Lore Spotlight: The Ulrican Cult

 

The purpose of this lore spotlight is not to go over every detail concerning the Ulrican cult. There are plenty of source materials out there that go into greater detail, and not everything will be covered in this post, as that would require far too much time; however this post is designed to summarize the most important aspects of the Ulrican faith, and to flesh it out in parts.

 

Origins of Ulric

According to the Liber Lupus (Book of the Wolf), the Cult of Ulric is one of the oldest human religions in the world. Millennia ago, Ulric is said to have led a tribe of humans to a boundless, forested land. The tribe, called the Teutogens, was wild and savage, and took to slaughtering the indigenous forest people to prove their worth.

Legend holds that after uncounted years of tribal warfare, Ulric led his folk to a great, flat-topped mountain, hidden deep in the darkest recesses of the frigid north. To light their way, Ulric struck the mountain with his fist and a roaring, silvery flame sprung forth.

Middenheim was born. Tens of centuries later, the cold fire on the mountain still blazes, but now does so in the center of a massive Ulrican Temple. Called the Eternal Flame, it is of extreme importance to the cult, and any who wishes to proclaim Ulric as their good, will do well to visit this great flame.

The cult was once the most powerful in the Empire, even boasting that Sigmar himself worshiped Ulric. From the north, to the south, to the west and all the way to the Worlds Edges Mountains, did people worship Ulric. For centuries, the Cult of Ulric has been in a steady decline of worship. Only in Middenland, ancestral home of the Teutogens, has Ulric maintained his dominance. Scattered Ulrican holy sites now lie in ruins throughout the Empire, abandoned as locals turned to other deities. The likes of Talabecland however still enjoy the presence of the Wolf God; Taal is after all, the brother of Ulric.

The decline of the Ulrican faith can perhaps be pinned down to a single point in history; the day a prophet proclaimed Sigmar had ascended to godhood, long after Sigmar had abdicated the imperial throne to lead a life of adventure. He was never heard from again. From that point onwards, a rift had emerged. The Ulrican cult started to lose its devout followers to Sigmar, who was now seen by many as the God of Men. Ulric waned in power, while worship of Sigmar grew steadily.

The proclamation by a prophet that Sigmar had ascended to godhood happened a long, long time ago. Yet that singular event is responsible for a religious rift that continues today. Ulricans and Sigmarites have been at each others throat for so long, many seem to forget why. Friendship is not impossible however; some still remember that Sigmar himself worshiped and revered Ulric – something that the Ulricans constantly remind the Sigmarites – and this can sometimes form the basis for an unlikely friendship.

 

Belief, Structure & Celibacy

The Ulric Creed contains most of the great sagas of Ulric’s deeds. IT teaches, through metaphor and analogy, how he expects all his worshipers to act. In all the tales, Ulric takes the direct route, and the God clearly relishes the inevitable confrontation this causes. Much like their God, Ulricans are aggressive, argumentative, confrontational and some would say, stubbornly single-minded with it.They enjoy a good brawl as much as the next man, and often go out their way to start one for the sake of it.

However, Ulric is also an honorable God, and as he hates trickery and deception, he always keeps his word.

Above all else, Ulric despises cowardice. The Ulric Creed is full of examples of times Ulric punishes for succumbing to fear, so Ulricans always stand brave and true, knowing the Wolf God is always watchful. Yet Ulric also despises foolish endeavors; throwing your life away cause bravery demands it is a foolish waste, and will not please Ulric. Knowing when to fight, and when not to, is crucial.

Social structure within the Ulrican cult follows a pattern that is similar to a wolf pack. Politics is not welcome here as the priests prefer open honesty and straight talking, rather than lurking in shadows and conspiring. One is expected to follow orders of their betters without question; honest frank opinions are welcome, but rarely tolerated should the opinion be controversial. Many a priest or initiate has been given a ‘clip’ around the ear or in some extreme cases, left with a disfiguring scar should they attempt to challenge the authority of a high ranking priest, or share a view that is not popular. As such, corporal punishment tends to be much harsher in the Ulrican cult than it is in others. Dismissal from the cult is very rare, as Ulricans can beat discipline into even the most stubborn rebel. It is far more common for initiates to flee.

Similar to a wolf pack, Ulricans follow a strict hierarchy that is to be respected at all times. Other faiths have their own structure of ranks; what makes the Ulrican cult somewhat unique in this regard is the importance they place on the ‘pack’ and ones position within it, and the merits of promotion through strength. A Sigmarite priest may have to endure years of political maneuvering, kissing ass and a strong reliance on allies to climb the ranks. An Ulrican merely needs to show he is capable through strength, loyalty and adherence to the Ulrican Creed, without the need for political wrangling and a reliance on allies. Yet while it sounds much easier to climb the ranks in the Ulrican cult, the truth is that the trials one has to endure, and even the initial initiation into the cult, can be harsh and unforgiving.

The following list is a structure of the ranks. All Priests belong to the Howling Wolves Order, which is essentially the clergy of the cult:

  • Ar-Ulric – Chosen for life from the ranks of the Howling Wolves high priests who choose amidst themselves. The Ar-Ulric directly controls the entire cult, which includes the largest knightly order in the Old World, The White Wolves. Further, he is also an Elector of the Empire, a position of great secular power, and spiritual advisor to the Graf of Middenland.
  • Grandmaster of the White Wolves – Appointed by the Ar-Ulric, the Grandmaster is responsible for the Great Companies (also called Great Packs), the sprawling units of White Wolves spread across the Empire. Each company is led by a Company Commander (also called the Alpha), which is normally attached to a temple and thus answerable to its Wolf Lord (high priest), although the Grandmaster can overrule a Wolf Lord if need be.
  • Wolf Lord – Wolf Lords are high priests, appointed by the Ar-Ulric. Usually there is one Wolf Lord to a Major temple, and they are the most likely to succeed to the position of Ar-Ulric.
  • Denfather – Denfathers are deputy high priests, often assigned to Wolf Lords to aid in their religious affairs and the day-to-day running of a temple. At other times, they may lead and take charge of smaller temples where a Wolf Lord may be absent. Denfathers tend to forgo promotion within their position; if for some reason their appointed Wolf Lord should vacate the position, rather than get promoted to be the new Wolf Lord, they often stay in their position to advise the incoming new Lord.
  • Venerable Wolf – Venerable wolves are senior long-serving priests who have established themselves well within the hierarchy of the Ulrican cult.
  • Wolf-Born – Wolf-Borns are the regular file-and-rank priests of the cult. They are the most numerous within the cult.
  • Wolf-Pup – Wolf-Pups are the initiates of the cult. They have passed their initiation and have been accepted into the cult, but must continue the path before they gain their priesthood (become a Wolf-Born). Competition between initiates is often rife and fierce, each vying for a place in the pack and looking to get noticed.

 

The issue of Celibacy in the cult is a touchy one. And one that often gets broken. In 1547, Graf Heinrich of Middenheim forced the cult into vows of celibacy out of fear that the cult could sire a rival dynasty in Middenheim. Now, 1000 years later, the vows of celibacy are still sworn by new priests, but done so with great reluctance, since the cult was originally manipulated by a paranoid Graf who resorted to petty politics to get it done.

 

Women in the Cult

You would be hard pressed to spot a woman amongst the members of the Ulrican faith. In fact, you are likely to see none at all. Unless you go to Nordland.

Women are often turned away at the Temple of Ulric in Middenheim; but if one should journey to Nordland to the isolated Sudfast temple, you may find quite a lot of female priests; in fact you will not find a single man amongst them. Considered nothing more than highly opinionated troublemakers, these Ulrican women are fierce, strong and independent. Nordland considers them a valuable ‘export’ and takes great enjoyment in sending the odd few to Middenheim to torment the priests there.

The current High Priestess – who is known as the She-Bitch (or Wolf-C***), if you ask a Middenlander Ulrican, and known as Wolf-Queen, if you ask an Ulrican priestess – is Katherine von Siert. A stubborn, blond haired noblewoman from Altdorf who has a keen understanding of politics which is not typical for the cult, as such, she is immensely unpopular with the cult in Middenheim, and the Ar-Ulric has no time for her.

One infamous story concerning Katherine von Siert is her unannounced surprise pilgrimage to the Temple of Ulric to see the Eternal Flame, a visit she undertook when she became the high priestess of her temple. Yet the real reason for her visit was to see the Ar-Ulric; this particular Ar-Ulric was not Emil Valgeir, who did not ascend to the role at this point in time. It was controversially rumored that her visit sparked an illicit affair that began with the Ar-Ulric. Although never proven, her visits became more frequent, along with very unfavorable concessions being made by the Ar-Ulric towards her temple, giving her greater powers to act independent from the Ar-Ulric.

When Emil Valgeir rose to prominence and became the Ar-Ulric, the previous concessions and liberty freedoms granted to Katherine von Siert were removed, and a stern warning that should she ever attempt to ply her charms again, she will find herself without a temple, and abandoned by Ulric.

Rather tellingly, to this day, the high priestess von Siert has yet to visit Middenheim since Emil Valgeir became the Ar-Ulric.

 

Orders of Ulric

The White Wolves: Headed by its Grandmaster, Rein Volkhard, the Knights of the White Wolf or White Wolves, are readily identified by their distinctive extravagant wolf pelts adorning their armour, and their savage fighting style. Often wearing silver wolf-head medallions around their necks and wolf-claws hanging off their belt, these proud savage warriors can date the founding of their order as far back as 2,000 years ago, to the time of Ar-Ulric Wulcan. They are the largest templar order in the Old World and the oldest. Despite their bestial appearance and their wild look, they are highly disciplined, and have a proud history for being present at some of the most significant battles that have unfolded in the Empire’s history.

Almost every temple of Ulric, from the smallest of shrines to the high temple in Middenheim, has at least one or two White Wolves stationed in it. Independent chapterhouses of White Wolves do exist, but these are rare. The templars often veture out seeking foes, be it raiding orc encampments or fighting foul beastmen within the Drakwald forest.

When on duty or in battle, White Wolves dress in heavy suits of plate mail, lacquered black or treated with dark oils. Every knight wears a distinctive wolf pelt over his shoulders, and it is a rite of passage that every White Wolf must hunt, kill and skin a wolf with his bare hands in order to become a full-fledged member of their order. Although this is the final stage of their initiation process, and while the White Wolves enjoy a numerically superior advantage over the other orders due to its age, this is in a decline, as newer members to the order is getting rarer and rarer.

This is partly because of the decline in Ulrican worship, but mostly as a result of their extremely dangerous and grueling initiation process, which very few either past the first couple of trials, or even die in the attempt. No other Knightly Order can boast of having such a rigorous initiation than the White Wolves; even the Witch Hunters own initiation, as harsh and dangerous as it is, cannot compare to the White Wolves.

Perhaps the greatest honor that a White Wolf can ever hope to achieve is to be accepted into the Teutogen Guard. The Teutogen Guard is an elite unit within the Order of the White Wolf, with the sole task of being the personal bodyguards to the Ar-Ulric. They are chosen personally by the Ar-Ulric, and only the best and those who have proven their worth on the battlefield may even hope to gain this honor.

 

Lesser Orders

Brotherhood of the Axe: More of a secret society within the Ulrican cult than an actual Order, members of this group are considered to be elitists and purists; only accepting pure-blood Teutogens, their goals and motivations are often left up to interpretation, although it is said that they seek to subvert the Ar-Ulric or at least, influence Ulrican doctrine to suit their own agenda. They are very anti-sigmarite, more so than is normal for an Ulrican.

Knights of the Bloody Fist: A rogue Knightly Order, but one that is said to serve the interests of Ulric at heart. Nothing more than a mercenary band for hire, these knights nevertheless have not strayed from Ulrics strictures, seeking to fight Chaos at every turn. They are not as zealous or fanatical as the White Wolves, and their temperament is said to be mild compared to the other Orders.

Knights of the Northern Cross: Very little is known about this knightly order. What is regarded as fact however is that the Knights of the Northern Cross were at some point involved in a crusade far north, across the Sea of Claws and into Norsca. There, they remain, raiding and pillaging Norscan settlements, constantly on the move. Nobody knows if they still exist or if they have all been wiped out, but that hasn’t stopped foolish Ulricans in seeking them out.

Sons of Ulric: The Sons of Ulric are a heretical sect of Ulricans believing themselves to be the direct descendants of Ulric. They believe that they should have the right to rule the entire Cult, and that only Ulrican worship should be legal in the northern states of the Empire. The cult does not welcome them with open arms, although some do sympathize with them, often secretly. Their reputation for guerilla style attacks on their enemies is well known, and even more known is the myth concerning their ability to shape change into fearsome wolves; a popular myth within the Ulrican cult.

Wolf-Kin: Similar to the Sons of Ulric, Wolf-Kin are found mostly in the northern regions of the Empire; they are a fanatical group of Ulricans who will fight anything and everything that is considered a foe to them. Where as the Sons of Ulric wish to change Ulrican doctrine, the Wolf-Kin thirsts for constant battle, and their agenda and motivation is battle, and nothing but battle.

Order of the Winter Throne: Members of the Order of the Winter Throne live in secluded monasteries in Ostland, Nordland, Kislev, and Norsca. They believe a time known as “Evernacht” will come, when Ulric destroys his greatest enemies. Winter is believed to be a training period for this time. The current leader of the Order, is known as the Ulricsson. Members of this cult call themselves Ragnarites and refer to Ulric as the ‘Snow King’. It is rumored that somewhere in Norsca, there are a set of caves that is said to hold the mysterious Throne of the Snow King, although its nature is unclear. Knowledge of this Order is relatively obscure, as such, very few Ulricans are aware of its existence. 

 

Strictures

  • Obey your betters.
  • Defend your honor whenever it is challenged.
  • Stand honest and true. Deception and trickery is not Ulric’s way.
  • Wolfskin may only be worn if you have killed the wolf yourself with weapons you have hand-crafted from nature.
  • Black-powder weapons, crossbows and helmets are not favoured by Ulric. Use of them shows a lack of courage.
  • The sacred fires in the holy places of Ulric must never be allowed to go out.

Other Facts

Seat of Power: Middenheim

Head of the Cult: Ar-Ulric, currently Emil Valgeir

Primary Orders: Order of the Howling Wolf (priests), Order of the Knights of the White Wolf

Major Festivals: Campaign’s End (Last Growth), Hochwinter (World Still), Campaigning Start (Start Growth), Middenheim Festival (every 2 years, lasts a week – Begins at the end of summer).

Popular Holy Books: Liber Lupus, Teutognengeschichte, The Ulric Creed, Wolf Matters

Common holy Symbols: The White Wolf, Wolf’s Head

Priestly Garments: Ulricans favor wolf pelts and fur-garments over boiled leather. Those who can afford it, and often seen on higher ranking priests, are full-adult wolf pelts, whose eyes are often replaced with gems.

 

Common View

“Aye, Ulric’s by me side. I carry this wolf’s tail, y’see, made o’rabbit, and this wolf’s-head medallion. I also bought this skull here from a priest. Blessed it is. Belonged to a White Wolf, he said. I had it carved with holy words in Old Reikspiel by me mate, Anseich – he’s a scrimsaw – that’ll fill me with courage when the orders come to charge. Full of courage, me. Ulric’s by me side.” – Ralfurt Becker, Talabeclander Soldier.

“Ah, ulricans… they are little better than beasts when it comes to war. Lay a bear trap or two and they always get their feet trapped. Personally, I’d like more of my opponents to have such directed characters, it would make my life far simpler.” – Lorenzo Di Marco, the Eagle of the North.

“My friends, let me explain what I mean: Sigmar was an ulrican. Sigmar founded this Empire. Thus, the Empire is Ulric’s nation. We are all Ulricans! This slavish devotion to Sigmar must end!” – Johann von Schattenlas, Carroburg Politician.

“Cry wolf, and let slip the Ulricans!” – Unknown.

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