Spirit rune Local Spirits and Sylphs

by Michael Raaterova

I view Glorantha as a very magical place filled with wonder, and I think that should be reflected in the everyday life of persons living there and in the very landscape. When I walk around in Glorantha there are spirits everywhere -- spirits of field and forest, of glade and glen, of brook and bridge, of river and road, of tree and trod, of boundary and bawn, of house and home and so on. Even if Genert is dead (sleeping?) his many children live and prosper.

These spirits are not creatures to be Commanded or Called to perform antics on the behalf of the characters, but to create a backdrop of wonder and metaphysical awe, to create a feeling of a world saturated with the fantastic. Not on an epic level, but more low-key and 'real.' These spirits should never be portrayed as cute. They can be extremely foultempered. And they are also have looong memories -- they won't forget grievances or insults.

Small rituals should be performed to these Genii Loci (place-bound spirits) to stay on good terms with them and to insure their good graces, like these ritualettes:

At home you should regularily give offerings to the hearthgnome to keep the house reasonably free from vermin and cobwebs and to the barngnome to care for the livestock. Foodstuffs and drink for its belly and a piece of leather (so it can mend its worn-out boots) should be enough.

When starting a long journey you should offer something to the spirit of the forest (Treebeard? ;-) not to lead you astray, or to the roadsnake not to put obstacles in your way. The offerings should be buried for the spirit to keep.

To keep the water of your well fresh, keep the earthwater spirits happy. The first taste of your wine or beer should do the trick.

To keep disease spirits and unwelcome guests away, make sure the effigy of the steadwarden looks stern enough and stick a piece of iron in its tongue so it can speak with the power of cold iron.

Sacrifice something valuable, like a newborn horse, calf or sheep to the pale maidens of the river (or the river itself) so they won't drown your children. The pale maidens can't bear children themselves, and so they jealously steal/drown mortal children.

Hang some bells in a tree to keep the windhag occupied, playing with them and listening to the sounds they make, so she won't suck the breath out of your children, cattle, sheep or horses.

Always pay the toll to the monster under the bridge for safe passage (this wasn't originally a toll, but a lure to fool the bridgekeeper from eating you).

The list could go on forever, but I won't. Also, these spirits should be able to manifest sporadically or at specific times during the year, such as the Ghosting Nights (Ty Kora Tek's holy days) when the border between the worlds (the mundane world and the shadoworlds) are weaker than usual.

Whence do these place-bound spirits come from? Some of them could be spirits that have chosen to attach themselves to a specific place, and some could have been created as such due to people's belief in them (heroquest analogy). Some powerful ones could be the result of a true heroquest (such as the spirit of the obsidian menhir of the Black Stone Clan of the Vantaros Tribe near Alda Chur). Some are extensions or children of a divinity. Some are powerful enough to be a cult of their own (such as the cult of the Blue Stag, also on Vantaros' lands. Closely connected to Odayla though).

Windhags, pale maidens, bridgekeepers and wellspirits may be thought of as elemental spirits. Personally I think that elementals as they are portrayed in the rulebook are thoroughly lackluster. Why don't give them quirks, personality and a life on their own? Look at the sylph, a creature of utter dullness! Lifting people and dropping them? Here's some variant sylphs:

Breathtaker (Vampair? ;-) steals your breath which makes you weak and feeble. Wanna stop a speeding horse? Send a breathtaker on it. Breathtakers are dangerous though -- they grow stronger as they steal someone's breath and might escape your command and turn on you. Related to the Windhag.

Knifewind stabs you with ice-cold knifes of wind, leaving you demoralised and chilled to the bone. They are quite reluctant to leave their wintery abodes, so summoning is difficult.

Screecher/Banshee howls so terribly you can't do anything but try to cover your ears. Might even leave you deaf. Useful for sounding an alarm. They travel with storms and are easily summoned during storm season.

Puppeteer grabs your limbs and head and shakes you around. Trying to do anything else than breaking free is almost impossible. Useful for getting apples out of a tree as well.

Windflowers these sylphs emit the smell of different flowers or some other lovely fragrance. Thus a windrose smells of roses. Binding them in your house makes the wife happy. Voria's followers are very fond of windflowers.

Stinkers these are malodorous sylphs. Sending them to your enemy's house is a cheap curse. It's considered a bad omen to have them around. The distinction between Stinkers and Windflowers is largely a matter of culture.

Whirler useful for creating general wide-area havoc. Large whirlers could devastate the country-side, so Wind Lords and Storm Voices should be careful when summoning or trying to command them.

See also the Local Spirits of East Ralios.
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Last updated 24 Nov 95 drd

Info Plaza David Dunham Page East Ralios