Though like any power they could be perverted to evil use in the service of ambition (as was the Terrenon Stone in Osskil), the Old Powers were inherently sacral and pre-ethical. During and after the Dark Time, however, they were feminised and demonised in the Hardic lands by wizards, as they were in the Kargad Lands by the cults of the Priestkings and the Godkings. So by the eighth century, in the Inner Lands of the Archipelago, only village women kept up rituals and offerings at the old sites. They were despised or abused for doing so. Wizards kept clear of such places. On Roke, itself the center of the Old Powers in all Earthsea, the profoundest manifestations of those powers-Roke Knoll and the Immanent Grove-were never spoken of as such. Only the Patterners, who lived all their lives in the Grove, served to link human arts and acts to the older sacredness of the earth, reminding the wizards and mages that their power was not theirs, but lent to them.


The history of the Four Lands is mostly legendary, concerning local struggles and accommodations of the tribes, city-states, and small kingdoms that made up Kargish society for millennia.

Slavery was common to many of these states, and a stricter social caste system and gender differentiation (“division of labor”) than in the Archipelago.

Religion was a unifying element even among the most warlike tribes. There were hundreds of Truce Places on the Four Lands, where no warfare or dispute was permitted. Kargish religion was a domestic and community worship of the Old Powers, the chthonic or gaean forces manifest as spirits of place. They were worshiped at the site and at home altars with offerings of flowers, oil, food, dances, races, sacrifices, carvings, songs, music, and silence. Worship was both casual and ritual, private and communal. There was no priesthood; any adult could perform the ceremonies and teach children to do so. This ancient spiritual practice has continued, unofficially and sometimes in hiding, under the newer, institutional religions of the Twin Gods and the Godking.

Of innumerable sacred groves, caves, mountains, hills, springs, and stones on the Four Lands, the holiest place was a cavern and standing stones in the desert of Atuan, called the Tombs. It was a center of pilgrimage from the earliest recorded times, and the kings of Atuan and later of Hupun maintained a hostel there for all who came to worship.

Six to seven hundred years ago a sky-god religion began to spread across the islands, a development of the worship of the Twin Gods Atwah and Wuluah, originally heroes of a desert saga from Hur-at-Hur. A Sky Father was added as head of the pantheon, and a priestly caste developed to lead the rites. Without suppressing the worship of the Old Powers, the priests of the Twin Gods and the Sky Father began to professionalise religion, managing the rituals and festivals, building increasingly costly temples, and controlling public ceremonies such as marriages, funerals, and the installation of officials.

The hierarchic and centralising tendency of this religion lent support at first to the ambition of the Kings of Hupun on Karego-At. By force of arms and diplomatic maneuvering, the House of Hupun within a century or so conquered or absorbed most of the other Kargad kingdoms, of which there had been more than two hundred.

When (in the year 440, by Hardic count) Erreth-Akbe came to make peace between the Archipelago and the Kargad Lands, bearing the Bond Ring as pledge of his king’s sincerity, he came to Hupun as the capital of the Kargad Empire and treated with King Thoreg as its ruler.

But for some decades the kings of Hupun had been in conflict with the high priest and his followers in Awabath, the Holy City, fifty miles from Hupun. The priests of the Twin Gods were in the process of wresting power from the kings and making Awabath not only the religious but the political center of the country. Erreth-Akbe’s visit seems to have coincided with the final shift of power from the kings to the priests. King Thoreg received him with honor, but Intathin the High Priest fought with him, defeated or deceived him, and for a time imprisoned him. The Ring that was to bond the two kingdoms was broken.

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Categories: Ursula K. Le Guin