Sisterhood of the Den Mother

A faith advancing the rights of women in the orcish patriarchal culture -- and much more

Content Warning: Mention of Sexual Violence, Mention of Suicide, Prostitution

  The Sisterhood of the Den Mother is a religious organization devoted to the Orc goddess Cethlenn, the Den Mother. It is an order concerned with the healing of warriors and the well-being of women and children. However, it is also a powerful political entity that advocates for women's rights in a culture with a strong patriarchal tradition.

Structure

The Grandmother was happy enough to receive them in her lavish suite of rooms, where younger acolytes of the Sisterhood attended to her needs. She reclined in her chair like a queen, and Y’Anid supposed that she was the closest thing to a queen that her people had. Draped in gold and finery, silk and fur, she regarded them with sly amusement. Her silver-frosted black hair, still full and luxurious, formed a fine mantle about her terra cotta shoulders.   They did not bow or make obeisance. They were ladies of the Bloodfist clan, and they declined their heads in mutual respect, a gesture the Grandmother matched. She folded her six-inch lacquered claws beneath her sharp chin. “Welcome, Ladies Bloodfist,” she greeted them with a twinkle in her eye. “I’ve been expecting you. Leave us,” she said to the acolytes sharply. They obediently filed out after touching fists to foreheads.
— from To Know Your Enemy by Diane Morrison
 

Grandmother

The Sisterhood elects a Grandmother from the elder High Priestesses to serve as their leader. A quorum gathers on the Island of the Mother when the leadership is contested or a new Grandmother must be chosen. Consensus nominates two candidates, represented by a white and black stone, given to each Priestess. Votes are cast by dropping the appropriate stone into a clay vase, painted with the Goddess' sacred animals, as it rests in a crux of the Mother Tree. The other stones are returned without being shown to anyone. The different coloured stones are counted to determine the new Grandmother.  

High Priestesses

High Priestesses are recognized by the Grandmother as having the wisdom, knowledge, faith and training to be leaders of the faith, often (but not always) chosen from the ladies of the Thirteen Clans. They teach the Priestesses beneath them and advise the Grandmother in council. Each Temple is administered by a High Priestess.  

Mothers

Traditionally, the position of Mother is only held by a woman with sufficient faith and training who has also borne children. However, Priestesses who run orphanages and schools have also been granted the title. Their duties include midwifery, healing, and administrations of Shrines.

Sisters

All other Priestesses are Sisters. They witness to weddings, heal warriors, and tend Shrines and Temples.

Public Agenda

The Sisterhood is concerned with the well-being of women and children, and the smooth functioning of society in a warrior culture. They assume responsibility and authority for all matters of women's health, including childbirth and end-of-life care. They see to the physical, mental, and emotional healing of warriors. All household activities must be blessed by a Priestess. They keep the sacred hearth fires and are responsible for overseeing their smooth transition in the seasonal migration. They also manage most of the affairs of an orcish household, and acquisition and serving of food.

Assets

The Sisterhood controls a Temple in every major Fomorian city, and a shrine in most towns. They control vast hoards of treasure, books, food and medical supplies, thanks to the tithe of the Great Clans, and donations from Temple visitors.   Show Spoiler
Secretly, the Sisterhood also controls a small cache of ships, weaponry, and poisons.

History

When the Balorian orcs first settled Elatha, society coalesced into clans. Women had no power, and were bound to the clans they married into. There was one exception: Clan Doomspear, with a warrior tradition for both men and women.   After Elatha's death, the Thirteen Clans fell into infighting and competitions for dominance. Political ideologies further divided the Balorians. Some pushed for greater acts of conquest, to build a Great Horde for their inevitable war against the elves and the Avalonian Imperial Navy. Others believed they should build a strong government and society first. Common Fomorians also agitated for greater rights and influence.   A few ladies from the Great Clans formed an alliance to protect themselves and improve their political standing. Historical sources conflict as to which clans were involved, but the Sisterhood's records credit Hrutta Bloodaxe, Tashaka Bloodfist, and Katya Icefell, with support from Grokka Doomspear. As witches in service to their clan mother goddesses, the Clan Ladies recognized a common thread. They created a pan-goddess movement, centered on the most universal Fomorian goddess, Cethlenn. Subsequently, they recruited as many ladies of the Great Clans as possible.   Their movement might not have have spread as quickly were it not for the capture and rape of Katya Icefell. By the standards of the time, Katya was considered "damaged goods" -- unmarriageable and a liability to her clan. She choose vengeance and suicide by poisoning her captors in a very intimate way.   The surviving High Priestesses raised an enormous public outcry. Orc women of all social classes flocked to the Sisterhood's banner and declared themselves Priestesses. The women of Elatha demanded more control over their own destinies. Clan Baneblood , the Imperial Clan, responded by executing 300 women for treason in an event history calls the Day of Scythes.   The Sisterhood struck back. They distributed contraceptive herbs to every Clan Lady, and as many Orc women as possible. They then spread the story that Cethlenn Herself had raised Her hand against the Empire for its blasphemy, and would hereby deny them heirs, unless restitution was made and the balance restored.   Most Clan Lords scoffed. A few tried to force the issue by asserting their conjugal rights aggressively. But they quickly discovered that those who had done so either met with horrible accidents, or vanished. Mysteriously, their wives all had airtight alibis for each such event.   The Clan Lords learned that the Den Mother had indeed withdrawn her blessings as the birth rate plummeted. High Chief Garlghak Baneblood 's popularity plummeted with it. Eventually he was forced to accept a challenge from Keltar Bloodfist , who defeated him in single combat and assumed the High Chieftainship. The new High Chief promptly approached Hrutta Bloodaxe and Tashaka Bloodfist with great humility, and offered on behalf of the Empire to make whatever amends the Den Mother saw fit to request.   The Grandmothers demanded an ongoing tithe to the Sisterhood from each of the Great Clans. Each Chief must either take a Priestess to wife, or their Clan Lady must be instructed in the ways of the Sisterhood. Lineage was to be traced through the Clan Lady. Rape, particularly rape of a Priestess, was declared a blasphemy and high crime, and not only were suitors required to have the means to provide for their wives, but the intended brides must consent to the wedding. Soon, most Clan Ladies were expected be Priestesses, and the Sisterhood secured a great deal of political influence.

Tenets of Faith

  The maiden lifted his feet and washed them in a basin. It had been so long since anyone had lain such gentle hands upon him that he shivered. Seeing this, she smiled a little at the corners of her mouth and took even more time and care with the process, right up to massaging knots he had been unaware of until she touched them and the pain stopped. “Nôrr'lakaârr,” he said roughly when she was finished.   “You will go for a massage, won’t you, my lord?” the maiden suggested. “It’s clear you have great need.” At something in his expression she added, “The wounds of war weigh heavy on you.”   Shaundar surprised himself with a noise that was something between a cough and a snort. “I just came for a bath, actually.” He wasn’t sure he wanted anyone getting that close.   The maiden just smiled and, after kissing the top of each foot, guided him into a private room with a steaming pool. Without waiting for him to confirm or refuse she unbuckled his armour and hung it up on an armour rack. It was amazing what relief he felt when its weight was lifted from him.
— from To Know Your Enemy by Diane Morrison
 
Let Me Take the War Out of You.jpg
Let Me Take the War Out of You by Sable Aradia
The Mother Goddess is the giver of life, and women are Her vessels. The power of life is the greatest power in the universe, and it's a power men do not hold. Men are built for war and women for peace, so while men should handle the affairs of war, women should manage the business of civilization.   Yet civilization cannot continue if men don't participate in it. Hence, when they return from the battlefield, they need to be cleansed of blood to become husbands and fathers again. Without this cleansing, men carry ghosts with them into the family home and the marriage bed, and it makes them strange and dangerous. That healing might require talking, sacred dreaming, magic, touch, or sexual touch, and all of these are the sacred calling of the Den Mother's daughters.   Women and children are to be protected. Children are to be cared for.   Sex is a sacred gift of the Goddess, and should never be cheapened or defiled. Therefore, rape is a blasphemy, and sex is only sanctified if it takes place within the bonds of healing work, or of marriage.   But never forget that the Goddess gives life as She chooses, and She may also deny it, or take it away. Thus, women, as the Goddess' daughters, should control their own fertility.

Political Influence & Intrigue

Show Spoiler
Because they exert influence and control over marriage, fertility, births, deaths, and inheritance rights of women, the Sisterhood subtly manages the Balorian political structure in ways that most of their erstwhile leaders don't comprehend. The men of the Great Clans are literally in charge, because the women of the Sisterhood tells them that they can be. Many times they have managed marriages, and controlled birth rates, to force a shifting of power, and they are capable of plotting their designs over a period of generations.

Sects

Show Spoiler

The Dark Sisters

The Goddess gives life, but She also takes it away. When the Sisterhood needs to eliminate an enemy, they call upon the Dark Sisters, who serve the Den Mother's grimmer aspect. Not only are they Priestesses, but they are assassins, seers, and spies. They also serve as the intelligence branch of the Sisterhood.
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Ffĕth Mĕkarra, Zà Tû ~ "Den Mother, Bless You"

Tashaka Bloodfist.jpg

Tashaka Bloodfist by digitalstorm

Founding Date
3rd First-Month, Year 51 from the Founding
Type
Religious, Primacy
Capital
Alternative Names
The Sisterhood
Demonym
Sisters, Priestesses
Location
Official Languages
Neighboring Nations
Related Ethnicities


  • Year 40 from the Founding

    Beginning of the Pan-Goddess Movement
    Religious event

    Sisterhood of the Den Mother.png
    Hrutta Bloodaxe, Tashaka Bloodfist,  Katya Icefell, and Grokka Doomspear, found a Pan-Goddess movement under Cethlenn, the Den Mother.

    Related Location
    Planet of Elatha
    Additional timelines
    Related article
  • 3 First-Month, Year 51 from the Founding

    Founding of the Sisterhood of the Den Mother
    Founding

    Sisterhood of the Den Mother.png
    Hrutta Bloodaxe, Tashaka Bloodfist Katya Icefell, and Grokka Doomspear found the Sisterhood of the Den Mother.

    Related Location
    Planet of Elatha
    Additional timelines
    Related article
  • 17 Fourth-Month, Year 55 from the Founding

    Rape of Katya Icefell
    Life, Trauma/ Loss

    argent a primitive harpoon gules
    One of the three founding High Priestesses of the Sisterhood of the Den Mother is kidnapped and raped by mercenaries. Women all over the Fomorian Empire rally to the Sisterhood's banner and begin agitating for their rights.

    Related Location
    Planet of Elatha
    Additional timelines
    Related article
  • 1 Seventh-Month, Year 55 from the Founding

    Debut of "Katya"
    Artistic creation

    argent a primitive harpoon gules
    Gurgh Icefell debuts Katya, condemning the death of his sister, the Imperial government's lack of response, and patriarchal Balorian culture; and celebrating his sister's vengeance. The opera opens in Holmgang to become a worldwide sensation and controversy. Eventually it is banned as seditious.

    Related Location
    Holmgang
    Additional timelines
    Related article
  • Eighth-Month, Year 55 from the Founding -- 24 Third-Month, Year 56 from the Founding

    Winter Women's Riots
    Revolution

    Sisterhood of the Den Mother.png
    The opera Katya sparks a series of riots across the Fomorian Empire. The unrest lasts for the entire wet winter season. The High Chieftainship responds with harsh oppression. Non-family gatherings of more than five women and the performance of the opera are banned. A women's curfew is levied.

    Related Location
    Planet of Elatha
    Additional timelines
    Related article
  • 21 First-Month, Year 56 from the Founding -- 1 Fourth-Month, Year 63 from the Founding

    Curse of the Den Mother
    Religious event

    Sisterhood of the Den Mother.png
    After the Day of Scythes, Cethlenn, the Den Mother Herself denies heirs to the Fomorian Empire for its blasphemy until restitution is made and the balance restored.   Most Clan Lords scoff. Some try to assert their conjugal rights aggressively. Those who do either vanish, or meet with horrible accidents.   As birth rates plummet, the Fomorian Government progresses from dismissal, to concern, to panic.   Show Spoiler
    The Sisterhood distributes contraceptive herbs to every Clan Lady, and as many Orc women as possible, then conspire to spread the story of Cethlenn's wrath to topple the social order.

    Related Location
    Thrag
    Additional timelines
    Related article
  • 21 First-Month, Year 56 from the Founding

    Day of Scythes
    Political event

    sable a scythe argent in full.png
    High Chief Garlghak Baneblood orders the round-up of as many known rabblerousers of the Winter Women's Riots as possible in a massive military raid, including Gurgh Icefell, composer of Katya. Over 300 Fomorians, almost all women, are publically executed by scythe by the priesthood of Cichol, the Deathbringer. The Iron Champion refuses to participate.

    Related Location
    Holmgang
    Additional timelines
    Related article
  • 1 Fourth-Month, Year 63 from the Founding

    Keltar Bloodfist Assumes the High Chieftainship
    Political event

    Bloodfist sable a primitive hand gules in full.png
    Garlghak Baneblood is forced to accept a challenge from Keltar Bloodfist, who defeats him and assumes the High Chieftainship. The new High Chief offers to make amends on the Empire's behalf to the Sisterhood of the Den Mother and the Goddess. The birth rate once again rises.

    Related Location
    Planet of Elatha
    Additional timelines
    Related article

Comments

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29 May, 2020 08:12

Great article! The tenets section is really well thought out, amazing drawing as well!


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29 May, 2020 17:44

Thanks so much TJ! :)

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga Eater of pickles, Friend of nerds, First of her name
29 May, 2020 10:38

I enjoyed this article! It has the right amount of content to explore the organization in some depth without being too much information. The history is very well-though (in my non-historian opinion :P) and I liked the logic behind the tenets of faith. Maybe I would have switched the tenets of faith and history sections, so that readers know what they stand for before reading what they have done, but I guess that comes down to personal taste. Great job, see you around! :)

Creator of Black Light, a science-fantasy universe.
29 May, 2020 17:44

Thanks Ondo, much appreciated! I am not one of these CSS wizards, unfortunately, and that's just the way they pan out in the template. But maybe I'll see if one of the CSS gurus can tell me how it's done. :)

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga Eater of pickles, Friend of nerds, First of her name
30 May, 2020 10:12

Oh, right. I'm used to writing everything in the vignette (where I have total structure freedom) so I tend to assume that everyone does, sorry about that xD It was just a minor nitpick, so don't worry about it! ^^

Creator of Black Light, a science-fantasy universe.
6 Jun, 2020 18:05

Not bad. Women liberation as a result of an early invention of wide-spread contraceptives is a deep concept. It allows a lot of orc females to participate in more activities around the camps, at school, in war, and others. A great equalizer who helped your sisterhood secure power through the religious implications and the improved performance of their sisters.

Eternal Deity Ademal
Ademal Jacklyn
22 Jul, 2020 20:56

Before I settled into writing my critiques, you asked me aside if I could elaborate on what details might make you “always the bridesmaid and never the bride”. I ended up critiquing yours almost last for this reason, as pinning that question down is a challenging one for an article so well done.

First, it’s worth noting that it’s rare that a “bad” entry makes it to the top ten of either league. While the system is based on likes, people still only tend to hand out likes on articles they feel really deserve it, so our top ten is usually a bouquet of good stuff, and this is no different. It’s weighing good against good here, which makes the critique more difficult. Hopefully I manage to pin it down a bit for you, or at least give you something to work with. It doesn’t help that different judges have different tastes, either, and I’m not the normal judge.

Critique

Now, starting from the top and focusing on what I think would have helped you win in this

particular scenario, and what you did well.

For the depth of the lore, yours was certainly near the top of the charts, if not there at the top of it. It is exceptionally complete, and leaves no questions in its wake. You’ve got a full explanation of what the organization is, who runs it, the hierarchy, the rules, the mission, and even a glimpse of how others view it. It feels like I’m reading a part of a larger whole, which is what lore should manage.

What isn’t present, and which I feel would have lent itself towards the feeling of a more complete and polished article, is a common thread to tie it all together. Your article is full of discrete blocks of lore that are tied together by subject, but not by narrative. This means that any one part can be removed without affecting the whole.

A challenge I present to you is to take the contents of all these fields and dump them into the vignette, and re-order them a bit so that, from starting the article to finish it, we take a sort of a tour of the history of the group. You see this in the winning article, where the body is dedicated almost exclusively to the history of the organization, and where the content answers questions about the org. Of course, a downside to this is that the content might be hard to find and reference for a quick read, which is where sidebars come in—they are a great way to summarize.

Now this doesn’t mean you have to rewrite all of your content into a narrative. this contestant did a very good job (for the first half) of weaving a progression through the lore-chunk segments of the article. It’s not an easy task, but the ability to make chunks of info feel like a progression in a story, recounting, or history makes it so that the article is very self-reinforcing and interesting.

In a similar vein, the History and Tenets of faith aspects of your article feel very long and dense. I recommend doing blogform on articles, and trying to have a header every 3-4 paragraphs. Text is cleaner and easier to read on a screen, but page widths mean it’s also easier for text walls to look massive and for us to lose our place while scanning lines from the end of one to the start of another. Having subheaders to break up the content, even if the content itself is unchanged, goes a long way towards making it feel digestible, and makes long posts feel short and sweet. For example, after your sentence women should manage the business of civilization. you could put a header for “Cleaning the Spirit” and dive into the next section with no other changes. This breaks up the text into more visually manageable blocks without sacrificing continuity or quality.

What this all really comes down to is taking advantage of the medium. While CSS and BBCode go a long way towards doing that, there’s also a discipline of conveying stories which is unique to WA, something which combines the disciplines of blog writing, design, and microfiction writing. If an article were a plate, then the best ones are the kind which are an array of foods—entree, salad, sides, dessert. Organizing your article accordingly goes a long way towards delectability—appetizer up top (article hook, quote, or summary), with side dishes (Political Influence & Intrigue, Sects, Assets) in the sidebar, an entree (history, formation, important events) in the body, and a tasty dessert at the end to wrap us up. I hate to fall back on my own work for something like this, but I am particularly proud of this article in the way that it’s all just chunks of lore, but as you move from top to bottom you get deeper and deeper into the organization. Hook up top, entree of going deeper into the org, side dishes of fun extra lore tidbits, and a song reference for dessert. Now, to extrapolate that concept out to something as large as this article.

Other thoughts

These didn’t really affect your rating. They’re just thoughts or questions which arose.

I suggest maybe talking a bit more about how they interact with the related ethnicities or some of the other factions in the setting. Do they have any major enemies? Are there any great clans which particularly favor them, or dislike them?

Also, am I misreading the timeline or is the Sisterhood only 23 years old?

You have a bad timeline link in the sidebar.

I avoided judging the article for any advanced layout and CSS, so I did focus only on the content itself, but I do suggest using containers to create multiple sidebars, and some CSS tweaks. We can discuss this in Discord. This CSS theme was made for a more modern sci-fi tone, so detracts a bit from the compassion and heart of the setting. It’s a good theme, but is a slight mismatch for Toy Soldiers. I’m happy to help tweak, but suggest perhaps looking into commissioning Oneriwien for something more Spelljammy or space-napoleonic.

Overall, this really is a great article. I hope my feedback helps!

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24 Jul, 2020 07:05

Thank you very much for this, Ademal! You have given me a lot to chew on. I think I will take a closer look at it after SummerCamp, and see if I can break it down a bit. I totally see what you mean about the narrative, and about breaking up the block of text with headers. In the meantime, I would be eager to get your opinion on ways to make it look a bit more "Age of Sail in Space," and I would be most grateful for your instruction on how to work containers, since I haven't the foggiest clue how that works! :D Your advice is greatly appreciated and I may be pestering you frequently to hone the details, if that's okay. Thanks for your work on judging this!

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga Eater of pickles, Friend of nerds, First of her name
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