Chronicles of Gaia (Old)
Religion and Worship
Gaian Religious debate centers around the nature of the gods and the supernatural world, but never as to the gods’ actual existence. All the world is evidence that the gods exist, and it is furthermore filled with evidence that they do indeed intercede in the affairs of the world, not least of which by the provision of Divine Magic.
For a time, an alternative to Temple-Worship rose after the teachings of a self-proclaimed prophet named Abram, who spoke of visions of Ragnorak in which the Triad of Light would ascend from Gaia with the loyal faithful, while all the Triads saw their doom at the hands of the devils, dragons, and demons.
The Church of Prophecy grew greatly in power and reach throughout the 2nd and 3rd eras, until it was discovered that the Pontifex Maximus had for many centuries been possessed by Tiamat herself, who used the position to capture dragon-blooded people, bringing them to her Infernal Plane where they would become a part of her massive Dragonborn army.
After she was defeated the Church largely collapsed, losing even more worshippers during the Dark Times of the 4th Era. Today they exist only as small secret groups, and are treated as a cult by most people.
For the rest of the world, Temple-Worship is how you honor the gods.
First of all, let us make it clear that people do not select one god from amongst the pantheon and declare that god as their chief and primary deity. All of The Gods work in concord, and each is associated with different domains. Even the most devoted Light Cleric will still solicit the services of the priests of Knowledge, or make a sacrifice to Martius before a great battle.
Priests, Clerics, and Exemplars
Despite the worship of all the gods, some people do choose to focus their devotion upon a single triad, and sometimes even a single god, goddess, or saint. These are the priests, clerics, and exemplars, all of whom are capable of channeling the divine power of the gods but in noticeably different ways. Understanding the difference between them is one way of understanding the religion and worship of Gaia.
Priests serve as the intermediaries between people and the gods. They are almost always associated with one particular temple or shrine, where they perform their work and live out the majority of their lives. Priests practice a ritual magic, utilizing the facilities of their temple and working together in cohort with other priests of the temple. A group of “low-level” priests in an elaborate temple are capable of performing rituals resulting in magic equivalent to that capable of being cast by very high level clerics. Priests are almost always new souls or mundanes.
Priests and priestesses are referred to by the respectful title of “Father” or “Mother”.
Clerics are the agents of the gods. While priests are tied down to particular temples and shrines, the cleric goes out into the world to channel Divine Energy where it is needed most. Where priests need sacrifices, ritual chambers, and fellow priests to channel the power of the gods, the cleric is directly imbued with the necessary Divine Power.
Clerics are referred to by the respectful title of “Brother” or “Sister”.
Exemplars are the lesser agents and/or warriors of the gods. Indeed, every class owes its features and abilities to a god, triad, or – in the case of sorcerers – the arch-dragons. Unlike Clerics, exemplars are not expected to show reverence towards their divine or draconic patrons.
Economy of Worship
Although the various gods and goddesses are associated with certain philosophies about how best to live and behave in the world, few people have the ability, let alone the opportunity, to be so exemplary that they gain the favor of that god in the afterlife. Even if they do, such favor rarely translates into material benefits in life.
As such, there is an essential economy to worship; if you want a favor from the gods, then you must perform the appropriate sacrifice. If the appropriate sacrifice is made, then the ritual can be performed and divine favor thereby granted.
At a temple, an individual can speak with a priest about their request. Any request or prayer can be made, and the priest will prescribe what he deems an appropriate sacrifice. If there is an available ritual which the temple can offer, this will be made clear. Rituals are more expensive to have performed, but their results are almost guaranteed, while requests and prayers only have a chance of gaining the notice of the gods.
The prescribed sacrifice can generally either be purchased at market and brought to the temple, or simply paid for and purchased at the temple itself. Formal rituals often carry an exact monetary contribution in addition to the cost of sacrifice.
Of course, there are variations between the Triads, and theological disputes about what the gods find most favorable. For instance, some claim that the gods of War prefer that fallen enemies in battle are consecrated and dedicated in their name than for any bull sacrificed in the temple, while others (often the priests themselves) recommend that appropriate sacrifices are made after battles in accordance to the number of enemies slain (averaging 1gp/enemy).
Temples and Shrines
In addition to worship and ritual services, most temples serve other functions as well, related to their Triad/Deity. Those who provide such services are not necessarily priests, and established temples are a primary source of employment for many commoners. These functions are currently described briefly in The Gods, but as an example Temples of Light provide non-magical healing services, Temples of Nuntius provide courier services, and Temples of War provide combat training to anyone interested. All of this, of course, is for an appropriate fee.
While temples are the most prominent places of worship, they are not the only option typically available (and in fact few cities have enough temples to cover all the gods).
Other places of worship and associated practice include:
- Unmanned or Wayside Shrines: These typically small shrines are littered across the world. They vary in degrees of size and elegance, and can be devoted to a particular Triad or to an individual god, goddess, or saint. They can be found at places of particular note to a Triad, in towns that lack a given temple, in places important to their Triad or deity, in government or merchant buildings – just about anywhere. Shrines are typically used for focused prayer, but include an offering plate space for coin offerings and minor sacrifices (such as incense, pigeons, blood).
- Tended Shrines: Generally more elaborate than wayside shrines, tended shrines are just that – tended to by a single priest. Some tended shrines are watched over by a single priest, while others have a regular rotation. There are more services available from a tended shrine, though mostly the priest serves as an adviser and counsel more than being able to perform advanced rituals.
- Home Shrines: No respectable home is complete without a home shrine, housing idols of the gods of chief importance to the household as well as tributes to one’s ancestors, which are believed to watch over the homes of their descendants. Standard practice includes a ritual prayer and incense sacrifice at the home shrine every morning and evening.
There are other variations on shrines, of course, such as portable shrines (consisting primarily of small carved idols) and traveling shrines (wagon shrines manned by several priests), but these get the point across.
Finally, shrines also exist for some of the more notable saints, and most home shrines include an idol of at least one saint.
All the races of Men are a composite of a material body and ethereal soul. It is the soul which provides the body with motion and life, but if the body becomes too damaged, the soul loses its anchor, separating from the body and resulting in death.
Upon death, the soul is to travel to the Courthouse of the gods, which lies not in the heavens but rather in the ethereal plane [see also The Cosmos ], between the stairway to the gates of the seven heavens and the pitfall to the nine hells. It is there that the Judge weighs the soul, and deems where it shall reside until the coming of Ragnorak.
Those who have earned the special favor of a particular god, devil, or triad are met upon their death by a celestial (or infernal) servant of that deity, who escorts the soul to the Courthouse and testifies upon behalf of the fallen. This testimony is just a formality after which the celestial servant will bring the soul to the appropriate heaven.
Most, however, find no such special favor, and must make their own way to the Courthouse. Funeral rites are therefore of vital importance, as they assist in leading the soul through the ethereal plane, providing it with the fee to cross the river of death surrounding the courthouse, and protecting the soul against the temptations of infernal agents seeking to make a final bargain with the deceased.
Families and friends who are able will often also make sacrifices to the gods, in a final effort to curry their favor and earn the soul a heavenly resting place. Finally, libations are regularly poured upon the graves of the deceased bodies, in an effort to keep the body at rest should the soul remain lost.
The primary funeral rites are performed by the priests of Judex Maximus, and specialized priests maintain the graveyards.
Of final note, any attempt at resurrection must take place prior to the soul’s final judgement, leaving only a brief and uncertain window for the proper (and often expensive) rituals to be performed.