Re: Orlanthi warrior priest chiefs, not godi

From: Joerg Baumgartner (
Date: Sat 01 Feb 1997 - 19:10:00 EET

Stephen Lucek strikes back:

I said:
>> Priests don't adventure, they warp the wind, call clouds to ensure rain,
>> teach spells (teaching one adventurer a spell costs the priest a full day to
>> recover that Spellteaching spell

>One source of possible confusion is my usage of the word priest. I mean a
>general 'rune level' person.

Well, "rune level" isn't necessarily "rune level". Most warrior chieftains
will be initiates of Orlanth Rex, i.e. acting priests performing the "Rex"
subcult priestly duty, but won't necessarily have huge amounts of rune
magic. The same goes for most Rune Lords. As per GoG, only Wind Lords and
Humakti Swords get reusable divine spells, Light Sons and Storm Khans have
to get by with 1D10 DI.

I was talking about divine magicians, and yes, I counted the urban dwelling
tribal priesthood of the Sartar city confederations in. In effect, we may be
in agreement over the amount of adventure-useful magical power in the
tribes, at least in non-war times. (In times of war Argrath managed to
muster as many as eight separate companies of magicians, apart from the
Stormwalkers and the Wind Children, and if the numbers in Wyrm's Footnotes
#7 are of any use, this would mean about 60 "mages" per unit. And that's
only the magicians going into organized warfare...)

>So in fact, my 1 rune level per 200 population
>might be even more stringent limit than some out there think.

Make this one specialist divine magician, and I agree. Make this "any rune
level", and it won't be true in _my_ Glorantha. While Glorantha is not
necessarily theocratic, cultic positions (and the associated magics) are
somewhat common.

>The Vikings culture (on the mainland Scandinavia, not Iceland) are one
>example of strong military war chiefs who are also priests.

(Not quite) sorry for this only peripherically Gloranthan rant, but the
priest/chieftain combination (in Norway) wasn't necessarily of a military
nature. Kings (that is minor, regional ones, comparable to Sartarite tribal
kings, reguli, not reges, if you want to compare with Latin sources) were
sacrificed in the third year of bad harvests, and so on.

The priestly role wasn't so much that of the magician - the Vikings had
their share of sorcerers (even by RQ3-rules!) and shamans without any
connection to the acceptable cults (at least in the Sagas, and their
subjective picture of the world).

>Even a religion which preaches pacifism
>(Christianity), when threatened produces warrior priests to defend itself
>(Pope Leo iv, the Archbishops of York in the War of the Roses, etc.).

Yeah, yeah, and bishop Odo of Normandy, source for the "all clerics use
maces" in (A)D&D... Many of the medieval popes and bishops were about as
priestly as Ronald Reagan, pure power politicians who happened to lead some

>The Orlanthi culture in Sartar, in the lead up to the hero wars, has been
>geared for war, responding to invasion from the north for some time.

It has also spent its most warlike priests in 1602, 1611 and 1613 - read the
Varmandi description in the Genertela Players Book (Orlanthi "What My Father
Told Me"). I tend to regard the Varmandi as the hooligan clan of the
Colymar, yet even they are led by a Barntar type after 1613.

>Also I think that there is a lot of inter clan and tribal conflict (like
>mainland Vikings).

Mostly good old cattle raiding. The Orlanthi are a bit more "Celtic" than
the southern Norwegians or Svear, meaning that much of their squabbles is
controlled by strange rules of conduct. Things rarely get out of reasonable
hands as long as Orlanthi face Orlanthi (Telmori are a different matter, as
are Praxians or Grazers).

>I think that many priests would be primarily war leaders. The advantages of
>divine magic in battle / raids are too important for a clan / tribe to miss
>on. So I think you would have quite a few warrior priests. Brave, proven
>adventurers might well have many advantages when considered for such a post!

Well, I admit that I play(ed) a variant RQ3 where initiate divine magic was
(slowly) reusable - similar to Nick Brooke's article in Tales #12, if you
can read German it is in Free INT #5. Thus I have no problems with ordinary
folk slowly building up a potential of combat-relevant magics, without
actually being "rune levels". Most adventurers would fall into this category
- - proven in personal combat, both physical and magical, but too unreliable
for any tribal or clan position except in extremely desperate times. Even if
you play a Pendragon style campaign, adventurers tend to neglect some of
their social duties for adventuring.

>Why I do not like the idea of godi:
>On mainland Scandinavia, the chiefs, who because of the Viking love of
>independence, started off as simply war leaders and had actually reduced
>political powers in the hope that they would not dominate too much, gradually,
>under external pressures on the tribe (largely the expansion of tribes leading
>to conflict), became political leaders as well. The chiefs were also the
>priests of the Viking gods.

Actually, these leaders were called kings, in later times sea-kings. Anybody
who could "prove" blood descent from one of the Viking deities was qualified
to become a "king" on a Viking run, and if he and his followers were
successful, they might stand a chance to usurp an established kingdom (both
Olav Tryggvason and Saint Olav did). Their role in the priesthood was that
divine blood spoke to divine ears. In case of crisis, their role reverted
from priest to sacrifice, themselves, or in other cases their children. They
were _not_ magicians, except for a few outstanding individuals. Egil
Skallagrimsson... who else?

>Iceland was different. One of the oft cited reasons for the colonisation of
>Iceland was to escape the oppression of the rising powers of the kings (Harald
>Finehair in Norway [...]).
>On arriving in Iceland there were no real external threats, and so the
>system developed there was radically different. The chiefs had greatly reduced
>powers, the priest element was removed from them, and given to the godi.
>there were chiefs, each person could pick and chose which chief would
>them, and (as far as I can remember) the chiefs had a largely legal role.

Actually this wasn't too different from the situation in the distant regions
of continental and island Norway. Halogaland was very similar to Iceland in
this regard, and royal power never was strong there. The Troendelag thrice
offered ruling Jarls instead of kings for Norway (though allied with the
Danes). They controlled the financial aspects of the Thor worship at Ladir,
which made them strong, and stubbornly resist all christianisation attempts.
After they had sacrificed Saint Olav at Stiklestad, they had a christian
symbol to attract pilgrims, and their resistance broke down. (I know this is
formulated very cynically, but IMO that's how the Vikings were.)

>In Glorantha, I envisage that the 'rune levels' are the leaders of the clan /
>tribe. They are (usually) the chiefs and elders. The society orders itself
>along the lines of the pantheon. As rulership is modelled on the gods, so it
>seems natural to me that the rulers are infact the direct representatives of
>the gods, i.e. rune levels.

Usually the rulers become the spouse of the Goddess (sacred marriage, Year
King, etc), through questing, not through formalized magic wielding. Divine
lineage helps a lot, which is why even among the Orlanthi the thane families
have sort of a hereditary nobility. (Being rich in land and goods helps, too...)

Some of the top notch council members will be priests, but others will be
quite mundane. How many of them will be spell-casters is another question.
Cultic hierarchy doesn't necessarily mean magical ability.

>Godi conjures the Icelandic tradition. The Godi
>represented the gods, but were removed from political leadership. Perhaps I am
>just ignorant, and godi was
>a name used through-out Viking culture, and not only in Iceland.

The word I encountered often in my Norwegian translation of the Heimskringla
was not so much that of the sacrificer, but that of the sacrifice, or
sacrificing: bloter. Apparently the pagan religion did not have that
formalized cult ranks as the christian church had, and the priestly office
could be performed by whoever was agreed upon (a quite protestant
approach...) and who could afford to host the feast combined with the sacrifice.

>the singular for godi is something else isn't it? Goda?

Godi is the singular, or Gode, and Godar is (the Swedish) plural form.

>> One tribal wapentake/folkmoot per year at most
>Tribes are fairly small, a few thousands. I cannot remember area of the tribes
>in any of the maps

I happen to have seen "a scrap of Greg's wastebasket", as Nick put it, with
tribal areas marked on the White Bear and Red Moon hexmap, with numbers
attached. These made it in reworked form (and more fuzzy, but also more
pleasant maps) into Questlines (and partly already into Tales 6). The
Colymar tribe - the only one on which we have somewhat plentyful "official"
information - is the largest in Old Sartar, and has between 6000 and 10000
members (I believe the difference is whether to count the kids or not).
Still, even the smaller tribes live scattered among the valleys of Sartar,
and tribal moots are hard to visit if you don't live near the royal
highways. No farmer can really afford to leave his lifestock alone (or cared
for by the young, the sick, or the incompetent) for five days several times
a year. Thanes will travel more often, since they have less personal work to
do on their steads, and their witness-worth is higher, too.

>One tribal moot per year, which was the Icelandic tradition,

You mean the Allthing? This was attended by chieftains, mostly. I.e. most of
the characters of the sagas.

>o.k. if the tribe is spread over a vast area, like the whole of Iceland, but
>for such small areas of Sartar tribes, where everyone is within a day or so
>travel, means that it is quite plausible for tribes to meet more often.

You seem to forget that most of Sartar has no roads - the royal roads are a
real marvel in a country resembling northwestern Wales (IMO). Just to visit
the neighbouring valley with a decent entourage may take two days of travel.

>As well as the big Thing once a year, Iceland was split into four smaller
>regions, each region meeting more often (4 times a year? But I cannot really
>remember how often).

If I recall correctly, once per year. Law cases brought to the Allthing
often seem to have involved feuds between chieftains' families over some
distance, like the later Njal's Saga conflicts. The witness values available
were better there, too, so some cases would have been brought there rather
than to the local moot.


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