Red Headed Daughter
The following article, first published in Tales of the Reaching Moon, should be considered the second of three sources describing Vinga. The first is the official cult write-up in Storm Tribe, which I developed in close cooperation with Greg Stafford. This second article is mainly supporting material to be read in conjunction with the official write-up. The third source is my collection of Vinga stories from the same period, which flesh out the subtleties of this much misrepresented and mis-interpreted cultus.
Of Vinga & Vingans
The Vinga Traditions of Dragon Pass: Hearth-fire tales from John Hughes, Ian Thomson, & Jane Williams
With thanks to Greg Stafford.
As we call you ||| Loyal Daughter
So you come ||| Grim Red-Tressed One.
Gale Defender ||| Shield of women
Hearth Protector ||| Vengeance won.
Stead Wall Champion ||| Spear-bright Daughter
Bold Path Finder ||| Called, You Come.
Great-Heart Goddess ||| Friend of women
Laughing Sister ||| Victory won.
– A Kheldon Palisade Chant, 1623.
Called, she comes. As the first flames of the Hero Wars engulf the sacred tulas of the Heortlings, men and women of courage fight for their lives, for their kin, and for all that they hold familiar and true. And in the struggle unfolds, many women turn to Vinga Orlanthdotter – protector of the helpless, Hearth Defender, grim Avenger.
The Loyal Daughter occupies a key role in the pantheon of Earth and Storm.
Vinga rises up whenever the tribe is threatened, defending the hearth of her mother Ernalda and sharing with her kaylings the strength and power of Orlanth her father. As a warrior goddess and Thunder Brother, she is protector of the helpless and defender of the hearth against enemies and powers of Darkness. As grim Avenger, she cleanses the tribe of murderers and rapists. As the Defending Storm, she battles the icy gales of Valind. As Gateway, she allows women access to the cultic powers of the StormFather, be it as adventurer, skald, lawspeaker, reeve, chieftain or champion. As an Aspect of Orlanth, Vinga represents the Allfather’s compassion. As Pathfinder, she opens the way, even as she did in the Great Darkness. And as one of the War Women, the Loyal Daughter offers a place for women whose wyrd calls them to a life of adventure and danger.
Favoured Daughter ||| Willful woman
None may own you ||| Wit your weapon
Loved and loving ||| Laughing loud.
None divert you ||| Skill your shield.
And your gifting ||| Peace of kin all
Favoured gifting! ||| Safe in stead.
Dark Avenger ||| Strength of widow
Vow relentless ||| Justice seeker
Sword-Arm Vinga ||| Woman’s blade.
Hearth Protector ||| Storm-black rage.
And your gifting ||| Retribution
Sorrow’s gifting ||| Vengeance hard
– A Kheldon Palisade Chant, 1623.
Vinga’s Hope and Laughter Songs are oft-repeated favourites when the bloodlines gather about their hearth fires for their evening’s entertainment. As much campfire yarn as sacred myth, they celebrate the Loyal Daughter’s desperate life-or-death struggles during the Greater Darkness, and her more light-hearted, bawdy and amorous adventures during the Silver Age.
Through these stories and songs, clanfolk know Vinga as a courageous warrior, a laugh-gifter, defender of the helpless, reckless but always artful, bawdy, direct, unrestrained, a deadly adversary when provoked. Resourceful and cunning, Vinga can transform her anger into a fierce and focused compassion. As both peacemaker and bloody avenger, she mediates the cunning and wisdom of the Earth with the power and violence of the Storm, embodying the qualities of both.
Yet for all the love Heortlings feel toward Vinga, there is often ambivalence and a degree of distrust directed to her followers. Vingans may face resentment, embarrassment, or strained hostility from their clansfolk. Stories are one thing, but some men are fearful of women who might publicly best them in combat. And certain women, for all their gratitude for the goddess’ protection, cannot understand why some vingans give up the security of hearth and harstings to carouse, boast, and fight among men. And as the Gateway to otherwise male Orlanth subcults such as Andrin, Jarani, Dar, Drogarsi, Harst or Vingkot, the Vinga cult attracts many women of unusual talent and determination. The wealth, power and reputation such women acquire may also yield a harvest of petty jealousy and resentment.
Vinga Traditions: Subcults and Hero Cults
As Gateway to the male realms of Orlanth, Vinga gifts Heortling women with the opportunity to join Orlanth subcults usually open only to men. Because of the diversity of these Orlanth cults, Vinga herself has only a few subcults. The most common of these traditions—Avenger/Red Woman, Spearwoman, and Defending Storm–are detailed in Storm Tribe.
In times of relative peace and prosperity, some aspects of the Vinga tradition seem to disappear for generations at a time, and specialised cult knowledge may be retained and passed on by only a few Devotees and heroes. Yet when the clan is threatened, the Loyal Daughter rises up in power, and her kayling sisters dye their hair and arm themselves against the foe.
Vinga is also worshipped through a number of regional traditions which vary in focus and custom, and through clan or warband-based hero cults. Some of the most important are detailed below.
Vinga The Pathfinder
As is known to all, when Vinga was young she was not content to stay behind with the other goddesses, and was intrigued by the tales told of travels by wandering male gods. When she asked to join these others in their journeys, they told her that their ways were not suitable for a woman. The young goddess resolved to see the world for herself, and find her own path.
In the woodlands near the stead she encountered Odayla the Hunter, and asked if he might teach her his skills so that she could feed herself on the way. Odayla growled, and said he was too busy setting traps. Nevertheless Vinga followed him and watched in order to learn what he was doing.
As she travelled on, Vinga came across Tatouth the Scout exploring the furthest borders of their territory. He too refused to help her, claiming it would be too dangerous to show her how to avoid their enemies. Once again Vinga followed and watched, and was able to learn much.
Travelling in another direction, Vinga came across Gultha Goldentongue, the son of Issaries. Gultha at least stopped and talked to her, sharing tales of the many wonders he had seen. Inspired by this, Vinga journeyed further and further from home, finding ways into lands that none of her people had even heard of before, and each time returning safely.
When the world changed, and the lands were split asunder in Darkness, Vinga used these skills to advantage, travelling the dying lands, gathering survivors to still-flickering hearths, uniting isolated steads in hope, seeking new lands where the remaining few might shelter in safety. In her stubbornness and compassion, she always found a path, no matter what the obstacle.
The Eye of the Storm
Followers of Vinga Pathfinder are scouts, explorers and hunters. While many Vingans will join the Orlanth subcults of Destor or his son Tatouth, some are called to follow the ancient paths forged by the goddess herself.
Affinity: Pathfinder (Find Trail, Read Trail, Sense Ambush, Speak with Nature Spirits, Talk with Strangers)
Movement Feats: Silent in Nature, Unseen in Nature. Secret: Always Know the Way
(Even when all landmarks are lost, or in a completely foreign land, this ability operates as a magical feat to sense the best direction in which to travel to reach the Pathfinder’s clearly stated goal.)
Hareva The WayMaker (Sartarite Hero Cult of Vinga Pathfinder)
Hareva was a Black Spear weaponthane who guided Colymar and his followers beyond the dragonewt Crossline into the long-deserted land of Kerofinela. She and her sisters journeyed ahead, exploring the wild countryside and making contact with the Elder Tribes who dwelt there. It was the WayMakers who discovered the white snow grapes for which the Colymar tribe is famed, and it was they who made the first Vinga shrine at Clearwine Temple.
Feat: Vinga’s Eye
(This feat allows a WayMaker to find her way across inaccessible or unknown country. She may also return to any point in the wilderness where she has carved a Vinga Eye and conducted a day long ceremony. Other WayMakers may also detect these locations.)
The WayMaker hero band acts as guides, explorers and guards in the Quivin Mountains and southern Sartar.
Anratha the Frontierswoman (Praxian Hero Cult of Vinga Pathfinder)
Red Anratha was a niece of Dorasar, and was part of his expedition to found the city of New Pavis. Both the journey across the Praxian wilderness and the initial days of settlement were fraught with danger. Anratha raised a band of women who joined the male warriors in tracking and defeating nomads, bandits, trolls, chaos, and other foes who opposed the establishment of their settlement. Anratha was noted for her endurance and fierce will, and boasted that she could walk further, ride harder, fight longer, and drink more than any man.
Feat: Keep on Going
(A devotee may continue any nominated physical activity without tiring or needing sleep. Once the task is accomplished, however, the full effect of the exertion is felt.)
The worshippers of this recently established Hero Cult help defend the settlements in Pavis County, and form a small independent mercenary unit based in New Pavis.
During the Long Night, Vinga fought against the Uz many times as she defended the tribesfolk of Orlanth’s stead. The Tribes of Darkness threw themselves repeatedly against the palisades or ambushed steadfolk when they scavenged through the cold and blasted land.
Through determination and ingenuity, Vinga learned to successfully fight the Uz and defend against their magic. The Uz too learned to respect the Big Woman power of Vinga.
Unlike some other troll-fighting cults, Vingans do not especially hate Uz or their Darkness powers. The subcult of Vinga Uzfighter exists in areas where relations with Uz can erupt into armed conflict, or where the Dark Folk are powerful and the Heortlings need to show that they are not intimidated.
Affinity: Fight Uz (Break Bludgeon, Block Bite, Hidden from Darksense, See in Darkness, Stand Against the Dark)
Movement Feats: Evade Leaper, Walk in Shadows.
Secret: Obey the Female
(In fighting the Uz, Vinga learned that male troll warriors are conditioned to obey their female leaders. Using this secret a Vingan can command male trolls or any trollkin, usually by shouting taunts and confusing commands during battle. It acts as an integrated passion spirit, giving a bonus of one quarter the secret’s ability rating to any ability, and is not treated as a separate action.)
Vinga Stead Daughter
In the Far Place, there exists a loosely-organized godi band of proud and often solitary women who worship Vinga through the hero cult of Enyarna. Called Stead Daughters, they are skilled weapon mistresses devoted to strengthening the entire clan. For the most part, such women command honour and respect as teachers, weapon trainers, negotiators, and problem-solvers, and may hold the place of Vinga on their clan’s Lightbringer Ring.
A Stead Daughter has a special role in the making of men from boys, and preparing selected male initiates for adult responsibility and married life, just as Vinga instructed the Cattle Orphans in the Great Darkness. In the five-season span following initiation, she will instruct her pupils in weapon skills, pride, wooing, sex, wisdom, and respect for women. What this actually entails varies enormously, but Stead Daughters enjoy a reputation (mainly among over-eager teenage initiands) for sexually initiating young men, instructing them in the proper ways of love beneath the sacred hide blanket of Ernalda. (1)
Enyarna the Stead Daughter (Far Place Hero Cult)
Enyarna was a Vingan hero from Bilinni, a mistress of the Spindle Wind, and one of the Far Walkers who resettled the wild uplands of the Far Place. Enyarna was greatly respected as a teacher and mediator, and as a powerful speaker before the moot. She teaches the feat ‘Listen To This’.
Feat: Listen To This
(Acts as an integrated passion spirit giving a bonus of one quarter the feat’s target number to any ability involved in instruction or persuasion for the good of the clan).
Layers of Mythic Meaning
A fact of mythology is that every meaningful tidbit has more than one meaning. Lhankor Mhy says, ‘Mythology is the art of Meaning.’ The spiritual being sees the meaning, and the devotee sees then beyond that to a new meaning. Every answer is a clue to the next meaning. The devotee is not lost, for his practice defines his selected true meaning, and he need only hold to it as the stable point in an otherwise shifting set of ideals. – Greg Stafford.
Masks of the Daughter
Heortling Diversity in Cult & Myth
Sister, you have seen the widows who call to the Red Woman in their desire for vengeance. You have watched our spear sisters on the palisade, and training with the fyrd. And you heard our Loyal Daughter as she spoke before the moot. How the warriors were shamed!
But did you watch the Colymar War Women as they rode in strength to Whitewall, all blooded axe and bronze-bright spear? Have you seen the grim Kallyrii, those martial hero bands of the exiled Kheldon Queen, calling clans to vengeance!? Have you heard the tales of the War Daughter, Natalina Vingasdotter, who quests the Vinga paths of the Other Side, searching for secrets of an ancient sisterhood?
Do you know the solitary Stead Daughters on Snakepipe’s edge? The far-ranging Pathfinders of the Quivini, the great-breasted Uz Fighters of the wild lands? Do you know of the Laughing Daughters, the Red Clan of Pavis, the Spindle Spears who roam Lismelder lands? Sister, these women serve the Daughter too, though their ways are strange to us. They are all faces of the goddess.
As we call Her, so She comes.
In Gloranthan publications we can read many of the sacred myths of the Heortlings, and descriptions of a wide variety of cults. These writings are not intended to be all-encompassing or final, for it is impossible to draw neat lines around a diverse, living tradition.
Glorantha is a vast, magical world, teeming with mystery and wonder. The clans of the Heortlings each differ in their understanding of the great myths and the actions of the gods. These variations and differences are usually subtle, but can at times be extreme and seemingly contradictory. The Wind is never the same!
The reasons for such diversity are many. Deities who are prominent in local tradition and history may usurp roles and responsibilities usually belonging to other gods. A deity’s identity might be confused, or conflated with another. In their journeys to the Other Side, clan heroes may reveal (or lose, or misunderstand!) secrets or feats that then become incorporated into clan tradition. Relatively minor deities may gain a greater mythic and ceremonial role if they command an influential body of worshippers within the clan. And a relatively minor feat by a god may have crucial survival value to one clan.
Ceremonies and traditions might be lost in times of war, or different traditions may combine through joint ceremony when tribes come together. Godar may forget or incorrectly recall some of the less-important myths, and clansfolk journeying abroad will return with stories from distant lands, which will then be explained and interpreted according to local tradition.
There is an equal diversity in the organisation and structure of individual cults within clans. And cultic practice will vary as godar and cult elders lay greater or less emphasis on certain ceremonies, feats, and secrets.
The Heortlings have no central religious authority to proclaim ‘This is true!‘ or ‘This is the way!’, no Seedmistress-General or Uroxi Inquisitor to uphold a unified, orthodox tradition. Such an idea is alien to the Orlanthi Way.
Orlanthi deal with their world through action rather than contemplation. Clansfolk may be surprised when they hear peculiar versions of their myths from other clans, but they are never unduly concerned by them. From their own ceremonies and mysteries, they know that mythic truth is elusive, and that Devotees must spend years of their lives in mastering the dangerous and powerful secrets of the Other Side.
The Orlanthi are a pragmatic people: any myth will be tested. How effectively does it serve the clan in ceremonies based upon it? Does it bring good cabbage harvest as it should, or tiny yellow birds to eat the grubs, or a warm wind to melt the black snow? How safely does it guide heroes along the treacherous paths of the Other Side? Does it lead them safely through danger to the desired destination? Can the heroes claim the sacred boon, and bring magic or power back from the gods? If so, then the myth is true! A clan with bad myths will weaken and die.
‘Who cares what stories those stupid Maplebarks tell, or what they do in Sacred Time-our ceremonies work, so our myths must be true!’
Despite their abhorrence of abstract principles removed from immediate action, Orlanthi initiates do have a very sophisticated view of what myth is, a view unpolluted by our own notions of ‘literature’ or ‘fiction’. They understand in a very practical way that mythic truth is poetic truth, never mere description; that myth is a vehicle, and that it always points beyond itself. They understand that the meaning of a myth changes as you bring greater experience and understanding to it. When rooted in clan tradition and practice, the sacred stories exist to challenge and expand what is possible, never to limit or confine it.
Orlanthi also understand that some truths are too subtle for words; they can only be expressed in ceremony and ritual. Why talk about the weather when you can run naked through a hailstorm?
So is Vinga a goddess, a storm, a spear, a symbol of Orlanth? Some claim her as a human hero from the Age of Vingkot! Perhaps she is divine feminine energy, long hidden in the sacred myths, in the temple-hearts of Earth and Wind, in the very landscape itself: an energy nurtured by a daughter’s courage, a mother’s endurance in labour, a widow’s searing cry for vengeance.
Yes, all this and more. The path to understanding is Devotion to your deity. As you understand the secrets of the goddess, so will your strength and power grow.
In the long seasons ahead, all truths will be tested in the hurricane gale of the Hero Wars. What do you believe in, Loyal Daughter? Can you live and die for the ways of your clan? Do you feel it in your heart, in your breath? Then take up your spear and follow the Freedom Winds! A Great Storm is upon us all.
Come the Hurricane!
Sartar’s daughters, bind your breasts,
There is no time to weep or rest;
The Kheldon Queen has set us the test
take up your spears and follow!
The Wind is free, the Storm will break;
the godis at the weapontake
Swear the clans will ne’er forsake
Good Vinga’s purest daughter.
Up with spear and out with sword!
On we’ll go for by the Storm,
The battle-thanes have given their word
Raise the tribes for Starbrow!
– A Sartar Boasting Song.
- This aspect of the Stead Daughter has been willfully misinterpreted at least once recently, some twenty years on, in a forum in which I had no means of response. Remember that the ur-myths of Vinga are Scáthach and Camilla. Consider Scáthach and her instruction of Cthulhulain, the way she trained him and gifted the Gae Bulg. It was not a sexual relationship. ‘A Rope of Cedarbark‘, originally published with this article in TotRM, makes clear the source of such wild-whispered rumours concerning Stead Daughters and their real life implications.