Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cults of Averoigne Part 2

Though I am quite satisfied with the Oamenbun — an analog for the Cathari of 13th century France — I also need to set up a pagan cult. Since the Crimson King and his Black Queen are so tightly associated with the pagan past of Averoigne and since time tends to be a bit non-linear — especially around the Chateau des Faussesflammes — I need to establish the pagan cult the king and queen were/are/will be involved in.

I originally created this bit a heraldry for the Crimson King because of its Wotanic overtones:

However, since I have gone to the trouble of tying the Oamenbun to a regional group, I also want to have stronger local ties to inspire this pagan cult. Thus, I have been doing some cursory investigation into the paganism found in France. Here are the three local cults that I find most useful:

  • Esus (which means Master) was local to the tribes of southern France. Blood sacrifices were made in his name and he was also associated with hanging. He was depicted with three birds and a bull.
  • Sucellus (which means Good Striker) was depicted with a long-handled hammer and a cauldron. He was usually seen accompanied by a raven and a three-headed dog. This suggests that he had a very strong association with funerals, death and the underworld.
  • Nantosuelta (which means Winding River) was associated with nature, valleys and streams. She was the consort of Sucellus and was depicted carrying a staff topped with a dovecote as well as a cornucopia. Her symbol was the raven, so she also was associated with death and the underworld.

I plan on doing an amalgam of these three by taking the name and practices of the cult of Esus and applying them to Sucellus and Nantosuelta, since they parallel the Crimson King and the Black Queen. Thus, these two will be simply called Master and Mistress. Their cult will practice human sacrifice wherein the victim is hung and exsanguinated. Necromancy and the undead will also be a huge part of cultic practice.

The various associations of these three also suggest a number of artifacts that might be found while exploring the Chateau des Faussesflammes:

  • The Master’s Maul, also known as Lovitor, or Striker. Its size seems to suggest that gauntlets of ogre power or a girdle of giant strength are necessary to even wield the weapon and a combination of the two might be necessary to take full advantage of its powers.
  • The Mistress’ Staff, also known as Rau or River. There are several possibilities here. The dovecote suggests the ability to summon and control birds. The name Rau suggests water-based magic. A combination of the two suggests the ability to summon and control a water elemental in the form of a bird.
  • The Master’s Cauldron. I cannot help but think of the Black Cauldron from Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. It was the source of the Arawn’s army of undead and the only way to destroy it is by willingly sacrificing oneself by crawling in. This suggests a couple of special creatures that might be produced by the cauldron, based upon the sacrifices made to the Master — the Hanged Ones and Blood Golems.
  • The Mistress’ Cornucopia. Given her association with rivers, it makes sense that this artifact is an unending source of water; however, given her association with the dead, it also suggests another special undead. Should a corpse “drink” from the Cornucopia, it will rise as an undead called the Drowned.

Finally, there are several creatures that suggest themselves (besides the undead and the blood golem):

  • The Raven — this strongly suggests spies. It will be fun to play on the paranoia of the players once they figure out that the birds can reveal their secret plans to the enemy.
  • The Three-Headed Dog — this, of course, brings to mind Cerberus the guardian of the gate to the Underworld. Thus, somewhere under the Chateau he will guard some major treasure horde or possibly some kind of hub wherein gates to several different time/space destinations can be found.
  • The Bull — this suggests that a gorgon wanders the halls of the Chateau and that statues in various poses of fright and combat be littered throughout. Imagine the surprise of a party carrying mirrors in preparation for a medusa or a basilisk realize that their doom is actually a breath weapon.


Anthony said...

Very nice, I'm enjoying this intellectual exercise.

Regarding the cult of Esus, hanging was also part of Odinic/Wotanic myth. The Celts of southern Gaul and the Gothic/Germanic tribes were wholly different peoples; I wonder if this was cross-pollination via trade and raid, or if it represents an even older mythic theme common to both?

Regardless, the cult of the Master and the Mistress looks like a great antagonist for the players.

Alex Osias said...

Eminently thought-provoking work with lots of texture. I look forward to more on your Averoigne / Chateau des Faussesflammes work.

I actually thought about it when I was reviewing the Isle of the Unknown PDF version -- any publication plans when you're done? :)

The Drowned are an excellent undead idea -- I particularly like the potential discovery when armies battle in that river... and then encounter a 3rd terrible enemy when they begin to arise from the waters.