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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:23 am 
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Before adressing your many and complex individual points I would like for the sake of absolute conciseness to point out that with the Amun-Ra example we’re dealing with Egyptians, and Egyptian polytheism is a bit different from the Greek and Roman polytheism that seems to, alongside with maybe Norse and Celtic polytheism, be the main model for religions in rpg settings. I hinted at this difference already on page 1:
Grettir wrote:
The European polytheistic religions id also not have what we would call a piesthood – the Oriental ones were different though, but steeped much deeper in mysticism and probably frighteningly alien to a modernmindset.

The main difference, apart from having full-time priests (though still next to no over-regional hierarchy within the priesthoods), is that Egyptian and Babylonian religions had much more of a theology than European ones had. There were still no moral commandments, but inner workings of the cults were steeped deeply in ritual and mysticism, to a point that would seem very esoteric and occult to us today. But this did only concern the priests, not the common believers.

higgins wrote:
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.

To spare myself from typing, I have begun to simplify the antagonism-shtick, as I had exlained in detail on page 1 of this thread anyway:
Grettir wrote:
Any and all antagonism for religious reasons should be removed entirely, both among the gods of the same pantheon and between various pantheons. There can be rivalry out of economic or political or legal reasons, but never due to theological differences.

So there can be rivalry, but any rivalry will always have real-world reasons of power and influence over political affairs and the capability to direct the flow of government money and donations to your temple, and not to any other. Note that I say temple, not god – if there is any antagonsim, it will be between various temples, often between temples dedicated to the very same god, and not between the collective temples of one god against the collective temples of another god. I have also hinted at this on page 1:
Grettir wrote:
Priests were basically laymen, and one was not priest of a certain god, but priest at a certain temple.

Without any over-regional authority, rivalries are only ever between individual temples, never between individual gods. The religious component is completely lacking.

higgins wrote:
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?

The answer is easy for Egypt and Babylon – the only way how you could ever become a priest was to be born to a priest. Egyptian and Babylonian temples were universally what we could call monasteries – the priests and scores of attendants lived there, married there raised children and died there, with their children also becoming priests at the same temple. These priests would of course think their temple somehow superior to most if not all others – but their temple, not their god. Add to this that Oriental temples are almost never dedicated to a single god but quite frequently to as many as half a dozen, and that the actual combination of gods varies widely from one temple to the next and you realize how holding one god superior becomes rather absurd.

In Rome and Greece, the answers are as manifold as the individual cases. In some families, priesthood, wether part-time or full-time, at a certain temple was a hereditay tradition. Then people might have felt sympathy for one god over another and become lay-priests in fulfillment of some vow (just like people today vow pilgrimages to a certain place if god grants them a certain request). And whatever the reason to serve at a certain temple, any allegiance would again have been to the temple and not the god, even more so as a temple being devoted to more than just a single god was also quite common with the Greeks and Romans (not so common than in the Orient, though, and with a saller number being venerated in a single temple).

So in short any anatagonism in a polytheistic system should only ever be between individual temples and not individual branches of the cult, and its reasons should never be theological, but only ever those of mundane wealth and influence.

higgins wrote:
Or were the priests circling around in every temple as they saw fit?

Changing your temple would be no more common than changing your monastery for a monk – not impossible, but very, very rare.

higgins wrote:
To be more clear... If everybody worship every god in polytheism, how do shrines and temples for a specific god make sense at all?

It is as good as certain that polytheistic panteons grew historically, that is, they are an agglomeration of gods who were formerly venerated singly, or in smaller groups. This is most certainly the case in Egypt, where every nome has its own mini-pantheon of ancient patron gods and where these pantheons were later, with the unification of Egypt, subsumed into the larger pantheon we know today as the Egyptian. There are strong indicators that the same holds true for every polytheism, and it is the reason why polyheism lack any unified theology and why the gods’ spheres of influence overlap – in Greece, Zeus, Apollon and Helios are all three gods of the sun and of light. This hodge-podge nature of polytheism and its contradictory local traditions must have been one of the main reason why no over-reaching authority could ever be established.

So having temples to individual gods or groups of gods is a matter of tradition dating back to before the inception of a polytheistic system in the form known to its practitioners and being perpetuated as the way it’s always been.

higgins wrote:
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.

In Austria, where Isis-Noreia was venerated during the Roman Empire, ancient devotional inscriptions explicitly naming Isis-Noreia have been found in great number, the iconographic attributes of this combined goddess are well-known from numerous ancient statuettes and carvings, and from them temples and shrines devoted explicitly to Isis-Noreia can be identified beyond any doubt – so yes, Isis-Noreia was venerated from the 1st to 4th century AD under this very name in the province of Noricum and adjactent regions.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 1:01 pm 
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Thank you for elaborating on all this... :) but I'll be bringing back up an issue from the 1st page as well.
Ian.Plumb wrote:
higgins wrote:
Well, in my games, this has boiled down to the influence and power of the priesthood. Want protection from the savages in our monastery? You're welcome here... for a day. If you wish to stay longer, you'll have to convert, and gods wrath on you, should you shun the teachings when the threat is gone. Sure, we'll protect your town from the savages if you a) provide us with the upkeep of our forces, b) convert.
Which, in my opinion, doesn't work. This to me looks like a monotheistic model applied to a pantheon.
So, this doesn't work if the assumption is that this kind of converting was set in the dogma of the god... but it totally works when the flock is gathered and the conversion is required by the priesthood to pull donations and other resources to the order?

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 2:26 pm 
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higgins wrote:
So, this doesn't work if the assumption is that this kind of converting was set in the dogma of the god... but it totally works when the flock is gathered and the conversion is required by the priesthood to pull donations and other resources to the order?

The reply is not that easy, mainly because polytheism doesn’t really know over-regional hierarchies and thus in extension orders, with the possible exceptions of Celtic druids, who are by now by many authorities held to have been one small subclass of priests within the much greater number of generic Celtic priests, quite similar to a religious brotherhood or indeed order spread thinly throughot Celtic lands.

But I disgress. In your case, what would be very reasonable of the priests/monks at the religious house in question to demand in turn for their help would not be conversion to the deity or deities venerated, but rather that the recipients of this help vow to quite tangibly repay the deity or deities for the help extended by their servants. Such a payment could be in donations, gifts, favours or services or a combination thereof, and it would most probably be presented by the priests as “thanking the deity”, but most certainly with great care taken that it is directed at their temple/monastery and no other of the same deity. Given the sedentary nature of most people, this happens almost on its own anyway – the benefacting temple/monastery is after all the local one and thus the natural target of any thanks.

Of course, on another level, those benefitting from the temple’s/monastery’s aid would in a polytheistic society feel obliged to the temple/monastery and the deities venereated there in any case. Like I said, polytheistic faith works a bit like a machine; you turn with your request to the pantheon’s deity best equipped to grant your particular request, and there is an obligation to thank a deity who has helped you. So when a deity’s temple/monastery has aided somebody, it is only natural that thanks are given to the resident deity – not in the form of devotion, but as donations, sacrifices or votive offerings.

So, yes, it would work, but only if it wasn't conversion that was demanded, but tangible repayment.

And I would like to take a moment to point out a little known fact – sacrifical meat is always eaten by humans! The beast is slaughtered and its blood spilt on or before some altar and some of the less appetizing bits of it may be burnt, but the choicy bits are either taken back home by the one who offered the sacrifice or they belong to the local priest, to be either eaten or sold. Who exactly gets the meat differs from culture to culture, but it is never just given to the god wholesale.

And priests expect to be paid for every religious service they are asked to conduct. There might be fixed fees, or just some kind of donation required, but nothing is done for free.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 4:33 pm 
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After I writing a bunch of text, I considered actually PMing it to you, as it was going waay specific and I didn't want to derail pbj44's thread. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:07 pm 
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No, don't worry about me. This is an interesting topic and it's good to get this forum awake! :mrgreen: I will pop in with any questions that I have.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:33 pm 
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I've already replied to higgin's PM with one of my own, but I don't mind if he publishes his PM and my reply to it here in this thread for everybody to peruse.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:58 pm 
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Here it is:
higgins wrote:
Here's the text I decided to PM you as it was getting waay specific.

Grettir wrote:
So, yes, it would work, but only if it wasn't conversion that was demanded, but tangible repayment.
Actually the particular case that we're talking of now, is not about my game, but a game I will be playing in quite soon. So, as the game hasn't launched yet, maybe I can affect the orders to make more sense (but maybe that's impossible, considering that we're dealing with a D&D setting here).

So, the setting is Birthright and the we'll play in the Duchy of Tuornen. There are two major temples there: The Western Imperial Temple (of Haelyn) and The Militiant Order of Cuiraécen. I do not provide links for either of the gods, as all wiki entries I found were rather stupid. It's sufficient to say that Haelyn is the god of courage, justice, chivalry, rulership & war and his son Cuiraécen is the god of storms, conflict, battle & glory. The father is pretty much what you'd expect from a catholic church and the son has a much stronger military flavour (spirit is best educated through body). The orders (not gods) have rivalry and the military support both give to the state suffers because of it. Neither order claims that they serve the only god, nor do they dispute the existence of other gods (who have minor shrines at best in the area). Both orders have hierarchies, and while the order of Cuiraécen is described as much more loose, I don't see any practical difference.

On the converting issue, here's a more accurate description.
Player's Secrets of Tuornen wrote:
The Militian Order houses only monks of the same faith and the animals that feed or serve them (riding horses are common). Other persons who seek shelter in these monasteries during peacetime may stay one day. If they wish to stay longer, then they must pledge themselves to the order and take their vows by the following sunset. A popular strain of tale among the Tuors involves a brigand or other scoundrel taking shelter among the monks of the Militiant Order, only to be forced to join. When the blackguard beaks his vows and flees, terrible punishments find him -- usually in the form of the betrayed monks, but sometimes in the guise of Cuiraécen himself.

So, is it completely broken, or can you help me beating some sense into it? :)

For the sake of reference, I'm to play one of the high-ranking officers in The Militiant Order of Cuiraécen, which I sort of imagined as Knight Templar with the purpose of fighting elves, not of spreading religion.
Grettir wrote:
A problem modern man faces with polytheism is that he has to get the concept of “conversion” entirely out of his head. The whole idea does simply not exist under polytheism, it has not yet been formed. I know both Latin and Ancient Greek, and to my knowledge neither language even has a word for it – the Latin “convertere” means merely to bodily change the direction into which you are facing or moving.

On a related notion almost the same holds true for “piety”. Our word piety derives from Latin “pietas”, but pietas means an entirely different thing. Somebody who behaves with pietas is somebody who fulfills his duties towards gods and men. A son is expected to be “pious” in how he treats his father, and a father is expected to be “pious” in how he treats his family, and everybody is expected to be "pious" in how they interact with society at large, and being “pious” towards the gods means keeping what holy days they have and giving them what sacrifice is due to them. In the Latin version of the Bible, God himself is frequently addressed as being “pious” – which makes no sense at all when you understand piety in a modern context, but very much sense when you understand it as God acting like a good father towards his human children, diligently fulfilling all a father’s duties. It’s quite important to keep in mind that polytheistic piety is wholly of that kind – being “faithful” it is never a matter of heartfelt spiritual devotion, but only ever one of diligently fulfilling the ritual demands of religion.

Now, on the matter of your game – hmm. You’ve got a polytheistic pantheon where two deities have attained at least local dominance – that’s henotheism. This henotheism has somehow arrived at a concise and unified theology, and also some kind of over-regional hierarchy – that’s not entirely impossible. There’s jockeying for wealth and political influence between the different branches of this hierarchical priesthood, but that’s an entirely worldly matter, not rooted in religious teachings – also very possible.

But also a potential breaking point if this jockeying is played out as involving conversion – in a true henotheism, there is no such thing, even the priests of Cuiraécen would requently pray and sacrifice to Haelyn and the other way around, and at times to some minor god of the pantheon as well. Any exclusiveness of worship needs to be beaten out of the religion to give it a plausible feel.

Then there’s the matter of the requirement to join the Miltiant Order. I don’t view this as breaking anything, as long as the recruits are not regarded as converts foreswearing the worship of the other gods. The entire “pledging to the order” thing should be played out merely as a device of the order to swell its ranks and thus increase its power. I feel that this end would be better served if oath-takers would not be required to become full members living at one of the monasteries right away but rather some kind of lay members merely pledging to serve the monastery (and better the individual monastery, not the order at large) for maybe one day a week, but your model should also work. It’s just really important that this oath to serve is no outright conversion, but merely an the undertaking of an obligation towards one deity out of a larger pantheon one still continues to acknowledge and venerate actively.

So play the conversion malarkey merely as being asked to take an obligation towards Cuiraécen (or rather one specific monastery) and not as being asked for some kind of exclusive devotion towards him and everything should be fine.

Regards,

Michael

P.S. Oh yes, I almost forgot – in a true polytheism, and thus also in the polytheism underlying your henotheism, gods should have overlapping areas of influence. I have given the example of how Zeus, Apollo and Helios are all gods of light and sun, but whereas Helios is only the god of the sun in a narrow sense, Zeus is also god of the sky, weather, and law, and Apollo god of healing, art, and prophecy. To make your religion more realistic, it should have similar overlaps.

And Cuiraécen and Haelyn should have taken on additional areas of responsibility from other, now minor gods. A syncretistic broadening of the sphere of a god’s influence does usually precede his elevation above the other deities of his pantheon. The main gods of a henotheistic system should have very broad spheres of influence, encroaching upon many other gods and even each other – there should be little for which one could not turn to them.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:06 pm 
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So, what I basically got was that conversion and religious tenets are a no-no in polytheism, and while some hierarchy isn't completely unthinkable, it makes much more sense to focus on temples, and most probably temples of the same god rival with each other just as likely as with a temple of another god. And everybody prays and sacrifices to every god with no hard feelings from anyone.

But henotheism and monolatrism still seem so damn similar to me. What's the practical difference?

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:33 pm 
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higgins wrote:
So, what I basically got was that conversion and religious tenets are a no-no in polytheism, and while some hierarchy isn't completely unthinkable, it makes much more sense to focus on temples, and most probably temples of the same god rival with each other just as likely as with a temple of another god. And everybody prays and sacrifices to every god with no hard feelings from anyone.

That’s about it – you’ve got it. The only tiny thing I would modify is the “most probably temples of the same god rival with each other just as likely as with a temple of another god” bit – I would say that priests of the same deity would feel some degree of vague kinship and that they were therefore a bit more likely to rival with temples of other gods then with temples of their own god, but certainly not significantly more likely.

The rivalry between temples can be viewed analogous to the rivalry you could expect from various guilds in medieval town – of course they have some common interests, but then they also vie with each other for political influence in the town, but this rivalry is a matter-of-factly thing. A local guild of goldsmiths may be at odds with the local guild of carpenters, but only ever for very mundane reasons, not out of any fundamental ideological differences. Members of ony guild (read: priests of a certain temple) may harbour hard feelings towards members of another guild, but only because of reasons of day-to-day policy, not ideology, and their customers (read: the faithful) couldn’t care less about this rivalry – they will still freely do business with both guilds, as the need may arise.

higgins wrote:
But henotheism and monolatrism still seem so damn similar to me. What's the practical difference?

If I was you, I wouldn’t bother overmuch with the difference – we are entering the area of scientific technical terms, in this case of comparative religious science. Both monolatrism and henotheism acknowledge the existence or at least possible existence of many gods. But in monolatrism, only one of these gods is ever actively venerated, whereas in henotheism it is still possible, though rare and uncommon, to also actively venerate any one of the “lesser” gods. Boundaries are of course fluid, and henotheism has a tendency to eventually evolve into monolatrism and monolatrism into monotheism – many, though not all, religious scientists believe that this is how the Judaic monotheistic religion evolved. There are passages in the earlier parts of the Old Testament suggesting strongly that their authors did believe in the existence of other deities apart from Jahwe.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 8:46 pm 
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Aha, so, monolatrism is saying every god besides "the one" is unworthy to worship, while henotheism has more neutral approach to other gods?

But what about kathenotheism? That's the last term from me, I promise. :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 5:28 am 
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higgins wrote:
Aha, so, monolatrism is saying every god besides "the one" is unworthy to worship, while henotheism has more neutral approach to other gods?

Quite so, but I wouldn’t say necessarily unworthy – though this may well be the assumption – but maybe just not important or powerful or effective or helpful enough to warrant being worshipped.

Some scholars of religion disagree, but one can assume that the ancient Jews of the time of Moses were henotheists in the process of shifting to monolatrism. Think of how readily the Jews turn to worship the Golden Calf while Moses is away on Mount Sinai – that’s henotheists on a spell of worshipping not their central god, but one of the minor ones, perfectly acceptable for henotheists. But Moses (or Jahwe) wants them to shift towards monolatrism – when he returns he chides them for venerating anybody but the One God. And note how the commandments do not say, like the Quran does, that there are no gods but the One God – all they say is that the Jews are to worship no other god but Jahwe. That’s monolatrism.
Then again, this is an interpretation that is widely, but not universally accepted.

higgins wrote:
But what about kathenotheism?

Kathenotheism uses the basic assumption of monolatrism – there are many gods, but only one is somehow “worthy” of worship. The difference is that the identity of this one worshipped god does change. This is different from henotheism first and foremost in that the entire kathenotheistic cult swings its worship around from one god to the other, not just the individual believer.

The reasons for this shift in worship is most often some perceived or assumed momentuous change in the circumstances the world is in – the previous age has been ruled by Cthulhu as supreme god, but now we have entered the age of Nyarlathotep. Such shifts in the “focal deity” would not happen frequently, certainly no more often than every few decades, more likely only every few centuries or even millennia.

EDIT: And lest I forget: In henotheism, the various minor gods, or at least most of them, will still have shrines and maybe even temples of their own, with priests of their own – though these will likely do little business. In monolatrism and kathenotheism there are no shrines to the minor gods that are in use, and there is only a single priesthood.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 7:43 am 
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Thanks a bunch! Fine differences indeed. :)

So...

Polytheism: people (including priests) worship every god there is
Henotheism: people worship a single god, but other people worshipping other gods is acceptable
Monolatrism: people worship a single god, but other people worshipping other gods is not acceptable
Kathenotheism: people worship a single god, other people worshipping other gods is not acceptable, BUT every once in a while, the whole cult shifts to another god to worship
Monotheism: people worship a single god, and they claim there are no other gods at all

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 12:23 pm 
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Yep, that’s it, though I’m not very happy with your use of the word „acceptable“, not because it’s wrong, but because it might evoke wrong connotations.

A word on the matter of religious tolerance:
Polytheists and henotheists have complete religious tolerance, both within their own pantheon and towards other pantheons, and to the extent that other believes are not merely held to be acceptable but also to be perfectly true in their tenets. The exception to this is monotheism, which will be tolerated, but not held to be true.
Monolatrists and kathenotheists are tolerant of other religions, but view them as misguided in their tenets – the gods others worship are likely to exist, but they are beneath notice compared to the god the monolatrists and kathenotheists worship.
Monotheists are rarely tolerant of any other faiths -- if they aren’t, they will often try to spread their own brand of truth. If they do this obnoxiously, no other faith will meet them with tolerance, regardless of what I wrote above about their tolerance.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:30 pm 
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There has been so much talk about religions in general here that I think I will continue to explain a few more religious concepts – I just feel like it. :geek:

Animism and pantheism can be closely related, and if you look at cultures advanced past the Stone Age are found mostly in Asia. Understanding them should be useful for anybody aiming to stage a game in a setting inspired by China or Japan.

Animism holds that every single thing has a soul – this can extend to abstract concepts like friendship or sadness. These souls are often thought to be supernatural and to various degrees divine. It is the basic assumption of shamanism, Shintoism and of the traditional ancient Chinese religion.

Pantheism is closely related. It holds that there is one god and that everything is part of this one god. Creation itself and everything it contains is in a very real sense god. This assumption does often blend into animism when the idea emerges that everything that is is not 100% god but that the divinity in things concentrates in some kind of divine spark. The (mostly academic) difference to animism is then that anismist don’t think the souls as shards of one divine entity and pantheists do, though they may have the notion that these parts have somehow forgotten that they are really one. Historically, pantheism that did not make this step towards animism are almost exclusively modern theoretical constructs.

Both animism and pantehism of the kind close to it do usually make the step towards polytheism. They hold that some “souls” are stronger and more divine than others – these souls run the gamut from spirits over some kind of guardian angels to full-fledged gods. Many such animistic systems, like Shintoism and the traditional Chinese religion, but also Neo-Paganism, can thus have quite large polytheistic or henotheistic pantheons. The difference to normal polytheism is that animists and the pantheists close to them view everything as having some kind of divine spark, something polytheists do not.

Animism and pantheism of societies well past a Stone Age level of culture have historically almost always developed religious organisational structures and practices virtually undistinguishable from polytheism – the difference is mainly in the underlying assumption about divinity. Pantheons in these religions are extremely fluid – everything is after all somehow divine anyway, so all that’s required for a new god to be established or an established one to go out of fashion is a slight shift in the perception of the extent of its divinity.

An animistic culture that stays below a certain organisational level, mostly Stone Age cultures, will usually organise their religious practices along the lines of shamanism.

A trait encountered frequently in animism and pantheism close it, but only very rarely in polytheism, is ancestor worship. Dead ancestors are thought of as minor gods who watch over their descendants and deserve – and expect – worship in return for their aid and protection.

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 Post subject: Re: Dieties in TROS
PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 9:17 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
Pantheism is closely related. It holds that there is one god and that everything is part of this one god.
I've always wondered how animists could kill gad-flies and mosquitos, as those parasites have souls, but this concept makes it even more difficult to understand.

Oh, and btw, since we're sharing stuff here and we're dealing with animism, I'd like to share an interesting concept of Estonian folklore with you. Namely I'll talk about luck. Luck really, as a concept for ancient Estonians, meant a guardian spirit that watched over you. So, having "good" luck meant that your guardian spirit was hard-working and assiduous and thus he kept you safe. On the contrast having "bad" luck meant that your guardian spirit was sloppy and lazy, and in essence, not doing his job well at all. Also, there were numerous ways and tricks how to steal someone's luck how to switch one's lucks.

"Good luck!" sounds quite differently now doesn't it? :)

And Estonian phrase for "Good luck!" is "Õnn kaasa!" which roughly means "Take your luck with you," or "Keep your luck close wherever you go." Also, some other interesting linguistical concepts. Estonian traditional greeting "Tervist!" means "May you have good health," "Good health upon you," or something along those lines. And the traditional parting phrase is "Nägemist" (ä is like a in apple) means "May you have good eyesight."

Maybe we should start off a similar folklore thread? :)

_________________
"Brothels are a much sounder investment than ships, I've found. Whores seldom sink, and when they are boarded by pirates, why, the pirates pay good coin like everyone else."
- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


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