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What Were Stafford's Main Influences on Glorantha?


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Gloranthan mythology is the reason I know about RuneQuest. I remember, years ago, finding the myths and legends of Glorantha on some website and pouring through them for days. By that time I already had an interest in comparative mythology, and the more I learn about it the more impressed I am at what a great job he has done of depicting the way in which deities overlapped, stories contradicted one another, etc. in the ancient world. Perhaps especially the 'dead' sun god raised to the God-Above-God with the chief-of-the-gods being a son of his (ala Baal), this ancient near eastern theme is almost lost to the present world but has echoes even in Christianity. The artificial mythology of Glorantha is more like the real ancient world than Tolkien's syncretistic mythology, and more pre-axial than the Gnostic weirdness of Lovecraft.

What were Stafford's influences in the construction of his different cultures and pantheons?

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1 hour ago, Richard S. said:

I don't know any specific inspirations besides our general "bronze age", especially India and the Mediterranean, but probably drugs played at least a small part too if we're being honest...

Drugs certainly play a role in my interest in bronze age mythology, so I buy it.

Seriously, though, it's like Georges Dumezil wrote an RPG.

1 hour ago, MHanretty said:

http://www.glorantha.com/readings/

This might help you, though it’s very much broad strokes.


I have or have read most of those, aside from Borges.

Edited by VonKatzen
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2 hours ago, Richard S. said:

I don't know any specific inspirations besides our general "bronze age", especially India and the Mediterranean, but probably drugs played at least a small part too if we're being honest...

Yeah, Glorantha is not a little psychedelic in its twists and turns. Even/especially the Red Goddess somehow comes together in a kaleidospic zero-and-everything pulsing weirdness that seems very influenced by that current, but yeah - it does seem to be in Gloratha's very DNA.

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7 hours ago, VonKatzen said:

The artificial mythology of Glorantha is more like the real ancient world than Tolkien's syncretistic mythology, and more pre-axial than the Gnostic weirdness of Lovecraft.

Several major influences, which included (very non-exhaustively and only insofar as I'm aware of them through interviews and a small number of conversations) the Arthurian Romances, Tolkien, Beowulf, Homer, Joseph Campbell and through him Carl Jung, Greek Myth and Scandinavian Myth, Catholicism to a lesser degree in most matters but a greater one in some others (he lapsed quite early on in life), Eastern, Egyptian, South American Mythologies, Native American Myths and their shamanic spirituality, Roger Zelazny, Fritz Leiber, and H.P. Lovecraft, and to some degree at least IIRC such authors as Herman Hesse, Thomas Mann, Jorge Luis Borges, and of course all of the classical literary canon taken as a whole.

I obviously could not provide anything even resembling a proper bibliography of influences, including obviously because there are many that I will be completely unaware of ... but those given above have all been cited by him to my knowledge at some point or other. Many of his more academic influences, for instance, are completely absent from the above list, though the appendices in the Pendragon game do provide a few indications.

The other guys are right about the drugs playing a part in it too, right at the start of it all in particular.

The reading list here http://www.glorantha.com/readings/ that someone else has already linked to is a very good one, but those are Jeff Richard's own excellent influences, whereas Greg's were a bit different and not as focused BTW as that list is on the influences relevant to Glorantha and RuneQuest and WB&RM etc specifically.

And I wouldn't really agree that Greg's Gloranthan mythology is more like real ancient world, but I'd say that it's more consciously built around late 20th Century analyses of the ancient and mediaeval myths from a psychological perspective, such as in the work of such men as Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Mircea Eliade -- and such as the work that Dr Jordan Peterson has undertaken in recent years around the Bible stories.

erm, for what it's worth, I really don't buy into this whole "axial age" theory, because there really was no "parallel development", but in fact the lines of communication between East, Middle East, and West were far more open than many people realise, so that instead of "parallel development" there was cross-culturation and teaching and learning from each other, even to the extent that some South American languages seem to be linguistically related to Ancient Egyptian. And so on ...

As for Lovecraft, well, I'd say an Agnostic Weirdness rather than a gnostic one ... 🐙 😱 😜

Edited by Julian Lord
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The conflict between Orlanth and Yelm is very heavily borrowed from Egyptian mythology.

In (a common version of) Egyptian mythology, Osiris is born, and pushes away his father the Earth (Geb) and his mother the sky (Nut). He is later murdered by his jealous brother, Seth, the god of storms and the desert wasteland. After his death, his wife, Isis travels around collecting his bodyparts, puts him back together, and impregnates herself on his still-functioning penis. She conceives as son, Horus, the new god of the sky and sun, who avenges his father by defeating Seth and is proclaimed the new Pharaoh of Egypt. Osiris reigns in the Realm of the Dead.

The parallels to Umath pushing Earth and Sky apart, Orlanth killing Yelm, and eventually helping to resurrect him are obvious, and very cool, I think!

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Greg always said in his younger days that he consumed mythology and once he'd read it all, he started writing his own. I'd say that there was no single source that influenced his work more than any other. Once you've absorbed the monomyth from Campbell's Hero with a 1000 faces and the four volume set, the Masks of God, you've pretty much got it. Add in books like Our Kind by Marvin Harris and you're nearly there. Combine this with what most people call mythology (Greek, Indian, etc) and you've got the basic framework. It is however the fourth volume of Campbell's work, Creative Mythology which IMO is the most important of the influences on Glorantha. This world view combined with his shamanism influenced Glorantha the most. Fortunately we have number of recordings of him talking about mythology as a whole and hopefully you'll get to listen to them. In the mean time it's still possible to get a glimpse of his thinking as he was active on Quora right up to his death, have a look at https://www.quora.com/profile/Greg-Stafford-7 (you might need to register).

Another major influence was about the way he believed that people are made up. Mythology and Roleplaying are interlinked and hardwired into our brains and that all this is needed for a healthy life. Looking at the syncretic religion of the Lunars is a real glimpse into his mind and they way he viewed things. A real life example, was one day we were in a shop in Southall (a fantastic area with a very large Indian community in London) looking for Ganesh statues, he found a very ornate gold picture frame that opens up into a triptych, as usual this had pictures in it already. This one had Mickey Mouse in the centre, with Jesus on the left and Krishna on the right. After much laughing, he said he had found one of the most profound holy objects of the 20th century. For more insight you might like to read his chapter in Voices from the Circle: Heritage of Western Paganism (1990 edited by Prudence Jones & Caitlin Matthews).

I think it's difficult to pull out one particular influence over another when there are so many. Glorantha is not an artificial mythology, it was Greg's creative personal mythology, as much as he was the First Pope of the Church of Elvis, and a practitioner of Sauriontology,

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2 hours ago, Bohemond said:

I'd argue that Robert Graves' White Goddess played a role too--the whole Triple Goddess thing. 

I've wondered about that from time to time, indeed I actually had my eyes on my own copy of the book while writing the above -- but truth is, I've never heard or read Greg mentioning it, plus that book is more of a poem than an actual academic study as such, though the poetry is (mostly) written in the form of one.

Besides, that sort of idea was readily available from many other sources.

Simply put, got no idea if it influenced him or not !!

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12 hours ago, MHanretty said:

http://www.glorantha.com/readings/

This might help you, though it’s very much broad strokes.

I would have assumed Mircea Eliade would have a hefty position there as well - his concept of "eternal return", quoting Wikipedia, 'is a belief expressed through behavior (sometimes implicitly, but often explicitly) that one is able to become contemporary with or return to the "mythicalage"—the time when the events described in one's myths occurred.'

I mean, you couldn't describe how Gloranthan myth and worship work better than that if you tried!

Edited by Akhôrahil
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16 hours ago, David Scott said:

...he found a very ornate gold picture frame that opens up into a triptych, as usual this had pictures in it already. This one had Mickey Mouse in the centre, with Jesus on the left and Krishna on the right. After much laughing, he said he had found one of the most profound holy objects of the 20th century....

I have had a lot of discussions with Robert M. Price (famous for his view that Jesus is not a historical person, but also a huge comic and mythology nerd) about how much Superman has come to be to modern people as Apollo was to the Greeks and Romans; a sun god incarnated as an idealized man, sent from his father from Heaven to teach mortals how to live and to protect them from the dangers of the infinite void (space is the science fiction Ginungigap).

I mentioned Georges Dumezil earlier, and I find him incredibly interesting as a scholar of comparative indo-european mythology. I think he brings out a lot of aspects that Campbell misses by overly streamlining things so they fit with his Jungian model.

Whether or not Stafford was influenced by Robert Graves, Graves is a titan of religious literature and should definitely have his own cult.

15 hours ago, Julian Lord said:

I didn't read his "artificial" as a derogatory, if that's what you got out of it -- but yes, I think Campbell's and your "creative mythology" suggestion is to phrase it better.

All I meant was 'deliberately constructed by a person', as opposed to the hodge-podge of organic and multi-source mythologies we ascribe to ancient cultures.

Certainly most humans have their own mythos, deities, saints, etc. For some this is celebrities (and I have to admit I would probably make Henry Cavill and Clint Eastwood honorary deities if I were in the Senate). Though I don't burn incense or pray to them I am often surrounded by little idols (we call them action figures) - Thanos, Cable, Superman, Cyrus (the Persian king), and a little replica of the Great Khan himself in die cast steel.

Edited by VonKatzen
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