Invisible HeroQuest Rituals

From: Nick Brooke <>
Date: Sat, 8 Nov 1997 02:44:08 -0500

Stephen writes:

> Considering that the Year King ritual involves human sacrifice, and
> has been suppressed off and on for centuries in Esrolia, I find it
> hard to believe that it is "performed on a grand scale;" I also have
> trouble thinking of it as picturesque.

I can't help with the latter, but note that you are not easily enthused by the beauties of bygone civilisations (unless you can draw them!), and may not be the best man to judge whether a Cecil B. DeMille production with an Esrolite cast of tens of thousands, beautiful Maidens of the Crop, sinister Earth Witches, frothing Axe Maidens, and the great Queen of the Land herself, set in and around a millennia-old Earth Temple (all gaily painted and ornate with bas-reliefs detailing elder mythology), and attended by one of the greatest and most powerful magic rulers in all of Glorantha submitting himself voluntarily to the sacrificial flint knife of the Hag-Queen of the Dead, is likely to be picturesque.

As for its performance on a grand scale, do you think the Pharaoh is more likely to affirm his ritual sovereignty over a vast land teeming with millions of followers in a small out-of-the-way private chapel, perhaps secreted away in the City of Wonders? Seems inherently unlikely to me. The whole point about kingship rituals is that they are public: something that eluded William IV, by the way.

The *old* Year Sons ritual was certainly banned, by Belintar, as a =

potential threat to his rule. He reenacted it *his* way, to whatever schedule the priestesses set. But whereas in the past, the Year Sons were sacrificed, died, and fed the thirsty Earth, with Belintar in the lead, the sacrifice dies and rises again, just as the crop does! He is the dying-and-returning Earth King of Esrolia! This is how he maintains his sacral rule over the land, and keeps the Queens of the Esrola Temple in second place. Cf. the first RQCon Compendium.

> Since the coming of the Pharaoh, I think [the Year Sons ritual]
> occurs during the ToMoLoD, however often or rarely that happens.
> It is how the Pharaoh maintains his power over Esrolia, which is
> a ToMoLaD kind of thing, IMO.

Disagree. Look at Egypt for a counter-example. It could very well be that *after* a ToMoLaD (when the "new" Pharaoh is securely ID'd), the Year Sons ritual is always held in Earth Season of the next year; but *during* the ToMoLaD there is *no* Pharaoh (in any meaningful sense) -- there is the disembodied spirit of Belintar, who may (or may not) be performing significant actions on the Hero Plane, not witnessed AFAIK by any great crowds of worshippers or assisted by the chief priestesses of the land; and there are the magicallyselected  Great and Good of the Holy Country, off performing their individual HeroQuesting tasks across the Hero Plane, again with unknown levels of assistance.

It seems to me inherently unlikely that part of the ToMoLaD involves re-performance of Pharaonic Sovereignty Rituals, unless we extend the meaning of the phrase to become almost generically meaningless. FWIW, the action of the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death is:

Suggestions that it also includes the following elements:

seems unnecessary. I agree that *a* case could be made for any or all of the above. But I call on supporters of more "magical" than "ritual" acts in the Holy Country to tell me:

As often happens, saying that all that is interesting about Glorantha occurs on the Hero Plane *does* have the downside of leaving everyone else out of all the significant action and experience. What does an ordinary Esrolite do on the first day of the ToMoLaD? Does she even know one is happening? Does she rush to the Temple and start taking part in an (impromptu?) ritual? If she is a Priestess, does she also represent her Deity if any importunate HeroQuesting contestants should happen past? Do initiates attend the Temple and perceive what's going on, or are they completely in the dark until the end of the ceremony?

And, perhaps most importantly (which is why I keep coming back to it), how could the Holy Country survive if nobody ever witnessed its ruler performing the actions which confer ritual sovereignty ("The Year Sons Sacrifice only happens during the magical ToMoLaD"), *or* if everybody could witness other, non-victorious contestants successfully attempting those ritual actions? It's a recipe for civil war and disunity, even before the demise of the Pharaoh.

> I believe at least one published source specifically states that he
> is slain _during_ the ToMoLaD.

I can't recall such a source, and think it unlikely for the reasons previously given. GB does say the Pharaoh disappeared, and the subsequent  ToMoLaD was a failure, not that the ToMoLaD he was then involved in collapsed... see source quotations below.

> Jar-eel herself had nothing to do with the contestants, IMO -- she
> ambushed Belintar directly as he was travelling through the parts
> of the Hero Plane that he travels when he is between bodies. I.e.,
> _before_ the Contest was over.

Erm: who sees this? Who witnesses the action? Where was Jar-Eel at the time (I mean, could she have done this from a Great Temple in Glamour, or must she have been in the Holy Country itself as anyone sensible would say?)? Are we not trespassing into "featureless grey spirit plane" territory, here, with the interesting action of the world quite divorced from the part ordinary people can witness and participate in?

> There is a difference between the death of the Pharaoh's body and
> the death of the Pharaoh which you seem to be failing to distinguish
> between; that is the appearance I get.

Fairly stated. To me, "Pharaoh" means Belintar in a host body ruling the Holy Country and performing rituals affirming his sovereignty (on whatever schedule); "Pharaoh's body" means the prematurely-aging body of the previous victor in a ToMoLaD, inhabited by Belintar's spirit, the demise of which will trigger the next ToMoLaD; "Belintar" means Belintar, wherever he may be, in or out of a body, and often more specifically refers to the actions of Belintar during his struggle against the Only Old One, as ritually repeated by every subsequent Pharaoh to prove their identity.

A ToMoLaD starts after Pharaoh's current body dies; in the course of the ToMoLaD, contestants attempt to gain magical power through Hero-  to be recognised as the most suitable host for Belintar's returning spirit. *After* the successful completion of the ToMoLaD, the Pharaoh inhabits a new body, and this body can be seen by all to successfully re-perform the rituals of Holy Country sovereignty.

To say "Pharaoh's Life is the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death" is perhaps true, for initiates of the Man-God, but is not how most Gloranthans would understand the situation, IMHO.

SOURCES: "In 1336 the Pharaoh 'used up' his body for the first time and the first of the Tournaments of the Masters of Luck and Death was held. In this event, certain individuals, chosen by a means known only to the Pharaoh, awake between dawn and day in a thoroughly magical Holy Country and compete upon the magic plane. The winner gives his body to the Pharaoh, who inhabits it for a number of years before requiring  a new one. The winner's soul is liberated with consciousness and full powers to an angelic existence." - GB p.46.

[1616]: "It got worse. The Pharaoh disappeared, and the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death failed to provide a new body." - GB p.48.

No useful information in the RQ Companion, and Elder Secrets deals only with the City of Wonders, not the Tournament or the Pharaoh. So I'm not sure what other published source could be out there.


End of The Glorantha Digest V5 #214

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