Here is a religion I made up for a S&W game a while back. Perhaps some of you, especially those looking to fill out the divine aspects of your campaigns, will find it useful or entertaining.
photo by somadjinn (http://somadjinn.deviantart.com/
Ananepho is part of the Pantheon of Judges, those deities that bind humanity to the Law. He is called the Hunting Judge and his divine jurisdiction is the frontier. Charged to preside over the liminal ground between civilization and wilderness, followers of Ananepho watch at the figurative walls of all human society. That they guard against manifestations of Chaos lurking beyond the treeline is well and widely known. Their vigilance for the enemy within, however, is much more circumspect.
Old Sober, as Ananepho is colloquially known among rustic people, is the patron of sheep-grazing and hunting. His major feast is celebrated on the night of a full moon most closely preceding the vernal equinox. Rabbit stew and roast mutton, when served with strong red wine, are sacred to him. Feeding a hound a scrap of meat from the table is sure way to earn his favor. Vomiting as a result of inebriation is a sign of his disfavor, as are hangovers. One who suddenly ceases to feel anger during an argument is said to have received his blessing. Ananepho is especially beseeched by those suffering from ailments of the liver and kidneys.
His color is purple but his followers consider wearing clothes dyed purple inappropriate unless exercising lawful public authority -- as, for example, it would be untoward for a commoner to dress as a prince holding court. Rather, they wear jewelry wrought of silver and set with amethysts, which, along with the wood of the yew tree, are the materials Ananepho holds most dear. Amethyst gems, silver coins, and (among the impoverished) yew berries are symbolically pious offerings. Rituals associated with him usually involve sharing wine.
In statuary and art, the god is portrayed as a bearded man who is either balding or of shaven pate. He is always depicted as armed: either standing with sword sheathed and bow slung across his shoulders or sitting upon a stool with his sword drawn and lain upon his knees. In any case, he is always accompanied by a large dog or wolf. Interestingly, there is no customary name for this animal aside from "the Hound of Ananepho," "the Sober Wolf," or similar phrases. Likewise, the image of a dog or wolf is the common symbol of Ananepho.
Temples to Ananepho are built with an open space at their center, where a yew is planted. Those who wish to settle a dispute will petition a priest of Ananepho here at the time appointed for hearing cases (usually the last day of each month). In the case of the aggrieved parties voluntarily seeking mediation, each sips from a silver chalice leaving enough for the priest to also partake. Once the priest has resolved the controversy, he pours the remainder of the wine at the base of the tree and the parties are free to leave. Those who are brought before the yew involuntarily will have wine poured upon their heads after being forced to kneel. Criminals are punished on the spot immediately at sentencing where possible. Death, when merited, is always meted out by beheading. The skulls of offenders are preserved and hung up in the yew's branches on the day the priests hear cases.
Way shrines to Ananepho are common on roads through forests or at the edges of villages or farmlands. Any promise made at such a shrine is considered inviolable, which makes them popular sites for country weddings. Those so wed are loathe to divorce or remarry after the death of a spouse, although there is no formal prescription against such practices.
Paladins devoted to Ananepho, members of the Brotherhood of Silver Swords take the following vows:
- The Vow of Yew -- Vigilant Sobriety: To absolutely avoid voluntary intoxication (that is, actual stupefaction of the senses) by means of drink or similar substances; to avoid self-righteousness, arrogance, and inappropriate material ostentation -- and so to tithe, as per the S&W rules. To accept destruction rather than give into bestial motives: harmful acts committed in anger and malice require handing oneself over to the lawful authorities for judgement and punishment, including death. (Lawful authorities means those proper to the Brotherhood's world view. Even in the Underdark, Drow would not be considered lawful authorities.)
- The Vow of Amethyst -- Obedient Purity: To obey in good conscience the commands of the Brotherhood elders. (Good conscience means that the paladin is not bound to carry out orders obviously at odds with his other vows or general alignment but also that he cannot avoid the spirit of the command by appealing to ist letter.) Also, to avoid all romantic entanglement until the Brotherhood itself chooses a spouse for the paladin. (This having to do with the Brotherhood and Sisterhood wishing to carefully manage the lycanthropic bloodlines.)
- The Vow of Silver -- Redemptive Pursuit: To tirelessly hunt down the wicked (most literally werewolves) but in every instance to capture and imprison; to never take into one's own discretion whether another person merits life or death. (All humans, elves, dwarves, and halflings no matter what mental or phsyical state [except the condition of undeath] are persons; other races, especially those that are uniformly evil, may or may not be as per the circumstances but usually are not.) This includes putting oneself between the transgressor and those who would harm him unless they are lawfully entitled to do so.
--- THE FOLLOWING IS MAINLY FOR GMs ---
Initiation into the mysteries of Ananepho involves a sojourn into the pathless wild starting at dawn after his major feast. There, novices selected by the initiates learn that the Hunting Judge is the father of all lycanthropes, being the first such monster himself. They are told the story of how mortals invented wine and offered it to Ananepho in exchange for their prosperity. The god thoughtlessly nurtured the seed of Chaos within himself through drunken carousing among the mortals until it had spread throughout his being like a cancer and burst forth in bestial carnage. At this point, the novices are stripped naked and ordered to leave the camp for one week on pain of death.
Those who survive to return after one week learn the second part of Ananepho's story: "In the throes of bloodlust, he conceived of a vile deed -- the murder of his erstwhile betrothed, a beautiful mortal virgin with skin as pale as the moon and tresses as black as the night sky. Her terrified people has offered her as a sacrifice, but she went willingly. He committed the treachery upon her in the most terrible manner imaginable, tearing her limb from limb and devouring her flesh even while forcefully consummating their marriage." The novices are then presented with a freshly dressed deer carcass, upon which they inevitably fall in barbaric hunger despite the revolting tale. But as they tear apart the carcass, the Initiates in turn fall upon the novices and beat them until they are unconscious.
When the novices next awaken, they find themselves still naked, still caked with dirt and blood, and now by a stream. The initates tell them how Ananepho found himself tortured by guilt and self-hatred because his spirit still preserved some inkling of the Law. "He struggled and overcame his instinct to survive. He therefore decided to plunge himself in a deep forest pool whose placid surface reflected the silvery moonlight while exerting all his strength clinging to a great stone." Each novice is then thrown into the icy stream water and dragged out before he knows what is happening. On the bank of the stream, the novices are given blankets and cups of hot mulled wine, while they hear the final chapter of Ananepho's tale: "The god did not die as he intended but awoke by the pool under a yew tree, his arms now embracing the body of his mortal wife. Although her body was miraculously whole, it remained lifeless."
"Ananepho wept tears stained with the wine he had greedily received as libations, hence the origin of amethyst gems." Those novices who will be trained as clerics then receive the holy symbol, an amethyst tear hanging from a crescent moon surrounded by wolf fangs arranged as the rays of the sun. "When Ananepho found he could weep no longer, his vision cleared and he found laid upon his knees a shining sword in place of his bride's corpse, hence the origin of silver." The novices to be trained as paladins then receive swords. "Ananepho then rose and cut a branch from the yew. Using his own hair, he bent and strung a bow to hunt the evil children he had sired throughout the world." Having received this mystery, the novices are taken back to the temple where they are cloistered, instructed, and closely watched until the next feast. Only then is their initiation finally complete.
For a few, there is a further mystery. The clergy of Ananepho have hunted werewolves since time immemorial. But they do not always kill the beasts. Like Ananepho himself, these monsters are given the opportunity of contrition. Those who avail themselves of it learn over time to control their bestial natures. Some of these were eventually able to lead relatively normal, if closely guarded lives, and even had children diluting their cursed inheritance further and further across the generations. These children and grandchildren are inevitably selected by the faithful for initiation. The girls are initiated as priestesses and the boys as paladins, the Sisterhood of Amethyst Tears and the Brotherhood of Silver Swords.