- "By earth, tree, and bone."
- —Common oath given by cultists of Taal and Rhya.[1f]
|Cult of Taal and Rhya|
Emblem of Taal and Rhya
|Seat of Power||The Taalgrunhaar Forest, Talabheim|
|Head of the Cult||Niav—Hierarch of Taal, Katrinelya—Hierarch of Rhya|
|Militant Order||The Longshanks, the Horned Hunters|
|Major Festivals||Start Growth (Spring Equinox), Less Growth (Fall Equinox), Sun Still (Summer Solstice), World Still (Winter Solstice)|
|Holy Books||Rites of the Ancient Grove, The Book of Green, Tome of Summer’s Path|
|Holy Symbols||Taal—antlers, deer skulls, stone axe. Rhya—sheaf of wheat, bow and arrow, dart, flowers|
The Cult of Taal and Rhya is among the most ancient and pervasive in the Old World, tracing a direct line to the primal Gods from the deepest of history. The cult grew organically, as early Humans tried to explain natural phenomenon, such as thunder, the turning of the seasons, and the rise and ebb of the seas. Over time, the Gods Taal and Rhya came into being, beginning as a single entity, known as Ishnernos. This split occurred many thousands of years ago, and the Cult of Ishnernos faded into distant memory. Taal rules nature and is considered “King of the Gods.” He claims the wild places as his domain and is primarily worshipped by hardy woodsmen, trackers, and rangers. Rhya’s worshippers are found in the cultivated fields and orchards of the Empire, and are found among farmers, fishermen, and young lovers everywhere.[1a]
The Cult of Taal and Rhya is the sanctioned cult of Talabecland, and is wildly popular in the eastern and northern parts of the Empire. Of the two, Taal receives most recognition, and Rhya’s role is much diminished. The grand city of Talabheim is particularly fervent in its worship of both Taal and Rhya.[1a][1b]
Taal represents the power and majesty of nature, both the physical world of stone and wood, but also the primal urge of life within all creatures. Taal makes the rain fall from the sky, the rivers flow, the animals breed and multiply, and the plants grow. He is not only the physical heart of a person, but also the spark that makes the heart pump. Taal represents vigour and growth in all its forms—especially the transitions from childhood and adulthood, when life is at its peak.[1b]
Rhya, Taal’s wife, is the nurturer of people and the land. Where Taal makes the wild lands develop unchecked, Rhya looks after the fields, orchards, and livestock of Humans, instilling growth for healthy crops and meat for all. Rhya cools and tames the wildness inspired by her husband, transforming it into maturity and wisdom. She is also the patroness of love and thus is fervently worshipped by young lovers or those hoping to bring love into their lives. Rhya also governs carnal acts, though few worship her openly in such a manner—indeed such thoughts are considered scandalous and rude among most people. Lovers may utter her name during passionate moments, which priestesses of Rhya claim is sufficient respect for the Goddess.[1b]
Those dedicated to Taal and Rhya respect people that are capable of taking care of themselves, but know the community works best if it works together, like a pack of wolves or herd of elk. Cultists often spend most of their time out in the wilderness, often alone or in small groups, living off the land like their ancestors did. They pay close attention to the seasons, the weather, and the cycle of life and death among the plants and animals that they hold dear to their heart.[1b]
The cult is a major influence in remote locations, isolated hamlets, and tiny farming communities, mainly because they are often the only priests in a given area. These priests are highly coveted by farmers and hunters for their knowledge of plants and animals. Priests of Taal and Rhya are in great demand to perform initiation rites for young folk and lead the faithful in prayers, rituals, and festivals. 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.[1b]
The Cult of Taal and Rhya steers clear of most of the politics and jockeying for power that is so prevalent in the other cults. This is not to say that they aren’t involved in the decision-making process, but rather their credo runs counter to the idea of institutions running the lives of people. They prefer to follow the cycles of nature to determine the next best course, and accept the fact that good and bad things all happen for a reason.[1b]
Cultists of Taal and Rhya are noted for their practical, no-nonsense attitude towards life, tempered with a sense of awe for the power and majesty of nature. They accept the fact that death is just as important as life, but only if it works in harmony with nature as a whole. Cultists despise anything “unnatural,” the most egregious being Mutants and Chaos, although extremists something take this to mean cities, money, and other trappings of civilisation.[1b]
Cultists believe in the sanctity of nature, the turning of the seasons, and the majesty of the wilderness. They revere animals and plants, predator and prey, and the struggle of life and death. Cultists 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.[1b]
- Taal’s children gladly give themselves for food and sacrifice. Respect and honour this gift to you.
- A sacrifice, of an animal or grain, must be made to Taal and Rhya once per month, at the dark of the moon.
- Each year, all Priests must spend seven solitary days and nights away from civilisation, communing with nature and living on what they catch. The time for each priest’s retreat is determined by the hierarchs of the region.
- Do not clad yourself in metal. Rather wear the hides of your animal kin.
- Take pride in your strength and natural skill. Avoid firearms and other works of science.
Individuals drawn to the Cult of Taal and Rhya are typically hardy outdoorsmen, capable of surviving on their own in the wilderness, or those that toil in the fields and orchards. Potential initiates are paired up with a priest for mentoring and to assess both the skills and faith of the individual. Those that pass muster undergo an intense, immersive initiation process, although what this initiation entails depends on whether the person is drawn to Taal or Rhya.[1b]
Initiates of Taal are tested on their strength of character, ability to survive in the wilds, hunting prowess, and connection with the wilds. With the onset of puberty, many young men and women are taken by priests to learn the mysteries of the wilderness and the wisdom of Taal. This rite, known as the Quickening, is extremely difficult and not everyone survives—those that do are sworn never to reveal what occurs during this time. However, secrets do slip out, and it is suspected that in addition to learning crucial hunting and survival skills, initiates also undergo intense sweat lodges, often under the influence of powerful alcohol and hallucinogenic herbs and fungi.[1c]
Initiates of Rhya have a far more subtle training, and have no time for the drunkenness and sweat lodges of a Taalite initiation. They learn the skills of taking care of others—planting and raising healthy crops, learning to council people with their problems, and assisting in childbirth and rearing. Actual initiation is a simple matter of the mentoring priestess (never a priest) deciding that the initiate is ready to move on, culminating in a small feast, complete with dancing and song. The initiation is shrouded in mystery, particularly among men, whose fathers whisper lurid rumours of blood sacrifices, moon worship, and stranger events. Men are strictly forbidden from witnessing these rites and most go out of their way to avoid doing out of abject fear—it is believed that a man who stumbles into this initiation loses his potency. Others believe the man loses much more than that...[1c]
Cultists of Taal and Rhya dress in simple robes of grey, brown, and green during festivals or rituals, but just as often go about in their regular garb as they conduct their rites. It’s common for cultists to adorn their hair and dress with leaves, flowers, sticks, and sheaves of wheat. Jewellery and tokens crafted from natural, organic materials, such as bone, twisted twigs, and uncut stones are common, augmented with flowers and feathers. Cultists drawn more to Taal tend to wear the garb of a hunter.[1c]
Cultists spend their days both communing with nature and being good stewards to the land while they go about their business. Although some cultists raise crops and livestock, most live off what they find through hunting, fishing, and foraging. They protect wild places from poachers, excessive logging, and other transgressions, although they know that people need to eat, require fresh water, and must gather resources to survive. Cultists of Rhya are much more attuned to communities, helping in matters of childbirth, healing, and raising crops.[1c]
Although there are those cultists that remain in the city (particularly in places like Talabheim and Talabecland), most live in the wilderness, as far away from civilisation as possible, preferring to be on their own or staying in small communal groups of likeminded individuals.[1c]
Signs of Taal & Rhya Edit
Taalites have their “Root, Trunk, and Branches” sign, which is used to bring good fortune when travelling through his domain, or under any circumstance where his aid may be of use. It involves touching or slapping the thighs, chest, and then arms in quick succession. Slapping one’s thighs is also a lowbrow way of expressing the desire for intimacy, and is used by almost everyone in the Empire. It is employed by both men and women, but is considered extremely rude when used among people of fine breeding and stature.[1g]
Cultists of Rhya greet each other with a kiss to their hand, which is then placed on the cheek of the other person. It is an intimate salute, used only among trusted friends or those of the faith. Another profoundly rude gesture outside of Taalite circles is to enclose the forefinger on one hand with the palm of another. Amongst these priests it is a sign of deep understanding and sympathy, but elsewhere, it is usually intended to suggest some other naughty activity.[1g]
The Cult of Taal and Rhya is a curious blend of loners who wander the wilderness and those closely tied with a community’s wellbeing. Regardless of their movements, all cultists are intimately familiar with the shrines and other sacred places dedicated to Taal and Rhya, and coordinate their routine with visiting and protecting them.[1c]
The cult is surprisingly structured, with a clear delineation between duties. Two hierarchs rule in each of the provinces. They are considered equal in rank and status, although who leads at a given time depends on the season—the Hierarch of Rhya rules during the spring and autumn and the Hierarch of Taal takes over during the summer and winter. When not in charge, each hierarch defers to the authority and edicts of the other, although they can (though rarely do) reverse any previous rulings. The pairing of hierarchs is done in such a way that friction is kept to a minimum, although priests do understand and accept that competition is natural, and indeed healthy, for the cult to survive.[1c]
Beneath the hierarchs are the high priests, who are responsible for the welfare and duties of the priests beneath them. High priests care for shrines, groves, stone circles, and other sacred places and are responsible for several priests and initiates. Priests perform the grunt work, conducting rituals and maintaining the grounds of their sacred spots. In some cases, a lone priest is charged with the caretaking of some holy ground far from civilisation—this solitary life does not guarantee that he is named high priest, however.[1c]
Priests are, for the most part, left to their own devices, and have tremendous latitude in how they get things done. Because of the cult’s structure, individual priests also have a greater say in what is done and can even contradict the orders of their high priest if they can make their case in front of the rest of their peers. Those that disagree too much, however, are cast out from their group and must either join up with another or find solace alone in the wilderness. Although there is no particular head to the cult, most followers heed the advice and wisdom of high priests deemed the wisest and most experienced.[1c][1d]
Divisions within the Cult of Taal and Rhya are present, but subdued, especially compared to the fiery schisms in the other cults. Those who disagree with the main tenets of the cult are more likely to just pick up and depart deeper into the wilds rather than cause strife. However, there are a few distinct viewpoints that dominate aspects of the cult, divided by how mankind and nature are to interrelate.[1d]
The first, and easily the largest contingent, is the Kin of Taal. Comprised mostly of men, this sect embodies the aspects of masculinity at its basest level. Priests of this sect are charged with protecting the “Men’s Secrets” and mysteries of the wilds. They help communities initiate their young men into adulthood in a rite called the Quickening, as well as teaching them how to hunt, fish, and generally survive in the wilderness. The Kin of Taal spend a great deal of their time building and sitting in sweat lodges, consuming alcohol, and using hallucinogenic substances to induce powerful altered states of mind. They lead men into the deep forest, where they dance, drink, and drum for days or weeks on end, or host wild hunting parties where the game is cooked and eaten in honour of Taal, along with gallons of powerful moonshine.[1d]
The second group call themselves the Wardens. They are the stalwart defenders of Taal and Rhya’s sacred locations, protecting them from the incursions of Beastmen, Greenskins, and ignorant citizens of the Empire who may not know what they are doing. Wardens keep out a close eye for those that despoil or besmirch the name and gifts of Taal and Rhya, with poachers being among their most hated enemies. Wardens are known for their quiet, serious, and often mysterious behaviour, and are rightly feared for the passion they have in defending Taal and Rhya’s sacred locations. Wardens also act as enforcers of the secret rites, hunting down and blinding anyone not of the faith that bears witness to these rituals. They believe nature laughs at the industry of Humans—nature remains forever whilst the works of mankind rust, rot, and turn to dust.[1d]
The last sect, called the Bringers of Bounty, is the most respected and accepted among the citizens of the Empire. Its members live in and among communities, granting the blessings of Taal and Rhya to ordinary people. The Bringers of Bounty perform rituals on crops and livestock, asking their Gods for growth and fecundity. Most are well versed in farming and animal husbandry, and are sought by commoners for their practical knowledge as much as their blessing. They organise local festivals and rituals to celebrate the equinoxes and solstices, guard the spirits of corn and wheat fields, and aid women in childbirth. Priestesses of this sect are sought for their advice on matters of love and physical acts, and are admired for their frank wisdom.[1d]
Lesser Orders Edit
Among the various orders important to the Cult of Taal and Rhya, the following are the most significant.[1d]
The priests of Taal and Rhya avoid constructing large buildings for the faithful to worship—their “temples” are typically open glens, ancient forests, waterfalls, and other places of natural beauty, unspoiled by the hands of man. Untold ages ago, the priests of Taal and Rhya’s earlier form, the God Ishnernos, erected huge stone monoliths that served as the focal point for worship. The few stones that remain are visited by the faithful, although tales persists of these places being haunted by wild, untamed spirits and fearsome animals. Wells and springs are considered sacred to Rhya, as are gigantic earth mounds that represent the fecundity, bounty, and the mystery of nature.[1e]
Most peasants, woodsmen, and others that live in the deepest forests of the Old Word erect small shrines beside their fields and orchards, dedicating them to Rhya. They also build small shrines in the trees, glades, or nearby glens that are dedicated to Taal. These shrines are simple affairs, where offerings of recent harvests or successful hunts are placed to curry favour. The shrines of Rhya are typically adorned with small, ceremonial bows and quivers of arrows, along with flowers, healing balms, berries, and other foods. The shrines of Taal often boast a rack of antlers or the deer skulls, and pelts from deer, elk, and other large herbivores. Worship to both of the Gods is performed on threshing floors, fields, village greens, and other places that provide bounty to the people.[1e]
List of Known Miracles Edit
Taalite Petty Magic Edit
The following prayers are spoken only by the cult of Taal.[1h]
- Blessing of the Hunter: Your blessing grants someone additional skill in following trails and setting traps.[1h]
- Blessing of Taal: Your blessing grants someone additional skill in navigation and outdoor survival.[1i]
Divine Lore of Taal and Rhya Edit
The sacred prayers of Taal and Rhya are passed down from one generation of priests to the next. Because of this, the rites known by each cultist can vary widely. Also, as the seasons have inexorably passed, the influence of Rhya upon the cult has waned, and that of Taal has waxed, so many of the rites once attributed to Rhya are now part of Taal’s domain.
Therefore, many cultists learn prayers that focus on Taal’s control of wild creatures (Taal, King of Beasts) or over nature as a whole (Taal, King of Nature). However, the most commonly practised rites are still those that balance the two, and maintain that Rhya is important to the cult (Taal and Rhya).
- Bear's Claw: Your touch imbues a character with the strength of a bear.[1j]
- Beastfriend: With Taal’s aid you are able to converse with a single animal within range. Animals are not used to conversing with man-things, so they sometimes have trouble articulating ideas, may not know much, and may have a very limited worldview.[1j]
- Lord of the Wild: You command a beast with the authority Taal, and it complies. Taal will not allow you to abuse his subjects, so you cannot command an animal to do anything obviously suicidal, such as attacking a creature significantly bigger than itself or jumping over a cliff edge.[1j]
- Ox's Heart: Your prayers imbue a character with the constitution of an ox.
- River's Blessing: You call on Taal, Lord of the Rivers, to grant you passage through his domain.[1j]
- Rhya's Comfort: You ask the Mother Goddess to provide succour for her children.[1j]
- Snarling Rage: You growl wild prayers to Taal, and they fill you with wild rage.
- Stag's Leap: You are imbued with the power of a wild stag, increasing movement speed.[1j][1k]
- Taal's Fury: You pray to the King of the Gods to unleash his fury. Taal’s fury manifests according to the surroundings, but is most commonly lightning from the sky, the earth opening, river waters rising, or the forests themselves coming to life.[1k]
- Tanglefoot: You summon up tangling vines anywhere within range to bind and hinder your opponents. This spell may only be used in areas with roots or natural vegetation.[1k]
- Thunderclap: You cause a cacophonous clap of thunder to peel out anywhere within range. The thunderclap is so loud that it can be heard up to a mile away.[1k]
- Wild Wind: You call to the King of the Gods, and he answers with wild ferocity.[1k]
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Tome of Salvation