Gods of the Old World
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The Gods of the Old World are a collection of fictional supernatural beings modeled after real-world pagan deities. In the Warhammer Fantasy setting, there are many fictional deities provided to add color and verisimilitude to the game’s background. Most or all of these entities seem to be analogues of real-world gods, chosen to present a war-torn, grim, perilous, and adventurous world.
The setting does not emphasize a creation myth, origin stories, or myth-cycles. The core stories for the setting tend to focus on Sigmar, the national patron god of the Empire, the Empire being the main setting of the Warhammer background.
The Warhammer setting’s artificial mythology presents views of the gods as evolving over time, and worship of particular gods waxing or waning as political and social changes affect the people of the Old World. Gods that are presented as popular and influential in the early timeline may be presented as less important in the later, “current,” period. The mythology also presents differing perspectives and conflicting accounts of the gods, similar to inconsistencies in real-world mythologies.
Different material presents slightly different ideas on what the gods are; whether they are genuine local divinities, Chaos entities created or shaped by mortal minds, or leftover intelligences from the great disaster that shaped the Warhammer world, is unclear.
- Taal and Rhya represent nature and agriculture. They are presented as the male and female aspects of a more abstract deity, Ishernos. They are presented as brother and sister of, or as part of a trinity with, Ulric. They are apparently derived from nature gods of Northern Europe.
- Manann is the god of the sea. He is derived from the Celtic Irish god Manannan, and shares most of his characteristics
- Morr is the god of death and dreams, based on Thanatos and Hypnos. He seems to be part of a group of southern gods, with his wife, Verena, and their children.
- Verena is the goddess of justice and learning, and by extension academia and administration. She is based on the academic aspects of Athena.
- Shallya is the goddess of mercy and healing, and directly interested in doing good and promoting peace, unusual for the generally grim and harsh Old World setting. She is the daughter of Morr and Verena, and sister of Myrmidia.
- Ulric is the god of winter, wolves, and battle. He is presented as brother of Taal and Rhya, and the original patron of the mortal Emperor Sigmar. He is the tutelar God of the tribe of the Teutogens, and mostly worshiped in the north of the Empire.
- Ranald is the trickster god of trade, crime, and deception, based on Hermes, Mercury, and Loki. His background in the context of the Old World pantheon is unclear; he may be the son or brother of Shallya, or a mortal who tricked his way into immortality.
- Khaine is worshipped as the god of murder by a few Old World humans, mainly assassins, murderers, and similar supplicants. Among elves Khaine is a divinity with much broader provenance; the High Elves regard him as the god of war, while the Dark Elves hold him as their main patron god, the god of killing, murder, and apparently a force of natural selection.
- Sigmar is presented as a mortal king who ascended to divinity after uniting the primitive tribes of the central Old World into an Empire. This character is among the most developed, and many stories regarding his achievements and activities are related in the Warhammer setting’s fiction and colour text. He is the patron god of the Empire, and widely worshipped in that nation, but rarely worshiped outside its boundaries. Sigmar has no clear and obvious single inspiration in classical, Norse, or other mythology, but may be comparable to the deification of Romulus who became the immortal patron of the Roman Empire under the guise of Quirinus. His cult is in some ways similar to the medieval Christian Catholic Church, too. He is in many ways similar to 'The Emperor' in Warhammer 40k.
- The Lady of the Lake is a mysterious goddess worshipped by the upper class of Bretonnia. In some sources it is suggested that she is not a goddess at all but a Wood Elf from Loren Forrest. Other than being the matron goddess of Bretonnia and their nobility, she has no clear function; she is, however, actively involved in the lives of her worshippers, regularly appearing to and inspiring the knights of Bretonnia to glorious deeds in her name. She is obviously based on the Arthurian Lady of the Lake, who was not considered a divine being. The Bretonnian Lady of the Lake is not worshipped outside Bretonnia, except by some knightly expatriates.
- Myrmidia is the goddess of warfare, warcraft, and soldiers, and an important goddess of Estalia and Tilea. Worship of this goddess is spreading, unlike most regional divinities of the setting, and she is becoming popular with middle-class professional soldiery of the Empire. She is probably inspired by the Greek goddess Pallas Athene, who represented the tactical side of warfare.
Gods of Kislev
Kislev, the region of the Old World corresponding roughly to the Slavic lands of Russia, Czech Republic and Poland, has its own gods, as well as worshipping Taal and Rhya, and Ulric. These gods may be intended by the designer to be part of a greater northern pantheon.
- Ursun, Father of Bears, is the ruler of the Kislevian pantheon, appearing mainly as a giant bear.
- Dazh is the god of fire, the hearth, and hospitality. Apparently based on Svarog and Dažbog.
- Tor is the god of thunder and lightning, and a popular warrior god. Obviously related to the Norse god Thor.
The Warhammer setting has a number of lesser divinities, some local, others widespread but with a narrow focus of office or patronage. This list is by no means complete.
- Bögenauer is a local patron god, or perhaps a kind of locus genius, representing the town of Bögenhafen. This deity first appeared in Shadows Over Bögenhafen; the idea that locations have such personifications has not been well developed in the Warhammer settings, but crops up occasionally.
- Handrich is the god of commerce and prosperity, worshipped by merchants. His largest cult and temple are in the great trading city of Marienburg.
- Lucan and Luccina are the twin patron gods of the Tilean city of Luccini, where they are said to have founded the original ruling royal family. They, and the city, are symbolized by a leopard. This shares parallels with the story of Romulus and Remus founding Rome.
- Olovald is the god of the marshes and delta in the Wasteland. This deity’s cult has largely been subsumed by the cult of Manann, but the entity seems to still be active, and has a secret cult in Marienburg.
The small numbers of Elves of the Old World chiefly worship the traditional Elven Gods, Kurnous, lord of the wilds and the hunt, and Isha, goddess of nature and life, but a sect of the Wood Elves of Athel Loren known as Wardancers serve the deity known as Loec, Lord of the dance and free spirit.
Worship of the Chaos Gods is strictly forbidden in virtually all of the Old World, but such worship does occur, as part of the setting’s background, to provide internal and external conflict. In brief, these gods are:
- Khorne, The Blood God, bestial god of blind rage, destruction and bloodshed, strength and excellence at arms. Draws upon the minds of mortals, mostly warriors, who wish for martial prowess, honour and glory on the field of battle and quickly become overwhelmed and insane of the power they are granted. Khorne is the eldest and most powerful of the Chaos Gods. Like Ulric, Khorne is often associated with wolves. His sacred number is 8, and his warriors and other devotees often organize themselves in parties of this number or its multiples.
- Nurgle, the Lord of Decay, kind and fatherly god of disease, entropy and finality followed by morbid rebirth, often referred to as Father or Grandfather Nurgle. Calls to people who are afraid of death and loss, like peasants who live in poor circumstances and have little to lose except their family, crop and livestock. Nurgle's sacred animal is the crow. Nurgle's sacred number is 7.
- Tzeentch, The Changer of the Ways, trickster god of change, magic, and thirst for knowledge. People, often educated ones like scholars and wizards, who wish for forbidden knowledge and divine understanding are often drawn to the service of Tzeentch. The Norse associated Tzeentch with Ravens, while the Kurgan tribes associate him with the condor. Tzeentch is also associated with the number 9.
- Slaanesh, The Dark Prince, seductive god of excess, pleasure and experience. Whispers to individuals and wish for charisma, beauty and power over others or equally desire material excess like wealth or food and drink. Slaanesh alone, of all the Chaos Gods, is impossibly beautiful and attractive, and both men and women are drawn to him. He is the youngest Chaos God and seems to be the most obviously attractive in all ways, and should be able to grant anything to those in his thrall, but he is still presented as the least powerful of all the four Dark Gods. Slaanesh is associated with serpents and snakes. His sacred number is 6.
The Chaos Gods and their symbolism can often be related to the seven deadly sins, as they many times embody qualities, thoughts and temptations that, succumbed to, inevitably leads an individual to horrible and selfish deeds, thus allowing the Gods to prey upon the individual's self-indulgent and ignorant mind and use him/her for their own ends. Most followers are aware of this and in perfect acceptance of it.
The Chaos Gods can also be considered as twisted amalgamations of various real world Pagan deities. For instance, Khorne could be considered the demonic Warhammer equivalent to Odin in some respects, as both are elder gods of war and berserk rage who preside over an afterlife of eternal battle, Khorne also has Valkyrie-like creatures under his command furthering the similarities between him and Odin.
The Norscans, a race of vicious tribal warriors analogous to the Vikings, are enthralled to the Dark Gods and worship them devoutly. The Norscans are thought to be the epitome of the worshipers of the Chaos Gods, though there are also other human races born into their worship. Such as the Kurgans, Hung and Tong.
As Greenskins vary from specific sub-species and region, there are numerous other gods that certain greenskins worship in addition to Gork and Mork. Forest Goblins also worship the 'Great Spider God', while Night Goblins commonly worship the 'Bad Moon'.
The Skaven worship a god known as The Horned Rat though they often call him The Horned One.
The Horned Rat is primarily worshipped out of fear of retribution and is a cruel god. Unlike most Gods in the Warhammer setting the Horned Rat actually manifested once. During the Second Skaven Civil War the Grey Seers performed a ritual intended to summon the Horned One. It succeeded and the Horned One appeared, devouring many Skaven and proclaiming that they must work to take the surface for themselves. It bestowed upon them the Pillar of Commandments, a thirteen-sided pillar each with thirteen commandments. It is unknown what is written on them but it seems to dictate Skaven society and the rule of the Council of Thirteen. The centre of the Horned Rat's cult is located in Skavenblight, and is maintained by the Grey Seers, a sect of horned Skaven numbering at 169 (13 x 13) members with grey fur that possess magic.
Gods of Law
A lesser known group of Warhammer deities, they oppose the Chaos gods, although they are equally feared due to the extremist tendencies of their followers. None received a lot of attention, although Solkan is mentioned in the novels.
- Alluminas, god of illumination and everlasting and unchanging purity.
- Arianka, a goddess defeated and imprisoned by an unnamed Chaos God.
- Solkan, "the Avenger".
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Black Industries, 2005
- Shadows over Bogenhafen, Games Workshop, 1988
- Dogs of War, Games Workshop, 1998
- Tome of Corruption, Black Industries, 2006