Each of the three major cultural groups of the Council Lands approaches the worship of Powers (gods, demigods, ascended heroes, kami, etc) differently.
Wall-builders approach the gods as clients approach a patron. Each person chooses one of the Congregation that best fits their needs and personality as their patron. Thereafter they focus most of their devotions to that deity. They still venerate the others on their feast days and when special needs arise, but their daily and weekly devotions and sacrifices go to their patron. In return, they expect protection and beneficence in their daily lives from their patron.
Worship among wall-builders is split into two portions—public veneration and private instruction. In public all the gods are venerated by turns according to their feast days, although the four seasonal gods have pride of place. Priests may have a special relationship with one of the Congregants from whom they draw their limited power, but they serve the Congregation as a whole. Ritual symbolic sacrifices occur twice a week (on Fourday and Eightday); Fourday has a ritual assembly of the local worshipers. These services may at most have a ritualized homily or a story involving a Congregant or one of their demi-gods, but generally there is no instruction as to the will of the Congregation.
While the Congregants have priority, many wall builders also respect and appease the local spirits and revere historic and mythic heroes. Many of these are Accepted as demigods or ascendants. This is especially true in the Dreamshore region where the Church of the Seasons is least organized. Often village churches will have shrines to local heroes or kami alongside the altars dedicated to the Congregation.
Instruction as to the desires of the Congregation comes through the societies dedicated to one of the Congregants. Each area may only have membership in a few of the societies—those of the seasonal gods are most common even in small areas.
Religious societies often have multiple layers—the deeper layers are exclusive and initiation is by invitation only. Different societies are organized differently—the main society devoted to the Sun Lord selects the strongest member as the leader through ritual feats of strength, while Pinwheel’s tiny society has no fixed organization at all. Not all Congregants have public societies. On Eight-day the “public” layers meet. During this meeting some form of instruction is given on a topic relating to the Congregant’s doctrine and the members socialize and plan to meet the needs of their fellows.
Initiation into adolescence involves initiation into the local society of one of the gods—usually Sakara for young women and Tor Elan for young men. As the young person matures, they may be initiated into the deeper mysteries of that same god or may join the society of any of the others as they see fit. People can belong to multiple societies but can only dive deeper into one. Older women tend to gravitate toward the White Hands (the society dedicated to Melara), while older men tend toward the Moon-scythes, the biggest society devoted to the Lord of Autumn. Many are casual worshipers who never progress beyond the public layers of any of the societies. Some are public members of multiple societies and initiates of deeper mysteries of gods to whose public societies they don’t even belong.
The Jeweled Rose (Aerielara). Only present in larger cities. Deeper initiates are almost always artists (including prostitutes) or famously beautiful.
Overwatch (The Hollow King). No public side. Don’t look for them, they don’t exist. Existing or not, they are watching.
The Coin-spinners (Kela-Loran). Favorite of merchants and gamblers. Initiation is for sale—the larger the “donation”, the higher the rank.
The Silence (Korokonolkom). Commonest where dwarves and wall-builders mingle. Some sub-groups practice self-flagellation as a test of silent endurance.
The Hot Forge (Lon-Ka). Welcoming innovators and artisans, their meetings are often confused for sage’s lectures or hands-on demonstrations. Or brawls. Or all of the above, all at once. “All things must be tested by fire,” after all.
The Moon-scythes (Loran Hae). One of the largest societies, with public members everywhere. Especially older men. Forms the local court in rural areas.
The White Hands (Melara). Mostly older women. Found everywhere and involved in everything. Works with the Arms of the Mother quite heavily.
The Arms of the Mother (Peor-fala). A mutual-aid society *slash* gossip circle. Very prevalent among halflings.
The Motley (Pinwheel). No public side. Often considered a fake group used as a punchline to a joke, like the Illuminati.
The Ruby Castle (Roel-Kor). By invitation only but not secret. Strict hierarchy and discipline. High prestige—only those of power and fame are invited.
Cherry Petals (Sakara). Favorite of young women. Very pink. Teaches life skills.
Storm-born (Selesurala). Tiny, private group. Egalitarian. Anarchists.
Sun-shields (Tor-Elan). Major society for younger men. Initiation and rank are based on training and discipline and trial by combat. Conducts military drills open to everyone.
Society for the Preservation of Knowledge (Yogg-Maggus). Conducts lectures on topics for the public. Initiation into the mysteries requires written tests.
Ytra and Lae-loara do not have societies. Ytra has her Order (the Scale-balancers) and Lae-loara does not invite such followers. Hers is a wilder way.
Traditional dwarves relate to the Congregation as examples of proper life. They discuss teachings, they tell and retell stories about the acts of the gods. Their prayers are more a means of centering themselves and reviewing what they know than an actual request for supernatural aid. Most dwarves turn first to the teachings of the Lord of the Mountain, but the Forge-master is another source of inspiration.
Unlike the wall-builders, dwarves focus on doctrine and teachings, especially on debating and discussing the law of each deity. Different schools exist which focus on different teachings (or different understandings of teachings. These schools of thought often form over what seem to be minute differences in wording, parsing logic and phrasing to a fine level. For the rest of the Council Lands, calling something “dwarven theology” is saying that it’s designed to be confusing and is often said of semantic or word-twisting arguments. This goes beyond just the specialists—a common dwarven pass-time in the dark of the mountains is to argue over particularly esoteric doctrines or symbols.
Dwarves thus get a reputation for being very religious, something that often makes them smile. To many dwarves, wall-builders are the fanatics. Dwarves simply treat the gods as they do their own exemplars—if one came down and started giving orders, the dwarves would start arguing with the god using examples from their own teachings. Another common phrase is that something impossible is “like preaching religion to a dwarf.”
Council dwarves, as a rule, will revere ancestors as exemplars but do not deify them and do not venerate kami. The more “progressive” hill dwarf clans are looser about this, but the traditionalist mountain dwarves are firm on this point.
Elves are generally not very religious. To them, the Congregation are late-comers and aren’t that impressive. They’re important for humans, they say, because humans don’t have true power (wizardry for the gwerin and druidic power for the puun ihmisia). To the elves, the gods are a useful shortcut. Their power makes them valid sources for transactional worship—prayer or sacrifice in exchange for measurable gifts.
Those elves that are religious tend to devote themselves to one aspect of one Congregant—religious artists may devote themselves to Arielara, while wizards might patronize Yogg-Maggus. Those that are strongly religious tend to become zealots, lacking the cultural underpinnings of faith. They focus on one facet to the exclusion of the others. A zealot of the Lord of Magic might throw away all ethical restrictions in the pursuit of magic; a devotee of the Lady of Beauty might go to any length to chase music or art or sexuality. Saying someone is an “elven believer” is to warn that they’ve become a fanatic. Or, conversely, that someone doesn’t take the gods seriously at all. Phrases are double-edged, after all.
Gwerin generally do not venerate ancestors or kami. Especially not kami. High-elven druids are vanishingly rare and are looked down on as race traitors. Having powerful ancestors is a source of pride but they’re much more focused on power in the present. Puun ihmisia, on the other hand, are almost entirely focused on the kami. Ancestors may be acknowledged, but the local kami are of paramount importance. Every home, street-corner, and village gate has a shrine; impromptu shrines grow wherever a spirit is found to be active.