A Simple Prayer from a Beloved Fandom

As I know I’ve mentioned before on my blog, one of my all-time favorite fandoms is that of Myst, the famous game series (with accompanying novels) put out by Cyan starting with the famous 1993 game (one of the first on CD-ROM and which perhaps cemented the medium’s importance in the history of computing) and progressing to the critically acclaimed sequel Riven in 1997, followed by other games like Exile, Uru, and others.  In addition to having a fantastic story and universe built (which is itself centered around the building, or rather connecting to, other worlds), it has a famous constructed language known as D’ni.  It’s not as well-built as other conlangs out there, whether for games or for more serious use, but it’s still got a bit of a corpus for itself.

One of the oldest (perhaps the first) full text of D’ni is known as “Atrus’s Prayer”.  This prayer, attributed to Atrus (one of the main characters of the whole Myst series as a sort of helpless and largely absent benefactor and instigating character who asks for your help), was shown in the 1996 Myst calendar.  For each month, the calendar included a snippet from one of Atrus’ journals regarding the various worlds (“Ages”) he traveled to and studied, mostly those that weren’t actually featured in the game itself except perhaps in one or two oblique references.  However, for November, underneath an image of Atrus’ makeshift writing desk when he was trapped in K’veer in D’ni, we find this prayer instead of a journal entry (or, perhaps, it was indeed a journal entry of its own).

Interestingly, on the December page immediately following, instead of a prayer or a journal entry relating to a particular Age, we instead get a snippet of Atrus’ own personal journal, which I include here for the tantalizing hint of context:

I am not able to understand, only to understand more.  The picture that I wish to examine is not static, it is growing and living.  Even as I understand how the hinges of a door allow me to open it, I find it leads to a room even larger than the first.  But I think perhaps that is part of wisdom.  Knowing that I cannot know all, understanding that I cannot understand all.  If the Maker’s creation was understandable would I not find the Maker something less than great, would I not consider myself equal with the Maker?  It is a tribute then to his greatness when I find myself more confused even at the very instant I have gained insight.

I’ll forego the transliteration of the prayer for the moment (for reasons which will soon become apparent), and stick to the…well, what the D’ni linguistic community can manage to translate of it.  This is a combination of several works that try to analyze it (here and here, for example, among others linked below), with possibilities regarding particular words:

Yahvo
I was [reflecting (?)] [on] your [powers (?)].
I was thinking what [grace (?)] it is to be able to link to various places of your creation.
It is [amazing (?)] to me how complex to [apparent (?), thorough (?)] you have created this universe I live in.
Still with how it is–[however (?)] [apparent (?), thorough (?)] to five [senses (?)] – you [act (?) exist (?)] still to love for me.
I [pray (?)] to you.
What I can [accomplish (?)] by Art I do not entirely [understand (?)] I am [achieving (?)] by your greatness and holiness.
I praise you for who you are.
And I thank you for what you have [allowed (?), done (?)] and what you will [allow (?), do (?)].
I am [thankful] [for my sake (?), moreover (?), my (?)] [grandmother] was diligent to [ask (?)] with end [result (?)] about you and your [purpose (?)].

The reason for so many question marks in the text, and the general awkwardness of it all, is that this prayer was published before Riven, and Riven was the first game to actually make use of the D’ni language (even the spelling of that word was different in the original Myst game, “Dunny”, before that was dropped).  Because of this (and to state things in a non-roleplaying/out-of-character sense), it’s most likely the case that this prayer was written before the D’ni language was finalized or formalized.  While it’s still recognizably D’ni both in script and in language, many of the values of the individual letters seem to have changed between this early version of D’ni and later versions that were otherwise used, and many of the words have not otherwise been encountered and are still questionable.  As a result, if we were to transliterate the text as it is using the canonical correspondences of the D’ni script, we’d get relative nonsense, and even using corrected values, we still don’t have a full grasp of the meaning of the prayer.  Still, the overall gist of the prayer makes sense, especially to those who are familiar with the Myst universe and storyline, and especially all the more after the release of Uru and other games that expounded upon D’ni religion.

Wanting to incorporate at least a bit more D’ni in my own practice (even if only for the sake of inspiration and to remember one of the biggest influences on my imagination since a young age), I thought I’d try my hand at coming up with a prayer based on the above, less oriented towards the D’ni religion that Atrus might have received in his own small way and more towards my own Hermetic path.  The way the prayer is phrased even in the original, it would seem as if a silent contemplation of awe and pious observance of the cosmos and divine creation would precede the recital of the prayer.

O Maker,

I was reflecting on your powers,
and in thinking what a blessing it is to be able to behold the various works of your making,
it awes me how complex in appearance you have created this cosmos I live in.
Yet, however it may appear to my senses, you still continue to love me.

I pray to you who are called God:
I revere you who are the maker;
I cherish the making that you make.
I do not fully understand what I am to accomplish by the great power you grant me,
yet still I work to achieve it by your greatness and holiness.
I praise you for what you do;
I thank you for what you have done and what you will do.

I am thankful for my teachers who were diligent in seeking you and the understanding of you.

In the original prayer, the recipient of the prayer is addressed as Yahvo, also sometimes called “the Maker” and the deity of the monotheistic religion of the D’ni.  Instead of translating this as “God”, I instead decided to opt for “Maker”, since this is also a way to name God according to Hermēs in CH XIV.4, and is also used to refer to God in other parts of the CH (like in CH V or CH X).  Likewise, when it comes to “Art” (which is a technical term referring to the D’ni study and mastery of writing special books to link to other Ages), which I do not myself possess, I decided to generalize it to “this great power you grant me”.  To be sure, there are plenty of Hermetic arts, the three biggest and famous being those of astrology, alchemy, and theurgy, but I decided to both generalize and personalize it a bit.  Similarly, instead of referring to linking to the various places of creation, I changed it to refer to beholding and bearing witness to the works of creation (as much as I’d love to link to other worlds, myself).  I also decided to add in an extra statement not there in the original prayer, but based on something included in a letter from Rand Miller and later included in a prophetical text from one of the later games.

There’s one word present in Atrus’ Prayer that is important to hinge things on: taygahn, usually translated as “love” but with a slightly more involved meaning closer to “to love-know with the whole mind”.  In D’ni, this word “implied a deep understanding, respect, and most importantly unselfish love for one another” in the context of D’ni marriage and the ideal relationship between spouses, but was also used in the context of D’ni belief as the cornerstone of a relationship with Yahvo.  We might consider as the closest translation for this D’ni word used in the religious sense to be the Greek word ἀγάπη agápē.  Interestingly, the word used throughout the Hermetic texts for “love” when it occurs in a divine context is either a variant of φιλία philía (e.g. CH IV.6, SH 2B.1) or—far more commonly—ἔρως érōs (e.g. CH I.4, CH I.12—16, CH VI.4, CH XVIII.14, SH 2B.3).  Litwa notes the role of érōs (passionate love) in the ascent of heaven is talked at length in Plato’s Phaedrus (224a—252b) and Symposium (206a—212b).  That agápē is not used in the Hermetic texts shouldn’t be all that surprising, seeing how it was only sometimes used for “affection” or “hold in esteem” generally prior to Christianity and only took on its much more elevated sense afterwards, originating in the Great Commandment from the New Testament, itself based on Devarim/Deuteronomy 6:5 (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”, וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכׇל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכׇל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכׇל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ׃), the Hebrew word there being a generic one for “love” in a general sense.  Anyway, it’s interesting that Atrus’ Prayer has (what we guess) Yahvo reaching out or giving taygahn-love to Atrus, rather than some dedication of Atrus committing to taygahn-love of Yahvo, but I think it makes sense in its own way, much as God in the Hermetic texts loves Humanity and, thus, each one of us as Humans, wanting us to be truly Human and to come to know (and be with) God.

The phrase “I praise you for who you are” in the original D’ni of the prayer is something I changed to “I praise you for what you do”.  To me, it’s weird to think of God as a person or other entity who is, like how my parents are or how I am or how Hermēs is, and I don’t consider God to exist in the same way as other entities might exist.  Following CH V.9, CH XI.13, CH XI.22, and CH XIV.6, which altogether say that God is not separate from the activity of God which is making (hence one of the names of God being “maker” according to Hermēs), I thought it better to rephrase this as “I praise you for what you do”, since what God does is, in effect, who God is.  This also follows Jack Miles’ insight (from his book God: A Biography, in chapter 4 section 1) that one of the names of God from Shemot/Exodus 3:15, “`Ehyeh `Ašer `Ehyeh” (“I am who I am”) can be altered slightly by changing a yod to a vav, leaidng to “`Ehyeh `Ašer `Ahweh” (“I am what I do”), with the last word “`ahweh” being strikingly similar to the Tetragrammaton itself.  In changing this phrase from “I praise you for who you are” to “I praise you for what you do”, I’m also setting up a better flow and connection with the following statement of “I thank you for what you have done and what you will do”.  Of course, the D’ni word ahrtah is not well understood, and could mean things like “do” or “permit” or “allow” or “achieve” in this context, but I’m going to go with a simple “do” (and may likely be connected to the word bahrtah earlier on tentatively translated as “accomplish”, perhaps without a prefix b’ used to indicate an infinitive verb in D’ni).

The final line of the prayer is a bit strange; based on how the prayer was originally typeset, it would seem that this final dedication of thanks to Atrus’ grandmother Ti’ana may not be part of the prayer itself.  Rather, it seems like a postscript or secondary meditation by Atrus in remembering how the eternal inquisitiveness of his grandmother (“what do you see, Atrus?”, a question he kept as a mantra close to his heart throughout his life since being raised by her in his childhood) in order to reach a better understanding of the nature of things.  Although I don’t recall Atrus coming across as particularly religious or spiritual in the games or novels (nor is religion heavily mentioned in the games until the time of Uru and Myst V), he’s certainly not irreligious, especially given the November and December pages of the 1996 Myst calendar that showed a religious wonder and awe at his deity and their works.  Since neither of my grandmothers were particularly religious or informative in my own religious life but from whom I still learned plenty, I’ve opted to generalize this dedication to “teachers” and to refocus it less on God’s purpose/design and more on the understanding (if not outright knowledge, as in gnōsis) of God.  As a final dedication, it also recalls how I myself am able to get so far and how far I’ve gotten precisely because of those who have gone before me.

For those who are interested in the transliteration of the D’ni text of Atrus’ Prayer (corrected, such as it is) and perhaps to give it a shot at pronouncing, I offer it below in my own transcription system (the other more common styles given on Omniglot and other websites around the internet, none of which I’ve ever been particularly happy with):

(Y)avo,
Kodoḵantor femagentīom.
Kodokanræd kæm lorag kenen b’ken s̠in b’bēḵ b’totī ranal co marntavom.
Dopraqizen b’zū d̠o muḵon b’tērūs̠ lemarnem met mis̠o cav te.
Gat̠ t’d̠o kenen—d̠ozones̠ tērū t’bas̠tī vat—ḵagem gat̠ b’tēgan ḵezū.
Parḵ b’s̠em.
Kæm s̠in barta t’gestō rilnar b’fasī domad̠o t’parat̠om gahūcēt̠om.
Votar a’s̠em ḵekæmrov kenem.
G’qev a’s̠em ḵekæm l’artaem ga kæm boartaem.
Ken qevet ōn mor’oḵ’mor kokenem remesfet b’vēnu t’ḵōtag zu cos̠em g’bortaom.

As a pronunciation guide, besides the usual values of the letters which you can otherwise guess based on English while also trying to be faithful to the nuances of D’ni script modifiers:

  • Vowels
    • a — /ɑː/, as in “hot” or like “father”
    • ā — /aɪ/, as in “eye”
    • æ — /æ/, as in “cat”
    • e — /ɛ/, as in “bed”
    • ē — /eɪ/, as in “day”
    • i — /ɪ/, as in “bit”
    • ī — /iː/, as in “see”
    • o — /ɔː/, as in “thought” or like “goat”
    • ō — /ɔɪ/, as in “boy”
    • u — /ʊ/, as in “hook”
    • ū — /ʊː/, like “shoe”
    • ‘ — /ə/ after a consonant is an unstressed relaxed vowel as in the final syllable of “Tina”
  • Consonants
    • ḵ — /x/, like German “ach” or Scottish “loch”
    • d̠ — /ð/, as in “then”
    • t̠ — /θ/, as in “thin”
    • s̠ — /ʃ/, as in “shin”
    • q — /t͡ʃ/, as in “chair”
    • c — /t͡s/, as in “pats”
    • j — /d͡ʒ/, as in “hedge”
    • ‘ — /ʔ/ after a vowel is a glottal stop as in “Hawai’i” or “uh-oh”
    • Other consonants (v, b, t, s, y, g, k, f, p, r, m, d, h, w, z, n) are as in English.

If one wanted to make a few changes to the D’ni prayer based on my own version of it to make it fit a bit better, though still largely not quite understandable according to modern D’ni understanding:

  • Instead of Avo at the start, it should probably be Yavo to accord with the more common spelling.  To avoid messing with any potential nuance of saying Avo instead of Yavo (the former might mean “Father” or another honorific title of the god), we might instead just say Rebareltan (“the Maker”) as an epithet.
  • Instead of b’ken s̠in b’bāḵ b’totī ranal co marntavom (“to be able to link to various places of your creation”), say b’ken s̠in b’yim a tīgaltī ranal co marntavom (“to be able to see the various works of your creation”).
  • Instead of t’gestō (“by Art”), say tregas̠inet̠ mot koltagem b’zū  (“by the great ability you have given me”).  “Ability” in this instance is a synonym for “power”, in the sense of a potential capability, capacity, or ability to accomplish something.
  • Instead of Votar a’s̠em ḵekæmrov kenem (“I praise you for who you are”), say Votar a’s̠em ḵekæm doartaem (“I praise you for what you are doing”).  I decided to use the simple present (artaem) as a sort of gnomic aspect rather than using the continuous which seems more temporally progressive.
  • Instead of ōn mor’oḵ’mor (“my grandmother”? it’s not clear what ōn in this context means, though it is strikingly similar to the D’ni possessive suffix meaning “my”) in the last line, say garot̠tīō (“my great ones”, i.e. “my teachers”).  There is no word for “teacher” I could find, so I’m taking a cue from Judaism and using the term garot̠ (“great one”) in the same way a Jew might refer to their rabbi (from Hebrew rav meaning “great one”, metaphorically “master”).  Because we change the subject of this clause from a singular noun to a plural one, we also need to change the verb to agree with it, so kokenem (“she was”) becomes kokenīt (“they were”).

This would yield the following prayer, a mixture of “proper D’ni” based on the language’s grammar and lexicon as currently understood and the “early D’ni” of the 1996 Myst Calendar itself.  I’ve also added a few minor orthographic and stylistic changes to make it mesh better with D’ni as commonly understood and today (inasmuch as it might be “common”).

Yavo (Rebareltan),

Kodoḵantor femagentīom.
Kodokanræd kæm lorag kenen ḵezū b’ken s̠in b’yim a tīgaltī ranal co bareltavom.
Dopraqizen b’zū d̠o muḵon b’tērūs̠ lemarnem a mis̠o tetomet cav.
Gat̠ t’d̠o kenen—d̠ozones̠ tērū t’bas̠tīō vat—ḵagem gat̠ b’tēgan ḵezū.

Parḵ b’s̠em kæmrov kenem fūsaij Yavo.
Isyīr a s̠em kæmrov kenem rebareltan.
S̠eten a rebalretav mot barelem.
Kæm s̠in barta tregas̠inet̠ mot koltagem b’zū rilnar b’fasī domad̠o t’parat̠om gat’hūcēt̠om.
Votar a s̠em ḵekæm artaem.
G’qev a s̠em ḵekæm koartaem ga kekæm boartaem.

Ken qevet ḵegarot̠tīō kæmrovtī kokenīt remesfet b’vēnu t’ḵōtag zu cos̠em g’bortaom.

I’ll leave finding and translating the minor changes as an exercise for the overly interested geeky reader, but it still remains in sync with my own version of the prayer given above.

Search Term Shoot Back, December 2014

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of December 2014.  (Yes, I know that I’m currently on vacation, but I can’t pass up this fun post.)

“instant satan posses my huge cock” — I mean, I’ve seen multiple porn comics with this as the plotline, but it’s generally not the best of things.  Either your cock starts devouring others (cockvore), starts turning others into a bigger cock as you fuck them (cock transformation), or becomes a nuisance when it never goes flaccid (demonic Viagra).  There are other ways you can have a good time, believe me.

“hallucinogens used with burning candles” — No hallucinogen requires candles, strictly speaking; you just intake them in the proper way, although depending on the culture there may be some ritual involved that can call for candles.  That said, once you begin your fantastic fun trip, remember: cars, guns, and fire are all real things and they will actually hurt you.  Respect them and have fun!

“view big black cock dick images on twetter images” — I don’t host those on my Twitter account, and I have no afterdark account with more racy content to speak of.  I regret that I cannot oblige those requests, but I’m sure there are other Twitter accounts that can help.  You might try Reddit, though; /r/MassiveCock might satisfy your needs, if I hear correctly.

“planetary days and hours calculator for gambling?” — Planetary hour calculators are a dime a dozen online and I don’t provide one, so keep searching for those.  That said, times of Venus are especially good for gambling, in my opinion; Venus has her joy in the fifth house of astrology and geomancy, the house that presides over gambling and all speculative interests, and in the ancient Roman game of knucklebones or tali one of the best throws possible was the iactis Veneris, the throw of Venus.  In my opinion, go with the Golden Girl of Gambling, Venus, but also invoke Fortuna, too!

“what is + talisman of wisdom key of solomon pentacle seal pendant hermetic enochian kabbalah” — So, basically, you’re asking about the bulk of commonly known Renaissance Hermetic stuff?  Here, lemme do you a favor: go to Esoteric Archives and just read, since a good chunk of pretty much this entire search query is already there in full for free.

“very cocks congolais” —

wow such penis very throb wow much kongo

“16 geomantic symbols and their deities name” — This is actually a pretty interesting idea that I haven’t gotten around to yet, associating each of the 16 geomantic figures with different deities.  I know something very similar is done with the 16 odu in Ifa, and the Chain of Saint Michael (a southern Italian variant of geomancy) assigns each of the figures to a different Catholic saint, and some forms of Arabic geomancy associate the figures with different patriarchs of Islam.  I’m sure other regional traditions assigns each of the figures to a different deity in their own cultures, but Western geomancy by and large doesn’t do this.  The closest thing I can think of is to take the zodiac sign associated with the figure (depending on which zodiacal attribution system you prefer, since there are several) and use Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Twelve (book II, chapter 14) to associate each zodiac sign with one of the 12 Olympians.  Alternatively, you might just go with the planetary divinities associated with the geomantic figure, as might be done in Jyotish (Hindu) astrology, where Caput Draconis is associated with Rahu and Cauda Draconis with Ketu.  Sixteen isn’t that popular a number in most Western systems of mythology or theology, so this would take some thinking, but it’s possible all the same.

“fiery wall of protection makes people be nice to you” — That’s not generally the point of Fiery Wall of Protection oil; it’s to keep the bad stuff at bay with force, not to make people approach you sweetly.  I use cinnamon and red sandalwood in my recipe, both of which can be associated with Venus for sweetening and love magic, but in this context they take on a much more fiery and defensive tone that make them herbs of glorious soldiers than pretty women.

“myst drinking game” — YES.  I’ve been looking for one for years, until I gave up and just made up my own.  I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who’s been looking for the existence of such a thing.

“which greek god rules labradorite” — As far as I know, no Greek god has come forth to own this particular mineral.  It’s only fairly recently discovered to the West in about the 1800s, and even then mostly in the far north of Northern America (though there are some good deposits in Finland and northern Russia, as well).  Given its associations with rainbows, it might be given to Eos (Dawn), Iris (Rainbow), or other celestial divinities of the northern hemisphere, but these are all pretty big stretches for me.

“geomancy to determine career” — Look at the 10th house.  That’s really about it.  The figure can tell you how a particular career will go (if you’re asking about one in particular), or the type of career you’ll have (if not).

“geomancy and bagua compared” — This is one thing that always peeves me off as a Western geomancer.  Despite their superficial similarities, geomancy as developed in northern Africa and spread across the Western, African, and Middle Eastern world is pretty much guaranteed to have no common origins or shared meaning with the Chinese I Ching, which predates geomancy by over a thousand years.  I Ching makes use of eight trigrams (binary figures of three lines) or 64 hexagrams (binary figures of six lines), while geomancy makes use of 16 tetragrams (binary figures of four lines), but the superficial similarities stop there.  The bagua in particular is the set of eight trigrams arranged in a particular pattern to demonstrate an ideal flow of qi or energy.

“saint michael elekes color” — The usual disclaimer here applies where I make mention that I’m not crowned in Ocha and have no formal ties to Santeria.  That said, it’s hard for me to get any reliable information about which orisha is most closely associated with Saint Michael (or San Miguel in Spanish).  Some sources associate him with Ogun (black and green, the blacksmith-warrior), Chango (white and red, the lightning-axe king of orisha), or even Eleggua (black and red, the road-opener).  What elekes I can find for Saint Michael are red and green in color, which is unusual since these would be the Golden Dawn colors for the element of Fire with which Michael is associated, even though red and green elekes are often given to the Nigerian tradition of Orunla (the diviner god of Ifa) or sometimes to a specific avatar of Oshun (the river goddess of wealth and sexuality, but here a fierce and sometimes sadistic hunter).  Because of this disparity of information, I’d recommend talking to your local Santero/a and asking them, but be aware that no two Santeros may have the same answer based on their own house’s tradition.

“do u need a ritual to conjure a demon” — It depends on what you consider a ritual.  For some people, a ritual can be a full-blown Solomonic affair with circles, robes, candles, incense, a week or more of preliminary prayers and baths, all culminating in a conjuration.  For others, it could be no more than clearing the mind and calling out to the spirit by their name.  Some people just naturally attract these types of forces to them, some people attract them to themselves because of the work they do (e.g. in graveyards, with those who are dying, in war-torn areas), so it might not take much to bring out such a spirit.  Sometimes a spirit can take residence in a particular place, and all you need to do is walk into their domain and call out to them.  You’ll note that I’m not calling them “demons” here, because what you consider a demon could easily be a personal spirit or something assigned to you based on your tradition and perception.  So, yes, you do need ritual to conjure a demon, but the ritual could be nearly nothing compared to what you might expect.

So this is it, the final post of 2014!  We’ll be back next week with new posts, so I hope you guys have an excellent New Year’s without too bad a hangover on the first day of 2015!

Drinking Games to go with Myst and Riven

Alright, it’s late, I’m getting over a cold, and I’m bored.  This is going to depart from my normal subject matter on this blog. It is, after all, my blog, and some things just aren’t cut out for a long Facebook post. If you like neither puzzle adventure games nor drinking, then you may want to skip this. Otherwise, I love you because you’re an amazing person.

It’s not surprise to people that, if I have one primary fandom, it’s Myst. I am, have always been, and will always be a lifelong Myst fanboy. Alas, I’ve never yet made it to a Mysterium con, but I will one day before they die out. For those who don’t know, the Myst franchise, started by the always-trusty Cyan, Inc.,spans five single-player games, one MMO, and three novels, as well as a poorly-received (so I’ve heard) comic book series that didn’t last past the first issue. It’s a beautiful series, and it’s definitely had a significant effect on my beliefs and practice of the occult. In my opinion, Riven was the best game of the series, followed by Myst in quality; Exile (III) was good but felt too much like a game and not enough like an adventure, Revelation (IV) went far too much against the history and setting set up by Myst and Riven, and End of Ages (V) was just…sad for so many reasons. Then there’s Uru, the MMO, which is beautiful and amazing to play though, only parts of which require other people to help out; alas, it was far too detached from its time, and the caverns of D’ni feel way more desolated than the designers of the game intended it to be. Ah well, the games live on on their own.

Well, the problem is that these games don’t always have the best replay value. I mean, Myst has a shortcut that circumvents nearly the entire game, so long as you remember a specific time and a specific page number, for crying out loud; the other games actually require you to play through the game and unlock individual puzzles without any chance of a shortcut. Still, it’s good to play through the games once in a while, if only to relive those beautiful scenes and music and the familial drama of the house of Atrus. If you haven’t played the games or read the books, and I seriously question your existence as a human if you haven’t yet, I recommend the following sequence:

  1. Myst
  2. Myst: The Book of Atrus (novel #1)
  3. Riven
  4. Myst: The Book of Ti’ana (novel #2)
  5. Myst: The Book of D’ni (novel #3)
  6. (Optional) Myst III: Exile
  7. (Optional) Myst IV: Revelation
  8. Uru, specifically the free-to-play Myst Online: Uru Live (donate to keep the servers up!)
  9. (Optional) Myst V: End of Ages

Anyway, let’s focus on Myst and Riven, because obviously. You can get either for like US$5 off of Steam or GOG, maybe both plus several of the other Myst games for as much if you happen to get in on a sale. Seriously, there’s a reason that Myst and Riven are among the best-selling games of all times, and it’s not just because Myst was the game that popularized CD-ROMs for gaming. I strongly recommend you play through them at some point this winter, especially if you haven’t yet.  If you dislike the original HyperCard format of Myst, I might also recommend playing realMYST, which is the 3D version that Cyan originally wanted to use but didn’t have the technology for in 1993.  A corresponding realRIVEN was supposedly in the works, but is now being handled by fans at the Starry Expanse Project; donate there if you want to see this come to life one day!

Now, even if you haven’t played these games, let’s make them a little more infuriating.  (Sure, they say that Myst and Riven don’t encourage violent gaming? I’d like to see you play through them and not want to chuck things at the wall.)  So, how do we go about making them more infuriating and fun?  By adding alcohol, of course! I’m pro-drinking game, as many of my friends know, and it’s always fun to open up a bottle (or twelve) of beer or wine, maybe make a stiff cocktail (or seven) and drink with a purpose. To that end, get your friends together with the lure of free booze and play the Myst and Riven Drinking Game.  Now, the easy way to go about this drinking game would be “drink every time you get stuck”, but I don’t want to have to go ahead and schedule your funeral a week from now, so let’s make things a little easier on your liver and a little more fun.  Honestly, I don’t know why such a drinking game hasn’t been written before now (if there was, I wasn’t able to find it), but hopefully this will close a crucial gap in the Myst fandom.

MYST DRINKING GAME

Drink every time:

  • You have to unflip a switch, lever, or button because you flipped it earlier and had no idea what it was doing then but you do now.
  • You have to redo any puzzle to get out of an age.
  • You miss aligning the Tower Rotation on the right place.
  • You have to reset the Gears puzzle in the Clocktower.
  • You utter an expletive while trying to figure out the Gears puzzle in the clocktower.
  • You mess up the Constellation Pillar puzzle to raise the Ship.
  • You trip the breakers in powering up the Spaceship.
  • You have to go back to the Spaceship panel to listen to the proper notes because you’re tone-deaf.  (I would die from alcohol poisoning from this, personally.)
  • You miss the elevator of the Great Tree.
  • You have to reset the water flow in Channelwood Age to keep going.
  • You run out of light in the tunnels of Stoneship Age.
  • You press the wrong directional button on the Compass Rose.
  • You mess up the satellite dishes in the Selenitic Age.
  • You make a wrong turn in the Selenitic Age’s Cave Maze.
  • You enter in the wrong combination to the fireplace panel.
  • You see evidence of Sirrus’ megalomania or substance use.
  • You see evidence of Achenar’s megalomania or sadism.
  • You add in a new page to a book.

Finish your drink and start a new one:

  • Every time you have to resort to a walkthrough for advice on progressing through the game.
  • When you exit any of the four ages (not Myst or D’ni) for the first time.
  • If you figure out how to get the white page.  Immediately drink again if you go “Really?!”.
  • If you get the good ending.
  • If you get any bad ending.

RIVEN: THE SEQUEL TO MYST DRINKING GAME

Drink every time:

  • You see an explicit reference to the number 5. (Yes, this will keep you drunk most of the time.)
  • You have to unflip a switch, lever, or button because you flipped it earlier and had no idea what it was doing then but you do now.
  • You have to redo the fire marble puzzle input.
  • You miss the proper eye symbol on a fire dome.  (Good luck with Plateau Island!)
  • You read/hear Gehn make a D’ni-centered racial supremacist comment.
  • You open a door that was previously locked or barred.
  • You see at least one Moiety dagger.
  • You see an actual person in the age of Riven.
  • You mess up the animal pillar puzzle to get to the age of Tay.
  • You have to consult one of the journals in your inventory for a puzzle clue.
  • You summon Gehn with the button.
  • You feel persuaded at any point of what Gehn tells you.
  • You see Catherine ruefully walk in front of you.
  • The Rivenese village alarms go off.
  • A whark eats someone in the Rivenese school number game.

Finish your drink and start a new one:

  • Every time you have to resort to a walkthrough for advice on progressing through the game.
  • If the sunners swim away because you’re an asshole.
  • If the whark tries to kill you because you’re an asshole.
  • If you get poisoned and knocked out.
  • If you shit your pants when you get back to the Temple.
  • If you giggle at the mechanics of Gehn’s sink.
  • If you hear the giant steam-boom on top of the Great Dome.
  • If you free Catherine.
  • If you imprison Gehn.
  • If you get the good ending.
  • If you get any bad ending.

Everyone with you, including you, has to finish their drink:

Any other rules you’d like to suggest?  Share them in the comments!

MYSTeriously Magical

I’m a total geek.  If this comes as a surprise to you and you’re not a first-time reader of this blog, I question your powers of observation.  Anyway, I’m a geek, but I used to be a bigger one; I used to be more into video games and computer games than I am now, but I’m still into literature and fantasy, not to mention the original occult sources that gave us D&D and genres of fantasy fiction and gaming that we have today. 

One of my all-time biggest fandoms is the MYST fandom.  Remember Myst, the game where you walked around the beautifully-rendered (for 1993) worlds, traveling from Age to Age using specially-written books?  Remember the sequel, Riven, which led more into the lost culture and society that made these Linking Books that?  Remember its other sequels which, though pretty, didn’t add particularly much to the gameplay but were still helpful in fleshing out the worlds of Atrus, Catherine, their (sometimes wayward and/or deadly) children and friends?  Surely you do.  Well, I recently got rid of all my MYST loot (the games, the novels, the soundtracks, everything but my coffeetable book “The Making of Riven”, which is damned hard to find anymore).  In my quest to get rid of everything I don’t use, want, or need, I gave it all to a friend who went “EEEEE” over the collection.  Of course, it was only after I gave him all this stuff that I started thinking more about the Myst universe and how profoundly relevant it is to my current life and workings.

For those of you who have forgotten and who never had the chance or pleasure to play the games, let me explain.  There’s a race of humans called the D’ni (deh-knee), with their own sets of technology and language and script.  One special technology they have is called the Art, which allows them to travel to various and sundry worlds (properly called Ages).  The Art involves writing using special ink on special paper using a special form of their language with difficult-to-translate words to write a particular kind of book, called a Descriptive Book.  This Descriptive Book essentially describes the whole cosmos, physics, and development of an Age, and upon completion generates a special picture in the book called a Linking Panel, which shows an animated picture of a particular spot in the world.  Someone who touches this image is physically transported from their current Age into the Age of the Descriptive Book, to the spot that the Linking Panel shows; this act is called linking. 

Any known Age can only be referenced by a single Descriptive Book, but a Linking Book can be written in that particular age with passages that refer to the Descriptive Book of the Age.   These Descriptive Books are huge, since they have to describe in full the entire mechanics of a given universe, while Linking Books, which are basically abridged Descriptive Books, are no bigger than a supermarket novel, and are thus easy to transport and make multiple copies of.

It makes sense in the game and story.

Now, the D’ni weren’t a superstitious people; they’re constantly presented as scientific, curious, and ingenious in nearly every possible way.  For one, they had to develop extreme engineering skills as a way of life: they lived in a huge cavern deep, deep underground, and had to learn how to excavate, ventilate, and power the cavern properly in order to survive.  They used the Art to obtain goods and resources, sure, and some D’ni lived in other Ages for most of their lives, but by and large the D’ni race lived in this one central subterranean city.  They used different Ages to explore different aspects of physics, meteorology, or zoology, experimenting with different theories by literally writing up an Age to test out all the “what ifs” they thought of. 

They didn’t consider the Art magic, but as simply an art gifted to them.  However, above all, they didn’t consider themselves to write the Ages into existence; they had a religion which involved a supreme deity called the Maker, who created all possible worlds on a vast cosmic (or even multiverse) tree.  The Art simply described an Age on a different part of the Tree from their own Age.  Consider different Ages like leaves on a tree: similar Ages are leaves close to each other on the same branch, while on nearby branches Ages become slightly more different, and on an entirely different limb and branch of the tree two Ages can be radically different.  Not all Ages were stable: some Ages were written with contradictory, impossible, or otherwise implausible physics that didn’t permit the Age to last long, if it lasted at all; linking to such an Age would be disastrous, if not outright fatal.  For this reason, the Art was restricted and required skill and talent to write for, and working Ages had to be regularly maintained and kept “functional” so that they wouldn’t go apocalyptic.

Catch all that?  Good.  Now I’ll start making sense of it in context of my Work.

You have these people who, with a bit of knowledge and innovation, travel to worlds wholly new and unexplored, but still sharing the same cosmos as we do.  They make contact these worlds, exploring them, and learning from them, maybe even contacting and learning from their inhabitants.  They have to constantly use every possible means available in order to survive and survive well.  They use specialized tools and magical language written in an arcane way to obtain access to these other worlds  They keep up their relationships and contacts with these worlds so that both they and these worlds never collapse, since they become dependent on these worlds the more they explore them, and these worlds become dependent on them.  They incorporate these worlds, their gifts, and their lessons into their own lives and world, becoming ever more understanding and powerful with each new world they know.  These worlds were described as being different parts of the same Tree made by the same Creator, all with ultimately the same root.

The words and language they use represent concepts and ideas that simply cannot be expressed in normal language, but only through the act of creation itself, things like particular patterns of air flow or how information is represented through physical or material media, or the lack thereof.  These writers have to learn these special words that can bring unmanifest and ineffable possibility into concrete reality, linking ideas into manifestation, using ritual implements and actions to do so.  The art they use is a tightly-guarded and close-kept secret, with only a few who are able naturally and with training to understand these mysteries. 

The mysteries of…well, you tell me.