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Are the goddesses boring and the female heroes losers?


Khelbiros

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I've been reading the Guide to Glorantha. The setting is supposed to be dripping with cool mythology, but I was a bit disappointed with the goddesses in the Orlanthi pantheon. For example, there's the earth mother archetype (Ernalda), pacifist healer (Chalanna Arroy) and virgin warriors (Vinga/Babeestor Gor).   Chalanna Arroy was the only goddess on the Lightbringer quest (apart from the mysterious person!) The other pantheons also seem to have goddesses in these primary archetypes. The male gods have a greater variety of roles and greater numbers in the pantheons.

Also, with the female heroes, they don't have a great scorecard. Kallyr Starbrow fails miserably before Argrath takes over. And Argrath goes off and kills Jar-Eel as well.

Anyway, is this first impression wrong and are there are indeed a greater variety of female goddeses and more victorious female heroes in Glorantha?

 

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Female adventures are a bit diffferent, but females are essential on heroquests on behalf of a community. It is close to a miracle that the Lightbringers succeeded with only 1-2 females on board, but then the second protagonist spent much of the quest sleeping in the Underworld sending spiritual support, beckoning the questers towards her.

I am in the process of writing a (HeroQuest, or rather system-less) scenario for the female descendants of a Sartarite Asrelia priestess and their associates. It contains things only the women can do (such as performing a burial and enbalming rite), and things everyone is somewhat good or bad at, such as negotiating, theft, feats of strength, and if unavoidable, combat.

The group in the play examples of HeroQuest Glorantha is (somewhat loosely) based on Jeff's house campaign, which is female-dominated with four powerful but quite different female protagonists, doing heroquest stuff that might not be considered heroic in a swords and sorcery style, although such things appear in the sorcery part of Swords and Sorcery fairly regularly.

 

Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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In a quasi-Bronze Age setting, it's not unusual for the males to be dominant in the warrior role, surely? But you've mentioned Vinga and Babeester Gor, so there are opportunities for women to be warriors too, even if that's not so usual in Orlanthi society.

Jar-Eel is a pretty kick-ass type of gal, no? Are you following Prince of Sartar? In there you'll also see the female-dominated Esrolian society, with some pretty strong female characters (e.g. Samastina).

 

 

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It may depend a bit on what you're expecting to find.  Are you looking for swash-buckling female hero? aka Gunda the Guilty, companion of Harrek the Berserk, or Queen Leika of the Colymar who fought beside Kallyr and was later one of Argrath's companions.  Mystical power who walks the heroplanes, killed the God-king Belintar, and is an incarnation of the Red Moon Goddess? aka Jar-eel (and don't necessarily think that her subsequent 'death' at the hands of Harrek is an 'end' for her).  Magical power?  Cragspider the Firewitch.  Powerful queens?  In the past, Queen Bruvala of Esrolia, possibly young Queen Samastina of Nochet, as well as Egajia Chewer-of-Flesh from Prax and the Feathered Horse Queen of Dragon Pass who will marry Argrath. 

From the Orlanthi mythos alone, yes, Ernalda is the Earth Mother.  And these are some of her titles:  Great Goddess, Green Woman, Great Ernalda, Creatrix, Queen of the Universe, Great Womb, Power, Queen, Earth Queen, Weaver, Grandmother, Great Mother, Mother of the Gods, Bountiful Mother, Healer, Great Lady of Magic, Mistress of Ceremonies, Beloved, the Blessing Goddess, Mistress of the Words of Power, Giver of Customs, Spinner, Allmother, Wife of Great Orlanth, Binder, Orendana, Earthmother, Keeper of Mysteries, Ernalda of the Many-Treasures, the Giver, the Sustainer, Mother of All Life, Mother of Vengeance, Peacemaker, Ceremonialist, the Shrouded One, Snake Goddess, Harvest Queen, Source of Bounty, Flower of Life, Sevalda, Denravala, Forensela, Ir, Irkingillia, Benebalsalka, Arachne Solara and the Maker of Kings.

Each of these titles has myths and powers wrapped up in it (you can find many of these in the Book of Heortling Mythology - the Guide doesn't necessarily go into this level of detail).  She commands elementals of the earth, serpents, casts blessings and curses, raises and destroys kings, keeps and gives treasures and knowledge, and brought the Lightbringers to the Underworld to force Orlanth and Yelm to reconcile and restore the world.

The uz/trolls revere their Mother Kyger Litor (dark mother) above all else and the powers of darkness have strong female connections (Jakaleel amongst the Lunars, the Spolite Queens). And there are plenty more examples across all the pantheons. 

But, again, maybe you are searching for something specific???

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I'm not sure if she's present in the Guide to Glorantha (or even considered to be canonical in Glorathan lore these days), but Griselda was quite competent and a bit of a badass. And a loser only in the sense of being from the wrong side of the tracks in Pavis.

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I've been reading the Guide to Glorantha. The setting is supposed to be dripping with cool mythology, but I was a bit disappointed with the goddesses in the Orlanthi pantheon. For example, there's the earth mother archetype (Ernalda), pacifist healer (Chalanna Arroy) and virgin warriors (Vinga/Babeestor Gor).   Chalanna Arroy was the only goddess on the Lightbringer quest (apart from the mysterious person!) The other pantheons also seem to have goddesses in these primary archetypes. The male gods have a greater variety of roles and greater numbers in the pantheons.

Also, with the female heroes, they don't have a great scorecard. Kallyr Starbrow fails miserably before Argrath takes over. And Argrath goes off and kills Jar-Eel as well.

Anyway, is this first impression wrong and are there are indeed a greater variety of female goddeses and more victorious female heroes in Glorantha?

 

Asrelia/Ty Kora Tek, Ernalda/Manan Gor and Voria/babeester Gor belong to the Earth Pantheon as much as the Storm Pantheon. In fact, Vinga is the only real daughter of Orlanth/Ernalda and she is a non-virgin warrioress.

 

It all depends what you want. Eiritha is a herd-mother and wife of Storm Bull, brother of Orlanth. The land goddesses and grain goddesses might belong to the Earth and Storm pantheons. Uleria might be considered part of the Storm Pantheon, but might also be considered above the Pantheons. 

 

The Mistress of Inspiration is a knowledge goddess and is part of the Storm Pantheon. 

 

 

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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Griselda and her female (and male) misfit friends are an undeletable part of the city of Pavis in the 1610s. She didn't make it into the guide except in the authors bio of Oliver Dickinson mentioned for a book on the Aegean bronze age, though.

The stories also make clear that she was far from the acceptable or expected norm of females in Pavis (as "Holding the Baby" testifies).

A typical kickass female would be Ernalsulva from Sartar - Kingdom of Heroes, especially after her marriage to either the player character or the Lismelder hero. She is wielding her husband like Griselda is wielding that little sword of hers.

Kallyr failed miserably? She was killed in a battle that prevented her kingdom from being re-conquered. Before that she masterminded the Dragonrise star dance and fought off the first Lunar counterinvasion through sheer inspiration. Yes, the first rebellion under her name failed, but her come-back changed and shook the entire world. Her role in bringing back the Boat Planet shouldn't be underestimated, either.

And Argrath didn't kill Jar-eel, that was Harrek. Having talked to Jar-eel after that battle, I can attest that she was up and about even without her heart beating in her chest, and far from undead... (the latter from the fun freeform game played at this year's Eternal Con)

 

 

So, are the goddesses boring? At a first glimpse, I'm afraid I have to say yes. At Kraken I had a workshop about my scenario project for supporting the German edition of HeroQuest 2, and in order to keep the deeper Glorantha background manageable and in line with the available information, we discussed what deities to choose for 6 female descendants of an Asrelia priestess through the maternal line tasked with bringing her body to her family tomb in Nochet.

We compromised on one Etyries worshipper, 2 worshippers of Ernalda, one of Vinga, one of Lhankor Mhy and one of Yinkin for the German scenario. Basically that's just two characters worshipping a (or rather the) standard female goddess of the Sartarites. I wanted a Lunar cultist among this group of matrilineal descendants to show how far the female offspring can spread through the clans and tribes of Sartar (assuming strict exogamy). The Yinkini is both a nod to Onelisin Cat Witch, the (in)famous daughter of Saronil Sartarsson, and the wish to have a non-conformist character in the group short of sending out a Eurmali. The Vingan is the only woman in the group who has fighting experience for herself, although the Ernaldan healer has lots of battlefield praxis, and the Yinkini is a hunter and tracker in addition to her role as an Orlanthi steadwife. We chose to have a female Lhankor Mhy worshipper rather than one of the Ernaldan/Asrelian tradition keepers in order to offer that peculiar occurrance of a female in a patriarchalic-looking cult to newcomers to the weird of Glorantha.

All of the women are married into clans not their birth-clan, as were their mothers (and in two cases their grandmothers), away from the clan of the Asrelia priestess. They all identify with their new clan, but they also retain links to their maternal clan, and back to their matrilineal ancestress, too. This makes Sartarite females networkers in their society.

If you are a Sartarite approaching a "foreign" clan, you had best remember whether one of your childhood girl playground friends (sisters, cousins) has married into this clan, or whether one of your "aunts" was born here. The odds are that you have female kin or otherwise in-laws in this clan. (Not that the latter always means that this will help make you welcome here...) The odds are good that some of your party or at least close kin of theirs have already been a guest here for a wedding or a funeral feast.

On the other hand, this also means that the six example heroines in my scenario come from clans that are at odds with one another, something their husbands or sons will be sure to remember.

Do I expect these characters to be kick-ass? Not from the beginning of the scenario, no. They will be put in situations that are new and alien to them, and occasionally overwhelming. By overcoming the difficulties of those situations, they may become kick-ass.

 

 

If you take a closer look to the cults of Ernalda, you will find a great variety of behavioral options. Ernalda can be the peace-maker, but she is as much at home in the role of preparing and heating up the feud with a rival - read "The Making of the Storm Tribe" and her role there. She can be the dedicated and loving wife while using her "mother knows best" mindset to undermine whatever stupid idea poor emotional hubby wants to act out against better judgement.

Are husbands the only way to take an active role? No, only a very common (and convenient) one. Note that several of the named females have gone through a series of (powerful or otherwise influential) husbands. Both the husband and the wife receive huge benefits from the heroic marriage, which often appear to linger a lot longer with the wives than with the husbands. And while pregnancy puts a damper on adventurous fighting, giving birth or being a mother provides a female hero with strong magical potential that can benefit her later actions.

Do you want to play a cool-headed, calculating character? Then don't play a male in the standard role. (Don't play a Vingan, either - these women often outdo their male rivals in displays of emotion.)

Do you want to play a changer of worlds? Then don't just rely on your deity's example (unless you chose Larnste or Eurmal). Transcend the limits of the cult. In that case, does your choice of gods or goddesses matter? And remember that the "boring mainstream deities" like Orlanth and Ernalda have the weirdest sets of specialisation hidden behind that apparent normality.

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Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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Let's not forget one of the greatest heroes of this age, perhaps the greatest one of all, is Elusu the little shit, a female Trickster.

,,,At least for the moment. Things tend to get a little... fluid in the gender department when an Eurmali hero(ine) is involved.

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It seems to me that the core of Glorantha points to the point of view that men and women are equal in power but not identical in motivations. Furthermore, the gender of the gods is generally driven by mortal identification rather than being an intrinsic property of the deity. As to Ernalda, she is generally believed to be a stronger magician than Orlanth.

In my opinion, the most dangerous mortal named in the Guide is Yolanela  (as Jar-Eel, Harrek, Godunya and the like are not mortals).

Yolanela, called the Taloned Countess: ... She openly murdered one rival satrap, and is suspected of secretly murdering her husband as well, and forbids any of her daughters to marry or engage in sex. ... She is forbidden to come within three days’ travel of the capital, Glamour, and is required to have knees, wrists, and nose on the ground whenever within range of the Emperor’s Voice.

She also happens to be the mother of 3 Hero level men and seven other knights of renown. I've not yet found a mention of what her daughters are capable of 

Charles

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... I've not yet found a mention of what her daughters are capable of ...

After I wrote this I thought about it some more. It seems to me that Yolanela's magic is linked to sex and death, so likely she is preventing her daughters access to sex magic so as to prevent them becoming her rivals. Therefore the lack of mention of her daughters matching their brothers' abilities may be the result of in-gameworld jealousies rather than the authors' acts of commission or omission.

BTW, Yolanela's access to both sex magic and death magic likely indicates that she is Illuminated, which should not be a major problem as she is initiated to or at least affiliated with the Lunar cult of Teelo Nori. And Illuminates have few religiously or self imposed limits on the powers they can take, even extending to Primal Chaos.

Charles

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I've been reading the Guide to Glorantha. The setting is supposed to be dripping with cool mythology, but I was a bit disappointed with the goddesses in the Orlanthi pantheon. For example, there's the earth mother archetype (Ernalda), pacifist healer (Chalanna Arroy) and virgin warriors (Vinga/Babeestor Gor).   Chalanna Arroy was the only goddess on the Lightbringer quest (apart from the mysterious person!) The other pantheons also seem to have goddesses in these primary archetypes. The male gods have a greater variety of roles and greater numbers in the pantheons.

Hmm, looking though the lists of deities of the Orlanthi pantheon, and enemy deities of the Orlanthi pantheon in 'King of Sartar' there's: Aldrya, Arache Solara, Asrelia, Babeester Gor, Brastalos, Chalana Arroy, Eneria, Ernalda, Esra, Esrola, Ginna Jar (?), Glorantha, Grandmother Mortal,  Huraya, Inora, Iphara, Kal, Lady of the Wild/Verala, Mahome, Mallia, Maran Gor, Pelora, Ty Kora Tek, Uleria, Vinga, Voria; Artia, Deloradella, Ithas, Kyger Litor, Mallia, Rausa, Shepelkirt (the Red Goddess), Sinjota, Thed.

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Also, with the female heroes, they don't have a great scorecard. Kallyr Starbrow fails miserably before Argrath takes over. And Argrath goes off and kills Jar-Eel as well.

 

Argrath will have his failures... and without Kallyr it is doubtful he would have so many successes.

Kallyr became Queen of her tribe, the Kheldon, conquered a sky god and bears his jewel on her forehead, fought at Boldhome, in the Righteous Wind Rebellion, in her Starbrow's Rebellion; will aid in the defense of Whitewall, defeat the Lunar Army in the Battle of the Auroch Hills, will  take part in the ritual to raise the Boat Planet, befriend the Star Dragon, be involved in the Dragonrise, defeat the Lunars at the Battle of Dangerford, defeat the Lunars in the Battle of the Queens in which she is killed, and returns to the Sky World to be with her lover.

Players in the forthcoming Coming Storm campaign will have an opportunity to meet Kallyr.

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It seems to me that the core of Glorantha points to the point of view that men and women are equal in power but not identical in motivations. Furthermore, the gender of the gods is generally driven by mortal identification rather than being an intrinsic property of the deity. As to Ernalda, she is generally believed to be a stronger magician than Orlanth.

In my opinion, the most dangerous mortal named in the Guide is Yolanela  (as Jar-Eel, Harrek, Godunya and the like are not mortals).

Yolanela, called the Taloned Countess: ... She openly murdered one rival satrap, and is suspected of secretly murdering her husband as well, and forbids any of her daughters to marry or engage in sex. ... She is forbidden to come within three days’ travel of the capital, Glamour, and is required to have knees, wrists, and nose on the ground whenever within range of the Emperor’s Voice.

She also happens to be the mother of 3 Hero level men and seven other knights of renown. I've not yet found a mention of what her daughters are capable of 

Charles

I suppose that the sexual frustration of her daughters feeds her magic. Her three named sons are heroquesters or magical leaders rather than major H Heroes, IMO.

I think that Yolanela has a few matches in the Guide, though:

In the Empire, there is Feathered Eye Woman, the Satrap of Darjiin who sent Harrek to kill Ignifer. While her offspring hasn't received a named mention, she has proven herself as deadly enough. As the mistress of the Dorkath rites, she is about to add another mask to her list...

Not sure whether it would be fair to count Moralatap of the Anger, since he's currently male again.

Bazkalia Oskor of Ralios is a shamaness who already was active as bounty hunter against the last God Learners at the end of the Second Age.

The Orlanthi candidates still wait for Argrath to draw even: The priestess queen of Greenstone, Entarios the Supporter, has quite a bit of magic at her disposal, and did play a major role in the recent history of Sartar. Samastina has vast potential. (Inkarne isn't named in the Guide yet, but she easily outdoes Yolanela.)

 

There appear to be a few alibi heroic fighter women in the Guide - a virgin Woman of All in Fronela, a martial artist in Kralorela

 

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I'm not sure if she's present in the Guide to Glorantha (or even considered to be canonical in Glorathan lore these days), but Griselda was quite competent and a bit of a badass. 

Griselda is certainly alive and well in Pavis: Gateway to Adventure.

Tales of her adventures are told by Olav Dickinsson; anyone in Pavis Oldtown can point him out to you. Griselda apparently made it known she didn't want 'no scribe telling tales of her in no Guide.'

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I wonder where you got the idea that Vingans is "virginal" by the way. They're not. Like...at all. They are Orlanthi, and as such they hump like horny jackrabbits. Hell, Gorites are by no means "viriginal" either, although they are celibate. What they've been up to before joining the cult is irrelevant though.

Also, if Maran Gor is not one of the most awesome gods in the setting, then I have no idea what measure of awesome you are using, but it's probably not correct.

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I wonder where you got the idea that Vingans is "virginal" by the way. They're not. Like...at all. They are Orlanthi, and as such they hump like horny jackrabbits. Hell, Gorites are by no means "viriginal" either, although they are celibate. What they've been up to before joining the cult is irrelevant though.

Also, if Maran Gor is not one of the most awesome gods in the setting, then I have no idea what measure of awesome you are using, but it's probably not correct.

Any goddess who has both dinosaurs and earthquakes in her portfolio is not to be trifled with. The personal habits of her followers do nothing to counteract that reputation as well.

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