Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The Three Branches of the Faith

Because the Church is deeply syncretic, there exists room for many variations of belief- so long, of course, as the faithful give loyalty to the Authority and his Prophetess, first and foremost.

The Abati believe in the Annaki, the Seven great gods who sit as judges in the underworld, and rule the underworld from their seat in Xibalba. Equal to them, in the heavens, are the Aesiri: warlike gods who protect Creation. While equal, the Annuki are the elder generation to the Aesiri, with the exception of Loki, Chronos's brother. On earth, the affairs of both of these pantheons are overseen by the Grigori, a host of lesser divinities and spirits, who may be nearly as powerful as one of the great gods, or as simple as a will o'wisp. Annukism holds that some mortal races, such as orcs and dwarves, are themselves mortal descendents of the Grigori.

The seven Annaki are ruled by Chronos, god of thunder, time, and agriculture. The others are Hecate, ruler of the dead, the sea goddess Tethys, Hyperion, god of light, Metis, goddess of reason, and Nergal, god of destruction. The hall of their judgement is Irkalla, in the city of Xibalba, beyond seven portals separating it from the world of the living. Souls that are deemed unworthy may be sentenced to Tartarus, and the blessed may be taken up by a patron deity, and even avoid going before the judges. Most of the dead simply end up in the netherwold, in the dreary city of Xibalba.

The Aesir include Loki, god of fire, entropy, and industry, Demeter, the poppy goddess, Ishtar, the goddess of war, Meness, god of the moon, Eris, the goddess of discord, Gabriel, the lord of dreams, and Pazuzu, lord of the south wind and of pestilence.

Between the two pantheons is Janus, neither Annaki or Aeseri, but the elder brother of both. The Carseks know him as the Authority, and he is most supreme amongst all the gods, for they have all given him a sliver (and sometimes much more) of their divine power. While of the faith of the Abati, and venerated by those who follow the pantheon, his church has their own branch and traditions. This is the order of the Janussaries.

Cthonic Cults: There are some divinities of the Abati cosmology that fall neither within the Aesiri or the Annaki, yet are older and more powerful than the numerous Grigori. Often these are the fallen, imprisoned Elder Gods, for example, the titans chained in Tartarus, deep in the underworld. Others, such as Dagon, are not bound, but still are distant. Faiths still exist for these divinities, and others spring up from time to time. Depending on their nature, they may be rooted out, or tolerated.

Grigori Cults: In some areas, a local god has risen to prominence, usually one of the Grigori who is the god of a specific lake, river, mountain, or simply the protector god of the region. These cults are generally more benign and friendly than the cthonic cults, since the Grigori are at least an important element of the core Abati religion. However, some of these local gods are bullies, or have aspirations for greater power, challenging the authority of the ruling pantheon.

Shalkism: The Shalks believe that everything, from animals, rocks, trees, rivers, to people and their ancestors, has its own spirit. These spirits provide guidance and ask for support in the form of prayer, for their role as protectors may be hard. While the Shalks acknowledge the existence of powerful spirits, they believe that the forces called gods are a manifestation of the ego of humanity. The Shalks strive to live in accordance and balance with nature, and in peace with the spirits of ones ancestors.

Most homes have their own small shrines dedicated to the family's ancestors, the guardians of the household.

The Shalk faith has room to incorporate many other gods, and it is not uncommon to find a Shalk adopting tenents of other religions. However, they are often under pressure from city folk, descendants fo the Carsek and Abati peoples, and especially after the Equinox War, some groups are very suspicious of outside beliefs, particularly Theologicism.

Elemental Cults: Some spirits are particularly demanding, or offer enticing rewards for veneration. The elemental spirits are particularly famous for this: Stribog, the god of winter, Fenrir, the North Wind, and Gargash, the Stone King. Many of these are violent and demanding gods, others are gentler manifestations of the forces they represent. The draconic spirit of a river might threaten floods if not paid in tribute, or the spirit of Fire might 'bless' all the children in a particular town with a pyrotechnic gift.

Tree Worship: Many Shalk communities and towns centre around a particular spiritual reverence of a living tree, a being that at once serves the community as a personal god, and as a focus for traditiona nd a residence for the ghosts of the ancestors. These small gods are similar to those venerated by Elemental cults, and there is often some overlap, but, aside from being much gentler, the tree spirits are also typically lords of a more limited area: while the deity may watch over the entire forest, they are not the god of the forest, they are the tree itself. This lack of brute force is more than made up by the personal connection to its worshippers, and as such Tree Societies are often the most resilient and able to stand up to the incursions of outsiders.

The Moirai: The Shalks faith puts a great emphasis on the home and the ancestors, but many of the People have been displaced, and lost touch with their past. The Shalk faith produced the mystery of the Moirai, gods of the cards. These gods of chance and luck also serve as a microcosm of the universe as a whole, each card having its own spirit, forming their own pantheon within the Shalk faith. Unlike the Elemental Cults, the Moirai integrate well into the faith of the Shalks, although more fervant adherents may seem like irresponsible gamblers, and be frowned on for neglecting the spirits of their ancestors. The followers of the Moirai might argue that their ancestors live on within the patterns of the cards.

Celerity is a faith based on reason, drawing adherents mostly from among the Carseks and their subjects. The followers of the Light believe that the world as it is presented is a trick, a corrupted, slow illusion concealing the true awakened nature of the world. The force of Consciousness or Reason was not integrated with the laws of the brute, dumb Material World at the moment of Creation, so their exists two powerful forces: mind and matter. Through these two forces flow all things, giving rise to the song known as the Unified Verse. Those gifted with magic are seen as Awakened, privy to the secrets of the world, and it is their duty to act as shepherds of the truth. While the true gods are unknowable, Celeritists believe that there are certain insights that can be divined about True Nature, and they apply themselves with vigour to the understanding of those truths. Several rival sects compete for attention, but to the population at large, these are largely academic concerns, and most Celeritists, even those who identify with a specific sect, mix the concepts fairly freely, mediated by their level of education and understanding of the subject.

Theologicians: the Theologicians see it as self-evident that there is a god or gods that work their will upon the world. They seek to study and understand the gods scientifically: their true nature, the source and impact of their powers, the mysteries of destiny, will, and faith. They support the faith of the Annaki and other deities, since they understand that worshipers keep the spirit world happy. However, they believe that there are more fundamental forces, and even beings, moving behind the scenes, and they seek to expose those secrets through their studies.

Luciferians: A cult perhaps, but a respectable one.The Luciferians believe that the world is a fallen one, ruled by a vengeful overgod. In this view, the Annaki and the spirits are pawns of the overgod, who has constructed the material world as a prison to contain the dangerous, dreaming minds of mortals, whose free willed nature threatens him. The Luciferians seek to understand free will. The fallen angel, Lucificer, is their patron, and it is through him that humans received the power of free will, and it is for this rebellion that both he and all of humankind has been damned. The entity Lucifer is identified as the Annaki Loki, and the Shalk's trickster figure known as Coyote or Raven.

Deserving of a special mention are the judge-priests, who serve the Authority directly. Founded on the Abati's worship of the god Janus, this sect of the Light draws followers from all three major human civilizations. Although Janus is a Abati god, the Janusaries have incorporated much of the Theologicians philosophy, as well as the Shalks insight into the natural order of the word of the spirits. Janus is neither a member of the Aesiri or the Annakki, but serves as an arbiter between them. The Janusaries are an order both apart from and integral to the overall Church.This neutral status provided the cornerstone to incorporate members of other faiths, allowing the order to grow. The judge-priests are often called on to settle legal disputes between members of different sects.

Inquisitors: The inquisitors are a faction of the Janusarries, who seek out impurities and cleanse them. They believe that the Grigori are no better than vampires, and they ruthlessly seek out and destroy undead, lycanthropes, and other dangerous sources of Taint. They have been successful in persuading a great many cities to institute mandatory magic-user registration, in an effort to check the spread of corruption, which they see as threatening all of the mortal world.
            Inquisititors accept the influence of a few benevolent spirits as necessary, and may pay homage or respect to these on occasion, but hardline Inquisitors offer allegiance only to Janus, or to spirits sainted or anointed by his grace.

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