Holiday Musings, Part the Second

Back in December, I promised a post on religion in my world and how it affects Edward Red Mage’s life. It’s taken me a while (because Reality) but here it is.

Life in the kingdom of Belerin revolves around the observance of established religion. Everything from the calendar to commerce to politics is bound up with it. Even the authority of the king rests on his descent from a sacred bloodline. Eleven supernatural beings created this world and may appear (if they so desire) in a distinct human-like form. The elf clans refer to these entities as gods and goddesses. The ruling Easterners call them Archangels, to distinguish them from the distant and unknowable One God that rules over the others and gives them their power. Each rules over some part of creation:

  • Orion created the world itself and is patron of miners, builders, and masons
  • Marina created the moon and the oceans and rules over the sea, weather, and tides
  • Tannis created most plants, trees, and herbs. She is patron to healers and midwives
  • Muriel created aquatic life and is known as the Mother of Mermaids
  • Ariel created birds and is patron of music and singing
  • Auric created metals and gems. He taught humanity metalworking and weaponcraft, and is the patron of warriors
  • Cyprian created edible plants: grains, fruits, and vegetables. He taught agriculture, cooking, and brewing to humanity
  • Gabriel, known as The Wise, taught humans to speak, read and write, as well as other arts not taught by other Saints. He is patron of scholars and wizards
  • Phoebe created the beasts of field and forest and is their protector
  • Morganna, called the White Lady, judges the souls of the dead
  • Dana is the Queen of the Archangels and created the first humans. She also fell in love with a human, and among their descendants are the kings of Belerin

The calendar of Belerin contains ten regular months, each dedicated to an Archangel, and one irregular span of five to six weeks known as the End Days[1], devoted to the Archangel Dana, her human consort, and their son. During the End Days, killing animals for food is forbidden, though the eating of preserved meats is permitted for special occasions. Religious occasions, of course. Although every citizen of Belcamp is expected to participate in certain official rituals, such as the End Days, one’s private devotions often depend on one’s occupation. For example, a fisherman might pray to Marina, who rules the wind and tides, or to Muriel, who created fish.  As the inventor of beer, Saint Cyprian is worshiped publicly at the Snake and Egg. Sadie the tavern-mistress maintains an altar to him near the front door, and will arm-twist Eddie into dressing as his avatar for seasonal pageants. No, Eddie does not appreciate the attention, but he does appreciate the free drinks.

Humanity being what it is, of course, even the tangible existence of their gods doesn’t stop people from screwing religion up. Souls in this world re-incarnate and evolve, from the basic unconscious life-force of plants, to the spirits of animals, to the complexity of human souls. Each reincarnation teaches the evolving soul necessary lessons; but many humans are quick to say that reincarnation is a system for punishment or reward. Especially those in positions of power. It’s a lot easier to treat the poor badly when you tell yourself they are being punished for something they did in their past life. Temple priests usually emphasize that being incarnated as an Easterner is “higher” than being born an elf. They conveniently overlook or intentionally “forget” that about half of their Archangels physically manifest themselves as elves.

Like all citizens of Belerin, Edward Red Mage spent his entire life surrounded by the symbols and rituals of religion, as established by the Temple. He draws power to cast spells from his faith, and invokes the Saints in his magical workings. At the opening of the first book, he hadn’t had cause to question his beliefs, or the interpretation of scripture he grew up with.

Yet.

 

[1] Very early on in my world-building, I was inspired to make the time roughly corresponding to November and December a cultural “liminal space,” a time seemingly separate from ordinary reality, when everything is slightly more intense and off-kilter. Anyone who has worked retail in the United States during the so-called “Holiday Season” will understand my motivation.

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