Core to Glorantha’s cosmology is that the world we mortals live in is the result of the gods and their deeds and conflicts. This so-called Gods War let Chaos into the world, and nearly resulted in the end of all. To continue their existence, the gods entered into a compromise that gave them immortality at the price of their free will. This compromise forms the web of Arachne Solara, the cosmic spider.
1. The most common approach is to enter relations with specific gods (through worship and initiation) and thereby wield some of their magic in the world of Time. Sometimes called “theism,” this is the default approach for most mortals since the Dawn Ages. Its main weakness is that it tends to lock worshipers into the same Gods War conflicts. The more powerful the god worshiped, the more this tends to be so. This allows use of Rune Magic.
2. Many mortals prefer to deal directly with the spirits that are everywhere in Glorantha. This is not necessarily incompatible with the first approach (and indeed is part of most cults), but spirit specialists (shamans) are often freed of divine entanglements. This allows use of Spirit Magic.
3. A few mortals use logic and reason to be able to force/manipulate the gods and spirits to act according to mortal will. The resulting magic is far more flexible than Rune or Spirit Magic. This requires study and intellectual rigour, meaning that only a small minority of the population can specialize in it. This allows use of Sorcery.
4. Even fewer seek union with the Absolute or the Void (and some even claim that there is no difference between the two). Sometimes called Illumination or Draconic mysticism (although others claim these are very much NOT the same thing), this might be several different approaches all misleadingly labeled under the same rubric. It is thought to be the precondition for such strange powers as Lunar magic (NOT Lunar Rune spells, but the esoteric spirit twisting powers of the Red Goddess) and Draconic magic.
All four of these approaches acknowledge the same mythological substrata behind the cosmos. But they take it in very different directions.
Now a cult is a mortal institution or tradition by which mortals are able to communicate with the eternal and immortal gods. As a result the cults do change over time, although the gods do not.
As a cult gains new experiences and insights with the god, the cult changes. These experiences are true and can result in dramatic changes in the cult (although the god has not). Cults can gain new magic, merge with previously thought to be independent cults, gain associations, etc. The history of the Orlanth cult in the Lightbringers Book documents this well.
Is it possible to bring back old dead cults, like Gata or Umath? Is it possible through heroquesting to bring back Umath, as Orlanth did with Yelm? Yes and no. You actually are talking about three types of events.
- 1. Celestial Court deity. Except for Uleria, none of those deities are directly worshiped by mortals. Except for Uleria, they all failed in the Gods War. Their srvulai (a Malkioni term that means their lesser emanations) are far more practical to worship and in many cases one of the greater gods (e.g., Orlanth, Yelm, Ernalda, Magasta, etc.) wield their powers. Sometimes they are still worshiped as associated deities with those cults.
- 2. Deities that died in the Gods War and have no cults. Lots of deities are little more than names and have no mortal cults. Re-establishing their cult happens occasionally in Time. Some argue that this is what the Red Goddess is, but if so, why did it require Chaos?
- 3. Deities that were devoured by Chaos in the Greater Darkness. These deities are removed from the cosmos and do not exist any more.
Obviously the magical specialists in the third approach (sorcery) can be completely independent of the conflicts of the gods or their demands. At its extreme, such specialists might view the gods as little more than anthropomorphised natural forces. The myths are like sections of computer code that explain why and how those forces act and their limits, but are not something a human being should worship or devote itself to.