Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Daemonomachy

 

Apologies to OSP

Imagine watching your mother murder a man. Smashes his head in with a stone, tears his throat out with her teeth, splinters his bones under the blows of her fists. And when she turns to you, knuckles dripping and gore caked on her face, her eyes are empty. All tenderness and love is drained away and there is only the Beast, only the ancient violence of mammalian k-selection. You know that she would do it again, that she would do it a thousand times over for your sake. You are a child of the Beast, and the Beast will always be with you.


This is the Daemonomachy.


**


Let's turn back a spell and set the stage. We have reached the end of the second great arc in the cycle of Lu. Winter is fading and the Ancients have nearly reached the lands of Spring. DOG is with us now, the elephants and crows are our friends


Most importantly is that the first child of Lu and Tubalkhan is dead - by stillbirth or miscarriage the first of the gods of Spring did not arrive alive. Lu has fallen into deep depression and the Ancestors are trapped by a grief they have had little time to process. The victories they have gained seem much more tenuous now.


Sensing this weakness, a union of the mightiest demons forms to strike at the Ancestors and their gods.


They are less sophisticated than the ones that will follow: The true Red Law remains unknown even to them, Moloch is yet to arrive and the stones of his city have yet to be set down. This makes them no less dangerous, just straightforward. If they could strike a crippling blow here and now they would reign dominant over the Spring to come, and nascent humanity would forever flee their hunters in a killing season without end.


The demon kings have gathered all their dukes and marquisai and footmen and banner-sworn. Their generals and legions stand in ranks that stretch to each horizon.


Now are the days of decision...


**


A popular form of the sequence is provided here in translation. It is traditionally sung, with accompaniment on the gishgudi. If no gishgudi is available, other appropriate musical accompaniment will suffice.


The opening sequence, containing the initial engagement and early stages of the battle, has been omitted for the sake of brevity, as it tends to be rather long-winded in text and much more entertaining in live performance. All that is necessary to know is that the Ancestors and the gods have held back the demons for a time, but a renewed assault has broken their battle-line and killed several major gods and further minor ones. Humanity's forces are in disarray, and the oncoming defeat stirs Lu to more drastic action.

 

Dandibuja

**


She sheds her hides
She casts her bracelets to the ground
And unbinds her braid
Naked to the battle line she strides forth
The Crown of Fire burns white on her brow


A Prince of Power meets her,
brandishes his gleaming bronze sword
and jewelled cuirass.


He mocks her, saying
"See how the she-ape seeks to threaten us,
swollen with the pride of a little stolen sunfire?
Watch closely now; I will remind her
of the dominion of Sword-Law."
With princely mastery in arts most violent
he brings down his sword upon Lu.


With dragonfly speed
She bites the sword in two;
with her teeth she destroys the sword of bronze.
She strikes him in his side.
His blood paints the moon;
Crimson his blood paints the plains of the moon.
Two trunkless legs fall;
nothing beside remains.


The legions recoil;
With shields and spears they join in formation.
They form a wall eleven ranks deep.
Their lords rally their legions;
Eleven ranks deep they build their formations.


She howls and beats at her breast
She has unsheathed brahmastra
She is aflame
The stone cracks open beneath her feet


She throws herself at the legions
With a lung-tearing roar she is upon them
With violence she is upon them!


Demons crumble beneath her strikes
With mighty blows she breaks their bodies
She tears their bodies into pieces
She bathes in their gore
She strikes them down as the lightning
She strikes with the sound like thunder
Like waves on the shore they break upon her
She tears at their bodies as a starving dog
She dances upon their corpses
She raises mounds of their dead
She pours out seas of their gore
The waves lap at the feet of the mountains
Hills are flattened beneath her, great gouges
are torn from the earth.
The forests burn
The earth vomits froth fire and ash
The sky grows dim with ash and smoke
She has become the face of death.
The peoples flee from her; the Folk retreat
The gods turn their heads; they cannot bear to look upon her
The elders despair
The Ancestors cry out to them
"Now we are all sons of bitches" they wail.


Lu has broken the ranks of the demons
The legions scatter before her
Their shields are rent, their blades have been turned aside
No armor might protect them
She has killed their lords
Blood-drunk she has cast them down
Anaghar is slain by her hand (it is known)
Tartaruchus is smote by her blows (it is known)
Xez-Nek has been broken (it is known), Chanaug defeated! (it is known)
Lo-Khir-Ye has been destroyed utterly! (it is known)
The Bone-Eater is unmade! (it is known)
The Princes of Power have been cast down! (it is known, it is known)
She has thrown down their corpses
The earth consumes the dead.
She pursues them as a beast
unsatisfied with blood.
Where a thousand once stood, not one survives
Where ten thousand once stood, one escapes alone


High upon the peak of Chomolungma
Tubalkhan sees that all the land of Endor has been darkened;
From horizon to horizon darkness claws at the Mountains of the Moon
He may stay with the Three no longer.
He gathers his tools;
He descends from the mountain
He speeds down its slopes on a sled
pulled by his brothers among the wolves.


One among the demons remains;
Dead or fled are the others.
The demon whose name is
[NONE SHALL SPEAK IT]
Waits for her there in the sea of gore
At the center of the sea of blood
On the island of corpses it waits for her.
In its right hand it carries a rod of kingship
In its left tablet of clay,
engraved with the names of Winter's dead.
On its brow there is black crown like brambles.


Lu arrives in fury; her strike is turned aside
The demon speaks thusly as it trades her blows
"O Lu, my queen! Bearer of the Crown of Fire,
thief and murderer,
look upon the kingdom you have claimed!
Is it not a thing of wonder?
The land has been laid to ruin,
the peoples hide their faces from it.
Such untold sufferings yet to bear;
Such terrible and mighty sufferings yet to bear.
See your people cower in fear of what thou have done.
Their lives pass through thy fingers as water.
Thou hast stolen from them ignorance of death.
Blessed are you, Lu of the forest,
who has delivered those thy loved most
into the hands of the Law of Suffering.
There is no returning; the forest is no more.
I am kin to thee;
From thy heart alone I did spring,
And there I ever shall be with thee."


Each blow Lu lands upon the demon is met
by an equal strike.


Tubalkhan reaches the border of the great battle
The destruction greets him in that place.
The gods rush to him, seeking his aid
"See now! Your wife wages war without ceasing!
She is lost to us."
Tubalkhan sees then
His most beloved,
She who shared her tent,
Burning bright in the night of smoke.
Monstrous in her countenance
and terrible to look upon;
Warring against her demon.


"What shall we do?"
the gods ask among themselves.
"She will certainly kill us all.
We must strike her down."
Tubalkhan rebukes them, saying
"Have you no eyes? There is no spear that can stave away death!"
Taking strands of strong fibers
Tubalkhan weaves great ropes
By his mastery of craft he makes them
And by the aid of the household gods he tests them;
stronger than all before or since.


Blood-blinded
Lu draws further upon
dread brahmastra.
Stone boils around her
The air forms droplets of lead;
burning they fall as rain.
Power overflows her,
far beyond what a god of man might bear.


The world groans and shakes;
Like a dying man on his bed
It cannot bear the strain
of the fire of the heavens
burning true.


She is too fast to see.
She has the demon by the neck;
In her right hand she has the neck of the demon.
She slams it to the ground
She dashes its head upon the stone.
Stone shattering, earth buckling
She drives down her fists again and again.
A hundred times she strikes;
In a hundred places its body is broken
Still the demon smiles
As it is mashed into common meat.
Still she rains down blows.


Tubalkhan gathers his handicraft
He takes to the battlefield with swift feet
He casts the great coils about Lu
Casts them about her as she strikes at
the demon's corpse.


With all his strength he pulls back, but this is not enough.
The gods join him, pulling on the ropes
And the peoples join with them
The Crown burns warm and bright upon them.
But this is not enough.


Great Grand-Mother Namacidia,
with her sons Arkasodara the White
and Ekachatradhipathi the Tall,
call the elephants to aid them.
The crows grab strands in their claws and fly forth
But this is not enough.


Tubalkhan cries out to the Folk;
He offers to them the greatest work of his hands
And they come to his aid.


Weeping, straining against her bindings,
Lu cries out
"Let me go!
Let me go!
Let me kill it!
I beg you,
Let me kill it!
Let us be free of it!"


She strains against her bindings, but
the gods are not moved.
Firmly planted are their feet
and set is their resolve.


Only her sister, whose name is known
Only among the lilu, abandoned her task
and fled with her followers.
That is another tale.


Now then, it is enough;
Broken is Lu's spirit;
She can fight no longer.
The Crown of Fire dims.
Brahmastra is veiled once more.
She falls limp to the wounded earth.
The gods, the peoples, the crows, the elephants,
Each in turn lets go of their ropes.
Tubalkhan runs forth from their number to his beloved,
Gently lifts her body from the mud and sludge,
And carries her away.


To this very day the land of that battle is desolate - no living thing grows there, and even the Folk will not set foot upon it. So great was the blow delivered to the demons that day that some say they have never recovered


Lu did not speak and ate little in the moons that followed, remaining so even after the Ancestors' arrival at Potbelly Hill and the true arrival of Spring. She would sit there beneath the bodhi tree at its summit, wrapped in a blanket, and with empty eyes look out upon the fields and groves of her peoples, saying nothing to them or even to her husband. So it was until she found Wisdom.

**

Notes and Addenda 

Well that was heavy. And also exhausting to write, ye gods. 1347 words on the raw poetry section. But enough of that, onwards to commentary.

  • It's honestly a good thing for the world that only humans generate demons (because the Crown does not fit particularly well), because could you imagine dolphin-based demons? Horror beyond horror.
  • I love how this mythos is evolving as I write for it. The contradictions are fun, because I can go back and ask "okay, what is this culture saying about things" and not have to worry about canon. Fuck canon, all my homies hate canon. 
  • A potential way demons work: Any given human soul gathers proto-demons like moths around a lamp. In most circumstances, they will feed off of negative feelings and actions passively and never manifest in a way that can be noticed. They are harmless in this state, but if they are fed long enough and grow strong enough they can form a physical manifestation, often but not always released through a trigger event.  
    • The above means that, while you get a lot of generalized demons living off of residual environmental misery, you also get personalized demons.
  • I actually had no real plan for what Lu's unnamed sister did to get exiled and didn't give it much thought. What's presented here is a common interpretation, but only that. It does fit quite nicely, though, that the demon that later tormented the lilu was born of her guilt in having abandoned the others at such a critical moment.
  • I love being able to just layer my references in these posts. I love it normally but in these posts in particular are great for them.
  • I swear happier things happen after this.

7 comments:

  1. man i hope the potbelly sermons are cheerier

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    1. srsly tho is good shit, mothers mythic cycle is ace

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  2. Beautiful poetry for a much better history than our common lot. I especially like the interpretation of Lu's massacre as a new and atrocious invention akin to doomsday weapons.

    I'm reminded of the Old Scratch post--Lu and Baba Tubalkhan are very good at minimizing the harm demons can do, learning wisdom and unlearning poison, but never get off entirely unscathed. It wouldn't have the flavor of true myth without that element of tragedy.

    Are Arkasodara and Ekachatradipathi elephants, or are they other Pleistocene beasts? The second one sounds like something Google Translate returns as 'unicorn'--a wooly rhinoceros?

    I know canon is in a way its own demon (cork-skinned, spider-eyed, wrapped in red string and studded like an nkondi with push-pins) but I really think the note on demonogenesis, and the Acupuncture Exorcism, and Demon Liquor all tie together into an excellent spiritual metabolic pathway.

    Looking forward to seeing Lu again in the Spring.

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  3. Those two are elephants - the first one is an alternate name for Airvata, the white elephant that carries Indra, and the second one is the name of an actual elephant who is very, very tall. Namacidia is pulled from the scientific name of the largest species of elephant on record.

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    1. Nice! I always appreciate good palaeontology references.

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