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Ali the Helering

Old Earth Religion

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I had a look in the Guide, and it seems that both Tor Balur and Tor Vara has this description, although not using the term "Old Earth religion" there, though I'm sure I've seen that term used elsewhere.

I'm not sure how much to say with certainty, but it seems that the settlements being focused around (comparatively) large temple complexes, either of Cyclopean architecture (ie. large stones fitted closely without mortar) or underground caverns is a common feature for most Earth-focused sites in Kethaela/Kerofinela and the surrounding areas.

Additionally, the highest authority would've been either a priestess or queen (or both in one person) who may or may not have been an embodiment of the Goddess (or many goddesses). There would probably have been male companions, who may or may not have been seen as sons (like Verhil), or perhaps "tamed" foreigners, possibly. More than one companion is perfectly possible, even likely, though a prime companion among these is also quite possible.

Human sacrifice is mentioned for the Balurgans, but for what purpose, and to what extent is a bit iffy. Fertility purposes is probably a good bet. Keep in mind that human sacrifice in a context of less than a 1000 people in the area means it's no small matter. May have been used even to "renew" Verhil, but that's just me spinning a bit of a yarn.

Complex agriculture is also a likely aspect, though I wouldn't necessarily say a required feature.

Edited by Sir_Godspeed

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The term comes from the entry in the History of the Heortling Peoples.  Each of the two settlements you mention have 150 inhabitants at the Dawn, Tor Balur now being the Plain of Stones and Tor Vara now Hortugarth.

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Ah, that's where I had the term Old Earth religion from, thanks! I've just recently been reading HHP, so it seemed familiar. It's not in the Guide, but the general gist is the same.

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IMO the best descriptions are the "Green Age" texts in Esrolia - Land of 10k Goddesses and (to a lesser degree) Entekosiad.

The earliest organisation of humans (and Elder Races) was in holy places of the earth, even before Fire was involved. We have descriptions of Ezel (Esrolia...), the Paps, and there are hints for the West which indicate that the old temples of Earth provide the wives and an unacknowledged (by Zzabur) contribution to the organozation of the Malkioni 

I mentioned the crystallization of Kachisti refugees after the Vadeli (and Nidan Mountain) uprising at the Earth temples, not just Seshna Likita or the Green Lady or Hrelar Amali, but also the holy spots of the Hykimi (their links to the earth), places like Göbekli Tepe and named "the city of wolves" or similar in the Serpent Brotherhood lands.

The Balurgans probably preserved the religion of the early hunter gatherers that had discovered the wild grains as their annual gathering crop above the annual migrations of herds of prey for their hunters, and which developed horticulture from that.

Expect the universal all-bearing mother goddess of Earth, her brawny and fairly obedient husband/brother (and/or son), and the deities of the crops. In a later generation, the protector may be a (perceived) outsider, sometimes like Tada or Pamalt, sometimes already of a different elemental background - most often earliest storm (e.g. the pig god protector) or fire (a fiery serpent). Pottery may be present if Fire has been invited, otherwise expect wicker-backed unburnt clay.

Plowing comes - if it comes - with the storm protector or the advanced fire protector. Orlanth/Barntar brings it, Veskarthan doesn't, but Lodril the master of Irrigation does (originally using primitive sky creatures like gazzam). The use of muscle power other than human may signify the closing Old Earth culture.

The Caladralander fire culture is a continuation of an Old Earth culture with the heavy influence of the volcano. The gifts of the fiery mountain make a reliance on beast muscle superfluous. The Balurgans probably had special growth and ripening magics for their crops, probably unavailable to those who plow, offering them a similar advantage.

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13 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

This description is used for the Dawn Age Balurgans.  I have my own ideas as to quite what this means, but would be grateful for other opinions.

Since the Balurgans, as well as Tor Balur and Tor Vara, came out of my Imther campaign, what would you like to know?

The sites were both hills dedicated to the goddess Balur [Gor].  Tor Balur was the center of the culture and was razed by the Dara Happans (IIRC my story about that went into one of the issues of Enclosure).  It is at the center of the cursed Plain of Stones.  The hill that was Tor Vara is now the site of the necropolis in Hortugarth.  It was at least sacked, but it's position at the junction of the Isildon and Imaron rivers has meant that it has remained a natural trade site (and has been variously called Malusia, Siceral, and finally Hortugarth).

Some relevant entries from my old fanzine, New Lolon Gospel #1:

Balurga [ba-LUHR-ga] -- ancient earth queen and avenger

Balurga is the daughter of Nealda, borne from the earthmother’s dreams.  Also called the Black Queen, Balurga is the dark side of the earth, dedicated to blood and sacrifice.

Earthwielder -- mythic title

This title was used first by Verhil Genertson and later applied to Imthus.  Prophecies state that the Earthwielder will return for the Hero Wars to restore Imther’s glory.

Iaris [ee-AHR-is] -- ancient bull father

Iaris was the primal bull of Imther, a wild and untamed beast who wandered across the lands.  When the Darkness came, Iaris strode undaunted and slew the Seven Demons of Orak.  His wildness was too much for the surviving people though and Khelmal was forced to yoke him.  After the Dawning, Iaris served the earth queen Balurga, his blood used again and again in secret rites.  When Kareiston came, Balurga sacrificed Iaris and used his powers in her last arcane battle.  It is said though that Vaktal found Iaris and gained a sacred blessing from him to ensure Imther’s survival. Iaris is always shown as a massive broad-shouldered bull with huge horns.  He is usually yoked

Nealda [ne-AHL-da] -- earth mother, mistress of dreams, women’s goddess [Local name of Ernalda]

Nealda is the daughter of Genert and Gata, the two primal earth powers. She is one of the societal founders of the Imtherian lands, the spouse of Khelmal and the Women's goddess.  She knows things that no other gods know, sheltering those secrets within her Dreaming Palace. Nealda bore many children in the Godtime, including the trees, grasses, animal nourishers, and the fruits.  Though promised to Khelmal, she was stolen by Orlantio and then given to Orak, the Hell Wind.  She survived these encounters though and was able to bring life to men through their dreams.  Nealda is shown as a pregnant mother, surrounded by her bounty.  She is often shown sleeping upon a couch while plants sprout from her fingertips.

Verhil [VEHR-hil] --ancient earthwielder

Variously called the son of Genert, the brother of Nealda, or the father of Balurga, Verhil is an enigmatic figure best known for stepping forward at the Hill of Gold to fill the breach created when Yurmalio betrayed Khelmal.  Verhil is said to have sacrificed himself to allow Khelmal to flee.  He is not known to have survived into Time, though his title of Earthwielder has appeared several times.

Kareiston’s Conquest of Balur Gor:

With the aid of the Mallast chieftain and the Gryphon General, Kareiston brought the Torch of Truth against the evil ways of the Queendom of Balurga.  The queen was slain, the land broken, and the Mallust chieftain was raised as King of Malatain. This story is popular and common throughout the Southlands though particularly at the temple itself and its surrounding community.

The Bow of Kareiston: (From the Gospel of Kaeriston held at the Great Temple of Khelmal)

The spearmen drew up in a mighty phalanx along a small stream.  The assorted allies of Balurga took position on several hills blocking the road the her evil temple.  Kareiston came forward in his golden chair borne by four burly dwarfs.  He was haggard.  All night he gazed upon Arahar and the heavens to divine his battle dance.  Now he gave orders for the attack, grim determination keeping his eyes alert though his face sagged about them.  A cry went up as the spearmen charged the hill.  The Axe Maidens stood their ground, wallowing in blood and gore, as gargoyles flew overhead, great rocks held within their claws.  Suddenly, a lightwall rose before the mighty pikes, blinding the evil warriors.  Behind the wall the phalanx wheeled while hawks fought gargoyles in the sky.  Then the lightwall bowed forward in the center, forming a great bow.  The Axe Maidens surged forth to break the bow at its apex. Like a mighty bow, the lightwall stretched taut and the roadway was its arrow.  As the phalanx moved forward, they all formed west of the road, concentrating their force upon a single hill.  Surprised, the Axe Maidens turned to circle them.  Then did a great radiance leapt forth from the hand of Kareiston down the golden roadway.  It shot forth, quickly passing the great lightwall.  The radiance blinded the Axe Maidens in its passing.  They fell, hands holding their eyes, truth gnawing at their souls.  Others who sought to cross the roadway to aid their evil friends, screamed in agony as the light of truth burned their wicked souls and boiled their tainted blood.   Kareiston ordered the dwarfs to move.  Hands golden in glory, he was carried forth to the glory of mighty Khelmal.

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10 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Human sacrifice is mentioned for the Balurgans, but for what purpose, and to what extent is a bit iffy. Fertility purposes is probably a good bet. Keep in mind that human sacrifice in a context of less than a 1000 people in the area means it's no small matter. May have been used even to "renew" Verhil, but that's just me spinning a bit of a yarn.

Blood rites/sacrifices for fertility as part of the horticultural practices.  Part of how they survived the Great Darkness.

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9 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

My thinking for the underground temples was something along the lines of Hal-Saflieni in Malta, albeit less developed in the Dawn Age, probably similar in Hortugarth.

Tor Balur and Tor Vara were both hills into which the temples were constructed.  In my old campaign, the PC's managed to enter the Plain of Stones and the ancient Earth temple to retrieve one of the four sacred weapons of the Earthwielder.  The 'living' stone head of Verhil was still there at the time.

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