Ilium, the most prominent religion is Stateræs
, commonly referred to as The Faith of Balance
or simply The Faith.
Although other religions are practiced, they are not as widespread.
Stateræs began hundreds of years ago and was evidently practiced by Iliana herself. Although she did not press her religious beliefs onto other people, it was soon spread far and wide, overtaking many regionally based religions due to its universal appeal. However, in different places, members of the Faith may have different beliefs and practices, which vary from region to region. The Faith is led by the emperor and empress, who are chosen by divine right and said to have the closest connection to the gods.
Deities & Mythology
The Faith worships two primary divine figures, each of which have figures that represent different ideals. Sometimes, legendary figures who have done exceptional things in the name of the Faith are made into saints, and they are said to reside among the stars. People pray to them for minor favors.
In some branches of the Faith, the aspects may have more specific names and be characters in themselves, similar to Greek mythology.
There are many versions of the Faith’s mythology, but many of them depict the god and goddess as a divine brother and sister who reproduced to create humanity, or who made humans to be caretakers for the earth.
- Mother. Usually depicted with a child or children, and represents motherhood, compassion, mercy, and honor.
- Guide or Scholar. The Guide, sometimes called the Scholar, is the harshest representation of the goddess. She is often depicted with a light, books, or scrolls, and always with her eyes open. She represents intelligence, guidance, and wisdom.
- Sister or Maiden. The Maiden is always depicted as a young woman, often holding flowers. She represents beauty, fertility, and sweetness.
- Father. The Father is a middle-aged or elderly figure, usually with a balancing scale, sun and moon, or a child. He represents justice, judgement, wisdom, and honor.
- Warrior, Hunter, or Smith. The Warrior is always depicted as a virile young man of able body, frequently in armor and bearing a sword or shield. He represents protection, courage, and strength. The Hunter and Smith are similar, but depicted with different instruments. In some places, the Hunter is referred to as the Huntress, being an aspect of the goddess rather than the god.
- Brother or Squire. The Squire or Brother is always young and may be depicted with a shield. He represents youth and obedience.
Beliefs & Practices
The Faith preaches tolerance, love, respect for one’s peers and one’s betters, and loyalty to family and realm. Non-heterosexuality is viewed as normal, but the Faith is strict about gender binary given the two main deities are always depicted as male and female.
Superstition. Duality and the number two are considered holy (such as twins, couples, light/dark, earth/sky), and even numbers are considered luckier than odd.
Gender. While the Faith does have a gender binary, women and men are given equal status and respect. It is believed that they must work together, not subjugate each other. Obedience and subjugation in the Faith focuses on age and societal rank and has nothing to do with gender.
Worship. Worship is done in temples, which may vary in structure, but always contain representations of the different aspects of the god and goddess. The devout frequently visit temples to leave offerings and to pray, and for ceremonies such as anointing infants, coming of age, knighting, marriage, and religious festivals.
Virility temples aim to improve the sex lives, fertility, and reproductive health of their patrons, and are also used by couples who wish to be intimate with each other in private. The Squire and Maiden are particularly prominent in such places, though the Mother and Father may also be present as an additional symbol of fertility. Virility temples may contain any of the following: charms and medicines to improve sexual health, private rooms to engage in copulation, blessed prostitutes, sexual advisors (who may also be priests and priestesses), and mood lighting.
Honor & Wrongdoing. Goodness is measured via honor, which is integral to Ilian society. To be honorable is to be dutiful, devout, respectful, honest, dependable, trustworthy, and loyal. The joint concepts of wrongdoing, sin, and evil do indeed exist and are typically viewed as anything which might anger the gods and cause them to punish an individual. However, sin is seen as a natural part of life, and even justifiable in some cases, such as vengeance. As such, Ilians tend to have a very grey outlook on morality rather than seeing anything as purely good or evil. Atonement for minor sins usually involves prayer or offerings to a particular god, and the clergy may be consulted.
Death & The Afterlife. It is believed that the soul is reincarnated after death, either in this world or a different one, but the cycle can be broken. Many people claim to remember past lives, sometimes as famous figures. For the soul to depart the body and move on, the heart at the very least must be burned, if not the whole body. Bodies containing a heart which are left to rot are said to trap the soul and result in monstrosities such as possession and malevolent spirits. As a result, almost all funerary practices involve cremation.
Tolerance. Stateræs is without question the most prominent religion in Ilium, and is also the basis for its laws and culture. The Imperials themselves are thought to be representatives of the god and goddess on earth. For high nobility, not being a follower of Stateræs can imply disrespect for the imperials and would be looked upon very suspiciously. Other religions, however, are tolerated, though looked down upon. In Staterian doctrine, other religions are simply different ways of interpreting the Faith; for example, someone who chooses to worship a single deity may still be worshipping the god or goddess. Though not fully sacrilegious, such beliefs can be dangerously imbalanced and incur the wrath of deities who feel ignored.
Divine Realms. Most Ilians believe in multiple worlds or dimensions, which coexist on multiple levels and cross over with each other. The most important of these is the divine realm or spirit world which is occupied by non-humans but can be accessed. Liminal spaces, or magical hotspots, are those where the divine and mortal have clashed the most distinctly, and odd things are said to happen here: people going missing, strange monstrous beasts, disembodied voices, and more.
These are notable religions from the territories surrounding Ilium, which Ilians themselves may sometimes practice. There are many strains of Stateræs itself; though the high nobility are fairly uniform in their practices, commoners especially may have derivative beliefs and differences in mythology.
Kankai Stateræs. The Faith was brought to Kankai four hundred years ago by Zhaoshangese merchants. In Kankai, it is believed that duality is conflicting rather than complementary, such as between the land and sea. They believe that one aspect will always eventually consume the other, leading to the collapse of order and the world. As a result, they have a much more pessimistic worldview.
Voskiluv. Voskiluv is a monotheistic faith which originated from Dvorjard. It revolves around a single, all encompassing creator god who engages in a cycle of creation and destruction. This deity is said to be angry at the imperfection of what he has created, leading him to destroy the world. As a result, Voskiluv demands piety and purity of behavior and soul, and greatly condemns sin. It is very strict and intolerant towards other beliefs.
Nafyan Mythology. Nafyan religion is monotheistic, shamanistic and animistic. They worship a single sky deity named Tinjra, who is held to rule over the world. She rewards the good and punishes the wicked, and is said to grant visions to her vessels on earth, the chieftains of the clans. However, in addition to worship of Tinjra, the Nafyans also pay great respects to their ancestors and to the spirits of animals that are particularly important to their people, mainly horses, camels, goats, and sheep. Sacrifice is central to their religious practice: when animals are slaughtered for the clan, they will take the strongest horse and camel of the clan and offer their blood (and therefore soul) to Tinjra by boiling it away while grinding their bones and mixing the dust into the sand, to feed their ancestors. Prayers are often a personal affair, though on certain holy days the chieftain will lead the clan in prayers to Tinjra and to their ancestors for a strong herd and plenty of green grass.
Totlakahan Mythology. Totlakahans believe that the sun and moon are gods integral to maintaining the world order. If they are not appeased with a constant supply of offerings, especially blood, the world will end. Usually animals and smaller items are used, but humans are indeed sacrificed on occasion, especially for important events. Dragons are seen as messengers of the gods and are thus half divine.