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- "And it began:
Rhya, the beautiful, rose up; Taal, the
powerful, rose up;
Blossom-broad, hot with life. Spread of
Horn, firm of will.
Then, they did create all natural things."
- —The Book of Green[4a]
Rhya is the Earth Mother, the goddess of all that grows and lives. It is Rhya to whom the people of the Old World pray to for fair winds, moderate rains, healthy plants and animals, yet she is also the Huntress. Wife of Taal, the lord of Beasts and Rivers, Rhya is seen as the more merciful and gentle of the pair, and is often asked to intercede with her husband to calm his rages.[5b] She normally appears as a tall, beautiful woman.[7a] She is the mother of Manann.[3c]
Although she is most often depicted as the wife of Taal, she is an ancient goddess with roots (according to eminent theologians) going back as far as the Old Faith. Thus, there are a wide variety of myths concerning her, many of which place her in child-bearing relationships with other gods.[7a] She is also worshipped as Haleth, Goddess of Hunting, in wild areas throughout the northern Empire, and as Dyrath, the Fertility Goddess, in the pastoral and agricultural areas of Reikland.[2a]
When mortals first turned to the Gods and prayed to be spared the worst storms, to have bountiful hunts and harvests, and to understand the cycles of the natural world, they formed the cult of Taal and Rhya, king and queen of nature. In the beginning, the two were worshipped as a single God, Ishernos, who had a feminine face in Spring and Autumn and a masculine face in Summer and Winter. Over time, Winter became the domain of Ulric and the two faces of Ishernos became two Gods in worshippers’ imaginations, yet the cult has remained one. Some theologians speculate that Ulric was once a part of Ishernos as well, forming a triad, which would explain the triskeles etched into the megaliths in Taal and Rhya’s oldest stone circles.[3d]
Rhya is the power behind zephyrs and gentle rains. She is the midwife when animals are born and plants sprout, and she is the huntress who provides for her kin. Cultivated lands are her domains, as are love and procreation. When farmers pray to her for springtime rains, lads and lasses entreat her to turn the hearts of their beloved ones toward them.In art and story, Rhya is usually depicted as a lovely, motherly woman, her hair a tangle of flowers and branches and her gown a weave of evergreen leaves and fragrant herbs, or she appears as a doe, her primary totem.[3d]
Rhya is symbolized by a sheaf of grain or a bow and arrow, representing her hunter aspect and the dart of love. Wherever people are concerned about the weather, the harvest, the wilderness, or love, Taal and Rhya are worshipped. Rhya’s most devoted followers are Farmers and Hunters. Many Jade Wizards are devoted to the Gods as Ishernos. Rhya, in contrast to Taal who is unmoved by mortal concerns, gracefully nurtures the world by providing sustenance and natural beauty.[3d]
Favoured offerings to Rhya include vegetables, fruits, and meat, while the favoured sacrifice to her is blood upon the earth.[3a] Religious celebrations to Rhya (and Taal) are Sun Still, Less Growth, and World Still; they are observed during the Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox, and Winter Solstice respectively. While Sun Still is the time of Taal and Rhya, they hand their powers over to Ulric in Less Growth, and Farmers and Peasants light fires to guide Taal and Rhya back to the land by World Still.[3b]
Like her husband, Rhya has her sub-cults too, such as Haleth in the north and Dyrath in the west, the latter symbolising her aspect as Lady of Fertility and Midwifery. Most strange and, among scholars, controversial, is the sub-cult of Lupos the Wolf, the Lord of Predators. One of the oldest sub-cults, with evidence dating back to before the time of Sigmar, some speculate that this is an early form of Ulric, who once may have been part of a triune aspect incorporated in the archaic deity Ishernos. Little more is known, for the worshippers of Lupos have little to do with civilisation and are known as wild and dangerous, even by cultists of Taal and Rhya.[5b]
The changing of the seasons is the turn of Rhya’s wheel. Anything that interrupts the smooth running of this pattern of life is of concern to her. Rhya is the goddess of community, well-being, health, love, fertility, and birth. She is the god of gentle nature, the land that humans have tamed, farming, and the harvest. She seems to have the widest range of all the Old World’s deities. Her domain touches everybody, every moment of the day. Her remit is so broad, she seems to have spread herself very thinly indeed, and has, as a deity in her own right, almost disappeared. Now she is known merely as the gentler side of Taal, since all her associations are subsumed into her husband. Although her name is remembered, she has no temples, save perhaps a few out of the way shrines that are maintained out of the public purse or by the priesthood of Taal. Likewise, there is no priesthood of Rhya either – her customs and blessings are largely taken up by the priestesses of Taal.[6b]
However, although the people may pray to Taal to ensure that their crops are not spoiled, they thank Rhya when the crops are finally harvested. Many people have not forgotten her and give thanks to her in varied ways. Many traditions and customs have their roots in Rhyan ritual. Rhya has been supplanted by Shallya in much of her care for the people, but she is still pre-eminent across the Empire in her interest in conjugal rites. Female cultists of Taal are often the midwives of the wilderness, and try to attend every birth where they are needed.[6b]
The Priestesses of Taal are also versed in general medicine and herb lore. In the deepest wilds a follower of Rhya is often the only medical practitioner for many miles. Urban folk who do not understand rural ways find a Taalist priestesses’ natural remedies, blessings, and reliance uncomfortable, but this is a small price to pay in service to their deity. These aspects of Taal represented by Rhya’s nurturing, protective nature are often expressed on the conservative side of Taal's blessings, while the more wild and aggressive aspects of nature are depicted on the reckless side of his blessings.[6b]
Omens of Rhya
Visions from Rhya often show nature at its most vulnerable: crops spoiling and dying, fields coloured like blood, rivers blocked or stagnant, and poisoned wells. Alternatively, Rhya might show nature tainted by dark forces: animals giving birth to strange things or other animals, human-animal hybrids, and other blasphemous fusions of animal/animal or animal/plant.[6a]
While the 2nd Edition RPG maintains that Taal and Rhya are worshiped together in a single cult with separate priesthoods for both gods, 3rd Edition claims that clerical duties to Rhya have been taken by the priestesses of Taal.
- The name Rhya may be a reference to the Greek titan Rhea, daughter of Gaia and Ouranos, sister-wife of Kronus.
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Core Rulebook (1st Edition)
- 1a: pg. 205
- 2: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Enemy Within (1st Edition)
- 2a: pg. 21
- 3: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Core Rulebook (2nd Edition)
- 4: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Salvation (2nd Edition)
- 5: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Sigmar's Heirs (2nd Edition)
- 6: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Signs of Faith (3rd Edition)
- 7: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Core Rulebook (4th Edition)
- 7a: pg. 209
- 8: Warhammer Armies: Vampire Counts (7th Edition)
- 8a: pg. 28