Monday, 11 February 2013

More On Ishtarian Religion And Society

In Poul Anderson's Fire Time (London, 1977), the main hall of an Ishtarian farm has "...a shrine of She and He...," kept out of respect for tradition although most of the family are Triadists and their help represent many other cults. (p. 138)

My Pagan friends would recognise the Wiccan God and Goddess or Lord and Lady in "She and He."

A Triadic blessing:

" 'May the Twain be kind to you, and the Rover do no harm.' " (p. 202)

Anderson works hard to imagine alien social systems. Ishtarian barbarians have "...voluntary feudalism." (p. 188) Lesser families can pledge services and obedience in exchange for protection and food in hard times to an Overling who:

dominates a region;
leads warriors in battle;
leads workers in civil emergency;
tries lawsuits on request;
officiates at major religious rites.

So far, this is recognisably feudal, although Christendom distinguished between lords spiritual and temporal, but, on Ishtar, the contract is voluntary, can be annulled by either party and does not bind the next generation. A rugged individuality transcends any social arrangements.

There are stranger arrangements:

a franchise annually alternating between males and females;
population control by mortal combat;
scheduled changing of spouses to combine all possible couples;
public issues settled by random bone tossing.

Anderson also contrives a scientific basis for apparently supernatural beings who, moreover, are genuinely non-humanoid and even non-quadrupedal. The "dauri":

" '...are beings, creatures, not mortal. They are believed to have powers, and many folk set out small sacrifices, like a bowl of food, when a daur has been glimpsed. But that is seldom.' " (p. 196)

The speaker has great prestige because, uniquely, he has met and established regular discourse with these mysterious beings, even giving them metal tools designed to be held by their differently shaped hands. But they are mortal and cannot eat food left for them. They have evolved from extra-planetary microbes, possibly even from a failed interstellar expedition, thus are a completely independent evolution, dominating the unexplored part of Ishtar. They have five limbs and no head, indeed an upper limb bearing some sense-organs in place of a head, and eyes in the body. They have given their proto-Ishtarian contact an artefact which seems to confirm that their ancestors were civilised. All I can say to this is, "What an imagination!"

No comments: