The Kaaer’dár’shín half-orcen tribe of Northern Sarvonia are a deeply spiritual people who revere both nature and the hunt. Their religion is known as the "To'ava'yarna" (Kaaer lit. "Natural or primal spirit way"). They respect the wilds' savage instincts and believe that the world is nurtured by five primal nature spirits called the "To'ava". These spirits each represent an aspect of nature that encompasses the surrounding living world. Represented are the Tree (or Beast), Earth, Water, Light (sun) and Darkness (moon and death). The To'ava is lead by one "male gendered" spirit considered the oldest and most powerful called Durgho. He is typically represented in the form of a tree or wolf. The Kaaer believe that each member of the tribe is born with the essence of one of these natural aspects. Through meditation, prayer, songs, the use of totems and successful hunts, every Kaaer's natural spiritual essence grows in power and eventually they obtain the gift to perform divine magic by bringing forth their spirits' power.
|Image description. An image depicting the five primal spirits of the To'ava: Tree, Water, Earth, Sun and Darkness. Picture drawn by Arbaon.|
The to'ava'yarna beliefs are practiced primarily by the half-orcen
tribe of the Kaaer’dár’shín in
the Northern Sarvonian peninsula
of Caaehl'heroth. All three of the
Kaaer clans living in the Caaehl'heroth peninsula practice the belief,
including some smaller Osther-Oc
clans living in the Mount Osthen region.
Coat of Arms/Sign. The tribe's coat of arms is a runic type symbol with images representing the primal spirits. The tree (or pendrowe) symbolizes Durgho. The larger circle behind the tree represents Light (sun). The small circle within the larger one represents Darkness (moon). The wavy line underneath represents both the Earth and the Water.
Belief Outlines. A Kaaer'dar'shin legend story known as "The Mask Unearthed" tells how a wise shamut named Krull'mor discovered a powerful relic (unknown to them to actually be elven in origin) known as the Mask of the Tree Cousin in 1300 a.S. Krull'mor donned the mask he found and was immediately given gifts of wisdom and foresight. It was then, he later claimed, that the primal spirits of the world spoke to him and instructed him to lead his people in reverence of nature. The Kaaer belief system was born. After living under many generations of harsh orcen and dark elven rule, the Kaaer had finally found a path with which to journey upon their own.
The Primal Self ("Yarna")
The Kaaer believes that each member born of the tribe (regardless of clan) inherits an essence derived from each of the To’ava primal spirits. These spirits (some would say souls) together are called a “Yarna”.
Nature of the Yarna
Each yarna is identified as an essence of one of the primal spirits. Each spirit of nature represents specific gifts, or areas of power. As children, each Kaaer develops their own walk in life with interests and talents of their own. The Kaaer do not believe that this process is accidental or random; rather they believe that a particular To’ava leads them along their path in life. For example, a sympathetic young girl with a gift for comforting and aiding wounded is believed to be strong with the To’ava Benapryl, or the representation of Water (healing). A boy may be particularly talented with building and crafts and thus is strong with the To’ava Gynturg, or the representation of Earth (craftsman). The following representations are described below:
Beast Yarna - War, combat, tracking, animal husbandry, skinning and cooking. Those strong with the beast yarna are said to be capable warriors and hunters of the tribe. They are trained in the use of weapons, tactics and are responsible for keeping the animals.
Earth Yarna - Harvesters, gardening, food preparation, planting, caretakers of the forest. Those strong with the earth yarna tend the fields and are especially close to the pendrowe of the Themed'lon. They are the builders, craftsmen and artisans of the tribe.
Water Yarna - Healers, comforters, soothers of the mind. These gifted are trained in the use of medicinal herbs and salves. They possess a talent for calming the mind and are a soothing influence.
Light Yarna - The gift of the light yarna are few, for they are blessed with great wisdom and leadership skills. Most shamuts are of light yarna and are responsible for passing down the lore and history of the tribe.
Dark Yarna - While the darkness may be deemed something negative in other cultures, the Kaaer believe the dark is just as important as the light. Those with the dark yarna are responsible for communicating with the dead and performing funerary rituals.
Manifesting the Yarna
The tribe has come to believe that harnessing the yarna can be done using a "sentinel stone" (Kaaer lit. "to’vatar"). A to’vatar is a physical carving representing a piece of nature such as a tree or animal. A to'vatar can be carved from different materials - stone, bone or wood. They can come in various sizes with some being as small as an amulet worn around the neck to a large animal relief carved upon a boulder. To properly channel the yarna’s power, one must believe that the to’vatar can "activate" the yarna (and by extension, Durgho) to perform the manifestation of its particular power. The power of the combined to'vatar and the yarna can manifest itself in one of several ways: the healing of wounds and illnesses, communication with the spirits of nature (such as the pendrowe using the Mask of the Tree Cousin). The Mist Hunters of Osthemangar are said to employ protective to’vatars that shield their minds from the dark maladies of the Mists and other Netherworld creatures. Outsider scholars have classified these manifestations as “magic”, but the tribe does not recognize that term. Instead, what outsiders call magic, the tribe simply sees inherent and natural extensions of what can be seen and felt in supernatural form.
beliefs consisted of violent warfare and savage hunting practices. The tribe
was at war not only with the Osther-Oc
but with each other. The turn from this barbarism has not curbed the tribe's
wild nature nor has it made them any less "warrior-like". Instead, the
To'ava'Yarna faith has given the tribe a much wider source of wisdom and
allowed them to make full use of nature's powers. Scholars attribute this
particular aspect of the tribe’s current faith similar to the one practiced by
the Lost Ones, the sect of
druids who settled the
Themed’lon ages ago. They left
behind a powerful legacy in the forest in the form of the pendrowe and the
drasil as well as the Mask of the Tree Cousin. Their sacred Singing Grove and
natural rock-formed temples within the forest demonstrated a greater power in
The tribe began their life violently during the Third Sarvonian War. The Osther-Oc, led by the dark elves and other monstrosities, took it upon themselves to violate and pillage the human settlers that had unknowingly made their home directly in the path of the dark friends. The Kuglimz settlers of the Themed’lon, as well as the Antislar of nearby Anif, were caught up in the wave of orcs that swept south. Rather than kill the humans, they were instead enslaved and forced to build weapons of war. Over time, the orcs interbred with the humans creating a race of half-breeds that eventually grew into a tribe all their own.
Initially, the humans were forced to practice the orcen beliefs. This was soon rejected as the humans tried to keep their old beliefs alive. Over time, the people practiced a mixed system, one rooted in savagery and barbaric hunting. It was during this time that Durgho was born as a violent, blood-thirsty god who could only be appeased by killing. The shamuts at that time taught that only the strong survive, by killing and violence. The internal tension escalated and led to a period of civil war in 1250 a.S. as various clans of the tribe vied for power. It was not until one shamut named Krull'mor saw the wisdom in turning away from such bloodthirsty ways and embarked on a journey to learn a new way (as told in the myth "The Mask Unearthed"). He discovered the Mask of the Tree Cousin and he claimed to have spoken to a new representation of Durgho. This was a very new direction for the tribe. Many of the tribe resisted this new faith and it took over 300 years of internal conflict and patient debate to convert most of the tribe.
With the civil war over, most of the tribe turned to rebuilding. Out of Durgho was born his children: Suriot (lit. "Father [of] Light"), Leirgor (lit. "Mother [of] Darkness"), Gynturg (lit. "Brother [of] Stone") and Bynapyrl (lit. "Sister [of] Water"). Durgho represents the beasts and birds and the yarna of each person. It is said that the new direction was revealed to Krull'mor through a special tree within the Themed’lon’s Singing Grove. This tree is thought to be the drasil memory tree that passed down the ancient practices of the Lost Ones.
The Spirits. In addition to the yarna dwelling within each object or living entity of nature, the Kaaer’dár’shín also revere a group of greater powers. The living world is broken down into five distinct circles, each one given a name.
Durgho (lit. "First
Represented by the pendrowe or wolf, Durgho oversees all manner of nature and is as old as the world itself. He is often referred to by the male gender and is known as the "First One". He appears in tribal pictures and to’vatars as a grand tree. Durgho created the world from a dream, according to the Kaaer shamuts. Coincidentally, the elven origins are similar as their belief teaches that Ava dreamed the world into existence. Scholars attribute this origin stemming from the elven Lost Ones belief. Nevertheless, Durgho is a separate spirit, often classified as a “primal spirit”. It is from Durgho that all yarna are a part of.
Suriot (lit. "Father
Durgho named its first child the Suriot (lit. "Father [of] Light"). The Suriot took to the sky to make light for the world and provide warmth and sustenance for its future brothers and sisters. By the will of Durgho does the sun shine, but in all things, there is an opposite. This is the darker, silent child known as the "Mother Darkness".
Leirgor (lit. "Mother
The silent, brooding child of Durgho comes forth at night and is named Leirgor (lit. "Mother Darkness"). The sky children get equal measure in the world as decreed by Durgho and Leirgor represents darkness and sleep. Leirgor is revered for her cover of darkness while hunting, war and death. She is sometimes regarded as the "evil" spirit, or one whose plans are not of Durgho. Certain dark rituals involve the to'vatars created in the name of Leirgor to commit evil acts of murder or abuse of the sleeping spirits (dead souls).
Gynturg (lit. "Brother
Durgho’s third child was the earth itself, Gynturg (lit. "Brother [of] Stone"), and was the land for which the tribe could roam. Gynturg became a vast expanse of wilderness under his siblings, the Suriot and Leirgor. Durgho then placed his people upon the Stone Brother's shoulders to live, hunt and worship.
Bynapyrl (lit. "Sister
The Bynapyrl (lit. "Sister [of] Water") was born next to provide further nourishment to the people. Flowing cold, swift and clean, the Swift Sister takes no shape and knows no peace. Always moving, the Swift Sister is born from its Stone Brother and makes its paths upon the earth's shoulders. Together, the four children exist to provide for the people.
Worshipping Practices. There are several worshipping practices related to Kaaer'dár'shín beliefs:
of Durgho ("Johl do Durgho")
The process to harness and manifest one’s yarna is a lifelong process. Faithful works throughout one's life is called the "Way of Durgho" (Kaaer lit. "Johl do Durgho"). Some are more faithful than others in learning to hear their internal yarna. Shamuts are seen as the most powerful and in tune with their yarna (and by extension, Durgho). Daily rituals, prayers and works of honor to Durgho are required to successfully manifest and hear a yarna. The creation of to’vatars is also a required act of honour in order to fully manipulate Durgho’s gifts. Rituals consist of group prayers, days alone within the Singing Glade, hunting dangerous creatures, or teaching others. For warriors, it is deemed an honor to slay one’s enemies in combat. Mothers are taught that successful child rearing is also a daily act of faith in Durgho. Shamuts conduct all manner of rituals to grasp their yarna’s power.
As explained above, the Kaaer’dár’shín believe that the “yarna” are the primal spirits of nature living within each member born of the tribe. In order for Durgho to manifest himself through each yarna, it is required that the spirit be channeled through a physical representation known as a to'vatar.
But first, one must recognize and commune with their yarna regularly before the gifts can manifest themselves. This is done through ritual, prayer, and deeds of worth. Not every deed must be grand and heroic. Some can be as simple as caring for another in order to manifest the gift of healing. Some focus on warfare, such as the warriors of the tribe, and manifest gifts of prowess and strength. Others practice wisdom and foresight, two valuable traits of a shamut.
It is said that not every Kaaer is capable, or willing, to draw forth their yarna. That is acceptable, but not encouraged. Still, some choose to live a life without regular communion with Durgho, but all recognize him as supreme regardless.
Examples of various to’vatar and their related gifts are as follows:
The Stone To’vatar – Stones can be carved and made into different symbols or represent certain things. Often, these to’vatars channel strength of body and will. Warrior faithful favor these to’vatars for use in battle. When used, it is said that the body is granted strength of body, able to lift and wield and fight as ten men. Strength of mind gives the user courage and will to face dangers.
The Beast To’vatar – This to’vatar can come in the shapes of many varieties of animal, from bird to insect to wolf. Often, the power channeled through these objects takes the form of the beast itself, be it stealth as an uncil cat or tough skin as a tsor-shotak lizard. It is said that truly rare gifts bestowed through this to’vatar is the ability to shift into the animal form itself. This myth is perpetuated by stories of the fylja shapeshifter, commonly told throughout the North. These to’vatars are made from animal bone decorated with hide, feathers or hair of the beast being channeled.
Wood or Tree To’vatars – Made from the wood of a tree, specifically a pendrowe or drasil. These to’vatars often take the form of a mask and grant communication with the trees. The most powerful wood to’vatar is the Mask of the Tree Cousin, a relic of old rumored to have been made long ago by the Lost Ones druids. Lost in myth and time, the Mask of the Tree Cousin is said to rest deep within the Themed’lon in the center of the sacred Singing Grove.
Water To'vatar – Any representation of water often signifies healing, purity and cleanliness. To'vatars of this type are often made from smooth, bluish colored stone carved with pictures of a wave. When manipulated by a faithful yarna, the Byna to'ava releases healing powers upon the wounded of body and mind. Pain relief and cleansing of toxins is within the power of this to'vatar.
The War Buckler (“T'lark”) – The traditional war buckler is considered to be a warrior's to'vatar. The shield is made by the warrior and blessed of the shamut. The warrior is expected to be vigilant, protective and strong in battle. As such the t'lark is made from all of the spiritual elements. Wood, stones, and animal hides decorate the buckler. This is a highly revered type of to'vatar and one that the warrior keeps all of his life.
The War Dagger (“Re’voq”) – The dagger used by the Kaaer is considered a to'vatar and is used in conjuction with the war buckler. The blade is unusual in that it is carved from the bone of the deadly tsor-shotak lizard. This creature is considered sacred to the half-orcs and is hunted for not only its bone, but also its hide and meat. The entire dagger is carved from bone with the handle often wrapped in strips of the lizard's hide.
Casting of Spells
The size of a sentinel stone has been shown affect the power of the manifested spirit. Typically, those learned in the ways of casting the spirits’ powers possess a small to’vatar in the form of an amulet, ring or bracelet. As well, a re’voq (dagger) or t’lark (shield) also can channel power. In order to cast a “spell” (compendiumist note: the word spell is used for lack of a better term), the believer must first have faith in themselves and the To’ava whom they are calling. Willpower and strength of mind also play a part. The to’vatar is grasped and held before the caster and within moments, the spirit manifests itself in a way depending on the specific to’avatar and the yarna.
For example, a woman strong with the Water yarna and possessing of a water to’vatar focuses on her stone and with faith and willpower, can cast healing magic upon a wounded warrior or animal. Depending on the casters’ strength in their yarna, the wound may cease bleeding only to give time to bandage it, or the wound may close itself without any other aid.
Stories are told among some orcen and Antislar clans that the Kaaer have the power to shapeshift into beasts. While no witness outside of the clan has ever been known to have witnessed such an extraordinary display of power, it is believed by the Injerin ranger and explorer Saryas Kelweather that the gift to turn into beasts comes from the Beast to’ava (or Durgho). He has surmised that such magic is probably rare and only available to the strongest and most faithful of the Kaaer people. He believes that certain beast stones can bestow the caster to change into an uncil cat, snow wolf or even an eagle.
Rituals. Rituals of various kinds are all a part of the life of a Kaaer’dár’shín. Young ones are trained from the age of five years to understand their responsibilities to the yarna and to Durgho. Adults are encouraged to continue practicing their faith to receive the gifts of Durgho. Only the most faithful can attain powerful yarna, and often, they become warrior leaders and shamuts. Those who fail or refuse to remain faithful lose the ability to cast magic.
of Passage ("Hul'to gar")
This ritual is the first formal ceremony a young Kaaer experiences. Parents of young children begin by explaining the yarna and tell of the myths of Durgho. Then, groups of children are taken before the shamut and formally introduced to the teachings of their yarna. The shamut speaks of ancient myths of creation and how Durgho created the world. The children learn of their own responsibilities to Durgho and how to harness their own yarna. The children are seated in a circle, usually outdoors in the Singing Grove for up to three days (this is typically the only time a Kaaer ever enters the sacred grove except for funerary ceremonies). This is also the time when the child receives their yarna'melar, or Sleep Stone.
Blessing ("Hul'to gar")
New warriors, or those wishing to become warriors, undergo this ritual to give them courage in the coming battles that they will face. Since not all members of the tribe become warriors, this is a special ritual for them alone. The shamut or head warrior introduces them to the to'vatars they need for battle. They are encouraged to create a stone avatar, usually carved with a relief of a sword or arrow. This stone to'vatar is called the "Gyn to'ava". The warriors are encouraged and taught the proper blessings and prayers to receive the gift of Gyn'turg ("Stone Brother").
Joining of Two ("Ahl'grobar")
This ceremony celebrates the joining of two people in marriage. The ritual involves a grand celebration among the family clan. It also represents not only the joining of two physical bodies, but also the joining of two yarna. Joined couples are encouraged and taught to harness their yarna together to achieve a closer relationship with Durgho. A special to'vatar called a "Ahl to'ava" is made especially for the couple by the shamut, usually from pendrowe wood and river stones. It is a type of water to'vatar that represents life and growth. Typically, a male and female Kaaer mate for life. Should one or both of them break the joining, a shamut can formally make this official. However, a voluntary breaking of the Ahl'grobar is highly discouraged and may lead to a loss of Durgho's gifts.
Sleep or Death ("Gyn'olorar")
This is the funeral ceremony conducted when a tribal member dies. All members, regardless of status, are entitled to a Gyn'olorar ceremony. The name stems from sleeping within the earth as the dead are buried within the Themed'lon in a sacred burial ground. Their gyn'olorar, or sleeping stone, is believed to house the deceased's yarna and is placed in the care of a pendrowe. Under special circumstances, under times of need or crisis, the family member under the guidance of one strong with dark yarna, can communicate with the dead or call upon their spiritual gifts for a time. Once done, the stone must be placed back in its original resting place.
Sleep ("Leirgor gro olorar")
Traditionally, the dead are to be invoked in times of need by the dead's kin. However, there are recorded events that tell when a shamut or powerful dark yarna faithful takes the dead to use for their own ends. This is forbidden. One legend goes that a shamut, probably mad from ghun'tlor disease, stole several sleep stones and called upon the spirits of the dead. The mad shamut's twisted and tainted yarna was able to summon spirits that he used to murder several members of his clan. This sort of vile ritual is called the "Leirgor gro olorar" (lit. "death sleep"). Often in such dark works, the name of Leirgor is invoked as she represents darkness and death (or "earth sleep").