Thera: Faiths and Religions

   The Great Powers of Thera come in at least three groups, and possibly four. There’s some debate on the subject.

   The Primal Ennead are the personifications of cosmic elements and forces – entities that really don’t pay much attention to individual mortals. Each has a male and a female aspect. In reality what the viewer expects seems to have a lot to do with how they’re seen. This group includes;

 

Element/Force

Male Aspect

Female Aspect

Transformation

Khonshu

Isis

Fire

Horus-Ra

Bastet

Destruction

Set

Sekhmet

Earth

Geb

Ma’at

Creation

Ptah

Sefekh-Aabut

Water

Atum

Tefnut

Preservation

Osiris

Nepthys

Air

Shu

Nut (Sky)

Life/Death

Anubis

Hathor

   The Primals generally interact with humans thru their emissaries /aides Thoth (Knowledge/ Pattern) and Bes (Luck/Chance). They are the source of all natural laws, including those of magic. They normally don’t interfere much – if at all – unless something threatens to upset the nature of the entire world. After all, from their point of view, a horrific death – or a thousand-year evil empire – is simply a learning experience. They are, however, vaguely benign; Thera is fundamentally a fairly hospitable world. The Primals are opposed by Apophis The Unmaker, and his minions – Apshai Swarmfather, the Bringer Of Plagues, Sobek The Devourer, and many others, who attempt to undermine the cycles of the world. Elementals, demons, celestials and other “outsiders” are all minor aspects of the primal powers.

   Primal Religions tend to be restricted to those who either A) prefer Thera just the way it is, and would like it to continue that way indefinitely or, B) have dedicated themselves to a particular aspect of the universe. There are a few worshipers of Apophis and company, but they’re more then a bit mad and are usually hunted down as soon as possible.

   Totems and Nature Spirits make up the next major grouping. While these are powerful, and can be very impressive, they’re generally too specialized to attract many followers. The great caribou spirit, the storm spirit, and the “local” sea spirit, make perfectly serviceable “gods” for a village full of hunter-gatherers on the fringe of an icecap, but they’re not going to do much for a major trading city. On the other hand, it’s a lot easier to get them to pay attention to you then it is to attract the attention of a Primal Power.

   Faiths based on Totems and Nature Spirits tend to be simple, “primitive”, and personal; a faith with only a few hundred followers doesn’t need an elaborate structure, and a given worshiper can reasonably expect to come to the personal attention of his or her “god” at least a few times in his or her lifetime. Followers of such beings may receive helpful dreams and be granted minor favors within their patron’s domain quite routinely. Characters with communicative or spiritual powers may be able to reach and negotiate with such “deities” with no particular trouble.

   Runelords – commonly known as “Gods” – are “ascended” mortals, rare individuals who have mastered one or more runes – the words of the primals, the strands of magic which weave the fabric of the world. As such, they wield vast power over the areas governed by those runes. Of course, embodying the power of a true rune changes them greatly. The energies coursing through their bodies renders runelords almost immune to injury, aging, toxins, disease, and similar agents, enhances their attributes – and changes their form to one suited to the rune.

   They are invariably aware of major actions involving their rune; after all, in a curious way, they’re a part of such actions anyway. A master of the War Rune is directly involved in, and can subtly influence, any “war” event down to the skirmish level.

   It’s rumored – but unconfirmed – that only one runelord at a time can hold each rune; if two lords claim a rune, one must renounce it, slay, or absorb, the other, lest some strange fate befall both.

   Religions based on Runelords tend to be a bit more “businesslike” then mystical. After all, they’re basically just people. Schools of magic often take relevant lords as patrons – and most temples are quite practical.

   The Transcendent Beliefs are philosophical or religious systems which believe in a great creator or some even more abstract power beyond what is measurable or detectable from within the known cosmos. Such an entity or force is variously known as Dhaos Timeforger, the Goddess, the Unknowable, and Tao. Regardless of the terminology, such faiths involve the “ultimate” fate of spirits that have passed beyond the cycles of the cosmos. While some few spirits do seem to “pass on” to higher realms of existence – or at least no one has been able to locate the spirits of a few mighty heroes and epic villains after their passing – even if such a being exists, it apparently does not interfere. Oddly enough, powerful spellcasters often embrace Transcendent Beliefs. Few of Thera’s other religions have any problem with their members holding such beliefs as well: it’s not like it makes a lot of difference.

   Cults worship entities that don’t fit into any known group. Such entities may be from beyond the known universe, simply be powerful beings, or even be entirely mythical. The benefits – if any – of such worship vary greatly, depending on if the target of worship actually exists, responds to such worship, and actually possesses the power to respond in a meaningful way. Some such cults may simply be superstitions built around misunderstood bit of magic. If burning incense on an old “altar” with a particular “prayer” seems to bring fertility to the fields, short of a major magical investigation, who is to say whether it’s purely superstition, if there’s an entity involved, if it is merely a poorly-remembered method of activating some old enchantment, or if it is merely a bit of misunderstood ceremonial magic? What if the belief in the patron is an important part of the ceremony?

   There are many hundreds of Cults on Thera, most of which are simply minor fringe activities and of little importance. Others, of course, are fronts for the minions of Apophis.

   The Afterlifes of Thera aren’t all that well defined; there seem to be quite a few of them – and most or all of them seem to be temporary. Some spirits hang around the physical world, appearing in dreams and revisiting favored locations and individuals. Many spend some time in one or another “afterlife” – realms which seem, to be simply magically sculpted regions of the astral plane. (Quite a few Runelords, and even many totem spirits, support such a domain). A few exceptionally-dedicated spirits become celestials, demons, minor elemental powers, or other entities in the service of a Runelord or even a Primal – although this, once again, seems to be a temporary position. A very very few seem to move on, passing beyond the known planes. The rest reincarnate sooner or later.

   The “default” afterlife seems to be wandering an “area” of the Astral Plane influenced by those primal powers which you related to most strongly in life before – eventually – reincarnating. Spirits with particularly strong personalities often learn to draw on a bit of that power and project it to Thera proper – leading to various “Ancestor Worship” faiths. After all, a powerful ghost can be quite a lot of help – and all you need to start such a “cult” is at least one spirit which has both mastered the power-projection trick and still takes an interest in their (current) descendants or worshipers.

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