- "The Gods are great, but only a fool would trust them with his life."
- —Borya Bearfinder, Priest of Ursun
Ursun, also known as the Great Bear, or Father Bear is the God of Bears and Strength and the patron god of Kislev. His worship was first introduced by the Gospodars, but bears are such a major part of Kislevite life that the religion was absorbed almost instantly. Bears continue to be a vital part of society to this day, and the religion is now inseparable from the Kislevite culture. Worship of Ursun is not a state religion as the worship of Sigmar in the Empire is, but the fate of Kislev is linked in many minds to the fortunes and favour of Father Bear. The Cult of Ursun is the main religious organization that mandates the worship of Ursun.
Ursun is usually depicted as a giant, brown, cave bear, sometimes wearing a gold crown. He also often has golden teeth or golden claws, which indicate not only that Ursun is king of the beasts but the value of bears as well. On the oblast, a killed bear will provide great wealth to an entire stanitsa. Occasionally, Ursun is depicted as a large, burly man with grey streaks in his wild hair. He wears a loincloth and carries nothing but a spear.
As a wild God, Ursun is not worshipped in temples but in outdoor shrines or disused bear caves. In the cities, great gardens of pine trees, bushes, and rocks serve as a place of worship, the shrine hidden in a cave or cleft in the centre. The greatest of these gardens sits near the Bokhar Palace in Kislev.
Father Bear is a fierce, patriarchal figure. He is unyielding and unforgiving when it comes to his strictures but also demands his followers fend for themselves. Ursun is a God of bears first, then men. He permits the hunting of his children out of compassion for humanity, under the strict condition it is done respectfully and with the awareness that it is a privilege, not a right. Ursun is aloof but not unfeeling—he grants prayers to the faithful, and common folk and priests alike may attract his attention by nailing a fish to their door. Ursun highly favours those who demonstrate the strength and courage of his bearkin, however.
A warrior fighting furiously in battle will win Ursun’s favour over a priest praying fervently at a shrine. Those who are cowardly, weak, or who hunt in a disrespectful fashion receive no blessings and may be punished. Such rebuke might mean the stanitsa has no successful bear hunts that year, or it may involve a great bear charging into town and rending the transgressors limb from limb. Ursun is a wild God: inconsistent in his justice and brutal in his anger. In his favour of deeds over words, Ursun is akin to Ulric. The followers of both religions get along well, though there is rivalry between them. Each is keen to prove their God is the strongest, and they are more blessed as a result.
This rivalry is mostly friendly, contested with things such as wrestling matches or competitive hunts. Sometimes—particularly when a lot of drinking has been involved—the rivalry can become violent but is rarely more serious than a bar brawl. Ursun’s relative indifference to Humans and veneration of nature also makes him much like Taal, and the two religions share more than just a border at the Talabec. Followers of Taal wonder why the Ursunites choose one animal over all the others, while the servants of Father Bear wonder how anyone could fail to see the bear’s obvious superiority, though in other respects, their cults have little difference and blend together easily. Taal worship is often found side by side with that of Ursun, particularly in the west.
Appearance and Symbology
Depictions of a bear or a bear’s face are most common, although worshippers of Ursun might well also wear a medallion of gold, shaped like a bear’s claw. Devout followers of Ursun wear bearskin cloaks, or wear a bear’s paw as a talisman. Amongst the northern tribes, it is not uncommon for Ursun cultists to wear a bear’s skull over their helmets, or fixed to the front of their shields.
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. 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. 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.
Friends and Enemies
There is much friction between the followers of Ulric and Ursun. This is more a matter of pride than genuine animosity, as worshippers of Ursun and Ulric have much in common, but contests of strength-at-arms and other physical rivalry is commonplace. There is much goodwill between the cult of Ursun and that of Taal, and they share a common border at the River Talabec on the edge of Talabecland. Ursun worshippers think it a bit daft to worship all animals in equal measure, since bears are obviously the lords of the wild, while Taal cultists think it a bit strange to revere one animal over any other. However, on the whole they share many similar rituals and beliefs. Generally, followers of Ursun are unconcerned with other religions, and many of the southern gods are seen by them as a bit soft and unworthy of praise.
There are only two true holy days of Ursun: the spring equinox, when cultists gather to rouse Ursun from his winter sleep with loud rituals, setting huge bonfires, roasting deer, drinking alcohol and generally making as much racket as possible; and the autumn equinox when the first harvest is offered up to Ursun so that he might gorge himself and prepare for his winter’s rest.
- Never hunt a bear in the winter – let him sleep.
- Bears must always be killed by hand or arrow – no dogs or traps.
- Only wear the skin, claw or skull of a bear you have killed yourself.
- Eat fish at least once per week, but never eat fish and other meat on the same day.
- Never perform your ablutions indoors.
List of Known Miracles
Note: the following spells have been limited to fluff material only, and the translation thereof.
Ursunyi Petty Spells
- Blessing of the Licked Paw - The priest growls a plea to Ursun to lessen a wound’s pain. The target become stabilized.[1c]
- Blessing of Ursun - The priest's prayers grant the target greater skill in navigating, and surviving, on the oblast or during a snowy winter.[1c]
Divine Lore of Ursun
Ursun is the God of bears and patron of Kislev. His cult was introduced by the Gospodars almost a thousand years ago and is now the most powerful in the land. Priests of Ursun tend to be wild individuals, and many wear sacred skins and holy bear bones. Those calling upon Ursun are often uncomfortable around the trappings of civilisation and frequently grow lethargic in winter.[1d]
- Father Bear - The prayer stirs one of Ursun’s servants. One bear within range will not attack unless attacked and will answer any questions the priest poses it, drawing from its own knowledge (not Ursun’s). Its voice is sonorous and noble, and it speaks in the mother tongue of the priest. This prayer does not work on spellcasters using Form of the Raging Bear.[1d]
- Growling Fury - The priest's chants fill them with implacable, ferocious rage. This makes them menacing, dangerous when frenzied, and stronger of both body and mind.[1d]
- Skin of the Ice Bear - Prayers draw an Ice Bear’s spirit within the priest. For the duration, all of their attacks deal greater damage, and they gain keen senses though become unsettling to others. This improves their ability to survive in wilds.[1d]
- Unyielding Ursun - Rousing prayers tap deep into Kislevite national pride. All Kislevites within range become fearless and unsettling to their enemies.[1d]
- Ursine Strength - A chant granting the priest some of Ursun’s strength, making them powerful brawlers and able at grappling.[1d]
- Winter's Sleep - Ursunyi prayers bring the deep sleep of winter upon the priest's enemies. All living creatures in a small area risk falling into a deep sleep for several minutes, rendering them helpless.[1d]