Fantasy World Building: Mythology and Religious Beliefs

When writing a fantasy, it is important to realise that the genre is based on real life -- history. Many of the concepts are taken from aspects of our own world, and then new concepts are added on top of that. That's why in a fantasy based in a medieval world, characters fight with swords or spears, bows or knives, axes or halberds. They do not fight with enkylas.

I suppose this is to give the reader some sense of realism, some believability and familiarity. Taking facts from history can make us feel almost like it is a part of history.

So when you are creating your mythology, or deciding on what your characters believe in, how do you go about it? Well, similarly to creating a unique hierarchal system, you must delve into Real Life, and find out what people from different countries and cultures believe.

Unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism has no official creed or universal doctrinal requirements for membership. In general, a person can be considered "Jewish" whether he adheres to a complete system of beliefs about God and the afterlife, holds only a few simple beliefs that give meaning to ritual, or even (at least in liberal Judaism) does not believe in God at all.

This diversity in Jewish belief arises in part because actions (good deeds and the mitzvot), not beliefs, are the most important aspect of Jewish religious life. In addition, the term "Jewish" can be used to describe a race and a culture rather than a religion, so some who identify themselves as Jewish may have little interest in the beliefs and practices associated with the religion of Judaism.
Roman Beliefs:
The Romans believed in many different gods and goddesses. For everything imaginable they had a god or goddess in charge. Mars, for example, was the god of war. This meant he was good at fighting and it meant that he had most of all the soldiers at heart. A Roman soldier would hence most likely pray to Mars for strength in battle.

Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, intelligence and learning. A schoolboy would ask her to help him learn his grammar, or the emperor would ask her to give him wisdom so that he might rule the country wisely.

This meant that the Romans had hundreds of different gods, and all of their statues are held within the pantheon.

In Islam there are no complicated or elaborate rites performed when a person is dying. When a Muslim is close to death, he or she is encouraged to utter the declaration of faith, 'there is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God.' It is also common for someone present to recite verses of the Qur'an and pray for the peaceful departure of the soul.

Burial of a body should take place as soon as possible; it is best if this can happen within 24 hours after death. The person is expected to be buried in the town / city where they died. Cremation is generally prohibited.

Muslims have great concerns about post mortems unless there is a valid reason. This is because even in death, a person's body must be handled with respect and care. Post mortems are regarded as violent and intrusive.

Like Christianity, Islam teaches the continued existence of the soul and a transformed physical existence after death. Muslims believe there will be a day of judgement when all human beings will be divided between the eternal destinations of Paradise and Hell.
"I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth."
Christians believe in one God, who created the universe and all that is in it. God is a person, but of a somewhat different type than human beings. While humans have both physical and spiritual elements, God is entirely spiritual. That is, he exists outside the normal physical universe.

Human beings are created in the image of God. Obviously there are differences, since we are physical and God is not. What we share with God is the fact that we are rational beings, capable of making responsible decisions, and capable of relationships with each other and with him.
This was all just quick research, and may not be entirely accurate. If anyone as a more accurate description of any of these religions, or would like to suggest more, please let me know and I will edit them and add them in.
So you can see here, there is much you can do. You may want to mix and match, or you may want to choose one religion and base your mythology or religion off that.
I would say that the mythology I created for Aundes Aura is most similar to the ancient Roman mythology. I have assigned seven gods and goddesses to seven "jobs" that are involved in the world or the society:
- The World
- War
- Nature
- Light
- Dreams
- Death
- Time

Válkia used to be a continent of one land mass, but when the land broke apart, so did the religion. The island to the north-west, Arlea, remained traditional in its beliefs that all the gods were good.

Duthonne to the south, and Meira to the north adapted opposing beliefs for which gods were good and which were bad, giving reasons for their choices.

More recently, I decided that I wanted Faine to have an interesting trait, and thus he is superstitious. I looked up Jewish superstitions to base them on and discovered that if your right(?) eye itches, it is a sign of good news to come. Another Jewish tradition, which I may have to alter for the story, is that when one refers to someone who has passed away, one must say "May s/he rest in peace". I look forward to doing more with this as I rewrite my beginning.

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zellakate said...

Ryan, this was a good article. (I am Jewish, and the information you gave is accurate, to the best of my knowledge. :) )

My fantasy that I plan to work on this summer (I wanted to worldbuild while I am in school, but that is so not happening) will probably utilize the Celtic and Nordic mythologies more, with some Greek/Roman elements. I am taking an elective class in World religions this semester, though, and I have found some aspects of animistic religions that will work well for mine, too. :)

zellakate said...

Ryan, I nominated you for some blogging awards on my blog! Congratulations! :)

Ryan Sullivan said...

Wow, thanks a heap, Zella! And good luck with your fantasy. Your choice for which mythologies to base it on sound like a very interesting combination.

Shannon said...

You have a lot of good points there. I've only recently managed to get a semi-coherent understanding of my fantasy world's religion. This'll give me some food for thought.

Unknown said...

Very good sensible writing. Base on us and people who blindly follow any relegion. In futute batman and super man. Our god so dont amezed.if we alive.

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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