Friday, July 20, 2018

Myth Beyond The Monster Manual - The Erinyes Devils of Violence & Justice For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

I've  been quietly cracking open my first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual & looking into the devils section last night. I looked into the Erinyes entry  for a bit of Sword & Sorcery inspiration.The Monster Manual & even the original Dungeons & Dragons monster stats profile has been lacking. Greco Roman mythology is so much richer on these goddesses & children of Chronos's blood.

Its through Dante's Divine Comedy  that we get these female chthonic deities of vengeance 

that we get these deities & their devil kin offspring in Hell. The wiki entry on the Furies goes into their parentage & mythological background; 
"In Greek mythology the Erinyes (/ɪˈrɪniˌz/; sing. Erinys /ɪˈrɪnɪs/;[1] Greek: Ἐρῑνύες [ῠ], pl. of Ἐρῑνύς [ῡ], Erinys),[2] also known as the Furies, were female chthonic deities of vengeance; they were sometimes referred to as "infernal goddesses" (χθόνιαι θεαί). A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as "the Erinyes, that under earth take vengeance on men, whosoever hath sworn a false oath".[3] Walter Burkert suggests they are "an embodiment of the act of self-cursing contained in the oath".[4] They correspond to the Dirae in Roman mythology.[5] The Roman writer Maurus Servius Honoratus wrote that they are called "Eumenides" in hell, "Furiae" on earth, and "Dirae" in heaven.[6][7]
According to Hesiod's Theogony, when the Titan Cronus castrated his father, Uranus, and threw his genitalia into the sea, the Erinyes (along with the Giants and the Meliae) emerged from the drops of blood which fell on the earth (Gaia), while Aphrodite was born from the crests of sea foam.[8] According to variant accounts,[9] they emerged from an even more primordial level—from Nyx ("Night"), or from a union between air and mother earth.[10] Their number is usually left indeterminate. Virgil, probably working from an Alexandrian source, recognized three: Alecto or Alekto ("endless"), Megaera ("jealous rage"), and Tisiphone or Tilphousia ("vengeful destruction"), all of whom appear in the Aeneid. Dante Alighieri followed Virgil in depicting the same three-character triptych of Erinyes; in Canto IX of the Inferno they confront the poets at the gates of the city of Dis. Whilst the Erinyes were usually described as three maiden goddesses, the Erinys Telphousia was usually a by-name for the wrathful goddess Demeter, who was worshipped under the title of Erinys in the Arkadian town of Thelpousa."

When I was younger back in the Eighties, the Satanic Panic was in full swing I used to have to sneak readings & such of Dante's Divine Comedy.During the school season. I developed a monster ecology centered around the Furies & their kin. Hell wasn't simply nine levels of planes but a large sprawling series of planes, subplanes, & nether Hells. These all connected together by the river Styx & its many backwaters. I was influenced by the Dragon Magazine articles the 'Politics of Hell' & the many articles on devils & demons through the years.

These goddesses & their spawn are lawful evil  conforming  to the violent letter of the law including the breaking of sacred oaths. But they are far older then the Greco Roman pantheon & have strong connections to the titan especially Uranus.
"The three classic Furies sprang forth from the spilled blood of Uranus when he was castrated by his son Cronus. The sisters are:

  • Alecto – Punisher of moral crimes (anger, etc.)
  • Megaera – Punisher of infidelity, oath breakers, and theft
  • Tisiphone – Punisher of murderers"

"The Roman writer Maurus Servius Honoratus wrote that they are called "Eumenides" in hell, "Furiae" on earth, and "Dirae" in heaven." So they have dominion in all of these planes under special circumstances.

But in a Sword & Sorcery game such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea set millions of years in the future under a dying Earth what possible role can the "Eumenides" & their spawn have?! Actually plenty considering that in my own campaigns Ragnarok & the Apocalypse has happened. In a post Ragnarok world they'd be responsible for the souls of dead royals, princes, bishops,etc. who broke their sacred oaths. Assassin's guilds sacred to them would be carrying out their divine agendas based on sacred dreams & visions.

The Amazons have whole cloth cults & state run religions centered around the Furies. During times of war the drums of the Amazon armies can be heard for miles around. A major summoning often accompanies these events especially before war or major battles.

Then there are the druidic groves dedicated to them scattered through the wilderness. Groves dedicated to Orestes  which are visited by bards who wish to gain the sacred madness of his mystery. Oedipus also has his own mysterious groves scattered throughout the weird wildernesses but scholars are unsure of if both Orestes & Oedipus are two different ancient princes. Or the same one who  attracted their 'tender affections'

"In Sophocles's play, Oedipus at Colonus, it is significant that he comes to his final resting place in the grove dedicated to the Erinyes. It shows that he has paid his penance for his blood crime, as well as come to integrate the balancing powers to his early over-reliance upon Apollo, the god of the individual, the sun, and reason. He is asked to make an offering to the Erinyes and complies, having made his peace"

 Pity the poor necrcomancer whose black heart summons these devils & wastes their time. His soul will be ravaged in some nameless back water Hell or in some corner temple of Underborea for eternity.

Make no mistake these devils while lawful are purely evil. Their visitations often leave behind the tell tale scent & trail of Chaos itself wherever they go.  The cults dedicated to whatever facet of the Furies often have the markings of mutation about them. There many be 1d6 mutations about these cultists.
These beings will not harm a worshiper or cult member of the cult of Cronus. That is unless they have broken the scared oaths & laws of the Furies or their spawn. Cults of witches & druidic circles dedicated to the Furies are always opposed to the toad god & its spawn's agenda. They will not hesitate to destroy any member of these groups that comes within their talons. Once per new moon one of the spawn of the Furies may be summoned from the underground back water of  the underworld or Hell.

The Grand Summoning happens once in the dead of Winter under the full Moon with one of the dread sisters appearing accompanied by 1d6 devil spawn from the deepest of Hells. A murderer or adulterer is often the sacrifice at such a summoning. Cults will seek divine guidance during these rites & major events. These events often happen at remotely located temples located on high mountains or in the wilderness ruins of some once major city state.

There are in the wastelands entire witch cults dedicated to the Furies who carry out ancient sacred rites under the watchful & wrathful eye of a devil. She will often inhabit or possess the head priestess & pass judgement on any brought before her. Sacrifices are made of oathbreakers & adulterers on the small moon nights while murderers & worse's blood graces the alters on full moon. These cults often ply the wastelands trading potions, healing powders, & wares while spying for more criminals to kidnap for the alters. There is never enough blood & some towns turn over or sell their criminals for the rough 'justice' of the cults.

This alternative ecology of the Furies & their spawn was made
my Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg adventure  using the alternative  historical Dark Albion & Dark Albion Cults of Chaos setting rules. Bits & pieces were taken from Lion & Dragon. 

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