Mouse Religion / Philosophy?

I’ve been burning up characters lately, and as an exercise, I’ve been trying to recreate classic fantasy archetypes (Fighter, Thief, Magic-User, etc) as Mouse Guard characters. For the most part, it’s gone pretty smoothly. Even “Magic-User”, since I could more-or-less replace sorcery with science. Anyway, I began to struggle when I got to creating “divine” characters, because I honestly don’t know anything about religion in the world of Mouseguard. Is there one? Do the mice of the Territories follow a specific kind of philosophy? I’ve read that Weasles believe in spirits and the afterlife, which is why they pile up all the bones of their victims in a single room, with an opening above, leading to the outside world. That way, the spirits of their victims won’t haunt them.

Is there anything like that for mice?

There is nothing in the books. The closest thing would be an archivist mice i think that collects tales of dead Guardheroes.

In my game (some) mice beliefe in spirits of the land (or the dead). Pebblebrock for example has a strong faith in the spirit of the rock and the blue mountain.
Someone on the forum posted about an owl cult taking place in the territories in his game.

One of the mice in our patrol is paranoid (got taxed to 0 nature the poor guy) and now beliefs the spirits are really out to get him.

See, that’s pretty intriguing. I’d be interesting in hearing more (or even helping to develop more) regarding spirits of the land and whatnot.

I’ve always included superstitions and supernatural among the -wises and encouraged players to consider that sort of thing in the culture of their mouse’s upbrining.

One player had supernatural-wise which she used to help other patrolmates quite often. It did mean that while they were looking for practical use of skills, she was carrying on about the elf-mouse spirits, sprites, gremlin-mouse critters and a variety of other such nonsense. Our resident science mouse didn’t toss aside such helping dice, but at any failure, she complained that it was due to his disbelief and he claimed it was due to her foolish beliefs. They made an interesting pair.

I enjoy the setting without gods and religion, but I like to imagine there is a sorta druidic or shamanic culture of closeness with nature.

In my world the belief in gods is more shaman based where the gods are there but don’t pay much attention to the mice except for two. (The Crow and the Dove.)

The Crow felt sorry for the mice and thought it would be just and funny to give them knowledge of fire and steel to protect themselves from the world of predators. The Dove seeing this also felt mercy and showed the mice how to create a community to better advance themselves.

The mice do not worship these beings but instead play them homage.

Also the mice believe in the idea of returning to the mother spirit when they die, though some spirits get caught in this world if something tragic happened or they commited something horrific.

There is no heaven or hell in their beliefs.

I find the silence on the matter of religion in the setting telling. Perhaps religion is a human phenomena and not something that occurs naturally in the mouse psyche. I might treat it as a non-issue that would only creep up with mice with exceedingly low nature; i.e. they are not very mouse like at all.

To shoot myself in the foot somewhat, though: The mice call flying squirrels ‘Flying Devils’. I suppose it could be a secular interpretation of devil just meaning ‘really mean’, but perhaps something else is implied: an awareness of the concept of devils. It’s an interesting question.


It just came up in our game because the paranoid mouse started talking about it. We later had a discussion if we wanted it in the setting.

I kind of agree with you, to be honest. The only reason I brought it up in the first place was because I was reading about the Weasles, who definitely have some element of spirituality and philosophy woven through their culture, and I was curious to know if there was an equivalent in Mouse culture.

I think that a lack of theistic belief helps realize the Guard, and mouse society in general.The Guard sacrifice,suffer and too often die far from their homes in a big world that grinds on, season to season, regardless of what happens to a mouse in a cloak, hiding in a stump, hoping the snake passes him by.

A developed theistic system to me usually implies reward for good deeds or conformity and often ascribes a transcendent meaning to sacrifice. The guard live and die in the mud so that other mice may prosper. No reward is sought from the Mouse down the road, nor from on high. This is for the best, for no reward is coming.

That’s my rambling take on it anyways. :stuck_out_tongue:

I agree with what others above me have already said, but I’ll add my thoughts anyway since this came up when we were debating things to include/exclude in the Wild West mod.

The absence of religion in Mouse Guard is intentional, just like the absence of religion in Lord of the Rings. One of the thematic concerns of Mouse Guard is summoning internal resources to overcome stupendous odds. These are mice. Weak and small. Yet they find a way to triumph over these things, and this triumph has meaning because of the determination and sacrifice of the guardmice.

If you put religion into it, this thematic concern is diminished. Now there is an outside source to which they can appeal. They aren’t overcoming these things on their own strengths; an outside power is doing it for them. That is much less heroic.

Did you just say what I tried to say but smarter? :stuck_out_tongue:

In all seriousness, I agree whole heartedly and think that your point is far more pertinent that mine.

Winter 1152, Chapter Six - Gwendolyn says the following over a fallen mouse:

“In this pyre we return one of our own to the soil. The same soil that fed the plants that nourished the mother who bore him, and the father who sired him.”
“Rising flame, carry his body to the edges of our borders, that it may nourish the soil for the parents of our future sons and daughters.”
“That who was (redacted), his thoughts, his heroism, his selflessness, is bound to his soul which surely already has started his journey.”
“Past the peninsula of the ashen trees to Seyan, where he will join the guardians of us who have fallen before him.”
“Our songs carried on the rising smoke and ash will herald his coming.”

And a song sung for the dead:

Past the trees and thickets burned,
Tis the home we cloaked mice earned,
Where in death the brave too can thrive,
Out beyond our living reach,
And just past our mortal speech,
Heroic tales of glory still kept alive.
When our days all come to close,
Journey well to take repose.
May thy spirit find the comfort we all seek,
Leave in flame and glory be,
To the memory that were thee,
As thy pyre burns and old bone creak.
Wait beyond that hazy veil,
When my spirit too shall sail,
For my travels could end any a day.
A walk out from our land,
To the Hall of Guardians grand,
If tis time I’m sure I’ll know the way.

We’re talking about all the mice living within the Territories and not just the Guard. Maybe most of the mice in the Guard don’t believe in anything supernatural but would it not be surprising if other communities and mice had developed their own belief systems.

Two examples I’ve been working on. 1) I have been trying to develop a mission where a patrol has to put down a bandit gang that dresses up like foxes using masks and other ornaments that make them resemble foxes in mouse form. The local superstition is that corruptible mice were forcibly possessed by the spirit of foxes who now hunt any mouse traveling between towns. Yet in another town the mice don’t believe in such things and refer to them as probably bandits mascarading as foxes for the fear factor, and yet another town call them monks who now steal to get supplies after the harsh winter. 2) In another case I’ve been toying with the idea of creating Abel Ka, a exiled weasel who communicates with spirits to foretell the future, bestow blessings on creatures, read entrails, uses spirits and herbs for medicine, etc. Just your all around creepy weirdo mystical guy, but! He has a cadre of loyal mice and weasel apprentices who really feel he’s the real deal and has no ill will toward any animal. The apprentices view him as a being bestowed divine abilities who hope to carry on his teachings and works to anyone willing to listen.

Despite the size of it all, I think there is PLENTY of room to expand upon the Territories as well as the Guard. I don’t think David Peterson has made anything concrete in relation to canon, I feel more like he left it all open to interpretation. And, I think we are lucky to be allowed explore it all through the RPG. Ergo, I’ve always viewed the main religions/beliefs/whathaveyou as those resembling Shintoism, Shamanism, Animism, and the religion of the Native Americans. As such some place might have a spiritual hierarchy with a domination “god” or a set of spirits that coincide with the seasons and therefore festivals are thrown every season to appease or give thanks to them for whatever reasons. As for the Guard themselves, I think we’ve only seen a handful of them and just the skin of a few others. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some pragmatic ones who don’t see any need for religion to where others have experienced things while in the Guard that have moved them into the supernatural realm (an example would be Saxon’s traumatic visit back to the Weasel’s torture chambers, just with him finding some “god” effigy to turn two).

Concerning the bold part, it’s open to interpretation. Take me for example, I’m a Christian and having seeing many different types of interpretation of the Bible and God’s teaching(s) I get the impression that he only helps those who help themselves. Meanwhile his teachings provide an outline upon which I should follow and live my life helping me make the right decisions. Transferring this over to Mouse Guard wouldn’t be very difficult. Brown Fur felt the fire of the Ancient Fur burn deep inside him. One day, while collecting grain for his village he came across two mice in colored capes armed with weapons. He becomes their local guide and soon realizes that the Ancient Fur meant for him to join the Mouse Guard to protect other mice, especially after witnessing the actions of the mice he guided. With his passion aflame he gets recruited into the Mouse Guard where he sees his shield as a tool with which he will protect those who harm any mouse… or whatever. But, I like it where it is at the moment. David hints at it throughout the books but doesn’t delve too deep into it which is nice. I don’t like the idea of Mouse Guard getting too bogged down by the need to describe and paint out religion.

Well, that’s my 2 cents anyhoo.

Huh, sort of a Norse thing going there. I had posited they would be more likely to have hero worship over an overt religion, but I can see that, too.

I like that there is a pragmatism element there too; a recognition of the body returning to the soil to nurish future generations. That combined wih a supernatural belief that those intangible aspects that make up the individual will continue on to a reward. It is interesting too that this place of reward - Seyan - is called the Hall of Guardians, placing a lot of importance on the concept of the Guard. While this might be a result of the stories being centered around the Mouse Guard, I like to think it is more meaningful than that. Mice, being prey by their nature, would place a lot of importance on those willing to act against their nature to protect others, thus the honor given to those who would be guardians. It seems only right that they would have a special place to rest once they have passed on.

Religion has always been a positive glue for people (whether it has positive ends is not for this conversation, but I’d argue that it can) for humans because we’re at the top of the food chain. We have nothing other than our ideals to keep us together. This is one of the reasons why Hobbes is such a crap philosopher: he genuinely seems to believe there’s nothing binding us together but self-interest, a fact that I take a lot of personal offense to.

Which is why the mouseguard society is not a good one to live in. They’re together for the simple reason that if they don’t stand together they will fall. A negative reason has never been good enough to truly bond people, so why should it be different amongst anthropomorphic mice?

To cut a long ramble short (too late!) the fact that there isn’t a religion is part of the reason why everyone is squabbling so much inside the same kingdom. Now, before someone goes and starts rattling off religious wars and all that nonsense, please remember that I’m not referring to the current mess of religions that everyone is forced to ignore so their lives can continue in peace. I’m referring to a cultural religion, one that is the daily bustle of life (something that us Americans experience, in a very distant way, in the weekly football game). Without a cultural positive reason to band together, cultures fall apart. And, if everything I’ve heard about the graphic novels from CarpeGuitarrem is true, the mice aren’t exactly doing great to begin with. You’re looking at a culture that is formed under fear of bigger things eating you up. That can’t be good for true comraderie.

Dunno if that makes sense, but somewhere in my rambling brain it does, so there it goes. If someone who has more intimate knowledge of the graphic novels wouldn’t mind commenting/slapping me upside the head, it’d be appreciated.

SpydersWebbing, it’s not nonsensical (and I agree that unity requires commonality of positive purpose)…

… but there is a shared system of belief. It’s just not ritualized, unified, nor universal…

In other words, it’s kind of like US Evangelical Protestantism: a unifying system of shared belief that, while the largest single system of belief in the country, barely qualifies as a major plurality and has no central authority, and only qualifies as a sect because it’s obviously shared belief system.

Now, David’s construction of a belief system seems to have included some ritualism (funerary practice)… and a system of belief. That’s evidenced by the Guard’s watchphrase: It’s not what you fight, but what you fight for.

The question becomes not “Is there a system of belief?” but “Is the Guard’s system the same as mouse society at large?”

And that’s what I doubt. Many elite forces through history have specific non-standard death rituals… often in addition to the societal standards… so what we see in the guard may or may not be mainstream. Likewise, US military indoctrination, mild as it is, creates a system of shared belief abnormal from the rest of society; it seems most profound in Marine Force Recon, Army Green Berets, and Navy SEALS.