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Tattoos and Piercings

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Found an old Glorantha Digest post I did on tattoos and piercings in Glorantha and thought folks might find it entertaining. Modified it a bit and updated it:

The (somewhat) ubiquitious inclusion of tattoos on most of the current Glorantha art makes me wonder... just how widespread is body modification in Glorantha. For example, I never really buy Dara Happans or Westerners with either tattoos or piercings. Both seem like "body temple" cultures that would explicitly prohibit such things. And it's hard to picture Theoblanc or Tatius all tatted up: "If you think that's cool, wait 'til you see the elf-maid on my back!" In fact, I'm pretty sure body modification goes against one of the basic tenants of Malkionism: "Do not harm what you love." Having experienced body piercing first hand, and having witnessed a few tattooings, I can expertly testify that they hurt like hell. My body was pretty damn convinced that it'd been harmed after someone stuck a needle through my chest and I can't say I disagree with it. (Took it out about a decade ago when I decided I'd gotten to old for that nonsense) I can't believe any self-respecting  Westerner would think this kind of practice was a good thing. "Why, tattooing is something that those pagan heathen and spirit worshippers do. And we all know that body piercing was invented by Krjalki monstrosities." I mean, doing either of these things to yourself (or getting branded or ritually scarrified) would be tantamount to tapping yourself for fun. And we all know that way lies Chaos. 

Dara Happans likewise: "Young lady, get that piece of metal out of your ear this instant or you'll never set foot in this house again."

So exactly how widespread are these practices in Glorantha and where did they come from in the first place? My theory is that tattooing originated with the Dragonnewts, who are well known for the practice. It was adapted by the human residents of Dragon Pass and spread by the members of the Council of Friends and became truely widespread in the Second Age under the EWF. Kraloreleans developed the practice independently from their own contact with the Dragonnewts, and they (and especially their sailors and traders during non-isolationist periods) spread it throughout the East. In my Genertela, the practice is  now commonplace in the East, Pent, Prax, and Maniria. It is also seen among the barbarians of Ralios, Fronela, and Peloria. It is considered a sin against nature in most parts of the West, as well as in Dara Happa, where it is associated with the savage Storm-worshippers who live in the South. Lately the practice has started to catch on with the jaded children of nobility of the Lunar Empire, but it's still not wide-spread. 

To me the origins of piercings are obvious. Little bits of metal stuck in the body are interesting to look at with regular senses, but they're even better when you're using sonar. So... Trolls. In my Glorantha, Uz began piercing themselves long before their emergence into the surface world. The tough hides of trolls makes them especially well adapted to endure this painful process and it's a rare troll who doesn't sport at least a septum piercing and a half-dozen earrings. Piercings of the nipples and sexual organs are a common part of most Troll marriage ceremonies. Though optional for the females, it's required of the males and is the trollish equivalent of a wedding ring. 

Piercing first became widespread in human circles in the Empire of the Only Old One. While more... discerning in the placement of their piercings, most humans in Maniria have at least pierced their ears. Pierced noses are also common. The colonists who settled Dragon Pass were mostly from lands dominated by the OOO, and also adopted the custom. Pamaltelan humans picked up the custom from the Jungle trolls and sailors from their coastal kingdoms have spread it lozenge-wide. Piercing is common in Maniria, Peloria (again, except Dara Happa), Pent, the Kingdom of Ignorance, Ralios (where it became popular during the Stygian Empire), and most of Pamaltela. Lunar legionaires have recently taken to piercing their nipples to show their 
bravery (This was a common practice in the Roman Empire). Piercing is rare in Kralorelea, where it's seen as a custom of Ignorance. Sun Domers also shun the practice for it's Trollish taint and it is looked down upon by the Dara Happans. Most Malkioni think it's a revoltingly foul practice, right up there with worshipping gods, tapping, and drinking coffee. 

Ritual scarification may have also been developed by trolls, as it suits their senses better than tattooing, but research into the history of this practice, as well as the origins of branding (Lodrili? Praxian Men-and-a-half? Caladra and Aurelion? Praxian Animal Nomads?) is still on-going. (Suggestions welcome) 

As for other non-human races, Dwarves would of course shun all such practices. "If Mostal had meant for us to have body modifications, he would have included them as factory standards." Plus, why would any dwarf want to _stand out_ from his co-workers. As noted, tattooing is widespread among dragonnewts. Piercing is unheard of (you can't take it with you). Elves have their own body modification traditions, which include carving, pruning, and splicing.

For game purposes, this would make it rare for Westerners to use tattoos or piercings as matrices, a practice which is probably common in Dragon Pass. Also, such matrices rarely survive the death of the owner and can't be passed on to your Church or heirs. So why bother? 

 

 

Edited by RHW
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15 hours ago, RHW said:

As for other non-human races, Dwarves would of course shun all such practices. "If Mostal had meant for us to have body modifications, he would have included them as factory standards." Plus, why would any dwarf want to _stand out_ from his co-workers.

Funny. I would expect dwarves to have body modifications as factory standard - mechanical or clockwork limbs, animated rock, etc.

Mostali regard themselves as artificial beings, and becoming more machine-like would be becoming more like Mostal.

Tattooing might be one of the more visible marks of individualism. Mostali come in a huge variety of body shapes, even within a single caste, so they are hardly uniform in appearance. Each dwarf becomes a purpose-built tool for the maintenance and repair of the world machine, whether in janitorial or in hard repair missions. Scars or brandings from exposure to broken machinery would be marks of either ineptitude or of honorable achievement.

Nidan or Slon dwarves probably don't go for individualism, preferring conformity. Greatway dwarves celebrate individuality while conforming to their assigned tasks. Jrusteli dwarves trade for toucan feathers, indicating at least some sort of foppish individualism.

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9 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

Scarifiation seems right up their alley as well.

I think Alkothi are probably big on scarification and branding, which I think I put into my Shargash cult write-up. I wrote most of the body mod stuff before I knew Shargash even existed or that Alkoth was a thing.

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2 minutes ago, Joerg said:

Funny. I would expect dwarves to have body modifications as factory standard - mechanical or clockwork limbs, animated rock, etc.

 

Oh, yeah. That makes sense. Wasn't thinking about mechanical and magical augments/cyborg stuff as body mods but it definitely qualifies.

Not really tattoos, piercings, brands or scarification though. Sort of their own thing.

"ThoughtForDay: Individualism is double plus ungood. Each Mostali must strive for conformity and uniformity. Unity is strength. We are all the same. Functional World Machine! Announcements: FactoryGroup857 has been restricted to quarters. You know what you did. Fe1602v893 report to the Body Shop for GunHandsModV5. This message will repeat."

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Actually thinking about the subject, it's more about what a culture thinks is "normal".

If your society regards tattoos as the unconcious, default position - everyone's going to have them. Only "rebel trouble-making" freaks wouldn't.

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1 hour ago, Joerg said:

 

17 hours ago, RHW said:

So exactly how widespread are these practices in Glorantha and where did they come from in the first place? My theory is that tattooing originated with the Dragonnewts, who are well known for the practice. It was adapted by the human residents of Dragon Pass and spread by the members of the Council of Friends and became truely widespread in the Second Age under the EWF. Kraloreleans developed the practice independently from their own contact with the Dragonnewts, and they (and especially their sailors and traders during non-isolationist periods) spread it throughout the East. In my Genertela, the practice is  now commonplace in the East, Pent, Prax, and Maniria. It is also seen among the barbarians of Ralios, Fronela, and Peloria. It is considered a sin against nature in most parts of the West, as well as in Dara Happa, where it is associated with the savage Storm-worshippers who live in the South. Lately the practice has started to catch on with the jaded children of nobility of the Lunar Empire, but it's still not wide-spread. 

 

Fantastic, above and beyond (true or not). You did not mention east islanders and sailors. Both 2nd and now 3rd age, I would imagine they would uniquely contribute to the fine art of tattooing...

 

17 hours ago, RHW said:

 To me the origins of piercings are obvious. Little bits of metal stuck in the body are interesting to look at with regular senses, but they're even better when you're using sonar. So... Trolls. In my Glorantha, Uz began piercing themselves long before their emergence into the surface world. The tough hides of trolls makes them especially well adapted to endure this painful process and it's a rare troll who doesn't sport at least a septum piercing and a half-dozen earrings. Piercings of the nipples and sexual organs are a common part of most Troll marriage ceremonies. Though optional for the females, it's required of the males and is the trollish equivalent of a wedding ring. 

 

I'm willing to bet Sandy would like this..

 

2 hours ago, Joerg said:

Funny. I would expect dwarves to have body modifications as factory standard - mechanical or clockwork limbs, animated rock, etc.

 

I think my mostali are most definitely going to be steam punk! Body mods, yeah I can see that. 

49 minutes ago, Lord High Munchkin said:

Of course Mostali have tattoos!!

 Bar-codes.

Great!

Fine thread!

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On 5/24/2019 at 5:30 PM, Akhôrahil said:

Scarifiation seems right up their alley as well.

But usually of other people, no?

Edited by Rob Darvall

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2 hours ago, Rob Darvall said:

But usually of other people, no?

I wonder whether there is either some suppressed magic for Alkothi to turn into Shadzoring Hell denizens or otherwise some ritual marking to transform them symbolically into these Zorani entities. Unlike mainstream Zorak Zoran, it is possible that their body modification to a normal Darkness Man Rune entity wasn't burning but flaying, similar to the Bat that at least according to one story used to be of a slightly darker (and bluer) color before Arkat overcame and flayed it during the Gbaji Wars. No idea whether it would have been nearly as chaotic and glowing as it is today, and whether its hunger was as chaotic as it is now.

There are other such Zorani entities. Lodril as Monster Man, Deshkorgos, shares many such attributes. And maybe that's the explanation why the Pamaltelan cognate of Lodril is associated to the Red Planet.

But the very least modification I expect from Shargashi is some form of Third Eye and a few lines indicating a skull face, a hell denizen face, or both. Scarification ritually exaggerated by cremation ashes would work for me. Possibly scarification through selective flensing. An accident with a concrete surface left an almost Harry Potter-like area of discolored (unpigmented, often sun-burned) skin on my brow. Shargashi might do this ritually - at first displaying the raw, bleeding wound (which does give a really gruesome appearance), then leaving these indelible lines of reduced pigmentation.

Edited by Joerg
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On 5/26/2019 at 3:36 PM, Joerg said:

scarification through selective flensing. An accident with a concrete surface left an almost Harry Potter-like area of discolored (unpigmented, often sun-burned) skin on my brow. Shargashi might do this ritually - at first displaying the raw, bleeding wound (which does give a really gruesome appearance), then leaving these indelible lines of reduced pigmentation.

That is a very interesting idea. Flensing can give rise to quite complex shapes (personal, though accidental, experience here too) Though they do seem to fade after a decade or so. The addition of funeral ashes would probably make for raised scarring. Would keloid scarring be considered ritually significant if it occured spontaneously?

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I think I remember reading that Orlanthi use magic woad as armour, maybe even tattoo themselves with woad for permanent protection.

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6 hours ago, EricW said:

I think I remember reading that Orlanthi use magic woad as armour, maybe even tattoo themselves with woad for permanent protection.

Brankist Farlow, one of our PCs, gained a Heroic Ability of Permanent Woad, which only manifested when he was naked and gave him Woad = POW. Although he had POW 15, which was more than his normal armour, he was so embarrassed about fighting naked that he very rarely used it. He tried to use a loincloth or various ways of hiding his manhood, but to no avail.

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6 hours ago, soltakss said:

Brankist Farlow, one of our PCs, gained a Heroic Ability of Permanent Woad, which only manifested when he was naked and gave him Woad = POW. Although he had POW 15, which was more than his normal armour, he was so embarrassed about fighting naked that he very rarely used it. He tried to use a loincloth or various ways of hiding his manhood, but to no avail.

I had an Orlanth Thunderous cultist with a beard (Impressive Beard 17) long enough to cover the bits. No way to claim he wasn't naked!

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1 hour ago, Ali the Helering said:

Why be embarrassed about your personal Barntar-plough? 😉

I wasn't, Brankist was. Imagine D'Artagnan from the Holy Country, middle aged, telling long boring stories about "When I was in the Cavalry", now imagine him naked and blue. I think he was more embarrassed about being blue, to be honest, looking like a Smurf Musketeer. He became a Thanatar Hero in the end, subtly combining his love for Lhankor Mhy with his hatred of Thanatar and gaining control of a Thanatar Great Temple beneath Dorastor.

Edited by soltakss

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38 minutes ago, soltakss said:

I wasn't, Brankist was. Imagine D'Artagnan from the Holy Country, middle aged, telling long boring stories about "When I was in the Cavalry", now imagine him naked and blue. I think he was more embarrassed about being blue, to be honest, looking like a Smurf Musketeer. He became a Thanatar Hero in the end, subtly combining his love for Lhankor Mhy with his hatred of Thanataru and gaining control of a Thanatar Great Temple beneath Dorastor.

Truly glad that he eventually saw the Darklight! 

If you are suggesting to someone calling himself 'the Helering' that there is something unattractive about being naked and blue..... all for one and one for all!

 

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16 hours ago, soltakss said:

Brankist Farlow, one of our PCs, gained a Heroic Ability of Permanent Woad, which only manifested when he was naked and gave him Woad = POW. Although he had POW 15, which was more than his normal armour, he was so embarrassed about fighting naked that he very rarely used it. He tried to use a loincloth or various ways of hiding his manhood, but to no avail.

He might attempt cloud wear: https://grrlpowercomic.com/archives/comic/grrl-power-738-dont-ask-where-cloud-9-is/

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A few thoughts when reading this thread:

When I designed dwarves for my own personal fantasy setting, I borrowed heavily from Sikh ideas of body-purity, which has the idea that the body is as God intended it to be, so therefore tattooing, scarification, etc. are prohibited, but so are clipping nails and cutting the hair or beard too. Part of this was to simewhat cheekily explain all the long beards around, and part of it was due to some phenomenological non-dualistic body-mind stuff I saddled the dwarves with (simply put: the soul and body are the same thing. You can't grammatically say "MY arm" in dwarven, since the arm isn't something you HAVE, but something you ARE. This translated to a mental unease with cutting off parts of yourself, I figured. A bit convoluted, but there ya go)

Anyway, the reason I mention that is because it might be something similar to what the Brithini materialists think, I don't know. Hrestoli also seem to have that "purity/ideal" thing going on, but then on the other hand, tattooing might allegorically represent the active mind taking control over the "passive/passionate) physical body. Honestly, you can spin this stuff either way, cultural behaviors like these are very non-deterministic.

In Polynesia, according to one analysis on tattooing I've read, the practice is part of replicating the differentiated state of the cosmos on the individual body. Basically, as far as I know, most polynesian mythologies have the world originate from some kind of primordial, undifferentiated Ur-being that is either cut apart, or internally differentiates itself into the universe. Without going into too much details, the tattoos on men are intended to both support this cosmic differentiation so that the universe does not catastrophically collapse back in on itself (this is also the basis for many tapus/taboos, which in a sense are acts of transgressing cosmically justified borders/differentiations, eg. incest, etc.). The other part is an extrapolation of this, and is that it helps mark the specific tattooed individual as eminently invidivualized by expressively emphasizing his context. By listing his entire lineage and his achievements, for example, you are essentially making sure he cannot ever be mistaken for anyone else, thus preventing him from being undifferentiated. This is all mixing indigenous ideas with some more abstract academic analysis, but I thought it was interesting to note. I'm not sure if this is something East Islander theists might do, being understandably wary of the more transcendental "disappear into the blissful nothing"-attitude of Eastern mystics.

Scarification is often practiced as a testament of someone willingness an ability to overcome great pain. This definitely seems pretty trollish, but can really be attributed to any culture that sees overcoming hardship as a positive. Orlanthi certainly. Alkothi, Pentans, Praxians, etc. Of course, pain is also a path to ecstacy and and transcendentalism, so shamans, shaman-mystics and what have you might also have it.

Both tattooing and scarification might be ways to emulate natural animal patterns, so might be something various Hsunchen practice. Or, hell, it might be something they just naturally end up with after a certain amount of transformations. Or maybe they need to undergo scarification/adult-rites (might be one and the same thing) in order to gain the ability to shift.

Lots of potential with these sorts of practices.

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3 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

You can't grammatically say "MY arm" in dwarven, since the arm isn't something you HAVE, but something you ARE. This translated to a mental unease with cutting off parts of yourself, I figured. A bit convoluted, but there ya go)

Ooh. this could be a very sad individual on the green lozenge in the game of LimbQuest ™! Adventuring, no thank you. Good morning!

 

3 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

n Polynesia, according to one analysis on tattooing I've read, the practice is part of replicating the differentiated state of the cosmos on the individual body. Basically, as far as I know, most polynesian mythologies have the world originate from some kind of primordial, undifferentiated Ur-being that is either cut apart, or internally differentiates itself into the universe. 

The kind of mindset required to stand on the bow of a catamaran guiding it into the unknown so far from land that it is almost as distant a memory as it is a reality. The tattoos focus the ur reality of this, imprinting it on the sailor and keeping the sailor safe and at home on the waves. This is what I was hinting at earlier on in the thread. To carry this on further the tattoos are maps and guides but not just to the seas but to the inner-self as well.

 

3 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

The other part is an extrapolation of this, and is that it helps mark the specific tattooed individual as eminently invidivualized by expressively emphasizing his context. By listing his entire lineage and his achievements, for example, you are essentially making sure he cannot ever be mistaken for anyone else, thus preventing him from being undifferentiated.

Rooting oneself and ego within the broad reality of change and disorder which is his "waking world". Paradox (and therefore balance)

Cheers

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Has anyone done a detailed visual guide to Orlanthi tattoos? I’d be interested to see common motifs and symbols used to denote rank and status beyond just runes or clan tattoos.

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54 minutes ago, daskindt said:

Has anyone done a detailed visual guide to Orlanthi tattoos? I’d be interested to see common motifs and symbols used to denote rank and status beyond just runes or clan tattoos.

Any of the HQ material that creates clans has clan tattoos i would think. I think I have even seen mention of what some of the rankings mean... I know that Sartar Kingdom of Heroes.does have examples of tattoos for all (?) the Colymar Clans. Now, is this available with more clan tatties or info on them somewhere in the public domain? Or can we post them here from Chaosium products? @MOB?  @Ian Cooper ? is yes, with accreditation and/or... what?

Cheers

Edited by Bill the barbarian

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