Paganism

Table of contents


The pagan religion of Newgulf isn't so much a single religion as a body of superstitions that have survived through ages, as folk tales, holidays, and minor traditions. Although hardly a rigidly canonical set of beliefs, it has a few elements that are fairly common throughout.

The Many Gods

The main kind of beliefs of the pagan religion revolve around the animal deities of the sky and the land. Hundreds of gods may be enshrined, and turned into guardian beasts of a family, area of land, or realm of the Otherworld, but these minor gods are rarely thought of outside of the small communities that deified them. There are ten greater gods that are widely respected among anyone who follows the pagan traditions. Two gods are indifferent to the plight of man, four are adversaries, and four are allies.

Blessings of the Gods

A "Blessing" or "Boon" of a god is the way that god answers prayers or rewards those whom they respect. Those with faith in the old traditions take these blessings as literal truth: the gods exist, as sentient beings, who pick and chose who to aid in their divine ineffability. Academics may claim that these gods are simply used as a mental fulcrum for controlling powers in a way easily understood to the individual, and that the gods and spirits are no more real than any other creature of myth.

Those who are indifferent

Eagle (Aquila) governs the skies above, alone and proud. He believes he is superior to everyone else, and that only he deserves the blessing of the sky. Playing to his ego is the only way to negotiate with him.

Spider (Arach) cares only about her eggs, the beauty of her webs, and keeping a mental edge over all other beings. She's revered for her intelligence, and blesses the clever, but hasn't a care for the general public. She prefers to not be bothered with pleas, and spends her time making her webs more and more beautiful.

Adversaries of Man

Snake (Crotalus) enjoys spinning deception and chaos. He causes trouble and is amused with the results. He doesn't stop to chew his meals, but kills them and eats them whole, unable to show the temperance fitting of a powerful god. It is impossible to make a plea to him; he cannot be trusted, and twists wishes made to him into a cruel cosmic joke.

Bear (Ursus) knows only anger and power, and has little respect for the weakness of mankind. At times, he has blessed individual men with his powerful arms and fearsome claws, but he chooses his targets based on their ferocity, not their moral nature. A great feat of strength can earn his respect, but the feat must be great by the standards of a bear, not a man.

Rat (Rattus) loathes man from the bottom of his feet to the tip of his tail, and only lives so close to him out of grudging acceptance of the way the world works. He will seek out the wicked and grant them his own blessings of pestilence and willpower to see evil deeds through, and will try to leave dead all those he works with, so that he can eat their festering bodies and reclaim the power he granted with interest. He rules over the caves and underworld, and some believe spawned the Blight form his fetid bile.

Fox, (Vulpes) like Snake, spins mischief wherever she goes. She earnestly means no harm to man, but her nature makes her a scourge to all. Asking her for a blessing is even more dangerous than asking Snake, since each fulfillment will undoubtedly become even more of a mess than the previous one, and each time she will return with a promise to make things right with just one more try. She believes herself to be so clever that her pranks will all work out, even though she lacks the strength or caution to carry through.

Allies of Man

Buffalo (Bisos) is kind and nurturing to man, and is willing to sacrifice her milk, blood, and flesh to sustain and heal. She is not very smart, and must be coaxed away from distraction at all times, but will grant her boon of good harvest, fertility, and health to anyone with good in their heart who speaks to her. Her flustered nature makes complex requests impossible.

Horse (Equus) follows a strict code of honor, and he supports the plains and earth on his broad, strong shoulders. His motives are some of the hardest to understand, and he has never been known to fulfill prayers, but he is willing to bless anyone patient and strong the ability to tame beasts of burden out of his own ineffable sense of kindness.

Dog (Canis) is loyalty incarnate, and loves nothing more than praise for his good deeds and useful actions. He loves man from the bottom of his heart, and will throw himself at any threat or shield his masters from any danger, without a care for his body or soul. His blessing gives man the ability to domesticate clever and useful animals other than beasts of burden, though the power requires much more individual strength to exercise than the boon of Horse. He is single-minded and diligent, but is useless without the direction of a wise master.

Cat (Felis) is quiet and cautious, always carefully consulting his knowledge and senses before acting. He blesses the wise and learned, and those who have a care to learn the situation carefully before leaping forward. He protects man in the background, by fighting Rat and guarding the realm of Anaoohei and its many pathways. His blessing is impossible wisdom and knowledge in the form of sudden insights and revelations, but he almost never grants man his boon, fearing that it will distort the curtain that keeps his realm separated from man's in a dangerous way for gods and men alike.

Otherworlds

Aside from the realm of man, followers of the traditional faiths may believe in a series of other realms and planes, called the Otherworlds. The most famous of these planes is Anaoohei, but many other realms also exist, including planes of elemental chaos, the realm of celestial, the world of the wee folk, and many others. Some legends speak of visitors to these Otherwords while others say it is impossible for mortals to tread there.

Anaoohei

(An-na-oo-hee)
When a person dies, their spirit returns to the great realm of spirits in the highest of the Otherworlds. What they do there isn't clear, but through ceremony and meditation, it is sometimes possible to beseech these ancestors for knowledge or aid. The most common ceremony involves staring into the eyes of a cat while smoking a weak form of Desert Leaf or eating Cactus Blossom. Rat wishes to spread pestilence and death to this world, so Cat took on the burden of being its guardian and master, forever locking himself to rivalry with the rodent.

Worship

Since there is no standard, formal religion surrounding the old pagan faiths, there are virtually no formal ceremonies or rites associated with it anymore. It's common to leave small offerings at minor shrines of the gods, which are scattered throughout the lands of Newgulf, including the Turritella, and damaging or disrespecting a shrine is a sure way to put oneself in the bad graces of a god. There are also many minor superstitions and acts of faith, too abundant to list, including small actions like never dropping tableware or setting out saucers of milk for the wee folk for good luck. It was once common to hold plays, fireside dances, songs, or smoking circles as part of the pagan religion, but the Church has largely outlawed such "heretical" ceremonies.

The Followers of Anvari still hold many of these customs close to their religion, in a smaller fashion.

Society among those with faith

Most communities still accept the hierarchy of the pagan faith, to some degree. The only requirements are respecting elders, particularly the elders in one's own family, and those who speak on behalf of the gods. Some communities revere those with Marks of the Gods, but this tradition has largely lapsed.

Mark of the Gods

Sometimes a god will mark a child as their vessel or as a being sacred to them. This will represent itself in a birthmark in the shape of the god or some bestial feature on the marked child. The Church declares that these are mere birthmarks, and do not represent celestial power of an sort - and frequently goes as far as to say they are false, added by branding or ink, rather than natural birth. It is a heresy to respect such marks, as they represent the shadows of Hectove. Most people do not give any credence to these marks, but some elders or superstitious might consider them a serious omen.

In some cases, as a sign of faith, a person may tattoo themselves with images of the god they worship, and refer to the tattoo as a kind of mark as well. Usually, these tattoos are just meant to represent things, and the tattoo's owner won't believe in the power of the mark, but yet again, some superstitious take them very seriously.