularly and a small chance that they would specialise in shamanism, as shamans are rare everywhere when compared to the general population. On the other hand if an Esrolian person was born into a Western Malkioni tradition then there would be real cultural and religious barriers to adopting spirit magic or shamanism instead of sorcery and probably a real risk of ostracism or religious violence against anyone who followed such a path. So, as long as you choose your culture and city well enough, your urban spirit-talker is quite feasible and will probably be great fun to play. Best wishes for both you and your player character and may the 10,000 gods and goddesses of Esrolia gaze upon you and protect you.

Cheers.

Evilroddy.

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4 hours ago, RossN said:

Basically are there any such things as 'civilized' Spirit Talkers and Shaman? By civilized I don't mean in terms of morality but just in the sense of coming from an urban, cosmopolitan background like Esrolia. I understand that those cultures are overwhelmingly theistic and that men and women with the Spirit Rune are going to be uncommon, but could an individual born to say a family of merchants in Nochet find a way to use Spirit Magic without abandoning his cultural identity or upbringing? Would he have to take up a wandering life in the wilderness permanently forsaking the luxuries of the city?

The best example of an civilized animist society is the Mayans so the answer is yes.  The Kolati in King of Dragon Pass spring to mind as they were far more comfortable in handling silver coinage than the average clan.

I'm less convinced by the responses that ancestor worshippers are spirit magicians.  We already have an example of a civilized ancestor worshipper in the form of Duke Raus of Rone and he does not strike me as the type to indulge in ecstatic communion with his ancestors.  He is more like a sacrificial type so to speak.  King of Dragon Pass/Hero Wars/HeroQuest 1.0 did make some stab at addressing this.

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Ancestors are disembodied spirits and that type of interactions with small otherwordly entities is typically (and best represented as) a form of animism : getting a bit of magic from them, communicating and summoning them,etc...

Even Orlanthi can ritually interact with their ancestors but only in a very limited way and I doubt that any of them would primarily be "ancestors worshippers" even if they are laymen so in some way or another Duke Raus must have access to more than that.

Glorantha Classics's Borderlands and Beyond also states that him and his immediate family are Daka Fal style ancestors worshippers and Daka Fal is one of these deities that are present everywhere in some form.

I suspect that his ancestors worship ways were retconned later on though as the more recent Pavis books don't mention it and the Heroquest one gives him the Fire, Truth and Mastery Runes. (The doylist reason why he was ever an ancestor worshipper was probably to make him very neutral anyway)

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33 minutes ago, Tarumath said:

Ancestors are disembodied spirits and that type of interactions with small otherwordly entities is typically (and best represented as) a form of animism : getting a bit of magic from them, communicating and summoning them,etc...

I had an issue with the method of communication with spirits:

Quote

They usually
include music, dance, and other trance inducing practices; this is sometimes
called “Ecstatic Adoration.

Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes p106.

However looking it up on HeroQuest: Glorantha, the magical method seems to be reciprocal - aiding the spirits in return for their aiding you.  The necessity of trance inducing states for communion with spirits has been de-emphasized.  So it's possible (despite my earlier musings) for an ancestor worshipper to interact with his ancestors in an almost confucian manner and still have spirit magic.  The only caveat is that such worship be dependent on the family rune and be led by a spirit-talker (as opposed to a shaman.

Edited by metcalph
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9 hours ago, RossN said:

Basically are there any such things as 'civilized' Spirit Talkers and Shaman?

Yes, they just look a bit different. Peter suggests using the Maya as a civilised example, but I would suggest modern day Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Korean shamans are an interesting form where they have transitioned into priestly role. Shinto in Japan is a good example, while the practices of the Hmong people in Vietnam provide a good day to day example. 

In Glorantha Daka Fal is common everywhere. 

52 minutes ago, Tarumath said:

as the more recent Pavis books don't mention it

Ancestor worship is part of the Pavis tradition, mentioned in passing on page 11 Pavis GtA. As it’s only a very minor tradition there was no room for more detail, Daka Fal is certainly there. In hindsight I’d of preferred to mention Daka Fal to Florian the Gardner. 

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Thank you all this has been extremely helpful! A lot to work on here, especially with the real world inspirations brought up.

By eerie coincidence Strangers in Prax was the first Glorantha product I ever owned, even if I have never gamed with it so I actually know exactly who you mean Evilroddy!

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RQG calls common magic spirit magic so from that point of view, spirit magic is everywhere.  We'll see the details tomorrow.

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I like the example of Yelm families, they worship Yelm as an overall ancestor and as the Emperor/Sun, but also honour their own Yelmic ancestors, stretching back to Yelm himself. They can recite their family trees and summon powers from their ancestors in much the same way as a Daka Fal shaman. However, they use a Yelmic drum, with bells and whistles, dance a Yelmic ballet and recite Yelmic prayers when doing so.

Edited by soltakss
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