The Holy Country – for the last three centuries, Esrolia has been ruled by the God-King. Now I have written a ton about Belintar and the Masters of Luck and Death, but the short version is that Belintar and the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death keep Esrolia (and the rest of the Holy Country) in close proximity to the Hero Plane. So we get to regularly interact with Ernaldela, instead of having to go through the collected stories of generations of interlocutors. This also means that all the stuff in Land of 10,000 Goddesses is less important to us now. Roughly every generation we all get to experience Ernaldela, and some of us even wander through it. Of course this works both ways, and it is not uncommon for nymphs, dryads, and other magical beings to wander through the “mundane” Holy Country, experiencing that world.
The Sixths of the Holy Country correspond to the Six Realms of the Hero Plane. Esrolia is self-consciously the realm of Earth, just as Heortland is self-consciously the realm of Air. The Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death brings a regular infusion of comparative perspective into our mythic understanding. Earth regularly interacts with Air, Water, Fire, Darkness, and (emptiness). All of these realms work together to collectively form a whole – the Holy Country is the great cosmic dance of the elements.In Belintar’s Holy Country, most places governed themselves, but were blessed by and disputes were resolved by Belintar. Belintar aided the Opening, showed the Magic Roads that allow people to travel through the Holy Country via the Hero Plane, and created the Fish Roads. Belintar rarely got directly involved in governing the mundane affairs of the peoples of the Holy Country. Each of the Sixths more or less followed their traditional ways – of course those traditions were changed by the very presence and role of Belintar. When a cult’s leaders might refuse to accept Belintar or reject his advice, Belintar was known to bring the cult’s own god into the discussion! But Belintar’s demands were few and always reasonable, and it was usually quite easy for cults and tribes to accept what he had to say.
As a result, what never really developed around Belintar was the sort of court administration as you see in Glamour. Instead, Belintar surrounded himself with philosophers, mystics, magical individuals, adventurers, and vacationing gods.So in Esroia, the Earth Temples remain the owners of land, and were the sources of fertility and blessing. The Earth Priestesses are priest-queens, with the high priestesses having paramount authority. They have their associated cults – Orlanth, Esrola, Babeester Gor, Chalana Arroy, Lodril, Magasta, Flamal, Maran Gor, Voria, Asrelia. Ty Kora Tek, and Argan Argar (and others), all of whom are sworn to support or protect the Goddess. There is no specialized subcult of rulership – this is just social organization by the Earth Temple.
There are also plenty of important cults that are outside that Earth Goddess-centered system – Dormal, Issaries, Lhankor Mhy, Humakt, etc, and the Earth priestesses have to negotiate their relationship (although Ernalda’s ties to Orlanth helps with many of these cults). But power needs to be used with more subtlety in Esrolia than in Sartar – even the Queen of Nochet has less direct authority than a standard tribal king, let alone the Prince of Sartar.
For the last century or so, the Queendom of Esrolia has been held by the Queen of Nochet, and a descendent of Queen Bruvala. Bruvala married 15 men and at one time maintained 5 husbands. She had 23 children, of which 8 were daughters and fifteen were males, including three future queens and one winner of the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death. That son forced her to retire in 1510, but she continued to dominate Esrolian politics for an other generation in retirement as the “Reverend Grandmother.”
The role of the Reverend Grandmother was something like the Fujiwara kampaku in the Heian period. The titular queen would be trapped in ceremony, marriages, and fertility rites, while the grandmother would actually run mundane affairs, the treasury, make deals, etc. However, the most recent two queens (Hendira and Samastina) have ruled without Reverend Grandmothers.
The Esrolian Queens list in the Glorantha Sourcebook is a fascinating document and provides tantalising hints into the power struggles within that sacred dynasty. See also:
Now there is an interesting parallel of the Reverend Grandmothers with the Tharkalists, that group of daughter-lovers around the Red Emperor, who some claim are the real rulers of the Lunar Empire. However, the parallel is limited – all Reverend Grandmothers served as Queen of Esrolia, while obviously none of the Tharkalists were ever Red Emperor.