So I’m planning an alternate history project involving a hypothetical Antarctic/Subantarctic civilisation, and here’s a sneak work in progress peak
An universal motif among Antarctic peoples is the dualistic perception of the cosmos. The universe is divided into two oceans, the “dark” ocean where ships sail and the “light” ocean where the sun swims. The sky, it is reasoned, is another sea that mirrors the physical ocean, clouds analogous to icebergs and stars and constellations to the people and animals of the earth. Gods inhabit both realms, and continuously move between the two oceans; seabirds, with their ability to swim in both seas, illustrate this process and are typically revered as messengers of the gods. How both oceans came to part varies from culture to culture, and this ambiguity is particularly emphasised in poetry.
Though the universal is dualistic, morality is not necessarily so. Fire and ice both harm after all, and the gods are as kind as they are petty. Dualistic morality did express itself multiple times — after all, its only too easy to see fire as good in a world of ice — but this quickly died down as the god of flesh and fire became the promenient deity of the southern raiders.
Sun Goddess — The ruler of the cosmos across the Antarctic peoples, most notably being the patron deity of Kerguelen. She sails across the light ocean during the day, before braving the depths during the night; for this reason is is strongly associated with seabirds, the most sacred animals, an albatross or gannet during the day and a penguin during the night. In Kerguelen and the Falkland islands she is also frequently associated with the giant petrel and the skua, predatory birds that rule over the sky much as the orca rules the sea, while Antarctic people are fond of emphasising the emperor and king penguins due to their bright yellow cheeks. Sometimes she is portrayed as the demiurge, the very first flame to shape the seas, othertimes she is seen as a descendent of the creator deity that inherited their throne. Though the South has never experienced full monotheism prior to contact with europeans due to the many natural agents at work, her worship has acquired henotheistic qualities at times, venerating her at the exclusion of other gods. Two structures built in her honour, the Kerguelen Golden Stairs and the Bouvet Gannet, are universally considered world wonders. Typically associated with the East in the cardinal directions.
Moon Goddess — The South is one of the very few places in the world where both the lunar and solar deities are typically invisioned as female, with the lunar cult in particular thought to have evolved in Tasmania. Notably, Antarctic peoples invision the Moon as male and often equated with Lord Orca, lending credence to the idea that the Moon was male prior to Tasmanian contact. The Moon goddess is strongly associated with the Great White Shark due to the crescent fins of these predators, and is likewise seen as a protective mother figure. The rivalry between the sun and moon varies from culture to culture, several myths illustrating why both are rarely seen in the sky at the same time and showing her either aiding the Sun against Lord Orca or helping him subdue her. Typically associated with the West in the cardinal directions.
Lord Orca — The orca is revered in the South much as wolves were in the northern hemisphere, as a fierce rival and competitor to humans. Orca monsters and deities are common throught the South, gradually coalescing into Lord Orca. He is seen as the ruler of the dark ocean and the god of death and cold, dragging human souls into the abyss. Yet as the god of the seas he is also capable of providing prey for humans to hunt, and as such he is as often appeased as he is repelled. He is the frequent mate of the Moon Goddess and enemy of the God of Flesh and Fire, being its jailer. The relationship between Lord Orca and the Sun is more complicated, sometimes shown as an enemy that attempts to drown her every night and swallows her during the eclipses, othertimes shown as her enforcer. The white spots on orcas are often linked to glaciars in poetry, and conversely Lord Orca is also seen as a god of the clouds. Typically associated with the South in the cardinal directions.
God of Flesh and Fire — An extremely perplexing deity embodying heat and disorder, associated with flesh, fire and decay. It is typically embodied as a formless mass much like the Chinese Hundun and Greek Khaos, except that it is an actively worshipped deity and even the patron of the Antarctic peoples, as opposed to the rest of the Sun-worshipping South. Multi-armed, two-faced grotesques found in the Antarctic Peninsula date as far back as 10,000 BC, indicating that worship of this god was present as early as the initial human colonisation of Antarctica. The God of Fire and Flesh is a terrifying but ambivalent deity, thought to assume any form and to wander the earth to devour and bless people. Sacrifices are a promenient feature of its worship more so than any other Southern deity, often by simply dropping blood or living tissue into flames, with Antarctic raiders infamously known for tearing people apart apart and burning the remains. Though usually seen as seperate from the Sun, it is often seen as her creation or offspring; the epic poem known as Eternal Vows in particular illustrates it as her punishment towards mankind, ripping out her own womb and sending it to haunt humanity. Typically associated with the North in the cardinal directions.