From: Alex Ferguson (
Date: Tue 15 Apr 1997 - 22:13:44 EEST

Stephen Martin is undeniably merged, but first, on reindeer Hsunchen:
> I thought they were farther south, at the bottom of Ralios -- am I
> misremembering?

You may be thinking of the Elk People, whose Fancy Name I forget.
(That's "elk" as in wapiti, not _Alces alces_, before Baron von Moosehausen
strikes again.) Some other bunch of deer-types hang around the Ralios
area too, whom I forget yet more thoroughly.

> Bagog is a ruling god in the
> sense that she is the prime determining factor of an entire race, albeit
> a minor one. Kyger Litor is the same in this respect.

KL is the head of a medium-sized pantheon. Bagog is a "ruling" god in
no stronger a sense than is Mee Vorala, Thed, or the Cult of the Bloody
Tusk. I confess to being a bit confused: I'm not sure if you're
claiming that these Ruling gods really are (all) merged, too, or if
you're arguing for some sort of pleading (that is, the theory really is
"multi-RL => merged or ruling cult").

> the current Orlanth cult was, I
> believe, two + separate Storm God cults in the Grey Age, and
> possibly/probably even in the First Age.

I'm not familiar with the term "Grey Age", but I'm guessing it means
Lesser Darkness. I'm quite prepared to believe the "current Orlanth
cult" was several separate cults around the Dawn. It's not unlikely
that some approproximation to the current Orlanth was "created" by the
First Council, I think, and this is where the Theyalan get their strange
ideas about the Compromise, a contradictory Godtime etc, from. (In a
sense, it still is, as the regional variations are large enough to make
it effectively so.) What I don't believe, and have seen no evidence
for, is that two distinct ur-Orlanths were merged around this time (or
at any other), one corresponding to the "Thunderous" aspect, and another
to the "Adventurer" aspect, retaining distinct priesthoods, and that
this distinction has been preserved in that form throughout history.

If you believe this, then I have to disagree, and challenge you to
provide any evidence for it internal to the Orlanth cult(s).

If you're merely saying that the cult just _happens_ to be "merged",
and just _happens_ to have two RL ranks, with no causal connection
between the two, then I don't understand the purpose of the theory.

I think myself that the "aspects" of the modern cult all originated from
_within_ a pre-existing religion, by Orlanthi HeroQuest or endogenous
and progressive cultural development. We know the Rex subcult has a
historic Founder, and the same could loosely be said for the
Lightbringer aspect, though I have my doubts about whether this cult
dates back continuously to Harmast in all regions: it seems to be a
relatively recent introduction for some. I think essentally the same is
true of the Adventurous aspect.

> And what about the Seven Mothers -- you don't mention that at all?

It was "covered" by the phrase:
[> >] Two of these have structures which fairly clearly don't correspond
[> >] to their historical origins [...]

... those being, from [deleted] context, 7M and Yelm.

> The Rune Lords are very clearly transplanted from Yanafal Ta'arnils,
> while the priests seem to sort of mush the other gods together.

I don't think this is clear at all. 7M Rune Lords are so much more
broader, while at the same time more limited than are Scimitars, that
it's hard to see any direct correspondance. One can become a Lord of
the 7M cult without ever picking up a sword, and learning only (say)
Deezola's magic and skills, if I recall the writeup correctly.
(Perhaps not a very Lunarised thing to do, though.)

> >You mean, none of the other "multi-RL" cults? Several other cults
> >have shamans as their single "priest" rank, so I don't see the real
> >significance of this.

> Actually, I seriously disagree with this. The concept of a "shamanic
> cult", such as the hsunchen deities, is a misnomer, IMO.

Only if one interprets the term "cult" in an extremely narrow way.
All the cults with shamans in them in GoG seem to contain varying
degrees of the Divine model, and the Shamanic; not as synthetic
mixtures, but in terms of which of the somewhat artifical "God Learner/
RQ3" Types of Magic they happen to most resemble. In the case of
Horned Man the divine element is almost completely absent, but for
the other cults there's a significant such component. How it ought to
be best represented in game terms is another matter; the RQ3 treatment
is just an approximation for convenience, as would be treating them (or
Aldrya) as purely shamanic.

As Stephen seems not to be arguing that shamans are the results of cult
merger in the same sense he claims 'Lords are, and as he (at least
temporarily) concedes my and others' Yelm counterexample, I'll snip most
of that discgrussion in the hope of making it below my fighting email
weight of 12K or so.

[Theyalan shamans]
> We have exactly one reference in print that I remember, from KoS -- where
> does it necessarily suggest they are separate from the Orlanth cult?

Old references to Theyalan shamans associate them with "Umath"; KoS
calls them "kolating". No Orlanth writeup has ever even hinted at
a shamanic class of membership. Seems like a pretty big set of hints
to me.

> But even admitting that point, I still stick to my suggestion.

I'd be delighted to hear some "Glorantha-level" reasons for an O. shaman.
"Old time" spirit magic use among the Orlanthi clearly occurs, must
have used to occur much more (by assumption), and sadly, hasn't been
drawn out to any real degree at all. While my personal inclination is
towards treating them as unreconstructed devil-may-care "independants",
I'd be more than happy to see them described as a (sub)cult, so at
least as to add some colour into the argument.

But reasoning like "all the other multi-RL ruling gods have one (apart
from Yelm), therefore so should Orlanth" leaves me (at best) cold.

> I can look at Waha and see that
> his anti-chaos roles are pretty much passe now that Storm Bull is around,
> yet they are still important to his mythos and his nature.

The Praxians don't believe that Waha pre-dates the Storm Bull, so a
theory predicated on that assumption would be somewhat a-mythic.
I don't think you have to look far for a notion of why Waha has both
K(ha|ah)ns and shamans; there seems to be a fairly strong parallel
with native American chiefs and medicine men.

> Now maybe Orlanth has become too civilized to have shamans any more. But,
> I could see Orlanth shamans in some of the less-civilized areas, such as
> Brolia, still having an important role in the Orlanth cult.

I'm sure you're right in believing Brolia has significant numbers of
shamans, but whether they're part of an "Orlanth cult" as such is more
questionable. And this is at most a side-light to the matter of whether
the "known" Orlanth cult, which in all it's incarnations has implicitly
or explicitly concentrated on DP and/or Prax, ought to have a shamanic

> KoS makes it
> clear that _all_ Orlanthi men undergo the same initiation into Orlanth,

I don't think it makes this at _all_ clear, and have argued so elsewhere.
I know that Greg has been toying with this as a model for initiation,
but if it had ever been stated so unambiguously, either way, we'd have
saved megabytes on this list.

Are you really suggesting that modern day Sartarites have separate
initiation for each aspect, or at least, "as separate" as however you
think, to pick your example, Chalana Arroy initiation is? (Elmal is a
different case entirely, for reasons I won't get into.) Does this mean
that Adventurous initiates have significant restrictions on getting
magic from Thunderous temples, as would said CA?

I don't believe the above, but I do think each "subcult" or aspect has
associated with it some degree of "sub-initiation" (braindead term,
not feeling very inspired today). This is particular true of Hero
cults, and things like the Magic Weapons, so "aspect-switching" may
work similarly -- to however that is, exactly.

> >Mild soapbox: theorising about such things is all very well, but I
> become
> >uncomfortable when they're taken beyond mere speculation, and become
> >agitation for Glorantha to be "improved" to suit them better.

> My soapbox: RuneQuest is a _very_ imperfect representation of Glorantha,
> and I have no qualms about abandoning anything which seems to have been
> dictated by game rules or mechanics.

I can't see how this applies in this case. The GoG mini-cults all seem
refreshingly Purged of spurious-Rune-Lord-ism, and other bogus RQ2isms.
The fact that some RQ3 cults have structures which flaunt the Universal
Cult Format rather brazenly seems to me to be a recognition, reflection,
and indeed a celebration, of religious diversity, the very opposite of
an artifical rules construct that needs to be Explained Away or
Eliminated. To make a Universal Cult Format II, such as perhaps "all
cults have initiates, acolytes if lucky, priests, shamans if ruling,
rune lords if merged", or otherwise, would seem to be a retrograde step
in the very sense Stephen seeks (actual) improvement.

I'm not talking about abandoning or improving RQ, and indeed, said
nothing about it; as noted elsewhere, it's already abandoned us. I'm
talking about "improving" Glorantha as it's "known" to be. My objection
is to the "top down" approach -- develop a theory for how All Glorantha
is, then argue for changing the cults to suit the theory better.
(Notably this has been tried once, with results that were somewhat
Curate's Egg-like). I have zero, nay, negative objections, to theories,
however wacky, which at least purport to be based in extrapolations
based on the culture or religion in question -- as it were, "bottom up"
thinking (which isn't to say I necessarily agree with them all).
The latter at least seems a more constructive approach to couch things in,
even if one has some secret agenda of the former sort.

> Now, maybe the Orlanth cults
> were merged because they were inaccurate as separate cults, maybe because
> RQ was a God Learner invention in the late 80s.

To say they were "merged" is to imply they were ever "separate", in
some established pre-RQ3 sense. It's true that the CoP Orlanth was
explicitly the Adventurous aspect, noted as being the only one existing
in Prax, and doubtless in other locations and/or eras, only (say) the
Thunderous aspect was ever present -- I suspect this was true of
resettlement era Dragon Pass, for example. It's hard to construe
this as an argument for separate and _co-existing_ cults, though.

> what's the point of "theorizing" if we can't propose theories?

A truly illuminated question, and a very irrelevant one. The more
theories the merrier, as far as I'm concerned. However, meta-theories
invite meta-criticism, I think, in much the same way the more modest
theories invite run-of-the-mill disagreement.

> I offered some possible evidence for it -- do you have any evidence
> _against_ it?

The rarity of cults in which there's any positive sign of this having
happened (about two, by my reckoning) is one piece of "negative
evidence". The presence of such cults where either the presented
structure, or the mythic history of the cult would have to be "fixed" to
fit the theory (7M, Yelm and Yelmalio, conspicuously, leaving aside the
fuzzy "ruling shamanic" question) seems to me rather stronger.

> Some cult with two levels which can be proved to _not_ be a merged cult?

That wouldn't be Evidence, it would be Disproof. I've already argued
that more of the multi-RL cults than not require a very large crowbar
(over the head, in some cases) to be made to fit a model where each of
their rune ranks correspond to an indentifiable precursor cult. The
weaker standard of just some "merged cult" would be nigh-impossible; any
cult with any "Subservient cults" could be argued to be one, never mind
those with "extra" initiatory statuses.

To be clear: I think cults merge not infrequently. Sometimes this
results in "extra" initiatory stages, and sometimes not. Sometimes
these extra statuses are present for different reasons. Carmanian
mystery cults, for example, I picture as having more ranks than one
can shake a fist at, some of which may be "rune level" in some loose
sense. Equally, I don't think the Malkioni church has, say Archdeacons
and Canons because these belonged to two different sects which were
then merged.



This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.7 : Fri 13 Jun 2003 - 16:59:00 EEST