Great God!

From: Peter Larsen <>
Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2001 22:25:34 -0500

Peter Metcalfe says

to me:
>>I don't buy this. CA is important, being "perhaps even the source
>>of all healing" (Storm Tribe, p.31), but she does not have enough variety
>>to really be a great god -- she does one thing in different ways.
>I'm sorry but I am far from convinced about your definition that
>variety makes a great god. CA has been accorded Great Goddess
>status in print.

        Where? I've been looking at my RQ3 stuff, and I haven't seen it? (I'm not saying that it's not there, by the way; I just can't find it.)

>>Yes, I'm aware of this, but I find it hard to believe that a great
>>god wouldn't be worshipped as something other than a subcult of
>>another god.
>Like Pole Star, the King of Heaven, is worshipped as a subcult
>of Orlanth? Like the son and daughter of Donandar, the High
>God of Music are worshipped by Orlanth and Ernalda?

        I don't think any of these are great gods. They don't hold primal runes (as far as I know), so they aren't great gods by your definition, either. That's a bit of a promotion for Pole Star, isn't it? I always thought he was First of the Star Captains. Arraz is King of the Sky People (GRoY, p.66) and I seem to remember Dayzatar being King of the Sky at one point (I could be wrong; it seems out of character for him). Pole Star doesn't even get into the "court" area of the Gods Wall (ibid., p.64-69).

>>Well, Bagog is the fertility of the Scorpion Men. Thed is mostly
>>dead, and Malia deliberately corrupted her fertility, so I'm not
>>sure the last two are good examples. Besides, isn't Thed more of
>>a "step-mother to the Broo?"
>Thed is the mother of the Broos and Malia is a death goddess.
>Bagog has no fertility rune but merely man, beast, darkness
>and chaos. For a god to have fertility powers requires a
>narrower definition of fertility than merely "being alive".

        Malia, as I said before, was a fertility goddess, "a spirit of healing with great properties to aid growth and birth" (Lords of Terror, p.27) who perverted her powers to become a death goddess. I suppose she's still mother to disease "spirits," although it's not very maternal, if you ask me. Bagog, as I said before, is the mother of the scorpion men -- despite her runes, she still is the primal source of the darned things and has, reasonably, fertility connections. Surely that rebirth ritual is a nasty fertility power? As for Thed, you're correct, she is the Mother of the Broos. She also has "minor associations with Fertilty as well" (ibid.,p.48). As the same section suggests that the broos are in decline, having their source killed and skinned may have ruined their racial fertility (which, considering the broos, suggests that they were once even more fecund than they are now --ick).

        I don't think "fertility" associations are as narrow as you make them out to be. Both Orlanth and Elmal have fertility powers, and neither one holds the fertility rune; it's just part of what they are -- as great gods, they cover the range of experience, and that includes aiding the Earth's fertility.

>>Shargash, I think, doesn't bring much life outside of Alkoth.
>But I just quoted what the _Alkothi_ think about him. That
>was an Alkothi poem and therefore the Alkothi do not consider
>Shargash to be a god of life. Yet he is a Great God

        "Then Shargash went to the Stronghold, and from there he released the imprisoned animals and plants, so the world was renewed again. Before the witness of the whole world, Shargash strode forth upon the heavens and made it right again, and all life followed him." (GRoY, p.101)


        "All of the participants are inevitably plunged deep into the ultimate despair of death, and they all are transferred to the Land of the Dead, and everyone who is released afterwards is also purged and refreshed in the manner which can be provided only by such a rite." (ibid., p.102)

        In the names lists of Shargash in Enclosure 1 (p.35-36), Shargash is the father of his people through Alkor, his son, but he also is the power of fertility; this is a secret of the Shargash cults -- it's not something they are going to talk about to the uninitiated. The poem you quoted doesn't name Shargash "Rebellus Terminus," either, and that is also a Secret Name of Shargash (both in Enclosure 1 and in discussions on the list).

        I think the Dara Happa (not to mention the rest of the world) tend to think of Shargash as a bloody-handed destroyer, and that is the face that he and his worshippers show the world. If pressed, the regular Pelorian might agree that Shargash sometimes destroys to make way for new growth. In their secret hearts, though, his followers know that Shargash destroys and renews; his power takes life away and gives it back, sometimes to the same person, but always as the cycle of life and death.

        I'm curious that you don't seem to accept the material in Enclosure, which makes Shargash's fetility aspects clear -- I realize that it's not canon, but Enclosure has a pretty good pedigree.

>> >I'm not a great fan of the implication that belief is what makes
>> >a god great.
>>Well, maybe it's the other way around -- within their domain, a
>>great god has many faces and can call many worshippers. Outside
>>that domain, the god can call fewer worshippers and offer less
>>potent magics, so they simplify.
>I think you are confusing the identity of a god as a Great God
>with the issue of how he is worshipped in a particular place.
>A god is great if he has a substantial transcendent component and
>this will not vary depending on what a worshipper believes.

        Almost any god can claim to have a "substantial transcendant componant." Hell, I'm sure that Minlister has one, and he's not great (although he is Good. And good for you). That waht makes them gods, after all; people don't worship Yinkin because cat magic is useful; they worship him because he speaks to something deep in their souls; he shows them the secrets they need to be fulfilled; he makes them complete. Maybe the great gods are the ones that can do that for the gods -- make them what they need to be, like Orlanth and Ernalda do for the Storm Tribe.

Peter Larsen

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