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Orlanth's Ring and Celestial Pedantry


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 Proposing a certain Chaos quantity for Umath, the Storm King, brings me back to another related bit of celestialogy - the path taken by Orlanth's Ring in the sky.

Orlanth's Ring wanders up the visible side of the Sky Dome over a period of seven days. starting at Stormgate, and exiting at Pole Star's area of the sky where the tip of the Spike carrying the Celestial Court used to pierce the Sky Dome prior to Umath's birth. (If you visit the Storm Age, you might witness Orlanth and his companions traveling up to the Celestial Court in a weekly pilgrimage, for whatever values a week or seven days may have in Godtime).

(Possibly while talking to or even dueling with Orlanth on the ground... deities aren't limited to one location in any given situation.)

The Guide doesn't tell where the stars go upon leaving through Pole Star's place. Guide p.651 says 


After seven days it reappears at Stormgate, which  becomes  visible  the  night  before  in anticipation of its appearance. 

Stormgate appears as a pulsing star with a 14 day cycle, shining every other Clayday night and the first part of Windsday night in a brightening orange until eclipsed by the Dragon's Head, the last of the stars of Orlanth's Ring to enter the sky.

(Aside: Orlanth's Ring probably has to be understood as a spiral bracelet rather than a closed loop. At least until Argrath performs the Utuma on the Red Moon, at which occasion the Ring might change into the Ouroboros loop. No idea whether that occasion will mark the ascension of Orlanth, and the disappearance of the Ring, too.)


The movement across the sky dome starts at Stormgate, a non-moving star situated in the northwest of the sky, below the angular elevation of the Red Moon, according to the celestial map on p.645 in the Guide. That same map shows Orlanth's Ring somewhere in the north-east, though, with a directional trail indicating a movement along the Sky Dome.

It should be really momentous and spectacular if Orlanth's Ring whenever wanders behind the Red Moon. Does that happen, though?

Can we assume that the map shows an actual sky on any given day in the Gloranthan year?

Assuming that Orlanth is in the sky during the Spring equinox, the ring would reach Pole Star on the Wind Days of Disorder, Death, Stasis and Illusion weeks and the first week of Sacred Time, which coincides nicely with the time allotted to the Lightbringers' Quest during Sacred Time with Orlanth out of sight, and emerge from Stormgate correspondingly in Harmony, Fertility, Movement and Truth weeks. That takes care of half the year...

The day of the year cannot be calculated from the position of the constellations alone. Youth sits directly north, which would be the case on midnight of the night marking the start of the spring Equinox, as the year starts with Lightfore rising in that constellation, at dusk. One wouldn't be able to see the sky dome in this orientation around the autumn equinox, as that position would take place at noon. This excludes much of Fire Season, all of Earth Season, and Disorder Week, possibly also Harmony and Death Week, of Dark Season. Winter nights are longer, so visibility of Youth in the north will be greater than in summer.

However, we know that this situation shows the sky at or very near ,midnight, as Lightfore has (almost?) reached its zenith near Pole Star. With that information, and the considerations above, the date of this depiction has to be at or within a day or twp of the Spring Equinox.

Spring Equinox falls on Waterday in Sacred Season, two days before Orlanth's Ring reappears (if my assumption for the visibility of Orlanth's Ring is correct). With the Ring having risen between one and two sevenths the vertical distance between Stormgate, this would have to be Fireday or Wildday of the second week of Sacred time.

The Red Moon is shown in Empty Half phase, but then the phase of the moon depends on where in Glorantha you look at it. Empty half falls on Fireday in Dragon Pass and Kethaela, and most of Pamaltela, so Fireday is likely, and the map works out so far.


But would Orlanth's Ring have moved that far into the eastern sky?


 Orlanth’s  Ring  has  a  unique  celestial trajectory, appearing just before midnight on Windsday at the star called Stormgate (which does not rotate with the Sky Dome), taking about an hour for all of the stars to appear. It travels upward for seven days and nights, and disappears  into  the  Pole  Star.  Since  the  Sky Dome turns for those days, when viewed from below the constellation traces a spiral in the sky. 

Tracing Umath's path as shown in the Copper Tablets, especially Tablet No 6 on p.115 in the Guide, suggests a total of seven or so spirals around the sky dome before Umath would have met Yelm.

There were no constellations in the Sky when Umath emerged from Stormgate - the stars emerged after Zator, the eastern of the Planetary Suns, went into the Pit (Stormgate). (Tablet 8 shows his path into the Pit, Tablet 9 the stars emerging.)


If Orlanth's Ring is to trace Umath's path (at least the lower part of it) in relation to the Surface World, it would move about as fast around the Pole Star as does the Sky Dome, giving the Ring rather few encounters as it crawls up a path past those constellations which are between Stormgate and Pole Star at the moment the Dragon's Eye appears. That gives 21 straight lines up the Sky Dome map.

This solution would require Orlanth to travel from Youth to Pole Star on the Sacred Time emergence. Orlanth is slightly out of synch with that axis, possibly enough for the last week of Storm Season rather than the second week of Sacred Time, if the Umath's Path model applies, or otherwise within parameters for this model if the number of Umath's hypothetical loops is not exactly seven.


If Orlanth's Ring is to inscribe that spiral onto the constellations of the Sky Dome, it would have to move up in a rather straigh curve from Stormgate to Pole Star, allowing the rotating Sky Dome to pass beyond it seven times, one time for each day (not counting the slight precession the Sky Dome has, making its rotation cycle one day less or more than 294 days. Not sure which of the numbers 293 or 295 it is.)

Using this model, the position of Orlanth's Ring as shown on p.645 would be impossible, though.


Tablet 10 shows a different spiral path for Orlanth upon his lethal approach to Yelm, starting somewhere in the surface world, apparently north of Raibanth (if those towers correspond to the Dara Happan cities, which the course of the Oslir suggests) taking only two full rotations to reach the top of the Sky Dome.

If Orlanth's Ring is to wander two spirals during his week of ascension, his path would carry the Ring past all of the  constellations upward of Stormgate each time he ascends, although in a different order and varying proximity.

In that model, a situation as depicted on p.645 might occur.


On the eve of the Battle of Pennel Ford, three new stars emerged from "Stormgate and rapidly climbed one third of the way up the Sky Dome" (Sourcebook p.38), which would set the Lunar phase on the day of battle to at least half, if not full. Given the massive Sunspear, Fireday is as likely as Wildday. This would work with the two loops per week model and the straight up from Stormgate model, but not with the seven loops in the week of visibility model pulling Orlanth away from the direct (or slightly curved) line between Stormgate and Pole Star.

On the date of the Dragonrise, Clayday of Harmony Week /Earth Season), Orlanth's Ring would normally be one day from disappearing at Pole Star. The date is 20 day before the Autumn equinox, placing Youth and the Dragon wandering through the south at midnight. The night would have about eleven hours of visibility for the stars (probably required for the dance, unless the rite started during the day when only Star Seers would be able to compare the motion of the Sky Dome to that of the dancers. But then, that circular dance may have been going on for a couple of days before the rite already, with assistants taking the preparatory rounds in the circular temple grounds. They might have been aided with strings held together at the Pole Star position, giving the dancers the exact radius they had to process.

The intruders, directed by Minaryth Purple, went into the dance at an accelerated timetable, climbing from Stomgate (which is maybe one third the way up the Sky Dome) to the outskirts of the Celestial City which is about a quarter or even less down from Pole Star, which means they would have had to climb about five twelfths of the Sky Dome to meet the dancers of the Dragon constellation. They would have had to move at least about one third of the perimeter of the temple area to get that high using the straight line up variant, projected on the rotating sky. Using the marching along with the constellations route, they would have to make at least four revolutions, while the dancers would process in a much slower way. Using the two loops up variant, the intruders would have walked around a bit more than one revolution.

The Dragon's Head as shown in the constellation on p.651 (superimposing Orlanth's Ring with the constellation) would have been more or less on a srraight line between Youth and Pole Star.


Oh well, if nothing else, this exercise demonstates how a Gloranthan would be able to guesstimate the date of a clear night...

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I have to confess that you have lost me.  There is a great opportunity for someone to publish a well illustrated  treatise on Gloranthan astronomy in the Jonstown Compendium.  Chap 1: The Gloranthan celestial bodies.  Chap2:  The associations and meanings of the observed celestial bodies.  Chap 3:  The Gloranthan night sky, by season.  Chap. 4: How they move.  Chap. 5:  Challenges of Gloranthan celestial navigation and calendrical prediction.

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9 hours ago, Squaredeal Sten said:

I have to confess that you have lost me.  There is a great opportunity for someone to publish a well illustrated  treatise on Gloranthan astronomy in the Jonstown Compendium.  Chap 1: The Gloranthan celestial bodies.  Chap2:  The associations and meanings of the observed celestial bodies.  Chap 3:  The Gloranthan night sky, by season.  Chap. 4: How they move.  Chap. 5:  Challenges of Gloranthan celestial navigation and calendrical prediction.

No idea whether the Jonstown Compendium is the right place to publish a systematic of the sky mechanics. As a sand box for celestial heroquests, possibly yes.

There are a number of quite good treatises on aspects of the sky, although quite a few mechanisms aren't that easy to explain. 

Creating your Chap 3 wouldn't make sense. The sky dome makes a complete revolution - give or take (one of the two) one day's worth of precession - from dusk till dusk. You could make a night's plot of the planetary movements on the unchanging part of the sky dome, including a path of the Red Moon, Stormgate and Zenith - three bodies that don't move, and hence leave a trace on the rotating bowl. But then, the path of the Red Moon and its relative position in the sky depends on where in Glorantha you look at it, and whether inside or outside the Silver Shadow and its expansion, the Glowline.

Years ago, Nick Brooke created a software that would show the Night Sky, and the trail that Lightfore actually leaves on it. On the equinoxes, the planet rises and sets in the same constellation, as the sky dome takes about half a full day (i.e. all of the equinox night) to make half a rotation. At the winter solstice, lands (almost?) 120 degrees behind the constellation he started from, on the night of summer solstice he runs the same 120 degrees ahead, always approaching the Pole Star on his race. Mastakos/Uleria leaves a pretty pattern with three arches about 120 degrees apart (not exactly because of the precession). The other Sunpath planets inscribe double spirals into the sky whlle not in the Underworld. Depending on whether the Sunpath is following the north-south tilt exactly or not, those double spirals may be messed up a bit.

The Southpath is already confusing against a featureless sky dome. I once heard a claim that there is a way to figure out the apparently somewhat zig-zaggy movements of that path by interference of two patterns, but I have never seen any graphical presentation of that. Maybe the zig-zag results only as pattern inscribed o the rotating sky dome?

Plentonius claimed to be able to name all 100 prominent stars and planets that became visible at his time, since the Grey Age and the awakening done by Jenarong. "The Perfect Sky" would have been written around 221 or within one or two decades after. The Sky lore of the God Learners has easily twice that number of prominent stars, and there are probably dim lights elsewhere than just in the Love and War star constellations.

Several celestial bodies appeared or disappeared over time, and a visit to the Godtime Sky after Umath's invasion and Zator's escape released the stars from Stormgate would probably reveal a great number more stars. Both solar and Orlanthi cultures had Star Captains, celestial bodies dragged down to the Surface World by the entity associated with them, to help some people or another through the Greater Darkness. And many of those self-sacrifices would still end up devoured by forces of Darkness or Chaos.

At one point, Orlanth had conquered the Sky Dome - it isn't clear whether his slaying of the emperor already was that conquest, or whether he had to return to cement his claims against foes like Jagrekriand (Shargash, slayer of Umath, and Tolat, slayer of Yelm, at least in his Pamaltelan name). What is known is that Orlanth did fight off the Chaos invasion into the Skies, defending both the Sky Dome and his native realm, the Middle Air.


Until the year 109, Kargzant/Lightfore did not have a regular path in the nights, or possibly even the Sun Disk was irregular in its path and appearance. It took the intercession of the giant barbarian to bring regularity to the celestial mechanism. I wonder whether the Greatway dwarves sponsored this. 

Later events changed the sky, too - Lokarnos slowed down almost to a twentieth of his original speed - one text blames Kralori mystics.

And in 1247 of course the orb of the Red Moon invaded the sky, after Teelo Estara's first sojourn into celestial reaches riding the Star Bear. 

Heroes lifted their stars up, to see them torn down by their foes, whether Arkat or Sheng Seleris.


The weirder moving objects are hard to program, often because we lack information. Whether the pattern of the Southpath which affects its three bodies with wildly variant speeds, the Boat Planet  making a detour almost all the way up the sky avoiding the celestial city, the uncertainty about how Orlanth's Ring is supposed to move, or the completely random course of the Juggernaut, or the hardly predictable cycle of the Blue Streak. There appear to be phenomena like shooting stars, too. And the Block used to be a celestial object, too. And calculating which path on the Sky Dome will be blotted out by the Red Moon depending on where on Glorantha you look up is a nightmare if the annual tilt comes into this, again for lack of data.

Getting these data probably will be a case of creating a model, running it by people sufficiently in the know, who then decide whether that model works or whether some other factor like aesthetics overrules the model. Placement of the black shadow on the surface of the moon should be easy, right? Always going through the lower pole, where the Pointer stands, and all the way up to the upper pole, if that exists at all, beyond the Crown Mountains. However, that would mean that, viewed from directly below, the moon would never appear fully red, and we probably cannot have that. Whoever brought up that Roving Searchlight theory created a geometrical paradox.

Or we need a fprmula how the red glow curves away from the red sphere.

Has anybody ever adventured on the Red Moon?


On another front, I wonder whether the dwarven Somelz project might fix the Dodging Gate of the Southpath. The position of Zenith suggests that it is centered on the Somelz project, which starts by pulling that off-kilter shard of the top of the earth cube back into position, fixing that edge of the Earth.

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