Various conceptions of Elmal

From: Jeff Richard (
Date: Fri 17 Jan 1997 - 12:11:28 EET

I thought I sent this earlier, but what the hey - my e-mail is notoriously
screwed up.

        I thought I'd add a little bit to the ongoing Elmal/Heler debate, since
Elmal is well-incorporated into my Taming of Dragon Pass campaign.

        I don't speak for the Elmal cults of the 1620s, but I can say that in the
Quivinilands of the 1350s, there are several Elmal cults - with several
conceptions of Elmal. I suspect that this might be a standard breakdown
amongst the clans making up the old Summer Tribes of the Heortlings - ie.
the Heortlending speakers.

        Elmal is viewed by the "High Heortlending" clans (such as the Varmandi,
the Orlevings, the Grey Fox, the Isoltings, and the Tree Brothers, to name
a few) as a secondary figure lacking an independent cult. Indeed amongst
these clans, Elmal is worshipped like Heler - through the clan's Orlanth
cult. To speak of "Elmali" amongst these clans is rather absurd - there is
no independent Elmal initiation rites known to these clansfolk. In other
words, Elmal has more of a symbolic-positional role as the Sun. "Sure, he's
the Sun God and Orlanth's Hearthguard and all, but, hey, Orlanth returned a
long time ago guys! Why worshipped Orlanth's Hearthguard when you can
worship the King?"

        Amongst the Five Old Clans of the Colymar, Elmal does have an independent
cultic existence, although he more similar to a sub-cult of Orlanth than an
independent cult. One of the Orlanthi cultic figures at Clearwine holds
the title of "Priest of Elmal" and has an important mythic/religious role
as the hearth-guard/ sun god. At Clearwine, the Priest of Elmal is
depicted in two seperate ways: 1) the hearthguard who valiantly protects
the folk when Orlanth is in Hell; 2) the Sun God who is a member of
Orlanth's Ring.

        In my Quiviniland of the 1350s, these two approaches to Elmal are about
evenly found, with perhaps the "High Heortlending" approach a little more

        Finally amongst the Hyaloring Clans at Runegate, Elmal has a very
independent cultic existence. The Enhyli clan hold Elmal and not Orlanth
to be their clan protector and an Elmal tribal cult exists at Runegate.
 The tribal cult of Elmal has a seperate initiation rite into Elmal
Horsethane who has three primary aspects: a sun aspect, a warrior aspect
and a horse aspect. The Enhyli clan cult of Elmal emphasizes the sun
aspect and a clan leader aspect.

        In other words - like Orlanth, Elmal is viewed differently by different
clans. As a less all-pervasive cult amongst the Heortlings (I don't dare
speak for the Talastari/Sylilians or the Ralians) than Orlanth, Elmal
actually has more wild variations. IMO it is amongst the clans that
traditionally claimed Elmal instead of Orlanth as their clan protector that
the Yelmalio cult (heresy) gained acceptance. Amongst the folk who made
up the Winter Tribes, I suspect that the Hyaloring approach and the Five
Old Clan approach are about evenly found, with few clans taking the rather
ambivalent High Heortlending path.

        So is Elmal a martial diety? Yes, but the extent depends on whose Elmal,
although almost every clan/tribe depicts him as both Sun and hearthguard.
 Of course, there are even a few clans and tribes (mainly around Kerofin)
who I have worshipping Heler as a war-god. All IMO of course.

        As for Barntar - talk about a ubiquitous cult in my campaign. Barntar is
the aspect/ sub-cult of Orlanth that shows how Orlanth's path is also the
path of the yeoman farmer. Amongst the "High Heortlending" clans and the
Five Old Clans, Barntar is strictly a sub-cult of Orlanth - indeed the most
popular sub-cult of Orlanth, far more important than Thunderer, Warrior,
and not to mention, Rex!

        For any who are interested, David Dunham's web-site has writeups of
Orlanth cults in the Quiviniland of the 1350s and in 16th-17th century
Ralios. His site also has narrative descriptions of these cults, both in
the form of a Ralian travel-log and in the accounts given in Korol's Saga.

Yours truly,

Jeff Richard


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