Kirt writes "A socio-economic-religious history of Perrenland, detailing the tensions between the Flan and Oeridians. It also explains why (in my campaign) the Flan in Perrenland are ancestor-worshippers.
The Religious History of Perrenland
By: Kirt (email@example.com)
(Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.)
This article is written from the point of view of my campaign. In my campaign, the worship of Flan gods in Perrenland was extinguished by the dual blows of Oeridian invasion and rule by Iggwilv. Flan in Perrenland in my campaign worship their own ancestors and Perren. Although novel, this does not contradict canon in FTA or prior, but it may contradict TAB or LGG. It does contradict the LG Perrenland Triad, who propose that the official church in Perrenland is the Old Kirk of Flan gods. Thus, those readers whose campaigns conform to canon will find the history given useful up to the point of the rebellion against Furyondy-Veluna, and should ignore later parts of this article. Those whose campaigns do not necessarily conform to canon will hopefully find ancestor worship in Perrenland to be an intriguing alternative.
I am indebted to Gary Holian for the idea of the Flan Stone Circles and the Flan Circle of Eight Gods.
The nation of Perrenland is very recent, having been forged by Perren himself c. CY 400. Because much of this article deals with events before this date, it would be more correct to refer to the region as “the area that would become Perrenland”. Rather than repeat that cumbersome phrase many times, this article uses the term “The Hanse”, to refer to the people, place, and culture of the region prior to, as well as after, the establishment of Perrenland proper. “Hanse” = “home” or “hearth” in the local Flan dialect (IMC).
Religious History of the Hanse
The Flan religion that flourished in the Hanse for thousands of years was very much a religion of place. Worship was focussed on specific, important sites of divine power. Some of these were natural features at which one of the Flan Pantheon was revered, such as the mointain peaks consecrated to Pelor, or the deep caves and fissures into which sacrifices to Tharizdun were thrown. The most important of the natural sites was a sacred grove near Schwartzenbruin dedicated to Beory. The hereditary High Priestesses of this site could assume the form of a Giant Black Bear, from which the town later took its name. Other religious sites were constructed by the Flan themselves. The most common of these were the monolithic stone circles dedicated to the eight principal Flan dieties. Each of these sites, whether natural or constructed, had its own resident clergy.
Before they learned settled agriculture, the Flan of the Hanse lived as nomadic hunters and herders in loose bands ruled by hetmen (headmen). While these bands often contained minor priests and lay followers of the gods, all the powerful clerics were attached to some sacred site. As the nomadic bands traveled, they would camp at whatever sacred site was nearby, venerate the Power(s) of that site, and receive the ministrations of the clergy.
Politically, the Flan priests saw themselves as servents of the Flan people as a whole, and not as beholden to any particular hetmen. This kept them removed from the frequent skirmishes between bands. Thus, these fights were largely inconclusive, and no single ruler ever came to dominate more than his own local area. This situation, in part, was responsable for the relatively late development of any national or even regional government among the Hanse.
Soon after the Overking established the Viceroyalty of the Ferrond (c. CY 100), his forces marched on the Hanse. They found little to conquer or even plunder among the nomadic people. With few permanent settlements, the Flan of the region had only what goods they could easily carry between camps. After the main Aerdian army had built a fort and administrative center in Schwartzenbruin it left only a small garrison behind. The Overking now ruled the Hanse, but mostly in name. In reality, he merely collected tribute from a number of plains-roving bands while having almost no effect on governence among the Flan. So long as the flow of furs and hides from Schwartzenbruin to Dyvers was uninterrupted, the imperial administrators did little to interfere with the traditional Flan way of life.
During the period of imperial administration there were no official attempts to impose Oeridian religion on the “savage” Flan, although many churches sponsored private missionary activities. Chiefly these were the churches of Heironious, Hextor, and Pholtus. Followers of Tritherion also preached among the Hanse, but independent of church sanction or support. The Flan were extremely skeptical of these “rootless” foreign clergy who seemed to travel from place to place like other people. Indeed, the supposedly divine beings they worshipped had left no sites of natural power in the Hanse as testament to their divinity. The Oeridian evangelists thus met with little success among the Flan.
The commercial activities of the Oeridian settlers who came to service the imperial outpost in Schwartzenbruin were far more successful in influencing the Flan. Merchants and peddlers, blacksmiths and tinsmiths, dyers and leatherworkers, all soon found their skills in demand among the Flan natives. The Oeridian settlement grew, as craftsmen immigrated with plans of serving the Flan community. While Oeridian gods were not accepted by the Flan, their presence in the Hanse grew with the increasing Oeridian settlement. Before long rough chapels were built in Schwartzenbruin and in the hamlets that lay strung along the caravan trail to the south.
For a century and a half this was the situation, until the disruptions caused by the Baklunish-Oerid migrations in the north. The ancesters of the Wolf Nomads raided deep into the Hanse, and their relatives everywhere attacked the fringes of the Overking’s Empire. The demands of the Overking for tribute increased, to pay the cost of repulsing these incursions. At the same time, the ability of the hetmen to pay had diminished, since their people were deployed in warbands or defensive camps, not trapping furs or tanning hides. When group after group refused to meet the Overking’s demand for tribute, he authorized the use of force as punishment for disobedience. This was intended as solely a demonstration to encourage loyalty, but it met with a strong reaction from the Flan.
They began attacking imperial caravans in defiance of and reprisal for the actions against them and their kinsmen. The escalation of violence was rapid, and soon a general rebellion was underway. After a short but bloody struggle, the imperial garrison at Schwartzenbruin was expelled. Some Oeridian civilians were slain in the struggle, but by and large they were allowed to remain unharmed if they swore an oath not to support the Overking. Their services were greatly in demand, and most Flan recognized that this was a political struggle against a distant government, not a race war in their homeland.
The Great Kingdom mounted several reprisal strikes from Mitrik and even succeeded in recapturing Schwartzenbruin more than once, but between supply problems and Flan attacks, it was never able to hold the city through a winter. When the Viceroyalty of Ferrond declared its independence a few years later (CY 254), the Overking gave up any hope of reclaiming the Hanse.
A hundred years passed without outside domination of the Hanse, although the Flan had to fight off the raids and incursians of Wolf Nomads and Ketians. In that time the Flan were busy experimenting with and adopting lifestyles copied from the Oeridians. By now, the Oeridians had their own established communities, and could hardly be called settlers. They were most common around Schwartzenbruin, of course, but had settled villages throughout the lowlands. There had been a fair bit of marriage between the peoples and a great deal of cultural borrowing on the part of the Flan. New trades were changing the traditional Hanse economies. The most important of these were settled agriculture and shaft mining, but cheesemaking and fishing (with boat-borne driftnets) also had impacts. By the late CY 300’s, the Hanse was a civilized place. Many hetman still ruled nomadic hunting bands, but most people now lived in settled villages, farming in the plains or herding goats in the mountains. Thus, a land which had once only been fit for collecting tribute from savages was increasingly viewed as a land of plenty, ripe for conquest and rule.
Ultimately, a joint Velunese-Furyondian expedition was sent. Remembering the last days of imperial rule, the Hansepeople fought tenaciously. They were joined by many of their Oeridian neighbors, who considered themselves of the free Hanse and had no wish to be subjects of Veluna or Furyondy. But these small and fractious bands presented no unified front of opposition to the invaders. The Hansepeople had no heavy cavalry, and no elite units equivalent of the Furyondian and Velunese Knights of the Hart or the War Priests of Heironeous and Battle-Legates of Pholtus. Nor could the Hansepeople match the number of well-disciplined foot soldiers that had been mustered.
The Oeridian forces soon controlled the plains around Lake Quag and the more open hill country where their cavalry could easily ride. The mountains were left to the Flan tribesmen. Where the Oerids conquered, they did not ask for tribute. This time, the various nobles and bishops who had led the invasion set up their own petty fiefdoms in the Hanse. They ruled the conquered peoples as serfs, in the manner of their homelands, binding them to the land and exacting agricultural duties from them.
The “native” Oerids were saddened to lose their freedom, but by and large accepted the conquest and were quickly subdued. Their priests were brought back into the fold of the official Furyondian and Velunese churches. The Flan, however, chafed at the foreign rule. They looked to their spiritual leaders for support. The Flan priests were all too willing to succor, and in many cases direct, guerilla resistance movements. The sacred sites of the Flan became secret storehouses of arms and food for the rebels. Religious services were often followed by political harangues or even resistance planning.
When the Oeridian rulers realized the central role that Flan clergy were playing in uniting the rebels, they were swift to act. Flan priests were captured and jailed, many being shipped off to Dyvers, Verbobonc, or Old Chendyl to languish in special “heretic spell-proof” cells. Those who resisted capture were slain. The public practice of the Flan religion was banned, as were meetings at sacred sites. In many cases, the stone circles were pulled down by the new Lords.
When resistence continued after a decade, the rulers forced the Flan to convert to Oeridian gods, and enforced mandatory public worship. By the time Perren began gathering the remaining leaders of the resistance under him in c. CY 400, the old Flan religion had all but dissapeared from the lowlands. A generation had passed without new priests being initiated into the secrets of the faith, and only the elderly remembered the public rituals. Sacred sites had remained largely intact in the still-independent mountains, but few priests were there to tend them, as most had been lost fighting in the lowlands or had been unable to find young Aspirants to train before their own natural deaths.
Eventually Perren united the Flan under his banner and succeeded in driving out the invaders. Mandatory worship of Oeridian gods ceased, and many of their churches were razed in the victorious frenzy. But the Oeridian people remained, as did their priests, at least the ones sympathetic to an independent Hanse. For much of the Hanse, little remained of the Old Faith beyond memories and superstitions.
Perren’s rule proved to be peaceful and prosperous. A generation after his death, however, the new nation of Perrenland fell to another invasion. In c. CY 465 the Witch-Queen Iggwilv, with her humanoid armires and foul enchantments, took the nation from the south. Once again, the Flan priests proved to be the centers of opposition to the invading power, both during the conquest and after. Iggwilv was even more ruthless in the extermination of the Flan faith than the Oeridians had been. All remaining priests were hunted down and killed, often by summoned demons. The sacred sites were desecrated or destroyed. Even the mountain sites were not spared, as these were closest to her center of power. Though her reign lasted only a decade, Iggwilv succeeded in eliminating the last traces of the Flan faith from the Hanse. The Oeridian priests suffered under her as well, though many were able to hide in the vastness of the lowlands or escape to lands outside her rule where their churches had connections. The Hansepeople, still deeply religious, were left without priests or sacred sites.
Perrenland has retained its freedom since the downfall of Iggwilv (c. CY 480). Without foreign imposition, the people of the Hanse have looked to other gods to sustain their faith. The Oeridian community remains, concentrated in Schwartzenbruin but found throughout the lowlands. In rural areas the Oeridans are not even a distinct community, as they have intermixed so thoroughly with the Flan. These people have returned to the worship of Oeridian gods, restored the priesthoods, and built new churches. However, some faiths are better represented than others.
In particular, Heironeous, Hextor, and Pholtus are still reviled in a great part of the nation. Those of these faiths do not mention the fact in public, and the solitary churches to these gods in Schwartzenbruin are small and unpretentious. Non-militant Oeridian dieties are much more common. Ehlonna and Tritherion in particular are widely worshipped. Boccob has a small following among scribes and lawyers and Zilchus among merchants. The fisherman on Lake Quag pay homage to the “Lord of the Depths”, a freshwater aspect of Procan.
Perrenders have also adopted the faiths of their demi-human neighbors. Generally, the racial aspects of these deities are downplayed and their craft aspects are emphasized. Thus, the demi-human deities are seen as patrons of particular arts and are worshipped by those who practice certain professions. Ulaa is widely worshipped among miners, smiths, and hill and mountain folk of all kinds. Flandal Steelskin is more narrowly worshipped by miners and smiths. Sheela Peryroyl is honored by farmers. Hunters and mountain-herders revere Solonor and Corellon, particularly those who often battle humanoids. The mountain rangers of Perrenland almost universally favor one of these two elven Powers, while those of the lowlands typically serve Ehlonna.
The Baklunish gods have not found a wide reception. While there has been a considerable flow of Ketian and Wolf Nomad bloodlines into the Hanse, Baklunish culture has made much less of an impact.
The most striking feature of religion in Perrenland today, particularly outside of Schwartzenbruin among the pure Flan, and also among the rulers of the country, is the prevelence and importance of ancestor worship.
The Beginings of Ancestor Worship
The Hansepeople have always had a reverence for the dead that was more local superstition than Flan dogma. For example, it was common for them to pour on the ground the first drops of any draught of milk or alcohol, “for the spirits” as they said. The names of illustrious warriors were invoked before battles. Under Iggwilv, common folk often lit candles to Perren, praying for the downfall of the sorceress. In the last few years of her reign, a curious thing began to happen. The prayers of faithful Flan to Perren began to be answered in modest ways. People and animals were cured of wounds or diseases. Warriors fighting the humanoids of Iggwilv were blessed or had their fears removed. The need for hope in those dark times and the occasional efficacy of the prayers spread the cult practices rapidly. Iggwilv did little to suppress it. Primarily because she thought it of little concern or importance, but also because it would have been extremely difficult to act against. With no priests and no holy sites, there was little on which to focus opposition. The practices were spread by word of mouth and varied from house to house. Other than a (largely ineffectual) ban on candles, Iggwilv did not act against the growing cult.
After the fall of Iggwilv, the cult of Perren became public. People began sharing stories of miraculous events and told one another what prayers or offerings had worked best. The average efficacy of the events increased, as did the rate of response to prayers. Soon after, people found that appeals addressed to their own dead family members and to Perren’s eight principal chieftains were also answered.
In time, those who seemed particularly sensitive to spiritual nuances trained one another. They prayed for others as a part-time vocation, accepting goods in return for their ministrations. They quickly developed into a professional priesthood with their own procedures and rituals. Now over one hundred years have passed, and some traditons have been passed down for four generations. No humans are alive who can remember when the priests of the Flan did not worship the ancestors.
Ancestor Worship Today
At the apex of worship is Perren. He is regularly venerated by everyone in Perrenland, even those who follow Oeridian gods and don’t otherwise worship the dead. Although he is seen as a man, he is a man about whom amazing stories are told. Expressions like “Thank Perren!” and “With Perren as my witness!” are common. Many people believe that he was divinely sent to aid Perrenland in its time of need, and most people believe that he still watches over the nation and its people. Although most of those who worship the ancestors are pure Flan, Perren is not seen as a racial figure or as being particularly protective of the Flan themselves. Rather, he is regarded as the champion of his nation and all its peoples.
Under Perren are the eight great Chieftains who served him in his campaign to liberate the Hanse. After the liberation, they were made Electors, and the Canton boundaries were drawn to give each of their Clans a demesne. Although the regions of influence of the various Clans greatly predate Perren, he formalized them and resolved disputed territories when he created the Cantons. Within the ancestor religion, each of the Chieftains is revered as the head of his Clan, or ancestral line. The living person who is closest in descent to each Chieftain serves simultaneously as Clan leader, Canton Head, and Elector. The ancestral Chieftain is honored at public ceremonies within his Canton, attended by any citizen (regardless of descent). His Clanmembers honor him privately (regardless of where they live). Public worship of the Chieftains is not mandatory and is chiefly attended by those who worship the ancestors. Many who do not worship the ancestors will occasionally go to such a service as a matter of civic pride and loyalty, generally when such services are held in conjunction with a public holiday.
Beneath the Chieftains are the “ancestors”, those from whom one is directly descended. Emphasis is placed on the male line, so one typically honors one’s father, father’s father, etc. However, if one’s lineage contains people of importance or reknown, any path of relation may be used. For example, if one’s mother’s grandfather was a Voorman, this connection will be stressed and worship of this ancestor will be performed. Most people can trace their descent back to one of the Chieftains, and many can back to Perren himself. Because of the importance placed on descent from these heroes, any connections necessary are used, including relation through marriage, adoption, or illegitimate children. Thus, the ultimate ancestors are the Chieftains and Perren, and private family worship meets with public political ceremony.
Finally, devotions are occasionally made to the “family spirits”. These are the dead to whom one is related, but not by direct descent – aunts, great uncles, etc. Usually this this done on special days set aside for honoring all the family dead, with short prayers for each member. Private devotion is often held for non-ancestral relatives who were particularly important in one’s life, such as one’s godparents.
Most people worship daily, in a private ceremony consisting of short prayers, before the family hearth. Longer public worship occurs weekly (on Godsday) and unites the local community. Public worship is led by priests. There are nearly as many priests in Perrenland today as there are in other countries. They are known variously as Spirit Keepers, Keepers of the Faith, or simply Keepers, depending on the region. Each priest belongs to a single Clan, and prays only to the spirits of that Clan (and to Perren). This is a more restrictive faith than that of lay people, who sometimes pray to relatives who are not of their Clan. Priests also reserve their beneficial spells (blessing, healing, etc.) for Clan members only. Using granted abilities on non-relatives dissipates the power of the ancestors, since they receive the most worship from relatives. Thus, it is only done in cases of reward for service to the Clan or in great extremis such as pitched battles. Priests who cast beneficial spells on non-Clan members often lose their spell abilities for a number of days as a sign of the ancestors' displeasure.
Besides their role as ministers to the Clan, Keepers support the political authority of the local leaders, and ultimately that of the living Clan head. This serves to keep minor hetmen loyal to their Canton leader. Such fidelity to extended hierarchical governments is a relatively new thing in the Hanse and is due in large part to the actions of the Keepers. Keepers also serve as judges (albeit appointed by the hetmen) and decide on disputes and punishments when the litigants are both members of the same Clan. Professional civil justices in Perrenland generally only try cases in which the aggrieved parties are of different Clans, and an impartial arbiter is needed.
As mentioned previously, worship favors the father’s ancestors. Children born within wedlock automatically belong to the Clan of their father. Illegitimate children may be officially adopted by the father if he desires; otherwise, they belong to the Clan of the mother. A woman is made a provisional member of her husband’s Clan upon marriage, but does not lose her original Clan membership. Since married women usually live in the camp or village of their husband’s father, this adoption allows them the benefits of clerical aid if their husband’s family is of a different Clan. After marriage, most women pray in private to their own ancestors, and in public to their husband’s (if different). Besides official membership in his or her father’s Clan, a child is considered to have an honorary membership in his or her mother’s Clan until adulthood. Thus, a woman whose infant takes ill while she is visiting her relatives can ask the Clan Keeper to heal the child.
Exceptions to these general patterns occur for women who are powerful or notable in their own right. A lowly warrior marrying the daughter of an Elector might well take on the Clanship of his wife rather than the other way around. Successful adventuring PC females could easily display their Clanship after marriage and even pass it on to their children.
Since most settlement is patrilocal, most people within a Canton are of the same Clan as the Canton head. Strangers and newcomers may go without benefit of the clergy. In large towns with mixed populations (Schwartzenbruin, Traft, Exag) itinerant Keepers serve the “minority” populations."