Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Song for Yamtwit

Yamtwit, a character in my 2nd-edition, play-by-mail game, was built (at least partly) around the spell "Sanctify Ghi" from the article Arcane Lore: Monsoons and the Power of Om by Michael A. Selinker from Dragon Magazine #225. The short version is that the spell makes several doses of magical clarified butter which works as a kind of poor-man's healing potion (heals 1d3 damage). Yamtwit has recently expanded out to other "Vedic spells", especially one called "Steep Soma Juice" which has a similar potion-like effect.

Curious, I, of course, went and asked wikipedia about Soma juice, and found a reference to this poem. The last 6 stanzas of this poem are a familiar protestant Hymn...the first half is much more awesome...the whole thing is singable if you know the tune...

THE BREWING OF SOMA
by J.G. Whittier
http://hinduonline.co/HinduReligion/Gods/Soma.html
Soma, also called Soma-Pavamana,
is one of the most important
deities in the Rgveda.
The entire ninth Mandala
is devoted to his praise.
He is the presiding deity of the
Soma creeper whose juice is often
used in sacrifices as 
offering and drink. 
He is praised as the Supreme God.
He cures the mortals of their diseases, 

gives them joy and leads them
to immortal blissful worlds.
He rules over the mind and 

is described as 'lord of speech'.
He makes ordinary mortals wise sages.
He creates the worlds,
Rules over mountains and rivers.

and also the moon.

The fagots blazed, the caldron's smoke
  Up through the green wood curled;
"Bring honey from the hollow oak,
Brink milky sap," the brewers spoke,
  In the childhood of the world.

And brewed they well or brewed they ill,
  The priests thrust in their rods,
First tasted, and then drank their fill,
And shouted, with one voice and will,
  "Behold, the drink of the gods!"

They drank, and lo! in heart and brain
  A new, glad life began;
They grew of hair grew young again,
The sick man laughed away his pain,
  The cripple leaped and ran.

"Drink, mortals, what the gods have sent,
  Forget you long annoy."
So sang the priests, From tent to tent
The Soma's sacred madness went,
  A storm of drunken joy.

Then knew each rapt inebriate
  A winged and glorious birth,
Soared upward, with strange joy elate,
Beat, with dazed head, Varuna's gate,
  And sobered, sank to earth.

The land with Soma's praises rang;
  On Gihon's banks of shade
Its hymns the dusky maidens sang;
In joy of life or mortal pang
  All men to Soma prayed.

The morning twilight of the race
  Sends down these matin psalms;
And still with wondering eyes we trace
The simple prayers to Soma's grace,
  That verdic verse embalms.

As in the child-world's early year,
  Each after age has striven
By music, incense, vigils drear,
And trance, to bring the skies more near,
  Or life men up to heaven!

Some fever of the blood and brain,
  Some self-exalting spell,
The scourger's keen delight of pain,
the Dervish dance, the Orphic strain,
  The wild-haired Bacchant's yell, -

The desert's hair-grown hermit sunk
  The saner brute below;
The naked Santon, haschish-drunk,
The cloister madness of the monk,
  The fakir's torture show!

And yet the past comes round again,
  And new doth old fulfill;
In sensual transports wild as vain
We brew in many a Christian fane
  The heathen Soma still!

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
  Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
  In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard
  Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
  Rise up and follow Thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
  O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
  Interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
  Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
And noiseless let Thy blessing fall
  As fell Thy manna down.

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
  Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
  Thy beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the hearts of our desire
  Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be numb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
  O still, small voice of calm!

__________________________________________________________
For the curious, and those looking for something gameable in this, the spells in question are re-printed here for your use:

Sanctify ghi
(Alteration) Reversible
Sphere: All
Level: 1
Range: Touch
Components: V, S, M
Duration: Permanent
Casting Time: 8 hours
Area of Effect: 2 ounces/level
Saving Throw: None

This augments the holy clarification of butter into a liquid
substance called ghi. Cow or buffalo milk must be churned,
boiled, and blessed to make holy ghi, which can be used on
undead as holy water. When drunk, the holy ghi acts as a mild
curative, healing 1d3 points of damage per ounce. The reverse
of this spell, desecrate ghi, is used by evil priests to create a
liquid butter version of unholy water, which harms paladins and
Kshatriya. Either of these spells can be used to counter the
other.

Steep soma-juice
(Alteration)
Sphere: Protection
Level: 2
Range: Touch
Components: V, S, M
Duration: One week
Casting Time: 8 hours
Area of Effect: 2 ounces/level
Saving Throw: None

This spell is per Legends & Lore, page 132. It is primarily for
those of Indian societies, though others could be allowed to use
it or their deities could grant it if the Dungeon Master desires.
When the priest brews and blesses the soma plant's leaves, he
creates a powerful magical juice. Those drinking at least one
ounce a week receive two benefits: an increase of one point of
Constitution and immunity to non-magical disease. These
effects dissipate at the end of a week without soma-juice. The
priests generally restrict the usage of the juice to nobles and
priests.