The Old Faith
The sun rises and the sun sets, the two moons dance across the heavens, and the seasons pass. Since the earliest days, the druids of the Old Faith have watched the Eternal Circle of Nature. They know the ways of nature and the mysteries of the primordial land itself, but they are not its master. Instead, they are servants of nature and tend to the needs of the land and its creatures. Despite being a progressively uncommon worshipping practice, the cultural mark of the Old Faith is still felt on daily life, and only the foolish would underestimate their power for its followers have mastered the secrets of the world itself.
The reverence of the world’s natural fertility, and the primal forces upon which all is sustained, is commonly the domain of ancient druidic traditions and woodland folk. It exists in contrast to the worship of gods in temples and shrines, but it does not deny or renounce them. Instead it exists despite of them, embracing the existence immortal beings as just another facet of nature’s expression.
The Old Faith is not about the temporal power of a church but about truths present in nature. The druids seek to understand these truths, internalize them, and preserve them. Four truths permeate the philosophy and teachings of the Old Faith.
The Eternal Circle: The central belief of the Old Faith is that of the Eternal Circle. Spring blooms into summer, which fades to autumn and then descends into winter before winter gives rise to spring. The moons wax, wane, and wax again. Life gives way to death, which leads to rebirth. The root of all druidic philosophy is grounded in the belief that the Eternal Circle continues without end, and all that is will pass away before being reborn.
All Things in Balance: For the Eternal Circle to turn, all things must exist in Balance. There is a place for everything natural somewhere in the world. Death exists because it must, and winter comes because it is part of the cycle. Nature is wild and dangerous, and the predator is just as much a part of the world as the prey. Old Faith druids constantly strive to maintain the Balance of nature through their actions and in their thoughts. Existence itself is ordered in a Great Wheel – a circle – that is set in perfect balance.
Symbolism through Nature: The druids of the Old Faith hold great store in symbolism and respect oracles, auguries, and omens. Animals and plants both represent philosophical truths, and druidic auguries are centered on observing natural phenomena – such as what kind of birds fly overhead or the pattern formed by dropping a stone into a still pond – and interpreting the meaning rather than asking a god’s servants directly. Druids often keep oracular animals to assist with the divinations. The elemental weirds (described below) are greatly revered, and many druids seek their advice.
The Power of Four: The number four has powerful significance in the Old Faith traditions. There are four seasons in the year. The family has four roles – mother, father, daughter, and son. There are four great celestial bodies – Oerth, the Sun, Noctis, and Aurora. The four elements – fire, water, earth, and air – are the foundation of nature and that power is in continual flux throughout the Material Plane.
Places of Power
Worship of the Old Faith always takes place outdoors. Instead of temples, the druids and their followers gather at places of natural significance. The druids often accentuate the power of these sites through additions of stones or carefully chosen trees.
Elemental Weirds: The druids believe that elemental weirds are either manifestations of nature’s will or reflections a inherent consciousness born out of a need for balance. Either way, these cryptic beings are powerful diviners that dwell in remote and hidden locations. The air weirds specialize in exploration and can be found on windy plains or mountaintops. The earth weirds speak of death and fate and live in soft earthen pools of mud or clay. The fire weirds keep ancient lore and give guidance to the suffering and ignorant, and their essences are bound to pools of fire or lava. The water weirds speak words of healing and hope and dwell only in the clearest springs.
Megalithic Circles: The great megalithic circles are the heart of the Old Faith. The druids erect standing stones on prominent hilltops or other places of natural power. The massive stones are either solitary (a menhir), arranged to form a doorway (a trilithon), or a covered room (a dolmen). The stones commonly are arranged in circles, but the exact arrangement varies widely.
Sacred Groves: The sacred groves act as centers of worship for the Old Faith. They are the lesser of the two worship sites and are much more common than megalithic circles. Oak groves are the most prevalent, but other trees are used, such as the massive deklo or the fruit-bearing usk. The choice of trees in a grove is crucial as every tree has symbolism to the Old Faith.
Ways of the World: The Ways of the World are a secret means of travel for the Old Faith druids. They access a portion of the Ethereal Plane, which allows the druids to cover long distances by walking a short distance in the Ethereal. The Ways open to the Material Plane between the stones of a trilithon at a megalithic circle and are guarded by a fey spirit bound to that gateway. Every gateway has a different guardian with a different personality, and the druids must bargain with the fey for passage into the Ways. Common prices are a bit of gossip, a song, or a flower, but sometimes the fey demands a difficult or valuable gift for passage.
The appearance of the Ways changes drastically depending on the season and the whim of the natural world. Sometimes it resembles islands of stone in a thick sea of mist connected by narrow stone bridges. Other times, it is twisting network of caverns or raised causeways through endless mire. The one constant are the menhirs located at any crossroads in the Ways. Markings written in the Druidic language cover these stones to guide the druids through the Ways.
The Ways of the World are not without danger. Centuries ago, outsider creatures from evil-aligned planes crept into them and flourished. The druids consider them an unnatural parasites and try to eradicate them at every opportunity, but they have met with little success. Because there is no sunlight in the Ways, the corruption of these aberrations continues unabated. The druids often venture in groups, for travel through the Ways is extremely hazardous.
Friends of the Old Faith
The Old Faith does not exist in isolation. As an ancient religion, the Old Faith has made numerous allies over the centuries. The tenet of All Things in Balance allows the druids to accept widely varying customs and faiths of people. However, a few friends bear special mentioning.
Elves: The cordial relations between the elves and the Old Faith stretch over millennia. When the elves first encountered humans, they interacted with the tribes who were devout followers of the Old Faith. The elves were impressed by the level of understanding and reverence of nature possessed by the druids and that friendship continues to this day. The wood elves are the friendliest toward the druids, while the high elves are the most reserved. While the drow worship a demon, they do revere spiders, and the neutral live-and-let-live stance of the Old Faith makes interaction between dark elf and druid a complex one.
Fey: The Old Faith druids have long had relations with the fey. Because of the druids’ strong connection to the land and nature, they seemingly understand the capricious fey and can treat with them without dire peril. The fey, in turn, respect the druids and deal with them in preference to other mortals. However, a faerie’s definition of respect and dire peril are often far different from a mortal’s. Some groves sacred to the Old Faith have a dryad’s tree among their number or a pool that lairs a nymph. Satyrs and sprites roam and do not settle in one place for very long but often visit with the druids to share tales or receive advice.
Foes of the Old Faith
The druids of the Old Faith have gained their fair share of enemies as well as allies over the years. The clerics of St. Cuthbert, for example, are often rivals with the Old Faith for the devotion of the common folk but this competition is mostly a peaceful one.
The Far Realm: Beyond the fabric of this universe, and the confines of the Great Wheel, is the Far Realm. This horrific place is the home of aberrations that are not part of natural order and balance. Normally, the Old Faith would not concern itself with the matters beyond the planes, but sometimes the barriers wear thin and things seep across the boundaries. The gruesome might of the incomprehensible beings from the Far Realms warp nature in disturbing and impossible ways by their very presence. This perversion to nature is anathema to the druids of the Old Faith, who constantly attempt to destroy the intruders and seal the breaches between the worlds.