An Outsider's Guide to Dwarven Culture
The Dwarves of Ilshofen have a complex and interesting culture, but their reticence to speak of its inner workings makes it quite difficult for an outsider to understand its beauty. Fortunately, I’ve been given unparalleled access to revered Elders who have answered my many questions about their mysterious ways.
The Sacred City of Ilshofen
The very design of Ilshofen makes it clear that the Dwarves (they sometimes refer to themsleves as The People of El) hold the sanctity and secrecy of their faith as the highest ideal. The City Above is shared among the Dwarves, the Giants, and those residents from the larger Empire. The City Below belongs only to the Dwarves and their most trusted friends. The City Hearth is even more restrictive, with only Hearth Dwellers and Chassidum allowed entry. Within the City Hearth is the Iron Synagogue, where the most sacred rites of the People of El are carried out, hidden from the eyes of all non-believers.
Language & Writing
The Dwarven language is tonal in nature, and Dwarven prayers are raised in a kind of choral singing. Dwarven writing is runic, the strokes forming simple pictographs written in strips/columns from top to bottom.
The Dwarven worship of El includes a vast number of rules that govern every aspect of life, from food choices and hairstyles to religious observances to formal discourse. The rules are listed in the Korat of El, a religious tome that was begun in antiquity, but which was added to when the Dwarves founded the city of Ilshofen. It has remained static in the intervening centuries, though the holy book titled Ruminations on Faith is a constantly evolving book of philosophy that interprets and extrapolates from the laws in the Korat.
The first Korat is said to have been written in tablets of bedrock
stone. Every temple of El has within it at its heart replicated
versions of these tablets encoding “in the flesh of El” the very heart
of the core scripture and tenets of the faith. Other lesser versions
of the text are made in thin sheets of various metals or even crystal.
The Korat itself cannot be “written” on non-mineral material (I.e.
paper) however the Ruminations are allowed by to exist in such a
fashion. It is a common practice for passages of note and meaning to
be branded into the skin of the clergy and those closely tied to the
church. This can and has gone to extremes in more zealous and
fundamentalist sects of the religion.
Topics of the Korat (Original):
- Birth of El/Description of the Void (origin of the divine)
- Song of the Earth (origin of the material)
- Origin of the Dwarves (origin of the race)
- Great Works (origin of…/instructions on…)
- Of El’s Hand [Crafting]
- Of El’s Heart [Culture/Society]
- Of El’s Mind [Law/Conduct]
- Prophecies (warnings, portents, etc).
Topics of the Korat (New):
- The Coming of the Voidborn (a great cataclysm in their old country)
- The Great Diaspora (the flight/journey)
- The Re-Forging (the re-founding)
- The Long Watch (prophecies about a Messiah or Messianic Age)
The diligence one must show to the complex laws of Dwarven society is determined by the role and age of the individual:
Children and the mentally infirm- They must learn the law, and are encouraged to begin following it, but until they pass into adulthood there is no spiritual impact to their breaking of the law.
Itinerants- Also called “Sons (or Daughters) of Ash” in that they like Ash come from El but drift upon the wind and only hold to the lightest of his presence. (Nicknames: Ash-borne [neutral]; Wind-blown [derogatory])
The rules of the Itinerants have come to be commonly referred to as “The Ash Law”. Those who leave stable Dwarven communities are given a fair amount of leeway, having to adhere to only the most basic of laws. There are also purification rites that can be perform to cleanse the worshiper of the small breaches of these basic rules that can be forced upon them by mixing with the larger world.
Examples of Ash Laws-
- Do not give in to gluttonous behavior
- Do not remove the beard, or wear the hair unbraided in public (men)
- Do not allow any but your husband to see your uncovered hair (married women only)
- Do not eat of the flesh of surface animals upon Shabbat (the Sabbath)
- One must enter the Shabbat cleansed – Must perform a spiritual cleansing at some point between Shabbat using some form of El’s essence (Best: Rock Salt, but things like ash, gravel, sand, and other minerals will do… even fresh loam)
- Bear the work of your faith- Must have at least one purely forged object on their person at all times (cuffs, bracers, necklace, even earrings, rings and toe rings have been accepted).
Hearth Dwellers- Also called “Sons (or Daughters) of Stone” in that they are like Stone in that they are born of El and are foundational to the mind, body and heart of the Dwarven world and thus of El. (Nicknames: Stone (or Rock)-born [neutral]; Stone (or Rock) bottom [derogatory]; Stone-stuck [derogatory])
Those who live in stable Dwarven communities most follow a larger body of law, and must seek the intercession of a Rebbe should they break the laws.
Examples of Hearth or Stone laws-
- Do not turn away the beggar. As the Children of El were homeless and destitute wanderers, so to must we respect those who seek shelter and aid.
- Do not count Dwarvenkind with simple numbers (all souls are unique, and cannot be numbered)
- Maintain a sacred marker on the frame of all doors and windows
- Use no machine that is self powered (including steam-driven devices) upon Shabbat
- Do not quench forged goods in water without proper oils
- Must enter the Shabbat cleansed – Must perform a spiritual cleansing on the eve of the Shabbat using either rock salt or specially prepared gravel.
Chassidus- Also called “Fathers (or Mothers) of the Earth” in that they birth the wisdom of the Earth itself through the teachings of El. (Nicknames: Earth-father (-mother) [neutral]).
Those Dwarves who act as spiritual leaders (Rebbes), or who practice the mysticism of El, must maintain the strictest regimen. They follow a dizzying number of rules, and must go to extreme lengths to purify themselves should they fail to balance the sometimes conflicting tenets of El’s law.
Examples of Chassidic or Earth laws-
- Do not accumulate personal wealth
- Fast upon Shabbat
- Engage in sexual activity solely for the act of procreation
- Engage in prayer at morning, noon, and night
- Use no artificial light when the moons are visible
- Transcribe 10 lines from the Korat each day
- Use no tool forged by the hands of outsiders
- Must carry the Shabbat within – Must perform a spiritual cleansing daily using either rock or salt.
Guilds & Craftsmen
It is said that El has many hands and no face; each hand bears with it an act of
creation. So too are the Guilds of El his hands upon the world. The
Great Maker shapes the earth in many ways.
The act of forging and creation is seen as an element of worship itself, and each of the ‘Hands of El’ take the perfecting of their craft as a sacred duty. Below are lsited only the most established of the guilds in Ilshofen:
- Woodsmith (carpentry)
- Rocksmith (brick making, architecture, etc)
- Warsmith (arms and armament)
- Weavesmith (tailor/weaver)
- Fleshsmith (Medicine, Cooking and even Apothecaries).
- Manasmith (Mysticism, Rituals, Alchemy…the Manasmiths are forbidden to be non-Chassidus as their arts are considered a means to touch the hidden essence of El.)