Bell Digest v941117p2

Approved: BlueVadeli
To: RuneQuest@Glorantha.Holland.Sun.COM (Daily automated RQ-Digest)
Subject: RuneQuest Daily, Thu, 17 Nov 1994, part 2
Sender: Henk.Langeveld@Holland.Sun.COM
Content-Return: Prohibited
Precedence: junk


From: (John P Hughes)
Subject: She Turned Me Into A Newtling
Message-ID: <>
Date: 17 Nov 94 23:57:32 GMT
X-RQ-ID: 6920

Catching up, catching up, catching up, catching up...

Henk has two longish pieces from me that he will send out as a 
Digest. One is an essay on (Northern) Sartar flora and fauna,
the other my contribution to the gods and heroquests etc. debate.
Stay tuned...


I'd like to add my voice to Nick's recommendation concerning Tony 
Hillerman. Nick didn't spell out the details, but Hillerman's work isn't 
genre fantasy or sword&sorcery.  HeÕs a whodunnit crime-writer whose 
novels are set amongst the contemporary Navajo of SW United States, 
with a cast of healers, witches, shamans and anthropologists. (One of 
the major characters is both a cop and an apprentice shaman). 

I'm usually not a whodunnit reader, but I've snapped these up. Great 
for for anyone interested in shamanism and the effects of mythology in 
everyday life, and ESPECIALLY recommended for anyone campaigning 
in Prax or the Wastes. Titles include The Blessing Way, Coyote Waits, 
Talking God, A Thief of Time, Skinwalkers, The Ghostway, The Dark 
Wind, People of Darkness, Listening Woman, Dance Hall of the Dead 
and The Fly on the Wall.


Martin has raised some interesting points concerning the social 
dynamics of 'witchcraft' and witchcraft accusations.

First a point in passing - MartinÕs citing of the Nuer as having (real) 
sorcerers but (imaginary) witches isn't entirely correct. They have lots 
of real witches as well. Perhaps Martin was thinking of the Azande, 
who attribute EVERYTHING bad to witchcraft, and where witchcraft 
accusations form an important part of social process. Certainly, he's 
correct in the fact that if a society doesn't have enough evil, shadowy 
magic-users, they'll invent them.

The Nuer, according to Evans-Pritchard's ethnographies, have several 
types of witches ('tiet'), who are spell workers, diviners and 
practitioners of leechcraft. 'Tiet gweni' are augurers who throw mussel 
shells onto the concave surface of  gourds.'Tiet me ngwet' practice love 
magic, find runaway wives, and make herdsmen sleepy. 'Tiet me 
ngwet' are women who remove sorcerous objects from the bodies of 
the sick. Other sorts of tiet treat barren women, impotent men, and sick 
calves. Lots of Pamaltelan potential here. Hostile witches who possess 
the evil eye are known as 'peth' - these are probably the 'imaginary' 
witches that Martin was referring to.

Nuer sorcerers are 'gwan kulagi', owners of a fetish, or 'gwan bila', 
owners of a spirit.

Despite my pedantry, I think Martin has raised an important topic that 
is usually overlooked - magic and social dynamics. 

I always try to make magic mysterious and little understood, with lots 
of exceptions, mysterious or spontaneous manifestations, and 'wild' 
effects. None of this God Learnerish Bladesharp 6, 85% taka taka taka. 
For example, strong emotions (especially group emotions) almost 
always invoke some magical effect - that's what ceremonies and wyters 
are all about. 

Every Gloranthan society will have occasional manifestations of 'wild 
magic' in a form that is not accepted or understood, and will have 
stories about them. The power to use this 'wild magic', (or the claim 
that one can use it) is one of the things that leads to accusations of 
witchcraft. Interestingly, improper use of 'normal' magic can also be 
'witchcraft', and not using magic at all can be 'witchcraft'!

(Here I'm using witchcraft in one of its the emic senses: that of anti-
social, improper magic. My apologies to Wiccans and shapers. )

Now this is an area alive with roleplaying possibilities, and not only 
amongst the Doraddi. In Sartar, you can no longer kill someone for 
being a Lunar, (well...) but you can certainly accuse them of hexing 
herds, causing abortions or consorting with chaos. If a rival is becoming 
too powerful, or a succession is disputed, a little malicious gossip and 
lying can go a long way. Give your revenge fantasies some room to 
move, and let human nature do the rest.

In this context, 'witches' are always evil. Incest, cannibalism, 
nakedness, washing themselves... they engage in all sorts of unnatural 
pursuits. If your village has fallen upon hard times - crop failures, broo 
attacks, cattle barren, death and illness, Lunar tax collectors surviving - 
there will always be someone ready to blame practitioners of 'wild 
magic' (witches, sorcerers, Gorgorma priestesses etc. according to local 
prejudice). They will start looking for someone to blame, and its 
usually someone who they have a grudge against or who stands out as 
an eccentric. Almost always such a person is from another clan, as 
many tribal societies  believe that witches cannot be effective against 
close kin. (This also helps to stop families tearing each other apart - 
remember Salem).

As Martin pointed out, in our world, accusations regarding witchcraft 
or use of 'non-official' magics are often used for purposes of social 
control. In a study conducted by Biedelman amongst the Kaguru of 
Tanzania, those suspected or accused of witchcraft were;

1. economically successful persons (owners of large huts, herds or 
2. village chiefs and headmen
3. 'independent' wives whose husbands could not easily control them
4.  non-conformists
5. women envious of their co-wives
6. people who had refused to meet important obligations to their kin.

In Glorantha, gossip and gentle hints (your barn is burnt down as the 
entire village watches) will usually alert a person that they are 
suspected of witchcraft. If they hang around (and survive) a variety of 
formal measures might be taken against them, from trials by ordeal to 
ritual torture and lynching. Owing to the somewhat circular logic 
involved in Divination, the use of such spells may well confirm the 
accusations (The worshippers believe it, the god responds according to 
what the worshippers believe).

Sometimes people (including actual practitioners of magic) will use the 
aura of 'witchcraft' to gain possessions, cower enemies, or increase 
their social prestige and social control. "Don't upset me or I'll make 
you sterile." Its a dangerous but sometimes rewarding strategy. A 
powerful woman or man might be accused as a witch, but it would take 
an equally powerful person to make such an accusation. For a person of 
limited social means, malicious gossip and innuendo might achieve 
the same effect. Witchcraft accusations are a strong force for conformity 
and approved social behaviour.


The Maboder Tribe was not mentioned in the tribal population list 
published last week, perhaps unconsciously perpetrating the sin of 
omission first committed with the Sartar tribe map of TOTRM #6. 
(They live east of Jonstown).

Now I know they've had a rough time lately, with the core of the tribe 
being annihilated by the Telmori and then having Lunar colonia 
taking the best of their lands, but some clans are still alive and kicking, 

Are they not Orlanthi? (I know they were Lunar allies - lets not confuse 
the story). Do they not deserve our recognition and respect (at least as 
long as it costs us nothing)? Are they not a valiant people whose story 
has become a lesson for our children, a warning against the treachery of 
the Moon and its wolf minions? (Shaddap - this is myth, not history). 
Lets not ignore them, if only because of the many landless Maboder 
who've become adventurers and outlaws, seeking help to reclaim their 
ancient (well, moderately ancient) homeland from the (now) hated 
Moonsters. (They've been beaten up by everyone, so they make great 
PCs and NPCs.)

At a guess, I'd say only two or three small clans still survive in the 
Mabodi uplands around the Indigo hills, the ones the Telmori couldn't 
get to in a hurry. They live in less-fertile places the Lunars aren't 
interested in. Let's say around 800 total. There would be relatively large 
numbers (500+?) of Mabodi living amongst nearby tribes or as outlaws 
or mercenaries. Their future is uncertain, but they remain a force to be 
reckoned with.