A review on the beliefs held by the peoples and culture of Tyria’s largest mountain range, penned by Eleanor Draxynnus for the Durmand Priory in the year 1326 AE
Of all the realms of Tyria, the Shiverpeaks are possibly the most mysterious beyond Orr itself and the Crystal Desert. The former home of at least two of the races that fought during the last time the dragons rose, some seekers of knowledge have also linked the lost ice city of Moladune to a third, and the Shiverpeaks are also the site of at least two sites of significance to the Six Gods – Reaper's Gate, an ancient temple of Grenth in Lornar’s Pass, and reportedly a temple containing strange energies and a statue of Lyssa in the Mineral Springs region of Deldrimor Front.
With the possibility looming of a campaign against Jormag, and with the success we’ve seen of how Zhaitan was able to corrupt the fixtures and priests of the Five in Orr, it seems prudent to gather what information we can on the religions and holy places in the Shiverpeaks so we can prevent Jormag from using them against us like Zhaitan did the sacred places in Orr… or better yet, so that we may call upon their aid against the dragons.
The Spirits of the Wild
A natural place to begin in a description of the religions of the Shiverpeaks is the one that most readers will probably already be familiar with, particularly those who have seen the great statues around Hoelbrak – the reverence of the norn for the spirits of the animals in their habitat. It should be noted that this reverence does not take the form of worship as happens in many other religions – as the norn will tell you themselves, they have no need of such things, and are too independent to place themselves even in implied subservience to spiritual beings.
Instead, the norn have adopted a working relationship of mutual respect with these animal spirits. While our gods held themselves aloft from their worshippers even before the Silence of the Gods and only the worthy were likely to have contact with a direct representative of a deity, for the norn every animal is an embodiment of the spirit in question, and many norn meet the spirit representation of their patron spirit at least one in their life. A norn may call upon the blessing of a patron spirit or undertake a quest on their behalf – but in the view of the norn, this is viewed as an exchange of favours between close friends rather than as acts of worship.
The exact nature of the animal spirits, as with many such beings, is a mystery. The highest shamans of each spirit among the norn, called havrouns, enter into the Mists in order to commune with their spirit, and thus it seems that these spirits are at least partly entities of the Mists. It is possible that the spirits are essentially gestalt consciousnesses of the animals they represent. Another possibility is that the spirits are entirely separate beings, either reflections of Tyrian animals in the Mists, or perhaps the original template from which the animals we see are formed. Regardless, whether the spirits are directly linked to their animals or not, they hold a protective attitude towards them – while they do not take offense at the slaying of individuals in self-defence or in the course of normal hunting, crimes such as over-hunting, excessive cruelty, or magical corruption of their flock will earn their ire, while those who protect their flock against these and other dangers will receive their gratitude. This connection goes both ways, as the animals can become weaker in body and mind when their spirit is slain, as happened with the death of Owl.
Among the norn, spirits are seen as upholding certain characteristics. This has lead to some human scholars drawing comparisons between the animal spirits and the gods, particularly when they share characteristics, but to the norn, there is a fundamental difference. Gods, as represented by the Six, Melaggan, and Zintl primarily embody abstract concepts and ideals, and any animals or elements linked with them come because they are linked to that ideal – for instance, Balthazar is connected to fire and to dogs because these are associated with war. The animal spirits, on the other hand, primarily represent the animal, and the virtues they hold are purely those that are held by that animal, although they may be purer and more concentrated when expressed in the spirit than when associated with any single animal.
Below are the descriptions of the four most important spirits to the norn, along with a handful of minor spirits of particular importance. Note that this list is not likely to be exhaustive - the norn believe in the existence of a wide range of minor spirits, and it is likely that any norn you ask will give a different list to the next.
Bear: The most popular of the Spirits of the Wild, many of the characteristics most associated with the norn – strength, courage, independence – are all characteristics that are embodied by Bear. However, Bear is not only a warrior and hunter – as a mother she is a fierce protector of her home and young, and encourages compassion and mercy to the unfortunate so that they too may build up the fortitude and self-reliance to stand on their own feet once more.
Wolf: Uniquely among the Great Spirits revered in Hoelbrak, Wolf encourages not individual glory but cooperation. As wolves hunt in packs, Wolf encourages those who follow his ways to work together to bring down foes they could not face alone, and to forge ties of loyalty and siblinghood among their companions. Perhaps because of this spirit of community, it is Wolf’s name that has been taken by the Wolfborn, the semi-official police force that keeps the peace in Hoelbrak.
Raven: For centuries, Raven’s association with the dead and the underworld have lead human scholars to draw parallels with Grenth. In fact, until certain secrets of the priesthood of Grenth regarding Grenth’s true ancestry were revealed, some scholars not in the know hypothesized that it might have been Raven that originally overthrew Dhuum, taking the name Grenth upon ascension. This has now been debunked, but the exact nature of the relation between Grenth and Raven is unknown. Perhaps they are allies – Raven is credited with using his cunning to protect the spirits of the dead, and it is possible that Raven assisted Grenth in achieving the downfall of Dhuum. Or perhaps Raven simply regards the keeper of the Underworld as just another straight man upon whom to perform his tricks.
Apart from his association with the dead, Raven is also attributed with the qualities of cunning, trickery, knowledge, and wisdom – making his lodge in Hoelbrak a home away from home for Priory members when visiting. His shrine over Snowlord’s Gate is known for the challenges during which his statues light up and ask riddles of the contestants, sharpening the logic and thinking of the participants.
Snow Leopard: Formerly regarded as a minor spirit, Snow Leopard came to prominence among the norn in the retreat from the north, where in Jormag the norn found an enemy they could not overcome. Like Bear she encourages independence, but where Bear favours attacking an enemy head-on with strength, Snow Leopard teaches strategy, subtlety, stealth and intrigue to outwit foes and solve problems that cannot be defeated by more direct means.
Interestingly, Snow Leopard is sometimes, albeit rarely, called Snow Lynx, in contexts that imply it is the same spirit. This could be an indication that a single spirit could cover multiple types of related animals - similar to how Bear is the spirit for bears generally, rather than having specific spirits for each form of bear.
Owl: While many Spirits were lost holding back Jormag while the norn fled south, Owl is the one that retains the most honor among the norn, with many shrines still to be found in the remaining territory of the norn, including a lodge in the Snowden Drifts just north of Hoelbrak (although, unfortunately, this is now in a dilapidated state due to attacks by the Sons of Svanir). Perhaps this is because, while the other lost Spirits are simply missing, Owl is known to have been consumed by Jormag, sacrificing herself to buy time for the fleeing norn. While living, Owl encouraged caring for one’s family, emphasising the importance of kindness instead of strength alone, and of the silent hunt that takes down their prey without the target ever knowing the hunter was there.
Ox: Also known as Dolyak, Ox was another of the spirits that was lost in holding back Jormag. Unlike Owl, which is known to have died and is still advocated for by shamans in the area of Owl's Abattoir, the other spirits simply disappeared and have not chosen new representatives since, with Ox's last known shaman having died some time ago. He was known for stubbornness and fortitude.
Wolverine: Wolverine is another spirit that held back Jormag and since lost. An interesting distinction, however, is that Wolverine's memorial at the Lost Spirits’ Hallow in Hoelbrak gives nothing but a vague emptiness, where those of Owl and Ox give of sensations and sounds to those that come to pay their respects.
Eagle: Eagle is the fourth and last spirit lost holding back Jormag, although oddly enough, he lacks a shrine dedicated to him at the Lost Spirits’ Hallow in Hoelbrak.
Wurm: Not much is known of Wurm, however Wurm does retain enough of a connection to the norn that those who pray to this spirit will be granted a temporary Ice Wurm Hatchling companion to aid them.
Minotaur: Rarely manifesting on the physical plane, many norn were not aware of Minotaur’s existence until recent events lead to its manifestation. At present, there are no norn that follow Minotaur, and thus he does not have any traits formally assigned to him, but those few who have been witnesses to his presence report an aura of "untamed strength and savage cunning" around him.
Hare: While not taken seriously by most norn, a small enclave of “bunny shamans” can be found on Hangrammr Climb over Breakneck Pass, caring for a colony of suspiciously strong rabbits. They attribute Hare with qualities of speed, stealth, perception and fortitude. Of particular significance to them is the jackalope, a rabbit with antlers whose fur, harvested without harm to the creature, is believed by them to enhance the senses.
Other Spirits: Along with the animal spirits, the norn believe in the presence of other spirits that represent inanimate forces and objects, such as seasons and geographical features. However, they do not regard these spirits as allies, but as hostile forces to be overcome.
The Cult of Jormag
After the Spirits of the Wild, the most important religion in the Shiverpeaks is the worship of the Ice Dragon, Jormag.
The most visible form of this is seen in the Sons of Svanir, who regard Jormag as another of the Spirits of the Wild, and, in fact, the most powerful – a viewpoint which some norn shamans outside of the Sons reluctantly share, although those outside the Sons regard Jormag as a hostile spirit to be fought rather than one to be aided. Certainly, worship of Jormag in any form is contrary to the normal arrangement between norn and their patron spirits – among most norn the spirits are viewed as friends, allies, and sometimes teachers, while among the Sons of Svanir, there is clearly a hierarchy and that hierarchy ends with Jormag.
Two hundred and fifty years ago, in the decade after the Searing, Svanir became the first icebrood in recorded history when he tapped into the power of a hibernating champion of Jormag beneath Drakkar Lake. This power transformed him into an ice-encrusted bear, in which form he raided norn settlements until slain by his sister Jora, who had resisted the power and later went on to assist in the destruction of the Great Destroyer, another dragon champion that had arisen during that time.
The Sons take Svanir as their inspiration and, perhaps because of Svanir’s fate, they view women as weak and unworthy of receiving Jormag’s power, refusing to allow them into their ranks. An enclave is tolerated within the Veins of the Dragon inside Hoelbrak, as long as they offer no direct threat to the lodges. Outside of Hoelbrak, however, they raid settlements of norn and other beings, offer sacrifices to Jormag and his champions, raise magical blizzards and corrupt the land by infusing it with the dragon’s energy.
Of particular interest is the relationship between the Sons and the icebrood. Uniquely among the known dragons, Jormag and its minions accept worshippers who have yet to become full minions without killing or converting them on the spot as the minions of other dragons do. This may be partially because, as a Son becomes involved with the cults activities, they often naturally transform while largely retaining their mind and personality, a process seen as a sign of Jormag’s favour by the Sons. However, accelerated conversion into icebrood is within the powers of some Svanir shamans, and is sometimes used as a means of conscription, enabling the forced conversion of prisoners and/or ensuring the continued loyalty of Sons that might otherwise waver in their convictions.
Aside from the Sons, some grawl tribes have also taken to the worship of Jormag, either directly, as seems to be the case with the Dragon Tribe grawl southeast of Yak’s Bend, or indirectly through worship of a large icebrood or other powerful minion. Unlike the Sons, though, there is no evidence of any special relationships between these tribes and icebrood. However, the Sons are eager to encourage other races to join their cult, and sometimes serve as a form of intermediary – holding back the icebrood if a tribe obeys, or unleashing them on the recalcitrant if a tribe attempts to break from the fold.
The Balance of Koda
As recent arrivals to the settled regions of the Shiverpeaks with Jormag’s icebrood hot on their heels, the kodan could be forgiven for having not had time to teach others of their beliefs. Fortunately for us scholars, the kodan appear to consider teaching others of their ways as something akin to a religious obligation, although there are no doubt secrets that the kodan religious caste keep to themselves, let alone sharing with outsiders.
According to the kodan, Koda (who carries the titles of the Ancient One, the Founder of the Earth, and the Keeper of the Sky) is responsible for the creation of the world as well as the kodan. In the early epochs of the world, according to their beliefs, chaos reigned, and one of the first bears asked Koda why that was so. In response, Koda offered the bears a deal – those that wished to serve Koda in bringing balance to the world would be raised to full sapience as kodan.
Not surprisingly, this philosophy of balance is important to the kodan, which is why they are eager to spread it to other races. To the kodan, a being seems to be in balance when it has achieved a form of harmony with its environment. It is permissible to kill and destroy as part of your own survival – the kodan themselves are hunters, and believe that cycles of life and death, and of creation and destruction, are part of the balance of nature. Excessive destruction, large-scale aggression, and pollution of the environment, however, are seen as being out of balance, putting the kodan in opposition to the elder dragons as well as races such as the dredge, who ruthlessly exploit the resources of the land in order to wage their xenophobic wars against their neighbours.
This concept of balance extends to the kodan leadership. Each Sanctuary is guided by one of the leaders of their shaman caste, called the Voices. Similar to norn havrouns, the Voices have the ability to cast their minds into the Mists in order to commune with Koda, and to set law and policy aboard the sanctuary according to Koda’s wishes. This process is not without its hazards, however, as it has the potential to drive the Voice insane, a condition known as the “Rage of Koda” – for the kodan, having the Voice of a sanctuary enter this condition is seem as a time of trial as Koda tests the sanctuary’s balance and resolve.
The Claw, on the other hand, serves as the day-to-day leader of the Sanctuary, implementing the policies and laws set by the Voice and leading war and hunting parties to ensure the sanctuary’s survival. From an outsider’s perspective, this looks like the Voice is in fact the Claw’s superior – however, the kodan maintain that the two are partners, and that one cannot successfully lead without the other.
However, there is a legend among the kodan of a Claw that was without a Voice, and who abandoned the dictates of Koda to lead his followers to the south. Kodan history does not tell of what happened to this band, but some modern Voices believe that the norn may be their descendants – cursed by Koda to wear an “inferior” human-like form most of the time and to only be able to return to their “true” bearlike form for short periods as a reminder of what they once were. This theory has several inconsistencies, however – the norn are able to take more forms than that of the bear alone, and they believe they gain the ability to assume animalistic forms as gifts from the spirits. In fact, it seems as if this theory may in fact have been crafted not as genuine scholarship, but as a control mechanism, turning the norn into an object lesson of what happens to kodan who abandon the guidance of the Voices.
Unlike many of the races, the kodan do not believe that the spirits of the dead find their final resting place in the Mists after death, but that the spirits continue to proceed through a cycle of reincarnation. In most cases, a soul returns as the same species as their previous life, but in cases where a spirit has achieved an exceptional state of enlightenment or depravity, they may be reincarnated into a more or less advanced form – with the kodan, naturally, believing themselves to be the highest rung on the ladder. While the kodan are generally silent on the topic of where they consider other races to be, they seem to be generally approving of the sylvari and quaggan, and see the asuran philosophy of the Eternal Alchemy as similar to their own – although they are quick to add that philosophy and action do not always align.
This belief, unsurprisingly, leads the kodan to be particularly interested in cases of races entirely disappearing – such as the dwarves – or appearing, like the sylvari. These cases, the kodan believe, are the result of an entire race achieving such a state of enlightenment or decadence that they are all promoted or demoted on their next reincarnation.
The Great Dwarf and the Great Destroyer
While the dwarves acknowledged at least a couple of the human god,s and sometimes invoked them at appropriate times, the primary deity of the dwarves was the Great Dwarf.
According to Dwarven legend, the Great Dwarf was responsible for forging the dwarven race upon Anvil Rock, a plateau that now lies to the north of Snowden Drifts if it was not broken by Jormag’s activities. Apart from this act of creation, the Great Dwarf’s main achievement that is known to modern scholars is the binding of the Great Destroyer, sealing its name and power within the Tome of Rubicon.
As part of their revolt against the nation and morals of Deldrimor, the Stone Summit rebellion turned away from the Great Dwarf and towards the Great Destroyer. It is unclear whether the Stone Summit actually worshipped the Great Destroyer per se – they are known to have resorted to forming pacts with a number of demons in their desperation as the civil war turned against them, and they may have seen the Great Destroyer as just another demon. The effort by the Stone Summit to unseal the Tome was believed to have been prevented during the assault on Sorrow’s Furnace, their last stronghold in the southern Shiverpeaks, in 1072AE – nonetheless, however, the Great Destroyer rose six years afterwards. It is not known whether this was the result of their tampering or whether the Great Destroyer rose for unrelated reasons.
In response to the destroyer invasion, the dwarves used artifacts of the Great Destroyer to perform a ritual that transformed all of the dwarves into stone – giving them the strength of arms to fight the destroyers, but effectively meaning the beginning of the inevitable end of their race as they no longer had the ability to reproduce. After completing this ritual (called the Rite of the Great Dwarf), the dwarves entered a hive mind like state, which their last king, Jalis, reportedly expressed by exclaiming “We are ALL the Great Dwarf now!” These words, and their collective behaviour, have lead modern scholars to reach the conclusion that the Great Dwarf is indeed the collective consciousness of the dwarves, and the Ritual caused the manifestation of this consciousness in the minds of the dwarves, partially submerging their individual personalities.
This does not, however, match with the legend of the creation of the dwarves by the Great Dwarf. How can a being be the collective consciousness of a race, and yet be responsible for creating that race in the first place? Perhaps the forging of the dwarves on Anvil Rock was simply a myth with no basis in fact. Perhaps the Great Dwarf was once an independent entity, that distributed its essence into its creations after the creative work was done to become the hive mind that was observed two centuries ago. Or perhaps what the dwarves were actually speaking of was the forging of the dwarven race as a single, united people through recognition of their shared consciousness through the Great Dwarf, at least until that cohesion was broken by civil war centuries later – a more metaphorical form of “forging”.
Regardless of the above, though, the comparisons that can be drawn with the animal spirits are interesting. Could the Great Dwarf actually have been the spirit of a sapient people, in the same way that Bear, Wolf and the others are spirits of individually nonsapient species?
As with grawl elsewhere, the grawl in the Shiverpeaks display a range of beliefs. Along with the worship of Jormag and Jormag’s minions as described above, the grawl have been observed worshipping statues and other edifices as well as elementals and demons. Of particular interest is a shaman near the Pact defense line in Frostgorge Sound, who appears to have some connection with the kodan in the area and tests the worth of Pact operatives and other dragon-hunters passing through his territory.
The jotun believe in their own power and the supposed power of their blood, which translates in part to a crude form of ancestor worship. Some tribes have maintained connections with the spirits of their ancestors through various artifacts and other significant locations, such as a stone that was found by a norn adventurer in Haivoissen Kenning, used by the jotun to test claimants to leadership of the tribe against the spirit within.
Historical records suggest that the dredge had a shamanistic, spiritist religion while they remained enslaved by the dwarves, but that religion and the magics associated with it did not appear to have survived the centuries under the moleteriate. The recent formation of the Molten Alliance has brought some magic back to the dredge involved, but insufficient information is available on the inner workings of the alliance to be able to tell whether they actually share the Flame Legion’s beliefs or whether they’re simply making use of the magic.
Quaggan refugees can also be found in the lakes of the Shiverpeaks. As has been observed by many scholars, their goddess Mellaggan has a number of similarities to Melandru, apart from a focus on the underwater rather than the terrestrial environment. The quaggan Pastkeepers maintain the histories and rituals of their people, but they maintain no temples within Jormag’s reach.
Finally, while not truly a race of the Shiverpeaks any more, centaurs of the Modniir tribe were once prolific in the northern Shiverpeaks before being driven out by Jormag. Like most of the centaurs of northern Tyria - possibly imposed by them since their conquest of the other tribes, in fact, since history records the tribes of the Maguuma employing other elements in their magic - the Modniir combine ancestor worship with worship of an earth-based nature spirit. Again, this may be an aspect of Melandru, but the centaurs would never admit it, and if so the message of this gentle goddess has been twisted - Modniir rituals, certainly in recent times, have become scenes of violence and the glorification of warfare against other races. Unfortunately, while they have occupied some holy places in Kryta, history does not record where any such sites may have once been found within the Shiverpeaks.
This concludes this review on the religions of the Shiverpeaks. For further information, Pact strategists and other readers are directed to more detailed reports on the religious sites, cultures and tribes of the region contained within the Priory’s libraries.