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Sigmar Heldenhammer is the patron god of the Empire. His sign is a two tailed comet. About 2500 years before the present time, he was a barbarian warlord who united several tribes and founded a new nation.
The Life of Sigmar
Birth and childhood
The Imperial Calendar (IC) which takes its starting date from Sigmar’s coronation as Emperor, places his birth as the year -30 IC, in the Reikland area in the southwest of the Empire, to the Unberogen tribe, generally considered to have been one of the most powerful pre-Empire tribes. The night of his birth was marked with the appearance of a twin-tailed comet, which the human tribes took as a sign of great portent from the gods.
In the year -15, Sigmar is believed to have helped drive off a Goblin invasion of his village, and in the same year, led a punitive expedition against a Goblin war-party that was holding Kurgan Ironbeard, a king of the Dwarf people, a prisoner. In gratitude, Kurgan presented the young warrior with a magical rune-enchanted warhammer called Ghal Maraz (‘Skull-splitter,’ in the Dwarf Khazalid tongue).
Uniting the tribes
Sigmar then went on a campaign to unite the disparate tribes of the future Empire, and one by one they submitted, either by conquest or diplomacy. The most famous incident was his subjugation of the belligerent Teutogens, the largest and most powerful tribe, who lived near the Middle Mountains in the north central Empire, near the current location of Middenheim. Their chieftain, Artur, was defeated by Sigmar in single combat.
From that point onward, Sigmar embarked upon a campaign of purgation and liberation throughout all of the tribal lands, primarily against the Beastmen, the human followers of Chaos such as the Norse (as evidenced by his defeat of Morkar’s invasion) and Goblinoid races (Orcs and Goblins), culminating in the First Battle of Black Fire Pass (IC -1), in present-day Averland, in the south-east of the Empire.
Following this great victory, Sigmar returned in triumph to his native Reikland and was crowned Emperor Sigmar Heldenhammer I (‘Hero Hammer’) at Reikdorf, the site of the current Imperial capital of Altdorf. This date remains the Empire’s greatest holy day, as it marks Sigmar’s coronation and abdication fifty years later (IC 50) – it is in the summer of the Imperial year, on the 18th day of the month of Sigmarzeit.
Sigmar set up the leaders of the twelve tribes that followed him as the Elector Counts of the Empire, a position that remains to this day. The Runefang swords, commissioned by Sigmar to the legendary Dwarf smith Alaric the Mad, were not finished before Sigmar’s abdication, but nevertheless remain among the most potent symbols of Imperial rule.
In the fiftieth year of his reign, Sigmar put aside his crown and set off into the east. Sources conflict on the details of what precisely motivated Sigmar to do this; some accounts claim he set off to return Ghal Maraz to the Dwarfs, but the famous rune-hammer has traditionally been the weapon of the ruling Emperor and the primary symbol/relic of the Sigmarite cult, founded by Johann Helstrum in IC 73. A number of heresies have sprung up regarding the authenticity of Ghal Maraz, but the official Imperial position is that the weapon wielded by the Emperors is the hammer of Sigmar.
Following his disappearance, Sigmar passed over the World’s Edge Mountains and no human ever saw him again. Since he was never known to have died, this may have played a large role in the early successes of the cult established in his honour. It’s now the foremost religion in the Empire and is inextricably intertwined with the political, cultural, and national identity of the Empire and its people. Interestingly, Sigmar never claimed to be a deity and his own religious beliefs while alive are subject to conjecture, although tradition dictates that he was crowned Emperor by the High Priest of the cult of Ulric, the northern god of winter, wolves, and war. However, the priests and worshippers of Sigmar often receive measurable and often positive answers to their entreaties and petitions, suggesting that something with some measure of power is answering them. Many take this as a sign that Sigmar indeed is a god, and watches over the Empire.
The cults of Sigmar and Ulric do not get along well. The Ar-Ulric and the two Arch-Lectors of the Sigmarite faith, as well as the Grand Theogonist (the current one being Volkmar the Grim), all maintain a vote in the election of the Emperors. While the cult and its leaders are often corrupt and hip-deep in the Byzantine politics of the Empire, it is a faith that preaches courage, justice, honour, and the protection of the weak and innocent from evil. It is also nationalistic and sees the preservation of Sigmar’s original holdings as a sacred duty. The church’s iconography primarily centres around images directly connected to Sigmar himself: the comet and the hammer are the foremost of these. Also a popular national and religious symbol is the griffon, the personal heraldry of Emperor Magnus the Pious, who saved the Empire from disaster during the Great War against Chaos in IC 2302-2303. It is likely that Magnus will be canonized as a saint within the next century.
Cult of Sigmar
The Cult of Sigmar was established within the Empire in the years following Sigmar’s abdication and disappearance. The cult quickly grew into a fully-fledged religion, venerating Sigmar as the founder of the Empire. Also known as the Sigmarite Church, the cult was officially organised in IC 73 by the first Grand Theogonist, Johann Helsturm. It is now the foremost religion in the Empire and is inextricably intertwined with the political, cultural, and national identity of the Empire and its people. As a god, Sigmar is worshipped as a unifier of mankind, and a protector of the weak and innocent against the insidious threat of Chaos and dark magic.
There is some political conflict between the leaders of the cults of Sigmar and Ulric – the northern god of winter, wolves, and war – but within the armies of the Empire followers of both cults are often found fighting side by side. Temples of Sigmar can be found throughout the Empire, with the largest located in Altdorf: the Great Temple of Sigmar. Another temple of Sigmar is located in Black Fire Pass, on the site where Sigmar made his historic pact with the Dwarves. The head of the Cult of Sigmar is the Grand Theogonist, who is assisted by two Arch Lectors of Sigmar, who act as the Grand Theogonist’s surrogates, and each of these positions holds a vote in the Electoral Council to determine a new Emperor.
Many faithful Sigmarites are deeply concerned with the role of the Sigmarite cult in politics. They feel that the political dimension of the Sigmar religion impairs their personal beliefs. Thus, they seek other ways to express their piety, abdicating personal goods and riches to live as eremites or beggar monks or sign up in the armies to spread their god’s word. However, generals usually don’t like to have religious zealots amongst their ranks, so these people often form their own war parties or even become Flagellants.