Campaign of the Month: August 2016
Oath of Crows
Paganism is the native religion of Britain. In Arthur’s time, many of the kingdoms outside of Logres have never converted to Christianity. Even within Logres, many individuals have not abandoned their ancestral beliefs. These folk are called pagans, and their religion is Paganism.
Several pagan practices exist in the land, but we concentrate here on the Cymric one. Paganism is important because the wilds of the forest and glen, of mountain and seaside, are inhabited by the Faerie, mystical beings who are descendants and worshippers of the ancient gods. Their powers and influence are loosed upon the land later in the campaign, during the Enchantment of Britain. As well, many of the human magicians of Britain are pagans.
“Paganism,” like most beliefs or ideologies, is revealed when examined closely to be a number of differing ancient practices and attitudes, and not a homogeneous, monolithic religious system.
For our purposes in the game, however, the myriad forms of Paganism can be treated as a relatively unified whole. Paganism, then, is characterized by beliefs and attitudes that differentiate it from Christianity. The most obvious is the worship of many immortal and sometimes deific entities called gods, goddesses, and spirits. These entities inhabit the landscape, the sky, the sun, the moon, and other parts of the world, and also the Other Side (also called the Spirit Realm, the Faerie Realm, or any number of other such titles). They imbue the world with a life force and consciousness. By living in harmony with these natural forces, people live happier, healthier, safer lives. Paganism believes in an afterlife, on the Other Side, and druids also taught that souls reincarnate back onto our side as well. Paganism is built upon oral tradition, shunning the written word. This grows out of a system of belief that reveres empirical experience over education. Pagans do not proselytize. Nor do they adhere to a strict hierarchy of leadership, or to a central authority. One important belief is an acknowledgment of human limitations, especially where it comes to knowing the “Truth.” Truth, for pagans, has many forms, all of which deserve respect within their limited sphere.
Paganism is a religion of nature; ceremonies are usually held at outdoor sites such as megalithic circles or ancient oak groves. The seasonal celebrations in different parts of the land are similar, although they probably invoke deities with different names. The patterns are the same, though details differ from place to place.
Paganism is eclectic and acknowledges many gods and goddesses, even many from outside of Britain. British Paganism includes native deities such as Don and Beli; Roman imports like Minerva Sulis and Dionysus; and Far Eastern mysticism, such as Mithras, Isis, and Cybele. Pagans in Pendragon may be content to think that their ancient ways will eventually absorb even the latest religion imported from Rome: Christianity.
Pagan places of note
- Stonehenge – Logres, on the Salisbury Plains
- The Isle of Avalon – Logres, West Country near Cornwal
- Lydny – Escavalon
- Aqua Sulus – Bath, southwest Logres
- Pomitain – In the Irish Sea
- White Horse – Salisbury
- Cerne Abbas Giant – Dorset
- The Long Man – Sussex
- Tomnachurich – Pictland
- Maes How, Brodgar, and Stenness – Orkneys
- Clava Cairns – Pictland
Pagan deities do not fall into those neat lists and categories so loved by scholars. Different parts of Britain prefer their own deities. Their mythologies, functions, and aspects were often alike, yet they were often called by different names even from one village or holding to the next. Moreover, when the old groves were searched for living spirits, the surviving gods were welcomed and mixed up further. This list is reconstructed from many fragments, and portions are speculative. Given here are interpretations current in the era of the Pendragons.
A.k.a. Belenos, Lug, Llud, Nudd, Llyr
The most ancient god of fire, sun, and heaven still rules over a Faerie world called the Land of Youth. Often called the Shining One, this god is he who intercedes among the gods and spirits in favor of the living. He rules the tribe of the Gods of Light and is the furious magical king who wields the thunderbolt. He is widely worshiped as a god of life and death.
A.k.a. Pwyll, Urbgen
This is the Lord of the Underworld, who keeps all riches, the ancestors of animals, and the power of Life when it is absent from the human world. He rules the Land of the Dead under the Western Sea. He is sometimes called Lord of Nourishment. He is widely worshiped as a god of life and death.
Math the Ancient is “the Overlord,” keeper of the starry night which speaks its secrets to astronomers and herdsmen. He is the Source of Wisdom, and much druidic knowledge comes from him. His young assistant, Gwydion, the Druid of the Gods, usually accompanies him.
A.k.a. Modron, Anna, Brigid, Arianrhod, Rhiannon,Epona, Gaia
This First Goddess has many aspects and is most quickly recognized as Mother (Modron or Anna), Fire and Poetry (Brigid), Moon (Arianrhod), Horses (Epona), Sovereignty (Rhiannon), and Earth (Don or Gaia). She is wife to many, and mother to the rest.
The Dark Goddess owns the magical cauldron of inspiration, life, and rebirth. She rules beneath the earth and in its dark waters, and upon its shores she may meet a young hero to test him; if he succeeds, she may give him a magical horse.
The Maiden, or Yong Goddess of Springtime, is the carrier of new life to the world. She is the fl ower goddess, often called simply Wife or Bride, who carries the light of life within her. She is sometimes a treacherous temptress.
A.k.a. Owain, Angeus, Pryderi, Gwythur, Mabon
This is the God Who Comes Again, the resurrected warrior of light who arises from the darkness, rescues the flower goddess, and begins the season of Plenty. He is sometimes called the Sleeping Hero. Sometimes he is associated with a lion.
A.k.a. Gronw Pebyr, Meligraunce
This is the Dark God who terrifies men, abducts the Goddess, enchants the Light God, and brings the cold hardship of winter to the world. He is the Wild Hunter whose hounds can be heard in the wilderness.
This god rules over the Irish Sea and the magical land underneath. Especially sacred to him is the Isle of Mann, where the tailless Manx cats dwell.