Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday Surprise!

I meant to post this last weekend. I began writing it, got interrupted, and couldn't see that it had saved to my drafts folder when I returned to it. So you get it a week later, but it's still a Saturday surprise!

I've come up with the calendar, holidays, [some] gods, and rituals and symbols for the Westerlands.

Evina is the dark-haired fertility goddess who carries a drinking horn - think Demetre-esque with a cornucopia. Her children are Leven (means life) and Maben.

Leven is the god of harvest, grains, and brewing. He was a happy boy until his father's accident and his mother's remarriage to the lord of the underworld. It's not that he doesn't like his step father, he just misses both his parents and feels orphaned when Evina is away for the winter. Ever since his journey into the underworld to retrieve Evina's horn he has been a somber shadow of his former self, but his work does not suffer for it.

Maben is the youthful, beautiful "princess" goddess of purity and female fertility. She is the embodiment of innocence

Skald is the normally ambivalent god of death and secret knowledge. In another sense he is the god of order and eternal life, since the dead cannot die again. His realm is the vault of the underworld where he his built a grand palace, which resembles a masoleum, to bring order to the dark chaos.

Kaos is the brother of Skald and his exact opposite. He is the lord of chaos, pain, suffering, discord, and basically all things evil. His son is Stryfe, god of war.

Long story short, her husband Grist dies just before Maben comes of age. I think I'll say he died of a cave in or some kind of burial accident.

In her grief Evina is digging in the earth - symbolic of planting and burial - hoping to reach the underworld to search for her husband. Ordinarily Skald would not look favorably on the living physically trying to enter his world (spelunkers beware) because natural law states it is only for those who have died. Instead of punishing Evina, Skald is moved to pity her. He approaches and escorts her to his grand hall where she is given a goblet of wine - wine in the underworld is blood. It's not vampiric in the evil sense, but makes religious sense when you think of the transubstantiation. And what harm would it do the god of death to drink the blood of life? Think Hades and Faerie where you're not to eat/drink anything or you must remain. Although still very much in love with her late husband, Evina is terrified of being alone, so she takes Skald as her new husband.

Leven knows that if his mother stays in the underworld forever, the world will die. So he makes the 11 day journey through a network of caves to retrieve his mother's horn/cornucopia and talk sense to her. Skald understands Leven's reasoning and agrees that Evina should only stay in his palace 6 months of each year. This is very reminiscent of Hades and Persephone and explains the winter/summer balance of time. Evina gives her son her horn (power) to keep safe in his house while she is away. Being a good lord and host Skald also offer Leven a drink. Instead of only drinking Skald's wine, Leven drinks a mix of Skald and Evina's blood from Evina's horn - literally keeping it safe within his holding. This imbues him with the power to leave the underworld as well as take on power of planting/growth. It is believed this act also gave him additional strength for his return journey and for the harvest. It is now ritual to drink wine from a horn before traveling and harvesting (Leven's Blessing). It is also ritual to pour some wine into the earth before planting (Evina's Blessing).

Maben is greatly saddened by the loss of both parents, one forever and one for half the year. She joyously celebrates the return on her mother in the spring with a dance that last's all day. This is now the ritual of Maben's Dance/Day, which becomes shortened to May Day - the day between the end of April and the first of May.

Bringing us to the calendar, I've broken it down into 12 months (for now with the same names) of 30 days each. This of course only gives a year 360 days. So I approached it as the Mayans did with Uayeb - 5 "holidays" that don't fall within any particular month of the year. Midsummer falls between June and July. Midwinter is a day between December and January. Leven's journey takes the last 5 days of October, 1 day between called Levent in which he was in Skald's house, and the first 5 days of November to return. It is held that winter begins on Levent, lasting a full 6 months until Evina returns on May Day. May Day was known as Newflower before Evina's marriage to Skald because it was Maben's birthday - symbolizing the youthful birth/renewal of spring. Because Maben's is the forever young goddess of fertility, she is the "saint" of young women reaching adolescence, known as their "flowering". It's not coincidence that now at the annual dance on May Day young men and women being to strive for the others' attention. It's also common that engagements and betrothals occur at this festival.

At first I was going to have Skald's Day, Skalding, as a Halloween type holiday at the end of October. It was to remain a day of the dead with gourds are carved liked skulls and lit (jack-o-lanterns) to lead the ghosts from their former life to the underworld. It's a day of mourning and passage. The dead move on into the next world and the families left behind are encouraged to take time to grieve, but to then move on with their life or else risk suffering from despair/depression during the long winter. Burial and cremation are both acceptable means of sending the dead to Skald. The dead are not decorated or sent with possessions because they'd have no use for them in the afterlife - symbolizes that in death, everyone is equal. It also makes sense that in a utilitarian society you wouldn't bury weapons or tools that could be of use to someone else. But on the other hand, if a body cannot be recovered (lost at sea, fallen in a far off battle, etc) the dead's possessions are burned, usually on a pyre. Since I now have Levent occupying the day between Oct/Nov  - I had to do that so the return of Evina in 6 months would fall on May Day - I may move Skalding to the beginning of Oct and say this is when Grist died, setting in motion everything else.

I found some other old notes that I'd set aside with ideas for other gods. Eion is the god of time, also known as the Infinite Eternal or Eternal Infinite. He is neither benevolent or malevolent - he just is. He isn't even necessarily a "he". Luras is the god of curiosity and learning. Worshiped mainly by halflings/gnomes, he is the "tinkerer god"of invention and alchemy. His forays and experiments don't always go exactly as planned, or have beneficial results, but making mistakes is the best way to learn. Ashra is the goddess of the hearth, home, and hospitality.

I was really stuck with what to call the sea god. I knew he was going to be very temperamental and jealous. Then it dawned on me that the sea is usually referred to as a lady. A friend at work helped me name her Neptania (obviously derived from Neptune) because it makes for such an easy reference. 

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