Cosmology and Religion

Creation Myth

This is the generally accepted mythology of the origin of thinking peoples. (Yes, this is heavily drawn from the Heroes of the Feywild resource by WotC.) A further comment – this is the creation myth. Of course, it’s D&D, so I need to account for Clerical spells …

In the beginning, there was Day and Night – twin sister goddesses. Day was embodied by the Summer Queen, Tiandra, and Night by the Winter Queen, Firosa. They lived in diurnal/nocturnal harmony, until a third primal figure appeared – the earth, embodied by the Green Lord, Oran. Oran was wild, and wooed them both. Of course, there was disharmony as each sister vied to be Oran’s one and only. In the meantime, however, each lay with Oran multiple times. The children of Tiandra became the Seelie Arch-fey, and the children of Firosa became the Unseelie Arch-fey/fiends. It’s worth noting that the creation mythology of each of these branches portrays the other branch as the “evil”, with a clear sense that they are right and proper. So, orcs think of themselves as living the life that the gods set for them, and it is “right” by them, it’s just that it’s exceptionally cruel and brutal thru the lens of 21st century Earthlings. So the Seelie think they are “right and just”, and so do the Unseelie. This situation does not stem from an intrinsic evil of Firosa or good of Tiandra, as those entities are essentially above those concepts.

The results of their warring were great animosity between their children of light and shadow. Ultimately, a peace was brokered by Oran spending half the time with Tiandra and half with Firosa, thus creating summer and winter, and the transitions between them.

The Arch-fey children of Tiandra and Firosa became the first rank of supernaturals that drive various forces on the material plane. The actual Archfey/fiends are detailed below. The three prime gods (Tiandra, Firosa, and Oran) are very remote and don’t really have much in the way of direct worship. Almost all of the core supernatural “jobs” – calming seas, growing crops, success in battle, and fortune – are handled by the Archfey/fiends of the first rank, both fair and foul. These first rank Archfey (which mechanically look like archfey, celestials, and fiends in D&D) are the ones that involve themselves in the material world, mostly through points of overlap between the Feywild, Shadowfell, and the material plane.

Creation of the Races

The first rank Seelie and Unseelie decided to create “children” to populate the Prime Material. Some of these children are very close cousins (i.e. Humans and Halflings, or the Goblinkin) and some are from different origins entirely (i.e. Gnomes or Orcs).

The children of the Seelie were the Eladrin and then Elves, and then Gnomes. Then the humans and halflings.

The elves that abide in the prime material plane (mostly in Argiliath) are very long lived (but not immortal) and have only had a few generations there. They are not Eladrin, and are a “diminished” form from Eladrin and are therefore no longer Servants of any rank.

Humans and Halflings are essentially just variations on the same species.

The children of the Unseelie were the goblinkin, orcs, and other sentient humanoids. Dwarves are pretty mysterious about their origins, but it’s thought that they were the children of an Unseelie that wasn’t evil, just selfish and greedy about treasure.

Dragons are really just lesser celestials/fiends, that can grow to be not so lesser after all!

Giants were actually fey of significant rank, but decided to dwell in the Prime Material plane, and lost their super-natural-ness – like the elves. The most powerful giants (Storm, Cloud) are still revered as quasi-gods (and can be paladin or warlock patrons). The next rank, Fire, Frost, and Stone, are nearly elementals, and are degraded from their original might, but recall the stories of their greatness, fueling their resentment. Hill giants (along with Ogres and Trolls) are simply further debasements of the line. They are the most brutish, shortest lived, and (unfortunately) more common.

Planes

The only planes we deal with are the following:

The Prime Material

The Prime Material plane is the core world, the other planes are actually reflections of it in a way. This is the normal world where hominids are born, live, fight, and die.

Feywild

The Feywild is the faerie realm that intersects the Prime at points. Fey creatures come from the Feywild. Not all of it is “good” – hags live in the fens and marshes, etc. This is a capricious place and is a changeable and fickle as a river or life itself. There are settlements, towns, and cities. The inhabitants are usually elves, eladrin, gnomes, or humans that fell into the Feywild and became trapped there.  There are also Aasimar that are descendants of Archfey and human partners. The Archfey that rule realms in the Feywild do so in relative harmony, but there is always scheming and positioning. They work, generally, to promote the wellbeing of hominids in the Prime Material plane through visions and miracles done by their followers, being as they are unable to act directly there.

Shadowfell

Shadowfell is the realm of the dark fey/fiends. This is a dark and dreary place bereft of light and life and joy. There is a lake - Gloaming Water (some say that the Material plane converges with the Gloaming Water at the Gloamwood, and others say it converges at Bonegate Gap - both are possible) - in the Shadowfell that is utterly dark. It is where damned souls are condemned, drifting forever beneath the surface. This lake is also where necromantic power is sourced. There are “normal” inhabitants. There are villages, towns, and cities. Generally inhabited by undead and ghouls in some or cruel fiends and their slaves in others (the Kobold Press Empire of the Ghouls resource is great for this aspect). The Archfiends that rule various realms in the Shadowfell war and scheme against each other and the Archfey of the Feywild. They work to create woe in the Prime Material plane through visions, nightmares, and madness sent to their followers, being as they are unable to act directly there.

Summer and Winter Courts

At alternating cycles, respecting the dichotomy of their parents, there is a truce where the Archfey and Archfiends come together to maintain relations. The Summer Court is held in the Feywild and the Winter Court is held in Shadowfell. When these cosmic events happen, there are invariably ripples in the Prime Material plane.

Nexus Sites and Ley Lines

There are places where the Prime Material plane is close to another plane.  Sometimes these are locations (like the Ashmere) or they are "fault lines" that make Ley Lines (such as the Great Road as it passes thru the North Great Forest).

Tavel between the planes is a lot more possible, or even accidental, at these nexus ley locations, and there is more planar "spill over". 

The Shadowfell nexus sites most known to scholars include ...

  • Ashmere - close to the Gloaming Water
  • Bonegate Gap
  • The Wheezes (deep in the Swelter)
  • Fell Lake

The Feywild nexus sites most known to scholars include ...

  • Argiliath
  • The Glimmermarsh
  • Great Road in the North Great Forest (ley line)
  • The Dragonspire

Only the Raven Queen and Oghma are known to have had avatars that can choose to use nexus sites as travel points.

The Between

Some scholars have suggested a planar boundary space that they refer to as The Between.  There is no real understanding or observation, but the Between is thought to be the buffer space between the other planes.  

Archfey and Archfiends

(Fiends and Fey are how the "deities" are referred to in this world.)

These are the greater and lesser Arch-entities of both the Seelie (Summer) and Unseelie (Winter) courts. The Unseelie court is also the Archfiends (a little simplification for Warlocks and Paladins …). Some of these figures are generally aligned with one Court or another (from a human perspective), but may to cross borders and act unpredictably. The Raven Queen, for example, is very mercurial and has been known to give clues and hints to adventurers and rogues. Likewise, Manannan is prayed to by wholly good fishermen for a safe outing. Melikki is prayed to by bounty hunters. Oghma is the patron of all kinds of knowing - even the knowing of evil things. Some scholars argue that Lalli and Tellerva are the same entity. You get the idea. These Archfey and Archfiends are the subject of worship by all hominid races. Elves tend to favor Cernunnos, Dwarves favor Goibhniu, and Orcs tend to favor Morrigan, but these general affinities are not required for PCs.

There are a host of lesser fey/fiend lordlings for all the various natural phenomenon - The River King, The Stone Lady, The Birch Queen, the many flower faeries, hags - all with some minor role to play in the cosmos. All nature of minor fey may serve these lordlings and sometimes in unpredictable ways. For example, it’s common to see trolls and ogres as pawns for a hag, or shock troops for a minor fey lord.  Additionally, there are mortals that have ascended to the status of an avatar/saint of an Arch-entity (for example, Tasha/Iggwilv).  These fey-saints frequently have shrines or holy places dedicated to them.

Nominally, Tiandra is the Queen of the Seelie and Firosa is the Queen of the Unseelie. There aren’t really clerics to either of them, since they don’t seem to grant spells. Likewise Oran is not directly worshipped, being as he is really the abstract embodiment of the earth, although some suggest that Druids’ power derives from him in some way. Others say that it’s Cernunnos. It is unknown if these primordial beings even get involved in the schemes of their children.

Archfey (Seelie)

NameFocusDomainSymbol
Cernunnos (M)Nature and ForestsNature, LifeOak tree
Oghma (M)Horizons, Travel, knowledgeKnowledge, ArcaneLine with setting/rising sun
Ahti (F)Weather and FarmingNature, Life, TempestSheaf of grain
Melikki (F)Hunting, tracking, scouting, seekingNature, KnowledgeStag’s Antlers
Belenus (M)Light and the sunLight, LifeDisc with 10 rays
Goibhniu (M)Smithy and craftTrickery, KnowledgeA hammer and a cauldron
Tursas (M)Law, Justice, and HonorLight, WarAn upturned sword
Pettebhi (F)Magic and DeathKnowledge, Grave, ArcaneA hand with an eye in the palm
Lalli (F)Beauty, love, romanceKnowledge, Light, LifeFemale lips
Diancecht (M)Life, healing, and mercyLifeA hand over a bowl
Briganta (F)Lakes and RiversNature, KnowledgeA wavy line

Archfiend (Unseelie)

NameFocusDomainSymbol
Loviatar (F)Disease, famine, hate, and miseryDeathSkull cradled in skeletal hands
Morrigan (F)War and Wanton DestructionWarA bird skull
Tellerva (F)Beauty, broken hearts, despairTrickery, WarA heart separated into halves
Arawn (M)Death, undeath, necromancyDeathA skull over a cauldron
Hathor (M)Oppression, slavery, cruel law, revengeLight, KnowledgeScales/balance or a mailed fist
The Raven Queen (F)Night, Trickery, and SecretsTrickery, KnowledgeA raven
Manannan (M)Oceans and stormsTempest, NatureA rough wave
The Prince of Frost (M)Winter, Cold, and DesolationKnowledge, Death, LightA snow flake

Other, sometimes-worshipped entities not part of the Courts

NameFocusDomainSymbol
The Whisperer (n/a)Insanity, irrationality, fearTempest, Death, Outsider WarlocksA ring of tentacles
Elemental Lords (n/a)Earth, Fire, Water, AirElementalvaries
The Old One (F)Hags, nightmares, marshes/fensTrickery, Deatheyeball
SselathiDeceit, betrayal, Yuan-tiTrickery, Death, darknessCoiled snake

Detailed Descriptions of Select Archfey/fiends

The Prince of Frost

While generally considered a force of cold, uncaring evil - he is the embodiment of the natural death of winter - the Prince has been also seen as a romantic figure, and is sort of a tragic anti-hero in a lot of Bardic epics. His current role as the patron of winter is a reflection of having had his heart broken by Briganta, and the cycle of rivers and lakes freezing (Briganta in his grasp) and then thawing (she escapes) across the seasons is a common story of his attempts to win the heart of one who doesn’t love him back. There is a prophecy that if he ever finds love again, there will be summer and bounty for all the year.

The Prince does have, as one of his clerical domains, the Light domain. It works as described in the PHB, but it’s a cold, blue, chilling light. Still radiant damage, but the cold burning on your eyes of the sun reflecting off snow and ice.

The Raven Queen

The Raven Queen of the Havislands is an enigmatic figure that is usually associated with the Winter Court, but frequently acts on her own, and is one of the most meddlesome in the affairs of mortals, though her motives are inscrutable.  She is a frequent patron of warlocks (and others) and tends to be a very active, if mysterious, patron.

The Whisperer

There is a madness beyond the ken of Fey and Man.  Scholars are unsure if it is even a thing, an identity, or perhaps even just an idea.  Regardless, sometimes, its tendrils slip into the world leaving madness and insanity in its wake.  There are those for whom the whispers are power, however, warping the fabric of minds around them.  Fey of all stripes avoid it, though, if it has a will at all, it has shown no particular antipathy - just random lunacy.

The Old One

This is the primordial hag. She is the ancient, original hag. It is, in fact, unclear if she stands outside the family of Oran, Tiandra, and Firosa, in the same way that The Whisperer does. Her evil is deep and abiding. In fact, the stories told about her cave in the Shadowfell suggest that it’s the worst place to be a child. Ever.  Where the Whisperer is all-mind-breaking indifference, the Old One is opposed to the Courts - both of them.  She hates them and works slowly across centuries to corrupt and rot them.  The Courts often fail to detect her machinations before they suffer some setback, and their own squabbles prevent them from joining to defeat their common foe.

Sselathi

The old serpent.  This entity has no alliances, and is the patron/corrupter of Yuan-ti.  Some scholars think it is just an aspect either of the Whisperer or the Old One.  In any case, the Yuan-ti would tell a different story, if you lived long enough to hear it.

Religion and Clergy

The times of play are seeing a divergence in religious beliefs.  The simpler, more animistic forms of the Archfey and Archfiends are evolving and getting more cohesive canon about their faith.  Early "churches" are forming around various ideological grounds and the worship of the different Archfey and Archfiends is becoming differentiated.  This canonicalization is more evident with some Archfey and Arch fiends than others.  Oghma, Diancecht, Tursas, and Hathor, for example, have fairly developed denominations and cults.  Cernunnos, Ahti, and Melikki are more generally prayed to and are still the focus of The Old Ways (basically the religion of Druids).

This article was updated on August 7, 2022