After the Storm
Taal and Ryha
“By earth, tree, and bone.” —Common oath given by cultists of Taal and Rhya.
The Cult of The Horned God, Taal, father of the gods, and the Green Mother, Rhya the Mother Goddess is among the most ancient and pervasive. These gods were the focus an early Pantheon favoured by the twelve tribes that founded the Empire.
Taal is an indifferent god. Like a mountain or storm, he is unmoved by mortal concerns. Rhya, in contrast, gracefully nurtures the world by providing sustenance and natural beauty.
Originally these gods were each worshipped separately, and Rhya was the greater, but over time Taal’s worship has come to dominate their cult and they are worshipped together, the same priests invoking the rituals and blessings of both.
Taal is “King of the Gods” and “Lord of Beasts”. His are the wild places and creatures in them, save for the wolves of his younger brother Ulric. He is the forces of nature that must be placated and endured. He is primarily worshipped by hardy woodsmen, hunters, trackers, and rangers.
Rhya governs the forces of nature that can be cultivated and nurtured. Her worshippers are found in the cultivated fields and orchards of the Empire, and are found among farmers, fishermen, and young lovers everywhere. The act of lovemaking is itself regarded by some as sacred to Rhya.
Taal is depicted as a powerfully built man with long, wild hair crowned with the skull of a great stag. He wears animal skins, and golden leaves flutter from his beard. In some tales, he manifests as a stag or bear.
Rhya is depicted as a lovely, motherly woman, her hair a tangle of flowers and branches and her gown a weave of evergreen leaves and fragrant herbs. She may also appear as a doe.
Cultists of Taal and Rhya are noted for their practical attitude towards life, tempered with a sense of awe for the power and majesty of nature. They despise anything “unnatural,” most of all Mutants and creatures of Chaos.
Cultists believe in the sanctity of nature, the turning of the seasons, and the majesty of the wilderness. They revere animals and plants, the relationship of predator and prey. Cultists seek to live their life to the fullest, knowing that Taal, Rhya, and the willing earth might aid them in their passage into a blessed state in Morr’s realm.
Differences within the Faith
Those favouring Taal tend to strongly abjure civilization and favour remaining in or near wilderness, while those who favour Rhya are frequently found in rural areas supporting the agrarian life-style and communities. Where the worship of the god and goddess is strong among rural folk, priests of Rhya often act as midwives and healers (functions Shallyans perform in other areas).
Taalites sometimes become zealots. They have no crusaders though some devoted warriors take the Wandering Oath and become Longshanks, travelling the wilderness to protect sacred places.
Extreme Taalites believe that urbanization and “civilization” are mistakes that will not endure. The corruption of Chaos is but one kind of rot that afflicts and weakens townsfolk and nobles who have forgotten their holdings. They believe that the day will come when only the self-sufficient will survive.
More balanced followers, who give Rhya’s views more sway, believe that man is a social animal and must live in communities but that those communities must still be in balance with nature and must not become severed from it.
Marriage ceremonies are often performed by Rhyans, and in rural areas they often provide remedies for many ailments though these roles are now often supplanted by Shallya’s clergy.
Temples and Holy Places
Cities and towns may have token traditional temples to Taal and Rhya somewhere inside their limits, intended to create a more formal and public face with which the citizenry and government can interact. These buildings are designed to blend in with the terrain and typically have large, wild parks surrounding them.
Such temples are tended by the Taalite equivalent of the circuit priest but inverted from the practice of the more urban priesthoods (instead of a city priest tending to a round of villages, a village priests take turns tending to the urban shrine).
Many sites sacred to the Horned God and Green Goddess are also associated with local Nature Spirits who are seen as their children or manifestations.
Dyrath is a particularly widespread manifestation of Rhya representing fertility. She is well-known as well by the accident of history that it was during a feast of Dyrath that the hermit Helstrum first announced he had seen a vision of Sigmar joining the gods in the year 72.
Rhya is most favoured in Spring and Fall (planting and harvesting) and Taal in Summer and Winter.
The complex passing of times when the Horned God and the Green Goddess are to be favoured is thought to be one reason the ancients raised great stone circles that aligned with the seasons.
Average cultists pay close attention to the seasons, timing their festivals and rites around major transitions of the years, particularly the equinoxes and solstices. They incorporate their daily chores of hunting, farming, and the like with reverence to Tall and Rhya in mind.
Taal prefers the sacrifice of a beast hunted, the harder to hunt down or defeat the better. The hunter must declare the sacrifice at the start of the hunt this is their intent and may beseech particular aid.
Rhya prefers freshly harvested grain or a new-born animal. These are not as dangerous to obtain but are more dependent on timing as they are not always available.
Up to three fortune dice may be granted to a Piety check with a well-received sacrifice.
Symbols and Dress
Taal is represented by antlers, deer skulls, stone axes. Rhya is represented by a sheaf of wheat and flowers, also by acorns.
Their combined symbol is a Coil of Life, a spiral (some older sites have the three linked coils of a Triskele, thought to also represent Taal’s brother Ulric).
Clergy where robes of dark brown, grey or green, colours that often blend in woodlands.
Male priests tend to be very masculine, with large beards, while female priests tend to accentuate their feminine, though still rugged and passionate, sides. Both sexes revel in the physical, animal side of life, eating, drinking, and mating with great enjoyment. They rarely use flowery speech, and their directness may be considered rude in polite society.
The major holy texts of the cult are: Rites of the Ancient Grove, The Book of Green and The Tome of Summer’s Path. It surprises some that cultists of this faith can read, and indeed not all can (see below for replacing Education).
Priests of Taal and Rhya must abide by the following strictures:
- Recognize that Taal’s children (wild animals) gladly give themselves for food and sacrifice and respect and honour this gift to you.
- A sacrifice, of an animal or grain, must be made once per month, at the dark of the moon.
- Look after rural people.
- Do not clad yourself in metal, rather wear the hides of your animal kin, and arm yourself with only with wood and sinew.
- Take pride in your strength and natural skill. Avoid firearms and other works of engineering.
The followers of Taal and Rhya prefer to let nature punish those who offend the cult. This can be done in several ways, such as tying the offenders up and dropping them in a river, or tying their wrists and ankles together and then rolling them down a hill. Staking a person to the ground and putting bait of some form on them is used in extreme cases. If someone survives such an ordeal, their transgression is washed away.
The cult has no inquisitors and internal offices of doctrinal purity. They are rather casual when it comes to varying viewpoints within their cult. As long as a cultist shows the proper respect to the God and Goddess and protects nature, the cult respects the fact that there are divergent views within its organisation.
The cult draws the line at mutation and abominations of nature. It ruthlessly purges anyone within its ranks who possesses any form of mutation or taint. Because many of the rites of Taal and Rhya are performed with little or no clothing, those with obvious mutations find it nearly impossible to hide them from their fellow cultists.
Initiation as a Priest
Cultists are initiated into the priesthood by being presented first to the wilderness, at more then one place (usually including any sacred locations in the region) and finally in a public announcement in front of the lay followers, so they know who their new priest is.
A feast follows, and it is common for the new priest to hunt or prepare the main course themselves.
Priests who have a substantial audience of wild beasts at the wilderness segment of their initiations are often watched for future great achievements.
Primitive or Sensible?
Taalites and Rhans have several beliefs that are regarded as backward in the Old World but which have a utility that may assist the cult’s survival.
They believe that true cleanliness can only be achieved in natural water (e.g., they avoid town water), that the best food is what you have hunted, cleaned, and cooked yourself (no halfling sausage for them), that carrying large quantities of metal, including coinage, invites bad luck (it’s common wisdom among rogues that trying to mug a ‘wild man’ is pointless), and that firearms are cursed (well, they do misfire from time to time).
Priests of Taal and Rhya may replace Education and Intuition on their priest career skill lists with Nature Lore and either Animal Handling (if favouring Taal) or Medicine (if favouring Rhya).