Wednesday, June 1, 2011

7K - Religions

And one last post, from here.

Here we outline the major religions of the Seven Kingdoms.


Unlike the typical fantasy world, there are a number of religions in the Seven Kingdoms. However, much like pre-Christian Europe, there are few overt conflicts between the religions. It's largely live-and-let-live. Kingdoms fight, not religions.

Of course, there is the exception that proves the rule. Like any good epic setting, there are cults. Some are relatively benign mystery cults. Others are dastardly, vile demon cults, that sacrifice babies to further their own power. Cults, in general, are despised and, so far as the term may be used, outlawed by the larger religions. They will send forth their paladins to stamp them out. This is why even the purest of them engage in layers of secrecy.

Also unlike the typical fantasy world, religions are not necessarily associated with kingdoms. Three of the five main religions are associated primarily with a kingdom, but they have adherents and agents spread throughout the region. Amazza has The Triune as a state religion, and Is-Ka'ander has their own pantheon and church interwoven in their politics.

While the Ouroboran religion began in Davrakotia, and is generally associated with that kingdom, Davrakotia is a melting pot, and does not enforce Ouroborus as an official church. Oddly enough, though, Lhianna does recognize Ouroborus as an official church, in that it is the spiritual presence at state functions. The citizens of Lhianna, however, are free to worship who they wish.

The Great Jarldoms and Arras, as well as a sizable chunk of the northern Tsoi, largely worship the Gutnish pantheon. However, this is a very fluid pantheon, and from one village to another, you might find different rituals, and even different names for the deities. However, the overall religion is fairly consistent.

A relatively new faith (meaning a bit less than two centuries old) is the Faolain pantheon. It is predominantly seen among the gyspy and sailor halflings, and from there has naturally spread to every corner of the Seven Kingdoms. Of course, given that it is new, and that most of its worshipers are travelers, it has very few established centers, and likewise few temples of its own.

Among the orcish tribes, there is a sort of primitive totemic religion, that is very pantheistic. It is hard to say whether there are no gods, or that everything is a god. In the end, of course, there is little practical difference. It is certainly the case, however, that none of their deities have individual names. (In a D&D world, the orcish priests are druids.)

The dwarves/mahkluks seem to be both very devout, and yet atheistic. There is no question that there is ancestor worship involved. And, they have a holy writ, called the Svashennaya Kniga. They claim that they have gods, and yet they have no names for the gods (or, indeed, a word in their language for "god." Instead, they use the Tsoi word). Their gods appear to be formless, genderless concepts, with no personality or "human" traits. Even their mythology is almost entirely stories about heroes, rather than any divine beings. It is a very confusing situation for the humans.


I've tossed out the standard D&D planar structure. I just don't like it, and it makes very little sense to me. The biggest departure is that I've eliminated all of the elemental planes, as well as largely eliminating the astral and ethereal planes. I've also removed a big chunk of the structure of the planes in a ring, based on alignment. My system is less rigid, and less polarized.

I've replaced it with a planar structure that is closer to the Norse system. There is Yggdrasil, the World Tree, at the center of existence. In typical mind-bending style, Yggdrasil is also the Wood Between the Worlds, a space between the planes that is not of the planes. Among the upper branches are the homes of the gods. Among the roots are the various hells, and homes of the demons. Around the center is what we consider the "real world." However, note that the branches are not necessarily "good," nor are the roots necessarily "evil." It's all much more complicated than that. More complicated than I strictly want to get into in this post, honestly.

Each religion has their own creation myth. Sometimes, more than one. They agree in very few details. However, the one common event, similar to the flood myth in our world, is various retellings of the asteroid impact. This is generally told to be a side effect of a great war in the heavens, and is a result of the losing side being cast violently to earth. (The one major exception to this is the Iskandrian myth, in which it was a deliberate punishment of a people that had stopped honoring the gods.) Much like our flood myths, there was one favored man, who was saved from the cataclysm, and saved all of the animals as well. (Although, in the Ouroboran myth cycle, especially as told in Lhianna, the man was Merlane himself, who was taught how to recreate the animals by the gods, and whose magic was passed down to the merlanes after him.)

The Nature of the Priesthood

I consider this fairly important, so I'm stating it in its own section. Not all priests can cast spells. In fact, it's quite rare. Casting priests, generally referred to with terms like "chosen" and "avatar," are almost never parish priests. They have been tapped by their deity to carry out his/her will, not to tend to the flock or evangelize. They are almost always separated from standard priests in a special order or the like.

However, it is also true that the highest echelon of each religion, the priests that have proven their piety and service, are also granted the ability to cast spells. If we were looking at Catholic priests, we would be talking about archbishops and above. Generally, when a position opens at this level, rather than selecting the new member themselves, they look for a sign from above. This sign will generally be accompanied by a gift of magic to the selected priest.

The Triune

The state religion of Amazza is the worship of the three-in-one goddess, The Triune. She represents the cycle of life, and the power of the female.

The Maiden form, known as Alecto, is a goddess of both love and war. She embodies both the energy and the foolishness of youth. She is generally depicted as a bold warrior woman, carrying shield and spear (very similar to our depictions of Athena/Minerva).

The Mother form, known as Megaera, is a goddess of nurturing. But, she is not a soft goddess. She embodies not only the principles of raising a child, but of managing a house, and a business. Her values are discipline and hard work. Her image is one of an honored matron, usually dressed in purple, wielding a scepter, and wearing a tiara.

The Crone form, known as Tisiphone, is a goddess of knowledge. She has the wisdom of the ages at her command, and the secrets of magic. She is generally depicted as bent with age, wearing a black cowl and carrying a scythe.

As is appropriate for a triple goddess, her priestesses do not devote themselves to any particular aspect. Rather, they can each call on whichever aspect is most needed to address a particular dilemma.

The Iskandrian Pantheon

The Iskandrian Pantheon, in its entirety, is enormous. They actually claim that all of the other gods are actually in their pantheon, though in lesser roles than their primary deities. In the official rolls at the Nidaba Temple in Makra'alla, there are the names of 512 gods and goddesses, and 7324 lesser spirits. Naturally, I'm not going to list them all, and most of them are not important enough to warrant their own temples.

There are four primary deities, known as The Devas. They are believed to control the fates of the world between them, and are closely associated with the four cardinal directions (the average village temple has a door in each wall, with a shrine to each Deva, carefully aligned to point in that Deva's direction).

To the east, in the land of the rising sun, is the king of the gods, Mithras. He is the god of law, and of the cities. He is also the god of magic, as the Iskandrians believe that the power of magic and political power are closely aligned.

To the north lives Mithras' queen, Inanna. She is a passionate goddess, a patron of both the art of love, and the art of war. And yet, according to the myths, she is a constant and loyal ally to those she deems worthy, being far less fickle than most deities. But woe betide those who insult her. The First Iskandrian Empire was brought low, it is said, when the Empress insisted that the high priestess declare her more beautiful than the goddess. The Imperial troops lost every battle thereafter, until the people finally demanded that the Empress be sacrificed to appease Inanna.

To the south is the land of the dead, ruled by its lord, Enkur. He is a dark and merciless lord, but not cruel. He judges the value of every spirit brought to him by his hounds, and assigns them an appropriate reward or punishment. The afterlife is not eternal, however. Once the spirit has received its just deserts, it is washed in the River Lethe, and returned to life as a new babe. To draw a spirit back to the mortal realm before its time disrupts the cycle, and displeases Enkur greatly. The Cult of Acnev has an entire myth cycle, describing how the necromancer lord was struck down by Enkur for his arrogance, but rose again to defy the Death Lord and steal his magic.

To the west, beneath the waves of the great ocean, is the kingdom of Nammu. She is the goddess of the sea, and the great mother to the world. In addition to being a goddess of motherhood and children, she is also a goddess of the arts. While in ages past this may have been simply the household crafts, such as weaving and cooking, her temples now house great bardic and artistic colleges, and are frequently built to double as amphitheaters for plays and concerts.

In addition to the four Devas, there are about a dozen other "major" gods, who have a large number of temples.

Ereshkigal is Enkur's queen. She is the herald of disease, pain, and loss. While typically feared, and cast in a villain's role in the mythology, her temples are not considered evil, or even unwelcome in most cities. The fundamental drive of Ereshkigal's worshipers is that tribulations brings strength. Pain is the temper of the steel of life. Her priests routinely engage in self-torture, and have the scars to prove it. Her role in the cities, however, is as something of a lightning rod for plagues. Her devout worshipers will voluntarily take the plague onto themselves. If Ereshkigal is pleased by their devotion and sacrifice, then the rest of the city will be spared from infection.

On the other side of the coin is her sister, Ninkasi. Ninkasi believes in good times and happiness. She attempts to banish unpleasantness and misery from the world. As such, she is the goddess of healing. But, she also is the goddess who gave alcohol to mankind, and is something of a goddess of revelry (though not debauchery).

Ninkasi is married to Iskur, the first-born son of Mithras and Inanna. He is a tall, fine god, and the patron of battle, and of sports. While he values victory, he also stresses fair play and good sportsmanship in his teachings. There are a number of myths in which Bel uses Iskur's adherence to the rules against him. In Iskur's temple, the stories always end with Iskur turning the tables on Bel, and triumphing through honor and skill.

The first-born daughter of Mithras and Inanna is Nidaba, the goddess of writing and knowledge. Indeed, it is said that she invented writing when no one could remember the exact phrasing of one of her father's decrees, causing much consternation in heaven. The temples of Nidaba are great libraries and centers of learning.

The other younger children of the royal divine family that are of significance are Utu and Nanshe. Utu is the god of justice, and is the sun in the sky. Nanshe, his sister, is the moon, and the goddess of charity.

The two eldest children of Nammu are the twins Lahar and Emesh. Lahar is the cattle goddess, and Emesh is the grain god. They almost invariably share a temple, priests, and holy days. While they may be of little interest to an adventuring group, they are of great importance to the average citizens of Is-Ka'ander.

The youngest child of Nammu is Telepinu. As the story goes, he was supposed to join the twins, as the god of orchards and lumber. But, he was driven mad (some say by Bel, some by Ereshkigal, and others say it was a result of the Cataclysm, or of a lost love). He fled his family, and his obligations, hiding deep in the wilderness. He is a fickle and prickly god, and there are many stories of travelers encountering him, and being put through bizarre tests. If they succeed, they are handsomely rewarded. If they fail, they are torn apart by the beasts he commands. He is now seen as a god of the wild places, and as a patron of the insane. There are no actual temples to Telepinu in Is-Ka'ander, and none who claim to be his priests. But, you can sometimes find shrines to him built at waypoints, and there are always tales of mad hermits who serve his wishes.

The final god we will speak of is Bel, the trickster. He is supposedly a bastard child, fathered on Inanna by a demon who raped her. He is generally regarded as the cleverest of all the gods, but also frequently cruel, and always selfish. He was cast out of Mithras' court, and has forever resented the other gods for it. The myths of the Iskandrians are filled with stories of Bel attempting to get petty revenge on this god or that (similar to the Norse Loki myths). However, he continues to be a popular god. First, his stories are often the most fun, and certainly the most entertaining. Second, there are a number of stories in which he tricks the gods into helping mankind, such as when he taunted Mithras into hurling a lightning bolt to the ground, where it turned into the first hearth (and there are at least a dozen shrines across the country that claim to be that first hearth, burning to this day). But, most importantly, because he is also the god of debauchery. The legends of his ribald conquests are many and varied, and he frequently appears in plays, cuckolding one of the other gods. His holiday is a grand, orgiastic party, similar to Carnivale or Saturnalia.


Ouroborus, also know as the Davrakotian pantheon and the Cult of the Dragon, is fairly neatly divided. There are four, and only four, gods. All of the other beings, such as the sea and the lord of the dead, are simply very powerful faeries. While they should be honored and appeased, they should not be worshiped. Only the four great gods should be worshiped.

Bahamut is the God of Good. He is kind, generous, and just. His temples and shrines dot the world, even in places where the rest of the pantheon is not recognized. And, wherever they are, they are a source of charity and aid to those in need. His servants are the metallic dragons.

Tiamat is the Goddess of Evil. Power is all-important to her worshipers, and power they receive. Few kings are bold enough to outlaw the worship of Tiamat, and those who do had best beware of assassins in the night. And, once a temple is established, worshipers frequently infiltrate every corner of the city. Many a thief can escape justice by invoking Tiamat's name to an ambitious guard who is a fellow adherent. Her servants are the chromatic dragons.

Marduk is the God of Law. His province is both civilization, and honor. He is generally described as humorless and merciless, but scrupulously fair. His temples function as the courts in most towns in Davrakotia and Lhianna. His servants are the crystalline dragons.

Pollyn is the Goddess of Chaos. She loves freedom and humor. Her worshipers rarely actually have temples, frequently just collecting in a town square or convenient field to worship. She is generally very popular among the peasants, as her holidays are marvelous (particularly the day when social roles are reversed, and the master must cater to the servants' wishes). However, she is less popular with kings and magistrates. She is least popular with slavers, as she abhors slavery, and her priests frequently work to free as many slaves as they can. Her servants are the dragon-kin (chimera, leviathan, basilisk, hydra, and couatl).


The Gutnish pantheon is a fairly closed pantheon. There are ten "true" gods. Between them, they created the universe, and everything in it. There are an endless number of heroes, monsters, and other actors in the great cosmic drama, but they are not gods.

Brighid is a powerful goddess, the incarnation of female fertility. Like the flame that is her symbol, she can bring both life and healing, or destruction, as the mood takes her.

Shu is the god of the wide, free sky. He is also the trickster god of the pantheon, frequently talking his way into, or out of, trouble. Worshipers look to him for help on a wide variety of matters, from weather to travel to commerce. Additionally, he is the embodiment of male sexuality and fertility.

Yemaya is the sea, and the avatar of motherhood. But, in her depths, she keeps a great many secrets, including the secrets of magic. Secrets are not meant to be shared, however, and she often requires many sacrifices from those who would learn hers.

Dagda is the great father, the bountiful earth. He brought agriculture to the people, and with it law, and civilization. Indeed, the power of a king is often derived by the amount of land, Dagda's preserve, he owns.

Sedna is the keeper of the dead, in her great icy fortress, far to the north. While she seems to be implacable, there are tales of poets and lovers melting her heart, and winning back a soul from her.

Herne is the master of the Wild Hunt, and lord of all the beasts and plants of the wild places.

Algaia is the goddess of the arts, and beauty. Her priestesses make, and wear, some of the most fantastic jewelry and clothing. Her priests are among the finest poets and musicians. And young women from all over place donations in her coffers, hoping to be graced with a touch of her beauty. And, her holiday is a great day of gift-giving.

Lugh is the sun. He is also the god of war, specifically of just, honorable combat. The lightning bolts are his spears, flashing across the sky.

Perun is his brother, the moon. He is the god of battle, specifically of frenzy and carnage. He is also the god of strength. Thunder is the sound of his mighty hammer striking a blow on his enemy.

Kiputtyto is the corruptor. She is the force of decay and disease. She tears down the old, so that the new might rise in its place. Her role is not evil, but a natural part of life's cycle. However, very few ever like to attract her attention.

The Faolain Pantheon

Often known as the "halfling faith," the Faolain Pantheon is fairly young, especially to be as widespread as it is. While it has a large and varied pantheon (one of its precepts is that anyone who distinguishes themselves in this life might be uplifted to the ranks of the divine), only five central gods are really worshiped.

Bacchus is the free spirit of the pantheon. He is the patron of the arts, and the master of love (and lust). He is also the trickster of the pantheon. However, unlike the Iskandrians, the halflings tend to honor their trickster, rather than revile him. He is frequently depicted as being part man, part animal, though which part and which animal varies from story to story.

Mananna is the ocean, the deep, mysterious sea. She gives birth to all creatures, and takes them back to her depths when they die. Hers is the great cycle of life. She will grant healing when it is needed, but will not when someone's time has come.

Cronus is the god of both commerce, and war. Many of the halflings say that there is little difference between them. He rewards both preparation, and boldness. You take what you want, while giving as little as you have to. And negotiation is the key to them both.

Nox is the goddess of the night, and the secrets that dwell in it. She is a patron to both thieves and mages. She is both a great protector, and the inspiration for infiltrators. She is a complex mistress, but those who serve her love her well.

Phoebus is the god of the day, and the sky, and the sun. He also controls the weather, and helps travelers (or hinders those who don't properly honor him).

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