The Draoidh Feya
|The Draoidh Feya|
|Pronunciation||The Dra-oi-ye Fey-ah|
The Draoidh Feya, the religion of the Ériunin Ailor of Ériu-Innis, is a unique construct in Aloria as a mix of both Ceardian Ailor religious beliefs along with those of their Altalar slave masters. While not unique for existing, with Old Gods arguably taking a very similar path, the faith is notable for its rich but solid mythological base as opposed to the Old Faiths which have various creation myths and versions. The Draoidh Feya also plays a rich role in the local folklore and urban legends. The religion is additionally unique in its ability to endure through time, having been retained by the locals even after the arrival of the Regalian Empire, and very strongly, too, resulting in a passionate and likely continuous base of believers for years to come.
The Draoidh Feya has a very simple history, heavily tied to the Ériunin Ailor and their homeland of Ériu-Innis. The faith does not have a single date of emergence as it as the result of a slow synthesis and union of the local Altalar and Ailor religious customs. From the Altalar it took the idea of 4 major gods around a central goddess figure along with a structured mythological base, while from the Ailor it took a number of smaller concepts, such as mythicized levels/layers of the world along with a host of lesser mythical beasts which were converted into the regional folklore. The faith has been continuous and united throughout much of its history, with little to no disagreements over the slight variations that exist among each community of Ériunin. The structured base mixed with the branching extensions which allow for multiple minor interpretations and personalization has served the locals very well over their many years. Theological attacks by Regalian Unionists have done little to change this unity and may have, in fact, strengthened local beliefs in the face of such hostility. As the Regalian Empire has a vested interested in maintaining peaceful relations with the Ériunin, they have yet to force or aggressively push conversion onto the foreign people. Some wonder how long this can last, especially as the most religiously devout areas of the Empire being active in the religious and political sphere.
The Draoidh Feya begins with a tale of creation. In the beginning, there was the Uilemháthair. When she came to consciousness from her ageless slumber, she set to work on creating balance. She walked among a world debase of beauty and growth. Rock and fire ruled supreme and total; there was naught but the ashes of time and the beasts of the beginning times. The Uilemháthair saw this chaos, and she loathed it. She loathed the unbalanced nature of destruction, for it was eternal and never ceasing.
The Uilemháthair then split the world of chaos in five: the Cléithe (Heavens), the Aer (Sky), the Íriu (Land), the Én (Waters), and the Fó (Beneath).
- The Cléithe was a place of profound mystery, and a secret reserved for those found worthy of the Uilemháthair’s presence in the afterlife.
- The Aer was a world of paradise, clouds and ethereal beings of great grace and beauty existed within its splendor, greeting the souls who traveled upwards from the Íriu to the Cléithe.
- The Íriu was the middle land, a place of trees and growth and ever-expanding forests; the Uilemháthair created life and animals to roam its vast expanse.
- Next is the Én, a border between the Íriu and the Fó. It was a great and beautiful sheet of blue, full of Spirits both malicious and good.
- Finally the Fó, a realm warped by the beginning times. It is a false replica of the Íriu, a dark and grim version of the beauty which the Uliemáthair had created, and brimming with monsters and evils.
She also, according to legend, spawned a lesser pantheon of gods to oversee the realm of mortals in Her stead. These deities are generally referred to as the Uile-Clann Gods, the children of the Uilemháthair, birthed from the pools of creation. The gods, much like the Altalar Pantheon, are worshipped as a middleman between the faithful and their overarching deity. Different methods of worship are conducted among the different worshippers. However, all worship leads back to the Uilemháthair.
- The Uilemháthair (Ériunin for All-Mother) represents the central deity of the Ériunin and is widely considered to be the mother of all creation by those who worship The Draoidh Feya. In the ancient faith, she is said to have been the creator of Ériu-Innis; having once walked upon the island in its most base and rocky form, she blessed it with the forests, Fauna, and life it now possesses. The Ériunin believe her to have guided the ships of their ancestors to the island through Her providence, interpreting it as salvation from the harshness of the world beyond. Though little is understood of The Uilemháthair, her scorn or love is said to be the reason behind a harsh or forgiving winter, a bountiful or bleak crop yield, a stormy or a pleasant voyage, or a decisive or defeated battle. The Uilemháthair is integrally connected to the woodlands of Ériu-Innis and in general nature itself. It is for this reason the Uilemháthair and her fellow gods are worshiped through the use of forest groves known as Sláns, deep within woodlands and forests.
- Said to have been the product of Altalar Ulley and Vallea worshippers, Ánradríeadh is the god of strength, war, and combat. He demands valor in battle, bravery, fortitude, physical strength, and conquest. His followers appease him through Onóir-Cath (Honor Fighting) which ranges from clan on clan wars, to battles, to duels among warriors. The belongings of foes are often presented as offerings to Ánradríeadh. Respecting warriors, soldiers, sellswords, and coimétaids (horseguards) is also a key aspect to the followers of this god as such figures demand respect from the general populace and from each other. Ánradríeadh revels in the strength of his followers, and one myth in particular summarises this. Conn is a legendary demi-hero of the Clochar who was said to have arm-wrestled with Ánradríeadh in human form. Conn held out for three days against the god in a back and forth trial of strength. Ultimately it was an impossible feat to defeat Ánradríeadh. However, the god respected him so much he declared him the strongest mortal to have ever lived. The tradition of arm-wrestling is prevalent among his followers. Ánradríeadh is portrayed as a staunch and tall Ériunin man, with ginger locks flowing to his shoulders, a war axe clasped in his right hand, and often the head of his foe dangling by the ponytail in the other, and dressed in nothing but braccae (a style of traditional woolen pants).
- Glaínhain is the god of order, law, tradition, and justice. He demands the following of Ériunin traditions: abiding by the Clan laws, fair reprisals, and obedience to authority. He respects and is often followed by clan leaders, senóirs (elders), and guardsmen. His followers appease him through statecraft, the stability of clans, the righteous administration of authority and lack of corruption therein, the fair and just application of the law, and the use of tanistry succession in choosing heirs. Unlike the other gods, what Glaínhain demands is not centralized around him such as the Onóir-Cath, which glorifies Ánradrieadh, but the stable running of institutions based on his code of Order. In ancient myth, it is said Glainhain witnessed the corruption of primogeniture upon the rulers of Ériu-Innis; wastrel sons who refused to follow tradition, and his ways. Thereafter, Glainhain appeared to a man named Éogan instructing him to appoint an heir through tanistry rather than grant his first-born son his lands. Éogan’s successor, Aín, rose to the heights of prominence, eclipsing his rivals. Thus tanistry was adopted in legality among the people. Glainhain is represented as an aged but strong man, with a long and twirling beard of whisking white hair tracing down to his belly button. He is adorned in a tunic of green, laced with gold and finery. Atop his head sits a circlet, often traced with runes, while in his hand hangs a scale and an Ériunin harp.
- Often said to have been inspired by Ellea and Aish-eia, Calaoiseoir is the trickster god of coin, magics, fertility, drink, and Emeralds. Given Calaoiseoir’s ties to the lattermost of those five (Emeralds), they are one of the most important of the Draoidh Feya pantheon. Often seen as both a malevolent but, at times, rewarding god, Calaoiseoir is not to be worshipped by the meek or weak of heart. They respect those who use cunning, deceit, and shrewd dealings to get what they want and desire. Calaoiseior is said to have gifted some of his followers the ability to twist the emotions of those around them and blend into scenarios. Due to the abundance of Seraph ruins on the isles, mages are much less rare in Ériu-Innis, and often they are followers of Calaoiseoir. The Trickster God is appeased through acts of trickery on those around his worshippers and the accumulation of coin and wealth. Despite this, he is said to often play tricks on his own followers, so no one is safe from his games. The abundance of Emeralds on the island are attributed to Calaoiseoir too. Legend says in an act of deception, Calaoiseoir stole Glainhain’s favorite ring. He shattered its gemstone into a thousand pieces and hid them all over Ériu-Innis. Even today, Glainhain’s followers compete with Calaoiseoir’s followers to retrieve the emeralds for the favor of their god. Calaoiseoir is a small man with a wide and brimming grin. From his head grow two curling goat horns, and his clothes are made of ivy and vines. In one hand he holds a frothing mug of ale and in the other a bag of coins. Beside him sits his companion Gáire, a small woodland fox.
- Fién Anailán:
- Worshipped and reviled alike, Fién Anailán’s origins are found amongst the first Túatha of the Clochar. Fién Anailán is the god of death, hunting, strife, and hardships. He is the only god among the Uile-Clann who does not demand the worship of the Ériunin. His domain is the Fó, where he lords over all evil in the beyond and ensures they do not pass into the above. He heads the charge of the fiach aosán, a great host of spirits who pass beyond the Fó in times of great unrest to steal souls away to the underworld. While he doesn’t demand worship from the tribes, many hunters follow him and offer worship through tribute in the form of ritual sacrifice and trophies offered in his name. It is said in times of strife or plague or civil unrest, Fién Anailán appears with a host of his fallen followers, leading an ethereal hunting party across the skies. During Fién Anailán’s hunt, he seeks out the weak and the feeble, hunting them like game for his own entertainment. The sight of the mighty host is one which spells either death or misfortune and is feared by all, even worshippers of other gods, as their souls are at risk of being stolen away to the Fó. Fién Anailán is portrayed as a tall and powerfully built man with great horns similar to a stag protruding from his brow. His features are wild, with furred legs and cloven hooves for feet. He is universally depicted with two golden torcs hanging from his antlers.
Draoidh Feya is a religion practiced in a variety of different ways, from direct actions by the Druids, to private devotions and sacrifices carried out by the general population in the Worship Groves.
- The Druids serve as the priests and constant practitioners of the Draoidh Feya, overseeing the ceremonies, communions, blessings, and sacrifices to the gods and the Uilemháthair. They serve four primary functions within Ériunin society: as the seers predicting the fate of their followers, they commune with the gods and preserve the Worship Groves, they perform ceremonies such as weddings, births, and death ceremonies, and finally they oversee the scholarly functions of the island such as recording of great deeds, history, and religious events. The structure of the Druids is highly decentralized. No one Druid is in charge of the rest, and in fact, there is no church structure or formality to the faith. One thing that does afford respect to a Druid is his age and years of Seeing. A Druid with a long, twirling, white beard will be highly venerated compared to a younger more inexperienced Druid.
The Druids are chosen from among those who bear what Alorians call "The Magic Touch" (but what Islanders call Druídecht), and have recurring dreams of vast swirling voids and plains of emptiness. Druídecht is considered to be a gift from the Uilemháthair upon a select few of her followers she deems worthy. In fact, most Druids are those who have been touched by Exist essence from the Seraph ruins. Their visions are considered to be prophetic, and despite often having little meaning the Druids are fond of making predictions according to the feeling they experienced after the episodes. In one circumstance, the Warlord Flann was told by his Druid Seer to march his armies out to sea to reach the Fó and defeat an army of giants intent on destroying his land. Flann did so, and his men were never seen again, disappearing under the waves of Ériu-Innis. This event was considered to be a success, as no giants came at all. Flann is considered a martyr by the islanders.
- Worship Groves:
- The Worship Groves are woodland areas in which offerings, sacrifices, and veneration are paid to the gods and the Uilemháthair. These groves are often tended to by one or many Druids depending on its size and relevance to the faithful. There are two Groves in particular which bear a special relevance, called the “Pools of Life.” These two groves are situated by two large and ever-expanding lakes. It is said that the gods were birthed from these lakes by the Uilemháthair when she first created the world.
- The Draoidh Feya’s multiple worlds theory can be roughly seen to correspond to the existence of the Exist, Aloria, and Void as separated by the Veil. Some contend that the extra levels are merely representations of the darkest and purest areas of the Void and Exist respectively though the possibility of other dimensions does exist in the mind of some scholars.
- Curiously, The Draoidh Feya has no opinion or lore on Dragons. This is highly unusual given the Altalar’s awareness of the Green Forest Dragon and other species which populated the wider world while many early Ceardian cultures spoke of Dragons, too. Scholars believe such ideas likely were absorbed into those of Sea Serpents, which are a common threat believed to exist in the waters around Ériu-Innis.