The Loki television series has me thinking about the Gods of Glorantha. One way of looking at the cults is they are groups of people who gather around to worship the named manifestations of specific Gloranthan “archetypes”. We see these archetypes manifested everytime someone casts Rune Magic. Someone casts Thunderbolt? That’s a manifestation of the Thundering God we call Orlanth Thunderous. Someone casts Lie? That’s manifestation of the Trickster God we call Eurmal.
We know something about these manifestations, because often they are us. When we duel honorably with swords, we are Humakt. When we persevere in the Darkness after having lost everything, we are Yelmalio. We wield the power of these Gloranthan gods when we cast Rune magic. We tell stories about them as we have witnessed or even participated in their deeds.
But these stories, deeds, and names are just manifestations of deeper archetypes in the world. But these stories and deeds are often contradictory, given different names, or two versions of the same story often differ in key details. I saw Orlanth defeat Aroka, but I heard the same story told about Vadrus and Enkoshans. Orlanth killed Yelm with Death, but I heard another story where it was Humakt, or even Eurmal who killed Flamal with Death. I even heard a story where Eurmal is an alligator. All of these stories are true. But some truths work better than other truths.
The Cults Book and the Sourcebook present the best known stories or more commonly witnessed deeds, but there are countless “variances” on these. Heroquesting allows us to interact directly with the archetypes of the setting, and lets us create our own stories, and assign our own names in a manner consistent with these archetypes. At some point we should have to ask ourselves, “what is it that makes a Red Goddess the Red Goddess?” Is it embrace of Chaos or Illumination? Is it the cycles of Life and Death, the Waxing and Waning Moon? Or is it just the color red?
Plenty of people ask “why is it that the Elmal cultists embraced the new version of Yelmalio of Monrogh?” Perhaps the same question is why is it that so many people people who knew Classic Loki embraced the Tom Hiddleston Loki?”
We know these cults have changed in Time. In the First Age, there was no Orlanth Rex, and the Thunderer and the Adventurer were often considered separate gods. But now we know that Orlanth takes many forms, and some that had gone out of fashion are returning. Like RIGHT NOW. Same thing is true of Yelmalio, Yelm, Zoran Zoran, and even Ernalda. The gods are eternal and unchanging BUT our understanding and interaction with them changes with Time.
Orlanth might well be the most extreme example but it is funny that almost nobody protests his changes. For example, we know that Orlanth sometimes takes female form, and when he is she, she is called Vinga. We know that the Thunderer and Adventurous are both Orlanth, even though they often behave differently. We know that Rex is Orlanth as the King of the Gods, but he was not even worshiped in that aspect until the later Second Age. We didn’t know what Orlanth did on his Lifebringers’ Quest until Harmast followed him on the Lightbringers Quest. Twice. And both times were different!
The God Time is our Multiverse.
So what makes Orlanth Orlanth? Is it just Air?
At the Dawn, the Thunderer and the Adventurer were often worshiped as separate gods. Pretty quickly the Theyalans recognised both as aspects of Orlanth, and that with a little preparation, a Thunderer could draw on Adventurer’s magic and vice versa. And both were pathways to Orlanth. And so very quickly they became Orlanth Thunderous and Orlanth Adventurous.Were they originally different gods? Or just aspects of the same? Does it even make sense to talk about the divine in that way? What is clear is that it is easier and more useful to worship Orlanth as having a Thunderer aspect and an Adventurous aspect than to worship them as separate gods. While it is more useful to worship Orlanth as being separate from Storm Bull (although there have been efforts to say they are the same).Sometimes things that were once thought possible are proven to be no more. So once there were those in Ralios who said Orlanth and Humakt were the same god. But since the end of the First Age it has not been possible to wield Humakt’s magic through Orlanth or vice versa.
If you are interacting with the god within the broad ranges possible, then all you have to worry about is a priest banning you. In which case you just go to a different community.If you really transgress, then Spirits of Retribution might show up. But you have to really annoy the god (and usually the priests) to get to that stage.
Another thought – don’t make a fetish out of “First Age” approaches. Glorantha is not “primitivist,” where people at the Dawn understood the gods better than folk in the Third Age. In fact, we know that mortals in the First Age often got things wrong – disastrously so as the Broken Council proved. How mortals interact with, understand, and interpret the gods always changes as mortals themselves change how they interact with, understand, and interpret the world around them.
So remember, the God Time is our Multiverse. In the God Time, all the stories of the gods simultaneously exist – every version of them. Even the ones that contradict the ones we know. And they are ALL true.
So where does Horned Croc come from? I heard it was the time that Eurmal shape changed into an alligator in order to seduce Oslira and then get her to flood her banks. But if I recall, he couldn’t remember how to change back, so he wandered around the world growling and biting and waddling until he managed to annoy Ourania so much she dispelled his illusion with her Truth.
Then there was the time Eurmal got eaten by a fish who then impregnated Kylerela the Floating Land who in turn gave birth to Eurmal.
Remember, Eurmal is present in Glorantha. He’s closely tied to Orlanth. And some God Learners feared that Eurmal is active and present in the God Time and not “fixed in place” by Time. There are some accounts of Thanor in the Second Age that made it sound like the Void in Episode 5 of Loki. Complete with every Eurmal variant all hanging out, not just the Tom Hiddleston and Richard E Grant and Sophia di Martino, but also Owen Wilson, Jonas Strand Gravli, Orlando Jones, and both Johnny Depp and Keith Richards. And Mr. Raccoon as well.
As an aside, this is behind the notorious “Trickster University” the God Learners established in Thanor (Slontos) in the Second Age. Let’s get every version of Eurmal together in one place and create our own “Sacred Timeline of the Trickster,” so that the Trickster’s unpredictability and perverse lies and disorders can be minimised and made intelligible and controllable.Yeah, you can see how that ended up for them.
I imagine it was a completely mad place though. Filed with Tricksters, Trickster shrines, and earnest God Learners trying to make sense of the Tricksters, all manipulated by a Trickster.
Can deities have different aspects depending on cultural contexts? Is it possible for a shrine to Orlanth the Betrayer to exist in a Yelmite settlement? And for such an entity to be met during a HeroQuest? Such an aspect might be barely known or worshiped, but exist nonetheless? So in play, if your players decide to do that and get their community to do it – that’s awesome! But if this is something to set up as a “I want an Orlanth the Betrayer shrine as part of the de facto background of the Lunar Heartlands”, well that is kind of silly. Like presenting Alligator Loki as part of the basic group of Loki stories.
At the Dawn, the Thunderer and the Adventurer were often worshiped as separate gods. Pretty quickly the Theyalans recognised both as aspects of Orlanth, and that with a little preparation, a Thunderer could draw on Adventurer’s magic and vice versa. And both were pathways to Orlanth. And so very quickly they became Orlanth Thunderous and Orlanth Adventurous.
Were they originally different gods? Or just aspects of the same? Does it even make sense to talk about the divine in that way? What is clear is that it is easier and more useful to worship Orlanth as having a Thunderer aspect and an Adventurous aspect than to worship them as separate gods. While it is more useful to worship Orlanth as being separate from Storm Bull (although there have been efforts to say they are the same).
Sometimes things that were once thought possible are proven to be no more. So once there were those in Ralios who said Orlanth and Humakt were the same god. But since the end of the First Age it has not been possible to wield Humakt’s magic through Orlanth or vice versa.