Name: Urtha (Order of Eichel)
Favored Weapon: Sling & stones
Favored Race: None
Favored Class: Ranger, Druid
Background Story: Urtha is eternal – the very ground we all live on is herself a living entity who will repay like with like. Treat her with respect and kindness and find all the blessings of earth upon you – fertile soil, ore, sheltering caves. Treat her like a whore and earn her ire – volcanos, steam, dust storms.
Urtha is married to Bomba, the God of Plants and their daughter is Burtha, the Harvest Goddess. If you are kind to Urtha and Bomba, Burtha will bless you with great abundance.
Achievements: An eternal marriage has to count for something.
Worshipping: Urtha, Bomba, and Burtha are most generally worshipped as a triad family of deities called the Eichel family. Thus a shrine to one is usually a shrine to all three. They are mainly agraian deities, worshipped by the people closest to the earth such as farmers, gardeners, foresters, orchard growers, lumberjacks, charcoal sellers, blacksmiths, and prospectors and miners for gold, coal and other precious metals and gems found naturally in the earth.
The majority of their shrines are as simple as a large rock, sometimes carved with three faces, where worshippers place offerings such as fruit, pretty stones or crystals, flowers and so on. Many a blacksmith or weapons maker has a little shrine tucked in a corner of the workshop with an example of their finest work set upon it.
The clerics of this religion are for the most part wandering monks who tend forests or wander the countryside gathering seeds and planting trees or other useful plants as they go. They usually have a pocket full of pretty stones, and often live in a cave. They own very little since they prefer to sleep on the earth – directly in their Goddess’ arms as they put it. For a good meal they will happily bless a farm, a crop, a field, an orchard and to one who seems particularly deserving they may share the secret of the location of a fine vein of ore or crystals and precious stones.
There is a large shrine and memorial at Volkleingen, where the Luisenthal Coal Mine exploded, killing many miners in the collapse.
The main teaching monastery is at Schachen, a wide meadow of wildflowers surrounded by forest at the foot of Zugspitze, the highest peak in the country. The school is open to all, but children are not educated beyond the age of 15 unless they choose to take vows and become a monk of Eichel. The school also educates “hedge witches” or herbalists/healers in the use of plants for healing.
Near the Bavarian Forest there is another monastery – the Raiffesen – that is also a teaching school. The Raiffeisen monks specialize more in farming and agriculture, teaching good practice such as crop rotation, pest control, and so on. A good many farmers sons have attended at least a few years at this school but few go on to take vows at 15 and become full fledged monks of Raiffeissen.
Treat the Urtha with respect and she will reward you. Treat Urtha was disrespect and she will punish you.
Urtha really doesn’t care about you, she is eternal and was here before man and will be here after man has passed away like an itch on her backside.
To those she loves, to family, Urtha is unswervingly loyal – she teaches us all about fidelity. She is constant.
Omens and Signs:
An eruption or cave in is always a sign of Urtha’s ire – someone has treated her with disrespect.
Finding a vein of pure ore is a blessing and reward from Urtha.
Finding a large crystal or precious stone is a blessing from Urtha.
Finding a fossil in stone is a reminder to remember those who have passed before you and that Urtha is eternal.
Schachen monastery houses a quartz crystal cluster that weighs about five stone and is composed of many facets and points. It is reputed to have come from a cave in the Zugspitze. Named the Egg of Urtha, it is supposed to have great healing powers – able to draw poison from wounds, purify and cure infection, etc. Pilgrims come from around the world to sit in the shrine and pray, meditate, and make offerings. Many healing miracles are credited to this crystal.
These are common to all followers of Eichel, although some holidays honor one or more of the triad of God/desses.
In March the monks are busy as they bless crops, fields, and orchards at the planting time, although there is no organized holiday – everyone is too busy!
In April the return of Bomba to the world is celebrated as plants begin to sprout and trees begin to put out green leaves. Houses are decorated with early flowers such as crocus and daffodils and offerings are made for Bomba. These may seem unusual to those who are not familiar with farming. Bomba, like all plants, loves nicely aged manure and compost. A small pot, often highly decorated, with –ahem- fertilizer will be placed on the family altar. Perhaps this is one reason most Eichel altars and shrines are outdoors.
In June, all followers of Eichel celebrate the wedding anniversary of Urtha and Bomba. Many followers plan their own weddings to be at this time as it is thought it will bless them with eternal happiness. Feasting, weddings, and renewal of vows and anniversary celebrations are central. Many villages have a special party to honor the couple who has been married the longest – as well as the newlyweds.
The early harvest is celebrated in August with feasts and prayers offered to Burtha in thanks for a good crop of corn, wheat and other grains.
In September there is a second harvest celebration that gives thanks for later harvests such as beans, and vegetables.
October is the last of the three great harvest celebrations devoted to Burtha, when apples, pumpkins, turnips, and other tree, nuts, and root crops are celebrated.
All three harvest celebrations are similar, food is shared with both feasting and gifting (particularly to the poor, widows, and people with big families), and seed is set aside on the altars and shrines to be blessed by Burtha for next years crops.
Once a year in September there is a memorial service at Volkleingen Shrine, to honor all the miners who have died, making offerings, and begging blessings and protection from Urtha for all miners.
Wandering Monks – As mentioned earlier, many of the monks live a wandering life, gathering seeds and medicinal plants, planting trees and plants, blessing fields, orchards, and crops, and tending forests and providing some healing, potions, and tinctures to the country folk. They wear typical brown homespun and sleep directly on the ground without tent or bedroll except in the worst of weather, when they prefer a cave or hollow to a house.
Hermit Monks – Some monks of Eichel settle in a district – tempted by an especially comfortable cave and a variety of medicinal plants. They are usually known round about and offer healing, potions, tinctures, and so on for people and animals in exchange for any small donations. They heal all who come to them without judgment or question. Some are settled wanderers, some may later return to wandering.
Raiffesen monks are educated at Raiffesen. Some may wander for a while and then return to teach, others become specialists (in farming and crops) and never leave the monastery unless needed for a specific situation.
Schachen monks are educated at Schachen. Some may wander and return, but many specialize in particular illnesses or injuries or research the properties of medicinal plants or the use of crystals for healing and of course, many are there to teach.
Hierarchy – acolytes (monks in training, after vows but before acceptance by the triad – basically ages 15 to 20 or so, whenever the older monks feel they have finished training),
Monks (the majority of wandering and hermit monks), Dean (usually at Raiffesen or Schachen, a teacher or specialist of some sort), Prior (there are only two, heads of Raiffesen and of Schachen), Abbott – there is only one. The Abbott lives as a hermit to avoid being involved in any inter-church politics or rivalries. Only the monks of Eichel know who and where the Abbott is, he does not wear his rank openly but is available to consult on matter requiring a higher authority decision. Yes, that old hermit living in the cave that makes the potion for grandma’s tummy could be the Abbott for all you know.
*please note that although I have used the term Monk throughout the order is open to men or women who serve.
Rites and Ceremonies: As well as the holidays mentioned above, Monks of Eichel perform weddings, blessings, and funerals, mainly for the country folk and craftsmen.
Aphorisms and Words of Wisdom:
It’s not nice to fool Mother Urtha.
We’ll have a fine harvest, Burtha willing and the creek don’t rise.
Curse of Bomba (hayfever/plant allergies)
Burtha Soup, Burtha Pie – meals made by poor folk who have received (sometimes unusual combinations of) gifts of the harvest festivals.
Notable Minions or NPCs:
The Abbott, of course, is known only to the Priors of Raiffesen and Schachen.
The current Prior of Raiffesen, Prior Bubba, is an older heavyset man with skin burnt by sun and wind to a brick red color and texture. He always wears a hat, unlike most Monks, because he is quite bald and doesn’t like his scalp sunburnt. He seems slow but he is extremely strong and wise. His hands are large and calloused, but gentle when handling seeds or children.
The current Prior of Schachen, Prior Gretchen, is an older woman, spare and bony with long silver hair that would drag the ground if she did not keep it braided and coiled on the top of her head. Don’t let her apparent age fool you – her blue eyes are sharp and observant, and she can rattle off the proper formula for thousands of cure and potions from memory. She can diagnose most common ills with little more than a glance and a few questions, but in spite of her abrupt manner can be endlessly patient with the old woman with a million mysterious aches and pains who comes to her because no one else can cure her. Gretchen tells her Deans that it is the listening that is the cure, and she sends the old wives away with little more than sweet tasting sugar water with a little color from some bright fruit, a pretty crystal to wear, and a renewed sense that someone really cares – it works every time.