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Goddess Switch


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Refreshing my memory on the God Learner activities in Esrolia, I noticed a slight inconsistency in the date of the Goddess Switch.

This experiment is mentioned in the history of the rise of the God Learners and their experiments, and the date given there is 849. (Guide p.135, p.135 timeline)

Later in the same text, the catastrophes are listed, beginning with the Goddess Switch. (p.136)


In one of the two lands involved in the Goddess Switch all fruit plants ceased bearing. In the other, the divorce rate became phenomenal – no marriage lasted over two or three years.

The history of the Holy Country (p.236) names 849 as the year when the Switch causes great famine in Esrolia, and the history of Maniria (p.352) names 849 as the year when two lands in Slontos (one of these probably part of Esrolia) suffered both the catastrophes named on p.136.


From these four mentions of the Switch, it appears that the catastrophic result occurred immediately when the spell/quest/ritual was completed, although the second effect with the 3-year divorce couldn't have been noticed within the same year the ritual was done.

I used to have the impression that at first, the fertility and familial harmony of both lands remained unaffected, and that the catastrophe occurred several years or even decades later.

Comparing to the Middle Sea Empire king list clearly marks 849 as the date when the spell was effected in the reign of Emperor Brailach, and this was only seven years after Slontos had conquered at least parts of Esrolia.

The overall timeline of the Malkioneran activities, Middle Sea Empire p. 38, names 849 as the year of the proof of interchangeability and remains silent about any negative consequences.

Now a famine in Esrolia outside of Slontan influence wouldn't be regarded as a negative outcome of the spell, but a famine in the lands conquered seven years earlier probably would have been regarded as a counter-proof. And like I said, the divorce rate, even if starting in 849, wouldn't have had the information of marriages lasting only three years on average within a single year of separations, and while possibly notable to an observer, wouldn't have been connected to the switch until later. Even if God Learner "evidence" was anecdotal rather than scientific in nature, this result could not have been observed before 852.

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The Kings List entry for Brailach backs up your recollection: the Switch was seemingly successful "at first" so there was a period when they celebrated it as a triumph. 

Odds are good the "old ways Esrolians" weren't initiated into their new goddess and so reported ritual failures right away. They probably spent a few years escalating the known atonement / forgiveness / Sacred Time renewal quests until reaching the end of the line (probably a rare human sacrifice) and finding the system still broken. At that point longer-term impacts would be obvious even to people who had converted to the Westernized ways.

I in turn misremember which goddesses are currently thought to have been Switched. Wasn't Slonta herself one of them? In that scenario she might've gone to Esrolia and failed to sustain the "old ways" crops. Esrola, on the other hand, could have easily wrecked conventional Western household structures in her new land . . . a plague of viragos and better, what the Slontans might interpret before the end as something like maenads. 

Edited by scott-martin

singer sing me a given

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Those passages in the Guide are as detailed and explicit as the Goddess Switch ever got. All names of goddesses have been speculations by participants in the debates on the digest and subsequent media, as far as I remember.

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5 hours ago, Joerg said:

All names of goddesses have been speculations by participants in the debates on the digest and subsequent media, as far as I remember.

I don't recall it ever being explicitly stated.  Since Slonta subsequently rolled over, she could certainly be one, and Esrola/Ketha would be a natural (& neighboring) one to pair her with.  I seem to recall some speculation about it being between Ernalda and Dendara though.

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The earliest mention of the Goddess Switch (which got ignored for quite some time because it was not actually called the Goddess Switch)



Even during the revival
and unification of the Elder Cults by the God Learners
there was a stubborn persistence of these cults to remain
apart despite the most complex and perfect magical acts
of the philosophers. In one case, upon Summoning and
Riddling two similar goddesses the God Learners managed
to make the two deities admit that they were interchangeable,
and even forced the goddesses to exchange
worshippers without any substantial change in deity or
cult, but they could not make the two admit to being one
and the same. Thus, has the Goddess been absorbed into
the Web, and remains ever hidden from us behind the
Great Mystery.

Glorantha Sourcebook p70

Thus the God Learners were not looking to exchange land goddesses but to recreate the Goddess Glorantha.  Hence I do not think land goddesses such as Esrola and Slonta were involved.  The targets of the switch are more likely to be Ernalda.

The suggestion that Dendara and Ernalda was exchanged comes from the Ernalda cult writeup in the RQ3 rules.  


The God Learners were convinced that Dendara and Ernalda were the same entity, and they even managed to transpose worshipers with no ill effects.

RQ3 Book 5 p20

That information hasn;'t been repeated elsewhere and since the writeup contains a number of statements that have been superseded (such as Pamalt being Ernalda's husband throughout Pamaltela), it's probably incorrect if Dendara referred to the Pelorian Goddess for the simple reason that the God Learners were active there.

Speaking of which, there is the statement in the Entekosiad


Researchers discovered that Dara
Happan priestesses of Dendara or Entekos could participate
fully in the rituals of the Pelandan Entekos, but priestesses
of the Pelandan goddess could participate fully (that is,
detect the Hidden Events properly) only in one or the other
of the Dara Happan goddess' rites. (Some believe this is due
to the early Dara Happan Emperors commanding that no
foreigners could hold political or religious office within their
realms.) [This was demonically exploited by the ruthless
God Learners.]

Entekosiad p2

Which suggests to me that Greg is still thinking that Dendara was involved in the Goddess Switch.  Greg when asked about this said that he meant to say it was the type of thing they ruthlessly exploited.

So in my opinion, the switch was between a Solar Pantheon Goddess such as Dendara and a Storm Pantheon Goddess such as Ernalda.  From the mention of the famine in the Guide, Esrolia was the one of the lands involved..  There are only two Solar Pantheon lands that lay within the Middle Sea Empire that I know of - Fonrit and Teshnos.  Kralorela was independent and the nature of other lands within the empire or even the precise extent of the empire is unclear.

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Thnking on it further.  


Now a famine in Esrolia outside of Slontan influence wouldn't be regarded as a negative outcome of the spell, but a famine in the lands conquered seven years earlier probably would have been regarded as a counter-proof.

Except that the Slontans didn't hold onto Esrolia.  By the time of the switch, it was in EWF hands.



842 Esrolia is overrun by Slontos and the God Learners.
The attack is led by General Zamodos (Dorvis was
one of his subcommanders). The westerners call this
one of the “Krjalki Wars,” using a name originally
describing the wars against Arkat. Rather than be
taken in assault, Nochet surrenders to Dorvis. The
westerns are largely successful, until a major
counteroffensive led by Lord Great Burin. He brings
the dead of the EWF back to life, and at the Battle of
Derovan drives the forces of Slontos back.

849 The Goddess Switch causes widespread famine in
Esrolia. The Dragon Lords, busy elsewhere, are
unable to maintain their hold and Esrolia regains its
independence. Over the next 30 years many minor
outbreaks of violence occur. Both God Learner and
Draconic elements gain strength in parts of the land,
and in Nochet.

Esrolia: the Land of Ten Thousand Goddesses p42.

The text of the Guide p237 says "In 849, the Goddess Switch in Slontos caused widespread famine in Esrolia." meaning (to my mind at least) that the switch took place in Slontos and the mythic side-effects had a terrible cost in Esrolia.

As for the other land involved, I think I may have found an answer.  From the mention of the famine, Slontos has to be the country that suffered from the lack of fruit.  So where is the land of the Great Divorce?  My thinking is Teshnos.  Why?  There is a remarkable dearth of goddesses there.  The Glorantha Sourcebook says the following about Teshna


She is a wife of
the Sun, but took his son Tolat as a lover. [...]. She
has taken many lovers, sometimes not entirely of her
choice, but remains rich and lush.

Glorantha Sourebook p7

Teshna is a daughter of Genert, the wife of Solf
and the lover of Tolat. Her cult was important
in the Second Age during the rule of the God
Learners, but receded into the background in
the Third Age.

Glorantha Sourecbook p93

In addition the Zanozar bas-relief (Guide to Glorantha) p428 shows nine deities but names only five of them!  So IMO Teshnos suffered a mythic divorce to such an extent that even the Gods were affected.  They have since coped with new myths but half their pantheon is missing.

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