Tyranny of Dragons
Though wizards work wonders with their Art, and adventurers take their fates into their own hands, it is on the gods that most folk in the Forgotten Realms depend when they have need. The gods play a role in the lives of nearly everyone, from the mightiest lord to the meanest urchin.
The various races of Toril worship their pantheons, which remain largely the same from region to region, with different cultures and societies emphasizing some deities over others. Although exceptions exist- the gods of Mulhorand, for example- all the gods are revered across all of Faerûn.
FORMS OF WORSHIP
The average person worships different gods in different contexts. Most vocations have a patron deity: farmers make offerings to Chauntea for the prosperity of their crops, clerks sharpen their quills with a prayer to Deneir, while pious merchants remember to set coins aside for Waukeen at the end of the day. Most people worship a deity associated with their livelihood, family, or home while others feel called to a particular god for a variety of reasons. Individuals often carry or wear a small token of their favored deity: a pendant or a pin in the image of the god’s holy symbol, or some other personal keepsake.
In addition, people regularly venerate gods based on their needs and circumstances: a farmer whose favored deity is Chauntea would pray to Amaunator for a few clear, sunny days, and a Waterdhavian noble who habitually worships Denier would give thanks to Sune after a successful coming-out party for her son. Even priests of particular gods acknowledge the roles that other deities play in the world and in their lives.
In general, worshipers view their relationships with the gods as practical and reciprocal: they pray and make offerings because that is how one invites the blessings of the gods and turns away their wrath. These prayers and other acts of devotion are generally performed quietly at the shrine in one’s household or community, or occasionally in a temple dedicated to one’s deity, when a worshiper feels the need to “come knocking upon a god’s door” to ask for attention.
Forms of worship are often acts of veneration: giving thanks for favor shown, making requests for future blessings, and offering praise for the deity’s intercessions, large and small. Because most folk in Faerûn don’t want to attract the ire of the cruel or savage gods, beseeching them to keep the peace is also an act of worship. A hunter or a farmer might make offerings to Malar in hopes of keeping predators at bay, and a sailor might pray to Umberlee that she withhold her wrath for the duration of a voyage.
NEW AND FOREIGN GODS
The Faerûnian pantheon isn’t the only one known on Tori!. Nonhuman races honor their own gods, for example, and people in faraway lands are known to worship altogether different gods. Occasionally, foreigners bring the worship of these gods to Faerûn. In addition, on rare occasions a new god comes into being, perhaps a mortal elevated to godhood or a deity whose arrival was foretold by prophets and leaders of new religions. In cosmopolitan places such as Waterdeep and Calimshan, small shrines and temples to strange gods spring up from time to time.
The burgeoning worship of a new deity is rarely a concern to the other gods of the Faerûnian pantheon, and the people who revere those deities, except when the newcomer’s a rea of concern directly competes with that of an established deity. The methods of resolving such conflicts range from friendly dueling festivals or rites meant to emphasize the glory of one god over another, to campaigns of outright religious bloodshed.
Over generations, a new god might become a settled-in member of the pantheon. Indeed, some scholars posit that Faerûn has many “immigrant” gods, who joined the pantheon’s ranks so long ago that their foreign origins are lost in antiquity.
DEAD AND RESURRECTED GODS
Over and over, mourning bells have tolled for some of the deities of the Realms. Gods were struck down during the Time of Troubles, when the Spellplague wrought its destruction, and most recently when Netheril fell. Some deities have even been slain by mortals wielding impossibly powerful magic.
When a god withdraws from a pantheon, divine magic tops flowing to the faithful, and miracles and omens a ociated with that god cease, that deity’s priesthood lo es faith, and holy sites are abandoned or taken over by other faiths. To the deity’s worshipers in the world, it is immaterial whether the god is truly dead or merely dormant- the consequences for them are the same either way. Yet, as recent events have borne out, a god who is gone might not remain absent forever. More than a few supposedly dead gods have returned and amassed a new body of worshipers. Indeed, the legends of some gods speak of a cycle of death and resurrection.
As the Sage of Shadowdale once noted, “If the gods can grant the power to raise mortals from death, why do ye assume they should be laid low by it forever?”
Most humans believe the souls of the recently deceased are spirited away to the Fugue Plane, where they wander the great City of Judgment, often unaware they are dead. The servants of the gods come to collect such souls and, if they are worthy, they are taken to their awaited afterlife in the deity’s domain. Occasionally, the faithful are sent back to be reborn into the world to finish work that was left undone.
Souls that are unclaimed by the servants of the gods are judged by Kelemvor, who decides the fate of each one. Some are charged with serving as guides for other lost souls, while others are transformed into squirming larvae and cast into the dust. The truly false and faithless are mortared into the Wall of the Faithless, the great barrier that bounds the City of the Dead, where their souls slowly dissolve and begin to become part of the stuff of the Wall itself.
Those who serve as priests of a god aren’t necessarily clerics. Indeed, the power invested in clerics and other divine spellcasters by the gods is given out only rarely (see “Divine Magic” below). The work of a priest is to serve one’s deity and that deity’s faithful, a task that doesn’t necessarily require the use of magic. The kind of person attracted to a deity’s priesthood depends on the tenets of that god: the cunning rogues who venerate Mask have little in common with the upright law-keepers of Tyr, and the delightful revelers who revere Lliira are different from both.
TEMPLES AND SHRINES
The core religious institutions of Faerûn are temples and shrines. Whether a small, out-of-the-way building, or a complex made up of multiple structures and tracts of land, each temple operates according to the traditions of its faith, although powerful or charismatic figures who rise to prominence within the temple hierarchy might motivate or inspire changes to those traditions.
Temples in Faerûn don’t have regular services as such. Group observances in a temple occur only at specific festival times, and priests also go out into the community to perform rites such as marriages and funerals. Temples are places where worshipers go either to spend personal or family time in a space consecrated to a deity or to seek the aid of the priests for some reason.
Small shrines and private chapels, as distinct from full-fledged temples, are common throughout Faerûn, particularly in areas where a temple doesn’t exist. Shrines tend to be unstaffed, kept up by the locals and visitors who use the place for prayer. A shrine might be as modest as a roadside well, where traveling merchants can drop a coin to request good fortune from Waukeen, or as grand as a statue of Amaunator surrounded by braziers in a pavilion in the middle of a village.
Traveling priests often seek out and visit these sites, and they act as meeting places for the faithful. When word gets around that a traveling priest of Eldath has come into town, the faithful seek her out at the holy spring dedicated to the goddess at the edge of town. A family or business might maintain a shrine or a chapel to its favored deity, perhaps a set of wind chimes consecrated to Akadi hung from the high branches of a tree in the garden, or a wooden symbol shaped like the hand of Azuth in miniature displayed on a prominent wall with a space nearby to burn a candle or some incense.
COMMUNING WITH THE GODS
Though many tales are told of times past when the gods appeared in physical form and walked the land, occasions of that sort are few and far between. For the most part, the gods communicate with their faithful through signs and omens, appreciated by those able to interpret them. Of course, some signs are more subtle- and thus more open to interpretation- than others.
The most common kind of communion that worshipers and priests find with their deities is in prayer, song, or meditation. S uch experiences are intensely personal, and it is common wisdom to keep them that way. After all, “advice” from one’s god that appears during morning prayer and gives one a good turn to the day is worthwhile only for oneself. Let each worshiper commune in their own way, as the saying goes.
Divine magic also provides a means of communing with the gods and can be used to call upon their guidance. Divine pronouncements of this sort are often personal in scope and brief, and those edicts that concern broader matters tend to be open to interpretation or debate.
Priesthood is a vocation like any other, with those who undertake it often honing their abilities through a system of apprenticeship. At a small temple, a novice or an acolyte might study under the only priest available. Larger temples can accommodate groups of acolytes, each learning under the direction of one or more mentors responsible for training them in the duties and skills of the priesthood.
Once acolytes complete their education, they are often ordained in a ritual in which a successful candidate is invested with the responsibilities of the priesthood.
CONFLICTS AND PERSECUTION
The moral and ethical values of the deities in Faerûn run the gamut, representing all the outlooks that their mortal followers demonstrate, from the principled agents of good to the vicious proponents of evil. Most cultures and societies aren’t nearly as cosmopolitan as the population of Faerûn taken as a whole; as a result, religious persecution (from the viewpoint of those who garner the attention) is practiced in places where worship of certain deities is frowned on.
Most governments that engage in persecution limit such restrictions to the establishment of formal temples, priesthoods, and organized festivals. (On a practical level, it’s impossible to prevent individuals from innocuously or secretly worshiping whichever deities they choose.) For instance, although worship of Talona- like that of many evil gods- is forbidden in Waterdeep, this prohibition extends only to the creation of a temple and the presence of her priesthood within the city. Individual citizens or families who revere Talona might be viewed as misguided, but they aren’t taken into custody or punished as long as they obey the laws of the city.
Some places take this form of persecution a step further, for a variety of reasons. A tyrant might outlaw worship of Torm, lest it inspire rebellion, and an otherwise fair-minded mayor of a river-mill community might demand that worshipers of Silvanus find elsewhere to live because of recent problems the timber-cutters have had with local druids.
The gods show their favor toward mortals in myriad ways. A chosen few have their minds and souls opened to the power of magic. There is no formula for who does and doesn’t receive this divine insight, as the gods keep their own counsel concerning their selections. Some who are favored seek to ignore or deny their gift, while others embrace it wholeheartedly.
Some who display the potential for divine magic develop and practice their abilities in a temple, a sacred grove, or some other spiritual place, perhaps in the company of other students. Other practitioners of divine magic discover and nurture their gods-given power entirely on their own.
THE GODS OF FAERUN
The gods that make up the pantheon of Faerun are much like the population of some of the Realms’ greatest cities: an eclectic blend of individuals from a variety of sources. The makeup of the pantheon has s hifted over the ages, as a result of changes in the Realms and its people (or vice versa, depending on which scholars you believe). The following pages describe the most prominent members of the pantheon.
The deities of the Faerunian pantheon are by no means the only powers worshiped in the Realms. The nonhuman races have pantheons of their own, and scattered other cults and local divinities can be found across Faerun.
Torm, god of courage and selfsacrifice – War – White right gauntlet