The Gods and Gords of Raselstad

A Roots of Rookeri Supplement

Townsteads

They say in Luban that all townsteads were created equal. Certainly they are all constructed to the same plan with a radius of 5 miles, the next 5 miles of pastures and wastelands – and beyond, 5 miles of forest. There then begins the next 5 miles of pastures. Thus, the first townsteads were set 25 miles from centre to centre. Today the townsteads number thrice those at Foundation, the new steadings set to the north, away from the river. It’s safer there. Tramroads now form a network between most of these townsteads. Their wood-planked tracks have raised edges (legal minimum, 36 inches) to protect against amphib attack.

Canals

All townsteads, even the newer foundations away from the river, are ringed by three interconnecting canals. They act as defence while providing water for irrigation. The canals, by regulation, are 4 foot wide, and double that depth. The berms, or balks, that separate the canals have also a width of 4 foot, by regulation. Locally they’re known as warrens. Originally a misspelling of weir, they are home of the warren-hares (amphibs that resemble Earthside guinea pigs). Every canal is faced with stone. Throughout Luban, except at Regionalstad, this is the only use of stone.

Several additional laws apply to the canals. Hedges are not permitted alongside them, nor are latrines to be emptied into them. Permits are required by those gord-holders using aiselles (removable plank-bridges) in driving their domesticates to the surrounding pastures.

The Hub

At the centre of every townstead, even those of newer construction, are the same four buildings: Council House, Elementary School, Exchequer School with Treasury, and Verse and Comp School with Law Court attached.

Raselstad Hub

These brick buildings, set upon high stepped platforms, are surrounded by grass, kept short by goat-grazing – donated on rota from the gords; droppings must be removed by their owners.

The open space between the buildings is used by the schools, by the town’s scrample team, and by the town’s dance & play troop, otherwise known as the Chorus.

Adjoining the Hub, the narrow tips of the gords are known as the Vicinage. It is here that the gord-holders have built shrines to their gord-gods allowing access to all.

Contemporary Raselstad

Gord Gods

It’s when we look at the names of the Gord Gods that we find the most notable difference between the townsteads. The Gord Gods were named for the Founder Gods; some say they are the Founders.

“The Magnificent Maker, having made all else, made the Thousand Founder Gods. These Gods then drew lots for who would work together with whom to found the new townsteads for their dependant families.”

Clearly some copyist long ago omitted a number, possibly twelve, for there are more towns in Luban alone than could be founded by so few as 1000 Founders. That would amount to a mere 83!

“The Founder Gods Royan and Rasel, Father Remen and Mother Luethi, Parla and Tiszka, Deluca, Sharma and Bendel, Eire, Villas and Ulrich together tramped the long route through the forests of Luban, from the Poner Mountains to within but a breath of the Umenkat Forest, Sisny Moss and the Falls. Coming then upon this broad belly, tucked beneath the sheltering Ridge, embraced by the Luant – and with no place inviting to settle beyond – the Founder Gods decreed here would be Raselstad.”

The defending canals duly gouged and stone-walled, the circular townstead divided into the Founders’ duodecimanses – locally known as the gords – each gord-holding family then built a shrine on the Vicinage to their own Founder God.

Generally these shrines follow the same pattern of inner sanctum wherein stands the deity’s statue or other artefact as symbol of same. These, whatever their form, always include the five metals of copper, iron, tin, lead and zinc. If a statue, they are clothed and hung with jewellery. Much of the décor here is of precious real wood, carved and painted, though plaster also is used where low reliefs are required. Red is everywhere being a sacred colour. So too are bells. A large bell is hung at every shrine entrance to be rung before offering, imploring, and adoring. Around the sanctum is the ambulatory. Below, as appropriate, each shrine is described.

Additional shrines are found in the communal rooms of each of the Gord Houses; as, too, a Twelve-God-Shrine at each of the townstead’s four gates though these latter are small.

In Luban there are no dedicated priests to officiate at the Founder Gods’ shrines on their feast days. Instead that role befalls the gord nobles, each to their own gord’s shrine. It is he who directs and supervises the rites, he who makes the annual sacrifices.

Whatever is given – by the gord noble at the annual feast day or throughout the year by the many supplicants – is later taken by the Council, once the gord god has removed its spiritual essence, to be distributed according to need. The Council also nominates a noble to act on the feast days of those failed gords where no Founder’s family survives. In Raselstad these are Delucha, Rashel, Rementh, Rookeri and Villith.

Calendar of Feasts

Once the shrines were erected, there then was established the Calendar of Feasts.
This same calendar is used throughout Luban, with changes only to the Founder Gods’ names. The Feast Year begins with the God at the Eastern Gate – in Raselstad that God is Deluca.

Feast of Deluca: “Everyone’s Wedding Day”

It might seem odd that the Feast of Deluca is everyone’s wedding day. Yet Deluca’s Day begins the year, the union of Heaven and Earth. Moreover, Deluca is the holy man’s ‘Inspiring God’ (i.e. the holy man divines on behalf of Deluca). The holy man’s main concerns are healing, alliances and partnerships – and marriage.

Here seems a good place to say of these wandering shamans. They are much in demand to conduct and supervise the domestic and agricultural rituals, to cure the sick when plain herbs will not do, to retrieve the spirits of the mistakenly departed and to ease spirit from body of those terminally diseased.

They are much valued by the Council which is, by law, tasked to provide appropriate shelter whenever a holy man comes to their townstead. Said shelter is a cell built into an external wall of the Council House. The Council feeds the visiting holy men from the offerings taken from the Vicinage shrines. They clothe the holy men, too, with fabrics and garments taken from the same.

These ‘untied spirits’, as these holy men often are called, are at once recognised by the abundance of knives and teeth, claws and shells that hang in garlands around the neck. All river shells especially are theirs: a place for the holy man’s spirit to hide while he enters a battle.

River shells are sacred to Deluca. By law, when found, they must be given over to the Council. Only holy men are allowed to wear them – though Deluca’s shrine is thickly adorned with them.

Flowers, too, are hung in profusion inside and outside Deluca’s shrine as a symbol of the god’s fertility aspect. The shrine itself is painted red – red for the passion, the love, the enthusiasm, the fertility, the renewed energy of life – red for the male force.

For this reason red is the colour of the marriage beads given on Deluca’s Feast Day. Though a couple may cohabit whenever they wish, only their families’ permission is needed, the formal rites of marriages must wait for this day.

A man gives to his wife two beaded bracelets. A woman gives to her man the same. These are worn to honour the spouse, to protect and benefit the giver be it husband, wife, town god or goddess. Though the beads vary – jasper, agate or simple dyed wood for those less wealthy – yet the bracelets in design remain the same. Twelve beads threaded on silk are worn by women on their left wrists, by men on their right. The other bracelet has only three beads. To these are added the two beads received at their respective marriages to the town god and goddess. Single beads also are used in the forming of contracts but these, usually large, are worn as a pendant around the neck.

At death, the deceased’s bracelets are given to the closest same-sex kin – brother, sister, daughter, son, nephew, cousin, niece. Some people wear many bracelets – of their mother, their aunts, their sisters, their cousins. But a woman’s right-worn bracelet must be returned to her home-town to be hung in the town-god’s shrine; in Raselstad, Royan. For men, it is the left-worn bracelet that is returned to the town-goddess’s shrine; in Raselstad, Rasel. At this time the beads are often rethreaded onto a weaker cotton, though this is more often done for those who have died young. When the thread breaks, it is said the person’s spirit will soon be reborn.

Feast of Bendel: “Everyone’s Birthday”

Bendel, god of the second gord, has the supervision of farming, both pastoral and arable, both of which depend upon the annual renewal of life, i.e. on birth. This is extended to the birth of humans. Because the feast day is everyone’s birthday, an infant born the previous day celebrates his first birthday the very next day. It is also deemed the townstead’s birthday.

Bendel’s shrine is hung with cattle, sheep and goat horns, symbol of power, fertility, and protection. Pairs of such horns hang over the entrance, and upon the posts of the ambulatory. They are built into walls to protrude above the supplicants head, an obvious threat to evil spirits and demons.

Feast of Villas: “Fruit Harvest”

Villas’ feast is said to herald the fruit harvesting season. In fact, fruit is harvested throughout the year but the next three months are known for the highest yields.

Also a harvest is the profit from trade which can build into fortunes with the amassing of wealth. This creeps perilously close to the Murky Curse. Not surprising then that the atmosphere on this feast day can be painfully tense, everyone vigilant, poised and up on their toes.

Villas’ shrine, though ornate with painted swags of fruit, is otherwise austere. In its inner sanctum stands a statue of Villas in the form of a pheasant.

Brightly dyed feathers are key to this day, worn on the person or given as presents with a wish of good harvest.

Feast of Parla: “Trades’ Day”

This is now combined with the Feast of Tiszka’s “Travel Day”, allowing those of 20 years and above two feasts each year when they may apply for their permits to travel and trade.

The rites this day are intended to make safe the Murky Curse which might otherwise bedevil and lead astray those who must trade. Offerings are made at the Twelve-God-Shrines at each of the townstead’s four Gates. With 5 miles there and 5 miles back, four times over, for those seeking their permits the day is, aptly, spent in walking.

Families attend to the candidates’ safety with gifts of amulets. Favoured for women are amulets as earrings and bead-fringed shawls, for men as beaded headbands. These all serve the same purpose: to protect the trader’s ears, nose, mouth, and eyes. For the noble’s son these beads might be of amber, available only from north of Rothi. For gord-workers the beads might be of grains, bark, and stones – or even of animal parts, e.g. teeth and claws. All are effective when blessed by a visiting holy men.

Feast of Luethi: “Mothers Day”

On Luethi’s feast day every girl of 13 years old is officially declared ‘a fertile woman’ regardless of whether she has biologically attained the status. But fertile and woman, she is not yet able to wed.

Luethi is said to embody Lua, the Luant’s spirit – which might explain why every townstead alongside the Luant has a Founder Goddess of that name. Luethi has supervision of everything ‘water, thus whatever streams and springs are found within the townstead’s measured lands also are hers. In Raselstad this includes the Nah. Also under her watchful eyes are all matters pertaining to plumbing and brewing, and of course, the water powered mills used for fulling and grinding to mention two uses.

Perhaps Earthside, Luethi would take the occasional form of a river-snake and would have sacred to her the river-fish. But in the Luant are only the amphibs. Her shrine is hung with their preserved skins, the walls painted with pictures of them. These are shown as warnings to the thirteen year old girls – of the potential dangers to be found in their wombs – as part of their induction to Luethi’s cult

There is much preparation for the day, with giggles galore as the initiates paint their bodies to resemble the fish they never have seen. (Fish are found only beyond the Falls, where the amphibs are fewer). They make for themselves dresses with glitter-embroidery and shimmering sequins with much use of white metals and brass. At the end of the day these fabrics are draped around the shrine and left until they withe

Feast of Royan: “Town God Day”

Royan is another red god – but the red of blood and of child-birth and of children. This might seems as the feminine to Deluca’s male force, yet there is nothing effeminate to Royan the God. Represented in his shrine as the head of a heart-faced lion, the mane symbolic not only of the flow of blood and of ancestral lines, but also the lines of descendants yet-to-be.

On Royan’s feast day, every 14 year old young woman born in Raselstad will marry him for he is her town god. Thereafter the young women may marry as desire or family demands. As with the young men when they marry the town goddess Rasel, the Council gives the brides a red two-beaded bracelet to be worn on for their right wrist (the men wear theirs on the left). The two beads represent Royan and his young bride. On marriage to a man three more beads will be added, three being the number of union and fertility. The rites are completed with the usual marriage celebrations, each family according to status and wealth.

Feast of Sharma: “New Build Day”

New buildings may only be started in the month following upon the Feast of Sharma. There is only one exception to this, and that’s the replacement of buildings damaged or destroyed by fire or tornado when hardship would otherwise ensue. In such circumstance a permit might be granted by the Council. This might seem a strange stricture yet only after the harvests are done are man’s hands freed for other chores. He then is able to concentrate his energy and resources on any new building.

Sharma’s shrine, by far the largest, reflects his concern with building. A house-like structure with a roof of decaying thatch that’s smeared over with chalky-white clay through which the reed is in places visible. Through its centre rises a wood tower, seven storeys  tall, varnished to a high reflection. At each storey a red-painted balcony fully encircles the tower. Every year on Sharma’s feast day a new coating of white is applied to the roof, and the red paint and varnish are reapplied.

Feast of Eire: “Defence Day”

Eire, the Eagle God, overseers all defensive activities – defence of the townstead, of the gords and their families, of their homes and businesses and particularly of their persons. The Town-Watch standard shows the Eagle with a motto of Justice for All.

In his shrine Eire is shown as an armoured warrior holding aloft a threatening club, above him a Banner of Victory. It is to that banner that at the age of 16 all the youths of Raselstad swear to defend and to serve the townstead and Rasel, its Goddess.

Feast of Ulrich: “Public Works Day”

By public works is meant more than the repair and repainting of the gates to the Schools and Council House. It means the upkeep of sewers, and more particularly, vermin control. These activities are ongoing, not just for one day a year. Ulrich’s feast day is used by the Council to publicly announce any major new ‘public works’ project. Celebrations to mark a project’s completion are also held on this day.

In his shrine, Ulrich is represented as a chimerical beast with a sturdy reptilian-type body and a predator’s head with mouth full of teeth.

Feast of Tiszka: “Travel Day”
This is the second feast of the year when those of 20 years and above may apply for their travel and trade permits.

Tiszka, the Horse God, oversees all things related to the equine, particularly long distance travel to unknown climes. His colour is black which generally represents the dark forces. Yet black is the shadow that cloaks the traveller, keeping him safe.

Feast of Remen: “Grandparents’ Day”

As with Mother Luethi, every townstead has its Father Remen. He, too, is a Black God, otherwise known as the Absent God. A story tells that he went missing, not to be found, shortly after Foundation. Although he is called ‘Father’, on his feast day all in the townstead aged 50 and over gain the honorific title of Grandmother or Grandfather.

The turquoise stone is sacred to Remen. Its blue is the sky of summer when all is auspicious. Yet with the passing of years and the absorption of sins it darkens to black. At this stage it is said to presage imminent death.

God of death and rebirth, Father Remen is represented by the endlessly knotted and intertwined ropes that decorate his Black Towers. Always placed to the north to be close to the Ridge where the carrion birds live, these towers are ringed by ditch, bank and palisade that keep the desecrating amphibs away. For Remen’s Black Towers are the last resting place of the Lubanthan. Their circular form symbolises containment while the endless ropes are their endless lives.

All dead must pass through Rementh Gord on their way to Father Remen’s Black Tower. The corpse itself is processed there, with rites performed by the dead one’s patriarch, else a Council nominee.

The Lubanthan have a belief that the deceased will be born again to his/her former town though usually to a different gord. The gords are seen as different ways to experience life. Thus every spirit will experience them all. Twelve being a potent number, the 12-born spirit is endowed with spectacular powers – though ask as you might, no one will say what these powers are.

It is said that for women, who are usually wed outside of their birth town, death imposes upon them a difficult choice. Is her spirit to remain with her children, in the townstead of her spouse? Or is it to make the journey home, to be with her brothers and her brothers’ children. Unable to make the decision, some troubled spirits haunt the tracks between the townsteads – or so it is said when anything untoward happens to travellers.

There is an alternative rite to that of excarnalisation in Remen’s Black Tower: River Burial, i.e. to be sent down river in a boat. This is usually reserved for immigrant citizens, that their spirit is returned to whence it came.

Feast of Rasel: “Town Goddess Day”

On the feast day of Rasel, the town goddess, all 18 year old youths are married to her. Thereafter they may wed a woman as desire or family dictates. As with the young women and Royan, the youth receives a red-beaded bracelet that he wears on the left wrist. These two beads (representing Rasel and the youth) are added to the three spouse-given beads on the wedding day.

Although for the rites a young woman is chosen to embody Rasel, dressed in suitable costume, heavily hung with red-coloured jewellery, within the shrine Rasel herself, Golden Muse of musicians, playwrights and players, is represented by a 12 armed statue. Each hand holds a symbol of the 12 gords, including her own. She is also represented by a 12 spoke wheel.

The Gord Goddess Rasel, overseer of all entertainments and social gatherings, brings us neatly to the Chorus.

The Chorus

Every Luban town has a Chorus, a band of players, dancers and singers that acts out the Founder Gods’ stories though there is more to the Chorus than this. It is the Chorus that leads the townsfolk in song and dance, ensuring the proper recognition and celebration of the Gord-Gods. And on the feast days it is for the Chorus to ensure all have a jolly good time – even on the feast days of the more mundane gods.

In the Ghats, the Guild Towns pay the Chorus as if they’re employees. But in all other townsteads the Chorus is a voluntary activity, though most Councils pay for costumes and props and provide the venue.

And that, too, brings this account to a neat end. I shall leave you with the Saw of the Gords-Gods.

Feast us. Adore us. Remember us.

About crispina kemp

Spinner of Asaric and Mythic tales
This entry was posted in Fantasy Fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Gods and Gords of Raselstad

  1. Brian Bixby says:

    I was relating features to other cultures, from ancient Rome to 19th century Brazil to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover. But I have to admit, my favorite feature is the idea of the women who can’t make up their minds, haunting the roads.

    Like

  2. Pingback: The First Accord of Rummastad | crimsonprose

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