RE: Holy Days and Sacred Time

From: Kaselov-Sandberg (
Date: Sat 01 Nov 1997 - 18:04:43 EET


Patrik Sandberg here...

A few Digests ago Nick Brooke wrote some very fine things about
the polytheistic religion's holy day- and Sacred Time cermonys.
Opinions which I very much agree on.

> 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

Yes, yes! I hope we're then gonna see write-ups on the more
normal PC-cultures (i.e. Orlanthi, Lunar, Solar). As the
situation is now, we know very well how the trolls do their
sacred rituals (Troll Gods gave us that), but we have never seen
a cool description of an Ernalda earth ritual or a scene with
holy hymns and sacred fires devoted to the Emperor of the Sky -
His Mighty Sun-Father Yelm.

> (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?
> through temple reenactments and ritual dramas, which is to
say, through
> temples' static, ritual heroquests).

I propose that the actual roles of the gods _can_ be shouldered
by mere initiates as well. You can have a special gift, you can
have done something important for your clan the last year, you
are very devoted, etc. I also think that in some clans there
might not even be enough Rune levels to fill all the major roles
of the Short Lightbringer Quest.

I once tried to do a sort of scenario for my players based on
the Orlanthi Sacred Time SLBQ. The tribe the PCs belonged to had
a problem to solve which involved four mysterious dumb-struck
humans with earth associations. No one was sure of why the tribe
had come across these figures, what malignant purpose might be
behind their appearance.

But there lived in the near vicinity of the tribe an old
oracle. Deep in a smoking cave in a hillside one could seek her
answers. The tribal king emulated Orlanth, descended into the
underworld via a SLBQ. The smoking cave was symbolically equated
with the Underworld, so to succeed in the Quest was to return to
the surface with the oracle's answers regarding the four
mysterious figures.

I engaged the PCs as either one of the other Lightbringers
(Flesh Man is always an opportunity - I think he is the one to
represent Joe Everyman, not some Rune level), or as their

I copied handouts of the relevant parts of the LBQ to be read
out aloud by one of the players before each of the fourteen
stations of the quest so they should have something to act upon.
I connected various traits to various stations, I let them
fight, I tried to get them into roleplaying, etc.

But the feeling was just quite not there. It was hard to pick
the players interest. A strong feeling of pre-determination set
the mood for the session. It was as if the players felt that
they didn't control their own characters, they had no choices.
This was pre-arranged and stiff.

The overall feeling the session left was that it is very
difficult to make this ritual stuff into interesting
role-playing challenges for the players. I wonder if this is not
also a potential problem for HeroQuest and its playability...

>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
> 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
> 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.=

I tried to portray something of this when I wrote my "An
Orlanthi Holy Day" which appeared on the Digest in August or so.
If somenone with web access wants to read it, I've put it up on
my homepage at

The Point of view taken there was that of a Lhankor Mhy initiate
Geolgar Harefoot. He was born in the Culbrea tribe but on
mysterious ways ended up in Holy Country joining the Lord of
Knowledge in his early years. He had already been initiated to
Orlanth by that time, but converted to Lhankor Mhy with no ill
effect (as they're associated, and he had got his Storm Voice's
blessing before leaving home). But he always kept
contact with his kin in Sartar, and the account undoubtely
hails from one of his visits to old kin and friends. I think his
background explains his ability to _see_ things normally hidden
to a mere Lhankor Mhy. Geolgar is, or becomes, what could be
called "emotionally involved" in the ceremony. He is in a border
region between "lay member" and inititate, because of his
background. Therefore, he can observe both the ceremony's
mundane ritual parts (with masks and implements etc), and parts
of its actual God-time contents (the voice of Orlanth,
Flintslingers on the horizon, a brief glimpse of Aroka etc).

I think this is true of the observations in Troll Gods as well.
They are not *just* God Learner observations. Think of the
mysterious song of Aranea ("I was transfixed with visions of the
cosmos in a myriad of images: some were of the universe as
pearls on a necklace /.../ I think I saw Cragspider
metamorphosize into a great spider unlike any I saw before /.../
I thought I could see the stars through her body") and the
grinding teeth in the cave of Zorak Zoran ("It felt like the
cave itself, with its stony fangs, was gnashing us like we were
a great godmeal." and "I could see their cult memories dancing
and swirling overhead, huge and oppressive...")

In my Orlanthi ceremony a common initiate is clearly gripped by
ecstatic vision. He gets a chance to incarnate a divine power
(unclear if it is Orlanth or Aroka; the latter then intruding in
the ceremony), but as the tale tells us there is a greater
danger in this for an initiate: he is ripped asunder by divine
power and energy. I based my interpretaion on the paragraph in
Genertela...Players Book:

"Observers see a ritual drama. Participant lay members
experience an energetic thirill in their souls and in their
contact with the world. Initiates typically report
transportation to the mythic realm, sometimes aiding actively in
the drama, perhaps even possessing Orlanth himself."

I agree with Nick that it would be a shame if the intimate
experience with the otherworld deities per definiton were the
domain of the Rune Levels.

> 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
> rather than the mythic reality that underlies them.

Maybe it is also because Biturian is such a Wordly character
belonging to a (in my opinion) very Wordly cult - Issaries. The
different observations by Geolgin Askarios in Troll Gods may be
explained by him becoming too much "involved"; he could not help
being engaged because of his feelings (terror and fear). I think
that the more you invest of strong emotions and feelings in a
cults holy day ceremonies, the more you're likely to be "sucked

> I would prefer to generalise (talking about Holy Days, High
Holy Days, and
> 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.

In the case of Orlanth (which is the god I feel I have the most
knowledge about), I once tried to tie, or correspond, the
various mythic stories in Orlanthi mythology in KoS, to one or
the other of the Theyalan seasons. Those stories could provide
the framework for the the Holy Day for the relevant season.

Well, inspired by Nick's comments on the subject I will -
hopefully in the near future - try to speculate a little about
how a Holy Day of Ernalda, or Issaries could appear.

Thats all for now,

Patrik Sandberg


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