Lore & Setting > Other Faiths
There are a few other major faiths beyond the Faith of the Void. Most of them recognize the Hikai and Reiki, but their take on interpretation changes wildly. Here are the most common organized religions that might be encountered in Heibesu (though there are also tribal religions and cults based around the worship of a single Oni).
- The Thousand Paths of Daaria
Most rituals involve dance, music and performing to an extent. Many are in honour of what are perceived to be miracles, be they military or scientific. The Awakening is celebrated every year as the Full Circle Carnival (originating in the Daarian canal city of Benezi), and is a week-long festival of pleasure-seeking and drinking, where all the social rules are inverted.
Temples are where followers gather for rituals, holidays and celebrations. There are quite a few Temples across Heibesu, too. The all-female clergy led by the Matriarch also convenes in the Great Temple of Daaria every now and then.
In the Empire, the Cult of the Thousand Paths is tolerated and widely embraced in some areas already closely affiliated to Yuuriko. It is at such not considered heresy. Because it is a splinter group, however, some Chantry members see its followers as either deluded or Yuuriko fanatics - though one might argue that since Yuuriko is already the head deity of the Chantry, all arguments are really about the role given to other Haiki and Reiki. It is not outlawed in the Empire and its followers are therefore not hunted down.
- Fellowship of Saiah
Many dark centuries followed until the Awakening happened. A strange prophet figure, known as Bazarah, made himself known in Catharia at the time. His powers were unsurpassed, but he used them for the good of Ton'keena kind. He claimed his powers came from Saiah herself, who gifted them to him during the Awakening. He claimed that Saiah would return, one day, to make the world a new Heaven again, but only when all beings would be absolved of the Original Sin that shattered it in the first place. The Reiki are, to these Followers, the manifestation of Saiah's will and power in the world, while Oni are what remain of the souls of sinners, especially Elven or Unseelie ones. At such the Reiki are revered as miracles while Onis are very feared.
Saian theology states that all beings are born sinful - that is prone to disobeying the will of Saiah, usually through abuse of magic or other "Cardinal Sins", amongst them undue wrath, gluttory and lust. This is because all beings fell out of Heaven, and all carry traces of the Original Sin. Only by humbly worshipping Saiah, working hard, fighting in Saiah's name, and spreading and following the teachings of their savior Bazarah, can they be absolved of sin.
Afterlife is called "The Great Slumber". Upon death, each soul is judged and those deemed unworthy of Heaven are turned into Oni. Those that are deemed worthy are said to sleep until the current world becomes Heaven again at an unspecified point in the future. Saiah herself will judge the world and only then those who were saved will be absolved, awoken and be allowed to live in Heaven, while Oni will be cast out and destroyed like the Unseelie were.
The Fellowship of Saiah is considered heretic in the Empire because of the immense rift in worldview and the political influence of the Fellowship itself, and at such is heavily hunted down. They meet in Churches in their homeworld of Catharia, but in the Empire they must hide in underground cabal societies. They have relatively few holidays and rituals to observe, though obviously none of these holidays can be observed in public in the Empire. In Oranda, maybe, though it's also outlawed there. For now.
- Cult of the Ancestors
While they are revered as the Makers of the Shuju races, Dwarves put great emphasis on honouring the traditions of their ancestors, the glory and past achievements of their lineage. They believe that their ancestors join the essence of the planet upon death, the spiritual world, and reappear as spirits, which are probably what the Chantry call Reiki. However they put great importance in upholding their legacy in the physical world, so that the lineage as a whole is strengthened in both planes of existence. Because this form of worship is so personal, afterlife also manifests differently, it is believed, for each individual, but it will be defined by their actions in life and the strength and legacy of their ancestors before them. The worst that could happen is to be reincarnated as an Oni or even worse, a Drow. At best, they could be turned into Reiki - in this respect Cult opinion of afterlife is very close to the Chantry view.
The Cult is a very quiet religion, with very few rituals. However many Dwarves have relics of their ancestors' past, as well as a rock that symbolises their attachment to their home fortress. There are no formal mass gatherings or holidays though within each family, there might be celebrations of gone Ancestors. The only exceptions are Makers' Day, held yearly, which is a celebration of the two common Ancestors of both Dwarven races and is usually an occasion for the whole fortress to drink and feast; and the Pilgrimage, which is often undertaken by Wild Mainland dwarves, and consists of visiting the shrine in the Fortress of Eisenthas. Eisenthas is one of the biggest Dwarf fortresses, and a place of great spiritual importance for all Dwarvenkind. Indeed, this shrine contains the Font of Earth and is said to be the birth place of the Maker. Every few years, an especially honourable Dwarf is allowed to look into it and becomes a Paragon, who gets the immense privilege of ruling over Eisenthas.
The Cult is not usually regarded as a heretic religion - just the Dwarven take on Chantry doctrine, very focused on Hikai of their own elemental affinities. This would not prevent some Inquisitors from waging wars on Dwarves just for that, however...
- Hikaito (Cults of the Four Winds)
Elemental planes are often associated to Hikai by Chantry scholars, but the followers of the Teachings of the Four Winds don't. Instead they see themselves as vessels of energy, parts of a greater cosmic whole that must fulfil the will of the inhabitants of their Elemental Plane - or be cursed into Oni forever. At such they usually strive to follow ideals or missions dictated by their school. The discovery of some elemental planes has the followers of Hikaito in upheaval. They consider these planes their afterlife, though some agree with visiting them, as they are, in the end, but the servants of the inhabitants of these strange places.
Different schools have different focuses, usually considered Planar-given duties. The Fire School focuses on creating work of arts, while the Earth School focuses on survival and practicability. The Air school is one of wanderlust of freedom, and the Water school strives to advance and reform arcanic knowledge. Followers of these schools meet at Monoliths, which usually are located in pretty, enclosed gardens and courtyards. There, Pristresses and Followers pass down oral traditions, for nothing is written and everything happens through tales and practical doing.
Because it deals more with Planes and their inhabitants than actual Hikai, Hikaito is not a form of Chantry worship. However some scholars agree that early forms of Chantry worship may well be based on Hikaito, especially worship to the Mother Figure of the Void, Yuuriko. Some followers of Hikaito do worship Yuuriko more specifically as the Goddess of Magic and of the Void, she who created the planes and even today, maintains the magical link between a Kitsune and their Plane. Grand Mistress Aimiko is often considered the champion of Hikaito as a whole, and strives to understand the Secrets of the Void...
In the Empire, Hikaito is common, protected and in fact somewhat respected as a different form of thinking the world. Persecution might still be possible, though, but is relatively rare. Hikaito was granted specific protections when Kitsune were allowed to settle in Heibesu, and they still stand today, even if some backward Chantry followers do wish they were revoked...
- Church of the Iron Maiden
The Church claims that the world is ruled by "survival of the fittest" : the strong prevail while the weak perish. To the Church, this is an inherent part of life, but it manifests in chaotic, unruly shows of violence and grief. The Church recognizes this rule, but strives to bring harmony and order to it. Such is the Imperative : some are meant to be ruled and others to lead, but only in a way that mutually benefits to both groups : through the upholding and following of rules. The weak must be shown leadership, but mercy. The strong must be shown restraint and compassion. Through balance and harmony, and accepting of one's position according to the Imperative, one's soul can be freed in this world and the next. There is little worship - the Maiden herself is not worshiped, the Imperative is - and at such this Church is more of a spiritual philosophy than a religion in the otherwise understood definition of it.
At such the Church strives to keep balance between the two groups and accordingly its Clergy is split in two : the Servants of the Maidens are typically the more submissive followers. They serve the Templars of the Maiden, the more dominant followers, who lead and defend the Church. The Church is centred around tenets of order and balance, and it is a misconception to think the former group are just slaves : the Templars have as many obligations, by the Imperative, to the Servants as the Servants do to them. A Templar that abuses their Servant can be punished for their misdeeds. At such the Council of the Maiden serves as the actual clergy - Priests of both groups - and often serves as arbiter in courts for such conflicts.
Marriage is a key concept to the Church. A Templar and a Servant are bound together in love, and together they exemplify both sides of the Imperative, in its harmony and order. The Church is highly ritualistic, may it be in the protocols of life in a Monastery, of marriage, or in the general faith expected of followers. Many of this rituals have elements of restraining, lust, pain but also meditation and dance.
Many join to expiate guilt, others in search of hedonistic harmony. Some join to seek protection or leadership, or simply because they seek salvation. It is not necessary to live in a Monastery to be part of the Church (though many like to stay). However, belonging to one is compulsory to be part of either group, and they must go through a test of resolve as balance is not something that can be easily achieved. The test of resolve is also ritualistic : the new follower is assessed in their position in the group, and becomes an Aspirant of either main group. It can take weeks or months before an Aspirant is accepted into either group, for the responsibilities that come with life as a Servant or Templar are not trivial.
There is no ruling on this cult yet, but many consider it heresy because it is said to have Drow connections and because it does not worship any Chantry deities. Others point out that they do not reject Chantry teachings and are more of a way of life and therefore are not heretics. Inquisitors tend to follow their own judgement on that one; in backwater parts of the Empire, the Cult is considered heretic; but it actually flourishes and thrives in Heibesu City.
- Drowish True Way