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  • Writer's pictureL.L. Stephens

The Many-Faced Mother and the Father of War

Khelds first appear early in the Triempery series, in Sordaneon. In that book they are seen primarily through Dorilian's rather hostile POV and are presented as rude rustics. In later books Khelds come into better focus, though many aspects of Kheld society are, again, not looked at closely. And now that The God Spear is being published readers will get the full picture. Including getting a look at the Kheld side of religion. Not everything is about the godborn and the Three, and certainly not for the Khelds. They'd rather follow the Mother. And Lud.

Kheld religion is bitheistic: a goddess, the Mother (Moon), and a god, Lud (Sun), created and ordered the World between them. Other lesser gods/spirits were created along with the World to inhabit specific features such as rivers, mountains, oak groves, hills, or fens.


In the Kheld creation story the Mother, the shining First of All, pulled the world out of her dream and breathed into it the exuberance of Life. However, Her creation did not thrive. Her presence was too hot. The waters burned away. Plants withered and died. So She divided the herself into Day and Night, that the universe might have balance. To light the Day, the Mother pulled from her body Lud, the Sun—less bright and hot than She—and kept for Herself the Night, wherein She placed bits of herself, the stars and planets and Moon, to brighten the darkness.


According to Khelds, all things of the world spring from the Mother, though Lud plays an important part.


One day Lud wished to fashion a living thing of His own and created the first Man, Ban. Ban lived in the Day and slept through the Night. Ban partook of the bounty of the Mother and Her creations, but he soon grew listless, for he lived without purpose. One day when the Mother visited Lud—because the Moon can go into Day but the Sun cannot go into Night—Lud beseeched Her to give Ban a purpose, as She had done for her other creations. The Mother then created the first Woman, Mem, and gave to Mem and Ban a Gift: the ability to reproduce others of their kind, female and male. This gift She then gave to other creatures.


Ban—and all men—now had a purpose, to reproduce and protect, and Mem shared that purpose and Gift. Khelds believe that women and men together hold the Mother’s Gift, and also that women and men hold separate—yet equal—roles that align with the roles of their Goddess and God. Aspects of Kheld society reflect strong traditions of keeping balance in these roles.


The Mother, Goddess of All


The Mother orders the Moon and Earth, the seasons, women and their courses, female animals, fertility and future, healing, knowledge, water, and home. The Mother has many names, among them the Giver of Blessings and Door to the Grave. She is the goddess of Life and Death.


Kheld girls often bear names tied to the Mother, such as Aesley (ash tree), Aeda (stream), Dusa (bountiful), Nilla (doe), Edunna (hill) or Lark (bird).


Because the fertile earth, like the Moon, inhabits both Night and Day, only women can lay claim to any piece of it and Kheld law about land ownership is strict. Women connect to the land through rituals such as the planting of acorns from their mothers’ trees—family Oaks—and burial of their female dead to feed the roots of those trees. There is a springtime ritual for sweetening of wells.


The Mother’s main place and form of worship is the Hill at Aurdollen, where couples paired by the goddess’s priestesses have intercourse in sacred underground chambers in hope of conceiving. Paired women and men who are childless, or bachelor males or females who hope for offspring, take part in this anonymous ritual. Children conceived “under the Hill” are considered fortunate, direct gifts of the Mother. Similarly, internment in the earth after death removes men from the side of Lud and returns them to the Mother.


Also at Aurdollen is the Mother’s School where Kheld girls and young women go to be educated. There the girls study the Mother’s three Faces:

·      Home: weaving/sewing; food preservation/cooking; childbirth/child care; homemaking/maintenance; household management/economics of land holding

·      Knowledge: reading/writing; poetry/literature; history/lore; languages/oration; law; rune reading/laying of Wheels; metallurgy; philosophy; economics; geography

·      Life: botany/herblore; healing/medicine; anatomy/surgery; botany; nature and animals; agriculture/forestry; streams/rivers/wells; mortuary rituals


Every Kheld woman has studied at least one of the Mother’s Faces. The most common is Home, which can be taught in the girl’s natal home by female relatives or at any Motherhome. Upon achieving advanced years, a woman trained in one or more of the Mother’s Faces is given respect and called a Mother. Aurdollen is the only school where the prophetic arts of reading runes and laying Wheels are taught; this is also true of the sciences and mortuary arts. A Kheld woman who has mastered the Mother’s Face of Knowledge or Life is called a faetha, or “learned one.”


The title of Old Mother denotes a woman of elder years who has earned the esteem of her community, including if applicable the community of educated peers.


Lud, Whose Name Means “Light”


Lud orders the Sun, men, male animals, vitality, commerce, protection, storms, war, government, and travel. Kheld men often bear names that refer to male animals or an occupation: Arne (eagle); Kern (warrior), Nalf (skillful); Orem (of good quality); Brec (maker of breeches); or Erwan (leader).


Rather than inheriting land, Kheld men emulate landless Lud (who gives light and travels across the sky during the day) and choose occupations that sustain and protect. Farming (of maternal land or that of a wife) and animal husbandry are favored, as are metal or woodworking, construction, commerce such as mill operation or wagon-making, law and government, or being a soldier.


Kheld men may choose Mother-ordered vocations such as mortuary rituals, herblore and medicine, or weaving and may be trained by women. For being trained in ways ordered by Lud they attend the Sacred Grove of the Faeduadan—a faedu is the male equivalent of a faetha, or “learned one”—where they study under scholars or priests. They may also apprentice to skilled practitioners of their chosen craft or trade. Because government and leadership such as providing defense fall under Lud’s order, men hold authority in their communities alongside the Old Mothers and women.


Lud’s sacred place is at the Grove of the Sun, a myth-cloaked oak grove wherein, it is said, the legendary hero Alm planted the last acorn of the World Tree—Lud’s holy tree at His sacred Well in the World Left Behind. The tree that grew from the World Tree’s acorn is known as the Oracle Oak and its roots bind Kheld lives to their native land. While the Oracle Oak lives and remains strong Amallar will also thrive and flourish. The sacred Grove also contains an altar to the god upon which sacrifices are made and priests perform augury to prophesy the fate of the Kheld nation and people.


A Case for Harmony


Khelds do not so much worship their gods as honor them. The Mother and Lud are complementary gods, not in opposition, so both gods are always in force whether in nature or in human nature. Khelds believe that men or women who strive to practice the ways of their gods will achieve a kind of goodness: peace, cooperation, prosperity, security, goodwill, and other social benefits. Men or women who flout those ways lead to what could be seen as wickedness: disharmony, injury (of various sorts), societal decline, ill will, and conflict.


There is no moral dualism of the kind where one god represents good and the other evil. Both the Mother and Lud, being fundamentally the same—having sprung from the primal goddess—but taken on different roles, possess aspects of brightness and darkness. Lud’s heat and brightness are sources of Life (necessary for plants and warmth) yet also can be deadly (drying of rivers or burning of skin); the Mother’s darkness in being the Face of the Grave (or Death) is balanced by also being the Giver of Life (or Blessings).


Male and female Khelds regard their roles to be harmonious. The male principle is as necessary for life as the female and just as necessary for human society to operate smoothly. Family is considered the foundational unit and both principles are needed for couples or clans to flourish. Land and working the land. Constructing housing and keeping it in repair. Building and keeping community. Providing for and educating children. Promoting and sustaining a functioning system of government which benefits its members. Male clan leaders and female Old Mothers work together to achieve a common good.


The Mother and Lud do not oppose or forbid other gods, but Khelds have proven resistant to adopting foreign deities.


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