Faith of the Grawlbeasts
- Gole Mikkelsen, Hearthkeeper of the Temple of Verdenslaks
Revered as the saviors and protectors of the Mountain Clans, the Grawlbeasts come in many shapes and sizes with each beast believed to offer its own wisdom, blessings, curses, and facets. This led to the formation of the Faith of the Grawlbeasts and, consequently, the societal structure of the Mountain Clans as they are known now.
With a diverse selection of Grawlbeasts to worship, the organization of the faith varies from sect to sect. The worship of Greater Grawlbeasts is typically more organized and coherent than the worship of their lesser counterparts, the Low Beasts.
The Sect of Mektigbjørn
Being the initial Grawlbeast of worship, Mektigbjørn (commonly known as The Great Bear) has the most organized followers of any other Grawlbeast. Like all other sects, the Sect of Mektigbjørn has a Hearthkeeper who tends the Flame of Life within the Temple of Mektigbjørn located in Holmstrad, ensuring it remains forever ignited. The Hearthkeeper of Holmstrad is considered to be the most spiritually inclined even among the other Hearthkeepers despite their focus on Mektigbjørn’s will above even the other Greater Grawlbeasts.
The Temple of Mektigbjørn is by far the most lavish of all those within the Mountain Clans’ lands, its entire structure hand-laid with upkeep handled by the most devout of the faithful. Within the temple is a room devoted entirely to sacrifices to Mektigbjørn for those seeking guidance, boons of strength, and curses of weakness. Also inside the temple’s carefully kept walls is a Tatoverer, a religious figure who bestows markings on those ordained by the Hearthkeeper. These markings are a sign of eternal strength from Mektigbjørn and believed to be an omen of a successful life as a warrior. Those who complete a pilgrimage to the temple are bestowed with a medallion sporting the image of Mektigbjørn, a symbol of devotion to the First Grawlbeast and to her worship.
The Sect of Verdenslaks
One of the least organized and most enigmatic sects of worship is that of Verdenslaks, more commonly known as the World Salmon, the beginning and the end. Those who worship Verdenslaks believe that the world was created from parts of the beast, with the land made from its scales, grass and trees made of the algae that once grew from its body, the mountains and rocks made of the teeth and bones, and the creature’s blood filling the waterways and oceans of Alm. This belief in turn leads the worshipers of Verdenslaks to treat the world with greater care than many of, if not all other denominations of worship.
The Temple of Verdenslaks, unlike many others, is in what many would consider a state of disrepair. The stonework is cracked and overgrown, many of the walkways eroded by flowing water over the years to leave only stepping stones to the central shrine. Despite its worn appearance, the worshippers of Verdenslaks consider their temple to be the most beautiful as it is most connected with their beast of worship. The Hearthkeeper of the temple has robes adorned with fish bones, moss, and assorted crystals which they believe gives them a more direct connection to Verdenslaks. Those who seek to gain the favor or direct the ire of the Verdenslaks journey to the temple with offerings of crafts made from, what they believe is, Verdenslaks’ former body. This is done as past Hearthkeepers have said Verdenslaks loved the transformative beauty of the arts, believing that each interpretation should vary greatly hence the temple’s flame is known as the Flame of Creation.
The Sect of Idunn
Being the most inquisitive and learned of the Grawlbeasts, Idunn’s sect naturally parallels this with their own behaviors of inquiry and archiving. Idunn is believed by her adherents to be the grawlbeast who bestowed speech upon the people of Alm, thus allowing them to begin worshipping her through the passing of knowledge. Unlike some of the other sects of worship, Idunn’s is entirely philanthropic in nature as they seek to better the world through knowledge and understanding.
The Temple of Idunn is a less traditional place of worship with its exterior seemingly mundane and its interior instead near identical to a grand archive with rows upon rows of towering bookshelves lined with knowledge of each age. Access to the interior of the temple is reserved only for those who present a valuable piece of knowledge to the Hearthkeeper who keeps the Flame of Knowledge kindled. The Hearthkeeper of the temple dresses far more modestly than their counterparts with simplistic and near monastic robes which are adorned only by a series of leather scroll cases. Despite the sect’s great reverence for knowledge and sharing amongst the other denizens of the world, the followers of Idunn are strangely mum on the inner workings of their particular sect. This has lead to a great many theories as to why they keep quiet ranging from self-preservation to secret rituals under the guise of a helping hand.
Sect of Geiterr
Sitting on the fringe of the Mountain Clan’s chief deities is Geiterr, often depicted as a mountain goat with massive horns. Those who adhere to the Sect of Geiterr are often headstrong and more prone to draw steel than a peace treaty. This is most historically evidenced through Jarl Oskarr Ragnhildr who opted to begin a war instead of discussing a more amicable resolution to a conflict of ideologies. Despite Geiterr’s more taboo existence in the upper echelon of Grawlbeasts, it is commonly accepted that Geiterr is responsible for the people of the Mountain Clans’ fighting spirit and stubbornness in maintaining their way of life.
The Temple of Geiterr has long sat in complete and utter ruin after being razed by a zealous group of Mektigbjørn worshippers. Its grounds once filled with gardens and flowing waters have now been buried beneath the snows of the mountain where it was constructed. Despite this, a Hearthkeeper still tends to a very meek flame within the upper tower that remains above the snow. While the others are adorned in the finery of their deity, the Hearthkeeper of Geiterr is clad in plain, long worn, tattered, and faded robes to symbolize their devotion to the Grawlbeast and the Flame of Perseverance.
Despite the variety of deities supported by the faith, there are common beliefs among the Chief Sects which are often taken as a certainty. Chief among these is the belief that if an individual has done well by their patron and lived an honorable life, they will be taken into the service of their patron Grawlbeast upon death. The meaning of “an honorable life” varies from sect to sect, but an individual’s worth is often determined by their sect’s Hearthkeeper upon their passing. The service in which an individual passes sees said faithful reborn into a lesser beast of the same species as their patron (A worshipper of Idunn theoretically being reincarnated as an Owl for example).
With the utmost faith in their patrons, those who worship the Grawlbeasts often approach a non-believer in one of two ways:
- They look down on the non-believer and proclaim that they will be forced to dwell in the Corpse Shore upon their passing, a place of horror and suffering where only those without honor go or
- They see the non-believer as misguided and attempt to educate them on the power and benevolence of the Grawlbeasts.
When it comes to individuals abandoning the faith in favor of the other religions of Alm, it is almost universally the former of the two as abandoning the Grawlbeasts is considered blasphemy. In rare instances, Hearthkeepers may request a meeting with an individual seeking to abandon the faith in an effort to discern why they have lost their way. These individuals are often held higher than others who convert away as they are seen as having merit despite their heresy.
As for symbolism and identifiers between the Sects, this once again varies greatly. Due to the number of lesser beasts worshipped, Mountain Clan society only truly focuses on the Chief deities of Mektibjorn, Verdenslaks, Idunn, and Geiterr. The symbols most commonly associated with each are a bear’s paw, depictions of fish leaping over running water or waves, an owl with spread wings, and a goat’s skull with antlers still in place respectfully.
While there are four Chief deities, the number of lesser Grawlbeasts is quite simply beyond count. The Chief deities dictate the cornerstones of Mountain Clan society while the lesser Grawlbeasts represent the minutia of the day to day lives of the people. This ranges from Grawlbeasts who represent prowess in baking to prowess with a romantic partner. The interactions between the individual Grawlbeasts is left mostly to the interpretation of the Hearthkeepers who act as a conduit for the Chief Grawlbeasts (and some fringe individuals who claim to be Hearthkeepers for the lesser Grawlbeasts), leading the masses to largely believe their word on matters of faith. There are no hero figures among the faith beyond the Grawlbeasts themselves and the occasionally mentioned “Lady of Winter” who is, in some accounts, said to have accompanied Mektigbjørn when she first met with humankind.
There are four major holidays among the worshippers of the Grawlbeasts with one for Mektigbjørn, Verdenslaks, Idunn, and Geiterr. These are the Festival of Unity, the Celebration of Creation, the Gathering of Minds, and the lesser celebrated Trial of Arms respectfully. Despite these being the most celebrated and recognized across the faithful, there are many smaller celebrations held for the various lesser Grawlbeasts which are often made by those faithful to them.
Weddings vary between sects with journeys that must be undertaken as a couple to good-natured duels, each sect proudly displaying its identity through what its patron Grawlbeast represents. The same can be said with coming of age ceremonies as some ceremonies demand time be spent in the mountains alone while others necessitate a pilgrimage to learn of the world.
The faith is most strongly adhered to in the regions of the Mountain Clans where it is a rarity to find non-believers. The origin of each sect is within relative proximity to each of the major shrines as these points are believed to have the most direct connection with the Grawlbeast worshipped within. The collective faith itself was founded in the home regions of the Mountain Clans with each sect carving out its own territory beneath the culturally unified surface.
Needless to say, the religion is the officially upheld faith of the Mountain clans with the vast majority of humans from the region devoting themselves to worshipping the Grawlbeasts. Despite its near-universal acceptance among the Clans, other human factions such as the Amyrian Empire have outright banned the worship, claiming it is blatant heresy and tantamount to worshipping the wretched Faefolke.
- Despite its status as a grand archive, the Temple of Idunn is missing an entire section on the fourth age of which no records seem to exist.
- The Temple of Geiterr was razed following the treason of Jarl Oskarr Ragnhildr as the Zealots of Mektigbjørn saw the temple as a symbol of his treachery.
- Some extreme fringe elements uphold Faefolke as aspects of certain Grawlbeasts.
Symbols: Vary by Sect
Object of Worship: Grawlbeasts (Greater and lesser)
Affiliation: The Mountain Clans, Greatholme