The origins of the Old Gods Religion are somewhat murky, because of intensely conflicting versions. Old Gods as a religion has always lacked an organized hierarchy, and so local communities as well as diasporas do not agree on a common origin tale. While many Regalians consider Old Gods synonymous with the Velheim Culture, they actually are not, and there are more Ceardians who worship Old Gods under the Cellik variant than there are Velheim Old Gods worshipers. Old Gods reaches beyond these cultures however, with Zvorun, Tarkkin, and Dunbrae all having slight variations on the same ideology. All Old Gods worshipers agree that their faith started on the island of Yervonth (called Jerl in old Velheim) however they all disagree with what happened after. Cellik and Velheim Old Gods however are the two largest denominations controlling around 80% of the total worshiper population, and as such, their version is generally accepted as common dogma. Cellik and Velheim Old Gods doctrine claims that when the menace from the west (Nelfin slavers) arrived on the shores of Ceardia, that a group of Pagan Gods created a pantheon together and spirited large communities away from the Ceardian continent, harboring them in safety on the Yervonth island. From here, Old Gods would continue to spread over the world with migration waves, however the further they went, the more their doctrine was changed by local variations and changes. Unlike Unionism, Old Gods never underwent any major cataclysmic changes or schisms. As such, this page will treat the average understanding of Old Gods as fact, though minor local variations like changing a God's name or patron identity is permissible.
Old Gods is a religion that developed out of the old concept of Ailor Paganism in Ceardia, which was a polytheistic religion with a theoretical infinite amount of gods. Old Gods as a religion reformed this principle, attaching itself to the tangible gods that the people could see and interact with, and then centralized religion to them. Old Gods as a religion is centered around the concepts of Honor of the Soul, which is similar to Asaredu, but not strictly bound to combat honor alone, rather to the purity of one's soul as understood through the lens of behavior, actions, and things said. Old Gods worshipers refer to the Honor of the Soul as Soldi. It is actually a common misconception to think that Old Gods worshipers refer to their own religion as Old Gods. This is incorrect, because the term Old Gods was used by Unionists to refer to the faith that was largely replaced in the Archipelago by Unionism. Old Gods is actually referred to as Sjelbyrd by Velheimers or Selbarad by Cellik Old Gods worshipers. Because Ailor kind however has so many varied cultures, and because so few of them still worship the Old Gods, the term Old Gods has simply become commonly used, even by Velheimers when they speak Common.
Old Gods recognizes one greater entity called Arne, the Tree of Life, from which all Old Gods worshiper believe Ailorkind was born (and by extension, every other living entity on Old Ceardia), though it is somewhat nebulous whether this refers specifically to Old Gods heritage Ailor, or all Ailor of the entire Race. Old Gods doctrine never made any claims on how the world or reality actually started, but implied that other religions are valid (to a degree) because they refer to the "Old World", where-as the world in which Old Gods exists now is the "New World". Simpler put, Old Gods acknowledges other religions and beliefs that pre-date itself as legitimate within their time-frame, but claims that with the birth of Old Gods, those religions or beliefs became invalid for Ailor, and that Old Gods is the only valid truth. This does mean that Old Gods is a mostly Ailor-centric religion. This causes particular conflict with Unionists. While Old Gods believers claim that the Everwatcher probably is real, they consider the faith false, because it induces its followers to engage in actions that cause them to lose Soldi and be condemned to the Mirror World. Arne supposedly stood in Old Ceardia for many centuries, until he communed with Dragons (who are not considered divine, rather just really powerful entities of legend), and developed a voice. With his voice, he spoke to fauna and flora, and with them approaching his roots, his mind expanded. With expansion came his desire to create his own life, and so with each new animal or event around Arne that he became aware of, a new god or goddess was born, creating the traditional pantheon by willing them into existence, which in turn caused them to create the Ailor Race. Arne is not worshiped however, because while he is the Tree of Life, he is seen more as a means to an end, and when all the Gods were born, he went into a lifeless slumber that created the afterlife in his dreams, the Gods and Goddesses instead are worshiped. Arne's physical body is believed to have perished with the Destruction of Ceardia, however this didn't spell disaster, as it is believed that his spirit and dreams (and thus the afterlife) live on even without his physical form.