Grythga and Uthalgrim
The Fire Maiden and the Ice King
|Alternate Names||The Fire Maiden, The Lady of Flame, The Hearth Queen, The Ember of Faith, The Pyre Queen||The Ice King, The Frozen Lord|
|Status||Lesser God||Lesser God|
|Domain||Fire, warmth, home and hearth, safety, protection, healing, peace, life||Ice, cold, stone, mountains, wilderness, storms, adventure, fortune, conflict and death|
|Ethos||Let my fire burn away the Darkness and light your path to Paradise.||Only by embracing the cold can one defeat one's fear of it.|
|Head of the Church||None||None|
|Demographics||95% Borrellian, 5% Other||100% Borrellian|
Grythga and Uthalgrim are the two gods of the Borrellians. They are polar opposites, yet complimentary. Together, they represent all of the dynamic forces that work in the lives of the northern barbarians… the safety and protection of home and hearth and the bitter cold wilderness of the natural world that is an ever present danger.
Grythga and Uthalgrim are opposites and are ever in conflict. However, both are necessary. While Grythga represents warmth and safety, protection and family, home and hearth, Uthalgrim represents the outer world… he is the ocean that provides fish, the forest that provides wood, the mountains that provide rock, the land which provides food.
The Borrellians worship, love and pray to Grythga, but they know that they could not survive without Uthalgrim. These two contrasting forces are dependent on each other. There can be no warmth without cold. There can be no fire without wood. There can be no hearth without stone. The relationship between Grythga, Uthalgrim and the Borrellians is complex and subtle.
Grythga is known as the Fire Maiden or Lady of Flame. She is the Hearth Mother, the Ember of Faith and the Pyre Queen. She is seen as the mother of the borrellian race, a benevolent caretaker and provider. It was Grythga who gave the world the gift of fire. She is the god of home and hearth, fire, warmth and light. Safety, protection, peace and healing are also aspects of Grythga.
In stories told round the campfire, Grythga is described as a beautiful borrellian woman with bright skin and bright blonde hair that falls to her waist. She can also assume countless other forms: a sunbeam, a rainbow, a roaring pyre, a shooting star and so forth. When she chooses to walk the mortal world, snow and ice melt at her approach. Fires become warmer and brighter when she is near. With a wave of her hand, winter winds cease to blow and blizzards are banished. Grythga leaves flaming footprints wherever she walks.
Uthalgrim is her opposite. He is the unbreakable mountain, the cliff face, the lonely pine, the icy bite of the northern winds, the deep snow drift, the chill of winter and the howl of the wolf. He represents the world and all of its myriad dangers. He is the Borrellian god of death. Risk, adventure, conflict and fortune are also aspects of him. Uthalgrim is seen as a father figure, but distant and uncaring. The borrellians fear and respect him. They pray and make sacrifices to appease him. But there is no love. It is Uthalgrim who challenges them through life and constantly tests them. He is the source of their strength and their will to survive.
In songs and tales, Uthalgrim is described as a monstrous giant, as large as a mountain. He is made of ice and stone. He has a beard made of snow and a forest of trees for hair. Uthalgrim is the essence of winter. Water will freeze and fires will flicker and die at his approach. Anything he touches freezes instantly and he leaves giant frozen footprints wherever he walks. He keeps all the winds and storms of the world in a bag tied around his waist. He opens the bag and casts forth winds and storms whenever it pleases him to do so.
Myths and Legends
Grythga and Uthalgrim have always existed. He is the realm below… the world of ice and stone. She is the realm above… the sky, the stars, the radiant sun. She dwells in a realm of brilliant light and warmth. At night, the northern lights are the heavenly realm of Grythga shining through into the mortal world.
Overview of the Church
The faith of Grythga and Uthalgrim is closely intertwined into many facets of borrellian life and culture.
Grythga is associated with women, childbirth, food, festivities and family. Borrellians pray and sacrifice to her for health, wisdom, safety and security. She is served only by women.
Uthalgrim is associated with men, hunting, battle, storms and death. When the winter winds howl and storms rage, the borrellians pray to Uthalgrim for mercy. It is believed that prayer and sacrifice to him might be found favorable in his eyes and he will temper the fury of the storm. Borrellian men pray to him for luck before the hunt. They sacrifice to him before a long journey.
He is served only by men. All respect and fear Uthalgrim, but those men who serve Uthalgrim as priests are rare. They are known as the hatraddi. The borrellians have no spell casters among them except for the hatraddi and Grythga's priestesses.
In the arctic wastes of the extreme north, there are dangerous humanoid creatures of fur and horn, that walk on two feet like a man. The borrellians call these creatures the “children of Uthalgrim”. The Borrellians believe that anyone who greatly offends Uthalgrim will be taken and transformed into one of these “children” as punishment, to wander the arctic wastes in exile and sorrow forever.
The worship of Grythga and Uthalgrim is widespread in the northeast of Ithria. Although it is primarily the religion of the Borrellians, there are rangers, hunters and woodsmen scattered about the northwest who pray to both gods.
History and Origins
The worship of Grythga and Uthalgrim stretches back centuries. It is as old as Borrellian culture. There have been no formal studies conducted into the true origins of this faith, but most scholars believe it to be a derivative of one of the northern nature cults that existed prior to the Great War.
The priestesses of Grythga form a loose sisterhood of sorts rather than an organized religious hierarchy. The faith has no widespread motivations or overarching goals. Rather, each priestess of Grythga is primarily concerned with the well-being and safety of her fellow priestesses and those she serves, the village under her protection.
The hatraddi are powerful and mysterious shamans who keep to themselves. They seem only interested in learning new spells and increasing their power. Little is known of their motivation.
Temples, Churches and Holy Sites
A temple of Grythga is similar to a batta, the standard borrellian structure, only larger. It is a circular building of wood logs built around a central fire pit. It is designed to be large enough to hold many people and usually has sleeping lofts and storage rooms on a second level. The temple is a communal gathering place and the home for the priestesses who serve.
The hatraddi live separate from the borrellian villages. They live and worship in small groups. They often seek out large caves for their lairs. Other groups build temples of stone and ice blocks. They seek to surround themselves with stone and ice to be closer to their lord. Fire is forbidden within their temple halls. No fire at all nor anything that would bring warmth. His temples are always deathly cold and usually dimly lit. The only light allowed comes from the icefire crystals – magically enchanted ice that glows with a cold blue light.
Borrellians are the main worshipers of Grythga and Uthalgrim. Rangers, woodsmen and hunters throughout the northeast also pray to Grythga, for protection, good fortune and a successful hunt.
Allied and Opposed Faiths
The teachings of Grythga place an emphasis on community and the benefits of working together to survive in a hostile world.
Fire and all aspects of fire place a significant role in the life of a borrellian. All food must be "blessed by fire" (either cooking it or, at least very least, warming it) and such a blessing must be over an open flame. Whenever possible, a Borrellian will cook or heat food. Cold food is only eaten when there is no alternative.
Prayers to Grythga are also conducted over an open flame, whenever possible. One speaks to the flame and Grythga hears.
Open flame is considered holy and perfect. It is a tool, a weapon and sure protection from the cold. Fire should always be free and open.“Caged” fire is an anathema. Lanterns are shunned. Borrellians use torches, camp fires, hearths and fire pits. Fire should always be “free”. Lanterns and anything else that contains and restricts a fire is considered an insult to Grythga. Magic crystals which glow and provide light without heat are considered unholy and unnatural.
There are no holy books or scripture associated with the faith of Grythga. Hers is a religion of tales and myths told around the campfire.
The hatraddi, however, each maintain a grimoire in which all their magical lore is written. Every spell they have learned is written here along with the teachings of Uthalgrim, ancient tales of his battles and stories that tell the history of the hatraddi.
Grythga’s symbol is a triangle with three lines emanating from its center through all three sides. The triangle represents fire. The first line represents light, the second represents heat and the third represents fuel and ash. In this faith, all open flame is also considered holy.
Uthalgrim’s symbol is an inverted triangle with a horizontal line crossing across its middle. The inverted triangle represents an icicle and the horizontal line represent the winter winds. To the hatraddi, all ice is also considered holy.
Fire plays an important role in the worship of Grythga. Every ceremony takes place around a central fire. Often the priestess' shrine will be built around this central fire and they will keep the fire burning day and night eternally. Priestesses of Grythga often toss herbs and colored powders into this fire to color the flames or make the fire roar and crackle. They are quite good at putting on a small pyrotechnic show with nothing more than carefully ground roots and herbs.
Sacrifices are to Grythga are killed and then burned. Such sacrifices may be as small as a snow hair or as valuable as a snowdrifter. The greater the need, the greater the sacrifice.
Every child is branded with the symbol of Grythga as soon as it is born. They do this to bless the child in Grythga’s name. Every Borrellian bears the scar from their “fire blessing”. As long as they bear this scar, they are considered blessed and protected by Grythga. A borrellian will never willingly allow the burn to be healed, magically or otherwise. This ceremony is always done immediately, even before the cord is cut, because a child who has not been fire blessed is vulnerable. Uthalgrim's monsters hunger for the child and will snatch the babe away at the first chance.
A priestess that desires information from Grythga must sit before her ceremonial fire and chant her prayers and ask her favors. During such a prayer, the priestess must fast completely, abstaining from all food and water. Likewise, she must abstain from all contact with the world. She may do nothing but stare into the fire. Usually, at the height of exhaustion, just before passing out, she will be granted a vision. Worshipers claim that such visions come directly from Grythga and are granted only to those true to their faith.
When a borrellian man chooses to join the ranks of the hatraddi, he must cut the scar of his fire blessing from his flesh. Only then will he be accepted. It is the first and many trials he must pass before he can begin to study the magic of the hatraddi.
The borrellians have no special holy days. To them, every day is a day to honor the gods.
The Fire Maiden is served only by women, not men. Her priestesses can be found in almost every borrellian village. Large villages may have three or four priestesses who live together at the temple. Priestesses dress in fur trimmed red robes and adorn themselves in jewelry of beads, bone fragments, rune stones and precious gems. They wear their hair long and often with braids.
Priestesses of Grythga serve as councilors and advisors to the villagers, midwives, healers, spiritual guides and keepers of the lore. They also help raise the children, prepare the festivals and defend the community from danger. Priestesses wield powerful magic. They can exert control of any fire or flame. They can wield fire like a blade that can cut through ice with a stroke or hurl it as fiery bolts. Priestesses are sometimes granted visions in the fire and they have powerful healing abilities. They themselves are immuned to fire and cannot be burned.
Ash is an important spell component for priestesses of Grythga. Many of their spells will require ash and they will always have a bag of ash with them. Some of their more powerful spells require special types of ash (such as from a specific type of wood or a sacrificied animal).
To become a priestess of Grythga, a woman must learn all the teachings and prayers of Grythga, master the fire magic that is taught, withstand a harsh winter night alone and without the aid of clothing. Finally, she must embrace the naked flame. In this ceremony, a metal holy symbol of Grythga is placed within a roaring pyre. When she can retrieve the red hot holy symbol without burning herself, she is ready to join the ranks of the sisterhood.
The holy symbol itself is made of iron. It remains hot and glowing, after it has been snatched from the fire and it never cools. It remains red hot and glowing for as long as the priestess lives. It is worn about the neck on a metal chain, but it will never burn her or her clothing. It is simply a part of their magic. It will feel scorching hot to others and can even be used to start fires. All of her magic spells are cast using this holy symbol. Upon her death, the symbol will quickly cool and become nothing more than common cold black iron.
The hatraddi serve the borrellian community in a more spiritual way. It is believed that their service to Uthalgrim keeps him appeased.
The hatraddi are immune to the cold and its ill effects. They are also able to wield “cold magic”. They can shape ice with their bare hands as easily as others shape snow. They are able to enchant ice such that it will not melt or shatter. Such ice is crafted into weapons.
Other abilities include:
Hatraddi holy symbols are carved from solid ice and glow from a cold blue light within. They are about the size of a man's hand. The holy symbol is worn about the neck on a leather thong. The holy symbol will never melt, even if placed in a fire. It is also remarkably strong and can resist blows from a hammer. A hatraddi's holy symbol is not indestructible, however. Very hot fires (lava or fire created by certain powerful spells) or blows from a powerful magic item can melt or break such a holy symbol. In such a case, the hatraddi would need to fashion another symbol before he can cast spells again, a process which takes a full day and requires ice from a glacier.
This website was last updated March 31, 2021. Copyright 1990-2021 David M. Roomes.