Introduction to Gloranthan Mythology and History

Mythology and History

Every culture creates myths and legends which explain man’s existence and purpose. Glorantha is no exception.

Mythology of Glorantha

The Creation

This tale agrees in most particulars with the diverse religious sources of the world, and of all possible creations it is the most comprehensive.

The egg of the world was formed in a way which even gods cannot understand. It was suspended in the Void of Chaos, an emptiness pregnant now with potential. The egg opened. From within emerged It, the primal androgyne, an infinite dragon. The entire cosmos and two other beings came from It. They were Maker and Grower.

Maker and Grower were each a creative energy, and each sought to improve the place where they resided. They used their powers so that the world grew and was built greater.

Maker and Grower, often called The Two, rose from The One, and from them rose The Third. Born was the Great Goddess, Glorantha, mother of the world which bears her name, who is the source of all mystery and compassion.

The Celestial Court

The first known gods were the Celestial Court. They are called children of Glorantha. They were perfect creatures, each the essence of a power or an element. All began as abstractions, but sought inner secrets, thereby quickening their inner parts to divinity. For example, the One Earth of the Celestial Court became many earths, and the One Truth became many, and the inner worlds were populated.

At first the Court danced alone, exploring only themselves. Later, sometimes, parts of separate devolutions found themselves in close harmony, and moved together as one. Where two creatures touched and moved in that timeless grace, was formed a third, unlike either parent. These new-born entities were the Burtae, the Younger Gods.

This cross-fertilization first occurred among the lesser spirits, then the greater, and at last among two of the greatest of the Celestial Court. The Sky God stretched forth and covered the earth goddess — the immortal Ether commingled with the infinite Earth. At the moment of their coupling, it is said, the goddess of Harmony stumbled and fell on her face. From that moment the perfection of the world failed. But worse would happen.

Umath, the Storm God, was the child of the Sky and Earth. His first action was to sunder his parents, making a place for himself by creating misery for others. He had his own children.

The Gods War

The Storm Gods began the Gods War. First was the Storm Age, or Lesser Darkness. It began when the Storm God Orlanth, son of Umath, killed Yelm, the Emperor of the Universe, who fled screaming to the Underworld. As had the father Umath, so did the sons seize places for themselves, and freely used their new power of Violence to change the world.

The Greater Darkness followed. This was an invasion by chaos, led by a being known as the Devil, and included creatures spawned outside of Glorantha and thus immune to many of its laws. These creatures had come to end the existence of the universe, which had danced its dance and was running down to a predestined end. The Celestial Court did not struggle, and most were destroyed when the Cosmic Mountain exploded under the attack of the Devil.

But other gods fought on independently. Yelm, deep in hell, exercised the strength of his pure will to bring justice to himself, and thereby overcame his own death. Magasta led his watery minions to close the breach caused by the explosion of the spike. Kyger Litor brought her grim kin under the starless skies, ever-seeking to destroy chaos. Orlanth, with doughty followers, defied the old laws and came alive to Hell to liberate the life forces.

Arachne Solara is a deity of unknown origin, who is critical to the rebirth of the world. She forged a compact, called the Great Compromise, between all the gods, dead and living, and as one they fought that which would end creation. They won, and from the struggle was born the new age. Time, sometimes called the last god, leapt from the womb of Arachne Solara and cast its mystical web of reality across the remains of the old world. Yelm led the dead gods back to life with the first sunrise, and at that moment of Dawning the new age was born.

History of Glorantha

The First Age (The Dawning)

Modern Gloranthan history begins with the first Dawn. The mortal races instituted a near-universal dating system beginning with The Dawning. Every species knows stories and songs which their ancestors made about the miraculous moment when Life began again.

During the earliest historical periods, the elder races were still dominant, though humans multiplied quickly. Man gradually but steadily widened the settled lands and encroached upon the wilderness fastnesses to the elder races.

During those times it seemed that the world was not quite reformed from the Gods Wars. There was less separation between mortals and gods, though the gap widened as years passed and more and more people died. Many powers sought to mold still-pliant energies, and many experiments were made. Results of those archaic experiments have sometimes survived to the current day. The most spectacular one was that of Nysalor.

Nysalor was a being who was constructed by a group of humans and elder race creatures. At first everyone of importance was involved, but the trolls and dragonewts abandoned the project before completion.

Nysalor began a Golden Age reign for his followers. Those who did not follow were enslaved or driven out. Missionaries carried word of his powers far and wide, and his worship spread across the continent. Only trolls and dragonewts objected in large numbers, and they were defeated in battle. It was at this time that the trolls were cursed, so that they bore mutant trollkin instead of healthy uzko.

Arkat Chaosbane was the sworn foe of Nysalor, who he called Gbaji, The Deceiver. Arkat discovered new magics to combat his foe during mystical searches. He made many friends and enemies as he traversed the land. He revealed that Nysalor/Gbaji was an agent of chaos whose machinations would soon doom the world by destroying the ancient Gods Compromise. Arkat’s life was 75 years of struggle, and his war changed the face of the continent. In the end Gbaji was destroyed, and the ancient center of his worship, Dorastor, was left a stinking cesspool of chaos monsters.

These early times are called the Dawn Ages, and are considered to end in 450 when Arkat slew Gbaji and destroyed the land of Dorastor.

The Second Age (The Time of Empire)

Once in motion, the magical effects of the Dawn Age reverberated through the world. One of those deep vibrations rekindled ancient sorrows of the elder races, who fell upon each other as if the Gods War had returned. Their numbers, decimated from the Gbaji Wars, dwindled further. At the same time, nations of men expanded their lands, often warring against and defeating the Elder Powers.

The vibrations of the new magic carried most deeply among the humans of Glorantha. Their natural curiosity found in Arkat’s discoveries new channels to explore. The discoveries were exploited by bands of people who sometimes became quite powerful, and helped found governments which conquered the world.

Now great empires ruled the surface world. Inland in Genertela was the Empire of the Wyrm’s Friends, which used forbidden dragon magic and was partially derived from the Solar Imperial theocracy. In Pamaltela the early Artmali Empire was crushed, and its territories incorporated into the sea-borne Jrusteli Empire. The Jrusteli conquered the denizens of the ocean, and their magic fleets sought to control all surface shipping. They eventually won huge portions of the northern and southern continents, as well as most of the western islands. The Eastern Empire, centered upon the Jeweled Isle of Mokato, was the only major sea rival not conquered by the Jrusteli. In Pamaltela, the elf hero Errinoru the Seven-Conqueror ruled over the combined elvish jungles, and even once ventured a great fleet upon the seas for a successful epic adventure.

The humans ruled supreme, except in Errinoru’s jungles. Their confidence and arrogance grew, and they soon considered themselves more successful than the gods at controlling nature. They could twist and turn it, and change it at will. Sorcery made great advancements, people turned from the gods, and the spirit world was treated as an energy source.

Yet they could not remain successful in the face of an outraged world. The things they twisted sprang back, and the things they destroyed were sought in vain afterwards for comfort and aid. The elder races, smaller kingdoms, cults and religions both new and old, and concerned individuals of all races, sought to restore balance to the surface world. They were aided by the Old Gods, whose priests had been working on spells which take centuries to complete, but never fail when released.

The Jrusteli, most learned and least wise of the Empires, are the best example of the conquerors of nature. Their scholars were called the God Learners, who mastered a magic allowing them to do the impossible. Thus when the sea-living allies of the Jrusteli complained and revolted, the God Learners made the water burn, destroying the waertagi and the triolini as well. But centuries later, a remainder returned with power and hordes of the dead at their backs. Tidal waves destroyed the coastal strongholds, and huge tracts of land sank forever beneath the waves. Terrifying doom guardians sought out the frantic God Learners wherever they hid, in any world, and took vengeance for ancient wrongs. Friends of the Jrusteli magnates were slain merely for their friendship. Families were annihilated. Survivors came to fear every thought, thing, and idea which might be Jrusteli.

Elsewhere other disasters overcame empires. The Dragonkill War of 1100 destroyed the flower of civilization in Peloria. Excessive magics scorched the temples and ate the holy leaders of the empire of Kralorela. The elves of Errinoru’s lineage fell to the minions of a new creature, adapted to eat their special flowers, so the royal house dwindled quickly and tragically.

The Third Age (Recent Centuries)

For centuries after the disasters which befell the great empires, exploratory magics were shunned and forgotten, and sometimes held to be evil. Conservatism overwhelmed creativity. The world entered a new phase of development in which most people feared change.

Such withdrawal influenced the world, as terrible dooms overcame it. Zzabur, called the First Sorcerer (because he was preeminent), had grown increasingly distressed by mortal misuse of his arts. He made a spell which caused all the vessels which sail the surface of the ocean to be confused destroyed, or lost forever. This was called The Closing, which made sailing impossible on every sea not enclosed by land.

Another such manifestation was the mysterious event called the Syndic’s Ban, which occurred in the land of Fronela. Sparking this event the God of the Silver Feet was murdered by a conspiracy of mortal leaders. This stopped all communication — Fronela was cut off from the world, and its peoples were isolated even from each other.

In the lands of Pamaltela, the Cult of Silence took firm hold and forbade communication, though the severity of the proscription varied by faction. The cult appealed to creatures of many species, and sometimes ironically united former enemies in their silence.

Not everyone withdrew from challenges. The recreation of the Red Goddess was a spectacular success. This being had been born in Godtime, but was destroyed. Powerful mortals reunited the fragments, and the goddess was reborn as a mortal woman. She had great potential, and with training she walked upon the pathways of the gods and became immortal. When defied she took a portion of the earth with her into the sky, and thereby formed a new, unique planet, the Red Moon. Of all the wanderers of the sky only she does not move from her place, although she rotates her face in a regular cycle.

Each stage of growth by the Red Goddess was contested by other deities. They feared her, for sometime she invoked Nysalor and chaos, or portions of the God Learner and Dragon powers, and she expressed an openness which surpassed even the mystical cults of the east. Despite troubles in all worlds, the Goddess persevered, as did her Empire. It grew for centuries until it seemed the entire world would fall sway to the Lunar legions. Missionaries of the Red Moon, and of more secretive cults, spread like a web across the world.

The Present Day

Now the old powers are shaking again. There are beings and creatures which protest the great change which the Red Goddess has wrought, and who are massing their powers to halt the spread of the Lunar Empire and its offshoots. Sensing the end of the world, they are preparing themselves. New powers are appearing, and old gods are again coming to the fore. Mysterious forces move through the world. The elder races have mustered new armies, unknown peoples have appeared with new powers, and there are creatures abroad which have never been seen before. Old foes gain renewed strength for new troubles. Crisis is at hand — it is the time of the Hero Wars!

In Genertela the Lunar Empire, which openly embraces chaos and other atrocities, sits like a coiled serpent with three heads (one invisible), waiting to strike again. High Priests across the continent call for war against the Empire, but with all the trouble in the world there are few to heed the call.

The nomads of Pent are on the move, pressing westwards to take the fields of peaceful farmers and, eastwards, threatening the ancient plains of the Kingdom of Ignorance. Also, a prophet appeared in the Kingdom, saying that he fasted in the desert for 3 years, and has discovered a way to raise the ancient lands of Kralorela flooded during the First Age. It requires that all kingdoms give up war forever.

In Fronela the Greenleaf Rebellion (an alliance of skiing elves and wild animal-worshiping barbarians) has been suppressed, though unrest continues. Now the Kingdom of War has appeared. This vile nation lacks all morality and mercy and every year their efficient armies pillage the land.

Ralios, as always, is plagued by petty dissent. Three kingdoms vie to resurrect the ancient Dark Empire of Arkat Chaosbane. Troll caravans regularly cross from Halikiv to Guhan and back again.

To the south, the coastal cities in Enkloso and Vralos have been subjected to a tax from the Triolini of the Brown Sea, who also now claim the Dashomo for their own.

Fonrit is in the spasmodic throes of a slave revolt, based on the liberation of everyone descended from Artmal, a long-dead deity.

Armies swarm upriver into Tarien and Jolar, their origin seems to be the lifeless Nargan Desert. In the eastern plains, mighty Kresh wagon trains have vanished without a trace and the cause is completely unknown. At the same time, war looms between the still-expanding Kresh and the Arbennan confederation to its west.

In the rain forests of Mirelos a new type of drum is being played which makes all Yellow elves shudder. The trolls of the Tarmo are waiting and are certain to raid the surrounding lands.

For more information on the Mythology and History of Glorantha, see:

Cults of Terror: Cosmology

Cults of Terror: History

A Prax-centric History

Related Pages