Re: Rituals and Sacred Time

From: Nick Brooke (
Date: Tue 28 Oct 1997 - 12:00:10 EET

Chris Bell wrote:

> What exactly happens during Sacred Time and such is the great weakness
> of RQ 2 and 3.

Yep. I was chatting over suchlike matters with Greg at the last Con, and
*hope* to get round to writing something about Gloranthan rituals (inc.
holy days, initiations, sacred times and heroquests) some time soonish.
Things like the Shorter Lightbringers Pilgrimage (KoS), the River Ritual
of the Sun Folk (SC), and the KoS stuff on how laity and initiates "see"
temple rituals are all important to this.

> I always imagined it as a controlled, somewhat safe trip into the God
> Time, where the worshipper becomes Orlanth or whatever God he or she
> is worshipping, and faces that deity's conflicts and resolutions of
> the Greater Darkness and *IS* the deity as he or she takes their part
> in resurrecting the world and beginning Time, starting the new year.

With your later caveat that it's the presiding priest who "becomes" his
or her god, and that the normal initiates are followers, supporters, etc.=
this sounds a fair enough statement of the polytheist heroquest ritual to=

me. The ritual is only "somewhat safe" as long as it is "controlled" --
and outside forces can affect this, as much as the worshippers and priest=

(There was one odd time when Greg said that only the Rune Level HQers
got to participate in the Lightbringers Quest ritual in Sacred Time --
the rest of the clan see them fly off and then hang around hoping they'll=

get back safely -- but that sounds like what happens in a "real" re-enact=
- -
ment like Argrath's, not the annual Shorter Lightbringers Ritual [cf. KoS=
Otherwise, how do normal initiates and laity learn the myths? Answer:
through temple reenactments and ritual dramas, which is to say, through
temples' static, ritual heroquests).

> At the I Fought We Won stage, ALL worshippers become their God or cultu=
> hero, being the lone hero against Chaos and the death of the world.

Caveat: this is not something that "all worshippers" do. It is something
that happens for all heroquesters who do it. I still think IFWW is a very=

powerful, very dangerous HeroQuest: because if "I Fought, I Lost", I'm no=

longer part of the world, and have in fact been consumed by Chaos. The
fact that all surviving HQers agree on their experience does not mean tha=
all HQers who participate in this ritual survive it, or that all HQers
participate in this quest. I think it's tough, and potentially deadly.

> I always envisioned the Sacred Time as a period where the normal rules
> of time were suspended and where the world as a whole enters the Other-=

> world, a place of visions, journeys and omens, as Myth is not merely
> re-enacted, but re-experienced and re-lived/re-performed.

I think this is true, not of Sacred Time and worldwide, but of all ritual=
and holy days, wherever and whenever performed. Sacred Time's additional
potency is because there are so many simultaneous ritual heroquests going=

on: it's hard to find a magically-important place that isn't transcending=

its mundanity then. BUT, an Orlanth hill-temple on Orlanth's Holy Day in
Storm Season is "outside of mundane time" in *exactly* the same way as it=

would be in Sacred Time.

And an intruder arriving at that hill-temple would *either* be "sucked
into" the ritual (perceiving the re-enacted myth as participant or adver-=

sary), *or* would see it "from outside" (a bunch of worshippers in funny
costumes, holding strange ritual items and declaiming portentuous chunks
of scriptural or oral-traditional verse). If you start *interfering* with=

someone else's ritual (mundanely or magically), you're bound to be drawn
into it, in the same degree that you mess it up. But if you passively
observe, as a "visiting lay member" or GL cultural anthropologist might,
you're "not involved" and can watch the amusing details of what goes on,
see how the worshippers represent their deities and foes in costume, etc.=

We see this in e.g. the Daka Fal and Yelmalio chapters of "Cults of Prax"=
where Biturian Varosh has no real connection to the myth-patterns he's
witnessing, and so can only perceive their mundane/magical manifestations=

rather than the mythic reality that underlies them. It's interesting to
wonder how a genuine Orlanthi would have perceived the ritual fight with
the Yelmalions: probably not as an itemised expenditure of POW and Rune
Spells and Magic Points... :-)

NB: all the Biturian Varosh narratives from "Cults of Prax" are freely
available on the Chaosium home page:

I would prefer to generalise (talking about Holy Days, High Holy Days, an=
perhaps taking Sacred Time as a specific, extreme example), rather than
paint myself into a corner by saying these things *only* happen during
Sacred Time. Obviously, some myths are only performed then -- the LBQ is
the most obvious example. Just as obviously, major cults that *don't* hav=
their High Holy Days in Sacred Time *don't* think they're missing out on
*the* most magical time of year (and are in some way second-rate).



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