So let’s talk a moment about the Lightbringers and their pantheon. In Sartar, about 42% of the adult population are initiated into one of the core Lightbringer cults, and another 40% are initiated into a cult associated with one of those core Lightbringer cults.
As we all know, the Seven Lightbringers always include Orlanth, Chalana Arroy, Eurmal, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy – five VERY different divine archetypes. And yet they are unified by their quest to revive the cosmos. They all fail at what they are best at, they hit rock bottom, and despite their best efforts they lose. Like the Stones song goes, they all have their “moment of doubt and pain.”
And then they each manage to find “something” – some hidden spark – that lets them continue. They find each other in the Darkness, and together they make their way to the Court of the Dead. They make compromises necessary for the world to live again, and they return to a revived world.
Now that’s some powerful stuff. Way more powerful than “storm gods fight monsters and conquer the world,” or “solar gods set up divine heirarchies in the sky.” This is powerful stuff about life, adversity, and how to conquer not the world but ourselves (which is why Orlanth gets the Mastery Rune).
And each of the divine archetypes necessary to save the world are VERY different. There’s only one Air God there, only one fighting leader. There is mercy and forgiveness, openness and communication, knowledge and rationalism, and of course the Trickster. Plus there is us mortals, driven by fear and madness, and the spirit of all.
That made the Lightbringers book SO MUCH FUN to write. Sure we have Storm Bull, Waha, Humakt, Valind, Ygg, Barntar, Odayla, Yinkin, etc. But those Lightbringers are at the center of the story. As they deserve to be, as both a psychological archetype and as a literary masterpiece.
And Greg’s early Glorantha stuff didn’t really have the Lightbringers in it. They didn’t start to appear until the later 1970s, driven by White Bear & Red Moon and then the needs of RuneQuest. That is when Glorantha really came alive – the magic secret ingredient needed for Greg’s setting to take off on a life of its own.
Didn’t the Seven Mothers conspiracy comes first? Both started being written around the same time. A key difference is that the 7 Mothers conspiracy was a deliberate, imposed thing, while the 7 Lightbringers really relied on synchronicity, coincidence, and accidental magic.
I was surprised Barntar wasn’t in the Earth book instead. Barntar is Orlanth Thunderous as Ernalda’s son. He’s an Air god more than an Earth god – he’s the plow bringing Air into the Earth. The main pantheons were pretty easy to divvy up into roughly equal book-size chunks, although it meant adding a LOT to Water.
Since Daka Fal is in the Lightbringers book, does that mean he is the same entity as Flesh Man? Daka Fal is widely believed to be Grandfather Mortal and is closely associated with Flesh Man.
What percentage of Sartarites are also in Lunar Cults, as well as Lightbringers ones?
As of 1627, there are perhaps 5,500 Seven Mothers worshippers in Sartar, the vast majority of them native Sartarites. There are 1,000 in and around Boldhome, 1,000 in and around Alda-chur, and perhaps 3,500 scattered through the other cities and tribes. Any given congregation is made up of a mix of relicts of the dispossessed Lunarised elites (the wives, children and household specialists, in exile from their tribal homes) and the non-conformist urban counterculture (a mix of poets, mystics, coffee-shop visionaries, and crystal-scryers, profoundly non-threatening, and whose insights and techniques are of great interest to the nascent Sartar Magical Union and its patron). They have no public presence—the former temple schools and orphanages are all closed, their teachers and charity workers driven from public life. Everything is underground. And, as ever, in the womb of the underworld, a new life is kindled.
Public worship of the Seven Mothers is quite impossible where the forces of Free Sartar control a city—the former temples are deconsecrated and fall into neglect, with the last to fall being Alda-chur in 1627. The Seven Mothers cult in Sartar, bereft of links to the Provinces and the Empire beyond, has fallen back on its core messages and teachings. The Lunar Way has always offered a message of solace to the oppressed, and some priestesses now preach that when an Evil Empire has failed its people, they are justified in forming previously unthinkable alliances and resurrecting strange powers in order to tear it down and replace it with something new and better. The Lunar Goddess has chosen to lay down her tawdry crown and strip from her rich imperial robes, and now, of her own free will, descends once more into the Underworld, to return profoundly changed. And the Seven Mothers cult in Sartar is along for that journey, wherever it takes them.
The problem is, as I understand it, EVERY Lunar cult has a Chaos taint in it, however large or small. That is incorrect. The Red Goddess is a Chaos deity, but not all Lunar cults are chaotic. For example, the cult of the Seven Mothers is NOT tainted by Chaos. Their Runes are Moon, Life, and Death. And that’s it.
The Orlanth cult is hostile towards the Seven Mothers, but does not consider it an Enemy. However the Red Goddess is an Enemy of Orlanth’s.
Also keep in mind that the Lunar Occupation was only 23 years.
It is worth remembering that at least some Sartarites would have begun worshipping Lunar cults a century before the occupation. This is an incredibly important point. Sartar’s trade and “university” cities were exposed to Lunar philosophy for more than a century. Now that might not mean many locals joined the Lunar Way, but they were certainly more familiar with it than many people seem to think. And Orlanth is open to Strange Gods and new experiences – far more so than many people seem to play the Orlanthi (at least on forums).
And all of this was supported by the Princes of Sartar – who are the hereditary high priests of Orlanth Rex. Even while those Princes were fighting wars against the expansionist Lunar Empire.
There is a LOT of information on the cults of Orlanth and his companions. I think people coming in from the Thunder Rebels books are going to be surprised and even shocked. Orlanth’s cult has elements of Shaivism and Viashnavism – he is both the destroyer and the restorer of cosmic order.
As presented in the Lightbringers Book, Orlanth and his companions are part of a very sophisticated religion with many sub-traditions and associated cults, all united by the cults of the Seven Lightbringers. It is in every way a rival of the equally-sophisticated Lunar Way, which may explain why the Lightbringers have maintained their identity much better than most of the Solar cults.
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