If, after reading this you'd like to try your hand at generating some Karnian Sigils, there is now a generator here.
What follows is an excerpt from A history of Karnian culture. mysticism and philosophy by S.X.A. Blyledge, University of Gallifrey Prydon Press, Dateline 67-34670/Orange. Used with Permission.
Unlike its cousin Gallifreyan, Karnian script evolved in the context of a different cultural and evolutionary pressure over the span of ten billion years. To understand what makes Karnian script different, we must first take a quick look at Gallifreyan.
In the wake of Rassilon's Inutitive Revolution, which saw the Gallifreyans ascend to mastery of space and time, Gallifreyan writing and grammar had to rapidly adapt to incorporating concepts uniquely related to a shifting, malleable timescape where tenses such as "will-have-been", "possibly-were" and "alternatively-existant" were commonplace. (Pandek VII et. al., 45636)
Given their rapidly expanding knowledgebase, neologisms were being introduced into the Gallifreyan lexicon at the rate of a thousand words a day in some cases, as scholars returned from their studies of cultures across the multiverse. (ibid, 903666 )
As such, their script evolved to rapidly to capture and convey incredibly dense amounts of information in a multidimensional context. To the outside reader, bereft of Time Lord cross-dimensional senses, the script can seem confusingly random or even vastly different to itself from one reading to the next. What seems to be a completely different writing system is actually just a different dimensional aspect of the same character as contextualised by local reality at the time of perception.
(ibid, 9046116 )
Fig. 1: Example of several "variants" of Gallifreyan writing.
But where Gallifreyan valued density and an almost fractal encoding of information to allow Time Lord Scholars to say as much as possible in as small a space as possible, Karnian script evolved in the other direction entirely (despite looking just as complex from an outsider's point of view.)
The divergence of the Gallifreyan and Karnian cultures led to a similar divergence in linguistics and palaeography.
If Gallifreyan was a language of scientists and academics, Karnian was a language of spiritualists and seekers. (Ohima et. al., 60-a) Whereas Time Lords had a data-heavy, "written" culture, with information stored in massive data archives, matricies and books, Karnian simplified and changed in the context of a society of mind, where information was not primarily stored externally, but rather internally in the quasi-gestalt of the Karnian Sisterhood. (ibid, 715.6 )
A rough analogy of the Karnian approach may be seen in ancient Earth cultures such as the Australian Aborigine or Native American, who, while possessed of writing systems, also relied strongly on oral tradition of storytelling and singing, where cultural information is encoded not so much in the written, but the spoken. (R. Advoratrelundar, 1829615c) Tales are told from one generation to the next and make their way down through history.
Similarly, the Karnians, being a culture of mind, store their knowledge within Thought Circles and a collective conscious / unconcious Mind, where information and knowledge is telepathically shared between the Sisters as they commune in their ceremonies. (Orillica et. al., 9318-a) Written, external information storage is perceived as a relatively ephemeral medium by comparison and treated as secondary.
That is not to say that writing has no place for the Karnian culture. Rather, it serves not so much a means of laying down data as it does concepts, desires and impressions. To write Karnian is to effect a transfer from mind to matter, taking larger "ideas" and distilling them to simpler, physically expressed "concepts" meant to evoke feelings, thoughts and intuitions in the viewer. (ibid. )
Unlike Gallifreyan, which is meant to be "read" and decoded in a "lossless" fashion (i.e. whatever a literate reader sees is exactly what the writer generated), Karnian is meant only to be "felt" by the reader, as if one were viewing a work of abstract art or a mandala. (ibid. )
As a society of telepaths, feelings and intuitions have a richer resonance than cold , "dead" words. Complex concepts are mentally "shared" from one Sister to another, replete with attendant feelings, interpretations and nuances impossible to practically convey in (concise) text. Thus, their writing takes on a much different purpose and character than is typical.
If Gallifreyan can be said to be a collection of "Words", Karnian would be classed as a collection of "Sigils" (with all the esoteric connotations that implies) based on a restrictive subset of the Gallifreyan root symbology inherited when the founders of the Sisterhood fled Gallifrey during the Inutitive Revolution.
Fig. 2: Karnian root symbols. These primitives are combined in varying patterns to create complete sigil-glyphs.
The sigil-based approach, which is uniquely Karnian, serves several purposes:
1 - Security: Outsiders to the culture would have no way to glean any kind of detailed information or insight from a sigil- there is no way to steal the secrets of the Sisterhood by simply stealing and translating a scroll, for example. Sigils can be "charged" with emotions or "intents". such as a feeling of dread that can be used to make beholders feel unease, or an intense desire to leave the area the sigil exists in. (ibid. )
2 - Insight: For members of the Sisterhood, the act of generating a Sigil is an emotional,meditative, spiritual one akin to constructing a mandala. As the base elements of any sigil, while constant and consistent, can be re-arranged in almost any variation within the Sigil, each act of writing is personal to the writer, and can reveal much about their inner mental state or convey a different impression of the same subject.
Fig. 3: The name "Sakura" rendered twice in Karnian - note the differing configurations of the same root symbols rendering a very different appearance.
Sigils also serve as tools for meditation and spiritual advancement, as others can get lost in their patterns and pathways, learning as much about themselves as they do about the sigil's author as they "experience" the symbol.
3 - Tooling: Whereas the Time Lords use machines to interact with and manipulate reality, Karnian sigils can be charged with the "intent" of the creator(s) to store energy and warp time and space to the desired effect. If tattooed on the body they can make it easier for the user to move through time and space, or cast mental "spells" such as thought projection, matter transference, pyrokinesis, telekinesis, or even reality manipulation. When carved into weapons or clothing they can alter weight, density or other physical properties, even to the point of imbuing them with properties not found in nature (such as making a flaming blade, etc.)
Fig. 4: Sigils carved into the blade of a Karnian spear..
4 - Aesthetics: Karnian sigilcraft is as much art as it is practical application. It is meant to inspire and uplift upon viewing, similar to applications of Arabic script on Earth which can be used both as writing and decoration simultaneously.
Construction of a Sigil:
Sigils are composed of two parts - the root syllabary
and the container
, which encloses a complete thought.
Karnian Linguistics have been jokingly referred to by some anthropologists as "Space Welsh" because of the paucity of vowel sounds in the written context. Indeed, the primitives used to denote words lack any kind of vowel representation. Additionally, there is no repetition of primitives within sigils expressing a phrase.
Sigils are usually crafted in the following manner:
A name or phrase to be written is determined, for example:
ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US
First, all vowels are removed, rendering
LL YR BS R BLNG T S
Then, duplicate consonants would be consolidated, rendering:
(As you can see, this is a "lossy" process which means it is generally difficult, if not impossible to reverse engineer the meaning of the sigil without intuiting it, which is a skill only a member of the Sisterhood, or one with access to their mental cultural repository, would have).
Fig. 5: Root Symbols for "All your Base Are Belong to Us".
Next, the remaning consonants are "mapped" to a sigil. Depending on the crafter, they may choose to break the sigil into "words" (denoted by sigils enclosed in a circle) of 3, 6 or 9 characters (due to an esoteric appreciation for the number groupings) with the remainders distributed across the sigil.
Glyph placement and rotation is up to the user and will generally vary based upon the overall aesthetic message they wish to convey, further obscuring its meaning from the uninitated.
Fig. 5: "All your Base Are Belong to Us" as a Karnian Sigil.
Addtionally, further decorations and combinations with other sigils can be utlilised to symbolically meld their message into the overarching fabric of reality, as opposed to existing as a mere word floating on a page.