Tag Archives: Mythology

Things Fey

8 May

Fairy Lily

“The Fairies are a silent race,
And pale as lily flowers to see;
I care not for a blanched face,
For wandering in a dreaming place,
So I but banish memory:–
I wish I were with Anna Grace!
Mournfully, sing mournfully!

-from THE FAIRY WELL OF LAGNANAY, FAIRY AND FOLK TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY (Edited and Selected by W. B. Yeats [1888])

Yeats did some wonderful poetry, but he also collected some great fairy tales. There is a gold mine of myths out there for those that want to add a classical mythology to their RPG. It can lend a high fantasy flavor and is also great inspiration for games that are geared towards children, as well.

I sometimes find that RPGs have created their own versions of elves, dwarves, fairies, etc. which is great, and the choice is a fun and good thing, but it is not often that you find their folklore originals in a game. I will be discussing some of these aspects and the potential for integration of the principles gleaned from folklore into a standard D&D game in upcoming posts, soon. Indeed, some of those elements, in various forms, are the basis of much of Fantasy Roleplaying Games already. I have tentatively decided to call it my “Fey Project“.

-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.”

A Grateful Thanks to Bard at The Clash of Spear On Shield

22 Apr

Several of us were recently given the Stylish Blogger Award by Bard at The Clash of Spear on Shield. I am a huge fan of his blog, so when I was one of those chosen, this was quite the honor. I know that some people don’t think much of these things, but I think it is the thought that counts most.

I don’t know if my blog is “stylish” except that it has my own developing style. Hopefully, soon I will find my “voice” for this blog and I think it is slowly happening. I am very thankful for the support and recognition Bard has given to it in its short history so far. Interacting and sharing ideas and creations about roleplaying, especially Old School games, is all I wish to do with this blog. Any suggestions, comments or criticisms regarding my blog are appreciated. I am open to the entire OSR community’s feedback and appreciate the diverse points of view.

There are four rules attached to the award:

1. Thank and link back to the person giving you the award.
2. Share seven things about yourself
3. Select 10-15 blogs who you think deserve this award
(note: Bard started out with seven, with more to be added later, and I must start slowly here, also)
4. Contact these bloggers and let them know about the award

Rule One: Thank and link back to the person giving you the award.

Thank you from the heart, Bard, for your kind Stylish Blogger Award.
Your blog, The Clash of Spear on Shield (great Tolkien title, btw!) is a source of inspiration to me. You bring a unique contribution to the OSR and we have some similar interests that resonate with me. Thank you for your kind comments and support!

Rule Two: Share seven things about yourself.

1)    I am a father of one son who has recently turned 18. It is strange for me to think that he is now a young man, when I remember like yesterday that he was a little child that I carried around as he slept. I love my son and am glad to be a father. There is nothing quite like having a child to love and be loved by.

2)    Vocationally, I have been sort of a Jack-of-All-Trades, never working in the fields that I went to school for (Philosophy & History). Maybe one day I will teach, like I dreamed of. I am not ruling it out, yet and am back in school studying for that goal. I have worked in computer technical support, as a behavioral counselor for the developmentally disabled, as a MN State Administration employee, commissioned sales and several other jobs. I seem to adapt to interesting situations as life offers opportunity.

3)    I do not watch much TV and rarely go to the movies these days. I prefer mostly Sci-fi / fantasy and History when I do. In books I am heavy on History, Mythology and Religion/Philosophy, with fantasy & sci-fi mixed in. Walks or hiking and fishing for relaxation are also times for me to think. I would do more stargazing if it weren’t for the light pollution around here. I used to do quite a bit of it when I was younger and in a darker area. Even though I do enjoy lots of quiet time, I still like to go out dancing, especially to Retro 80’s nights, which is no surprise to my friends, who call me “Retro”.

4)    My natural personality is Introverted, but I became an Extrovert by necessity in my youth – this makes for some odd tension in how I view things and in my actions. I always feel like there are several possible variations of “me” because of this – it has come in handy at times, because I am fairly mutable in situations if need be.

5)    Gary Numan is my favorite musical artist. I have been a fan of his Electronica strangeness for almost his entire career. I saw him in concert twice at some smaller venues. Both times I was right upfront at the stage. After his 2007 visit to Minneapolis, he signed a CD for me. He is really a cool, mellow person, and his music has been a great influence in my life.

6)    I have written poetry since I was a teen. We know that most teen poems suck, but I hope mine are at least a little better by now. I wish I had more time to devote to reading poetry, much less writing it. My favorite three favorite poets are Lord Byron, Dylan Thomas and W.B Yeats – all three being Romantics.

7)    I am just a regular guy that likes people and experiences. One day I would like to travel more again. Seeing even more people and places only makes life more interesting. If I could, I would follow my wanderlust until I dropped, which is a typical Sagittarius thing.

I will do more passing along of the award later, but immediately nominate RPG Lady. Her blog came immediately to mind, because she is sharing her relatively new experiences as a role-player and fledgling GM. She is finding her own likes and dislikes about systems and genres and sharing her ways of developing her characters and NPCs that is an honest and fresh approach. http://rpglady.wordpress.com/

She also has another blog dedicated to her writing, as she is a fiction author.

Thanks again, Bard – I appreciate your vote of confidence and will pass the award along more as time goes on.

Peace/Pax
-Jeff
“Retro”

The Corpus Hermeticum

17 Apr

[Hermes:] Concerning Soul and Body, son, we now must speak; in what way Soul is deathless, and whence comes the activity in composing and dissolving Body.

For there’s no death for aught of things that are; the thought this word conveys, is either void of fact, or simply by the knocking off a syllable what is called “death”, doth stand for “deathless”.

For death is of destruction, and nothing in the Cosmos is destroyed. For if Cosmos is second God, a life or living creature that cannot die, it cannot be that any part of this immortal life should die. All things in Cosmos are parts of Cosmos, and most of all is man, the rational animal.

– from The Corpus Hermeticum

The Corpus Hermeticum is the body of work most widely known of the ancient Hermetic texts. It is one of three major bodies of works that are considered essential to the study of Hermeticism and Hermetic Magic. These books are set up as dialogues between Hermes Trismegistus and a series of others. The first book involves a discussion between Nous (God) and Hermes, supposedly resulting from a meditative state, and is the first time that Hermes is in contact with God. The secrets of the Universe are unfolded to Hermes, and later books are generally of Hermes teaching others.

The Hermetic Order of Wizardry instructs Initiates from the teachings of the Corpus Hermeticum during their ten year apprenticeship.

Kobolds in Germanic Folklore

13 Apr

Kobolds in Germanic Folklore

A Kobold in German folklore is a mischievous household spirit (geist) who usually helps with chores and gives other valuable services but who often hides household and farm tools or kicks over stooping persons.

Images of Kobolds were sometimes placed in gardens to attract them to come and work for a household. It was sometimes said that if you gave Kobolds human clothing for their labor, it made them think that they were now human, therefore too good to be a house “slave”. Perhaps this is why Kobolds originally appeared w/o clothing in the Monster Manual, etc.

The Wiki says of them:

The kobold (or kobolt) is a sprite stemming from Germanic mythology and surviving into modern times in German folklore. Although usually invisible, a kobold can materialise in the form of an animal, fire, a human being, and a mundane object. The most common depictions of kobolds show them as humanlike figures the size of small children. Kobolds who live in human homes wear the clothing of peasants; those who live in mines are hunched and ugly; and kobolds who live on ships smoke pipes and wear sailor clothing.


THE KOBOLDS [a]
(from the Sacred Texts website)

Von Kobolt sang die Amme mir
Von Kobolt sing’ ich winder.
VON HALEM.

Of Kobold sang my nurse to me;
Of Kobold I too sing.

THE Kobold is exactly the same being as the Danish Nis, and Scottish Brownie, and English Hobgoblin. [b] He performs the very same services for the family to whom he attaches himself.

When the Kobold is about coming into any place, he first makes trial of the disposition of the family in this way. He brings chips and saw-dust into the house, and throws dirt into the milk vessels. If the master of the house takes care that the chips are not scattered about, and that the dirt is left in the vessels, and the milk drunk out of them, the Kobold comes and stays in the house as long as there is one of the family alive.

The change of servants does not affect the Kobold, who still remains. The maid who is going away must recommend her successor to take care of him, and treat him well. If she does not so, things go ill with her till she is also obliged to leave the place.

The history of the celebrated Hinzelmann (http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfm/tfm087.htm) will give most full and satisfactory information respecting the nature and properties of Kobolds; for such he was, though he used constantly to deny it. His history was written at considerable length by a pious minister, named Feldmann. MM. Grimm gives us the following abridgement of it. [c]


[a] This word is usually derived from the Greek κόβαλος, a knave, which is found in Aristophanes. According to Grimm (p. 468) the German Kobold is not mentioned by any writer anterior to the thirteenth century; we find the French Gobelin in the eleventh; see France.

[b] In Hanover the Will-o’the-wisp is called the Tückebold, s. e. Tücke-Kobold, and is, as his name denotes, a malicious being. Voss. Lyr. Ged., ii. p. 315.

[c] Deutsche Sagen, i. p. 103. Feldmann’s work is a l2mo vol. of 379 pages.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfm/tfm086.htm


Some Gamemasters prefer a more accurate mythological take on the varieties of fey creatures in their campaigns, but there is nothing wrong with choosing the typical Monster Manual-style Kobold, either. It is a matter of preference. Personally, I think both varieties are great fun in any campaign, but I pick between the two kinds based on the type of campaign I am running at the time.

Kobold from "The Little White Feather", a fairy tale

Ki-rin (Qilin or Kirin)

13 Apr

Magical mythological creatures, Qilin (or kirin in Korean and Japanese) are always lawful & good. They resemble unicorns and may be related.
They are powerful spellcasters, and roam the skies looking for good deeds to reward, and malefactors to punish. It has a head like a dragon, antlers of a deer or other horned beast, scales like a fish and hooves like of an ox. Its tail is like a lion’s with scales. It legs are sometimes ablaze with magical fire! Seeing a Qilin is a good omen. If attacked it can shoot fire from its mouth, but can also be so gentle as to be able to walk upon water.

In D&D, the ki-rin first appeared in the original Dungeons & Dragons game supplement Eldritch Wizardry (1976) and then in the 1977 Monster Manual.

 

bronze Qilin from the Ming Dynasty