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    Religion, Myth, and Ritual Among the Rovers of the Barrens, Part 1
    Posted on Sat, November 01, 2003 by Trickster
    robbastard writes "Noted sage and scholar Felis Arn reveals some of his research into the religious lives of the Rovers of the Barrens in this two-part excerpt from his lecture at Grey College Reaping 19th, 592 CY.

    Religion, Myth, and Ritual Among the Rovers of the Barrens, Part One
    By: robbastard
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Though many think of the Flan as a monolithic ethnic group, this is a misconception which modern scholars scoff at. Most scholars believe the word “Flan” to be a catch-all term the early Oeridian settlers applied to any human culture existing in the Flanaess before the Great Migrations. Though many of these early “Flan” cultures shared certain similarities, there were (and are) enough differences to classify a number of them as separate cultural groups. Linguists, historians, and natural philosophers have identified at least four main branches of the Flan:
    1. Northeastern Flan. This group inhabited the lands north and northeast of the Nyr Dyv. Modern descendants include the Tenha and the Rovers of the Barrens.
    2. Northwestern Flan (or Quagite Culture). Settlements of this group are most concentrated in the region of Lake Quag and the Yatils. Modern descendants of this group include certain clans of Perrenland.
    3. Southwestern Flan (or Sheldomar Culture). This group was found throughout the Sheldomar valley. The people of Geoff are the best example of this group’s modern descendants.
    4. Central Flan. This group was most prevalent to the south and southeast of the Nyr Dyv. Least numerous of the four main branches, the tribesmen of the Abbor-Alz are among this group’s modern descendants.
    More cultural branches of the Flan have been identified, but either little is known of them (such as the pygmy tribes of the Burneal Forest), or the branch has died out.
    One argument put forth as “proof” of a monolithic Flan culture (Pan-Flanism) is that the four main branches all seem to venerate the same, or similar, deities. Whether this is because all Flan cultures originated from a single source, or this is due to cultural cross-pollination is an issue much debated in scholarly circles today. Currently, no one knows how long the Flan inhabited the Flanaess before the Flan Tracking system was introduced (perhaps retroactively) with its first year designated equivalent to -2150 CY. Regardless, despite the fact that many of the same gods can be found throughout the various branches of Flan cultures, each group worships according to its own traditions. Today we will examine the religious traditions of the one of the modern descendants of the Northeastern Flan culture, the Rovers of the Barrens.

    The Rovers of the Barrens
    Though many Rovers may choose a single patron god or spirit, prayers and offerings may be made to several such entities, as the situation warrants. For instance, prayers may be made to Obad-Hai before a hunt, to Velnius for rain, and to Beory for healthy children.
    Another important aspect of Rover religion is animism. Spirits inhabit all things: animals, trees, rivers, mountains, rocks, etc. The spirit of any animal slain for food is given thanks so that it may one day return to earth, ensuring a steady supply of game. Some spirits become powerful enough that they could be considered gods in their own right. These are often “archetype spirits,” especially where animals are concerned. The Coyote spirit, for instance, would not be considered the spirit of an individual coyote, nor the collective spirit of all coyotes, but would be better explained as the spirit of everything that makes Coyote, Coyote.

    Principal Deities of the Rovers
    Though the majority of the gods worshipped by the Rovers are Flan in origin, the Araphi also revere a number of non-Flan gods. How they came to worship these foreign deities is most likely due to cross-pollination with other cultures, such as the Oerids and Bakluni. In some instances these gods were adopted outright, while in other cases the deity was identified with a similar native deity, and the two eventually came to be regarded as the same god.

    Allitur – “The Lawgiver.” Allitur set forth the laws by which men may live in peace. Allitur teaches that “to lead the People, one must serve the People”—a proverb that wise Rover chieftains take to heart.

    Beory – “Grandmother.” The Earth, Sacred Mother of every living creature. The Rovers are primarily hunter-gatherers. When told to abandon hunting and settle down to farming, an old Rover priest is said to have replied: “You ask me to plow the ground! Shall I take a knife and tear my mother's bosom? Then when I die she will not take me to her bosom to rest. You ask me to dig for stone! Shall I dig under her skin for her bones? Then when I die I cannot enter her body to be born again. You ask me to cut grass and make hay and sell it, and be rich like the Tenha! But how dare I cut off my mother's hair? It is a bad law and my people cannot obey it."

    Celene – The Turquoise Moon. Goddess of seasons. Daughter of Pelor and Beory.

    Iggwilv – Though not worshipped by the Araphi, The Mother of Demons is a feared figure in Rover folklore. Iggwilv is described as a hideous, iron-toothed hag who lives in a hut in the mountains which is able to move by sprouting legs. Her home is surrounded by the skulls of her victims mounted on spears. She has a fondness for the flesh of children.

    Incabulos – “Lord of Sickness,” “the Black Rider.” Incabulos is said to ride at night upon the Barrens on his fierce nightmare, spreading disease with his arrows of sickness. Offerings are made to the Black Rider not to gain his favor, but to keep him away.

    Iuz – Iuz is not a Rover deity, but like his mother, the Old One (also called Iuz the Deathless) does play a part in Rover folk tales. It is said that Iuz really isn’t immortal, that he can be killed, but to do so one should find Iuz’s death, which is a task of epic proportions. Legend has it that there is an island in the sea, on that island is a tree, and underneath the tree is a gourd. Inside the gourd is a rabbit, inside the rabbit is a snake, in the snake is an egg, in the egg is a needle, and finally in the needle is the death of Iuz. The sea in which the island rests, whether the Icy Sea, the Nyr Dyv, Whyestil Lake, or Lake Quag, is not specified.

    Joramy – “Firehair.” In ages past, Ralishaz tried to woo Joramy by stealing fire from Pelor. He startled her with his gift and accidentally set her hair aflame. She was not harmed but her long, beautiful hair was burnt away by the sun’s fire. Angered, she chased Ralishaz from her sight. The flame, being from the eternal sun, continued to burn and remains upon her crown like a cloak of fire, and Joramy took her place among the gods as mistress of fire and quarrels. With this newfound knowledge, Joramy taught man how to make fire.

    Luna - White Moon. Goddess of magic (“medicine”). The sister of the turquoise moon goddess Celene. Called "White Shell Woman" because she was made from abalone. Daughter of Pelor and Beory.

    Myhriss – “The Beautiful One.” Goddess of love, amity, compassion, beauty, and happiness. Myhriss moves among oppositions to create harmony.

    Nerull – “The Great Bear of Death,” “Gatherer of the Dead.” Nerull is said to carry the dead down with him to the underworld, where they must sleep with him for a year. The Araphi view Death as part of the natural order, and thus do not look upon Nerull with the same stigma as other inhabitants of the Flanaess. However, the type of Nerull-worship that was once found in the Horned Society is viewed as a perversion.

    Obad-Hai – “The Great Hunter.” Master of hunting to whom all game belongs. Taught the Araphi how to hunt, but at the same time made the bison, deer, rabbit, and other game swift and/ or clever so that they would not be easy prey. Obad-Hai is creator of the animal spirits and the Great White Bison.

    Pelor - The Sun, acknowledged widely as the most important Rover deity. Pelor rides across the sky every day on his great steed, Star Thought, destroying evil with his arrows of light. Though most cultures in the Flanaess depict Pelor as an old, bearded man, the Rovers depict Pelor as young and beardless, wearing a full war bonnet made from golden eagle feathers. Pelor rides into battle on the back of the mighty ki-rin Star Thought. The Rovers performed their famous Sun Dance in Pelor’s honor, to celebrate the cycle of life. Young warriors attached themselves to tall poles with strips of hide which were tied to sharp stakes. The stakes were driven through the skin and flesh on the chest. The warrior would then support his entire weight with the hide ropes as he slowly circled the pole following the sun's movement in the sky, while staring directing into the sun. This lasted for four days or until the stakes ripped out of the flesh. The Sun Dance has rarely been performed since the Greyhawk Wars, however, due to its repression by Iuz.

    Ralishaz – “The Trickster.” Ralishaz is sometimes identified with the animal spirits Coyote or Raven. Ralishaz is always lurking about, causing trouble and playing pranks. He was indirectly responsible for Joramy becoming goddess of fire.

    Rao - The good spirit, representing everything in nature good and helpful to man. Ancient stories tell how when humans were first created, they were constantly at war with the land and the animal spirits (or Beory and Obad-Hai). Rao is said to have facilitated the treaty by which the Araphi live in harmony with nature—the People may take from Nature’s bounty, but they abuse it at their peril.

    Telchur – “Winter Spirit.” Depicted as a white-skinned man with a demonic face and blazing white eyes. Not invoked as much as appeased, for fear that he will come. Valuables are burned to placate him. Telchur is responsible for the curse of the wendigo.

    Tharizdun – Rover creation myths speak of a “Great Darkness Before the World Began,” which many scholars identify with Tharizdun. In these myths, Darkness dreams the world into being, along with the gods and many horrid monsters and demons. The gods succeeded in banishing most of these demons and monsters from the world. Then, fearing that if Darkness awoke from its dream, reality would cease to exist, the gods used powerful magics to keep Darkness in eternal slumber.

    Velnius – “The Thunder Bird.” God of the sky, wind, thunder, weather, and war. Said to carry a lake on his back, from which rain falls. The Rainbow is his consort.

    Animal Spirits – Known archetype animal spirits, some approaching deity status, include Coyote, Raven, Elk, Deer, Snake, Fox, Wolf, Bear, Eagle, Rabbit, Spider, and Bison.

    Ancestral Spirits – Great ancestors are often venerated by the Rovers, and act as intermediaries to the gods. Ancestors are usually honored by those who knew them in life. Few ancestral spirits continue to be venerated after all those who knew them have died. The Ghost Dance is an example of a ritual invoking ancestral spirits. Rover burial grounds are believed to be guarded by ancestral spirits.

    Legendary Creatures
    Though the lands of the Rovers are home to a number of supernatural creatures, the following are exceptionally worthy of note:

    Fire (or Demon) Bear – A huge bear, said to glow with a supernatural fire. Legend has it that anyone who sees the Fire Bear would die in three months, unless he kills the bear.

    Great White Bison – The Great White Bison is a giant albino beast, sometimes described as spectral, that roams the barrens once every seven years during the winter months. Though not considered a malevolent beast, the bison is quite destructive, and many a rover village has suffered under its hooves. Some say the Great White Bison is sent by Obad-Hai, and is the price the Araphi must pay for the hunt, part of the treaty Rao facilitated between the People and the animal spirits. When the Great White Bison appears, one Rover warrior, usually a Wardog, is chosen to hunt down and kill it. In addition, the chosen warrior must always be someone who has lost a loved one to the Great White Bison’s rampage.

    Manitou – A manitou is an evil spirit, usually of an evil shaman, who seeks rebirth by an unusual form of possession. The victim often does not realize he has been possessed until it is too late. The manitou will first manifest itself as a cyst on the victim’s body, which gradually grows larger, incapacitating the host. Eventually the cyst will become nearly as large as the host, at which point the manitou emerges, and the host dies.

    Wendigo – The wendigo is said to be the result of an ancient curse by Telchur. Any human who engages in cannibalism due to lack of food in winter, is transformed into this malevolent spirit which allegedly walks on air and devours the flesh of men. The wendigo may appear in any number of forms: a human in white robes, a white-furred werewolf, a man with white fur and the head of an elk, or even as a huge yeti. Some say that the Great White Bison is a manifestation of the wendigo, but most scoff at this, as the Great White Bison has never been know to eat human flesh.

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    Re: Religion, Myth, and Ritual Among the Rovers of the Barrens, Part 1 (Score: 1)
    by GVDammerung on Tue, August 10, 2004
    (User Info | Send a Message | Journal)
    I like this piece in the main. The cultural groups are a particularly nice elaboration. You lost me with the cross-polinated gods, however. When this occurs, I think there is a "sameness" that I dislike.


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