Scarves of Gala
Saturday, March 17, 2018
It's Saint Patrick's Day, and green is the color! So this week I figured I'd write an article about something that I've mentioned on occasion: scarves!
What does that have to do with the color green? We'll get to that!
In Gala, scarves are the physical instruments of legal power that confer certain authority upon their wearer. I've mentioned the scarves of Gala in passing numerous times, including in an article last year about Gala's meritocratic mode of governance, and in the Prelude itself, but to my recollection I've never thoroughly explained them.
If you wanted to be arbitrary about it you could think of them as serving the same function as crowns, but there's a lot more to it than that. The structuring of legal powers has always fascinated me, especially in the study of ancient countries Rome and Greece, but even in present-day societies as well, including the United States. If you've never inquired, this is a rabbit hole that goes incredibly deep. Who has which powers, when, and where? It's really fascinating!
So, let's talk about scarves first—and I promise I'll get to the green.
Of all the possible physical symbols of power for Gala to choose from—crowns, bowls, scepters, and many more—why scarves? There are two answers:
The out-of-world answer is that the premise greatly intrigued me when I saw many years ago it in the TV series The Prisoner, where the villain of the week—"Number Two" (a different person every week, by the way)—usually wore a scarf as the symbol of their rank. I found that fascinating, especially inasmuch as different Numbers Two often wore the same scarf in different ways. Upon researching the subject I found that the idea was based on the British academic scarf, which are part of the visual accoutrement that build camaraderie and identity at these institutions.
I loved this and I resolved on the spot to incorporate it into The Curious Tale, figuring it would be an instrument of power of some kind in Gala, and that notion has held together over all these years.
The in-world answer is that scarves are practical, and the City of Sele, sited on the Landstorm over ten thousand feet above sea level, is cold. Scarves were a tradition in Ieik that Galavar carried forward when he founded Gala, choosing them to represent the legal authority of Galance, the world as ordered under Gala. And they were well-used in addition to being symbols of power, for throughout Gala's history, and especially early on, raw resources and labor were both extremely scarce.
Scarves became, like their British inspiration, part of the visual heritage of Gala. You can think of them like hats in our world, which used to be ubiquitous in Western societies. Children wore their scarves in the Academy, with the scarves being continually lengthened as the children themselves grew, each new segment representing proud characteristics or affiliations. Businesses owners created scarves for their employees. Artists created them for self-expression. They took on great ritualistic value in the practices of many demonstrations and weddings. Most people accumulated several scarves over the course of their lives, for different social settings and contexts. The materials, colors, lengths, and especially styles of wrapping became powerful cultural signals steeped in idiomatic meaning. The one difference from hats is that they were almost never strictly for fashion; there was always some kind of story or deeper meaning specific to the composition, decoration, or wrapping of each scarf. This was in keeping with the Galan ethos.
The Scarves of the Duodenary
When I speak of "the scarves of Gala," I don't usually refer to the entire custom of scarfwearing in Galan culture, but rather to the Scarves of the Duodenary in particular. Also known as the Scarves of the Meretange, the Scarves of Twelve, the Scarves of the Judiciary, and many other less-used variations, the Scarves of the Duodenary carry special significance in Gala, for these scarves encompass the entire Galan system of law. Every pillar of the system of Galan governance is endowed by at least one Scarf of the Duodenary. The scarves you hear about in the Prelude—Galavar's Yellow and Blue Scarf of the Meretange Individual, Rudis' actual and Silence's proposed Purple and Green Scarf of the Imperative, DeLatia's general's scarf, and the Purple and Gold scarf that is briefly proposed as an alternative to the Purple and Green that Silence requests—are all Duodenary scarves, carrying with them extensive and highly specific legal powers.
Galan law is rather quirky and different from how we tend to neutrally conceive of "the law," which we enumerate in terms of mandates and proscriptions developed, executed, and evaluated by the three branches of government. In Gala (and most of Relance), "the law" is much more convoluted in nature—as it indeed is for us, if we care to see that deeply into the premise of the legal system. This is because the law and the source of legal authority are actually two different things. The law itself is meaningless (or, rather, arbitrary) unless its source of authority is widely accepted; that's why you can't form your own living room legislature and expect society to comply with the laws you pass. And "the source of legal authority" is one of those things that, once you chase it long enough, you realize doesn't exist. Be it some god, a claim of royal lineage, or the United States Constitution, no source of legal authority actually guarantees the laws written in its name. The power of these supposed sources of law is actually vested in them by popular consent or some arrangement of military and economic power.
Contrast that with physical law, whose authority derives from the fundamental forces of nature: Physical law can't be broken. Nor can the laws of logic, whose authority derives from the rational and mathematical implications of the forces of nature. So you can see that, when we talk about "the law," we're usually referring to something much more capricious and small: the rules our species makes up for how we relate to one another. And because of this need we have, to bring order to the world and to our societies, and because our laws can never be guaranteed, humanity has come up with some exquisitely fascinating ideas for organizing legal authority. I mentioned ancient Rome, which is one of my favorites. Republican Rome at its height had extraordinary legal sophistication.
Due to these inspirations, Gala too took on great legal sophistication, drawing upon the traditions of Ieik, the rich legal heritage of the Panathar Empire, and other various refined sources, especially Tanzibay and Junction City. (Silence Terlais in particular, as one of the only Galans to come from Junction City, and as a prolific source of Galan law in the form of the many institutions she created, carried a great many ideas from Junction to Gala, and was third only to Galavar and DeLatia in establishing the foundations of Galan law.)
The details of the Galan legal system belong to the domain of other articles. Here, the relevant point is that all of Galan law's intricacy and erudition, and the source of legal authority thereof, are encompassed by the Scarves of the Duodenary.
The Duodenary, which in customary usage is an adjective meaning "twelve-fold," in Gala is a proper noun implying a connection to the Twelven Power. I really need to write an article at some point about the various "Powers"—the Power of the Gods, the Powers of Junction, the Powers of the World, the Twelven Power, and more—but basically the meaning here is that by making this reference these scarves are claiming the authority of natural law.
To further underscore this association, all Scarves of the Duodenary are striped lengthwise (or, extremely rarely, crosswise or both lengthwise and crosswise) using one or more colors from a list of exactly eleven, each color created by a specific dye manufactured with a particular technique. The eleven colors, in no particular order, are:
Sky (Light Blue)
(The "missing" twelfth color, "radiant," which is not visible as a color to the naked eye (only as a silvery light, hence the name) and which represents the Twelfth Power itself, is not used.)
(For completionists, in addition to the eleven colors there are also several secondary colors that are used in certain rare situations. But that is neither here nor there.)
President Gregor, as president, has a Duodenary scarf signifying his occupancy of that office. As a Keeper Guard of Galavar, Gregor has a different Duodenary scarf. Duodenary scarves are as significant as title deeds to property, or original executed contracts; they are the physical instruments of legal authority. If, say, Gregor were to lose his president's scarf—whose name is Mahamba and who would be bequeathed to Gregor's successor upon his departure from office—the authority of the office would go with the scarf rather than with him. And while Mahamba could be replaced if truly destroyed, much like a title deed could be replaced, the process for doing so is neither intuitive nor trivial.
Duodenary scarves have broad ambits. One doesn't tend to accumulate large numbers of them, and there aren't enormously many in existence. (Though, as a body, they do have a rather deep reach, with some specific scarves being granted to people far below the pinnacles of authority.) There is, rather, a second tier of legal scarves below them, and these are far more numerous. For instance, every member of the Galan militaries has a scarf signifying certain details about their status.
Additionally, some Duodenary scarves are also furcules, adding a layer of complexity to their nature.
Green at Last!
But I'm not actually here to give you the full breakdown on Galan scarves, or even just the full breakdown on the Scarves of the Duodenary. Everything up till now was simply a preamble.
Some of the Scarves of the Duodenary (and a great many other scarves as well) employ the color green. Indeed, the Purple and Green Scarf of the Imperative that becomes such a point of contention in the Prelude is partly green.
Each of the eleven colors available to a Duodenary scarf carries a special significance relating to one the Twelve Powers. In this system, the color green, by itself, represents inner strength, drive, and purpose. Specifically, it represents the Tolgal Dsagan, which you would better know as the Spark of Life—the Fifth Power.
In fact there is no solid green Duodenary scarf in Gala, because that would be too pure and too rich, like a meal consisting only of butter. But every Duodenary scarf that features green as one of its colors is a scarf connected to legal powers that in some way entail great physical powers, with a very broad sense of "physical" that also includes notions like presence and gravitas, as befits the color devoted to one's very own spark.
The other article I had considered writing in this slot, to mark St. Patrick's Day, was an article on the typical sartorial preferences of the Guard of Galavar and Galavar himself—the idea being that Silence's primary color is green, and her character is the best fleshed out of all seven of them (which in this case means I have envisioned many different outfits and overarching clothing styles for her, many of which feature green). This article also has its green connection through Silence, specifically through her Purple and Green Scarf.
In Relance green is one of several high-level "thematic colors," occurring over and over again in various ways to subtly develop an underlying point. To cut right to that point: Relance itself is mostly a lush, green world, and it is the setting for The Curious Tale and the extraordinary developments, upheavals, and transformations that occur during Galavar's era. That greenery signifies nature, which ruthlessly and in most cases mindlessly (or single-mindedly) pursues its natural purpose. And, at the other end of the spectrum, Silence Terlais, one of the most deliberate people alive and the individual most central to the development of the plot concerning the development and fate of Relance, has green as her primary color, and even her eyes are green. Green is the color of irresistible forward momentum—the color of living and the color of change—and thus, by extension, the color of ephemerality, finitude, and mortality. The point, then—the theme here—is that the very act of living expends life; every experience consumes itself through transformation into a new, equally fleeting moment. The sheer glee, the intoxicating delight, of the power of living...the thrill of the thing...in The Curious Tale green is the color of what it feels like to be alive. It is very much a feeling, primal and irresistible, overwhelming at times, insatiable, and gone in a flash.
Green is the wild color, the most untamable of the eleven colors available to the Duodenary scarves. In the presence of an individual mastering such power, it has a way of dispelling affectations, and making careful considerers blush. It blunts egos; it intimidates. But it harbors no resentment, no conscious enmity. It is a color open to all, perhaps the most accessible of the eleven colors, and certainly the most accessible of the Twelve Powers, being the one virtually everybody is born with.
Meanwhile, in our world, St. Patrick's Day has come to feature green as its mascot color almost as a sort of kitsch—people even dye their beers and rivers green nowadays. I think that's cute, if you look at it with a certain amount of forgiveness, there's a certain resemblance between the playful, boisterous, and resilient sentiments attached to St. Patrick's Day and the indefatigable Irish spirit, and the untamable, fierce, always-dying and always-living nature of those on Relance who embody the Fifth Power.
Thy Songs Were Made for the Pure and Free
This sunny and glorious afternoon as I was leaving my apartment to go donate blood plasma, I ran into a Scottish pipe and drum troupe at the local Irish pub. I heard them before I saw them: Just as I came in earshot they started playing "The Minstrel Boy," one of my very favorite Irish songs and the honorary theme song of The Curious Tale, going back all the way to the creation of the RPG. (It's the song that gave me the word "guard" for "Guard of Galavar." And even in recent times, those of you who listened to my unofficial Prelude soundtrack back in 2015 might have noticed that different performances of "The Minstrel Boy" took up three whole slots on the soundtrack—including the very first track and the very last one!)
As they played, the troupe departed the pub to go on a march and they just so happened to take the same path as me. So I followed them across the street, until we parted ways at the parking garage.
It was an incredibly lucky and auspicious treat! And it really lifted me up.
But then, three hours later, as I got home on this cool and glorious evening and was walking back to my apartment with a nice big bag of groceries, the troupe intersected with me again! They weren't at the pub this time but around the block.
And...right on cue...they started playing "The Minstrel Boy" again! Right, perfectly on cue! And our paths crossed again at the parking lot, so they led me across a different street, until we parted ways at my favorite cafe. What a lark! =D
And how extraordinarily improbable. (Nor was "The Minstrel Boy" their only song; I heard portions of several others.) To give me two perfectly-timed performances of that song, one at my departure and one at my homecoming...now that's the proverbial luck of the Irish, and a real St. Patrick's Day treat.
That's all for this week. Join me next week when I'll discuss incomprehensible gibberish.
Until then, may you know the sounds of the harpist.
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!