Shimmering Kingdoms True20
The religion of the Caelts is as complex as it is old. The ancient ways have all but died out, and the Sect of the Earth is but an imprint in the mire left by the footfall of the great giant it once was. With the invasion of the Noblesse from across the Shimmering Sea some 2500 years ago, the fight for religious independence has been bloody and in vain. The pantheon of the Noblesse has wrested the hearts of all but the most stringent and loyal believers. With each generation, more of the faithful are lost to this pantheon, a usurping body every bit as devastating as their mortal representatives. The beliefs and culture, even the identity of an entire people has been all but trodden under the heel of the foreigners. Nowadays, none openly seek the solace that Gaea gives to the world, and those who practice her ancient ways do so at the risk of their lives, for such worship is deemed heretical to the Pantheists.
The Pantheists of Cael, with their bloody Inquisitors, celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ratification of the treatise with the Pantheist League, which began the final surge forever destroying the Sect of the Earth as a major religion in the world. Now, hidden in sacred groves, secret retreats and in harsh wilderness regions too dangerous for the Inquisition to tread, the followers of Gaea live, and some even thrive, keeping the old ways alive for yet another generation.
With the might of the earth behind them, these worshippers, Clansmen, Druids, Witches and many others of varied backgrounds, cling together in small cabals, roaming the world, cautiously spreading their truths. They draw power from the ancient sites, and conduct rituals, including sacrifice, to strengthen their foothold and gain back mere inches of ground lost over the centuries. Hope, however, as well as prophecy (if the legends hold true), shall bring about the dawning of a new age. For it is told that a great Druid King shall rise over Cael, and once again reunite Gaea with her people. The myth does not call for the eradication of the Pantheon, but peaceful coexistence with all mankind. Of course, many of the persecuted hold bitter grudges against what has been done to the hundreds of thousand taken by the Inquisitors and forcibly converted, or burned at the stake when they refused.
When this Druid King will arrive to save the Sect of the Earth, none knows, but all true believers hold onto the faith, and all her enemies remain vigilant in its prevention.
There are literally dozens of Caelic gods that make up the pantheon of The Sect of the Earth, however the overarching deity is the Goddess, Gaea. The symbol of the Earth Mother, represented by an fat human-shaped womanly idol token, carved of stone or wood, or even fashioned from straw. Other symbols include animal tokens, trees, and any other representation of her earthly glory.
Caelic Paganism is also an animistic one, believing that animals, plants, bodies of water, and other entities of nature can have spirits residing in them. The leaders of this religion are a mysterious group called the Druids. Druids are priests and shamans who oversee rites and rituals of the religion. Often plant and animal sacrifices are demanded and on some occasions even human sacrifice is deemed necessary, though this practice has largely been abandoned. Although there may still be sects that practice the “old ritual” of human sacrifice. The myths and legends of this religion often include Fae (Fairies), Hobgoblins, and Brownies.
One of the old Caelt’s primary places of worship is simply referred to by them as “the Stones.” It is there that many ceremonies are performed upon its altar, usually plant or animal sacrifices. It is Cealtic tradition that when entering the circle of stones (or whatever holy place where worship takes place), weapons are always left outside of it. It is considered shameful and a disgrace to bring weapons into the circle save for the ceremonial dagger wielded by the Druids to perform a sacrifice.
Caeltic worship centers on the interplay of the divine element with the natural world. Springs, rivers, and hills are inhabited by guardian spirits, usually female. Some gods were once widely worshiped; lesser deities were, and still are, associated with particular tribes or places. Goddesses often came in groups of three.
The Druids maintain an oral tradition and typically leave no writings. Some altars and stones are engraved with runes of special significance. Seasonal festivals are an important part of life, transitioning the passage of the old season into the new. Oak trees, holly, and mistletoe are considered sacred. The Caelts believe in life after death as well as transmigration of souls.
Eight major festivals are celebrated by the Sect of the Earth.
The ancient Caelts divided the year into four major sections and then divided each of these in half to make an eight-part year that reflected the natural procession of the seasons. The Sect of the Earth still reveres these days as holy and adheres to the traditions as best they are able despite the vigilance of the Inquisition.
The days that marked the four major divisions of the year are called Quarter Days; they originally marked the four seasons, fitting readily into the rhythm of the ways people farmed. As the 12-month Pantheist calendar was adopted for both civil and religious purposes, all of the Caelic days began to conform more closely with the liturgical year of the Pantheist church and became identified with major religious festivals. The Cross-Quarter Days mark the midpoint of each season, with equal significance.
(sow-een or sow’-inn)
- Midpoint between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice
- The largest and most important festival, great tribal gatherings.
- The beginning of the dark half of the year, exact opposite day of Beltaine
- First Caelic fire festival (male)
- Caelic “samhraidhreadh” means “summer’s end”
- Caelic New Year’s Eve
- Third and final harvest festival
- The day when day (light) does not exist
- Preparation to survive the winter, confront the possibility of death was paramount
- The “Fleadh nan Mairbh” Feast of the Dead to honour the past clan souls
- Celebrates the last harvest, the cycle of life and spirits passed
- Ceremonies involve fire, lights, setting out food and gifts for passing spirits
- All fires are extinquished and relit from the sacred bonfire
- Stories are told around the fires
- The veil between the world (Shield of Skathach) is thin, allowing spirits to cross over
- Colors: Black, browns, reds, oranges
Samhain, the Caeltic New Year, is the time of the first frost and the last of the autumn fruits and berries. Samhain is sacred to the Goddess in her aspect as Ceridwen, the crone of death. It is the festival of death, for winter is approaching and many of the older folk, young children and diseased or injured tribesmen will die before the sun is reborn in the spring. Likewise, most of the cattle must be slaughtered, for there is not enough fodder to keep the whole herd through the winter – just a small breeding stock. Some of the meat will be salted and laid down for the winter, with the remainder being consumed at the great Samhain festival. Many of the cattle, though, will be sacrificed rather than eaten. Great bonfires are lit and the cattle burnt atop them, sending their spirits out to the gods.
Great bonfires light the sky during the celebrations, and people of all ages carried eerily-carved gourds to protect themselves against the “little people” who are said to roam this night. It is also a time to honor those who’ve died during the old year just leaving, as well as all ancestral spirits. The ritual tradition of “feeding the dead” is observed, by setting a place of honor for them at the Samhain feast table. In addition, is is appropriate to load a large plate with a sample of all the feast foods, and leave it on the porch for the enjoyment (and boons) of all the spirits who might walk this night.
Divinations regarding the dawning year are done this night, as well as rituals and spells to be rid of bad habits and undesirable situations.
- Winter Solstice, first day of Winter, shortest day and longest night of the year
- Alban Arthuran, “Light of Arthur”, Fire Festival
- Caelic “Dhulach” for Rebirth
- Celebrates the end of darkness, the return of light to the earth
- Gifts celebrated the sharing of the remaining harvest now that light would return
- Ceremonies involve Mistletoe, burning of the Yule log
- Colors: Green, red, white, silver, gold
This festival is more important to the druids than to ordinary folk. It is a time for powerful magic and secret ceremonies, not for public celebrations. The sun god Lug is at his weakest, yet from this point on his power will rise and continue to rise for the next six months. For this reason, the druids of the northern tribes find much to rejoice in at midwinter, and carry out many of their most important rituals to Lug. The ancient Druids felt the sun stood still for twelve days during this season and the Yule log was burnt to insure light for those days. This practice lasts still. A large log is burned throughout the Yuletide celebrations and then saved as a protective charm until the next Yule, when it is used to start the new Yule fire.
Living trees are also brought into the home to provide a warm place of residence for the wood spirits, in hopes they will look kindly upon the family during the year. Foodstuffs such as apples and cinnamon sticks are hung on the branches so the spirits will have plenty to eat in this barren time of year, and bells are hung from the branches so that their tinkling will announce the presence of a spirit. The five pointed star (the pentagram), symbol of the five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and spirit, is placed at the top of the tree and crystals hung to represent icicles.
Privately, and within the family, Yule represents a time of rebirth; of new beginnings and the setting of new goals for oneself. It is a time of putting aside regrets, resentments, and that which causes us unhappiness. But before these can be dismissed, the worshipper must know them intimately. And thus, the season starts in the silent darkness of the cold winter’s night; a time when people cannot escape through pleasurable outside diversions. The beginning celebrations are a time of meditation and inward thoughts; of recognizing the cold sorrows of the season of barrenness as both those within the frosted panes of our souls, as well as those raging outside.
- Midpoint between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox
- Second Celtic fire festival (female)
- Caelic “Imbolc” means “in the belly” thus, though the land is still covered with snow and frost, within the belly of the Mother (earth), the first faint stirrings of the seeds of the new season are beginning.
- Festival of Lights
- Celebrates the quickening of spring, the end of winter, time of abundance of milk
- Time of planning and hopes, fire and purification are prominent factors
- Ceremonies involve water, candles pledges and planting a hope or a seed, making candles
- Colors: Red, orange, white
- Caelic hag goddess, who rules the winter months, Cailleach, gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. If the day is sunny, she gathers a great deal of wood, foreseeing the winter will continue for some time. If the day is rainy, she will not gather much wood and the remaining winter will be short.
This fire-festival honours Gaea as mother of creativity, crafts and new life, as it is the time when the first signs of spring can be seen amid the worst weather of the winter. Fire here represents the fire of the hearth, the cooking fire – yet also the creative fire that gave the first woman an insight into metal-working as she cooked her tribe’s food.
This Rite marks the first stirrings of the new Spring and is the celebration of the rekindled fire both within ourselves and within the world, as personified by the growing strength of the new Sun God.
- First day of Spring, actual Vernal or Spring Equinox, the night and day stand equal
- Alban Eiler, “Light of the Earth”
- Celebrates the the birth of spring, rebirth
- Time of planting
- Rare day of magic due to the rare balance of light and dark
- Colors: Red and green or red and yellow
Ostara is the beginning of the fertility festivals. Buds begin to push their way through the earth to reach the strengthening sun’s light; animals in the wild feel the ancient instinct to breed; the energies of Nature shift subtly from the torpor of Winter to the exuberant activity of Spring. It is a time of new beginnings, of action, of saying goodbye to the old and making room for the new.
Symbols of this holiday include eggs, rabbits, and flowers of all kinds. Eggs are painted, with their hopes and dreams and presented them as a gift to Gaea. These eggs are then buried in the Earth, so that the Earth-Mother would know dreams of her children, in hopes that She will see fit to help them realize their desires.
- Midpoint between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice
- The second largest and most important festival, great tribal gatherings
- The beginning of the light half of the year, exact opposite day of Samhain
- Third Celtic fire festival (male) – The Burning Man
- Caelic “Beletene” means “bright fire”
- Celtic word Beltaine mean fires of Bel
- “Light of the Earth”
- Time of rebirth
- House fires are extinquished and relit from hilltop bonfires
- Need-fires are built, walk between for purification
- Bonfires of sacred wood are lit in honor of the Caeltic god Beli
- The veil between worlds is thin, allowing faeiries to cross over
- Colors: Blue, pink, yellow, green
Beltaine is the festival of spring at its height, heralding the onset of summer. This fire is sacred, for it is the flame of love and lust. Many a child is conceived during the celebrations round the Beltaine fires.
Beltaine is celebrated with dancing, feasting, and “greenwood marriages.” Men and women disappear into the woods throughout the night for their own personal celebrations; these being understood to be unions through which the Horned God impregnated the Goddess and brought fertility to the earth, through the physical forms of man and woman. These unions are a celebration of life and love, accomplished to ensure the fertility and fruitfulness of the land, animals, and of themselves. Further, any babies born of greenwood marriages are considered children of the Lord and Lady, specially blessed by Them, and are seen as children of the whole village, rather than of just two parents.
- Summer Solstice, first day of summer, longest day of the year
- Alban Heruin, “Light of the Shore”
- Mid Summer’s Eve
- Celebrates the light and the sun without there would be no life
- Time of strengths and accomplishments
- Gather herbs as “Herb Night” is when they are most potent
- Colors: Blue, green, yellow
Like midwinter, the time of the sun’s greatest strength is more of a mysterious druid festival than an excuse for a party. The druids wear the traditional green masks of summer, and their magicks on this night are for the benefit of the entire tribe. The whole harvest depends on the success of the druids’ midwinter ceremonies, for it is entirely reliant on the power of Lug the sun god.
Large bonfires are lit, “setting the watch” as the wards on village and city boundaries are renewed, with celebrants jumping over, through, or between bonfires for good luck. Revelers wander from one bonfire to another, known as the “marching watch,” and are often attended by dancers. Worshippers delight in the first fruits of the season and revel in the company of others, dancing with wild abandon in a blissful celebration of the season.
- Midpoint between Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox
- Fourth Caeltic Fire Festival (female)
- Caeltic Lughnasadh means “Lugh’s assembly”, the god Lugh celebrated a funeral feast for his foster-mother, Tailtiu
- First harvest festival
- Celebrates the beginning of harvest season, the decline of summer to winter
- Time of dismiss regrets, farewells, perparation for winter
- Ceremonies involve breads, grains and harvest corn dolls
- Colors: Oranges, greens, browns
This fire-festival honours Lug as sun god and bringer of the harvest. His fire has kindled the crops into bountiful flowering and fruiting, and Lugnasadh celebrates the success of the harvest, giving thanks to Lug for providing the good weather of summer. This is also a sacred festival to the Morrigu, for once harvest is in the time is ripe for war. The tribes have little work to keep them from raiding, and the prizes are rich, for the other tribes will have stored their harvests too.
- Autumn Equinox, first day of Autumn, the night and day stand equal
- Alban Elved, “Light of the Water”, Alban Elued
- Caelic “Mabon” means “great son,” and refers to the Son of the Great Mother, The Divine Son of Light.
- Second harvest festival
- Celebrates harvest, death of the sun god
- A day of magic due to the rare balance of light and dark
- Time for thanks and learning, repairing all things
- Colors: Dark reds, yellows, browns
Mabon is a celebration for the abundance of the harvest; a time meant to give thanks through song, dance, and feasts. It is a time of balance, when day and night are equal once again. It is also a time of meditation and introspection; a time to slow down the pace of life and to relax and recognize personal harvests during the year that is fast declining. It’s also a time to appreciate the connection with others, as well as those who have gone before.
Since Mabon is a celebration of fruits and wine, traditional activities include fermenting grapes. Apples and vine products are sacred at this season. It’s also traditional to wander wild places and forests, gathering seed pods, nuts, and dried plants, both for decoration and for possible future magick.
The proper respect expected by tribal and family gods is sacrifice. One must sacrifice to remain in good standing with all your tribal and household gods. This sacrifice need not necessarily consist solely of cows. Other animals, goods, or even humans can be used for sacrifice. The sacrifices take place at the ritual festivals (particularly during the fire-festivals), with greater sacrifice carried out at Beltane and especially Samhain, at year’s end, since that is the festival of death and sacrifice. Additional sacrifices may also be made in order to garner the favor of the gods, and by doing so generate magickal energies.
The list that follows can be no more than the briefest introduction to the deities of the old religion, since as has already been mentioned, every tribe, clan and even family has its own gods.
Avagddu: The horribly ugly, monstrously deformed, staggeringly stupid and disgustingly diseased son of the Goddess. He is rarely worshipped other than by the most unpleasant followers of Ceridwen, for his worship can provide little other than his occasional assistance with devouring his followers’ enemies – but he is liable to get even that wrong.
Blodeuwedd: The Flower-Maiden is one of the aspects of Gaea, but is also worshipped as a goddess in her own right. She represents youth and beauty, and the fecundity and lust of young women and nymphs, yet she is also the springtime and joy of new flowers and new growth as the winter dies away and the Earth seems born anew. Her worshippers are often young women who desire a lover, and it is said she can make them strong in Glamour magic’s.
Carnun: The Horned God is worshipped by many witches, though at one time all the Earth Goddess tribes also revered him. He is the consort of Gaea, and Carnun is the god of nature and fertility, the spark of life that gives the Earth her reason for existing. He is the laughter in the woods, and the bringer of peace and co-operation; yet his is also the god of the underworld and death. He is worshipped by dancing and revelry. Unlike most of the other deities of Sect, Carnun does not appear to mortals in his own right, even at moments of divine intervention – he comes in the form of his earthly representative, the Horned God. The Horned God is an office that any male human warrior could potentially fulfil, though there are only ever one or two at a time – either simply the Horned God, or the Old Horned God and New Horned God. In the old days, the Horned God was also High King of the lands of the Earth Goddess tribes, though sometimes another great hero was given the role. The Old Horned God may be ritually slain by the New, or may go into the earth of his own accord.
For his earthly worshippers the Horned God seems to do little, for to him existence itself is pure joy. He feels his worshippers should be content simply to be alive, and to occasionally see the cosmic joke – yet this gift of laughter can be more precious than the mightiest sword, for the hero who cannot laugh at his own foolishness is in dire straits indeed.
Ceridwen: The Crone aspect of the Goddess Gaea is guardian of the dead, along with Carnun; disease, along with Avagddu; and inspiration of any kind. As guardian of the dead, she can also give the power to raise the dead, though usually only in the form of one of the Half-Dead (a corporeal undead creature).
Crom-Cruach: This vast monster is barely a god at all, though it is worshipped as such by evil creatures such as ogres and their followers. In truth it is a giant time worm, controlled by the dark gods of Cythraul and sent through time to whenever there is a great concentration of Earth Power, usually raised by human suffering. The Ogres give Crom-Cruach many human sacrifices, both individually and in vast wicker men. Worshipping him may help a little with magic of destruction and devouring.
The Cythrons: These dark, demonic gods are so ancient as to be almost forgotten even by the scholarly, and never known by ordinary folk. They are imprisoned deep beneath the world in the hell of Cythraul, from which they plan to escape and rule the stars once more, as soon as they have enough Earth Power to break free. They raise this by encouraging human suffering and death across the world, nurturing whole civilisations from afar like farmers rearing cattle, only to destroy them utterly once they are nicely fattened up. Very few worship the Cythrons, and they acknowledge fewer still – only those who are in a position to deliver many tens of thousands of human deaths will gain any assistace from worshipping the Cythrons, though the dark gods may provide almost anything necessary to bring about such a fine harvest.
Gaea: The Goddess is the original deity, the Earth herself. This primal nature means that she has many forms and many areas of responsibility, which can be confusing for an outsider. Her worshippers believe her to literally be the Earth beneath their feet. Yet she is also the Moon above in the heavens, counterpart to Lug the Sun God just as the Earth is counterpart to Carnun the Horned God. Some of the most knowledgeable druids believe she is even the ancient Serpent Goddess, so that all the goddesses are simply other aspects of Gaea. Certainly those who delve even a little way into her mysteries know her as the triple goddess, Blodeuwedd, Morrigu, and Ceridwen. These three aspects, like the three phases of the Moon, show her as goddess of constant change – or as she puts it, ‘sometimes I am your mother and hold you… sometimes I am your sister and befriend you… and other times your lover who will stick one in your back. Many of her worshippers also worship one or more of her aspects, although it is also possible to worship Blodeuwedd, Morrigu, or Ceridwen as goddesses in their own right.
Hu the Mighty: Hu is the god who taught the ordinary folk all the crafts and skills that they use every day – farming, fishing, leather-work, sewing and the like, as well as simple singing of the sort that makes the working day seem to go a little easier and faster. Tales of his heroic deeds are also told, but these are not ballads of conquest as might be sung of Lug, but stories of a rather unperceptive but lucky fellow, as though to give every farmer hope that he too might one day achieve greatness. His worshippers can expect to feel happy with their lot, and occasionally to get a little luck with their daily work.
Lug: Lug is the Sun God, as serious, grim and bitter as the Horned God is humorous, gentle and peaceful. Lug’s areas of responsibility are authority, conquest, and systematic violence up to and including genocide. Those who worship him are often given great powers in combat, but tend to live short and humorless lives filled with the sound of others screaming.
Morrigu: The war-goddess appears as a fierce and well-armed woman in early middle age, or as a monstrous raven, or as some combination of the two. She can be seen above every great battlefield, in the form of the carrion birds who watch such places hopefully. Her worshippers may be made mighty in war, either personally or by being given great armies to command.
Serpent Goddess: She is the goddess of the old reptile people, ancestors of all humanity. Few now remember her, and fewer still have the inclination or scholarly knowledge to recreate the rituals for worshipping her. For those who do, it is said she may teach them dark secrets from a time before the rise of man. Such secrets are perfect for revenge or conquest.
Ogmios: The god of poetry, creativity and scholarship is revered by bards and some druids. He can assist his worshippers with the perfection of a particular creative work, but is unlikely to sully his hands with anything less than the near-perfect already.
Religion for the Caelts is bound up with almost every aspect of society, culture, magic and day-to-day life. Most ordinary folk pay their respects both to the private gods of their household and kin, and to their tribe’s pantheon of deities. Those of high status often worship one or more gods or goddesses in particular, as well as paying lip service to the other deities. This, in fact, is the way worship has been performed since the beginning of time for the indigenous Caelic folk. The main differences is that the Noblesse Pantheon has all but replaced the ancient gods, and the old ways rituals and festivals have been adapted to be inclusive of the array of gods in the Pantheon. The fourteen gods of the Pantheon are represented by an intricate, 14 point Caeltic Star, and can be seen on temples and shrines. A more simplistic 7 point star is also crafted to be representative, and is usually found on holy symbols and jewelry.
The other major difference between the old ways and the new pantheon is that unlike the old days, where there were literally thousands of gods, the Noblesse pantheon has a finite assemblage; Fourteen deities, all who neatly (or so the Pantheist Doctrines state) represent all aspects of life. It is still not uncommon for the common folk, when they pray to the Pantheon Goddesses, to believe they are actually praying to one of the aspects of Gaea. The use of the traditional idols of Gaea have waned in fear of discovery by the Inquisition. But in truth, the Inquisition does not bother itself with petty folk, who are allowed to do whatever they wish inside their homes. It is the Druids and other occultist, those who gather in numbers in an attempt to organize and foment rebellion who are the targets of the Inquisition.
Still to come…
- The Pantheon (and their association with the old gods)
- Caelic Worship of the Pantheon