Friday, July 31, 2020

Religion of the Navigator Houses, Redux (Sunless Horizon)

This is the third post on the religion of the Navigator Houses, and invalidates both previous posts, which will be updated to point here.

Religion is an important part of culture. It connects people, answers questions about the world, and motivates them. This is no different for the Navigator Houses and their religion, Absolutism.

Note: Keter and Pronouns
Keter is referenced with different pronouns depending on the beliefs of the people speaking. To Creationist Heretics, Ghouls, and other groups who believe Keter is an active agent, Keter uses He/Him. To orthodox Absolutists and other groups who see Keter as an unthinking manifestation of the world, Keter uses It/It. Both of these are always capitalized.

Messages From Above

The Creation of the World

First, there was the void.

Next, there was the world, a harsh land of metal. This world is alive - when it is spoken of as a place, it is called Ein Soph. When it is spoken of as a consciousness, it is called Keter.

When the void saw Keter, it became jealous of the new world's light and heat, and began to claw at it. This is why the edges of the world are tattered, and why vacuum is harmful. 

From Keter's body, new life sprang. Plants and animals began to wander through the world, and eventually people joined them. This was the first cycle of Creation.

Eventually, that cycle ended, and the first cycle of Destruction began. The void tore at the world in desperation, and many people walled themselves in vaults, where they still stay to this day. As the cycles turned again, and again, the people who stayed outside changed. This is why people come in so many strange shapes.

The angels appeared later, emerging from Keter's brain. There were two kinds - the angels of Creation, made of flesh, took the reins of civilization, driving it forwards and creating the Houses. These angels are the nobility. The angels of Destruction, made of metal, waited until the next cycle of Destruction, where they began to prune away the mistakes generated during Creation.

Under the guidance of the nobles, the Houses put Keter in chains, restraining Him and keeping his Creation aspect active for far longer than the cycles should last. This let them grow forever, and kept the Disciples docile. This ended with the Retreat, where Keter broke His chains, the cycle turned to Destruction, and the Disciples flowed through the cities of the Houses like water.

Divinity

According to the orthodox form of Absolutism, there are three tiers of divinity - the Saints, the Angels, and the Godhead.

The Saints
There are three saints, each representing one of the Houses' three virtues.

Capra is the first, representing stoicism. Capra was sainted after the destruction of their town - the only two survivors were Capra and the town's Overseer. Capra wandered for 30 days without food or water, surrendering any they found to the Overseer to keep him alive. Capra died, one step from the wall of another city. The Overseer survived.

Ursus is the second, representing sacrifice. Ursus was sainted for killing one of the Seraphim in single combat. Broken and bleeding, they still bowed to his Overseer before their death.

Vulpes is the last, representing vigilance. Vulpes was sainted after reporting a grave discovery - an entire city, under the control of Galatean heretics. The heretics tortured Vulpes, and paraded their flayed body through the city to the joyous screams of all. When the Hierarch's army razed the city, the heretics still cheered.

The Angels
The nobles of the Houses are divine, partially. They are immortal angels, spawned from Keter's brain and sent to be an interface between Keter and the people of the Houses. They hear the desires of the peasants, and whisper guidance to Keter on His path through the void.

The peasant's tithes of money and blood must be harsh because sacrifice is necessary to keep Keter alive and awake. Half the tithe is sent to Keter, so He may rebuild his body. The rest is kept by the nobles - it is needed for them to remake their shells and stay in this material realm.

But they are not the only angels - the nobles spring from the creation aspect of Keter, while the Disciples spring from His destruction aspect. As the aspects trade control, these two groups switch in strength - as the creation aspect takes the throne, the nobles expand, as the destruction aspect takes over, the Disciples become more aggressive. 

The Godhead
Keter is the center of the universe, from which all other things spring. His mind is a lattice of crystal and metal, and His body is the worldship itself. 

He does not think, nor dream. He is empty, and mindless. According to the orthodox, Keter is not a He, but an It. Worthy of care, perhaps, but not of worship. It is the angels who are truly alive.

The Retreat, and Keter's recent violence, are part of a natural cycle. The world goes between Creation (during which the nobles help the Houses grow, and the Disciples wait) and Destruction (during which the nobles help the Houses survive, and the Disciples prune away mistakes). It's not intentional or conscious, it's just the way things are.

The Houses plan to reach the Crown and put Keter in chains, leaving the creation aspect in control permanently. They say they've done this before.


The Soul

Everything has a soul, from the smallest speck of dust to Keter Himself. However, as an object grows more complex, the soul mirrors it - the souls of metal and dust are single, solid forms, unmoving and unchanging. The souls of machines and plants branch and turn. The souls of Disciples, animals, and people are complicated devices, ticking away as they live.

The nobles have grander souls than people - this is why they are immortal. Keter's soul is the grandest of all - it must be, to bear the world itself.

The Shape of the Soul
Everything's soul is the same shape as itself - the soul of a stone is the same shape as the stone, the soul of a person is the same shape as the person. The soul does not want to change - it wants to stay still, inside the body.

This is why you get hurt - when your body changes shape by being cut, or crushed, or burned, the soul cannot change shape to reach it. Some parts of your body, like your heart and brain, are more important to the soul - this is why injuries to them are often fatal, as their changes affect the soul more intensely.

This explains many things to the people of the Houses.

Prosthetics work because they are the same shape as the body part they replace, so the soul enters the prosthetic and moves it like the limb it had before.

You get sick because of wandering fragments of soul, left over from the process of refraction. They attach to yours, desperate to regain their old forms. Your body tries to change its shape to fit this gestalt, and fails, hurting itself. To cure yourself, you must drive away these fragments.

Refraction
Service is rewarded. When you die, the nobles weigh all your deeds. If you have followed the virtues of the Saints, your soul is sent through Keter, emerging from that glass maze changed and shifted, like an image seen through water.

This is refraction - a gift from the nobles, to people who have proved themselves. Every life, you must be found useful, or your soul will be abandoned, lost in the void. There is no room for weakness.

The Void
Outside of the world, there is the void. It is, in a way, alive.

It is nothing but staring eyes and hungering mouths, tearing at the flesh of the world. If it touches you, it will pull the heat and life out of your body in a desperate attempt to feel the life it has been denied. If you fail to be refracted, your soul will be trapped here, forever.

Messages From Within


While the above section is the orthodox way of thinking, it is rarely practiced. The people of the Houses make their own changes, and have their own odd beliefs. These are split into superstitions (small, usually practical ideas, accepted by authority) and heresies (large, spiritual concepts, persecuted by authority).

1d6 Superstitions
  1. The ashes of a great hero will drive away Disciples, as the hero's soul assaults them. 
  2. Search the red salt that grows near some fuel lines, and rub it in wounds. The soul will be tricked into thinking the paste that this creates is your flesh.
  3. A copper spiral will prevent illness - the invading spirits will wander through the spiral and become trapped.
  4. If someone dies in a vacuum, turn them towards the world, or they will never be refracted.
  5. If you touch a noble, they will curse you, and your bones will twist inside your skin until they shatter.
  6. Wear a small figurine of yourself before you go to war. Your soul will be confused, and hide inside the figure. Until your soul returns, you will not feel pain.

1d4 Heresies

Note: it is both possible and common to support multiple heresies at once. This is not a comprehensive list.
  1. The Creationist Heresy - Keter is an active, living agent. He is not a representation of the world, He created it, and all things that live within it.
  2. The Influence Heresy - Keter is an active, living agent. He contacts people to give them commands.
  3. The Embodiment Heresy - Keter is an active, living agent. He exists both as the world and in a discrete, physical body.
  4. The 4th Saint Heresy - There is a fourth saint; what that saint represents varies between different groups.

Messages From Elsewhere

Of course, that is not the only religion of the Houses. As they spread and conquered, they absorbed other peoples, and other religions. Over time, the specifics have melted away, leaving only vague, half-remembered traditions under the umbrella of the Old Ways.

The one reliable fact about the Old Ways is their belief in immanent, non-physical deities - while Absolutism states that the only difference between an object, a person, and a deity is the size of the soul, the Old Ways see hard borders between the three.

Rituals

Rituals, not gods, are the core of the Old Ways. Few people can even agree on which gods exist, and their names, personalities, and myths are fluid and variable. The one thing that stays the same are rituals.

Ritual Generator

Note: Just like the heresies list, neither of these are comprehensive, just options.
1. What does this ritual do?


  1. Assist in the growth of crops.
  2. Protect against diseases and infohazards.
  3. Ward away Disciples.
  4. Guide you home.
  5. Curse someone.
  6. Guarantee Success in war.

2. What does this ritual require?
  1. A staged replication of the event (for a ritual of war, someone may be dressed in the uniform of the enemy, then defeated in mock combat).
  2. A sacrifice of something similar (for a ritual of farming, some of last year's harvest may be burned).
  3. A sacrifice of something different (for a ritual of farming, tokens of metal may be spread throughout the soil).
  4. Roll 1d3, except the action must be far larger (a complex replication, a tremendous sacrifice) and is promised to occur in the future.

Gods

Practitioners of the Old Ways tend to be very syncretic with their gods - if you talk about Lucretia, and it sounds vaguely like someone else's Mondus, the two of you will eventually agree that you're talking about the same god (more or less).

Groups of practitioners tend to come together in communities, which have more particular notions about pantheons and myths.

Generally, there are six, matching with these six focuses.

  1. The void, on the outside of the ship.
  2. Farming and weather.
  3. Engineering and architecture.
  4. Infohazards.
  5. The wilderness and Disciples.
  6. War.

However, this is not always true. If you believe in the gods of the Old Ways, the names, myths, and focuses of your community pantheon are entirely yours to create. 

What Do You Believe?

A single person's religious beliefs are often a synthesis of all three of these categories. When creating a player character or in any situation where a character's religion may be important, consider rolling on the following 1d10 table.

1-6. Orthodox Absolutist.
7. Heretical Absolutist - choose or roll 2 Heresies.
8. Orthodox Ritualistic - believe in no Heresies, but trust in the rituals of the Old Ways.
9. Heretical Ritualistic - choose or roll 2 Heresies, and trust in the rituals of the Old Ways.
10. Paganist - believe entirely in the gods and rituals of the Old Ways.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Sunless Horizon

Sunless Horizon is the most self-indulgent setting I'll ever make, taking inspiration from Veins of the Earth , Axis Mundi , HMS Apolly...