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  • Tzimisce and Kupala

    I'm relatively new to the Vampire the Masquerade mythos. Been playing in a LARP for a couple of years but I'm not familiar with all the areas. I've been doing research into Clan Tzimisce and their relationship to Kupala, and I'm trying to work out how this relationship fits into the beliefs of the Sabbat as a whole. The Sabbat despise Infernalism and any greater creature who would control them (there's exceptions, like the practitioners of Dark Thaumaturgy, but that's a different issue), preaching freedom from their Antediluvian and the ways of old. And yet reading through the Clan Book, there seems to be an idolization of The Eldest and a very close relationship with Kupala. Can anyone help me make sense of these beliefs beyond "The Sabbat are hypocrites"?

  • #2
    Basically, it is a touchy subject. Quite similar in some ways to the Abyss Mystics of the Lasombra. From my understanding, it comes to the fact that Kolduns are useful or powerful enough that it isn't worth heavily digging into questions as to the precise question of what Kupala is. So they kind of go 'that's not a demon, stop asking so many questions.'

    To be fair, the Sabbat is hypocritical in many facets. Especially their manner of espousing freedom yet still essentially requiring service in how they guide packs.

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    • #3
      Thanks for that clarification. Don't get me wrong, I know the Sabbat is deeply hypocritical in many elements of how it operates, especially their reverence of Caine mixed with their hatred of Antediluvians. I was just wondering if there was something deeper there.

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      • #4
        First keep in mind that the Sabbat are monsters who revel in being monsters. Then consider that many of the more common Paths that Sabbat Tzimisci follow (especially the Path of Metamorphosis) focus on discarding your current state existence and being something even more monstrous than a vampire. There's probably an acceptance that the Eldest was the furthest along in that quest to transcend the vampiric state, so there's definitely going to be some awe and envy mixed in for their hatred of It. I think there's also the understated way of making themselves look awesome by acknowledging how badass the Eldest was. "Look how powerful and amazing the Eldest was. He could be almost anyone. He could do almost anything. Except avoid being murdered by us. Heh. Sucker."

        As to the Kupala the Tzimisci (especially the older ones in the Sabbat who were around for the founding) recognize that they gained their ability to break Blood Bonds, the Vinculum, thanks to the Kupala. Without the Kupala and the Vinculum the Sabbat would not exist. So they tend to claim it was a spirit, or a god or anything other than a demon. There is definitely a bit of hypocrisy involved but I suspect many Tzimisci don't think too hard about the Kupala. They're thankful for the freedom it gave them, and as long as it stays underground back in the "Old Land" and isn't trying to control the Tzimisci of today, most of them couldn't be bothered to care all that much about it.

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        • #5
          The Sabbat always danced on the bloody edge of Hypocrisy. Their infernal inquisition is always looking into it but they also have Dur-an-ki ashipu who also deal with spirits in a similar fashion, and Wangateurs who appease and barter with spirits, and the Abyssal Lasombra who meddle with dark forces, and Necromancers, and true Dark Thaumaturgy wielding infernalists. But they are usually satisfied as long as they can tell you aren’t a full blown slave to spirits. If it looks like you are just exchanging ritual or services for power they may balk at it but they will look the other way because so much of the Sabbat is entrenched in the stuff, and it was Kupalas secrets that gave them the Vaulderie to break the Oath of Blood. As long as it doesn’t interfere with sect loyalty and the Viniculum they will look the other way. But some inquisitors may use it against you and if they can make a case for you being under the service of demons they may get yah.


          It is a time for great deeds!

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          • #6
            The Inquisition is hamstringed by a nebulous definition of targets and goals. The mission statement: root out infernalism to prevent demonic influence and control. In reality: defining a demon is hard, and the pride of most Sabbat makes it impossible to find any that won't proclaim "actually, I'M the senior partner in this mystical relationship".

            Basically, unless you're Baali or clearly meddling with demons as we'd recognize from biblical imagery, the Inquisition can't do much.

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            • #7
              You need to keep in mind that Kupala is/was a god, revered across the whole of Eastern EU. Kupala's Night is a real thing (july 6/7 this year). So in order to understand that relationship you need to dig a bit into Slavic pagan religions. Thats why they get away with it.


              Currently running: Gary/Chicago By Night

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Schwartzung View Post
                You need to keep in mind that Kupala is/was a god, revered across the whole of Eastern EU. Kupala's Night is a real thing (july 6/7 this year). So in order to understand that relationship you need to dig a bit into Slavic pagan religions. Thats why they get away with it.
                In this world Kupala is a God. In the world of darkness he is a demon.

                The reason they get away with dealing with a demon is the elders keep the neonates in the dark. So long as the vaulderie continues to work, the young Sabbat members tend to not live long enough or care enough to ask many questions.

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                • #9
                  The thing you have to remember, is very few vampires know anything at all about other "planes of existence". Even those who do, tend to stick to practicum and lack detailed knowledge in the big scheme. Even the oldest and most powerful of the Giovanni, the preeminent necromancers and scholars of wraiths and the Underworld, really don't know more about the very Umbral realm in which they specialize than middling and half-assed answers to "how can we exploit this?".

                  Of those vampires who are open to the notion of otherworldly planes, and of those who know enough about it to recognize the antics of an otherworldly entity when they see them, the default answer will probably be "demon". Of course, on the other hand Occam's razor is a real bitch, and considering the scale and depth of elders' and methuselahs' antics, confusing a sufficiently-powerful vampire with some otherworldly power is not just likely, but practically inevitable. After all, what's a more likely answer to paranormal fuckery afoot: an extra-dimensional entity, or some jackass Malkavian?

                  The Sabbat for all their bluster are generally pretty reluctant to go sniffing around for real trouble; case in point, how the Sabbat tends to keep as wide a berth as possible from Anathema.

                  Where does that leave an entity such as Kupala? Exactly what Kupala is has never been definitively published; what has been, are lists of likely candidates and none of those are answers that engender a "let's go find out!" can-do attitude from vampires who value their existence. Pretty much the most benign -- and common -- answer is "Earthbound demon", which in itself is an apocalyptic red flag. When something could be a heretofore unknown Methuselah of sufficient age and power that another, entirely different Methuselah, whose existence pre-dates the Flood, worships it; a full-on Talon of the Wyrm; an alternate identity or aspect of an Antediluvian who's probably slightly miffed at an ill-conceived attempt to diablerize it in the 15th Century; or even another Antediluvian entirely; generally the best answer is "let's not look too close at it and risk pissing anything off".

                  When something in WoD is that powerful, defining it is pretty much an academic exercise anyhow. It's fun to quibble about whether ur-Shulgi is actually an Assamite or a Baali, but at the end of the day it's still a 9,000+ year old fourth genner whose breakfast was a third(?) of its "own" clan after casually swatting away the nastiest and strongest ritual an entire clan of dedicated blood sorcerers ever cast in its entire history.

                  As far as the Sabbat Inquisition, there are some things that just don't get discussed in polite society if vampires know what's good for them. Koldunism is one of those things. I'm sure an Inquisitor gets a wild hair up their ass from time to time, and they're quickly disappeared for their efforts to remind the others of the importance of proper manners and etiquette.
                  Last edited by Theodrim; 12-19-2018, 11:21 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Kael03 View Post

                    In this world Kupala is a God. In the world of darkness he is a demon.
                    Actually, this is only partially correct. In the world of darkness, Kupala is a god (Transylvania by Night, Transylvania Chronicles, Clan Novels, Wiki etc). Yes, OOG we know the being is actually a demon but in accordance to the culture of the region, he's a god. There ARE some that know the truth (the Nosferatu Zelios comes to mind) but most simply accept the tradition.

                    Religion is a funny thing. As the old members of the clan still revere the old gods and for the most part Tzimisce keep to Romania, it's kind of hard to tell them no. Even harder to investigate the claims of demonhood. That and the clan is very much heavily invested in tradition. And as we all know "you don't fuck with tradition". As Theodrim stated above, sure, on occasion no doubt an inquisitor asks questions and disappears.

                    One also has to consider as well, if kine to this day still follow traditions of Kupala, is it so hard to believe that century old cainites believe as well?


                    Currently running: Gary/Chicago By Night

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                    • #11
                      As mentioned by many above there are a bunch of reasons the Sabbat Inquisition doesn't dig too deep into Koldunism and Abyss Mysticism.
                      • It risks the only two full clans to have joined the Sabbat leaving
                        • One or both of these leaving would logistically cripple the sect since most Sabbat are too busy being monstrous to care about mortal mundanities.
                          • The Grimaldi Revenant family are key in Sabbat mortal affairs for influence, covering Masquerade issues, and finances. If the Tzimisce leave they take their families with them.
                        • They are the only two clans to have 'destroyed' their Antediluvians. If they are declared infernalist it risks terrible implications.
                          • That the Anarch Revolt and subsequent Sabbat was infernally instigated or inflamed. It taints any actions of the holy war against the Antediluvians.
                          • Destroying the Antediluvians may not be possible without outside power. After all if only those clans that turned to infernalism could do it, maybe that's why none of the others have yet.
                        • Another Civil War
                          • If the Brujah Antitribu of New York trying a coup against the Lasombra and Tzimisce triggered a Civil War then declaring one of those two clans infernal is going to do the same. Unlike that one diplomacy is unlikely to succeed unless
                      • Protection from the higher ups (intentional or not)
                        • Many of the Kolduns and Mystics of the Sabbat are old, in many cases predating the sect if not the whole of the Revolt itself. Challenging their arts means questioning them and their methods
                          • Lugoj Bloodbreaker, Prisci Sascha Vykos, Cardinal Velya the Vivisectionist, Cardinal Moncada are some of the most preeminent examples
                      • If Koldunism is infernal then in theory all Sabbat are complicit
                        • The Vaulderie was crafted by Lugoj Bloodbreaker, Sascha Vykos, Velya the Vivisectionist using Koldunic practices. Indeed all the Auctoritas Ritae formed from the seeds of ancient Koldunic rites. To say the sect's most sacred rituals are infernal is declaring that the sect itself needs to be destroyed.
                      • They need the tools against the Camarilla and the Tremere.
                        • Even if you don't go with the metaplot point of the destruction of the Tremere Antitribu, the Sabbat is less sorcererously powerful than the Camarilla. Going after the Kolduns and Abyssal Mystics risks stripping away what few magi the sect has.
                        • The situation is even more dire if you keep to the metaplot point of the Assamite Schismatics joining the Camarilla, since that adds a second faction of Blood Mages to their ranks.
                        • The possible replacement magi have their own drawbacks
                          • The Serpents of the Light skirt a similar line both being from a heretical clan (Setites and their Antediluvian worship) and invoking entities that could be defined infernal (voudoun loa).
                          • The Harbingers of Skulls are new to the sect and far from numerous yet
                          • Their own Assamite sorcerers invoke ancient middle eastern spirits as well. Once an entity like Kupala is declared demonic, what's to say other spirits don't easily fall into the same.
                        • The Camarilla retook New York City, Giangaleazzo destroyed the Sabbat in Milan and defected to the Camarilla. Going after their own brings up questions about weakening the sect when their enemies are at the gates.
                      • The Black Hand hates them and visa-versa
                        • Just having the counterweight of the Sabbat's most military section waiting for them to overextend keeps them in check. Both groups would love to be able to declare that the other has gone to far.
                      • Both magical arts are poorly understood by those who aren't practitioners
                        • It's easy to gloss over troublesome parts when the only information has to come from those who use it.
                          • Kupala is a powerful earth spirit of the Carpathians as far as the Inquisition knows, one which has no control over the Tzimisce.
                          • Abyss Mysticism is just deeper exploration of Obtenebration, and the Sabbat exhorts studying and learning as much as possible about the Disciplines.
                      • It could devolve into self destructive accusations
                        • The Abyss Mystics offer rock solid support to the Inquisition, to attack them is to cut off their nose to spite their face
                        • After the Ventrue Antitribu the Lasombra and Tzimisce stand among the most numerous members of the Inquisition. Declaring either infernal will remove a sizeable chunk of their membership and open up uncomfortable questions about why the Inquisition didn't notice their companions corruption sooner.
                      • There's easier targets
                        • In an organization based on advancement through power and conflict, the enticement of seeking infernal power is ever present. Therefore plenty of more obvious infernalists exist to occupy the Inquisition's time and give any suspect groups object lessons of real infernal corruption to point to.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Schwartzung View Post

                        Actually, this is only partially correct. In the world of darkness, Kupala is a god (Transylvania by Night, Transylvania Chronicles, Clan Novels, Wiki etc). Yes, OOG we know the being is actually a demon but in accordance to the culture of the region, he's a god. There ARE some that know the truth (the Nosferatu Zelios comes to mind) but most simply accept the tradition.
                        Honestly, for precisely the reasons I mentioned earlier, saying "X is a god" in the context of WoD is pretty much a complete non-starter and doesn't lead anywhere. Sure, mortals have traditions of worshiping entities, great job pointing out the obvious.

                        Mortals have worshiped methuselahs. They've worshiped antediluvians. They've worshiped demons, manifestations of the Triat and all the way down those totem poles, other Celestines and more or less all the way down there, other mortals, technological devices, concepts as opposed to proposed entities. The list of objects of worship, looking at the entire course of human history, probably vastly exceeds the list of objects that haven't been worshiped in one way or another at some time, some place, by some poor deluded bastard.

                        The problem with this is, in the context of a fictional universe in which the supernatural is very much real and ubiquitous, is "define godhood". That's a vastly stickier wicket, and in all honesty not really worth the time or effort for the potential benefit such a definition may have even if one could be agreed upon enough to be accepted as a consensus view.

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                        • #13
                          In my opinion its everything. Even in the clan novels, Myca's lover (can't remember his name) worshiped the old gods. In my DA game, mortal religions play a HUGE part. With encroaching Christianity on both sides, the old gods are all the people have to cling to. In addition, with the Tzimisce being very traditional and Koldunism based on the "old ways" IMHO its far too deep of a connection to just brush it off.

                          So the point you missed in my argument is that Tzimisce are from the land. Their clan flaw ties them to it. And I would hazard to say that most of those who practice the magics believe they come from the gods or the land that binds them, not a demon. Remember that the Tzimisce generally embrace selectively especially in the DA line. In fact, the whole of the Transylvania Chronicles is based on Kupala.

                          Since Koldunism itself (depending on the version) draws from nature and the land (as do the gods), the clan flaw is that they must carry earth from their land with them, the parallels are far to numerous to ignore. I simply posit that since all signs point to the pagan connections that its very real to the Tzimisce. Now in modern nights, I would say that the traditions continue or are not questioned.

                          So Kupala being a "real" god that is worshiped today, since WW has a history of writing in true-to-life events as best they can, it simply makes sense to follow up on their reasoning and researching what we can (as they did for TbN and TC1-4 and the Clan Novels) and use it. Of course you don't have to if you don't want to but to simply deny its existence even though its written isn't good basis for an argument.


                          Currently running: Gary/Chicago By Night

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Schwartzung View Post
                            In my opinion its everything. Even in the clan novels, Myca's lover (can't remember his name) worshiped the old gods. In my DA game, mortal religions play a HUGE part. With encroaching Christianity on both sides, the old gods are all the people have to cling to. In addition, with the Tzimisce being very traditional and Koldunism based on the "old ways" IMHO its far too deep of a connection to just brush it off.

                            So the point you missed in my argument is that Tzimisce are from the land. Their clan flaw ties them to it. And I would hazard to say that most of those who practice the magics believe they come from the gods or the land that binds them, not a demon. Remember that the Tzimisce generally embrace selectively especially in the DA line. In fact, the whole of the Transylvania Chronicles is based on Kupala.

                            Since Koldunism itself (depending on the version) draws from nature and the land (as do the gods), the clan flaw is that they must carry earth from their land with them, the parallels are far to numerous to ignore. I simply posit that since all signs point to the pagan connections that its very real to the Tzimisce. Now in modern nights, I would say that the traditions continue or are not questioned.

                            So Kupala being a "real" god that is worshiped today, since WW has a history of writing in true-to-life events as best they can, it simply makes sense to follow up on their reasoning and researching what we can (as they did for TbN and TC1-4 and the Clan Novels) and use it. Of course you don't have to if you don't want to but to simply deny its existence even though its written isn't good basis for an argument.
                            Ah, crap. I think you just put a dent in my headcanon. Now I have to do some thinking..


                            “Nobody is purely good or purely evil. Most of us are in-between. There are moths that explore the day and butterflies that play at night.”
                            - Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute The Sun
                            (She/Her)

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Koldun View Post
                              Can anyone help me make sense of these beliefs beyond "The Sabbat are hypocrites"?
                              the relationship between the sabbat and kupala is as simple as it is complicated,
                              Kupala founded the sabbat...not directly, not willingly, but it did

                              basically, the vaulderie and the vinculum which are the two most important ritae of the sabbat, and the ritae the makes the sabbat possible at all,
                              are actually infernal rituals fueled by Kupala's magic

                              while kupala cults are infernal (by certain arbitrary standards, because there's no consensus on what constitutes infernalism),
                              the sabbat cannot declare them heresy, because that would mean losing the ritae and the end of the sabbat,
                              alternatively, not putting an end to the ritae and kupala means running the risk of the demon taking over the sect (which is what the eldest actually did, and was addressed in one of the gehenna scenarios)

                              so it's kind of a lose-lose situation for the sabbat,
                              if anything, the sabbat was lucky it was just Kupala and the eldest, was it any other demon/ante, things would've been worse (yeah, it can get worse than that)

                              otherwise, there are some misconceptions in your post,
                              - infernalists are still sabbat, whether the rest of the sabbat likes it or not,
                              and there is no "sabbat belief as a whole" that opposes infernalism,
                              in fact, infernalism was perfectly legal for at least 200 years as part of the "freedom of cult policy",
                              before the leadership realized demons were taking too much power in the sect,
                              before that, only two factions opposed infernalism, and they weren't influential enough at the time

                              - while there's probably kupala worshipers among sabbat, the main cult in the land beyond the forest don't consider themselves sabbat
                              (they are in sabbat territory, and are probably under sabbat protection but they keep personal domains, and aren't subject to sabbat rule)

                              - sabbat are free to idolize anyone and anything, including antideluvians and demons,
                              it's how you idolize them that matters
                              for example, path of revelations/night/cathari, all worship demonic figures, yet only revelations are considered heretics,
                              because they sell their soul and enslave themselves to their masters, sometimes forsaking all free will,
                              now that doesn't mean you can't be branded a heretic for lesser offense, but that's going real deep into Inquisition biases and stuff


                              -

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