Orlanthi cults

From: s.lucek@ic.ac.uk
Date: Tue 21 Jan 1997 - 14:44:34 EET


As a newcomer to the digest, excuse me if I am going over things which
have already be done to death, or are of no interest to anyone.

I have a real problem with the vast majority of Orlanthi being initiates.
My main qualm about it is that this would be a very strong force towards a
theocratic society. I get the impression, reading King of Sartar, of strong
clan and tribal society, (leaders might be priests because of the respect
they are held, rather than being leaders simply because they are priests).
Since the tribes are fairly small (a few thousand) then there may be perhaps

ten or so priests in a tribe. Small numbers of priests would mean that a large
cult network would have to be across a number of tribes. The strong ties of an
initiate would surely erode the clan and tribal ties.

Since King of Sartar paints a picture very similar in flavour to the Viking
culture (but mainly because I enjoy using it), I favour the following approach.
I think that cults a run on very different lines between urban and rural
cultures.

In the rural culture people dwell in small, independent, communities (I run it
that an extended family of some tens of people live in a stead). Such small
numbers means that every one has to lend a hand in the diverse work of stead
life. This means that there is little room for specialisation. Since everyone
has to do a little of everything, they are probably lay members of a general
Orlanthi cult, worshipping the members of the whole pantheon. For the Task in
hand, they pray to the appropriate member of that pantheon for a blessing.

Some may feel called to worship a particular god, becoming an initiate.
Perhaps at their initiation into adulthood in the clan, they are chosen by the
cult, being a holy one. Or later they may be accepted into the secrets of the
cult.
 
I run rural cults very loosely, the fierce individuality of the Orlanthi means
that there are no hard and fast rules, or power structures. The individual
worships as they see fit. Some might join a community of initiates around a
priest, forsaking their blood ties for the religious ties to his new brethren
(largely the way I think cults work in the RQ rules). Others might instead
serve their community, but in the special way appropriate to their god (serving
on clan councils as an elder of the community, etc.). Still others might
forsake all ties and wonder the land, free to do the work of their god,
unmitigated by any loyalties to others. Of coarse this puts them outside the
protection of their culture, but to the highly superstitious Orlanthi, the
threat of the curse of the gods should be sufficient.

Priests still have complete authority. Should the great priest of the city come
then he must be obeyed, or the gods will be displeased. There is simply no

hierarchy of command. If the priest does not come himself, there is no network
by which they can issue commands.

Cities work very differently. In such a large community, blood ties are weaker
as one has to have other bonds for interacting with your community.
Specialisation is the key to city life. The benefits of cult magic are very
strong to the specialist. Extended family ties are replaced by religious ties,
people banding together to form 'brother hoods' worshipping the same god.
The city is run by a theocratic council made up of the representatives of the
cults.

This has some interesting ramifications. The civilised Lunars see a strong
urban religious hierarchy, but little rural organisation, and so wrongly assume
that rural cults are weak and unimportant. Thus they would probably
concentrate on the cults in the cities, thinking that these hold the key to
the universal cult. Also I play that the superstitious Orlanthi have many holy
sites. These holy sights might be adorned because of their power. In a city
they become the temples. However the temple is only the adornment of a site
intrinsically holy. Many (or even most) holy sites are in the open. This is
unlike the Lunar religion, where the act of building a temple creates the holy
site (they extend the power of their goddess by the building of temples). So
the Lunars feel by desecrating the shrine they destroy the holiness of the site
not realising that that the shrine is an adornment.

So bring back RQii lay membership!

Stephen Lucek.

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End of Glorantha Digest V4 #108
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