Worship in the Theocracy of Ard
Some of you might have heard of the World of Trid, the stomping ground for my long-standing B/X D&D campaign. Few outside my now-disbanded gaming group are familiar with it, but you can go to breeyark.org to see a sliver of what it was in the ol' days.
Trid remains an active setting (used, in fact, for the upcoming Swords of Telm supplement), and I'll be posting bits of background, maps, NPCs, etc. in the weeks to come. While you may see some Chimera RPG stats here and there, adapting the material to your own setting—or just using it as idea-starters—shouldn't be hard. Alternatively, you could just pick up a copy of Chimera and become One of Us.
Either way, we'll start with religion in the Theocracy of Ard, a subject nation of the Empire of the Ruby Dias, ruled by the Exalted Autarch. The Autarch's Empire covers a goodly portion of Trid, and where he rules, he mandates worship of Elu, the Lawgiver, as a means of establishing order. Ard, ruled by a nameless patriarch known only as the Theocrat, has achieved nominal independence by virtue of its strict, orthodox worship of Elu.
The Church of Elu
The Ard worship Elu, Patron of the Autarch and the Theocrat below him. Elu (The Light Bringer, Lawgiver, King of the Sun, The Illuminator) is the Lawful patron of Judgement, War, and Justice. He protects the Ordered—those who are honest, trustworthy, just, and fair. For others—the Unordered—he has a more disapproving aspect.
Elu is represented by a spear (or more simply, a line) or, alternatively, a sunburst exploding with light. All priests (collectively known as ecclesiasts) are male and the only members of the faith permitted to cast spells, which are perceived as divine miracles; any other form of spellcraft is considered heresy, linked to the treachery of the ancient Silvani, who expelled the Old Gods. Ecclesiasts are attended to by a host of clerics who perform various administrative roles.
The Church maintains a rigid hierarchy, with ecclesiasts at the top, clerics next, and lay worshipers at the bottom. Those in the priesthood are afforded status roughly equal to that of Optimates (i.e., nobles). Ecclesiastic ranks (from highest to lowest) consist of primates (responsible for a country; e.g., the Theocrat ruler of Ard is a primate), prelates (responsible for a Sedes within a country), and curates (responsible for an individual parish within a Sedes).
Elu also sponsors several orders, including the Suncloaks, a fighting order dedicated to meting out Elu’s justice, and Shards of the Haft, a mendicant order who live as itinerant evangelists, spreading Elu’s word to convert the Unordered.
The Ard are a faithful lot, and they attend regular worship services to Elu, where strict obedience to order and station is espoused. Because Ardic law is based on Elu’s tenants, a life of religious devotion is a familiar and natural existence; few are inclined (or driven) to question what is known as the Plinths of Justice, a lectionary of Elu’s devotional edicts.
All Ard pay a compulsory tithe to the Church (known as “Elu’s Due,” comprising 10% of one’s earnings or income). Those who cannot pay in cash satisfy their tithe via labour or other service to the Church. In the Theocracy, this "Labour Tithe" is typically performed on glebes maintained by the Suncloaks or the parent Sedes; curates in each settlement assign and notarise such service carefully so as not to deplete the local workforce.
The Cognate of Nylla
Nylla of the Four Faces is Elu’s wife, Neutral patroness of Womanhood, Wisdom, Patience, and Guidance. She is represented by a circle, which alternately represents the world, the moon, a womb, or an egg. The Ard do not worship The Quadragyne formally, but they do respect her considered prudence as a tempering influence on Elu's admittedly “black-and-white” view of the world.
Nylla represents all women and the support they provide to husband, brother, lover, and child. Her Cognate is composed of four sisterhoods, each devoted to a progressive life stage assigned to women in the Theocracy:
- Maiden: Dedicated to life and healing; Maidens serve as medical practitioners in hospitals established by the Church of Elu. Maidens are familiar with many remedies and treatments, including revolutionary techniques to reduce patient fever and the risk of infection. Their exposure to pain and suffering at a young age is intended to cultivate compassion but also a clear sense of the world’s harsh realities.
- Temptress: Dedicated to secrecy and pleasure; Temptresses serve as paramours, either in Church-sponsored brothels or as appointments to Optimate houses who subsidise them. While essentially prostitutes, they practice contraception and do not consort with married men, nor do they participate in polygamous relationships. Instead, the Temptress prepares maturing but unattached men for marriage and adulthood, partially by providing a sexual outlet, but more significantly by teaching men how to better respect and care for women. A liberal concession to young men's passions, this arrangement nevertheless reduces instances of sexual rivalries, unplanned children, adultery, abuse, and rape.
- Mother: Dedicated to nurturing and growth; Mothers serve as midwives and caretakers. Mothers are attached to a specific parish and apply their services to local families as required, being most useful in birthing children and providing hospice care. Mothers also deign to perform more domestic duties to assist beleaguered women, whose husbands are away at war, disabled, outlawed, or deceased.
- Matron: Dedicated to wisdom and guidance; Matrons serve as wise-women and advisors to community leaders and, at times, local Optimates. Unofficially, Matrons have authority on par with that of curates, and even prelates have been known to consider their wisdom before making major decisions.
Sisters of Nylla neither marry nor cast spells; a sister serves for life. A woman’s age at the time of induction determines which sisterhood welcomes her to the Cognate. Maidens are between 12 and 18, Temptresses are between 18 and 24, Mothers are between 24 and 40, and Matrons are 40 and up. When a sister reaches the appropriate age, she may join the next stage as an initiate, though she is not obligated to do so. If she remains with her current sisters past the maximum age, she foregoes the opportunity to progress further. While this limits a sister’s opportunities, the choice to dedicate one’s life to a single sisterhood is not cause for disdain.
Rank within each sisterhood is a matter of skill and experience, not age, and there are no formal titles or hierarchies within the Cognate. The only exception is that sisters of any order defer to Matrons, whose great wisdom affords them considerable authority. As a result, the Cognate provides a path toward influence for women in the male-dominated Ardic society, either by becoming a Matron or appealing to one.
These are provided as a foundation for the GM, who can build upon them as appropriate. Next up, a pair of barbarian sects.
As always, suggestions and criticisms welcome.
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