The Pantheon - Gods in Fantasy

DTJohnson

DT Johnson
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I am really interested in hearing your ideas about dieties! What kinds of gods or goddesses do you like to create? How are they worshipped? How do you go about naming them?

In the Science-Fantasy graphic novel I am co-writing, we've created a race of ancient beings that have ascended to the point where they are practically gods to the lesser races. The worship of those under them provides the gods power. A jealous god wants more power, so when he finds a new race on a distant planet, he keeps it secret to preserve the race's worship for himself.

Let me know about your process for making deities!
 

-K2-

mƎ kn0w dUm!
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Though there is a good recent thread on this subject which might yield up more answers, I'm still of the opinion that you need to know your race's culture to determine what they would consider godly. E.g.: A fantasy race of barbarians I developed believed things in threes were 'faithful,' that the world and this life was to grant them an opportunity to grow stronger and rid themselves of all fear through battle and conflict. Cowardice was a sin/unfaithful, lying, theft (though taking through force face to face was fine), harming those weaker**, etc..

So, the gods were set up in families of three, the layers of the world were in threes (human, spirit, and godly each also subdivided into threes) they approved of people defying them--even threatening them, they encouraged oppression/slavery/raiding**, they punished unfaithful acts and the evil gods believed in peace and making the world a beautiful and gentle place (Kortme'), lying/sneaking/seduction (Wespe'), cowardice/assassination/political maneuvering (Jagdnicht), etc.

** So, picking on those weaker is a sin. Yet, slavery was okay, oppression and so on. The way the gods and race viewed it, through their oppression they forced weaker races to fight back and become stronger. The members of the clan were expected to be brutally harsh on others up to a point. If the person fought back, they were to be praised, if it was clear they wouldn't then taught and guided till they did and so on. In fact, only a slave that embraced the clan's ways fully and ultimately stood up to them risking death could rise to the highest level of status within the clan. Not even someone born into the clan could achieve that station.

It went on and on including customs, festivals and so on. But, the point was their gods reflected their beliefs (which supposedly they learned from those gods), and so there was that clear bond and logic as to why each was how they were.

Just my opinion.

K2
 

DLCroix

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Hi. The first thing is that it depends on what story I am writing. But, assuming the characters are human, I also wonder if they belong to Earth or not. In the case that they are earthlings (argh, the Ak Ak Ak Ak escaped me! I will prefer to say terrestrials), I base myself on what already exists and make an extrapolation to a hundred or a thousand years or whatever I need and from there just I do a questionnaire.
This questionnaire can be as extensive as you want or only refer to a few aspects. But the fact that it is an inherited pantheon of terrestrial culture, however precarious the prospective aspect of the outline may be, one wants it or not anyway something will survive through time. Certain customs, superstitions or dogmas will be preserved or at least will change depending on the time.
For example, in ancient times the European gods were lunar while the American gods were solar. So, especially if the characters in your story come from Earth, I repeat, a hundred or a thousand years have passed, you should still consider at least a certain evolution.

On the other hand, if your story occurs in a fictional world, well, there you already have complete freedom to create other types of gods.
Still, even in a very basic way, I would advise you to think of a certain cosmogony. For example, we have a notion of how the Universe was created. Now what is your characters' vision about their own particular universe? The planet where they live, is it a relatively new world, in the middle of terraforming or already in frank decay? In short, the birth of religions is linked to Astrology. That creates a set of beliefs and superstitions, a way of seeing things. For example, in 1800 the Arab peoples lived terrified to a eclipse and every time there was one they used to predict a thousand misfortunes. And it was just a simple eclipse. BTW, is there a moon on your planets? Maybe there are two suns, like in Star Wars. Maybe they are in an asteroid belt. So, as you will see, depending on how your worlds are, the variables change.

However, perhaps you could take advantage of what you said about certain ancient beings whose rise has placed them in a superior position compared to other inferior races. Maybe the point is that these beings are not as, as gods or as powerful as they claim and that is why they go with secrets and all that. Maybe they are even deadly. BTW, how long do people live in your world? On what do the gods of your story base their power? In this regard, This immortal, by Roger Zelazny, is a sci-fi novel that could give you good ideas for your story.
Because giving them a name is the least of it. That's the easiest thing to do, actually. I personally do not have a method for baptizing my creatures. I just have a query summary with five pages full of names that I have invented to baptize anything; not just a character.
I hope I've been helpful.
 

.matthew.

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This is what happens in Terry Pratchett's Small Gods. :)
Also the Ori in Stargate. Even to the point of subjugating distant worlds :) But what hasn't been used before, eh?

As to the original question, I like a cross between the nature based deities of paganism, and the family feuding of later polytheism.
 

Joshua Jones

When all is said and done, all's quiet and boring.
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Well, in my Fantasy WiP, I loosely base the gods off meso-American deities and the rivalry between the Aztec Eagle and Jaguar warriors, as well as have the protagonist and antagonist/love interest gradually move from humans to demigods to full on gods over the course of 1000 years, which is itself part of a curse due to the protagonist killing a god.

It... gets complicated...
 

XibalbaComics

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I've always had a keener interest in pagan gods, personifications of natural forces and so on. Not the sort that listen to your thoughts but that are simply greater beings than humans, the drama of which humans often get caught up in as pawns or unfortunate bystanders.

Naming them? Whatever sounds nifty or appropriate for their characteristics I guess. If there's a fictional language my humans are using I'll just come up with a grand-sounding word in their tongue. Or a descriptive term relating to what those gods can do or what powers they are perceived to hold.
 

Dragonlady

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I'm having fun in my wip set in a late mediaeval/early renaissance port city. They have a pantheon, so i'm trying to work out how people of that level would do pantheon worship. There is still an element of animal sacrifice but it is moving ritual, so feeding Hetta's sacred fish as a form of prayer. Inspired by the classical pantheons but not really based on them as some of the deities are my own. Anathita - goddess of fertility in the freya sense , Pyritta, goddess of fire and fortune, Minathia, goddess of magic, Peralina, the agrarian mother/fertility goddess. Hetta, the great sea goddess, Nalisso, the warrior fertility god associated with dragons, yes, I need more male ones. I've associated the merchants' guild with Hetta, much as professions had a particular saint they may have followed, and need to develop that further.
 

.matthew.

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I'm having fun in my wip set in a late mediaeval/early renaissance port city. They have a pantheon, so i'm trying to work out how people of that level would do pantheon worship. There is still an element of animal sacrifice but it is moving ritual, so feeding Hetta's sacred fish as a form of prayer. Inspired by the classical pantheons but not really based on them as some of the deities are my own. Anathita - goddess of fertility in the freya sense , Pyritta, goddess of fire and fortune, Minathia, goddess of magic, Peralina, the agrarian mother/fertility goddess. Hetta, the great sea goddess, Nalisso, the warrior fertility god associated with dragons, yes, I need more male ones. I've associated the merchants' guild with Hetta, much as professions had a particular saint they may have followed, and need to develop that further.
I like that sort of pantheon with the odd sacrifice and Gods to particular professions. I did build up a full pantheon for a WIP that I left by the wayside, and also added different types of stone to represent each (for amulets etc). Although I never decided whether my Gods were 'real' in that world.

Bear in mind we still have ritual feasts to this day - it's just more like we've outsourced the actual sacrifice bit.

You could always put into the lore that there are more female Gods because the male Gods are always scrapping and trying to take over the place. Historically this has a lot of real-world inspiration too, with the old Gods constantly trying to kill each other.
 

Dragonlady

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@.matthew. i took a bit of insipration, certainly for newbie Hettta, from the greek goddesses that used to be in charge before the males started pushing them around. I will need to add more males, but it's the females that have been relating to characters I've written and the deities have just walked into my head. Nalisso for example is much more real to me after I planned a story in a rural community that was a bit sheep/shepherds v dragons - peralina v nalisso.

My characters get real visions and things from the gods, but they're not just goign to start walking around
 

CTRandall

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My recent work features a quasi-theocracy in which the church is the primary arbiter of the law, with judges holding the highest ranks within the church hierarchy. I don't bother to go into too many details of the religion, only describing those elements that impact on the story. The suggestion is that the religion is monotheistic but I never give a name for the god, only a descriptive "the Hand that Holds the Scales" (as in judgement scales), usually shortened to "the Hand that Holds".

Focusing on judges and absolute law lets me play around with the differences and conflicts between morality (what is good) and law (what is legal) in without all the distractions of an elaborate mythology. And I've made the church and judges themselves aware of the distinction between moral and legal, so characters can play with the boundaries between the two without descending into blatant, i.e. predictable, corruption.
 
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