The Old Gods religion is one the oldest religions in existence in Aloria. It predates both Shambala and Unionism, though is not older than the faith of Estel. There is no single “Old Gods” faith, rather centuries of migration and colonization have severely polarized many assets of the religion itself, though many communities still share similar beliefs even if their practices differ. The Old Gods religion is mainly based off of the idea of guardianship and succession. The core belief of the Old Gods is that everything was created by a single omnipotent being which then split itself into 8 lesser parts when the age of Humanity started.
Central to the Old Gods belief are the 8 gods which are parts of the same omnipotent being. The omnipotent being is never named (though referred to as the “All-being”) or even described. It is simply implied it existed, and it is still revered in a way through the practices of the followers, though the majority of the worship is directed at the individual gods. The individual gods are paired up and associated with an individual primal element, being fire, water, air and earth. These pairs are differently viewed by many communities. Some see them as siblings while others see them as rivals, but the vast majority sees them as lovers.
Union of Fire
The Union of Fire is one of the goddess of romantic love and burning passion, Ellea, and the goddess of nurturing and fiercely protective mothers, Lanarra. Ellea’s realm is that of the young lovers, the soon to be wed, and seducers. Worship of Ellea is often done through shows of love, or sacrifices of young animals. It is believed that to appease her will ensure a lasting union between lovers, and to draw her wrath will make one forever alone. Lanarra’s realm is that of the mothers, the widows and the grandparents. Lenarra is often worshipped by offering up freshly gathered fruit, and in some cases, wine. It is believed that to appease Lenarra will grant one healthy offspring and many grandchildren, while drawing her wrath will make one forever barren. It is said that Ellea and Lanarra were both made from the heart of the All-being, both halves of the same whole. Ellea is often depicted as a young innocent maiden with long blonde hair and white robes carrying a flower crown, while Lanarra is often depicted as a somewhat older woman with deep purple dresses carrying branches of grapes or lambs. Lanarra and Ellea are often depicted brushing each other’s hair or playing with flowers, as it is said that Ellea charmed Lanarra’s mind with her pure innocence and Lanarra protects Ellea with her motherly instinct. It is said the Union of Fire can often be found in actual fire, butterflies, songbirds, and flowers. As such, certain songbirds are holy to Old Gods believers.
Union of Air
The Union of Air is between the god of warriors and “guardian from above,” Bashtur, and the god of freedom as free as the wind, Mershell. Bashtur’s realm is that of the warriors and the chieftains but also the old men. Bashtur is often worshipped by drawing blood in combat, ceremonial duels, or by offering prisoners as sacrifice. It is believed that to appease him will grant one strength in combat, and to displease him would cause one’s loved ones to die in tragedy. Mershell’s realm is that of the poets, writers, and frolicking fun lovers. Mershell may be worshipped by composing poetry to him or by simply engaging in leisurely activities. It is believed to please him will grant creativity and inspiration, and to displease him will curse one with deafness, muteness, or blindness. It is believed that Bashtur and Mershell were created from the arms of the All-Being, those that act and do. Bashtur is often depicted as a strong and large brute of a man in barbarian armor with many axes, while Mershell is depicted as a handsome young man with deep green eyes and curly hair, holding a small harp or flute wherever he goes. Bashtur and Mershell are often depicted in one of the patron activities of Mershell. It is believed that Mershell’s poetry and voice soothed the raging heart of Bashtur and calmed him to see the beauty in life, while Bashtur defends Mershell from harm. It is said the Union of Air can be found in the howling wind between cliffs and in caves, as well as the rain and thunder. As such, Old Gods followers believe that thunderstorms are an omen of bad luck and rain is a sign of Mershell wishing more leisure.
Union of Water
The Union of Water pairs the goddess of tragedy and death dark and deep like water, Alu, and the god of tricksters and traitors as fickle as the flow of water, Bep. Alu’s realm is that of the dead, the diseased, and pestilence. Alu is worshipped by offering sacrifices of both Humans and animals. She is generally the most feared Goddess as she heralds death with her arrival and tragedy. It is said to please her will prevent plagues from reaching one’s home, and to displease her would bring down death on one’s household. Bep’s realm is that of thieves, cutthroats, and charlatans. One worships Bep by offering up items stolen from others or offering a criminal plot up to him for success. To please him is believed to grant quick fingers and agility, and to displease him would cause utter poverty. It is said that Alu and Bep were created from the legs of the All-Being, one foot in the door of death and one foot on the run. Alu is often depicted as a young woman with short red hair and blue eyes wearing blue dresses with a sad look on her face carrying fish in a basket, while Bep is always depicted as an agile and flexible man with many masks holding onto fireworks. Alu and Bep are often depicted in stories of tragedy, Bep tricking Alu into loving him and then betraying her, causing her to throw herself into the ocean. It is believed the tragedy inflicted on Alu caused her to wish death on others, becoming the herald of it. It is said the Union of Water can be found in the ocean, as well as rats and death. This has caused Old Gods worshippers to have a complex relation with death. In general, even if an Old Gods worshipper hates a dead person, they will do whatever they can to honor their life to pray they do not come back in the afterlife as undead to haunt them.
Union of Earth
The Union of Earth is composed of the goddess of wisdom everlasting and ever-seeing like the mountains, Julla, and the god of rulers forever strong and stable like the ground, Handrin. The realm of Julla is that of the scholars, books, and tomes of history. Julla is worshipped by debate and scholarly pursuit of knowledge through exchange with others. It is believed that to please her will grant a life of insight and unending knowledge, while to displease her will grant eternal stupidity. The realm of Handrin is that of Kings and Queens, princes, and Emperors but also farmers. To worship Handrin, one must offer up harvests of food or the eyes of one’s political enemies. It is believed to please Handrin would ensure a long lasting rule, while to displease him would result in famine. It is said Julla and Handrin were made from the mind of the All-being, Julla to know all and seek more to know, and Handrin to use the knowledge to rule over others. Julla is often depicted as a tall bald woman covered in scripture tattoos with green dresses holding scriptures. Handrin is often depicted as a long bearded man in ceremonial green robes with many pieces of jewelry holding a staff. Julla and Handrin are often depicted in debate or discourse, discussing many subjects surrounded by tomes. It is said the Union of Earth can be found in tar beetles, small insects that gather tar and make tar balls, as well as knowledge itself. Old Gods worshippers believe tar beetles are holy. Many Earth Union worship places are often filled with tar beetles that faithful take great care of not to trample.
Death and the Afterlife
Despite the belief that Alu brings death to the people of Aloria, Old Gods worshippers do not believe she is actually in charge of the afterlife. The Goddess in charge of the afterlife is Julla. This is because the concept of death is an allegory for the divine. Old Gods worshippers believe that one gains knowledge and wisdom in age, and when one dies, that knowledge and wisdom is consumed or returned to the essence of the All-Being. As such, Old Gods worshippers don’t believe in the concept of the afterlife or rebirth. Once a person dies, they are simply dead and will never return. Scholars believe this is largely the reason why Old Gods is a dying religion, as it offers less comfort than Unionism or other religions which have an afterlife belief.
It is not known whether any original scriptures of Old Gods Worship ever existed. The religion mostly survives based on tradition and family teachings; there are no official records of any uniform beliefs. Most of the knowledge Regalians have on Old Gods Religion is based on personal experience and analysis of foreign communities. Old Gods worshippers don’t believe in writing things down for knowledge preservation, because ultimately everyone lives to return the wisdom and knowledge to the All-Being. Scriptures and writings cannot be taken when one dies, and as such, are meaningless. This has often perpetuated the illiteracy among the Old Gods worshippers, causing other religions to depict Old Gods as a religion for imbeciles. On the contrary however, the religion may not encourage scientific pursuit, but it certainly extends far in philosophy and liberal thought.
Worship of the Old Gods varies drastically from culture to culture and sometimes even from town to town. In general though, sacrifice and offerings of either food or activities are prevalent. It is also common to dedicate a certain event like a birth, victory, or inheritance to a specific deity. Individuals often associate themselves with an individual god or goddess, causing them to dress similarly or adorn themselves with symbols of said deity. Communal worship is hardly ever done. The Old Gods faith does not have any official priests, as the religion is completely individual based.
Sacraments of Old Gods
The Old Gods religion knows no formal sacraments. The religion is not organized and knows no administrators, therefore there is nobody to administer any sacraments or perform them. There is, however, the practice of Patron Servitude. Patron Servitude is described as devoting one’s entire life to pursue the virtue of a specific Union or God/Goddess. Individuals engaging in this ritual or life choice are often respected among Old Gods worshippers as people who give their lives in the service of religion so that others may live their lives more freely. It is believed they accumulate more wisdom than others do who choose to live how they wish to. This way, it is believed others can get away with contributing less and living a more carefree life as these patron servants contribute in their stead. In return, the Patrons are often provided for, either by alms or food donations from wherever they go or a free bed to stay the night.
The Old Gods religion knows no official Liturgical calendar as most people can get away with offerings to just a few of the gods, content to ignore many. There are of course minor festivals in localized areas, though the dating and meaning of them differs so greatly that no common trend can be found or established. One might leave one town in the middle of a feast of Julla in debate, only to run into a carnage during a feast in the next town over for Bashtur.
The individual Gods have a variety of symbols, though the central symbol used to define Old Gods Worship is a single tree with four branches. This symbol is often worn on a brooch or carved into a house to identify one’s worship. Other symbols are also observed such as tar beetles, song birds, swords with linens wrapped around them, or water spilling from a chalice.
It is entirely unclear where Old Gods as a religion comes from, though it is known to have existed since the late early era of the Elven Empire, for as long as Humans are known to have existed. Some Elven scholars have theorized the Old Gods religion is based off their own faith of Estel, though this is obviously strongly contested by any Human organization, despite the similarities. The Old Gods themselves have been virtually unchanged throughout any surviving oral history, but this is just an assumption as no real written records exist. There are some references to this religion in Elven scriptures, but Elves often depicted the religion as a farce and made no ill effort to falsify or otherwise twist history in their favor.
Old Gods was at one point the main religion for nearly all Ailor, far outclassing all other forms of religion. Upon the creation of Unionism at the start of Regalian Era however, Old Gods as a religion started rapidly declining. The elevation and increased centralization of Human rule made the Old Gods religion seem obsolete and false. Ailors under the Regalian Empire in particular favored the more tangible and socially appeasing Unionism faith. Unionism did not have human sacrifices, did not guarantee a bad life if the gods were displeased, and offered an afterlife. Unionist missionaries went far and wide to convince many to convert, and this was successful, barring the majority of the Northern populations. Northerners appeared much more resilient and conservative than, for example, Ithanians and Regalians who were avid supporters of the increase of culture and sophistication of their people. It is often said that Northerners were incompatible with Unionism because their harsh lifestyle commands a more straight forward and reward-oriented religion like the Old Gods themselves. It is also more in line with the more violent nature of the Northerners, as survival of the fittest is a strong concept especially in the Union of Earth and Water.
Present day, Old Gods is seen as a dying religion in the more civilized areas of Aloria, though still very much alive among Human populations between Jorrhildr and Ellador. Even small enclaves exist in the Regalian Archipelago itself, a sizeable population on the landmass of Drixagh. Old Gods as a religion is formally protected by the Regalian state, though they make no effort to hide the fact that they wish to convert everyone. Old Gods is considered an illiterate and dumbed version of Unionism. Unionist theists having reasoned that the All-Being is in fact the Imperial Spirit, and the deities are in fact individuals who have in the past possessed the Imperial Spirit before it attached itself to the Emperors of Regalia. Old Gods as a religion used to be prevalent in Regalia, though the city itself has less than 2% Old Gods worshippers in the present day. Most worship in Regalia itself takes place in the comfort of one’s home as public worship is illegal and the only temple that still remains is so fragile and prone to collapse that it has been closed.
- Because the religion contains two same-sex unions, it is often said that Old Gods worshippers are more free thinking than other religions, especially because Julla encourages free thinking. This is however off-balanced by the fact that they engage in frequent sacrifices.
- Old Gods idols are actually a huge import in Regalia, bought in large bulk as decorative items or for art collections. Many Regalians often don’t know they’ve bought an idol of Bashtur which was used to cut open people’s skulls or a dagger of Bep which was supposedly used to murder a lover.
- The tragedy and love of the Old Gods are often depicted in Regalian theater as a major source of inspiration. Ironically enough, the act of doing this is a worship to Mershell in itself, and in some cases, theater bosses are Old Gods worshippers for this reason. Many Old Gods worshippers work in circuses or acts across the city.