Tuesday, December 20, 2016

World: Religion - General / Human / Gnome

Religion may or may not be important to your particular character, but you will need to know some of it to interact with others. As with our world, religion is deeply intwined with culture in this place.

There are distinct racial differences in ideas about spirituality. The humans and gnomes are the only races that truly embrace the ideas of deities, while the other races have different belief systems (that sometimes end up working about the same). 

Humans & Gnomes
Three deities. All human cultures seem to address these deities in some form, though the specifics vary greatly.
Animistic religion. They believe that the energy of the universe is woven through every being and object. They have ‘saints’ who are renowned mortals that achieved a higher level of consciousness in life or death and may be able to influence the mortal world.
Atheistic. They have strong family and clan ties and a ritualistic approach to spirituality. They honor their ancestors and feel a kinship with stone. 
Halflings generally don’t talk about metaphysical things. They value home, family, and community. They acknowledge the human gods but it’s hard to pin them down on specific beliefs.

Humans and Gnomes both follow belief systems centered around a trinity. It is known that there are three gods; the Father, the Mother and the Other. Some religions maintain that the three were birthed from an even more ancient go who created the world and skies while others think that the Trinity has always existed and itself birthed all things in the universe.

Each of the three deities has a particular personality and background that influences their interests and the causes they champion. Though the details may vary regarding these three gods (name, description, and the specifics of their respective domains) there are some similarities that thread through all cultures.

It is well accepted that humans are responsible for recording, organizing and spreading much of the lore of the Trinity. Gnomes, having lived in and around humans so long that their original culture is lost to the ages, seem to have adopted the same gods at some point in the past. As one would expect, the gnomish religions differ in some key ways from the standard human descriptions. To any gnome or human these differences constitute completely separate religions, however to the other races the Trinity stands out as being a common theme between human and gnomish religion, and many elven and dwarven scholars will discuss these only as various sects of one umbrella faith.

The three gods are associated with the three largest celestial bodies visible in the sky. 

Graigh or The Sun:
In all religions he is represented by light, daytime, and warmth. In most religions he will  have a masculine personal and may be associated with things like strength, extraversion, action, forward movement, heat, passion, etc. (basically all things yang) and often with the colors of yellow, gold, red, and orange.

In religions that do not acknowledge an older god, the depiction of the Sun ranges from benevolent but stern father figure, others as the loving protector, and still others see him simply as the masculine (with whatever that constitutes in their society). In some religions he is further seen as the protector of human (and gnomish) kind. If the religion believes in an elder god then the Sun is the eldest son of that god who is often depicted as being warmer toward humans (and gnomes) than the elder god. In those religions the similarities between the common words for ‘Sun’ and ‘Son’ are often leveraged in these religions.

The association with the sun shows up in religious ceremonies where many cultures celebrate the summer solstice (with the most hours of sunlight of any day in the year) in his name. In the northern provinces these often take the form of a day of celebration. Entire cities will cease normal activities to raise banners, feast and parade. The day typically starts before sunrise, and much like small children may rise early to prepare a special breakfast for a parent’s birthday, everyone in a town will be up hours before dawn cooking and decorating so that when the Sun’s eye opens on them it sees their gratitude and love. In the southern provinces there are sects where the summer solstice is considered sacred and solemn. A time to appreciate what the Sun God does for humanity. Entire cities also cease normal activities, but as the sun rises the streets will be quiet. Humans gather into temples and churches to sing the god’s praises and contemplate the bounty of his gifts. 

Gnomes, scattered as they are through human-dominated areas, typically join the predominate human sect, though there are a few gnomish religions that have their own distinct take on the Sun God. They pointedly do not envision him as physically human (the way he is frequently depicted in human religious art and writings) but rather an ephemeral being of light who (also pointedly) cares equally for humans, gnomes, and other races. The celebration of him in these belief systems is usually jovial and raucous (as most gnomish celebrations are).

Cryaigh (The Moon):
In all religions she is represented by darkness, night-time, and coolness. In most religions she will  have a feminine persona and may be associated with things like gentleness, introversion, quiet, wisdom, calm, etc (basically all things yin) and often with the colors of blue, green, purple and silver.

In religions that do not acknowledge an older god, the depiction of the Moon may be of Mother and wife to the Sun, while others see her simply as the feminine (with whatever that constitutes in their society). Being that childbirth is exclusively the domain of women, all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth fall under the watchful eye of the Moon and she is often considered the specific guardian of children, regardless of gender roles in a particular culture. If the religion believes in an elder god then the Moon is the only daughter of that god and may be seen as a figure to be protected and defended.

Though she represents the feminine in all known religions the form this takes varies depending on the specific culture. Many cultures do not have strong boundaries for gender roles, and in those she stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Sun, either as Husband and Wife, or Brother and Sister. In these cultures she often represents the feminine in an abstract way and more as a counterpoint to the domains of the Sun where they exist as counterparts, not opposites (you cannot have light without dark, cool without heat).

In other cultures that tend toward patriarchal organization she tends to be seen as inferior to the Sun. Smaller, weaker, in need of protection and guidance. She is more likely to be more strongly associated with home and hearth, crafts, child rearing, romantic love, and physical beauty. Her counterpoint to the Sun is maintained even in these religions  though it may be framed as opposing and so ‘weaker but still important’ or in more misogynistic cultures as truly inferior (also societies which may judge people who have traits that run counter to their ideas of gender norms).

The Moon is celebrated during the winter solstice - the day when the Sun spends the least amount of time in the sky and her brightness can be seen and admired. Her celebrations typically are less exuberant than summer solstice festivals, often emphasizing and embracing the darkness. Small lights (candles, lanterns, etc), intimate gatherings, artful music and dance, and fine meals are enjoyed to varying degrees by most religions. Wine is almost universally part of celebrations of the Moon.

Fealgh (the Star):
In almost all religions the Star is represented by mystery, shadow and secrets. This deity is the most divisive and controversial. Many times a common religion has split into entirely separate faiths over time due to disagreement over the nature of the Star.  As discussed previously the name Star is capitalized when applied to what looks more like a moon in the sky, and in languages other than dwarven or human the name for both the celestial body and the god associated with it may translate more closely to ‘little moon’. 

Those who see the Star as benevolent are more likely to associate it with philosophy, the mysteries of the universe, the intricacies of human nature (delving into psychology), guardian of secrets and hidden things and associated with magic and creatures of rarity and secrecy. A deity to be respected and revered, and not to be treated lightly.

Those who see the Star as malevolent are more likely to associate it with deception, trickery, deceit, cheating and manipulation, the occult and black magic, guardian of evil secrets that should be hidden and creatures of great malevolence and power. A diety to be feared, mistrusted and certainly not one to be respected.

The Star does not usually represent a specific gender. In more gender fluid societies the Star will represent those who do not fall into the traditional gender binary (transgender, ‘two-spirit’, gay, pansexual, etc) and may refer to the Star as ‘he’ or ‘she’ interchangably. In more gender binary societies the Star may be seen as gender neutral or asexual and pronouns such as ‘it’ or ‘they’ may be used. Attitudes toward this aspect of the Star vary widely from celebration (especially in the north) to derision or fear (especially in the south).

With the uncertain and multiplicious (it’s a word - look it up!) nature of this deity it is often represented by white, black or grey - clearly not falling into the colour spectra of the Sun or the Moon. There is not a specific metal associated with it, though black steel, unoctium, and even diamonds have been variable used to represent the Star from religions of differing factions (black steel - evil/death, unoctium - change/complexity, diamond - many faces).

In religions that acknowledge an elder god, the Star is seen as the younger brother to the Sun and Moon. 

Most folk who do not closely watch the patterns of objects in the sky consider the Star to be an unpredictable thing. Some nights you can see it, others you cannot. Sometimes it is a bright, ruddy object in the sky (when at its fullest and brightest it is called a Blood Star) and sometimes gold, green or purple. At other times it is a faint disc or even just a sliver of light in the sky.

Church factions:
Opinions regarding the nature and domains of each of the gods of the Trinity have varied among different groups and changed over spans of time. Some opinions that fit within a common schema have become amalgamated and interpreted as the multifaceted nature of the gods, while others have proved to be severe enough differences that they led to a schism. Today there are numerous factions of the church of the Trinity, some so far removed from the traditional teachings that they are considered completely separate religions.

The basic traits of the Sun, the Moon and the Star are often preserved (or at least recognizable) between religions. Broad associations, such as the masculine/feminine/neuter, or the Moon as birth, Sun as life, and Star as death will be seen in many related religions. Specific iconography, tenets or attributes (e.g. is the source of my ability to case ‘sunbeam’) varies between religious groups.

For further information on specific religious customs see World: Races.

Magic and the Church:
There is no single domain of magic, rather each deities’ domains encompass some magical areas. Offensive and elemental magic of lightning and fire tend to fall under the Sun domain. Healing and nature magic, elemental water and ice fall under the Moon domain. Summoning, transmutation, and mental magics as well as other magic that doesn’t clearly fall under the Sun or Star domains all fall under the domain of the Star. Arcane scholars typically apply their personal beliefs (or keep church and science separate). Religious faiths will more clearly delineate the sources and be more adamant that the favor of the gods are required, as in the case of Paladin (in which case the particular church determines what is ‘truth’). Over centuries the division of particular types of magic has led to some things being available to arcane practitioners that are not available to so-called ‘divine’ practitioners and vice-versa.

As mentioned elsewhere in this text, gnomes do not have a separate and distinct society. It is commonly believed by scholars that they did have their own origin and faith (much as elves, dwarves and presumably halflings do) but details of it are lost to the ages. Modern gnomes live in human settlements. They tend to favor larger urban centers, though it is not uncommon to find some gnomish families in smaller villages and hamlets. 

With respect to religion there are secular gnomes who do not actively practice any faith. Of the gnomes that do practice religion there are two main types, those who follow one of the many human religions (all based on the divine Trinity) and those who follow a strictly gnomish faith. Still solidly based on the Trinity, the gnomish religions differ in some key ways. Most often the emphasis on the gender identification of the gods is less pronounced in gnomish theology, and the positive aspects of all three are clear and robust. 

The Sun: Typically the Sun is the most revered of the three gods. Celebrations of the summer solstice will last three days; the first day honoring the Moon, a period of relative quiet reflection and close family gatherings; the second day (on the actual solstice) honoring the Sun with raucous celebrations in the streets and revelry, often spilling well into the third day which honors the Star. On the third day revelers often take to acts of mischief (if they aren’t sleeping off the effects of the first two days of celebration).

The Moon: The Moon is probably the least regarded in gnomish society. Not that there are any negative attitudes toward the goddess, but rather that her domain tends to encompass things which are more quiet and contemplative and responsible and, to some gnomes, represent drudgery. The winter solstice is traditionally a time to celebrate motherhood and the family, however in more modern times many faiths have encompassed the practice of pantomime where the menfolk of the family dress as women and take over the women’s duties for the days while the women dress as men and sit about drinking.

The Star: The gnomes universally are more openly accepting of the Star and in fact tend to relate more closely to this deity than to the Moon (an attitude adopted by individual humans but not seen on any scale in human religions). Most often seeing the god as the patron of mystery and mischief they celebrate the Star on the equinoxes (where major human religions generally do not have a special celebration for the Star at all). In both cases (autumnal and vernal equinox) a two-day celebration is held that is effectively a masquerade. Traditionally the vernal equinox celebrates nature and the gnomes dress in costumes representing the beasts of the world both mundane and magical. The autumnal equinox is perhaps the more proper celebration of the Star, reveling in the aspects of mystery and mischief, the gnomes dress in dark costumes and masks and play tricks. Humans often find reasons to stay inside with the doors locked when darkness falls on the autumnal equinox.
For more information please refer to World: Races - Gnome.

Death Rites:
Most human and gnomish religions believe that the Moon takes the souls of the dead into her busom. What happens after that is interpreted differently depending on the specific tenets of the faith. 

Likewise the ritualistic rites surrounding death vary greatly from culture to culture, though burial and cremation are the two most commonly observed practices of handling the earthly remains of the deceased. Prayers are typically spoken and the blessings and guidance of a cleric used to guide the soul of the deceased to the gods. 

V 1.1

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