So this is different. Actually got a request from a reader for more info on a particular piece of the world o’ the Norothian Cycle. I began to write back, when I remembered that as I do tend to…um…write long stuff with tangents and digressions, there was probably enough here to get together a blog post, which I really, really need to do with more regularity. So without further ado: Just what is the basis for the divine pantheon of my books?
THE NOROTHIAN ENNEAD
While a lot of the terminology in the Cycle is invented, believe it or not “Ennead” isn’t one of them. It comes from Greek and means a collection nine things, and is typically applied to a set group of nine related Egyptian deities: Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Horus, Set, and Nephthys.
The Norothian Ennead are the nine major deities of the part of the world in which my books take place (the continent of Noroth, and Kandala across the relatively narrow Channel to the south, plus the Miilark Islands to the west, out in the middle of the Interminable Ocean). The Nine deities are commonly accepted as having begun to “speak” to the people of Noroth on a specific date some 14 centuries before the time of the stories, which is the beginning of the Norothian Calendar. “The Sable City” (Book I) takes place in 1395, NC, and time marches on from there.
So, first question: Why Nine deities?
This brings me to my first tangent, which I will style, “The D&D Homage.” Yes, to no one’s great surprise, I spent a lot of my youth at folding card tables in basements, behind a DM screen, rolling multisided dice otherwise kept in a Crown Royal bag. I played a *lot* of Dungeons & Dragons growing up (Advanced, thank you very much), and of course it still influences me now, as I am writing fantasy after-all, albeit with muskets. And though it may amuse no one but me, I like to slip a direct reference into the books every now and again, like having a character refer in an offhand way to “Rutterkin and Dretch,” or by calling a magic spell Know History. Of course, in doing so, I somewhat underestimated the prickly nerd-dom of my fellow RPGphiles, who will snootily mention “That is straight out of D&D!” in a review. 🙂 Nobody likes some wanker blundering into their sandbox, but I promise, I really mean all that stuff only with the fondest of intentions.
With the deities, there is also something of an homage at work, or maybe low-grade theft, from AD&D land. For those of you who don’t know, in Dungeons and Dragons (at least when I was playing it, this may have changed in 20 years) everybody had an “Alignment” which is sort of a worldview, guiding principles, raison d’être all rolled into one, defined by a junction of two terms. The first is, basically, how comfortable you are with rules and society: Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic. The second is the kind of person (or elf or monster or whatever) you are: Good, Neutral, or Evil. And the two terms work together, giving you nine options. Let’s put ’em in a box (though there are a couple other ways of doing this, but we won’t go down that particular tangent)
So, as you can hopefully see, going by the AD&D rules, there are nine general “Alignments” which can be used to some extent define every character, monster, kingdom, god, et al. Everything fits on the chart somewhere and it is sort of a sliding scale in two directions: Order to Chaos side-to-side, Good to Bad from top-to-bottom.
And that is what was in my mind when I was “inventing” the Norothian Ennead, nine deities sort of typifying the nine cardinal points of Alignment, with a divine portfolio to match.
A couple quick explainers. The numbers in the corners refers to how the gods are typically referred, ergo Tartha is “The Sixth God of the Ennead,” though if a Norothian was asked why the gods have the numbers that they do, they would probably just scratch their head and say “Because they do.” Also, the order is hinckey with that nine in the middle square, because “Chance” is not personified as are the other deities, with both “spheres of influence” and even genders (the M or F in the bottom corners). “Chance” is just that: True Neutrality. The odds. A coin toss. If you are offering a prayer to Chance, you are in an awful lot of trouble.
Also, those reading the books may have noticed that the numbers for the gods also accord with their holy month, and the “Monthdays” within each (First of First, Seventh of Seventh, etc.) are their particular holy days. Ninth of Ninth, on the other hand, is regarded as either a really good or really bad day to take a gamble. Extremely astute (or pathologically obsessive) readers may have noted that Tilda Lanai, in Book One, makes an awfully big decision for herself on the Ninthday or Ninthmonth, though it passes in the text without reference, as all this stuff is really just background to the stories. Believe it or not, while historical digressions do tend to abound in the books, I am making an effort to keep a lot of this plumbing in the walls. Or at least on this website.
Now, as far as the specific characteristics of the gods, why some are worshipped more in some places than in others, why some are known by multiple names, and what exactly “Triadism” is…those Q’s will probably be blog posts in and of themselves. As will the question of whether or not it is significant that there are nine major(ish) characters who all gather in one particular place within Vod-Adia, 495 years after the First Opening of The Sable City which disappeared from the world, wait for it, 1395 years before, after an absence of 900 years. This was just the nutshell background, and I hope it is generally what you were looking for, C.
Thanks always for reading,