Glorantha Digest: Heortling Food, Drink & Famine

Heortling Food, Drink & Famine

From: John Hughes (
Date: Mon 13 Mar 2000 - 19:31:11 EET

Heys folks

My response to the discussion on Orlanthi food, drink and famine was to
spend a few nights in the library, muse a bit, summon an old notebook I
thought was permanently lost on the Other Side, and fire off a couple of
divinations. The divinations were answered, though one of the replies threw
me (bloody typical that). As a result I spent yesterday adding some new
sections and further editing my Far Point essay on flora, fauna, food,
drink and land use, trying to balance mythic texture, historical reality
and game interest. The focus is Upland Far Point, but a hope there's a
general applicability to most of Heortling culture.

At nearly ten thousand words, it's too long to post in its entirety to the
Digest. I've clipped some of the new material below, but for those
interested you can read it all in context at

and succeeding pages. Please note that this is my Questlines Orlanthi
website, which won't be officially on-line for a little time yet: links to
other parts of the site won't work, just those linking together the essay.
Alternatively, e-mail me for a text copy.

The essay includes sections on
* the Geography of Far Point
* the Tribes
* Living off the Land, historical analogues
* Stead Economy - staples, food crops (list), salt, stead animals (inc.
list), cattle, pigs, sheep, kukbirds
* Food and Drink - everyday, special foods, etiquette, butter,
* Fauna - cultural animals (list), major wilderness fauna (list), fish and
aquatic animals (list), elementals and magical creatures (list), insects
* Flora - common plants and fungi (list), common trees and scrubs (list)
* Environments - high mountainside, boreal forest, high forest marsh, mixed
or boreal leaf forest, inland waters, elder forests, Ginijji
* Comments and Further Questions
* Wilderness Resources (list)
* Far Point Imports and Exports (lists)
* Bibliography.

The essay is an eternal draft. Comments, criticisms and additions most

I hope to engage some of the discussion directly a bit later in the week.
Here are some bits of the new bits...


How do we live ? - 'Hard work, bent over the plow and treading its furrows,
then reaping the bounty of the Mother is our life. Every man plows, or
wishes to, or works for those that do. Even Orlanth plows. And we hunt,
fish the rivers, tend the sheep in the hills, and trade for special goods.
Our food is barley, wheat, and rye -- Ernalda's bread is our staple, eaten
in porridge, breads, and ale; only the poor, like your no-good cousins at
the Rotroot place, eat only root vegetables; "More cabbage, less bread,"
they say. We are well off, so we eat pig, chicken, cow, and the wild game
of the good red deer.'
- - What My Father Told Me. The Genertela Book.

Rural life is far from idyllic, despite a long tradition of romanticised
poetic falsehood beginning with Theocritus. In Heortling lands, farm life
is one of constant pressure and tension, an ongoing battle against weather,
scarce resources, raiders, pests, disease, and capricious magical forces,
balancing the demands of the present against the needs of the future
Starvation and famine are very real possibilities, and even a good year
may have food shortages and periods of hunger. Heroes of Ernalda, Barntar,
Eiritha, Elmal and Harst constantly battle against the forces of want, fate
and elemental indifference.

The cycle of farm labour is difficult and constant, and periods of both
feast and famine are part of the yearly cycle. The abundance of wilderness
resources protects Upland Far Walkers somewhat from the threat of crop
failure, but even so periods of famine do occur and are greatly feared....

- -...
Cattle require plenty of water. How wild and how far you let your cattle
run depends on how much you trust your neighbours. Over time, crop
plantings tend to supplant the low (river) meadows used for herding cattle.

High dry areas of the tula are used for grazing sheep. Pigs run semi-wild
in woodland, which also provide the occasional deer, and wild fruits in
season. Hens and geese are kept by the bloodline lodge, and must be
gathered in at night to protect them from foxes and other predators. (Stead
alynx are also a constant threat). Rivers and lakes provide fish and wild

Feeding animals through Dark Season (magically chill, with Ice, Snow and
Night Demons abroad) is the key limiting factor in animal husbandry. Upland
winters are fierce, but winter survival is testing even in the relatively
mild climates of southern Sartar. Upland lodges are split in two: one half
for humans and the other for the wintering of cattle. On the milder Sharl
Plains, byrnes are kept separate from human lodgings. (Yelmalions have a
highly developed sense of purity and taboo, and fear 'mixing' in any shape
or form).

Sheep are kept for wool, meat milk and sacrifice, cattle for prestige,
wealth, milk, sacrifice, meat, manure, horn, sinews and hides. A bull's
hide is as valuable as its meat. Horn is used for fastenings, drinking
vessels and many other uses. Bone is used for belt-ends, handles, needles,
pins and skates. Horses are important sacrificial animals and though their
meat is consumed, it is usually done so in a ritual context. Pigs are
raised for meat, and favoured because of their quick breeding. Fowl provide
eggs in Sea Season, meat and hollow bones used for musical pipes. Kuks are
bred for love and fighting. Rabbits are regularly trapped. Deer are hunted
for meat, skin and antler. Boar are hunted for meat and tusk.

Cattle have great cultural value, and are the prime sign of wealth, but in
Far Point as elsewhere the Orlanthi are primarily a sheep-herding people.
(In European history, the more rural a society, the more important sheep
are to its prosperity).

In terms of food value, 1 cow = 2 calves = 5 hogs = 10 young pigs = 7 sheep
= 14 lambs = 100 laying hens.


Cattle calve in early Sea Season, and are usually weaned by late Earth.
Gestation is ([283]*294/365 - a Stafford equation) 228 days to produce a
single calf. Estrus is 21 days.

(Cattle gestation is similar to Gloranthan human pregnancy, which is
280*294/365 = 225, which I'd shorten to 224 days or 4 seasons, giving the
same day and week to both conception and birth, (barring Sacred Time
complications ).

In natural breeding, one bull will service up to 25 cows. In controlled
(pasture) conditions, this can be expanded to 50 cows.

Maned cattle are fierce, smelly and dangerous! They tend to be smaller on
average than modern breeds, and well-adapted to thriving in relatively poor
pasture under challenging conditions. Both bulls and cows are horned, which
leads to difficulties in winter housing. Animals trained to the yoke for
ploughing are kept separate, fed and watered by hand and are relatively tame.

Cows mature at about two and a half years, at which time they can be put in
calf and subsequently provide milk. The gestation period is similar to
humans, and cows can be managed to calve annually.

Orlanthi regard cattle to be at their prime at seven years of age. Most
adult cattle are female.

Cattle have a limited grazing range compared to sheep, are slower to breed,
more aggressive, and are afflicted by disease spirits such as milk fever
and bloat. Oh but they're beautiful. Cattle, as an Upland cottar has been
heard to proclaim, are better than women.

Grazing cattle in forest will quickly destroy young copses.


Pigs are easy to slaughter, and are good converters of feed to food. They
are most important to the poorer farmer, as they can be turned out to
forage on less tractable forest, scrub or moorland. Gestation is 92 days,
and estrus 21 days. A boar can mate with 15-45 sows per year. There are an
average 1.5 litters per year, with 7 pigs per litter.

Pigs are an especially important source of food in Dark Season. They are
allowed to scavenge freely, existing on pannage of acorns and beech-mast,
and sometimes mate with wild boars. Children are often sent into the forest
equipped with long sticks to dislodge acorns for the pigs.

When not running free, pigs are kept in sties apart from the stead, usually
in marsh or woodland.

Parasites are a major problem in keeping pigs.


Sheep will count for at least 50% of a clan's livestock, they are hardy
creatures that can graze on land unsuitable for cattle and pigs. They are
also highly mobile, and during transhumance can be grazed up to 300 miles
from the stead (though no Heortlander would travel anything like this
distance with a herd). Even pregnant ewes can move swiftly and constantly
if required.

Gestation is 118 days. Sheep produce an average of 91 lambs per 100 ewes
per annum, in early Sea Season, and lambs can weigh up to 40 kilos by Earth

A high proportion of sheep are killed when young. Most adult sheep are
wethers (castrated rams), valued for their wool.

Sheep breeds are small but athletic, both male and female usually being
horned. Wool, which ranges from in colour from brown to oatmeal to
occasional white, is shawn, plucked or rooed (depending on the breed) in
early Fire Season.

Sheep, especially the Fat-Tail variety, are milked in Sea and Fire Season.
Ewes' milk is the most common source of cheese and butter. A Fat-Tail will
produce only a tenth the milk of a dairy cow.

Sheep can subsist on sparse forage and limited water. A small group of
shepherds (supported by guard alynx) can care for between 1,000 and 4,000
sheep in lowlands and between 1,000-1,500 in hilly country. (Though few
Heortling flocks would ever approach this size). The prime difficulties are
with (some particularly nasty) worms and footroot, and so they must be kept
away from too-wet ground. (Lagerwater, a rain-soaked wilderness stead in
the shadow of Skyfall, is extremely atypical in having very few sheep, and
these demanding extraordinary ritual protection).

Transhumance is practiced for both sheep and cattle. Both pigs and cattle
feed themselves for part of the year in woodland. Cattle will also often be
summered in marshlands. Young beasts are raised in hay meadows after the
summer harvest. Semi-wild horses fend for themselves in woodland and are
rounded up once a year. The most prized Elmali sacred horses are carefully
tended at the stead itself.

Shadowcats are 'stead-friends'. Despite their domesticity however, they
actually run semi-wild. And despite the strong totemic relationship to the
Orlanthi, they are sometimes skinned - though only after careful ritual
preparation. An alynx's liver painfully swells under a full red moon,
causing pain and anger. It can see spirits and penetrate the darkness with
its glowing eyes. There exists an ancient animosity between shadow cats and

Dogs are rare and expensive to keep. Though culturally disliked by the
Heortlings, they are used in war, as spectacular gifting animals between
chiefs, and occasionally in herding. Herd dogs have spiked collars for
protection against wolves. Their tongues have extraordinary healing powers.

- -...


- -...

Small game, fish and grain porridge (frumenty or pottage) are the staple
foods. Meat is a prestige food, (beef especially so) and is usually eaten
in relatively small quantities to add flavour. Tubers, gourds, apples,
plums, cherries, berries and nuts are plentiful. Cabbage and turnips are
the staple potherbs; other staple vegetables include peas, beans, leeks,
onions, garlic and chebny, a wild mountain lettuce.

- -...

Meat is most common in Fire and Earth Season, when herd culling takes place
and game is most plentiful. Killing also takes place during Dark Season,
depending on the depletion of winter fodder. Many kills also take place
before the Orlanthi High Holy Day and Sacred Time, times of Celebration in
seasons of scarcity and hunger. A clan carefully lays aside precious
resources to celebrate these events.
- -...

Meat is generally preserved by drying, salting or smoking. Deliberate
fattening for the table is very rare. In Dark Season, pickled pork, bacon
and other salted meats are often the only meat available.

Spit roast joints of beef are a special treat. Mutton and pork are more
common, but not highly thought of. ('Mutton is thrall-food!', records one
Anglo-Saxon document.)
- -...



___________________________________________________________ John Hughes
I will make incursions / throught the fertile land of Ireland
my battalions all in arms / my amazons beside me
(not just to steal a bull / not over beasts this battle -
but for an honour price / a thousand times more precious -
my dignity!)
I will make fierce incursions.

"Medb Speaks", Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill.


End of The Glorantha Digest V7 #461

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