(urth) Borski and cacogens (Long)

Macronaut macronaut at yahoo.com
Mon May 22 10:06:17 PDT 2006

 I see two
> distinct types among those 
> Severian meets:
> 1. includes Father Inire and the Cumean (perhaps
> Hethor).  They  appear as 
> small, old, twisted people, usually hooded. They are
> associated with animals 
> and probably have the ablility to shapeshift (who
> does this evoke from 5th 
> Head?).  They have the ability to instantaneously
> transcend distance but not 
> time, with mirrors, perhaps other devices and
> clairvoyance. (I suspect the 
> Cumean needed Severian, in the seance, to transcend
> time).  They live on 
> Urth and provide its denizens with direct services
> such as a Botanical 
> Garden, a Secret House Absolute and an Oracle.
> 2. includes Famulimus and Barbatus.  They appear as
> very tall, young and 
> unnaturally beautiful.  They are associated with
> angels (Tzadkiel).  They 
> show no shapeshifting ability and wear masks around
> humans.  They have the 
> ability to travel in time but need spaceships to
> traverse distance.  They 
> provide Baldanders with knowledge and machinery
> which can't be duplicated on 
> Urth.  They live in space ships and stay separate
> from humanity.

What makes us think Father Inire and the Cumean have
the ability to shapeshift?  It's not clear to me that
Father Inire and the Cumean <cannot> travel time, or
simply choose not to.  On the contrary, there's some
info to suggest they do know how to travel time, even
if they don't do it themselves -- how else could FI
construct the Botanical Gardens, with its
time-twisting abilities? If they cannot, that also may
have something to do with the availability of
technology -- both Inire and the Cumean seem to
operate with less access to so-called Stellar
technology than F,B, and O.

And what makes us think that FI and the C aren't
wearing masks?  I would think they are, and I seem to
recall at some point (1) Sev mentions that fact about
FI, and (2) reports seeing the image of some kind of
alien, multi-eyed serpent superimposed over the
Cumean's outward guise as old woman.

Also, I think its accurate to say that F,B and O seem
to use ships for both distance and time -- unless you
are referring to them living backwards, which is no
more a form of time travel than our living forwards.

And I don't think it's correct to say that the
cacogens stay separate from humanity -- on the
contrary they seem to be regular visitors at the House
Absolute -- so much so that they need scary masks to
keep humanity from getting to familiar or dependent on

OTOH, one additional difference btw the two groups you
identify is their apparent longevity -- hasn't Father
Inire served multiple Autarchs, such that his years
are beyond those normal for cacogens?  And hasn't the
Cumean served the witches for a similarly long period?

Another apparent difference is that FI and the C seem
to be living forwards -- they show none of the signs
F, B and O do of living in reverse.  On this point,
it's hard to imagine how Inire could supervise
construction of the gardens and the secret House if
every day he forgot what he did the day before.

As for why Sev takes the ship, I think it has less to
do with the symbolism of this being an angelic form of
transport and much more to do with the fact that his
passage on the ship gives him the opportunity to prove
to Tzadkiel that Urth should be redeemed.  Tzadkiel
uses the voyage to familiarize herself with Sev and
his morals by appearing to him on the ship in various
forms (apport, Zak the crewman, the false epitome of
Urth, etc.).

Lastly, your post reminds me of a couple of
long-standing questions:

1) FI is performing clear services for humanity and
has chosen a seemingly appropriate position to do so
at the center of the Commonwealth's administration. 
What is the Cumean doing for humanity?  How does her
interaction with the obscure Witches' guild or her
equally obscure presence in a disused part of the
Botanical Gardens help redeem humanity?  Or is she
around for some entirely different reason?

2) Wolfe at one point suggests that the Commonwealth
trades in human slaves in exchange for the
Stellar-level technology they receive.  What do the
cacogens do with those humans they take?

Thanks for your patience if you have read to the end
of this.


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