One of the more frequent and ill-informed criticisms of recent Gloranthan
publications is that they have done away with the pristine clarity of
earlier sources. We are told that, whereas in the Good Old Days of RQ2,
mythology was always straight-forwardly explained, and universally true,
and contained no contradictions, nowadays Glorantha is being made deliberately
obscure and unplayable, by a cabal of gamer-hating scholars in league
with that bastard Greg Stafford.
Well, I'm sorry as ever to deflate someone else's theories, especially
conspiracy theories, but that's bollocks. Glorantha's mythology has
always had an admirable degree of complexity, uncertainty and variability,
since it first began to see print. I'm sure there are gamers out there
who have always ignored this inconvenient fact, but they can hardly
claim it's a novelty.
Here's a selection of RQ2-era sources, all predating RQ3 by years,
and all drawn from the best available sources for Gloranthan mythology.
RuneQuest chapter VII - Rune Magic
much is known about the Runes themselves, although they have been
known to change over time. Whether the Runes reveal a deep harmony
in the universe, to which even the gods must conform, or whether the
gods produced the Runes and they are manifestations of the gods is
a question of much dispute, even among the gods, from whom it is difficult
to get a straight answer, anyway. (1978)
OK, so we don't know much about the fundamental building-blocks of
Glorantha, and the gods won't give straight answers to our questions.
That's from the first ever edition of RuneQuest, for what it's
worth: a good introduction to mythic certainty!
Cults of Prax - Time
is the most powerful of the gods of the New Age. We recognise Time
in three natural forms (lineal, cyclical, and illusionary), but Time
did not exist in the Godtime or Great Darkness. The lineal relationships
imposed upon the myths and stories of those ages originate from our
own temporal state of mind, since we mortals assuredly are a natural
part of the Time flow of the New Age. Mythical events did not always
occur in the exact order we perceive them, and it sometimes is difficult
to reconcile conflicting versions of certain occurrences in the Dreamtime.
We can't expect to understand myths, which operate under different
rules, and it can be tricky to sort out different versions of the same
story. (Which begs the question - what about when they're different
stories altogether? That won't make sorting them out any easier,
now, will it?)
Cults of Terror - Cosmology
analysing the mythos of Glorantha, four streams of belief prevail.
They sometimes mingle and sometimes flow in separate channels, but
they all flow in the same direction. Each is a preferred way to reach
an understanding of the cosmos. In choosing one stream as a guide,
a person finds a cohesive and unified view of reality useful to their
individual development. Though one might assume that a particular
viewpoint or way of existence is correct and that the others are somehow
wrong, as often happened in Gloranthan history, we must warn the reader.
Such a limited point of view will only further confuse a difficult
Any Gloranthan will have his or her own particular cultural viewpoint,
none of which is exclusively "correct" - although, within Glorantha,
cultures commonly assume that they are "right" and all others are "wrong".
You are bound to be confused if you take only one of Glorantha's
mythic perspectives as being "correct" and try to understand the whole
of the world (including the views of other cultures) in that way. But
adopting one cultural viewpoint is a good way to make sense of the world
for anyone who operates within it - like, say, a Player Character.
Gods and Goddesses of Glorantha
Myths of Pre-Creation
are many different versions of creation, and they are all correct.
Even if they mutually reject each other the stories still contain
truth and value. These differences represent local beliefs, magically
and psychologically valid for normal functioning within a certain
geographic or mental sphere of influence. Surrounding all of these
minor and limited perceptions of Reality lies the Great Mystery."
This one is particularly tasty, as it's an in-character text from a
Gloranthan source. "Local beliefs" are entirely valid, as far as they
go (geographically and conceptually), even if they directly contradict
the beliefs of others.
Deities of Darkness
devolutionary processes are not regular and recognisable like some
of the later elements, and the exact ancestry and descent of lesser
beings from this cosmic unity is confused and often non-linear. This
results in there being several beings of great power who seem to rise
from the mists of darkness without warning or past. Such events are,
of course, perfectly natural and understandable in the mythology of
the beginning of creation. The mystery is not secret to the inner
deities of darkness, of course, but they do not share their ancient
secrets readily, even with their own kin. (1979)
Here we have the "Dial-an-Answer" view of Divination exploded yet again.
The gods don't tell their worshippers or descendents everything.
Goddesses of the Earth
A Short Discourse on the Six Daughters of Earth
three generations of deities here may be recognised as the Tripartite
Goddess, whose three aspects are the Daughter, young and valuable;
the Mother, rich and bounteous; and the Crone, wise and greedy. In
addition to that, though, with their sisters they encompass the Light
and Dark sides of each character as well. In myth and religion these
twin sisters may be treated as one entity with two aspects, or as
separate entities ever in conflict with one another. A local goddess
may be tripartite as well, although only of the Light Side or the
common use of the myths, too, is to make the youth of the elder generations
the same as the myths of the younger generations. That is, when Asrelia
was a young goddess she was called Spring's Handmaiden, and then when
she grew older became Ernalda, and in the Darkness, Asrelia. Although
this seemingly contradicts the myths wherein all three of these goddesses
appear together, it is certainly within the realm of mythology and
its non-temporal reality. (1980)
Different regional myths divide up the "same" goddess into different
persons: there could be one, or two, or three, or six of her... all
of which are to some degree interchangeable, and they vary between myths.
will look at two [Yelmic] societies. The first is the primitive nomad
culture of the horse barbarians and the second is the splendid empire
of Dara Happa which ruled Peloria for 500 years beginning about the
year 200 ST.
It is interesting to note that these two cultures were traditional
enemies and spent centuries in bloody conflict. Documents relating
to this schism in the Universal Empire of the Sun are interesting
to read. First Age tales make a big deal about the Sons of the Sun
who quarrelled and helped bring about the Darkness. Early Middle Period
documents delve into philosophy and semantics, while later ones flatly
state that the nomads were heretics and were actually worshipping
a false god, often identified as Gbaji. Such documents are all of
Dara Happan origin, of course. (1981)
Speaks for itself: two societies, both claiming to worship Yelm, which
have been at each other's throats throughout recorded history. A precursor
of the Mostali and Malkioni 'heresies' (still unheard of when this was
written, but unsurprising in the light of it). It also throws yet more
doubt (if any were needed) on the "Gods give clear and unambiguous answers
to their worshippers through Divination, and remain singular identities
despite being worshipped by different cultures" school(s) of thought...
is common for people to speak of three or four well-known forms of
Orlanth as if they were comparing different gods. In some cases they
are treated as different gods with competing priesthoods, religious
prejudice, and system snobbery. (1981)
So when the Wind Lords and Storm Voices act as if they belong to separate,
rival cults, that proves that Orlanth is really singular and
Sources: much of the Cults of Prax and
Cults of Terror material is available free of charge from
Mhy Research Library page: follow the link to their website to
find more. And the Gods and Goddesses of Glorantha articles
from Wyrms Footnotes magazine were mostly reprinted in Wyrms
Footprints (Reaching Moon, 1995). Read 'em and weep, ye
slaves of the Monomyth!