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Author Topic: Messing around with dualistic deities  (Read 778 times)
Yrthak
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« on: September 06, 2011, 10:32:34 AM »

For those of you who remember the thinly-detailed setting I posted a while back with the working title Demon-Haunted, you may be aware of the simple dualistic pantheon that I decided would exist there.

I spent most of that original post talking about the Demons, seeing as they were so integral to events in the campaign I was running and the ancient history behind those events. I spared precious little time for the Gods, and just recently, I've been thinking more about them.

The dualism of my little cosmology is based around a sky-god and an earth-goddess. So far, so boring, right?
What I want is for this to become something more than just warlike patriarch vs. mother nature, or Christian-analogue vs. Pagan-analogue. I want both deities to be complex and, perhaps most importantly, to have many different sects and cults in the world, dedicated to different aspects of one or both deities, and viewing them, worshipping them, and doing Their Holy Work in different ways.

So, let's look at these two in their very rough form.
The God is a patriarch, yes, and a stern lawgiver and patron of royalty who encourages strength and bravery - however, as the Lord of the Sun, he is also the life-giver, master of the seasons and harvests, and general fertility god (something that seems to be stereotypically associated with female deities). He celebrates not just individual strength but also the strength of the communities that form under the monarchs and other high-born patriarchs he is so fond of, and, as divine creator, he expounds great love for artifice and craft. His association with the sun goes beyond just the bond with life and growth - the sun is the golden chariot that he rides across the sky, and so he is also the ultimate nomad, patron of all mortal travellers.
The Goddess, meanwhile, is Queen of the Underworld, and not necessarily in an earth-mother sense; she is the taker of the dead, and their ruler once their souls reach her deep, dark domain. Known in some parts as the Mother of the Slain, she is a lover of battlefields, not just for the deaths upon them, but also for the fighting itself; she is a mighty warrior, a battle-deity. Her killing-glee also extends to her love of predators; she is the Wild Huntress, who runs with the wolves and shares their bloody feasts. She rides in storms and hurls lightning, lashing out in divine frenzy. She isn't entirely evil, though, just as the stern yet fatherly God isn't always entirely benevolent. Her Underworld may be a dark, bleak place but it's no fire-and-brimstone punishment-plane, either, and she is thought of by some as caring for and even loving the souls that come to her there. She's also the deity of wisdom and magic, and many of her more ascetic followers believe that ultimate enlightenment can be found through her secrets.

Now, Demon-Haunted (as I will still call it until I come up with something better) isn't really a D&D setting - although it could be run using a low-magic variant, such as Iron Heroes, which is exactly the system I've used for it in the past. That said, last night I decided to assign 3.5 cleric domains to the God and the Goddess, just as an exercise in pinning down or codifying their portfolios somewhat. Here's what I came up with. . .
The God: Air, Artifice, Community, Creation, Fire, Glory, Healing, Law, Nobility, Plant, Protection, Rune, Strength, Sun, Travel
The Goddess: Animal, Chaos, Charm, Darkness, Death, Destruction, Earth, Knowledge, Luck, Madness, Magic, Trickery, War, Water, Weather
Another thing I'm hoping this will help with is coming up with different aspects of the deities to base different sects and cults around. For example, I'm pretty sure I want most religion in the civilised lands in the south of the setting to view the God as the only "truly good" Deity, and the Goddess almost as a female Satan to oppose him. In this aspect, her portfolio might only extend to the Darkness, Death, Destruction and Trickery domains.

So'¦ that was a big rant that I now feel hasn't really got much by way of a point to it, so I guess it's time to ask what you lot think of all this? Any comments, or ideas for possible aspects/sects would be gratefully received.
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« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2011, 12:04:34 PM »

It seems to me that the God and Goddess are already complex enough. Focus on the individual sects and interpretations of the respective dogmas.

What stands out for me is that the Mother Earth aspect is quite literal in that she is the Queen of the Underworld-the underworld literally exists beneath the earth I am assuming?
It is interesting as well that the God is the patron of nomads, who obviously live on the very domain of the Goddess.

Is the Mother Goddess more of the physical tangible while the God is the ah...whats the word intangible? i.e. His domains are mortal made institutions while the Mother is more of a natural laws of the world type deity.

I dunno...they seem complex enough for me. It all comes down to interpretations.

I guess I'll go with what you yourself said...

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...to have many different sects and cults in the world, dedicated to different aspects of one or both deities, and viewing them, worshipping them, and doing Their Holy Work in different ways.


I think therein lies the complexity your looking for.
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« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2011, 12:41:52 PM »

Do the two deities have divine servants?  These clearly wouldn't be the alien Demons, but do they have spirits, angels, saints, or other beings associated with them?

I think the next step would be to describe some sects and the like, in particular perhaps extremist/splinter groups with radical/heretical interpretations of their chosen deity.  Random thoughts: honourable cannibals, sun-blinded prophets, a sect who worships the God by day and the Goddess by night (or perhaps the God half the year and the Goddess the other half), self-immolation as a means to power, lightning-touched weather witches, miraculous solar machines (anachronistic and rare), underwater aspect, sacred eclipses.
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« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2011, 02:56:13 PM »

if you are interested in dualist deities, look n farther than pre-Columbian gods and goddesses for inspiration (Mayan, Aztec, Incan, Guaraní, etc.)

If i remember right, the Aztecs had a fertility/death goddess who ate its child as it was coming out of the womb and then as it was eaten, it went back into to the womb only to be eaten again and so on.
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