When the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons arrived, they brought their religion with them from their homelands. Fueled by the power of the Rune Priests and their ominous Masters, the faith has burned bright in the hearts of most of the Anglo Saxon people in spite of some recent conversions to Roman Catholic Christianity.
Like the British druids, the pagan Anglo-Saxons prefer meadows and groves in which to hold their ceremonies. Special natural features are revered as holy sites or places where the gods have passed. The Anglo-Saxons believe strongly in fairy creatures, just as the British do, and often relate special places with fairy activity. Goblins, elves, trolls, two-headed giants, and dwarves all live in secluded places such as special caves, pools, mountains, deep forest, and swamps. Cults of particular gods attached to particular places are very rare.
The Anglo-Saxon priests and priestesses encourage their people to worship more than one pagan deity in order to avoid offending too many deities. It is common for some kinds of people to worship certain deities more often than others, however, some tendencies have appeared. For instance, among the Rune Priests, Woden is the most popular since it was he that gave them the knowledge and magic of runes. Among kings, Tir is very popular since he is the personification of law, order, and glory in battle.
Who Are the Rune Priests?
These are the guardians of the Anglo-Saxon pagan faith. They are fierce protectors of the old ways and do not hesitate to use the power of Rune Magic to prove their validity to any who may doubt. In Dawn of Legends, magic is very real, thus conversion to other religions has been greatly slowed among the Angles, Jutes and Saxons.
As spiritual leaders, the Rune Priests are powerful and effective. They lead the pagan faithful in all ceremonies including midwinter feasts, spring celebrations, midsummer celebrations, and harvest celebrations. They also perform any sacrificial rites deemed necessary by the priests or demanded by the people. Most often, animal sacrifices are performed in November in celebration of the harvest and the gods. This month is known as the Blood Month.
Training as a Rune Priest begins in childhood. Children of important Ealdormen and kings are usually preferred, but the Rune Priests will also seek out particularly gifted commoners. Training includes learning the lore and history of the gods as well as runes. Youngsters not yet grasping all of the concepts and lessons are usually referred to as acolytes and are trained by older priests. Usually, acolytes become full priests by the time they exit their teen years.
Once they have learned the runes and become full priests, these graduates are fully capable of reading and triggering rune spells. Only those priests endowed with the Magically Gifted talent are capable of actually casting and scribing runes. These priests usually have special status within the priesthood and training is begun again under the watchful eyes of the Rune Masters. Priests and Rune Masters capable of casting rune spells are collectively referred to as rune casters.
Rune Masters are experienced Rune Priests who have the ability to cast rune spells. The term experienced usually means they know quite a few rune knowledge skills and spells. In fact, it is rare that a Rune Master would not be Magically Gifted. It is the Masters task to watch over their pagan church and to give guidance and orders to the lesser Priests and Priestesses. They will often dispatch Priests and Priestesses to perform tasks and complete missions which require the oversight of a trained rune caster.
Rune Priest Hierarchy
There is no unifying hierarchy that stretches across the borders of nations, as there is for the Druids and the Christians. Instead, each kingdom has its own sect of the religion. A circle of Rune Masters command Priests and followers only within the bounds of the kingdom in which they have taken root. Sometimes, an elder or very powerful Rune Master will take command of these councils and title himself Rune Lord. There are no more than three such individuals now in Saxon lands.
There may be a few exceptions to this, such as in cases where one Saxon kingdom has subdued another. In this case, there is often an accompanying religious struggle to determine who will control the Saxon pagan church. Kings and Queens may or may not participate in such religious struggles. It depends on how much they depend on the support of their church in terms of magic power and happiness of their people.
Women in the Priesthood
The religion of the Anglo-Saxons is different from the other two religions in that the supreme deities are actually goddesses rather than gods. This fact allows women to easily gain acceptance into the priesthood, and thus into positions of power. In fact, since it is largely only men who control land and make war, entering the priesthood is a very attractive option for women. For it is within the framework and teachings of this religion that they can have control and power. Ultimately, priestesses can become Rune Masters controlling the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon church within a kingdom. In Dawn of Legends, more than half of the Anglo-Saxon church is comprised of women in terms of Priestesses and Rune Masters. Perhaps due to the influence of women in the religion, the chief Anglo-Saxon gods and goddesses have influences over fertility, well-being, and cycles of life and death.
The Role of Rune Masters
Rune Masters and their Priests, Priestesses, acolytes, and warrior faithful of the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms will usually be in adversarial roles in a Dawn of Legends game. It is certainly feasible for a Saxon-oriented Dawn of Legends game to be played. Yet here, too, other Rune Masters from neighboring kingdoms may be in competition with the Heroes kingdoms. The Rune Masters are meant to be played as cunning, menacing foes who are not above using any means necessary to achieve their goals. They are just as dangerous and ruthless as Saxon warriors can be.
Important Saxon Gods and Goddesses
Realm: The Earth Mother. Female fertility and well being of all creatures.
Description: The chief deity in the Anglo-Saxon pantheon, Nerthus is the mother of the Germanic people. Her consort is the minor god, Mannus who is known as the father of mankind. She is called upon for protection (especially in battle) and also for good crops and fertility.
Realm: Childbirth, marriage, love, and friendship.
Description: Friga is the famous goddess of love, and is the consort of Woden. Because of her attributes, she is closely related to the goddess Nerthus.
Realm: Spring and new life.
Description: Eostre is the goddess of dawn and new beginnings. She is usually celebrated in April and her symbol is the hare and the egg.
Description: This is a dangerous goddess believed to roam the land during the winter months taking lives at will. She is the deadly counterpart of Eostre, and thus the two goddesses are in opposition.
Realm: Runes, rune magic, the Wild Army.
Description: Woden is the most important male deity. He hung on a tree for nine days to learn the wisdom of magic, which he shared with his people. This illustrates gain through sacrifice. Woden commands an army of dead champions who await the final battles. It is his valkyries who choose those who die in battle so that they may join the Wild Army.
Realm: Glory and honor. Battle. Law and order.
Description: this ancient battle god is older even than the current, reigning gods. Blood sacrifices are still made to him in the hope that it will ensure success in battle. This god is most popular in Anglian kingdoms.
Realm: Physical strength. Thunder.
Description: His symbol is the hammer or more commonly, the swastika. He is most popular with the warriors of the Saxon kingdoms.
Realm: Male fertility and mankind.
Description: Ing is the sone of Nerthus and Mannus. He walks among men to do his parents will. Ing is often thought of as a fairy lord, and this may well be the truth.
The Legend Of Alric: A Sample Saxon Cult
by Paul Comstock
As were many days in Britannia, it was damp, cold, and misty. But for some reason the cold was more penetrating, and the chill seeped farther into ones bones, if that were even possible. Alric sat beside a great burned and scorched hearth in the middle of the ram-shackle building that Hengists men had erected around what remained of a town meeting place. Ironically, they were forced to erect this barest of protections because they had with malice burned and pillaged this village only a few days before.
Alric should not have been uncomfortable. After all, they had lived in much worse accommodations during their stay in Britannia. It was not uncommon, and even expected, to destroy everything in an enemys country, pillaging and destroying. That was the Saxon way. Yes, Alric thought with a sigh, that was the Saxon way.
A strong wind blew through some uncovered spot, and sent a cold chill through all those inside. Alric shivered, but not from the cold. To show such weakness would lead any Saxon into perpetual solitude until proving themselves in their comrades eyes, and for priests such as he, to show cowardice or fear was irreparable. Yes, Alric shivered noticeably, which was not lost to any that saw him.
Those around him were all leaders and commanders of Hengist great Saxon army. The only one missing was Hengist himself, who made it a point to visit all of his men in the field on every morning. Hengist was the greatest of Saxon war leaders and all those here would gladly die for him, as many already had, including his brother Horst.
Hengist had changed with the death of his brother, for the two were inseparable in spirit, as though together they made a whole person, and apart much less. This was proving to be true, as Hengist was changing every day, becoming darker and colder. Horst had been the compassionate and humanizing one. While he was alive, Hengist had been able to quell his dark side and savageness. But Horst was no more, and Alric feared, neither was Hengist.
Alric shivered again, though there was no wind to cause it. Oswald, the youngest and most ambitious of the Lieutenants, spit at the ground in front of him, sneered, and walked off toward a group of the younger and greener officers. Alric could not stop shivering. Something was destined to go wrong, and Alric was not one to ignore signs from the gods.
Egbert, Hengists right hand and long time friend, was the only one to approach Alric. The other officers chose wisely to look away, for Egbert was Hengist when Hengist was not present, and all knew it. Egbert placed his hand on Alrics shoulder, It is unlike you to show such weakness. Are you well?
Alric stopped shivering for a moment as the strength and confidence from Egberts voice and touch spread warmth throughout his body, No, I am well in body, but I fear not in spirit.
Egbert sighed, Yes, I have seen you become less sure of what we do here in Brittany, even though you have not spoken of it. Now is the time to speak and be done with it, for tomorrow all things change.
Yes, they will change, but the gods have not foretold of good things. I have had visions in my dreams, and tonight .., Alric paused, as if unsure whether to speakof it, I have heard the word of the gods that treachery will be done, and with it we will lose our spirit as a righteous country. All that will live in the memory of us will be deceit and villainy.
Egberts face noticeably whitened as Alric spoke. Egbert was one of the few among the warriors that believed in the gods, and very seldom that of mortal man. For that reason, he had always listened to Alric, who, even though only a Rune Priest, would surely rise to great heights in the church and would surely have been a Master now if not for this campaign. Alric possessed great abilities in the ways of magic, which he had demonstrated to all of those around him many times in the past.
Egbert was noticeably troubled, but was unable to probe deeper as Hengist entered the structure. All talk ended and there was a noticeable change in their stature and demeanor. Alric had seen it before, as the men who followed Hengist had a sense of pride, respect, and fear of their leader. Before the death of Horst, pride and respect were by far in the majority, but now fear was clearly the prime motivator.
Suprisingly, Hengist was smiling and in more of the spirits Alric had seen when Horst lived. For a brief moment, Alric had hope that for the first time in his life, the signs and portents he had experienced were wrong. Perhaps all would be well.
Hengist pulled out his great knife and slammed it through a thick oak table where the maps and other tools of war were kept. The knife was always kept exceedingly sharp, and was once owned by Horst. It was made of the finest of metals, and given a blessing by the Greatest of Rune Masters. No other blade looked like it, and surely no blade other than one possessed by magic could have cut through that table, even by one as strong as Hengist.
When the moon is high above the ring of stones, this blade will avenge my brother, for tonight when we talk of peace with the villainous Vortigern, my brothers soul will be in this blade and all but Vortigern himself will be slain by it. For that one, I have special plans.
The officers were quiet, but only for a brief pause before cheering. It was a glorious statement, and one that most found much more palatable than the thought of peace. Vortigern was weak, and Hengist forces strong. This was no time for peace, and peace was not the Saxon way.
Of all those in the building, only Egbert and Alric did not cheer. Hengist, though a ruthless and cruel leader, was also loyal to those who had served with him for many years. Egbert had been with him and Horst almost their entire lives. Alric, though a fairly new acquaintance was of the church, and no great leader could ignore the church, even if they desired to do so.
Egbert, my friend, you show some lack of zeal. This concerns me. Tell me of your reasons for these thoughts, Hengist said somberly.
There could not have been a quieter room in all of time. No one moved, no one spoke, no one even dared to breathe. It was unearthly, and several of the warriors shivered, though none would have admitted such.
Egbert started slowly, I have no misgivings of your plan, for peace is as disgusting to me as it is to you. For all of our lives, I have followed you and Horst, and will continue to do so unto my grave, as long as you will have me.
Hengist, showing a rare sign of compassion, stated, Of all those here Egbert, you alone can say what you feel and think, for whether I like what you say or not you are truly my brother, and as such, live in my heart as strongly and as lastingly as Horst. I know you well, perhaps even more than yourself, for I see in your eyes still another misgiving, which I plead for you to say here and now.
Egbert hesitated, but finally stood very straight and announced, The gods do not agree with the treachery we will do on this day.
With that, most of the men laughed, for most believed in themselves and that their destinies lied not in the gods, but in themselves. Hengist, however did not laugh, and the rest soon stopped. How do you know of this?
Alric then spoke, I have had visions and the signs are unmistakable. Tomorrow may well be a victory for you and Horst, and these men here. It may also be a great victory for some time to come, but for what it will bring down upon us as a people, will forever disgrace and dishonor us.
Hengist was noticeably angered. I will have my revenge and none will stop me! You speak of the gods and their greatness. I spit on the gods for they allowed Horst and many of us to die, and for what? All the promises of the gods have meant nothing. They are the ones who betrayed us. What the Britains get is justice not treachery, for treachery was done to us first!
Alric hung his head low, I am sorry, Hengist, for I honor and respect you in all but this. I can not support you in this, and the gods can not go with you tonight.
Hengist laughed, I havent needed the gods at any time in my life, and I will not need them on this day, for today I am living up to my vow. But you will go with us so that you will see that it is not treachery, but justice that we deliver. Now leave the sight of true men as we have plans to make.
Alric nodded, As you wish, for I can not condone or support this just as you can not keep yourself from living up to your vow of revenge.
The next day went exactly as Hengist had planned, with the exception that Alric was not with the party. He had left the camp the night before. The British lords were slaughtered, and Vortigern captured. The only casualty of the Saxons was Egbert, for which Hengist grieved the remaining days of his life. Upon their return to the camp, on the very table where the night before the knife had penetrated, there was a rune burned into it, which none of the men or other priests with Hengist understood or professed knowledge of.
Hengist took it as a curse upon him, and ordered his men to find Alric and return him into his presence, alive or dead. Hengist did not openly believe in curses and magic, but secretly, as previously known only to Egbert and Horst, he was terrified of such things. He blamed the death of Egbert on Alric as well, knowing that Egbert had died because he truly believed the visions and signs professed by Alric, and the fire of life had died within Egbert before the meeting.
For years, the Saxons searched for Alric, and many times priests matching his description and name were located, tortured, imprisoned, and even killed, but Hengist never located the real Alric. It was and is said unto this day that the gods protect Alric and that Alric now roams everywhere attempting to appease the gods and find a way that the Saxons can be forgiven their treachery.
In that time, rumors abound that a cult of Priests walk all the world, all calling themselves Alric, and wearing a rune which can not be deciphered by Druids, Catholics, Saxon Rune Masters, or any other church. It is believed that Alric lives within each of these priests, and that he seeks redemption of his soul for not stopping Hengist from the deed that destroyed the spirit and righteousness of the Saxon people.
The Cult Of Alric has never been found or proven to exist. Nor has any of its members ever been found, or if found, have never admitted to belonging to any kind of secret cult. If the Cult does exist, it would have to be very secret, for to this day, the edict of Hengist still lives in some of the more obscure places in the world, and Alric, whether the true one, or one of his cult, are likely to be captured on site, tortured, and killed.