Tuesday, September 24, 2019

OSR & Monster Ecology Commentary - Werebears & Goddesses For Your Old School Campaigns

The ubicquitous David Trampier Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Monster Manual artwork. 

I've been looking into one of my favorite Dungeons & Dragons monsters today - The werebear! Yeah that's right I've been a fan of these guys since I was a kid. These lycanthropes go all the wayback to the foundation of original Dungeons & Dragons. They run all of the way through into Pathfinder today; 

"The werebear first appeared in the original Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974).[1]
The werebear appeared in the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the original Monster Manual (1977).[2] The werebear appeared as a player character race in Dragon #24 (April 1979). The werebear appeared as a character class in White Dwarf #17, by Lewis Pulsipher.[3]
The werebear appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977,[4] 1981, 1983). The werebear appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991).[5] The werebear appeared as a player character class in Night Howlers (1992).
The werebear appeared in the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989),[6] and was reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).[7]
The lycanthrope appeared as a creature template in the third edition Monster Manual (2000),[8] and in the 3.5 revised Monster Manual (2003), with the werebear as a sample creature. The werebear appeared as a player character race in Dragon #313 (November 2003)."

Now while most folks would talk about the werebear's origins being closely associated with Native American mythology & we'll get to those in another blog entry! Instead I want to talk about the European  &  the Greco Roman legends of Callisto or Kallisto (/kəˈlɪst/Ancient GreekΚαλλιστώ [kallistɔ̌ː]); "As a follower of Artemis, Callisto, who Hesiod said[1] was the daughter of Lycaon, king of Arcadia,[2] took a vow to remain a virgin, as did all the nymphs of Artemis. But to have sex with her, Zeus disguised himself as Artemis (Diana) herself, in order to lure her into his embrace. Callisto was then turned into a bear, as Hesiod described:
...but afterwards, when she was already with child, was seen bathing and so discovered. Upon this, the goddess was enraged and changed her into a beast. Thus she became a bear and gave birth to a son called Arcas.
Either Artemis "slew Kallisto with a shot of her silver bow,"[3] perhaps urged by the wrath of Juno (Hera)[4] or later Arcas, the eponym of Arcadia, nearly killed his bear-mother, when she had wandered into the forbidden precinct of Zeus. In every case, Zeus placed them both in the sky as the constellations Ursa Major, called Arktos (αρκτος), the "Bear", by Greeks, and Ursa Minor.

Diana and Callisto
 by Rubens, c. 1635
According to Ovid,[5] it was Jupiter (Zeus) who took the form of Diana (Artemis) so that he might evade his wife Juno’s detection, forcing himself upon Callisto while she was separated from Diana and the other nymphs.[6] Callisto's subsequent pregnancy was discovered several months later while she was bathing with Diana and her fellow nymphs. Diana became enraged when she saw that Callisto was pregnant and expelled her from the group. Callisto later gave birth to Arcas. Juno then took the opportunity to avenge her wounded pride and transformed the nymph into a bear. Sixteen years later Callisto, still a bear, encountered her son Arcas hunting in the forest. Just as Arcas was about to kill his own mother with his javelin, Jupiter averted the tragedy by placing mother and son amongst the stars as Ursa Major and Minor, respectively. Juno, enraged that her attempt at revenge had been frustrated, appealed to Tethys that the two might never meet her waters, thus providing a poetic explanation for their circumpolar positions in ancient times."

In Jupiter and Callisto by François BoucherZeus/Jupiter takes the form of Artemis/Diana (Nelson-Atkins Museum of ArtKansas City)

Besides the fact that Zeus could never keep it in his pants it the means that among the stars are the children of  Ursa Major and Minor who are basically the gods & patrons of lots human tribes, were bear shamans, druids,beserks,etc. This goes a long way to explaining the presence of the continuance of the were bear tradition among humanity. This legend possibly goes back to the creation of humanity during the days of  before the oceans drank Atlantis & before the pre Bibilcal floods.

Lions painted in the Chauvet Cave. This is a replica of the painting from the Brno museum Anthropos. The absence of the mane sometimes leads to these paintings being described as portraits of lionesses. I see bears as well but that's me. All of this goes a long way to explaining the presence of were bears among the various druids covens, shaman's of various tribes, etc. Yes this ties directly in with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea but it also ties in with orginal Dungeons & Dragons. I think original Dungeons & Dragons owes a debt for the werebear to J.R.R. Tolkein's Hobbit in the form of Beorn.

Beorn by JMKilpatrick (jmkilpatrick.deviantart.com)

For the Lord of the Rings crowd there's a long history of were bears in the character of Beorn; The Man named Beorn lived in a wooden house on his pasture-lands between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood, to the east of the Anduin. His household included an animal retinue (horses, dogs, sheep, and cows, among others); according to Gandalf, Beorn "does not eat them; neither does he hunt or eat wild animals".[3]. He grew large areas of clover for his bees, who made his famous honey.
Gandalf believed that Beorn was either a descendant of the bears who had lived in the Misty Mountains before the arrival of the giants, or he was a descendant of the men who had lived in the region before the arrival of the dragons or Orcs from the north.
Beorn was of immense size and strength for a man and retained his size and strength in bear-form. He had black hair (in either form) and a thick black beard and broad shoulders (in human form). While not a "giant" outright, Beorn's human form was of such great size that the three and a half foot tall Bilbo judged that he could have easily walked between Beorn's legs without touching his body. Beorn also named the Carrock and created the steps that led from its base to its flat top.
In The Hobbit, Beorn received Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins and 13 Dwarves and aided them in their quest to reclaim their kingdom beneath the Lonely Mountain. He was convinced of their trustworthiness after confirming their tale of encountering the Goblins of the Misty Mountains and Gandalf's slaying of their leader, the Great Goblin. In addition to giving the group much-needed supplies and lodging, Beorn gave them vital information about what path to take while crossing Mirkwood.
Later, hearing of a vast host of Goblins on the move, Beorn arrived at the Lonely Mountain in time to strike the decisive blow in the Battle of Five Armies. In his bear form he slew the Goblin leader, Bolg and his bodyguards. Without direction, the Goblin army scattered and were easy pickings for the other armies of MenElves, Dwarves, and Eagles. Beorn often left his home during the narrative of The Hobbit for hours or days at a time, for purposes not completely explained."

So what's all of this bear lycanthrope ecology information what's this have to do with my current OSR fetish? Well if we look at the Godbound rpg angle then we've got the "
Proteans are Lunars, perfect shapeshifters with exceptional physical capabilities" who are basically Lunars from the Exalted Rpg that have OSR rules that work. But I've always wanted to get into the heart of why, "Werebears in their humanoid form prefer to wield larger and heavier weapons such as great swords, or great axes."  This gets into the other Greco Roman goddess, "Artio (Dea Artio in the Gallo-Roman religion) was a Celtic bear goddess! "
Own photograph by Sandstein
" A bronze sculpture from the Muri statuette group, found near Bern in Switzerland, shows a large bear facing a woman seated in a chair, with a small tree behind the bear. The woman seems to hold fruit in her lap, perhaps feeding the bear.[2]. The sculpture has a large rectangular bronze base, which bears the inscription "Deae Artioni / Licinia Sabinilla" ("To the Goddess Artio" or "Artionis", "from Licinia Sabinilla"). If the name is Gaulish but the syntax is Latin, a dative Artioni would give an i-stem nominative *Artionis or an n-stem nominative *Artio. That would perhaps correspond to a Gaulish n-stem nominative *Artiu.
Other inscription to the goddess have been discovered in Daun (CIL 13, 4203), Weilerbach (CIL 13, 4113), Heddernheim (CIL 13, 7375 [4, p 125]), and Stockstadt (CIL 13, 11789).
She's strongly connected with the legends of King Arthur -Her name is derived from the Gaulish word artos, bear (Delamarre 2003 p. 55-56), from Proto-Celtic *arto-, from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ŕ̥tḱos, bear. A Celtic word may also be the source for the name Arthur."

The Dark Albion OSR setting  & Lion & Dragon rpg the were bears are a part of an extinct chaos cult which was a part of the rebellion against the Elven overlords in the setting thousands of years ago. The great axe & sword were part of the symbols of the chaos cult. There are very few indivduals or covens of this mysterious & ancient cult connected with the old gods.

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