The Boys Who Wanted to be Weavers

From: Stephen Tempest <>
Date: Mon, 05 Mar 2001 21:47:40 GMT

As you might gather, this story is inspired by the lines in "Thunder Rebels" listing the first requirement to become an initiate/devotee of Orlanth or Ernalda, respectively. I thought it would be a more interesting way to show my interpretation of how this would work in practice, and I'd be glad to hear comments on whether I've got it right.

There's also material here for designing a heroquest for Orane the Weaver, although a somewhat unusual one since it involves cattle-raiding and talking to foreigners...


The Boys Who Wanted to be Weavers.

Erissa Finehair was married to a warrior of the Two Trees clan, and bore him three fine sons: Asborn, Borncor and Corwin. But her husband and all their close male kin fell at the battle of Runegate, and she was forced to flee to distant relatives and earn her place at their hearth with her weaving. Her sons grew up watching her work late into the night, her fingers arranging the threads on the loom and working the shuttle by the light of a flickering tallow candle. As they grew older, the three boys begged her to let them help her, and so she taught them the secrets of weaving. They proved to have a natural talent, and loved the feeling of watching a fine cloak or kilt appear from nothing beneath their hands.

Of course, the other children in the stead laughed at them for playing at girls' games; but as the eldest boy, Asborn, grew into a fine strapping lad he proved more than willing to fight anyone who mocked him or his brothers, and so they were left in peace.

Then came the time of the boys' initiation. Orlev, the old godi, assembled all the soon-to-be-men of the clan and explained to them what their rights and duties would be once they were accepted by Orlanth. Hearing this, Corwin stepped forward and asked if, once initiated, he would have to stop weaving.

"Of course you will, boy! Your mother may have indulged you while you
were a child, but once you're a man you must act like a man!"
"In that case, I don't want to be initiated at all!"
"Don't be ridiculous! Do you want to be treated like a child all your
life, as if you were no better than a thrall or a foreigner?"
"No, I don't". And Corwin hung his head, and went off to stand with
the other boys.

Then Borncor stepped forward, and said that if he had to be initiated, he wanted to become an initiate of Orane the Weaver, not Orlanth. At that, a whisper of mingled shock, embarrassment and laughter ran around all the listeners.

"Even more ridiculous! Orane is a part of Great Ernalda, the goddess
of wives and mothers! Are you a woman too, that you have such a great desire to worship their Goddess? Do you have a female soul, reborn in a boy's body due to some prank of the gods?"

Borncor blushed brighter than a Lunar's cloak, and shook his head, and went off to stand with the other boys.

Then Asborn stepped forward, and Orlev prepared himself to denounce whatever ridiculous idea this child came up with. But Asborn lifted his head, and looked him squarely in the eye, and said,

"I will be initiated to Orlanth. And then I will continue to be a
weaver, and so will my brothers if they choose; because nobody can make us *stop* doing anything!"

And with that he turned and marched proudly to stand with the other boys, leaving Orlev speechless for possibly the first time in the old god-talker's life.

And so it came to pass that the three brothers were initiated into Orlanth; and that was almost the last sight of Erissa's life, since the old widow fell ill and died soon after. Now, Asborn was determined to fulfil his boast that he would be a weaver, and his brothers were glad to follow his leadership; but there was a problem. None of them had looms of their own, and the clan's women refused to give them one to use - or even to let them sit in the Loom House, saying it was no place for a man.

Corwin, though, was clever with his hands, and he had a good memory of how his mother's loom had been put together. So Borncor persuaded the clan's carpenter to lend him some tools, and Asborn helped him fell a tree, and Corwin made a loom of his own.

As for Borncor, he found another way. Asborn introduced him to a friend of his named Janerra, a red-headed tomboy who much preferred weapons practice with the men to gossiping with the women. Despite - or perhaps because of - their differences, the two quickly fell in love and were soon married. On their wedding day, Borncor gave his wife a brand new bow and sheaf of arrows - made by his brother Corwin - - and she gave him her mother's loom that she never wanted to use.

As for Asborn, he chose a different option. With his brothers (and sister-in-law) at his side, he crept one night onto the tula of their clan's hated enemy, and stole away five prime cows as booty. One of those went to his chieftain, as tribute; Asborn disappeared down the valley leading the other four, and was not seen again for several weeks. When he reappeared, the cows were gone, and he was in the company of a group of strangely-dressed men driving a cart. On the cart was a brand new loom, covered in fancy carvings and with bronze weights, and the men unloaded this into his longhouse then went on their way with many cheery shouts of farewell.

By their actions, the three brothers proved their determination to be weavers; and the elders of the clan were forced to accept that they had received a genuine calling from the goddess of weaving. However, that still left them with a major problem, since Orane was a women's goddess and the three were definitely men. If they became her devotees, would that mean they would have to participate in the clan's rites as women? Learn the women's secrets? Sink into Ernalda's earth during the holy days, instead of flying away to Kero Fin with Orlanth? Even if the goddess herself allowed this, it was pretty certain that the women of the clan would disapprove. The arguments were long and bitter, and soon the entire clan knew what was going on. Opinions were sharply divided, and at one point Borncor even suggested that the three leave the clan, and go and see if the Lunars had a god of weaving in their pantheon who would accept male worshippers. That shocked everyone, even Asborn and Corwin, and so a compromise was agreed. The matter would be left to the gods. The brothers could attempt to become initiates of Orane if they dared; but if the goddess rejected them, they would have to either abandon the idea of being weavers, or else turn their back on home, gods and kin and go into exile.

None of the brothers backed down from the test.

The initiation rites were perhaps the strangest the clan had ever seen, with three hulking great men towering over the housewives and young mothers who were seeking a closer relationship with Orane the Steadwife. But the omens were all good, and the brothers completed every step of the ritual perfectly; and when they came face to face with Orane herself, sitting at her loom in the house of Durev in Storm Home, she smiled at them and gave them the same blessing as she gave the women - perhaps because what the goddess saw was a soul with abilities and desires, not a physical body. And so Asborn, Borncor and Corwin became initiates of the Weaver Goddess.

In the years that followed, the paths of the three brothers diverged.

Borncor continued to weave clothes for his growing family, but he also devoted himself to caring for his farm and herds. He became an initiate of Barntar as well as Orane, and never progressed very deeply in the mysteries of the women's cult. In time he became a valued elder of the clan, trusted for his ability to see both sides of a question and find a middle way.

Corwin proved to have a true talent for weaving, and became so renowned for the fine quality of his cloth that even merchants from other tribes would come to the stead to trade for his wares. He also progressed far in the cult of Orane, becoming her devotee and eventually her priest. However, the closer he became to her, the more closely he became identified with her. All Heortlings are used to this happening, of course; but Corwin still found it disturbing that when he called on Orane's power or went to the Other Side in a ritual, he would more and more often find himself appearing there in the shape of a woman. He resisted this at first; but the passion for weaving that filled him drove him on, until he surrendered and became one with his goddess, and so learned her every secret. When this magical identification started affecting his physical shape and behaviour back on the mortal plane, there was some adverse comment; but the wealth and fame Corwin brought to the clan more than made up for any of his (her) oddities.

Asborn had the same skill as Corwin - if he was slightly less technically proficient at first, his imagination, fire and creativity more than made up for it. The fine tapestries, robes and rugs he wove soon became famous all over Sartar and even beyond; the tales of the peculiar foreigners and even non-humans who would turn up on the clan tula asking for Asborn the Weaver would fill an entire winter's night of storytelling. Asborn also progressed far in the worship of Orane, even going on heroquests to the Storm Age to learn the deepest secrets of weaving from her own lips and fingers. But he never surrendered his individuality to her, and clung fiercely to his own sense of who he was. Eventually, other questors who visited Orlanth's Stead in the godtime would tell of the bright-eyed man who sat at Orane's feet watching her work and asking pertinent questions. A few young men listened to those stories, and wondered why weaving was a craft that only women could practise, and thought that they might follow Asborn's example. Others wondered if they could learn the craft from him directly, or ask him to intercede with Orane, instead of having to worship the women's goddess in person. And so in time Asborn the Weaver transcended his mortal limits, becoming a herocult of Orane: the Heortling god of male weavers.


Obviously, the same principles would apply to women following so-called male activities, such as fighting, farming, law and leadership. I chose to use the counterexample of a male weaver simply because it seemed less obvious...

Also, while male healers, for example, could choose to worship Chalana Arroy instead of the all-female Bevara, Jera, etc, there doesn't seem to be an "equivalent male cult" for weavers. I doubt if Arachne Solara would be suitable... Of course, in your own game you can always decide to arbitrarily declare that there *is* a god of male weavers (as I've just done, sort of); but it seems a bit forced to say that there's an opposite-sex version of *every* Heortling cult, which is where that would lead. Or do Vinga and Nandan have the affinities "Worship Orlanth despite being a woman" and "Worship Ernalda despite being a man" with feats such as "Become a devotee of [x] specific Orlanth/Ernalda subcult"?


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