Friday Lore Post: Old Ech’Kent Religion

The people native to the region called Ech’kent did not always worship dragons, despite how they might answer that question. Prior to the conflict now called the Catechism War, much like the rest of the human population, they worshipped a race of very powerful entities who are known the world across only as gods . 

Three clans of gods used to live in Ech’kent, and the leaders of each clan, by tradition, inhabited the holy mountain Chavej’dex, which was understood to be the gate through which the Gated Land could be accessed. These gods were killed at Thunderfall, and their clans later wiped out in the war. The plateau was later a place of refuge for several gods as the war started to turn against them, and worship continued of these deities until none of them were alive to worship. 

At this point, in want of gods and as yet untouched by the spreading Catechism, the people of the plateau came to worship dragons as deities, after a concerted effort on behalf of the dragons. Newly imbued with shapeshifting ability and therefore human speech, they made sure the people of the plateau knew that they were the successors to the gods—and that in fact the gods they had used to worship had merely been their emissaries. This was an extremely successful campaign, and to this day, the word for ‘dragon’ in the plateau’s native Chez’n, chavekma, is also the word meaning ‘god.’ 

The dragon-worshipping religion that was taken up by the people of the plateau was not overly complex in terms of practice. It was sacrifice based, with the leaders of the plateau making sacrifices of food and livestock on behalf of the people, to be taken up by dragons and consumed; in exchange, the sun rose every day, volcanoes didn’t erupt, farms were prosperous, and the plateau was not invaded. Ordinary people would also burn sacrifices to the dragons, believing that the smoke would carry the desire behind the sacrifice to the gods and cause favour to fall on people who’d made the sacrifices. 

Rumours that human sacrifices were taking place to the draconic gods spread outside of the region as well, which ended up being one of the Catechism’s excuses for missionizing the plateau. Later histories would also record such practices as a main feature of pre-Catechism plateau religion. These claims are specious and were always rooted in both racism and fear of what the isolationist people living in the mountains must be doing where nobody could see them. Human sacrifice was never a facet of Ech’kent’s religion, and most likely the claims started because it was and is common practice in the plateau to burn the dead rather than burying them, and the burning of human bodies made visitors think about the burning of living humans as well. 

Humans were never sacrificed to the dragons, though it was reasonably common that dragons who could shapeshift would visit a human settlement and expect sexual gratification. This became so common that it became an annual ritual for the human leadership of the plateau to sexually submit to the dragons in public, to make clear the relationship between the people and their gods. These leaders—and anyone who experienced sexual contact with a dragon—were said to be blessed by the gods, and could and often did claim divine powers as a result. 

Aside from sacrifices and sex,  pre-Catechism religion in the plateau contained few overt material trappings. Each settlement would have an altar for offerings, but there were no churches or liturgies, and there existed no formal priesthood, though rites and rituals came to be developed over the years, usually carried out by the leader of the plateau or the leader of the community the gods were visiting. There was at no time a distinct religious organization that was separate from the leadership of the plateau. 

It is unclear when the Caves of Whuvan entered Ech’kent religion, but this network of caves on the eastern end of the plateau has long been associated with the underworld. It is believed to be a portal to hell, and that it is from these caves that demons emerge into the world. Demons have existed as a formless concept in Ech’kent religion for a very long time; an abstract set of forces that lure people to hell and damnation, destroy societies by undermining human relationships, and encourage sloth, greed and anger in humans. This was considered a fundamental part of life before dragon worship, but the idea that dragons would protect from demons among their many other protections became prominent around the end of the first millennium SC. This form of demon belief fit in well with the Catechism’s teachings, and has persisted after missionization. Though official Catechism teaching refutes the idea that the caves are portals to hell, most people in the plateau persist in this belief and warn their children to stay away from the caves. 

Starting around the year SC 1800, the Catechism began seriously missionizing the plateau, though it was a process of several hundred years before they really gained a foothold there. It took about nine hundred years to fully missionize the plateau and officially put a stop to dragon worship, which really only happened because starting in the year SC 2761 the dragon colony living in the Roe Range instituted a firm non-interference policy with regards to the nearby humans, as a result of a new matriarch taking control of the colony. It is unknown what caused her to issue this edict, but it was enforced efficiently and broadly, and worship of dragons died out not long after. 

The people living in the plateau never forgot their draconic gods, no matter that they’d abandoned them and that a new one had taken their place. Stories of dragons and what they could do still circulate in the plateau to this day, and nearly all children growing up in Ech’kent know that the God of the Catechism is a foreigner who displaced the native gods of the plateau. Dragon worship has occasionally sprouted up here and there in the plateau, but was usually stamped out quickly by House Arkhewer and the priesthood before it could spread. Very recently, however, the old religion has started to return again across the plateau, as a result of three dragons destroying St. Arthur’s Cathedral in Jdinrma-Hash, and later expressing loyalty to the plateau’s Sorcerer King. It seems that the policy of non-interference has been lifted, and dragons have been spotted around the king’s castle on numerous occasions of late. Whether this means the old religion will return permanently remains to be seen, but the people of Ech’kent will most likely keep a close eye on the skies, just in case. 

From “The Definitive Atlas of the World, Vol. 6: Mythologies and Beliefs,” by Pascal Tiberius Naoton Quimbell Haeverine anNatalie, published in White Cape in DN 1997.

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