May 9th, 2009



  • 06:13 Another dream about cleaning up and packing. Man, I hate those! #
  • 06:31 Got some new Oz books from Tails of the Cowardly Lion yesterday. I think I'm moving them to the top of my reading list. #
  • 06:40 Why did I have a dream confusing St. George and Lancelot? They're quite different, subconscious! #
  • 06:40 The fact that my dreams involve legendary knights at all is probably a sign of incurable nerdiness. #
  • 06:43 They want to kick Katrina victims out of their trailers? Come on, government, you'll make Anderson Cooper cry! #
  • 06:44 Seriously, though, that's a bad idea from FEMA. #
  • 06:49 @mattie_bloomers Doesn't everyone tell their friends things they wouldn't tell their mothers, even without Twitter? #
  • 06:55 @DVDBoxSet I saw the first two Spy Kids movies, but not that one. #
  • 06:58 @JaredofMo Is that about "The Wizard of Oz"? :P #
  • 18:50 I have to wonder what kind of person would listen to "Hooked on a Feeling" and think, "You know what this song needs? Cavemen!" #
  • 18:55 The main advantage to a car with a CD player is that I don't have to wait until I get home to listen to new CDs. #
  • 18:56 Based on my first listen, I like Cracker's new album better than their last one. #
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Death is not the end...except when it is

Video game characters tend to be much harder to kill than real people. Well, harder to kill permanently, that is. Real people don't tend to die simply from touching turtles, but they also don't have extra lives or the ability to save the game. Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time actually gives an interesting idea as to how saving games might work in a somewhat more realistic (albeit still magical) setting, with a yeti that can record the state of its life at some point, and then regenerate in that condition after dying.

In addition to saving, role-playing games tend to include magical items and spells that can bring your characters back to life. The prominence of such items varies somewhat, with World Tree Leaves being rather rare in the Dragon Quest games, while Phoenix Down is all over the Final Fantasy series. Also interesting is that the DQ series actually has the party dragging along the coffins of fallen members (although they were replaced by blob-shaped ghosts in the earlier American releases, which really didn't make too much sense), while the FF games merely say that they've fainted or "swooned" or something. FF1 might well be the only one where you can't revive fallen characters simply by staying at an inn. And Chrono Trigger and Mystic Quest have slain characters coming back with one hit point after the battle ends (provided the entire party isn't wiped out). But the main question I have is why, when people die for the sake of the story, someone can't just give them a Phoenix Down? I mean, okay, I can see Tellah wearing himself out by casting powerful spells, but why does a sword in the back do in Aeris for good when being stabbed and shot at usually only does a minimal amount of damage? It's never all that clear. Neither is why the characters don't get any weaker when they lose hit points, at least in all the games I've played.

Speaking of death, this might well be the end of the weekly video game posts. That certainly doesn't mean I won't still be addressing video games on this journal, but I've pretty much run out of ideas for the time being.

Honk If You're Horned

The idea of deities with antlers or horns is a very old one, found in pictures dating back as far as 13,000 BC, and spread throughout the world. The most famous is probably the Greek Pan, who has the features of a goat, an insatiable libido, and the ability to inspire fear. He's a god of the wilderness and an adept musician, first worshipped in Arcadia before his fame spread throughout the Greek world. His place in the Olympian pantheon was somewhat unclear, with his usually being considered a son of Hermes and Penelope (not the same as Odysseus' wife, although they were apparently sometimes confused), but also sometimes being the son or even foster brother of Zeus. He was also said by Plutarch to have died, but since he's a god, I have the feeling that such rumors were greatly exaggerated. The Roman name for Pan was Faunus, which had been used for a native Italian deity before the Romans co-opted the Greek pantheon.

Another significant horned god was the Celtic Cernunnos (who actually had antlers rather than horns, but I'm not sure the ancient Celts had different terms for those two sorts of appendages). Not much actual information on Cernunnos has survived, but like Pan, he appears to have been associated primarily with nature and fertility, but he was also regarded as a ruler of death and the underworld. He appears in a lot of artwork, and the name comes from an inscription on a carving. The name simply means "Horned One," so it's certainly possible that this wasn't actually his name, but names are tricky things when it comes to gods. The Internet mentions Uindos, Finn, and Hu Gadarn as the names of horned deities from the area. The Britons also had an antlered god known as Herne the Hunter, a quite popular figure whose origins are lost to the mists of time.

This page mentions a few horned gods from places other than Europe. Pashupati was a Northern Indian lord of animals, evidence of whom was found at Mohenjo-daro. The ancient Peruvians had a horned deity called Pachacamac, regarded as the son of the sun god and patron of light, fire, and life and death.

Nowadays, the Horned God is an important figure in many neo-pagan religions, but even more prominent is the depiction of Satan as a horned figure, closest in appearance to Pan. I don't know that there's any established source for the origins of the goat-like Devil (who certainly didn't appear anywhere in the Bible), but popular belief has it that it was part of the general early Christian trend of re-branding pagan deities as demons. Since horned gods were not only popular but also often associated with sex and wild behavior, they were probably particularly tempting targets for a religion that wanted to paint such things as sinful. Besides, while I don't think Pan was ever associated with the world of the dead, other horned gods were, which quite possibly made the transition into the ruler of the Christian Hell run more smoothly. Besides, it's not like they could have used Zeus as the image of the Devil, since depictions of him weren't all that different from ones of Yahweh.