Gods And Religion

Each race has three 'virtues', or gods, as the core of their faith - though how they view and venerate these gods, or what else they worship in addition varies wildly.

Dwarven Religion

Dwarves adhere to three principle schools of thought, each of which has its own spirit which can be invited into the mind, and used to purge negative emotion and thought.

'Uumpharo (Mindfulness of Self)

The most popular sect, the Self-Mind School teaches that only internally can true meaning be found, but that the way to the wisdom that lies within is cluttered by the demands of the world, the body, and the mind. It does not claim that the world is false or irrelevant, but that truth and awareness must be achieved within before the world can be understood. Lay adherents find it simple to follow: it places no demands, only recommendations to fast and abstain from various vices, and daily meditation. Monks who pursue it can find it more arduous, as it requires an increasing regimen of restraint, denial and separation to gain the wisdom necessary to understand higher-level teachings and guide others on the same path. The monasteries of the Self-Mind School are home of the majority of dwarven warriors, who embrace the path to gain greater control over their bodies, discipline their minds and unlock formidable martial arts technique. This same concentration on mastering the mind and body means that there are many skilled physicians and scholars in residence, the sect's abbots are sages of great knowledge and serenity.

  • Ren Censuuleng (Those Who Stand Alone): A branch of the Self-Mind School, Ren Censuuleng monks are marked by a greater dedication to the path's teachings, but a distance from its hierarchy. They are hermits, who seek isolation from society in order to better delve the inner-self. This need not be physical; some Self-Mind monasteries house Stand-Aloners who perch atop pillars, physically and symbolically elevated. Many, though, seek the isolation of distant mountain peaks and deep caves, and never see another soul for years at a time.

Maarphal (Mindfulness of Others)

Not as widely adhered to but possessing greater energy and influence, the World-Mind School expounds that contentment and understanding can only come from knowing your place in your society and the web of relationships and interactions that define you. It recommends compassion and loyalty, and exhorts its adherents to charity and missionary endeavours. Monks of the World-Mind School involve themselves in the operation of society and lives of their flock almost to the point of being accused of meddling by the more reserved Self-Mind monks. Their monasteries cooperate rather than being more or less independent, and share the guidance of three Venerable Abbots. World-Mind monks can often be found organising public ceremonies and working with the secular government of a city-state, which can regard them as useful propagandists or dangerous demagogues. They are the most likely sect to be found outside the dwarven lands, studying and teaching amongst other cultures.

Omvaadrehum (Mindfulness of Universe)

The smallest and most esoteric of the three major sects, the Cosmic-Mind School is popular amongst sorcerers, scholars, philosophers and those seeking the sensation of belonging to a secret community of believers. A mystical tradition, the sect uses initiation rituals, koans and altered states of consciousness to approach an understanding and even personal relationship with the Universe. Comprehending the scope, operation, purpose, intention, and 'soul' of the personified Universe are the goals of various levels of enlightenment, and some even seek unification in some form. The line between lay adherents and monks is uncertain with this sect; a lay Cosmic-Minder believer has a small understanding of the teachings, just as a low-order initiate does.Thus, some argue that the lay members are equivalent to monks lacking in dedication. Cosmic-Mind monasteries are more insular, providing few services to the citizenry beyond the capabilities of individual members, and often consist of no more than a single teacher and students.

  • Ren Mandaalbe (Beholders of the Sky): Monks of the Ren Mandaalbe are skygazers and astronomers. In the patterns and colours of the Mandala they seek to divine the mind of the Universe, to interpret and act on its wishes. While many practitioners of the Cosmic-Mind School are accused of reifying - not to say deifying - the Universe, it is the Beholders who treat it most as a distinct entity, located in and comprising the heavens. Some adherents of the branch are content of observe the heavens from their own doorsteps, the Beholders have several observatory-monasteries where they use systems of lenses and magical scrying to peer into the Mandala for answers.

(Venerable Abbot) > Abbot > Monk > Acolyte
Grandmaster > Master > Warrior-Monk > Acolyte

Orcish Religion

Orcs deify their shars after death, and most families (at least the great houses) have their own pantheon of elevated champions and ancestors, while every major profession venerates the founders and visionaries of their discipline. It is typical for each orc to worship three gods: an emperor they admire, an ancestor they venerate, and a caste-figure they emulate. The regular civil wars that wrack the empire are as much religious as political, with worshipers of different gods striving to promote their favourite within the ranks of the three sub-pantheons.

Imperial Pantheon

The worship of shars is largely a public occurrence; high holy days and historical celebrations are dedicated to the rulers who created and oversaw them. The early emperors were philospher-kings as well as warlords, great scholars and leaders who taught orcs the secrets of civilisation. Many of the more recent ones are often little more than glorified thugs, revered only for the number of cities they sacked and mountains of heads they took.

  • Zulqarmandor the Monumental: The First Shar. Zulqarmandor is the legendary figure reputedly turned the northwards-migrating orcs from their nomadic, herding ways and taught them the art of city-building. His gargantuan statue still stands overlooking Bulsharippur, brooding regally over the squalid sprawl of the city he founded.
  • Tularoq Horse-Breaker: An early god, Tularoq tamed the first wild beasts of the plains and brought them to His people. His symbol forms the basis of branding marks used on domesticated animals to this day.
  • Darxis the Liontamer: Legendary shar who sought to break lions, and ended up breeding The Five Untameables.
  • Zaygon the Returner: The triumphant leader of the invasion and reconquest of the Medraphayrus. Brass likenesses of Him peer down from every corner in the Medraphayri cities, a constant reminder of the one who beat them
  • Dhaqamor Swamp-Wither: Perhaps the most successful of the recent conqueror-shars, Dhaqamor began the invasion of the Chalnfens and western coast, and was martyred by goblin assassins. Many fields bear his name, as he started the practise of draining and reclaiming the bogs.

Household Pantheons

The worship of household gods and ancestors is, as could be expected, generally private within each family. Birthdays and great achievements are celebrated, and they are invoked to ward off evil spirits and bring luck to the home. Not every family has household gods: slaves and the impoverished cannot afford the rituals and sacrifices required to have an ancestor immortalised and recorded by the priesthood, and in some outlying area of the vast Padishar Empire the practice never caught on. It is customary for each family to have at least one member who serves as high priest of their pantheon, keeping track of the calendar of holy days, tending the household shrines and overseeing rituals. Usually this is the male head of the household, but it may equally be passed on to a grandfather, uncle or elder son. The largest and most opulent household pantheons were those of the noble families, but since the nobility was broken many of these have fallen into disrepair and bitter secrecy.

  • Ozgul: Regarded as the preeminent household god, Ozgul was Zulqarmandor's chamberlain, elevated to nobility by the shar in gratitude for Her service. In addition to being venerated by Her own descendants, the priests of Ozgul have the role of recording the names of the gods of other household pantheons on scrolls of beaten gold, and inscribing them on the vast marble obelisks at Ata'Ozgulturath, Her high temple. This privilege allows them to extract generous 'donations' from those seeking to have their family members deified.

Caste Pantheons

Every craft and profession spawns its own deities from the founders, innovators and masters of the trade. Prayers are said to the caste gods when undertaking a project and sacrifices made to insure it's success, and a pious orc is sure to always include an inscription, holy sign or the like on an object, dedicating it to the glory of the relevant god. Well-established castes will often have a priesthood of their own in order to keep track of all the rituals, sacrifices and observances the craft-gods demand.

  • Qaspolgu Thronewright: Not the first craftsman, but the most highly honoured. Qaspolgu carved the Carnelian Throne for Zulqarmandor, an achievement that earned Him godhood and a position overseeing the pantheon of the allied trades of sculptors, gem-cutters and masons.
  • Nasireema: The oldest recognised figure, Nasireema is one of the few deities to predate Zulqarmandor. She was the first basket-weaver, and has become matron of all weavers and workers in flax, cane and rattan. Taqami, the god of flint-knappers is also in her pantheon, as legends tell that she gave him baskets to store his stone arrowheads in, and in gratitude he swore to serve her.
  • The Gods of Shoemakers: Due to an error in the wording of a charter handed out to the caste of cobblers long ago, all shoemakers are elevated to divinity when they die. This means there are an overwhelming preponderance of them - and that they are given no respect or consideration. Young orcs are often forced into the shoemaking caste by family members who think it would be prestigious to have a craft-god in the family (so long as they tactfully avoid mentioning which craft).
  • Juhlehd: The god of agriculture, Julehd is the proud patron of gods and goddesses representing every type of crop, technique and piece of farming equipment the orcs have mastered.
  • Solqan: The god of soldiers. Although Solqan was a humble warrior, it had become traditional only for high-ranking and victorious officers to be inducted into the pantheon, a tenet that causes some strife with the rank and file.

Elven Religion

Elves believe in the gods of the pitiless sun and the mercurial moon, opposite but equally essential forces, balanced and mediated by the third god who rules the tricksterish wind. Priests of the elven gods are wanderers even amongst a nomadic people, forswearing their tribe in order to drift amongst them all, and travel even further than the most ambitious explorers. This does not mean they are solitary; priests will often travel inpairs or triads, each focusing on one god to reflect the pantheon. They are venerated as minstrels, storytellers, seers, messengers and advisors. As they age, some priests do pick a particular tribe or caravan to affiliate themselves with, and take up a place as spiritual guide to them until the feel the gods calling them to their Dusk Year, when they must set off one last time.

Ithalayn, the Changing Moon

Ithalayn is the goddess of home, protection, shelter, security and secrecy. Night is often the safest time to travel in the desert, which the elves attribute to Her blessing. However, as the face of the moon shifts so does Ithalayn's kindness; to stay in one place too long as to court Her wrath.

Azaid, the Unblinking Sun

Azaid is the god of punishment, trials, tribulations, adversity, war and triumph. His burning gold hand strikes down the proud and foolish, but helps the tenacious and wise stand tall and run far. The elves believe He sets obstacles in their path in order that they become stronger by overcoming them.

Riwal, the Deceiving Wind

Riwal is the god of language, speech, art and trade. He is the messenger between Azaid and Ithalyn, but not an honest one: He twists Their words and forges Their missives, in order to keep the peace between the two proud and opposed deities. He teaches elves that subtlety is better than violence, and that by controlling communication, travel and the flow of goods they can exert more power than any army. Riwal is served by numerous Bright Winds, the lesser gods of the brilliant Colour Paths that serve as angels and spirits in elven myth.

Goblin Religion

Goblins believe in two gods, whose unified cults rule the goblin nation. Goblin priests train at the alter of one of the two gods, and tend to work in pairs. There was once a third god, the god of mercy and charity, but after the fall of their homes and the massacre and enslavement of their people the goblins abandoned their third god, and the god itself is never spoken of or referred to, except by the 'gap' on goblin altars. It is possible that the creature has degenerated to little more than the human gods, an insidious spirit. Goblin metaphysics are holistic: their gods as much principles or forces as beings, and are a part of every living thing, every object, every place and every process, and that their proportions and interactions determine a thing's nature. Their temples and alters are not viewed as homes for the gods or especially sacred places in the conventional sense, but rather key points where these omnipresent divine forces can be beseeched or harnessed.

When the goblin realm fell to orcish domination centuries ago, a change overcame the gods as much as it did their once peaceful culture. The gods' aspects changed from benevolent to dark, dangerous, and more suited for inspiring the bleak and bloody insurrection the goblins needed to survive their occupation and overthrow the hated empire. The god of knowledge became the god of secrets, teaching deceit and distrust, a shroud of lies for the rebels to shield themselves with. The god of life became the god of death, not shepherding the faithful from birth, but hastening the enemy unto the grave.

Sumin Prăm (God of Knowledge/Secrets)

Sumin is is the principle of truth, ideas and essential natures. It is the force that describes and embodies what a being or thing is; rock or wood, goblin or orc, male or female. Sumin is that quality of something that both defines and is described by that thing. The concept bears some resemblance to dwarven idea of joormas; hidden truths that can be unravelled within everyday locations and objects, though goblins do not attribute these truths to the actions of the Universe or Sumin Pram as a god, but as a fact of the operation of Sumin as a force. Priests of Sumin Pram are inquisitive, contemplative and even scientific in their mindset. They are the scholars and lorekeepers of goblin society, maintaining the rituals, arts, chronicles and records of their culture. They are also the spies and manipulators, rooting out traitors and collaborators in goblinkind's ranks, stealing the Empire's secrets and turning orcs against one another with misdirection and rumour.

Ho'ï Prăm (God of Life/Death)

Ho'i is the principle of life, time, change and physical matter. Sumin determines what something is; Ho'i is what it is. And yet, the process of existing and evolving feeds back on Sumin, changing a thing's essential nature over time in a complex and interleaved cycle. Ho'i manifests in the substance of things and how they interact with one another. Priests of Ho'i Pram are practical, earthy and calculating in thought, looking at things in terms of what must be done, and the consequences this will have on the present and future. They are the working clergy of goblinkind, healers, apothecaries, midwives, gravediggers and advisors. In the shadow war, they also serve as the masters of assassination and sabotage, weakening their enemies by setting off chains of cause and effect that spread chaos and death.

Rakas Prăm (God of Generosity/Retribution)

The forgotten and defeated god, Rakas was the principle of action, motivation and dynamism. Rakas Pram did battle with a god of the Imperial Cult when the Padishar Empire invaded the Chalnfens, and was slain. In death, Rakas Pram's essence was transferred to the other two gods, a final act of vicious cunning which hastened their transformation into the darker aspects of their being.

Dryad Religion

Dryads believe that their gods are merely aspects of a single divine being, representing the three life-stages, with the god wearing a different face in each inligation. Dryads altars cane take the form of trunks or poles engraved with the three faces of the god on different sides, but in older and more established groves they are often housed in magnificent temples, structures with carved pillars and colonnades, trilithon gates and circular gathering places. In many communities, the Archon is also the high priest, and the temple, by default, will be the space shaded by the elder's boughs, but younger dryads are also called to serve the three-faced god as missionaries, messengers and avenging warleaders.

Dryad rituals and ceremonies are marked by silence, as opposed to the chanting and prayers common to other races. Most gatherings take place in arbadryad form, and the gentle rustling of a grove's foliage in unison, all stirred by the same wind, is regarded as a deeply spiritual experience. Stillness and the embrace of the earth are seen as closer to the divine essence of the world-spanning tree-god. This philosophy appeals to some dwarven monks, who seek out dryad groves to further their studies of meditation.

Venoros, the Seedling

The face of Venoros is the face of youth, smooth, greenwood-fresh, joyous, hopeful, both male and female. This aspect is the patron of children and beginnings, plans and preparations. Venoros is all things undecided, potential made form, questions not yet answered and thus venerated by thinkers, explorers, teachers and students.

Galamyntar, the Blooming

Galamyntar is a dryad female in the fullness of life, at the height of her beauty and strength, clad in flowers and filling the air with perfumed song. Her aspect is that of striving and perseverance, works and crafts, parenthood and victory. The great majority of dryads worship her foremost, as she is the patron of artisans, labourers, warriors and many other roles they fill for the longest part of their lives.

Acria, the Falling

Depicted as an aged and hoary male dryad, bark cracked and boughs knotted, Acria's face is carved to show both nostalgia and satisfaction. He is the aspect of wisdom and memory, of triumphs outlived, mysteries solved and fates embraced. Archons feel the most resonance with his message, but sorcerers and artists are also counted amongst his most passionate venerators. In darker moments, Acria can also be the god of fatalism and doom, and as such some carnifexes turn to him to fuel their rage and dedicate their sacrifices as they see their forests encroached on and culture driven back.

Human Religion

The human gods are little more than vague, sorrowful spirits. But a vein of rage and disappointment runs through them. Bound to the earth since they were cast from the heavens by the death of the last human, they haunt those places where their people once dwelt, whispering mad ravings in the ears of any who stray near, forcing the souls of dead humans profanely upon the bodies of the followers of other gods.

Tahhmut, the Cold Earth

Power, immensity, majesty and destruction. Tahhmut was the god most associated with the nascent kingdom of Nur, and sometimes seen as the king of the human gods. War, oppression and disaster were its chief deeds, the power of monarchs and armies, the shuddering of its mighty flank. But it was also the god of treachery and failure, the inevitable fall of the great, the perversion of laws and bonds. Statues depict Tahhmut as a behemoth creature like a hippopotamus with armoured brazen hide and four - or a hundred - tree-trunk thick legs stamping on men and cities. Associated with the bear, wolf and lion totems. Those who fall of prostrate themselves before Tahhmut are often anarchists, would-be tyrants or deviants drawn to the cult's rituals of bestiality and incest. Godfall in the Desolate Margin, in the human ziggurat-city of Nur. Associated with shifters, transgression and rebellion.

Zix, the Hollow Sky

Death, decay, disease, eternal suffering, darkness; awe, vertigo, grandeur, the holy and unhallowed. Zix is one of the more sophisticated gods of humanity, a knower of lore and keeper of dark secrets. It is the embodiment of the fear of heights, the dread of falling into the sky, but also the numinous sensation of the sacred and profane, of closeness to and abjection before the gods. For this reason, Zix is sometimes known as the priest of the gods. It is often depicted as a vast, roq-sized carrion bird with three heads, constantly feasting on the carcass of the world, with skeletal wings that can block out the sun. Associated with the vulture, raven and eagle totems. Zix's whispers bewitch and its cult attracts necromancers, those seeking spiritual enlightenment or who fear the long dark of death or have lost those they care about. Godfall on the Black Coast. Associated with the undead, desecration and defilement.

Dathagan, the Hungry Deep

Hatred of peace, vandalism of beauty, ruination of the good; Dathagan is a boiling benthic nightmare of savage violence. When depicted, it is a shapeless mass of tentacles and jaws, fins and scales, slime and eyes, a melange of the worst things of the deep seas. Other times, it is a vast and gaping maw, capable of gulping down the entire ocean. Dathagan's followers tend to be the deformed and wretched outcasts of society, the violently insane and the sadistic. Associated with the octopus, whale and shark totemic animals. Godfall in the Varang Fjords. Associated with devolution, mutilation and atrocity.

Gilguleresh, the Killing Mother

Gilguleresh is the incarnation of the fear of birth, death, motherhood and sexuality, particularly the male suspicion of the feminine power to grant life and dread of their masculinity being consumed. Its totemic animals are the rabbit and sow. Gilguleresh's is depicted as a grotesque, headless, amputated fertility idol, crawling about on stumps with its gaping vagina lined with fangs. It takes life by the same means it creates it, devouring the living into un-birth. The cult and totems of the god are most common in the western Daaland Mountains and parts of the Clashlands.

Kurnutos, the Horned Prey

Kurnutos embodies the fear of hunting and being hunted, of dangerous prey that turns about and becomes the predator. Its totemic animals are the orox and stag, and shrines and images of the deity always feature racks of fearsome antlers or jutting horns. Kurnutos' power often manifests in a rabid frenzy amongst animals, whether naturally vicious or placid, that drives them to wreck the local ecosystem and attack races of the Wheel. Humans would try and appease the god with offerings of blood and meat from their prey, and ward off its fury by symbolically nailing the spirits of deceased animals to the earth. The cult and totems of Kurnutos are most active in and around the borders of the Golden Court and Five Lakes regions.