Sunday, December 2, 2018

Patterns Discerned 3: The Demons of Hrü'ü and Wúru

Twelve demons are somehow affiliated with the Supreme Principle of Change Hrü'ü and His cohort Wúru. However, in general this is a motley grouping, whose allegiances are often uncertain.

Only three (Durún, Ka'íng and Narkonáa) are categorically stated to be of the substance and essence of these Deities; Hrgásh supposedly is as well, but this is "hearsay," while the major demon Marássu is apparently "allied" to these two deities (and His glyph allegedly displays this alliance). Giritlén is ambiguously said to be of the substance and essence of Hrü'ü or Ksárul (or Their cohorts), while Gurushá is of the substance of Wúru but unknown essence, and Chríya is of the essence of Hrü'ü but unknown substance. The remaining four of these demons show mixed allegiances: Neré is of the substance of Wúru but the essence of Sárku; Mikoyél of the essence of Wúru but the substance of Chiténg; Zanátl of the essence of Hrü'ü but the substance of Ksárul; and Uní is of the essence of Ksárul but the substance of Hrü'ü.

With demons of such diverse (or mysterious) allegiances, we might hope to find some element diagnostic of affiliation with Hrü'ü and Wúru, but we would surely expect to see many enigmatic or unidentifiable elements. This is indeed the case; and if you think the demons of Lord Hrü'ü are obscure, wait until we start looking at Lord Ksárul! Holy Moley!

The "Wide-Opened Eyes" or "Errant Chusétl" Motif, Highlighted in Red

The most obvious common element in these glyphs, present in eight of the twelve (those for Ka'íng, Giritlén, Neré, Narkonáa, Hrgásh, Zanátl, Chríya, and Mikoyél), is a pair of vertical ovals, arranged side-by-side. In most cases, these are joined by two slender ligatures (although Ka'íng's glyph has four, while for Chríya and Mikoyél, the ovals are pressed close together with no space for any ligatures at all). In three cases (Hrgásh, Chríya, and Mikoyél), these ovals are further joined by one or more chevrons at the top. This odd element gives many of these glyphs a quality of wide-eyed staring faces, and indeed it is tempting to see them as depicting widely opened eyes. This may be what this element literally depicts, but it must represent something more. The design most strongly recalls the symbol of Drá, cohort of Lord Hnálla, but this cannot be. Can it? Instead, I am going to suggest that it represents the Chusétl, the "Shadow-Self," the self of dreams and visions, the ethereal counterpart of the Hlákme. Specifically, I believe that the "Wide-Opened Eyes" motif represents the "Errant Chusétl," actively wandering the Planes Beyond, seeking Truth in Darkness, and perceiving the glories of perpetual Change; this in contradistinction to the "Chusétl in Repose" or "Dreaming Chusétl" that we will see in a later post.

Examples of the "Emanations" from the "Errant Chusétl," Highlighted in Red

In all cases, additional elements emanate from the top or side of one or both "eyes" of the "Errant Chusétl." These emanations vary widely and each is unique, but there are broadly two types: exuberant plumed arabesques curling toward the left (Ka'íng, Giritlén, Neré, Hrgásh, and Mikoyél); or short, spindly "antennae" projecting to the left and right, and sometimes upward as well (Narkonáa, Zanátl, and possibly Chríya). We can guess that these projections from the Shadow-Self represent various forms of perception, learning, and manifestation by the Chusétl, but their precise meanings remain unclear.

Other elements, particularly in the lower register of each glyph, are also difficult to interpret. The glyph for Zanátl includes a closed-loop representation of the "Bákte in Death," which is unexpected, since Zanátl has no (known) affiliation with Lord Sárku. Neré, who does have some allegiance to Sárku, displays the right-hand end of the "Bákte," which projects from one side of the "Errant Chusétl." On the other side, apparently emerging from both the end of the Bákte" and the side of the Chusétl, is a plumed emanation. Even this is unexpected, since the Chusétl is not believed to survive the death of the Bákte. Perhaps this half-Bákte represents part of an open-ended living (or sleeping?) Bákte.

Possible "Portrait-Glyphs"

Three of these glyphs may consist of visual representations of demons, rather than abstract symbols. The name-glyph for Durún certainly appears to be a profile portrait of the demonic Beast which is the Steed of Lord Hrü'ü. The glyphs for Chríya and Mikoyél exhibit staring eyes that lack the connecting ligatures of other glyphs, and these may represent literal portrait eyes, rather than the symbolic "eyes" of the "Errant Chusétl" motif. Chríya's glyph certainly looks like the "frightening face" device employed on the shields of warriors. The glyph for Mikoyél looks rather like a portrait as well, of an entity holding a staff or scythe, but perhaps we should reserve further comment until we discuss the demons affiliated with Vimúhla.

Enigmatic Glyphs

Finally, three glyphs (those for Uní, Gurushá, and Marássu) display none of the common elements, and also do not appear to be portraits. Uní's glyph is dominated by what appears to be a variant of the Bákte-Hlákme-Worm combination (a variant identical to that found in Kurritlakál's glyph, discussed in the previous post). This combination should strongly indicate affiliation with Lord Sárku, but no such affiliation is indicated in Ebon Bindings. The glyph for Gurushá is simply perplexing; it contains no elements I can recognize (yet), with the exception of three (!) possible four-pointed Hlákme stars. Finally, there is the glyph for Marássu the "Ever-Nearing Pursuer." This looks vaguely like it might be another portrait, depicting a fanged face. However, the half-lidded eyes and the drooping mouth may be symbolic content, specifically suggesting affiliation with Lord Ksárul, as we shall see in a later post. While Marássu is not unfriendly to Ksárul, it is surprising that his glyph shows affinity to Ksárul but not to Lord Hrü'ü.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Patterns Discerned 2: The Demons of Sárku and Durritlámish

Thirteen demons are affiliated with Sárku the Five-Headed Lord of Worms, and His cohort Durritlámish. Three major demons, Gereshmá'a, Kurritlakál and Srükárum, are variously described as being "allied" to Sárku and/or Durritlámish. Of the lesser demon lords, Ku'éth, Ktélu, Nyerebó, Missúm, and Ashónu are all of the substance and essence of Sárku, and Ssüssü is of the essence of Sárku and the substance of Durritlámish. The remaining four demons share affiliation with other deities: Njénü is of the substance of Sárku but the essence of Ksárul, Mishomúu of the essence of Sárku but the substance of Ksárul, Neré of the essence of Sárku but the substance of Wúru, and Kekkéka of the essence of Durritlámish but the substance of Chiténg.

With so many glyphs to consider, I will not attempt to display them all, but instead will focus on just a few examples for each motif.

The "Bákte in Death" Motif, Highlighted in Red

The first common element to consider is a horizontal bar displayed in nine of these thirteen glyphs (those for Nyerebó, Ku'éth, Ssüssü, Njénü, Ktélu, Ashónu, Gereshmá'a, Kurritlakál, and Missúm). This bar resembles the "Barbed Staff" motif described for the demons of Dlamélish and Hriháyal in the previous post, but differs in that it terminates at each end in a closed loop, upturned at the right end, and downturned at the left. This element likely depicts a human longbone, but I believe that it represents the physical body (the Bákte) as a whole, the closed loops signifying that it is the "Bákte in Death," entombed in the grave.

The "Worm Triumphant" Motif, Highlighted in Red

In eight of the nine instances where it is present (all but Missúm), the "Bákte in Death" motif is surmounted by a looped glyphic element marching inchworm-fashion toward the left. The right-hand end emerges from the Bákte itself, while the left-hand end rears to display a down-facing, spreading maw. I do not believe it is a stretch to see in this the "Worm Triumphant," feeding on the Bákte in its sarcophagus.

The combined "Bákte in Death" and "Worm Triumphant" are present in the majority of these name-glyphs and are the clearest diagnostic of affiliation with Lord Sárku.

The Major-Demon Variants of the "Bákte in Death" and "Worm Triumphant" Motifs

Variants of this combination are seen in the glyphs of the major demons Gereshmá'a and Kurritlakál. In both cases, the mouth of the "Worm Triumphant" is augmented by pronged "lips," perhaps representing a suckered maw. In Kurritlakál's glyph, the Bákte and the "Worm" are modified somewhat, so that the combination can be drawn with a single stroke of the pen. Other variants include the glyph for Nyerebó, where the head of the Worm extends and curls down and around to feed from the underside of the Bákte, the glyph for Ssüssü with its unusual double Bákte, and the strange glyph for the demon Missúm ("Death"), which includes the "Bákte in Death" element, but oddly lacks the "Worm Triumphant."

The"Hlákme Beside the Tomb" Motif, Highlighted in Red

Only slightly less common, present in six (or possibly seven) of these glyphs is a third element: a four-pointed star, seen hovering somewhere above or below the Bákte. Now this is an element I remember from the original Patterns of Hidden Discernment, where it was interpreted as the "Hlákme beside the Tomb" ( after death, when the spirit-soul has departed, the Hlákme, the "Mind," is believed to linger in the tomb near the body it once inhabited).

Taken all together, the joint representation in these glyphs of the "Bákte in Death," the "Hlákme beside the Tomb," and the "Worm Triumphant" rather neatly encapsulates the theology of Lord Sárku.

The "Five-Headed Worm of Sárku" Motif, Highlighted in Red

There is only one more shared motif to discuss, a minor one in that it appears in only three glyphs (Gereshmá'a, Ashónu, and Neré). This consists of an amorphous five-pronged form that may reasonably be interpreted to represent the "Five-Headed Worm of Sárku." The glyph for Njénü includes a vaguely similar element, but there it has eight points, likely reflecting the fact that this demon is of the essence of Ksárul.

As with the demons of Dlamélish and Hriháyal, the name-glyphs of Sárku's demons include a number of additional elements that are unique to each demon and since they are not shared, they are difficult to interpret. And as with Dlamélish and Hriháyal, there are some glyphs that are even more perplexing. Some of these (Njénü, Mishomúu, Neré and Kekkéka) clearly exhibit motifs pertaining to other deities, and may become more comprehensible in later posts.

Unusual Name-Glyphs

However, two are particularly strange. Missúm's glyph displays a partly-infilled "Bákte in Death" element, and possibly an odd voided "Hlákme beside the Tomb," but otherwise has little in common with the other demons of Lord Sárku or indeed with any of the other name-glyphs in the Book of Ebon Bindings. The glyph for Lord Srükárum is stranger still. We are assured in the text of Ebon Bindings that this glyph contains elements of great symbolic meaning, and yet I see none: or at least, none suggesting affiliation with His masters, Sárku and Durritlámish; if anything, the "Wide-Open Eyes" in the glyph suggest allegiance to Lord Hrü'ü or perhaps Wúru. despite the declaration in Ebon Bindings, I suspect that this glyph is actually an example of a category of name-glyphs in which symbolic content is secondary (if present at all), and the primary goal is to present a "portrait," a representation of the demon's appearance. This may be a heretical view, but we will see further examples of these "portrait-glyphs" in later posts.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Patterns Discerned 1: The Demons of Dlamélish and Hriháyal

Six demons appear to be affiliated with the Emerald Ladies Dlamélish and Hriháyal: Uléla is of the substance of Dlamélish and the essence of Hriháyal; Pa'íya, of the essence of Dlamélish and the substance of Hriháyal; and Quyóve, of the essence of Dlamélish and the substance of another (?). Of the remaining three, Marággu is uncertain but "may be" of the substance and essence of Dlamélish, Rü'ütlánesh is "allied" with the Emerald Ladies, and Ngüngéthib, servitor of Rü'ütlánesh, is also clearly aligned with Dlamélish and Hriháyal. Their name-glyphs are shown below.

The Name-Glyphs of the Demons Affiliated with Dlamélish and Hriháyal

One central element that we see repeated prominently in four of the six glyphs (Rü'ütlánesh, Uléla, Pa'íya, and Marággu) is a pair of voided lozenges, one superposed above the other. This is an element I recall from the original Patterns of Hidden Discernment, where it was referred to as the "Twin Orbs of Ecstasy" (Twin orbs, or maybe "dual globes," something like that, anyway). The meaning of the "Twin Orbs" was, I think, never clear, but I will note they appear in the name-glyph of mighty Lord Rü'ütlánesh, where they almost certainly represent mouths. Therefore it might be more appropriate (if less poetic) to call this the "Mouth-Over-Mouth" motif, likely representing shared sensuality or shared sensation. This design element is probably the single most diagnostic feature of the demons aligned with Dlamélish and Hriháyal.

The "Twin Orbs of Ecstasy" or "Mouth-over-Mouth" Motif, Highlighted in Red

Sensation may be shared, but for the Emerald Ladies, shared sensation may not mean shared pleasure. In three cases (Rü'ütlánesh, Pa'íya, and Marággu), broad emanations extend to the left, either from the lower mouth, or from the juncture between the two. I believe these emanations represent, broadly, the exudation of sensual power, particularly signifying one participant's achievement of gratification at the expense of another, and I refer to this motif as the "Emanation of Baleful Ardour." However, it should be noted that these emanations vary in detail according to the particular potency of each demon. In the glyphs of Rü'ütlánesh and Pa'íya, whose sensual powers focus on the consumption and extraction of life-force, the exudation takes the form of a broad, grasping (or beckoning) three-clawed appendage; in the glyph for Marággu, whose powers are more concerned with deception and obfuscation, the emanation is (rather obviously) phallic: instead of embracing and devouring, it insinuates and penetrates.

The "Emanation of Baleful Ardour" Motif, Highlighted in Red

The third common element consists of a horizontal rod overlying or underlying the "Mouth-Over-Mouth" element in three of these glyphs (Rü'ütlánesh, Uléla, and Marággu). This rod terminates at one end in a closed loop, and at the other end in an open curl. In a general way this resembles the "Longbone" motif we will see when we examine the demons affiliated with Lord Sárku later on, except in the latter case, the terminal loops are both closed. I suspect that in both cases, this element represents the Bákte, the physical body: with closed loops (Sárku), it represents the body after death, or in "undeath;" however, with one open loop (Dlamélish/Hriháyal), it represents the body in the full vigor of life. Although ultimately this element symbolizes the Bákte, it more specifically depicts a barbed staff, phallus or whip (or depending on context, potentially all of these things). The three barbs are most evident in the glyph for Rü'ütlánesh, where they appear, viciously sharp, midway along the length of the staff. In the glyphs for Uléla, and Marággu, the triple barbs appear again, midway along the shaft, but they are "closed" by a curling scroll so they seem blunted and no longer resemble barbs at all. However, as we shall see later, this identical "blunted-triple-barb" element also appears, in a completely different context, in the glyph for the demon Kekkéka. Kekkéka has no known affiliation with the Emerald Ladies, but he is known as "the One of Many Barbed Hooks," and I am confident that the "blunted-triple-barb" element is indeed barbed, and absolutely congruent with the triple barbs in the glyph for Rü'ütlánesh. It is possible that the scroll that caps the barbs signifies that they are embedded in a squirming victim's flesh, and the "blunted-triple-barb" may thus broadly represent "the realization of pain" (as opposed to simply the threat of pain).

The "Barbed Staff" Motif and Associated Elements, Highlighted in Red.
Arrows indicate the "Blunted-Triple-Barb" element

In the glyphs for Uléla, and Marággu (but not Rü'ütlánesh), sinuous arabesques emanate from one end of this Barbed Staff. I have a vague recollection that the original Patterns of Hidden Discernment identified numerous whips and flails in these glyphs; I am less certain, since sinuous arabesques are rather common in all of the  glyphs (and in many Tékumel scripts), but in these two glyphs, where they curl from the ends of the Barbed Staff, I am fairly confident that they do indeed represent the tails of whips. Therefore, while the Barbed Staff may ultimately symbolize the Bákte in general, it likely also represents the juxtaposition of pleasure and pain so favoured by the Emerald Ladies (and Hriháyal in particular).

So that's about it for shared elements in the name-glyphs of the demons affiliated with Dlamélish and Hriháyal. There is a possible second variant of the "Barbed Staff" in Rü'ütlánesh's glyph, and a possible whip extending as a secondary "Emanation" from Pa'íya's; these may be significant, but I am uncertain of these elements. There are a number of other curlicues and some small free-standing elements, but I cannot guess what they mean. You'd think the raw energy, lusts, and desires of the Pedhétl would be represented somewhere here, but darned if I can find it. Perhaps it is implicit in the open-ended (living) Bákte of the Barbed Staff or the conjunction of the Mouth-Over-Mouth; or perhaps it manifests as the Emanation of Baleful Ardour.

The glyphs for Quyóve and Ngüngéthib contain no elements in common with the others, and remain a mystery to me at this point. I will note that Quyóve is not only a demon (if she is that at all) but also (as "Quyó"), is one of the Shadow-Gods of Livyánu, while Ngüngéthib, judging by her name, is also of Livyáni origin. It is possible that the elements in their glyphs derive from earlier Livyáni symbologies rather different from anything in the Engsvanyáli tradition.

Next up:  the demons of Sárku/Durritlámish. Lots of good stuff there!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Patterns Discerned

The Book of Ebon Bindings is one of the "crown jewels" of published materials for the Tékumel setting. Sadly, the latest edition came out in 1991, nearly 30 years ago. Those of you lucky enough to have a copy of this unique demonology (there were apparently about 1000 produced, in four editions, between 1978 and 1991) will surely have pondered the 54 elaborate name-glyphs for the demons described therein (one demon lacks a name-glyph).

Many of these demons are of the "substance" or the "essence" of the twenty Pavárian deities of Tékumel, and we are assured repeatedly in the text that these glyphs identify the deities to which these demons are affiliated. The glyphs likely also identify other characteristics of these entities as well, although this is less explicit. In any case, the demon name-glyphs are not just artistic squiggles (although they are certainly artistic), they are artful as well: there is supposedly pattern and meaning to be found in them. Most especially, the glyphs contain elements that reference specific deities.

We know this to be true, in part because an analysis of these glyphs, undertaken many years ago (likely in the early 1990s) masterfully identified the motifs associated with each deity, traced their occurrences in the glyphs, and interpreted their meaning.

I first encountered this analysis rather fortuitously, on the internet in the middle or late 1990s. I have it mind that I found it on a Princeton University FTP site, but I could be wrong about the host. It was a long time ago, and unfortunately, I no longer have a copy (or if I do, it is on an old 3.5" floppy I can no longer read).  The analysis itself consisted simply of a series of scans of pencil sketches that broke down each glyph into its component parts, and named each element. it is possible there was more to the analysis than this, but the sketches were all I ever saw. Nevertheless, although rough and sketchy, the piece was breathtaking and clearly true to Tékumel, and for a long time, I assumed the sketches were by Professor Barker himself.

In later years, after the FTP site vanished, I made occasional enquiries on the Tékumel Yahoo group and eventually learned that this analysis was entitled the Patterns of Hidden Discernment, and that it was was done by Jamie Thomson. So it was not the Professor's work after all, but a fan piece. But such a brilliant fan piece! And one that apparently impressed the Professor greatly. Bob Alberti (whose webserver may have been where I discovered it) recalled that it "was a phenomenal piece of work. I don't think I've ever seen Professor Barker so impressed."

At the time, I was hoping to see the Patterns of Hidden Discernment republished, and I don't believe I was alone in that. I still hope to see that happen. But the last chatter around this was almost a decade ago, and I am not optimistic that the original Patterns will be available anytime soon. Tékumel publishing/republishing is often like that.

So pending the eventual (and sadly, unlikely) re-release of that brilliant analysis, I propose to undertake the same exercise here in this blog, from scratch. Starting all over again and re-inventing Jamie Thomson's wheel: a brand new effort to discern those hidden patterns. I do recall a couple of the details from the original. Not very many (naturally I will cite them when I do) and my discernment will surely not match the original, but it's better than nothing.

So what I propose to do, is group the demons according to the major Deities to which they are affiliated by essence/substance, where known (not initially distinguishing substance/essence, or deity/cohort) and look for shared elements in the name-glyphs that may be symbolic of particular deities. I think that is roughly what Jamie Thomson did, and I will say again that my effort to repeat his work will probably suck in comparison.

Of the 54 name-glyphs, 6 are of demons that appear to be affiliated with Dlamélish/Hriháyal, 13 are affiliated with Sárku/Durritlámish, 12 with Hrü'ü/Wúru, 12 with Ksárul/Grugánu, and 8 with Vimúhla/Chiténg. Bear in mind that some of these demons are of the essence of one Deity and the substance of another, so some of these name-glyphs will be examined twice. Once that is done, we can have a look at the remaining 16 demons whose substance and essence are unknown, and see if we can make any sense of those guys.

Ready? Alright then, fangen wir an and vamos a ver, next post we'll begin with Dlamélish/Hriháyal. Relatively few demons, few glyphs, some readily-apparent patterning (but not too much), and a good place to ease into this exercise.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

New Tekumel Blog!

Yes, there's a new Tekumel blog in town, and it could be YOUR blog too!

It's all about sharing game logs and battle accounts from Tekumel gamers around the world.

It is linked in my blog roll over on the right, you can check it out here:

Are you running a Tekumel rpg? Gaming epic battles between the armies of the five empires?

Please get in touch with the blog owner to be added as an author so you can share your own "Dispatches from the Imperium" with other Tekumelophiles!

Monday, October 9, 2017

...And Another Season Ends

Back again, another season of fieldwork complete.

Not just another season though. The fieldwork is finished, so this was the final season for this project. A project I started 19 years ago. Damn. There's still analysis and writing to be done, but after all this time, it's hard to believe it's actually coming to a close.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Another Season Begins

So, lovely evening for grilling. We planked a salmon for dinner. It was nice.

Tomorrow I fly north to begin another field season. I have about a week of office-y prep and mobilization tasks and then its full-time fieldwork. I'll be bringing some Tekumel resources in the hope of doing more on the monasteries piece. Nothing much, just the Sourcebook and Vol 2 of Mitlanyal. But I have to say, I bring Tekumel material with me every year, and yet, I never end up finding time to tinker with Tekumel. If you notice my posting dates you'll see I always go pretty dark between roughly Canada Day (that's July 1) and Hallowe'en. Realistically, I will most likely go dark this summer as well. Field days are long and there's not much left of me between supper and bedtime. Just not as young as I used to be.

Oh well. That said, while my real-world reportage was out for review, I was able to sneak back to Tekumel and almost finish the Vimuhla/Chiteng section. So that's good.

Here's hoping this will be the year I have the energy to visit Tekumel in my evenings. If not, well, I'll see you in the fall!

have a great summer everyone