Welcome to another World Building Sunday! Thank you for joining me and reading along. ^_^
Today I’d like to dabble in the realm of the mystical, holy, potentially unholy, and divine. Now religion in general can be a hot topic. There’s no denying that. In your world or story though, it doesn’t need to be. Oh sure. There are plenty where religious wars happen or people do things because their deity tells them to (actually or otherwise). You can even find several where deities take an active part in the worlds they exist in. And sometimes your story might actually follow a deity or two or three.
So where do we start? Well, to begin with, you can always base your religions on established ones already. If your story takes place on Earth or a modern world or in an alternate reality, there’s nothing to say you can’t just use the current religions in your world. But… if you’re like me and you gallivant in the fantasy or science fiction based fields, then you might want to pull from more fantastical sources or make your own.
Personally, I lean hard on pantheons of gods and goddesses and if there are deities in my stories, they are generally one of many. In my first literal novel (which is a beautiful train wreck of a mess), my world had four goddesses: the Ladies. Considering it’s been nigh on twenty plus years now since I conceived of them, my memory is a bit fuzzy and they need a rework anyway, but the gist of their existence was such that they were all sisters and their roles were:
- The maiden
- The mother
- The warrior
- The crone
All peoples could pray to any aspect but obviously, some would identify more with certain goddesses depending on their stage in life or they could change who they prayed to depending on who they were praying for. A mother might pray to the warrior to give her son or daughter strength in battle. The same way a father might pray to the maiden to guide his children in the early stages of life and grant them an innocent childhood. And all would pray to the crone to help their loved one cross over to the other side.
One of my other stories was a play on and a mashup of Norse mythology from a historical perspective but also from a video game that took place in the same world (Valkyrie Profile for anyone that’s interested). All the Norse gods were present and the stage was set for Ragnarok to happen as it is supposed to in Norse mythology, but I incorporated other characters to add breadth to the story – most notably, other Einherjar (fallen warriors that the Valkyries recruited from Midgard and took to Valhalla so they could participate in Ragnarok with the other gods). Could I publish it? Maybe not considering it’s definitely fan fiction based, but it was quite fun to write. haha
Stepping away from fantasy for a moment, you can also choose NOT to have a particular god or gods as the focus for your character. I’m not saying that every character in your world or story might follow the same pattern, but in my current WIP, my mains don’t pray to any god or goddess. They live on the fourth Earth type planet in their universe and go careening across the galaxy in a metal box propelled by rocket fuel that would kill everyone inside pretty quickly if the ship ruptured or crashed into something. Gods don’t really have a large focus for them… Rather, if they pray, it’s to the cosmic energies or karma or luck. You might find phrases like ‘By the stars…’ or ‘Novas take you…’ or ‘Cosmos guide you…’ peppered throughout their adventures. The universe is their deity, for lack of a better descriptor. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are still plenty of Terrans, mostly ground bound ones, that follow the old ways of their ancestors and cling to the established dogmas that were writ eons ago. And there are other species that pray to multiple new gods and entities and some who pray only to their own abilities, bereft of a belief in the divine.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s also possible you don’t have gods or goddesses in your world. Perhaps you have powerful creatures that resemble gods (demons and angels can make pretty convincing deities to mere humans). Or maybe you have interplanar beings that pop into existence from time to time with the power of gods. It’s even more amusing when such creatures are small fries when compared to their elders or other such beings in their plane of existence. XD
You could also have elementals that make up the figureheads in your world. One of my other stories does just that actually. The world starts with six primal elemental beasts and from them springs all other life. Eventually, humans evolve from a combination of other elemental mixes and, as humans often do, they breed prolifically to become the majority species and the story continues from there.
The point is, when you are trying to come up with a religion, you don’t have to break your brain to do so. In fantasy, and to some degree science fiction, it’s your world so whatever you say goes.
If you decide to have a monotheistic religion, cool. Go ahead.
If you want a polytheistic religion, no problem either. This one is my personal favorite anyway. XD
Religious dualism might be fun, if you’re down to try two opposing forces in your world that are not dependent on each other for their continued existence. One of my stories features the dragon gods Bahamut and Tiamat. They are perpetually battling each other, but should they ever manifest again, there is no collapse of the world if one finally defeats the other.
Though if you prefer the Yin Yang approach, you might focus more on a polarized dualism. In these cases, one side cannot exist without the other, like light vs dark or good vs evil or anything similar.
If you’re struggling to come up with something yourself, you might want to try a generator to help you.
Fantasy Name Generators can give you plenty of inspiration to work with!
Or you can check out Chaotic Shiny, a site I’ve often used in the past that also has a plethora of inspiring information.
If you want to check out more about the different explanations for religions, the Britannica Encyclopedia has a pretty good, albeit lengthy entry.
Also, if you’re interested in learning a bit more about Norse mythology – my personal favorite at the moment – that might not be covered in the Thor or Marvel movies popular today (don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy them, but they’re not always true to form), feel free to check out this really cool explanation: A Beginner’s Guide to Norse Mythology.
And I’ll leave it there for now, but if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let me know. If you want to try the generators, I’d love to see what you come up with too in terms of a new religion or god or goddess or even cosmic force. haha Either way, thank you so much for reading or listening along and I hope you have a lovely rest of your day!
**Header image from https://wallup.net/religion-fantasy-art/