Religion in the Empire
Religion in the Empire is dominated by the Shaladrians, but in order to understand them, the Caliphate must first be understood. The indigenous religion of Solgard upon the Ancestors arrival was a loosely associated collection of animistic polytheistic religions. These continue to survive in folk tradition and lay magic, but the Ancestors brought with them the worship of Ia.
Ia is believed to be a single creator god. He is omnipotent and omniscient. The Caliphate was once the most formidable power in Solgard, espousing their views, enforced with a robust army. In 34 AI, a clergy woman of Ia, began to hear voices and have visions of five spirits, often appearing as serpents or dragons. Believing these to be the primal forces of creation springing from Ia she began espousing that these five spirits physically inhabited the world, guiding its evolution and acting as a means for man to communicate with Ia. She believed that Ia had created the world and left these five in control – essentially saying Ia was uncaring about his creation, or more accurately, so powerful that he simply doesn’t think on it. She also introduced the concept of the Adversary, Magra, a sixth spirit of destruction. In 38 AI, Shaladria was hung as a heretic in Vakrin by the Caliphate. By 100 AI, the Shaladrian cult had spread to every corner of the Empire. By 500 AI it had begun to overshadow the Caliphate.
Currently, most Imperials – particularly in the south – consider themselves Shaladrians. They are especially concentrated in Vakrin, site of Shaldria’s execution. Their priests wear bits of rope around their necks to symbolize the noose that killed their founder, and their standards often bear dragons and, more archaically, serpents. They are obsessed with the five creative forces – water, earth, fire, wind and void. In the North, particularly in Fallen Oak and Masagar itself, there is still a heavy Caliphate presence, although they barely register politically any more. Officially, the Emperor invokes the name of Ia in all matters, but is forbidden by custom to take an official religious stance against either side.
One obvious difference in the two sects are their views concerning death and burial: followers of Ia have traditionally burned the dead, while Shaladrians bury or entomb the dead. Thus temples of the Caliphate of Ia will often features large alters and pits for hecatombs and cremations. Shaladrian Churches will always have large graveyards adjacent or deep crypts beneath them. Another difference is that ceremonies and services in the Caliphate are performed in Regar (the ancient language of the Bakis Ancestors) while Shaldria spoke and wrote in what was basically modern Imperial. This ability to speak in a language common to the people is another contributing factor to the spread and popularity of Shaladrianism.
While communities differ across the Empire, in general Churches are led by Masters / Mistresses, under whom Brothers and Sisters serve. Below these, the Novices study and learn for their ascension in the clergy. An interesting note is that the Church has no single, superior leader. This choice was intentionally made to stand in contrast to the Caliphate. There, the Caliph is supreme (“Pope”), below him the High Tensures (“Arch Bishops”), Tensures (“Bishops”), Summons (High-Ranking Scholars, non-liturgical), Cords (“Priests”) and Lightlies (“assistant” priests).
Religion in Zhûrasca
Religion is a tenuous thing in Zhûrasca. Centuries of tribal religions clashing has led to a dizzying array of good and evil spirits ( javeed ) and innumerable local and celestial divine beings ( khodad’Ab). In the last 500 years, the idea of three divine beings, Nouri the Uncaring, Majid the Light and Hezhaman the Darkness has gained popularity among peasant and learned men alike. Each has origins in older pagan gods from different regions, but the idea of three balancing forces in the universe appeals to the logical bent most Zhûrascan scholars favor.
Additionally, Zhûrascans have a long tradtition of believing in godly scions (Shah’Ab); these demi-gods (literally “blessed souls”) are thought to be vessels, however temporary or permanent, for the gods and spirits. This almost always carries a positive connotation and is markedly different than, say, possession which is considered malevolent. Shah’Ab are very rare and more rarely universally recognized. There is little contention over a few remarkable heroes from the past being Shah’Ab, but many more are claimed to be.
Religion in Ustjubai
The Ustjubaji have a religion which states that the world is but one of many worlds that all exist side by side. Each of these is populated by different kinds of beings – some monstrous, some angelic, others sad and small, still others majestic and terrible. Each place is it’s own reality but the many worlds often leak into each other. Many are the tales of elves, goblins, gnomes, sprites and other beings that visit our world form time to time.
Among all the many characters they may worship or make offering to, Tsre is the most revered. Ages ago, the Forces of Chaos sought to invade our world and dominate it. Tsre stepped in and defended the simple place – which had no way to defend itself against such creatures. In doing this, the goddess was successful, although ultimately she was slain and her body shattered. Her body flew down to the world where it was called Eagori, which means “remains.”
There are limitless numbers of Gods, Goddesses and spirits a common Ustjubai will worship. It is understood that when you travel, you make offerings to the Gods of your guests. The Ustjubai regard all Gods as mighty beings to be feared and avoided except in extreme measures. The public self-deprecation of the Shaladrians and the constantly pleading of the Caliphate are deeply confusing, even silly, to the Ustjubaji.
Religion in Quamiln
The Eaqu religion is highly animistic, and is centered on many competing spirits and entities, mostly ambivalent. These are organized into a multitude of classifications. For example, among the divine (but tied to the mundane world) classificaton of nature spirits, there are human-helping w’who-twalah (the ‘ denotes a quick “out” breath), the human-hating klimi-noog. Bear in mind, there are truly divine (extra planar) spirits, demons from the underworld, physical beings, non-physical beings, semi-physical beings, intelligent animals, and many more.
As fervent believers in reincarnation, the clergy is concerned with training people for their next life. Numerology is very important to the Eaqu, especially the number 5. This is considered the number of change, chance, power and the number of reincarnations a being is given. We have but five reincarnations to “get it right” according orthodox Eaqu teachings. The most enlightened beings are said to know which incarnation they are on, but most folks don’t and assume the worst – trying to live a noble life now. After five reincarnations, the soul goes to the heaven plane (Obwaa) where it will either sink into the Maw of the Vindicator or rise due to virtue to the waiting Paradise of the Lotus Lords.
These reincarnations can be as any being from an insect to a God. The incarnation is determined by Saikoon the Judge. Although none know his method of judgment, he is said to know where the soul needs to go in order to reach the Lotus Lords. In this way, the nobility like to remind people that they should not be deposed, just as they remind the peasants they are “right where they are supposed to be.” This makes adventurers, explorers and dissenters highly unpopular in Quamiln. They disrupt society, threaten disorder when careful planning is needed, and pretend to know their place better than the God of Judgement. Of course, most of these deviants claim that they, too, are right where Saikoon intended them to be.
Religion for the Sahmu
While their nation is fractured and much of their history and culture shattered, the Sahmu have a strong oral tradition of storytelling and songs that passes form one generation to the next. Contained in these songs are their mythology, centered on a cast of heroes, demi-gods, ancestor spirits and, of course, Yaiya the all-mother.
Female symbology is highly connected to Sahmu ideas of reality and identity. Milk, Blood, Water, Yielding, Protection and Cultivation are central fixtures. Sahmu refer to the world as Uggon, which is the name of Yaiya’s serpent offspring. The Sahmu make elaborate songs and offerings to Yaiya on regular holidays (solstices, equinox, etc.). While they have many legends of great warriors and fantastic beasts and battles, they reserve worship for their ancestors and Yaiya alone. The basic Yaiya story goes like this:
Yaiya is the Sahmu mother-goddess, the all-creator, all-nurturer, all-destroyer. In their songs and stories the Sahmu say Yaiya, who has always been, found a small fish swimming through Chaos. Yaiya was hungry so she caught the fish and devoured it whole. The fish swam around inside Yaiya until it grew into a great serpent. When Yaiya gave birth to serpent, she named him Uggon and he was always with Yaiya. Uggon was always hungry and covetous, and as Yaiya swam through Chaos lighting the Star Fires, Uggon would devour them. So for many eons the sky was a flicker of flames coming and going.
Yaiya wanted to make a home for her children but she knew that Uggon would eat the place up as soon as he saw it. So Yaiya took one of her eyes, a great jewel that the Sahmu call Abwas Ayunda (Goddess Eye) and placed it near a new Star Fire such that the jewel twinkled brightly.
Just as Yaiya knew would happen, Uggon came across the gem and sought to keep it to himself. To hide it, he curled himself around it and would not move. When Yiaya saw him, she pretended she did not know what he was doing, and asked him to move. He made every excuse but would not move. Finally, Uggon grew weary and fell asleep. While he cooked in the light of the Star Fire, his skin became hard as stone.
So Yaiya left the serpent there, wrapped around her always-watching eye, and went on with her business of lighting the Star Fires. When she had her children, she made their home upon the serpent’s body. That is why the ground is called Uggon, and why the center-most part of a fruit is called Abwas Ayunda.
There is obviously a great deal of poetry, song and story dedicated to Engala, Ängo and the Last Battle as well.