Is Imperial polytheism realistic?

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Bifi666
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Hi everybody,

we do not have many examples of real societies that would be as technologically and culturally advanced as the Empire and practice polytheism in some of its major variants, so the question of realism might be invalid from the very start. However, when one looks at the Imperial pantheon of major deities, there are some glaring omissions:
  • There is no real celestial, solar or heavenly deity. Sigmar, as an ascended human founder of the Empire, does not fill this role (being a culture hero instead, or a story of the power of mankind independent of or in defiance to gods), especially not in early 1e where he is more of a political deity related to the ideal of Imperial unity and legitimation of nobility. I guess one could elevate Ulric to this role...
  • ... but Morrslieb presents another interesting problem. Although Morr is more or less a chthonic/lunar deity, Morrslieb seems to be the manifestation of a trickster deity - a deity not capable of crossing between life and death as Morr, but between worldly Order and otherworldly Chaos. (Mannslieb is rather the usual moon of dreams and death, Morrslieb on the other hand is the moon of Chaos, sorcery and warpstone, isn't it? Also, while Morr is conceptually in opposition to Ulric along the axis of celestial-chthonic or solar-lunar, there does not seem to be a mythological or practical opposition.) Ranald is the trickster deity in the Imperial pantheon and a natural candidate for being the patron of Morrslieb, but interestingly he does not seem to be an ambivalent character in occasional opposition to the good gods, and his aspects do not include toying with Chaos!
  • There is no deity related to agriculture and material prosperity (earth, guardianship of the community, home and hearth, cattle) unless one counts Rhya which has, however, been somewhat sidelined by Taal in the earlier editions. Optionally there could be various local prosperity deities instead, but given the (relative) unity of the Empire and the need for its prosperity, this feels somewhat counterintuitive.
  • Importantly, there is no maternal deity or a deity that is a catalyst for Marian devotion. I find this a serious omission. (Actually, a Ruinous Power emulating the maternal aspect such as the Goat with the Thousand Young would in this situation draw throngs of worshippers.)
  • Also, unless one counts the Taal/Rhya relationship, there is no deity or a pair of deities for romantic affairs, love and family. (Interestingly, Old World deities do not seem to have familial or other mutual relationships in their mythology.) To whom do young people in love pray - I hope not Slaanesh?
  • I am also not sure whether there is a real deity of rebirth, but perhaps in 2e or in some Sigmarite cults there is an expectation of a second coming which fulfils this need? Would then Sigmar conceivably become something like a Spring deity, symbolising the circular passage of the seasons? (Interestingly, the central role of Sigmar in later editions feels more realistic than the polytheism (or possibly henotheism and monolatrism) of 1e. The process of empire building usually requires a cultural, linguistic, economic and religious centralisation and it is hard to understand, how the smaller cults and churches resisted absorption into the larger Church of Sigmar. Even though it is hard to argue politically when the gods have actual, tangible manifestation in the world, conceivably the Empire would develop towards some sort of panentheistic monotheism, where all of the other deities would be understood as aspects of or directly subservient to Sigmar. Another dimension of such development, building on the conflict with the cult of Ulric, could lie in kathenoteism, where the official dogma of the crown and the church is that the Age of Ulric has come to an end with the founding of the Empire, to be replaced by the Age of Sigmar at the time of his leaving and assumed ascension to godhood, and at some vaguely defined point in the future even he is to be replaced by yet another supreme deity.)
  • Deity of music and arts seem to be missing too.
  • Where are the saints?
Also, the mythologies seem to lack such important and almost universal elements as the joining of opposites (fire in the water), or teleologies such the slaying of the serpent, binding of evil, or beginning or ending of the world. (Being tribal and primitive in its origin, perhaps each Imperial province and by extension each deity could have their own creation myth?)

I am also missing a conflict between Protestant ethic (northern/western provinces?) and the more feudal and rural worldview of bacchanalia and YOLO so prevalent throughout the 16th and 17th century. Since I like the theme of the conflict between the cults of Sigmar and Ulric, I am also thinking of extending this conflict into this ethical realm: Sigmarites preach poverty, hard work and trade, whereas for Ulricans money is considered dirty and is supposed to be spent on drinks and merriment, let tomorrow be tomorrow.

Have any of you tried to adjust the pantheon, mythology and religious practice to cover the above aspects?
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Orin J.
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allow me to provide and assessment of your questions, by point.
-the heavens are seen as an "other" connected to magic and inherently suspect due to the fake moon morrslieb, so their belief system treating the moon as an aspect of "evil" and preference to earthly deities isn't unusual. this is simply a reality of there being a chaos moon, although morr and manann's names being tied to the two moons indicates there beign a general beleif that the heavens are an aspect of worldly deities rather than any celestial gods.

-morrslieb is directly connected to the appearance of ghosts and the walking dead, which easily explains the connection there. while ranald is a god of mischief and thievery he's not known for any aspect of dark magic, unlike morr's connection to dealing with the restless dead. this is mostly a pragmatic choice reflecting the real world influencing beleifs, although i admit a hard one to understand since we don't have friggin' banshees wandering around every harvest moon lookin to pick a fight because the rest of us aren't hunting down their bones for proper burial.

-while we have handrich as the god of merchants and wealth, Taal is god of the harvest and plenty in most aspects, which is something often overlooked as he shares those aspects with rhya (specifically, rhya comes later and adopts taal's more domestic aspects, probably to reflect the division of labor on farms between men and women) which leads to an interesting dynamic where the forest you must push back to maintain your farm is precious to the very god you ask for favor in growing your farm. it would be very interesting to explore this, i admit but i've never had much of a chance and this edition seems very focused on avoiding that sort of thing.

-i suspect that this sort of worship was phased out with the "old faith" (drudism), and the whole mother-worship concept is somewhat suppressed by the church of sigmar in general, largely because as you inferr, it's a rich ground for the chaos gods to exploit.

-rhya is more specifically directed towards happy relationships, although there's a certian implication of shallya for that as well. interestingly, romance is seen as more of a social matter than a personal one in the old world in general for humans which might explain why there's so much conflict in the world!

-the matter of spring is actually part of Taal's purview, as him and his brother ulric take turns in the cycle of sinter to summer, with spring and fall being seen less as their own seasons and more of transitions into the two god's turns. sigmar as a diety doesn't take any role in the undertaking of nature, but is rather more like the pharohs in aspect- in life he led the empire directly, and in godhood he guides it through the role of the church in government and divine inspiration. the....admitted vaugeness of sigmar's role as "patron god of the empire itself" seems to lead to a great deal of friction with the preexisting cults, as they tend to claim ownership of many traditions and beleifs of smaller gods, pushing them out (or simply ignoring the older faith which goes about it's business where it is, wondering wh the sigmarites nearby are aping them such as with the grandfather riek beleifs) which leads to a great many minor (and major) conflicts inside the empire. ultimately sigmar is not as welcome a diety as he seems to pretend.

-the lack of a god of the arts is intersting, but the general feel seems to be that art and music is a human creation among most of the old world (well, most of the humans of the old world) rather than something provided by the gods. this might have something to do with the way the old world seems to hold humankind slightly apart from nature (a very judeochristian aspect of their faith, which has little to no explination we can see...) or simply that with all their different cults all the gods lay a certian claim over it and nobody has settled on a decided "patron".

-only sigmar has saints, and they're generally of little importance outside of the church structure due to the way the sigmarite cult focuses on the personality cult of sigmar himself. this has always made me question the role of saints, as they seem to only exist as a sort of intermediary worship for asking sigmar's blessing in regards to fighting specific threats. sigmar is a very conflict-oriented god, really....

a admit i usually approach imperial faiths from the view of the elder races when i address them in my games as something beyond politics, so my view thens to hold it in a more......quaint view which might affect my feedback. hope it's helpful!
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totsuzenheni
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I think the (first edition) pantheon could do with a rewrite, or fleshing out. A few thoughts:
  • I wouldn't think of the pantheon we have (in the first edition) as in any way complete. There are gaps to fill everywhere.
  • In relation to your points about Morrslieb in particular, though also more generally, something not making sense is realistic, especially when it comes to names for things and a common understanding of things.
  • Quite how 'real' each of these gods are is i think open to some interpretation, nonetheless i think their actuality would have some bearing on how beliefs about them develop.
Theo
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The original pantheon is plainly a quickly hashed-out D&D-style pantheon based around the needs of an adventuring party rather than a society.

I found it didn't work for me - especially since the world didn't otherwise look or act like a polytheistic setting - so I rewrote the religions heavily for my modified setting, substituting a sort-of-monotheistic faith with various schismatic factions (with Sigmar as the patron saint of the Empire, and Ulric as a Luther-like reformer rather than a god). But others have, clearly, made it work for them.

If I were going to roll with the polytheism and try to make it work, I'd take some inspiration for this excellent series of articles on ancient polytheism:
https://acoup.blog/2019/10/25/collectio ... knowledge/
https://acoup.blog/2019/11/01/collectio ... -practice/
https://acoup.blog/2019/11/08/collectio ... -the-gods/
https://acoup.blog/2019/11/15/collectio ... ig-people/
Knight of the Lady
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Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
Hi everybody,

we do not have many examples of real societies that would be as technologically and culturally advanced as the Empire and practice polytheism in some of its major variants, so the question of realism might be invalid from the very start. However, when one looks at the Imperial pantheon of major deities, there are some glaring omissions:
I think that OP raises many goods points and that Orin J. answers many of them well.

However I also agree with Theo that its a very quickly hashed-out pantheon.

I will however add some comments to the OP's post and also make a few words of my own.
Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
  • There is no real celestial, solar or heavenly deity. Sigmar, as an ascended human founder of the Empire, does not fill this role (being a culture hero instead, or a story of the power of mankind independent of or in defiance to gods), especially not in early 1e where he is more of a political deity related to the ideal of Imperial unity and legitimation of nobility. I guess one could elevate Ulric to this role...

    There is no real celestial, solar or heavenly deity. Sigmar, as an ascended human founder of the Empire, does not fill this role (being a culture hero instead, or a story of the power of mankind independent of or in defiance to gods), especially not in early 1e where he is more of a political deity related to the ideal of Imperial unity and legitimation of nobility. I guess one could elevate Ulric to this role...
This isn't really true and in honestly I think that packing a solar aspect on Ulric feels wrong, at least to me. But in regards to solar deities there are both Söll in Wissenland (see "Tome of Salvation") who might have been the patron god of the old Solland province, I am a bit unsure on this part, and Dazh in Kislev.

My own, somewhat confused by anyway, explination for the lack of solar deities is that Taal is the King of Nature and while he has a solar aspect as in ruling over the sun, this leaves room for a number of smaller and localized solar cults. For various reasons combined with the idea of Taal as the sun's king means that at least in the parts of the Old World where Taal holds sway, there has not been a rise of a major solar god(dess). Instead people either turns to Taal to make him order the sun to help them or they worship some local sun deity with an understanding that Taal is this god's boss. The big exceptions to this are naturally Dazh in Kislev where a major solar deity has arisen, and potentially Söll in the southern Empire.
Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
[*]There is no deity related to agriculture and material prosperity (earth, guardianship of the community, home and hearth, cattle) unless one counts Rhya which has, however, been somewhat sidelined by Taal in the earlier editions. Optionally there could be various local prosperity deities instead, but given the (relative) unity of the Empire and the need for its prosperity, this feels somewhat counterintuitive.
In this I fear that I must outright disagree. Its very clear to me from my reading in that Rhya in particular and Taal in general has this tied down. And following the earlier part about Taal as the "King of Nature" I would say that the standard procedure is to call upon Rhya and Taal, and a host of local spirits, deities and ancestors to help with agriculture and material prosperity.

And as mentioned before there is Handrich, the God of Commerce.
Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
[*]Importantly, there is no maternal deity or a deity that is a catalyst for Marian devotion. I find this a serious omission. (Actually, a Ruinous Power emulating the maternal aspect such as the Goat with the Thousand Young would in this situation draw throngs of worshippers.)
Not sure I agree. Between Shallya and Rhya most stuff is covered. Now I'll go out on a leg here, but to me it seems that the fact that the material is mostly directed towards adventurers and writen by men, it makes some sense that a Marian aspect of various goddesses would be forgotten, overlooked or omitted due to word count, space and disinterest in the matter. Yet I have some recollection of Rhya having a position as a "patron of women" so there might be where it is.
Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
[*]Also, unless one counts the Taal/Rhya relationship, there is no deity or a pair of deities for romantic affairs, love and family. (Interestingly, Old World deities do not seem to have familial or other mutual relationships in their mythology.) To whom do young people in love pray - I hope not Slaanesh?
I would say to Rhya, Shallya or some local form of deity for women and potentially Taal, or even Ulric for men. Or some localized deity.
Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
[*]I am also not sure whether there is a real deity of rebirth, but perhaps in 2e or in some Sigmarite cults there is an expectation of a second coming which fulfils this need? Would then Sigmar conceivably become something like a Spring deity, symbolising the circular passage of the seasons? (Interestingly, the central role of Sigmar in later editions feels more realistic than the polytheism (or possibly henotheism and monolatrism) of 1e. The process of empire building usually requires a cultural, linguistic, economic and religious centralisation and it is hard to understand, how the smaller cults and churches resisted absorption into the larger Church of Sigmar. Even though it is hard to argue politically when the gods have actual, tangible manifestation in the world, conceivably the Empire would develop towards some sort of panentheistic monotheism, where all of the other deities would be understood as aspects of or directly subservient to Sigmar. Another dimension of such development, building on the conflict with the cult of Ulric, could lie in kathenoteism, where the official dogma of the crown and the church is that the Age of Ulric has come to an end with the founding of the Empire, to be replaced by the Age of Sigmar at the time of his leaving and assumed ascension to godhood, and at some vaguely defined point in the future even he is to be replaced by yet another supreme deity.)
I would not actually try to angle Sigmar into this. I feel that this is better done by either an aspect of Taal, in a kind of "Ishtar and Tammuz" relation between Rhya and Taal or by some series of supposed sons of Taal or lovers of Rhya who die and are reborn. Now that's an interesting idea. Say that there's a standard mythic formula, expressed with various variations across the Old World?

Basic idea is below and put into spoilers.
Spoiler
Rhya had some falling out with Taal, she hooked up with a mortal man and had a happy time with this fellow, leading to summer. But being a human he grew old and died, much to Rhya's sorrow, leading to autumn and winter. Rhya talked with Morr who agreed to let this lover return to Rhya for half the year before he must return to Morr's realm for the other half, for reasosn that probably varies. Hence Rhya's happiness and sorrw explains the cycle of seasons and this lover of Rhya has transcended the mortal limitations and is generally considered to be someone that Rhya listens to. So villagers ask this lover of Rhya to act as a middle man and bring their words to the goddess as his words are more persuasive to her than the words of mere mortals.

Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
[*]Deity of music and arts seem to be missing too.
Well, I think that we don't need one specific deity for this. It seems more likely that people would ask more jolly gods or spirits to aid with this as opposed a specific deity for it.
Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
[*]Where are the saints?[/list]
In the "Tome of Salvation" there is a concept of "Venerated Souls" which to me seems like a mix between saints and a pinch of ancestor veneration/cult.
Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
Also, the mythologies seem to lack such important and almost universal elements as the joining of opposites (fire in the water), or teleologies such the slaying of the serpent, binding of evil, or beginning or ending of the world. (Being tribal and primitive in its origin, perhaps each Imperial province and by extension each deity could have their own creation myth?)
This is true. Although in a way the teleology is more practical in my opinion due to the conflict with metaphysical evils being carried out right here and right now in the mortal world. Hence the fact that the conflict with the great evils that threatens the world is more physically present in the Old World more abstract stories and myths may not have been developed as there's so much historical material to work with?
Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
Have any of you tried to adjust the pantheon, mythology and religious practice to cover the above aspects?
If I could decide on where to focus my creative attentions, and then keep my attention focused, I would probably write some stuff for it. I've got some loose ideas to expand on the gods, mythology, cults, introduce or expand a ton of minor deities to make the polytheistic system as messy as by rights it should be etc. But so far its just ideas in my head.
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Orin J.
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Knight of the Lady wrote:
Tue Aug 11, 2020 12:57 am
Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
Hi everybody,

we do not have many examples of real societies that would be as technologically and culturally advanced as the Empire and practice polytheism in some of its major variants, so the question of realism might be invalid from the very start. However, when one looks at the Imperial pantheon of major deities, there are some glaring omissions:
I think that OP raises many goods points and that Orin J. answers many of them well.
i really don't, i just detail how the points work where they've only the vague concept of the problem.

really, the central issue is that the empire is a nation of peoples raised up from tribal theologies with the help of the dwarfs. there isn't gods of many things because they were gifts from the dwarfs (or sometimes the elves) and the dwarfs are there to remind them. the gods they DO have are essentially split between the "classical" gods whose worship was brought in from tilea and adopted here and the "old" gods from the previous druidic approach to faith. sigmar is effectively outside the rest of the empire's worship in his own separate pantheon, with the adherents demanding he be placed above and the other faiths demanding he be placed below, representing everything about the empire and at the same time, not claiming dominion of much at all.

it's a very complex situation, and most of the time the game is happy to gloss over the actual troubles in favor of bombastic imagery. the best approach is probably not working out how the system functions, but rather working out how it doesn't and making the core matter the wya the different faiths handle their hositlities without breaking into open warfare.
Knight of the Lady
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Orin J. wrote:
Tue Aug 11, 2020 8:36 am
Knight of the Lady wrote:
Tue Aug 11, 2020 12:57 am
Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
Hi everybody,

we do not have many examples of real societies that would be as technologically and culturally advanced as the Empire and practice polytheism in some of its major variants, so the question of realism might be invalid from the very start. However, when one looks at the Imperial pantheon of major deities, there are some glaring omissions:
I think that OP raises many goods points and that Orin J. answers many of them well.
i really don't, i just detail how the points work where they've only the vague concept of the problem.

really, the central issue is that the empire is a nation of peoples raised up from tribal theologies with the help of the dwarfs. there isn't gods of many things because they were gifts from the dwarfs (or sometimes the elves) and the dwarfs are there to remind them. the gods they DO have are essentially split between the "classical" gods whose worship was brought in from tilea and adopted here and the "old" gods from the previous druidic approach to faith. sigmar is effectively outside the rest of the empire's worship in his own separate pantheon, with the adherents demanding he be placed above and the other faiths demanding he be placed below, representing everything about the empire and at the same time, not claiming dominion of much at all.

it's a very complex situation, and most of the time the game is happy to gloss over the actual troubles in favor of bombastic imagery. the best approach is probably not working out how the system functions, but rather working out how it doesn't and making the core matter the wya the different faiths handle their hositlities without breaking into open warfare.
If that' how you feel, sure.

But anyway I think that from a RP perspective it can be very useful to learn about how it, roughly, works and not just when adventurers are getting caught up in conflicts.
Wolf
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WFRP religion does show its roots as something Graeme Davis had to quickly come up with to fill in the gaps and incorporate few bits others had created. That said, I think it is entirely workable and overall stands up pretty well.

What it lacks is any idea of its mythology. Often the stories about gods fill in aspects that wouldn’t be apparent from looking at what appears to be their primary field of influence, as well as adding richness to a religious experience, as is clear from all RW religions.

To take your points quickly and off the top of my head:
Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
  • There is no real celestial, solar or heavenly deity.
The idea that there should be a god who is the solar sky god isn’t really backed up by how religions work. It’s a very nineteenth century of pagan religion. There are generally multiple gods who partly embody the sky god notion. The Norse had Odin, Thor and Frey who all in their own ways appear to have been sky gods (and we can possibly add Tyr, Heimdall and Balder as likely Sun/Sky gods from the lesser gods too). Odin is primarily the god of the dead, Frey fertility and Thor closest as god of thunder but none are obviously sun related.

I would pick Taal (as a fertility god) as being one of the gods to embody this. Ulric’s role is as the counterpart to Taal his brother, locked in a eternal struggle over the land between summer and winter.

[*]... but Morrslieb presents another interesting problem. Although Morr is more or less a chthonic/lunar deity, Morrslieb seems to be the manifestation of a trickster deity - a deity not capable of crossing between life and death as Morr, but between worldly Order and otherworldly Chaos. (Mannslieb is rather the usual moon of dreams and death, Morrslieb on the other hand is the moon of Chaos, sorcery and warpstone, isn't it?
Names don’t always make sense. Meanings change over time and understanding does too, whilst words and names get a life of their own.

It is the case that Mannslieb’s death and dreams fits Morr rather better.
[*]There is no deity related to agriculture and material prosperity (earth, guardianship of the community, home and hearth, cattle) unless one counts Rhya which has, however, been somewhat sidelined by Taal in the earlier editions. Optionally there could be various local prosperity deities instead, but given the (relative) unity of the Empire and the need for its prosperity, this feels somewhat counterintuitive
Orin already pointed to Handrich. Taal and Rhya clearly are supposed to represent fertility. There are smaller cults for wine production, for example too, and a human version of the dwarf craft cults might exist.
For those of Tilean and Estalian origins (and perhaps elsewhere) Myrmidia is the goddess not just of war but science, artifice and human endeavour too.
[*]Importantly, there is no maternal deity or a deity that is a catalyst for Marian devotion. I find this a serious omission.

The gradually increased role of Rhya suggests others have felt this needs remedying too.
Don’t forget that Verena has an aspect as mother of Shallya and Myrmidia too. Those who follow her might point to her maternal qualities.

H
[*]Also, unless one counts the Taal/Rhya relationship, there is no deity or a pair of deities for romantic affairs, love and family. (Interestingly, Old World deities do not seem to have familial or other mutual relationships in their mythology.)
Again, Verena and Morr are married, with children. They can represent the order of marriage (and its legal bonds, given Verena is involved), bringing stability and compassion.
Rhya and Taal are all about generation and growth (and sex), would be my take.
[*]I am also not sure whether there is a real deity of rebirth, but perhaps in 2e or in some Sigmarite cults there is an expectation of a second coming which fulfils this need? Would then Sigmar conceivably become something like a Spring deity, symbolising the circular passage of the seasons?

Not touched on, but then there are few gods whose role is all about rebirth but many for whom that is an aspect of their worship. This is an area where we might look to see how gods might be developed.

Odin was a dead and reborn god (so too Osiris) - might Morr be a dead and reborn god too?

Thor could eat and reincarnate his goats - does Taal have a similar power for his animals?
[*]Deity of music and arts seem to be missing too.
Myrmidia for southerners?
[*]Where are the saints?[/list]
Plenty in some books - Marienburg has them and Tome of Salvation has them (only called something different like revered individuals?)
Herr Arnulfe
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Remember that the Empire practices "institutionalized polytheism", it's not a pagan society. The Old Faith, which is the closest analogue to RW medieval paganism, was marginalized by the major cults along with all its nature spirits and deities. Although Warhammer portrayals of Old Faith druidism tend to focus on earth magic, it should actually be a combination of celestial and terrestrial magic like RW druidism was. Leylines and stone circles are all about earth/sky alignment.

Also bear in mind that WH humans were created by ancient aliens in the not too distant past, so their religion developed from an artificial genesis.
Whymme
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I think that everyone agrees that the pantheon as described in the WFRP1 rulebook is not very realistic - just like so many other parts of the background. But then, we don’t have to see it as complete. GW acknowledged this by adding more gods to its pantheon - Sigmar, Handrich and Stromfells, to name a few. If anyone feels that gods are missing, one can easily add them. Or add aspects to existing gods.

Don’t forget that humans can ascend to godhood in the Warhammer universe too. Sigmar did. Ranald, it is said, was a conman who tricked Shallya into making him a god, whereas Handrich made a deal to that effect.

As for a god of agriculture, people correctly point to Taal and Rhya. I always interpreted Taal as the god of wild nature, Rhya as the goddess of ‘tamed’ nature - agriculture. And, from there, goddess of fertility as well. I could imagine that farmers pray to her for bountiful harvests, and that she is ritually thanked and praised during harvest festivals.

As for Morrslieb and Mannslieb, the ‘lieb’ part means ‘beloved’. ‘Morrslieb’ thus doesn’t represent Morr itself, but something loved by Morr, and ‘Mannslieb’ is something loved by Manann. One could argue that the relation between Mannslieb and the god of the sea is shown by how the moon influences the tides. Why the god of death loves the chaos moon is not apparent, but I can imagine a great story behind it.

Which is what I would like to see in the Warhammer universe. We have all these gods and goddesses, but they alone don’t make a religion - certainly not a polytheistic one. Part of a religion are the tales, the parables. We get lots of hints of them - we have the two families of gods - northern, country gods representing nature, versus southern, town gods representing culture - but where did they come from? We heard (as I mentioned earlier) that Ranald tricked and Handrich bargained their way into godhood, but what are the stories behind that? How did Mannslieb and Morrslieb get their names?

Think of Norse and Greek mythologies. We remember them not just because of their lists of gods and goddesses, but because of the stories that are told about what these gods did, how they interacted with each other and with the human world.

Something else that is lacking, when comparing the Old World gods with the Greek or Norse ones, is an idea where they live. The Greek gods sit on top of Mount Olympos, the Norse Gods have these nine worlds, connected through Yggdrasil, and we can get to the halls of the gods by moving over the rainbow bridge, which is guarded by Heimdall. But where do the gods of the Old World reside?

And then there is the thing - which I find unrealistic - about different pantheons in societies that are in regular contact with each other, but that don’t influence each other. Given all the relations between Kislev and the Empire, I would have expected gods of one pantheon to be much closer to the gods of the other. Same with human gods versus dwarves, or elven, gods (I’m a bit shaky here; I don’t know those pantheons particularly well). And apparently all of Bretonnia worships the Lady, and there is no place for worship of the other gods.

One could argue that this is because in the Warhammer world the gods actually exist - but if so, why would they adhere to country borders? It is clear for Sigmar, but a lot less for, say, Handrich or Morr. I could imagine a world where the Northern gods are particularly strong in Kislev, and the Southern gods in Tilea and Estalia, with the Empire the place where those pantheons get mixed. It would be quite believable, in fact. Instead we have a very different pantheon in Kislev. While Ursun clearly has much alike with Ulric, there is not such equivalent to Dazh, the god of fire and the sun, and Tor, the god of lightning, would at its best be only a small aspect of Taal.


Edit: As for the question ‘where are the saints?’, the answer is threefold and partly contradictory.
First, there are saints in the WFRP background. Look up the Church of St. Olovald, for example.
Second, this post was about whether WFRP’s polytheism was believable. Saints, as we know them, are found in Catholicism, which is monotheistic. In particular, many saints can be addressed to in prayer for specific purposes - but in a polytheistic system, one can address the god responsible for this specific purpose.
Third, if one needs to pray to a human, the Old World religion recognises several humans who ascended to godhood.
Last edited by Whymme on Fri Aug 14, 2020 5:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
Whymme
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Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
we do not have many examples of real societies that would be as technologically and culturally advanced as the Empire and practice polytheism in some of its major variants, so the question of realism might be invalid from the very start.
Just a quick comment on this: while the Western world has been largely monotheistic, through the ages Catholicism in particular recognised a wide array of saints who covered everything from lost objects to harvests to fertility. If you lost an object, make a small prayer to St. Antonius (of Padua) to find it. If you and your partner want to have a child, pray to St. Anna, mother of Mary. For any illness related to stones (like kidney stones), pray to St. Stefanus, for he was stoned to death. Andreas is the pattern saint of fishermen and sailors, and people who travel a lot could do worse than to have a small medallion of st. Christopher, the pattern saint of travellers.
Cities and countries have their pattern saints as well. Churches are often named after the pattern saints of those places, or after the pattern saints of the profession of their congregation.

If one would like to show a polytheistic society at Renaissance level, one could do worse than take the Catholic system of pattern saints as an example.
Rangdo
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Bifi666 wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:26 am
we do not have many examples of real societies that would be as technologically and culturally advanced as the Empire and practice polytheism in some of its major variants, so the question of realism might be invalid from the very start.
This is forgetting India, at the very least. There's no direct connection between monotheism and societal "advancement", whatever that means. IRL, where polytheisms died, they didn't die out: they were murdered.

If Warhammer polytheism is unrealistic, it's because it was kitbashed together in a hurry.
Zisse
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Whymme wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 4:52 am
One could argue that this is because in the Warhammer world the gods actually exist - but if so, why would they adhere to country borders? It is clear for Sigmar, but a lot less for, say, Handrich or Morr. I could imagine a world where the Northern gods are particularly strong in Kislev, and the Southern gods in Tilea and Estalia, with the Empire the place where those pantheons get mixed. It would be quite believable, in fact. Instead we have a very different pantheon in Kislev. While Ursun clearly has much alike with Ulric, there is not such equivalent to Dazh, the god of fire and the sun, and Tor, the god of lightning, would at its best be only a small aspect of Taal.
Maybe the adhere to borders because their power depends on the amount of worship?
Le Passant
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There is actually no problem with religions corresponding to geographical borders, though contacts will have influences on both sides. Religion is tied to culture, not nationality, and nations evolve from cultural groups.

The Mesopotamian world was very diverse, and every city has its own pantheon, sometimes very specific. What we have on Ugarit show similarities with neighbourhood, but also proper things, proper myths and entities. Same in Gaul, were some deities are exclusive to some geographical areas, due to cultural domination by a specific tribe or tribe groups.

It can also have ties with evolution, as Allah was the chief head of a pantheon before integrating monotheistic concepts. Same for Yawhe, which was only a patron deity of a specific people, not the only one recognized god, and which had a consorts and an "assembly of gods". Political and/or cultural events generated shifts in these doctrines, and things are forgotten and/or tweaked by time and theology. I don't think there is problems with the WFRP pantheons, as what we know is merely the general idea, and as the religions evolve since at least 2500 years (just for the modern Empire, 4000 for Tilea), concepts are lost and others are integrated. Don't forget that the Empire is constituted of eastern tribes, mixed with remnants of Norsemen and "classical" southern civilization, so datas were inevitably blend and a lot of informations were lost. That's exactly the same with our comprehension of South America religions, since it was transmitted to us by already christianized populations. Same for North Europe, were Christianity was not established before X° century and where paganism survived centuries. But what we know of the old faiths here is blurred by the christian views of the authors, and even today people tend to associate to old faiths erroneous facts.

So, it is not because the Empire religion system seems to be lacking that it is really a problem. Either we have not the datas and the game promote personal creation for a campaign, or there is no data because Imperial citizens themselves lack memories on those cultural matters. Heck, I'm not sure that many Christians on this world know that prayers are pretty much based on Mesopotamian mythology (same vocabulary, same stances, same formulations...).

For the question of religion in Bretonnia : actually, the Lady is essentially a noble religion. Faith in Old World gods like Morr or Taal is frequent in the other social classes, such as peasants.
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Orin J.
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To a certain extent the problem is that the Sigmarite faith has some serious parallels to Christianity in that they attempt to absorb and erase nearby faiths (a recurring theme that's never really put at the forefront in official material but i've always loved to play with as a GM) so the predominant theme of the empire (it's worship of Sigmar) is very actively trying NOT to look polytheistic...
Le Passant
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That can be paralleled with the begginings of modern Hebraic faith, wich was not monotheistic before the V° century BC. The exil to Babylon was a political catalyst for a rejection of everything that was not Yawhe, After that, the cult made great efforts to erase polytheistic elements and to publicly vilify others cults, and to refocus on the idea of a cultural unique identity which was not so precise before, in opposition to everyone else.

Christianity actually collected informations on other faiths and mythologies, but through a biased prism which modified (drastically or not, that's precisely the problem, we don't always know) knowledge of myths and legends. That's the case for Northern European and South american faiths. There was not always an attempt to absorb, even if popular traditions passed into the folklore (Christmas, etc).
Iltherion
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we do not have many examples of real societies that would be as technologically and culturally advanced as the Empire and practice polytheism in some of its major variants, so the question of realism might be invalid from the very start.
What about the society that gave us the word "Empire"? The Romans may not have been as technologically or culturally advanced as the Sigmarite Empire, but they weren't very far off either.

And I never imagined that the way Sigmarites worshiped Manaan, for example, would be much different than they way the Romans worshiped Neptune.
Last edited by Iltherion on Sat Sep 05, 2020 2:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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totsuzenheni
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Henotheism?
Whymme
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Zisse wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 8:04 am
Whymme wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 4:52 am
One could argue that this is because in the Warhammer world the gods actually exist - but if so, why would they adhere to country borders? It is clear for Sigmar, but a lot less for, say, Handrich or Morr. I could imagine a world where the Northern gods are particularly strong in Kislev, and the Southern gods in Tilea and Estalia, with the Empire the place where those pantheons get mixed. It would be quite believable, in fact. Instead we have a very different pantheon in Kislev. While Ursun clearly has much alike with Ulric, there is not such equivalent to Dazh, the god of fire and the sun, and Tor, the god of lightning, would at its best be only a small aspect of Taal.
Maybe the adhere to borders because their power depends on the amount of worship?
Perhaps. But why wouldn’t Arabyan or Kislevite (or dwarven for that matter) merchants pray to Handrich then?
Whymme
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A bit later .... I sort of like the idea that the Imperial pantheon is a ‘melting pot’ of the southern pantheon (the town gods) and the Kislev pantheon ( the country gods). It would mean, though, that the Kislev pantheon would have to be expanded with gods similar to Taal and Manon, and that there would be some equivalence in the Imperial pantheon to Dazh and Tor.
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