“The first gift you ever receive is your family. A man grows from the seeds his parents plant.”-Parables of Erastil
Erastil (eh-RAS-till), also known as Old Deadeye, is an ancient deity from before the Age of Darkness, when early man began to domesticate and dominate his natural surroundings. Pastoral legends claim that Old Deadeye crafted the first bow as a gift to mortals so that they might learn to hunt and survive in the dangerous world. Though civilization has continued to advance beyond simple villages due to the influence of Abadar, Erastil remains popular in tradition, a transitional figure between the worship of the Green Faith and fully modern religions. His faith remains strongest in the northern lands, where long ago people lived simpler lives in the frontiers of civilized lands.
Erastil is primarily a nature deity focusing on the plants and animals that farmers, hunters, and ranchers deal with in their ordinary lives. He is also a god of close-knit communities and families and has a protector aspect that only surfaces when such things are threatened. Erastil is no god of crusades or heroism, and he has no grand plans to eradicate chaos and evil from the world; he simply wants people to be able to live their lives in peace without the threat of being devoured by monsters, conscripted into an army, or destroyed by worldending magic. He is a stern patriarch whose spirit is as hard as wood, unafraid to face down a bully yet able to calm a frightened child. He teaches how to read the turning of the seasons to know when to sow and reap, how to tell when livestock are sick or gravid, how to poultice a wound and set a broken leg, how to spot a straggling sheep or signs that a dog has gone rabid. He believes that it is man’s duty to help others, that cooperation leads to friendship and safety, and that if man respects the gifts of nature, she will sustain him. He loves old customs that encourage strong family bonds, no matter how quaint they are by modern standards, and enjoys hunting for sustenance but not for sport. Happy weddings and new babies make him smile. He is not one to spout philosophy and instead gives practical advice and handson teaching.
Old Deadeye is set in his ways and doesn’t take well to those who challenge his opinions or upset how things work. He believes the strength of a man’s will makes him the center of a household, and while women can be strong, they should defer to and support their husbands, as their role is to look after the house and raise strong children (consequently, there are few female priests in his church). Independent-minded women, he believes, can be disruptive to communities, and it is best to marry them off quickly so their duties as wife and mother command their attention. Children should honor their parents and know when it is time to work or time to play. He dislikes the chaos and trouble that adventurers bring, and while they may have their uses when monsters come sniffing about, it is best if adventurers take care of the problem quickly, receive a meal and a place to sleep, then move on before their wanderlust catches on in otherwise good families. His androcentric beliefs are unusual given his religion’s intermediate role between the Green Faith (which is largely egalitarian) and modern faiths (which have a mix of male and female deities).
Erastil’s avatar is an upright old trapper—usually of Ulfen heritage—with weathered skin, clad in well-used leathers and carrying a simple bow. Old legends say that halflings and humans each see him as a member of their own race, even when members of both races are looking at him at the same time. When Erastil is angry or must enter battle, he has the head of an elk, but most representations show him as fully human, as common folk rely more on his hunter and farmer aspects than on his warrior aspect. In most stories, Old Deadeye’s arrows never miss, and a few communities still own a spent arrow supposedly once fired by Erastilin- the-world, passed down through the generations and treasured for its connection to the god.
Depictions of Erastil in artwork are uncommon, as his followers prefer focusing their energy on more practical matters. Usually these physical representations are just a carved wooden placard bearing his likeness, not worshiped as an icon but serving as a constant reminder of his presence; in other communities, a stuffed elk’s head or just its horns serve this purpose. In more elaborate representations, he is shown fighting off wild animals or teaching men how to hunt. A few old caves dating to the Azlanti era have painted upon their walls primitive silhouettes of an elk-headed man performing similar acts.
Old Deadeye shows his approval through bountiful hunts, bumper harvests, mild weather, the appearance of straight paths, and the like, but he prefers to limit his direct intervention to helping needy people in lean times, as he does not want to encourage laziness. A hungry family might find their tiny garden provides bushels of vegetables, an old cow might start giving milk again, a weary hunter’s prey might stumble or become entangled, and so on. Any hoofed animal may be a channel for his power, and elk-horns are favored by his worshipers for making simple tools, like knives or dowsing rods, ecause of their connection to him. Forked lighting is a sign of his presence. His anger is reserved for followers who betray his principles; he usually punishes them by changing them into something more useful to their community, such as a pig or a fruit tree. Mothers often warn lazy or misbehaving children that Erastil will transform them, and most communities have at least one small but dependable tree that local legend claims was once an especially unruly or slothful child.
Given Erastil’s focus on simplicity over frivolous adornment, the formal raiment of his clerics and druids is practical, usually a leather or fur shoulder-cape branded with his symbol or affixed with a wooden badge bearing his mark. Communities led by a druid may have a ceremonial horned hat or drape made from the tanned hide of an elk’s head and neck.
Among the faithful, elk iconography is common, such as a pair of antlers scratched on a door or threshold, or an actual head or horns mounted on a wall. Erastil’s followers have no taboos about hunting elk, for the animals are good sources of food and leather and can thrive in most areas. Because elk shed their antlers at the start of winter, tools made from them are fairly common, and even children may own simple knives made from antlers. At birth, firstborn males are given an elk tooth, supposedly to ensure virility and a long life. In the extreme north, reindeer iconography is more common than elk, though the traditions and rituals are essentially the same.
Erastil is lawful good and his domains are farming, hunting, trade, and family. His weapon is the longbow (his clerics and druids are proficient with both the longbow and shortbow). His holy symbol is a bow made of elk antlers with an arrow nocked. His domains are Animal, Community, Good, Law, and Plant. Most of his priests are clerics, but a small minority are druids, rangers, and (most rare) paladins; a few scattered communities are served by adepts. Druids usually serve communities in places where natural hazards and the weather are their greatest threats, while paladins tend to be leaders in lands where monsters lurk. Often called Old Deadeye by his faithful, Erastil is also known as Elk Father and the Old Hunter. In the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, he is named Ullerstarl and is usually depicted on skis.
A typical worshiper of Erastil is a common farmer, rancher, village tradesman, or subsistence hunter who wants to live his life, take care of his family, and not worry about kings, wars, or monsters. He’s not pretentious, and while he may be proud of his accomplishments, they’re simple and easily demonstrable—a good crop, a fine piece of land, fat livestock, and a healthy wife and children. He looks after his neighbor’s farm in an emergency and expects the same in return but is otherwise content to be left alone.
The church’s music is simple hymns, often with a strong rhythm so they can be sung to keep time during repetitive work. Flutes, drums, horns, and other easy-tomake, easy-to-play instruments are the norm.
Erastil is very pro-marriage, seeing it as the proper way to create families and frowning on those who would bend or break the sacred bonds with adultery or divorce. The church sees marriage as a way to “tame” unruly men and women, and most villages have at least one married couple who tied the knot after being caught in an indiscretion. Widowers and widows usually remarry, especially if there are still children in the house. Most of his priests are married, though they are not required to be.
Any folksy, rural saying is likely to spill from the mouth of one of the faithful as if it were the god’s dogma. Two in particular are favorites.
Never trust a fool: Whether the fool is the village idiot trying to catch the moon with a spoon or a traveling adventurer trying to inspire the locals to rise up against the local lord, a sensible man ignores him, as no good will come of this “work.”
Nothing is more satisfying than the fruits of a day’s labor: This is used to chastise lazy folk and rebuke those who wonder what’s so satisfying about a simple country life. Gold and gems make a man weak; hard work in a field shows strength of body and character.