Religion of Elvendeep
|Deities:||The Celestial Court, The Chief Spirits (esp. Nimrilyn), The Worldly Spirits (esp. Nimrilyn's Court)|
|Regions Where Prevalent:||Elvendeep|
There are three hierarchies of Gods in Elven mythology. First, are the Celestial Divinities, whom the elves believe are all-powerful gods that rule the heavens and are nearly inexplicable in mortal terms, though they resemble gods like Menxned or Alou. Second are the Chief Spirits (e.g. Swan/Nimrilyn, Bear/Naenaloss), who are charged by the Celestial Divinities with tending to the world, and had a hand in shaping the world and creating the mortal races. The elves believe that aside from themselves and the dragons, few remember or honor these gods as is their due. Third are the Worldly Spirits who serve the Chief Spirits. The elves believe that the gods of other races have forgotten the Celestial Court and the Chief Spirits, and worship instead their servants.
The Celestial Court
- Lirentolmo, the cold and austere Wintry King. Associated with the larger moon.
- Aynaurimo, the bright and shining Summery Queen. Associated with the sun.
- Caeryemo, The Autumnal Prince. Elder son of the Celestial monarchs and squire to his father. Associated with the lesser moon.
- Caleimo, The Verdant Princess, Younger daughter Celestial Monarchs and the spirit of the mortal world upon which all life sprung. Called "The World Beneath Us" by the Sorani.
The Chief Spirits
- Nimrilyn or Swan, a beautiful and noble goddess: Lady of feathered beasts, Queen of the Skies and first among the bird spirits, the elves' patrons.
- Naenaloss or Bear, mighty Lord of furred beasts: the mostly forgotten patron of men, dwarves, and many other races.
- Sinnesuul or Serpent, clever and skilled Lord of scaled beasts and God of the dragons, though sometimes known under other names.
- Maldrathass or Spider, the Foul Corruptor, goddess of all insects and deep burrowing things
Though they acknowledge the existence of many varied gods, or 'spirits' in their parlance, the Deepish deem the Bird Spirits their particular patrons.
- Swan (Nimrilyn) - Chief amongst all birds. Beauty, grace, goodness.
- Raven (Dindelmar), Chief of the Corvidae (Crows, Ravens, Magpies). Storytelling, Language, Cleverness, Trickery
- Eagle (Querqurloth), Chief of the Hunting birds (Eagles, Hawks). Nobility, Battle (attack), The Hunt, Speed
- Swallow (Cireia), Chieftess of the songbirds (Canaries, Thrushes, Swallows). Music, Delight, Innocence
- Heron (Trilane), Chieftess of the water birds (Herons, Gulls, Geese). Travel, Adventure, Bravery
- Owl (Galpazryn), Chief of the Nocturnal birds (owls, whippoorwills, nightingales). Wisdom, Watchfulness, Battle (defense)
The Making of the World
The Making of the World, according to the Spiri City Elves. The Sorani tell a similar version, only Lirentolmo is referred to as Greater Moon, Aynaurimo as Sun, Caeryemo as Lesser Moon and Caleimo "The World Beneath Us."
Untold eons ago, the cold and austere Lirentolmo, The Wintry King, took the bright and shining Aynaurimo, The Summery Queen for his mate. In all the star-strewn heavens, now, before and forever more, there were none as these two and thus it was only natural that they come together to create all else. From their union sprang first Caeryemo, The Autumnal Prince and squire to his father. Second came Caleimo, the mortal world upon which all life sprung, warmed by her mother's shining face during the day, and her father and brother's colder visages during the night. Infused with her essence of life, the world began to bring forth trees and animals from its very being, but chaos abounded on the mystic planes. The Celestial Divinities, who were busy with their own divine tasks, called forth Spirits from animals to tend the supernatural reverberations of the mortal world, and because further order was needed among the spirits, set four above all: one for the scaled beasts, one for the furred, one for the winged, and one for those insects which thrived upon death.
The Making of the Races
As told by the Sorani Wild Elves. The Spiri tell a very similar tale, only in their conception the spirits are not animal totems, but anthropomorphic deities.
Three Spirits collected in a clearing in a young forest that would come to be known as the Soranion. The first was Swan, the second Serpent, and the third Bear. All were of a goodly nature, though possessing many different qualities, and each desired to create a race of new beings to populate the lands, to live under the bright sun and twin moons, and love and tend the world which had given them all birth.
First, Swan created the Elves, full of beauty and grace and possessing a form unlike any beast that lived. The Elves were wise, like their creator, and were filled with love for all that was good and aesthetically pleasing. They were light and airy and looked to the sky with kinship.
To them, Serpent gave the ability to sense and work with the magics that flowed through the world. Magic was not strictly his domain, but he was better at understanding it than all other gods.
To them, Bear gave the ability to carry and birth live children, the act of which gave the Dawn Elves a strong link to the earth and beasts of the forest, though they had been created from the skies.
Second, Serpent created the Dragons, both fierce and intelligent. The Ere-Drakes were beautiful and deadly in the same way fire was. They were adept at the workings of magic, just as their creator was. But they could often be fickle, like he, and disliked large groups, preferring solitude.
To them, Swan gifted wings so they could sail in the skies she ruled. They had no feathers, but Swan stretched out their third set of limbs and shaped them into broad sails, like those of a bat.
To them, Bear gave great size and sharp teeth and claws to make them powerful enough to face any evil. The land in those days was wild and primeval and beset with many dangers and devilry. Besides which, Bear was of the firm opinion that large size and sharp claws were the finest of attributes.
Thirdly, Bear created the Giants, huge and strong, able to do whatever they wished with the land around them, though not always very bright and quick to temper. But in his excitement to create the most powerful, largest creature of the three, Bear had forgotten both utility and beauty, and Swan and Serpent tried to rectify his mistake as best they could.
To them, Serpent gave the knowledge of fire and its workings. Though they could not create it by magic, as could dragons and elves, giants alone knew how to draw it forth through natural means, and how to feed it regularly to keep it bright and warm.
To them, Swan gave beauty in form, similar to the elves, so that the giants would grace the world rather than just trample it.
All three races, known in the elves' tales as the Dawn Elves, the Ere-Drakes, and the Primordial Giants, were set loose upon the earth. But none were then as wise as they are now, and knew nothing of writing, smithing, or cities. They wandered from place to place as food was available, used stone tools and though they gave their thanks up to the gods and to the sun and moons, they were primitive and lived almost like beasts.
Bear, who was not as bright as his fellows, was jealous of the Ere-Drakes and the Dawn Elves, who lived for millennia. His own creations, while vastly powerful, would only live for a dozen or so years. Upon the death (usually of old age) of one of these great giants, his body would be laid out attired in the finest of his trappings and his most prized possessions would be laid around him. His clan would then heave the earth up and about him forming his death mound. It was thus that most of the inland mountains were created, steeped with the treasures of a time long forgotten - for before mountains covered the earth, gems and precious things were laid bare to whomever wished to take them, and the giants found their glittering appealing. It is also from this practice that the ancient name of Outer Arangoth, 'Caern' (also Kayern) comes, for the area is surrounded by the death-mounds, or cairns, of the Primordial Giants, who have now disappeared. Many current sages believe the Primordial Giants to be the eldest and most ancient of peoples, but elves know this misconception is just because they were the largest and thus left the most obvious testament to their existence. Many beings, especially the giants' cousins, the dwarves, still search for the fabled 'finest of trappings’ and treasures at the hearts of mountains.
Bear’s jealousy sparked anger, for he had thought that Swan or Serpent would have gifted his creations with the secret of long life. They protested that neither had given each other's children such gifts, but had created the quality innately. Besides which, they had given the giants very good qualities and abilities, and it was not up to the receiver to decide what gift the giver would award him. (This is where the Deepish expression 'Ursine Gifts,' for those which are under-appreciated, comes from). If Bear was to have long-lived children, he would have to give them such a quality himself.
Bear spent the next few millennia attempting just such a creation. From his labors sprang lesser giants (those relatively small specimens that survive today), humans (of many varieties, including the tailed Leturians and the shortlived Mingits), Dwarves, Halflings and other similar races. He happily found that one of those made, dwarves, would live over a century (though they still could not match Elves and Dragons). This longevity, he thought, was perhaps because he had carved them from stone rather than clay like the others, but also perhaps because they were among his smallest. Because jealousy and not nobility was in his heart when he made the younger races, they sprang forth with much chaos in their souls and none of the tranquility of their elders. Still, Bear was not evil, and his creations were not innately such either.
But there was evil in the world, and Spider was one such. She coveted creations of her own and was jealous that the lighter Spirits had left her out of their race-making. All things that she tried to make, however, were ugly and misshapen like her soul and like the creatures she ruled (these foul new monsters would plague the world in years to come). None were remotely as beautiful as the elves. Finally fed up with her own lack of artistry, she kidnapped some Dawn Elves for herself and twisted them into her children. As she was Queen of carrion insects and those things that burrow beneath the earth, the Dark Elves (as they were called) took to the subterranean realms and there their evil festered and consumed them until their souls were as ugly as their exteriors were beautiful. Lies were their language and murder their pastime. When the Dawn Elves learned of Spider's sins, they vowed to stamp out all evidence of the sacrilege. As the Dark Elves had taken a similar oath against their forebears, the two branches of elfkind have been at war as long as elvish memory and myth can tell.
There was unintentional evil afoot, as well. For one night during his long years of race-making, Bear had eaten his fill of fermented honey and became quite inebriated. When he awoke quite sick the next morning, he found to his horror that he had created the ugliest and filthiest of creatures: the Goblins. Filled with shame and disgust, he tossed the foul creatures to the refuse heap. But the evil that was the goblin race would not easily die, and they crawled out of the muck and dung into the mortal world. There they begat Orcs, Ogres and all the goblinoid races that would plague good folk with their chaotic love for destruction.
Though by this point, hundreds of millennia in the past, most of the races were created, they were mostly savage and little more than animals. They had survived like this for uncounted years. Even the dragons were less then what they are today in wisdom, though greater in power and size. Dawn Elves, though less powerful than the other two Elder races, were the cleverest of all.
Over time the elves gathered in a sacred woodland realm called the Soranion and created a civilization. The First City was built at the forest's heart and the elves there learned the art of bronzework, writing on stone and clay, and the wheel. They used their magic to tend orchards in a concerted effort to feed all, and were ruled by an elf they thought the best of them, whom legend simply calls The ElfKing. Those who were left of the waning Primordial giants learned many things from them, as did the Dragons who, though intelligent and magic-using, had no system of writing with which to record their spells and histories.
Elves and Dragons would go on to experiment with magic as their powers and skills grew. Charting new territory, mistakes were tragically made. Dark magics destroyed at least two elven civilizations, on the Isles of Myst and in Elgar Forest. During the Dragon-Elf wars, huge losses of life on both sides, as well as the desire for an advantage, would prompt the first attempts at necromancy - each attempt twisting into evil and soulless abomination. Demonic conjury began, but was beyond any Elder race's control and spread to irresponsible magi.
Magic did not always result in evil, however. Many pockets of Dawn Elf and Ere-Drake magic pooled in places, like dew collecting into puddles. Here strange things occurred, both wonderful and terrible. Trees awakened into living beings, butterflies metamorphosed into fairies, animals mutated into monstrous abominations, and dark forces tore through the boundaries of the planes. Any creatures not created by the Four Spirits are generally attributed to these pools of magic. As well, elves believe that many of the mysterious ruins of past civilizations are elvish demarcations of these pools, such as the Sacred Stones of Aslar.
As elven magic makes no distinction between sorcerous and divine, there are no native ‘clerics’ in the human sense among the Deepish (there are some who are recent arrivals from far-flung elven communities). Instead, Elven Clergy are divided into four parts: Shamans, Curates, Prelates, and Presbyters.
- Shamans are the religious figures of the Sorani, and perform the duties associated with the Spiri Priests, only on a smaller scale among their local tribes.
- Curate is a voluntary position, run much like the Knightly Orders found below. Young Elflords are taken on as the most numerous of the Clergy. It is their duty to help organize religious festivals, edit and copy religious manuscripts, and maintain the Libraries and Temples of Elfspire. They also spend a great deal of time studying the religious texts and once reaching a certain level, may advise elves on spiritual matters and perform burials (cremation, followed by the ashes being scattered half upon the earth and half upon the river, with the more intangible ‘third part’ being the smoke rising to the skies) and weddings. The position is typically held for a period of thirty years.
- Prelate is an inherited title, and the fifty or so positions available are passed from individual to individual within the same High Elven House, or extended family. It is the family's purview to select one of their number for the position, though the candidate must possess the Curate's medallion. As the Prelates sit on the Low Council, this presents an interesting choice. If a House chooses a House Head to represent them on that body, and a different Prelate, it receives two seats on the Low Council. If it makes its House Head the family Prelate, that figure has much added dignity and weight, and is much more likely to be voted into the High Council or a Presbytership. Prelates are responsible for observing the omens sent by the Spirits, authoring short essays upon spiritual matters and making them available to the public, and overseeing the Curates in their city district or outlying village. The length of a Prelateship is entirely dependant upon the whims of that Elven House to which it belongs.
- Elven Presbyters, of which there are twelve, are elected from ranks of the Prelates by the High Elves during the national elections every fifteen years. They not only sit at the Low Council, but their head, the Lord Exarch, is an adjunct member of the High Council. They write treatises on the nature of the Spirit Realm and the Celestial Divinities, preside over religious festivals and advise the Councilors and Governor on religious matters.
Attitudes toward other religions
Despite their reputation for tolerance, the folk of Elvendeep are quite biased against Lilism. As that religion is the dominant among two of Nimmarna’s ancient enemies, the Leturians and the Griffons, this is not surprising. In addition, the elves consider their way of living the result of eons of tradition, while the Lil focuses instead on the advice of Vallarians from barely 1500 years ago. In fact, it is common for the Deepish to refer to Lilists as ‘Upstart book worshipers.’ This distaste for the followers of the Lil often strains relations with the Mikeul, elves of Keulenestra who have adopted that religion, as well as the Leturian language.