Previously, I posted on naming geography while worldbuilding, in which, I shared how I created the geographical names in the setting that I was building.
This process included self made rules which I imposed in order to ensure that everything fit and didn’t seem so random.
After laying down some basic geography, it was time to tackle religion.
Once again, I stepped back and tried to evaluate what I liked about the religion (if any) in some of my favorite fantasy setting. Personally as a reader, when immersed in book which dealt even remotely with religion, I found myself enjoying more the polytheistic settings that only focused on a handful of the deities but hinted at more. Maybe it is the student of ancient history in me that always draws me to diverse pantheons in the style of the Greeks (and through plagiarism, Romans), Egyptians, and Sumerians.
I had in my mind the idea for one particular deity and even though I didn’t know how involved any of the other gods were going to be, I knew there had to be some meat there.
But first, I had build the deity that the main plot would revolve around. The idea I had for the deity was a goddess of fortune, whom I initially visualized as a variation of the Roman goddess Fortuna. The phrase “fortes foruna adiuvat” or “fortune favors the bold” had attached itself in my mind. It also had me wasting time on Youtube watching clips from Elton John’s “Aida”.
I had some ideas on how to flesh her out and the nebulous of a story. I also had to keep in account previous decisions about the theme of the setting. So going into to giving her life, this is what I knew/wanted:
- I needed to keep to the Indian/Sanskrit naming theme
- She was going to be the patron deity of sailors
- She was going to be a twin deity in the vein of Apollo and Artemis.
- I wanted to portray religion as very personal. Author Brian Rush wrote an in-depth post on this that every fantasy author should read. Also, frequent guest contributor, Richard Abbot wrote two amazing posts concerning this idea. (Writing About Religion and the below embedded post).
Even though she was going to be patron deity of sailors, I didn’t just want to make her goddess of the oceans or something like that. I felt like it had been done a million times before. Since I wanted her to be a luck goddess, it seemed to make sense that her domains would be: luck, fortune, chance, moon, stars. I decided on the moon and stars because sailors in the setting will navigate by celestial objects.
Now, I had to name her. Keeping the naming scheme in mind, I began to search through Hindi words. I looked up the Hindi word for “star” and was rewarded with the elegant sounding/looking “sitara”. It clicked immediately in my brain. Sitara was going to be my goddess of fortune and patron deity of sailors.
To further flesh both the setting and Sitara out, I set about creating her twin brother. He was also gonna be a luck deity but his domains were going to be: luck, divine retribution, moon, stars. So I went back to the handy-dandy internet dictionary and typed in “retribution in Hindi”. VOILA! “Pratikara” is the Hindi word for retribution. I dropped the final “a” and Pratikar was born.
Now, what setting is completely without deities for life and death?! So I added Baltu and Mitu, the twin gods of life and death, both names being derived from the Hindi language. I knew that I would add more deities later but at least this was a start.
So if you are a writer, how do you build your pantheon? Do you even use deities?
Also, check out our rafflecopter giveaway for a print copy of Simon Hay’s “The Disciple”.