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Discussing: Religion in Rohan?

Religion in Rohan?

As usual, the nuzgul are at it again, and I was wondering what kind of gods/goddesses, if any, the Rohirrim worshipped. I'm not sure how much contact they had with the Elves or Dunedain in the early stages of their culture. However, I feel that they probably would not have revered the Valar, at least not as the Dunedain did. It seems to me that the Rohirrim, being a people whose existence is closely tied to the land, would at least have some earth mothers or hearth spirits. Probably not much in the way of organized religion, but I definitely see fertility rites, sacrifices of crops, etc.

I posted this question to the list and didn't get much of a response (except from Soledad who gave me a link to her excellent page on Rohirric religion). Thoughts, anyone?

 

 

Re: Religion in Rohan?

Soledad's article is wonderful, but it is her creation. I am unaware of refrences to Rhorric gods or powers. Would they have known of the Valar from the Elves. It is a fundamentally other world experience for us, to live in a world where immortal beings walk among us and either have been to the equivalent of Heaven and met the Gods or have talked to elders who have. It is no longer in the realm of faith, but fact. You could ask Galadriel or many other Eldar and they could say, I have met the Valar and talked with them. Elrond was there when the Host of the West came to Middle-Earth to defeat Morgoth. Gandalf obviously knew the score, he brought the Elessar from Yavanna to Galadriel. This implies he retained knowledge of his real role and origins. Could it have been common knowledge to all good men, who the Gods were and where they came from?

 

 

Re: Religion in Rohan?

Tolkien is pretty specific that there is very little in the way of what we think of as "religion" in Middle-earth. That's a deliberate part of the way he felt about fantasy, but it also has a logical basis given the history of Arda "internally" -- that is, they are closer, in Middle-earth, to what in classical times was called "the Golden Age" -- the times when the gods still dwelt on this physical plane.

Because "religion" is something artificial that comes more when people feel more distanced and thus need rituals and complexity to make the connection, and vice versa -- kind of how politically Rohan is very informal, not at all like the court say in Three Musketeers era France, with a complicated heirarchy and all these exact ways and particular orders of who can address whom and how.

Even in Gondor, religion only shows up in the silent "grace before meals" and the occasional prayer in desperate times for help (like when a large enraged tusked herbivore looks likely to trample you.)

The Eorlings are also descended from the First Age Edain, the House of Hador, who were the allies and guests of Fingolfin, Fingon and their people (and the relatives of Tuor and Turin way back then), so they might well have had a lingering, half-forgotten and much-changed in terms of names, tradition of stories about the Valar on their own, which subsequently could have been influenced by Numenorean traditions after the time of Ceorl's Oath.

First Age Elvish religion consisted as far as the texts indicate, of saying "thanks!" in artistic ways at certain times of the year -- the forces of Morgoth, recall, attack Gondolin at one such festival, the Gates of Summer, which were celebrated by the population getting up before sunrise and singing songs of welcome to Arien.

Religious ritual, pre-Sauron, in Numenor consisted chiefly of going up on top of the empty mountain and meditating. It wasn't until Sauron introduced the notion of Morgoth as the only real Vala that a temple and sacrifices were initiated (which would also strongly act against any later introdcution of such ritual into Gondor.)

But like swearing by deities' names, it isn't something you need or want to do, if you think they really are around and paying attention. So anything more than traditional brief thanks, and blessings, would feel out-of-place I think in a Middle-earth setting.

(This would all be different, of course, outside its borders where Sauron has been in charge -- there any amount of ritual and complication (along with blood sacrifices) could be appropriate.)

 

 

Re: Religion in Rohan?

Well, there's those big strange fat-people rock carvings that Merry sees. I'm working from memory here, but they're on the way to Dunharrow I think. They remind me of the fat-lady statues on Malta - remnants of a forgotten belief system. Mind you, the Rohirrim don't seem to remember what they symbolise.

 

 

Re: Religion in Rohan?

They seem to be depicting the Druadan - at least, the Druadan chieftain looks very much like the stone figures to Merry. The Rohirrim are relative latecomers to the area - any stone figures old enough to be significantly eroded would probably predate the oath of Ceorl as well. (This is after all an area and a time without the sulfur and other destructive atmospheric effects of coal fires on statuary that afflicts Europe over the past century or so.) They might have been the work of the displaced Dunlendings.

But -- it's also quite possible that the Pukel Men themselves made them, as far back as the Second Age: in Unfinished Tales there is a Druadan legend called "the Faithful Stone" in which a shaman who has been protecting some (non-tribal) friends of his is called away to help a sick person in another area, but leaves his mana or power in the carved boundary stone, which comes and stamps out the fire that the Orcs set while he is gone. But the shaman suffers, remotely, from burns as a result of this.

That was the "explanatory" sense I had reading the story in UT as relating to ROTK - oh, *those* are what those stone figures are.

 

 

Re: Religion in Rohan?

The Eorlings are also descended from the First Age Edain, the House of Hador, who were the allies and guests of Fingolfin, Fingon and their people (and the relatives of Tuor and Turin way back then), so they might well have had a lingering, half-forgotten and much-changed in terms of names, tradition of stories about the Valar on their own, which subsequently could have been influenced by Numenorean traditions after the time of Ceorl's Oath.

The only direct reference to the Valar that I've found to date is (aside from the Oath of Eorl) it to Bema, which is their name for the Vala Orome. I think it's in the Appendices where Tolkien wrote about Eorl capturing Felarof. He stated that the Rohirrim believed that the Mearas were decended from Bema's great horse, Nahar.

I'm still looking for specific references myself, so if you find any, please share!

Nessime

 

 

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