The spirit and the body
To an orc every living thing (plants and such are not considered living) has a spirit. This spirit is tied to the body as long as the body is alive but leaves it when the body dies. As it leaves the body cools down, signifying that the body is now nothing more than meat and bones.
It is possible to keep a spirit in this world by keeping the body warm. If an orc's corpse it not allowed to cool down his or her spirit is stuck there. Orcs usually accomplish this by placing the body in a pit and covering it with hot stones. Orcs do this because they believe that by eating the body of another living being they gain some of the powers of that creature. Eating big powerful creatures such as wyverns gives you lots of power while eating weedy creatures such as goblins gives you next to nothing. If a duel between two orcs ends with the death of one of the participants - which doesn't happen very often as orcs are quite hardy creatures - the winner can show his respect for the loser by eating him while still warm. If he waits until the body cools before eating it tells the tribe that he didn't consider the loser a worthy opponent.
Outside duels dead orcs are most often eaten by friends with the closest friend eating the heart. Orcs do not trace family lines as humans or others do, if you eat another orc's heart he or she is family. "His flesh is my flesh, his spirit is in me" is a common orc saying regarding family.
The benefits you get from eating a still-warm body depends on which part you're eating since different parts of the spirit is assumed to reside in different body parts.
When an orc suffers a (heavy) blow to the head he may lose memory or the ability to think, it is therefore obvious to the orcs that the part of the spirit that contains all the things he has learned is situated in the brain. Eating the brain therefore gives you some of a dead orc's memories and skills. There is a danger to this though, because you might also "inherit" some of the dead orc's personality and if you're really unlucky that orc may try to take over your body - you become possessed. Usually an orc would be able to suppress any foreign spirits - after all it's HIS body - and he might not even notice anything out of the ordinary, but sometimes when the orc is asleep or drunk his will is mental strength is reduced enough to let the intruding spirit take over. Normally the ghost won't do anything to harm it's host, it just wants to have a bit of fun for a while and in almost all cases the orc gets his body back under control after a couple of hours.
So in most cases having another orc's spirit lodging inside your head isn't really dangerous but the visitor will do a bit of mischief so eating of an orc's brain is a privilege reserved for two castes: The warboss (whose ego is usually big enough to keep any spirit at bay) and shamans (who are usually so deranged anyway that nobody notices).
The brain is also assumed to be the seat of a person's sorcerous powers (if he has any) and so a shamans brain is always eaten by his apprentices and nobody else.
The blood flows all around the body and so it contains a little bit of all the different parts of an orc's spirit. A dead orc's blood is mixed with boar's milk, heated and drunk by all those who are to partake of the body while the rest of the meal is cooking. It is poured into large wooden bowls and drunk together with various spirits (the "alcohol" kind, not the other one) and it is customary to recite stories about the fallen's life while doing this.
Drinking an orc's blood is to consume a little bit of his spirit and since there is only so much spirit to go around actually drinking an orc's blood while he is still alive is very taboo. Vampirism is persecuted with extreme prejudice and a hatred it would be hard for other species to understand. This applies of course only to drinking orc blood, orcs couldn't care less if a vampire drinks the blood of some human tart.
The same principle goes for insects and leeches that suck the blood of the living but orc blood is poisonous to most types of mosquitos so this matters less.
The heart is responsible for pumping the blood around the body and so it is considered the most important organ of them all for if it stops beating the orc will die. No particular part of an orc's spirit is tied with the heart but eating the heart is still considered a great honor and responsibility since you are taking all of that orc's goals and dreams, and only one orc can eat it. To eat an orc's heart is to claim kinship with that orc. Not kinship as humans or dwarves or elves understand it, the kind you're born with and can't do anything about. This is family as only orcs know it, the kind where you take on the burden of a fallen comrade and carry it so that the fallen knows that his family line will live on. To an orc this is the ultimate honour you can show a fallen nest-brother.
Orcs have two spleens which may be one reason why they so rarely suffer from diseases. The spleen is important for the circulation of blood but unlike the heart it has more than a symbolic value. It filters and purifies the blood and an orc that has one of his spleens removed is almost as prone to falling sick as a human. The spleens are the seats of emotions and feelings with each spleen containing disting emotions. The first spleen is located in the upper left part of the abdominal cavity and is considered to hold all the emotions that an orc has towards other orcs as a group, such as loyalty to his nest-siblings and the tribe, devotion to the boss and so on. The second spleen is associated with the feelings an orc has towards himself, such as egoism and the drive to rise in society, and is located in the middle right part of the abdomen and is more closely connected to the orc's secondary stomach. Beacuse of this connection it is more likely to be infected, something which is taken by orcs to mean that loyalty to the tribe is more important than self-preservation.
Eating the muscles and other meat does, quite naturally give you some of the fallen orc's strength. Orc meat is quite tough but is said to be quite edible roasted with onions and mushrooms.
Eyes, nose, tongue, ears
Eating the sensory organs of a dead orc is good for your sense of sight, smell, taste and hearing.
It should be quite obvious what eating an orc's genitals is good for. The genitals are always eaten by members of the same sex (unless it's a female that's really hungry).
Stomach and secondary stomach
Orcs can eat just about anything including most types of plant matter and even earth if there is nothing else to eat and they rarely get ill. This is because: A) They have a very efficient immune system and B) Because of their two stomachs. The first functions in much the same way as a human's while the second specializes in tougher matters. No particular part of the spirit is located in the stomach but eating the stomach means that you are eating what the dead orc has already eaten, which may be a bit of a gamble. In some places this is seen as foolhardy or the stomach isn't eaten at all before it cools down.
Bones and marrow
Orcs can digest bones and bone marrow is considered a delicacy. Bone and marrow is said to be good for endurance.
Spirits and Da Great Green
When what's left of an orc's spirit finally leaves the earthy plane it goes to Da Great Green. It is brought to Da Great Green by the orc god of death, Gogul ('brought to' is often an exaggeration, generally he just gives them a kick in the right direction). This Great Green is perhaps best described as a great "soup" of orcishness and generally considered a good place to be but not somewhere orcs are in a great rush to go. When an orc is recently dead his spirit is intact in Da Great Green, much like a pea floating in the soup, but after a while his sense of identity slips and his spirit dissolves into the soup. Orcs understand that this is the way things are and accept it as a matter of fact. Shamans can communicate with Da Great Green and the spirits of familiar dead orcs. They do this by smoking various mushrooms, drinking vast quantities of alcohol and dancing around until they reach a state of trance (most of which isn't strictly necessary but gives the shaman an excuse to drink, smoke and dance). The shaman's spirit can then detach itself from his body and go to Da Great Green to visit old friends.
Orc spirits dissolving into the green over time serves a purpose; when an orc is born he or she gets a little bit (a spoonful) of Da Great Green as a spirit to start with. This bit then grows over time as an orc pup grows and becomes self-aware.
In this way no part of an orc is wasted. The body is eaten by the other tribe members while the spirit is partly passed on to other orcs and partly recycled to the next generations. This is the orc version of reincarnation.
But not all orc spirits who leave their dead bodies dissolve into the soup. Some never leave this plane but hang on as ghosts while others go but find a way back.
Orc ghosts are not very common, are generally miserable and nasty beings and almost always happen when a body is carelessly left to go cold before it is eaten. To be allowed to stay in this world the spirit must either strike a bargain with Gogul, beat him in some competition or other or trick him into letting you stay. Neither is very easy, Gogul is not easily tricked or beaten and any deal you strike will seem worse and worse as the years go by. Some do it though, and hang around pestering the living members of the tribe until they do what the ghost wants so that it goes away. Ghosts can be exorcised but this is no easy matter as orcs are notoriously stubborn.
Spirits that have gone to Da Great Green can return but this too isn't easy and seldom happens. In these cases, however, it is more often because the orc would like to pop back and see how the tribe is doing than because of malice. The spirit hangs onto a shaman's spirit when it visits Da Great Green and hitches a ride back. Back in our world it either sets up camp in the shaman's mind, possesses the shaman's hut or some item of his. These ghosts can actually be helpful to the shaman and are generally friendly. If they become too annoying the shaman can attempt an exorcism (not easy if it's the shaman who's possessed) and Gogul will usually throw them back if he's come to pick up another spirit and sees the ghost hanging around.
The orc pantheon consists of the two BIG orc gods - the brothers Gork and Mork - and numerous lesser gods and ancestor spirits which are venerated. Orcs are not a very pious bunch but generally worship most of the gods they know of to a lesser or greater degree because it is safer that way. The orc gods live in (and probably originate from) Da Great Green but can wander through the planes at will.
Gork - orc god of straight forward violence and battle
Gork is a simple god, he knows what he likes (stomping people) and he does it. Gork is never defeated in battle because he is more powerful than any other god. When any of the gods of the other weakly species (humans, dwarfs, elves etc.) try to stop him from doing what he likes Gork just laughs and hits them. Gork likes battles but is sometimes confused and stomps on the wrong side by accident. Gork is usually portrayed as a gigantic orc, dark skinned and muscular. His weapons are two great axes and he wears black plate armour. Gork is celebrated on the eve before a battle and on the eve after (regardless of the outcome). Gork is also venerated on the field of battle with cries of: "Waaaagh! Rúkh naggit! Khár ug Gork! Únk Gork!" ("Charge the weakling enemies! Blood for Gork! Mighty Gork!") and similar.
Mork - orc god of cunning and guile
Mork is in many ways the opposite of Gork, even though he is also a god of war (among other things). Unlike his brother Mork uses his head for other things than ''eadbutting people. The orcs believe that Mork taught them how to forge iron, to fight in organized units and to use magic. Mork likes ambushes, taking prisoners and tormenting them. When the enemy thinks that Mork is down he suddenly spins around and strikes from an unexpected direction. Mork is generally pictured as shorter than his brother and leaner. His weapons are the spear and dagger and he has a shield that can deflect any blow. Like Gork Mork is celebrated before and after battles.
Gogul - orc god of death
Gogul is one of the lesser orc gods and is responsible for making sure that dead orcs go to Da Great Green and stay there. Orcs have no notion of Heaven or Hell, everybody goes to the same place. Gogul is very wise (as orcs reckon it) because he knows everything that every dead orc knows. Gogul makes sure everyone dies when they are supposed to and decides who will survive a battle and who won't. You can try to bargain with Gogul but this is seldom a good idea because most of the time the price you have to pay is far greater than what you get. Gogul is pictured as a quite short and very broad orc. His weapon is a double handed mace and he wears grey clothes. Gogul is celebrated after battles and when an orc dies or miraculously escapes death.
Representatives of the gods
Three castes are thought to represent the orc gods and leads the ceremonies. Shamans are thought to be in regular contact with the gods (at least they think so) and so often speak the will of the gods to the tribe. The warboss is the leader of the tribe and therefore is generally of the opinion that he too is the gods' spokesperson. The warboss also has the advantage of very often being quite a bit more sane than the shamans and can therefore "interpret" what the gods really meant to say. The third caste is those that are called Wanderboyz or Watchers. At big battles you can sometimes see a solitary orc standing on a hill a distance from the field and watching the battle. His face and body is covered in blue paint (blue is the colour of the gods) and no one there will have seen him before. Sometimes he will have a small flock of crows that either fly over the battlefield or sit on his shoulders. It is extremely bad luck to try and harm him or even to talk to him if he doesn't approach you and talk to you first. The best thing to do is usually to pretend he isn't there and leave him a bit of food (the cooked brains of fallen heroes would be appropriate) after the battle. It is assumed that they are servants of some god or other and are there to observe the outcome of the battle. They rarely speak and never in public. On a rare occasion they talk to a young orc after the battle and that orc leaves the tribe and is never seen again.
Offerings to the gods
Blood of fallen enemies is the most common sacrificial gift and is used to anoint the tribal totems. Other gifts include alcohol (drunk by the shaman/warboss), various body parts from fallen enemies (burned) and captured holy symbols (also burned). If the gods are satisfied with the offering they might give a sign to indicate this, or then again they might not, which is often interpreted by the warboss as a sign that he should drink more booze. A proper offering will give the tribe good luck in the future.
Other related articles
|Back to the Main page