For elves, religion is a deeply personal matter. Individual interpretation of one's spirituality and religious views is only discussed with close, personal friends or with fellow laity if you are a servant of a temple. From an early age, elves are taught of the world around them, the spirits that live in everything, how to appease these spirits, and how to live a life that is fulfilling but respectful of these spirits. Religious services only occur on holidays, weddings, or funerals, and visits to temples or shrines are strictly at the whims of the individual.
While it is accepted by most elves that most everything has a force or essence within it, not everything is intelligent; they also recognize that not everything can feel pain and that some of these essences are created by the higher spirits specifically to serve as crafting materials. Therefore, chopping down a tree isn't exactly killing one of these essences, so much as simply altering it into a new form, like shelter. Some spirits are more powerful that others, and some have reached what we would understand as deity status. The religion of the elves could be described as a cross between animism and humanism (though in regards to elves instead of humans), with a strong focus on personal spirituality and very unrestricted beliefs. Elven Naturalism (as opposed to Human Naturalism) is primarily a nature based religion that centers around the worship of powerful nature spirits, the practicing of philosophies regarding individuality and respect for fellow elves, and the respect of all things natural.
Since the birth of the elves, Elven Naturalism has been the dominant faith of the race; and though there are a few elves that have chosen to follow more strict practices, most of these "strict practices" amount to little more than the adherence to a philosophy. But since most elves celebrate individuality and personal freedom, they inevitably turn to Elven Naturalism which gives more personal freedom than any other form of religious practice.
There are no known religious texts that elven spirituality is based on. There are several writtings done by clerics about their personal experiences that many elves look to for spiritual guidance, thought the exact interpretation of the lesson these writtings are meant to portray vary greatly from elf to elf. However, throughout the history of the of the elven people is very involved with their religious beliefs, and they claim a great deal of involvement from their more powerful gods in matters of dire need.
For instance, the Drow Wars, a series of conflict between allied high and wood elven forces and the elves that would eventually come to be known as the drow. This war was said to have been started and ended with the involvement of deities. Lolth, goddess of the circle of life, the more violent side of nature, is said to have started the conflict and Corellon Larethian, god of martial talent and civilization, was said to have ended it. Additionally, the Orc Wars are also said to have been ended with the aid of Nasion Swifrunner, god of animals, Eddra, goddess of plants, and Curodre, goddess of winter. The leader of the orcs, Gruumsh, the patron deity of the orcs, is also said to have eventually been defeated, long after the actual war ended, by Corellon Larethian in a titanic battle lasting twelve days.
Creed & BeliefsEdit
As a combination between animism and humanism, this faith values nature and individual freedom above all else. All things are considered to have an essence, from the smallest stone, to the largest tree. Unlike several other faiths, Elven Naturalism has virtually no organization. Temples in elven settlements offer very little in the way of education, which elves take from their community. Offerings to temples are completely voluntary, though most elves would consider crafting a great work of art to be displayed in a temple to their favored deity would be a great honor. Unlike what most humans believe of elves, they do not have an affrontment to using nature to make crafts. Their religious views only teach them that natural components are gifts, not to be taken for granted.
Among Elven Naturalism there are a multitude of spirits that inhabit most things, even natural forces like the weather, seasons, and there are even spirits that personify the aspects of elven society as well, music, art, and magic. Spirits that personify more abstract aspects of our world and elven culture are usualy more powerful that normal spirits, and thus become as powerful as deities. The following is a list of these more powerful beings among the pantheon of Elven Naturalism:
- Corellon Larethian, greater deity of the arts, civilization, and martial talent; considered the leader of all other deities
- Dorana, greater deity of hedonism, and celebration; consort of Corellon
- Circra, intermediate deity of orchards, gardens, and the harvest
- Galinael, intermediate deity of fall
- Doronel, intermediate deity of spring
- Elel, intermediate deity of love and friendship
- Nasion Swiftrunner, intermediate deity of animals; patron god of the wild elves
- Eddra, intermediate deity of plants; patron goddess of wood elves
- Caea Waterborn, intermediate deity of the sea, rivers, and lakes; patron deity of the aquatic elves
- Niserie, lesser deity of the night and dreams
- Miren, lesser deity of summer
- Curodre, lesser deity of winter
- Nasloran, lesser deity of longevity
- Morilleth, lesser deity of sea life
- Altata, lesser deity of hunting
- Lolth, originally the lesser deity of natural selection and the circle of life, before becoming the leader of the drow
Clergy & TemplesEdit
Because elves are all so long-lived, elven clerics, druids, and the few paladins there are, can be very selective of recruits, observing potential recruits for years before finally initiating them. In fact, a majority of the devotees of Elven Naturalism are inducted, or asked to join, as opposed to asking permission to join. Once you are asked or chose to join the clergy of Elven Naturalism, elves spend the next several years in meditation and quiet academic stuidies. Depending on which deity you personally identify, many will also chose to hunt, paint, play music, or tend to small gardens that belong to the temple they stay at, these are ways followers feel they can become closer to their deity.
Once clergymen are complete their initiation, which is determined by the leader of the temple they live in, they are free to either stay at the temple, go out and travel, or if they are druids, join one of the many druid guilds and serve as protectors of the forests. These druid guilds are actually the ones responsible for keeping intruders out of elven settlements. Clerics that live in cities are present for all major festivals in their community, whether it be funerals, weddings, or holidays. However, the blessings of a cleric at a ceremony is seen as more of a personal contribution of that elf, rather than a religious necessity.
In elven cities cast from stone, with populations of around 500, few though they are, usually have temples near the manor of the city leader. These temples are usually very large, cast from alabaster and/or marble, with larger statues made to honor the main deities of that city, usually three in particular, accompanied with several smaller statues, wooden or stone, honoring any other lesser deities. In front of each statue there is always an incense burner, which is believed to help purify the air and the person breathing it. (Each city usually has the patron god of their ethnicity of elf, such as Corellon Larethian for High Elves, Nasion Swiftrunner for Wild Elves, etc.)
In smaller settlements, like ones with less stone crafts and architecture, one will usually find a particularly large treehouse, usually at the center of the community, which holds well-crafted wooden statues and other non-stone artwork dedicated to the community's patron god, and usually also the partron god of that elven ethnicity. Additionally, these treehouses in particular are usually, not only magnificent feats of architecture, but have also been enchanted and woven into the tree it is set in, becoming alive once again, and lasting much longer.
Present within all elven ethnicities, druid guilds are seen as a crucial and highly respectable position in elven society. The closest thing to strict ethical and behavioral codes as elven institutions get, druid guilds serve as the protectors of the forests, both from internal and external threats. Most humans fear the druids, and some have chosen to join them. Dwarves greatly admire the druids for their orderly lifestyle, which is very uncommon among elven civilization.
Druid guilds are close-knit groups of devout followers of more nature based elven deities who serve as the protectors of the forest and have a specific deity they identify with and admire. It is these elves that use magic to disorient unwanted travellers, and lead them back out of their forests. If this doesn't work, then the elves will resort to persuasion, then coercion, then violence if necessary. However this is usually not required, and simple illusions and the manipulation of trees and shrubs can lead travellers in and right back out of elven forests.