the Elven Gods

The Fair folk of the Realms worship a pantheon of deities known as the Seldarine, a complex term that can be roughly translated as the fellowship of brothers and sisters of the wood, implying the wide diversity in interests that exists amongst the gods of the elven pantheon and their desire for cooperation. They act independently of one another, but the elven powers are drawn together by love, curiosity, and friendship to combine their strengths, to accomplish a task, or in the face of outside threats. Corellon Larethian, the acknowledged ruler of the Seldarine-sometimes joined by his consort, who is either identified as Sehanine or Angharradh-reinforces this freedom of action and compels none of the Seldarine to perform any task. Instead, the gods of the elven pantheon seem to sense when something needs doing, and they simply gather when necessary. With the exception of Fenmarel Mestarine, the Seldarine reside in the realm of Arvandor (a term that means the high forest in elvish) on the plane of Arborea on the layer known as Olympus.

Relations ascribed to the various powers of the Seldarine vary widely from culture to culture; some legends hold them all to be brothers and sisters, others believe Corellon (and sometimes Sehanine or Angharradh) created the other powers from the natural environment of Arvandor. Other sages link the Seldarine in various romantic relationships. In most representations, the elven pantheon includes more gods than goddesses, but every member of the Seldarine can appear as either male or female. The androgynous nature of the Seldarine reflects the gender equality found in most elven societies.

Aside from the disagreement over the nature of Angharradh, there is general agreement among the elves of Faerun as to which powers make up the Seldarine. Each elven realm and subrace places its own emphasis on the relative importance of various powers to the point where some members of the Seldarine fade from memory in some isolated elven cultures.

Formal membership in the Seldarine is determined by Corellon (or by Corellon and Angharradh, according to some myths). Unlike the dwarves, who still count Laduguer as a member of the Morndinisamman despite his banishment by Moradin, the Fair Folk do not include banished members of the elven pantheon when they use the term Seldarine. The good and neutral elven gods, including Corellon, Angharradh, Aerdrie Faenya, Deep Sashelas, Erevan Ilesere, Fenmarel Mestarine, Hanali Celanil, Labelas Enoreth, Rillifane Rallathil, Sehanine Moonbow, Shevarash, and Solonor Thelandira, have always members of the Seldarine in good standing, although Fenmarel has withdrawn from active involvement in the pantheon. Many of the drow powers, including Araushnee (now Lolth), Eilistraee, and Vhaeraun, were once considered part of the Seldarine. They were exiled from Arvandor by Corellon's decree following an invasion of Arvandor by the Anti-Seldarine, a coalition of evil gods assembled by the traitorous Araushnee and her complicitous son. Of the drow pantheon, only Eilistraee might someday formally rejoin the Seldarine, but it is more likely she will simply remain a close ally of the pantheon to which she once belonged. The Dark Maiden did not intentionally participate in Araushnee's schemes, but she willingly accepted banishment nonetheless, foreseeing the day her role as an outsider would be needed to guide those drow who spurned the self-destructive dogma of the Spider Queen.

While the gods of the elven pantheon are actively involved in the collective lives of their worshipers, few intervene directly in events affecting a particular individual or even a small group of elves. Like the Fair Folk, the Seldarine tend to have very long-range perspectives, and they never intervene directly in the unfolding history of the Realms without a great deal of consideration and discussion. Notable instances of intervention by the Seldarine have resulted in the creation and settlement of Evermeet, the Descent of the Drow, the decision to summon representatives of the elves to the Elven Court of Cormathyr, the founding of Myth Drannor under the guiding principles it embodied, the creation of the Harpers, the initiation of the Retreat that began in the Year of Moonfall (1344 DR), and the defence of Evermeet in the Year of the Unstrung Harp (1371 DR).

Elven mythology holds that the Fair Folk were born of the blood that Corellon shed in his battles with Gruumsh and bathed in the tears of Sehanine (or Angharradh). (Most members of the pantheon have an enmity for or at least a dislike of the goblinkin pantheons: those of the orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, kobolds, and urds.) Some legends state that the first elves appeared in the Realms fully formed and shaped in Corellon's image, woven by magic from sunbeams, moonbeams, forests, clouds, seas, and shadows. Other myths claim that at least some of the elven subraces-the gold elves and moon elves, in particular-migrated to Abeir-Toril through magical gates from one or more other worlds, most commonly identified as "Faerie." Myths discussing the natural origins of the Fair Folk are closely tied to the ability of many members of the Seldarine to assume nonelven, natural forms far greater in size than is common for their avatars. For example, Rillifane Rallathil has appeared as a massive oak tree, Deep Sashelas has appeared as a giant, towering (vaguely humaniform) wave of seawater, Aerdrie Faenya has appeared as a white cloud, and Corellon Larethian has appeared as an azure crescent moon or star.

One is struck in elven theology by the close relationships between the fair Folk, magic, and the natural world. Most of elven faiths emphasize elven unity with life and nature, and they tend to blend the distinction between elves and their environment, much as the Seldarine are held to be spirits of Arvandor. For example, the Fair Folk have spirits, not souls, and many elves believe they will be reincarnated as animals, plants, faerie folk, or even elves once again. Similarly, elves are creatures of the Weave, tightly bound to and part of the web of magic that envelops Abeir-Toril.

The Fair Folk refer to themselves as Tel'Quessir, an elvish term meaning "the people". They refer to all other beings as N'Tel'Quess, a less-than-diplomatic elvish expression meaning "not-people". The Tel'Quessir originally included seven known subraces of elves, each of which is believed to have appeared in the Realms over 25 millennia ago and all of which have interbred with humans to form Na'N'Tel'Quess, almost-not-people (half-elves).

The diversity of the elven pantheon reflects the wide range of elven subraces, for each subrace is closely associated with a subset of the Seldarine and each elven power is closely associated with one or more of the subraces. In particular, Corellon Larethian, Hanali Celanil, and Labelas Enoreth are closely associated with they Ar-Tel'Quessir and Hanali Celanil, Sehanine Moonbow (or Angharradh), and Solonor Thelandira are closely associated with the Teu-Tel'Quessir. Similarly, Rillifane Rallathil, Shevarash, and Solonor Thelandira are closely associated with both the Sy-Tel'Quessir and (with the exception of Shevarash) the Ly-Tel'Quessir, while Deep Sashelas is closely associated with the Alu-Tel'Quessir. Before the Descent, the Ssri-Tel'Quessir (now dhaeraow, drow) were closely associated with Araushnee (now Lolth), Eilistraee, and Vhaeraun, a relationship that still exists between the drow and the dark gods they worship. The deep schism between the drow and the other elven subraces is also reflected in the divisions between the Seldarine and Araushnee and her brood, just as the deific battles between the Seldarine and the anti-Seldarine reflect the strife of the Crown Wars.

By some measures, the Seldarine contain a pantheon within a pantheon. In centuries past, before the Cha-Tel'Quessir (half-green elves of the Yuirwood) appeared in Aglarond, the Sy-Tel'Quessir of the Yuirwood adopted and co-opted ancient powers previously venerated by primitive humans who had preceded even the elven settlement of the forest. Little remains to mark the worship of these ancient powers, although their legends are still retold in the oral tradition of the Cha-Tel'Quessir. At the heart of the Yuirwood is the Sunglade, dominated by two concentric rings of stone menhirs. While each stone of the outer rings bears an inscription to a different member of the Seldarine, each stone of the inner ring is inscribed with the symbol of one of the gods of the Yuir. Of those ten stones, only four symbols are still legible: Relkath of the Infinite Branches, Magnar the Bear, Elikarashae, and Zandilar the Dancer. A fifth menhir is believed to have once held the sign of the Simbul, the goddess of the edge and the moment of choice, from whom Alassra Shentrantra's common appellation is derived. All but one of the gods of the Yuir, weakened by the long absence of their faithful, were absorbed by he Seldarine when the Fair Folk first arrived in the Yuirwood, and they are now simply wild, primitive aspects of Rillifane Rallathil, Shevarash, Labelas Enoreth, and the other elven powers. Only Zandilar the Dancer retained any degree of independence after the coming of the Sy-Tel'Quessir. However she too declined in power and was forced to merge with the Mulhorandi goddess Bast (now known as Sharess) after an unsuccessful gambit against Vhaeraun the Masked Lord that she initiated in the hope of averting the defeat of her adopted worshipers by the drow.


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