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Filtering by Category: Curse of Strahd

Curse of Strahd 22: Orcus

Orcus is a god of the underworld in Etruscan mythology. He is often portrayed as a blind, bestial, gigantic, tusk-faced monster who eats human flesh; similar to the Cyclops, and is said to be the punisher of broken oaths. Primarily worshiped in the remote countryside people continued worshiping him well in to the Middle Ages.

His connection with the underworld has led to his name being connected with fairy tale monsters in popular fiction. Tolkien’s famous orcs for example have their name derived from Orcus.

Another fairy tale monster whose name comes from Orcus are the Ogres. Large giant-like beasts, they are said to have inhabited the British isles before humans settled there.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Orcus awaits in the underworld.

Orcus awaits in the underworld.

Curse of Strahd 21: Damocles

At the tyrant Dionysius II of Syracuse’s court there was a courtier named Damocles. According to the story Damocles was flattering the king and telling him how great and fortunate a man he was to have so much authority and magnificence. The king seemed pleased and offered to switch places with Damocles for a day so that he could get a taste of that fortune himself. Damocles accepted and was sat down at the opulent throne surrounded by all the luxury the kingdom could offer.

But Dionysius had arranged that a huge sword should hang above the throne, held only by a single hair of a horse’s tail, only a moment away from falling on Damocles and ending his life.

Damocles saw this and begged the king to switch back as he no longer wanted to be so “fortunate”; having realized that with great fortune and power comes great danger.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Power.

Power.

Curse of Strahd 20: Societas Draconistarum

The Order of the Dragon was an order of nobles founded by the king of Hungary, Sigismund von Luxembourg, in 1408. Modeled on the orders from the Crusades, its purpose was to fight the enemies of Christianity in general and the Ottoman Empire in particular. Its members pledged to:

“In company with the prelates, barons, and magnates of our kingdom, whom we invite to participate with us in this party, by reason of the sign and effigy of our pure inclination and intention to crush the pernicious deeds of the same perfidious Enemy, and of the followers of the ancient Dragon, and of the pagan knights, schismatics, and other nations of the Orthodox faith, and those envious of the Cross of Christ, and of our kingdoms, and of his holy and saving religion of faith, under the banner of the triumphant Cross of Christ...”

One of its members was Vlad II Dracul, "Vlad the Dragon". His son, Vlad III, would be known as the son of the Dragon… Dracula.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Order of the Dragon.

Order of the Dragon.

Curse of Strahd 18: Lychantrope

Werewolves are widespread in European folklore, with stories of men turning in to wolves going back to late antiquity. In Western Europe werewolves were often connected with shape-shifting sorcerers and witches who abducted children. During the European witch hunts large numbers of people, especially in France, were accused of being werewolves and burned at the stake for it.

In Eastern Europe however it seems that some of the stories may have originated from Viking berserkers dressed in wolves’ hides, resistant to pain and fighting viciously to the end; not unlike the animal whose hide they were wearing.

The stories there focused more on the superhuman speed and strength, such as in the tale of Vseslav the prince who ruled the town during the day and prowled in the guise of a wolf all across Belarus and Ukraine during the night. Gradually the stories of werewolves in Eastern Europe became intertwined with those of the vampires.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Man-wolf.

Man-wolf.

Curse of Strahd 17: Orphanim

In Ezekiel, the throne of God is said to be moved around on wheels: “The four wheels had rims and they had spokes, and their rims were full of eyes round about.” These wheels are called the “Orphanim”.

Other texts, such as the first book of Enoch portray these Orphanim as a class of celestial beings, angels, listed alongside the Seraphim and the Cherubim. They are said to never sleep and guard the throne of God with their many eyes.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Ezekiel's vision.

Ezekiel's vision.

Curse of Strahd 16: Prometheus

The story of Prometheus, the champion who stole fire from the gods to give to humanity, is a story about us as a species. It's about our efforts to improve our existence and not accepting things as they are. It's also a tragic story about overreach and unintended consequences for that ambition. The immortal Prometheus is ultimately punished by the gods and bound to a rock. Every day an eagle would come to eat his liver, only to have it grow back overnight; repeating the process the next day.

The liver was thought to be the seat of human emotions, and similar to Mary Shelley's "Modern Prometheus", Victor Frankenstein,  both men suffer greatly for their ambitions. 

In Frankenstein one of the final words of the protagonist is to "avoid ambition". 
But we wouldn't be human if we did...

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Ambition.

Ambition.

Curse of Strahd 15: Traducianism

Traducianism is a Christian doctrine about the origins of the soul originally championed by scholars such as Tertullian. It holds that God created Adam’s soul but that all the souls created thereafter are actually generated naturally along with the body and derived from the individual’s parents. This is in opposition to the creationist view on souls which states that God creates each new individual soul.

Traducianists argue that this does not make sense in relation to fundamental tenets such as the original sin. God created all things ”very good” but in order for the original sin to be transferred, the creationist view would require God to create sinful souls. They also argue that God’s creation is supposed to be finished, so how could he still be required to create new souls?

Finally, in Genesis 6 there are stories of offspring with human bodies and demonic souls, resulting from the union of angels and humans. Surely God could not be responsible for having created those demonic souls?

However, the creationist view is held firmly today within the Roman Catholic Church. It is in line with the churches’ stance against abortion and according to “The Catechism of the Catholic Church”, 366, “The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘ produced’ by the parents”, thus helping the church to, in their view, solidify the personhood and sanctity of each embryo.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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The original sin.

The original sin.

Curse of Strahd 14: Westinghoused

Electrocution is a portmanteau of” electro” and “execution” and was originally coined to describe electrical execution through the electric chair. At the time the “war of currents” between Thomas Edison’s direct current (DC) and George Westinghouse’s alternating current (AC) was at its peak. Edison and anti-AC activist Harold Brown had managed to get AC to be selected for powering the chair and were now portraying it as the “executioner’s current”.

The New York Times, who was generally supportive of Edison, tried to introduce the word “Westinghoused” to describe the execution method and thus discredit AC. The war raged on with DC scoring many propaganda victories like this.

However, AC was ultimately victorious, this after Thomas Edison had ended up sidelined in the new Edison General Electric company and he, and his dogmatic anti-AC stance, no longer kept the war going.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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The executioner.

The executioner.

Curse of Strahd 13: Heliophobia

In Bram Stoker’s "Dracula" the eponymous Count was weakened by sunlight, but it did not kill him. Trying to trace where the idea of vampires exploding in to a cloud of dust or catching on fire when in sunlight seems to lead to the 1922 movie "Nosferatu". In the movie, Count Orlok needs to sleep by day as the sunlight would otherwise kill him. 

One theory goes that this element was introduced in order to differentiate the story somewhat from "Dracula" which it quite proudly stole most of its plot from.

The attempts at differentiating were not enough however and the movie company Prana Film was forced to declare bankruptcy after Florence Stoker, Bram’s widow and holder of the estate, sued the company for copyright infringement and won.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Sensitive to light.

Sensitive to light.

Curse of Strahd 12: Hamartia

Hamartia is a term used to describe turns of events in dramatic literature and usually refers to the protagonists erring or having a fatal flaw, setting off a chain of events that reverses their fortunes and leads to their downfall.

In his treatise Poetics, Aristotle deemed hamartia to be necessary to create the optimal tragic hero and achieve catharsis. He wrote: "...the character between these two extremes – that of a man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty. "

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Tragic downfall.

Tragic downfall.

Curse of Strahd 11: Kresnik

Legends in Slovenia and Croatia speak of the "Kresnik", a shaman whose spirit wanders into that of an animal at night. It does this to protect the lives of the people of the land, fighting the evil powers that stalk the night. The Kresnik's nemesis is the "Kudlak", a vampiric animal that he hunts, said to represent the evil in the world.

The word Kresnik may have been derived from the Slav word for “resurrect”, making the Kresnik the “resurrector”.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Darkness falls.

Darkness falls.

Curse of Strahd 10: Valravn

According to Danish folklore, when a chieftain was killed in battle but never found, ravens would come and eat him. The ravens that ate the chieftain’s heart would gain human intelligence and supernatural powers. They would also become malicious and evil, leading wanderers astray. These ravens were known as "Valravn", "raven of the slain".

Other accounts speak of the Valravn as a restless soul flying through the night as a raven. One tale tells of a Valravn that helps a maiden find her lost betrothed in return for the life of her firstborn. The maiden agrees and the Valravn flies off…  returning years later when the couple has had their first child. It then asks the maiden if she has forgotten her promise, proceeding to rip in to the chest of the child and drinking the blood from its heart.

According to the story the Valravn then turned in to a knight, presumably having been returned to its former life.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Restless soul.

Restless soul.

Curse of Strahd 09: 4'33

Four minutes, thirty-three seconds is a composition by the American composer John Cage from 1952. The score instructs the performers not to play their instruments for the duration of the piece. It is effectively, four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence…

But not complete silence.

Because there is always the sound of the environment where the piece is performed. For Cage 4’33 epitomized his idea that any combination of sounds can be music.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Don't make a sound.

Don't make a sound.

Curse of Strahd 08: Tastevin

The color of the wine is one indicator of how mature it is. As wine is stored and aged in dark cellars, Burgundian winemakers in the Middle Ages created the tastevin, a shallow saucer-like cup made of silver. The shiny inner surface would allow them to see the color of the wine even in candlelight.

For hundreds of years it was simply a tool for winemakers but around the year 1700 it became fashionable for affluent Frenchmen to carry the tastevin in their pockets as a status symbol. Made by master silversmiths the tastevin would be engraved with the wearer’s name and be highly prized possessions.

This changed with the French revolution when opulent displays of wealth, like carrying a silver cup around wherever you went, fell out of fashion

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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A prized possession.

A prized possession.

Curse of Strahd 07: Wallachia

The area known as Wallachia is a historical region of Romania that, under the leadership of the legendary voivode Radu the Black, broke free from Hungary in 1290. As the years passed the Ottoman Empire was growing rapidly on the southern border and came to dominate much of the Balkans, including Wallachia which was ultimately forced to become a vassal of the growing empire in 1417.

Accepting this status caused an internal crisis in the country that its leader, Vlad II Dracul, had to navigate carefully. The Ottoman Empire, knowing that Vlad had been a member of the ”Order of the Dragon”, a group of noblemen who opposed the Ottoman invasion, demanded Vlad II hand over his sons as hostages. He reluctantly accepted this and continued to rule an increasingly unruly nation.

In 1447 Vlad II was assassinated by Wallachian noblemen. To avoid the country spiraling deeper in to chaos the Ottoman Empire released Vlad’s son, Vlad III Dracul, to take the reins of the nation. Vlad III put the conspirators to death and brought order... but did so with an iron fist that spared no cruelty to those that challenged him. He earned the nickname “the Impaler” because of his favored method of execution.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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The principality of Wallachia.

The principality of Wallachia.

Curse of Strahd 06: Métis

The French word Métis is derived from the latin mixtus and refers to a hybrid or someone of mixed ancestry. The term is most commonly used for Canadians with dual Indian-White ancestry, typically tracing their lineage back to unions between European trappers and traders and Algonquian women.

After the fall of New France in 1763 a distinctly unique identity began to foment among the Métis and they even formed their own nation. This Métis nation resisted the colonization efforts of Canada, a country that didn't exactly offer equality. 

This culminated in the North-West rebellion, an uprising by the Métis and a few other aboriginal groups against the Canadian state. The uprising was crushed... but today the Métis are recognized within the Canadian constitution as an ethnic group with their own culture and given special aboriginal rights.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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iTunes: http://apple.co/2wTNqHx
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Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/RedMoonRoleplaying

 

The Trapper's Bride.

The Trapper's Bride.

Curse of Strahd 05: Alfr

In the Prose Edda, a book written in 1220 by the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson, two kinds of elves are described. The Ljósálfar are the light elves, fairer than the sun to look at, dwelling in the heavenly Álfheimr. Then there are the Dökkálfar, dark and swarthy and living underground.

The light and dark elves have been interpreted to be Sturluson taking the Christian stories of angels and demons and incorporating them in to Norse mythology.  As the "Elucidarium", an encyclopedia of Christian stories had been translated to Icelandic in the previous century it is believed that this could have served as an inspiration for Sturluson.

While the duality of light and dark, good and evil, are not unique to Christianity, it is still believed the stories of the light and dark elves may be one of few early examples of Christian stories being "paganised".

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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The light and the dark.

The light and the dark.

Curse of Strahd 04: Cartomancy

Not long after playing cards appeared in Europe, around the 1400’s and 1500’s, they began to be used for fortune telling and divination. The tarot deck of playing cards especially became widely used for this purpose.

There were theories that the practice originated in ancient Egypt and the mysteries of Isis. The French priest Antoine Court de Gébelin even asserted that the name Tarot came from the Egyptian words "Tar" (road) and "Ro" (king), and translated to ”The Royal Road of Life”.

Other authors took this further and connected the use of the Tarot with the Romani people and asserted that, not only was the Tarot of Egyptian origin, so were the Romani people. 

The mistaken belief that Romani are in fact Egyptians is the etymology of the word “Gypsy”. That word, as well as connecting the Romani with the Tarot in popular culture, is something still very much alive today.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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The future is in the cards.

The future is in the cards.

Curse of Strahd 03: Renfield Syndrome

Renfield syndrome, or clinical vampirism, is the unusual obsession with drinking blood. The syndrome is named after Dracula’s follower R.M. Renfield who appears in Bram Stoker’s novel from 1897

The condition has appeared in psychiatric literature dating as far back as 1892 and has usually been mentioned in connection with extraordinarily violent crimes. It’s not, however, recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the very few cases that have been recorded could be regarded as forms of schizophrenia or paraphilia.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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"Love and Pain", Edvard Munch 1895

"Love and Pain", Edvard Munch 1895

Curse of Strahd 02: Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is believed by some to be the burial shroud that Jesus of Nazareth was wrapped in when he was buried after the crucifixion.  On it remains the negative image of what is believed to be his face. The true nature of the shroud is a controversial topic however with many studies coming out supporting the shroud’s authenticity, and many rejecting it.

A digital study in 1978 reported detecting the impressions of coins placed on both eyes. A two-lepton coin on the right eyelid and a one-lepton coin on the left.

Campaign: “Curse of Strahd”, Dungeons & Dragons
Music by: Metatron Omega, Flowers for Bodysnatchers & Wordclock

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Shrouded in mystery.

Shrouded in mystery.