|In Defence of the Divine
A Brief Look at Divine Matters for Roleplaying Initiates and Priests
By Alfred Nuñez Jr.
Through its various Warhammer publications touching on the subject, the official GW position on magic is that all – except perhaps Orcish magic – originates from Chaos and all Gods and some small part of every living being’s soul or spirit exist in the Warp.
But if the most knowledgeable wizards and priests accept this as “fact” for sorcerous magic, would the various Priesthoods – much less the typical inhabitant of the Old World – accept such as “truths” about their gods and immortal souls? I would hardly think so. Even the scholastically inclined cult of Verena would be hard-pressed to accept the teachings of Teclis as being more accurate than millennia-long held beliefs. In fact, many of them would perceive such perceptions as anathema to religious beliefs.
One of the first lessons initiates and other students of religion learn in their studies is the various myths and legends concerning the gods. Though uncommon in most official WFRP v1 (first edition) publications, there are some myths or fragments of such that one can find in these sources:
-Ranald gaining godhood by tricking Shallya
Marienburg :Sold down the River, p141
-Haendryk (Handrich) buying his way into divinity
Marienburg: City of Chaos, p4
-Taal granting Fauschlag to Ulric
Dwarfs: Stone &Steel, p3
-Ancestor Gods born in Karak Zorn
-Grungni reached an accord with the mythical Old Ones after an ancient war ended in stalemate.
-Grungni divined the Coming of Chaos.
Dwarfs: Stone &Steel, p69
-Grungni crafted the Throne of Power
Dwarfs: Stone &Steel, p74
-Smednir and Thungni created Ghal Maraz
Dwarfs: Stone &Steel, p75 and Realms of Sorcery, p98
-Thungni brought forth the secret of Runic Magic from a place called the Glittering Realm.
In addition, there is another myth that appears in Warpstone #16, page 30, which details the Creation of the Eye of the Forest crater.
With the exception of the stories surrounding Ranald and Haendryk, most of the myths referenced above support the beliefs of religious folk and cults that the gods of Warhammer existed before the collapse of the Warp gates at the planetary poles. They scoff at the attempts of some self-proclaimed scholars to put forward a theory that the gods were merely “entities” prior to that catastrophic event and then became gods afterward.
The mythology of the gods would certainly be reflective of the early peoples and tribes of the Old World. Old stories involving Taal would be different in Tilea and Estalia than it would be in the northern Old World.
With this in mind, I tend to take the view that the academically inclined Verenan priests documented many legends of the gods before the time of Sigmar. The compilation of this effort is a tome formerly called “Summarium Sapientarum Vulgarium Fabularumque de Gentibus Mundi Antiqui”in the Classical tongue. It is commonly referred to as “The Book of Myths” and contains the mythologies referenced above as well as many others. The original of this weighty tome can be found in the Great Temple of Verena in Remas whilst complete copies are kept at the Great Library in Marienburg and the Grand Cathedral of Verena in Nuln. Other important Verenan temples have a smaller compilation of myths pertinent to their ecclesiastical region.
A discussion of Divine Magic is not complete without an examination of the relationship between the gods of the Human pantheon. For me, the idea of separate town and rural gods just doesn’t seem to work. Both Mórr and Manann cross such a neat boundary as the two make sense in both urban and rural environments. It is easier too separate the other gods thusly, but I prefer to see the different spheres as a result of evolving needs of Humanity.
In brief, the general theological view I prefer has the Mother and Oermuth (mentioned in Warpstone #16), the Earth Goddess and Sun God, as the first gods of Warhammer. These deities existed in a rather dormant state when the Old Ones arrived from the Warp. The world was a different in those early years with the half the world blanketed in ice and the tropical regions of today experiencing more volatile weather patterns. The movement of the world’s orbit by the Old Ones woke up the Mother along with his first children, Taal, Rhya, and Ulric.
The Children of the Mother grew fast as the world warmed. They had to. The Mother grew more concerned that the use of their mysterious power by the alien Old Ones would soon result in catastrophe that could doom the world and its inhabitants. In time, the union of Taal and Rhya brought Manann into the world and the Trickster God, whose name was lost in time (many theologians believed this is due to the ever-changing guises of this god). Soon after, Ulric sired Mórr with his sister. There is some belief that Kháine was born moments after his half-brother. The God of Murder’s mother is believed to be a daemoness who seduced Ulric into believing that she was Rhya.
The collapse of the warpgates heralded the coming of Chaos into the world. While the Old Ones died and the nascent races of Elves and Dwarfs threatened, another war raged in the heavens. The Children of the Mother battled the Ruinous Powers and the Daemon Princes. The former were soon joined by the newly arrived Law Gods: Alluminas, Arianka, and Solkan. The war soon stalemated as the Ruinous Powers could not be defeated without the entire world being destroyed. An uneasy peace fell between the combatants.
The power of Oermuth waned as that of his divine descendants grew. The worship of the sun god has virtually disappeared from the northern Old World. In some places, it seems to have merged with that of Alluminas.
Sometime after the Gods’ War, Rhya gave birth to Taal’s daughter, Verena. The worship of Verena first appeared in the Tilea region well before Sigmar united the tribes north of the Black Mountains. It is likely that Verena was one of the gods worshipped in the ancient city of Tylos. In time, Verena and Mórr joined together and gave life to Myrmidia and Shallya, the last of the gods to be born.
The other gods of Warhammer – notably, Ranald, Haendryk, and Sigmar – all were mortals who gained elevation to the rank of the Gods. Some theologians consider Ranald as the current guise for the old Trickster God.
Aspects of the Gods and Local Gods
I know there are some who will express concerned that the theological view I provided above ignores the various aspects of the gods as well as the local ones like Bogenauer.
The one thing I enjoy about WFRP is that there are really no universal truths. Many cults have sects where the views held by the respective leaders deviate from the orthodox teachings of the main cult. A good example can be found in the article on the Cult of Sigmar that appeared in Warpstone #15. This piece by Arne Dam and Tim Eccles describes the various views held about Sigmar within the sects of the cult.
Thus, a Taalite sect may believe that Karog, god of rivers, is the second son of Taal and Rhya and worship him as a separate god. In contrast, the more widely held view by the cult is that Karog is only an aspect of Taal whose worship was rightly integrated with that of Taal.
Local gods and ancient spirits are beliefs held by a varying number of people depending upon circumstance. Bogenauer is revered as the god of the Reikland town of Bögenhafen, but there isn’t an organised religion dedicated to him even in that town. In Kislev, particularly in the region of the River Urskoy and the Dobryrion, the ancient spirits are still actively worshipped by the peasantry, generally out of sight of the priests of the “official” religions.
Rise of Sorcery
I tend to view this as a rather controversial topic among some Old Worlder theologians and one still subject to heated and emotional discourse. Though some argue how it came about, it seems reasonable that the early practitioners of sorcerous magic most likely came from the ranks of the Old Faith during the height of Druidic power. I attribute this stance as being one that is more dominant in the cult of Verena than any other given that cult’s thirst for knowledge.
The Verenan Theory
The scholar-priests of Verenan Order of Archivists (Ordo Archivorum) believe there is evidence, however scant, that a small number of Druids individually diverged from the orthodox Old Faith to study the natural magic radiating from the earth in the centuries preceding the time of Sigmar. A faction in the Order theorises that these proto-wizards may have stumbled upon a “pool” of Chaos that sometimes occupies dismals places such as swamps and dank caves where they unwittingly gained the knowledge of sorcerous magic. These individuals were intrigued by the possibility that this mystical power could be shaped through a greater understanding of its properties and catalysts. The first hedgewizards lacked certain fundamentals, but they were unified by their belief that the ability to wield magic was something within the nature of humanity rather than a gift of the gods.
Eventually, some of the more knowledgeable hedgewizards formed a conclave to further study the mysteries of magic. Historical records from that time (in my view decades before Sigmar) suggest that these wizards developed incantations that brought forth certain elements to create magical effects and the ability – through great effort and risk – to summon Elementals into this world. Believing their work to be some benefit, the members of this assembly dedicated themselves to seek out individuals of magical abilities to pass along their teachings. These elementalists then departed to their respective corner of the world to continue their studies and teach others to follow in their footsteps.
Sorcerous academia – a generic term meant to encompass non-specialised magic – came into its own in Tilea and Estalia, well before it rose in the northern Old World. Hedgewizardry also grew in the south and gained a structure that did not exist in the rest of the Old World. The cities of Miragliano, Remas, and Luccini all claim to be the original home of what was then simply known as the Sorcerous Arts. A branch of this type of sorcery eventually morphs into Battle Magic, a name later coined by the Elf wizard, Teclis.
In contrast, a number of other cults fervently deny that early practitioners of sorcerous magic arose from the ranks of the religious. The very thought is anathema to the world as they see it. These cults believe that sorcery has its roots in the ancient land of Nehekhara and can even be traced to early interaction with the High Elves, especially in the southern Old World seaports.
The Difference between Divine and Sorcerous Magic
Trying to distinguish between Divine and Sorcerous Magic gets a little tricky here as one could easily get caught up in the fact that WFRP v1 uses the same mechanics for both. Like a wizard, a priest uses her Magic Points and Arcane Language-Magick skill to cast her divine spell. The situation is further confused because many of the spells are common to both types of spellcasters.
One of the most obvious departures between the two types of magic is how the priest obtains new divine magic spells or prayers. Unlike the wizard who must study books for weeks or find a master to teach him a new spell, the priest prays to her god for the wisdom to use his divine power judiciously. In addition, the priest picks up the Meditation skill (for priestly characters, pray is an essential element of this skill) upon her elevation from initiate to priest whilst the wizard must wait until he reaches a higher level of mastery.
Luckily, the game is about roleplaying and I think in this area, one could readily distinguish between the two forms of magic.
When roleplaying, a priest character should use words of prayer or supplication to her gods in order to bring forth the power of the deity in the form of a divine spell. Some of these words are based on classical, some other archaic language that has its roots in the early history of the cult (such as archaic Reikspiel in the case of a priest of Taal), or a combination of both. To the laymen, these words are part of an arcane and unknown Magical language. For the purposes of smooth play, I would allow the priest to utter something simple like, “I call upon the blessed power of Myrmidia to heal the wound you have sustained in glorious combat.”
In contrast, wizards use a mixture of eldritch words that have its origins in the Elvish tongue as well as Classical, the ancient tongue of Nehekhara, and other archaic Old World languages (some of which may have originated in the ancient city of Tylos). To affect this in roleplay, a wizard character should be encouraged use whatever pseudo-Latin-, Egyptian- or Elvish-utterances he cares to in order to cast his spell. Speech of this kind might be bewildering to the wizard’s fellows, but then Arcane Language-Magick should be.
Divine Spell Creation
The Realms of Sorcery book provides guidelines for creating new spells (pages 147-149). When I have good reason, I try to create Divine spells for priests in order to further distinguish them from wizards. After all, if the two types of spellcasters must choose from the same list, why would anyone want to play a priest instead of a wizard? The latter tends to be more powerful in terms of Magic Points and do not have to adhere to the strictures of any deities.
As a general guideline, Divine spells tend to be less destructive and more protective than Sorcerous magic. I think such a consideration confirms better with a priest’s typical role in society. In fact, protective spells would have given the Empire and its armies some protection from the bane of Sorcerous magic throughout most of its history. Only the recent elevation of Sorcerous Magic through the efforts of Magnus the Pious and Teclis has supplanted this battlefield function from the priests – chiefly, those of the war gods.
I hope that the development of WFRPv2 will bring a more detailed religious background to the game, whether such is included in the rulebook or in some future release. Until that becomes a reality, it is my intent that this short article provides GMs and players alike some additional material to further develop the characters with the vocation of Initiate or Priest (Cleric) and their religious beliefs.