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Nithian Cult

by Marco Dalmonte English translation by Gary Davies

Worshipped in: Nithia (Hollow World)

Rathanos - Fire, energy, power, male supremacy, pride
Pflarr - Magic, knowledge, protection, magical constructs
Maat - Justice, order, virtue, integrity, honesty, honour, loyalty, salvation
Horon/Orisis (Ixion) - Light, sun, war, heroism, fight against evil, balance and order, life cycle, rebirth
Isiris/Hathor (Valerias) - Love, passion, arts, beauty, protection, charity, fertility
Ptahr (Kagyar) - Craftsmanship, metallurgy, sculpture, construction
Amon (Odin) - Sky, storms, air, guile, knowledge, wisdom
Nithys (Protius) - Water, river Nithia, life, travel
Mut (Terra) - Prosperity, fertility, birth, earth, herders and farmers
Bastet - Fortune, wealth, instinct, protection, cats
Mahes (Ninfangle) - Hunting, battle, audacity, travel, rakasta and cats
Zephir (Asterius) - Travel, trade, guile, thieves, messengers, winds, moon
Kepher (Noumena) - Puzzles, mysteries, magic, knowledge, tactics, strategy and logic
Chardastes - Medicine, healing, health, purification
Nuptys (Nyx) - Funeral rites, necromancy, darkness and gloom, night, secrets
Thanatos - Death, oblivion, corruption
Ranivorus - Madness, destruction, hatred, gnolls
Apophis (Bachraeus) - Treachery, revenge, hatred, snakes, venom

The Nithian Cult has its origins in present day Alasiyan Basin between 1700 and 1400 BC, and it extended to all the provinces of Nithian Empire during the Imperial Age, finding followers from the eastern coast of the Isle of Dawn to the steppes of the Savage Coast. In 500 BC the Nithian civilisation was removed from the face of Mystara by the will of its divine patrons, after which the Pharaoh Taphose and the most powerful nobles of the empire sinned against the Immortals allied with the forces of Entropy and threatened the entire planet because of the destructive spells they used in their civil war. At which point the Immortals Rathanos and Pflarr, after having purged Ranak, the capital of the empire, from the corruption brought by Thanatos, transferred it into the Hollow World together with the deserving Nithians, and here refounded the Kingdom of Nithia, where at the moment the ancient pantheon is worshipped with the addition of Kepher (Noumena), first pharaoh of the new-born Nithia of the Hollow World.
Initially, the Nithians (result of mixed marriages between the Neathar tribes and descendents of the Oltec-Azcans migrated eastwards) worshipped different Immortals based on their tribe or on the region they lived in. Therefore there existed many cults and many different pantheons in the Alasiyan Basin before the Imperial Age, each one a heritage of the ancient beliefs of the peoples that have arrived to live in that region. With the advent of Pflarr (first native divinity) and afterwards of Chardastes, the Nithians began to unite into large kingdoms and finally into a true empire, and the cults were fused together, eclipsed or integrated by those of the ethnic group that from time to time were able to take the power. In particular, the worship of a unique and absolute principle, creator of the world and of life, is spread largely among the Nithians, who identified this entity with different names (Ra, Atum, Aton, Khepera), until the cult of Rathanos was imposed on all as principle balance of the creation and creator force of life and knowledge. The supremacy of Rathanos was sanctioned by the unification of the kingdoms under Chardastes, First Pharaoh of the Nithian Empire, who was proclaimed superior to all the Kings and the Princes, direct descendent of Ra and his earthly herald, destined to rule by divine right. On this basis is founded the structure of imperial Nithia, and with the unification of the lands of High and Low Nithia in 1500 BC had begun that which would be remembered as the Imperial Age.
Chardastes was able to inaugurate a mysticism that took the ancient customs and beliefs of the various Nithian regions, reworking them to his own advantage. At that time there were five strong religious trends present in the empire: the so-called Enneade (veneration of a pantheon of 9 divinities) spread among the folks of the south, in particular among the descendents of the Oltec-Azcans; Ogdoade (a cult based on four universal principles, each embodied by a male and a female entity, which therefore is made up of eight divinities) widespread in the northern region (in particular among the descendents of the Neathar); the cult of Ptahr as the only creator, which has particular strength in the western area near to Rockhome; the religion of Bat, sacred cow generator of the creation and associated with female fertility, worshipped in the central region; and the so-called Triad of the Delta, based on the veneration of Amon, omnipotent god of the sky, of the wife Mut, goddess of the land and fertility, and of the son Zephyr, god of the moon, of the arts and trade. With the political and military conquest Chardastes was able to undermine all the different independent religions of Nithia, and in each one introduce Rathanos as the principal figure of the pantheon, creating a unification that in the course of his rule was assimilated by all the Nithian population. It was thus that Ra became the only creator god, the origin from which the others had originated or were incarnations of. Integrating Ogdoade, the four first principles who by themselves were in disharmony and instability gave rise to Ra, the great balancer who took the dominion of the universe in his own hands. The Atum of the Enneade (a creator force that combined with its own shadow to create the air, the land and the sky) was considered the adult incarnation of Ra (as the real creator) and is considered father of Amon (Triad of the Delta), who joined with Mut (the earth) in order to give birth to the creation and the other divinities according to the scheme of the Enneade (which later incorporated the figure of Isiris to that of Bat in her form of Hathor, sacred mother cow of Horon). Even the cult of Ptahr was inserted into this great religious reform, and Ptahr became the great craftsman who had moulded the cosmic egg from which was born Ra.
According to the cosmology of the Imperial Age therefore, at the beginning the universe was represented by four principal fundamentals, each one of which is given of a male and a female part: Nu/Naunet Water (Protius), Kuk/Kauket Chaos (Thanatos), Amun/Amunet Air (Odin) and Huh/Huhet Eternity (Ixion). From the sum of these entities was born the spark of the life that balanced the universe, and that Ptahr (Kagyar) enclosed in the Cosmic Egg which he moulded to give form to life. From the egg issued the scarab (Khepri), the form of Ra Rising, who straightaway became a crying baby (Nefertum), from whose tears were born the human beings (Creator Ra), and when the crying diminished, the baby grew and transformed into Atum-Ra or Rathanos (Omnipotent Ra), who completed the work of creation and began to govern the universe as it had formed. From the thought of Ra took form Maat, goddess of justice and the cosmic order, while from the word of Ra was born Pflarr, lord of knowledge and wisdom, guardian of the living and the dead. Maat and Pflarr helped Ra to bring order to what he had created, and became his advisers and the judges of the work of the mortals. Ra was later joined to his own shadow and breed Amon the Sky (Odin) and Mut the Earth (Terra) who together gave birth to Orisis and Isiris (Ixion and Valerias, who represent Huh/Huhet, the generator force of eternity), Nuptys and Thanatos (Nyx and Thanatos, who instead represent Kuk/Kauket, the destructive aspect of creation). In order to divide the sky and the land, Ra created Zephyr the Wind (Asterius), who was set to hold the celestial vault above the land with his wings, and Nythis the Moisture (Protius) who enveloped Mut in order to preserve her from the force of the wind and created the waters and the oceans. Orisis married Isiris and became the King of the mortals, but his brother Thanatos was jealous of his power, and Nuptys herself had wanted Orisis as her partner. Instigated by Thanatos, Nuptys was then presented to Orisis with the countenance of his wife and lay with him. After the departure of Orisis, Thanatos abused his sister in her sleep, and from this union were born Apophis and Ranivorus, children of the betrayal and of the envy. Thanatos therefore took his frustration out on Orisis and with the complicity of Ranivorus killed him and reduced him to pieces, scattering them over the land. Isiris hadnít reigned himself and with the help of Pflarr recomposed the corpse of the husband and gave it life, helping him in his battle against the brother. Thanatos was driven away, but returned in disguise and destroyed the amulet that held the soul of the brother in the hope of killing him. The soul nevertheless, protected by the spell of Pflarr, was incarnated in the womb of Isiris and returned to life as Horon, the Living King (because of this Isiris is also worshipped as Hathor, ďhouse of HoronĒ), who defeated, once and for all, the usurper and castrated him, driving him from his kingdom together with his son Ranivorus. On the later request of Ra, Ptahr modelled two figures who took life, Bastet and Mahes (Ninfangle), the panther goddess and the lion god, which were sent into the world to follow Thanatos and Ranivorus in order to bring on them the revenge of Ra and in order to protect the living (in particular are considered the protectors of the Nithian nation). When Ra wanted Horon next to himself in order to unite with the other gods, the Living King chose the wisest and most virtuous among the mortals, Chardastes, and handed over to him the symbols of his power, the hooked staff, the whip and the crown, and together with the mother ascended to the sky uniting themselves with Ra. Apophis nevertheless, illegitimate son of Orisis and stepbrother of Horon, was resentful of the choice and for having been excluded from the blessing of Ra, and thus conspired against Chardastes, and with the support of his mother and Thanatos captured Chardastes and exiled him. But with the help of Justice (Maat) and of Pflarr, Chardastes returned to repossess what was his by right, and also Apophis was chased from the kingdom, transforming into a snake and revealing her true nature. With the help of Pflarr and his immense wisdom, Chardastes founded the greatest empire of humanity, passing into history as the First Pharaoh, combining the people from the place in which the sun rose to that in which it set, and thus magnifying the power of his father and of the supreme Ra on all the world. Thus after him all the Pharaohs have been the earthly representatives of Ra, children of Horon and Orisis, and at their death ascend into the sky in order to reunite with Ra like the rest of humanity.
When nevertheless the forces of Chaos returned to cast their shadow over Nithia, some of the nobles listened to the promises of power of Thanatos, Ranivorus and Apophis, and were guilty of loftiness in the confrontations of Ra. In particular, the Pharaoh Taphose the Mad in the attempt of silencing all those that that were stirred up against his attempt of raising the cult of Thanatos above that of Ra, using the secrets that had been revealed to him by Chaos in order to bring Death and Destruction on Nithia, and it was at that point that Ra intervened in order to punish him and all his followers. Ra mandated his children in the Empire of Nithia to separate the worthy from the unrighteous, and when he had marked with the seal of Ra all the saved, the divine Rathanos sent the four calamities to fall on Nithia and to punish the evil. Thus the land became arid around Nithia and produced scarcities that starved the wrongful; the air became hotter and caused diseases that killed the infidels by causing them to fall prey to atrocious suffering; the sun became red and burnt the enemies of Ra with tongues of fire; and finally night enveloped the world and it took away with itself the traitors between weeping and gnashing of teeth. And when the sun returned to shine, it was marked by the blood of the dead and remained red for eternity, while around the river Nithia nothing remained of the ancient known land. In the middle of that devastation only the city of Karnak was spared, and within it the redeemed were protected from the fury of the gods, who gave them a new Pharaoh, Kepher the Searcher, who rebuilt the empire and forged a new alliance with Ra and Pflarr, breaking once for all the curse that had made Taphose mad before again replenishing the hearts of the humans and ascending to the sky among the gods thanks to her wisdom and devotion. After her disappearance, Nithia again knew war, but the influence of Kepher and the power of Rathanos prevented the Nithians from destroying themselves, and after having divided the land into the Kingdoms of High and Low Nithia, the wisest among the clerics chose a new Pharaoh in order to perpetuate the tradition and govern the Kingdoms of Nithia, and thus it has always advanced from that moment, with the blessing of Ra. According to the Nithian culture, the gods watched the mortals and send signals and judgements to their servants, the priests, in order to indicate the way traced by the omnipotent Rathanos. In particular, the clerics have the task of advising and obeying an enlightened individual chosen by Ra to lead the Nithian people and make them respect the dictates of the gods: the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh embodies the authority of Rathanos on earth given the dual role covered by the Great Priest of Rathanos and King of Kings, unifying in himself temporal and spiritual power, and is a hereditary office (handed down from father to son); that can only be revoked if the dynastic line is exhausted without a male heir, or in the rare case in which all the high priests of the divinities that protect Nithia decide unanimously that the Pharaoh is unworthy to rule and no longer represents Rathanos (so that it becomes evident especially if the Pharaoh doesnít show more clerical powers). The symbols of the pharaonic power are diverse: primarily the whip and the hooked staff (to indicate the power of Ra and of Pflarr), then the talisman with the open eye (symbol of Kepher Omniscient); and finally the double crown of High and Low Nithia, with the vulture surpassing the cobra (symbols associated to the divinities Nekhbet and Wadjet, protectors of the two regions on the surface world, later identified with the goddess Mut following the unification of the empire).
Every Nithian city has a patron of reference, although in each there are temples present dedicated to all the major divinities (the so-called Enneade, that is the first nine Immortals cited) and to some of the minor divinities, and all consider Ra as the most important divinity, followed by Pflarr, divine son created in his image without the help of one of the ancestral gods and therefore purest of the other sons. The various temples are independent, even if they worship the same divinity, and each is led by its own High Cleric. The richest temples that belong to the divinities of the Enneade form the so-called Temple of the Great Priests, which is formed from the high clerics of the first eight Immortals plus the Pharaoh as the representative of Ra. These priests donít have authority outside of their own temple, but exercise their influence over the Pharaoh and over their brothers through suggestions, loans of money or favours, and political alliances with the Kings of High and Low Nithia and with the head governors of the various cities, holding a large part of the political power of the empire.
The only three Immortals considered enemies of Nithia since they have always been opposed to Rathanos, Pflarr and to Orisis are Thanatos (lord of death and chaos), Ranivorus (enemies of Pflarr since they are the bringers of madness and corruption while instead Pflarr is bearer of knowledge and wisdom) and Apophis (patron of revenge and hate). Their cults are absolutely forbidden within the empire and their followers are captured and executed everywhere they are discovered. Unluckily, because of the presence of the two giant annelids masked as enormous towers (the Towers of Soth and Sekhaba) in the desert around Nithia, Thanatos and his allies continue to seek proselytes and to corrupt the Nithians, threatening the stability of the two kingdoms and patiently waiting for the expected moment in which they will be able to reveal to the Nithians the ancient destructive spells of Taphose, forbidden by Rathanos and now buried under Ranak, in order to bring destruction in the Hollow World. Nuptys instead, despite being associated to night and death, isnít thought an enemy of Ra, since she has never acted against Rathanos, even if she used her arts in order to deceive Orisis and conceive Apophis. Because of this she was cursed by Rathanos who took from her womb the spark of life, making her eternally incapable of procreating again, and because of this is considered unlucky. The only dominion that Ra has attributed to her is that over night and darkness (therefore on the secrets), and over the dead, of which he is the keeper together with Orisis, the only one that had ever left to return among the living by the will of Ra. The result is that the clerics of Nuptys are assigned to the funeral rites together with those of Orisis, and unlike these latter, they are to prepare the corpses of the guardians who must defend the tombs of the pharaohs: they in fact have the task of creating the animated mummies, quick to revive for revenge any offence endured by the holy place that it guards. Always for this belief, only the priests of Orisis, Nuptys and Ra can summon the deceased in Nithia, since only these latter have dominion over the souls of the dead. Also naturally all the clerics of the entropic Immortals challenge this restriction drawing on the powers of the three divinities, and also because of this they are despised by the population as subverters of the natural order, besides being hunted by the faithful of Orisis-Horon and of Rathanos.
The figure of Ixion in the Nithian pantheon merits further close examination. He in fact covers two roles at the same time: as Orisis (the Dead King) is the patron of rebirth, of the balance of the life cycle and keeper of the afterlife, the one who prevents the souls from fleeing from the sentence of Maat. Like Horon instead (the Living King) is the patron of the sun and purity, of war and heroism, associated to the divine force of Ra that destroys the evil and that combats Thanatos and the legions of Death and Chaos. The twosome Horon-Orisis mark the eternal cycle that attends all the Pharaohs, who live their mortal life in the service of Rathanos with the support of Horon, and that are revived in Dat (the Afterworld) in order to continue to serve Ra together with Orisis, lord of the virtuous souls.
According to the figurative arts and the Nithian mythos, every divinity is associated to an animal and represented in the paintings and in the writings (a true art made of ideograms called hieroglyphs) with the body of a human and the head of the animal (zoomorphism). The animal corresponding to each divinity is considered to be sacred, and normally the faithful must respect them and avoid eating its meat (this restriction only applies in the struggles of all the animals bound together to the Enneade). Anyone who contravenes this rule is liable to be whipped, jailed and even killed (based on the severity of the laws of the province in which the sacrilege happened). Naturally the animals linked to the enemy divinities of Nithia (like the snake, scorpion and hyena) are considered impure and must always be driven away or exterminated whenever the opportunity presents itself, since they are thought as the emissaries of their respective divinity, like those associated to the protectors of the empire (which because of this should always be treated well, given that no one can know whether it is a simple animal or an emissary of an Immortal). The correspondence is the following:

Immortal - Animal
Rathanos - Phoenix or Scarab
Pflarr - Jackal
Maat - Heron
Orisis/Horon (Ixion) - Hawk
Isiris/Hathor (Valerias) - Peacock or Cow
Ptahr (Kagyar) - Bull or Ram
Amon (Odin) - Raven or Sparrow
Nythis - Crocodile
Mut (Terra) - Vulture
Bastet - Cat or Panther
Mahes (Ninfangle) - Lion
Zephyr (Asterius) - Heron
Kepher (Noumena) - Ibis
Chardastes - Cobra
Nuptys (Nyx) - Bat
Thanatos - Scorpion
Ranivorus - Hyena
Apophis (Bachraeus) - Viper