Orlanth is the patron god of the Kingdom of Sartar, and nowhere is his cult more fully developed. The three main subcults of Orlanth – Thunderous, Adventurous, and Rex – have temples and shrines throughout the kingdom and rarely does an initiate have to travel more than a day to worship their preferred aspect at a sanctified holy place. There is also a great temple to Orlanth Lightbringer, a mystical subcult that inspires individuals to correct the wrongs of the world. Many other subcults can be found in Sartar as well; these are simply the most important and prominent ones.
Orlanth Adventurous is the warrior god subcult of Orlanth, patrons of heroes, warbands, raiders, and adventurers. About a fifth of all cult activity is associated with this subcult, which emphasizes warrior prowess. Orlanth Adventurous often defies traditions and settled assumptions; he is a god of Change and Mastery, as much as a god of Air.Orlanth Adventurous is more often associated with cities and tribes than villages, although some clans have him as their patron god. The Four Magical Weapons subcult has been fully incorporated into the Orlanth Adventurous subcult throughout Sartar.
Orlanth Thunderous is the most popular and widespread subcult of Orlanth. About half of all cult activity is associated with this subcult, which emphasizes the god’s mastery of winds and weather. This is the atmospheric god, bringer of gentle rains and thundering storms, and married to Ernalda the Earth Mother. Orlanth Thunderous is the god of farmers, and his son Barntar is a popular subcult of Orlanth Thunderous. Most villages have a minor temple to Orlanth Thunderous with a shrine to the Barntar subcult; this temple is so closely linked with the local Ernalda cult that many people refer to this as the cult of Orlanth and Ernalda.
Orlanth Rex is the ruling god subcult of Orlanth, the patron of the Kingdom of Sartar, the cities, and the tribes. The Rex subcult is at the opposite end of social organization from Thunderous; instead of the village temples of Thunderous, Orlanth Rex is organized at a tribal level or greater. About a quarter of all cult activity is associated with this subcult. Orlanth Rex binds the other subcults and Lightbringer cults together and holds power over the other tribal temples and shrines. Orlanth Rex is intimately connected with the House of Sartar, and his dynasty serve as the highest priests of this subcult. The Sartar and Sartar the Builder subcults are associated with the Rex cult throughout the Kingdom of Sartar. The only great temple to Orlanth Lightbringer in Glorantha is at the Hill of Orlanth Victorious, the very place that Orlanth began the Lightbringers’ Quest. Orlanth Lightbringer is invoked every Sacred Time and as part of many mystical ceremonies. This subcult can be joined by any Orlanth cultist, and provides support for the acquisition of heroic and other magical powers through heroquesting. Orlanth Lightbringer is sometimes called the God of Heroquesting. He is closely associated with the other Lightbringer cults (Chalana Arroy, Eurmal, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy).
No summary of the Orlanth cult in Sartar can be complete without a mention of the Vinga subcult. This woman warrior subcult worships the female incarnation of Orlanth and is open to female initiates of any Orlanth subcult. The Vinga subcult is respected for the bravery and ferocity of its members, and several of the Sartarite princes maintained an elite unit of women warriors. Art by the amazing Agathe Pitié.
What was the ‘most Orlanthi place in the Lozenge’ before the establishment of the kingdom of Sartar? About two centuries ago, I’d posit Tarsh, Talastar, Surkorian, Volsaxi, and Delela as candidates. But Sartar was richer than any of those and the dynasty very much patronised the Orlanth cult.
Most Orlanth cultists are perfectly willing to accept that their god broke AND fixed the world. They aren’t moderns who need to have their gods be perfect in order to worship them.Orlanth is a Storm God. Anyone who has ever lived in a part of the world with big storms – floods, hailstorms, tornadoes, gales that tear off roofs, etc. – know that storm is destructive and often indiscriminate. That’s part of the reason you know they are divine and you worship them.
As an aside, only mortals can now acknowledge weakness, personal errors, and make amends. The gods are always what they are – what can change is how we perceive, experience, and understand them.
Even more fundamentally – the Orlanthi acknowledge the birth of Umath as a great and terrible event. Umath separated Sky and Earth, he brought Change into the static but stable world. Orlanth followed suit – killing the Sun (the source of night and day), beating back the oceans, breaking giants, and all the stuff that made the world what it is.
These are gods, and they behave according to their nature. Orlanth is Storm and Change (which are both going to be destructive), but he is also Mastery, an usual Rune that mean not only mastery of others, but mastery of self.
Yelm has a similar set of dynamics. His death was necessary for Yelm to be Yelm, and a god of Life AND Death. Which is pretty cool if you think about it.
Pretty much every Sartarite gets that Orlanth has multiple aspects.the god is too big to identify with all of him, so he has aspects.
Greg and I did a LOT of work on Vinga over ten years ago. She’s the female incarnation of Orlanth. You can express that as saying she is Orlanth’s daughter, or his twin sister, but really she’s another guise of Orlanth. This is been the approach at since Sartar, Kingdom of Heroes for HQ2.
Orlanth was not “modelled” on northern European religions. He comes out of what was originally called “Humakt” and his three earliest stories were the killing of the Sun (originally Ehilm), fighting with a dragon (based on Indra), and an adventure into the Underworld to rescue the Sun. All those stories show up in Greg’s writings around 1966-1970. When Greg wrote a fuller description of Orlanth around 1976 or so, I’d say Zeus and Indra were big sources of inspiration, with some Trickster thrown in for good measure. He’s got some bits of Marduk, some bits of Shiva, plus scraps of Teshub, Tarhunna, Perkanos, and a host of Indo-European storm gods. But his most important myth – the Lightbringers Quest – that’s all Greg. But gods having female incarnations or goddesses having male incarnations – that’s pretty common. Di-u-ja may have been the female counterpart of Zeus, Thor notoriously cross-dressed in some of the later Christian recollections of Norse myths, Dionysus was the Rebel Rebel of his time, and so on. Call her Orlanth’s daughter or Orlanth Vinga, but Vinga is pretty clearly a female avatar of Orlanth. Then again, the god’s Runes are Air and Change, and Orlanth seems to have little trouble taking lots of different forms – Adventurous, Thunderous, Rex, VInga, Lightbringer, etc. Sometimes these are understood as distinct and separate deities, but in Sartar they are viewed as aspects or incarnations of Orlanth.
Orlanthi religion celebrates sexuality as the cup of life. Ernalda is the goddess of women and of sex, and has many lovers and husbands among the gods, although Orlanth is mightiest among them. Orlanth and his half-brother Yinkin had many amatory adventures with countless goddesses and several gods. The fertilizing rain that makes agriculture possible is thought of as the corporeal love of Orlanth and Ernalda. Orlanth even has a female incarnation, Vinga, who is worshiped by women who wield Orlanth’s magic.
How greatly do the Orlanthi of Ralios differ from those of Sartar? That is a pretty loaded question! They are broadly similar (even down to related languages, customs, lore, etc.). But when we dial down the details they get very different! The East WIlds are a backwater with little in the form of central authority, trade etc. Sartar is at the crossroads of the continent, rich from trade, with cities, libraries, hospitals, etc., and a long tradition of being ruled by a Prince.