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Cosmologies

February 2, 2013

As anyone familiar with Rifts knows, there is a multitude of pantheons from several religions from all over the globe that are part of the canon. The number of religions noted as real present a cosmological problem as they all have independent, differing creations and afterlives, which are not as problematic as the preponderance of chief deities, evil divinities, and apocalypses.  But to me, the most glaring omission for a setting supposedly directly descended from modern day earth is a lack of Abrahamic religions.

The Old Ones loom in the background for Palladium and solve some of the cosmological questions such as creation and why pantheons are not universal. The gods are not the top of the food chain. Nor is there an overriding good/evil dichotomy. The great evil, the Old Ones, slumber and have done so for uncounted eons. While some cosmological conflicts are light versus dark, others are personality issues, lines of succession (Zeus, anyone?), and other, somewhat mortal motives. I do this because I find gods are amplified, magnified, and more powerful mortals.

The biggest cosmological struggle on earth fixes Palladium’s glaring omission of the Abrahamic faiths. El, a western Semitic chief deity  looked to expand his dominion. He absorbed other portfolios and even stripped his wife, Asherah, of her power and authority. His power gradually expanded until he was the only divinity left in his pantheon. Even his seventy sons were cast down for his ambition. El’s people then were conquered by the Romans. El fathered one last son, to be a military leader and rule an empire. Instead this son rebelled and taught compassion, love, and understanding. El’s priests killed the son and gradually took Rome anyway. El even branched out and infiltrated another set of Semitic tribes, though that attempt ended up warring with the church his son began. All the while, the other gods were pushed further back and lost progressively more power.

An old servant of El, named Mot, was cast out as well. During his banishment, he encountered Angra Mainyu, a cosmologically evil primary deity. Mot, who fed off mention as the apocalyptic being Death, became a willing servant of Angra Mainyu whose purpose of the destruction of all life. The other allies of El to survive were his consort, Asherah, and Baal, the storm god he suppressed to break the power of the other gods in his pantheon. Asherah and Baal lingered, slumbering on, barely sustained by the trickle provided via their incomplete purge.

The other lasting effect from El’s ambition was a pact among the remaining gods. After the Coming of the Rifts, those deities with power to manifest met and made an accord that none should attempt becoming universal powers like El had. Should any try, the others would band together to destroy the usurper. The signees also do not directly intervene in mortal affairs beyond a personal level. Unlike with Arjuna and Achilles, the gods would not interfere with empire-making so long as the cosmological order is not threatened. This agreement does not cover more intimate meddling, thus semi-divine children abound. Zeus has gleefully taken advantage of this allowance, as have many others. Such offspring often become agents of their godly parent, though not always willingly.

Some gods, such as Loki, Set, Tiamat, and Ravana refused to agree.  Most New World gods have agreed to the peace, though they remain wary of the Old World gods after what their people endured at European hands. Though shaky, the peace is largely maintained by a tribunal of justice-inclined deities such as Tyr and Athena. Demon and devil lords like Modeus have a vested interest in mortal souls but seldom personally venture into mortal realms, though their underlings may and frequently do.

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