Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Old Faith

In the beginning was chaos and void, and the spirit of chaos moved among the waters. God came to the chaos, and raised his hand, and lo! there was order. The waters split into the waters above, and the waters below. And the spirits of chaos too were divided, according to their type; the spirits of air to the waters above and the spirits of water to the waters below.
-- The Book of Fayon, Canto I

When God created Ardenest, it was already inhabited by many chaotic spirits. Most of these agreed to serve God in the new creation. Those who didn't were cast down into the abyss. The spirits varied greatly as to how powerful they were. The most powerful spirit to join God was Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, the Divine Wind. Barely less powerful was Hades, Guardian of the Underworld. But besides these two were many other spirits, spirits of glen, river, and hill. The least of the spirits God clad in flesh; wood spirits became elves, fire spirits became men, and earth spirits became dwarves. God gave Bahamut possession of the air above, and Hades possession of the earth below, but to the mortals he gave possession of the world.

Before the apotheosis of Fayon, the religious worshiped these spirits. For the most part, the local spirit was the most revered. While these were not generally sufficiently powerful to answer their believers' requests, there were plenty of spirits who granted spells to their followers.

Pan was a wood spirit who came to have dominion over all of the forests of Ardenest. He was particularly known for his love of wine and his flutes, and was particularly revered by druids and rangers. He is rarely followed now. In civilized areas, he is most remembered in toasts and drinking songs. However, some druids and wood elves still worship him.

Bahamut, the Astral Star, fought constantly against the demon dragon Tiamat and her schemes. Paladins and noble knights of all kinds served him, and he is still revered by holy knights to this day. The Silverflame knights of Lyonia, in particular, are dedicated to the Pearl of Wonders. 

Hades was never worshiped much, but there have always been a sufficient number of people who walk near death that his cult has never died out either. The Aurelian cult popular in Western Solaria has its roots in Hades worship, though most claim any devotion is merely symbolic. Certain heretical texts suggest Fayon owes his power to Hades, but these are dismissed by the Church as later fabrications.

The Fates: Eos, Dawnmother; Nut, Nightmother; and Shar, Duskmother were a trio of goddesses often worshiped together by healers, though Nut and Shar had less savory worshippers as well. They are worshiped much less frequently now in the open, but it is said that Shar counts assassins among her contemporaneous devotees. St. Carino was a devotee of Shar until he repented of his misdeeds and joined the church. Nut often receives the prayers of prostitutes, and they and other young women pray for her protection in the night.

Kord's origin is unknown. Some scholars suppose he was a spirit of the tundra, and it was the devotion of the orcs that gave him his present form, while others believe him to have been a Nordman who went native and achieved godhood through a ritual like that of the Valharim. He is not typically worshiped in civilized lands, but is venerated by the orcish tribes of the steppes, and his faith is not unknown among the Nords.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The New Church

Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas
There are a number of beings that are worshipped by the denizens of Ardenest; Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon; Zeus, Lord of the Azure Sky; or Pan, First of the Woods. In fact, their worship was common in the days before the Thyranian Empire. Fayon himself was a cleric of Bahamut in his aspect as Paladine. But once he had his apotheosis, his daughter Christine made the worship of the Valharim the official religion of the Empire, and founded the New Church. It quickly schismed, and now, each nation has its own sect of the New Church. The different sects generally interact peacefully, but religious warfare is not unknown. In addition, their relation to the old faiths varies from open hostility to disdain and condescension. In the present day, nearly everyone you meet is a member of the New Church, and adherents of the old faiths tend not to advertise that fact, even in lands where they are allowed to practice their religion openly.

Most of the Church is organized geographically, with the head cleric of each nation being titled "Primate". When the national churches are getting along with each other, the primates sometimes will convene a council to discuss theological and administrative matters. After the Second Council of Selenium went astray due to a fight over precedence between the primates of Western and Eastern Solaria, the Church decided that a chair would be chosen by vote of the Council. Those clerics who have chaired a Council are titled "High Priest". Clerics serve at a temple, tending to the needs of the congregation. The most important temples are generally called cathedrals, and are headed by a bishop.

Every cleric serves the Valharim as a whole, but each is dedicated to a specific member of the Eight. With the exception of the Sage, Covellia, and Ryanna, two months out of the year are dedicated to each god, and the clerics dedicated to that god lead the weekend services. Fayon's clerics lead the services for the festivals of Sol Invictus and Heaven's Day, while the Sage's clerics lead the services on Spring Awakening and Autumn Falling. Ryanna's clerics are not attached to a church at all; they are found traveling between communities too small to have a church with dedicated clergy, or in the wild.

In addition to the churches, there are several monastic communities, especially in the south of Ardenest. These are dedicated to a specific Valharim, and are generally dedicated to serving a purpose associated with that god. For example, monasteries of Vassa are often near rocky seashores so they can rescue sailors whose ships have foundered. The abbot of prominent monasteries are often nearly as powerful as the primates, if not more so.