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Sumath

Libraries & Records

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The written word is a rare and magical thing in a bronze age society. Outside of court scribes, Lhankor Mhy sages and the Lunars is anyone else in Dragon Pass likely to keep good-sized and interesting libraries? Issaries temples would have libraries, but they'd be full of mundane stuff - inventories and loan records. In theory, all temples are places of knowledge, so there is potential for them all to have a library, the extent of which would vary dependent upon the deity, and temple size. Would important Orlanthi marriages be recorded in writing, or just vocalised and witnessed? Would you even marry at a temple?

I imagine writing, depending upon its origins, would be on parchment, paper or clay (and all of these forms found in LM temples, for example). Would friendly or associated cults be likely to allow copying or even loaning of each other's texts? If so, what texts would be permitted, and what would be restricted (apart from obvious cult secrets or matters of court)?

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1 hour ago, Sumath said:

The written word is a rare and magical thing in a bronze age society. Outside of court scribes, Lhankor Mhy sages and the Lunars is anyone else in Dragon Pass likely to keep good-sized and interesting libraries? Issaries temples would have libraries, but they'd be full of mundane stuff - inventories and loan records. In theory, all temples are places of knowledge, so there is potential for them all to have a library, the extent of which would vary dependent upon the deity, and temple size. Would important Orlanthi marriages be recorded in writing, or just vocalised and witnessed? Would you even marry at a temple?

I imagine writing, depending upon its origins, would be on parchment, paper or clay (and all of these forms found in LM temples, for example). Would friendly or associated cults be likely to allow copying or even loaning of each other's texts? If so, what texts would be permitted, and what would be restricted (apart from obvious cult secrets or matters of court)?

I've understood that the Orlanthi culture is mostly oral, so only like royal marriages and births would be written somewhere. I'd say that marriages are officiated at temples since they include wows to gods.

Sun Counties and Yelmalian clans and tribes have a more literal culture, since their priests are scribes too, so they write down all marriages and births.

e: in The Shadows on the Borderland  which is set in the Praxian Sun County, the Ernaldans also kept written records on births, deaths, livestock, etc.

Edited by Brootse

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Lots of lesser Lhankor Mhy cultists (not sure whether this includes lay members and associate cultists) form the rest of the literate class in Heortling society (and presumably in Esrolian society, too). But then you don't need to be able to read yourself in order to value book knowledge, as long as you can afford hiring a librarian who will read them to you and who will be able to research them. You need to be wealthy to have one.

Issaries doesn't have libraries, but the cult may have registers and archives. And collections of letters, diplomatic as well as mercantile, and possibly letters analyzing these letters for more diplomatic or mercantile endeavors. In other words, primary and secondary sources for research sages. Travelogues like Ottar's (Othere's) and Wulfstan's might be found in Issaries collections, too.

But then, a decent library that is not a great temple or a royal library is likely to be of similar word count than the total of printed Glorantha material (for a greater private library one copy of each edition, each language), possibly with the same amount of information duplication, too. That amount of text can lead to lots of derivative writing or discussion, as proven by (almost? already? When did the Bell Digest take off?) thirty years of online presence and 45 years of fanzine and magazine coverage (with significantly lower word count), not to mention private letters or mails discussing the stuff.

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2 hours ago, Brootse said:

I've understood that the Orlanthi culture is mostly oral, so only like royal marriages and births would be written somewhere. I'd say that marriages are officiated at temples since they include vows to gods.

I'd say that oral culture has been going out of fashion long before the resettlement of Dragon Pass.  Clans have Lawspeakers who will almost universally have eidetic memories and mnemonic devices to help them remember long chants of ancestry for the major bloodlines of their clans.  They would also have the ability to question  certain ancestors about past events via Daka Fal.  Records of births, deaths and marriages are important, but ultimately commiting such things to a ledger is so much easier that if a Tula has a Lhankor Mhy shrine it will certainly have books that details such things, especially dowry records, which are a major point of inter-clan contention. It takes a long time to learn a 4 hour recitation of a lineage back to God Time, and a sage's time can be better spent on other pursuits if he insists upon a book into which the information can be stored.

Edited by Darius West

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I believe that Glorantha, at least the civilised bits; Esrolia, Lunar Empire etc. have a reasonably high literacy among certain classes. Trade, civil building projects, prolonged warfare all require writing. But as Socrates pointed out, it does not necessarily exclude oral traditions. 

http://neamathisi.com/literacies/chapter-1-literacies-on-a-human-scale/socrates-on-the-forgetfulness-that-comes-with-writing

 

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7 hours ago, Sumath said:

Would important Orlanthi marriages be recorded in writing, or just vocalised and witnessed? Would you even marry at a temple?

It very much depends on the wealth of the clan/tribe, and whether it has a lawspeaker. Given the complexity and variation of Orlanthi marriages, making a record for the purposes of inheritance etc. would be a necessity in the marriage of anyone of at least thane status and above. As for location of any ceremony, it again probably varies by the type of marriage, but it would certainly be at a shrine, even if it is 'only' the shrine of the wyter, because the patron spirit has to be apprised of events affecting their people.

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A lot of the military cults would probably have collections of instruction manuals, troop rosters, battle accounts, etc, connected to temples and standing units. Humakti would have all of the above written in Swordspeech. Pelorian and Dara Happan units should have enough literate members to have scribes and secretaries to compile such things and officers who would want to read them.

Likewise Chalanan hospitals probably have their own archives on medical treatments, records of major plagues, etc.

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5 hours ago, Darius West said:

I'd say that oral culture has been going out of fashion long before the resettlement of Dragon Pass.  Clans have Lawspeakers who will almost universally have eidetic memories and mnemonic devices to help them remember long chants of ancestry for the major bloodlines of their clans.  They would also have the ability to question  certain ancestors about past events via Daka Fal.  Records of births, deaths and marriages are important, but ultimately commiting such things to a ledger is so much easier that if a Tula has a Lhankor Mhy shrine it will certainly have books that details such things, especially dowry records, which are a major point of inter-clan contention. It takes a long time to learn a 4 hour recitation of a lineage back to God Time, and a sage's time can be better spent on other pursuits if he insists upon a book into which the information can be stored.

Yes, but monopoly on knowledge is power. Don't underestimate someone's desire to keep their knowledge exclusive.

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6 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Yes, but monopoly on knowledge is power. Don't underestimate someone's desire to keep their knowledge exclusive.

Without doubt you are correct, but in a culture where very few people read, that is not endangered by owning a book that does the memory work for you.  Seriously who has the time to memorise births, deaths and marriages? 

I have a Kenyan friend who had to memorise his own tribal lineage back 14,000 years in order to qualify as a chief.  It took him 2 years of continuous study and practice to complete memorizing the recitation, then he had to recite it perfectly before 3 gathered generations and it took 4 hours to perform.  He attested to the fact it was a lot of work and achieved very little of practical value as far as he was concerned.  He was actually somewhat resentful but when pressed agreed that the sheer age of the tradition made it important.  When he did actually become chief, he also didn't relish having to teach the lineage recitiation to his replacements.  That one makes Buddhist lineage recitations look easy.

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Writing must also be understood in the context of carving - an Egyptian temple such as Karnak carried a wealth of (heavily biased) political as well as religious material.

Maranaba's walls, for example, could be a remarkable record.

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1 hour ago, Ali the Helering said:

Writing must also be understood in the context of carving

Particularly important for troll temples, as I believe Darkspeech is carved in stone and read like Braille.

Other deities would make good use of it also, but the content of any carving in temples would vary depending upon where in the building it was. At entrances you might find written warnings, protective wards and spell bindings. In areas of worship, there'd be histories/myths, cult ideals and morality tales, and quotations from cult scripture. In areas of private contemplation, there'd be mantras of reflection and communion. In administrative areas, perhaps appropriate quotations about obligations to clan, tribe and deity to motivate the staff... 

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5 hours ago, Darius West said:

Without doubt you are correct, but in a culture where very few people read, that is not endangered by owning a book that does the memory work for you.  Seriously who has the time to memorise births, deaths and marriages? 

Most ritual specialists for most of human history, tbh. And not just because writing was unavailable.

5 hours ago, Darius West said:

I have a Kenyan friend who had to memorise his own tribal lineage back 14,000 years in order to qualify as a chief.  It took him 2 years of continuous study and practice to complete memorizing the recitation, then he had to recite it perfectly before 3 gathered generations and it took 4 hours to perform.  He attested to the fact it was a lot of work and achieved very little of practical value as far as he was concerned.  He was actually somewhat resentful but when pressed agreed that the sheer age of the tradition made it important.  When he did actually become chief, he also didn't relish having to teach the lineage recitiation to his replacements.  That one makes Buddhist lineage recitations look easy.

You pretty much provide the reasons for why memorizing and the monopoly of oral knowledge is important. Keep in mind: this is not about practicality. If the goal was simply to ascertain descent, then fine, but in practice these sorts of things are about so, so much more. Knowing grants power. In a dispute between lineages, the person with the knowledge will be given reverence in order to act as an arbitrator. Moreover, the lineage may contain secrets which only a few people should be privy to, magical secrets or otherwise. Additionally, it may in some cases be the mastery of the knowledge that grants one authority, rather than the other way around.

There's also another issue, which has to do with flexibility and plasticity of knowledge. We all come from text-biased cultures, and we tend to priviliege the written word due to it being seen as more accurate and less prone to mutation (and thus inaccuracy). However, one of the problems of writing is that in the process of writing, one ossifies a specific version of events, and unless one accounts for all possible future potential scenarios, it's unlikely that the written account or version will be flexible enough. In an oral version, however, the ritual specialist, or arbitrator, can emphasise or deemphasise different aspects of their knowledge, based on their understand of the conflict in order to give a fair (or unfair!) opinion.

That last point was something my professor dealt with in Papua Guinea.

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1 hour ago, Sumath said:

Particularly important for troll temples, as I believe Darkspeech is carved in stone and read like Braille.

Other deities would make good use of it also, but the content of any carving in temples would vary depending upon where in the building it was. At entrances you might find written warnings, protective wards and spell bindings. In areas of worship, there'd be histories/myths, cult ideals and morality tales, and quotations from cult scripture. In areas of private contemplation, there'd be mantras of reflection and communion. In administrative areas, perhaps appropriate quotations about obligations to clan, tribe and deity to motivate the staff... 

If you want to look at RW religious repositories, it is worth searching for Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament, which is available on line. For secular, look at the Hittite foreign office archives, or the Knossos & Pylos tablets.

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21 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

There's also another issue, which has to do with flexibility and plasticity of knowledge. We all come from text-biased cultures, and we tend to priviliege the written word due to it being seen as more accurate and less prone to mutation (and thus inaccuracy). However, one of the problems of writing is that in the process of writing, one ossifies a specific version of events, and unless one accounts for all possible future potential scenarios, it's unlikely that the written account or version will be flexible enough. In an oral version, however, the ritual specialist, or arbitrator, can emphasise or deemphasise different aspects of their knowledge, based on their understand of the conflict in order to give a fair (or unfair!) opinion.

That last point was something my professor dealt with in Papua Guinea.

You make a sound point, and there is indeed an intrinsically political dimension to oral records as you correctly identify.  I would also point to the famous Greek discussions about how the introduction of writing would make future generations mentally lazy among other things.

On the other hand, there is also a reason that we had parish records, and it is not the duty of parish priests to learn to chant the births deaths and marriages of their community.  The task is an onerous nuisance and a waste of social resources.  Now the wonderful thing about both our world and Glorantha is that we can have both answers in play.  You may have conservative Orlanthi who haven't changed a thing since the Beginning of Time; they fought Lokamayadon and Nysalor, and the EWF, and the Lunars, and they'll be damned if they will adopt this new fangled book nonsense, that is obviously some  Meldek God Learner perversion.  On the other hand, you will also have Orlanthi who are not so leery of trying new things and making their own lives easier. 

As to books, well, do you seriously think that written records are not subject to politics?  I know.  I'm putting words in your mouth, but you see my point I hope.  Both you and your professor make a good point, about loss of control of information, which is a time honored LM concern, but written records don't stop politically motivated interpretation of the written facts.

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On 2/11/2019 at 3:24 PM, Sumath said:

The written word is a rare and magical thing in a bronze age society.

Another example of Glorantha not really being a Bronze Age world in the way that we understand it in the real world. Glorantha has paper, parchment, papyrus, clay tablets and so on. Far more than existed in the RW Bronze Age.

 

On 2/11/2019 at 3:24 PM, Sumath said:

Outside of court scribes, Lhankor Mhy sages and the Lunars is anyone else in Dragon Pass likely to keep good-sized and interesting libraries? Issaries temples would have libraries, but they'd be full of mundane stuff - inventories and loan records. In theory, all temples are places of knowledge, so there is potential for them all to have a library, the extent of which would vary dependent upon the deity, and temple size.

Depending on your interpretation of Dragon pass, Pavis definitely has libraries, as one of the Heroes of Pavis is a librarian, is is according to the P&BRC Series.

I would say that all temples have libraries of some kind. Yelmalian Temples do, as one of the Priests is in charge of the library, or so I recall. The Truth Rune is also the Knowledge Rune, so Truth cults might have libraries. I see Humakti libraries as being records of duels fought, locations of undead and so on.

Ernaldan temples libraries might contain inventories of grain, as well as records of births and maybe marriages. Ty Kora Tek libraries would contain records of deaths. Black Fang temples would contain lists of hits, who hired them, who carried them out and who was targeted, mainly for insurance purposes.

Thanatar also has libraries, as Thanatar is the Chaotic equivalent of Lhankor Mhy or Irrippi Ontor.

 

On 2/11/2019 at 3:24 PM, Sumath said:

Would important Orlanthi marriages be recorded in writing, or just vocalised and witnessed? Would you even marry at a temple?

Yes, they would be recorded and yes, some people marry at a Temple or Shrine. Although the traditions of jumping over a bonfire, jumping over a broom, trying hands together and so on, exist, important or devout people could get married in a Temple. You can also get married as part of a HeroQuest, quite often if the marriage is taboo or forbidden, HeroQuests are ways to get around the rules.

 

On 2/11/2019 at 3:24 PM, Sumath said:

I imagine writing, depending upon its origins, would be on parchment, paper or clay (and all of these forms found in LM temples, for example). 

Yes, Lhankor Mhy would have access to all kinds of text.

Earth cults would use the equivalent of cuneiform, with letters stamped or written on clay tablets, for their most sacred texts, with permanent records having the clay tablets fired to turn them into ceramics.

Troll Cults carve Darktongue into rocks. Other Darkness Cults might do the same.

Water Cults wouldn't use parchment or paper for their most important documents, as they need to be available underwater. They do have a good supply of ink, though.

Fire cults may well brand letters into wood, or something similar, for their most sacred documents.

Air/Storm Cults don't have an obvious way of writing, unless you count smoke signals. Thunder Rebels, I think, mentions Cat Scratchings as a form of writing, the equivalent of Ogham, scratched into bones. That could work for some cults. 

I think that all cults make use of writing on scrolls, parchment, paper, papyrus and so on. This means they are easily stored, don't decay and can be easily copied or transported.

 

On 2/11/2019 at 3:24 PM, Sumath said:

Would friendly or associated cults be likely to allow copying or even loaning of each other's texts? If so, what texts would be permitted, and what would be restricted (apart from obvious cult secrets or matters of court)?

 

I am not sure if texts would be routinely loaned out. Certainly you can visit a library and study the texts there. Scribes make their living by copying texts, so they would be paid to copy a text.

Cult Secret texts would not be allowed to be removed from temple libraries, but could be studied by Associate Priests, I would think. Particularly embarrassing secrets would be restricted. Lore that reveals cult weaknesses or describes enemy cult secrets may well be forbidden, or at least only available to the High Priest of the temple.

 

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5 hours ago, soltakss said:
On 2/11/2019 at 4:24 PM, Sumath said:

The written word is a rare and magical thing in a bronze age society.

Another example of Glorantha not really being a Bronze Age world in the way that we understand it in the real world. Glorantha has paper, parchment, papyrus, clay tablets and so on. Far more than existed in the RW Bronze Age.

That depends strongly on which kind of Bronze Age we are talking about. The Cuneiform belt with its Linear B outlier certainly was quite familiar with the written word, whereas e.g. the Golden Hat and Nebra Disk culture of Middle Europe used no written language but possibly some astronomical code. (Kalin decorated Dayzatar with such a golden hat in the Sourcebook, p.95, if you don't want to browse for museum web pages.)

 

Literacy is fairly high in Orlanthi society, certainly better than in Karolingian, though maybe not quite as high as in high Merovinigian. The papyrus used by the Merovingian administration did not survive the climate, though, and Karolingian era parchment was way better preserved.

5 hours ago, soltakss said:

Air/Storm Cults don't have an obvious way of writing, unless you count smoke signals. Thunder Rebels, I think, mentions Cat Scratchings as a form of writing, the equivalent of Ogham, scratched into bones. That could work for some cults. 

Don't underestimate wood carving. We have quite a bit of apprentice level writings from Bergen carved into beech staves (indeed the German word for letter is "Buchstabe", derived from beech stave).

Orlanthi wood carving is well established - their first leader Durev was carved from wood.

(That makes all the Orlanthi the equivalent of Pinocchio's children and grandchildren. Maybe something the ducks could allude to when your party insults them mercilessly.)

5 hours ago, soltakss said:

I think that all cults make use of writing on scrolls, parchment, paper, papyrus and so on. This means they are easily stored, don't decay and can be easily copied or transported.

Depending on the importance and holyness, other material might be used, too, like sheet metal.

"Don't decay" is an illusion, however. Maintaining a library is a constant battle against mold, vermin, and other forms of rot. Copying tattered volumes to keep the knowledge accessible probably is 80% of a Great Library's activity.

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29 minutes ago, Joerg said:

"Don't decay" is an illusion, however. Maintaining a library is a constant battle against mold, vermin, and other forms of rot. Copying tattered volumes to keep the knowledge accessible probably is 80% of a Great Library's activity.

Also another reason why Yinkin is a friendly cult to Lhankor Mhy. Rats love vellum (and cockroaches paper).

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1 hour ago, Joerg said:
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I think that all cults make use of writing on scrolls, parchment, paper, papyrus and so on. This means they are easily stored, don't decay and can be easily copied or transported.

Depending on the importance and holyness, other material might be used, too, like sheet metal.

"Don't decay" is an illusion, however. Maintaining a library is a constant battle against mold, vermin, and other forms of rot. Copying tattered volumes to keep the knowledge accessible probably is 80% of a Great Library's activity.

There's a lot to be said for clay tablets. They are much more likely to survive a devastating fire (which often just bakes them solid) than parchment or paper.

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