Home Forums Glorantha Glorantha Discussions The Many Suns and the nature of polytheism

This topic contains 13 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Jeff Richard Jeff Richard 4 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #8247
    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard
    Keymaster

    The nature of Gloranthan polytheism is often difficult for us post-modern rationalists to really grasp.

    For example, Orlanth Thunderous is the rain-bringer of Dragon Pass, the Holy Country, and Southern Peloria and is the fertilizer of the Earth (Ernalda). His attributes are primarily atmospheric phenomena such as cloud, wind, and the thunderbolt. His interests are primarily fertility and life-oriented, and he is a god of farmers and herders. He is worshiped with Ernalda as his wife. Their son Barntar is the plowman.

    But in Prax, Orlanth Adventurous is worshiped by the Animal Nomads as the god of Wind and Movement, and his crop-fertilizing aspects are barely noticeable. His attributes are mostly war-like, and he is most famous for the many foes he conquered. Ernalda is often present as only one of his many lovers. His friends are all battle companions, such as Humakt and Urox.

    In Sartar, Orlanth Rex is the god of kings, nobles, and poets, and is worshiped as the King of the Gods, of society, and of justice. He is the protector of tribes and kingdoms, and although his weather and war aspects are present, they are not as important as his leadership aspect.

    And yet all cultists agree – these are all the same god.

    Issues get even more difficult with the Many Suns. Yelm is the most important Sun God in Genertela and acknowledged by that name even by the Orlanthi (albeit as the rival of Orlanth). Among the aristocracy of Dara Happa, Yelm is the central god of cosmic rulership, of the sun disk, and of emperors. But commoners also revere Yelm for his life-giving light.

    But of course, Yelm is not the only solar god, even in Peloria! In Saird, Orlanth competes with the local Yelm cult for the hand of Ernalda. In Ralios, the Sun is the Sun Horse, sometimes the Sun Mare, and sometimes the father of Flamal. In Oraya, Hon-eel seduced Yelm and bore him twins. Yelm is not the only Sun God in Peloria, as Kargzant, Yelmalio, Antirius, and Vrimak (and others) are all solar gods (and all accepted as such). The Many Suns is well-known to Dara Happan philosophers, and Elmal is accounted one of the Many Suns.

    The Orlanthi view Elmal as the Good Sun, with the Emperor Sun being a distant, hostile, and arrogant figure. However, Elmal doesn’t provide as much in terms of magic, religious mystery, or community, and the Yelmalio revelations resulted in most Elmal cultists discovering that their god was really Yelmalio the Cold Sun of the frontiers. By 1621, the Elmal cult is very small, even in Sartar (about 1000 initiates in all of Sartar).

    However, all of these gods are acknowledged. Sometimes they are said to be separate, sometimes as masks for the one Sun, sometimes they are said to be less than their worshipers claim, but all are accepted. The Orlanthi acknowledge Elmal, Yelmalio, Yelm, and even Kargzant in their songs and stories. Antirius is perhaps thought to be a title of a more familiar god, and so on. But just because there is only one sun in the sky does not mean to most Gloranthans that there must only be one Sun God.

    #8260
    Profile photo of disenchanter
    disenchanter
    Spectator

    I’d say post-modernist thinkers should have no problem grasping the ideas behind polytheism, especially such things as the same person(let alone an concept as big as a god) being completely different in different situations.
    Even if someone is inclined to perceive gods as objective, instead of merely mythic figures, it still makes sense. A person’s public image(and even his personality and behaviour) change in different social groups. The tyrannical manager can also be a meek lover, loving parent, loyal shield-bearer, and bright pupil all at the same time, depending on which group they are currently interacting with(colleagues, wife’s friends, children, MMO partners, origami club). So for someone as big and vague as a god, it’s only natural to vary from culture to culture(or even from village to village), even if they exist as a distinct being.

    After all, part of post-modern thought is born out of the need to correct the sometimes dogmatic rationalism of modern thought.

    #8263
    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard
    Keymaster

    Behind the gods are the shadowy Runes, those archetypes revered as the Cosmic Court. The original members of the Cosmic Court are now mostly lost, but their powers are now wielded to a greater or lesser extent by their descendants, the gods. The power of Air, once called Umath, is now largely under the domain of the great god called Orlanth in Dragon Pass and surrounding lands. The power of Earth, once called Gata, is now largely the domain of the great goddess called Ernalda in the Holy Country, Dragon Pass, and Saird. The power of Fire, once called Aether, is now largely the domain of the great sun god called Yelm in Peloria and surrounding lands. And so on.
    But that of course oversimplifies things. Orlanth, as discussed above, has four well-known aspects (Thunderous, Adventurous, Rex, and Lightbringer), each with their own cults (although for game purposes, these cults are treated as one). And more exist. What is worshiped as a unified great deity by one cult may be divided among two or three lesser gods by others.
    And these are not truly subjective categories. Mythic events are experienced by worshipers and hero questers. The God Learners were correct – there is an underlying structure to Gloranthan myth that was set by the events of the Gods Age. But that structure is frustratingly indeterminable when it comes to comes to specific details, sometimes dangerously flexible (as the God Learners demonstrated), and sometimes even more dangerously inflexible (as the God Learners discovered to their horror).

    #8272
    Profile photo of Martin Helsdon
    Martin Helsdon
    Spectator

    In addition to all the human sun gods, there’s also the Sun Dragon and hints of truly ancient conflict between the gods and dragons, and that the Sun Dragon may have been the ‘original’ sun.

    #8275
    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard
    Keymaster

    Martin – that’s right. The Sun Dragon, Golden Dragon, the Viceroy of Day (servant of Vashanti), and others where not even included in this short summary. In Pamaltela, the “original” Golden Age Sun is widely believed to be a different sun from what rose at the Dawn.

    #8279
    Profile photo of Martin Helsdon
    Martin Helsdon
    Spectator

    Hi Jeff,

    The Sun Dragon, Golden Dragon, the Viceroy of Day (servant of Vashanti), and others where not even included in this short summary.

    The ability of the Golden Dragon to pass the Ten Tests to become the Emperor of Dara Happa in the Second Age and to ascend the Gold Throne suggests a relationship that would be anathema to the worshipers of the Sun God and something they’d really want to ignore.

    #8281
    Profile photo of Simon Phipp
    Simon Phipp
    Spectator

    It sometimes helps to have real-world examples.

    At Christmas, people mention The Baby Jesus. At Easter, Christ Reborn. Many think of Christ as a Teacher, as King of Kings, Son of God and so on. All are different Aspects of the same deity, all have different powers and spheres of influence. If you are a warrior, you will think of the one who threw the moneylenders out of the temple. Healers think of the one who healed the sick and resurrected the dead. Emperors think of the King of Kings. Beggars think of the poor man who fed and clothed the hungry. All are valid representations of the same deity.

    Genghis Khan is the Father of the Mongols, Reaver, Emperor, Builder of Mounds of Skulls, each Aspect can be worshipped by different people and grants different powers.

    In Glorantha, it is the same. Orlanth is a Great God, with many Aspects, each of which can be worshipped. The Son of Umath is the Storm God. The King of the Gods is the head of the Storm Tribe. The Adventurer went out and brought back magical weapons, including death. The Lightbringer mended the world. The Husband is the perfect rolemodel for Orlanthi.

    In Prax, Orlanth brings rains from the West, his winds struggling with the Storm Bull and Gagarth Winds. In Esrolia, he is the Husband, father of Barntar. In the far West, he is the Lightbringer, who passed through and can enter Hell.

    A warrior isn’t going to care much that Orlanth can bring rain or make it blow a bit. Nor does he care that Orlanth is a farmer god. He cares about Orlanth who killed Yelm, defeated Gore and Gash and beat Yelmalio on the Hill of Gold.

    So, each Aspect has certain powers and is worshipped in different ways by different people.

    #8293
    Profile photo of Roko Joko
    Roko Joko
    Spectator

    Do Pentans say the sun is Yelm, Kargzant, both, or neither?

    I’d like them to say it’s Kargzant IMG, but saying that Kargzant is the star Lightfore seems like an important part of their mythology that I’d rather not lose. My first instinct to get what I want is for them to say that Kargzant has two bodies, but I’m not sure if I like that.

    #8296
    Profile photo of Edan Jones
    Edan Jones
    Spectator

    How about this: To the Pentans, the Lightfore and the Sun are the same body.

    During the day, Kargzant rides with his family, and together with the star captains acting as his honour guard, everyone rides so close that they appear to outsiders to be merely one body.

    During the night, his family sleeps while the star captains and Kargzant perform their nightly watch. The star captains circling the world, while their Khan rides across the sky alone.

    #8300
    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard
    Keymaster

    Yelm is the Sun God and father of Kargzant. When Yelm died, he gave rule to Kargzant, who proved himself
    by trial in the Darkness. Kargzant and his Star Captains brought together the scattered bits of spark, flame, and starlight which had ebbed in the Great Darkness. As Kargzant did this, the stars reappeared in the sky.
    Solar tribes worship Kargzant, Golden Bow, Hippoi the Horse Goddess, Pole Star, and tribal ancestors and spirits. The Pure Horse People worship Kargzant as the Imperial Sun, calling him Yu-kargzant.
    After the Battle of the Nights of Horrors, the Pent peoples underwent deep soul searching and spirit questioning to find survival in the years after the devastating Nights of Horror. Many new tribes were founded in attempts to draw upon new customs. New gods were worshiped, sometimes thought to be, and sometimes discovered later to be, storm gods. The cult of the Blood Sun from the Kingdom of Ignorance has been adopted by some Solar tribes in recent years.

    #8303
    Profile photo of Roko Joko
    Roko Joko
    Spectator

    Do you think that excerpt answers the question?

    #8304
    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard
    Keymaster

    As to what the Pentans say the Sun is, yes. They say it is Yelm, sometimes Kargzant, sometimes Yu-Kargzant, and sometimes something strange.

    #8307
    Profile photo of Robin Mitra
    Robin Mitra
    Spectator

    I think for a modern rationalists it is easy to understand that one deity can have different aspects. As noted before, that concept is similar to any human being having different roles in society. However, it is an entirely different matter that multiple deities in Glorantha share the some body. That is in fact quiet difficult to fathom – and for me it has always been a challenge to explain that to new players without becoming too God Learnerish.

    Let’s stay with the Sun example. All Sun cults explain why the Sun exists and why it moves across the sky. So far so good. But it was not always like that. When Orlanth slew Yelm, the Sun went to the Underworld. But what happened to Elmal in that moment? If Elmal was still alive, why did the world turn dark?

    I believe that many incidents like that exists in Glorantha (Earth, Water, and Death pop to my mind). They seem to be antagonistic and paradox but are not, if we consider that in Glorantha two myths can be mutually exclusive but still both be true.

    #8310
    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard
    Keymaster

    Well, the idea that a single thing or principle can be manifested by multiple deities was well known to our world. Heck, most Gloranthan religions believe that we have multiple souls (5 for the Orlanthi, 6 for the Pelorians, 7 for the Lunars, etc).
    So the Sun is a physical object. It is also the god Yelm, who rises and dies each day. It is also Elmal, the last lingering light in the Darkness. It is also Kargzant the Sun Horse who gallops across the sky. It is also Vrimak, the solar eagle. It is also Ezelveztay the One, the orb which hovers over the head of a rightful Emperor.

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