Religion in Paksworld
There are many gods, demigods, patron saints, lesser powers, and most people believe in the existence of multiple supernatural powers. Travelers and immigrants bring their gods with them, and many people think it's better to honor every god than risk annoying one. The origins of some hero-saints are historical (though not all the stories are true) but others are unknown.
Alyanya, Lady of Peace, Lady of Flowers, goddess of health, fertility, peace, etc. In the old days, it was Alyanya who taught the magelords to multiply fertile soil and ensured the fertility of herds and flocks as well as humans.
Achrya the Tangler, in Old Aare originally depicted as webspinning larva damaging to stored grain and other materials...lessening yield and fertility In the north associated with spiders (the notion of "webspinning" transferred.) Achrya is now associated with ruin, secret conspiracy to harm, etc.
Barrandowea, Stormlord, also Rainbringer Associated with the sea, and with violent or strong thunderstorms believed to originate with the sea. Now followed mostly by sailors of Aarean or Aarenisian heritage.
Cheru-Baet object of passion, bisexual as needed Not known outside Old Aare; the temples of Cheru-Baet had prostitution as both sacrifice and reward.
Ibbirun, Sandlord, personified chaos, destruction, as of a violent wind/sand storm. In the North, the destructive principles have different names.
Liart, Lord of Torments, Bloodlord, and worshipped by those practicing blood magery. In Old Aare, Liart's symbol was a blood-sucking parasite that caused intense pain when attached or removed, and long after.
Simyits, the Judge, had two faces (condemnation/mercy) in his capacity as judge. In the north, because of the gnomes' belief that the Judge could not be two-faced, diminished to the god of gamblers and luck
Sunlord, also Esea, also Skylord, bringer of light and thus discernment of truth and falsehood. Also, in Old Aare, the Sunlord's anger brought drought and might arouse his son Ibbirun to send a sandstorm.
Weslin Dancing Maiden, Spring, who brings gentle water (water in springs and wells, or soft spring rain.) For the beauty of her dancing, the stories say, stone weeps sweet water (not salt or alkaline) because it weeps tears of joy.
Tsaia, Fintha, Lyonya, Prealíth
Achrya, demon/minor goddess of evil plots, associated in Tsaia with spiders (the webspinning larval association did not make it out of Old Aare.)
Alyanya, the Lady (fertility, peace, harmony) has now merged with a very similar northern deity whose original name has been lost. Men (but not women) "blood the blade" before digging a ditch, plowing, etc. to honor Alyanya and get her permission to "break Alyanya's body," the soil. Now most blades are blooded before use (but not war blades.) A little blood is mixed with the mortar of foundation stones, as well. It must be the blood of the builders. The use of blood in Alyanya's rituals is different in intent, source, and amount from that used in Liart's worship.
Camwyn. Founder of the Company of Cam, now revered as a saint, Camwyn Dragonmaster. Supposedly Camwyn was a warrior (prince? noble?) who had a long conversation with the Father of Dragons and received a secret (object? spell? not known) that gave him power over dragons, such that he could talk to them or even compel them to bear him in flight. Camwyn is a patron of courage (as are others), quick-thinking, music, and rhetoric. Canwyn's worship is strongest in the Westmounts, where dragons are known to have laired.
Falk. Founder of the Company of Falk, now revered as a saint, Falk was a nobleman (prince?) who bound himself to years of imprisonment and slavery to free his brothers from a wicked king. According to legend, at the end of the ordeal, when freed, he was an old man, and half-crippled, while for years his brothers had lived in comfort and made no effort to free him as he had freed them. Miraculously restored to health (though nothing could restore the lost years, it is said), Falk went on aiding the helpless and gathered around him other like-minded nobles. Eventually he disappeared in a cloud of light (it is said.) Falk is the patron of courage, but especially moral courage, steadfast loyalty, and oath-keeping. Falk's worship is centered in Lyonya, where Falk's Hall trains the Knights of Falk. All of the King's Squires are Knights of Falk. Falkians are organized into Fields led by Captains.
Gird. Founder of the Fellowship of Gird, now revered as a saint, Gird Strongarm. Hundreds of years in the past, Gird was a peasant who led a successful rebellion against the cruel magelords who had invaded the north and enslaved the indigenous population. Gird, influenced by the gnomes, tried to set up a fair system of law, the Code of Gird, in opposition to the foundation of the magelords' legal system, the Rule of Aare. Though a talented leader, with a sound grasp of irregular warfare, Gird was not perfect or in any way refined. The details of his struggle are told in Surrender None and Liar's Oath. The Fellowship of Gird is the dominant organized religion in Tsaia, and the Code of Gird underlies Tsaian law. In Fintha, where the feudal system was abolished, the Fellowship of Gird rules. Girdish are organized into Granges (places of worship and training--all are trained in basic military skills) overseen by Marshals.
High Lord (mix of Old Aarean Sunlord/Esea and Gnomish High Lord) Symbol is the circle, signifying unity, purity, perfection.
Liart, Master of Torments. Symbol is the "horned circle"--a link in a chain of links that are barbed, for torment. Liart's priests wear red masks, usually leather, designed to look frightening, and perform torture both to honor Liart and as a way of gaining mage powers.
Simyits, god of luck, chance, gamblers, depicted two-faced (Janus-like)
Tir, god of war (courage, strength, warrior's honor)
Merin, the spirit of a well that keeps its water pure. These are minor spirits, honored at each well by putting flowers on the well-coping. Defiling a well is sacrilege.
Frostbreath, god of cold, winter, and death; name acquired from the Pargunese
Guthlac, Lord of the Hunt, tricky and dangerous, delights in traps and the running hunt
Mare of Plenty, the Quickener, fertility goddess, legendary broodmare of all horses, impregnated by the Windsteed, depicted as a dun whose hoofprints become springs in a dry land.
Torre, legendary heroine who saved her father's kingdom by performing multiple "impossible" deeds, now the name "Torre's Necklace" is given to a constellation. Torre is believed to protect young women in particular danger. Origin somewhere in the north
Windsteed, the legendary progenitor of horses via the Mare of Plenty, depicted as a dapple-gray stallion with fiery eyes that shoot lightning and dark hooves that make thunder. Paladin mounts are thought to be his immediate descendants.
Numerous localized spirits, guardians of wells, springs, groves
Achrya, or Gracious One or The Lady. Through historical and linguistic accident, Achrya became a "good" goddess to the Pargunese, who equated spinning with weaving, and weaving with sails. Also, she told them what they wanted to know.
Bread-giver or The Lady, harvest goddess, land-bound
Fish-guide, female deity of good catches at sea
Frostbreath (from east of the ocean, the origin of the Pargunese--they brought this understanding of cold and death to the horse nomads. They are a displaced people.)
Sea-father, personified Ocean
Storm-father, thunder-deity (not Barrandowea, for historical reasons)
Tir, god of war
Adyan the Namer, similarly creator but by naming things (elves believe in the reality of formal language, that things came to be because they were named. A lesser aspect of the Singer (but humans call the Singer Adyan)
A-Iynisi, the Unsinger, who unravels the song of the Singer, seeking to foul and destroy creation.
Father of Dragons, mystical creature who is a lesser Singer--he sings dragons into existence.
First Tree, progenitor of all plant life, all of the green blood. Initially, the elves sang to the First Tree, who responded to that song by populating the world with trees and thus creating the taig, tapestry of life that elves sense and to some degree control. But then a human (it is said) found the Tree and sang to it so beautifully that the Tree acknowledged him, and shared the secret of the taig with him. He was the first Kuakgan, the first Shepherd of Trees. At this, some elves were so enraged that they left the taig, and turned to A-iynisi, becoming the iynisin, the Dark Cousins, the kuaknom or tree-haters.
Mother of Unicorns, mystical creature whose essence draws all of silver blood, related to the stars
Nayda the Unnamer, personification of evil tendency to destruction and chaos. Among humans, has come to be associated with the loss of memory--literal "un-naming" of people and things and events.
Singer, the First Singer, whom elves believe is the primary creator--the First Singer sang the world into being. The elves call themselves Sinyi, singers and sub-creators..
Sertig, dwarf creation god, who hammered out the world on his anvil. Dwarves thus see fire differently--not as agent of destruction, but as a tool of Sertig, tamed and useful.
Hruviar, Master Silversmith (finesmith?)
Drossviar, Master Stonemason (literally, "he who discerns the courage of stone")
Krethakviar, Master Carpenter (A dwarf approaching his own craft invokes first Sertig, then the Craftmaster, and finally his or her clan ancestors.)
Battlehammer, hero-patron of dwarves
Tir (as other races)
Falsetongue (now often thought of as another name for Achrya, but not originally female) god of lies, gossip, discontent
Drossnedross, a tricky, weak, and ultimately vicious minor deity expressed as ambiguous stone
Gitres the Unmaker (evil deity who unmakes what good is made--chaos out of order, ugliness from beauty, etc. Gitres "ruins the stroke" so the craftsman makes mistakes.
High Lord, creator and judge. Created the world by ordering chaos and giving Law. Gnomes recognize other deities, but consider them all subordinate to the High Lord.
All the religions recognize (though the celebrations may be different) the four big astronomical markers: the Eveners (spring and fall) equivalent to our Equinoxes, and the shortest day/longest night (Midwinter) and longest day/shortest night (Midsummer.) Because families and communities come together at these times, they also have legal importance; most rulers hold court on or near them, legal transactions (such as the announcement of engagements, marriages, formal claims against another, etc.) take place. The observances mentioned here apply mostly to the human populations; though the other races recognize these holidays, their rites are different.
Relighting the fires at dawn is an important ritual. Ideally, it is laid of wood cut the previous Midsummer, specific woods important to that community, with a single piece of wood left from the previous Midwinter kindling. Special foods (such as the “fried snow” of Fin Panir) are served where possible; otherwise the feast consists of the richest possible foods. The day is spent in games, especially games of fortitude (running, riding, mock battles, etc.) but also includes music and dancing.
In Tsaia, Midwinter Court is the time when criminals guilty of a capital crime may be pardoned or executed. This results from the belief that when the fires are all dead (including the sun), other things die permanently as well. A pardon at Midwinter is a pardon forever: it is forbidden to speak of the original crime after that. But an execution at Midwinter dooms the executed to complete nonexistence; it is afterwards forbidden for anyone to mention the dead one. Similarly, vows taken at Midwinter are permanently binding. "All doubts die with the sun..." Oathbreaking is always serious, but to break a Midwinter oath brings banishment.
The Spring Evener is (logically) a time of beginnings and a celebration of new growth. The fires lit then celebrate release from darkness, ignorance, and past problems of any kind. A fire lit at the Spring Evener has more cleansing power than ordinary fires (so that, for instance, burning a document that imposed a debt is normally done at the Spring Evener though the debt may have been cleared before that. ) Water is also celebrated at the Spring Evener: wells are cleansed and blessed, springs blessed, and thanks given for water for crops. (In the extreme north, where springs may not have broken yet, prayers are offered for this to occur.) Starting a quarrel on the Spring Evener brings bad luck the rest of the year (at least until the Fall Evener); old quarrels must not be mentioned. Young people have the more important roles in the ritual.
The Fall Evener is a time of closing, as the spring is of opening, and a time of judgment, relating the ripening of fruits to the ripening of understanding–in some groups it is considered that quarrels should not last beyond the Fall Evener (and if they do, they must be brought to a mediator. ) Older people have the most important roles in the ritual. Others consider the Autumn Court the right time to judge a petitioner’s request for pardon (which would then be granted on Midwinter) or to sentence someone to die at Midwinter. Groups vary in whether they propose an alliance/marriage/other contract at the Fall Evener and consummate it at the Spring, or vice versa. Although breaking an oath or alliance proposed/agreed at any of the great festivals is a serious matter, such a proposal at the Fall Evener can be un-made at Midwinter.
In Lyonya, the Eveners are the days on which bones can be raised to be put in bonehouses or ossuaries. If put into the ground near one Evener, they will be raised at the other. This ancient practice persists in Lyonya though not in elsewhere–at least, not openly, though there are still strongholds and even individual houses in Tsaia and Fintha with an ancestor’s skull or skeleton built in. In private households, fresh leaves are brought with prayers and a small food offering to the bones on the Eveners.
Midsummer, the other Sunturning, falls on the longest day of the year and shortest night. Again, some families/communities celebrate for several days, with the two shortest nights both treated as Midsummer; others celebrate only one. This is another time that fires are extinguished, and people stay up all night, but the rest of it goes differently.
On the night (or nights), people go outside, to the fields or gardens, where they sing, dance, tell stories of joy, love, and fruitfulness. They eat whatever foods they can eat raw: fresh fruits, tender greens. They drink water from springs (not stored water) or new wine, not older wine or ale. They pick night-blooming flowers for garlands they first wear, then hang inside for good luck and fruitfulness. The games are of friendship and love; many children are conceived on Midsummer night. Quarrels are forbidden--to start a quarrel on Midsummer is not only bad luck, but a disgrace. On the morning after (or the morning between the two nights), they walk the bounds of their property (or, in cities, everyone walks the bounds of the whole city), pouring libations at various sites to thank the gods for the year's good fortune. Alyanya is naturally the focus of Midsummer worship, but others are also celebrated. To be born on Midsummer night is great good fortune; children born between the Spring Evener and Midsummer often have Midsummer as a name-day, celebrated more than their birth day.
In Tsaia, the coronation of a new ruler is usually held on Midsummer Day, with a procession to ride the bounds of Vérella afterwards. In Lyonya, Midsummer celebrations mingle both elven and human traditions; the taig wakens, it is said, to the songs of the Lady (and the King, if there is one) and the land is renewed for another year. In Fintha, the highest Girdish court declares three days of license (and always regrets it afterward...every year there's a petition to eliminate the "lawless revelry" of Midsummer, and every year the license survives.)
Minor holidays are usually centered on agricultural or other natural phenomena. Every farming region has a series of "first" celebrations, usually brief but an excuse for a feast, some music, some games.
In the spring, these mark the breaking of springs and rivers (where frozen in winter), fruit orchards blossoming, the planting and springing of certain crops (varies from place to place.) "Blooding the blades" occurs before the soil is broken for cultivation: shovels, ploughshares, and other edged tools must have the gift of blood before they can be used on the land. The first liveborn calf, lamb, foal in a village is due recognition. Most villages in the north ceremonially dress the wells in spring, with the first flowering of those wildflowers the community believes are lucky. A young girl chosen as that year's well-maid carries the flowers (all the girls pick them) and a young boy must dance with a bucket on his head. The entire village, forming a circle and holding hands, then dances around the well singing the (remarkably similar from place to place) song to call and praise the merin, the well-spirit. The magelords, when they conquered the north, often forbade the practice, but it returned any place the old humans lived when the magelords left.
Harvest festivals vary in exact time from place to place, with the harvest, but most take place between Midsummer and the Fall Evener. The richer villages celebrate them all: wheat, oats, barley, cherry, peach, apple, redroot...each one the excuse for at least a half-day off work and a feast. Some villages have another festival, after the Fall Evener, called The Shedding. (A few villages have both a fall and a spring shedding.) Before the time of the magelords, there were no formal courts, but since every community has need for something of the sort, the Shedding was a local version of a community court, in which disputes were settled and then "shed" (in theory) the way cattle and horses shed their winter coats. Ideally, people got over their quarrels and ill-feeling bit by bit...a hair at a time, as the saying went--but if they could not, the community got together at the Shedding and decided how it should be settled, whatever it was. After a Shedding, renewal of a quarrel could result in the eviction of either or both parties. The Old Humans were particularly interested in preventing, and limiting the harm caused by, quarrels in their communities, so they used all the major and minor holidays as ways to mediate and reconcile those who were at odds. Cooperation ranked higher with them than competition.