Monday, April 15, 2013

Pantheon Monday: The Divine Families

With the completion of the Atlas, work has now begun on the text of the companion book "Cults and Temples of the Middle World." This is an excerpt describing the "races" or "families" of the Gods.

The Divine Families
The gods of Arunia make up several different ancestries, each of which may loosely be defined as a “pantheon” in the traditional sense. However, since some of the elder gods have taken on new life in the pantheon of men, and as some of the gods are worshipped in different ways by different people, it is far more useful to classify them according to their origins.

It’s important to note that the Archaioi, Wyrmai, and Night Gods all predate the existence of the Aelio and Vinthar. Collectively, this makes them the so-called Elder Gods.

The Archaioi
The gigantine gods of the earth, sea, and sky, the Archaioi are a family of kings and queens, of elemental good and elemental evil. The family has its roots with Solon the Self-Creating, who the giants hold sprang into existence fully-formed without any urging; in essence, he had made himself from nothing. He was an earthy god, and in the giant pantheon represents the good things of the soil, the clay, and the stone. The Archaioi were all joined by sister-wives, also of their own element and temperament, to form joined pairs.

Other than Solon, the most famous amongst these deities is Ulagos the Potter, Solon’s dark male shadow. Ulagos is the lord of mud and clay, and since the giant days he has been spinning his giant wheel and throwing off misshapen beasts into the world. The noble centaurs and minotaurs owe their birth to Solon; the foul Eye Tyrants and Catoblepas were formed by none other than Ulagos.

Most of the giant gods have substantially faded in this day and age, likely because the giants themselves have fallen to a low ebb. Their civilizations are mostly in ruins and they live as a degraded and scattered people throughout the north, worshipping only when they can. The only giant gods who retain a measure of their old strength are those that successfully made the transition into the mannish pantheon (or have, like Ulagos, attained the worship of other creatures).

The Wyrmai
According to draconic myth, the Three Worlds were a void before the arrival of the Great Mother Dragon, Nagyzeru. She came into this void pregnant with her three children, the Dragons of Balance. Before she died, her own body becoming the Three Worlds (hence the draconic word for all of creation, Nagyzerr), she gave birth to three eggs. Two of those would hatch; the blazing bright egg contained Azris, the Fire of Creation. The cold black egg held Urumis, the Devourer. The last egg, huge and swollen, never hatched. This, the dragons believe, is the world and it contains the slumbering world-wyrm Garas the Balancer, whose tidal breath is the fabric of magic itself.

Modern scholars often identify the so-called Dark Moon as the egg of Urumis the Devourer and many theologians believe that Urumis is just another name for the inimical and awful force known as Mother Night. Few now recognize the names of the ancient dragon gods, and amongst those fewer still would know any but the Three Dragons of Balance.

The Night Gods
Mother Night is a name that is known throughout Arunia and spoken only in whispers. She is the terror and darkness at the world’s end, beyond the Girdling Seas in the far west, where the light fails. Trolls have worshipped her since the Night Age, and theologians write of a time when the entire surface of Arunia was smothered in her grip. Some say it was only the coming of the world-tree Asca-Irminsul and its silvery leaves that drove her off, others that it was the forging of the stars and the sun.

Whatever the case may be, Mother Night is attended by a thousand thousand spirits, some as weak as men and others as powerful as demigods. These creatures yearn to snuff out the sunlight and plunge the world into a second age of night, one that would never end. Only the most foolish, desperate, or insane seek the aid of the Night Gods and the thousandfold shadows that serve them.

The Aelio
It was the waking of the Aelio in the Upper World that ushered in the end of the First Age and began the Second. The Dawn Age was marked by the coming of Haeron, Avauna, and the hosts of younger gods who sprang from Asca-Irminsul and the Waters of Life. These deities are those worshipped by men, elves, and dwarves; they are younger than the great elder gods of old, but elder still than the Felnumen and the Vinthar.

When one mentions “the Gods” in Arunia, it is usually the Aelio to which one is referring. This is the largest divine family, comprising a majority of the deities still worshipped today. Ruling over it are the four brothers, known as the Quarto: Eiri, Aros, Vodei and Haeron. Haeron, the youngest of the four brothers, is nevertheless the pantheon’s chief and master.

The Vinthar
The smallfolk worship a separate pantheon of far-walking gods led by Leesha Roseheart. Made in the image of their parent-deities, the smallfolk envision the Vinthar as a deific race of halflings and gnomes. Many of their gods were elevated from folk-hero status by Leesha herself! Where the Vinthar originated is a mystery, for no legend survives to tell of their coming, but the smallfolk revere them all the same.

The Felnumen
The gods of the mud-races, the Felnumen are the divine descendants of Ulagos the Potter and his many trysts, both with his sister-wife Glyrea and with the other Archaioi. They include Ashad the Lord of Slaughter and Toynash the Cruel King; these gods served the Aelio in the early days of their domain, but later struck out on their own to craft races that would worship them alone. All goblin-kin owe their creation to the Felnumen, particularly those who schemed in slaying the Felnumen chief, Yuva, and making of his corpse the Youngest Races.

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