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#4 - Danann Covenant
It is high time to give some thought on the veritable subject of Underworld as the fourth file of the archives is pried open. The age old cosmological formula goes as follows. The world, according to the religious mind, consists of three levels, vertically stacked upon one another. In the heavenly top level sublime spirits, light, angels, abstractions and law giving gods of the fatherly type reside. The middle level is the ground on which us mortals are born and die. And finally down below this ground is the world of the dead, the place of rotting demons, ice and lava, torture, swan inhabited rivers that steal your memories and thresholds guarded by bizarre creatures. Now, things get interesting each time the middle or earthly level receives visitations from the other two levels, where being in the proper sense of the word holds sway. Ghosts and demons appear, golden chips start to float in the air, kings are surrounded by awesome and terrible auras, dogs bark, garments of saints are charged with electrical power (mana) and stable identities are broken by seizures of rapture and possession. These kind of visitations are manifestations of the Sacred, the so called hierophanies of Mircea Eliade, the famous phenomenologist of religion.
The Sacred is interesting precisely because it has a special kind of meaningfulness that is inherent in itself and not conditional on some utility, usefulness or market-value. The Sacred is something that the modern world, which we presently live in, lacks. The modern world has but a single level. It has no vertical dimension to lend it true meaning. It is flat, horizontal, mortal, profane, governed by the Wall Street, technology and the fleeting desires of the consumers. The middle world has always been somewhat devoid of meaning. It is in constant need of priests, artists, sportsmen and demagogues to give it color. Thus, representations of the hierophanies abide in our culture, especially on the popular side of it, of which Cabals is a part of as a collectible card game. You may have noticed that people with nerdish interests are especially prone to the lure of the Sacred. They indulge in representations of the magical that have their source in the upper or lower regions of being of the traditional cosmology. As a paradigmatic example, consider the orcs of Tolkien, created in the infernal pits and wells of Morgoth and developed further by Saruman in the underground factories of Isengard. Clearly these exemplar fantasy creatures derive their attraction from their underworldly character: blackness, violence, cannibalism and the shunning of the sun and order.
In Cabals the side most closely connected to the underworld is the Danann Covenant. In the Celtic mythology Tuatha Dé Danann are a pagan people of the goddess named Danu. The Danann conquered Ireland and were in turn beaten by mythical invaders called the Milesians and driven underground. In Cabals the Danann are interpreted as a vengeful and bloodthirsty folk of faeries making their comeback to the middle level of the world that has, since their retreat, transformed itself into the modern flatness of the 1930's. Their allies are, of course, the aristocratic British witches.
On the game board the underworldly theme of the Danann folk is reflected in the tactical emphasis of affecting the tiles (the space of the gaming board). Many Danann cards are somehow related to the conquering of the board. Most noteworthy of these is perhaps the Sidh, an action card that allows you to take control of a tile on board. In the Celtic catalog Sidh is a burial hill under which the banished Danann live. The above mentioned condensation of meaning typical to the Underworld is represented in the art work as glimmering dots, the very substance of the miraculous. In the game the Sidh is typically used to capture the so called deployment tiles of the board. This practical use of the card was quite unforeseen when the card was being designed, but afterwards it can be interpreted to support the theme of the faerie comeback from below. The deployment locations can be imagined to suddenly transform into grave mounds through which the Danann are breaking through, into the 20th century.
In the next file we look at the Sons of Osiris.
"Between day and night, between animal and plant, between summer and winter lies the rotting sphere of fungi, dusk, debris and decaying dwellings." -Morgana Le Fay
The Archives sheds some developer insight on how specific cards were designed. Read more.