According to the
K‘ahn‘uck‘tscha (lit. "the Word of K'ahn'uck" in the
tongue), the beliefs of the Northern
Sarvonian orcs, the world came into
existence after an epic battle between the gods. They believe that they came
forth out of the arm of the victorious god named K’ahn’uck (lit. "the first
warrior") and are therefore a superior race. Through fighting battles and
waging wars they try and gain honour and respect from their kin, and by
eventually losing their lives during combat, they prove themselves to be worthy
enough to fight alongside K’ahn’uck in the afterlife.
Prevalence. The K‘ahn‘uck‘tscha is followed by all Northern Sarvonian orcs, with the exception of the Osther-Oc. In the other tribes, the Ashz-Oc, Losh-Oc, Gob-Oc and Rhom-Oc, every orc is devote a follower of K’ahn’uck. No orc doubts about his existence and those that would claim otherwise would be quickly slain. Even the peaceful Volkek-Oshra's current beliefs are deeply rooted in the K‘ahn‘uck‘tscha and, although much less violent, are still very similar.
Belief Outlines. Everything an orc does is based on respect and honour. It might seem strange to the human, elven or dwarven observer, but one must understand that orcs have a completely different way of interpreting those two words. For them respect and honour are deserved through strength, cunning and eventually death. An orc will train all his life to become better and to reach higher levels of respect and a better position in society. This he does to prove he is worthy of his place next to K’ahn’uck in the afterlife. In battle, honour is gained by winning fights. Surrendering is never an option and it is considered to be one of the most disgraceful things an orc can do. Even in simple spars for example, it is common for orcs to arrange the terms of victory and not to quit until they are met. Although it is not uncommon to fight to death (mostly over important matters, like leadership), this doesn’t necessarily mean every fight is. Most of the time the conditions on victory are something simple. For example: the first to touch the floor with something else than his feet loses the fight.
Origin. The following very widely spread orcish chant tells the story of how the orcs believe the world came into existence:
The Great Victor
The following is a more elaborated version of this myth and is written down as it was told by the Gob-Oc shaman Marvin Cerambit. Other shamans might have slightly altered versions, but the differences are minimal. The only variation worth mentioning is the one as told by some of the Losh-Oc shamans. In their version K’ahn’uck is the only survivor of those that entered the Ahn’b’rak, the First War.
At the beginning of times, the only thing existing were several gods, who
all battled for supremacy. Each of them challenged other gods to achieve a
higher status through the defeats of their opponents, all aiming to become
the very best and to rule over the universe. One god named K’ahn’uck
however defeated any opposition with ease and became their undisputed
ruler. Many battles were fought, even after he had claimed his throne, and
while other positions of power seemed to shift constantly he never lost a
battle and stayed on top.
There are two different views on what an orc
should do with his life. The Losh-Oc
believe that the other sentient races, grouped together under the name
‘Ch'ron-P'thok’ (roughly translated as "Vermin"), should be wiped out. After
all, they have come forth from the most powerful of the defeated gods and it
were they that had been the leaders during Ahn’b’rak, the First War. It’s only
logical that their remains cannot be left alone to continue some peaceful life.
Some Uon'kh'al'on ("Shamans") go even as far as preaching the entire destruction of the world, not even wanting to give any kind of mercy to any of the gods opposing K’ahn’uck during Ahn’b’rak. They preach that once all the sentient races have been annihilated it’s the turn of the animals and plants. All living things must be systematically killed and all vegetation must be laid in ashes. Once the last pieces of world have been made into a barren wasteland, all the Uon'kh'al'on must gather together and unite their strengths to pray to K’ahn’uck. After several days of prayer, the combined force behind their prayers will be able to persuade K’ahn’uck to look at what is left of the world and they will be judged for their actions. Once he sees their true capabilities he will gather them all and bring by his side, and reunited they will turn what still remains to dust, never to rise again.
Ashz-Oc, Gob-Oc and Rhom-Oc on the other hand have a less destructive look on the world. They believe that they are free to do what they wish in the world and that there is no necessity to destroy the Ch'ron-P'thok. They are not more than remains of beings that have already been defeated and just like K’ahn’uck never bothered to go after the survivors of Ahn’b’rak they shouldn’t bother going after the Ch'ron-P'thok. That doesn’t mean they won’t attack them, but normally it only happens when their settlements are too close to orcish territory (since most of the time they provide a great loot for little effort).
Death. Their outlook on life might be different, but all the orcs are gathered in their opinion on their deaths. The only way an orc should die is by the hand of an opponent during a battle. Whether it’s during a one on one fight, a small skirmish or an epic battle makes little difference, as long as the orc doesn’t die of old age or disease. Although all orcs will eventually return to K’ahn’uck, only those that have died honourably will have the right and the privilege to sit by his side where they will fill their days with eating, drinking and fighting as much as they like. Those that die a disgraceful death will be forced to serve them through eternity.
As women never engage in any battles this automatically makes their deaths a disgraceful one. However, an orc will never call it disgraceful. Women, although lesser then men from an orcish point of view, have their purpose and are invaluable in the orcish society. A woman’s death is generally looked upon in a neutral way. They will serve those that died honourably in the afterlife, but in their case, this is merely a continuation of their duties as a good orc, as they keep on doing that what they have did during their life.
It is sometimes said that orcs have more respect for their dead than for their living. It is not sure whether that is completely true, since it can sometimes be hard to measure the amount of respect an orc shows, but it’s not too unlikely. Orcs believe that the decaying of the body is a process where the dead orc is transferred to K’ahn’uck. Although there are exceptions, orcs generally burn their dead. This has two reasons. First of all, fire is seen as "pure". When something decays, this happens through animals digesting it and since animals have come forth from minor gods this is an undesirable faith for fallen warriors. A second reason is that the transfer will happen much faster. When left to rot it could take ages before the corpse of the warrior is completely turned to dust, but fire will accomplish this in a matter of hours.
When an orc is burned, his status during his life will normally be represented by the pyre they are burnt on. There seems to be no set standard for this, as it is also a matter of how much wood is easily available, but normally the larger the pile of wood, the more important the fallen warrior was. Another difference between ranks is the amount of things that they have with them when being burnt. A simple Noruck-chmer (the standard soldier) will have nothing more than his weapon and the clothes or armour (mostly nothing more than a thick hide) on him. A major chief on the other hand can have several different weapons arranged around him, his favourite one firmly in his hand. Other things that could be present are shields and armour. There are also reports of important Losh-Oc taking their favourite warg with them and there are even stories of warlords being burnt with their most important wife.
But as said before, these burnings are not a rule by far, nor are the sizes of the pyres. Rhom-Oc for example are rarely cremated, because the lack of decent wood supplies. Only occasionally they would bury their important leaders. After major clashes it is not uncommon to have mass burnings, with one large pyre for all the fallen warriors. Their have even been stories of orcs providing such mass burnings for their fallen enemies after battles with rivaling families or tribes (this happens only with orcish opponents of course).
Worshipping Practices. The worshipping of K’ahn’uck is something that is done through the everyday life. Even something simple as a short prayer for a successful hunt or a friendly spar is a way of showing their respect to their god. For important things, like a fight over an important position, will result in more elaborate prayers and sacrifices like slaughtering an animal or burning some food. Although these prayers and sacrifices are of course done to request help in achieving a certain goal, they are mainly to ask for support on the path towards that goal. While winning a fight for example will gain an orc much respect, this does not necessarily have to mean the respect for an orc that loses will decrease.
The largest and most notable way of worshipping is waging war of course. Wars and large skirmishes are comparable to the celebration of a holiday. All orcs gather, dressed up in their strongest armour and with their finest weaponry, to have a great time waging a large scale battle. Before they leave, the whole group is normally blessed by the local shaman so they may find strength and honour. Many orcs also carry enchanted weaponry and have magical symbols and signs painted on their bodies to bring them good fortune. These wars can be between rivaling groups to settle conflicts of territory or possessions, but they can just as well be between two groups to strengthen the bounds between them and to gain respect from each other.
Many houses have statues of pregnant women, carved out of wood or bone or cut out of stone and ranging from not more than a crude figure to highly detailed carvings. Normally these are enchanted by the local shaman to bless the house and its inhabitants and to provide a high fertility to those around.
There are two orcish tribes in Sarvonia that have different beliefs. The most known of the two (and probably the most known orcish tribe over all) are the Volkek-Oshra. Curiously enough, the beliefs of these civilized and peaceful orcs come very close that of their less civilized kin. The Osther-Oc on the other hand have completely different beliefs that seem to have no connection whatsoever to any other orcish tribe. There is however one link between all three orcish religions and that are the basic values of honour and respect that they are based on. The difference lies in how each of them interpret these values.
Other Orcish Beliefs. Let's take a closer look and summarize the differences of the akready mentioned tribes compared to the common orcish beliefs:
As said, the beliefs of the Volkek-Oshra come very close to that of the other orcish tribes. The main reason for this is how they have come into existence. The orcs of Southern Sarvonia lived close to human and elven tribes and their shamans had learned several things about their culture. Due to the new things they learned about the other civilizations some shamans (being the wisest among the orcs) started doubting the superiority of their own race. Eventually it came to a big disagreement and the unfaithful shamans were brandished as heretics and unworthy to the race of orcs. Shamans from various orcish tribes and families were hunted down and went into hiding. Eventually they gathered in a secret meeting place and formed the Society of Elightenment under the leadership of Karak the Learned.
As they had come to the conclusion that all races were equal they faced the problem that their religion now severely contradicted their outlook on life. Eventually their conclusion was rather simple, but it also solved different other, smaller problems they had with the current religion. They no longer believed in the victory of K’ahn’uck, nor his superiority. They came to the conclusion that he had been equally powerful as the other gods and that during the Ahn’b’rak two armies of about equal strength had met. Both had almost wiped each other out and only some minor gods could flee. These minor gods now tried to gather some control over what had come forth out of the remains on the battlefield. This explained how there were the several existing religions.
They had also figured out that the strength of their magic didn’t came directly from a god. Instead it came from the immense power the defeated gods had once had and it was buried deep within each creature. The only thing that decided how strong one could become is how much of his inner strength he could dig up and put to use. This explained how all races could rely on magic, but seemed to have an affinity to certain forms of it (like orcs had an affinity to fire). It also explained how women could be equally capable at magic as men.
Behind this all was still the need for respect and honour, but it was no longer gained through battle. Instead it was to be found back in their relations to others, be it a friend, guest, superior, or inferior. The only ones who seem to get less respect are children. It’s not certain why this is, but it is most likely related to their capabilities in the art of magic.
The Osther-Oc beliefs are very odd compared to those of other orcs. There seems to be no relation of any kind between the Osther-Oc and other orcish cultures. There are no family bounds, no Gods to be worshipped and no great cults. They also bury their dead instead of burning them. It is unknown however where they have picked up their beliefs and how it is that they are so different from the regular orcish belief.
Instead they believe that all things have a spirit and that those spirits should live in harmony. Although they are a tribe of professional warriors they are oddly enough rather peaceful in their behaviour. They seem to have a very strange outlook on life. They show great respect for life, but they kill their weak children. Osther-Oc can be found walking around through the woods, just enjoying the world around them, but their alignment is only bound to the money they receive from their employers.
Although their strange ethics and codes seem to be founded on the same values of respect and honour, they seem to be incomprehensible for non-Osther-Oc orcs and other races alike.
Information provided by Marvin Cerambit