Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Great Secret

Recent adventures for the Come Hell and High Water campaign have revolved around a general theme, the Cabal's efforts to gather ancient lore from around the world. Although some of the details of that hunt have been provided in those scenarios,they are only part of a much bigger picture. For that reason, detailed here are many of the other threads that can be woven into that tapestry.

The Separation of Heaven and Earth
One element common to tales from around the world is the notion that magic was once much more common in the world. In many traditions the gods themselves walked among mortals, and some of the great heroes were even descended from unions with them. For example:
  • According to Genesis 6:4, the "sons of God" dallied with the "daughters of men," and the giants (nephilim) resulted from it. That was before the flood, which was used to punish humanity for its wickedness.
  • Various African traditions tell of heaven and earth being separated in order to punish humanity.
  • Chinese tales describe a ladder that once connected the two realms, but that has ceased to exist.
  • Numerous tales from around the world explain how there was in ancient times a golden age of peace and plenty, but that it for some reaon was brought to an end.

The Circle and the Square
Two shapes symbolically represent heaven and earth. The circle is emblematic of the prior, relating to what one sees of the sky at the horizons; the square depicts this world and the four cardinal directions.
  • Some scholars claim that the octagon was important to the Knights Templar, since it represents a combination of the two shapes.
  • The compass and the square are symbols of Freemasonry, an organization that seems to have associations with the Templars.
  • Chinese sculpture depicts two cultural heroes, Fu Xi and Nu Kua; they are shown to possess those two devices.

Building a Bridge between the Worlds
There are also many stories which tell of beings who bridged the gap between heaven and earth, or at least tried to do so.
  • A Greek myth regarding Otis and Ephialtes tells of how they stacked mountains one on top of the other in an effort to reach the top of Mount Olympus.
  • That is reminiscent of the Tower of Babel, which was built in an effort to reach heaven; Yahweh punished the architects by causing them to speak different languages so they could no longer cooperate with one another.
  • The Hebrew Jacob had a dream in which he saw a ladder reaching between heaven and earth, and angels moving up and down on it.
  • Norse mythology tells of the word tree Yggdrasil, which connects all of the planes of existence; it has a bird in its branches and a serpent at its roots.
  • The Elder Edda claims that Odin, in order to learn the secrets of his magic, was hung upon a tree and pierced with a spear, sacrificed to himself.
  • That is, of course, reminiscent of the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • According to an Aztec origin story, Huitzilopochtli led them to their homeland in New Spain and knew it was the place when he saw a cactus with an eagle atop it, clutching a snake in its talons.

In this way, the GM can add hints about the nature of the Cabal's plot, and perhaps even find inspiration for side quests that must be completed in order to gain the magical power behind them.

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