The Gods of Wulfwald
There are no Cleric or Priest classes in Wulfwald, and gods don’t ‘exist’, intervene, or grant power in the same way that deities do in various other RPGs and settings. In meta terms there are no gods in Wulfwald the RPG, but in Wulfwald the setting, not only are the gods real but everyone believes in them.
The gods, may not exist, but the priesthood does and the power they wield is real enough. Not even a King can flog, punish, or otherwise harm a Thegn unless a priest first agrees the punishment is just. It is possible for an ambitious and ruthless priest to control, and manipulate weak kings; becoming, in effect, the ruler of the kingdom.
Warriors might consider this type of manipulation unmanly, but the Priests are outside of the usual caste system, unable to bear arms, or ride stallions amongst other restrictions, but are in the perfect position for power broking as most of their efforts are in the service of the elite. Those of lesser means are left to appease the gods in their own humble ways, with their own humble folk ceremonies.
The people of Wulfwald fear their gods as much as they revere them. If the myths and stories are a guide, most mortals wouldn’t want the gods to take notice of them as the gods attitude towards their people seems cruel and capricious. In the eyes of the gods short-lived mortals with their woes and misery. are nothing more than a fleeting amusement.
Sacrifices are made to appease the gods, to glory them. The things mortals do ask the gods for: good crops, victory in war, protection from illness are asked for with sacrifices and ceremony.
Attitudes, like the methods of worship, vary depending on the status of the worshiper. The common people, the Þræls and Ceorls, are more likely to be terrified of the gods and their ways, and generally superstitious about everything. Thegns, Ealdormen, princes, and kings, are less timid, but starkly aware of their precarious position and see no need to risk that through impiety. The priests, dependant on belief in the gods for their own status, are ever ready to remind the people of the power and cruelty of the gods, and the need to appease them.
Royal worship, which is mostly of Woden, involves modest temples built much like mead halls, but instead of the hearth and throne an altar and carving of the deity are the focal points. Worship is also conducted, especially amongst the common people, at Heargs: hilltop sanctuaries marked with a pile of stones, at a lēahs: cleared spaces in woodland, mostly associated with Thunor, and at a Wēohs: wayside shrines placed where roads or paths cross, or rivers are forded and bridged.
Each race has its own take on religion, but only the Eorðwerod’s pantheon is covered in detail as the basic assumption is that campaigns will be set in Wulfwald and contact with the Ælfcynn, Dweorgas, and Réðealingas – outside of player characters – will be peripheral.
The others we will deal with briefly . . .
The Ælfcynn religion is mixture of shamanism and ancestor worship. They believe that everything in the forest, which is their entire world, has a spirit in the otherworld that they can commune with. They do this in order to seek help from benign spirits or pacify the malign.
It is Trees themselves that are the most important part of their beliefs. Each tree in the forest contains the spirit of an ancestor, and every living Ælf is joined in spirit to a tree.
When an Ælfcynn child is born, his parents cultivate a sapling, this sapling becomes the child’s spirit tree. The parents nurture the sapling with as much care and protection as they nurture the child, and when the child comes of age, they become responsible for their own tree.
If anything happens to an Ælfcynn’s spirit tree in their lifetime, then they become one of the fey, the doomed and must leave the tribe, some even leave the forest. When an Ælfcynn dies their spirit becomes one with the tree, and their tribe can still commune with them via spirit rituals and prayer.
The Dweorgas have a complex relationship with their deity, Eorðdraca, the Earth Dragon. She is the source of all their wealth and power, and they speak of her in reverence. The whole clan gather weekly for a day of elaborate ritual worship. At the same time, they keep her imprisoned, torture her so that she creates fire to heat their forges, and farm her eggs and unborn offspring to create their arms,armour, and magics.
The gods of the Réðealingas vary from tribe to tribe, and many a hill or forest glade will have its own local god. Some of the Tribes even worship the Queen of the otherworld and her court. Most tribes will worship some variation of Belenus, the Sun god, Beli-Mawr the war god, Cerunnous, the horned god of the forest, Brigantia, goddess of rivers, Rhiannon the lover, The Morrigan, goddess of battle and strife, and countless others.
Gods of the Eorðwerod
The Oldest God
In a time long forgotten, even by the most ancient of the Scopas sagas, the Eorðwerod worshiped only one god: Eorðdraca, the Earth Dragon or the Mother as she was known. The only remnant of this ancient worship is Draca Deag, Dragon day and Mōdru Niht, Mother’s Night which signifies the start of the new year. Most people in Wulfwald don’t associate the latter with a Dragon, or believe the former refers to a real dragon. As for the idea of Dwarves worshiping a real dragon, most people outside of Westlund Seax don’t believe in Dwarves let alone Dragons.
The Elder Gods
The elder gods replaced the monotheistic worship of Eorðdraca, and although they themselves have been superseded by the new gods many people still swear oaths or curse by them, though few worship them.
Hengist & Horsa: Two stallion siblings, one black; one white. Legend has it that they carried the first Eorðwerod across an ocean of stars. For this they were turned into mighty warriors who defended the people from the vile creatures that plagued Wulfwald in times past. They are also said to be the fathers of all the tribes, and all the gods of Wulfwald. The fact that the finest of all horses became men, explains why there are only a few hardy hill ponies in Wulfwald.
Sunne & Mona: Sunne, the Sun is a young woman, and Mona, the Moon a young man they are lovers, but kept apart by a pack of ravenous wolves that chases each of them across the sky. If the wolves ever caught them it was said the world would end.
Neorðu: A Goddess of the earth represented by a wooden carving non but her priest could see and live. She was transported across the land in a covered wagon pulled by cattle. She would let her priest know where she wished to go, and once there no one could go to war during her festivities. At the climax of her festival she would be bathed by slaves in a sacred pool; the slaves having seen her would then be drowned in the same pool.
Wuldor: The Sky father who dwelt in a magical dale of yew trees from which he made a fearsome bow, a bow that he could also cross water on as if it were a boat, or cross the skies riding it as if he flew on the back of a great eagle.
Seaxnēat: The sword god and legendary father of the Seaxe tribes who still remember him in curses and praises, if not in prayers.
The New Gods of Wulfwald
The names of the new gods are never far from the lips of the people of Wulfwald, and the lips of their priests are ever near the ears of Wulfwald’s rulers. Hills, woodland, lakes, mountains, moors, and dales all bear their names as do many a sword, shield, and spear.
Woden: Woden One eye, also known as Grim. A god of death, war, and wisdom, a poet. He hung from a tree of knowledge so that he could gain wisdom and knowledge of runes and magic. Those that die in battle feast in Woden’s hall for all eternity and when storms rage through the night skies his horde of dead warriors follow him as he rides through the sky leading the wild hunt. He has two ravens and two wolves who tell him all that happens in this world and the other world.
Fríge: Woden’s wife: a goddess of hearth and home, marriage and childbirth as well as mother’s wisdom, and the authority of women over the household. She is also a keeper of women’s secrets and mysteries, and the Wyrdwebba, the fate weaver entwining, pulling, and cutting the threads of men’s lives.
Thunor: The god of thunder, law, and justice, wielder of a magic stone hammer with which he creates the thunder and lightning that fills the night skies when his father Woden leads out the Wild hunt. He is loved and worshiped by the common people, especially craftsmen and smiths. He is particularly keen for mortals to keep their oaths, and said to smash oath breakers with his hammer.
Tiw: Tiw is a god of champions, heroes, and personal combat. Warriors honour him with ritual sword dances and sometimes duels.
Hretha: A warrior goddess of fame, glory, and victory. Much beloved by vainglorious warriors.
Eostre: The goddess of dawn light, a maiden of spring, and fertility; especially of crops. Her sacred symbols are the hare and the egg.
Helið: An aged goddess of health and healing.
Hell: The goddess of death she claims the unworthy dead, cloaking them in her wælmist, her slaughter mist and transporting them to her home from which none may claim them.
Ing: A god of rain, fertility, and defence of the people. A bearded god who goes about naked (and well endowed) riding on a Boar and wielding his magical sword Flyhtfeoht that can fight on its own. He was once King of the Ælfcynn.
Freo: The goddess of love, and brother of Ing. A Stunning woman wearing a falcon feather cloak and little else. She travels in a chariot pulled by sacred cats.