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Religion, folklore and cosmology in Gondor and Umbar

See also: Literature in the Realms of Exile

Eru Ilúvatar and the Creation of the Sun and Moon. Fresco in the Halls of the Faithful in Pelargir.

Common beliefs


"But Rúmil said: 'Ilúvatar was the first beginning, and beyond that no wisdom of the Valar or of Eldar or of Men can go.' 'Who was Ilúvatar?' asked Eriol. 'Was he of the Gods?' 'Nay,' said Rúmil, 'that he was not, for he made them. Ilúvatar is the Lord for Always who dwells beyond the world; who made it and is not of it nor in it, but loves it.' "
The Book of Lost Tales

Eru (Q. "The One"), also called Ilúvatar (Q, "Allfather"), is the name of the supreme God in north-western Middle-earth. He is the single omnipotent creator, but, according to most beliefs, has delegated most direct action to the Ainur (angelic beings), including the shaping of the World itself. God created Elves and Men, without delegation to the Ainur. Therefore they are called "Children of Ilúvatar" (Ad. Eruhini). Common belief among men is that Eru would someday enter World to save his Children (reflected, for example, in Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth). In Umbar and Bellakar, God is called Êru. Among the puritan Faithful congregations even the use of Êru is considered impious in any other contexts than the thrice a year prayers.



"Therefore Ilúvatar gave to their vision Being, and set it amid the Void, and the Secret Fire was sent to burn at the heart of the World; and it was called Eä."

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was . The World (Q. Arda) is part of , the universe of all which exists. It was first brought into existence with the Music of the Ainur, for the purpose of creating a home for the Children of God. Arda consists of the Earth, its atmosphere, and the celestial objects. The term for the Earth itself is Ambar. In Adûnaic the world was called Kamât, Daira or Aban. The atmosphere is divided into Vista, the breathable of "lower" air and Ilmen, the "upper" air or space, where planets and stars exist.

Ancient Númenóreans were first to formulate a theory of wandering stars. The oldest surviving astronomical text is the Númenórean tablet of Gimlu-Oresetel (c. II 1600), copy of a list of observations of the motions of the Eärendil's Star. The Númenóreans also laid the foundations of Western astrology. The Batan an-Gimilêphel, written during the Ârûwânai period in the 27th century Second Age, comprises a list of omens and their relationships with various celestial phenomena including the motions of the planets. Númenóreans grouped the fixed and wandering stars in companies of seven.

Middle-earth star map
Númenórean astronomical calendar

Liturgical calendar of the Faithful
OrbelainHighdayFriday (holy day)

Quenya nameCommon namesConstellation
TelumendilFriend of the FirmamentGemini
SoronúmëEagle of the WestAquila
RemmirathNetted Stars, Sieve, Seven SistersPleiades
MenelmacarSwordsman of the Sky, Menelvagor, Telimektar, Daimord, TaimavarOrion
ValacircaSickle of the Valar, Burning Briar, Plough, Otselen, Durin's Crown Ursa Major


"...Only one thing I [Ilúvatar] have added, the fire that giveth Life and Reality, and behold, the Secret Fire burnt at the heart of the world."
The Music of the Ainur

In Quenta Silmarillion and other mythological texts of the Faithful, The Secret Fire and Flame Imperishable are references to the life-giving power imparted to the world by Eru Ilúvatar, the divine "spark" of life. Melkor, desiring power equal to Ilúvatar, sought for it in vain. Melkor's desire for the Secret Fire led to his rebellion against Ilúvatar. It is part of the Nimruzîrian Trinity (The Word, The Father, The Secret Flame).





Cult of identity

"Who is a Númenórean?" (an-Adûna) is a basic question about Dúnadan identity and considerations of Númenórean self-identification. The question has gained particular legal prominence due to diminishing of pure Númenórean bloodlines since the Downfall. The definition of who is of Númenórean ancestry varies according to whether it is being considered by the Elendili or Ârûwanâi based on normative religious statutes, self-identification or by non-Númenóreans for their own particular purposes. Because Númenórean identity can include characteristics of an ethnicity, a religion, and citizenship, the definition has varied, particularly since the early 6th century schism.

Elendili (the Faithful)

Although every Dúnadan is Faithful, not every Faithful is Dúnadan. The Faithful community in theory encompasses all the various subject peoples and commoners who subscribe to the Faithful ideology. However, in practice the Faithful are by its very nature exclusive group and reserved for men of Númenórean ancestry. Its main tenets are:

Ârûwânai ascetic eruism

Folk religion in Gondor

Is Arda round? Folk religion in Umbar

"Now the summit of mount Minul-Tarik (Meneltarma), the pillar of heaven, in the midst of the land was a hallowed place, for there the adûnaim had been wont to give thanks to Êru, and to adore him; and even in the days of Zigur (Sauron) it had not been defiled. Therefore many men believed that it was not drowned for ever, but rose again above the waves, a lonely island lost in the great waters, if haply a mariner should come upon it. And many there were that after sought for it, because it was said among the remnant of the Adûnaim that the far-sighted men of old could see from the Minul-Tarik the glimmer of the deathless land. For even after their ruin the hearts of the Adûnaim were still set westward; and though they knew that the world was changed, they said: 'Avallone is vanished from the earth, and the land of gift is taken away, and in the world of this present darkness they cannot be found; yet once they were, and therefore they still are in true being and in the whole shape of the world.' And the Adûnaim held that men so blessed might look upon other times than those of the body's life; and they longed ever to escape from the shadows of their exile and to see in some fashion the light that was of old. Therefore some among them would still search the empty seas, hoping to come upon the Lonely Isle, and there to see a vision of things that were.

But they found it not, and they said: 'all the ways are bent that once were straight.' For in the youth of the world it was a hard saying to men that the earth was not plain as it seemed to be, and few even of the Faithful of Anadúnë had believed in their hearts this teaching; and when in after days, what by star-craft, what by the voyages of ships that sought out all the ways and waters of the earth, the Kings of Men knew that the world was indeed round, then the belief arose among them that it had so been made only in the time of the great downfall, and was not thus before. Therefore they thought that, while the new world fell away, the old road and the path of the memory of the earth went on towards heaven, as it were a mighty bridge invisible. And many were the rumours and tales among them concerning mariners and men forlorn upon the sea, who by some grace or fate had entered in upon."
- Drowning of Anadúnë, Umbarean edition of Akallabêth, annotated by Kheruzîr Azrubêl in III 992.

In the "Drowning of Anadúnë", an ancient apographa, the nimir (eldar) had come to the Adûnaim and expressly taught that the world was of its nature round ('as an apple it hangeth on theb ranches of heaven'), but Zigur (Sauron) coming had gainsaid it ('the world was not a circle closed'). It can be deduced that the author knows that the world is of its nature a globe; but very few of the Adûnaim had believed this teaching until the voyages of the survivors of the Downfall taught them that it was true. Umbrean mariners were the first ones to perceive the spherical shape of the earth, although first circumnavigation is usually attributed to Atandil (Anîzîr) of Anadúnë. According to "Parma gaudion" (S. Book of machines), another Umbarean apographa, Umbarean Adûnaim also built ships that could sail in the "heavy air" and landed in the newly-found western continent or "dark lands", inhabited by savages, and were revered as gods and kings.

According to Umbarean beliefs, world has always been a globe, but Sauron tricked men of Westernesse to believe it was plain. In contrast, most Gondorians subscribe to the official theology offered in Akallabêth that world was made round in the Downfall.

Bellakarian heresy

Batan an-Izindi

Folk religion in Harad

Folk religion in Eriador


Seven Shrines of Westernesse

  1. Hallow of Mount Mindolluin at the summit of the mountain, where only the Kings of Gondor and their elected followers could go.
  2. Amon Anwar, the spiritual centre of Gondor. Here Isildur buried his fathers bones and then called the protection of the Valar upon that hilltop, and they granted it. Isildur swore all those present to secrecy and forbade anyone save an Heir of Elendil from disturbing it.
  3. White Tree of Minas Anor, planted by Isildur in memory of his slain brother. King Tar-Palantir of Númenor once prophesied that the life of the White Tree was tied with the lines of the Kings; should it die, then the lines of the Kings would in turn die out.
  4. Black Stone of Erech, also known Stone of Loyalty. A great black stone, spherical in shape and some twelve or more feet in diameter. It was half-buried at the top of the Hill of Erech at the mouth of the Blackroot Vale. The Stone is a mysterious and eerie place, shunned by the people of the valley, who claimed it had fallen from the sky, and was haunted by restless spirits. In fact, the Stone had its origins in Númenor, and was brought to Erech after the Downfall by Isildur himself. It was at the Stone of Erech that the King of the Mountains swore allegiance to Isildur's cause in the time of the Last Alliance. When war came, though, he failed to fulfil his oath, and Isildur cursed the King and his people to wander the hills until they made good their promise.
  5. Stone of Sorrows upon the slopes of Mount Doom, marking the place where Elendil and Gil-galad were slain and Sauron was finally vanquished.
  6. Well of Ulmo, a sacred grotto under Pelargir where the first Faithful convened. Originally the shrine contained a relic of Númenor: Karma (helmet) of Aldarion, founder of the Númenórean Guild of Venturers (the Uinendili), until it was stolen and carried to the Southlands by Herumor and Fuinur, two Dúnadan renegades.
  7. Tol Morwen, an island that stood off the coasts of Middle-earth after the drowning of Beleriand at the end of the First Age. It is the site of the Stone of the Hapless. Túrin's grave-mound stood above the ravines and rapids of Teiglin, and later his mother Morwen Eledhwen was also buried in the same place by Húrin. Above the mound was a marker stone, which also commemorated Túrin's sister Niënor who had died in the waters below. Glirhuin the Seer made a song about the grave of Húrin's family, and the Stone of the Hapless that marked it. Glirhuin claimed that the stone would stand even if the sea should flood the lands about. After the War of Wrath, the land was broken and the western ocean did indeed rush into those regions, but Glirhuin's prophecy proved true. The Stone of the Hapless remained above the waves as an island, and became known as Tol Morwen, 'Morwen's Isle'.
  8. (Tarma Tar-Calion in Umbar, the great tower and stone where Sauron was first forced to yield to king Ar-Pharazôn and the might of Númenor. Many of the Faithful dúnedain do not count it among the Shrines of Westernesse, because of the memory of Ar-Pharazôn and his pivotal role in the Downfall).

Later additions


"I have gazed on the walls of impregnable Anor and ascended barefooted to the Seventh Court where the White Tree of Isildur flowers, I have witnessed the imposing silence on the Hill of Awe, and paid homage to the Shrine of Pride at the Great Tower of Tar-Calion. I have seen the tomb of Ornendil, the Black Stone of Erech, and the Stone of Sorrows on the slopes of Amon Amarth. But when I reached the sacred island of Tol Morwen, where Húrin, Turin Turambar, Morwen Eledhwen and Nienor Niniel were buried, and experienced the solitude of the most sacred Shrine and vastness of the Western Oceans, I was overcome by a devastating feeling of humility, and I leered across the Sunken Lands to the Forbidden West and prayed Eru Ilúvatar in solitude and silence that He would once redeem us, that the sins of our Forefathers would be absolved and the world made anew."
Adrahil, Adûnai Anthologies IX.58

There are several competing pilgrimage routes available for the Faithful. One of the best known itineraries was promoted by Adrahil of Nan Roechbin in his Anthologies. It consists of seven pilgrimages, with directions given from Lond Ernil. Mount Mindolluin is excluded from the tour, as it is impossible for anybody but the King to pray there. Adrahil visited both Tol Morwen and Tarma Tar-Calion, but not the Well of Ulmo, which was closed for public for several decades after the Kin-strife. Another explanation might be the theft of the Karma, which robbed the Well much of its perceived sanctity. The pilgrimages recommended by Adrahil are:

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