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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:40 am 
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higgins wrote:
Ian.Plumb wrote:
Which, in my opinion, doesn't work. This to me looks like a monotheistic model applied to a pantheon.
And it doesn't work because...?

Allow me to answer in Ian’s stead, as we seem to be on a similar page (like so often :roll: ).

There are many differences between ancient polytheistic and medieval monotheistic religion, but many an be overcome easily. It is not disruptive to suppose some kind of ecclesiastical hierarchy for polytheistic systems, and even a moral code, if done with great care, is to some extant possible.

The main problem I see is the (medieval and monotheistic) assumptio that religions and even deities within the same religion rival each other for adherents. For once (and most important to me personally), this is just extremely alien for polytheism, no less absurd than an antagonism between God Father and God Son in Christianity would be, and no less alien than the Pope saying that he doesn’t know wether the Bible or the Quran is right. Any level of religious antagonism in polytheism does just feel completely wrong.

Then (but less important for me) it is also an imbalanced situation. Throughout human history before the modern times, whenever various religious believes vied with each other, in any given political entity one did eventually gain ascendency over all others and oust them. A struggle is not a stable situation; if the goddess of fertility vied with the god of commerce for adherents, one would eventually triumph over the other.
You wouls arrive at something religious science calls henotheism. This is a development of polytheism in which all gods are acknowledged, but one among them is held to dwarve all others, to the point where this one deity is turned to for everything and the others are not actively venerated anymore, without actually being denied. This is what happened to the goddess Isis in Roman Egypt.

A polytheism where deities rival each other for adherents is not stable – a struggle is either abandoned or eventually decided, it can hardly go on forever undecided – it is merely a transitional stage from polytheism to henotheism, and henotheism is not polytheism.

And that’s why it is also problematic to give moral commandments to polytheistic systems. If the commandments of various deities somhow contradict ech other, this will sooner or later raise the question what way of life is the right one – if one deity forbids killing under all circumstances as sinful and another encourages or even demands it, clashes between adherents and ultimately clashes between the religious establishment itself are preprogrammed, and you’re again on the sliding slope towards henotheism.
If polytheistic systems are to be given moral codes (something no polytheism ever had), one has to take great care that they do not contradict each other in the least.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 9:12 am 
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An interesting discussion. :) So, then in most of our games, religious themes have been in the lines of struggle towards henoteism and mainly, the religious character not being on the side of the temple that is growing in power. Some temples are banned, some tolerated (but for how long?) etc.

In my own game, it's sort of henotheism then, but not one god, but three came up on top, all of which are essential to the culture at hand (luck&commerce/sea&grief/night&information). Other areas have other gods on the top. And the religion doesn't give moral commandments, the priesthood does.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 9:43 am 
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higgins wrote:
In my own game, it's sort of henotheism then, but not one god, but three came up on top, all of which are essential to the culture at hand (luck&commerce/sea&grief/night&information).

And are the three gods at peace or do they exist alongside each other in the same place with their teachings clashing with each other and them vieing with each other for adherents? If they do, your world seems most likely still on the slide towards true henotheism, where one god will finally have added all the others’ spiritual functions to his own, without those others loosing them – they just pale in comparison with this “super-god”.

higgins wrote:
And the religion doesn't give moral commandments, the priesthood does.

While this definitely is a difference, I would say it is largely semantic and theoretical. It makes nil difference for the believer’s daily life wether the commandments relayed to them originate with the priests or come ultimately from somewhere beyond the priests.

pbj44 wrote:
Questions: Why would any sizable number of folk even consider worshiping an "evil" god?

I forgot a third model of mine, one rooted in Neoplatonistic and ultimately Gnostic believes:

Men, all men, were initially beings of pure spirit and, in the truest sense of the word, gods. Then something happened; some entity created the physical universe and the human bodies as prisons for the god-like souls, polluting them with physicality, robbing them of their power and of their knowledge of their true identity; this being(s) set himself up as god(s). The ultimate goal of such an evil creed would be to utterly and completely destroy the world, to uncreate creation and to thus return the human souls to their original state as purely spiritual beings and gods.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 10:10 am 
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Grettir wrote:
And are the three gods at peace or do they exist alongside each other in the same place with their teachings clashing with each other and them vieing with each other for adherents?
The three religions are at peace, but the servants of the night are treated with reserved composure (and maybe even with some fear) as information is their trade and nobody wants information about themselves on the market.

Grettir wrote:
higgins wrote:
And the religion doesn't give moral commandments, the priesthood does.
While this definitely is a difference, I would say it is largely semantic and theoretical. It makes nil difference for the believer’s daily life wether the commandments relayed to them originate with the priests or come ultimately from somewhere beyond the priests.
Oh, sorry, it was meant to be the extension of one of my previous posts. No moral commandments are given to the flock, but "unfit" persons are not allowed to join the priestly ranks.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 10:26 am 
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With full acknowledging of the other dieties' existence and divinity, no clashing commandments and no attempts to get more followers at another god's expense this looks workable and believable to me.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 1:06 pm 
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In my own campaign, a "great spiritual intelligence" created the world and then shortly after creating the "gods", this spiritual being withdrew. The gods created man and used him as a tool to fight each other. The gods warred upon each other until exhausted and then also agreed to withdraw from the world. From that point on the gods limit themselves to portents and signs(so the priests claim). One rogue goddess was imprisoned in a seperate node and her desire is to regain her freedom and remake the world back to it's beginnings (before man). She is worshiped by cultists.

How does that stack up so far?

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 4:07 pm 
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pbj44 wrote:
How does that stack up so far?

How do the adherents of one god view those of another? More like a devoted disciple of the polytheistic goddess of peace would view the equally devoted disciple of the god of war, that is as following a valid and not unworthy, but ultimately unattractive god, or rather like a medieval Christian would view a medieval Muslim, as a hateful and misguided idolator adhering to a false god who was at best an illusion and at worst a devil? I think it would tighten the skeins of conflict (and thus story material) for your world if the adherent of one god viewed the adherents of another god more in the latter mold, at best as having fallen afoul of the hollow lie of a god who doesn’t exist and at worst as followers of a demon mascerading as a god. Not exactly polytheism, but rather a large number of monotheisms striving for dominance.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 6:46 pm 
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For my campaign the basic gods are as follows:

A god of Justice
a woodland goddess
a goddess of the sea's
a god of trickery
a god of the mountains
a death god
a god of war
a god of knowledge
a goddess of "evil" (imprisoned in node)

Thus far, the campaign is still very much in it's infancy and I am just beginning to pay attention to the gods of the setting. The worship of the various gods has not come much into play yet with the exception of the PC's having a few run-in's with a cult devoted to the evil goddess's return.

So, Grettir, If I follow you, you think that it would be interesting if the followers of one or more of these gods were at odds with each other?

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:23 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
I think it would tighten the skeins of conflict (and thus story material) for your world if the adherent of one god viewed the adherents of another god more in the latter mold, at best as having fallen afoul of the hollow lie of a god who doesn’t exist and at worst as followers of a demon mascerading as a god. Not exactly polytheism, but rather a large number of monotheisms striving for dominance.
And how exactly is this different from the "monotheistic model applied to a pantheon" that "feels completely wrong"? I'm utterly confused now. :?

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:30 pm 
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pbj44 wrote:
So, Grettir, If I follow you, you think that it would be interesting if the followers of one or more of these gods were at odds with each other?

It’s of course not my place to tell you what to do, but as you’ve started this thread specifically for the reason of soliciting advice…

For once, I have already explained how lukewarm antagonism, as in jockeying to have the most adherents, doesn’t really work well with polytheism, so I’ll not dwell on this any more. But then I have also understood that your gods themselves were very much hostile towards each other, with a long past history of establishing sole and total dominance over creation. If I am correct in this understanding, I assume that it would be only natural for the gods to still feel great animosity towards each other, and, even more importantly, that this animosity and outright hostility would have entered the religious teachings, as the time of open warfare between the gods does not predate the age of humans and the inception of religion. This is what gave me the idea that every single cult would denounce every other cult and regard it with hate, hate buttressed by religious teachings. The eight “good” gods would hate each other because each of them wants to achieve sole dominance, and the “evil” goddess would be hated because she wants to destroy what the others want to rule.

This sounds to me like nine monotheisms, with each one denouncing all others.

higgins wrote:
Grettir wrote:
I think it would tighten the skeins of conflict (and thus story material) for your world if the adherent of one god viewed the adherents of another god more in the latter mold, at best as having fallen afoul of the hollow lie of a god who doesn’t exist and at worst as followers of a demon mascerading as a god. Not exactly polytheism, but rather a large number of monotheisms striving for dominance.
And how exactly is this different from the "monotheistic model applied to a pantheon" that "feels completely wrong"?

Polytheism does not deny the existence of other gods, maybe even myriads of gods, and the gods within a pantheon coexist peacefully and are venerated roughly equally by every adherent of this pantheon, and there is even no animosity between different pantheons; everybody acknowledges everybody else. Applying a montheistic model to this forces the gods and religions into antagonism without the religions denying the godhood of the deities of another religion. If you have a number of parallel monotheisms, every single religion claims that its (single) god is the only true one and all other gods are fakes.

See the difference?

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 9:22 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
See the difference?
But we're still dealing with a pantheon here... yet then again... who's to tell that Jehovah, Allah and Holy God the Father really form a pantheon of three without us knowing that down here, and so they are worshipped by monotheism? That's what you're getting at?

Grettir wrote:
For once, I have already explained how lukewarm antagonism, as in jockeying to have the most adherents, doesn’t really work well with polytheism, so I’ll not dwell on this any more.
But if it's so unnatural, how come terms like henotheism and monolatrism have come into use? Surely we must have some examples of those?

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 9:42 pm 
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Because they're all the same god. Jews and Muslims separated around the time of Abraham, and Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism. All three follow the same God; they just disagree about the smaller issues.


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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 2:54 am 
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"This is what gave me the idea that every single cult would denounce every other cult and regard it with hate, hate buttressed by religious teachings. The eight “good” gods would hate each other because each of them wants to achieve sole dominance, and the “evil” goddess would be hated because she wants to destroy what the others want to rule.

This sounds to me like nine monotheisms, with each one denouncing all others."

This sounds very interesting to me, much more so than the typical settings I have played in. I think I will go in this direction.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:56 am 
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higgins wrote:
But we're still dealing with a pantheon here...

I am suggesting to pbj44 that it’s not a pantheon, no more than the Christian god and Lucifer form a pantheon, even though they originate from the same mythology and are even today both venerated in the same geographical location. I suggest that his gods have a common origin, but that this is known to nobody but the gods themselves and is thus irrelevant for human faith and religion. As the gods are antagonistic to each other in teir attempts to win sole dominance over creation, they have set up their worship in such a way that every single god’s religious teachings claim that he is the sole and that all the other gods are non-existing lies or demonic entities. Every religion claims that its god is the only god, so it’s not a pantheon.

higgins wrote:
But if it's so unnatural, how come terms like henotheism and monolatrism have come into use? Surely we must have some examples of those?

Being a historian of antiquity, the examples I am most familiar with come from Greek and Roman times. At the root of the movement towards henotheism and monolatrism has never lain any kind of anatagonism between the priesthoods of various gods/temples, but the religious practice of syncretism, extremely prevalent in polytheism.

For once, syncretism is the practice of identifying a god of one pantheon with a god from another, as in the Romans holding their own Vulcan largely identical with Egyptian Ptah. In this case of syncretism, cults are still kept totally separate, it’s merely people assuming that two gods are somehow identical.

Then there is the other practice of somehow, strangely, combining two gods. The Celtic goddess Noreia was patron deity of the Alpine Celtic kingdom and then Roman province of Noricum. In Roman times, we find that Noreia is suddenly somehow held to be related to Isis, and we find temples etc. to the goddess Isis-Noreia. This is neither Isis and neither Noreia, who both continue to be venerated seperately, but a new deity. Depictions of it show that, iconographically and most probably also religiously, the Isis-half was stronger than the Noreia-half. What’s happening over the course of one or two centuries is that Isis is sucking up Noreia, subsuming her and her functions into herself. Surveys of devotional inscriptions and archeological finds show that, as the centuries progress, worship of Noreia alone is not actively practiced anymore – its only Isis and Isis-Noreia who survive. And Isis has done this to many other deities throughout the ancient world, both male and female, both within and without the Egyptian pantehon. She was somehow so attractive that she gobbled by way of syncretism up other gods’ functions, without any antagonsim being involved.

Another, more widely known example would be the Egyptian god Amun-Ra. Amun is a god in his own right, as is Ra, but at some time they began to be synthesized into Amun-Ra. In this case, Amun-Ra did not oust either Amun or Ra, though; while Amun-Ra was more popular than the other two, separate worship of both Amun and Ra did continue.

In classical antiquity, the path towards henotheism is always like that, never antagonistic. It's always that we find one "strong" or "attractive" deity -- lets call it Cthulhu -- suddenly crop up as being identified with some other deity, here as Cthulhu-Neptun, there as Cthulhu-Apollon and over there as Cthulhu-Venus (Cthulhu-Venus?!? :roll: ), slowly subsuming all the other deities' functions without the others loosing them and finally becoming so all-encompassing that is just doesn't seem to pay to actively venerate anybody but this strong "super-deity".

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 8:35 am 
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Hector wrote:
Because they're all the same god. Jews and Muslims separated around the time of Abraham, and Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism. All three follow the same God; they just disagree about the smaller issues.
I think my issue was that I took my definition of 'pantheon' from wiki (as I wanted to be clear not to misinterpret anything), but wiki had expanded it to "set of gods of a particular religion, mythology, or fictional universe". Now, my Oxford defines it as all the gods of a nation or people, which admittedly makes more sense, as Greek and Egyptian gods combined don't form a pantheon (same universe! though not fictional).

Grettir wrote:
I suggest that his gods have a common origin, but that this is known to nobody but the gods themselves and is thus irrelevant for human faith and religion. As the gods are antagonistic to each other in teir attempts to win sole dominance over creation, they have set up their worship in such a way that every single god’s religious teachings claim that he is the sole and that all the other gods are non-existing lies or demonic entities. Every religion claims that its god is the only god, so it’s not a pantheon.
Aha, so, I got your point but brought a really bad example to say that I did (that Jehovah, Allah and God the Father could have been created by some other (more) supreme mind and they worked together (pretending to be one god) until the religions started to divide, now each claiming that he is the only one).

Grettir wrote:
Another, more widely known example would be the Egyptian god Amun-Ra. Amun is a god in his own right, as is Ra, but at some time they began to be synthesized into Amun-Ra. In this case, Amun-Ra did not oust either Amun or Ra, though; while Amun-Ra was more popular than the other two, separate worship of both Amun and Ra did continue.
Very, very interesting. But still, I don't get how this could all be so friendly. Sure, there must have been shrines, and the more popular gods had grander shrines and temples, and someone had to pay for building those. Therefore, I think it's quite normal that one is trying to make his favourite god more popular, for him to get bigger and better shrine, etc. To be more clear... If everybody worship every god in polytheism, how do shrines and temples for a specific god make sense at all? I also find it natural that the priests of a certain temple would find the god of their temple somewhat... superior? If they wouldn't, why would they end up being in that specific one? Or were the priests circling around in every temple as they saw fit?

Oh, and I'm also curious of whether this Isis-Noreia name was actually in use or is it just a name for historian to identify that particular entity. I think it was in actual use (as Amon-Ra probably was?) but I'll ask just to be sure.

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