Greg Sez: What is it with the Underworld? (Apr 2007)

Question in the Glorantha Digest by Orlanth Umathi, answer by Greg Stafford. Published 4th Apr 2007

Q: Greg, please explain in simple terms why the underworld keeps coming up as a theme whenever we talk about the “grey area” guys in Glorantha.

A: I am at a loss to explain the reasons, since I both:

  1. don’t know all the examples of which you speak; and
  2. don’t know why other people bring this up.

Your questions is also a bit vague for me to get a handle on what you are asking. Nonetheless…

Q: What is it about the underworld?

A: I *THINK* “it” is about the fact that the Underworld is the illogical ancestress of known Glorantha. It precedes all that can be known, and thus can not be truly known in of itself. It houses mystery, spawns mystery and is a mystery itself. It is not any one of the Otherworlds, but has aspects of them all. Many think that the Otherworlds themselves were spawned from the Underworld.

Q: I have been trying to get this straight in my head for years. Stygian Heresy was my first confusion, what does this heresy have to do with the underworld or the Styx?

A: Nothing. It’s a name given to the heresy by the people who didn’t know about it. Stygian is a synonym for “of the underworld” and when the Seshnegi were confronted with Arkat, who had been Malkioni but, upon returning to Ralios was a darkness devotee of some sort who still used sorcery, they thought it “hellish” and dubbed his region the Stygian Lands. And his religion, about which they knew virtually nothing, was called the Stygian Heresy.Note: he never called it that, just his enemies.
Hint: no one ever calls their own religion a heresy.

Q: Then there is the more recent discussion on chaos. Why for instance should Mallia be connected to the underworld, as an ex-fertility god?

A: She was dead when she did her deed with the others, hence of the underworld. Also, all fertility has underworld connections, both as a place of origins of life and the destination of it.

Q: Is it just that the “chaotic events” happened during the eras of darkness? I would understand if chaos originated in the underworld but that won’t fit with published facts, take for example Cults of Terror.

A: There is a connection of frightening things with the Underworld, not all of which are deserved. Connections are often made that are not “real.” And, as you point out, the connection between the Great Darkness and Chaos is legitimate.While we are on nomenclature, let me point out the diference between the Darkness/Lesser Darkness and the Great Darkness. These are Solar terms. The Lesser Darkness is known to the Orlanthi as the Storm Age, a wonderful and glorious era.

Q: The Birth of Chaos has this to say: At first these creatures seem to have seeped through cracks in the world’s logic.

A: Well, if you can locate the “world’s logic” you are doing better than I! 🙂

Q: Later, The Gods’ last stand states on its origins: Most of these places are on the far edges of Glorantha, where the forces of order were weakest.

A: In the north, in fact.

Q: Apart from some troll history, the death of various deities, and the Lightbringer’s quest, published material steers clear of the underworld. In fact there is only one occurrence of the word in the Cults of Terror Cosmology and History. A: Just never got to publish much about it.

Q: I understand that there is some precedence for gods that died being tied to the Underworld for a part of the year, and an analogy with the Underworld and Winter, but apart from that I don’t see why it is so often quoted as a source of such guys as Vivamort.

A: Vivamort was, I believe, stated to have been a darkness deity to begin with. But I’d not say all the vampiric entities came from the Underworld. Hope this clarifies that which can not be seen. 🙂 YGWV

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