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The Cult of Ursun is strong but far less organised than the cults of the Empire Gods. Each town and stanitsa with more than one follower of Ursun will have a chief priest (sometimes called a speaker), typically the strongest or largest among them. The chief priest speaks for all his followers and for the will of Ursun, letting his village and fellow worshippers know what the Bear God wishes. He is also responsible for leading hunts, punishing those who break the strictures, and overseeing the initiation of new members and new priests. Those wishing to take the role of priest must go into the wilderness alone with only bow and knife and bring back a tamed bear. While rarely fatal, it can take years for an aspirant to find a suitable animal.[1b]

Beliefs

Despite his wild nature, Ursun is as popular in the cities as he is in the oblast. This status is mostly because the previous Tzar was also the high priest of the Cult of Ursun, the first to claim that title in over four hundred years. During the Great War against Chaos, the Cult of Ursun was scattered to the winds. The Bear God was still revered, but with so many cities and towns devastated, the central cult vanished. When Tzar Boris had his encounter with Urskin the Great Bear, he knew he was chosen by Ursun, took the God's name as his, and brought the faith back to Kislev.[1a]

His daughter, Katarin, did not follow in the role of high priest but is no less dutiful to Father Bear. Thanks to the interest of the royal family, worship of Ursun has been taken up feverishly by the druzhinas and wealthy folk of the cities, and there is hardly a street in Erengrad or Kislev that lacks some reminder of the bear God.[1a][1b]

Ursun is no less ubiquitous in the oblast. That the bear is both a popular folk figure and a co-habiting species means every stanitsa includes someone who reveres Father Bear first and foremost. Meanwhile, anyone who benefits from a bear kill or just leaves the forest without becoming food for bears will thank Ursun for it. In the wild north, bears can be a constant threat, and every man is aware he owes his life to the forbearance of Ursun, as much as to his own strength and luck.[1b]

Signs of Ursun

Besides a depiction of a bear, Ursun is symbolised by a bear claw, worn around the neck. The truly devout will wear a gold-plated claw. It is also reverent to dress in a bearskin but only if the wearer kills the bear. Similarly, some wear an entire bear paw or fix a skull to their helmet or belt but, again, only if they killed the bear in question. It is not disrespectful to wear a bearskin that was killed by another, as long as it is not done ostentatiously or ceremonially. Many keep warm through the long winters thanks to a bearskin shirt, without any insult to the God.[1a]

Strictures

  • Never hunt a bear in winter—let him sleep as he lets you sleep.[1b]
  • Wake the bear in the spring, and feed him well before his winter rest.[1b]
  • Bears must only be killed by the strength of your hand or the flight of an arrow.[1b]
  • Only display the hide, claw, tooth, or skull of a bear you have killed yourself.[1b]
  • Shun the comforts of indoor life whenever possible. In particular, all ablutions and bathing must be done outdoors.[1a]
  • Eat fish at least once a week, as the bear does. Never eat fish and another meat on the same day, as this is wasteful.[1a]

Cultists

The role of chief priest is held until death, and it is considered bad luck for a chief priest to die outside of a battle or a hunt. "The bear does not die sleeping," is the adage used. Upon the death of a chief priest, the honour passes to the strongest warrior amongst the remaining priests. At times, Ursun is known to choose a great high priest, who is the chief priest of all of Kislev. Ursun speaks to him about the fate of the whole land and the path of its people. High priests are found through signs and portents—perhaps a child born with a bear-shaped birthmark may be destined for such a role; a chief priest who slays a terrible ice bear may be called by Ursun to be his voice. The high priest before Boris Ursus, the shaman Hagrim Bear-Brother, was lost in the snow as a youngling and found alive the next spring in the care of a mother bear. And the tale of the choosing of Tzar Bokhar is well known.[1b][1c]

Like the chief priests, the high priest is responsible for ensuring all the people of the land show proper respect to Father Bear. When the high priest is close to death, he is often given a vision of the next high priest, allowing the title to be passed on. Other times, the position lays vacant until Ursun needs such a servant again. Many believe a high priest rises when Kislev is in great need, and Ursun must prepare his followers against invasion or some other great trial.[1c]

Source

  • 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Realm of the Ice Queen
    • 1a: pg. 35
    • 1b: pg. 36
    • 1c: pg. 37

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