Abridged History of the 10th Age
“Air storms, stone endures.”
Saga of Illuminations, Dwarvish Holy Text, 3rd Age
Reciting the Sagas, Clan Temples
While the elvish religions have formal services every dusk to honor their creator Anunë, the dwarven method of worship is more akin to that of men. They do not visit temples for formal prayer on a daily basis; once a month, it is the custom for most dwarves to attend their local clan-temple and engage in vigorous story-telling. Sometimes these stories are from the Great Sagas, sometimes from the Heroic Eddas, and sometimes it is simply the news about what is happening in the world.
Much as dwarven folk-halls are organized into clans, so too is their religious life. Every clan sponsors temples within their clan-halls. These are for the private use of the clan. Large folk-halls and colonies may have an cross-clan main temple dedicated to Eri—for example, every folk-hall in the Arinnfal has a great Temple beneath the mountains. The priestly caste is composed of members of many different clans, and those who are dedicated to the dwarven priesthood rarely return to serve a temple visited by members of their own clan. The greatest honor, of course, is to serve one of the great Temples: these are always bustling with activity as the center of communal life within a folk-hall.
Within a Great Temple outlanders (gestr) may come to pray. Members of different clans may also meet here and discuss serious matters, unlike the beer-hall atmosphere of the central hall where no clan-lords hold sway. The great Temples are also often surrounded by workshops and forges, grouped (of course) by clan into small clusters.
In smaller settlements no Great Temple is needed, as they are usually dominated by one or two clans who can easily share a small temple in the center of the settlement. Great Temples are known in Orthr as Mikillorg and lesser temples are Smalorg. (compare with Michelstadt – literally “Large Town” in Weylic and Smalwood compound of the Orthr smal and Weylic wood).
Unlike mannish worship, the dwarves do not divide their faithful into inner and outer cults, but rather simply into the priesthood and the laity. While the under-mountain is sacred to dwarves (and thus rarely are non-dwarven gestr allowed within) it is not unknown for mendicants of the major dwarven gods to be allowed access to the mikillorg in order to give their devotions (most often this is devotion to Eiri, the Earthfather).
Dwarven religion, while focused on the four primary gods of the dwarves, also has a heavy focus on the worship of ancestors. Dwarves believe that when the body dies the ancestor-spirit does not leave it right away, but rather inhabits it for several years. During this time it is customary to construct a stone vault to inter the remains of the ancestor. Alternately, the ancestor may be placed within the confines of a special reliquary designed to watch over some important place; many dwarf halls, for example, have ancestor-wardens watching over their gateways and entrances.
Dwarves also believe that ancestor-spirits may move from their bodies to any likeness of them, and thus statues of the ancestors are quite important. Indeed, there are legends of ancestor-statues coming to life with the breath of the ancestor-spirit in times of great strife and crisis. To this end, dwarves also believe they can leave the afterlife (in the Mountain of Eiri) at any time to return and “see with eyes of stone,” which has been taken to mean that ancestor clan-spirits can look through the eyes of any statue of them in existence.