The Gods of Adara
The Gods of Adara
The gods of Adara are generally distant, with no recorded interaction with mortals since the Shattering, thousands of years ago. Some, like the dwarves, believe that the gods well and truly died during the cataclysm that tore their world apart and that divine magic is practiced by drawing on the ambient energy that was left behind by their deaths. Others believe the gods are otherwise engaged in a war against evil that has raged since the cataclysm. What follows is a brief summary of the gods that are still worshipped by the people of Adara.
The Iron Emperor
In the kingdom of Galmor, it is heresy to believe in another being more powerful than the Emperor, and he himself is venerated as a god. Though some citizens of Galmor believe in lesser household and nature spirits, such beliefs are discouraged by the emperor’s own inquisitorium. Outside of Galmor, there is much debate regarding the divine nature of the Iron Emperor. He is certainly long lived and possesses great physical and magical might, though most believe this is simply a trick or the effects of some powerful magical artifact.
Outside of Galmor, humans hold onto their old gods. Human tribes have a large, shared pantheon represented by totem animals, though some individual tribes also worship totems specific to their own tribe. Among the Elissian League, these same totemic gods are worshipped, though they have been anthropomorphized into humans or are represented as humans who occasionally take animal forms.
The primary god of the humans of Adara is the god of the sun, Taeo, who grants life to crops and whose rays drive away the creatures from the abyss each morning. He is also depicted as aloof and fickle, however, caring little for the affairs of mortals. Worship of Taeo is a largely one-sided affair, with priests and worshipers making offerings with hope, but not expectation, that their devotion will be rewarded. Among the tribal humans of Galmora, Taeo is depicted as a great golden lion.
The Three Sisters
Adara has three moons, which represent the most important goddesses of the human pantheon, the Three Sisters. The largest of these three moons is Elisse, the protector, for only her light is bright enough to keep the beasts from the abyss at bay. She is depicted as a young woman, often wearing armor and carrying a bow.
The second largest moon, only slightly smaller than Eisse, is rust colored and known as Eleian. Eleian is often depicted as an old crone: wise, but also cunning and shrewd. Stories of Eleian often illustrate the importance of being thoughtful, temperate, and prudent.
The smallest of the three moons, only about a quarter of the size of her elder sisters, is Ana. Ana is depicted as a small girl, and represents innocence and the recklessness of youth. Tales of Ana often revolve around her being protected by her elder sisters and are used to scare little children into behaving.
The tribes often depict the three sisters as a pack of wolves, with Elisse typically being depicted as the pack’s alpha. In such depictions, it is not rare to see numerous other minor gods and goddesses (those tied to the various bright stars) portrayed as part of the Elissian family.
The Story of Taeo and Elisse
Taeo and Elisse are the two protector gods of humankind, and as such have a particular relationship within mythology. The fact that the two heavenly bodies are never seen in the sky at the same time has furthered that relationship. In some stories, the Elisse stole her light from Taeo causing the great lion to forever chase her across the sky. In others, Elisse was given her light by Taeo in an attempt to win her heart, but the lion was rebuffed by the fickle young wolf and he has been pursuing her ever since.
The most widely accepted version of the story, and the one taught in Elissia, is that Taeo and Elisse were once friends and lovers, but after the great cataclysm they had to part ways so that they could defend humankind from the creatures of the abyss at all times. It is also said that they are able to meet one night each month, when the moon is full, and that her sadness and longing for her love explains the waning of the moon each month and her excitement to reunite with him explains its waxing. The story is often used to inspire soldiers who find themselves far from home that they will one day be reunited with their loved ones if they fulfill their duty, and many soldiers homes display icons to Taeo and Elisse where their families pray for safe return.
Dorun, the great bear, is a god that was borrowed from the Dwarven god Durin. He represents the earth and stone, and the wealth that lies therein. He also symbolizes the ability to overcome obstacles through endurance, willpower, and adaptability.
Parran and Corran
Parran and her husband Corran, are the gods of the fields and forests, represented by the deer and stag respectively. They are minor gods, though two together, often represent the strength of family and support between wife and husband. Priests of Parran and Corran typically oversee wedding ceremonies.
Hadi is a trickster god, represented by the fox. He often plays pranks on the other gods, particularly Taeo and Elisse. There is some strong evidence that Hadi was originally a halfling god, but it is unclear if he was simply integrated into human beliefs or if there was an older human fox totem that was combined with the halfling god Hadi due to their similarities. Many halflings still worship Hadi almost exclusively. Despite his roguish behavior, he is typically presented as being friendly, generous to those in need, and as a protector of small children.
Bori is another god borrowed from the dwarven pantheon, though unlike Dorun, humans also believe Bori to be well and truly dead. The badger once guarded the underground realms from the abyssal creatures who had been sealed away to protect humanity, and when the abyssals broke free they killed Bori and consumed his flesh. The death of this once stern and mighty warrior was the first clash of the great war in heaven, and is remembered each year during the winter solstice. Despite being recognized as dead, Bori still has some worshippers who believe he will be reborn to join the final battle against the abyssals and his followers tend to be stern warriors who stand opposed to the abyssals at every opportunity.
Wise Otura, often represented by the owl, is the goddess of magic and hidden secrets. She is almost never involved directly in the myths of the humans, and is instead a figure whom the other gods turn to for answers and counsel. Unlike the other gods, Otura is not depicted as a human, but rather as a beautiful elven woman. Scholars theorize that this dates back to the earliest human discovery of magic, which was most likely through apprenticeship to practicing elven mages. She is sometimes portrayed as having a romantic relationship with the Raven, though among the most devout Oturan priests, such stories are considered to be heresy.
The Raven, the god of death, is not given a name beyond that of his totemic form. While some tribes fear the god of death, most within the Elissian League worship him with dignified respect. Among Elissians, he is also the god most often depicted in his animal form and though figures representing him as a human exist, they are rare and typically represent him with either the face of a raven or simply a skull. While some tribes fear him as an ill-omen, most believe that rather than bring death, the Raven simply ensures the transition between life and death. It is said that he ushers the spirit from this world to the next, protecting them from the horrors of the abyss as he makes his way heavenward. The Raven is one of the few deities in the Elissian pantheon that is represented in distinct shrines rather than in temples to the pantheon as a whole. Shrines to the Raven are simple, but widespread. They can be found in nearly every Elissian town, and most tribal warriors wear at least a single raven feather woven into their hair when they hunt or go to war.
Kayn is the reviled member of the Elissian pantheon, represented, if he is represented at all, by the goat. It is said that Kayn allowed the abyssals to slip free of their prison beneath the earth, though stories about his reasons for doing so vary. Some believe that it was through neglect or carelessness. Others that he was attempting to save an innocent who had wandered into the abyssal prisons. Still others claim that he was tricked into the foolish act by Hadi. The most widely accepted tale was that he was driven by jealousy of Taeo and that his intent was only the death of the great lion.
The human myth of the shattering depicts a great war between the Elissian pantheon and the Abyssals. It is said that the abyssals had been defeated many eons ago by the previous generation of gods, locked away in a prison deep within their world. During the years that followed there was a period of peace and prosperity for humankind, and the gods blessed their labors. It was through the carelessness or malice of Kayne that the abyssals were set loose upon the world.
Where once the gods lived in luxury and were able to benevolently help their human worshippers, they are now engaged in an endless war to contain the evil monstrosities that were once sealed in the core of their world. Elissians teach that this war will end in a great battle where the humans will play a significant role and turn the tides against the Abyssals once and for all.
Interestingly, while some of the deities are of dubious moral character, the Elissian pantheon has no distinctly evil deities. Some claim that this was to ensure that worshippers of the Elissian pantheon had only inspirational role models to look up to. Another theory that has grown popular among scholars is that the roles of traditionally evil deities were subsumed in stories by the abyssal fiends that humanity now faced in reality.
Dwarves believe their gods to be dead, shattered along with the world. They remember their dead gods in the same ways that they remember their dead ancestors, and much of their religious worship revolves around honoring the dead. The chief god of the Dwarves was Durin, god of the earth and forge, who is still revered by miners and craftsman. Bouri, the god of war, is honored by warriors and hunters, while Faerin, the mother of Durin and goddess of the home and hearth, is remembered during her feast days during the spring equinox.
The elves do not have any specific pantheon, though it is unknown if they once did. Instead, they have a complex system of ancestor worship tied to the movement of celestial bodies. Elves believe that the spirits of the dead are whisked away to the heavens where the magic that lies within them fuels the stars. Families track the stars where their ancestors are believed to reside, and petition them for aid when their stars are in specific heavenly alignments.
Halflings worship the First Family, alternately believed to be the progenitors or creators of the halfling race. The three gods of the first family are Toru, Elys, and Hadi. The similarities between the First Family and the three gods of the Elissian pantheon are lost on no one, and there are disputes among human and halfling scholars regarding who appropriated whose gods.