Helga Mikhailovna (748-787)
Feodora Borisovna (787-898)
Lizaveta Radoslavna (898-972)
Diana Aleksandrovna (972-1064)
Bogdana Bogdanovna (1064-1101)
Ivanna Mikhailovna (1101-1192)
Lyudmilya Sergeiovna (1192-1294)
Nadya Miroslavna (1294-1367)
Aleksandra Aleksandrovna (1367-1443)
Alisa Iosefnovna (1443-1454)
Marya Vasilovna (1454-1512)
Agata Dominovna (1512-1601)
Gavrila Gennadovna (1601-1761)
Katenka Fedorovna (1761-1823)
Ustinya Vasilovna (1823-1901)
Olga Sergeiovna (1901-2029)
Irina Ivanovna (2029-2111)
Anzhela Tomanovna (2111-Present)
The Great Mothers, also sometimes called by the Old Periaslavlan name of velikomat are the rulers of Periaslavl. The title has existed for almost fourteen hundred years, as this has proven a remarkably stable structure.
It has clearly benefitted from some sort of magical foundation, as those who've served in the position, along with their husbands, have lived extraordinarily long lives. Rurik's Pyre is involved somehow, given the flare of approval or recognition it provides to all chosen for the role.
(See Founding of Periaslavl)
From 746-8 IR, Periaslavl faced a succession crisis that was rapidly spiraling to civil war. Five heirs of Rurik Kyrre vied for the title of velikokniaz, or great kniaz. By the end of this time, the people of Periaslavl had had enough and all sought an acceptable compromise.
The compromise came in the form of Helga Mikhailovna, already beloved by many within the realm, matriarch of a prosperous merchant family, and widely known as one of the most powerful enchanters ever to come from Periaslavl. Since she was not a part of any of the competing factions, all of them could accept her, while the vast majority of Periaslavlans saw in her at least a temporary solution.
The wisdom of this move became obvious when Rurik's Pyre, already heart and soul of Periaslavl, flared upon the announcement. The shifting in-fighting of the families, which might have provided a weak foundation, became irrelevant in the light of the Pyre.
Helga proved to be a skilled and wise leader, served well by her magic and her experience. She also proved to be exceedingly healthy and long-lived.
Even so, time comes for all, and in 760 IR, when Helga was 74, the people of Periaslavl wondered what would happen when she eventually died. Only the most partisan of the political factions wanted a return to the times that prompted Helga's selection in the first place.
With careful consideration, Helga reached out Feodora Borisovna . Feodora was also a talented enchanter, who had achieved recognition despite coming from a poor family. Like Helga, she was in no way connected to any of the rival factions, and thus they, grudgingly, accepted her as heir.
Since Periaslavlans had applied the term velikomat, or Great Mother, to Helga, she named Feodora the velikodoch, or Great Daughter. Later writings of Helga suggest she initially created the title whimsically, but soon realized how apt it was.
Feodora assumed the role of apprentice to Helga. In this way, she both learned a great deal about ruling Periaslavl while assisting the Great Mother in a variety of ways.
The value this provided was obvious to all, and every other Great Mother, except Alisa Iosefnovna, chose their successor in this fashion. Each Great Mother would search for a talented enchanter, usually a teenage girl, who fit their criteria, and brought her to the Pyre. If the Great Mother chose wisely, the Pyre would flare in recognition.
Whatever the Pyre's criteria are, they generally match those of the Great Mother. Only once has it refused to flare upon a choice, that of Bogdana Bogdanovna's first candidate. The refusal caught all by surprise, as the candidate seemed perfect to all but the Pyre. For about a year, people wondered if Bogdana would be the last Great Mother. However, in 1079, she brought Ivanna Mikhailovna before the Pyre and to everyone's relief, except presumably Bogdana's initial candidate, the Pyre accepted her.
In any case, given Helga's age, all expected Feodora to step up sooner rather than later, however, it would be almost thirty years later, when Helga was 101, that Helga stepped down.
By this point, many believed some sort of magic had to be involved, given that Helga looked exactly as she had in 748. Not only that, Feodora was 54 and still looked in her 20s.
Helga ruled for only 39 years, ascending as she did at the age of 62. Any question of magical assistance disappeared in Feodora's reign. Feodora reigned for 111 years, meaning she was 165 when she stepped down.
At this point, no one questioned the fact that she still looked to be in her 20s. She had lived longer than anyone else alive and she had always looked the same. For much of that time, Lizaveta Radoslavna, once chosen as velikodoch, appeared young despite the passing decades.
Scholars and Chroniclers began trying to devise the reasons behind this longevity. The general consensus is that it has something to do with Rurik's Pyre, given it's obvious connection to the Great Mothers and the fact it's an eternal flame.
How that works, however, no one knows.
(See The Great Husbands)
Feodora married during her reign, fully expecting her husband Igor Antonov to fade with the years. Nevertheless, he accepted the sacrifice and devoted himself to serving her and Periaslavl.
It came as a pleasant surprise that whatever magic assisted the Great Mothers also assisted her husband, and the term 'Great Husband' was obvious.
The greatest beneficiary, though, was the realm itself. Igor provided not only the love of legendary romances, he was an able general and administrator. Also, with his long life, he was able to amass an astounding amount of experience. Lizaveta soon recognized Igor's value and eventually married Fedor Radoslavich.
However, when Feodora stepped down, the price paid by Igor became obvious. Both Helga and Feodora, after they abdicated, had remained as they were for as long as people in Periaslavl knew them. Admittedly, this wasn't very long, as within a year of their abdication both left Periaslavl, never to be seen again.
But Igor clearly didn't have that opportunity. Each day seemed counted as years, and he grew older almost visibly. He died within a month of Feodora stepping down.
Over six centuries later, following The Days of Sadness, Marya Vasilovna ended up marrying a second husband (see below). A second husband proved just as valuable as the first, as Periaslavl had become a major realm in Eard.
By the 1700s, Periaslavl had grown even more, encompassing nearly all of northern Allyria. The Great Mother, Katenka Fedorovna, shen yet more problems arose in both the east and the west, Katenka found herself without the benefit of either of her husbands as one led Periaslavl's defenses on each border.
Since few Periaslavlans seemed to care that the Great Mother already had two Great Husbands, she decided to marry once more. Since this time, it has become traditional for the Great Daughters to marry thrice.
See The Days of Sadness)
That this plague could kill a Great Mother, where for seven centuries they had all been in perfect, eternal health, suggested to many scholars of some sort of magical origin.
For much of Periaslavl, though, the origin was less important than the loss of the Great Mother. Though the factions of the 700s no longer existed, Periaslavl still boasted many great families who began vying to fill the resulting power vacuum following Alisa's shocking death.
Tensions rose over the following months until Marya Vasilovna, who was known more for her poetry than her skills as an enchanter, arrived in Medvedgorod. She entered the Dvorets Materi and Rurik's Pyre recognized her immediately. Her writings following this moment say she felt drawn to the place, though she had never had any such ambitions prior to Alisa's death.
In any case, though again the most partisan of the families tried to prevent it, the people of Periaslavl accepted Marya as velikomat.
However, Marya had received no training in leading. She was a poet and widely acclaimed as such, but that does not necessarily provide the skills to lead a still-growing realm that had already attained much.
She turned to Alisa's husband Ivan Sergeiovich, who was clearly fading after Alisa's. Unlike all the other Great Husbands, though, he was only 76 when Alisa died. He aged quickly, but only to that point. Nevertheless, Marya proposed marriage to him in the hopes that, even though he could no longer lead troops in battle, he could serve as an advisor and font of experience that she could absolutely trust.
This left, of course, the problem of what to do with her existing husband, Sebastian Vasilyavich. Much of Marya's poetry had been about her love of Sebastian, and that love had not faded in the least. She eventually made the decision to remain married to both.
Two Great Husbands, it turned out, proved extremely useful, especially as Periaslavl rebuilt from The Days of Sadness. Sebastian took over the more active roles while Ivan served as her day-to-day advisor and, eventually, her dal'stolnik in title as well as function.
The oath sworn by those of the Great Mother's personal household is:
I swear to serve the Great Mother of Periaslavl in all such tasks as she might require. I will love that which she loves, despise that which she hates, and do my utmost to assist her in helping the people of Periaslavl. If I fail in the observance of any of the aforesaid stipulations, may I be accursed of Perun and Volos, become yellow as gold, and be slain with the selfsame axe upon which I swear.
The Great Mother's response is:
With this, I show to all that I accept your service. Furthermore I swear to you I shall remain faithful to Perun, to the Pyre, and to the people of Periaslavl. I swear further that I shall reward you as your service merits.
She also bestows a brooch to her new servitor to display the servitor's new position.