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Religion in the World of Greyhawk

 
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tarelton
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 11:47 am    Post subject: Religion in the World of Greyhawk Reply with quote

How do the people who live in the Flanaess (and beyond) treat religion? Or more accurately, how do you portray it in your campaigns?

I have been thinking lately, somewhat inspired by The Folklore of Discworld as to how religion and belief would work in a fantasy setting with numerous gods.

Do people see themselves as members of a specific faith... e.g. they only go to the Church of Saint Cuthbert and all other gods are false/dangerous/otherwise irrelevant?

Do they seek to propitiate the appropriate gods depending on circumstances... thus good people might make some token offering to Incabulous to ward of illness, an offering to Xerbo before a voyage, and Hieroneous and/or Hextor before battle?

Also, do gods with specific portfolios have doctrine and dogma for other aspects of life? What does Xerbo say about love, or Ulaa about the harvest?

Also, where does the ancient ethnic alignment of the various pantheons come into play?

Finally, how does folklore interact with religion? Are their traditions predating the current gods, and how do the various churches/faiths/pantheons look at these?
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Vulcan
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my games the people generally worship a pantheon, not an individual god. They may favor one whose aspects are more important in their lives, but still venerate all the deities of the pantheon. Sorta like how the Greco-Roman culture handled it. Thus, when undertaking a sea voyage they'll seek the favor of a sea god, for love they'll look to the pantheon's love god, and so on.

To an extent, this tends to hold true of clerics as well, although they tend to focus quite a bit more on one god of the pantheon, who then gives them clerical abilities.

Certain gods (Pholtus and St. Cuthbert come to mind) tend to be demi-monotheistic, though. Their followers tend to be much more distrustful of the other gods, as part of the strict dogma of those gods.
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rasgon
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 2:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For me, the Flanaess is primarily polytheistic. Most people recognize a variety of gods and venerate them as needs arise. There are temples and cathedrals dedicated to Pelor but "Pelorism" isn't a religion or faith in itself, any more than "Zeusism" was an independent religion within ancient Greek theology. The worship of Pelor is part of a greater system of belief that acknowledges Pelor as the god of the sun, Nerull as the god of death, Beory as the goddess of the Oerth, etc. Pelor may be your personal patron but that doesn't make his worship your religion.

No one cares what Xerbo says about love because his relationship with Osprem is estranged, so he's a poor role model in that regard. Prayers to Xerbo on romantic matters would be something like "Oh Xerbo, let me learn from your example and not have my marriage disintegrate like yours did." Those interested in love look to Myrhiss instead, or Wee Jas if they only care about the legalistic, not emotional dimension (Wee Jas officiates over marriage contracts but her relationship with Norebo is too fraught for her advice to be particularly valued). Ulaa's marriage is stable but her advice on the harvest and marriage would both be something like "work hard and reap the rewards" (or "extract the treasure within"). Having Xerbo as your patron doesn't mean you can't pray to other gods or even that you're limited to the old Suel pantheon.

I donít think pantheons are something that most people think about or acknowledge outside of specifically racialist movements like the Scarlet Brotherhood. The old human racial lines haven't really been relevant in most of the Flanaess since the Great Migrations, and the gods themselves are beyond such things. Knowing that Allitur is a Flan god not listed as Common means that he'll mostly be worshiped in nations that are of at least partial Flan descent, but it doesn't mean that theologians agree that he belongs to a team comprised solely of other Flan gods. Even nonhuman pantheons blur; elves acknowledge Common deities like Pelor, Beory, Incabulos, Trithereon, and so on just as humans do, thinking of them as big glowing elves and not as human interlopers.

That said, there are multiple religions in the Flanaess. The hard core Blinding Light worshipers of Pholtus are nearly monotheistic and have very different religious views from ordinary polytheists, akin to real life Gnostics. The faith of Saint Cuthbert, in my view, is not monotheistic but offers a radical critique of Aerdy-descended religion similar to the Protestant Reformation. The druidic Old Faith is very different from the Church of Veluna led by Canon Hazen, which is different from the Church of Aerdy led by the Holy Censor of Medegia in a way that's more complex than Raoites vs. Hextorites. The radical egalitarianism of Tephos, prophet of Pelor (Dragon #346) is a religious movement separate from other faiths that acknowledge Pelor. The True Faith and Exalted Faith both honor the Baklunish gods (including Common gods like Pelor, Boccob, Incabulos, and Nerull); their differences are doctrinal and political, not based on their choice of divine patrons.

Put simply, gods are not religions.
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Lanthorn
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I recall reading in a source guide (2e, most likely) that most people of the Flanaess venerate many gods, not only one, and propitiate them when necessary, just as Rasgon has mentioned. I tend to follow the same ideology, and prefer the polytheistic model. This includes the clerics I play, even though they embrace/prefer one chief Power and act to spread their faith when possible. Thusly, even my cleric/fighter of Trithereon will offer a plea or prayer to another Power (so long as it is NOT counter to the edicts of the Summoner!) as it is appropriate.

-Lanthorn
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xo42
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Lanthorn and rasgon that for the most part the populace of the Flanaess venerate various Gods based on personal needs, special occasions/holidays, or even to gain favor from a particular God. In most cases people worship Gods that align closely to their own alignment (Good, Evil, or Neutral). However, as has been noted in various sources, people will often offer tribute or sacrifice to a God not aligned with their personal alignment to ward off malign effects (offerings to Incabulos or Nerull to avoid disease or death for instance).
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Cebrion
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Same here. Overall polytheism, but with some favored gods usually related to one's livelihood/profession/cause. Even many Pholtans are privately polytheistic, though in regard to belief, not reverence. They venerate only Pholtus, but they are not exactly looking to give affront to other gods (whether they believe them to simply be other aspects of Pholtus or not).
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NorkerMedic
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2018 5:03 pm    Post subject: Re: Religion in the World of Greyhawk Reply with quote

tarelton wrote:

Do people see themselves as members of a specific faith... e.g. they only go to the Church of Saint Cuthbert and all other gods are false/dangerous/otherwise irrelevant?


Not as a rule, no. But a given god's cult may be proscribed in a given region. Likewise a cult may bar any initiates from paying homage to certain enemy deities.



Quote:
Do they seek to propitiate the appropriate gods depending on circumstances... thus good people might make some token offering to Incabulous to ward of illness, an offering to Xerbo before a voyage, and Hieroneous and/or Hextor before battle?


Yes, this is quite common.

Quote:
Also, do gods with specific portfolios have doctrine and dogma for other aspects of life? What does Xerbo say about love, or Ulaa about the harvest?


No, or at least not much. This is one reason why there a lot of gods.

Quote:
Also, where does the ancient ethnic alignment of the various pantheons come into play?


It's a factor in determining which gods are common in a country.

Some gods are marked C for Common in the source material, and enjoy widespread recognition.



Quote:
Finally, how does folklore interact with religion? Are their traditions predating the current gods, and how do the various churches/faiths/pantheons look at these?


No bright lines can be drawn between folklore, religion, ,magic, and science IMC.
Past that, it's hard to answer the question without getting specific.[/i]
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heychadwick
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vulcan wrote:
Certain gods (Pholtus and St. Cuthbert come to mind) tend to be demi-monotheistic, though. Their followers tend to be much more distrustful of the other gods, as part of the strict dogma of those gods.


Pholtus, for sure, but St. Cuthbert? He's a demi-god that is subservient to Roa, which means he gets along with Roa's bunch.

From a wiki:

Quote:
Saint Cuthbert is a foe of many evil deities, including Iuz and Vecna. He also has an intense rivalry with Pholtus, a similarly intolerant though good-leaning god.

Saint Cuthbert is strongly allied with Rao. He is an ally of Delleb, Heironeous, and Pelor as well. His worshipers get along well with those of Lendys.


St. Cuthbert can be a bit of a zealot, but he's not that radical.
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CruelSummerLord
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2018 8:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

These are the sorts of questions I've been answering for years in my Gods of the Flanaess contributions to Canonfire. Examples of what I'm talking about can be found in those articles, but I'll try and give a brief summary of what I'm going for:

-Some people see themselves as part of a specific faith, most notably clerics but also other people in tightly knit churches, such as many people in Greyhawk who revere St. Cuthbert, or many people in Furyondy who revere Hieroneous. Many people do pay homage to other gods when they feel the need to. Offerings to Incabulos to avoid sickness, to Hieroneous or Hextor before a battle, or to Xerbo before a sea voyage.

-Gods with specific portfolios do indeed have doctrines for other aspects of life, especially since some of their portfolios are so broad. They even have particular things that they see as virtues or as sins. The church of Zilchus, for instance, sees hard work a specific virtue, while it sees indolence and laziness from wealth accumulation to be a sin.

Just like real life religions, the gods' churches have their own internal debates and schisms as well. Followers of St. Cuthbert debate how strictly they should treat their followers, or how much they should respect the laws of the land or oppose what they view as inherently immoral actions (e.g. with slavery being openly legal in Greyhawk even as of 591 CY, should the Cuthbertines try and get the Greyhawk slave trade abolished, even if doing so goes well against Greyhawk's laws?)

Followers of Trithereon debate on how to balance personal liberty with one's obligations to the community. And of course, the debates between the Blinding Light and the One True Path in the Pholtan church are one of the most famous examples.

Generally, I've tried to extrapolate how particular faiths might view the world based on their portfolio. Beory, for instance, sees the suffering and cruelty of the world as existing in nature, as well as love and compassion, so all these things are necessary for balance. I can give other examples from specific deities if anyone's curious.

Note that in some cases, such as with the Elder Elemental God or the Oerth Dragon, their divinities are so erratic and unfathomable that it's difficult to even get a tangible dogma to begin with!

-The ethnic origins of the gods have become so muddled with time that it's not uncommon to see people worshipping gods that originated in other ethnic backgrounds, such as the Flan in the Pale revering Pholtus or the Oeridians and Suel of Almor revering Pelor. As you might expect, states that explicitly demand the worship of one or a few divinities, whatever their origins, are more common (e.g. the Pale, the See of Medegia, the Horned Empire, the Cells of Iuz).

"Ethnic" pantheons are far more common among the nonhuman races than among humans themselves, and even the demihuman pantheons have accepted various human gods into their ranks. Ulaa, for instance, is openly welcomed among both dwarves and gnomes, and her church is a popular choice with women of both races who want to become clerics but either have to become clerics of Berronar or can't become clerics at all, since dwarves and gnomes can only become clerics of any gods whose gender they share.

The only human society that really pays much attention to the ethnic origins of gods much anymore is probably the Scarlet Brotherhood, for reasons that I trust are obvious.

-One final point I want to emphasize is how openly evil churches can operate in lands that lean towards neutrality or good, and vice versa. There are open churches to the likes of Nerull and Incabulos in Greyhawk, just as there are open churches to the likes of Pelor in South Province.

The evil churches operating in these situations tend to emphasize the less malevolent aspects of their gods' teachings, and often tend to people who fall through the cracks of society. If someone dies homeless and alone, the clergy of Nerull may give them a respected burial and last rites. The clergy of Incabulos may bury the victims of plague or sickness, or provide treatment to those who have nowhere else to go. Hextorians in less-evil lands may emphasize their god's teachings about physical fitness and combat readiness rather than oppression and cruelty. In short, they act in ways that don't make the rest of society want to crush them.

As for the good churches, they tend more towards advocating for the downtrodden and otherwise providing what services and protection they can, albeit in ways that don't bring the authorities down on them. Like the evil faiths in the previous paragraph, they are very careful not to (at least openly) cross any lines that might make the authorities decide to destroy them.
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heychadwick
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 5:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tend to think that your occupation and location lend a lot to who you worship. Also, the idea of a pantheon is that various gods cover different aspects of society. No one god is the end all be all. You worship different gods for different things.

If you are a farmer and in the lands originally settled by Oridians, you probably worship the Harvest Church gods for your farming efforts. You offer to Zilchus before you make a big business deal (buy or sell land or buy a bunch of livestock). If there is a threat from evil outsiders (goblinoids, etc) you offer to either Pelor or Heironious or St. Cuthbert (or whomever).

I can even see a "evil" church of death be the ones responsible for burying the dead. I don't always see the "evil" churches of death gods out to destroy society. They probably have a place in society, such as deposing of dead bodies handling funerals. It might just be the extreme aspects of the deity or the nut job followers that try to destroy everything. A death god can be seen as evil as a devourer of life, but not necessarily out to destroy all of humanity. It's just the role they play in the pantheon.
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mcneilk
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

does it matter what year you are in? Ie. is the worship of cuthbert more prevalent in 591 as opposed to 576? Iuz gaining in popularity as his power grows? The old gods being pushed aside by the druidic order in favor of newer pantheons? It would seem to me that the greyhawk wars had a drastic effect on the geography of the flanaes and would this translate culturally and specifically religiously?
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Cebrion
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sure! Tenhas dispersed all over the place, taking their religion with them. Same with Almorians. Then there is the Great Kingdom implosion, which would no doubt leave all manner of power vacuums being filled as some religious powers' influence fades...and followers high-tailing it before winding up on some enemy altar...to be replaced by the followers of some ascendant power. And that is just a few of the more obvious examples.
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