Well, I finally missed a weekend post. In my defense, though … I thought I had remembered to post. Not much a defense, really, but what the heck!
Among other things I’m working on, NOD 36 is going to have a hexcrawl somewhat dominated by a country of halflings. These halflings have a faith modeled loosely on Medieval Christianity (very loosely), and thus they honor numerous saints as well as a supreme goddess. Here’s a sneak preview on this halfling faith:
Nertha is the mother goddess of the halflings. She is believed to be the creator, teacher, and nourisher of the people. In this capacity, she is worshiped as a supreme deity by her cult. The cult is made up of an aristocratic priesthood who holds a great deal of secular power in the valley of the Yore. This is due to the relationships between the priesthood, which is drawn from the younger sons and daughters of the aristocracy, and the landed gentry of Yore, as well as from the vast land holdings of the cult.
The Yorrish liken the universe to a steaming vat of soup, stirred and tended by Nertha in her kitchen, aided by her kitchen saints. The other saints protect her kitchen, and the cosmic soup, from demons who wish to sample (and taint) the soup, or even spill it, destroying the universe and putting out Nertha’s eternal hearth, plunging all creation into blackness.
Patron Saint of Learning and Childbirth
St. Amalthy was a teacher of the Lady who lived 200 years ago in the Southlands. Her cult is based in the Midlands, specifically at St. Amalthy’s Cathedral in Mook.
St. Amalthy was a midwife and strict disciplinarian who tend-ed her flock for fifty-eight summers. She was credited with several miracles associated with healings and divinations about children, and thus became a patron saint of childbirth and medicine. A learned woman, she wrote the much-copied Yorrish Herbal, the standard reference for Yorrish healers.
St. Amalthy’s feast day is Wind Month the 4th. It is observed with much singing and merriment, followed by a week spent in quiet devotion at her shrines. The faithful burn candles and leave newly harvested fruits, which are then dispersed to the hungry. Her followers are called Amalthyeans.
Patron Saint of Resolve
St. Anka’s life is the source of an oft performed morality play. It is the story of a young girl, dedicated to the Lady, whose father was both a heretic and blasphemer. Although a respected farmer, he refused the Lady and continued in the worship of forest spirits. When he attempted to arrange a marriage between his daughter and an elf of the woodlands, Anka calmly refused. The elf carried her away, but she would neither consummate the marriage nor take food while so imprisoned. She kept the elf’s house and cooked his meals, but would in no way consent to his wooing. He tried music, fine foods, and delicate ballads, but nothing could change the girl’s mind. Eventually, the elf, who was much smitten by her beauty and dignity, pleaded with her father to convert to Mother Church and annul her marriage.
Wracked with guilt, Anka’s father consented. He rode straight away to the elf’s home in the woods, but was greeted with no sign of Anka. Instead, they discovered her bloodied garments, and the foot prints of a pack of wolves. Anka was canonized by Mother Church for her resolve and is considered a patron saint of resolve, especially against the temptations of sin.
The true story of Anka bears only a superficial resemblance to the passion plays and church teachings.
Anka was a beautiful and headstrong girl of the Northlands. Her father was a successful farmer, a country gentleman, who desired that his daughter take a husband. A terrible flirt, Anka had on many occasions consented to the pleadings of the country lads who formed her ever-present entourage.
Anka was taken with wooing and gift-giving, so she had no intention of taking a husband. Many candidates came forward, and always she refused their proposals, but accepted their gifts. One gift in particular, the giver she could never remember, was a silver chain into which were set a multitude of black gems. They seemed to swallow the light and at the same time shimmer gloriously. Anka would spend many hours lying in the meadows about her home, studying the strange (and cursed!) necklace in the sunlight and moonlight.
Eventually, a candidate for her hand came forward from the woodlands. An elf lord of great wit and wealth sought her hand in marriage. The marriage ceremony took place amidst much celebration, but Anka refused her husband’s wedding cake (the exchange of fairy-cakes is integral to the Yorrish wedding ceremony) on well-known religious grounds, and so began a hunger strike in his home in the woods.
Anka refused all food offered her, for how could she tell anyone that under her curse her only sustenance could be the fresh blood and flesh of humanoids; all other foodstuffs made her violently ill. She was visited by monks and nuns to lend her moral support, but the young men and women of her village knew of her dark side. Anka would lead them into the woods for wild reveries, initiating many of them into her intimacy and confidence. In truth, many of the monks and nuns who visited her were also initiated. It was on midsummer night that Anka, now a dedicated servant of evil, led her band into the forest for a final reverie in which a young and amorous halfling boy was sacrificed, his head kept as a shrunken token of his devotion.
Anka’s followers waited for her husband to arrive home from his hunting in the mountains. He was waylaid and sacrificed as well. Weeks later, Anka’s father also disappeared after a bloody struggle in his own home. Most people blamed brig-ands or wolves for the atrocities committed.
Anka and her band still lurk in the northern woods, where they lead black rites for the many monks and nuns who have fallen under her sway. Some clerics in the south are aware of the truth of Anka’s story and seek out her followers without rest, hoping to rid Mother Church of its most shameful secret.
Patron Saint of Travel, Water and Bravery
St. Benn went to “sea” (the River Og) to convert the heathens that lived outside of Yore’s borders. Needless to say, it didn’t go well for a mouthy, preachy halfling with a habit of wagging his finger under people’s noses. Benn was martyred and has become a patron saint of travel, water and bravery.
Some sages believe that Benn is merely the Yorrish name for the River Og, and that rather than being a missionary he was really the presiding spirit of the river.
Bennites are known for their beautiful waterborne funerals, favored by southern merchants, and for their hospices, which cater to sailors and their families.
Patron Saint of Nervous Fidgeting
Droppo is the patron saint of nervous fidgeting, for it is said that whenever a false knave was in his presence he was unable to sit or stand still. The folk of his village attributed this to an inborn celestial character that made deceit anathema to him. He was duly sainted, a cathedral being built in the town of Skalagord where he lived and died. In religious iconography he is depicted in rough clothing and sandals holding a feather. His feast day is on the seventh day of Hay Month.
Church officials have since learned that Droppo was really a clod, often in on the schemes of charlatans who thought him a perfect stooge until he began accidentally giving away their schemes. They have chosen to believe he did this on purpose, and thus allow him to remain a recognized saint.
Patron Saint of Goldsmiths
St. Dunstan is the patron saint of goldsmiths, he himself being a noted goldsmith in life. He is represented in clerical robes carrying a pair of pincers in his right hand. The robes refer to his office as Bishop of Nunc, and the pincers to the legend of his holding the Devil by the nose until he promised never to tempt him again.
Dunstan was a painter, jeweler and smith. Expelled from the royal court, he built a cell near Umpleby church, and there he worked at his handicrafts. It was in his cell that tradition says the Devil gossiped with the saint through the lattice window. Dunstan calmly talked until his tongs were red hot, when he turned round suddenly and caught the Devil by the nose.
Patron Saint of the Stricken
St. Dymphna is the saint of those who are stricken in spirit. She was a native of the Midlands and a woman of high rank. It is said that she was murdered at Zeletor in the south by bandits because she resisted their advanced. Zeletor has long been a famous colony for the insane.
Patron Saint of Tailors
Founder of the Gabbardine Order
St. Gabbar is revered in Yore for his defeat of a bevy of ogres that plagued the country long ago. While there is no doubt that he was a tailor, his race, whether a halfling from Yore or a half-elf from Mab, is disputed. Mother Church claims he was a halfling and will hear nothing more about it. The symbol of the Gabbardine Order is a needle and bobbin, and the monks engage in the garment trade. It has made the order wealthy, for they are the official tailors of the Mother Church, producing all official religious trappings therein. They are also noted as the preeminent giant killers of Yore.
Patron Saint of Warfare and Protection
St. Grumm is a popular Yorrish saint credited with the defense of the faithful in the Midlands against incursions of monsters and barbarian hordes. In Ikrod’s Lives of the Saints he is identified with Grumm Steadylegs, a warrior-monk who led a company of riders in the Wars of Redemption, in which Mother Church gradually converted the Midlands and Northlands. Grumm was a sedate and somber halfling, but given to passionate defenses of Nertha and her religious law.
Heretical halfling scholars claim that Grumm was an ancient deity of boundaries. He was consort to Nertha in some legends, and her son in others. Grumm was worshipped at the borders between holdings and between civilization and the wild.
Monasteries dedicated to St. Grumm are concentrated on the frontiers. They are outwardly militant. Monks especially dedi-cated to St. Grumm wear black robes with pointed hoods over their armor. They carry flanged maces in combat and are usually trained riders. They are called Grumblers. St Grumm’s churches have stout, stone walls and heavy doors. They are designed as places of refuge for the halflings in times of war. Almost all halfling hobbles have a small statue of St. Grumm near the door where he can guard against intruders.
St. Grumm’s feast day is Wild Month the 21st, celebrated as “Pie Week” amongst the Yorrish. During Pie Week, one day is set aside for St. Grumm and called Boys’ Day. All halfling boys and men are honored on Boys’ Day with gifts (usually martial in quality like slings and knives) and a parade.
The Boys’ Day parade concludes with a mock Battle against the Big Folk, wherein the parade leader must fight a duel with his enemy, the Big Man. The Big Man is represented in pantomime by two halflings, one sitting atop the other’s shoulders. The Big Man first runs into the street, disrupting the parade and scattering all the participants. He then steals a pie, knocks down a mock-hobble, and attempts to carry off a sheep. The parade leader chases the Big Man around the village square, sometimes losing his spear in the process. Finally, he either strikes the Big Man down with his spear or runs the Big Man out of town with the help of the militia by throwing pies at him. Once the Big Man is dead or driven off, the Battle ends and the halflings triumphantly carry the parade leader around the village on a shield or large platter, ending up at the Feast. Then they eat until they keel over.
Halfling clerics of St. Grumm are almost always Lawful. They always carry a buckler with St. Grumm’s badger symbol on the boss. The lay members of St. Grumm’s cult include gamekeepers, herdsman, militiaman, road wardens, soldiers, watch-men, and woodsmen.
The Order of St. Grumm is a branch of knighthood open to all free men and boys who can pass their tests with sling and bow. The Order’s membership boasts some of the greatest living halflings of Yore. The society is martial in name only, being more a hunting fraternity than anything else.
Patron Saint of Fools
The patron saint of fools, St. Mathurin was in life a pedagogue who labored the whole of his life to preach to chil-dren, adults and even the animals. Yorrish legend says that it is St. Mathurin who first taught animals to speak, thus they are referred to as “Mathurin’s pupils”.
Patron Saint of Dance, Music and Poetry
St. Mommo is a very ancient halfling recollection of Tut, the kabir of natural rhythms, and thus of dance, music and poetry. The followers of St. Mommo are distinguished by their brightly colored clothes and their masks. They are portrayers of religious plays and singers of religious ballads. They are, essentially, the entertainers of Mother Church. They exist in their own troupes, and rarely mix with the uninitiated.
Patron Saint of Builders
The chroniclers say St. Swithun was a diligent builder of churches in places where there were none, and a repairer of churches destroyed or ruined. He also built a bridge on the east side of the city of Yorld. During the work, he made a practice of sitting there to watch the workmen so that his presence might stimulate their industry. One of his most edifying miracles is said to have been performed at this bridge when he restored an old woman’s basket of eggs which the workmen had maliciously broken.
The Kitchen Saints
Patron Saints of Home and Hearth
As any visitor to Yore knows, the kitchen is the center of halfling life and halfling worship. Three minor saints who enjoy considerable good will and devotion throughout Yore are Praseeda, Landrani and Bertha. Collectively, they are referred to as the Kitchen Saints. They lived long ago and are portrayed as ancient healers associated with both herbal healing and cookery. Heretical sages claim that they are remnants of the pre-Mother Church beliefs of Yore, which was based around a loose pantheon of nature divinities.
Each Kitchen Saint has her own feast day. St. Landrani, the patron saint of beer and cider, is feted on Wood Month the 5th. St. Praseeda, Our Lady of Herbs & Spices, is feted on Hay Month the 3rd. St. Bertha, patron saint of deserts, is celebrated on Pasture Month the 12th.
Mendicant halfling friars dedicate themselves to the Kitchen Saints. These wandering friars are renowned for their jollity and common sense preaching. They are like kindly gaffers and gammers, from whom the youth seek advice. More reserved members of the priesthood fault them for their inattention to canon law and church taboo, but really they resent them for being so much more popular than they.
St Landrani is immensely proud of the plethora of alcoholic beverages she has created for the halflings, and is always busy in the cellar creating (and extensively testing) her latest brew. She is always happy and usually a bit tipsy. St. Praseeda works with her on occasion to create spiced ciders. St. Landrani is depicted as a plump halfling woman with a wide grin and short blonde hair, holding a tankard and bottle of cider. Her symbol is a tankard.
St. Praseeda is the most rugged of her sisters, and spends hours hunting for rare herbs and mushrooms. As busy as this keeps her, she still finds time to potter around in the kitchen, helping her sisters spice up their creations. St. Praseeda is quiet, reserved and friendly. She is depicted as a slender halfling woman with long, tussled blonde hair, a green hood, and a sling bag. Her symbol is the sling-bag of herbs.
Have you ever wondered how halfling children can fall out of trees and walk away with only a little bruise, or why halfling relationships are nearly trouble free? St. Bertha is the answer.
St. Bertha is the most ‘homey’ of the Kitchen Saints, soothing hurt feelings and looking after halfing children while they play. In her spare time, she works in the kitchen with Nertha, cooking up the sweet treats of which halflings are so fond. St. Bertha is depicted as a plump halfling woman with curly blonde hair, freckled skin, and a concerned expression. She carries a spoon and lollipop, and her symbol is the lollipop.
The Kitchen Saints really are the last remnants of the halfling’s old religion. The three sisters remain the matrons of halfling druids – the aforementioned friars. These friars are few and far between, but they can be found wandering the countryside as teachers and guides. The friars are more colorful than most halfling priests, weaving flowers in their hair and wearing green robes. They gather in fields on nights of the full moon to worship the Kitchen Saints and Nertha. There, they throw seeds into the wind, watching them scatter and divining portents from the patterns they make.
Other than the friars, the Kitchen Saints have no official cults. Their worship is carried out by druids, brewers, cooks, nan-nies and peasants. While small shrines to the three sisters are maintained in most churches, most of their worship is con-ducted on small stone altars found in fields, kitchens, brewer-ies, and nurseries. Some of these altars are very ancient. At harvest time, first fruits are offered to the three sisters. Their followers are called either Kitcheners or Pantryeans.