Jump to content

Notes on Lunar Cults & important families


Recommended Posts

More recent notes from Jeff on FB.  These are notes on cults of the Lunar Heartlands and Provinces.

Cult Demographics in the Lunar Heartlands
The Lunar Heartlands are home to almost 5.4 million humans. This is the center of Lunar culture and the Lunar religion, a fact made omnipresent by the presence of the Red Moon looming over the Crater.
The largest cult in the Lunar Heartlands is, not surprisingly, the Seven Mothers. If we combine their worship collectively and individually, we come up with a grand total of an amazing 850k cultists. That easily makes the Seven Mothers one of the largest cults in Glorantha, and one of the Big Three in Central Generela. Not bad for a desperate cabal of heroquesters!
After the Seven Mothers, the largest cults in the Heartlands with over 100k cultists each are:
Lodril 500k
Oria 350k
Dendara 170k
Oslira 165K
Yelm 150k
Hon-eel 135k
Surenslib 115k
Now that last one is a bit surprising - that's the ancestress of the Darjiini, and is a rather big cult. She didn't make the cut in the Cults Book despite her size because her influence is totally localized and she's not really of cosmological importance outside of Darjiin and Doblian.
We can think of Yelm+Lodril+Oria+Dendara+Oslira as being the backbone of the old Dara Happan civilization before the Red Goddess. But the Seven Mothers have now definitely eclipsed the old Solar Pantheon. They are still there, but more in the background. With the Red Emperor recognized as the avatar of Yelm Imperator, the old gods of Peloria now serve the Red Goddess.
Q: what is the relative presence of individual 7 Mother cults vs the collective?
A: you are far more likely to see the individual cults in the Heartlands than the Provinces, but as to the specific breakdowns that's not what I want to get at in this post. That being said, the collective version of the Seven Mothers is likely more popular in the Heartlands than any individual Seven Mother, and possible more than all the individual cults combined.
And when we add the Lunar Provinces and the Western Reaches we easily get above 1 million members (probably above 1.1 million). So that is one BIG cult.
Q: What would the numbers of cultists of the Red Goddess proper be like?
A: probably somewhere in the total of 8000 initiates. If we say that there is 1.1 million Seven Mothers members, plus another 500k or so other qualified cults, then maybe half a percent are Red Goddess initiates.
Q: If I'm counting this right, it means that more than half people don't belong to any of those major cults?
A: There are a LOT of smaller cults in the Lunar Empire. But with 3.5 million adults, I think you'll find that those listed cults are almost 70% of the adult population.
Q: Other Moon cults (e.g. associated with the Moon phases)?
A: the way it works is that we have many Lunar cults, each founded by a heroic figure who achieved god-hood in Time, plus a handful of associated cults (Yelm, Gorgorma, Natha, etc.) who have ties to the Red Goddess cult itself.
The main vehicle are the Seven Mothers - Danfive Xaron, Deezola, Irrippi Ontor, Jakaleel the Witch, Teelo Norri, and Yanafal Tarnils (She Who Waits has no real cult) - either individually or collectively. They are the mortals who "gave birth" to the Red Goddess and form the mainstream mortal path to her secrets. There are other vehicles as well - Hon-eel, Etyries, Hwarin Dalthippa, Glamour, Yara Aranis, Aronius Jarathir, etc. Plus there are those old gods who were associated with the missing goddess - Yelm, Gorgorma, Natha, etc. and of course Nysalor.
So Natha has a tiny little cult that is associated with Gorgorma and Danfive Xaron.
Natha is the Keeper of the Second Underworld, and the Goddess of Revenge and Balance. She is the Shadow Soul. She gave birth to murder to bring blood sacrifice back into the world, and casts down the powerful when their time to fall has come. The Lunars believe that Natha was an earlier incarnation of the Red Goddess.  Natha’s cult is found in the West Reaches and the northern Lunar Heartlands.
Q: Is the concept of seven phases of the moon with seven Lunar deities or aspects of the Goddess, one associated with each, and each being the phase of the Goddess in a different era now gone away?
A: Each of the Seven Mothers represent a phase of the Red Moon, but only the Red Goddess represents the whole.
Black Moon - She Who Waits
Crescent Come - Danfive Xaron
Empty Half - Yanafal Tarnils
Full Moon - Irrippi Ontor
Full Half - Teelo Norri
Crescent Go - Jakaleel
Dying - Deezola
Now some Lunar scholars try to map some other old gods onto that scheme to aid in heroquesting. So Orogeria gets associated with Crescent Come, Natha gets associated with the Full Half, Gerra with the Dying Moon, etc. Even poor Dayzatar gets associated with the Full Moon in some schemes. But this is more of an attempt to create a Lunar heroquesting map than anything that is widely practiced.
there was "a" (or maybe more than "a") Moon Goddess in the God Time. But she fell to earth and was shattered. Thanks to the Lunars we can piece together fragments of her story. However, those fragments strung together are incomplete. It was only by rebirthing the Red Goddess in Time and her quest to find herself could the Red Moon rise into the sky.
Those old stories can be interesting and even useful, but the rebirth of the Red Goddess... changed everything. In none of the story fragments was the Moon associated with Chaos, but we all know that the Red Goddess flew atop the Crimson Bat out of Hell to annihilate her enemies.
Q: What about Rashorana?
A: Rashorana is closely identified with Nysalor. We all know the story:
Some say that a goddess named Rashorana, who either was the last of the gods born or was the first Chaos deity created, was the first to develop and teach this philosophy. She is known to have been killed by the god of entropy sometime during the Great Darkness.
the whole "Godtime Moon goddesses" thing is an attempt to understand what fragments of stories the Red Goddess was woven from. Think of her like a Frankenstein goddess, with her arm coming from Cerullia, her torso from Natha, her abdomen Gerra, her leg Lesilla, and so on. Poor old Igor grabbed Rashorana's brain and put it in.
All of these stories got woven together and the Red Goddess was born. But she was born in Time and made her own story that was far greater and far more important. And as a result, a Red Moon rose into the Middle Sky.
Looking at Cult Distributions for the Lunar Provinces (Aggar, Holay, Imther, Tarsh, and Vanch) tells a fascinating story. There are a little less than 1.4 million humans in the Lunar Provinces. Looking at the Provinces as a whole, the largest cults (those with over 10k cultists each) are:
Ernalda 167k
Seven Mothers 164k
Orlanth 132k
Yelmalio 72k
Pelora (Oria) 52k
Hon-eel 51k
Lodril 41k
Hwarin Dalthippa 40k
Issaries 20k
Oslira 20k
Chalana Arroy 18k
Lhankor Mhy 13k
Looking at it as a whole, there is a big Lunar belt stretching from New Lolon to Furthest and centered on Mirin's Cross. But beyond that, the Provinces are pretty much Orlanthi. And it also has a few interesting localized cults like Jajagappa (with less than 10k cultists in total), some enclaves of the Shargash cult and over 5k wagoneers. There's also a lot of Storm Bull cultists in Aggar - there are about three times as many Storm Bull cultists in Aggar than in Sartar!
Q: Etyries?
A: Quite small in the Provinces. Less than 10k members.
Q: Tarsh Civil War and its causes?
A: There are 850k Seven Mothers cultists in the Heartlands, another 110k in the West Reaches, and only 164k in all the Provinces. So basically about 15% of the cult in the Provinces - 75% in in the Heartlands.
The Tarsh civil war fundamentally comes down to two things:
1. a king/provincial governor being worried about being overthrown by a more powerful cadet wing of his own family.
2. a well-connected Heartland noble clan that wants the riches and prestige that is currently being given to a no-name provincial.
Fazzur is an extremely competent military captain, but also one with no real ties to the imperial court - except through his nephew. The defeat of Orlanth and the conquest of the Holy Country is the sort of things heroes and gods are made of - no wonder House Assiday manoeuvres to have Fazzur replaced with someone who seeks to become the newest star in the Lunar pantheon.
Pharandros has to go along with this - he's just a provincial client king, with kinship ties to the Eel-ariash family (who also lost another minor governorship). But Fazzur enjoys the support of many of those officers and soldiers who served him, and now he has no outlet for his ambition. And he has two talented sons. What is a king to do?
This conflict is driven more by personalities than culture or religion. The complication is that it occurs during a period of imperial weakness and Sartarite resurgence. And so it is inevitable that one faction might look to the Sartarites for assistance if they can't get it from the empire.
  • Thanks 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

More from Jeff related to this topic:

Note on the Eel-ariash clan
The Eel-ariash come from Doblian, and were the family of Sandene, a village weaver woman who had protected the Red Emperor when he hid from Sheng Seleris. The family first appeared in the chronicles around 1460s thanks to the deeds of their most famous daughter, Hon-eel the Artess, who was revealed to be the daughter of Sandene and the Red Emperor.
The Eel-ariash accompanied Hon-eel on her rise, becoming her priests, administrators, and household. When Hon-eel resettled Oraya, one of her kin was appointed Satrap in 1587. The family was greatly weakened in the Nights of Horror (1506) and lost control of that satrapy but they aided the Molari-sor in seizing that satrapy in 1521 and one of the most famous Dart Warriors of all time, the Chain Dancer, was a member of the family. In 1543, the Eel-ariash took over the Oronin satrapy, despite the opposition of the Red Emperor.
It is said that every action Chain Dancer made was part of a magical ritual taught by Hon-eel in his dreams. The results of his dance was the birth of the woman Farangold, who served as the concubine of the Red Emperor and gave birth to Jar-eel the Razoress in 1588.
Among the relatives of Farangold was her nephew, Sor-eel, who was given command of the conquest of Prax in 1610. He was aided by a Tarshite officer, Fazzur Wideread, who became governor of Dragon Pass in 1613. In 1621, Sor-eel was relieved from his governorship of Prax by the Red Emperor after a remarkable magical artifact - a Giant Cradle - slipped out from his fingers. Sor-eel returned to Glamour, and he now serves in his cousin's household.
... of course, people often comment about the "webs of the Eel-ariash" given their many schemes in imperial politics....
Now obviously, the Eel-ariash are an extraordinary family, but we have a family descended from a weaver woman and the Red Emperor, whose descendants include a corn goddess, two children of Yelm (!), one of the most skilled Dart Warriors of history, satraps, generals, governors, and of course Jar-eel the Razoress.
Not to mention at least one Mask if not more.
Q: I wonder if the 'weaver woman' might have her own (small) cult?
A: Extraordinary but not divine. She does not have any cult outside of Hon-eel.
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

And a bit on Alkoth from Jeff:

Let's look a little at Alkoth. The city is the center of the Shargash cult, with roughly some 4000 cultists. It is a Lunar city and has 5000 Seven Mothers cultists - most here are going to be dedicated to an individual Seven Mother (Deezola, Yanafal Tarnils, and Irrippi Ontor probably the biggest cults). It is also one of the centers of the Yelm cult with 2000 members. There's another 9000 adults in Alkoth - so we have lots of Dendara, Oslira, Biselenslib, Lodril and Lowfire cultists as well. I expect there might even be 150-200 Red Goddess initiates.
The ruling elite in Alkoth are going to be Lunars. Some are Yelm cultists, some are Shargash cultists - but all of the ruling elite accept the Red Emperor. In fact, this is where much of the conflict within the elite comes from: competition for the attention and favour (or disfavour) of the Red Emperor and his court (in reality it is mainly his court).
Free family Alkorneval is an ancient family with members holding senior positions within Yelm and Shargash cult (particularly the Alkor subculture), as well several Red Goddess initiates, officers in the Yanafal Tarnils cult, Irrippi Ontor scribes, etc. They have been leaders in the city since the liberation of the city in the Fourth Wane. However, they are largely of regional ties and importance, with few contacts outside of Henjarl.
Alkorneval are locked in conflict with the Full Moon Blesses Us family, originally from the Hungry Plateau. They were installed in several key city positions about a dozen years ago, due to the intrigues of the Mother of Strength and the Tharkalists. They revere the Seven Mothers (in particular Yanafal Tarnils and Deezola), but are headed by a Jakaleel-Red Goddess shaman. The Full Moon Blesses Us family have relatively few local connections (although they were given ownership of the Raus domains in Kostaddi after a rebellion about a decade ago), but they have very good ties to Glamour and Two Tower.
These families are engaged in a low-level Dart War, with spies and assassins trying to embarrass the other family in the eyes of the Imperial Court.
So both families likely motivate themselves with their Loyalty to the Red Emperor - heck they want to show how loyal they are and how disloyal their rivals are. These conflicts are over power, status, and personal connections, and not really ideological as we would understand them.
Now if we want to throw another family into the mix, we might have some powerful administrator appointed by the Court, perhaps even a son or daughter of the Red Emperor. He has a lot of those, and this is from a previous Mask, so no particular personal connection with the current Mask. But it is a child of Moonson, and thus a grandchild of the Red Goddess (and theoretically a sibling of Jar-eel and others) so is owed respect and fealty (especially from the Yelm cult). But of course, the reality is that they need to build their own power base and has decided to start here in Alkoth.
So now you have a three-way conflict. Given the size of Alkoth, there are likely far more than this, but at least we can see the contours of elite conflict.
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Also, the Lunar Provinces chart is very interesting. Looking at it, it seems that the most popular cults among provincial warriors/soldiers would be Seven Mothers (through Yanafal Tarnils), Yelmalio and Hwarin Dalthippa.

We know that Orlanth is mostly worshipped in the Provinces through Barntar and Thunderous, which are less "warriory" than Adventurous, but are there any Orlanth initiates serving in the provincial armies? Or do the lunar authorities tend to put them as away from weapons and military training as possible?

Also, what about Humakt? He is a small cult in Sartar but if my math is right the fact that he doesn't appear on the list means that his cult is around less than 1% of the total adult population, which is far less than in Sartar. Is he even worshipped at all? On a similar note, which is the position of Humakt in the Heartlands? Is he recognized as Death like the Orlanthi recognize Yelm as the Sun but don't worship him? Or do they have their own way of looking at Death?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Jape_Vicho said:

Also, what about Humakt? He is a small cult in Sartar but if my math is right the fact that he doesn't appear on the list means that his cult is around less than 1% of the total adult population, which is far less than in Sartar. Is he even worshipped at all? On a similar note, which is the position of Humakt in the Heartlands? Is he recognized as Death like the Orlanthi recognize Yelm as the Sun but don't worship him? Or do they have their own way of looking at Death?

Humakt had to have had presence at the very least in the past since yanafal tarnils worshiped humakt. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Jape_Vicho said:

We know that Orlanth is mostly worshipped in the Provinces through Barntar and Thunderous, which are less "warriory" than Adventurous, but are there any Orlanth initiates serving in the provincial armies? Or do the lunar authorities tend to put them as away from weapons and military training as possible?

I'd expect them to be somewhat discouraged and those who persist to be sent to either remote/insignificant posting like Corflu or to places wher the likely opponents are religious ennemies to keep them focused on that direction rather than looking back home or making firends with the local opposition. So they'll be kept well clear of Dragon Pass.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, Jape_Vicho said:

Which are the runic affinities of Surenslib?

IMO Life/Fertility, Disorder and maybe Beast (A star map in the Glorious ReAscent suggests although the Dara Happans would deny the identification.  The Imperial Lunar Handbook portrayed the Darjiinians as shamanic based on the weak reed of a single group of Darjiinian shamans (kinda like inferring Orlanthi are shamanic from Kolat if you ask me).


  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, Jape_Vicho said:

On a similar note, which is the position of Humakt in the Heartlands? Is he recognized as Death like the Orlanthi recognize Yelm as the Sun but don't worship him? Or do they have their own way of looking at Death?

Humakt would have been displaced by Yanafal Tarnils.  The Pelorians would know who Humakt was but don't consider losers to be worthy of worship (*especially* if they are the god of battles!).

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe the Carmanians still worship him, and he probably has some followers among the provinces, but Yanafal is just a much more useful god for most Lunars due to imperial support of the cult and his connections to the other Seven Mothers and new gods. I doubt it's anything to do with "respect" or some vague concept like that, it's just that Yanafal better fulfils the needs of dedicated Lunar soldiers.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2/10/2022 at 2:20 AM, Jape_Vicho said:

Which are the runic affinities of Surenslib?

Good question.

She appears to be a goddess of contradictions or in-betweens.

Her domain Suvaria is both water and land. The Dara Happans (or at least Plentonius) refer to it as Land of Brilliance.

Her powers are those of life, but she also delivers death.

She is the mother of physical beings - both of Man Rune and Beast Rune - and spirits.

Her form is a bird, but she doesn't appear to have any ties to the Fire Tribe, or celestial aspirations. And yet, there is a celestial river, and a celestial marsh.

She (or rather her son) brought her people through the Flood without any help from Anaxial or Antirius, but her people became vassals of Anaxial's empire, until Emperor Manalarvus (Manarlavus?) abandoned them to the Ice.

Under the Three Separate Worlds dogma of the Hero Wars era, Surenslib was defined as a Great Spirit rather than a deity, much like Genert was.


For a theist RuneQuest cult, her runes need to be taken from the six elemental and eight power runes, or the two form runes of beast and man. I am inclined to let her worship follow the same runes as Arachne Solara's in The Smoking Ruins, where her devotees appear to have Beast and Fertility in common - something applicable to Surenslib as well. The Dorkath Rite is similar to the Wild Templer Rite in its ecstatic combination of Fertility and Death, and while Dorkath is a city, the rite itself appears to be wilderness themed, resonating with the less social tendencies of the Beast Rune.

.There might be a Balance aspect to her, possibly linking her to the Blue Moon, another deity tied to the balance of water and land. Thus, there may be Moon, Earth or Water elemental aspects of her, but much if not most of all that will be from associate deities who will have their own sets of runes to cast those magics.

  • Like 2

Telling how it is excessive verbis


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...