Stellar FAQ

Stellar FAQ

Originally published in December 1999.

1. Why is the Sky important?

Stellar movements are very important in Glorantha, as they are on earth. On one hand the celestial movements are (mostly) much more regular than the terrestial phenomena whose seasons and weather vary from year to year. They are used for time keeping and to predict when certain deities are more powerful or less. The sky is important too since most peoples remember the Great Darkness, and the gradual emergence of light and life again during the Star Time is vividly recalled. Additionally, many Gloranthan peoples see their gods in the sky, with the greatest gods being the Sun, planets, and other special bodies; or at least perceive the celestial bodies to be great entities. As these bodies move through the sky, their conjunctions with stars and other planets show the most important myths of those gods. Thus for the sky gods not all of a god’s myths might be visible in the sky, but all the most important ones are, and are likely to be the most often told, best remembered, and least changed, because the worshipers see the story told again and again in the sky through the years.

2. Elder Secrets and The Glorious ReAscent of Yelm disagree on some points. Which is correct?

There are actually very few contradictions between the two sources. In general, however, The Glorious ReAscent of Yelm, as the later source, should be taken as correct. Thus, the sky dome appears (from below) to turn in a clockwise direction, per GRoY, not the counter-clockwise direction mentioned in one place (but contradicted elsewhere in the same article) in Elder Secrets.

However, GRoY on occasion implies that the Pole Star is stationary, and does not move at all. This implication is incorrect — Pole Star, like most of the rest of the Dome, does tilt north in summer and south in winter, though the amount of tilt is small enough that it can be ignored for most purposes. However, the Pole Star is stationary in relation to all the other stars, which circle the sky with Pole Star as the axis.

Other information from GRoY and Elder Secrets both are still under evaluation, and specific parts of either may turn out to be incorrect. Thus, as indicated in the next question, the periods given by Elder Secrets to some of the planets we now know to be approximations rather than exact lengths of time. Similarly, the listing of the 100 Celestial Bodies in “The Perfect Sky” has been corrected.

Finally, although neither GRoY nor Elder Secrets describes the proper mechanism, some stars and constellations are visible only in summer or only in winter. The summer stars are always visible in the south, while the winter stars are always visible in the north. Because of the tilt of the Dome, a few stars are visible in both winter and summer, though still in the proper directions (north and south, respectively).

3. Are all the planetary periods given in Elder Secrets really so regular?

No, Elder Secrets provides approximations in many cases, rather than exact figures. Although some of the planets may have integral periods, such as the Twinstars (6 days), the others definitely do not. Entekos/Moskalf takes slightly less than 31 days to cross the sky, and spends an equal period in the underworld. She takes 47 years to complete her entire cycle to begin at the same place in the sky.

Artia is visible crossing the sky for 8 weeks at a time. However, during Theyalan Sacred Time she is invisible, so that her movement can only be discerned from her position before and after this time. Thus, she does not always rise on the same day each season, and takes a total of at least 8 years to repeat her movements.

EthElsora/Mastakos does not take exactly 8 hours to cross the sky. Because its motions are based upon the rotation of the Sky Dome rather than the “orbit” of the Sun, it takes slightly longer than this, though it still repeats its movements identically each year.

Shargash/Tolat takes very close to 4 weeks to cross the sky and the underworld, though its exact timing has not yet been determined.

The exact timing of the planet Lokarnos/Wagon has also not been determined, though it is likely that its period is not exactly 196 days as stated in Elder Secrets. It originally had a period of exactly 20 days (10 in the sky and 10 in the Underworld, and thus the marker of the 10-day Dara Happan week), but this has changed several times during history.

4. I have heard about something called the Boat Planet. What is it?

This planet first appeared before the Dawn, taking exactly 100 Dara Happan hours (4 days) to cross the sky and spending an equal amount of time in the underworld. Rather than moving upon the Sunpath or Southpath, however, it moved along the Celestial River. It disappeared at the end of the Second Age and was an evil omen that heralded the Closing of the Oceans.

The planet was known as Anaxial in Dara Happa, Diros among the Orlanthi, and Waertag in the West, and many peoples in Glorantha have prophecies of its return and are working to ensure it. Its reappearance will be a great sign of the start of the Hero Wars.

5. What is the relationship between the various planets of the Southpath?

Every culture in Glorantha holds unique views about the stars and planets, but we give the central Genertelan views here because they are the most relevant to the Hero Wars.

The Southpath planets are Underworld beings in the sky rther than Sky beings who go to the Underworld.

In Dara Happa, Shargash is the greatest war god of the Empire, whereas Artia is a little-known and greatly-feared demon of the underworld who haunts the sky. The only relation between them in Dara Happan mythology is that Artia was defeated by Shargash, and bound into her place in the sky. However, in Orlanthi mythology all three of these planets are enemy gods who were bound into the sky as punishment. All three continuously try to break free of their bonds, which is why the Southpath planets appear to move so erratically.

It is worth mentioning that although the Twin Stars are recognized now as Lunar heroes, they predate the Lunar Empire by at least 1000 years, for they were known before the Sunstop. The Lunars state that the spirits of this planet were liberated by Sedenya and recognized their Seventh Souls, and this is why the nature of the planet changed at the time of the Sable Conversion. But, this does not mean that all of Glorantha now recognizes them as Lunar heroes. Some Dara Happans still recognize them as the twin sisters Injerina and Bosjerina, who are visible on the Gods Wall as III-4 and III-6. They are the daughters of Oria, Injerina being the Good Sister and Bosjerina the Bad Sister. (NB, Greg Stafford once believed this to be true, but now (2004) knows that it is not)

6. We have jumpers in the East, West, and North — why isn’t there a Southern Jumper?

Although it is not visible, a southern jumper does exist, named Erindamus by the Dara Happans. If you look at the movement of the three Jumpers that are visible you can see a pattern: Rausa rises (invisibly) after noon, peaks at Dusk, and sets before midnight; Kalikos rises after Dusk, peaks at midnight, and sets before Dawn; and Theya rises after midnight, peaks at Dawn, and sets (invisibly) before noon. In a similar manner, Erindamus rises after Dawn, peaks at noon, and sets before Dusk. Because of the brightness of the Sun which is visible the entire time this planet is in the sky, Erindamus is never visible to the naked eye and hence is mostly unknown.

Some peoples in Glorantha remember this star in one form or another, but mainly that it disappeared about the time of the first Dawn. Only the star seers of Yuthuppa (who can see the stars during the day), the worshipers of the dog god Jajagappa in Saird, and some of the followers of Shargash know that it still defends the south.

When it was visible, this jumper was a green star-like body. If the star seers of Yuthuppa spoke of such things to outsiders, they would acknowledge that it is now red.

7. Why are there so many Blue Moon Goddesses?

Several goddesses called “blue moon” are actually separate entities. Remember that there are several red moon goddesses, and white and black ones too. Moon Goddess is a type, blue is a function or aspect that has many meanings. Those functions and colors indicate something that is shared by the Blue Moon goddesses. But they have their individuality, too, which is what sets them apart from each other. Also, confusion rises because many goddesses have multiple names and titles that are used and seem to indicate even more separate entities.

The best known Blue Moon Goddesses are:

  • Annilla. Blue Streak. Goddess of Tidal Cycles, Darkness Secrets, and Ancestress of the Veldang peoples. Her three groups of worshippers are diverse and widely separated, and worship different aspects of her being. She is called by the Sea Gods, Desteru, Mother of Tides; by the Pamaltelans, Seratamal; and by the Dara Happans, Vendara. Her mother was Black Entekos and Bijiif Yelm, and Lokarnos is her brother.
  • Lesilla. Goddess of the Descending Blue Moon, Great Ancestress, and incarnation of Sedenya. Before, when she was called Verithurusa, Lesilla had founded the land of Mernita, and thousands of her descendants lived in it. Mother Lesilla sat overhead, worshipped by her descendants, and simultaneously appearing among them as Queen Cerullia. But peaceful Mernita was invaded and Lesilla was traitorously shot down by her own son Lukarius, who mortally wounded her with her own bow. Thus Lesilla was slain and she crashed to the earth upon her own city of Mernita. The ruins are the Blue Moon Plateau. She was afterwards called Gerra, the Sorrow, and Rashorana, the Spark, and rose again as Ulurda.
  • Ulurda. Hunting goddess, goddess of the Ascending Blue Moon, and an incarnation of Sedenya. Ulurda, when she had been Rashorana, remembered the secret of life and death. In vixen shape she taught her starving people to hunt with bows and to trap so they survived the darkness. Her home was a moving blue star which disappeared when Ulurda incarnated as the first Teelo Norri during the Dawn Age. Ulurda is worshipped in the Lunar Empire by women who seek independence, huntresses, and anyone troubled by restless desire, or a desire to understand sacrifice. They call her Blue Orogeria.

8. What did the stars and planets do at/during the Sunstop? Did they keep turning/moving/jumping/etc.?

When darkness covered the Sun during the Sunstop, most of the planets and stars became visible. Like most of the cosmos, however, the stars, planets, jumpers, and other celestial phenomena ceased their movement, and so time could not be measured.

However, after an immeasurable portion of this timeless time, some people discerned a frightening thing: a single red star that had never been seen before was moving across the sky, along the Southpath. Rather than moving towards the south, however, it was traveling backwards. This was recognized as the planet Artia, called the Bat Planet and the Murderer of Yelm by the Dara Happans.

When the Sun began moving again this evil planet remained, though it at least moved in the proper direction along the Southpath afterwards. Every Sacred Time, however, it disappears, and invisibly moves backwards again. A few terrible prophecies in Peloria (including one among the Carmanians) stated that when the planet was visible moving backwards, disaster would soon befall. Such occurred during Sacred Time at the end of 0/12 (1232 S.T., 112232 YS), and the prophecies were proven true when the Red Goddess arrived riding the Crimson Bat that Spring.

9. What really happened at the Dragonraising incident described in King of Sartar?

On page 152-153 of King of Sartar, the disruption of the Lunar ritual to create a Temple of the Reaching Moon in Sartar is described. Here is a brief explanation of what occurred.

We must first make clear some facts concerning the ritual and its participants.

The ceremony “to call heaven down to earth” required that every major celestial feature of that time of year be present. They must be there for the sky to be properly recreated at the ceremonial site.

The date of the ritual was Clayday/Harmony Week/Earth Season (or more accurately, the night before Clayday, since the Orlanthi count their days from the previous dusk). At this time of year, Orlanth’s Ring normally rises sometime during Windsday. Thus, it is not in the sky at the time of the ritual. The Lunar priestesses certainly relied upon this to minimize Orlanth’s disrupting presence in this important ritual. Thus the star called Stormgate was present, since it normally becomes visible about a day before Orlanth’s Ring emerges from it.

The sacred Dance began with each participant moving as their celestial body was doing in the sky. But Kallyr Starbrow and several groups of questors had enacted a difficult heroquest. They entered the sky world and inserted themselves by force into the ceremony.

Then, “among the participants a star fell, and in heaven it flared but a moment before it went behind a small, thin cloud. But the sacred proceedings did not slow.” This describes the occlusion of Stormgate by a small cloud, which caused the priestess representing Stormgate to fall.

The cloud was part of the Orlanthi plot. In the Central World a huge cloud appeared. At the same moment in the Sky World the star god was struck by invading storm beings. These provided a weakening in the universe that were the unnatural gateway for the Orlanthi to step onto the dance floor.

“The star which had fallen rose again, but now it was a cloud like a star.” That is to say, when people looked to see where their dancer was they didn’t see her, but something confusing and, obvious now, very Orlanthi. The “Light of Truth” is a Feat being done to reveal it, and the “seven stars, all orange” are revealed.

Seven questors entered the “little sky” of the ceremony, one for each star in Orlanth’s Ring, and so when they emerged they caused the constellation of Orlanth’s Ring to emerge in the celestial realm as well, even though it was a day early. This severly fractured the Lunar ritual which had no way to anticipate the appearance of Disruptor, whose presence should have been impossible. The Lunars were completely surprised and effectively defenseless against the magics that Kallyr and her companions carried into their ritual.

The Broken Ring constellation rushed across the dance floor hacking and hewing as defenders tried to stop them or defend themselves, “dragging their stellar powers after them.” They crossed the sky from Stormgate to Pole Star in about an hour, though normally the constellation takes a week.

When the Ring reached the central sky, shortly before the constellation disappears into the Pole Star’s gate, they were in conjunction with Burburstus, the great celestial dragon. The conjunction of the Ring with Burburstus momentarily recreated the primeval foe of the sky gods.

“Then those [Orlanthi] floating in the air called for the ring to be closed, and for the green star to come to them. At that moment, from the sky, a beam of green light struck the circle. And from below… rose the mouth of a dragon.”

The green beam was the apparent form of the continuum which was the Dragon’s Head. It was more than the conjunction of stars, for Kallyr and her Ring had plotted for years to cause this moment. They had sailed on the maiden voyage of the new Boat Planet and negotiated with the Cosmic Dragon so that it would manifest at that moment in the sky, where Burburstus took a bite out of Shargash; in the Middle Air, where the green star of the Ring appeared; in the earth, which devoured the nascent temple and people; in the deepest seas, where a coupling occurred; and in the Spiritworld, where a monster was formed.

This was visible everywhere in Glorantha. Observers everywhere saw the Orlanth constellation, without its green star, rise on the wrong day and then spiral around the sky in about an hour as several planets and constellations streaked out of place to explode against the orange stars. Others stars were simply darkened by the Orlanthi stars’ passage. People and beings all across the world panicked at this terrifying phenomena and many set in motion their ancient curses, comsmic defenses, secret plans and doomsday machines that caused the Hero Wars.

10. What are the stars, really? Different myths give conflicting descriptions.

Almost every one of the well-known theories is correct. It depends entirely upon where the observer is standing and with what purpose they view the stars.

  • A star is a hole in the sky. So it appears to be when a person (usually disembodied) approaches the stars from below with the intention of entering the Sky World. To such a traveller the hole is huge and the sky made of immaterial divine stuff, and is where the first ring of defense for the star being’s temple starts.
  • A star is a living being. Of some sort: a hero, spirit, god, goddess, or creature. Every star is a separate entity, though they are of differing sizes and importances and origins. When the star beings are approached by equally powerful beings while upon the God Plane, which is the Realm of the Celestial Pantheon on the God World, they are seen to be beings. There are families among them, however, which set some apart.
  • A star is a temple, city, or palace. Each deity within its home realm simultaneously appears in several forms, one of which is a “being” likely to have the shape of the worshipper or visitor, while another is a domain which is a perfect representation of their inner divine selves.
  • A star is a ball of fire. When measured with sorcerous magic the stars are fire, and so far away that the Zzaburites had to make new ways of measuring. The travelers reported that the fire was also spiritually hostile and spewed out fire forms to protect itself.

11. Special Bonus Reprint Question: What is Zenith?

originally appeared in Starry Wisdom #1 in a slightly different form

There are some rumours that the “star” called Zenith, which always remains in the same place on the Sky Dome (instead of tilting and moving clockwise like the rest of the stars), is actually a dwarf observation balloon. The “zenith” referred to was the peak of the trajectory of dwarven missiles aimed at a foe in the First Age. The dwarves in the observation balloon sent launch corrections down to their comrades at high-plateau launch pads.

Parent: Cosmology

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