Melora is the goddess of the wild, nature and the sea. She is both the wild beast and the peaceful forest, the raging whirlpool and the quiet mountain passes. All those who live off the untamed land and sea hold her in high regard. Though they tend to overlap, Melora sees the primal spirits of the world as her friends, and there is little to no animosity between the followers of the primal spirits and her own, some even acknowledging both as equals. As the goddess of nature, Melora encompasses all the power, majesty, and ferocity contained in that concept. Nature can be destructive, savage, wild, and untamed. It can also prove restful, serene, awe-inspiring, and life-giving. The goddess reveals all these different realities.
Seen immortalised through wooden reliefs and carved idols in hidden, overgrown groves and rural shrines, Melora is often depicted as a beautiful woman of green skin nearly swallowed by a wild, tangled wreath of hair, leaves and vines that dwarf her lithe form. Rangers, hunters, and elves revere her, and sailors make offerings to her before beginning their voyages.
She is known widely as “The Wildmother”, though she is also referred to as the “Wanderer in the Wilderness” or simply the “Untamed”. Melora is worshipped by those who live off the land. Especially in coastal areas you can find her followers amongst fishermen and sailors. Those who live in the woods or other untamed areas pay their respects to the lady of the wild as well. The more devout followers of Melora actively protect the wilderness of the world from those who would destroy it. These followers often carve out a symbol of a swirl, sometimes referred to as the ram's horn or the whirlpool in their idols and on their trinkets, though the acknowledged symbol of the civilised regions is that of a compass with a green centre.
Though her symbols are that of swirls and compass points, in the heavens she is depicted as the Wild Archer holding her bow, Gaurasang.
Like Avandra, Melora has no astral dominion of her own, preferring to wander the cosmos and experience its beauty. Sometimes it is said she can be found in the realm of Arvandor, The Verdant Isles, a realm of nature, beauty and magic.
In the world of mortals, sages and poets speak rapturously of the eternal glories of Arvandor, the fragrant breezes of its flower- and tree-strewn wilderness, and the endless glories of its verdant beauty. It is true that the gods of Arvandor have created an amazing realm: a place of awesome beauty and heart-stopping rapture fit for powerful gods of love, beauty, arcane magic, the wilderness, and freedom. It is also a place fraught with constant danger, wild battle, and the call for valour.
The idea of Arvandor as a world of graceful forests, brilliant sunsets, and splendid islands tells only a piece of the story, as the sages tell of a glorious hunt where the gods and their exarchs eternally track and slay abominations that are carving paths through the dominion. Melora is often at the head of this hunt, closing in on an aberration for a kill.
The goddess Melora is considered sister to both Erathis (Goddess of Civilisation), and Ioun (Goddess of Knowledge). Although Erathis and Ioun get along well, Melora intensely dislikes and distrusts both her siblings, and her beliefs strongly oppose theirs. These three deities represent the eternal conflict between wilderness and civilisation, and between mortals and nature itself. For the most part, this sibling rivalry remains subdued amongst the gods, but it has at times become heated amongst mortal followers of these deities.
Although Melora often opposes her sisters, she does not oppose the proper and respectful use of nature's bounty. She understands that people must hunt, grow food, and fashion clothing and shelter. She is not interested with merely preserving the wilderness untouched and unspoiled. Rather, Melora seeks to maintain wilderness as home to as many plants, animals, and creatures as possible. If some creatures must die to support the others, so be it. If, however, some of the inhabitants despoil or taint the land, Melora grows angry. Those who misuse or abuse the wilds are most apt to draw her ire, and are likely to incur a visit from several vengeful Melora clerics or followers. The goddess despises cities and large towns, and sees these as wasteful, extravagant, and devoid of life.
Tenets of the Faith
Protect the wild places of the world from destruction and overuse. Melora understands the need for creatures to use natural resources to survive. She does not, however, tolerate the wanton or needless destruction of woodlands, grasslands, or waterways. Chopping down some trees to build homes is one thing; clearing an entire swathe of forest is going too far. She calls upon her clerics to protect wilderness areas from such destruction, including destroying those responsible if necessary.
Oppose the rampant spread of cities and empires. The goddess holds a strong dislike for cities and large, spreading civilisations. As part of her ongoing feud with Erathis, Melora calls upon her clerics to fight the spread of the urban landscape. Most of her followers, however, have no interest in destroying buildings, but rather in finding ways to limit the growth of communities through peaceful ways.
Hunt aberrant monsters and other abominations of nature. Though The Islands are free from from the real threat of fables of horrible, unnatural, and destructive monstrosities, the followers of Melora are charged with a constant watching vigil against these beings. The two most abhorrent to her include the undead and aberrations. She calls upon her clerics to watch for, and then pursue and destroy creatures of either type whenever possible. As far as Melora's clerics are concerned, there can be no cooperation with or acceptance of any undead or aberrant creature. Such monsters must be hunted and destroyed, as they represent a direct threat to the natural order.
Do not fear or condemn the savagery of nature. Live in harmony with the wild. Nature can be cruel and destructive at times. Nature can kill or maim with little regard for wealth, status, or position. Melora calls upon her clerics to teach this truth to everyone they encounter. People must respect nature, not fear or condemn it. Animals hunt to live, animals kill to eat. This does not make them evil. Any aspect of nature, be it animal, weather, or natural event, is neutral and simply part of life. Clerics teach people how to live in harmony with nature, but they also teach that nature is inherently unpredictable. Violence is a necessary part of life; all creatures kill to survive.
Melora has no holy book or sacred texts. Her worshippers do, however, maintain an oral tradition known as the Saga of the Nature Spirit. This saga includes hundreds of short poems and simple songs dedicated to Melora and the power of nature. There are approximately thirty-six poems that serve as the heart of the saga, and clerics of the goddess learn these words by rote. According to tradition, not one word or intonation of these poems has changed since the Great Retreat.
The remaining portions of the saga are open to change, different interpretations, and are likely to evolve depending on the speaker, the listener, and the place in which they are recited.
There is no organised church of Melora on The Islands. Her priesthood has little need for organised temples, hierarchy of leadership, or formal training. Indeed, any person who feels the call to serve Melora as a cleric, druid or paladin may do so, assuming they devote their lives to her cause. Her followers rarely concern themselves with buildings or specific liturgy, let alone “appropriate” robes, hats, or other religious paraphernalia often associated with other faiths. Melora clerics spend their lives travelling and exploring, undertaking her service wherever they go.
Most worshippers devoted to Melora are independent, stubborn, hardy, and enjoy their privacy. They see no need to travel to some building of stone or wood to worship the glory of nature. The followers of Melora come from many walks of life, worshiping both her and the primal spirits, and frequently adopting the spirits' custom of calling her the Wildmother. Methods and symbols associated with her worship vary depending on locale and which aspect of her personality a group of followers chooses to emphasise.
In Coastal Areas. Most of Melora's faithful live in and travel between the fishing villages, towns, and settlements that dot the sea-coast. Her priests help the inhabitants of this territory understand how to live in harmony with the ocean. The coast is one of the few places where her clerics construct permanent temples dedicated to Melora. Members of the order wear light blue cloaks edged with white lamb's wool, bringing to mind the foam at the crest of a wave. These priests prefer holy symbols carved from whalebone, coral, and driftwood—objects that are considered gifts from Melora.
These priests have a variety of duties. They pray for Melora to bring the annual runs of rockfish and blueback and to keep away blight and foulness in the water. Before boats leave the safety of the harbour, captains ask the priests to pray for Melora's protection and make offerings of carved bones and shells.
In addition to these duties, Melora's priests are instrumental to each locale's defences and politics. When disagreements break out over fishing grounds her followers negotiate the treaties. They might learn to form rudimentary speech with animals, asking creatures such as dolphins and whales to act as scouts. In other locations, members research rune-inscribed buoys and rocks that serve as an early warning system for tidal waves.
In the Wilderness. Whereas Melora's faithful near the sea are organised, those in the wilderness collect in groups of no larger than a dozen members. Part of the reason for this small group size is practical, because small villages in the plains of The Islands are spread out, and traveling between them takes time. These followers live in small cabins and survive off the land. They plant gardens of berries, vegetables and legumes, and they practice rituals, potion brewing, and the healing arts. They might spend years in close contact with the primal spirits, learning the name of every tree, bird, and insect. They might keep birds as messengers to warn the other faithful when danger arises.
The faithful who live in these areas adapt their practices to their locale. They wear garments appropriate to the area, from animal skins in the cold mountain slopes to grass-woven clothes in the warmer southern reaches of The Islands. Their holy symbols vary greatly in form; however, wooden symbols crafted from the three most sacred trees — oak, ash, and hawthorn — are especially prized by those who can create or buy them.
In Inland Towns and Cities. Melora's faithful tend to avoid settlements that aren't along the coastline,the forests, or high in the mountains of The Islands. However, a few followers do brave the urban environment, teaching the wisdom of the natural order to any who would listen. Sometimes they work closely with a settlement's overseers, advocating for natural spaces and for celebrations tied to the seasons. The faithful in urban areas do not erect temples of their own, instead worshipping at temples of other gods, particularly Corellon, Sehanine, and Avandra. Here they hold talks and meetings in the hope that the seeds of their ideas find fertile ground.
The Earthen Guard. One group trying to further Melora's cause in the larger cities of Deepingwald, Capel-Treath and especially Port Serena calls itself the “Earthen Guard”. Although some people are content to sit and complain about the ever-growing cities and their unending hunger for resources, the Earthen Guard takes action. Members of this group, unlike most of Melora's faithful, are well educated and might be wealthy. They teach people in or near civilised areas how to live in harmony with nature. For trappers and fishermen, they extol the value of releasing or not over hunting animals that are needed to replenish the population, such as small fish and female game. They teach farmers the art of crop rotation. Lumberjacks learn good forestry practices, such as planting five trees for every one they cut.
When education and good practices are not enough to halt or prevent the desecration of nature, the Earthen Guard acts as a militant organisation that comes secretly to nature's aid, destroying dams and other earthen works, or attacking lumber camps and mining operations that laid the land bare. This often invokes the ire of the followers of other gods, particularly Erathis, and often heated exchanges and sometimes even violence ensues.
Duties of the Priesthood: Melora's clerics do a lot of travelling, wandering across The Islands in pursuit of Melora's wishes. Some clerics remain connected to a specific geographic region. These individuals often consider themselves guardians of a sacred location, such as a druid's grove, a waterfall, or a hilltop.
All Melora clerics, regardless of where they are, seek to educate others in how to make use of nature and how to respect it. There are proper ways to gather wood, hunt for game, and build fires. Those who choose not to respect nature get what they deserve.
Limitations and Sacrifices: A cleric of Melora is expected to revere nature and use its resources wisely. Misuse or overuse of nature's gifts is a sin. A cleric of Melora must be prepared to sacrifice his happiness, his well-being, and even his life in the name of Melora.
There are little formal rituals associated with the followers of Melora. Many rites are localised, depending upon the area they are performed in and rarely are the same from one side of The Islands to another. Sailors, for instance, often make offerings to her before they embark on their fishing trips, but the offerings and scale of them differs from settlement to settlement.
Places of Worship
Seaside settlements are among the few places that host permanent temples dedicated to Melora. In these locales, worship of Melora is so integral to the inhabitants' way of life that these temples serve as meeting houses and schools as well as houses of worship. In towns far from the coast, Melora's followers eschew formal temples. Instead they plant trees in her name and worship at any local temples to Corellon, Sehanine, or Avandra. In the major cities there are few dedicated places of worship for Melora's followers.
The most sacred places of Melora's worship are found in the wilderness. Melora, like Erathis, loved to build and nurture relationships. It is said she established networks around the world, providing the creatures of nature with a means to communicate with one another. Some sages believe that the remnants of this network can be found throughout the natural world, and that the everspring groves and the standing stones sacred to the primal spirits are part of it. However, Melora's faithful have no idea how to use these objects, and neither Melora nor the primal spirits have revealed how.
Services dedicated to Melora are expected, at all times and in all places, to take place outdoors, and all temples devoted to the goddess have an area dedicated to being open to the elements. As the goddess of nature, she expects her clerics and worshippers to honour her in the midst of nature's grandeur. If the weather is too dangerous (no doubt thanks to one of Kord's temper tantrums), the service can always be held earlier or later — the exact timing is not important, only the effort.
Wild's Majesty (Ches 19): The Wildmother's Holy Day is celebrated on the vernal equinox. Followers of Melora celebrate the Wildmother's strength by going on a journey to a place of great natural beauty, like the top of a mountain waterfall, or the centre of a forest. Wild's Majesty is rarely celebrated in cities, but some folk will plant trees in observance of the holiday.
The faithful of Melora do not celebrate relics from the past.
Myths and Legends
There are little myths or legends about Melora.
Signs and Portents
Followers of Melora hear whispers of her everywhere. Some of the signs her followers find important are usually base in natural occurrences.
After a forest fire, a priest of Melora inspects any stands of unburned trees. If the three most sacred trees — oak, ash, and hawthorn — are each represented, the locals decorate the trees with ribbons and wooden wind chimes. Each participant makes a wish when he or she adds a new decoration. If at least three of the wishes come true over the coming year, the local priest of Melora declares the grove sacred.
When winds blow through the trees, twisting the leaves on the branches to reveal their lighter-coloured undersides, people see it as a warning of an imminent strong storm. The people of the forest refer to leaves in this state as Melora's eyes. Legends speak of a time when Melora wandered through the forest in the form of a gust and used the shifting leaves to spot unnatural creatures such as aberrants and undead.