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Tortle Cult

by Marco Dalmonte English translation by Gary Davies

Worshipped in: Savage Coast

Mother Ocean (Calitha) - Oceans, lakes and rivers, journeys, fertility, good luck
Father Earth (Ka) - Protection of the living, prosperity, wisdom, knowledge, magic
Brother Shell (Mâtin) - Security, protection, sacrifice, guardians
Sister Grain (Ralon) - Agriculture, health, recovery

The tortles (humanoid turtles) worship the so-called Divine Family, made up of Father Earth, Mother Ocean, Brother Shell and Sister Grain, and show a deep respect for the ancestral traditions of their own people. Theirs is a cult without excessive formalism, based on the respect of the two cardinal figures of the pantheon, Father Earth and Mother Ocean, and on the veneration of the ancient holy sites of the first tortle settlements. Indeed, the tortles have lived for millennia in the area of the Savage Coast, and had a prosperous civilisation before the arrival of the humanoid horde that destroyed not only the tortle settlements, but also those of the neighbouring elves and Oltecs, causing a total regression of these civilisations. However, the tortles remember the ancient times and the ruins of their ancient cities spread between Bellayne and Eusdria, especially on the coast, are a testimony of their ancient splendour. Despite everything, they are not a warlike or vindictive people, following the morals dictated by Father Earth and Mother Ocean that invite their children to a life of calm and serene modesty, of love for the small things and for the surrounding nature. The tortle cult is based on the teachings of the two principal Immortals, considered the real ancestors of the tortle race: given indeed that the tortles die immediately after having given birth, usually around fifty years, and that the little ones grow up in an extended family made up of aunts, uncles and unmarried cousins, the two parental figures of reference remain the ancestral divinities. The cult has shaped the mentality from the moment of the birth of the first civilisation, and has helped the survivors to the goblinoid invasions in the abrupt passage from prosperity to poverty. Thanks to the philosophy of harmony between like, solidarity and fraternity, the tortles are able to survive adapted to the new conditions of the Savage Coast, becoming a part of the new nations that arose after 1200 BC, even though they hold firm to their own beliefs and the proper rites. The only exception has been the recent addition (after the VI century AC) to the pantheon of Brother Shell and Sister Grain, two Renardois Immortals that have shown their own liking and also support for the tortle race, and therefore have been inserted in the pantheon to complete an ideal nuclear family to which every tortle family makes reference.
Beyond a usually private worship of icons representing these divinities, usually sculpted from coral or stone or made with seashells, the tortles have just one collective ritual that takes place annually: the pilgrimage to one of the sacred sites of the ancient tortle civilisation. This annual return to the places of the past testifies to the wish to not forget and preserve their own origins, and at the same time a way for feeling closer to the divinity and to the ancestors that, according to the cult, continuing to watch over their descendents and asking only in exchange to be remembered and honoured with prayers and with a conducted simple but honest life.
The tortle religion is therefore extremely private: in it every follower is called to discover in himself a microcosm that reflects the external universe. Thus, teaches the tortle philosophy, that only by obtaining inner peace and tranquillity is it possible to bring serenity and harmony to the outer world. Also because of this, for the tortle cult there doesn’t exist an evil divinity considered the enemy par excellence. Instead it becomes important to recognise their own errors, limits and temper the more savage instincts, because as the tortle philosophy teaches: “the true enemy is found in the heart of everyone”. Because here there are some more savage and brutal tortles, the so-called snappers, are cast out by the rest of the species, considered primitives that refuse to work for the good of the community and that only listen to their animalistic instincts. The snappers represent the bogeyman of every follower of the cult, the final stage of degradation to which a tortle can reach if he isn’t able to enter into harmony with the universe through the example of the Divine Family. Because of this, the snappers are avoided, feared and despised by the majority of the tortles.
The importance of the direct relationship between the individual and the divinity in the tortle cult is why there aren’t many priests, since every follower is called to be a disciple and master of himself in the relationship with the divinity and the universal energy. The few tortles that undertake the priestly career do so in order to continue to pass down the ancient traditions, in particular those that serve in order to care for and well protect the sacred places, a task that can only be trusted to a cleric of the Divine Family. The tortle clerics therefore are both pantheists and specialists, and they divide the three very different categories between themselves: guardians, monks and travellers. It isn’t usually possible to recognise at first sight a guardian from a monk or from a traveller, but following the gestures and the habits of these tortles it can be understood within a couple of days what is the real nature of this priest.
The guardians are the majority, and are usually sedentary clerics, stationed in certain regions with the only aim of guarding the secrets of the ancestors, paying their homage in the appropriate manner and prepare the site so that it can constantly receive the pilgrims that during the course of the year are brought there. They receive the task from the guardian who selects them as young children and are forced to go and live with him in order to learn all the secrets of the tortle mysticism and of the magical places. The life of the guardian is extremely freer in respect to that of the monks or of thee travellers, and frequently many guardians select their own successors from members of their own family. No guardian is forbidden to mate, but when he does, he must have already chosen their own successor.
The monks instead are tortles who pursue the way to inner perfection and are the only ones to be considered true masters of life, even usually leading a hermit existence. They are housed in monasteries built in inaccessible places or carved from natural grottos, and here remain in contact with nature and themselves, refining their own mental, spiritual and physical abilities in order to find harmony with the universe according to the teachings of Father Earth and Mother Ocean. The majority of these tortles are monks (mystics for Classic D&D), others are clerics faithful to Father Earth and Brother Shell (who get a lot of approval among the more recent monastic orders). The tortles of these monasteries never mate, and rarely leave, but when they do it always in order to bring harmony to the world. Theirs isn’t an evangelistic intent, as much as a response to requests of aid that originate from other places where their kind need help in order to regain the balance, frequently broken because of abuses of power or natural calamities. In these cases the tortle monks never hang back and make their contribution where possible without holding back their strength, returning later to the monastery to finish their work.
Finally, the travellers are clerics and monks who have ben called by the divinity to wander the world attempting to put right situations of uneasiness and of injustice. True paladins of the balance, they only leave their own settlements following a premonitory dream, which is usually sent by the Immortals in order to urge them to go on a journey to a particular place in order to resolve the problems. From the moment of the calling, a traveller abandons any sedentary project he may have and continue to wander from one place to another until the end of their life, with the categorical imperative of never mating. This is the destiny of the travellers, the most devout among the tortles and therefore the most respected, having served the Divine Family by sacrificing their own life for the faith.