Religion in Daily Life

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Birth

When an infant is first born into the world, their parents or guardians have seven days to name the child. Typically, the parents will invite family and close friends to the Naming, including two unrelated individuals (both to the child and to one another) to serve as Compater and Commater, the child’s spiritual mentors who agree to raise the child should both natural parents die before they reach adulthood. The Naming takes place at a Temple to Alcyoneus the Yul, where it is readily available, or at the local Parish Temple regardless of deity if not. For this reason, Hospitals of Taygete the Bringer, goddess of childbirth often include an attached Temple to the Yul or, at least, a shrine that can be used for Naming ceremonies. At this ceremony, the child’s name is announced and offerings of dill are burned to Alyconeus to see the child grow healthy and hale. The Compater and Commater then swear an oath to their own patron deities to see to the child’s spiritual development and swear to adopt them should both parents die before the child reaches the age of majority. Once the Naming is complete, an infant is considered a “person” with a soul and certain (very limited) rights. An infant who is stillborn or dies prior to their Naming is not considered to possess a soul and, therefore, not accorded the usual burial rites. Indeed, most stillborn infants are cremated and the ashes disposed of unceremoniously (those parents who insist on going through a Naming ceremony for a stillborn child are generally considered to be inappropriately emotional, though there are no legal or religious sanctions for doing so).

Those infants who are born without undergoing a Naming ceremony are believed to become the province of Themis, God of Mischief, who encourages the infant to be troublesome and irreverent to authority. Even if the Naming takes place, the parents of a child who grows to be particularly vile or rebellious are presumed to have angered Alcyoneus in some way, leaving the child to the influence of Themis.

Soon after the Naming ceremony (if not during), the nearest Temple of Veritas the Heartbinder or Tempus Hoarbeard (or both!) is notified of the time and day of birth (either in writing or by someone chosen to deliver the information under oath).

Dedication

Prior to the age of Dedication (around thirteen for boys, twelve for girls), children are assumed not to be capable of independent decision and, therefore, immune from the tallies of virtue and vice by Cthos. Once they have reached the appropriate age, the child is brought before a local Parish Priest and he asks the child what deity he chooses as his Patron. Though his parents may be present for the ceremony, they are not permitted to speak for the child or urge him on in any way, so most priests prefer to conduct this part of the ceremony in private. If the child chooses to respect all the gods equally (or chooses no Patron Deity), he is declared then and there by the Priest to the child’s parents and no further ceremony is necessary: the child is now considered an adult and responsible for his or her own actions.

If the child does choose a Patron Deity, the parents are then expected to take him or her to a Temple of that deity for the appropriate Rite of Dedication within a year and a day (and woe to parents whose child chooses an uncommon or proscribed deity in their nation). The Rite of Dedication varies wildly from deity to deity, but often includes some test of the child’s devotion to the deity or a skill considered particularly devout by the Church. For example, a child who chooses to dedicate himself to Betshaba the Wavequeen must show some skill at tying knots, while a child undergoing the Rite of Dedication to Kratos Steelhand must best a peer undergoing Dedication in physical combat (usually wrestling). Once the child has satisfied the attending Priest, he is officially accepted into the Church of that deity and is considered an adult.

Upon Dedication, the child may choose a new name or secondary name for themselves (or, in some Churches, have one chosen for them) and now has the right to use a surname. Unlike their given name, the surname may vary depending on circumstance or occupation throughout life, particularly if the person is of common birth. Bellatores are expected to use the name of their noble house as a surname. Oratores may choose to use a surname, particularly Low Clergy, but are also expected to use ‘of’ followed by their deity’s name (or a prominent demigods in service to their Patron Deity).

Children who do not undergo Dedication for any reason within a year and a day of coming of age are considered to be a Theist, which may restrict their access to various services and rites in various Churches, though rarely does it result in penalty or apostasy (unless, of course, they later commit a religious crime in the eyes of that Church worthy of such a penalty).

Throughout adulthood, a person may choose to change their Patron Deity, undergoing a new Rite of Dedication after close examination by a priest of the new Church (and, in some cases, permission from the Church of their previous Patron Deity). Second and subsequent Rites of Dedication are often more severe for such an adult than it would be for a child; someone choosing Kratos as their new Patron Deity will at least be required to win a fight with edged weapons and may be required to fight to the death with a fellow Dedicant. Upon passage of a new Rite of Dedication, the adult is considered spiritually cleansed of their previous life and almost always takes on a new name to symbolize this change. Some secular governments even consider passage of a Rite of Dedication to cleanse the individual of previous secular crimes, usually when the Rite of Dedication was conducted to induct the individual into the Church of the nation’s Patron Deity.

Once the Rite of Dedication is complete, the nearest Temple of Veritas the Heartbinder or Tempus Hoarbeard is notified of the name of the Dedicant (including their previous name if they are already an adult), their residence and, if a Patron Deity was chosen, the Temple to which they are considered a member.

Courtship and Betrothal

Courtship rituals vary wildly across Baltheron, from Church to Church, region to region and even village to village. That said, there are some commonalities, particularly among those people influenced by the domination of the Great Empire. The courtship process itself falls generically under the auspices of Erato the Redheart, God of Love, though most Churches have their own courtship procedures conducted in conjunction with Eratan traditions or supplanting them entirely.

Courtship among nobility and those wealthy craftsmen who try to emulate them tends to be a highly ritualistic affair in most regions. Legally, a father (or widowed mother) has the legal right to accept or deny a potential marriage of his child and betrothal is common practice, used to cement political and mercantile alliances alike. In most human regions, a father is not allowed to betroth a child until they have completed the Rite of Dedication. Typically, a betrothal is entered into as part of a larger treaty or agreement between the fathers of the potential groom and bride, with a date set, conditions of the dowry detailed (including whether and how the husband may make use of the dowry) and other associated agreements settled upon. In some cultures, it is appropriate for a groom and bride-to-be to meet prior to the formal signing of such a betrothal, but more conservative regions tend to find this unnecessarily sentimental. Under Imperial law, marriage is a contract like any other and love between the couple is considered secondary, where it is considered at all. That said, the vast majority of Imperial faiths will not conduct a marriage if both bride and groom do not give consent, though if one of the couple does give consent and the other does not, the father of the former may sue the latter for breach of contract.

In the past century, particularly in Narbonne and those cultures influenced by them, this separation of love and marriage among the nobility has lead to the concept of Courtly Love. Ideally, Courtly Love essentially includes all aspects of courtship except for actual sex (though, in practice, it often crosses that line). Courtly Love is particularly popular among worshipers of Vortumnus the Glorious, who are prohibited from extra-marital sex and generally discouraged from sex outside of the need for procreation. More than a few troubadours sing tales of young knights who fall hopelessly in love with another man’s wife and either consummate that love and betray their liege or die tragically having never known the touch of their beloved. That Courtly Love can be expressed regardless of the gender of the two individuals involved has lead many to accuse the Narbonnais of habitual homosexuality (an accusation that is not entirely unwarranted… homosexuality, particularly between men, tends to be more accepted in Narbonne than in most regions).

Conversely, courtship among commoners tends to be substantially less structured and courtship is more often between two people who fall in love than not. Even slaves a measure of freedom in this regard and Masters who interfere with or try to force marriage on a couple are generally condemned by most Churches, particularly the Church of Ladon Stronghands. It is still traditional for the families to meet and the head of each household to sort out a dowry, but in the end, if a father refuses to allow his child to marry, there is really no legal recourse to prevent the marriage from taking place. Indeed, in most regions, a couple needn’t actually marry in a Church (particularly if they are both Theists) and are considered married after living together for a length of time (usually five to seven years). As with nobility, consent of both parties is required and, as an individual is not considered able to give full consent until after they have undergone the Rite of Dedication, minor may not wed.

Most celebratory holidays (as opposed to reverent or national holidays) include some means to encourage young men and women to mingle and begin or continue a courtship. In particular, St. Michael’s Day, a holiday in late summer dedicated to St. Michael the Archer, encourages young men and women to exchange heart-shaped wreaths with those they have a fondness for and are encouraged to confess any secret love to the object of their affection. While public displays of affection are frowned upon in most regions, private affection is rarely proscribed legally.

Sexual intercourse outside of marriage is discouraged even during courtship, particularly for women, and in some strict regions outright proscribed. Among the followers of Lord Ptharos, sex is reserved for procreation and, therefore, should be limited to marriage regardless of gender. Among other Churches, sex out of wedlock is generally viewed as something to be warned against or a minor sin for which atonement is relatively minor. On the other extreme are the worshipers of Selene the Vermillion, who view sex as an act of piety and encourage it as often as possible (except, ironically, for pay… prostitution is severely proscribed by the Church of Selene). In secular law, those found guilty of adultery are typically fined.

Marriage and Divorce

As with Courtship, marriage traditions vary wildly, even within the same culture. The marriage ceremony itself falls generally under the auspices of Fides the Oathbinder (and the patron deity of one or both of the people being married), while the state of marriage is the purview of Veritas the Heartbinder.

Regardless of social status, marriage is almost universally expected to be between a man and a woman, monogamous and carry the expectation of bearing offspring. There are some exceptions, of course. In regions dominated by Erato the Redheart, homosexual unions are possible, if very rare (and often not formally recognized by the state). Worshipers of Himere the Poet have relatively loose rules on monogamy (though rarely do they support outright bigamy). Those who follow Selene, the Vermillion, often avoid marriage altogether or, at most, prefer Common Law marriages. These arrangements, however, tend to be highly localized and are often not recognized under secular law.

The central significance of marriage under secular law in most regions influenced by Imperial Law concerns itself with inheritance and bearing offspring. In most regions, an adult child who is unwed when the head of the household dies may not inherit anything from his father’s estate (inheritance would be split between the widow (if any), the remaining married sons or the heads of household of his siblings’ homes). A man who is wed but has sired no children when his parent dies is entitled to only half a share of his inheritance. Of course, there are exceptions and variations to this… a child of noble blood may have his titled held by a regent until he is of the Age of Dedication, until he is wed or, rarely, when his first child is born. Needless to say, the male children of an ailing parent have a great deal of social pressure to get married and begin producing offspring, particularly among the nobility. The higher in status an individual is, the greater this social pressure becomes; nations have devolved into outright civil war when a sovereign proves themselves incapable of siring an heir.

The marriage ceremony itself is typically composed of five stages (though, again, specific traditions vary wildly):

  • The Declaration: The groom and his family travel to the home of the bride and her family and both families formally greet one another, symbolizing the union of the two families. The bride and groom each declare their intent to marry and each announces that they are doing so willingly and without reservation. The two families enter the home of the bride’s family and break bread with them. In some regions, the groom’s family must bring food to share as well, though under strict Imperial tradition, the groom’s family is expected to feed the bride’s, symbolizing the bounty the groom and his family brings to the union. In very rare circumstances, such as when the bride is of higher station than the groom, only her family supplies the food for this meal (and it is often considered slightly emasculating to the groom and his family to do so). Traditionally, a drink of milk and honey is served at the Declaration meal to symbolize fertility and health for the new couple.
  • The Sacrifice: After the Dedication meal, both families follow the bride and groom in a procession to the temple where the couple will Vow, carrying with them a sacrifice appropriate to the deity of the temple they will be married at. These processions can be brief, as when the bride’s home is down the lane from the temple, or very long… some noble marriage processions may take days for the wedding party to travel from the manor of the bride’s family to the temple where they are to say their vows. Upon arrival at Temple, the couple is expected to give sacrifice to both the deity under whom they will be wed and Fides the Oathbinder. Podalirius the Gnarled Man, god of agriculture, typically requires a sheaf of grains or other plant harvested in his name by the groom or both the groom and bride. Where Fides has exclusivity over the union (such as when two Theists are being wed), the couple each cut the other’s palm with a sharp blade and their mingled blood is poured into a censer, which is then burned. The sacrifice is almost always conducted on the steps of the temple or, at least, before the entrance and most temples have a raised censer or other apparatus appropriate for giving sacrifice during a wedding.
  • The Vows: Once Sacrifice is given, the presiding priest will ask a series of questions to the bride and the groom in turn, appropriate to the focus of the deity he represents. Regardless of the moral questions asked, the priest will ask each directly to swear that each has come to marry with an open heart, under no coercion and willing. After accepting their vows, the priest may give a sermon related to marriage, during which all in attendance are expected to stand and be respectful of the proceedings, even if they do not consider the deity their patron. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the bride and then the groom will recite vows (either that they have written or specific to the deity) while giving one another some token to symbolize their union (rings and armbands are common). The priest will then conclude by asking those present to vow to support and defend the marriage they have witnessed. Needless to say, it is considered in poor taste not to make such a vow (and unlucky for the bride and groom).
  • The Acknowledgment: Once the Vows are complete, guests who are not immediate family congratulate the newly-wed couple as they begin to move towards an area set up for the wedding feast, usually giving advice and small gifts to the couple as they proceed. Blessings from the elders of the community are particularly important and it is considered a grave slight not to invite a community elder to attend the Vows and Acknowledgment. In rural settings, ‘elders’ includes the eldest and most prominent members of the community, while among nobles it typically includes the nobles of the region or those associated with both families… in a royal wedding, every noble in the nation (and a few prominent ones from other nations) can expect to receive an invitation. It is absolutely essential that the noble to whom the groom (and, often, the bride’s family) owes fealty to be invited specifically. Gifts are only expected from those of higher station, so it is considered a major slight for a royal to receive a gift from anyone at their wedding. Typically, the noble to whom the groom owes fealty will gift the couple with the wedding feast. Once the bride and groom reach the wedding feast, they take their seats first (even before nobles of higher station) and eat and drink and dance well into the night. At some point during the wedding feast, the bride’s father presents the dowry to the new couple, listing off each piece of the dowry and, for personal objects, displaying each item for all present to see.
  • Consummation: At some point during the wedding feast, the bride and groom are expect to steal away to consummate the marriage. In most regions, this is done discretely, but in some regions and faiths, the bride and groom are carried to their wedding bed by their guests and some of the elder women actually remain in the bedchamber to offer advice and cheer the couple on as they consummate their marriage.

Under secular, Imperial Law, the Vows and the Consummation are the only two stages of the wedding ceremony to be absolutely essential for a marriage to be considered legal.

Marriage is usually considered a sacred vow and, as such, is not casually dissolved. A marriage may be annulled (which is to state the original marriage contract was void) only if the bride is found to be pregnant at the time of marriage by someone else, the couple fail to consummate the marriage, either were not of the Age of Dedication when they wed, either was coerced into marriage (extraordinarily difficult to prove) or the couple was found to be closely related (typically, this is the immediate family… brother-sister or parent-child marriages are prohibited, even if the relationship was by adoption). In some regions, an annulment may be granted in situations where conception has not occurred after a specified period of time, usually a year and a day (even so, if it is known prior to the wedding that either party is unable to sire children, an annulment will not be granted for childlessness). Divorce is typically only possible in cases where one spouse attempted to kill another (mere beating is insufficient), a spouse is habitually unfaithful (usually, offspring resultant from their unfaithfulness must be produced as evidence) or through ‘apparent demise’ by one of the spouses (typically requiring a period of five to ten years during which no one has heard from the missing spouse). If a divorce or annulment is granted, the former wife is expected to return to the household of her father (if he is still alive) and may take her dowry with her (or the equivalent thereof… hence the importance of displaying the dowry to others during the Acknowledgment… they are potential witnesses!).

Retirement

After a long life of service and labor, the aged generally may retire or enter the clergy as monachus. According to the Creed of Truth, the primary holy book of Lord Ptharos, a person is expected to work until they grow infirm or reach three score and ten years of age, after which they are expected to retire regardless of their health to make way for their children by retiring.

Typically, retiring is a secular, legal process by which the retiring person draws up a contract with their heirs (usually their children) where inheritance is passed on in return for a sometimes very specific pension to last the duration of the retiree’s life. For example, the son of a retired man may be contractually obligated to maintain a home for the retiree, provide food, a small bit of coin and a new set of clothing each season or each year. Essentially, the retiree is thereafter considered ‘deceased’ in terms of inheritance, though if the inheritor fails to live up to his end of the contract, the inheritance may be repossessed. The local lord who adjudicates the case, however, is motivated to instead charge a fine to the wayward inheritor and enforce the contract rather than have someone infirm or aged attempt to resume their feudal obligation. Retirement must be approved by the local lord and secular law usually only allows for retirement where a person is proven to be infirm or seventy years of age and has an inheritance to pass on. Without an inheritance to pass on, retirement is rarely permitted, though some particularly beneficent lieges may take on the pension of a retiree themselves, particularly for a common man who has served them faithfully throughout their life. Retirement is almost exclusively used by agricultural peasants and urban freemen; nobles rarely retire, though there are some situations (usually also involving infirmity) in which a noble may retire, becoming an adviser to their heir.

Alternatively, some choose to take up the cloth and enter the monachus in their old age. Each Church has their own method for becoming a monk, though even in martial sects the process is often easier for those entering the monachus as a means of retirement. Upon becoming a monk, the individual is considered ‘deceased’ in terms of inheritance and, in most regions and faiths, in terms of marriage as well. Essentially, becoming a monk requires the individual to ‘marry’ their god and this is usually the one socially-accepted means of achieving a divorce outside of extreme circumstances. It is not uncommon for a couple who reaches old age to both enter the monachus at different monasteries, living apart for the remainder of their lives. Unlike retirement, a person may become a monk at any time in their life, though a peasant who does so must pay chevage to his liege for permission to leave his service and any inheritors must pay heriot to the liege as if the monk was deceased. Most who chose to take up the cloth as monachus are wealthy freemen or nobles, in part because literacy is usually a requirement for becoming a monk and some churches require a sizable donation to ensure peasants and criminals are not taking up the cloth in an attempt to avoid their responsibilities.

Death

When a person dies, it is believed that their soul becomes separated from the body but lingers near the body for up to three days in a state of confusion while awaiting the arrival of one of the Ishemud. The Ishemud, entital servants of Pavor Longshanks, god of travel, then guide a willing soul to the Palace of Nugarath to have their lives accounted and judged by Cthos the Doomsayer. During these three days, the mortal relatives or friends of the deceased hold a wake, during which the body is on display for family and visitors to pay respects and scripture appropriate to the patron deity of the deceased is read by a guardian (either a priest, a member of the family or member of the community who has volunteered for this sacred duty). The guardian also ensures no harm comes to the body, either by those seeking to pilfer jewelry or vermin seeking a meal. During the wake, all mirrors in a household are covered or removed, as it is believed that the soul may become distracted by the reflection therein and become trapped in the mortal realm as a ghost. On the third day of the wake, the body is taken to the grave and buried on consecrated ground as a ceremony appropriate to the patron deity of the deceased is conducted. Those believed to be damned, particularly criminals, are not buried on consecrated ground. It is believed that those who have committed particularly horrible deeds and have been executed for them are already under the sight of Cthos and the Ishemud have no difficulty finding them and dragging them before the Doomsayer for judgment. And, of course, the corrupted soul may damage or undo the consecration of the graveyard, if their deeds in life were sufficiently horrible. Once the body is buried the person’s shadow is released and, some believe, may then roam the world. To most humans, the shadow is seen as an entity distinct from the body, mind and soul. Lingering somewhere between light and darkness, a person’s shadow is deeply feared by undead, demons and some lycanthropes, which is one of the many reasons such creatures prefer to be active at night, when a person’s shadow is weaker or disappears altogether (as when in pitch darkness). The Path of Apotropaism relies heavily on this theory, with some rituals bolstering and reinforcing a shadow’s repugnance to creatures of darkness.

Every step of the funeral tradition is intended to avoid the very real threat of the deceased becoming undead, either rising from the grave to take vengeance on those it feels wronged it or wandering as a ghost, unable to pass on to their final judgment. Though becoming undead is relatively rare and the conditions under which it occurs are inconsistent, it is still the sacred duty of the family and community to ensure the deceased is handled respectfully and buried properly. And, of course, these traditions are self-serving as well… the family and community are often the first targets of a vengeful, restless ghost!

Upon arrival of the Ishemud, the soul of the departed must choose whether to pass on with them to their judgment or remain in the mortal world. Most souls choose to pass on, even those who fear judgment, but some few with strong emotions concerning unfinished business may remain, desperately trying to find a way to finish that business as an incorporeal entity. Most such ghosts linger in the Nether, a dreary, empty dimension of lost souls unable to pass on or who have been consigned to wait for entry into the afterlife by Cthos. To interact with the moral world as a ghost, a soul must be able to focus the strong emotions that prevented them from passing on. Most scholars who study such things believe it is easiest for a ghost to be seen repeating actions it considered significant in its mortal life. Moving small objects or making footfalls is believed to be more difficult and a full-on manifestation where the ghost speaks more difficult yet. The ability to interact with the mortal world and the length of time a ghost may manifest seems to be related to the depth of emotion and their experience as a ghost. This is why the freshly departed are rarely able to manifest, while ancient ghosts find it more easy to interact with the material realm. Of course, the study of ghosts and other undead tends to fall under the purview of Necromancy, an art that is prohibited in most lands, so most of the generally-known theories are by scholars who have little direct evidence or means to test these hypotheses.

A soul who has agreed to pass on with the Ishemud is brought to the Hall of Judgment in the Palace of Nugarath on Rhadamanthus, where they are brought before the silent gaze of Cthos the Doomsayer and, possibly, the spirits of departed ancestors of the deceased. The heart of the deceased is then weighed by Aridnus the Fair against the Light of Truth. If the heart is found to be weighed down by sin against the patron deity of the soul, the soul is sent to receive punishment in Tophet, to be tortured by demons for all eternity. If the heart is found to be light, the soul is sent to serve their patron deity in a manner appropriate to that deity. Some souls may have committed no great sin nor shown virtue in the eyes of their patron (or else have no patron at all and their lives were lived in such a way as to not attract the attention of a specific deity) and Cthos consigns them to the Nether to wait for a deity to accept them… often, it is believed, such souls never truly find peace. The departed ancestors present may speak for or against the soul of the departed and influence Cthos’ final decision on the soul’s destiny.

Regardless of what happens to the souls of the departed, the Imperials believe that some part of the departed soul is forever aware of the actions of their descendants and family members in the mortal realm and may reach out from the afterlife to subtly influence the fortunes of mortals who please them. Even an ancestor consigned to Tophet may become aware of a family member in the mortal realm, though typically their interactions with the mortal world are born more of rage and jealousy than to provide assistance to their mortal descedant. Of course, other faiths have their own traditions of what transpires after death. The Gaels believe the souls of mortals rejoin a ‘universal spirit,’ their identity and memories mingled in something of a spiritual soup, eventually to be reborn anew in the next generation; those who recall any of their previous life are considered to be strong-willed individuals meant for greatness. Among the Valtanni, it is believed that only those who die on the battlefield may enter the afterlife, where they fight one another in joyous battle during the day and drink in a great mead hall with the gods at night, only to fight again the following day. Dwarves believe their souls are brought directly to Baelthor the Stonehands for judgment and those who have acted properly are granted a place on the walls of the Stone Hall of Wuldagor to guard creation against the demons of Tophet for all eternity.

Animals, it is believed, do not possess souls but instead possess spirits. Their supernatural identity simply dissipates upon death and cannot return as a ghost (nor can animals be brought back from the dead, even by powerful Divine magic). Unfortunately, this theory doesn’t explain how animal ghosts have been reported, though they tend to be relatively rare and that they are usually the ghosts of domestic animals suggest that they are possibly manifestations created by mortals who treasured these animals in their mortal lives. The Gaels believe each animal’s spirit to return to a universal spirit of that animal, a sort of archetypal, universal animal spirit specific to each type of animal (the Gael’s also believe that animals have their own deities that cannot be comprehended by human minds).

Strangely, it appears that elves and orcs are possessed of spirits, not souls. They cannot return as ghosts and are not subject to judgment in the afterlife by the gods.

As a final note, most theologians consider the soul to be a separate entity from the mind and a person’s shadow. Some sentient undead, such as vampires, are believed to possess the mind of the departed, but are not still in possession of that individual’s mortal soul. Therefore, the actions of a vampire do not reflect on the judgment of its soul in the afterlife; this lack is also believed to be the reason that most sentient undead do not cast a shadow… without a soul, a person’s shadow does not remain with the body.

 
This article is part of the Feyworld Sourcebook

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