Esrolian Meat

From: Jeff Richard (
Date: Wed 21 Feb 1996 - 04:11:32 EET

I have been summoned away from my studies on the complexities of =
Anglo-American property law since it appears that my presence on the =
Digest has been demanded. Hopefully, I won't disappoint.

Joerg Baumgartner wrote:
>This comes from my current discussions about Tarsh and Esrolia/Holy =
>with the Seattle gang, and a long chat I had with Nick and Tom Zunder =
>Berlin last year.
>Nick proposed that the Esrolite earth queens placed all the unpleasant
>aspects of the earth outside of their immediate realm: Babeester Gor at =
>Hall, on the Shadow Plateau, Maran Gor in the Shaker's Temple in Tarsh, =
>Ty Kora Tek below the Necropolis (if I recall this correctly - that was
>after three days with way too little sleep).

Actually Joerg, the Nick's insightful proposal was:
"The Shaker's Temple was an Esrolian building: perhaps propitiating the =
goddess of the barren earth and earthquake in some useless land where =
her attention will do no harm, rather than doing so in the heart of =
fertile Esrolia where we *don't* want her to be looking, thanks very =
much... (The Axe Hall on Shadow Plateau and the Haunted Fields of the =
Wenelians could be Babs' and TKT's equivalents?)"

A proposal that I, fro one, endorse.

Then Joerg says:
>Jeff Richard poses that all the earth cults of post-Dragonkill Dragon =
>rely heavily on the Esrolite inner cult (and structure), which deviated =
>the ordinary Orlanthi course still followed by most of the Esrolites =
>to the end of the 1st Age. Jeff, would you present your ideas here, =

Sure enough. Arranged in no particular order (since the paragraphs have =
been culled from our discussion) and with extremely poor editing are the =
following ideas:

1) There is no broad Kerofinelan-Esrolian "earth cult" per se. Instead, =
the Esrolian "earth cult" is a misnomer. When the "women seized power =
for their own protection", they developed a (as yet un-named) local cult =
that ceremonialized the Widows assumption of leadership, using some of =
the pre-Vingkotling mythic-symbolism. At this point I would characterize =
the mythic-language of the Esrolians as being a hybrid of the =
"Heort-Vingkot" Orlanth pantheon with the pre-Vingkotling Harvest King/ =
Fertillity goddess, together with an interesting Argan Argar/ Darkness =
element. =20

In Broken Council, the Esrolians are described as:

"The people of Esrolia still worship Orlanth and Esrola, and have =
learned many troll ways as well. Women rule the Esrolian tribes, and =
they follow Argan Argar in the ways of trade and communication."

Interestingly, the Guidebook adds:

"When King Heort brought the secret of the Star Heart back to his =
people, he reformed the Kodivari and, they became the Esrolvuli. They =
accepted the laws of Heort, but not his rulership, for their loyalty to =
the Only Old One was greater."

2) This strongly indicates to me that the Esrolians were at least during =
fourth century, within the basic parameters of Heort's Orlanth cult =
("they accepted the laws of Heort"), but the strong Darkness influence =
and the Widows' Cult made them definitely at the margins.

The Darkness influence (and the protection of the Only Old One) had a =
significant impact on the development of Esrolian society. For one =
matter, Esrolia never had to develop a significant warrior class in =
order to defend itself, instead it could largely rely on the protection =
of the OOO and later the Pharoah. The overwhelming majority of Esrolian =
men (and maybe women?) fall into the "trollkin class". They are not =
warriors, at best they form as half-baked militia.=20

Ruling over the overwhelming majority of Esrolites are nearly a dozen =
important Queens with scores of lesser queens, with the Important Queens =
trying to stay that way and the many of the lesser queens trying to get =
there. With the advent of the Pharoah, open violence is very rare, but =
the intrigue would impress a member of the Imperial household. When the =
Pharoah disappears, the intrigue and divisions within the Esrolian =
queens opens the door for Fazzur's invasion.

This gets me to what IMO is a really important issue of Esrolia - what =
is the basic unit of agrarian organization for the Esrolians? For the =
Heortlings (in the bigger sense of the word than just Heortland/Quivini) =
the basic unit is the "free stead within a clan super-structure". I =
personally suspect that the Esrola cult "owns" the land and that the =
Esrolites view themselves as "tenant-farmers" of Esrola's land. The =
entire village works the "Queen's" land and the Esrola cult handles the =
food distribution (through feasts, seasonal ceremonies where the family =
heads are given X amount of Esrola's bounty, etc.). The surplus grain, =
of course, belongs to the queen and her household/cult and whatever left =
after supporting that is probably sold to Nochet or elsewhere.

From a Heortling POV, this would explain the Esrolite "slave gang" =
stories. The Esrolites have no "rights to their land" [something all of =
my players in ToDP would understand] and thus are "unfree", cottars at =
best, maybe even thralls.=20

3) Some time between the fourth and the ninth centuries I believe that =
there developed an Esrolian mystery cult that further developed the =
"Grandmothers Cult" and spoke of the primacy of the earth goddess in a =
"universal" way (claiming all "earth" cults were but shadows of this =
mystery cult). This Esrolian mystery cult may be quite similar to the =
Cybele/ Adonis mystery cult of the Classical Near East or the Eleusian =
mysteries of Attica and could provide an interesting Kethaelan =
counter-balance to the Pelorian mysteries.=20

        This mystery cult is not IMO a religion for the Esrolvuli clans but a =
cult probably limited to priestesses, acolytes and high initiates in =
cults that the the MC considers to be "earth" cults. IOW, this is an =
elitist cult revealing its secrets to a limited few (resembling in some =
ways the only other written mystery cults in GoG - the Path of Immanent =
Mastery, and the Red Goddess). It should be considered a civilized =
religion for the Queens and leaders of Esrolia.

        I acknowledge that I lack any textual support for this wild hypothesis =
besides the circumstantial evidence of an "earth cult" of Esrolia, =
besides a little quote in Wyrm's Footprints: "In the Second Age they =
were enlightened by the God Learners and became heir to their =
systemisation of deities and recognition of patterns. This earth system =
has spread all over the world, though in some places certain parts are =
stressed more than others." and a little blurb in KoS pg. 227. In a =
nutshell, I am claiming that the Goddesses of the Earth write-up in =
Wyrm's Footprints is a bastardized summary of the Esrolian mystery cult =
- - which rejects the essential importance of any of the Husbands - beyond =
the neccessity of there being a husband. =20

        I've been refering to this cult as Esrola Magna Mater, however, its =
tenets (beyond superficialities such as the mystery of the Sacrificial =
King, the Six Daughters of Earth and the Four Earth Dieties (Esrola, Ty =
Kora Tek, Ketha, Entru) and its removal from the cultural context of the =
parameters of Heort's Laws and Argan Argar), etc. are as yet largely =
undetermined by me. However Nick Brooke suggests that:
"The four most important Esrolite deities in my system would be:

        Esrola ('Asrelia' to foreigners) as Mother Earth;
        Ketha ('the Grain Goddess') as her Daughter;
        Ty Kora Tek as the Earth Witch or Ghost Goddess;
        Entru ('Genert') as the First Father.

I then run a Persephone/Inanna myth, where Esrola descends to Ty Kora =
underworld to retrieve dead/departed Ketha, but is asked for the life of =
in fair exchange. This is the Esrolite Great Compromise."

        I believe this is also the "Esrolite Lightbringer's Quest" - which is =
rather a misnomer.

        The obvious advantage of this "mystery cult" is that it allows us to =
embrace the apparant contradictions of written Esrolian material by =
reconciling its Orlanthi status, its trollish customs (although I'd =
still love to see some examples of what these might be) with the =
published material referring to an Esrolian Earth cult. My answer: they =
all exist within the same culture.

4) After the Pharoah became the Undying Harvest King of the Esrolians =
(playing directly into the myths of the Esrolian mystery cult and being =
of great impact because the cult initiates are the elite of Esrolian =
society), the cult actually gained in influence as the mystery cult =
spread to "earth cult" centers in Kethaela and later in Dragon Pass. I =
hypothesize the Esrolian Magna Mater cult's diffusion being similar to =
Dionysius worship in the Aegean, or Cybele/ Adonis worship throughout =
the eastern Mediterranean, or Isis/ Osiris worship throughout the =
Hellenistic/ Roman world. The Esrolite Magna Mater cult offered "inner =
truths" to cults that it interpreted as being shadows of itself (like =
Ernalda amongst the Heortlings - although I suspect that only a minority =
of major Ernalda cult centers sustain the "Esrolian rites", Maran Gor =
amonst the Kerofini and the great success of the Esrolian cult - the =
Feathered Horse Queen).

I view Esrolia as something akin to Egypt for the Mediterranean world - =
a source of ancient "truths" about the world and as such, its rites are =
viewed as being of "superior pedigree" to the surrounding less =
sophisticated, less wealthy clans and tribes (including most of the =
Esrolians). Perhaps it would be best to view the "Esrolian earth cult" =
as a self sustaining sub-cult that interprets itself as belonging to any =
Earth Goddess archetype. I recognize that the phrasology is rather =
clumsy but hopefully the concept makes sense. IOW, a priestess of =
Esrola, Ernalda, Peloria, Lu-ungariant, Maran Gor, whatever, could =
becoming initiated into this sub-cult which claims that all of these =
goddesses are but aspects of the Earth Goddess. This does not mean that =
there is a universal earth cult, but simply that the "Esrolian earth =
cult" claims to be one and is willing to accept qualified initiates from =
any cult that it interprets as being an "earth cult".

I don't believe that Esrolia and Pelandra represent survivals of a =
"universal, ancient Earth religion" even though the Esrolian claim that =
is exactly what they are. Take the modern speculation on the "Mother =
Goddess Cults". Were the cult of Cybele Magna Mater, the Paleolithic =
Goddess figures, Innana-Ishtar, and the Madonna all survivals of a =
"universal, ancient Earth religion", or do they each represent differnt =
cultural symbols for a universal human experience, that of =
Woman/Fertillity? I strongly suspect the latter.

This is what I find so interesting about the "Esrola Magna Mater" claim =
of a universal, ancient Earth religion - that somehow the Esrolians =
claim to have privileged knowledge about that universal human experience =
and that the mythic symbols by which other cultures represent that =
universal experience are just shadows or garbled memories of the =
Esrolian Truth. In their intellectual arrogance, the Esrolians rival =
the God Learners, the Lunars, or the British.:>

5) So what does this have to do with the Feathered Horse Queen? Well in =
KoS p 227, the founding myth of the FHQ works well with my hypothesis:

"La-ungariant had always been a pliant goddess, and though subordinate =
to her husband nonetheless had considerable power within her family. =
But one day she found her husband beating her children mercilessly, and =
she begged him to stop. [note: this is a thinly viewed allegory to the =
tension between the Vendref and the Grazers] When Esnandrol would not, =
she was terrified and turned away, and fled to the shadowy realms to =
hide. [note: the Shadow Plateau or Esrolia?] There she met her sisters, =
who had been missing for many years. [note: a reference to the Esrolian =
MC claim that the earth goddesses are the daughters of the Esrolian =
Earth Goddess?] They shared secret, both bitter and sweet, and then they =
conferred her own regal powers upon the queen. [note: initiation into =
the Esrolian mysteries?] When she returned, she was called the Feathered =
Horse Queen, because she wore the ancient signs of regal office which =
had been stripped from her goddess in the gods age. [note: another =
reference to the Esrolian mysteries?]

This was a great time for the Earth Tribe. [note: again does this mean =
that the Esrolian mysteries were wide-spread and pervasive amongst local =
"earth cults"?] In Tarsh the goddess [note: the Esrolian cult?] =
controlled the sacrificial Illaro dynasty, and in Sartar the Orendanae =
[note: I posited this as the name of the Ernaldan priestesses of =
Clearwine] sat upon the tribal rings of the three main tribes [note: the =
Colymar and who else?]. In Esrolia they were strongest of course [note: =
obviously as the center of the cult], which was the reign of High Queen =

        Anyways, that is my incoherent spew of ideas on Esrolia.=20

>>Give us something meatier, Joerg.
>Working on it...

Does this qualify as something meatier

Yours truly,

Jeff Richard


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