Lovecraft, Lir and the Celestial Bird

3 May

Lovecraft, Lir and the Bird of Heaven

Many myths have linked birds to the arrival of life or death. With their power of flight, these winged creatures were seen as carriers or symbols of the human soul, or as the soul itself, flying heavenward after a person died. A bird may represent both the soul of the dead and a deity at the same time.

The seagull is associated with Lir, a Sea-God in Celtic lore. Like many birds, the seagull flies between the earth and the “heaven” world, bringing messages from the Gods to mortals. Gulls are highly intelligent with a complex social structure developed partly to ward off predators and can represent feelings of safety and the security of home in certain dream interpretations.

Lir was the Father God of the Sea.  His son Manannan ruled the waves after him.  He is associated with the Welsh God Llyr.  The myths of Manannan and Lír are a relatively late addition to Irish Mythology and accounts of these gods only begin to appear in medieval times. It would seem that the medieval writers merged the character of the Sea God Lir (Llyr-Wales) known across the Celtic influenced lands with the Tuatha de Danann king Lir.

Game Notes on the Bird of Heaven:

The “Celestial Bird” or “Bird of Heaven” in the H.P. Lovecraft tale The White Ship is undoubtedly a seagull.

In game terms, the Celestial Bird is a large seagull, with a wingspan of 6 feet. It goes constantly before the White Ship. The two seem linked and the Bird unerringly appears to guide the White Ship to its destination in the Dream Lands or other realms.

The Celestial Bird’s cry is haunting and dream-like, captivating all normal creatures that hear it (unless they save vs mesmerization), soothing them as the White Ship rolls along the cosmic sea. The Bird of Heaven seems to float if there is no wind and it rarely flaps it wings in flight or when changing direction.

As it hovers above, the Bird will alert the crew to any potential threat. Should harm come to the Celestial Bird or should it show hesitation in its course, it is an ill omen, portending certain doom to those who sail on the White Ship, unless something intercedes to change matters for the better.

The White Ship

2 May

“The white ship has sailed and left me here again
Out in the mist, I was so near again
Sailing on the sea of dreams
How far away it seems
Sailing upon the white ship”

The White Ship has always been a tale that stirs the imagination. Part fantastic voyage, part frightening journey into fear and the unknown reaches of the mind, The White Ship is one of Lovecraft’s best stories, in my opinion.

In game terms, an encounter with the White Ship could be an excellent way to bring the player characters into the Lovecraftian Dream Realms or to other exotic and never before seen lands.

The mysterious and beautiful White Ship

The White Whip

As far as game mechanics are concerned, this ship seems normal by most appearances, though made of a wood that is unknown, of purest white. It is beautiful beyond compare and alluring (save vs charm or be drawn to board the White Ship).

The vessel travels normally over water, but can also travel across space, time and planes/dimensions. The White Ship may call upon a the port of the characters world, but once boarded, it does not sail to other mundane places – only those that have never been seen before, except to possibly return the PCs back to the origin of their voyage. The White Ship should not be used as a normal sea craft, but only as a conveyance to mysteries destinations, most being wholly other-worldly.

If the characters depart the vessel, they may possibly be trapped in that realm, unless they can find other means of returning home or if the White Ship returns to that port (3% chance per year).

If you are interested in reading the text of the story The White Ship, please click here
-Jeff
“Retro”

Z = Das Ende!

30 Apr

Well, here we are at the end of the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

I certainly enjoyed it. Sometimes it felt like a wicker cage, sometimes it felt liberating, but it was definitely worth it!

To end the Challenge, I want to post something that is a beginning, not an end:
I made a new video that is a very basic introduction to Fantasy Roleplaying Games as Mythopoesis. It is not meant to be complete or detailed, but is a very simple overview of the subject material. I may revise it later, but here it is as it currently stands.

Here is to the end of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and on to new things in the Blogosphere and in the OSR…

Fantasy Roleplaying Games: A Mythopoetic Experience
(This is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter. It is meant to be introductory only and does not contain details as to many pertinent details of certain aspects due to media constraints.

No favoritism of games or game systems is implied by any of the art work appearing in this video… it is a Fair Use video for educational purposes only)


Yggdrasil

29 Apr

In the Germanic spiritual tradtion, Yggdrasil is the cosmic World Tree or “Tree of Life”. It is a gigantic tree that rises out of the Well of Wyrd (“Destiny”) and gives the universe its basic infrastructure which binds together all of the Nine worlds of the universe. These Nine Worlds rest within its roots or branches and due to this the World Tree often serves as a conduit for travel between the worlds. Yggdrasil is often spoken of as an ash, though it was thought to have needles like a yew and also bore fruit. More likely than not the tree cannot be compared to any mortal species of tree, but may, indeed be a combination of them all.

The name Yggdrasil literally means the ‘Steed of Yggr’ i.e. the horse of Odin, since Yggr ( “Terrible One”) is one of Odin’s many names. This name refers to the nine nights Odin is said to have spent hanging from the World Tree as a self-sacrifice in order to find the Runes, as described in the Havamal (although the tree is not explicitly identified as Yggdrasil):

“I hung on that windy tree for nine nights wounded by my own spear.
I hung to that tree, and no one knows where it is rooted.
None gave me food. None gave me drink. Into the abyss I stared
until I spied the runes. I seized them up, and howling, I fell.”

Three roots supported the trunk, with one passing through Asgard, one through Jotunheim and one through Helheim. Beneath the Asgard root lay the sacred Well of Urd (“Fate”), and there dwelt the three Nornir, over whom even the gods had no power, and who, every day, watered the tree from the primeval fountain so that its boughs remained green. Beneath the Jotunheim root lay Mímisbrunnr, the spring or well of Mimir (“Memory”); and beneath the Helheim root the well Hvergelmir (“the Roaring Cauldron”).


Ásgard, Álfheim and Vanaheim rested on the branches of Yggdrasil. The trunk was the world-axis piercing through the center of Midgard, around which Jotunheim was situated, and below which lay Nidavellir or Svartálfheim. The three roots stretched down to Helheim, Niflheim and Muspelheim, although only the first world hosted a spring for Yggdrasil.

On the top of the World tree perched a giant eagle, (with a hawk upon its forehead named Vedrfolnir (“wind breather”), who blew the winds over the worlds with his mighty wings. The Niflheim root of Yggdrasil are gnawed at by the dragon Nihogg (“Vicious Blow”). The messenger of the World Tree (and thus between the worlds) is the squirrel Ratatosk who scurried up and down the tree between Nidhogg and the eagle, forwarding insults between them. There were also four stags feeding on the bark of Yggdrasil: Duneyrr, Durathror, Dvalin, and Dainn.

Yggdrasil is also central in the myth of Ragnarok, the end of the world. The only two humans to survive Ragnarok (there are some survivors among the gods), Lif and Lifthrasir, are able to escape by sheltering in the branches of Yggdrasil, where they feed on the dew and are protected by the tree

“The bellowing fire will not scorch them;
it will not even touch them,
and their food will be the morning dew.
Through the branches they will see a new sun burn
as the world ends and starts again.”

X Marks The Spot!

28 Apr

The chest is already open on that map...someone must have gotten there beforehand!

An “X” on a map means that something secret, probably treasure, is hidden there! Almost every very kid learned from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, “X marks the spot!. Tales of pirate’s loot (can we still say booty these days?) that is still buried all over the world has drawn people to search for that elusive “X” on the map. Sometimes they uncover riches, sometimes they make some discoveries, but nothing world-turning.

Hoist high the Jeffy Roger!

This A-Z Blogging Challenge has been like searching for the “X” for me.

Counting this one, there are just 3 letters left in the A-Z Blogging Challenge. I think that this loosely structured month of daily posts has not always been easy, but I was able to use some of the posts to help flesh out aspects of my campaign world that I am working on. That alone has made participating in the Challenge well worth it. As I said in an earlier post, the next challenge is for me to determine where I would like to go with this blog in the future. I have some ideas of new features or projects. Also, some of the things I have been doing could be done more effectively.

It is also 3 weeks left for me until the semester is finished. During that time I might cut back from daily posts, but I will not be disappearing. The treasure is only mere weeks away, so I must put in extra effort to reach the elusive “X”. Afterward, I can count the booty… err, loot!

It has been a fun time during the A-Z Challenge. I know that other harbors and adventures lie beyond the horizon, so there I will set sail for!
Thanks to the creators of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and those that participated and to those that commented on my posts. It has been a learning experience.

-Jeff
“Retro”

THE OTHER GODS

27 Apr

Written in 1921 by H.P. Lovecraft, The Other Gods was published in the November 1933 issue of The Fantasy Fan magazine.

Barzai the Wise, a high priest and prophet greatly learned in the lore of the “gods of earth”, or Great Ones, attempts to scale the mountain of Hatheg-Kla in order to look upon their faces, accompanied by his young disciple Atal. Upon reaching the peak, Barzai at first seems overjoyed until he finds that the “gods of the earth” are not there, but rather the “other gods, the gods of the outer hells that guard the feeble gods of earth!” Atal flees and Barzai is never seen again.

enjoy!

Click this to read the text of The Other Gods

Weißenstein

27 Apr

The County of Weißenstein
a state of the Holy Roman Empire (1540–1604) and earlier of the Livonian Confederation.

Weißenstein contained Paide Castle, which was built by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, an autonomous Templar Order aligned with the Prussian Teutonic Knights. The town of Paide grew quickly nearby. The region has changed hands many times and political intrigue has been part of that sometimes secretive history. Paide now lies in modern day Estonia. The current population of the city of Paide is around 10,000.

Once in Weißenstein, Paide Castle has been the site of great military use in the past

The castle was built in 1265 or 1266 by Master Konrad von Mandernand as a fortress of the Livonian Order. It was here that the 4 Estonian Kings who led the St. George’s day uprising in 1343 where killed while negotiating with the Livonian Order.

I have an ancestor, Johann Osthoff von Mengede, who was also a Master of the Livonian Brotherhood from 1450-69, only seven years after the St. George’s Day uprising, so this is quite fascinating to me.

The Livonian Confederation was a loosely organized alliance between the Roman Catholic Church, crusading German knights, German merchants, vassals, cities and existing indigenous peoples in the area which is now Latvia and Estonia. In the late 12th century a German monk, Father Meinhard, came to the area with both spiritual and economic ambitions. His goal was to bring Christianity, in the form of Roman Catholicism, to the tribal peoples. Also, the value of the strategic location of the Baltic area between the Roman Catholic world and the Byzantine world, and the possibility for economic exploitation of this region was not lost on the powers of the Roman Catholic Church. Following Father Meinhard, the Confederation existed for almost three and a half centuries. In 1561, as a result of the invasion of Ivan IV and internal political instability, the Confederation came to an end and its lands were divided amongst the surrounding countries. This is when the Principality known as Weißenstein was formed. The Baltic Germans did however, establish themselves as the ruling, elite class which held ramifications for this region even into the twentieth century.

My campaign contains much regarding Templars and a Universal Church, so these real life historical events and persons are useful for me. Weißenstein will figure heavily in it, as it will fit nicely into the Holy Empire of the Universal Church that figures prominently in my game.

-Jeff
“Retro”