II: The Praxis of the Symbols
In Part I of this series, we introduced our readers to the Quatrian Symbology, a set of glyphs which represented a number of abstract concepts which were of great import in Quatrian thought:
Before doing a “deep dive” into the context of each glyph within Quatrian society, it would be useful to have a brief discussion on how the symbols/concepts were utilized during the Middle to Late period of the civilization, when their establishment had been formalized across the culture.
The Symbols as Expressions of Meaning
Although specific traditions and customs varied from biome to biome, the ideas represented by these glyphs were universal. They could be found, individually or collectively, on everything from doorposts to road signs to tattoos.
As ubiquitous within Quatrian culture as corporate logos are in Late Capitalist neoliberalism, the primary use for the Symbols seems to have been a way to express meaning across a variety of cultural contexts. Just as someone living in Southeast Asia might recognize the “Golden Arches” as representative of McDonald’s, so a Quatrian from a sub-polar settlement would understand that the symbol for “Life Force” (vimna) depicted a plant emerging from a seed:
This symbol may have been used literally for horticultural purposes, but could also be used to identify healers, mothers, food stores, etc.
The exact layers of meaning beneath each symbol will be discussed in future installments of this series.
The Symbols as Reality Augmentation Sigils
The Quatrians had a uniquely well-developed system of what we might now refer to as “magic,” consisting primarily of simple charms and “spells” that were intended to augment or alter the manifestation of events within reality as they understood it. Remember, in the Quatrian conception of “reality,” there was no separation between the World of Spirits and the World of Humanity. Charms and spells were performed with the confidence and regularity we might approach, say, household chores.
These magical acts were believed to nudge cause and effect; instead of spectacular results, they were intended to produce a ripple effect. The most successful Reality Augmentation spells were those which were the simplest, and the idea would be to manifest them in the least “permanent” fashion. As an example, according to Dr. Beyza Demirci of the University of Ankara:
… [T]hose interested in affecting change in something related to “earth” — ensuring a strong foundation when constructing a new building, for example — one would trace the appropriate symbol in the dust on a busy thoroughfare so that it would be trampled. (1)
Special “spell sticks” were used for tracing the symbols on other impermanent surfaces, from the water in a fountain to the air in front of someone. Some have suggested this may be one of the origins of the “magic wand” used in Western Occultism.
A rich tradition grew around carving and decorating these “spell sticks,” and by the Late Quatrian era, no respectable person would be found without, at the very least, a special twig for tracing symbols on their person at all times.
The Symbols as “Divinatory Tools”
Every society practiced some form of what we now refer to as “Divination,” and the Quatrians were no exception. That said, our understanding of divination (via Tarot Cards, the I Ching, etc.) depends on a much different conception of time than that of the various societies of Quatria.
Many attempts have been made to explicate the way this society considered time, with varying degrees of success. Translating this concept into something conceivable by our modern sensibilities and habits has proved exceptionally difficult (2). The simplest way to explain this attitude would be that Quatria exists outside of what we see as “past, present, and future.” As such, “fortune telling” becomes rather pointless.
Instead, Quatrians conceived of experience as a kind of “bubbling up” of instances from an underlying Ground of Being. Instead of our linear timeline, or even something cyclical, “time,” in Quatria, resembled the surface of a lake, and “instances” as susurrations on the face of the water.
It may help to consider time as an enormous shoal of sardines. No single sardine can conceive of the entire school; instead, each individual fish can only react to its nearest neighbors. If a predator approaches from beneath, the fish closest to the predator move to flee it, then their neighbors, then theirs, etc. By the time the fish at the top of the school receive the cue to flee, it doesn’t matter to them what caused the initial movement. Indeed, the sardines at the top of the formation may never even know whether it was a shark or a barracuda that caused them to need to flee.
Quatrian “divination” seems to have been used to identify other factors causing the entire singularity at which the reader found herself. Random Symbols would be drawn, often from a bag of clay figurines:
These random symbols would be read by an expert diviner, who could use them to trace cause and effect “down” and into the underlying instances. “Anthuor’s Antlers,” discussed elsewhere, would also be employed as a way of getting to the bottom of the shoal (as it were) (3).
Clearly, the Quatrian Symbology cannot be approached on a one-to-one teleological basis by someone in our modern society. Still, in the interest of providing a factual foundation for the “Quatrian Reconstructionist” movement, we will next take a deep dive into each Symbol and investigate how each concept played a role within their society writ large.
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- “‘Venture Spells’ and the Quatrian Understanding of Magic,” Proceedings of the Turkish Society of Folklore and Tradition. July 1976, University of Ankara Press.
- This author’s own understanding of the chronoepistemology of Quatria comes from a book titled Forbidden Dimensions, by Welsh author C.G. Browne, highly recommended for those interested in Quatriana.
- For a more in-depth look at Quatrian Divination, please refer to Appendix A, “Quatrian Divination Unveiled.”