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Carmanian Sources

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Indigenous Cultures

It would be a gross over-simplification to treat each Satrapy separately, as if there were no relationship between them: in fact, modern Carmania includes influences from each of these regions throughout its divisions. Carmanian nobles intermarried with local families throughout the history of the Empire (ever since Syranthir Forefront set the example by wedding Charmain of Castle Blue), and so today there are Carmanian Great Houses which devote themselves to aspects derived from the indigenous religions of the West Reaches, alongside the Carmanian Orthodox religion.

The Pelandan culture is dominant throughout lowland Carmania; the Spolite and Worion cultures have had a profound influence on the nobility of Carmania (as have the Dara Happans, for that matter); the highlands and "traditional" Carmanian values reflect Jhor, the river valleys and seacoasts Bindle, while wandering Harangvats can be found within and beyond Carmanian lands.

That said, the influences on Carmanian culture can be examined along lines inspired by the four modern Satrapies (NB: the title of Satrap was translated as "Count" in the Genertela Book), as long as one remembers that:

  • All cultural boundaries extend beyond those of their Satrapies.
  • Indigenous cultural regions therefore overlap considerably.
  • Many Carmanian Great Houses show traits from these cultures.

The "worship" and "stereotype" shown below are, of course, extremely simplistic and unfair labels, and usually reflect the Carmanian point of view. Cults named in the text below are given as examples only: the local religions are not identical to those found elsewhere in Glorantha.

Culture Where Worship Stereotype
Pelandan Serfs Fertility artistic but soft
Dara Happan Nobles Sun, Lions the old nobility
Spolite North Darkness cruel witches
Jhor East Mountains harsh and austere
Worion South Bulls crude barbarians
Bindle West Water subtle and deceptive
Harangvats Outsiders Folk Myths thieving vagabonds

Almost everywhere in Carmania is influenced by Pelandan culture: the cultured "Land of Women" (an unfair stereotype, as Pelanda was also home to great generals and statesmen in its day) was rescued from Spolite oppression, only to be subjected to Carmanian domination for centuries. The great works of "carmanian" art, sculpture, architecture, and poetry (other than religious verse, but including the national epics, the Anabasis and Alkothiad), were all created by Pelandans.

The "feminine" Pelandan influence, and in particular its mystery cults, have permeated deeply into the doctrines of the Lunar Empire. It is important to remember that Pelandan culture was centred on the Oronin Valley, not the Brass Mountains, with significant influence in the modern Oronin, Karasal and Doblian Sultanates. Most of the serfs of Carmania are of Pelandan descent. [1]

The single most important cult of Pelanda is that of Lodril, worshipped under his local name of Turos (cf. White Wolf magazine), and his wife Oria the Great Mother (a more fecund, untamed version of Ernalda or Eiritha); both have innumerable local variants. Many City Gods are found; the local wargod is Daxdarius, who invented Hoplite warfare (modify the Granite Phalanx cult from Tales #12); the goddess Uleria is widely known and loved in the Oronin Valley. Worship of the Six High Gods of Mount Jernotius is led by a professional priesthood; the previously obscure cults of Gerra (suffering) and Natha (revenge and balance) have grown in importance since their recognition as predecessors of the Red Goddess, though they are still minority cults due to the extreme obligations placed on worshippers.

Greg Stafford has recently published much of the mythology of Pelanda as the Entekosiad; when reading this book, remember that (as with the Glorious Reascent of Yelm) many of the older myths will have been replaced by later versions or are irrelevant to modern worshippers.

The Dara Happans may appear out of place here, but have in fact had a great influence on Carmanian noble manners. In the heyday of the Carmanian Empire, under the Lion Shahs of the tenth and eleventh centuries, Dara Happan influence was of great significance at the court of the Shahs, and later Padishahs. (Some historians, of an overly-religious bent, have seen the overthrow of Lion by Bull as a re-enactment in the political sphere of Orlanth's murdering Yelm). Many of the key concerns of Carmanian religion -- with ritual purity, the primacy of the Light, the unity of Truth -- owe as much to their Dara Happan cousins as to their Malkioni ancestry. Some noble Carmanian houses worship Yelm, though they often assign the Sun God leonine attributes which are unfamiliar in Dara Happan worship.

Spolite culture is derived from the Spolite Empire of the early Second Age. In its heyday a rival to Dara Happa, their outlook grew from Pelandan roots but was heavily influenced by a Nysalorian "heresy" (i.e. an amoral "designed" religion) which turned to Darkness in order to better defeat the Solar Empire of Dara Happa.

Historically, the Spolites converted or dominated most of Pelanda, but were defeated by the fortuitous arrival of Syranthir Forefront and the Ten Thousand. That period is generally known as the Spolite Oppression, or the Empire of Gloom, though in all fairness their Carmanian conquerors pragmatically adopted many of their "oppressive" ways in order better to suppress their Pelandan former allies. Two Shahs of Carmania descended from Spolite marriages turned to the "Dark Side", and are still remembered for their inhuman cruelty.

To this day the Spolites are notorious for witchcraft, black sorcery, necromancy, and cold, calculating cruelty. Most Spolite men now worship typical Carmanian deities; their chief womens' goddess is Netta, Goddess of Night, whose cult is similar to those of Xentha and Xiola Umbar (cf. Troll Gods); many Spolite women wear a concealing black garment which leaves nothing except the eyes visible (the notorious Countess Yolanela does not, although she has compelled her daughters to). [2]

The bleak highlands of Jhor, east of the Brass Mountains, were the first lands granted by the Pelandans to Syranthir Forefront (who named them after his homeland of Jorri, in Loskalm). Always part of the Pelandan cultural region, the values of Jhor are now archetypally "carmanian": the rulers affect to prefer lives of remote austerity within their ancestral castles to descending to the teeming Pelandan plains, saying that their chosen way keeps them hard, and able to overcome the soft folk of the lowlands. A local, masculine version of the cult of Maran Gor is popular (cf. GoG or Tales #6), though this cult emphasises earth-shaking and -blasting magics less than the personal and cultural virtues that accrue by surviving in a harsh land.

To the south, Worion is a highland region, part of the Rockwoods' "Barbarian Belt". This was the origin of the last, bull-worshipping dynasty of Shahs whose rule was overthrown at the birth of the Lunar Empire. Their religion was derived from that of Bisos and Eses, the Bull Father and Cow Mother. (Their myths can be found in the Entekosiad; the cults could be based, loosely, on Storm Bull/Orlanth and Eiritha/Ernalda, with a strong emphasis on agriculture and fertility; cf. River of Cradles and Tales #14).

Bindle, on the Sweet Sea, was in ancient times a centre for the followers of YarGan (cf. Tales #13). This history is seldom evident in Bindle today, although the cannibal water-folk driven underwater by Bisos the Bull-God still survive (and may still emerge at night, or steal away children who venture too close to the shore), while some inhabitants display what can only be described as the "Innsmouth Look". Secretive cult practices involve the veneration of sub-aquatic Things which is perhaps best not to speak of.

For the most part, though, their religion is subtle: its symbolism and world-view involves mirrors, reflections and illusions, transformation and gradual transitions, to an altogether disconcerting degree (from a traditional Carmanian viewpoint). They are described as a shifty, unreliable, unfathomable people through much of Carmanian history, acknowledged to have "hidden depths". Look at the cult of Triolina (GoG); also, fishing, boating, riverine and trade gods (cf. Zola Fel and Issaries in River of Cradles.

The Harangvats roam outside the structures of everyday Carmanian life: footloose vagabonds, thieving savages, tinkers and peddlers and tale-tellers, foresters and boatmen. They roam to north and west and south of Carmania, an indigenous race with their own distinct culture. They are not serfs, have had almost no impact on the manners of Carmanian noble society, and appear largely unchanged by history. (Paul Reilly and Finula McCaul know far more about the Harangvat society, culture and religion than I ever will).

Speaking of which, let's take a quick look at the Carmanians themselves. As most of you will know, there are few "common" Carmanians: the Ten Thousand invaders under Syranthir Forefront forged a warrior-nobility with its own distinct priesthood, and many Carmanian ways can be traced back to their Malkioni forebears. [3]

The castes' religious roles may seem restrictive, but this is not in fact the case. They rather define the broad outlines of Carmanians' careers: the archetypal roles and concerns of the "average Carmanian" (as if such an individual existed!). The vast majority of Carmanians will follow one or more other "cults" (be they mystery cults, hero cults, oppositional dualist cults, ancestor cults, imported foreign deities or local spirits of place), as well as the defining cult of their caste.

Note too that many traces of the older cults are still to be found among the Great Houses of Carmania. The sole exception is the cult of Carmanos the Founder, First Shah, Lawgiver and Guide to Righteousness: this was first shattered at the Four Arrows of Light, then destroyed in the Blood Kings' Wars, as a deliberate act of Lunar policy.

Caste Modern Cults Older Cults Role
Karmanos Red Emperor, Etyries Yelm (Lion), Bisos (Bull), Polaris, Issaries, Lokarnos, Argan Argar Lords
Vizier Irrippi Ontor, Red Goddess, sorcery Lhankor Mhy, Atyar, Ikadz, Subere, Valind, Dayzatar Wizards
Hazar Yanafal Tarnils Humakt, Zorak Zoran, Maran Gor Knights
All Castes Seven Mothers, other Lunar cults Ancestor Worship, Hero Cults, Spirit Cults, Local Cults, Mystery Cults, and others

Again, this overview is by no means definitive or all-encompassing. Remember, though, that the Carmanians deliberately isolated themselves from the God Learners: Carmanian "cults" tap into the same sources of power known throughout Glorantha, but they do so from their own distinct cultural perspective. It would be hard to be prescriptive when describing the religious practices of a secretive, justifiably paranoid, inbred and fragmented noble class, which combines theistic fervour with a pragmatic and manipulative "sorcerous" approach to otherworldly powers, and has survived through the centuries by flexibly adapting to each change in ruling dogma.

The Magi of Carmania are an isolated sub-group at the pinnacle of the Vizier caste. They, and they alone, are permitted to devote theistic worship to Idovanus, the Wise Lord, Source of Goodness and Light. From the revelations He permits them, they regulate the other religions of Carmania, encouraging and suppressing them in turn as they attain and decline from righteousness. The gods are not perfect, and they change (and are changed) as the world changes. Only All-Seeing Idovanus is eternally pure and vigilant against the wiles of evil Ganesatarus, the Deceiver, Father of Lies, Filth and Corruption, who seeks eternally to deprave True Religion. [4]

[1] Modern "carmania" is by no means coterminous with the ancient kingdom and empire, which always centred on the Oronin valley. Throughout the western Sultanates of the Lunar Empire, and even further afield, you can find survivals from the Carmanian Empire. Its present "rump", the West Reaches, include regions which were only marginally Carmanian in the Second Age, such as Bindle and Worion, often independent allies rather than subjects of the Shahs: the Lunar sultanate of Oronin is predominantly Carmanian in aspect.

[2] This is the pleasant side of Spolite witchery: they have far nastier goddesses to worship (see the bottom row of the Gods Wall or the Darkness cults in Troll Gods for inspiration) when they're in a bad mood. See also note [4], below.

[3] Indeed, some scholars speculate that, beyond the pernicious influence of the God Learners' "Cult of the Invisible God", Carmanian Orthodoxy has more in common with the ancient Malkionism of the First Age than any of the God Learners' legacy "mainstream" sects found in the West today.

[4] Ganesatarus was the chief god of the Spolite Empire, though it would truly be a monstrous heresy for any Lunar-era Spolite to confess to worshipping him: directly comparable to Satanism. There is No Way they could openly do this while remaining within Carmanian society.

In other words, obviously some Spolite nobles are secret Ganesatarus worshippers, just as (in a mediaeval Christian campaign) some of the noblemen you met would be Satanists. But it ain't public knowledge, just blackest rumour. And not something you could allude to within hearing distance of any Spolites, either: "Oh, so you're from Spol! Didn't your ancestors worship the Dark Lord of the Flies, Master of Abominations..." thwack! splat!*

* In the interests of clarity, our interlocutor has continued speaking for longer than would in fact be possible when insulting a noble Carmanian of any class. They have a very fine sense of their own dignity, and react swiftly and mercilessly when it is impugned.

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