“I says a prayer to Old Man Morr
That me father’s restin’ fine
In his repose, while ‘bove him grows
The field that now are mine
I says a prayer to Mother Rhya
That me oats will grow up well
So come Sonnestill we’ll have our fill
And plenty more to sell
I says a prayer so bearded Taal
Keeps them beastmen in their lair
As oats are towed in wagon-load
Down to the market square
I says a prayer that Shallya’s hands
Will hold me young lad fast
As plague and war took me other four
And this one be me last
I says a prayer to Verena
As the market deals are turnin’
That all declare me prices fair
And I makes a tidy earnin’
I says a prayer that Manann’s grace
Has sent ships in from’out sea
And captains come with tidy sums
For each delivery
At last I pray to sly Ranald
For the tricks he has supplied
So farming men, who know of them,
Can make a little on the side"
– Reiklander Folk Song
The Old World is a dark and cruel place. Disease and deprivation fall on the good and the wicked alike. Evil spirits and powerful daemons prey upon the people’s very souls. In the face of this, the inhabitants of the Empire turn to faith and superstition to protect them. The gods offer a sliver of hope in a violent and dangerous world, but that sliver is enough to make men cling to their faith with desperate strength. Only a fool ignores the gods, and only a madman insult them.
The practices and rituals of worship vary greatly across the Empire. In the Reikland, where the faiths are strongly influenced by centralised organisations, there is general uniformity, but in the distant provinces the practices may be very different, possibly changing from village to village. Depictions and stories of the gods themselves may differ.
Yet most citizens of the Empire recognise that they all worship the same gods, however they may be worshipped. It is often this united faith in a shared pantheon that binds the Empire together as one people. They may know of foreign gods and faiths beyond the limits of the Empire, but these are simply signs of the ignorance or heathen nature of such unenlightened folk. Some also know of the dark gods and those who worship them, and look to the priests and witch hunters to guard them against such foes.
All the gods are great, but there is one that is loved above all by the people of the Empire – Sigmar. He walked as a man among them, and founded their great Empire. The citizens of the Empire, his chosen people and He watches over them with a greater care than the other, more distant deities.
The worship of Sigmar takes place throughout the Empire, and often his faith is inseparable from the life of the Empire. All of the gods have a degree of worldly power and secular influence, but Sigmar stands for the Empire, and it is not uncommon for his faith and followers to permeate Imperial politics and life. While each god may have warrior priests and devoted knight templars, the wars of the Empire are Sigmar’s personal battles. It may be the Emperor and the nobles that declare war, but it is faith in Sigmar that drives the common man to take to the battlefield, and it is the words of Sigmar’s pious warrior priests that give him the courage to face the enemy.
The faithful of the Empire generally fall into two groups: common citizens, for whom worship is an almost casual activity, and members of the various Cults, for whom faith defines their entire lives.
For the common folk, worship is mostly informal, but religion is ingrained in their lives in countless ways. Every child is told of the gods from birth, and reverence and study of the gods is a sign of good upbringing or scholarship. Following their strictures and rituals is a sign of good manners and civic duty.
Neglect or disregard for the gods might be seen as carelessness or disrespectful. What’s more, it can be dangerous: a sailor who forgets to say a prayer to Manann as his ship moves out from the harbour is inviting catastrophe, as is a soldier marching to battle who does not ask Sigmar for strength or Ulric for courage. In both cases, his companions may remind him of his laxity, not wanting to be standing near someone who is so eager to tempt the gods to punish him.
The line between faith and superstition is blurred for most common folk. Some rituals and observances are so old or ingrained that the people who practise them may have forgotten their religious meaning, performing them more out of habit or to avoid bad luck than any faithful devotion. Others offer sacrifices or donations more for social reasons than religious ones – it is good for business for a merchant to be seen donating wealth to the Temple of Shallya or other worthy causes, and every commander knows his men fight better when they hear Sigmar is with them.
The gods are invoked as they are needed. A sailor or fisherman may call to Manann every day but another man might only invoke Manann’s name should he have to take a journey by boat. A farmer or trapper might make offerings to Taal and Rhya throughout the year, whereas a city-dweller may only entreat Taal when travelling through the forest by coach. The gods are not simply called to in emergencies or for deliverance from danger, however. Religion is the heartbeat of the Empire, and influences nearly every part of life. The boat-traveller may thank Manann for the beauty of the waters that morning, and the city-dweller might ask Taal to keep the road smooth and dry so as to speed him to his destination.
Reverence of the gods is clear in many Empire names, which often mean things such as “beloved of Ulric” or “from Verena.” Many coats of arms or insignias feature religious imagery, and the symbols of the gods are carved into the stone and wood of houses and buildings. People wear small charms, tokens, or other signs of their religion, to identify their faith to others and of course to the watching gods themselves. References to the gods abound in songs and rhymes, in the names of the days and months and times of year, and in many figures of speech.
Common folk practise formal rituals as well. There are many holy days and festivals marked throughout the year and over a lifetime. Most people regularly attend local temples or shrines, where they pray together or perform rituals as a community of faith, lead by the local priest. Temples are often the centre of events at local festivals. In such bleak times, the citizens of the Empire relish these festivals.
The Imperial Pantheon
Manann. God of Sailors, Sailing, and the Seas
Morr. God of Dreams and the Dead
Myrmidia. Goddess of Honourable Combat, Martial Virtues, and Soldiers
Ranald. God of Rogues, Tricksters, and Fortune
Rhya. Goddess of Fertility, Farming, and Love
Shallya. Goddess of Healing, Mercy, and Childbearing
Sigmar. God of the Empire and its People, Hammer against its Foes
Ulric. God of Battle, Winter, and Wolves
Verena. Goddess of Knowledge, Learning, and Justice