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Faith and Worship in the Republic of Darokin

by Erik Waddell

The Immortals

A great many immortals are honoured by the diverse peoples of Darokin, but certain immortals are more widely honoured than others, as they more closely embody the spirit of the citizens of Darokin. Foremost among the Darokin pantheon is Asterius, immortal patron of Trade, Communications, Wealth, and even Thieves. Almost every native Darokin citizen honours Asterius, particularly before engaging in new business ventures. After Asterius, the other immortals of the Darokin pantheon are Koryis (Peace, Prosperity, and Commerce), and The Twelve Watchers (manufacturing and crafts, labourers). Though Asterius is the chief immortal of the pantheon, Koryis and the Twelve Watchers are honoured in the temples easily as often as is Asterius.

Protius is also part of the pantheon, but is honoured mostly by people living in communities by Malpheggi Bay; his image may not even appear in temples located further inland. Demihumans tend to worship their own Immortal patrons, though many of them also honour the Darokinian pantheon. Dwarves in Darokin tend to worship Garal Glitterlode at least, if not more, often than they do Kagyar. In towns with a significant dwarven population, Garal Glitterlode is even depicted as part of the main pantheon of Darokin immortals.

The Temples

All of the major cities and towns in the Republic have temples dedicated to the Darokin pantheon. Just as the cities and towns of Darokin developed more or less independently, so did the individual temples. There is no central authority governing the temples in Darokin - they do cooperate with one another on an informal basis, but they are independent of each other and like it that way. The Great Merger did have an effect on the temple leaders, however, who followed the example of the merchant houses and gathered in Darokin City for a summit at that time. It was the first time all of the temple leaders had gathered in one place. Though merging the temples into one centralized church was discussed, the option was rejected on the grounds of being against the character of worship in Darokin. However, the newly formed Inner Council expressed an interest in having a spiritual advisor to participate in Council meetings. The temple leaders favoured this idea, and elected one of their number to take over this position. The spiritual advisor to the council is largely an honourary role, offering blessings and prayers prior to the commencement of Council meetings and on holiday occasions. However, the last advisor was able to convince the Council of the importance of establishing wayfarer shrines along the major roads and trails in Darokin - the Council provided the necessary funds to the Temples.

Each temple is responsible for constructing and maintaining these shrines within a certain distance of their hometown. The spiritual advisor to council has no voting power, and is elected by the temple leaders. In general, however, the position is not contested during the election if the incumbent wished to continue in his role.

The summit of temple leaders made one other, very important, decision. It was decided that, although the temples would not integrate into one church, it was desirable to standardize the prayers for all temples. Up until that point, the independent temples had been invoking a vast array of prayers that, though based on a central theme, were different in content (sometimes in large degrees, sometimes small). The temple leaders at the summit made a call to collect every version of every prayer to be found in Darokin. These prayers were then organised and sorted through, then compiled into a single text now common in all temples across Darokin. Though the prayers had been in several different languages (depending on the source of the prayer, and the town in which it was used) it was decided that the new "Book of Prayers" would be written entirely in the Milenian language - which was also to become the common language of the Temples. Milenian was chosen for two reasons: first, a majority of the prayers were originally in the Milenian tongue, as both Asterius and Protius were worshipped by the people of the Milenian Empire. Second, as almost no one outside the temple clerics knows how to read/write/speak the Milenian language, it would allow the temple leaders to keep a firm hold on religious power [this second reason was not broadcast to the people at large].

The temple buildings themselves are generally ostentatious and wealthy - the wealthier the better, in fact, as the immortals of the Darokin pantheon smile upon those who show prosperity and wealth. Temples can be large or small, depending on the size and wealth of the town, but they are always as lavishly decorated as possible. The exterior often boasts friezes, bas-relief sculpture, and even mosaics depicting the immortals of the pantheon. The interior is generally a main, open room dominated by statuary depicting the various immortals (the image of Asterius is always the largest and most prominent, except in Athenos where the image of Protius is equal with that of Asterius). Those who donate money and other forms of wealth (e.g., a gold icon depicting Koryis) receive blessings and prayers commensurate with their donations. As a result, temples are often the beneficiaries of patronage by wealthy local citizens, and are adorned with many valuable art objects and treasures.

As the immortals of the Darokin pantheon appreciate wealth and prosperity, it is believed that they smile more favourably upon those temples, which display great wealth. Despite the temple housing a fair number of valuables, it is rarely necessary for a vigilant guard to be maintained to protect the temple wealth. Asterius, in addition to his more common roles, is also the immortal patron of thieves. As many of the valuables in the temple are icons or images of Asterius, thieves consider the theft and melting-down or resale of these icons as a source of very bad luck for the thief. As the other immortals of the pantheon are housed within the temple devoted to Asterius, the same goes for valuables associated with those immortals. Nevertheless, it would be imprudent of the temples to leave their wealth entirely unguarded. The leaders of the temples are retired clerics, sometimes of high level, and can thus invoke their magical prayers in defense of the temple. In addition, the merchant houses have a vested interest in keeping the immortals happy, and so they provide additional security to local temples when it is needed.

The Clergy

Whereas most clerics in the Known World live lives of simple means, clerics in Darokin, as representatives of wealth and prosperity, are expected to amass as well as display their wealth to the citizens of Darokin. Clerics display their wealth quite openly, as an example of the kind of prosperity honouring the immortal pantheon can bring. Jewelry is common among Clerics, with rings being a particular favourite - one can often tell the rank of a cleric by the quality, value, and number of rings he wears on his fingers. All clerics of the Darokin pantheon wear tunics bearing the common symbol of the temples: a golden disk. Each temple has its own colour tunic, but the colour is a matter of tradition and not something imposed from above. Some temples share the same colour tunic. The quality and type of material out of which the tunic is made is also part of a cleric's display of wealth.

Each temple is administered by a Master, a cleric retired from the world, who spends most of his time on temple grounds ensuring that everything is in order. Assisting the Master are a number of Caretakers - young priests who have yet to complete their training. The Caretakers do most of the physical labour on temple grounds while trying to learn from the Master's example before venturing out into the world. In order to gain levels, Clerics must offer a tithe of 500gp/level. This tithe may be paid in coins, jewelry, or other valuables.

All clerics own a copy of the Book of Prayers, and are proficient in written and spoken Milenian. All of the secrets of immortal magic and prayer are contained within the verses of these prayers, and a cleric acquires new spells by studying the Book of Prayers. When a cleric gains a level, or otherwise learns a new spell, it is a result of divinely granted insight into the power of one or more of the prayers contained in the book.

Faith and Prayer

There are no daily or weekly services performed at the temples which the common citizens are expected to attend. Rather, the faithful visit the temples whenever they have need, and offer their prayers up to the immortals. Wealth is, of course, central to worship in the temples. Those who donate will receive blessings and honours commensurate with their donations. Noble houses often donate large sums to their local temple in return for clerical blessings on their homes, caravans, or goods, or to have a cleric accompany a shipment of goods and help bring the blessings of the immortals on the trip and the potential profits to be made therein. The most common occupation for Darokinian clerics is accompanying caravans across country.

Prayer is conducted in Darokin in a very unique way. When someone wishes to pray to one of the immortals for a blessing, for guidance, or any reason whatever, he goes to the local temple and approaches one of the caretakers. The caretakers fashion and prepare small wooden idols or icons that are sold to worshippers who desire to sacrifice in the temple and thus offer up a prayer to the immortals. These icons are always made of wood, and fashioned to represent in some way the type of prayer being offered (i.e. a small ship for a safe sea voyage, a horse or a cart for swift overland travel). Once the icon is chosen, the cleric consults the Book of Prayers for the correct prayer to use in the particular situation. The Book of Prayers contains a large number of prayers, each one intended for specific circumstances - clerics spend a lot of time getting to know these prayers well, so that they will know which prayer has the best chance of obtaining the desired result. Once the correct prayer is chosen, the cleric copies it onto s piece of paper, which is then rolled up and places inside on onto the small wooden icon. The icon and prayer are then placed in a ceremonial brazier in front of the image of the appropriate god, and then burned while the priest chants the prayer aloud (in Milenian) - this sacrifice carries the prayer up into the immortal realm where it can be heard. [In Darokin City, Corunglain, and other towns along the Streel River, rather than burning offerings in a brazier at the temple, the icons and prayers are sometimes placed in small paper boats, which are placed in the river then set alight as they travel downstream with the current. The boats are treated with special oil that causes them to burn more slowly. A similar practice is common in towns on Lake Amsorak.] A donation is required in order to perform this service, but the clerics at the temple will accept any amount of money (or other valuables) the worshipper is able to offer. Of course, the greater the donation, the finer the craftsmanship in the wooden icon, the more expensive the ink and paper used in recording the prayer, and thus the greater the chance that the prayer will reach immortal ears. In fact, the Book of Prayers contains more than one prayer for each situation. The prayers are more elaborate the higher the donation - thus while the poor are able to make offerings and prayers, it is the wealthy and generous whose prayers stand a much better chance of being heard, and answered.

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Copyright (c) 2000, Erik Norris Waddell. Used by permission. All rights reserved.