Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dwarven Religion

Dwarven religion is marked by a few important traits. They are monotheistic, or mostly so. Depending on who you ask, you may be told that there are no other gods, that other gods were merely Dimiourgos (the dwarven god) in disguise, or that there are other gods, but the greatest and creator of them all was Dimiourgos. All (except a few radicals) agree that Dimiourgos is at least the only god worthy of praise and worship.

Dimiourgos is worshipped in five aspects: The Creator, the Life-Breather, the Protector, the Law-Giver, and the Renewer. Each of these aspects has associated with it an act that must be performed or a world-view that must be held. No dwarf is exempt from these five manners of worship.

The Creator
And in this way, Dimiourgos created the earth.

The aspect of the Creator is credited with the creation of everything that exists, including the earth itself. This aspect is also called the Artisan, to reflect the great majesty of the world and the things in it. The manner in which the Creator is worshipped is through the act of creation, the highest form of which is the carving of one's offspring. Other forms of creation are encouraged, but it is the carving of one's offspring that must be performed before returning to the stone.

The carving of an offspring is a great endeavour, one that takes anywhere from one to four years of a dwarf's life. The dwarf is released from other clan obligations in order to perform this service, and spends much of the time in seclusion, alone with the rock, stopping only to eat and sleep as necessary. It is common practice for dwarves to wait a long time before carving an offspring, as the clan cannot usually operate for long if many members are released from their responsibilities at once.

A dwarf who decides to devote themselves to the creator spends much of their time creating fine art, usually sculpture or metalwork, and the rest of their time carving offspring. These dwarves often carve two or three offspring, rather than the typical one.

The Life-Breather
Dimiourgos, after having carved the first dwarves from the earth he had created, breathed life into them, and taught them the manner of it, saying to them "You are my first and my chosen, you will hold the power of life and death over your offspring". This is the aspect of the Life-Breather, the most powerful aspect and the most influential, having the only organized priesthood.

Not all dwarves are suited to become Life-Breathers, and many Life-Breathers jealously guard their secrets from the other dwarves. Those that become Life-Breathers themselves are called, supposedly, to the practice, and to ignore that calling is to reject the gift of the Life-Breather aspect. To accept it is to worship the Life-Breather in the greatest sense, and similarly those who are not suited to those duties worship the Life-Breather by doing that for which they are best suited, and thanking the Life-Breather for the gift of life.

The Priesthood of the Life-Breather rules dwarven society, usually indirectly. The society is often self-regulating and requires little in the way of overt rule, but Life-Breathers are consulted about dwarves' callings, and when a dwarf must be promoted above the others (to a position of generalship in the case of war, for example), it is the Life-Breathers who make the appointment.

Furthermore, Life-Breathers hold the secret of the breathing of life into a carving, making it a dwarf. These priests can (and have, in the past) withhold this action, and essentially destroy a clan, or even the entire race, if they are patient enough.

The Protector
When the waves of darkness threatened to pour into this world and destroy the dwarves, Dimiourgos held up his hands and stopped the flow, protecting the dwarves and allowing them to grow until they were strong enough to protect the world themselves.

The aspect of the Protector defended the then helpless dwarves, allowing them to grow until they were able to protect themselves and others. This selfless act of defense on the part of Dimiourgos is to be imitated. It is an act of praise to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

A dwarf devoted to the Protector might become a guard on a border, or perhaps wander the mountains, looking for lost souls to protect.

The Law-Giver
Dimiourgos then spoke to the assembled dwarves, and gave them the law by which to live.

The Law-Giver is fairly self-explanatory, but one of the important things to note is that the law was given to the dwarves orally. Dimiourgos spoke to them, and told them the law. This has a great effect on dwarven culture, as it sets them up to be oral historians and storytellers. It should be noted that dwarves have no written language.

The proper way to praise the Law-Giver is to follow the law. Each tribe (or group of tribes, in the case of smaller tribes) has at least Law-Speaker, who has dedicated his life to knowing the law and stories of Dimiourgos. Law-Speakers are often given the power to make legal rulings, but this is not normally necessary. Instead, they tend to teach and indoctrinate young dwarves into their proper roles in society by teaching them the laws and examining them to help discover the sort of work they are suited to. If any sort of opposition to the Life-Breathers was thinkable, it might come from the Law-Speakers, who also enjoy significant power and respect.

Devoting oneself to the Law-Giver is to devote oneself to learning the vast oral history, stories, and the laws given down by Dimiourgos. It is not a calling to take lightly.

I'll do more on the specific laws themselves in another post, likely with the discussion of politics.

The Renewer
When Dimiourgos discovered the dwarves who had returned to the stone, he was overcome by emotion and wept. His tears washed the statues clean, returning the silt to the water. From the water, he called the rock anew, and rebuilt the dwarves who had lost their life.

The aspect of the Renewer is responsible for returning dwarves to the stone, making them again one with the stone, and preparing them to be carved into something new.

The Renewer is worshipped in different ways, but all involve taking the statue that a dwarf becomes at death and returning it to the elements. Dwarves in high mountains may leave the statue to be eroded by wind, dwarves that live near a river may have the statue eroded by water. There are some dwarves who live in a volcanic range who return their statues to the lava.

Devotees of the Renewer serve by preparing the statues, finding a place for them, and enabling the other dwarves to pay their respects.

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