Orlanth Cults

From: Jeff Richard (jrichard@cnw.com)
Date: Wed 22 Jan 1997 - 04:35:23 EET


Stephen Lubcek wrote regarding the Orlanth cults:
>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.

As the resident Heortling Orlanth-ologist amongst the Seattle Farmers
Cooperative (David Dunham is the resident Ralian Orlanth-ologist and
Pontiff of Grazerology, Pam Carlson is our expert on all things Pelorian
with a particular and fearsome speciality in Shargash and dogs, and Martin
Laurie is our expert in all things warlike and nasty - except Abba of
course :>), I thought I'd make a few comments on this.

First off, at least in my ToDP campaign, initiation into Orlanth is the
initiation into adulthood and into your clan. A not-adult is initiated by
his godi and various clan leaders - not by a priest into a temple. For
those of you who remember my Cults of Orlanth (which can be read on David
Dunham's fabulous webpage) - this is the basic cult of Orlanth. The ties
of the cult IS the ties of the clan for adult men.

It is important to emphasize that this "Clan Cult" of Orlanth (with godi -
acolytes as the cultic leaders) is a CLAN CULT, not a tribal cult. Young
Varmandi men are initiated into their clan and into the ways of Orlanth at
the same time with the same ceremony. For the Heortlings, I've called this
the Cult of the Second Son (who first initiated Heort).

This cult is not the RQ 2 Orlanth cult we all remember. It provides a
basic panoply of common divine magic and some specialty spells. It is the
cult of the CLAN and largely defines the spiritual life for adult men of
the clan.

After initiation into adulthood, in many clans a man is then initiated into
the mysteries of Barntar. This initiation (requiring a ceremony but no POW
loss) demonstrates to the man that the path of Orlanth is the path a man
must take to tame and run his stead. This is also a clan cult. There are
no "Priests of Barntar", only a member of the clan who leads the Barntar
ceremonies (usually a clan godi).

For many men, that's as far as it goes. A man can be a good member of his
clan and a good adult in Orlanthi society being initiated into his clan
cult and knowing the rites of Barntar.

However, other cults of Orlanth exist which are not necessarily clan cults.
 These are more what RQ2 and RQ3 describe. They are organized around
temples - usually tribal cultic centers. For instance, in my ToDP
campaign, there is a cult of Orlanth the Thunderer centered on Clearwine,
which my Varmandi PCs (who are NOT members of the Colymar tribe at this
time) must travel to in order to worship OT. This tribal cult creates a
cultic association beyond the clan, but all of my PCs hold their loyalty to
their clan as being far more important than their loyalty to this tribal
cult. It is the clan cult that defines the man, the sub-cult merely adds
to this basic definition.

Other tribal cults include various Orlanth the Warrior subcults (including
Walind the Ram up in Syllia, Jandan Adventurous at Fox Hollow in
Culbrealand, Orlanth the Adventurer at Clearwine, etc.), Orlanth the Wise
(also called Orlanth Aeolus - located in Hendreikiland), and, of course,
Orlanth Rex.

Furthermore, many clans worship their own localized aspects of Orlanth -
including Lawspeaker, Goodvoice, etc., not to mention localized Orlanth the
Warrior subcults (like Vingkot Victorybringer, etc.).

It is the tribal cults which are most capable of conflicting with clan
loyalties, sometimes even with tribal loyalties (in the case of
inter-tribal cults) - although the rise of the Alakoring Kingship rites
have minimized the threat that inter-tribal cults pose to tribal leaders.
 However amongst the rural majority - these tribal cults have considerably
less relevance than the clan cults.

It is in the cities (which are basically tribal or intertribal centers)
that the tribal cults achieve prominance. In Clearwine of 1350, the cults
of Orlanth the Thunderer, the Adventurer and Rex are more prominent than
any local clan cult - since the tribal center is the meeting ground for all
the confederated clans (and often a religious/market ground for nearby,
non-confederated clans).

Finally, there are those weird, other cults. These are followed by folk
who either never initiated into their clan cult (strangers all of them!) or
clan folk that later learned the strange mysteries of the host of lesser
gods. The deeper mysteries of Lhankor Mhy, Issaries, Chalana Arroy, Elmal,
or other gods may have an independent cultic existence beyond their worship
within the clan cult. My previous post on Elmal was how my ToDP campaign
deals with the independent cultic existence of one of these cults. A
similar write-up exists for these other cults.

In other words, don't worry about the Orlanth cult disrupting the clan. If
anything worry about how the Orlanth clan cult tends to reinforce kinship
bonds to the point where most clans view themselves as the autonomous
center of the world, who distrust all strangers and are maddeningly
provincial. For proof - just read Korol's Saga.

Yours truly,

Jeff Richard

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