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    Canonfire :: View topic - Religion in Greyhawk
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    Religion in Greyhawk
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    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Mon Oct 10, 2011 12:27 pm  
    Religion in Greyhawk

    Without wanting to get into any sort of theological discussion, I have been wondering lately how others handle religion in GH. A few questions arise:

    Is the peasant populace convinced for the most part that the gods exist?
    In a world where clerics can perform everyday miracles, can there be any doubt in anyone's mind that the gods are real? Even medieval people must have had those who doubted given that miracles and holy relics were distant to most. But then the next question arises....

    Do communities / nations favour one deity above all others?
    Most GH lore has temples of several deities in cities and even in towns and villages. Hommlet has a classic old religion / new religion conflict set up which seems to make sense but are similar things happening elsewhere? Would a community credit their local god with granting the prayers of other clerics or claim they are heretics and sorcerers?

    Are there state religions anywhere?
    The Great Kingdom has a history of worship of Pholtus and then Hextor followed by a fake demonic religion but would this be all-pervasive? Again, would heretics be punished? Veluna has Rao but other religions seem to be tolerated so how does all this fit together?

    These questions arise principally from my difficulties in mapping a polytheistic religion where the lowest of priests have real powers to the fascinating intrigues that plagued the real-life, principally monotheistic, religions of the medieval world where miracles were often distant stories of places such as Lourdes, Turin. My continued reading of A Song of Ice and Fire and the Borgias TV Series I am currently watching have no doubt contributed to these questions but grateful for views nonetheless.
    GreySage

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    Mon Oct 10, 2011 2:52 pm  
    Re: Religion in Greyhawk

    Flint wrote:
    Without wanting to get into any sort of theological discussion, I have been wondering lately how others handle religion in GH. A few questions arise:


    First, let me make this qualification: D&D is a make-believe game and Greyhawk is a make-believe place. It is fine to apply real world analogies to help with understanding different concepts, but be careful in making assumptions about the fantasy world that we make about the real one.

    Now,...

    Quote:
    Is the peasant populace convinced for the most part that the gods exist?
    In a world where clerics can perform everyday miracles, can there be any doubt in anyone's mind that the gods are real? Even medieval people must have had those who doubted given that miracles and holy relics were distant to most. But then the next question arises....


    As a real world analogy, consider the 'miracles' performed everyday by surgeons, engineers/architects, professional/Olympic athletes, and scientists. Such things are considered commonplace to us, so it is easy for many people to attribute those accomplishments to chance and luck, skill and natural talent, hard work and perseverance, or any number of other non-divine sources. Is it so hard to see that the common peasant might write off most or all magical 'miracles' as simply skills learned by devoted learners rather than attributing them a divine source?

    As an aside, I think that's what most of the Ur-Flan begin believing. As they advance in knowledge and skill, they begin to learn that the gods really do exist, but they are all bad and need to be destroyed.

    Quote:
    Do communities / nations favour one deity above all others?
    Most GH lore has temples of several deities in cities and even in towns and villages. Hommlet has a classic old religion / new religion conflict set up which seems to make sense but are similar things happening elsewhere? Would a community credit their local god with granting the prayers of other clerics or claim they are heretics and sorcerers?


    As you mention, Veluna's political head of state is a devotee of Rao. That gives Rao a very strong influence in that land, much as the Pope has a stronger influence in Italy than in France or Germany. (I wouldn't say that Veluna is as strongly influenced by Canon Hazen's devotion to Rao as Vatican City is to the Pope's devotion to Christ, though.)

    Other nations have lesser or greater influence by certain gods based upon the devotion of the populace and the governing body (eg, few evil gods find open converts in Furyondi, Keoland, or the Urnst states, though Hextor has much overt influence in the Great Kingdom and evil gods have much more influence on the population of the See of Medegia).

    Quote:
    Are there state religions anywhere?
    The Great Kingdom has a history of worship of Pholtus and then Hextor followed by a fake demonic religion but would this be all-pervasive? Again, would heretics be punished? Veluna has Rao but other religions seem to be tolerated so how does all this fit together?


    The Pale is an extreme example that can be seen as somewhat analagous to Iran under the ayatollah, or Spain during the Inquisition. Perhaps Blackmoor or the Scarlet Brotherhood have state-sponsored, or enforced, gods or pantheons.

    Quote:
    These questions arise principally from my difficulties in mapping a polytheistic religion where the lowest of priests have real powers to the fascinating intrigues that plagued the real-life, principally monotheistic, religions of the medieval world where miracles were often distant stories of places such as Lourdes, Turin. My continued reading of A Song of Ice and Fire and the Borgias TV Series I am currently watching have no doubt contributed to these questions but grateful for views nonetheless.


    Again, forcing ourselves to break out of our mental box of real-life possibilities is something we must work at sometimes. I'm sure there are real-life examples of polytheistic societies, but I'm not very well versed in them. So, I'll simply point out that if you saw the followers of 12 different gods all perform magical miracles to demonstrate that they all existed and 6 of them claimed to be benevolent, how would you choose which one to offer your devotion to? Would you hate the other 5 benevolent gods because they were not the one you chose, or would you simply consider their followers allies against the followers of the 6 evil deities and secretly consider them less wise than you because they didn't pick the 'best' of the good gods?

    The latter is generally the way I see the populations of the Flanaess operating. Some, out of fear, may also seek to appease some or all of the evil gods and others may choose to serve one or more of the evil gods for various reasons. But, it is not really difficult to see how peasants could accept the existance of multiple gods while still choosing one (or a few) to serve/appease or to even choose to ignore them all altogether.

    SirXaris
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    Mon Oct 10, 2011 3:05 pm  
    Re: Religion in Greyhawk

    Flint wrote:
    Without wanting to get into any sort of theological discussion, I have been wondering lately how others handle religion in GH. A few questions arise:

    Is the peasant populace convinced for the most part that the gods exist?
    In a world where clerics can perform everyday miracles, can there be any doubt in anyone's mind that the gods are real? Even medieval people must have had those who doubted given that miracles and holy relics were distant to most. But then the next question arises....


    Well, there's always going to be a few, but consider that historic peoples accepted the existence of gods without nearly as much proof as a 1st-level D&D cleric can muster. Heck, even in the modern world there are a lot of people (seemingly more than not) that accept the existence of some form of deity or another.

    Quote:
    Do communities / nations favour one deity above all others?
    Most GH lore has temples of several deities in cities and even in towns and villages. Hommlet has a classic old religion / new religion conflict set up which seems to make sense but are similar things happening elsewhere? Would a community credit their local god with granting the prayers of other clerics or claim they are heretics and sorcerers?


    The impression that I get is that nations/communities of GH favor the worship of certain deities over others, but accept the existence of deities that they don't actively worship. For instance, while many Sunnd prefer to venerate Pelor or Trithereon, it's doubtful that they'd dismiss Rao or Wee Jas as nonexistent. Perhaps they'd be suspect of deities that are wholly unknown to them (like many Olman or Touv gods).

    Quote:
    Are there state religions anywhere?
    The Great Kingdom has a history of worship of Pholtus and then Hextor followed by a fake demonic religion but would this be all-pervasive? Again, would heretics be punished? Veluna has Rao but other religions seem to be tolerated so how does all this fit together?


    Aside from the former Great Kingdom and Veluna, the Pale is very hardline when it comes to the worship of Pholtus. I'm sure Iuz has his practice of dealing with those that choose to worship deities other than him. Other than that, some of the Baklunish states seem to have state accepted religions (but as far as I know none persecute the worship of other deities).
    GreySage

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    Mon Oct 10, 2011 7:10 pm  

    Hello Flint,

    Before I begin, I highly recommend that you delve into various sources to answer some of your questions: The Living Greyhawk Gazeteer I find to be highly helpful on this score since there is an entry for each nation on religious preference in order of importance. The original boxed set, I think, discusses in some part the various religions and their areas of prevalence. Too, the various sourceguides such as The Aventure Begins and Greyhawk: Player's Guide (soft booklet) are also helpful.

    I appreciate your interest in making religions and their faithful more personalized and embodied in your campaigns. I play a cleric/fighter of Trithereon, and my main player role-plays a paladin and priest of Heironeous (as well as myriad NPC clerics), so the notion of religious affiliation, influence, and power become important in our gaming sessions.

    1) I would think that most people in a fantasy gaming setting would very much 'believe' in the presence of the Powers. I think seeing a cleric heal a wounded person, or summon forth flashes of lightning, or merely cause a globe of sunlight to appear would be awestruck by the magick unleashed. Perhaps they may think it more the domain of wizardly magic than priestly at first, but I am sure that could be neatly disproven. Raising the ire of the Gods would be something best avoided at all costs.

    2) I would be surprised if a community or area didn't have some preferred Power to whom they offered homage. To a mining community, it would likely be something like Ulaa, whereas an agricultural people may turn to Phyton. However, people are also practical, so offering prayers and the token gift to a variety of Powers would seem appropriate and logical. A person traveling to the next village may offer a few coppers to a shrine of Fharlanghn whereas a merchant going by sea may do so at a shrine of Xerbo. In a polytheistic realm, you placate as many Powers as possible, just to cover your rear end, even if you primarily pay homage to a single God.

    3) Surely there are some nations or regions that favor one pantheon, or Power, over another, though others may be present. These may be state religions or merely those in which the ruling class are powerful clergy, or rulers who lean to a particular God. Examples include King Belvor of Furyondy (paladin of Heironeous), Archcleric Hazen of Veluna (priest of Rao), and the Theocracy of the Pale (priests of Pholtus). Again, I found that the LGG was very helpful on this score.

    The other consideration is that clerics of different Powers often ally together, whether out of necessity or common good. Charts showing the various Power alliances/antipathies/goodwills are helpful on this account. If you have any specific questions pertaining to a religion or area of interest, I am sure everyone on this thread will chime in to aid you! I will surely do my best, if that is the case.

    hope that helps,

    -Lanthorn
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    Tue Oct 11, 2011 2:51 am  

    Thanks all for the responses.

    I have all the sources that you refer to, Lanthorn, and many more besides and know that certain nations favour certain ranges of deities (although incredibly I managed to forget about the Pale in my part about state religions) but I struggle with how to portray that realistically in Greyhawk. The point about allies against evil is a good one but that is rarely how things work in our world.

    There are many different branches of, for example, the Christian church and in medieval times, relations between them (although there were far fewer branches then) were strained at best. In the UK, where I live, protestants and Catholics fought each other for centuries and, depending on the faith of who held the throne, members of the other branch of the faith were hunted as heretics. It is only in modern times that the two faiths really began to live together without acrimony.

    As Sir Xaris points out, Greyhawk is a fantasy world, but I am not convinced that all the good faiths would necessarily live together as allies against evil given that the priests of each must believe that their ethos is the correct one.

    As to real world polytheistic examples, most are more primitive than the world that Greyhawk is intended to portray. The Norse and the Celts were polytheistic but eventually converted to monotheism and while the Incas and the Aztecs were polytheistic and endured into the medieval period, they are obviously analogous to the Touv and Olman rather than the more "western" nations of most of the Flanaess.

    Don't know where I am going with this but many thanks for the food for thought provided so far.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:36 am  

    Flint wrote:
    As to real world polytheistic examples, most are more primitive than the world that Greyhawk is intended to portray. The Norse and the Celts were polytheistic but eventually converted to monotheism and while the Incas and the Aztecs were polytheistic and endured into the medieval period, they are obviously analogous to the Touv and Olman rather than the more "western" nations of most of the Flanaess.


    I tend to think of the Romans and Greeks when I consider religious practice in Greyhawk, and build on that point. Almost 2/3rds of the Flanaess was for some time under the control of the Great Kingdom, which was a highly structured political body. I think that much of the religious structure of the GK during that time is the basis on which religious practice in those parts of the Flanaess is built. There are other factors of course, and wild cards like the Pale and the reverence for Rao in Veluna. Keoland on the other hand I see as having had less of an organized religious structure, and quite a bit of interchange between the cults of Suloise and Oeridian gods. I think most nations unofficially favor one god over another, just in that the ruling class will tend to favor a particular god or set of gods.
    As far as conflict between good gods (or at least their followers) I think this is all too likely in instances where their dogma comes in conflict, Pholtus and St. Cuthbert being very good examples.
    GreySage

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    Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:43 am  

    smillan_31 wrote:
    I tend to think of the Romans and Greeks when I consider religious practice in Greyhawk, and build on that point.


    I view it the same way. After all, religion in the Flanness (and no doubt much of Oerth) is Polytheistic, not Monotheistic -- even in The Pale. And the Romans and Greeks provide out best "modern" example of this -- along with Egypt, Babylon and others further back in time.
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    GreySage

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    Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:25 pm  

    Flint,

    You make some excellent points that I have taken to heart in many of my campaigns. Good people do not always 'do the right thing,' and this surely includes the clergy. As mortals, we are all subject to our own prejudices, personal philosophies, and whole host of other foibles (the sins of humanity). A high priest running a temple may have some personal gripe against the priest of another faith even if both serve the cause of Goodness, much less the same branch of a distinct religion. Furthermore, there could be religious/political/financial jockeying for solidifying one faith's own power base. The various sources I identified previously give great insight and suggestions as to the many facets of the religions of Oerth. Some even offer specific clerics as NPCs who run those faiths as heads of an entire church or temple (the City of Greyhawk boxed set and the Marklands are great on this account). Furthermore, I have to agree with my 'colleagues' on the account that ancient Rome and Greece are good roles for depicting a polytheistic fantasy-based culture.

    Is there any specific region you are creating or of interest upon which we may focus our collective insights and suggestions?

    -Lanthorn
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    Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:52 pm  
    Re: Religion in Greyhawk

    We've been jumping all over the place, although generally sticking to the subject, I realized that I meant to give my answers to all your questions.

    Flint wrote:
    Is the peasant populace convinced for the most part that the gods exist?


    Probably more so than in medieval Europe in our world. Even in my campaign, where magic isn't as prevalent as in other, most of the peasantry will have heard of some divine miracle. Don't forget also, just the psychological aspect of religion and what an important unifier it is for groups. Beyond the fact of whether or not there are gods, people want to believe in them.

    Flint wrote:
    Do communities / nations favour one deity above all others?


    I see most lay people as not really being dedicated to a particular deity. Most people pray and sacrifice to whatever god they need at the moment. I do see the political structure of communities and nations favoring one deity or group of deities over others, since some church structures are going to be very useful in maintaining order as well as for other reasons.

    Flint wrote:
    Are there state religions anywhere?


    Yes, but it depends on the place. Iuz isn't going to tolerate any worship of anyone but himself. Likewise the Pale doesn't allow worship of anyone but Pholtus. In other places there is probably a range of acceptable gods that are viewed by the political elites with anything from favor to tolerance. Then there are always powers whose worship is going to be frowned upon, evil deities in most cases, although that's not always true as you will probably find some level of acceptance of Hextor in many places.
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    Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:15 pm  

    The LGG states this (p.19):

    "Most people worship or pay tribute to more than one deity every day, often up to a dozen or more during the year, though a person might hold one particular god as a personal favorite."

    As for doubters, there's actually a semi-organized group known as the Skeptics, which originated in Nellix IIRC. They don't deny the existence of the gods, but they do deny their divinity, seeing them more as beings of great power on an ego trip than true deities.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:15 pm  

    And by "frowned upon", I mean that the authorities or the local mob of peasants is going to burn/hang/or otherwise painfully execute their worshippers.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Tue Oct 11, 2011 6:09 pm  
    Re: Religion in Greyhawk

    Flint wrote:

    Is the peasant populace convinced for the most part that the gods exist?

    Yes. Most people in the Flanaess worship at least one or two gods (LGG p19, Player's Guide p18, Atlas of the Flanaess p19 & 80). T1 is a good example of the widespread devotion among typical villagers. The notable exception is the Duchy of Urnst, where the school of "Skepticism" enjoys some popularity among the upper classes (LGG p125). How much this secularism trickles down to the peasantry is your call.

    (Ivid the undying -> Powers and Factions -> Peasents paints an interesting picture of day-to-day life for peasants in the GK and elsewhere.)

    Regardless, it would be hard for Oerth natives not to believe in gods with homegrown deities as well known as Zagyg and Iuz around. Recently, the Flight of Fiends and Vecna's darkening of the sun are both unmistakable "acts of god" that no one in the Flanaess can deny.

    Quote:

    Are there state religions anywhere?
    ....
    Do communities / nations favour one deity above all others?

    Beside Iuz, the Flanaess contains/contained a See (Hextor), a Prelacy (Heironeous) , a Caliphate, an Archclericy (Roa), and a Theocracy (Pholtus). The LGG indicates all state-favored religions with an asterisk.

    Gygax wrote T1 with the intention that Veluna endorsed St. Cuthbert, but in later years agreed that Roa was a better fit (http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=4430). He left the state religion for Ekbir unspecified because he never finished the Baklunish pantheon (can't find source).

    According to Gygax and Sargent, the Scarlett Brotherhood follows Tharizdun.

    See Ivid for details on the Iron Schism and Ivid and WG8 for the mandatory religion of Baazy.

    Quote:
    Would a community credit their local god with granting the prayers of other clerics or claim they are heretics and sorcerers?
    This would depend on state politics and alignment combined with the levels of tolerance and superstition in a given community. The branding of heretics/pagans/heathens has historically just been an excuse to beat people up and take their stuff.
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    Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:57 pm  

    Thanks again all for the comments. Much to read and digest here.

    The region I am looking at is currently Sterich, home of my tales of Aalas (shameless plug here) and I think a number of things have prompted them.

    Firstly, I am seeing Sterich as a gritty setting filled with feuding nobles and factions, scrabbling over the ruins of their country. Many nobles have lost their lands or been slain so the opportunist reigns supreme. I view Lashton of Grayhill as one of these opportunists and a consummate manipulator and I see no reason why the churches of the March would not be getting in on the action. Land and gold often motivated the historical churches in the UK and I see that happening in Sterich as well.

    Secondly (and with a spoiler warning if anyone is reading my stories), I have reached a point in the story where a real-world individual would likely experience a crisis of faith and was curious how this would play out in Greyhawk where the gods are all too real.

    The additional questions stemmed from these initial issues.

    Robbastard wrote:
    The LGG states this (p.19):

    "Most people worship or pay tribute to more than one deity every day, often up to a dozen or more during the year, though a person might hold one particular god as a personal favorite."

    As for doubters, there's actually a semi-organized group known as the Skeptics, which originated in Nellix IIRC. They don't deny the existence of the gods, but they do deny their divinity, seeing them more as beings of great power on an ego trip than true deities.


    This is a useful quote that I had forgotten. I think this indicates almost a Celtic adherence to different gods dependent on need with different ones honoured at different festivals. Mystic Scholar also makes a good point by mentioning the Roman Empire which, whilst technologically less advanced than Greyhawk, borrowed gods unashamedly from different parts of the Empire, including from Greece. This is a reasonable model, given the spread of the Great Kingdom also mentioned.

    Thanks again all. Will digest other comments later.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Tue Oct 11, 2011 9:27 pm  

    IMC The Pale is seen as a great evil. Forcing Monotheism on a people that have traditionally believed in a Polytheistic society. So the church of Pholtus is feared and reviled in the surrounding area.

    Some troubled area might welcome him but Nyrond and the North Kingdom are definitely opposing factors against this monotheistic society. Many towns cities and nations can easily favor a deity or deities. However, often many gods are revered in order to cover oneself. Much like Christians pay homage to many saints for different things in their life.

    Later

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    Wed Oct 12, 2011 12:54 am  

    Personally, I've always handled religions in my campaign from a Roman/ Greek point of view i.e all the gods could be worshiped as anyone sees fit.
    Of course there are some adjustments to be be made regarding particular Deities such as evil ones and ultra righteous ones as well as state religions such as Veluna, the Pale or the Great Kingdom.
    As a rule, one can find a narrower state of mind in cities than in villages where peasants tend to turn to the most adapted god at a given instant.
    GreySage

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    Thu Oct 13, 2011 2:40 pm  

    The ancient Flan had a thoroughly animistic society. Besides their great gods like Obad-hai and Beory, the druids of the Old Faith worshiped the spirits of trees, the moons, and the rivers. Many of the beings once worshiped as gods by the Flan still exist today in the form of nymphs, treants, and other faerie folk. Some of the old gods have been absorbed by the greater deities, while others have died from lack of worship, their corpses still and silent in the Astral Plane.

    At some point, thousands of years before the Twin Cataclysms and hundreds of years before the birth of Vecna, the herdsman followers of the moon-god Rao in the Vale of Luna took it upon themselves to invade the surrounding lands, imposing the worship of their deity on the druids of the Old Faith and the vile followers of the Ur-Flan alike. They built cities to wall out their enemies and wall in their subjects, channeling the energy of the moons to keep out the forces of evil. The druids turned against the Raoites, and their inadvertent creation Vecna completed the work of slaughtering most of them, driving them back to a few remaining communities in the Vale of Luna, where they were encountered by the migrating Oeridians in the following millennium. Tired and hungry, beset by orcs and goblin-kin, the Voll tribe of Oeridians thought all was lost when their own kin, the Erythnul worshiping Graeki, used the Book of Vile Darkness they had looted from the ruins of Vecna's tower to conjure demons to destroy them. And then: a miracle. The Crook of Rao was discovered in the long-overgrown ruins of the Flan city of Almadia, and with it the fiends summoned by the Graeki were banished. Taking this as a sign, the Voll elected to remain in the Vale of Luna, learning more of this great god of goodness, Rao, from the gentle natives of the vale. Over Almadia's ruins they built Mitrik, which meant Salvation in their tongue. Unlike the ancient Flan, the Voll never made Rao their only patron (though even the ancient Flan accepted Pelor, Zodal, and Allitur as lesser deities subservient to Rao, and Beory as his mother), and added many of their own Oeridian deities such as Heironeous, Delleb, and Celestian to their pantheon.

    The Great Migrations were a time of great religious change as thousands of Oeridian and Suel poured into the Flanaess, rewriting its ethnic paradigms.

    The Oeridians, as a migratory group of horse nomads, worshiped mainly gods of the winds and sky, of trade and travel. For the most part they honored all of their gods equally. They had no formal temples, and so they would burn offerings to Celestian in the hope he would guide their dead to the afterworld, to Fharlanghn to guide their paths on Oerth, to the wind gods to ward off storms or celebrate the turning of the seasons, to Heironeous, Erythnul, and Hextor for victory in battle (though Heironeous and Hextor were rapidly eclipsing the old god Erythnul, hated outside of the fanatic Graeki tribe), to Zilchus in the hope of gaining wealth, status, and prosperity and to his dark brother Kurell in the hope of taking vengeance for that which was unjustly denied them. Wherever they went they brought with them their great revelation, the Prophesies of Johydee named for the ancient queen who inspired them to travel to the edge of the eastern sea, they were initially written on the inside of Johydee's famous Mask. As the tribes began to disperse, driven by internal conflicts, revelations in Mitrik, attacks by nonhumans, outraged natives, and the rival Suel, copies of the Revelations were made, each differing in crucial respects. When the Mask of Johydee disappeared, the Oeridians had no way of telling which copies were accurate and which were not. And so the first religious schisms formed among the Oeridian peoples.

    The Prophesies of Johydee remained a crucial part of Oeridian holy texts, included among most of them to this day. Traditionally they begin with Johydee singing of creation itself, portraying the creation of the world as a process of revelation, with first light obscuring everything and then darkness. The details and interpretation of this vary from sect to sect. Only when a seer was born among the gods is creation able to be perceived. The gods in the Prophecies are named only as the Twelve, and arguments over which twelve gods Johydee was referring to, and who the Seer was, have raged ever since.

    The text went on to describe Johydee's liberation of the Oeridian people from the tyranny of evil/ignorant deities/malevolent forces (again, the details vary) and the establishment of her own government of justice. The final part of the text are the prophesies themselves, in which Johydee predicts the establishment of a permanent empire where the Oeridians can dwell in safety and enlightenment on the shore where the sun rises. While this was taken by the Aerdi to mean the shores of the Solnor itself, various other Oeridian kingdoms have versions of the text in which they claim their own homelands were meant. A few heretics, not least among them Johydee's own priesthood, claim the whole book is only a parable that masks the truth of the story, which is an allegory for the process of enlightenment from ignorance.

    In the Sheldomar Valley the Oeridians merged (for the most part) peaceably with the Suloise, who brought their pantheon of their ancient, alien empire with them. The Prophecies of Johydee were interpreted to mean an empire that reached the Azure Sea, from which the rising sun was certainly visible, and the mysterious Twelve were enumerated to include Suel deities as well as Oeridian ones. Religion in Keoland has always been a relatively chaotic affair, as the founders of the nation decreed that sectarian rivalries between the feuding Suel houses and incoming Oeridian tribes meant there would be no national church. As a result, each local temple has come to define the cosmology for itself. Religion is mainly a local affair in Keoland, although adherents of northern Church of Veluna are permitted to practice their faith in Keoland unmolested.

    While Suel gods have always been popular in Keoland, their theology was greatly restructured among Oeridian lines, inspired by the Prophecies. Elsewhere in the Flanaess much of the same evolution has taken place, with the rigid Suloise theogony hybridized with Oeridian ideas and myths. Only in the isolated kingdom of Shar has the classical Suloise mythological system been left more or less intact, though Pyremius and Syrul are given a far higher place in that nation's religion than they had been given in the ancient Suloise Imperium, and the evolution of Wee Jas from the goddess of magic to the goddess of magic and death has proceeded even there, inspired in part by the great death inflicted by the magical Rain of Colorless Fire.

    One of the greatest evangelists of the Velunese Church was the legendary St. Cuthbert. While the precise time of his mortal life and the nation of his origin are lost, St. Cuthbert's teachings - a stern, homely interpretation of the faith the Voll tribe had learned from the Flan in the Vale of Luna - are well-remembered, faithfully written down in tracts and chapbooks throughout the central Flanaess. It is St. Cuthbert's version of the Vollite faith that has become the most popular religion among the commoners of Verbobonc, Greyhawk, Dyvers, the Wild Coast, and Urnst states, and he is the chief reason for the power and status of the Canon of Mitrik in the hearts of thousands of faithful. St. Cuthbert never sought to deny the other gods, and his followers commonly revere many like-minded deities as their version of the mythical Twelve, even including shrines to them in St. Cuthbert's temples. Rao in particular, thought be some to have been St. Cuthbert's specific patron, is greatly honored by Cuthbertines.

    In the eastern Flanaess, where the Aerdi founded their Great Kingdom, religion has always been much more hierarchical and statist. When Prince Mikar of Rel Astra conquered the Medegian Bladelands, the resulting Kingdom of Aerdy was decreed the fulfillment of Johydee's prophecy and Medegia was declared the Holy See where all true doctrine would be set. Subsequent Holy Censors of Medegia redefined the true doctrine that all churches of the Great Kingdom would be required to believe: in 1 CY, the Holy Censor Paulianus identified Pholtus as the Seer of Johydee's prophecies, who first identified Creation in the midst of the Blinding Light. While many deities were tolerated in the Great Church, those clerics who did not conform to the doctrine as it was established in Medegia were stamped out as heretics by imperial troops. Partisans of other deities compensated by inventing other divine titles other than Seer, each as important in their own way: Divine Prince, Divine Magus, Divine Warlord, Divine Knight, Divine Bard, Divine Censor. The pantheon of the Twelve, and associated lesser deities who acted as servants of the Twelve, was envisioned as a celestial template of the Overking's own court with its own squabbles and intrigues much as the court in Rauxes had, much like the struggles the temples of the individual deities had for power and recognition within the empire's shared faith.

    The greatest holy book in the early Medegian Great Church was known, not modestly, as the Tome of the True Gods. Written by the corpulent priest Embrosius, this work collected four different books, first among them the Prophecies of Johydee. The second book in the Codex was the ancient Oeridian Song of the Primordials, which told of the war between the gods of Order and the gods of Chaos at the beginning of time. This work was not alluded to in the Prophecies of Johydee and likely represented a separate tradition, though Embrosius did his best to reconcile the two.

    The third book in the Tome was the Book of Creation. This is the oldest and most sacred text of the Ahlissan Flan, a hauntingly enigmatic series of images that appears in every divine Manual of Golems to this day. Embrosius, very daringly for his era, works this as well into what is otherwise primarily a work based on Oeridian scriptures. He does not do the same for other Ahlissan Flan holy texts, however.

    The last part of the Tome of True Gods was Embrosius's masterwork, The Theogony. This was a geneology of the gods, tracing the origins of gods and primordials back to primal Chaos and the deified personifications of abstract concepts. There is only a single pantheon in Embrosius's vision, with twelve greater gods ruling all the others. The gods of other races were decreed to be mere aspects of the gods of the Aerdi, which simplified the myth tremendously.

    The first significant schism in this faith occurred in 252 CY, when Toran II removed the ancient priesthood of Pholtus from the office of Holy Censor and granted the office to the priesthood of Zilchus instead. Immediately the new Holy Censor declared Zilchus, the Divine Prince, to be the Divine Overking, the ruler of all the gods just as the Overking in Rauxes was the ruler of all humanity. Many of Pholtus's faithful, not willing to take the reduction of the status of Divine Seer lying down, migrated north to the shadow of the Rakers, where without priests of other deities clamoring for attention their beliefs grew more and more Pholtus-centric, denouncing all other deities as blind idiots unworthy of worship.

    Embrosius's Tome of the True Gods fell victim to this religious upheaval. The original version gave too much credit to Pholtus and not enough to Zilchus for the new Holy Censor's taste, while for the tastes of the new Pholtans of the Pale the Tome was far too polytheistic, with too much credit given to gods that were not Pholtus and not enough credit to Pholtus as the only god that mattered. While most subsequent holy books owed something of a debt to Embrosius's Tome, the Theogony chapter was revised heavily by both groups and decreed a new, superior revelation.

    In 356 CY the second and most significant division of the Great Church occurred when Nyrond seceded from the Great Kingdom, taking with it the clerical fief of Almor. While ruled by clerics, Almor had long languished in the shadow of Medegia, but with the establishment of Nyrond as an independent kingdom it suddenly saw the opportunity to become a major force for religious doctrine in its own right. Pelor was identified as the Divine Prelate of the Twelve, and Heironeous as the Divine King. The editor of the new Almorian Book of True Gods, which was named simply The Pantheon to avoid confusion with false Medegian texts, was a prelate named Anda, and she is perhaps one of the most influential theologians of the modern era.

    Anda, a stout, gregarious woman, consulted many works that weren't known to Embrosius or his successors, visiting the priests of the elves, dwarves, halflings, and gnomes in order to create a work with far less syncretism than the original. Anda's work portrays the gods as belonging to many different families corresponding to the pantheons of various human and nonhuman peoples, all descended from the goddess Beory, who personifies the Oerth. Beory is one of twelve original divine beings, the others personifying Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Life, Death, Good, Evil, Law, Chaos, the Astral, and the Ethereal. Anda strove to remain as faithful as possible to the scriptures of nonhuman peoples, and it is from this work that such myths as the battle between Corellon Larethian and Gruumsh entered human lore (Embrosius had made it a battle between Hextor and Erythnul, thereby distorting it considerably). The pantheons described in this Pantheon include the elven, dwarven, halfling, gnomish, Baklunish, Oerid, Flan, Suel, orc, goblin, and giant. Deities of the underdark races were apparently not known to Anda, and the only draconic deities mentioned are Bahamut and Tiamat. The Touv and Olman pantheons are also not mentioned. While this work has been widely circulated and is used by priests of many different faiths, it is not without its critics, and it has not become universally adopted in the central Flanaess or the Sheldomar, where religion is much more fluid than in the stultified lands of the former Great Kingdom. Anda's respect for the myths described here were such that high elves and hill dwarves are mostly satisfied with the treatment of their faiths here, although more isolated demihuman peoples often reject its implication that the gods of other races are equally important.

    Other upheavals in Medegia include Ivid I removing the priesthood of Zilchus from the Holy Censorship in 450 CY, replacing them with the clerics of the Divine Warlord, Hextor, subsequently decreeing that Hextor was the true Divine Overking and that Zilchus was merely the Divine Merchant Lord. This was reversed again in 587 CY, when Xavener removed authority from the See of Medegia entirely and vested it in Kalstrand.

    The other notable religious thread is that of the Baklunish. Prior to the Invoked Devastation, the Baklunish people revered countless gods, demons, celestials, elementals, saints, and idols, with the priesthood of Xan Yae the most powerful just prior to the Devastation. In the wake of the Devastation, the priest Al'Akbar rose as a great healer and missionary, eventually becoming the first ruler of the theocracy of Ekbir, designating those who came after him as Caliphs, or successors, in the djinni style. Al'Akbar radically simplified the Baklunish pantheon in his great work, the Tubrat, recognizing only Al'Asran (Pelor), Al-Zarad (Boccob), Istus, Xan Yae, Geshtai, and a few others as true gods and decrying the worship of elementals, idols, and "lesser spirits." In centuries to come, Mouqol and Zuoken would be recognized by Caliphs of Ekbir as gods worthy of worship, as would Al'Akbar himself. The Exalted Faith of Al'Akbar was never able to entirely stamp out the worship of the elemental rulers, though it remains frowned upon. It should be noted that "Exalted Faith of Al'Akbar" is a misnomer; Al'Akbar was always seen as a prophet of the gods, but not himself the greatest of gods, and priests in Ekbir and elsewhere have always revered the "Exalted Gods" identified by Al'Akbar as the highest beings who are most worthy of worship.

    The nomadic Paynim tribes and their descendants, the Wolf and Tiger nomads, have a much less formal approach to religion, revering a mix of elemental lords, ancestral spirits, and deities, although many of the Paynims treat the Tubrat as their most sacred text.

    In 219 CY, the Exalted Faith was ripped in two when the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar was stolen. The Exalted Faith, over the centuries, had become much more lax and permissive, incorporating into its traditions elemental cults frowned upon in the Tubrat, but the Grand Mufti who founded the rival True Faith in the Yatils declared these anathema, accepting only Mouqol, Zuoken, and (with reluctance) Daoud as acceptable additions to Al'Akbar's original canon.

    So it is that the religions of the Flanaess can be divided into several broad traditions, each descended from recognizable holy texts shared by adherents of many deities. Most people in the Flanaess worship many different gods, as the situation merits it, according to the rites and traditions prescribed in their holy books of choice, and the great state-controlled churches recognize multiple acceptable deities even if the high priest of each church primarily worships one.

    Behind all these texts is one legendary tome: the Book of Exalted Deeds, which has appeared and disappeared miraculously after imparting its wisdom to countless holy men and women for thousands of years. Al'Akbar, Embrosius, Anda, and Johydee herself were all believed to have read its contents before being inspired to write their own works. A crippled elven mystic (some say this was the hero Lafarallinn, whose hands were cripped by Corellon Larethian himself) composed the original of this work in the form of a song honoring the heroes of the wars against the demon-summoning troglodytes who ruled much of the Flanaess before the coming of the elves. The singer used richly metaphorical language to describe not just the deeds of those heroes, but to describe the nature of good in as insightful a manner as has ever been done. After he completed the song, he was invited into the presence of the Court of Stars in Arvandor, and it said that Lady Morwel wept to hear it. The ursinal lady Bharrai, who had attended the ceremony, begged Lafarallinn's permission to record the insights in the form of a book. When permission was granted, Bharrai made three copies, one of which she gave to Raziel, one of the seven ruling archons of the Seven Heavens, who made seven copies of his own. Since then, the book has been under the care of the gods, appearing in seemingly random places throughout the world only to vanish after it is read. The book spent centuries trapped beneath Castle Greyhawk, teleporting from room to room as it was discovered, striving to escape. It is known to have been under the care of the archmage Philidor the Blue for a time, though since Philidor's disappearance it could be anywhere.

    The Book of Exalted Deeds's dread opposite, the Book of Vile Darkness, is said to have passed from the ancient Ur-Flan to Vecna to the Graeki tribe of Oeridians to the archdevil Baalzebul himself, spreading horrific blasphemies and infamies among countless evil cults wherever it went, but such dark rumors are outside of the scope of this treatise.


    Last edited by rasgon on Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:14 am; edited 3 times in total
    GreySage

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    Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:40 pm  

    All I gotta say is... WOW.

    I hope Rasgon doesn't give us a pop quiz later on... Shocked

    -Lanthorn, awestruck by the Theological-Historical Codex of High Priest-Sage Rasgon
    GreySage

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    Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:58 pm  

    Beautifully written, Rasgon. I especially like the explaination of the (near) uniqueness of the Book of Exalted Deeds.

    SirXaris
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    Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:47 am  

    Kudos! This needs to be culled out for an article submission, rather than languishing in a forum thread.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Fri Oct 14, 2011 1:28 pm  

    That was an excellent post, Rasgon. I agree that it need to be elevated to an article so that it doesn't get lost. *applause*
    Adept Greytalker

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    Mon Oct 17, 2011 7:36 pm  

    The Flanaess are not polytheistic, they are poly-pantheistic. This is something more like the religious mish-mash of the later Roman Empire, where you have mulitple faiths with overlapping portfolios bumping into each other. In fact, only the Suel, and to a lesser degree the Bakluni, even have a pantheon with any sort of hierarchal structure.

    I would submit that your average peasant/serf worships whatevers god or gods help him get his crops in. His lord might worship a god of chivalry or evil, but he is more concerned with frost or drought to care. He might go to mandatory services, but at the end of the day, his mind is not on Hextor or Saint Cuthbert, but on the Old Faith, similar Oeridian gods, or any reasonable mixture of the above.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:56 am  

    The best way to compare Greyhawk's people's view on the divine to that of our own medieval period, is thus: gods became worshipped on Earth when evidence was presented to men that they did not understand from what; in Greyhawk, the gods showed up, and then displayed evidence of what they were. Actually, its nothing like that. Forget everything I have ever said.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:40 am  

    My main doubt when preparing a session has always been how evil gods are worshipped and why? I am not talking about demonic sects, which are probably very similar to some of our real world satanic cults, but "natural" evil gods or gods of destructive forces like Nerull.

    Probably, hidden offerings are made to save the crops, save a ship from the storms etc. but then how do good societies handle evil clerics, persons who serve such gods as their immediate agents, and what is their world like, what are their motivations? I personally find it easier to have priesthood of evil deities being broadly accepted. During my latest sessions, my characters were in Mitrik during the festival of the blood moon, and I told them Veluna respects the whorship of Nerull by using only candle fire even within the city. I am pushing the idea that the evil characters of our real world history (hitler, nero etc.) didn't actually "think" they were evil, so I'd like to forget alignment and concentrate on the religion, and how can a man rationally worship an evil deity and hope for a good life, not all of them should be deranged sociopaths after all.

    Another I am working on is making the different patheons different even in religious practice. Pelor for instance is a natural god which is worshipped by flan people with rituals that are similar to GRR Martins' "old faith", while Oeridians have big temples and a structured religion, Baklunish have lengthy rituals of purification and martial tests and the Suel... *uh* not sure yet but I'd like to have them different from Oeridians (maybe oeridians are more rooted in "orthodox" worship with relatively primitive rituals and suel are more "catholics"). Some other gods like Pelor have been "Romanically" absorbed into Sol and worshipped in churches through Oeridian rituals instead of flan ones.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:51 pm  

    Common folk would not so much worship evil gods as they would acknowledge them and seek to placate them. People might have a patron god or gods, but they probably don't flick their noses at the rest. Remember what happened to Odysseus when he failed to acknowledge Poseidon? A few stories like that(and surely such fables would exist in GH), and the common folk will tend to do right by the gods. Wink
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    Wed Dec 21, 2011 11:38 pm  

    MToscan wrote:
    (maybe oeridians are more rooted in "orthodox" worship with relatively primitive rituals and suel are more "catholics").


    My own opinion is that the Oeridian churches are more like Christian ones, with elaborate hierarchies and priests behaving like landed nobles (and more focused on doctrine than the particular deity worshiped), while the Suel traditions are more like Greco-Roman polytheism, based around single temples. So clerics of St. Cuthbert, Rao, Heironeous, and Delleb might all belong to the same overarching Church of Veluna, answering ultimately to Canon Hazen, while a cleric of Lydia might answer only to her superiors at the Temple of Lydia in Leukish.

    But after a thousand years since the Great Migrations, I imagine traditions have blended together quite a bit, and a lot of Suel deities will have been incorporated into Oerdian faiths and worshiped in Oeridian fashion.
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