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Theology of the Atruaghin Peopleby Andrew Theisen
Okay, in the vein of the post on Spirits among the Ethengars, here are my thoughts on religion among the Children of Atruaghin, plus some random thoughts.
Clerics among the Children
IMO, clerics among the Children of Atruaghin should be (generally speaking) generic clerics of the Atruaghin pantheon, rather than Specialty priests. Only a select few (say, 10%) of the clerics should be Specialty Priests of the various Immortals, for the purposes of being the primary leaders during specific Immortal honouring rituals. This just seems (IMO) more in keeping with the general theme of native peoples worshipping/paying homage to their ancestors.
Further, existence of clerics should vary according to the type of society of the Children. Clerics will be far more prevalent among the Tiger and Bear clans than among any of the others, for instance. This has its basis in real-world native cultures, and seems to me to fit the cultural contexts provided in GAZ14. The Bear clan, with their kivas and more structured societies, for instance, are more likely to have ritualised, formal clerical positions than are other clans, notably the nomadic Horse clan. As a general rule, here is how I would quantify this:
Entirely clerics Tiger clan* (more info below) Most clerics, least shamans Bear clan More clerics than shamans Turtle clan More shamans than clerics Elk clan Most shamans, least clerics Horse clan
Shamans among the Children
As I pointed out elsewhere, I am more inclined to make the Shamans among the Children equivalent to the shamans among the Ethengarians (ie, not Specialty Priests of Atruaghin, but another class altogether). This seems to me more in keeping with the spirit (no pun intended) of native shamans. Such a class could easily have been brought to the Children by Atruaghin, after his wanderings around the Known World (brought back from Ethengar).
After undertaking a successful vision quest (if it isn't successful, the shaman isn't... a shaman, that is), the shaman gains his spirit guide. Unlike Ethengar shamans, this spirit guide actually inhabits a living creature and thus acts similar to a familiar. It is from this spirit guide and the world of the Spirits that the shaman derives the bulk of his powers (though some, notably Atruaghin's Wrath, are still derived directly from Atruaghin himself).
I also think this interpretation of shamans is more strictly in keeping with the definition of shamans in modern anthropological terms- where a shaman is one who gains his powers after undertaking a quest of some sort, or vision; it is a self-learned ability (which wouldn't seem to be the case so much if Atruaghin were guiding them), whereas a cleric is taught their abilities (and seems more in keeping with traditional Immortal/Cleric relationships). It also makes them somewhat more self-sufficient, and not as dependent on the Immortals. They would have a more balanced relationship with nature and the Immortals than other clerics (ie, they serve the Immortals out of true faith more than because they get something out of it). This would seem in keeping with Atruaghin's attempts to make the Children more self-sufficient.
I also sort of like the explanation that I will now put forth- their ties with the Spirit World, and less earthly concerns as a reason for their being less technologically advanced than other societies (a relationship they share with similarly spiritual people, like the Ethengarians, who are less technologically advanced than other nations).
Further, it puts interesting speculations on the possibilities of future Atruaghin/Ethengarian relations, if such ever comes about.
Something has always bugged me about the Tiger Clan, that being, GAZ14 notes that the only clerics among the Tiger clan are clerics of Atzanteotl. But they then proceed to give them their own patron Immortal, Danel Tigerstripes. How does he still exist, if he has no clerics?
My answer has been that, though he is not allowed clerics by decree of Atzanteotl, the majority of the people of the Tiger clan (the non-clergy) pay homage to Danel rather than Atzanteotl. Possible repercussions of this relationship will likely be explored in the upcoming almanac.
I've always felt the Children got the short-shrift in GAZ14. Giving such a wide and diverse range of cultures such a tiny area to live in seemed sort of wrong to me, not to mention that there is very little real information given in GAZ14 as compared to other Gazetteers (not even an adventures section! Or good DM's section! Not to mention 5 or 6 full pages used for Immortals, and the same amount wasted on characters of the Clans... grrr.)
At any rate, I think there are likely many other types of native cultures hiding among the regions of the clans. There is certainly a wide area in which to place such cultures- regional bands can fit in many of the surrounding areas of the Plateau, etc.
For my part, I moved the Elk Clan off the plateau and placed them in the area immediately surrounding the plateau on the ground (I changed the map hexes on that side to correspond to the forests the Elk Clan populates above). That opened up more room for the nomadic Horse Clan to roam, and provided the Turtle Clan with additional support from Tiger Clan incursions (which should otherwise wipe out the less tactically adept Turtle Clan). I also rule (though I've not yet placed anyone in particular) that other clans- smaller in number; more like bands- live in the surrounding areas, and on the Sindhi side of the plateau as well.
I've also toyed with the idea of having some bands of Children who live *within* the Plateau, as opposed to on or outside of it.
Also, long ago when Bruce first did his write-up on the Savage Coast (notably Smokestone City), I placed bands of Children in the pampas areas west of Smokestone City and the rest of the Savage Baronies. They seemed to fit in very well... remnants of an early western migration of Children (I never actually specified how they got there- maybe driven west when the Wogar tribe attacked the Plateau way, way back?)