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Someone was asking about North Esrolia—Helerdon in particular—over in the JCCC group recently. I've been in the idea-generating stage writing up the city of Sylthi, and went off on a big rambly tangent. I realized that I'd appreciate feedback on what y'all over here think about my picture of Esrolian religion, and hope that it might be interesting, too. There's good odds I'll post more material as I work on it and it gets tidier, if people have continued interest. As I said, my direct interest is a writeup of the small city of Sylthi. I'm not trying to produce a detailed, super-elaborate description of Esrolian religion, but describe broad characteristics and then focus on the specifics and details at the city level. The material here is also a rough draft, not a polished and refined product. It's how I'm currently thinking about the topic. Sources: I haven't found many sources on North Esrolia/Sylthi in particular—or really on Esrolia in general—which is what attracted me to the region. The primary source is, of course, the Guide to Glorantha, and the Stafford Library's Esrolia: Land of 10,000 Goddesses is also important. In particular the chapter "What My Mother Told Me" is relevant. Much of the rest of the book I find interesting, but more thought-provoking than actually informative. Throughout, I've tried to be reflective toward published canon, rather than treating it as sacred and unalterable. OVERVIEW Esrolian cults fall into three broad categories: Earth cults, Husband-Protector cults, and minor cults. Every local culture worships deities of the Earth, and every local culture worships one or more husband-protectors of Ernalda. The "minor" cults vary widely from city to city, and are difficult to generalize. This shall be demonstrated in the latter portion of this essay. Throughout, I shall use the minor Third Age city Sylthi as an example of how these generalized trends manifest in a particular culture. It's important to remember that, while generalizations can be made about Esrolian religion, the region does not represent a homogenized culture; in modern terms, she is in no way a nation-state in the sense her Orlanthi cousins, the kingdoms of Sartar and Tarsh, are, at least to some degree. Despite persistent regional identity since the Dawn first as the Kingdom of Night through three hundred years as the Holy Country of Belintar, each of the former Sixths has maintained independent cultures, and their overlords have generally ruled with a hand favoring non-intervention. At the start of the Hero Wars period Queen Samastina is the Queen of Nochet, and consequently claims authority as High Queen of Esrolia. But not all cities recognize this authority, even if they send "tribute" downriver. Nochet bears cultural weight proportional to her population, but is not a centralized authority for the region. Each city-state is her own. The nearest thing to a central authority lies at Ezel. Meaning "her home," this massive temple-city is the place most sacred to Ernalda in Glorantha, and consequently may well be the most sacred piece of geography upon the whole of the Lozenge. Her priestesses here bow to no one within the sacred temenos, and any entity which is not depicted in one of Ezel's thirteen great temples, or among the lesser shrines, is not considered deserving of worship. It should be noted, however, that new entities can be discovered shewn in this mytho-mystic place, as was demonstrated when Belintar led the priestesses to himself in an alcove previously unknown. Still, the authority of Ezel is connected to place, and does not spread through the region. Consequently each city's Earth temple echoes this and remains its own theocratic entity which interacts with, but is not generally submissive to, the cults of other cities. The city-state is the basic political structure of Esrolia, built up of myriad houses and guilds. An Esrolian house is about parallel to an Orlanthi clan, in terms of size and function. The status of an Esrolian house varies more widely than a clan, with some noble houses dominating populations and resources which would be impossible for a single clan of Heortlings to achieve. They operate through an elaborate system of "client" houses, marriage alliances, and mercantile contracts. Status is broadly associated with antiquity. Politics and religion intertwine at the house stratum. Noble houses typically dominate priesthoods. A given city has two important temples, the Earth Temple and the Temple of the Husband-Protectors. Any number of minor temples or shrines may exist, depending on the local culture. These additional deities are typically the locus of one or more guilds—houses organized around a single craft, rather than bloodline. About half the time, the city's temples are placed into a sacred precinct, a temenos, surrounded by a low wall. This wall clearly designates where magical activity begins and ends on festival days and Sacred Time, rather than letting the energies flow across the whole of the city. This is both a blessing and a curse for cities so-organized. These temples centralize religious, political, and economic activity. They are the city's beating heart. These various temples determine who sits on the city council. This body is similar to the ring of an Orlanthi clan. Built of representatives from the different walks of Esrolian life, the council determines law, distributes resources, and overall creates a harmonious life for all Esrolians. (Note: this is intentionally over-stated, and utopian.) EARTH CULTS Like everywhere else, the worship of the Earth is the most important cult for human survival. Unlike everywhere else, in Esrolia it is also the most socially prestigious cult. Ernalda is the Queen of the Universe, and the bringer of all good things. Fertility and Harmony are greatly valued by all Esrolians—including males—and the Earth cults demonstrate this. The entity directly worshiped by the Earth cult is the local land goddess of the city, who is a daughter of Ernalda or Esrola. She is also the communal spirit, the wyter, of the city. (In RQG game terms, this cult is identical to the Ernalda cult. At most, it may have a few spell changes, restrictions, or a localized subcult. A plethora of names could be used for different land goddesses of regions, cities, and even the farms of individual houses—but it can all be abstracted as the cult of Ernalda.) Several other entities associated with the Earth are worshiped by the Esrolian religion. Countless, for it is indeed the land of 10,000 goddesses. They cannot all be addressed here, but the most important deserve mention. Asrelia Asrelia is the Grandmother, and most important of the Earth goddesses after Ernalda herself. She is the source of wealth. A house's Grandmother is typically an initiate of Asrelia, and it is through mimicking Asrelia's myths that the Grandmothers have established and maintained their authority. Despite the mother's position as queen (whether of a city or the Universe), the Wise Old One retains power and authority of her own. In some cities, the queen's Grandmother is the true ruler (even above the city council!). Barntar Barntar is a favored cult of Esrolian men, the son of Ernalda and Orlanth. He emphasizes Orlanth's aspect as God of Farmers, and allows the men of Esrolia to contribute to her Fertility in some small way. He has a shrine in most Earth Temples. Babeester Gor Most Earth Temples have a shrine to Babs as the avenger of the Earth, and her dedicated warriors are the royal bodyguard of the queen. Any person accompanied by them is explicitly on the queen's or the council's official business. Rune Lords remain rare, associated only with independent temples in the metropolises of Esrolia. Esrola Worship of Esrola is generally subsumed into the Ernalda-worship of the local land goddess. Imarja I have no idea how I'm going to approach Imarja in my Esrolia. The swan-goddess of femininity is fascinating, but seems to need an unusual, more mystic approach than other deities. Perhaps she's the source of a feminine Illumination, in addition to the Lunar Way, Nysalorean Illumination, and Draconic Illumination? Ty Kora Tek Ty Kora Tek is not generally worshiped in the Earth Temple of a city, but she is one of the city's important deities. At the very least, the priestesses maintain a shrine to her nearby, in the local necropolis. This is typically outside the city wall. It's common for even a small city to maintain a temple to the Goddess of the Dead, and a single priestess to maintain the necropolis and sing prayers to the dead. The Earth Temple The Earth Temple of a city is the institution with the most influence on who is the city's queen, for the city queen is also the High Priestess of the temple. Depending on the city's size, there may also be a second priestess, or even a Chief Priestess who oversees other priestesses. In general, the queen has authority over the Earth Temple, embodies the local Earth Goddess during festivals, and directs how to spread Ernalda's blessings, but the Chief Priestess oversees the temple's day-to-day affairs. She typically does not come from the same house as the city queen, save in cities where a single house has obtained a complete monopoly on political and magical power. Often, she comes from a client house, or from a rival house with which the city queen made alliance to secure the queenship. The Earth Temple is the center of a large network of political, magical, and economic activity. Much of a city's manufacture is directed toward it, and then distributed ritually through the social framework of houses, client houses, and guilds during festivals. The temple is an administrative center. In some small cities, it is a manufactory in its own right, particularly when a city has few guilds focused on a given craft. At the level of a town, the Earth Temple is the center of all crafted goods, the place where all crafters do weaving, pottery, and redsmithing in community. Example — Temple of Ernalda Sylthela Sylthi worships the goddess Syltha, who is the land goddess of the immediate region. They define Sylthela as anywhere within a day's ride from Sylthi, although this obviously varies depending on the nature of the horse, and if anyone stops the rider while they're performing the ritual to define the city-state's boundaries. While the historical House Syltha went extinct during the Adjustment Wars, House Netha refounded the city through a pact with Syltha during the period between the Dragonkill and Belintar's arrival in Kethaela. As the city queen, Queen Yarlina of House Netha is the High Priestess of the temple. Her cousin Hazulelda is also a priestess, and runs the temple's day-to-day activity. This is primarily administrative, acquiring grain brought in to the Earth Market, ensuring the granary remains filled and maintained, and distributing it to the citizens. She is technically a Chief Priestess, but has only one priestess directly beneath her, from House Pareninna, a position given as token appeasement. House Netha has a firm grip on Sylthi. The temple's primary shrines are to Asrelia and Babeester Gor. A small fire burns at the entry, which serves as a shrine to Mahome, but few people worship at it, preferring instead to enter the temple proper. The temple priestesses are also responsible for maintaining the necropolis, and their aunt Yarmanda is a God-Talker of Ty Kora Tek. Unusually, Queen Yarlina's great-aunt Grandmother Hazulda is a full Rune Priestess here of Asrelia, rather than a God-Talker, due to the lack of a temple. HUSBAND-PROTECTOR CULTS The husband-protectors of Ernalda are a multitude, of which traditionally Orlanth is most eminent. In practice, the husband-protector a city's religion focuses upon depends on its history, its current politics, and its magical needs. A city which historically struggles with drought and a dearth of rain will often focus its resources in worship of Heler, rather than Orlanth, while one near the Shadow Plateau may have a tradition that every third city king must be a worshiper of Argan Argar. The Esrolian attitude toward gods is opportunistic. Ernalda takes on whichever husband can provide what she needs in the moment, and her worshipers do likewise. Orlanth Orlanth is most often worshiped in the subcult of Orlanth Thunderous. Due to the death of King Broyan, and the historic fear of a Vingkotling heir by the Esrolian Grandmothers, Orlanth's more warlike and pro-active aspects—namely, Orlanth Adventurous—have been discouraged. Nonetheless no one denies that, when he's present, Ernalda favored him as lover, father, and husband. Even if he is a bit of a deadbeat murder-hobo. Argan Argar Worship of the God of Surface Darkness has lain fallow for a long time, since Belintar slew the Only Old One. It remains minimal in 1625, but is starting to see local resurgences. He is most valued in cities near the Shadow Plateau, where the ability to interact safe-ish-ly with the Uz is of use, or in places in extreme fear of outside harm and willing to make pacts with ancient, inhuman powers. Argan Argar is in particular worshiped as the husband of Esrola, not Ernalda. Heler One of the thanes of Orlanth, Heler is often seen as a fitting substitute by economically-minded Grandmothers, for he brings rain and good things. I don't have a strong personal conception of Heler, so his role in the Esrolian religion isn't well fleshed-out for me, either. In particular, I'm not sure how to handle his genderfluidity, but I think it opens up the opportunity for some really interesting stories in matriarchal Esrolia. Flamal Another god described as a husband-protector, and another one I don't have strong feelings toward Elmal Again, still formulating my thoughts here. I'm not sure the "steady thane" story works well, considering the historical Darkness focus in the land. I can see him being important in North Esrolia and the Longsi Land, near the Old Forest, due to his relationship with High King Elf. I do like calling him Elmal here better than Yelmalio; I think that culture clash is interesting, and provides an opportunity to roleplay the Sun Dome versus the Loyal Thane. The Temple of the Husband-Protectors In conjunction with a city's Earth Temple, the Temple of the Husband-Protectors provides the basic forms of magic and belief for Esrolian culture to thrive. A parallel can be drawn here between the generalized "Lightbringers Temple" found among some Orlanthi; this is typically a minor or major temple which serves as a holy place for Ernalda's husband-protectors as a collective entity. One husband-protector is supreme at any given time. His priest is considered the City King. A city's wealth can be roughly measured in how many husband-protector cults it supports. While performance of many religious festivals and feasts, and the support of priests, God-Talkers, and initiates can be cumbersome for a city's economy, doing so elevates the city's Earth Temple's status in the eyes of its neighbors. To provide such great bounty to those who can offer little in return is an act of great Fertility. Ultimately, despite the vainglorious title the City King has little real authority. Only in occasions of strife do the husband-protectors have power and use in the city. Otherwise, he provides a tiebreaker vote on the city council and joins the queen when she holds court, but does not rule. Example — Sylthi's Temple of the Husband-Protectors In Sylthi, the Temple is adjacent to the Earth Temple. It has a large courtyard, and traditionally focuses on Orlanth Thunderous as the primary husband of Ernalda. However, his statue is now absent from the courtyard, instead placed in one of the eaves, and the yard left bare. The city king presently is the adventurer-cum-merchant King Dur-Gaddi Leadfoot, an uzko and Rune Priest of Argan Argar. He was declared king, to many's surprise, not long after King Broyan was slain by Kitori. Queen Hazulda was behind his ascension, and has made pacts with his family back in the Shadow Plateau in an effort to re-establish bonds with the Uz who ruled Kethaela peacefully for so long. Orlanth Thunderous is still worshiped, alongside Heler. Heler rarely has the kingship, and so his is one of the few priesthoods in the city which is occasionally filled by those not of a noble house. The city's Grandmothers and council rarely choose a Helering as king because their temple's Heler priest owes loyalty to the High Priest in Helerdon, per ancient agreement they upheld when House Netha re-founded the city. The husband-protectors have few official duties beyond the actions of religion. Consequently, they are seen as layabouts by the overworked priestesses and initiates of the Earth Temple. Naturally, one couldn't possibly entrust them with further duties, being so slaggardly. "MINOR" CULTS While called minor, there's often nothing trivial about other cults of Esrolian religion. They are minor when considered within the context of a whole city's culture, but can, and often do, wield significant political and magical power. Family Cults The most frequent additional cult are family cults. These cults are organized around the worship of a house's founder. The house Grandmother is the priestess, and can speak with the founder or other ancestors to ask advice, tell them how the family's doing, and even lean on them for magical support. Often, this is only the case with noble houses. A guild also often worships its founder, but rather as their wyter and in association with the guild's god. (In game terms, this is a cult of Daka Fal, probably without shamans. If there are shamans, I definitely want them to not be the "ooh look, I run around naked! I have weird taboos!" form of shamans we see in other materials, because of the prestige involved.) River Cults Many of Esrolia's largest cities sit on a river, which provides transport of goods, and food for the locals' living. Rivers used mostly for food have little prestige, but the economic impact of heavily-trafficked rivers raises their status extensively. Typically, a city on a river has a minor temple to the river-god, and one city along its length has a major temple, which the other river priests owe loyalty to the High Priest. This worship is often in conjunction with worship of Diros, the boat god, or Vogarth Big Man. Merchant Cults Two main merchant cults are common in Esrolia: Argan Argar, and Issaries. Issaries is generally favored, but Argan Argar has a significant historical foothold in the region due to the Only Old One's influence. These cults are worshiped by a guild, and sometimes shared between multiple. In Sylthi, both cults exist mutually, although they don't share the same marketplace. One guild, the Fat Women, worships Issaries at the guildmaster's shop, and Argan Argar worship is centralized in the Temple of the Husband-Protectors. With Dur-Gaddi's ascension, uzko merchants worshiping Argan Argar have begun visiting the city more often. Other Guilds Many other gods are worshiped in this same manner, with the worship centralized by one or more guilds. The major example of this is Gustbran, the Redsmith's god. Nearly every city has a small guild dedicated to him, lest the city be reliant upon another for their metalwork. Noble houses will occasionally command people assist the local Redsmith's Guild in order to be sure they have access to their magic. Lightbringer's Cults The Lightbringers are honored, but not focused upon as a pantheon in the sense they are among Heortlings. A given city may have a minor temple to one of the Lightbringers, and Chalana Arroy often has a shrine in the Earth Temple. In Sylthi, the only Lightbringer worshiped as part of the city religion is Lhankor Mhy, at the Hevduran Dege Library (which, curiously enough, is actually older than the refounding of Sylthi—it wasn't destroyed in the Adjustment Wars, and remains an extant relic of God Time architecture). Small Cults Many small, localized cults exist throughout Esrolia, such as hero cults and spirit cults. I don't want to go into depth here, because 1) I don't know a lot about them yet, and 2) they're often weird and iconoclastic. One example of this is the cult of Vogarth Big Man, a hero worshiped as psychopomp in Sylthi, because he guided the dead back to the Necropolis in the Silver Age. (I don't know a lot about Vogarth, but came across that story, and I enjoy that extrapolation, and the idea of the spirits of the dead traveling downriver with the psychopomp.)
Hi all, I am after some information. I am thinking of setting a campaign in Maniria. My Guide to Glorantha tells me that Greymane is considering his options as to whose side to be on in the upcoming Hero Wars (page 355). RQG goes on to say that Queen Samastina is the new queen of Esrolia in 1625, after securing her freedom from various people, including the Western Barbarians (page 110). Can anyone tell me the fate of Greymane, his sons and the rest of the Manirian tribes? Is he still alive? Did he support the new queen or do otherwise? Any information would be gratefully received. Many thanks
Argrath has a unit of warlocks who use the powers of the Earth twins: two young women: one corpse blue and garlanded with skulls; the other rosy and angelic. Does anyone have any ides on who these demi-god Earth Twins are? Are they connected to Varstapoor and his sister Vestenbora, the children of Arim by an incarnation of Sorana Tor, of the Third Wane who displayed the awesome power of their cult in the Battle of Falling Hills? or is the name just a coincidence?
(Disclaimer: I'm not sure where I should post this query - I couldn't find a forum on the Moon Design website, and I wasn't sure if it was appropriate for The Design Mechanism website forums as they are primarily devoted to discussion about RQ6 system development. BRPCentral appears to be the most appropriate place for this.) This one is for the Gloranthan fans out there: "What is a good culture to use as an analogy for the People of Esrolia?" I don't have many resources which have artwork displaying Esrolit characters, so I'm not sure how they are intended to be depicted. In an earlier campaign I based them off the Mycenaens, with some Celtic/Gaulish touches here and there. I would like to bring Esrolia into my current 3rd Age Gloranthan campaign, but want to present the Esrolit in a fashion that is a more consistent interpretation of Esrolia of how the authors intended. I do have a pdf of 'Stafford Library - Esrolia: Land Of A Thousand Goddesses' by Greg Stafford & Jeff Richard; it is a great resource but not alot of artwork involved. The pic of a priestess resembles a Mycenaen/Minoan a little, so that's why I based some of the culture off Mycenae. I'm not sure if I'm going down a wrong tangent though. I don't know if any of the fanzines have fleshed Esrolia out more, so perhaps someone can shed some light on the Esrolit for me. Any ideas, anyone?