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Annwynism (Anglish: Annwyndom) is a polytheistic religion originating in northern Nordania. The fundamental doctrines of Annwynism revolve around the worship of Earawn, the King of the Gods, of the afterlife (Annwyn), and creator of the natural world, the worship of lesser gods tied to specific traits such as Gideon, Lear, Amaethon and Rhiannon, as well as regional cults based around genius loci. The gods are said to have left the world (with periodic incarnations since) to return to the spiritual plane. A return of the gods and a cataclysmic final battle between them is foretold, with the aftermath leading to the destruction of the world and the re-settlement of warriors and other worthy humans in Annwyn, a spiritual realm of feasting, hunting, and peace.
Anwynist mythology is heavily rooted in ancient Braesian mythology and folklore, with the various deities of Annwynist Pantheon tied to the traits of the natural world in a similar manner to other Celtic religions. Scholars have also identified elements of Germanic paganism (festivals, funerary rites, and an emphasis on honor) as well as ancient shamanistic Northumbric beliefs (magic, witchcraft, and a three-tiered clergy practicing intercession).
Annwynism was originally a largely localized belief system, with worship led by an elite social class known as Druids, until the Great Druidic Council of 753 (held by the Anglo-Saxon Hréþhelma) attempted to standardize the faith. Though met with mixed results, Annwynism would be slowly centralized throughout the centuries until the druidic system was formalized in 1377, creating the position of Godspeaker (held by the Archbishop of Elsbridge). In the past century, presbyterianist movements as well as government pressure (especially following the Ambrosian Revolution) has caused the devolution of certain specific but limited powers to local congregations.
Despite historically spreading across northwestern Nordania, the vast majority of Annwynists now reside in Ambrose, with minor populations in the surrounding countries. As such, Annwynism has been central to Ambrosian culture, philosophy, and art, with the church holding significant and wide-reaching temporal powers until as late as the 1840s. Today, 92% of the Ambrosian population professes a belief in some sect on Annwynism. Some have gone as far to label it as an ethnic religion, a claim which is rejected by others due to the ethnic differences between its Brunswicker and Northumbrian adherents; these scholars claim the term "civil religion" is more accurate.
Annwynist mythology is rooted in the mythology of the ancient Braesians and other Celtic peoples that inhabited northern Nordania throughout antiquity. The creation myth of Annwynism is recounted in the Great Adight, the 15th century compilation of the stories of the gods and their relationship with the Braesian (and by extension, the modern day Ambrosian) people. The Great Adight holds that the natural world was created when the god Earawn killed the primeval giant Blainn (the guardian of the Otherworld) and, from his body, fashioned the oceans, mountains, and tundra. For his courage, the Three Houses of the Otherworld named Earawn King of the Gods and allowed him to exercise dominion over the world, so long as they could rule it under him. Earawn agreed, creating Ask and Embla from two trees; they would go on to become the forefathers of the human race. Earawn would also create spirits which he imbued in every aspect of nature.
Humans, gods, spirits, and other supernatural entities such as elves, nicor, and dragons coexisted in the same world for millennia, with the majority of the Great Adight chronicling myths that supposedly occurred during this period, including the matter of works making up the Mabinogion. Eventually, however, the gods, disgusted by the decadence, passivity, and hebetude displayed by humans, retreated back into the Otherworld, leaving only natural spirits behind. However, Earawn, devoted to his creation, declared the Otherworld kingdom of Annwyn (which he ruled) to be the sanctuary for the worthy dead that would come after.
Annwynist doctrine holds that the different realms of the observable universe (in ancient times understood to be Favillum and its orbits, but now acknowledged by the High Church as including all planetary bodies) are joined by the world tree, a metaphysical pathway for non-corporeal or formerly-corporeal (deceased) entities; the extent to which this is a literal or metaphorical concept is still intensely debated today. At the "roots" of the world tree (the far edge of the universe) is the Otherworld. The Otherworld is a non-corporeal, spiritual realm home to the gods and goddesses of the Holy Pantheon, some of which—namely Earawn and the heads of the Three Great Houses (Doan, Lear, and Paul), among others—have existed since before the beginning of time. The Otherworld itself is home to multiple realms, kingdoms, and fiefdoms, including Dyfed (ruled by the House of Paul) and Annwyn (ruled by Earawn).
Annwyn is the realm of the Otherworld inhabited by the worthy dead. Every day, the gods meet at the foot of the world tree to pass judgement on the dead, determining whether they are worthy enough to enter Annwyn. Those chosen are ferried across the waters to the branch of the tree, where they walk to the gates of the Otherworld and Annwyn. In Annwyn, comparable to the paradise of other religions, the worthy will be able to hunt, feast, and battle for all eternity.
The concept of the world tree is one that was present in numerous Nordano-Borean religions, including Fírinnism, where it is represented by Yggdrasil. Many historians have posited this as evidence of Germanic influence; however the broad concept of the Otherworld itself is most likely Celtic in origin, with details reminiscent of the Norse Valhalla.
Gods and spirits
Annwynism is a firmly polytheistic religion, with the Holy Pantheon polytheistic encompassing dozens of different deities, all with differing fantastic and supernatural abilities. The precise number of deities in the Holy Pantheon are debated between different sects, primarily due to different interpretations of genius loci as gods or spirits. Regardless, all the gods and goddesses are tied to some aspect of the natural world, whether representing a location (such as cities and regions), natural feature (mountains or oceans), or abstract idea (war, beauty, etc). However, the Church rejects the argument that the gods are merely anthropomorphic representations of ideas; in the words of 19th century theologian Ethelread Ferguson:
"To argue that the gods are merely 'representations' of abstract concepts is purely blasphemous. This idea implies that the entire sanctified nature of the universe is merely a human construct, which is irrevocably false. The Adight makes clear that these are divine but corporeal beings with distinct histories, drives, families, and personalities."
Although the gods are not strictly "mortal" in the human sense, the Druidic Catechism makes clear that gods can be killed; it is generally accepted that this would be unlikely to happen at human hands due to the "divine spirit" necessary for such an act, though some have argued it is possible. The Church's position holds that any death of a god would severely upset the balance of the natural world, which accounts for the prophesied destruction of the world after the cataclysmic Battle of Badon. Certain gods that have been previously killed (such as Bran and Pryder) retain their cults, as they will be resurrected by Earawn during the end times. The gods and goddesses have varying degrees of omniscience, however their omnipresence and omnipotence is relatively limited, save for the King of the Gods.
Earawn, King of the Gods, is one of the few gods to have eschewed carnal relations and is generally seen as the most righteous and honorable god, particularly due to his role in the creation of human-kind, but also due to his role as peacemaker between the feuding families. For this reason, he is seen as worthy of his title by both mortals and the gods.
Much of the Holy Pantheon (but not all) falls into one of the Three Great Houses: the House of Lear, the House of Doan, and the House of Paul. Below are described the most prominent figures from each house.
House of Doan
- Doan: Matriarch of the family, goddess of fertility. Conceived most of her children as a virgin
- Gideon: God of War, patron of warriors, strategicians, and sorcerers.
- Erinrod: Goddess of the moon, the stars, and the heavens. Daughter of Doan and Baile, half-sister and nemesis of Gideon.
- Yewphyd: God of Speech and Eloquence, patron of orators, philosophers, and politicians.
- Govannon: God of Metallurgy and Masonry, patron of industrial laborers, craftsmen, builders, and sculptors.
- Amaethon: Goddess of agriculture and harvest, patron of farmers.
- Math: Brother of Doan, rule of the Otherworld realm of Gwynedd. Patron of sorcerers and druids.
- Lew: Son of Arianrhod. God of trade and commerce; patron of merchants and vendors.
- Blothewed: Goddess of spring. Wife of Lew, lover of Grownewe.
- Gronhewe: God of darkness, Lord of the Otherworld realm of Painelyn, lover of Blodewed and archrival of Lew.
House of Lear
- Lear: Patriarch of the family and God of the Sea, patron of sailors and mariners.
- Paine Eardon: Wife of Lear, goddess of marriage. Patron of newlyweds and the betrothed. Sister of Baile and former lover of Urswid.
- Bran: Giant, son of Lear and Paine Eardon. Killed during the mythical invasion of Vasturia; however will be resurrected to fight at the Battle of Badon.
- Brannon: Goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, son of Lear and Paine Eardon. Patron of lovers and mothers.
- Urswid: Friend of Lear and former lover of Paine Eardon. God of music.
- Nysian: Son or Eurswyd and Paine Eardon. God of tranquility and philanthropy.
- Avenysian: Son or Eurswyd and Paine Eardon. God of dishonorable violence, selfishness, and money.
House of Paul
- Paul: Family patriarch; God of the Hunt.
- Rhiannon: Goddess of rebirth and knowledge. Often depicted atop a horse
- Pryder: God of boldness and enterprise; patron of businessmen. Killed but will be resurrected in the end times.
- Tyrenon: God of fatherhood and family. King of the Otherworld realm of Gwent.
In addition to the named deities, Annwynists also believe that the landscape created and ordained by Earawn was, in its creation, populated by different spirits; entities considered "less ascended" and less powerful than the gods but more powerful than humans. While certain gods are patrons and rulers of different aspects of the natural world, these spirits inhabit the natural world itself, with every individual feature of the natural world (every tree, mountain, river, etc.) imbued with a different spirit. According to most interpretations of the Great Adight, the number of spirits inhabiting the world is indefinite, and unlike the gods, these spirits are mortal like mankind (e.g. the death of a tree is seen as the death of a spirit). The Annwynist High Church's Holy Catechism defines the role of the spirits in this way:
"While gods may exercise rule over their respective domains of the natural world, the SPIRITS OF EARAWN act as executors of the gods's will, controlling the natural world on a smaller, more specific, and more definite scale."
In addition, other non-human entities, such as elfs, dwarfs, fairies, and dragons, previously inhabited the world but returned with the gods to the Otherworld. As such, humans are the only intelligent, sentient creations of the gods that still roam freely; this is an example of Earawn's mercy and the privileged position of man is often mentioned in worship.