My subjective take on the Dangerous Diedne (Thread/t)

Ken, you raise a lot of subjects as to ME as well as real life medieval life. In terms of religion and religiosity in medieval Europe I think a major point is heterogenity and changes. What it meant to be a Christian changes ad much as did the beliefs of the people whom the religion reached. So many pagan elements were adopted into the new religion and places, practices and dates where adapted. Religion moved from formal recognition (almost nothing short of lip service) to internalisation of Christian culture and values.

In art this is no more apparent than in the development in the appearances of Christ on the cross. In the first, early medieval North European, crucifixes he is shown as a triumphant king on the cross, head held high. Later on in the High Middle Ages emphasis is clearly on him suffering. At the same time the formal religion underwent a change where the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 formalised the existance of Purgatory and thus affirmed salvation as a much more personal matter. In the same period the Pope continously walked a tight line between either integrating conflicting religious views and movements versus trying to destroy them. But all in all what it meant to be Christian was a very varied thing across Europe.

Thus competing crusading movements in the Baltics did at times kill or subjogate people who had already been baptized, simply because they'd been done so by someone else. Or as was seen with the greatest failure of the Crusades when Constantinople was sacked, the Crusades where really about so many things besides religion alone or a join or die-policy.

All in all it was quite a heterogeneous world - and much less ordered - and in a way large scale prosecution of minorities and enforcement of doctrine only really picked pace with the religious "schisms" and fragmentation in the 16th century, when Christians found out they could suddenly speak of being either a "true" or a "false" Christian (depending on who you were). Only then did it reach genocidal proportions where total eradication of the opposing party was sought.

EDIT: In short I think making it too much about Christian versus Pagan is too simple - as is making it too much about Latin versus Germanic. The Diedne became marginalised for many reasons (and in some sagas maybe they were true enemies of the Order), but I think a decisive point wasnt their practices, religion or beliefs alone, but very much about actual politics: that they shunned any kind of investigation and that they had become too powerful and a strong defacto political unity within the Order. That more than anything made them a target for largescale retaliation. A retaliation facilitated by a time of turmoil as well as by some of the "Us" and "Them's" described earlier (such as Christian/Pagan, Latin/German etc). This in a way mirrors the modus operandi of the established church (as in an organisational structure and not as in lay religiousity/piety). Homogenity was not enforced, but only those local movements that both challenged the roles of ordained priests and/or the pope and simultaniously grew suffeciently a following were marked by the church for destruction (whether Cathar, Bogomil or similar) when peaceful means didnt do the job.


It is a simplification, but I think it's a simplification that brings much larger themes into perspective, the ones that move the era.

How politically powerful can the Diedne really be if they don't have sufficient allies to stop their being Renounced? In modern terms, even North Korea can do better than that. And, if they are powerful, why don't people want to join with them, rather than oppose them? Or at least both?

Add a religious dimension, and things start to make a lot more sense. This is an age steeped in religion; religion serves as a sufficiently powerful motivator or excuse to send massive expeditions across Europe to Jerusalem.

It's a big brushstroke, but I think it's a good brushstroke, one usually lacking.

The big brushstrokes: Religion, family, feudalism.



I did my history honours back in the 90's, when basically the easy way to get an A on every history paper was to look at any subject and say "Race, Sex, Class". For me, that means that I've pretty much done ""Race, Sex. Class" and so although I can see it as being interesting for people as a way of looking at the Order and the Schism, I find it too simple a way of looking at things. IMC, Tremere may have been right. Tremere may have been wrong. If I have players who have an interest one way or the other, I design stories that pique their interest. So, I'm not for a single interpretation.

Some snippage follows

I agree, but I'd point out that the first appearances of Christ with the cross are far earlier than the ones you cite. Initially it was profane to have Christ in human form, so you get a lamb by the cross, and the lamb is a metaphoric representation of Jesus.

I'm sorry, but I really don't agree that you could not say who was a "true" of "false" Christian before the C18th. I mean, how is the Arian Heresy possible in this model? How was -any- heresy possible in this model? How could Saint Ambrose threaten to excommunicate the emperor for not being the right type of Christian? How could Constantine tell his people to kick Arians out of office? Actually, how could the whole Iconoclast/Iconodule thing, with the sacking of monateries of the wrong type of Christian under Constantine IV and Vth happen (leading, in game, to the formation of Valnastium and House Jerbiton?) I'd suggest that you clearly do have military reprisal on heretics far earlier than you posit.

*snippage again8

I think that you are mistaken here. I agree that, in most areas, an attempt was made to reconcile heretics by preaching as the first order of business. Indeed, that's what the Dominicans existed for, but the sort of purges you are talking about happen all the time in the early Church. I think, and this is just a suggestion, that by limiting yourself to the Church of Rome, you are overlooking examples from the pre-Schismatic Church, like the purges against Arians.

Thinking about Owara's recent post, I was struck with this question: why is it that people categorically seem to think that the Diedne could not have really performed human sacrifice, and that therefore this material made up by the other Houses. What about Diedne magi committing ritual murder strikes us as being so utterly unlikely?

I'm struck by the question: is it because we are in an essentially Christian milleu, which makes human sacrifice sound unlikely? I can see it as being really quite likely indeed, if argued a certain way. For example, we know very little about the Celtic religion, but we know from many other cultures that practiced capital punishment for crimes that these punishments took the form of sacrifices. Indeed, Jesus himself seems to have been sacrificed to a pagan god by his captors, given that he died on a date auspicious to a Roman goddess. The Vikings did this pretty regularly, in so far as I can tell, by killing witches on hills or cliffs dedicated to Thor on days holy to Thor, indeed the parliament of the Isle of Man still meets on such a hill, on Saint John's Day, which was one of Thor's days.

Perhaps it is because recently I've been looking a lot at Indian magic, and you have things like the thugee and the juggernaut and practices like sati, which if we put them in the game people would consider spectacularly unlikely also.

I'm not saying that -in game- the Diedne have to have actually killed people. What I am saying is that I think when we look at Diedne, if we insist that they must be essentially modern in their outlook, especially with regard to capital punishment, then we are romanticising them, because we are making the pagans suit a Christian morality, or at least an Abrahamic one (he was the guy who tried to kill his son as a sacrifice to God, remember? There are a couple of other human sacrifices to God slightly later in the Bible, but He calls it off later.)

I think it's an entirely reasonable sort of thesis that Diedne magi may have exercised a religion-based justice system that required the sacrifice of criminals to their gods. I think our tendency to say that human sacrifice by the Diedne seems unlikely is due to the fact that we, living in a state of basically Christian-desirved reasonableness, see that as the case. And yet, you still get pointless honour killings in India and Pakistan that if we tried to put them in the game, people would say "No, see, that's not reasonable."

I'm struck by the Aztec example...their religion is, from their perspective, was not only reasonable but actually a necessary burden on what they would have prefered to do, which is keep all of their prisoners as tributants or slaves. Again, utterly unreasonable from our persepctive, which is why when you see it in game material like original D&D, it gets cleaned up so that their sun god is Good and takes care of the people who, very occassionally were killed for him, and their a rival group of drow who are really the evil guys and who like doing this sort of thing.

That is, I see no reason why the Diedne should be reasonable by my standards of human rights, and so I see no reason why they shouldn't have a system of capital justice that involves sacrifice. Is their justice system supposed to be secular or something, given that we know one of the duties of the druids was to know the law?

I think part of the problem that pushes us to reject the idea that they indulged in human sacrifice is a combination of the motivation of us as roleplayers and the officially published informtion.

As roleplayers we are constantly looking for new ideas and new ways to interpret the story to make something more intersting out of it. Many adventures are mystery based, solving a riddle or a crime of some description. As such I would say we are predisposed towards questioning the official line.

As for the official position on this, I feel it plays into that arena perfectly. there are plenty of hints that this may not have been the case; perhaps they were 'fitted up' by other houses for political reasons.

So we have the dilemma - we can allow the possibility it was a stich up into our story and thus we have points of interest and potential stories to uncover 'the truth'. Or we accept it as a fact and we cut off that possibility to a much greater extent.

What I am certain of is that to a great extent most hermetic magi believe this was the case; the eagerness with which PC magi refute this notion is a little bit annoying considering it is recorded as fact officially within the Order.

I can recognize the trend to have the Diedne not been into human sacrifices, and I think that your analysis on how games tend to treat the subject appears sound. Many games tend to address issues of culture/tradition/practices too wrapped up in unuanced or anachronistic notions of morality.

This thread being about what stories are prefered rather than a hassle over what is closest to the RAW (another otherwise interesting discussion but one found in the other sibling thread), I still think it's fair to say that the perception of the Diedne is quite influenced by how earlier editions portrayed them (vis-Ã -vis the Tremere).

I my present saga the Diedne did perform human sacrifice. Not as a constant thing, but as something that was utterly holy and revered by them. And in thread with what they believed in - and not in spite of it (as it would be to some infernalists). In this sense I have no trouble describing the Diedne as someone who did occasionally sacrifice humans and still have them be somewhat a victim of the Schism War. They were not infernalists (though the House probably like any other had a few hiding in shadows) and when I say they were victimized by the Schism War it is not to be understood as made so by deliberate conniving from any singular opponent - but due to, as described above, the simple tragedy of things spiralling out of control due to chaotic times and due to uncompromising people on both sides of the escalating conflict.

When I in the first post speak of the sacrifice the Guernici's forebears, I do not think of the human sacrifice of a Diedne during Fenicil's ritual, but on the fact that they sacrificed a bit of their ideals. They did so both when they fabricated false evidence and when they strayed from ruling by Law rather than might and deceit. In a sense the Diedne sacrificed in that ritual do become a symbol of that moral sacrifice, but the essence of it is so much more important.

And I'm fully aware of the dilemmas this will cause the day the characters -especially the one who's himself follower of a remnant Diedne line (though this is only now dawning on him)- when they realise that the people who's names they are so desperately trying to clear, actually did things that by their laterday morals are horrible acts.... Will they keep their resolve? Or will they still be able to navigate conflicting emotions? It is always much harder to defend people you do not neccesarily sympathise with.. or at least makes your question what morals are..

Now that is an interesting story to tell IMHO.

That and the fact that stories about those judged unfairly or even becoming martyrs seems such a lure to book-readers, movie-goers, and roleplayers alike... Even if it the little guys fight against overwhelming odds is a somewhat overly trodden path.

I think the line has been good at, in generel, leaving room for the telling of different stories dependent on preferences, yet still being able to draw extensively on the RAW. In another light, by supplying the players with amble story hooks to very different stories the books are also the better suited to cater to different groups of fans. This is entirely meant as a praise!

True. But I'd also say that in the long run this is very much about the ability and will to destinguish between player and character insights. Personally I would find it very interesting to tell a story of this sort if the characters already anticipate it in advance (in such a case I'd be quick to twist the story differently). That players do so is entirely fine - as long as they are still able to enjoy the story and to immerse themselves in it and how the story affects their character.

Timothy (and Ken).

I overstated myself in the post on medieval Christianity. Maybe most of all because I was both tired and basically in doubt about what point I was trying to make. And that's a really bad combo.

I think I'm more aware now. What I was basically trying to say was that the dichotomy Christian/Pagan seems to me far too simple. My point of departure might be that I often find that the public notion of what it meant to be Christian in the Middle Ages is overly rigid. Religiousity was quite heterogenous even if under the same broad label.

In hindsight I'm very aware that I was wrong if saying that purges didnt exist from early on. And no I had no thought in direction of Nicaea or the times leading up to it. I were in fact using a big brushstroke to talk against overly wide brushstrokes - it's utterly ironic isn't it? :wink:

One thing though - I didnt speak of the C18th, Timothy, but about the 16th. And I think the point is was trying to make was that why there have been purges before, the Reformation and later on the wars in the end leading up to the Thirty Years' War made "policing" on individuals' beliefs much more widespread. Many of the prosecutions, at least in Northern Europe, of individuals accused of heresy and witchcraft and of burning people at the stake only reached its peak after the Reformation - whereas it seems a common thing by people without interest in history to place this peak in the High Middle Ages. Maybe it's this misconception rather than the matter at hand that drew my hand.

Ken - you compared the Schism War with the Crusades and I see the similarities, but in some ways I see more similarities with the Thirty Years' War - or at least the various conflicts between Lutherans and Catholics - because of the somewhat equal force of the two sides yet both somewhat within the same religious pradigm. Or maybe with the occasional medieval slaying of Jews, because of the wholesale slaughter.

The Schism War isn't about baptizing by force as were some Crusades, nor is it about conquering/liberating holy places or reconquering lost Christian lands as where other Crusades. The Schism War is about annihilating the enemy. Utterly. And then moving on to make an effort to make even the evidence of their existence rare.

Yes, that was a typographical error on my part. I knew you meant C16th. Sorry for that.

I thought that might have been the case.

And a happy new year to you - I expect you must have entered 2008 by now? ("Extra Extra.... RPG-forum invents a machine by which to speak across the boundary of time! It is almost magical" :laughing: )

Oh, yes, it's been January for 100 minutes now. Happy New Year for all of you still in yesterday. 8)

Any such thing as yesteryear even? :laughing:

Well - see you next year then!

IFAIK there is no evidence outside of Caeser that the Celts/druids sacrificed humans as a punishment. Indeed the only real archaeological evidence for human sacrifice we have (in Britain) is the Lindow Man who appears to have been of high status and a willing victim. There is some suggestion now, amongst Celtic Reconstructionists, that it was an honor to be sacrificed to the Gods (after all who would you want to send off with a message to your deities, someone trustworthy or some scuzzy outcast?).

IMS I've yet to decide what to do about the Diedne. However there's a recumbent stone circle within sight of the covenant where the local hedge tradition still practice human blood sacrifice, although not murder. It's a tradition of midwives and I'm toying with some ritual involving menstrual blood...

Well Ceaser was fairly clear that the Druids believed in reincarnation. What if the Diedne belief was that twilight destroyed the soul and death preserved it? Ritual sacrifice of elder magi would probably be enough to get the order in a uproar (especially as under 5th ed rules twilight is a much more likely end then natural death).


Caeser is hardly a trustworthy source on anything concerning the Druids considering he was balked by the Celts in his Roman expansionist conquests, so had a very evident political axe to grind in using the age old propaganda tool of vilifying them in whatever manner best suited populist opinion of the day.

Considering too that the Romans made a sport of human sacrifice all Roman sources should be taken with a grain of salt by anyone capable of exercising critical analysis.

All the archeological evidence (as intimated above) both in the UK and in Denmark I believe, suggests that IF there was any sort of "sacrifice" overseen by druids, it was more than likely judicial in nature (as Druids WERE the veritable authorities in Celtic society) and in full keeping with the practices of most (if not all) other European cultures of the day.

The slant against Diedne to my mind remains so obviously one of cultural bigotry and political connivance, but Im just kicking the horse's carcass at this point. :wink:


I'm going to back up a little. Pull back, rather, because I ought to start with my big picture.

I want my Mythic Europe to feel medieval. Not real medieval, necessarily, though that's always good! But mythic medieval, the kind of medieval most of us who do not do lots of research on the subject think of medieval. For me, one of the great challenges of Ars Magica is making Hermetic Magi feel medieval. This kind of magic is not at all based on medieval magic, for all the wonderful work that has been done to fit it in. Rather than get the 'medieval science' right, I prefer to get the medieval culture right, to make wizards part of the world.

So, when I think of a great war between factions of medieval wizards, my model for a great medieval war between archenemies is.... a Crusade! There were no Crusades before the medieval period and none after. Fitting Diedne into a Crusade makes my magi feel more medieval. Bringing out the Christianity of most magi also makes them feel like they belong in their era, rather than ours.

It's fiction; I can choose to make my Schism War to be anything I want it to be. I don't want it to look like the 30 Years War. I want it to look like a Crusade.

In a similar way, I like to stress the coincidence of the rise of the Order in the 8th century right alongside halting the Islamic expansion. I play up the idea that the East became Muslim because the empire did not allow magic and repressed magi, and therefore could not stand up to the Muslim wizards, but that the West had a different relationship to magi, as they did to Jews and other minorities, always more tolerant. The result was a mostly Christian Order that mostly supports the idea of Christendom.

So, on the one hand, I can choose an epic war against the Diedne that wasn't epic enough for anyone outside the Order to notice, nor epic enough to affect mundane history. On the other hand, I can choose something a lot more modern, like the Thirty Years War.

I take neither hand, and choose a Crusade, perhaps the very first one. This plants magi in the great events of their time, rather than skulking around the edges.

Sample challenge facing the Order:

Right now, women and Jews are still full members of the Order. But some people are not comfortable with this....



Well, in as much as we have NO written records from the Celts, there is no evidence whatsoever. There is more than one example of a human intentionally killed and tossed lightly into a bog, but whether this is wiling sacrifice, execution (formal or vigilante) or old-fashioned murder still comes down largely to speculation and circumstantial evidence, if done with the best academic window-dressing. :wink:

However, it's important to remember that this is NOT "Historical Europe", but Mythic Europe, and so myths carry as much, or more weight than "historically based" details. That said, how you want to interpret Diedne and their Celtic traditions is saga specific, and no one should presume to gainsay your decisions on that matter, any more than they should tell you how to have fun. :wink:

As far as a Crusade-type March, a "get a few thousand soldiers and go marching across Europe" type affair, before you go there think about the ramifications and reactions, short and long term. When the Pope tried it (see Albigensian Crusade), things did not go as smoothly as he might have hoped in the long run. 8)

Ooooh, lively discussions! It ain't new, but it's always fun to read. Holy muskellunges, that's a burst of posts. Happy New Year's all.

Furion: I'd agree that anything simplistically dualistic (i.e. Pagan vs. Christian) would be too much like an olde-tyme AD&D dungeon crawl and much more fun if you keep throwing in as many other parameters of real Europe as the troupe and guides could reasonably handle (Latin/Germanic political heritages; growth of mercantilism vis-a-vis historic and/or mythic Europe; etc.). But I am not the greatest of storytellers and writers so I'm only going so far anyway. ; ) And anything "pure" isn't going to swim too well in the ol' heterogenous and chaotic waters of stories that emulate real life and history, anyway.

Cisalpine? Sweet, I had to look that one up and learn it. :laughing: I have faaar to go in filling in my knowledge of European history. I threw out suppression and bias but as possibilities (and story devices), but misconceptions and prejudices are all right in there, too. Gradual conceptualization of 'the Other' (i.e. us and them) for me is about evolving forms of -isms, crudely or refined, "good" or "bad", whether its racism, supremacism (of varying sorts), orthodoxy-ism (I jest) and more as far as tragedies go (and that, of course changes with time and culture) - but I'd like to understand more of what your talking of there. What I ain't trying to do is put the 20th century crucible of developing individual and collective human rights superimposed on a simulation of very historic mythic Europe. BUT I'd love to use the Hermetic order and mythic Europe as a matrix for pushing grander events, philosophies, thaumaturgical/theurgical developments and paradigms in the saga/campaign towards our contemporaneous real-life world. Just for fun.

As an aside, it could also be fun if a few stories had a light 'Doctor Who'-esque approach (and I use the term lightly with all due respect for other scientific and historic fiction) to a storyline that was in the past and the consequent adventure with the protagonist (our troupe's magi) was the reason why something in future world history developed from it (future being post 12th century - in case I'm losing myself and others).

In an abstract: I'd want to see a couple of characters in the position as if they were Jews (and they could be too) on the run from a lethal anti-semitic Pogrom, but for House Diedne and/or as pagan-indigenous where blood and heritage vies with the Hermetic Code. That's already setup with the history of the Order, but the storytelling, roleplaying and history can be even richer given what you and I and others are talking about.
Timothy - lol! on race, sex, class esp. if that was at the exception of other factors (was it post-modernist?), but I'm all for including it alongside the economics and geopolitics of vis-extraction and grand tribunals. :slight_smile:
And I'm groovin' with the feel and tenor of Ken's posts. And any Crusade-like cataclysmic decimation involving the Order can always be swept under a regio if folks wanted to keep the mundane landscape looking untouched - regio ex machina . :stuck_out_tongue:
I'm fascinated by how seemingly many from Western civ (from real elementary school students to Ars Magica players) are very seismic (culturally-speaking) on sacrifice (not necessarily emotionally) - especially with genocides, Inquisitions and Romanesque- and other total wars and empires as being much bigger rocks in the little ol' pond of world history and culture. Mayhaps it is some residual baggage of our Western ways? We've all got some archaic ways that make our pasts all too damn interesting. : )

that's my 8 bits anyway, (a weaker dollar on the Euro :slight_smile: )


p.s. Anyone know if there are any open sagas - as well as open by design and open co-storyguiding - or anyone open to starting a saga? Is it easy enough to start one on the pbem sections? I'm still realllll new to the Ars Magica mechanic although I've been around it over the period of several years.

And Furion,

I'm fortunate that our library system carries The Exception and I've already placed an order for it to come to our local library.


Unless I'm wrong, we're still seeking another player for Ad Fons :wink: You can contact Mad Max and see this with him.