Tuesday, December 20, 2016

World: Religion - Elven

The elves (and to some extent the dwarves) in this land follow an animistic religious philosophy, believing that souls exist not only in people but in all living things, and those souls are completely interconnected. Thus there are no specific deities in their religion, but rather spirits of nature that are understood to be metaphors rather than separately existing sentient beings. 

Thus an elf may pay homage to the plants or trees, or give thanks to an animal spirit. Worship is extremely individualistic and often a private matter. 

Elves do record the names and deeds of those who do remarkable things in the service of the land. These individuals are called ‘Saints’ and their names are revered and invoked by the people. They are often elves (whose exploits are known to their people) but can come from any race or species - there are human druids, halfling clerics, merfolk and dryads that have numbered among the Saints of the Elves. 

The basic tenets of the elven religion are rooted in egalitarianism and respect for nature. Rather than a religion of ritual and narrative it is better described as a way of life and practice of existence. Such extremely long-lived beings, elves have the luxury of time to contemplate the nature of the universe. Many have written their observations and realizations in tomes held in the oldest elven cities. These collected works of wisdom are often referenced by the elves, but treated more as philosophical treatises than guides to how one should experience ones spirituality. 

Though few elves would identify as followers of human religions, they are generally respectful of the beliefs of others and the in line with their broad belief of the nature of the soul, the elves can find a thread of understanding with many of the human religions and perhaps best relate to those that emphasize the dualism of the Sun and the Moon.

Though there are fundamental similarities between elven and dwarven religion, the practice of these is vastly different. To elves, who believe in a spirit that permeates all living things, the dwarven kinship with and apparent worship of stone and metal is puzzling. Though the practice of invoking or communing with the Saints is not, on its surface, dissimilar to the dwarven practice of beatification of ancestors, the elves fail to see any appreciable similarity.

Alalugweig - Spirit of the Sky (Encompasses sky, wind, and cloud).

Athwahlei - Spirit of the Bear (The Bear spirit is associated with great strength, slow to anger but fierce when protecting their loved ones bears are seen as wise and powerful creatures by the elves).

Atoquasu - Spirit of the Fish (Atoquasu is sometimes considered to be the soul that runs through all aquatic life).

Masgwei - Spirit of the Tree (Often invoked for trees of any kind, though some particularly ancient trees may be referred to by their individual name).

Naqasuaqei - Spirit of the Rain (Rain, snow, fog, thunder and all forms of precipitation)

Psitn - Spirit of the River (A changeful spirit that is considered both playful and powerful and should never be underestimated).

Taqtaloq - Spirit of the Reptiles (Usually associated with reptilian animals, otherworldly reptilian humanoids and dragons are related but different spirits).

Sgilmin - Spirit of Seed (Seeds and seedlings, new growth and youngling plants).

Earyende Lynnadhiel - Lady of Seasong (Literal translation ‘singing daughter of the sea’. An elf who lived thirteen centuries ago and who devoted her life to fostering the relationship between the southern elves and the merfolk of The Naguset Bay (Sun Bay to the humans).

Fainauriel’upadiel - Saint of the Flame (Literal translation ‘fire white who does not walk’. An elven druid who lived eight hundred years ago, born with malformed legs she nonetheless preserved the light of the everburning flame through the Invasion of Kellern).

Aran’galasrinion - Saint of the Holly (Literal translation ‘Leaf-crowned King’. A human king of old whose long rule and longer legacy preserved the beauty and bounty of the vast forests north of what is now the Singing Glen (though sadly, rulers over the past few centuries have not maintained this attitude)).

Death and death rites: 
The belief that the spirit of life flows through all living things informs the elven traditions surrounding death. Once the spirit has left the body (thought to take several days if not interrupted), it is believed that it usually goes on to another living being, but also may join the natural environment, or dissipates and flow wherever it is needed.

The elves are a very long lived race, with elders sometimes living more than a thousand years, but they are not immortal. Deaths do not happen often, but when an elf dies it is common for the entire community to enter a period of meditation and reflection. The body is bathed and treated with sacred balms and oils, then wrapped in sequential layers of leaves. The shrouded corpse is then taken to one of many sacred groves where it is left so the physical form can be reclaimed by nature. 

Many elves have personal beliefs about predictions of where the spirit goes after death, and the most religious believe that the more ardently they serve nature in life the more likely their spirit will stay in areas they loved in life. An elf who wishes to join the spirit of the river, for example, may ardently serve Psitn and keep physically near rivers through their life. Upon death they may ask that their body be kept near and then given to the river rather than left in a grove, thus further ensuring the soul will find a home in the river when it escapes the body.


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