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Need Some Religion Ideas!

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Mindfire, Dec 31, 2012.

  1. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I don't really know anything about one of the major belief systems in my world, which is kind of a problem. So, I'm asking you guys to throw out some ideas to help me jumpstart my creativity engine.

    This religion belongs to a culture of warrior horsemen, strongly influenced by the Huns and Mongols. They are ruled by warlords and inhabit a region called the Steppes. They are semi-nomadic, perhaps having settled a few small villages here and there. Their warlords fairly large medieval-esque fortresses.

    Cavalry makes up the bulk of their military. They are a warlike people, see war in an almost recreational sense. For them, war is not necessarily about hatred or even aggression, but merely a contest of power and strength. They have no use for "honor" in the chivalric sense. They are not knights, but barbarians. For them, honor outside the context of power or strength is meaningless. From their point of view "honor" and "strength" could be considered synonymous. However, cowardice in their eyes is the lowest form of evil, with deception coming not far behind. They believe that it is despicable for a person to steal by stealth or trickery what they do not have the strength to take by force. If one does have the strength to back it up however, then anything is permissible- except cowardice.

    This culture originated when the arrival of invading foreigners on their continent created a schism between the aboriginal peoples. In a nutshell, one faction wished to repel the invaders while the other faction admired their strength and established an uneasy truce with them. The Horsemen (haven't invented a proper culture name yet) are descended from the latter faction.

    The only thing I know about their religious beliefs as of now is that it might be some form of "shamanism", but that is not set in stone.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    This is a bit aside from the question of religion, but I think it'll help with characterizing this society: what do its citizens do besides fight? At the bare minimum, it needs to have people in charge of logistics who aren't directly involved in combat. (And if this society disallows women from fighting, focusing entirely on their military prevents you from characterizing half their population.)
     
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  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Hmmm...

    This society is

    A) barbaric and nomadic. Might be a few sacred spots scattered about the plains (stone circles, maybe) but no true temples.

    B) a society which places power (strength) above almost everything else. To them, conquoring a foe is to take their strength. Direct line with olde stone age cultures - certain animal organs, heart, liver are seen as sources of strength.

    C) probably an element of ancestor worship as well. Individual warriors able to recite the names of especially strong or fierce ancestors. Warriors might recite these genelogies prior to entering battle, entering a dangerous situation, or begining a long trip.

    D) all rituals take place outside. Occasional reverence paid to nature spirits of various sorts: rain spirit, snow spirit, ect. Sun and moon might be seen as gods, but won't have their own priesthood.
     
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  4. Kit

    Kit Maester

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    "Shamanism" refers specifically to journeying out of body, and is more a technique than a religion in itself. Unless your culture is using journeying, I'd avoid the use of the word "shamanism".

    Another thing I would try to do (were I you) is make sure I include plenty of elements to make it obvious that I'm not trying to rip off the Dothraki. (Some have told me I'm a little too anal-retentive with my worries of looking like I'm ripping off this or that work.... but with the juggernaut that is GOT, it would pay to be careful.)
     
  5. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    A good question. I'm envisioning herdsmen, hunters, and "migratory farmers" (plant, harvest, move to another patch of land so the soil isn't fully depleted, and repeat). They of course have families, though the leader of the household is not determined by gender, but by strength. After their marriage, husband and wife engage in ritual combat. The victor is named the head of their family while the loser must submit. Interestingly, there is no real stigma associated with the submissive position, as submission to someone who has proved stronger than you is not considered humiliating in this culture unless you had boasted of your superiority prior to the defeat. Being proven a fraud is almost as bad as being shown a coward. Note that for this culture, the rule of males being physically superior does not necessarily apply, so a female head of household is not an uncommon occurrence and there have even been female warlords. I'm also thinking they might trade furs and valuables with other cultures.
     
  6. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I haven't really read any of Martin's work, much less anything to do with the Dothraki. I know they exist and that's about it. I'm drawing inspiration from the Huns and Mongols. If Martin did the same, there may be similarities, but not any substantial ones. Besides, if there's anything I'm going to be ripping off, it's the Huns from Mulan. Especially Shan-Yu. He was awesome.
     
  7. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    As a historical note, the "Huns" in Mulan seem to have been based off the Xiongnu. We don't have much information left on them, but you might be able to dig up a few things at a large enough library.
     
  8. H. Y. Hill

    H. Y. Hill Acolyte

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    I'm writing down what I'm thinking upon first reading your post. Haven't truly thought through this idea of mine.

    The first thing I think about when someone mentions religion is 'deity.' You can't have religion without a god or a supernatural being and the worship of said being. Since your clan are very strength-centric, their god needs to reflect that (something like he's the god of war) and the worship should reflect that (i.e. worshipping should be done physically. Perhaps, every night or so, two or three people wrestle in front of an idol of their warrior god, so as to please him).

    But just as Kit said, your clan does sound very much like the Dothraki of George R R Martin's work. A Song of Ice and Fire is very popular and the Dothraki are one of the standouts of that series. So, I'd be very careful as others might think you're ripping off his work.
     
  9. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Given the glacial pace of my progress presently, by the time I actually release a book with these people in it ASOIAF and its HBO series will have long been completed. :D But really I'm not sure what anyone expects me to do about that. The best I can think of is to avoid all contact with Martin's work (like I needed an excuse) and hope we don't hit too many of the same notes. I don't know much about the Dothraki but they do seem to be a very serious bunch, whereas the society I'm describing is far more jovial by comparison.
     
  10. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    I wouldn't worry too much. Eddings had a bunch of horseriding nomads in his Belgariad books. Drat it, I have a bunch of horseriding nomads in my books. I based them on the nomadic culture still present in Mongolia, so it won't be the same. And I never read a snippet of GRRM's books, nor do I plan to. Can't say I care, either. Those people existed and still exist, Friend George didn't pluck them out of empty air, he stole them too, even if he mixed them with similar cultures.
     
  11. Kit

    Kit Maester

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    Well, actually you can. Pantheist religions hold that essentially everything is divine- and there's no anthopomorphic being. Buddhism- while even Buddists will argue amongst themselves as to whether it is a "religion" or a "philosophy", and they certainly revere Buddha, Buddha would probably be horrified to be "worshipped".

    There are more, but you probably don't want to get me going.

    Religion is too wide of a subject to really make ANY sweeping claim of "All religions ________".
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  12. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Of course the Huns are vastly older than Martin, and horse nomads have been staples of other fantasy from Guy Gavriel Kay to Robin McKinley. But I don't think that matters, because Kit nailed the two keys about seeming to rip off works:

    The risk of resembling someone else is purely that it looks cloned, fairness or not. And the better-known something is the more people can innocently assume just a little of the worst about anything else.

    But like Kit said, just be sure you play up the distinctions. If there's anything important about your nomads that isn't in Martin's, the whole process of good writing --making the story true to itself-- will bring it out.
     
  13. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    So what's the better course: remain willfully ignorant of Martin's work, or learn more about it in order to better play on the distinctions?
     
  14. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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  15. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    But should I read it? If I do, then I lose my "never read about them so its just a coincidence" excuse.
     
  16. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    That, of course, is a matter for your own conscience :)

    You can read the wiki and say you never read his books. That's true, isn't it?
    I didn't and I glanced through the wiki just enough to know that my Yinno are nothing like Martin's nomads.
     
  17. Kit

    Kit Maester

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    Read the Wiki. Your excuse is useless. If I start reading your book and see what appears to me to be a Dothraki clone, I'm going to drop the book with an eyeroll. I'm not going to hunt you down and ask you about it... and even if I did, why should I believe your excuse? The same will happen if I'm reading your book and see little pipe-smoking guys with hairy feet called Bobbits. You can swear on a Bible, and *maybe* even get off on a legal copyright challenge (you better get a good lawyer, though)- but you've already lost your reader. If we lose our readers, there is no point to what we do.

    At this point, you have to assume that a decent percentage of your prospective readers will have read ISOIAF.

    You're still okay. You just have to make sure that enough elements are different and unique to YOUR story.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  18. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    Anyway, one idea for a religion for these horsemen could be this set-up.

    There is great a world tree where the highest branches reaches into the furthest heavens and the lowest roots goes into the deepest underworlds, say nine heavens and nine underworlds.

    Each heaven and each underworld is ruled by a great god/spirit, at the top is the great Lord of the Heavens who influences human cultural stuff and in the bottom is the Lord of the Earth who influences nature and natural phenomenon.
    .
    To this there are many different spirits alive in the world and in the various heavens and underworlds that can influence the mortal world in various ways, and in fact most things have some kind if spirit within them.

    The shamans of the people exists to maintain a beneficent relation between the humans and the spirits and do so by lettings their soul leave their body and climb the world tree, either up or down to interact and find out what different spirits wants.

    Some loose ideas.
     
  19. Cursive

    Cursive Scribe

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    Essentially I think what you need to do is not define a religion right off the bat. It'll restrict your writing and your religion. Spend some time reading non-fiction about world religions and religion. Religion answers some important questions and in different ways. Read about theodicy, which is about why bad/good things happen. Study the range of beliefs and don't limit yourself to a structure well crafted religion. Not stepping on a side walk crack so that your mother's back doesn't break is a belief just as much as any other. Read about superstition and prophecy. Deities can be ranked; not all gods are equal. You want to populate your world with the Kinds of actions that are associated with religion. Equivalents for knocking on wood and signing the cross. Prayer words and totems and religious experiences/memories shape religions in more important ways than the grand scheme.

    My two cents. All the best!
     
  20. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Just an idea but have you thought about going the other way? Ghengis Khan allowed all religions to flourish more or less in his empire, the reason I'm guessing, because he really didn't care too much about them. So maybe with the culture you've described, they don't care about religion either. It's all about personal strength, honour and courage, and gods are for other people. They laugh at the religious.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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