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Sir_Godspeed

Other Cultures' Equivalent of Wyter

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As far as I understand, wyters are a Orlanthi- or Theyalan-specific cultural concept, and not a "Glorantha-wide" concept (like, say, Runes). This made me wonder: plenty of other groups have spirits, demigods, deities, genus loci, ancestors, etc. that maintain active obligations with respect to a specific group of people. Are there any known specific terms for these in cultures beside the Orlanthi? "City God" seems like a fairly generic term that can be found pretty much everywhere, for example, but I don't know enough about RQ game mechanics (and the weird intersection of mechanics and lore that subtly vary between game systems like HQ, RQ & 13th Age, if I understand it correctly) to really see whether all of these deities ACT like an Orlanthi wyter would.

Non-human examples are also welcome. I suppose the Aldryami in particular would have some almost-but-not-quite similarities, but that's just speculation on my part.

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I don't have the impression that they are in any way an Orlanthi only phenomenon - Lunar regiments have wyters, cities everywhere have their city gods, temples their guardians, etc. I think they are an entirely universal thing (though not sure about the Westerners regarding this, now that I think about it).

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I think that wyters, being an Orlanthi phenomenon, were spread far and wide by the Theyalan missionaries, so that you can find them throughout Genertela west of the Wastes and probably outside of Dara Happa proper (although the regimental deities/standards are hard to distinguish from wyters). This also includes Umathela. It isn't clear how much the Malkioni adopted the concept, and if so, for which castes/occasions, so Old Seshnela and Loskalm may be less wytered than other areas.

I am inclined to postulate an Earth origin for the concept, which would include much of basal Dara Happa, the Wastes and possibly even Teshnos, too. In that case, Old Seshnela definitely would have known the concept, too, and given the ancient origins of the Malkioni, the Brithini might possibly have the knowledge though not the practice. In Pamaltela, we have the Necklace rather than the wyter for the communal power of the deities.

 

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2 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

As far as I understand, wyters are a Orlanthi- or Theyalan-specific cultural concept, and not a "Glorantha-wide" concept (like, say, Runes). This made me wonder: plenty of other groups have spirits, demigods, deities, genus loci, ancestors, etc. that maintain active obligations with respect to a specific group of people.

I think you might have to travel "story first", into finding what other culture have. What do they need, might be the first question.That is, what is an orlanthi  wyter and what position does it fulfil. I am thinking a wyter can be a bit like the monolith in 2001, a prod/a teacher (smaller lessons and in a longer period of time with wyters than with the monolith),

"Here is how to act like the archetype your gods and people need you to be (in 2001 that would be society needs yo to evolve and here are the tools) and let me reward you in a way fitting to our culture."

So what would a darra happen descended /lunar community need from the other worlds to enforce/teach tradition, open minds to new thoughts, and perform as a wyter like being? Or am I on the wrong track?

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4 hours ago, Bill the barbarian said:

So what would a darra happen descended /lunar community need from the other worlds to enforce/teach tradition, open minds to new thoughts, and perform as a wyter like being? Or am I on the wrong track?

Lares (according to ILH-1 handbook).  If that's too romanic then there's always household gods or idols.

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37 minutes ago, metcalph said:

Lares is just a name for Pelorian Wyters, stolen from the RW Lares  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lares

Quote

 

Lares were believed to observe, protect, and influence all that happened within the boundaries of their location or function. The statues of domestic Lares were placed at the table during family meals; their presence, cult, and blessing seem to have been required at all important family events. 

Roman writers sometimes identify or conflate them with ancestor-deities, domestic Penates, and the hearth.

Because of these associations, Lares are sometimes categorised as household gods, but some had much broader domains. Roadways, seaways, agriculture, livestock, towns, cities, the state, and its military were all under the protection of their particular Lar or Lares. Those who protected local neighbourhoods (vici) were housed in the crossroad shrines (Compitalia), which served as a focus for the religious, social, and political lives of their local, overwhelmingly plebeian communities. Their cult officials included freedmen and slaves, otherwise excluded by status or property qualifications from most administrative and religious offices.

Wikipedia

 

So, does this describe Lunar Lares well?

It's about how I see Orlanthi wyters, kind of protector/spirit guides with agendas (or spheres of influence). I had not thought about them being quite as small as a family shrine but maybe that only applies to Roman Lares,,, but a Heortland stead having a small family wyter  might be interesting. 

Cheers

Edited by Bill the barbarian

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2 minutes ago, Bill the barbarian said:

So, does this describe Lunar Lares well?

I really have no idea.  All I said was that where the Orlanthi have Wyters, the Lunars/Pelorians would have Lares which are the same thing under a different name.  The name change alone works fine for me.

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I'd imagine that most divine magic -based communities would have something like a wyter -- but a city god is a lot more powerful than just a wyter, and anyway particular communities within a city or its surrounding lands could very well have a wyter that's attached to that city god's cult.

I think you're spot on in your suggestion that spirit magic -using communities would have ancestral guardian spirits ; and potentially more than just one in some larger or more magically powerful communities.

Not sure at all how things presently work in the West or in other sorcery-based ones though -- in the pre- Guide to Glorantha era, communities could have patron "Saints" (I suppose that the Greek Hagios/ia could be used instead, or some other Glorantha-specific derivative from the Indo-European *Deiwo ?), who would be manifest as a collection of writings, sometimes even a book, and some traditions, and some sort of chapel or shrine, that the inhabitants could feast and learn and revere and draw particular magic from (and so not a wyter-like entity as such) ; I personally would have envisioned it as being a source of magic that even those from the non-magician castes had access to, and so functioning mechanically in a different way than a wyter or ancestral spirit does. Many local RW traditions of this sort exist that could serve as inspiration, and to this day they continue to help shape the communities that they belong to, certainly not restricted to RW Christian communities alone BTW.

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Western societies might have Geniuses, being the idealized thought of a city or clan.

Kralori societies would have a patron dragon.  Vormaino societies would have a Joserui while the Eastern Isles would have the parondpara, their island god, doubling as their Wyters.

 

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46 minutes ago, Julian Lord said:

I'd imagine that most divine magic -based communities would have something like a wyter -- but a city god is a lot more powerful than just a wyter, and anyway particular communities within a city or its surrounding lands could very well have a wyter that's attached to that city god's cult.

Not necessarily. A cohesive, uniform group will have greater commonalities and probably communal strength than a patchwork city balancing multiple outside interests (like the tribal confederation cities founded by Sartar), let alone hodgepodges of multi-species cohabitation like Old Pavis.

 

46 minutes ago, Julian Lord said:

Not sure at all how things presently work in the West or in other sorcery-based ones though

Malkioni ancestor reveration is a known and un-disputed fact. They serve as focus for identification of e.g. castes, dynasties, and probably warrior societies, too.

46 minutes ago, Julian Lord said:

-- in the pre- Guide to Glorantha era,

That's a weird way of describing the HQ2 era. If you are referring to the de-churching of Malkionism, true, the Guide is the only document we have on the Malkioni since that decision. We now have them re-branded as "men-of-all" and "ascended masters", and thoroughly purged from Rokari orthodoxy.

46 minutes ago, Julian Lord said:

communities could have patron "Saints" (I suppose that the Greek Hagios/ia could be used instead, or some other Glorantha-specific derivative from the Indo-European *Deiwo ?), who would be manifest as a collection of writings, sometimes even a book, and some traditions, and some sort of chapel or shrine, that the inhabitants could feast and learn and revere and draw particular magic from (and so not a wyter-like entity as such) ; I personally would have envisioned it as being a source of magic that even those from the non-magician castes had access to, and so functioning mechanically in a different way than a wyter or ancestral spirit does.

The Xeotam Dialogue suggests the use of divine entities under a sorcerer's supervision, but doesn't mention any community entities. Under HQ1 we learned about the chain of veneration, and RQG still has "worship Invisible God" as a major sorcerous means for accessing community magic. It isn't quite clear whether the sorcerers officiating in these make use of divine entities or whether they have a hands-on approach to the magic transported. If they make use of such entities, one might refer to them as wyters.

The draconic chain of veneration of the EWF may have been influenced by Kralorelan practices, too - but to me it looks like the Exarchs make themselves something like "living wyters". But then the speakers of Orlanthland did institute Living Heroes, starting with Hardros Hardslaughter who ended Arkat's Command, directing worship to these individuals (culminating in the draconic energies enabling Isgangdrang and consorts to manifest Great Dragons).

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The thing about Wyters is that a Wyter is just a guardian spirit or being. In Orlanth society it guards the Clan, in Temples it guards the Temple, in Praxian Society it guards clans or sacred societies, in other society it could guard the family, household or league, Adventurers may find that it guards a Brotherhood, Sisterhood, Adventuring Group or Hero Band.

Whatever the thing that it guards, a Wyter/Guardian is basically a Spirit/entity/being of some kind with some powers. Amongst Malkioni it might have sorcery powers, amongst Orlanthi it might have access to Rune magic, amongst Praxians it might get some Rune magic and some spirit magic, amongst ancestor worshippers it might get access to ancestors and so on.

Even the pyramid schemes of the EWF could be described as creating and feeding a Wyter. Monster Man, as described in the Lodril writeup from White Wolf, is basically a created Wyter that is sacrificed to until it pops, causes a rebellion and then disappears.

Edited by soltakss
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2 hours ago, soltakss said:

The thing about Wyters is that a Wyter is just a guardian spirit or being. In Orlanth society it guards the Clan, in Temples it guards the Temple, in Praxian Society it guards clans or sacred societies, in other society it could guard the family, household or league, Adventurers may find that it guards a Brotherhood, Sisterhood, Adventuring Group or Hero Band.

Whatever the thing that it guards, a Wyter/Guardian is basically a Spirit/entity/being of some kind with some powers. Amongst Malkioni it might have sorcery powers, amongst Orlanthi it might have access to Rune magic, amongst Praxians it might get some Rune magic and some spirit magic, amongst ancestor worshippers it might get access to ancestors and so on.

Even the pyramid schemes of the EWF could be described as creating and feeding a Wyter. Monster Man, as described in the Lodril writeup from White Wolf, is basically a created Wyter that is sacrificed to until it pops, causes a rebellion and then disappears.

I don't inherently disagree with this perspective, but I also highly suspect that since the word itself seems to be of Orlanthi/Heortling origin, and that it in Orlanthi society seems to be closely associated with their idea of group communality - that it as a concept also has a number of cultural associations endemic first and foremost to the Orlanthi.

As a comparison, Japanese "oni" are sometimes called "ogres" or "demons", because that's roughly what they look and function like to westerners, but this ignores the different cultural associations that, for example oni have in Japanese culture and language.

Similarly, westerners commonly use the term "soul" to refer to the non-material aspect of personhood, and it is frequently applied to roughly analogous concepts in other cultures, however, it doesn't take too long to see that for example, some Papuan indigenous cultures have arguably both material and non-material "souls" (like the shadow, which can live on after death, and goes to a different afterlife than the Name, which will only stay ofter death if someone breaks the taboo of using a dead person's name - and neither of these represent the all-encompassing imperishable essence that the Judaeo-Christian concept of soul usually is understood as).

Anyway, I am fine with it being a case of the same concept of "gestalt group/place patron spirit with different names in different cultures", but I was also interested in whether these aren't just the same thing everywhere, but whether it's a case of different cultures shaping different kinds of patron entities.

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On 6/7/2019 at 11:08 AM, Sir_Godspeed said:

Are there any known specific terms for these in cultures beside the Orlanthi?

Love it. "City God" does a lot of work in this collective effervescence context and the category might've been developed by some Jrustelan Weber or Durkheim back in their glory days.

In the West as it likes to represent itself, the caste types carry a lot of this collective magic, only so dilute that most people only interact with stories of Horal, for example, in the most abstract contexts. Most of the Founders who support the ancestral system of inheritance and the division of labor are either dead or alienated from everyday life. Intermediate ancestors have moved on. A lot of symbol-making energy (POW) is also invested in the authority of the local talars, the Prophet and ultimately the Creator, but by that point we're a little far from the clan wyter in terms of scale. 

To recover the magical compensations of the wyter, Westerners have historically developed various forms of intentional community-forming ritual and praxis: saint cults, magical schools, beast societies, knightly fellowships, craft leagues, city founders, trade unions, merchant networks, "guilds." You aren't necessarily born into these corporate entities, although it happens. Magical specialists may know how to interact with the mechanisms directly and deliberately, killing a god with silver feet, for example, or reintegrating the landscape as the ban recedes . . . after all, the Hero Wars Are Everywhere. 

Because I'm lazy my Western experimental theoreticians call these entities "egregora" but I can't speak for anyone else. You could just as easily name and represent them as "unicorns," which is interesting given previous interpretations of that magical animal as a sorcerous entity. (It also casts yet another light on Ralzakark.) I would like that but doubt it stretches far enough.

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19 hours ago, Bill the barbarian said:

What are Lares?

In Peloria I was always fond of the notion that magically important families have collective relationships with daimones as "guardian angels" and intercessors. You can get adopted into the bond. One exciting thing that drops out of this is that some of these angels would be classic sky entities (certamites / arrazites) while others might have archaic forest characteristics (shannass/ae), relieving a little pressure on the canon there. You can tell where a family ultimately came from by interviewing the daimon.

In general the vestiges of suppressed religions persist at the wyter level, for what that's worth.

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The word itself appears to be a neologism created for King of Sartar. It seems to have an Old English relative, "wyt" as an alternate spelling of "wit", of which wyter would be the active form (though the pronunciation then would be "witter"), which could be translated as someone who observes, knows, witnesses. But then I wonder whether Greg was into Old English linguistics at that time - his name creations are powerful sounds, but don't have much of a linguistic system, and it may have been the audience that projected Old English or even proto-Indo-European onto the term.

I still think that the term is general Theyalan rather than Orlanthi, and it may well have come from the older Earth culture that received the Downland Migration of the Durevings.

24 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

"City God" does a lot of work in this collective effervescence context and the category might've been developed by some Jrustelan Weber or Durkheim back in their glory days.

The ancient Malkioni had their concept of the perfect city, of magic through architecture and society. The cities did have a single ruler, possibly with privileged access to a genius loci, or delegating that access to their first sorcerer. There may have been a city mind or a city meme embodied in that combination of inhabited architecture. The founder (planner) of the place may have been identified with this, making such an entity hard to discern from the wyter of one of Sartar's tribal confederation cities.

The other city god concept comes from Solar culture, with the city god also represented by the fiery orb hovering above the temple tower of the city, illuminating the surrounding lands with his glory. We find the "planetary sons" in Dara Happa as a continuation of the turning goddess, and we find Ehilm all over Ralios and Harono in Esrolia. The sacred tree of the elf forests is another shape of this, with the crown of those trees originally the source of light and warmth for their environment - the deaths of Flamal and Ehilm are somewhat interconnected in Ralian pre-history.

Tondiji in Fonrit used to be the example of the ultimate city god, who ruled even over the cosmic deities (the local variations of the rune owner deities in the Theyalan/God Learner canon).

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16 minutes ago, Joerg said:

The word itself appears to be a neologism created for King of Sartar. It seems to have an Old English relative, "wyt" as an alternate spelling of "wit", of which wyter would be the active form (though the pronunciation then would be "witter"), which could be translated as someone who observes, knows, witnesses. But then I wonder whether Greg was into Old English linguistics at that time - his name creations are powerful sounds, but don't have much of a linguistic system, and it may have been the audience that projected Old English or even proto-Indo-European onto the term.

My personal best guess is that it's a slight variation of "wight" (OE: wiht), which has has a wide range of applications, but at least in some forms seems to have been used for "genus loci"-type creatures (cognate to Icelandic "landvettur" - "land spirit").

I have no evidence for it thought. I'll agree that it's a very satisfying word. It *feels* ancient and real, which is perhaps the most important things, regardless of its real life origin.

EDIT: Given Gloranthan texts' tendency to be written from an in-universe pov, I like the idea of some instances of terms being a result of that pov. For example, in the History of the Heortling Peoples, the king's list if compiled by a Western traveler, and he refers to Umath and Orlanth as "demons", because that's essentially what they look like to him. Presumably, a text written from a Theyalan/Orlanthi pov about, say, an Ascended Master or, egregore, or (*looks at Joerg's post*) the "Urban Principle Architectural Matrix", would just slap the "wyter" term onto them because it's convenient and not too far off.

Edited by Sir_Godspeed
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39 minutes ago, Joerg said:

I wonder whether Greg was into Old English linguistics at that time

It's a great question. While I'm no expert in either folk Scandinavian or "Sartarite" magical social vocabulary it seems to evolve out of his sense of the bygth / thing / wapentake complex, only invested with something like independent operation. Since then, of course, the concept has developed within fandom over the years.

Early on he would have simply called the tutelary / patron an "advisory spirit" that can play a role in enterprises as well as private life. Harald Hardrada, for example, was the "advisory spirit" of Wyrd magazine while Corporal Zen looked out for the Chaosium. For all I know there's a word like "wyrd" in the terminology that embraces this as well as the totemic aspects.

Coincidentally recent archival discoveries have me reconsidering the details of his intellectual timeline . . . he was apparently still engaged with the Eddas in the '90s so there might be something in there feeding into King of Sartar. His immersion in the world of Burning Man "camp" culture could also have been a factor.

EDIT oh what I WANTED to say was that Malkionite City is amazing

Edited by scott-martin
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2 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

My personal best guess is that it's a slight variation of "wight" (OE: wiht), which has has a wide range of applications, but at least in some forms seems to have been used for "genus loci"-type creatures (cognate to Icelandic "landvettur" - "land spirit").

While the modern pronunciation is near identical, the Old English pronunciation probably was identical to the German "Wicht", which appears to be a general term for a humanoid supranatural entity (in modern German mostly in combination with a qualifier, e.g. "Bösewicht", evil wight - also used for generic villains).

The German "Wicht" or "Wichtel" appears in the shape of the household spirit, comparable to the brownie, or the Scandinavian tomte, but that's probably the result of centuries of church suppression of these ancient entities.

The combination of genius loci and communal spirit can manifest in other environments, too, like e.g. a ship's cobold.

2 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

I have no evidence for it thought. I'll agree that it's a very satisfying word. It *feels* ancient and real, which is perhaps the most important things, regardless of its real life origin.

Probably the best way to deal with Gloranthan names, yes.

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My theory is that a "community spirit" is a widespread Gloranthan phenomenon, which different cultures have different ways of relating to. The Theyalan and Lunar "wyter" that we are familiar with is a very efficient and powerful form, which to me raises suspicions of God Learner meddling. As has been suggested on the RQ forum, the wyter is wide open for egregious munchkin abuse. Tank it up as a big power battery, get your person in charge of it, then abuse that power in a massive splurge that leaves the community ruined.

Other cultures may have patron saints, demons to propitiate, processions of ghosts to be bound or banished, all different manifestations of the Gloranthan tendency for communal activity to attract spiritual attention.

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1 hour ago, PhilHibbs said:

As has been suggested on the RQ forum, the wyter is wide open for egregious munchkin abuse. Tank it up as a big power battery, get your person in charge of it, then abuse that power in a massive splurge that leaves the community ruined.

Exactly why the Anmangarn clan hid the Black Spear from use/abuse by King Kangharl and his Lunar sorcerer allies!  Still aspects of this are likely how a clan shifts from being a Peace or Balanced Clan to a War Clan.

There are two counters to this though:

First, the wyter itself.  This is not an object, a battery to be charged and used.  It is a living spirit with its own feelings, passions, etc. that may or may not approve of or agree/align with the leader's decisions.  Ultimately, the wyter could reject and leave the community altogether.

Second, the community's patron deities.  Personal abuse of power is a quality of Disorder.  As Disorder grows, it conflicts with the Harmony of the Earth and will likely trigger a backlash by Ernalda.  Perhaps she removes her protection from Mallia, and disease strikes the leader's household. Perhaps she calls upon her Husband-Protector or a new Champion to challenge the power-hungry leader.  Or the initiates of Orlanth cast the leader as the Evil Emperor, and draw upon Orlanth to cast down the tyrant, breaking his connection to the wyter.  Perhaps Spirits of Reprisal are sent against the leader, or the winds turn against him, etc.

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6 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

As has been suggested on the RQ forum, the wyter is wide open for egregious munchkin abuse. Tank it up as a big power battery, get your person in charge of it, then abuse that power in a massive splurge that leaves the community ruined.

All the more reason to be wary of even minor cases of Lokamaydonism.

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On 6/8/2019 at 3:22 PM, Joerg said:

Not necessarily. A cohesive, uniform group will have greater commonalities and probably communal strength than a patchwork city balancing multiple outside interests (like the tribal confederation cities founded by Sartar), let alone hodgepodges of multi-species cohabitation like Old Pavis.

Sure -- it's why I used the word "could" rather than suggesting any more definite ideas on the subject. A smaller city like Whitewall isn't necessarily a hodgepodge, but then is Whitewall big or powerful or magical enough to have its own particular city god or goddess ?

You're right to suggest that the cult of Sartar does add another layer of religious complexity into city life in Sartar.

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18 hours ago, jajagappa said:

There are two counters to this though:

First, the wyter itself.  This is not an object, a battery to be charged and used.  It is a living spirit with its own feelings, passions, etc. that may or may not approve of or agree/align with the leader's decisions.  Ultimately, the wyter could reject and leave the community altogether.

That gets into the subject of where the line is between a spirit and a god. The God Learners discovered that a god could be manipulated - that if you pray in the right way, the god has no choice but to respond with the magic. Now I may be making the mistake of referencing Second Age material written for The Edition That Shall Not Be Named here, if so my apologies. But if that is indeed "true", can the wyter resist a command from a correctly installed wyter-priest? Or, is it closer to being a middle-world being with a choice in the matter? Does it make a difference if there are other high-ranking community members that can help it resist such abuse, or that it could call out for to intercede on its behalf if it suspects a bad actor?

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