Greyhawk: Return to the Classic
Oerth’s natural fertility has inspired the devotion of its people. The cult of the Oerth Mother (Beory) once dominated the entire Flanaess, and the traditions of her worship persist in many lands. The present hierarchy of the Old Faith is built upon the ancient religion of the druids, though deities in addition to Beory are worshiped. Of course, other “nature” religions exist outside the Old Faith, even different branches of the druidic heritage, but few of these are in the Flanaess. The druids of the inner circles of the Old Faith gain far more prestige and respect than these other groups. Mistletoe, oak leaves, and holly leaves are their common emblems. Druids of the Old Faith are completely neutral in philosophy and personal alignment. They yield only to the world-spanning authority of the legendary Grand Druid.
The practices of the Old Faith are generally in accord with those of other nature priesthoods. The druids do not engage in the sacrifice of sentient creatures, yet there is a dark legacy within the Old Faith. The druids of antiquity allied themselves with the sorcerous Ur-Flan, who once held whole tribes in bondage to their evil. The unspeakable rituals performed by the Ur-Flan went unchallenged by the druidic hierarchy of that era, so long as the former were not so prevalent in any region as to threaten the balance of nature. Eventually, the Ur-Flan sorcerers waned in power and vanished. Some of their magical secrets are still preserved by the Old Faith. The Old Faith is still widely practiced in the Flanaess, and not only in those regions dominated by descendants of the Flan peoples. The age-old sacred groves and monolithic circles of the Old Faith may include shrines dedicated to any nature deity the resident druids permit, but most often they are unadorned. While Beory the Oerth Mother is the best known deity associated with the Old Faith, any druid of purely neutral alignment may matriculate through the Nine Circles of Initiation, regardless of which nature god that druid venerates.
The most junior druids must first serve as Ovates, simple administrators and readers of auguries who govern only the aspirants who seek admission to the hierarchy. Above the Ovates and the Initiates are those who may claim the title of Druid. They, together with the three Archdruids and the Great Druid, provide tutelage to their underlings (there are nine Great Druids in the Flanaess, one representing each of the geographic divisions outlined in Chapter One). Legends also speak of a Grand Druid and a cabal of ascended mystics called the Hierophants, but complete knowledge of these masters is hidden from those outside the hierarchy.