Hârnic Religion, a Social Perspective
by James Chokey
This article is an attempt to explore Hârnic religion
from a loosely 'sociological' point of view. As such, its goal
is not to delve into theology, ritual practices, mythology, ecclesiastical
structure or the like for any of Hârn's faiths. Instead, it seeks to present a basic
outline of how Harn's religions correspond-- or in some cases, do not
correspond-- to various kinds of social divisions and groupings.
My hope is that, by approaching Hârnic religion in this
way, the article will be able to offer up a perspective on the subject that GM's
and players alike will find useful when considering a wide variety of
matters pertaining to religion: the choice of PC's and NPC's faiths,
why certain churches do or don't get along with each other, why certain
deities are worshipped only in certain places or among certain peoples, etc.
As author, I suppose I should also state that I am writing this article
without any particular training in religious studies or sociology. I do not know,
consequently, whether or not the kinds of
categories I use, the definitions I provide for them, etc.
correspond to those used by sociologists or scholars of comparative
Kinds of Religion
Understood from a social perspective, one can identify three main
types of religion in Hârn. For the purposes of this article, these
three types will be referred to as:
- Ethnic religions
- Caste religions
- Cult religions
The boundary line between these types is not always clear and distinct.
In Jara/Orbaal, for instance, Ilviranism is primarily an "ethnic religion,"
as Ilvir is revered by almost all Jarin and only by the Jarin. In other
regions, however, Ilvir worship may have more of the characteristics of a "cult
religion". With such complexities in mind, let us turn to considering
these three types of religions and how they correspond to Hârnic faiths.
Ethnic religions are those which are practiced, almost exclusively,
by members of a distinct ethnic/national/racial group and which are, as
a general rule, practiced
by all members of that group, regardless of their status,
wealth, or profession.
There are several faiths in Hârn and West Lythia that can best be described
as 'ethnic religions'. In Hârn, ethnic religions are dominant in
Orbaal/Jara, Evael, Azadmere, and other areas lying outside
of the six 'southern' human states (e.g. Rethem, Kanday, Tharda, Kaldor,
- Foremost among these is Sarajinism, which could well be considered a
distinctly Ivinian religion. Roughly 95% of all Ivinians (and people
of Ivinian ancestry-- such as the Harbaalese and many Chelembians) worship
Sarajin. By contrast,the number of non-Ivinians who revere him is minimal.
Regardless of their station in life, or where they dwell, Ivinians continue to adhere to the teachings
of the King of the Icy Wind, while non-Ivinians generally remain uninterested.
- Among the Jarin of northern Hârn, Ilviranism is best classified as an
ethnic religion. Although a few Jarin families revere Siem or Peoni, the
overwhelming majority, regardless of their station,
worship Ilvir. By contrast,
Ilviranism has attracted no interest from the Ivinian rulers of
Orbaal, who see it primarily as a rallying point of
Jarin nationalism that must be suppressed. In southern Hârn, Ilviranism
has more of the character of a 'cult religion', although it
is surely no accident that in Kaldor, the southern kingdom in which Ilviranism
is strongest, families of pure Jarin descent have been "sufficiently numerous
to retain much of their heritage" [Kaldor-2].
- Siemism, as it is practiced by the Sindarin and Khuzdul might also appropriately
be considered an 'ethnic religion'. With virtually no exceptions, members of
the Elder Races follow the teachings of Siem, the Lord of the Azure Bowl.
By contrast, only a small smattering of humans revere Siem-- and most
of those who do live either in Azadmere or Evael with one of the
two Elder Races. Elsewhere in
Hârn, however, the worship of Siem possesses more of the character of
a 'cult' religion.
- Finally, most tribal religions can be described
as ethnic religions. The Tulwyn and the Tulwyn alone worship Kekamar--
and they do so regardless of tribe, family, or status. The same can be said of the gods
revered by Hârn's other tribal nations (e.g. the Taelda and Cothlynn,
the Ymodi and Wajok, the Chymak and Kuarthurlu, etc.) There is
some degree of internal variation among those 'barbarian nations' who practice
totemism (e.g. one tribe will revere one totem, another tribe another,
Caste religions are those which are practiced primarily by members of one
particular class, caste, or stratum of a social hierarchy-- and not
by those in other classes, castes, or strata. Additionally and/or
alternatively, they may be practiced by members of a particular profession
within a given social class or stratum.
In Hârn, caste religions tend to be dominant in the six civilized southern human
states: Rethem, Tharda, Kanday, Kaldor, Chybisa, and Melderyn. They also
tend to be dominant in Shorkyne, Emelrene, Trierzon, Azeryan and many west
- Foremost among Hârn's caste religions is Peonism,
the faith of the great majority of the peasantry and laboring poor. Even in
areas where the worship of Peoni is banned (e.g. Rethem), the overwhelming
majority of peasants, slaves, servants, and urban laborers still revere the
goddess in their hearts. This is not to say, however, that no peasants/poor
worship deities other than Peoni or that no guildsmen or nobles worship her.
(In fact, Peoni is the patron goddess of Hârn's physician's guild.)
It is the case, nonetheless, that the overwhelming majority of Peonians are
peasants and urban poor, and that the overwhelming majority of peasants and
urban poor are Peonians.
- Haleanism, by contrast, is the preferred faith among guildsmen
and those unguilded freemen who make money through craft or trade. This is
why the worship of Halea is concentrated in towns and cities. Again, it is
true that not all tradesmen are Haleans-- and that the more 'sensual' aspects
of Haleanism are appealing to some nobles and very wealthy peasants-- but
on the whole, this religion is practiced primarily by the urban 'middle classes'.
- Intriguingly, Laranism and Agrikanism
are religions that appeal to the very same caste: namely, feudal nobles and
soldiers. In most southern Hârnic kingdoms (and in Shorkyne, Trierzon,
and Emelrene), Laranism is the religion of choice for aristocrats, yeoman
farmers (who typically have military obligations to their local lord) as well
as guards and men-at-arms. In Rethem and some regions of Azeryan, by contrast,
Agrikanism is the dominant faith among these same groups. In the Thardic Republic
and in other regions of Azeryan, both faiths hold sway among nobles and soldiers.
It is, perhaps, worth considering that the hostility between the churches
of Agrik and Larani may be as much due to the fact that they are effectively
competing for the allegiance of the same castes as for moral/theological reasons.
- Finally, K'norrism shares many aspects of a caste religion.
Its adherents are typically those whose profession in some way involves knowledge
or the educated use of words or symbols. This includes scholars, scribes,
arcanists, litigants, tutors, actors, harpers, jesters, and other artists
and entertainers. Again, it is true that there are many scholars and artists
who revere a deity other than Save-K'nor-- and that there are lay K'norrans
who are neither scholars nor artists (especially in Melderyn)-- but on the
whole, the religion's appeal is overwhelmingly to those who practice a 'learned'
Cult religions are those whose memberships do not generally correspond
to sociological groupings like ethnicity or caste, but instead revolve
around "cult communities' that exist independent from identities of ethnicity or caste. A noble, that is to
say, is no more likely to practice a cult religion because he is a noble,
than is a peasant is likely to do so because he is a peasant. The
nature of the cult is that it establishes a small (self-selecting, usually)
community of faithful who may have nothing in common with each other than their
It should, perhaps, be noted that while some cult religions are secretive
or subversive, this is not always the case. What defines a cult faith is not
that it is hidden or antagonistic, but rather that its members do not generally
come from any particular social caste or ethnic group.
As a general rule, cult religions are not dominant anywhere. By their very
nature, they tend to appeal to eccentrics, outsiders, the disaffected, and others
who, for whatever reason, do not have a particularly strong sense of ethnic,
caste, or professional identity. (They also appeal to those of any ethnicity
or caste who happen to be brought up in the cult from childhood).
- Navehanism is perhaps the most extreme example of a cult
religion in Hârn. Secretive, reclusive, and absolute in its demand for
loyalty on the part of its members, the Navehan church permits its priests
no social bonds whatsoever outside those of the church. Indeed, in order to
ensure that its clergy have no identity except as Navehans, the church exclusively
kidnaps infants and raises them in the temple to be trained as priests.
- Another obvious cult religion is Morgathianism. Prior
to the Balshan Jihad, the worship of Morgath was a practiced only by priests
and a handful of fervently devoted laity of various classes. Balsha popularized
Morgathianism and the two Theocracies that have ruled in western Hârn
have resulted in its embrace by a surprisingly large percentage of the populace.
Even in southern Rethem-- the strongest bastion of the faith on the island--
, however, Morgathianism remains a cult religion because its appeal is to
any and all who are willing to embrace its bleak principles-- rather than
to members of any particular social group.
- Most Ilviran orders in southern Hârn are best classified
as cults because their laity generally comprises a self-selecting handful
of eccentric individuals of varied backgrounds who have 'heard the Brooder's
call' (either individually or through the mouth of one of his mendicant priests,
rather than a group united by a shared ethnicity, caste, or profession.
- Similarly, Siemism, to the extent that it exists at all
in southern Hârn (outside of Evael, that is), can also be regarded as
a cult religion. Its appeal is primarily to those individuals (regardless
of caste) inclined towards mystical enlightenment and who happen to have the
rare chance to encounter the Uthriem Rolli, an Inthiar, or another follower
of Siem who has convinced them to depart from their previous faith and to
embrace the Azure Path of Enlightenment.
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This page is part of the Hârn Religion Team
Page last updated:
May 31, 2002
by James Chokey