LESSON Creating a Pantheon

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Empress of Niflheim
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So you want to create a pantheon

Step One: Size and complexity

This step will help with the next step, determining the hierarchy of your pantheon. The greater the number of deities within the system, the more important it becomes to establish some way of linking them to one another and creating a sense of order within their ranks, both for ease when it comes to remembering the figures and for the creation of a cohesive and engaging mythology.

Quality over quantity is a good rule to follow here. If you believe that you can flesh out and make compelling a pantheon of twenty deities, there is no reason why you should not. Generally, however, having a smaller number of figures with more information and backstory is preferable to have a giant list of names with few distinguishing features.

Complexity can apply to different elements in the backstories: family relationships within the pantheon, greater and lesser figures, and what traits are associated with them, to name a few. Some mythologies associate a large number of characteristics with deities, at times overlapping. For example, Artemis is the Greek goddess of wilderness, animals, young girls, the hunt, and childbirth. Hera, another goddess, is also associated with women, marriage, and childbirth.

Step Two: Determining hierarchy

The first step to ask yourself about your pantheon is going to be what kind of hierarchy it has. This will help you to determine whether your pantheon is going to have a ruling figure, family structure, and whether there will be major and minor deities or have all bear equal importance.

A ruling figure is a central piece to many pantheons. Typically viewed as a "king" or "father" figure among the other gods and goddesses, this is usually one of the most powerful and respected figures in the pantheon.
Examples of this include Odin, from Norse mythology; Zeus, from Greek mythology; and Perun, from Slavic Paganism.

Some of the larger pantheons have what are considered more primary, major deities and then some of lesser importance and power. Your pantheon need not be so complex as that but it can be both interesting and useful information to consider whether your pantheon has a hierarchy and, if so, which deities come out on top.​

Step Three: Establishing cultural influences

To create a pantheon with entirely original ideas would be a difficult task and as such, it's far more likely that you will end up drawing inspiration from existing sources. This inspiration may take various forms and only you can decide what elements you want to draw out from your source. Examples can range from the hierarchy of another pantheon, the creation myths, and naming conventions, among others.

Even though there are a few well-known pantheons that came to mind for most people when they think about gods and goddesses, there is a vast number of other systems that can be looked at to gain ideas from. Synthesizing some of the concepts present in lesser known pantheons can make your pantheon refreshing and novel.

Some of the well-known mythologies are Norse, Greek, and Egyptian. Those have a wealth of information, stories, and resources and can help flesh out your budding system with the vast amount of material present.

Other sources from around the world include mythologies from Africa, which are as diverse as the continent itself but often feature personified animals and veneration of the dead; Arctic mythology, which prominently features animism and shamanism; Australia and Oceania, which have a large variety of beliefs and people but often have elements involving consciousness and dreaming; Asian mythology, which can vary greatly from culture to culture but often features humanlike demons and ghosts, often intertwining with historical figures; and mythology related to the Americas, vastly different between those of South and Central America and the tribes of North America.

In short, the number of existing systems to draw from is enormous. Going into any more detail here, for instance to break the regions into smaller pieces as there is so much diversity, could easily make this guide ten times larger. I encourage you to research and see which ideas resonate with you and your roleplay.

Step Four: Worship and observances

One of the final steps is deciding how this pantheon will function within the world of your roleplay.

Will there be holidays, religious observances in honor of the gods, and special festivals dedicated to them? Will temples be erected in the honor of various gods and goddesses? Will certain cities have patron deities (such as Athens and Athena)?

In terms of the creation myth, is this something that the people truly believe in? How strong is the typical belief in this mythology? Are there myths and legends regarding the gods, especially ones that involve divine interaction with mortals? Have the gods influenced the ruling system (heavenly mandate, for example)?

This section is all about establishing the connection between the populace of your roleplay and the figures in your pantheon. While ideas from other sources can give some ideas, this area is largely open to your own creative ideas and the way you wish to shape your roleplay world with your mythology.​