This pantheon of deities is relatively abstract; the deities themselves manifest in convenient forms, male and female, of varying species, rather than having a set representation, and the important stories and doctrine are those of people who follow the deities rather than the deities themselves. The deities are best known by the exploits of their servants, some of whom are revealed to be their avatars. Some of the avatars are distinct enough to have gathered adherents to a particular aspect of that god, which occasionally causes sectarian warfare.
The pyramid pantheon is based around a system of concepts related to light. The four Principles are Light and Darkness, Color and Shade. It gets its name from the tendency of the temples to be built as four-sided stepped or straight pyramids.
Light is a pure, brilliant, all-consuming phenomenon. Some embrace it gladly as transcendent experience. Others fear it as a consuming fire. The temples are usually in white marble or limestone, with quartz or gold capstones.
Darkness is the opposite of Light: all-consuming, smothering, completely obscuring vision. Many fear the unknown that lurks within it; some delight in being that dangerous unknown. The temples are in the darkest stone available— obsidian, when they can get it.
Shade is a place between Darkness and Light where you can see clearly; it is not extreme, but it is safe. Many people are quite comfortable here. Slate is the most common facing for the walls of their temples.
Color is an embrace of diversity and endless variation. Some celebrate it as a wonder; others fear it as chaos. The temples vary from gaily painted wood to gigantic magically created walls of agate, with prisms for capstones.
The main deities are:
|Light||Nervon||Art||Truth||Bards, artisans, scholars, judges|
|Mirkas||Life||Healing||Compassion, enlightenment||Doctors, common folk|
|Oblon||Society||Hierarchy||Bureaucrats, nobles, leaders|
|Color||Serrien||Art||Fiction||Storytelling, craftsmanship||Bards, artisans, scholars|
|Kessel||War||Mastery||Martial artists, craftsmen|
|Imlas||Society||Nature||Natural selection, the life cycle||Rangers|
|Shade||Shemlas||Art||Diplomacy||Secrets, politeness||Diplomats, bards, artisans, leaders, rulers, scholars, wizards|
|Umbolor||Life||Longevity||Doctors, most citizens|
|Lapri||Organization||Trade||Theft, money, property||Thieves, merchants|
|Tyroc||Society||Family||Civilization, democracy, oligarchy||Farmers, bureaucrats|
|Darkness||Mnissilir||Art||Deception||Bards, thieves, saboteurs|
|Agijur||War||Self-aggrandizement||Assassination||Assassins, warriors, dictators|
|Gatekh||Life||Death||Disease, wasting, undeath, psychopomp||Necromancers, morticians, the dying, suicidally insane people|
|Kharsh||Organization||Slavery||Slavers, middle managers, prison wardens|
|Theblis||Society||Despotism||Bureaucrats, nobles, leaders, dictators|
These philosophies have not yet been rendered obsolete by natural selection:
(Some common pairings: Justice + Freedom vs. Theft and Slavery; Hierarchy + Civilization vs. Wilderness; Despotism + Civilization vs. Wilderness.)
These have been selected against:
The gods seldom settle schisms over doctrine through direct intervention nor when consulted through divinations. There have been many conflicts within a single principle, such as Light-aligned debate over “conversion by the sword” vs. “conversion by example”.
The underlying power in the mythology of the Pyramid pantheon is the dynamic balance between Order and Chaos. The mythology acknowledges that pure Order or pure Chaos would exclude everything else. The remnants of an older religion that worshipped Order, Chaos, and (sometimes) the Balance survive only as esoteric mystery cults. The few remaining temples to this older religion are all conical, with the same height-to-volume ratio as the canonical pyramids of the later pantheon.
(Order, Chaos, and the Balance are much less approachable than the Pyramid deities. Priests working for these more fundamental principles often find themselves tasked to do things that would disturb common folk— the end results of their actions can be shown to have brought the benefits of Order, Chaos, or Balance into the lives of those affected, but the intermediate steps can be distressing— a Chaos priest might find it appropriate to throw a well-run city into civil unrest if its bureaucracy is stifling individual growth. In the course of their work, they interact with the spirits of places, numina, as they reflect the balance of power within a given place. By these older standards, Light is seen as the manifest benefits of Order, Darkness as the worst of both Order and Chaos, Color as the creative bounty of Chaos, and Shade as the shelter of Balance from the depredations of Order and Chaos.)
Most of the stories in the mythology are about people inspired by these deities, some of whom are avatars. Deities themselves are known to manifest, but do so in a variety of forms— they’re hard to pin down.
Numerology and symbology are really big in areas dominated by the Pyramid pantheon, and people can spend days discussing the significance of religious art and architecture. Theurgists often incorporate these symbols into their rituals.
In the time before Time, all was Chaos. In this infinity of Greater Chaos, everything that ever has been or will be existed for brief moments before merging once again with Greater Chaos.
At the time when Time began, Greater Chaos, in its infinitude of potentiality, manifested Greater Order. Greater Order could not be transformed by Greater Chaos; it expanded, bringing organization to the disorganized, pattern to the formless, giving room for growth. It swelled to its destined place in the universe, fully half of Creation. Against the formlessness of Chaos, Greater Order brought the Sun to reveal truth, and the Moon to reveal the passage of Time.
In the joyous struggle between Greater Order and Greater Chaos, Lesser Chaos became manifest within Greater Order, and Lesser Order became manifest within Greater Chaos. We sail upon the sea of Great Chaos, dwelling upon our islands of Lesser Order. In the sky we see the changing islands of Lesser Chaos dwelling within the stately void of Greater Order.
The original religion of Chaos and Order started in someone’s Neolithic era, when people moved from a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence to farming, and Order began to manifest itself in society. (Before that, the religion was an animistic, shamanistic interaction with local numina with no cosmic organization.) Eventually, some neolithic villages grew into cities, developed armies, and created empires. The pyramid pantheon evolved from those tumultuous times, as society began to organize itself.
The creation myths of the pantheon are almost universal, but the details of how a particular island got created and how society there became ordered tend to be adapted from the source island to the host island within a few generations.
I’ve noted the various symbols of the gods and their aspects, when they’ve had distinctive avatars. The overall virtue for the pantheon is Piety.
The overall virtue for Light is Purity.
Nervon reveals Truth to the world. Symbol: an open book with white pages. (In some places: an unfurled scroll.) As a God of Art, one of his virtues is Consistency. Nervon’s primary virtue is Truth.
Priests of Nervon usually learn Divination as their first sphere. Appropriate forms of worship include: Discover a new fact about the world. Compose a well-told true story. Create an artwork that expresses a truth. Reveal a lie for what it is.
Garon leads the battle for purification. This can involve driving invading forces from a people’s native land to exterminating monsters that prey on innocent villagers to slaughtering the corrupt who are incapable of following the path of virtue. Symbol: a silver sword. Priests of Garon tend to be the experts in Blast. Worship: Destroy a blasphemer. Help build up the armed forces. As a God of War, one of his virtues is Effectiveness. Garon’s primary virtue is Thoroughness.
Healing takes many forms, and the followers of Mirkas practice them all. Symbol: a golden hand on a white field. Worship: healing a sick or wounded person, ease someone’s pain, ... As a God of Life, one of his virtues is Focus— living life rather than letting it pass by. Mirkas’ primary virtue is Mercy.
Patron of calling people to account for their actions. Symbol: a pair of scales. Worship: bring a criminal to justice, ... As a God of Organization, one of his virtues is Resoluteness. Tish’s primary virtue is Precision.
Symbol: a crown, torc, scepter, or whatever the local symbol of authority is. Patron of hierarchy and formal relations. More popular in cities than villages and towns. As a God of Society, one of his virtues is Perspective, the ability to see the big picture. Oblon’s primary virtue is Nobility.
The overall virtue for Color is Diversity.
Symbol: a stringed musical instrument that can be played while singing or chanting; varies with cultures. Harps and lutes are common, dulcimers somewhat more rare. As a God of Art, one of his virtues is Consistency. Serrien’s primary virtue is Creativity.
Patron of those who seek mastery for the sake of achievement. Some followers are trying to prove themselves to the world; some are only proving something to themselves. Symbol: a variety of hard-to-master weapons are popular, including the fighting chain and nine-section whip. As a God of War, one of his virtues is Effectiveness. Kessel’s primary virtue is Mastery.
The biggest trickster of the Pyramid pantheon. (While Lapri will trick for material gain and Mnissilir for power, Niska will do so to make things more interesting for folks or just for the sheer joy of it.) As a God of Life, one of his virtues is Focus— living life rather than letting it pass by. Niska’s primary virtue is Insight.
The liberation advocated by the followers of Tran is from all restrictions— slavery, prejudice, and expectations. Symbol: broken manacles or collar. As a God of Organization, one of his virtues is Resoluteness. Tran’s primary virtue is Indomitability.
Patron of those who look to the cycle of nature as guidance for life, and those who live closely with nature. Symbol: a tree. As a God of Society, one of his virtues is Perspective, the ability to see the big picture. Imlas’s primary virtue is Flow, an interesting concept that has to do with the pattern of the life cycle.
The overall virtue for Shade is Safety.
Patron of folk who find it convenient to hide the truth now and then, with polite lies and eloquence. “We’ve all got something to hide.” Symbol: As a God of Art, one of his virtues is Consistency. Shemlas’ primary virtue is Politeness.
Patron of the folk who defend their homes and their families from threats of all kinds. Symbol: a guard’s truncheon. As a God of War, one of his virtues is Effectiveness. Jas’ primary virtue is Vigilance.
A healer like Mirkas, but much more focused on preventative medicine and avoiding the kinds of things that cause you to need healing in the first place. Symbol: ginseng, the root of long life. As a God of Life, one of his virtues is Focus— living life rather than letting it pass by. Umbolor’s primary virtue is Foresight.
Symbol: gleaming coins. As a God of Organization, one of his virtues is Resoluteness. Lapri’s primary virtue is Craftiness.
Symbol: clasped or joined hands— this symbol varies greatly across the different cultures introduced to Tyroc. Patron of familial respect, brotherly love, marriage, and seeking marriage. More popular in villages and towns than cities. As a God of Society, one of his virtues is Perspective, the ability to see the big picture. Tyroc’s primary virtue is Loyalty.
The overall virtue for Darkness is Self-Interest.
God of lying, cheating, and stealing. Symbol: As a God of Art, one of his virtues is Consistency. Mnissilir’s primary virtue is Verisimilitude.
Patron of those who advance in life through shedding the blood of those who get in their way. Symbol: the irgaak, a two-handed sword with extra spikes that requires a great deal of strength to wield well; or the garrotte. As a God of War, one of his virtues is Effectiveness. Agijur’s primary virtue is Strength.
The psychopomp of the pantheon, a guide in the journey across the threshold between life and death... in either direction. Symbol: a skull. As a God of Life, one of his virtues is Focus— living life rather than letting it pass by. Gatekh’s primary virtue is Acceptance.
Patron of slavers and prison wardens. Symbol: manacles or a collar. As a God of Organization, one of his virtues is Resoluteness. Kharsh’s primary virtue is Dominion.
Patron of autocrats, despots, and tyrants, who wield absolute authority over all their people. Symbol: a gauntlet clenched in a fist. As a God of Society, one of his virtues is Perspective, the ability to see the big picture. Theblis’ primary virtue is Command.
The Hell of the Pyramid pantheon is a highly organized one. It contains numerous precisely prescribed punishments and has an efficient bureaucracy, ultimately reporting to Gatekh, shuttling souls back and forth between the many-chambered hells as they expiate each outstanding sin from their life. Bodiless souls are carried on carts, then dumped into pits of mud where they form into simulacra of their mortal forms that are capable of enduring just as much torture as they need in this Hell; the mud is loosely enough bound that it will simply fall away if a soul is removed, leaving a bodiless wraith. The demons here derive their sustenance from punishing the souls; only the bureaucratic overseers are proper angels of death. When a soul is sufficiently expiated that they can incarnate outside the hells, they are taken to the Wheel and returned to the mortal world.