Monday, January 14, 2008

Elven Spirituality

I titled this "Elven Spirituality" for a very specific reason: Elves are, generally, not religious.

Wait a second, now, religion and spirituality are two different things. Some definitions:

  • a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny
  • an institution to express belief in a divine power
  • concern with things of the spirit
(All definitions found using the google "define:[word]" function)

The definition of religion as being an institution is an important one for me, and I favour that definition over the "strong belief" definition. However, elves do not believe in powers controlling destiny either, something (okay, another thing that sets them apart from dwarves).

Myth: Elves worship nature.
Truth in the myth: Elves revere nature.

It's a subtle difference.

  • specific acts of religious praise, honour, or devotion, typically directed to a supernatural being such as a god or goddess
  • regard with feelings of respect and reverence; consider hallowed or exalted or be in awe of
(Definitions found using google "define" feature)

Elves are not religious and cannot, per se, worship nature. They do not, generally, believe in "Nature" as a deity or supreme supernatural force. Rather, it is eminently natural for nature to do what it does when provoked. Note: In a fantasy universe, what nature does when provoked can be extremely dangerous.

In the traditional elven belief, what nature deserves is not worship but reverence. In a word, respect. Elves try very hard to work together with nature, rather than fighting it, because it is respectful to do so (and because when a fantasy nature hits back, it does so very, very hard). They consider the gifts that they receive from nature (an anthropomorphic metaphor, but a handy one) to be extremely valuable, and act accordingly.

Elves readily acknowledge the existence of beings that represent and embody the spirit of nature, or of various aspects of nature. They believe that to ignore them, as most humans do, would be folly of the highest order. When commenting on the human refusal to accredit natural processes to the spiritual creatures that embody them, an elf once said that "it would be like refusing to say that your fingers are useful in holding a hoe".

In summation, elves are not typically religious. They do not gather in churches, they do not sing praises to almighty nature. They are, however, spiritual beings who are reverent of the natural environment in which they live, which in a fantasy universe includes creatures that embody natural processes or locations.

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