"I know where I come
from. I know where I am now. I am not alone." The Mullog belief system is essentially a vitalistic
combination of animism and ancestor worship. A
mullog sees the world as inhabited by many
spirits, including his or her own soul spirit, which is called the "Eru". These
spirits are by and large neutral, though some are dangerous, and others can be
called on for aid and advice. The influence of their environment on the Mullog beliefs is also apparent in the
importance placed on "Yótha", or spirits of place. An emphasis is also placed on
practicality, with practises such as "Ehpi" encouraging the best possible use to
be made of all materials. The idea of sacrificing anything to a spirit would
horrify the average mullog.
Prevalence. The mullog religion is practised only in the Galumbé area of the Silvermarshes in the province of Nermeran , called "Wetholm" by the halflings . Due to the insular and reclusive nature of mullogs, their belief system is almost completely unknown outside their small territory. It only survives in the outside world carried by the minute number of mullogs venturing beyond the marshes, and by those few non-Mullogs who have been able to meet them and learn of their culture.
Belief Outlines. Mullog religion concentrates largely on respecting and coexisting with the various spirits they believe theyshare their world with. If they think they have upset the spirits they will try to appease them, and if they are in trouble and don’t know what to do they will ask certain spirits for help and advice. Other than that there is little obligation to worship – mullogs are almost always conscious of the spirits they share their world with, but rarely see the need to do anything about it, other than the small everyday respects such as carrying talismans.
Spirits are thought of as
intelligent, but not containing any of the omniscience or immense power
exhibited by true gods. Ancestors and "Yótha" (see below) are wise, as are some
small spirits, and many have great power, but they rarely use it for anything
that might be called “good” or “evil”. Most mullogs
don’t have much direct
contact with spirits, leaving such issues in the more capable hands of the
Origin. The mullog race was formed in extremely adverse circumstances, something they, as a whole, though not keen to talk about it, are pragmatic in admitting. The violent marriage of orcs and halflings, and the long years of hardship and suffering which followed, didn’t greatly enamour the Mullogs who survived to either of their “parental” belief systems. The orc religion seemed to them to be too bleak, too ruthless, and to offer nothing to the reclusive, peaceable people they had become. The hobbit religion, however, was equally alien, being formed in a world far gentler and less hostile than the one they knew.
Mullog legend states that the basis of their
religion was dictated to them by the spirits of the Galumbé, (see Yótha) who
spoke directly to the first Mullog leaders as
they dreamed. Certainly the influence of the marshes
on the mullog's spirituality, and of the mullog's spirituality on the way they
view their home, is remarkable. Although the names of the original leaders are
not remembered, the stories that are said to have been told by the marsh
preserved word for word, and held among the most highly regarded of all the rich
Gods Overview. There are no Gods, as such, in mullog religion. Instead, they focus their belief on spirits, which, though more powerful than Mullogs and other mortal creatures, have little in the way of allegiances and do not demand any real worship, other than a degree of respect, and occasional ritual offerings if advice or appeasement is required. There are three kinds of spirits:
For reasons the mullogs usually refrain from explaining, (though some individuals who are particularly hostile to outsiders state that it is because other people have no "Eru", or souls, to begin with) only mullog spirits become ancestors when they die. An ancestor is a spirit without any physical form, as its body is long dead. This gives them powers that physical beings cannot hold – they can see the future and past with equal clarity, and therefore usually have a very detached demeanour. Nonetheless, they look kindly on the mullogs, and will usually help them if they are treated with respect. Some mullog ancestors are called on more often than others, as they have developed unusual characters which mark them out as mythological figures.
Spirits of Place ("Yótha")
These are spirits held in great reverence by most mullogs, as they are believed to be the same ones that originally helped the first mullogs to survive and make the "Galumbé" their home. There are several Yótha, and they all have characteristics associated with the particular areas of the marsh they embody. In the eyes of the Mullogs, the marsh is a conglomeration of living entities, which in turn are inhabited by other entities, such as the ancestors and Small Spirits. The areas of the swamp overlap, so the Yótha for a particular glade or boggy area may be in parts, sharing a body with the spirit for a different area. Mullogs often ask permission from Yótha if they plan to alter the area it governs, such as by building a house on it (see Worshipping Practices).
Small Spirits ("Eru")
These are less powerful than the other spirits, but they make up for it in numbers. Every object, however tiny, has a spirit. These spirits are attached to their corporeal forms, and could be likened to the souls of them. mullogs believe that their small spirits are the seeds, as it were, of the more powerful spirit they could become after death – the ancestor. By doing well in life, and by being buried correctly after their deaths, they can become ancestors in the future. All small spirits are credited with intelligence, personality and consciousness, and so deserve a degree of respect from mullogs. Thus the spirit of a tool is respected by being used well, cleaned and kept safe, and the spirit of an animal is repaid if killed by being used as efficiently as possible, and as many parts of it as possible being made into something new, a process called “Ehpi”, or “continuation” (see Worshipping Practices).
Worshipping Practices. Mullog religion is by necessity practical, fitting easily and unextravagantly around the more menial areas of their lives. Thus if a Mullog engages in any kind of worship or religious ceremony it will be with a specific purpose in mind – he knows he can’t spare lots of time for religion, and doesn’t expect the spirits to demand his attentions without good reason – they have lives of their own just like himself.
That said, there are a myriad of small ways in which a mullog can pay his or her respects to the spirits. Perhaps the most immediately apparent to a stranger is the practise of wearing and making talismans. Mullogs are expert at crafting beautiful things from simple resources, and talismans vary greatly in design, size, style and materials. A mullog will usually have one talisman of particular value, often the one given on the day of their birth. Many select particular forms which they use to contact particular spirits. For instance, a Mullog who is the descendant of a famous leader may wear a representation of that ancestor as a talisman to aid them if they wish to draw on the wisdom of their family line. A talisman is more than merely a representation of the thing: if crafted correctly, it contains some of the spirit it depicts, and can act as a home for that spirit. For this reason, many mullogs believe that wearing the right talismans can grant longevity, as the spirits living in them impart some of their energy to the mullog's own Eru, making it stronger. Shamans almost always wear many talismans, more than any other figure in Mullog society. Hunters also carry many talismans, as they are used to appease the Erus of the animals they kill, and to protect them from predatory Eru, which might harm them. The majority of animal talismans are made of bone, or other parts of the animal concerned, as this fulfils the Ehpi obligation.
Ehpi is the practise of making a part of an animal into something new, whether a stew or a fur cape, it doesn’t matter what. The purpose is to allow the Eru of the dead animal to move into a new shape – that of the object created. If Ehpi is denied to a spirit, it will creep into the soil and spread bad luck, most often in the form of disease. Altered forms of Ehpi are carried out to appease Yótha spirits if their lands are being altered. In this case a large talisman is positioned somewhere on the structure being built, or where the land is being changed, to prevent the Yótha from being hurt by the changes. As well as this, a shaman will be asked to undertake dreamtravel, or “Ohs-er-Dan”, to ask permission of the Yótha before any changes are made. It is quite common to find Mullog houses built around a large wooden representation of the local Yótha, and some are very old.
The spirit of Ehpi can even be seen in the burial practices employed by Mullogs, though to call it burial is something of a misnomer, as burying anything in the limited solid land afforded by the marsh would be seen as a shameful waste of valuable land. Generally, most Mullogs are weighted with rocks, wrapped in lifereed cords, and sunk into specially designated deep pools or watercourses. Particularly eminent members of the community, especially shamans, are sometimes given “air burials”, where they are bound to a platform of sticks on the edge of the marshes , and allowed to decay in the open air. This not only has the effect of deterring outsiders from entering the Galumbé, but also allows those closest to the deceased to collect small bones from the body when it is eventually reduced to a skeleton, which can be turned into very powerful ancestral talismans, fulfilling the Ehpi obligation. Ancestor-bone talismans are highly prized, and usually become heirlooms, passed down the generations along with stories of the acts which made the individual Mullog famous. Shamans especially will often claim the right to take talismans from deceased shamans, thus accumulating over the generations a considerable collection of bone and tooth talismans worn by each new shaman.
The shaman is one of the central figures in Mullog Society. As well as knowing about medicine , history, stories and many other things, the shaman is in charge of making sure the spirits are not upset, and of setting things right if they are, and of acting generally as an intermediate between spirits and people. Most Mullogs can communicate in a limited capacity with spirits, by interpreting their dreams, and reading signs in the world around them, but the power of "Ohs-er-Dan" is reserved solely for Shamans, as it is dangerous and requires great skill.
Ohs-er-Dan is initiated by lighting a fire using a secret mixture of ingredients known only to shamans, though it is thought to contain powdered frent and squilla fungi, as well as ground insect wings, and occasionally also blood, depending on the hazards the shaman expects to encounter on their journey. Once the fire is lit and the powders added, a relevant talisman is often placed in front of the fire, and the shaman focuses his or her attention exclusively on the movements of the flames behind the talisman, allowing themselves to slip into a deep meditative trance. Once in this trance, the shaman travels through a dream world to find the spirit they wish to talk to. The dream world has been described as similar to the physical world, but full of magic . Thoughts have as much power as actions, and all things are visible simultaneously – when looking at a spirit, its past, present and future forms, thoughts, feelings, inside and outsides are all equally visible.
When the shaman finds the spirit he or she is looking for, they can converse with it, and ask for its aid or advice in a task, often on behalf of someone else. That said, reaching the intended spirit can be hazardous – there are predatory and trickster spirits dwelling in the dream world, which will attempt to capture the body or soul of a shaman for their own ends. A shaman undertaking Ohs-er-Dan will usually try to limit the time spent in dreamtravel by adding limited amounts of powder to the fire, or setting water to drip onto the flames and eventually extinguish them.
Finally, the favourite way to worship among mullogs is by telling stories. Mullog stories are many and varied, and often very old, with some said to date from the Yótha spirits themselves, which delivered them to the first leaders directly. Stories are held sacred, including those not of mullog origin, to a lesser extent. The mullogs don’t have any form of writing, and so the stories are preserved entirely by retelling, and a skilled storyteller can gain extra perks among the community. Mullogs believe that stories lose something in translation or interpretation, and so they are remembered almost word for word. The tonal nature of the mullog language means that, on the lips of a skilled storyteller, the words have a life of their own, conveying meaning and powerful emotion by the rhythm and lilt of the words themselves, so even someone who doesn’t speak a word of mullog can experience the atmosphere and wonder created in the story. This sense of power in the ancient words creates a tangible link to the ancestors and the heart of the Galumbé for mullogs, so it is unsurprising that fragments of the stories are often used as protective charms or loyalty vows by mullogs. Learning a story by heart is considered a considerable achievement, and children especially are encouraged to learn some of them. Thus, by their respect for the value of words and the integrity of inherited knowledge, a mullog child can, as often as not, recite tales as old as the entire mullog race.
Glossary of Mullog Words. Below we try to provide you with a basic overview on common mullog vocabulary helpful in their religious context:
|Ehpi||From the mullog for “continuation”. A religious practise centring in the obligation to keep the Eru of an animal, person or object alive, usually by taking a part of the object and using it to make something new, for example, making a new tool from pieces of broken tools.|
|Eru||Small spirits. The spirits, or souls, of people, objects, and all living things. The Eru of a person is bound up with their physical form and character.|
|Galumbé||The marshlands to which the Mullog race are endemic. An area of the Silvermarshes in the province of Nermeran.|
|Ohs-er-Dan||Literally translated as “dreamtravel”. The practice employed by Mullog shamans who wish to interact with the spirits. Usually brought on by a meditative trance. It is important to distinguish from simply “talking to the ancestors”, which is a skill many Mullog claim to be adept at, and not considered particularly dangerous or demanding.|
|Yótha||Spirit, or soul, of place. Certain areas of landscape have, in the eyes of the Mullogs, developed personalities and wills of their own. They are older, wiser and more powerful than other spirits and therefore command especial respect.|