The Third Age of Glorantha!

Welcome to the fantasy world of Glorantha at Glorantha.com, the place on the web to experience the richness and wonder of Greg Stafford’s Glorantha. This is nexus of Gloranthan activities regardless of whatever rules system you use.

Glorantha cultures: cross-pollination and changes over time

As I continue to do research and background work on the Gods of Glorantha, from time to time I’ll post notes that I think might be interesting to at least some of you. One of things I try to keep in mind as I write about Glorantha is that cultures cross-pollinate and change over time. This even has an impact of Gloranthan cults – the cults of Yelm and Orlanth have changed over Time.

Cultures don’t exist in isolation. Many Gloranthan cultures have centuries of communication and cross-pollination. In Peloria, the Orlanthi tribes have looked to Dara Happa for the trappings of status and authority since the days of the Bright Empire. By the mid-Second Age, the material culture (clothing, weapons, architecture, visual art) of the rulers of Talastar, Sylila, and Terarir was more similar to that of Dara Happa than to Dragon Pass; however, those areas continued to worship Orlanth and speak Theyalan language. A traditionalist Orlanthi chieftain of Talastar might well wear a long robe that extends to his feet and curl his beard like a Dara Happan nobleman. This is true even if he despises Dara Happa and the Lunar Emperor – since that is what a ruler should look like.

In the Third Age, this extended to all of South Peloria after the Dragonkill. Jannisor was perfectly acceptable to the Dara Happan nobility as a warlord against the Red Emperor – despite being a hill tribesman who worshiped the Rebel Gods. Ingakotum, the Lord of the River and most powerful of Sylilan chiefs, wore clothes and carried weapons that were indistinguishable from that of a Dara Happan aristocrat – indeed they might have been made there! The Pelorian Orlanthi have adopted the prefixes and suffixes of Dara Happa (marking gender and status), and the written prefixes for gods and heroes was incorporated into Theyalan script in the First Age.

In the Holy Country and Maniria, there was no direct Dara Happan influence for several centuries. Instead, those lands look to Esrolia for the trappings of status and authority. Wrap-around skirts which are above the knee for men, pleated or fluted skirts which are down to the ankles for women, exposed breasts, makeup, nudity, and bright colors are all signs of status and wealth.  Based on clothing, appearance, and material culture, it is difficult to tell the difference between an Esrolian and a Hendriking (I’ve heard you really have to look carefully at the tattoos). The cults of Ernalda, Lhankor Mhy, Issaries, and Chalana Arroy all look to Esrolia as the home of their gods (or at least the place of their greatest temples). Those Hendrikings who settled Dragon Pass (and later became Sartarites) brought that culture with them – and continued to look to the Holy Country for the trappings of status and authority.

With the Lunar Conquest of Sartar, many Sartarite rulers have adopted the material culture of the Lunar Empire (while rejecting its Red Goddess). A traditionalist Colymar chieftain might dress the same as a Tarshite noble, while rebelling against the Lunar Empire at the same time!

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Divine Magic: Sacrifice and Prayer

Some continuing notes as I explore Gloranthan magic and religion for several projects. Today’s notes are on sacrifice and prayer, and are heavily cribbed from M.L. West’s magisterial “The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth” (1999).

Sacrifice and prayer are the defining features of rune magic in Glorantha. Through these rites, the god is worshiped by its cult, enabling its initiates to wield some part of the god’s power. The following are notes that could apply to most cults among the Orlanthi and Pelorians, and certain cults in Prax and Pent.

Sacrifice

Sacrifice may be made at regular fixed times, as part of a daily, weekly, seasonal, or annual routine, or occasionally in response to a special event or need. The basic types of sacrificial offerings are:

  1. Bloodless food offerings: wine, milk, honey, oil, bread, cakes, fruit, vegetables, etc.
  2. Hair: a personal offering of locks shorn for sacrifice.
  3. Burning of incense to produce aromatic smoke.
  4. Gifts: these are typical tools intended for the god’s (or cult’s) use or from the giver’s personal life: weapons from warriors, spindles from women, etc.
  5. Killing without eating (this typical includes human sacrifice). The corpse is disposed of by burning or being thrown into a special pit or being eaten by animals, monsters, or even trolls.
  6. Killing and eating. This is the most central and social of cultic activity. The sacrifice becomes a public feast  - in fact, it is the only occasion for a public feast, as any killing of stock animals is a sacrifice. Besides the meat there is bread and wine, singing and dancing, for once the solemn moment of slaughter is past, the mood is festive.
  • Oxen and sheep are preferred animals by many cults. A typical requirement is that the animal be perfect, and never been brought under the yoke (or otherwise work).
  • Sacrificers prepare by bathing and wear clean or special clothes.
  • The sacrificial ceremony begins with a procession of the victim to the altar, accompanied by music and singing.
  • The sacrificial meat must be consumed at the feast or destroyed. No takeaway!

Many cults permit and even encourage symbolic representations of sacrifice such as terra-cotta representations of food, animals, worshipers, and even the divinities themselves. These can be replacements for the sacrifices or even the worshiper, or they might be a record reminding the god that sacrifice or devotion had already been made by the worshiper.  It is common for pilgrims to distant shrines to leave votive images of themselves to remind the god of their journey or for leaders to commission visual reminders of sacrifices made by their community.

page_Festival

Prayer

A prayer is a recital of specially crafted words with the appropriate rhetorical gestures as one undertakes a ritual.The words are marked linguistically as special and formal, either by archaic diction and syntax or by metrical and rhetorical form, and are performed in a special manner and place, often with musical accompaniment or dance. Many prayers are sung as hymns.

When praying to a deity, one typically raises one’s arms to the deity with the hands apart and palms open. The deity is addressed and praised by means of epithets and whole sentences. A prayer often provides a laudatory description of the deity, first in terms of its place within the divine community and then in terms of its relationship to the mundane and human world. This descriptive praise, particularly the description of the deity’s relationship to humanity, provides the backdrop and jumping-off point for the supplication to the god to listen to and help the petitioner. Prayers are often ended with a promise of praise should the petition be granted.

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Jan Pospisil Gallery

bonus04final_800x1010_72dpi_50pcJan Pospisil, the staff artist for Moon Design, has his own gallery on glorantha.com. Check it out and admire the 16 color plates he did for the Guide to Glorantha:

http://www.glorantha.com/gallery/nggallery/guide-to-glorantha/jan-pospisil

And if you want to discuss the plates, or ask any questions about them, just go to the thread on the forum!

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A few more notes on gods and spirits

A few more notes on gods and spirits from around Glorantha. The various ways gods and spirits are classified gives an example of the amount of diversity that exists concerning how they are perceived and understood by different cultures. And yet there is a certain amount of commonality, although the labels over cover different groups or mean different things.

Theyalans

The Theyalans (Orlanthi and associated peoples) traditionally classify the supernatural entities connected to the Otherworld as follows:

Gods: Entities we offer (or could offer) sacrifices and prayers to and who eternally exist in the Gods Time. They include such great powers as Orlanth, Ernalda, and Yelm, down to lesser powers like Vingkot, Yinkin, personal guardian deities, and so on.

Spirits: The discorporate entities that are present individually in all parts of nature – animals, plants, rocks, winds, fire, soil, waters, and so on. Sometimes they are servants of the gods (and confusingly, the personal guardian deities sent by the gods to protect priests and devotees are typically called “allied spirits)); more often, they are independent of the gods and serve nothing except their own needs.

Heroes: Also called demigods, these are mortals who also exist in some manner in the Gods Time. Examples include Harmast, Arkat, Sartar, Argrath, and Harrek.

Demons: Malevolent and harmful entities that might otherwise be classified as gods, spirits, or even heroes. Some evil people worship them as they would a god, spirit, or hero.

Jrusteli

The Theyalan system is hardly the only common classification scheme in Glorantha. The even more widespread Jrusteli system classifies such supernatural entities as follows:

Cosmic Court: These are abstract personifications of the elements and powers. Traditionally numbered 12 or 13.

Great Gods: These are the current owners of the elemental and other runic powers of the Cosmic Court. Most are burtae (hybrid entities that combine more than one rune power). Widely worshipped by barbarians and krjalki.

Srvuli: These are individualized portions of the Great Gods, lesser versions of the greater. Each Great God has their own srvuli, often several generations worth. Each generation is successively devolved from the original Rune power, and typically weaker and less significant. Most are burtae (hybrid entities that combine more than one rune power). Individual srvuli are often worshiped by barbarians and krjalki.

Spirits: The weakest srvuli and burtae are the spirits, a lowly, mindless form of energy without identity or individuality.

Vithelan

The Vithelans have a completely different scheme for classifying supernatural entities:

High Gods: Called the Avanparloth, these are the gods of the gods, the entities that created the world. They are too distant for mortals to meaningfully worship them.

Gods: Called Parloth, these are the overseers of the world, beings of permanence and unchangeability who seek to perceive, record, and exist in harmony with the unchangeable laws of the universe. Examples include Karkal, Prosandara, Veldru, and Yothbedta.

Anti-Gods: Called Adpura, these entities are changeable and impermanent who act against the unchangeable laws of the universe. Examples include Bandan, Dogsalu, Oorsu Sara, and Orlanth.

Small Gods: Called Parondpara, these are the supernatural entities who are worshiped on their home islands but almost never away from there.

Spirit: When embodied with a material form, spirits are the life energy. When disembodied they can be malevolent ghosts, unless appeased through rites, ancestor worship, and spirit magic.

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The Ultimate Preview and the Kickstarter Survey

If you backed the Guide to Glorantha on Kickstarter, by now you should have received your KS Backer Survey. If you haven’t received yours – check your spam file. Then fill out the survey!

A few keen and anxious backers have sent us emails or KS messages requesting we update their shipping address. Even if you have done that it is vital that you provide us with your shipping address via the survey. Please do not assume we have it via any other means.

The survey will not include anything related to purchasing additional copies, add-ons, or other related KS items. We will be doing pre-orders and the ordering of additional items via our website in a few weeks.

And if you pledged at Rune Lord and up, you should also have gotten an email with the Final Sneak Peak of BOTH Volumes of the Guide. If you find any typos, scriveners errors, or other obvious mistakes, please let us know in the forum thread associated with this post. We will collect those comments we get in the next week (until Friday, April 11) and get them in the final manuscript. But very soon after it is OFF TO THE PRINTERS!

BTW, please be patient when you are downloading your copy of the Ultimate Preview, as we expect a heavy load on the servers.

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Ultimate Previews and Surveys go out tomorrow!

Joyous news! The Guide is now complete with final art, final index, and final as far as we are concerned. That means it is time to send out the ULTIMATE PREVIEW tomorrow. We will set up a forum and give folk one week to find any typos that didn’t get caught by us, any clear untruths, or other scriveners’ errors. After that week, we will put the edits in and then send the Guide to the PRINTER! At that point it is out of our hands, and in the control of printers, shippers, and distributers. Your wait is nearly at an end!

So along that line, we will be sending out the KS surveys tomorrow. Reply to those as soon as possible, and let us know how you want your name listed for Kickstarter thanks (including Anonymous) and for Patron of the Arts credit.  We will be asking for those names VIA THE SURVEY.

Some thoughts on spirits and gods

ShamanSpirits are discorporate entities that are present individually in all parts of nature – animals, plants, rocks, winds, fire, soil, waters, and so on. The Brithini classify them as an incorporeal but ubiquitous, not-quantifable energy present individually in all things and natural forces.

Everything has a spirit, often several. Spirits inhabit the Spirit World, but the Spirit World touches every part of the Middle World, the Underworld, and the Above World. Our spirit is what animates our corporeal body and gives it life. It is analogized as “breath” (by the Orlanth, Praxians, and many Hsunchen), “heat” (by the Doraddi), “beast soul” (by the Pelorians), and so on. When it is gone, we are without life.

Not only do humans, animals, and plants have spirits, but everything else does as well. Every wind has a spirit that animates it. Every drop of water has a little spirit that inhabits it. Big winds have more powerful spirits than little breezes, and the spirit of a river is more powerful than that of a drop of water. The most powerful spirits are called “gods.” For example, the vast storm that permeates all of the Middle Air has a great spirit that its slaves call “Orlanth,” but powerful shamans know as Storm King. The gods are the masters of the Runes, who made Glorantha and then nearly destroyed it in the Great Darkness.

Those with the ability to communicate with spirits can see these discorporate beings, commensurate with the strength of their spiritual organs. Most spirit magicians can communicate only with those spirits that are comparable to their own; the gods are too immense for all but the most powerful shamans to even fully perceive, let alone communicate with. Storm Bull is too great a spirit for any but the most powerful shamans to normally communicate with, but he speaks with and aids the Praxians because of his kinship with them.

Most spirits are embodied in the Middle World – as the spirits of animals, plants, and things – but some spirits are disembodied and long for bodies to inhabit. Spirits without their own bodies want them, or want to feed off of those who do have bodies. These are the spirits of the dead, disease, and other malevolent things.  Some are benevolent, but most are harmful and dangerous. Only shamans know how to deal with all sorts of disembodied spirits, although some cults and sorcerers know magic that can cast out specific types of spirits (e.g., Chalana Arroy can cast out disease spirits, Humakt can fight the spirits of the dead, etc).

In game terms, spirit magic generally employs charms that houses a spirit. When a charm is made, the maker negotiates with the spirit to see what it wants. A spirit who can Light Fires might want want to be in a firestick, or a spirit who is Sharp as a Bulls Horn may be content in a wooden ring. Spirits have their own ideas of what they want and they may or may not be the same as human needs or desires. The spirit also informs the maker of the taboos that must be obeyed if the spirit is to remain helpful.

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A few thoughts on the Chariot of Lightning sect or Henotheism

The Chariot of Lightning sect was founded in 1605 by Surantyr the Non-heretic after he made a pilgrimage to Top of the World Mountain. Within three years, he made himself master of the city of Valantia and by 1611 he conquered Fiesive with his Lankstite allies. In 1619, the sect destroyed the armies of Sentanos, triggering another round of Safelstran alliances and opportunistic wars. As of 1621, the sect is one of the most widespread and powerful religious movements in Safelster.

The Chariot of Lightning sect is often described as Henotheistic Malkionism (including in the Guide), but it might be even more accurately described as Henotheistic Orlanthism. The sect holds that Orlanth is the Supreme Being, the Hypistos, the creator, preserver, destroyer, revealer, and concealer of all that is. Other deities are important and deserve worship, BUT they are names, manifestations, symbols, limbs, consorts, and so on, of the Supreme Orlanth. Orlanth is the Supreme Cosmic Breath (soul) of the World. Humakt is his weapon, Issaries his tongue, Lhankor Mhy his eyes, Chalana Arroy his healing touch, and so on and so forth.

The Chariot of Lightning claim that this Supreme God is the same abstract entity that the Malkioni know as the Invisible God, but the Supreme God has revealed his identity and true nature to Surantyr and he is Orlanth. Many, perhaps most, of those who follow the Chariot of Lightning teachings still initiate to Orlanth in the traditional way and use his Rune magic. However, its core followers also practice sorcery (since all the Runes serve the Supreme Orlanth). The Lightbringers have been “demoted” to being manifestations of Orlanth: Orlanth Goodvoice, Orlanth Lawspeaker, Orlanth the Healer, Orlanth the Tricksters, etc (although these “demoted” cults are popular and can be socially prestigious).

For a real world analogy to this, look at how these divinities are identified with Marduk in the Enuma Eliash:
Ninarta is Marduk of the hoe,
Nergal is Marduk of the attack,
Zabada is Marduk of the hand-to-hand fight,
Enlil is Marduk of lordship and counsel,
Nabium is Marduk of accounting,
Sin is Marduk, the illuminator of the night,
Shamash is Marduk of justice,
Adad is Marduk or rains.

Or this Egyptian text:
All gods are three:
AMUN, RE, and PTAH, whom none equals.
He who hide his name as Amun,
he appears to the face as Re,
his body is PTAH.

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