Tuesday, December 20, 2016

World: Religion - Dwarven

The dwarven system of faith is highly ritualistic but essentially atheistic. There are no specific deities and the dwarves do not recognize the human gods (their words for the Sun, Moon, and Star in the sky are Zonn, Aef and Gitaef ‘small moon’, respectively).

The dwarves follow a system of ancestor worship which fits their culture and history. An ancient civilization, some prominent dwarven families claim to be able to trace their lineage back to the time before history was written. Not as long-lived a race as the elves, the dwarves nonetheless can reach ages of several centuries. Not a race to spend long periods of time in idle contemplation the theoretical aspects of dwarven religion are not as valued among the populace as the practical aspects, thus dwarven religion is heavily integrated into family life, law, work and day-to-day activities.

Extensive records of family lineage are kept by the Council of Elders and the Masons Circle, as well as by the individual families themselves. Family records are used for settling disputes, approving marriages, punishment and resource management so the family line carries all the deeds, good and bad, of a dwarf’s history which has both direct and indirect impacts on their life. Thus, a dwarven family’s spirital life revolves centrally around this historic lineage.

A people very fond of duty, rules and structure, the most well-developed aspects of the dwarven faith are the rituals. For every major event in a dwarf’s life (birth, naming, day of calling, marriage, childbirth, day of mastery, day of eldering, and death) there is a ritual. Some are small affairs with close kin while others are large celebrations involving the entire clan. It is through the rituals that the dwarves show their reverence to the power of family and the gifts of their ancestors. 

A less commonly discussed aspect of dwarven spirituality is kinship with things of the earth (rock, mineral, gems) and things crafted from them. Dwarves believe that stone and the things that come from it have a soul just as much as the elves believe in the spirits of animals, wood and water. Moreover their creation mythology suggests that the souls of dwarves come from the spirit of the stone itself and their death rites return the soul and the physical remains to the stone. Thus the spirit of every dwarf who has lived literally infuses the very rock of their homeland that surrounds them.

The spirit of craftsmanship is also an integral part of dwarven religion. It is felt that the hands of the ancestors guide the craftsman, whether working stone, cutting gems, or at the forge. Since the material being worked (the stone itself) is believed to carry the souls of their people, the dwarves take the crafting of stone very seriously such that it could easily take two centuries for a dwarf to achieve the status of Master Mason. 

Death Rites: 
Dwarves are a long-lived people with a potential lifespan of centuries. They are shorter lived than the elves and though a more populous race they also engage in more dangerous work in their mines and forges, thus death among the dwarves is a more common event than the elves. 

The dwarven beliefs regarding the soul of the earth have shaped their death rituals. The dwarf is laid out their finest ceremonial dress and their hair plaited. After a day and a night of mourning where the family each can say farewell to the deceased (a process which sometimes takes longer than a day and a night, thus that time period is considered a minimum requisite), the body is wrapped and cremated in a special forge and the ashes cast into the Chasm of the Ancestors to return to the stone that birthed them. A small amount of ash is often retained by the family.

(Note: Out of necessity there are differences in the dwarven death rites for Highland dwarves, please see World: Races - Dwarves for more information).


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