Urogalan is the protector of the dead and god of the underground. Urogalan is a gentle deity for a god of death, respected and revered by his chosen race but never feared. He is seen as a protector of the dead. Because halfling dead are usually buried in the earth, he is also the guardian of the earth itself (as opposed to the green plants that grow in the earth, which are the dominion of other halfling deities).
Urogalan rarely speaks or displays much emotion, and when he does, the Black Hound's quiet-spoken voice is tinged with loss. The Lord in the Earth prefers observation to intervention and has the disconcerting habit of appearing in the shadows and simply watching and waiting until he is noticed. Urogalan dispatches his avatar to gather in the souls of great, wise, or exceptional halflings, and he may also dispatch his avatar underground to watch over perils that may come from within it.
Few halflings actually worship Urogalan, but most honor and propitiate him. As such, Urogalan's priesthood is small. They administer last rites, preside over burials, and care for halfling graves. They also maintain much of halfling genealogies and histories, and consecrate the foundations of new buildings and burrows. It is a tradition for a cleric of Urogalan to speak a prayer before the first meal eaten in a new building.
VestmentsUrogalan's priests wear simple, ankle-length robes tied with a belt of rope. Depending on whether they are performing rituals in honor of death or earth, they robes are white or brown, respectively. They are always barefooted and, if at all possible, keep two feet firmly planted on the ground at all times. Priests typically shave their heads, while priestesses bind their hair in twin braids hanging down their backs. The holy symbol of the faith is a small (2 inches high) statuette of a hound carved from diarun, meerschaum, or tomb jade.
When not performing priestly duties, they can wear any type of armor. However, members of Urogalan's clergy strongly prefer suits of mail and shields forged from the bounty of the earth (made of metal). Likewise, they favor stone and metal weapons such as flails, slings, daggers, and short swords.
HierarchyUrogalan's clerics are known as Grimwardens. Novices of Urogalan are known as Earthlings. Full priests of He Who Must Be are known as Vassals of the Black Hound. In ascending order of rank, the titles used by Urogalanan priests are Earth Embracer, Soil Digger, Clay Potter, Diarun Smith, Grave Guardian, Crypt Sentinel, Vault Marshal, Barrow Warden, and Black Hound. High-ranking priests have unique individual titles.
TemplesUrogalan's temples are found in shallow basins open to the sky, in natural caves or in catacombs dug by halflings. Nearly any site that naturally emphasizes the surrounding geography is acceptable. The floor is always covered in at least six inches of soft dirt, and the central altar is usually a large limestone rock with a shallow depression, etched by rain or a small stream, at the center of the flat-topped surface. Only rarely do Urogalan's priests dwell within the temples of the Lord in the Earth. More often a temple of Urogalan is little more than a shrine, tended by a single priest who resides in a nearby community of the Small Folk.
RitualsNights of the full moon are considered holy days by the Urogalanan priesthood and are collectively known as Earthrisings. Halfling theology holds that the full moon is a manifestation of Urogalan, symbolizing both the ascendance of earth and the inevitable coming of death after life. Priests and followers of Urogalan, as well as halflings whose loved ones have passed away within the past month, gather in natural earthen basins at night to propitiate He Who Must Be. Offerings to the Lord in the Earth at such ceremonies are made on a large, low, flat rock placed at the center of the bowl and typically include precious gifts of the earth such as uncut gems, diarun, and clay statuettes depicting the god. During such rituals, participants sing soft dirges and chant elegies to the percussive pounding of bare feet while making slow rotations around the central stone.
Burial PracticesAmong the various burial practices used by priests of Urogalan, there are only three set precepts that must be met. The body must be encased in earth or stone - either a wooden casket that will quickly rot away or a stone sarcophagus - and a stone tablet engraved with the name of the deceased. Urogalan's symbol must be placed upon the corpse's chest. The priest presiding over a burial must carve from stone or shape from clay twin figurines depicting a pair of black hounds, bless them, and place them on the palms of the deceased. Finally, members of the community who were friends of the departed soul must come forth and return a gift the deceased gave to them. Such gifts are typically tales of the generosity, kindness, cleverness, wit, or escapades of the deceased and are sometimes accompanied by a small token of remembrance suggestive of the tale. Typical tokens include a clay pipe, an apple, a jug of wine, or a simple woodcarving.
As an example of a fairly wide-spread burial practice, halfling gravestones often include clay statuettes of Urogalan placed in a small niche at the base of the grave marker. Regional practices exist as well, including the ancient act of covering the face of the deceased with a terra cotta mask depicting the face of the deceased with a content expression. Such burial masks are believed to aid the spirit in its initial adjustment to the afterlife (and, in some communities, to symbolize the true peace escape slaves found only in death). Of course, the reasoning behind this practice has been forgotten by most of its practitioners, and if pressed by non-halflings questioning the custom, most halflings explain it away with the quizzical rejoinder, "Undead don't smile!"
Although burial practices vary somewhat from community to community, few changes occur upon the passing of a halfling deserving of special status, for the Small Folk feel ostentatious tombs for particularly individuals are inappropriate in their relatively egalitarian society. Acceptable enhancements to the common burial practice include interring favorite possessions along with the deceased, chiseling elaborate carvings representing the life and deeds of the deceased on the exterior of a sarcophagus, and employing rare stone, gems, and metals in the construction of the sarcophagus and gifts interred within. As a matter of necessity, elaborate safeguards to deter tomb robbers must sometimes be included as well.
For example, the last Margrave of Meiritin, Samovar Amethystall, who died in battle with the armies of the Duchy of Cortryn in the Year of the Phoenix (519 DR), was entombed in a small vault in the western Tejarn Hills of what is now southern Amn. The halfling prince was interred in a red marble sarcophagus elaborately sculpted with friezes depicting his heroics as well as his beneficence. Engraved in the lid of the stone coffin was a stylized map of the lands he ruled, before the rise of Cortryn, with important sites marked. Within the marble casket, along with the margrave's body, was placed a terra cotta mask with bronze filigree and green eyes of carved tomb jade, a pair of onyx dogs (figurines of wondrous power), an ornate silver snuffbox, a diarun weedpipe, and the Crystal Crown of Ilhundyl. The location and current state of the tomb are unknown, although the margrave's distant descendant, Count Krimmon Amethystall of Tethyr, has discretely funded several expeditions to find it.
OrdersUrogalan's priesthood is segregated into two religious orders with overlapping responsibilities and memberships (in small communities with but a single Urogalanan priest, the resident Vassal of the Black Hound serves both roles). The Wardens of the Dead are primarily responsible for the protection of halfling gravesites and ensuring the peaceful transition of halfling spirits to the afterlife. The role of the Children of the Earth is to honor the ground from which halflings extract their livelihood and to defend against dangers from below that might emerge in the midst of halfling communities on the surface.
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Earth is the giver and receiver of life, providing shelter, food, and wealth to those whose toes embrace it. The sacred soil is to be revered as the mantle of Those Who Have Been and the shelter of Those Who Will Be. The thanatopsis of He Who Must Be reveals that death is to be embraced as a natural end, thus giving honor to the life that war.
In appearance, Urogalan was a slim, dusky-skinned halfling dressed in brown or pure white, representing his two primary aspects of earth and death.
Urogalan is on good terms with the rest of his pantheon, but somewhat removed from their embrace of life. Urogalan is allied with Callarduran Smoothhands, Dumathoin, Flandal Steelskin, Grumbar, Segojan Earthcaller, and Sehanine Moonbow. He is also allied with human deities associated with earth and the protection of the dead such as Kelemvor.
Urogalan is opposed to Abbathor and Urdlen. He abhors Velsharoon and those gods associated with necromancy and the undead.