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Sigmar Heldenhammer is a fictional deity in the Warhammer Fantasy setting. He is the patron deity of The Empire. Before he became a god, Sigmar was a man, albeit an exceptional, perhaps even superhuman one. The young chieftain of the Unberogens who lived 2,500 years before the present day of the Warhammer universe, he united the barbarian human tribes into what would become the mightiest human nation – the Empire. His sign is a twin-tailed comet or a war hammer.
Sigmar appears to be inspired by a series of heroes from myth, fantasy literature, especially Robert E. Howard's Conan the Cimmerian, as well as historical figures, particularly Charlemagne and Charles Martel. An image of a hammer-wielding barbarian appeared on early versions of Warhammer Fantasy Battle fighting Orcs and Goblins.
The Imperial Calendar (the calendar now used by the Empire Sigmar founded) takes as its starting date his coronation as Emperor by the high priest of Ulric after having united the tribes under his leadership. This calendar places his birth in the year −30, in the Reikland area in the southwest of the Empire, to the Unberogen tribe (one of the most powerful pre-Empire tribes). The night of his birth was marked with the appearance of a twin-tailed comet, which the human tribes took as a sign of great portent from the gods.
In the year −15, Sigmar is believed to have helped drive off a Goblin invasion of his village – showing exceptional martial powers for a boy of only 15. In the same year, Sigmar led a punitive expedition against an Orc war-party that was holding Kurgan Ironbeard, a king of the Dwarf people, prisoner. In gratitude, Kurgan presented the boy warrior with a magical rune-enchanted war hammer called "Ghal-Maraz" ('Skull-splitter,' in the Khazalid [Dwarven] tongue). Sigmar then went on a campaign to unite the disparate tribes of the future Empire, and one by one they submitted, either by conquest or diplomacy. The most famous incident was his subjugation of the belligerent Teutogens, the largest and most powerful of the tribes, who lived near the Middle Mountains in the north central Empire, near the current location of the Middenheim City-State (Freistadt). Their chieftain, Artur, was defeated by Sigmar in single combat, and this is commonly held to have been the point at which Sigmar gained control of the tribes of the Empire.
From that point onward, Sigmar embarked upon a campaign of purgation and liberation throughout all of the tribal lands, primarily against the Beastmen (Beasts of Chaos) and Goblinoid races (Orcs and Goblins), culminating in the First Battle of Black Fire Pass (IC −1), in present-day Averland, in the southeast of the Empire. Following this great victory, Sigmar returned in triumph to his native Reikland and was crowned Emperor Sigmar Heldenhammer I ('Hammer of Heroes') at Reikdorf, the site of the current Imperial capital of Altdorf. This date remains the Empire's greatest holy day, as it marks Sigmar's coronation and abdication fifty years later (IC 50) – it is in the summer of the Imperial year, on the 18th day of the month of Sigmarzeit.
While an Emperor rules to this day, Sigmar also gave power to the leaders of those tribes who had been united (sometimes by force) into his Empire. These powerful men were set up as the Elector Counts, a hereditary position second only to the Emperor in power and from whose ranks the Emperor (or on rare occasions Empress) is almost always chosen. As it is well known that the Dwarfs will always remember a favor (or a foe), the High King of the Dwarfs, Kurgan, ordered the commissioning of the Runefangs, by the legendary Dwarf smith Alaric the Mad to be gifted to the Elector Counts. Painstakingly crafted (as is the way of the Dwarfs) these blades were not completed until after Sigmar's ascension to godhood, but when finished, they were presented to the Emperor, whom then divided them amongst the 12 ruling counts as symbols of their power, as well as a token of their eternal friendship with the Dwarfs.
During his reign as Emperor, after the Battle of Black Fire Pass, the ancient lord of the undead, Nagash led a great army of the undead into the nascent Empire, but was defeated and slain by Sigmar at the Battle of the River Reik. According to Mannfred von Carstein, Nagash's defeat at the hands of Sigmar resulted in a curse laid upon all vampires: for their part in Nagash's war, they would forever be driven back against the power of Sigmar. Ever since, faith in Sigmar has been powerful enough to drive off Vampires, similar to how the Christian cross drives back Vampires in our own legends.
Nagash wasn't the only great foe Sigmar bested. Sigmar defeated the Great Enchanter Drachenfels, an evil Liche-like entity that existed in the Old World for fifteen thousand years as mentioned in the Warhammer novels Drachenfels and the omnibus Genevieve Undead by Kim Newman, (writing as Jack Yeovil).
Sigmar's greatest victory however was against the first Everchosen of Chaos, Morkar.
In his fiftieth year of reigning, Sigmar abdicated and set off to see what lay beyond the Worlds Edge Mountains to the east, in a similar fashion to the Dwarf ancestor/warrior deity Grimnir the Fearless, who legendarily strode off into the Chaos Wastes to do battle with the Powers of the Warp.
Sources conflict on the details of what precisely motivated Sigmar to do this; some accounts, including those in the earliest background, claim he set off to return Ghal-Maraz to the Dwarfs, but the famous rune-hammer has traditionally been the weapon of the ruling Emperor and the primary symbol/relic of the Sigmarite cult, founded by Johann Helstrum in IC 73.
Following his disappearance, Sigmar passed over the Worlds Edge Mountain range and no human ever saw him again. Within a generation, he was being venerated as a god. The Cult of Sigmar is now the foremost religion in the Empire and is inextricably intertwined with the political, cultural, and national identity of the Empire and its people. Curiously, while still mortal, Sigmar worshipped the Old World pantheon, and was crowned Emperor by the Ar-Ulric (the high priest of the winter god Ulric). As the priests and worshippers of Sigmar often receive puissant, visible answers to their prayers, this suggests Sigmar has been truly deified, and answers his followers. The cult of Sigmar promises an afterlife of great glory for the righteous: after death they will join Sigmar to aid his eternal struggle against Chaos.
Unsurprisingly, the cults of Sigmar and Ulric frequently come into conflict. The Ar-Ulric and the two Arch-Lectors of the Sigmarite faith, as well as the Grand Theogonist (currently Volkmar the Grim), all maintain a vote in the election of the Emperors. While the cult and its leaders are often corrupt and hip-deep in the Byzantine politics of the Empire, it is a faith that preaches courage, justice, honor, and the protection of the weak and innocent from evil. It is also nationalistic and sees the preservation of Sigmar's original holdings as a sacred duty. The church's iconography primarily centres around images directly connected to Sigmar himself: the comet and the hammer are the foremost of these. Also a popular national and religious symbol is the griffon, the personal heraldry of Emperor Magnus the Pious, who saved the Empire from disaster during the Great War Against Chaos in IC 2302–2303.
It is a well-known theory among the theologians the Old World that a Champion of Light arises to do battle with the forces of Chaos when they unify around their periodic leaders. Many have felt that Sigmar may have been one of these, and that he fought the very first Everchosen, Morkar, and a number have argued for Magnus the Pious as well. The most recent case came in the year IC 2522, under a young man named Valten of Lachenbad, who became the central figure around which the Empire rallied to fight Archaon the Everchosen in the recent Storm of Chaos event. Valten was especially noted for his incredible strength, instinctive leadership, and strength of will. Furthermore, he strongly resembled the appearance ascribed to Sigmar in Imperial legend, and sported a birthmark on his chest of Sigmar's legendary twin-tailed comet. Hailed as the 'spiritual leader of the Empire' by Emperor Karl Franz and presented with Sigmar's own hammer Ghal Maraz, Valten was believed by many to be an avatar of Sigmar. He was assassinated shortly after the war with Archaon ended by an assassin of the Skaven Clan Eshin, as was confirmed in the background book, The Loathsome Ratmen and All Their Vile Kin.
Head of Cult of Sigmar
The High Priest of the Cult of Sigmar, called the Grand Theogonist, is an Elector of the Empire. The official base of the Grand Theogonist is the capital of the Empire. Below him in the hierarchy are the two Arch-Lectors, who are also Electors. They are based in the two other largest cities of the Empire. In 2522 IC, the capital is Altdorf and the two Arch-Lectors are based in Nuln and Talabheim.
- 2523 IC Grand Theogonist is Volkmar the Grim again. He takes his position back from the Johann Esmer with force. Esmer escapes to Marienburg.
- 2521 IC Volkmar the Grim dies fighting Archaon in the beginning of Storm of Chaos. Johann Esmer takes the position. Grim is later discovered to have survived, despite appearing lifeless, and recovers from his wounds.
- c.2510 IC Grand Theogonist is Yorri XV. Yorri XV seems to have effectively been retconned, as he has not been mentioned after 3rd edition.
- ???? IC Grand Theogonist is Rueben Wrolfgar (name is given in the Liber Khorne, without any actual year).
- c.230? IC Grand Theogonist is Ansgar. After the Great War Against Chaos.
- c.2132 IC Grand Theogonist is Kurt III, who recite the Great Spell of Unbinding from the pages of Liber Mortis, when Mannfred von Carstein attacked Altdorf.
- c.2050 IC Grand Theogonist is Wilhelm the Third, who is responsible for destroying Vlad von Carstein in 2051 IC.
- c.1682 IC Grand Theogonist is Siebold II, who officially recognises the Order of the Silver Hammer and tasks it with defending the Empire from Chaos, Daemon-worship and all other forms of heresy and magic. This order will be renamed as The Holy Order of the Templars of Sigmar (Witch Hunter's of Sigmar).
- 850 IC Grand Theogonist is Marius Mollus. He decrees there to be no other Gods than Sigmar. His screaming form is last seen being dragged away by a blood-red, three-headed hound.
- 73 IC Johan Helstrum is named as the first High Priest of Sigmar. Rank that will be called later as Grand Theogonist.
- Twin-tailed Comet – The sign that appeared in the heavens on the night of Sigmar's birth, it has become a universal symbol of his cult. The twin-tailed comet has appeared two other times in Imperial history, in IC 1999 over the capital of Ostermark, Mordheim, prior to its destruction when the comet crashed in the middle of the city, destroying most of the civic structures and killing a substantial portion of the population. That particular comet was given the name "Sigmar's Hammer", since it was looked on as a herald of Sigmar's will, and since it destroyed the city of Mordheim, considered the capital of sinners, gamblers, drinkers, whores, and criminals, the comet has also become an icon of imminent Sigmarite judgment. A twin-tailed comet also attended the appearance of Valten of Lachenbad in IC 2522, and he bore the image of the heavenly icon on his chest. These were looked on as largely irrefutable evidence of his status as the avatar of Sigmar.
- Ghal Maraz – In Khazalid, the Dwarf language, it means "skull-splitter", the legendary hammer of Sigmar, is a symbol of Imperial unity, and the defense of humankind and the Empire. Alongside with the Twin-tailed Comet, it is the primary sign of Sigmar. In remembrance and honor of Ghal Maraz, the Order of the Silver Hammer, the martial arm of the Sigmarite cult, use warhammers in battle. It is a sign of particular balefulness to orcs and goblins, as the greenskin races are believed to hold an ancestral memory of the danger and death Ghal Maraz has meted out to their kind throughout history.
- Griffin – Popular following the 24th century and the reign of Emperor Magnus I ('the Pious'). This was Magnus's personal heraldry, and has been adopted by many subsequent Emperors, most notably the 'Griffon Emperors' of Reikland. The griffon has also been adopted by the Church of Sigmar in general and by Grand Theogonist Volkmar in particular. The War Altar of Sigmar carries an ornate statue of a Griffon wielding Ghal Maraz, the emblem of Magnus's dynasty. On his chest, Volkmar wears the Jade Griffon, a protective amulet of great power fashioned in the likeness of Magnus's heraldry. In his sermons and private journals, Volkmar refers frequently to Magnus's deeds and words.
- Imperial Cross – A long-standing symbol of Imperial unity, the top three arms stand for the northern, western, and eastern tribes of the ancient Empire, and the bottom refers to the Dwarfs, the Empire's oldest and staunchest allies. It has connotations of unity and oaths fulfilled.
Sigmarite dogma teaches that the purest Sigmarites will be welcomed into Sigmar's domain in the Aethyr, the truly evil will be taken by Chaos, and those in between will be claimed by Mórr. Although yet to be canonised as a saint, Magnus the Pious is revered as 'the Saviour' by commoner and Grand Theogonist alike, and is regarded by most as the greatest Sigmarite who ever lived.
- Warhammer Fantasy Battle main rulebook, 6th Edition, Games Workshop.
- The Life of Sigmar, Black Library.
- Law, Andrew E. (2007). Tome of Salvation. Black Industries. ISBN 1-84416-314-8.
- Ward, Mat (2008). Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos. Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1841548839.