Friday, 25 December 2015

Religions of Erce, pt 1: The Old Faith



Ponderous Introduction

There are three major religious streams in Erce - The Old Faith, The New Order and the Hearthstone Church. Each represents an evolution (in the context of the setting, meant here in a neutral sense) of the human worldview and its relation to Law, Chaos, Others and Oneself.

Briefly, the Old Faith reflects the fragmentary tribal warrior societies where survival, personal glory and achievement and prosperity for one's nearest are at the forefront - It is a religion where Law is the strongest, but not necessarily dominant, hegemony that lives in proximity to the forces of Chaos and must need be flexible in its dealings with these.

The Nine Gods of the New Order are more akin the Roman gods - A state religion (though, rather than state-sponsored gods, it is a case of states sponsored by gods) whose devotion and spread is intimately connected to the welfare and prosperity of the realms it patronises. It is community oriented and seeks the greater good more so than personal glory, looking to the advancement of society moreso than the advancements of individuals in a community. Rather than co-exist with Chaos, it seeks to altogether exclude its influence from its domains (since Chaos is inimical to the orderliness of the society it promotes) and ultimately vanquish it entirely.

The Hearthstone Church builds on the evolution of the New Order, but adds a moral and ethical dimension to its worldview - To build not just a prosperous society, but an enlightened society, whose Raison D'etre is not just its own survival, growth and propagation but to advance something fundamentally nobler and greater than itself - The eternal liberation of all savable beings. Under the guidance of its Triune White Goddess it promotes a theology of spiritual awakening and an ethos of selfless compassionate service and protection.

This entry is Part 1 of 3, sketching out the Old Faith. 


The Old Faith

As frightening as they are beneficial, the Old Gods are less prayed to than appeased. More bargained with than idolised, they neither ask for nor require worship - Still, favours and boons may be asked for a price, sacrifice or service.


As makers of the Great Seal, they are the original benefactors of mankind and their rune seals are found in every village to ward off the creatures of Chaos. Yet they do not always favour mankind, who take care not to fall afoul of the doings of their gods as often as they rely on their benediction.
Nor do those of the Old Faith elevate their gods unduly. The Old Gods are powerful protectors, tutors and aides, but also capricious, temperamental and often tragically flawed.
Some, called priests, form a special bond with some of these gods. Such an arrangement is never something one can aim for or train for. Such people are chosen by the god in question for his or her own reason for this sort of attention. And if they reciprocate, they may form a so-called 'godbond' - They do not follow any written doctrine nor are bound to strictures of devotion, but are more akin to two people uniting due to common cause and mutual benefit. Such a bond is more akin to a warrior who has sworn loyalty liege lord he counts as an admirable friend than that of a servant and master. His will blends with that of the deity's and he becomes a partial extension of the deity in the middle world. In return, the deity's power likewise blends with that of the mortal. In its most powerful expression, such mortals, though still their own person, are for all intents and purposes living avatars of the deity they have bonded with.
Some of these priests congregate in “mystery cults” in private groves to exchange knowledge and work together on projects of mutual benefit related to their bonded deity. But that generally is the extent of organised religion in the Old Faith and little hierarchy exists. Some have traditions of newly god-bonded priests undergoing training with a more experienced priest for a number of years. But once his training is complete, so are the pupil's hierarchical obligations.


One of the forms of Belyz the Dancer.

The Old Faith is practised primarily in the Borderlands, where the wilds encroach upon civilization more often and Chaos must be navigated, negotiated and sometimes even embraced, as often as it must be fought back.
In the Dominions of Law, the mystery cults of the Old Gods can be found individually as filling certain roles in society but never as primary deities or welcomed into the established pantheon of the Dominions.