Orlanthi Cults

From: s.lucek@ic.ac.uk
Date: Thu 23 Jan 1997 - 12:30:21 EET

Oh damn, sent this to the wrong address. Here goes another attempt...

I hate being reminded of what I have written, since what I write is somewhat
different from what I meant to say! So I shall refrain from quoting other
people in my reply. It also means that I do not have to read what they have
written properly, which is great for fun misunderstandings.

Authority of priests:

Priests are representatives of the gods (the gods cannot act except through
their followers - priests are closest to the god it is easiest to act through
them i.e. priests are important to the god as well, and a priest who directs
the worship of other priests is even more important). In a culture where the
gods make their presence felt, you do not tell priests to get stuffed because
i) they are powerful, ii) if you show disrespect to the god's representative it
might make things awkward when asking the god for help next harvest time /
during raids etc.. I play the Orlanthi as a superstitious lot. Glorantha is a

hard place and you want as much help as you can get, so you probably go
around propitiating just about anything which might be vaguely spiritual (a bit
like the Vikings)!

As the rules stand, use of divine magic requires temples and religious
hierarchies etc.. At the very least to collect / renew a wide (and hence
useful) range of spells requires lots of little shrines or a big temple. Since
clans are small, a few hundred, then you have only a handful of priests, not
enough for this hierarchy. Thus I think the rules for the way divine magic
works in general (and not just for individual cults) need rewriting.

My real point in writing is that I am working on a version of magic rules for
RQ, so that I may use the Pendragon rules for Glorantha. POW, magic points and
all that seem very artificial after experiencing Pendragon. I think that the
rules for magic must reflect the way the cults work, so that players know where

they stand, and where and how they get their magic. (As an aside I am quite
pleased with as far as I got with my rules. Is anyone interested?)

Clan cult:

I would imagine that the clan chief, who in a warlike society (or one in a
dangerous position) would be the mightiest person in the clan. This would
probably be a priest, who has the advantages of divine magic. So there is an

impetus to the clan society mirroring the divine society, the clan chieftain
would be 'high priest' of Orlanth, and others representing the other gods of
the pantheon.

I should not have used the word theocracy in my first mailing - I would not
call the above a theocracy, which I would tend to use only for a state run by a
rather more developed religious hierarchy. To me the above is more like Viking
culture, where the chiefs represent the gods (except Iceland where there were
no chiefs so you had the dedicated priest role of the godi). Thanks also for
the references to Mediaeval / Renaissance England etc., but the term used for
church goers who have taken no religious vows (i.e. every one who is not a

priest, monk, etc.) is lay members or laity. So while everyone was a religious
believer, they were not an 'initiate' (even good old Henry VIII), hence no

So I get as far as Jeff Richard's e-mail about the Orlanthi cult set up (Digest
107). I still like the idea of calling the general clan member who worships the
pantheon as a whole, calling upon appropriate gods as the needs arise, as
something other than a initiate, which I would reserve for someone far more
involved in the mysteries of a god. But call them what you will I agree with
what you say. It would be nice if the divine magic rules worked in such a set

Also, clan worship works for a popular god like Orlanth. What about other cults
in the pantheon? I want to keep the worship of specialised gods, since one of
the most fun things about role playing in Glorantha is all the different cults.
I cannot believe more than 1% of the population as being priests. That means
you only have a few per clan. So you cannot have priests of lots of different
cults. One possibility is that a whole clan might worship a god other than the
general Orlanth/Ernalda. This must be rare, since other gods are too
specialised to be useful in the whole range of problems that face a clan (even
Orlanth seems a bit specialised towards those who go adventuring - probably for
the fun of role playing). In an exceptionally dangerous location or one of
religious significance perhaps. More believable would be that there are
representatives of other gods in the clan, respected initiates, who fulfill the
role of their god in the clan hierarchy. I am still uneasy, since with such
small numbers worshipping a specific god in any one clan, there may still be
pressure for links with worshippers in other clans. A few hundred worshippers
would be required for a few priests, so stretching it you could have an
itinerant priest serving the members of their cult across the whole tribe of
perhaps a few thousand, but you still need almost 10% of people worshipping
specialised gods. So I guess worship of specialised gods must be largely
unorganised and priestless, something for the individual or a small group,
unless you are near a big city, who might send out a priest for holy days.

So I imagine the following structure for cults. General pantheon
membership, then initiate and priests. However initiates and priests are more
independent than in the rules. Most would be part of the clan structure, and
not part of a religious hierarchy. Also initiates should be able to perform
priest like functions, otherwise worship of specific gods would not work. I
like the idea of freedom for initiates and priests. Most would be part of the
clan structure, but you could have a group of fanatics clustering around a
priest or of initiates forsaking duties of everyday life (i.e. the clan) to
serve god totally (becoming loners).


Cities are different. Blood ties are weaker. In a clan, everyone has a common
blood line, so for everyone you meet there will be a behavioural code defined
by kinship. This is not the case for cities. You rely on, have friendships and
loyalties with, people who are not kin. For example, your boss at work is not
your dad or mum anymore (if you insist on working for them, you will not
have the range of opportunities as you would if you are willing to work for
anyone - the whole point of banding together in a city), you owe obedience to

someone outside your kin. Also as mentioned, specialisation will lead to
worship of specific gods. So I imagine cults could develop more on the lines of
RQ rules.

It is probably interesting when a 'high priest' travels to the back and beyond,
used to giving out orders. Now the local chief would probably defer to this
priests rank (remembering Orlanth's role a king and ruler, which he probably
emphasises to everyone when he gives his orders), anxious not to offend
Orlanth, but (if brave) he might think that Orlanth, as god of rebellion, would
not mind if this priests pomposity were deflated a little...

Stephen Lucek.


End of Glorantha Digest V4 #117

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