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Church of Thyatisby Marco Dalmonte English translation by Gary Davies
Worshipped in: Thyatis, Isle of Dawn, Ochalea, Pearl Islands, Ierendi, Karameikos, Minrothad, Darokin, Alfheim
The Church of Thyatis is a Lawful religion instituted on the will of the Empress Valentia in the II century AC, as the means for indoctrinating the Thyatians with a new moral and a high sense of state, so as to cement the nationalistic glory and reinforcing the basis of the conservative policy introduced by her. The faithful of the Church of Thyatis are therefore raised in a more complete respect for the “published matter”, the religious morals, and the cult of the ancestors and live a quiet life. The Church isn’t oppressive or excessively intransigent like some monotheistic cults, but exacts a spirit of sacrifice from its faithful and maximum loyalty to its maxims of life, which are preached for a better peaceful co-existence and the consolidation of the prestige of the Thyatian nation.
The Church of Thyatis is led by the Assembly of Elders and by the Pontifex Magnus (the High Patriarch), which has the power to direct the policies of the church, crown the Emperor, promote new missions, and lead off to the process of the Evocatio, necessary for expanding the pantheon of the Immortals and saints honoured by the Church. The Assembly of Elders instead is made up of the Elder Patriarchs, or the wiser and more powerful priests of the cult, whose number corresponds to the totality of the Immortals recognised by the Church, in a way to metaphorically represent the voice of the many Immortals that protect Thyatis. It is necessary to note that these Elders aren’t necessarily specialist clerics of the recognised Immortals, but simply the priests devoted to the Church of Thyatis of highest rank and that has exceeded at least the 20 years of service among the ecclesiastic hierarchy. Both the Pontifex Maximus and the Elders have a seat at the senate as senators, but said office is temporary and is revoked at the moment in which they leave the task within the Church of Thyatis.
The majority (80%) of the clergymen of the religion are philosopher clerics, while the rest are divided into polytheistic (18%) and specialists (2%). The polytheist clerics receive their powers from the lawful Immortals of the pantheon, while the philosophers get their power directly from four spheres of the Order (Matter, Energy, Thought and Time). The polytheists are more tolerated by the philosophers (who hold the most important positions in the clergy), since they don’t worship one Immortal above the others but recognise the importance of all for the good of the state, while the specialists are viewed with suspicion, given that now and then tend to put first the interests and the glory of their own divinity instead of the welfare of Thyatis. Indeed because of one of these heresies (called the Ispana Heresy), it assisted in a mass exodus from the Empire at the start of 900 AC, when a large group of Ispan heretic followers of Ixion left Thyatis in order to colonise what would later become the Savage Baronies in order to avoid a conflict with the ecclesiastic hierarchy in a theological dispute about the role that Ixion had had in the creation of the world and in the rise of Thyatis and also because of a project of reform that envisioned a redistribution of ecclesiastic powers. Actually Solarios (the Thyatian name of Ixion) is still one of the Immortals honoured by the Church of Thyatis, although his faithful have been held particularly under pressure in the last century. The Church of Thyatis represents the official Thyatian cult and operates in all the empire’s territories with monies derived especially from the denari that the senate pours into the coffers of this institution, and is therefore a powerful force within Thyatian politics. It’s no surprise the title of Pontifex Maximus (High Patriarch of the Church) is allowed only to the candidate who enjoys the support of the emperor and of the more influential senators, and it’s never an exclusive decision of the ecclesiastic hierarchy. The Pontifex in fact remains in office until his death, and can only be removed by a joint decision of the Senate and of the Assembly of the Elders in cases of grave violation (high treason or heresy). The election of the new Pontifex happens in two stages: first is a secret poll in the assembly of the Elder Patriarchs to create a shortlist of candidates, afterwards the list is presented to the Senate where it is subject to a new secret vote at the end of which the candidate with the majority of highest votes is proclaimed Pontifex Maximus. In order to assume the office he must renew his pledge of fidelity to the empire and to the Church on the tomb of Valentia, in front of the assembly of the Elder Patriarchs and of the Senators gathered in the Cathedral of Thyatis in the presence of the Emperor. In this way the state is assured the support of the Church pursue the same intent of its founder. The Church of Thyatis exists to serve Thyatis and not vice versa, and all it’s faithful learn that the ultimate end of the life of a believer is his own sacrifice for the common good, or the survival of the Thyatian state. It can therefore be said that the principal objective of the priests of the Church of Thyatis isn’t so much that of saving the souls of the faithful as that of consolidating the prestige and the power of the empire and controlling the popular consensus.
Given its political importance, it is therefore understandable to discover that the Church has diverse cathedrals and various missions also within the imperial borders, especially in those areas considered crucial for international politics. In these places, the ministers of the cult act more as support for the ambassadors, merchants and the Thyatian spies than they give the missionaries, also since the belief of this religion is hardly embraced by those who don’t belong to the empire. The Church of Thyatis is therefore a national institution that promotes a religious doctrine and philosophy based on lawful moral principles that are précised in the so-called Sacred Pentalogy:
- Fidelity to the State
- Respect of Tradition
- Respect of Immortals
- Respect of Ancestors
- Respect of Neighbours
Fidelity to the State: the Church is firstly loyal to the Empire of Thyatis and to its official representatives, and also therefore to its voting citizens. It’s no accident the highest members of the ecclesiastic hierarchy also have the dual role of senators, a duty that once more recalls how the church embodies the spiritual side of Thyatian politics. This dogma of faith asks the believers to submit to the national authorities and at the will of the Emperor and of the Pontifex Maximus (both political figures and members of the Thyatian state) as chosen by the Immortals among the best and the most worthy (“first among equals”). The gravest sin for a member of the Church of Thyatis is therefore betrayal or lying to a national functionary or to a cleric of the same church, a sin that not only can involve eternal damnation but especially the expulsion from the body of the faithful and the deprivation of the rights of Thyatian citizens, a risk that became unbearable for any good Thyatian. With this dogma therefore the Church asks all the believers to respect the laws and the authority of the functionaries and to place themselves at the total disposition of the state. Martyrdom for the Thyatian cause is therefore the noblest end to which a follower can covet and the start of the path towards saintliness and the insertion in the cult of the Ancestors. It’s no surprise mastery of weapons is therefore spread among the Thyatians, and many faithful feel an obligation to join up in the Thyatian legions in order to serve the motherland and defend it from its enemies or enhance its international prestige, while others prefer to shown their own fidelity to the nation by entering the clergy.
Respect of Tradition: The Church of Thyatis has a vast list of traditions, beliefs and acts considered holy for every follower, precisely catalogued and annotated in the sacred text of the Thyatian faith, the Liber Valentianis or Book of Traditions. The editing of this book had begun in the II century AC by the hand of the Empress Valentia, founder of the church, but in the following centuries it was expanded and reviewed, with the result that it has attained biblical proportions. It remains under the attentive eyes of a select group of theologians, the Keepers of Tradition, which has as its own aim of updating it based on the decisions of the Assembly of Elders and of the Pontifex Maximus, as well as making other copies it can spread through the world.
The most famous and normally most respected traditions are the following: Act with fairness (it is believed that every action of the mortals is noted by the Immortals and that once dead the mortals are judged according to their actions and sent to a heavenly kingdom adapted to their own conduct); Improving the world (since the Thyatians are the best in the world, that is extend to the other cultures the Thyatian culture with every means possible); Honour the feast days (existing days consecrated to the divinity and to the ancestors, during which it is right to cease work for at least a day in order to pray to the patron of the day and make him an offering in exchange for protection); Listen to the Haruspices (every month a group of clerics specialised in interpreting the signs of the Immortals proposes a prophecy or an augury that pertains to the empire, and every faithful is invited to meditate on the augury in order to understand if he has in some way an important part to fulfil in order to realise it).
Respect of Immortals: The Church is not devoted to one Immortal in particular but has among its principal precepts that of worshipping and respecting all the Immortals considered “protectors” of Thyatis, that is the Immortals who promote doctrines and ideas used for the growth and to the welfare of Thyatis (thus not subversive to the eyes of the Thyatian priests and politicians) and that according to the doctrine of the church have interceded in the past in order to protect or aid the Thyatians. Currently the pantheon of Immortals recognised by the Church of Thyatis comprises the following 16 Immortals (listed in order of seniority, from the first until the most recent): Vanya, Tarastia, Asterius, Valerias, Khoronus, Tiresias, Vulcan (Wayland), Odin, Thor, Solarios (Ixion), Ilsundal, Kagyar, Koryis, Idraote, Carnelian and Patura.
The Church foresees only one way through which an Immortal can be considered worthy of veneration by part of the faithful and admitted among the protectors of Thyatis: the ritual of the Evocatio. Through the Evocatio, the Church recognises the divine power of a being and the fact that this has manifested itself within the territory of the Empire in order to bring profit and glory to Thyatis. In order to be able to enter into the ceremony of the Evocatio, it is necessary to satisfy five prerequisites:
- Obtain from one of the Prophets or of the priests with higher authority the permission of building a temple to his divinity within the imperial borders (permission that is granted usually after a month during which the petitioner is questioned by a group of theologists in order to comprehend what are his intentions and those of his religion)
- invoke the divine power of the Immortal in front of a throng of witnesses (usually by a council of gathered theologians)
- The cult must achieve some worthy service in the struggles of the Church or of the state of Thyatis, and this service must be made possible by virtue of the divine powers granted by the Immortal
- The cult must show that it has at least a hundred followers within the Empire borders
- The ministers of the cult must come to an agreement in order to nominate a high patriarch who officiates at the ceremony of the Evocatio together with the Pontifex Maximus. Once that all five of the conditions are satisfied, the patriarch of the cult is admitted to the presence of the Pontifex, who sifts the information presented by the special Council of Augures in regard of the divinity in question, and decides if to proceed with the Evocatio if he thinks that the cult of that particular Immortal agrees with the principles of the Church of Thyatis. The ritual is held in public in the Great Cathedral of Thyatis and concelebrated by the Pontifex and by the patriarch of the tolerated Immortal, after which this Immortal was considered benevolent for the empire and its clerics can (if they desire it or require it) enter into the ecclesiastic hierarchy of the Church of Thyatis.
Naturally there exist many independent temples that worship one or more Immortals who are already numbered among the Protectors of Thyatis without belonging to the Church: these temples are naturally left free on their own initiative, even if they are closely and discreetly monitored. Other cults instead have never asked to be tolerated within the Church since they don’t share much of its doctrine, even if they continue to peacefully coexist with it on the imperial land (for example the followers of the more chaotic Korotiku and Tyche).
Finally the Church of Thyatis combats the cults of those Immortals considered bringers of destruction and misery (that is Thanatos, Orcus, Alphaks and Hircismus), or that can hinder the empire (like Alphatia, Palartarkan and Razud, notorious protectors of rival Alphatia, and Saturnius, patron of pirates and rebel slaves), and these cults are banned and persecuted as heretics by the more intransigent members of the Church, which frequently demands the support of the political and military institutions in its fight against the proliferation of heresies. It is necessary however to emphasise that although the cult of Alphaks (an Immortal known for its anarchic and destructive tendencies) has been banned in the imperial territories, frequently this Immortal attracts the sympathy of the more nationalistic extremists, who appreciate his doctrine of anger and hate directed, by his followers, against Thyatis’s greatest enemy – the Alphatian Empire.
Respect of Ancestors: The Church of Thyatis is also distinguished for a special veneration that it maintains in the struggles of the ancestors and of some particularly important figures in Thyatian history considered Saints. The difference between a saint and an Immortal is modest: if an individual during his life shows he has completed proven acts of incredible power that has brought substantial benefits to the cause of Thyatis, that on his death can become a saint (enough that a priest of the church presents a documented demand to the Council of Augures) and his worship belongs to the cult of the ancestors. If afterwards, from the cult of the ancestor a true faith rises in which the ministers demonstrate they receive divine powers from the ancestor, he can be recognised Immortal and with the ritual of the Evocatio is numbered among the Protectors of Thyatis (like in the successful cases of Idraote, Carnelian and Patura). Now the holiness of the figure of Liena (in the world Aline Sigbertsdottir, mother of the Emperor Thincol I Torion) has been recognised thanks also to the intercession of her son, and the procedures for proving her divinity have been started. It’s not surprising that the cult of the ancestors is spread through all the social layers of the Thyatian population, since any individual has an illustrious ancestor to which he depends on daily for the protection of his family and future. The difference between the veneration of an ancestor and that of a saint is that frequently the saints have made and continue to grant miracles that elevates him above normal ancestors (so much that whoever numbers a saint among his ancestors is admired and respected by his peers), even if the cult is directed by simple faithful and not by real clerics (since it still isn’t a divinity).
Respect of Neighbours: The Church of Thyatis asks its faithful to respect the neighbour in the largest sense of the obligation, that is to avoid harassing or irritating their neighbours, avoid impolite displays or of having prejudices based on sex, and finally lend aid to its own townsmen when it’s formally asked for. The church enforces a sense of the respect of the privacy and at the same time of mutual solidarity to the faithful, a solidarity that nevertheless doesn’t necessarily extend to members of other religious denominations nor of other nationalities. On this the Church is extremely explicit: whilst it does oblige its faithful to mutually help and respect each other, in conflicts with foreigners this obligation drops and the behaviour is totally at the discretion of the individual (it being understood that he must always attempt to be friendly and demonstrate the superiority of the Thyatian culture).
The clergy of the Church of Thyatis wear habits of different styles according to their role, but all are obliged to openly show the holy symbol of the church, that is the blue imperial eagle encircled by a crown, which holds between its talons two lightning bolts, to symbolise the power of the Pontifex and that of the Emperor.
The Acolytes (clerics that still haven’t taken the vow of fidelity to the Church and/or have still not received spells, usually youngsters who study the dogma of the faith and carry out the more arduous and routine tasks) wearing a brown, long-sleeved robe that covers the ankles, a pair of leather boots, and the symbol of the church embroidered on the chest.
The real Clerics wear leather ankle boots and dress in a similar robe but of white colour, with a brown sash around the waist and with the holy symbol embroidered on the chest and back. The several clerical orders within the Church of Thyatis can be distinguished based on the function that each order carries out for the cult and nation. Some of them (the more important) are the following: Haruspices (tasked with studying the future and make forecasts through oracles, omens, dreams and visions), Hospitaliers (experts of medicine, childbirth and healing, studying disease and the human body and seeking healing methods based on magic, alchemy and herbalism), Guardians (clerics devoted to the protection of certain places or holy icons, as well as of important personalities of the empire), Itinerants (priests that live their life without a fixed abode, attempting to execute the will of the Immortals everywhere the Church and the state decides to send them or they feel called there), Militants (the armed branch of the Church, usually trained to fight at the side of the soldiers or for discovering and destroying heretics and cultists that threaten the empire), Missionaries (priests who only operate outside the borders of the Thyatian hinterlands, usually assigned to a fixed task in some temple or embassy, or as agents for affairs of state), Tanatologists (assigned to the procedures of preservation and internment of the deceased, to funereal rites and to the study of the necromantic practices in order to control and destroy the undead) and Theologians (students of the holy writings, of the dogma of the faith and of the Thyatian history, usually in service in temples in which they act as scribes or teach the acolytes, or tasked with examining the lives and work of certain historic characters in the journey of sanctification, or finally advisers of high prelates or judges in public or religious processes and procedures of Evocatio).
The Curates (clerics of at least 5th level with the task of governing and administering a Curia, that is a district of about 1,000 persons, or a Temple, that is a community that contains more than 1,000 faithful or has a cathedral) instead wear a white robe with the hems of the sleeves gilded, a purple sash around the waist and possesses a silver ring engraved with the holy symbol of the faith. The Prophets (clerics of at least 7th level with the task of supervising and coordinating the operations of all the temples and the curias of every Thyatian province or fief, place in or remove from office the Curates and pay particular attention to the activities of the other cults and to the rise of possible heresies) wear a black tunic with gold embroidery, a white sash and a silver sceptre at the waist, a golden medallion with the symbol of the church around the neck and a ring with his monogram on his finger.
The Elder Patriarchs (members of the Assembly of the Elders and tasked with directing the religious life, the common activities of the clergy, elect the Prophets and maintain the relationships with all the other faiths and temples present within the empire) wearing instead a long red silk robe with a white sash around the waist, the golden medallion with the holy symbol around the neck, a ring with his monogram on his finger and a golden sceptre.
Finally the Pontifex Maximus (supreme head of the Church, the one who mediates the relations between the state and the clergy and occupies himself in maintaining the relations with other states and instituting missions outside of the Empire, as well as electing the Elders and instituting the procedure of the Evocatio) is always rigorously dressed in white, a bejewelled tiara on the head, the golden amulet with the symbol of the church around the neck, the Pontiff Ring (relic of the Empress Valentia) on his finger and holding a knotty staff.
It is necessary to underline that the Church of Thyatis doesn’t have any sexist or racist prejudices and accepts without impediment both men and women of every race and social class, even if it enforces a strict rule about the separation of the housing between members of both sexes. However civil unions are tolerated between members of the Church, which doesn’t impose any religious ethics as far as regards marriage, nor celebrates particular rituals on these occasions (unlike the funeral, which must be performed according to a pre-established rite), limiting them to follow the civilian canon in things.