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From the RuneQuest Digest, 17 September 1993:

Loren Miller wrote:

I wanted to find out if the god that was worshipped under a name in one place necessarily had to be identical to the god that was worshipped under the same name elsewhere, and how identical it might be...

Hey, so did I! Except that 'cos I'd started out by knocking the Cult of Orlanth as "about as useful a concept as the Cult of Dyaus-Pitar", I got a real-world answer about priests of Jupiter, Zeus, etc. What Greg said to me:

I love sneering "The Cult of Dyaus-Pitar" as a comparison. But if I can push that comparison a little bit to help: a worshipper of Zeus could go to a Temple of Jupiter, and probably get the majority of his rune spells back there. He could go to a temple of Indra, and get some too. But only the broadest type of spells, like Thunder and Rain, and some of the royal prerogative spells. But he couldn't go to a temple of Typhon/Set and get a spell, even though it is a storm god. Just too different.

Now that means that you got more from it than I did, 'cos you asked the Gloranthan Question. But I'm not sure we should ask about "the god that was worshipped under the same name elsewhere." It begs the question...

Y'know, it's like the self-centred way that some early Christians used to say all pagan religion had prefigured their own myths. Or the Conquistadors saying that Aztec religion was a diabolical parody of Christianity. Or (my favourite) good old Herodotus, the Father of History and a fascinating author, writing about the gods worshipped by foreigners:

"The only gods the Scythians worship are Hestia (their chief deity), Zeus, and Earth (whom they believe to be the wife of Zeus), and, as deities of secondary importance, Apollo, Celestial Aphrodite, Heracles, and Ares. These are recognized by the entire nation; the Royal Scythians also offer sacrifice to Poseidon. In the Scythian language, Hestia is Tabiti, Zeus (very properly, in my opinion) Papaeus, Earth Api, Apollo Oetosyrus, Aphrodite Argimpasa, Poseidon Thagimasidas."

If the Scythians could recognise their religion in this, I'd be surprised! But that's probably what we RuneQuesters are doing when we blandly label any storm-worshipping barbarian folk as "Orlanthi" or sun-worshipping civilised folk as "Yelmic". We have these oh-so-dandy name-labels that we can slap onto the different deities and make them appear very cohesive indeed.

Sometimes the similarities are real: there was a common Orlanthi root culture thousands of years ago that spread over all Genertela. Sometimes they're due to cross-cultural pollination (lots of this in the Pelorian Mythology we're working on at the moment). But writing up the "Orlanthi Religion" is like writing up "Cults of the Indo-Europeans": an academic, not a practical exercise. (But a very interesting academic one: anyone else on this list a fan of Dumezil?)

I'm not sure that there is (or should be) a certain way of finding out whether two gods are one and the same (i.e. via a HeroQuest, or any cult secret other than the discredited RuneQuest Sight). As with those virtuous Arkati Illuminates, you get more fun out of the doubts and uncertainties.

Note that (per KoS p.246) at rituals, while a lay member can "watch what is going on, they never participate in the magic, and never get to see anything other than the mundane results of the rites." Unless you're a God Learner, you'd have to become an initiate of the cult (and obtain your own personal connection to the god worshipped) in order to "see him" through a worship service; even then, how would you know if he was the same guy or not? {see below for more}


Would she be able to get a divine spell back from Uleria? Greg said yes, she would. The two temples would tell radically different versions of Uleria's myths and the two goddesses would appear almost completely dissimilar, yet they both connect to the same divine source.

That's more or less where I got to with him. But in Glorantha, Uleria is certainly the most omnipresent goddess imaginable, so I don't know about the practical applicability of this. I tried Greg on a Wenelian worshipper of the Boar God trying to renew his Berserk spells in a Storm Bull temple; and there, he said,

He might be able to get his berserker spell at a Storm Bull temple. But probably not. This is not an archetypal function: it is a specific function. The fact that both are berserkers is not enough to link them. But of course, if the priests were smart, maybe did some heroquesting to discover/make links, then your boar guys might be recognized as Storm Bull the Boar!

Continuing from above: if one Wenelian says, "I think that Storm Bull god you hear so many people talking about is probably just a foreign way of worshipping the Great Boar", and he becomes a Storm Bull initiate to find out, is he discovering a link that already existed, or making a link that never was, before? He takes his belief with him into the cult; at the rituals, he'll try to "see through" the bull-horns and bull-masks the cultists are wearing and look for similarities with his own tusky stuff.

He could succeed (in mundane terms): he could convince himself that he's right. He could perhaps succeed (in a HeroQuest): he could definitively "discover" that the two gods are the same (of course, this is a personal religious experience, thus not definitive in any global sense). He might even become a cult hero, if he can find a way of showing anyone else what he's learned, and have them believe him. Then the Boar Cult will get stories of how their god gored the Devil, and go on to higher and better things.


Using this theory the easiest way to define an avatar is as a mask of a god, which has access to the true form of the god, but which is not the true form of the god. Usually, this means that the version of the god that we worship is obviously the true god...

This is nicely put. We know that we worship God properly: we know stories about him that other people don't tell as well; our statue looks more like him; the weapon he carries is different; our Thunderer's voice is more booming and resonant...

I expanded on this in a follow-up post:

This doesn't always work: witness Elmal --> Yelmalio. The Sartarite cult of Elmal started to doubt that their "version" of the Sun God was "obviously the true god": they saw the Dara Happans' mundane and magical wealth and power as validating that foreign religion, and were 'hooked'. The result was a major cultural change, as bits of the old Elmal religion were lost or supplanted by the imported Yelmic rites and the god became "Yelmalio".

I also quibbled:

Loren's post presupposes a "true form of the god". Is this Platonic, Runic, a God Learner Construct, or a Real Thing? I mean, do you think anyone, anywhere in the world worships the "true form" of Orlanth? Or is it just me and the rest of the Greydog Clan who do that?

Nick says: there are only versions, masks, avatars. "True Forms" are a Jrusteli philosophical (misosophical?) construct, an interpretation of the world only possible to those with the RuneQuest Sight <ack! spit!>. Don't let them get you down! The best way to worship Orlanth is the way he is worshipped, not the way someone tells you he "ought to be" worshipped.


They can't be all that different because our temples work just like theirs...

Or, at least, very similarly. We have different subcult shrines, different associate cults, maybe even slightly different Spirit and Rune magic. Within a rules framework, some things can easily be "bent" to differentiate between local temples. I'd encourage this, to get people thinking.


Every worship service is a heroquest, and such worship slowly changes the mythic landscape for a particular locale or bloodline. Thus traditions develop and diverge, so that people worship differently in different places...

YES! YES! You are so right in what you say. Hurrah for common sense!


If a myth is extremely consistent across a huge range of lands and cultures then it's almost sure proof of powerful, and RECENT, God Learner style meddling, or at best a well-organized mythic maintenance squad within the cult, which is still pretty darn scary.

Yup. Best modern example is the Lunar Empire: p.d.s. to me!

Back to what Greg said about archetypal v. specific functions. If we want a single, simple, Gloranthan way of applying this stuff, it could be to draw a distinction between the Greater Gods (Rune-owners) and all the other ones. All gods with the Storm Rune are, in some ways, similar to Orlanth, because Orlanth has "made that Rune his own". So the Great Big Gods are the primal archetypes; the smaller ones are spin-offs and local variants (as we would expect).

A god who kicks in Chaos (the Bull) and a god who kicks in people who upset the Women of the Woods (the Boar) aren't quite the same, but researching their origins is too God Learner-ish a thing for me to want to do right now.

End story: there is as much mythical divergence in Glorantha as in the real world. Some things change, some stay the same. God Learners and others can muck around with existing myths, build new ones, recognise common themes, etc. But the historical trend is broadly towards evolution to meet local needs, and divergence from common origins.

Unplayable, I know.

Feedback, please!



"After all, Zeus the Werewolf was still Zeus." -- Greg Stafford

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