Nick on Sorcery

From: Paolo Guccione <>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 1997 00:22:48 +0100

Nick Brooke
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> My own biggest problem with Sorcery is the lack of cultural and social
> context. As presented in RQ3, Sorcery is something loners get up to in
> remote towers, assisted by their apprentices.

I agree with you completely. Malkioni Wizardry is not the same stuff as the sort of Sorcery described in RQ3.

I do not know whether the key to Malkioni success is magic, though. Their strength is in their caste system, which enforces social organization and craft specialization, allowing important technological achievements usually not available to "Jack-of-all-trades" barbarians and primitives. In this sense, magic is just an additional craft available in Glorantha, manipulating mana instead of matter, except that it is performed by a separate caste blessed by God with this gift (but also "mundane" guilds are of divine origin, remember!).

I never liked the definition of sorcery spells as "prayers" or "blessings" given in the What my Father Told Me for the West. This term is much more suitable for a Pagan Rune Spell - one fast shot, effects fixed and devastating - than for a spell that requires skill and may be tailored to the caster's needs instead of just taking what God gives you. Sorcery spells are viewed by Malkioni, IMHO, as "practical applications of the Laws of Nature", just as a Healer's craft is an application of anatomy and physiology. Of course these Laws are divine in their nature.

Why then is magic reputed to be more sacred than other crafts, performable well only by the priesthood? Well, in the beginning things were different. Malkion was the Lawgiver (= priest) and Prophet, while his son Zzabur was the Wizard. The two tasks were separated, and, as a matter of fact, we have no news of Malkion performing any wizardry, just as he did not do any fighting himself. When Malkion was apotheosized, the Wizard caste took upon itself the burden of the spiritual guidance that Malkion had carried so far, while the Talari became the mundane guides. So the Zzaburi acquired a new prerogative. You can notice that among the Brithini the Zzaburi are no priest, still their magic works.

So what about a new heretic sect that introduces a fifth caste for priests? Or that denies that priesthood is for wizards only? Remember that many bishops belong to the lord caste, too, especially when they own land.

> (And, while I'm sorcery-ing -- doesn't it seem odd that "reliable",
> "scientific" defensive sorcery has to use the Resistance Table to =
> ward off damage/magic/spirits, while "clunky", "back-woods" spirit
> magic equivalents are automatically effective?

The scientific approach to a problem includes being conscious that one's answer may be wrong. So the sorcery-user knows there is a chance his defensive spell might fail. On the other hand, the pagan "believes" that his god or totem animal will protect him from all evil. Faith is stronger than science, it is just that science can explore perspectives that faith would never think of.

Paolo Guccione


End of The Glorantha Digest V5 #197

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