In building the religious framework for Jimano’s World, I’ve done a fair bit of thinking on religion before getting into the details. Jimano is the god of the material. He used his power to build himself a hermitage so that he might have peace from the other members of the Greater Court. On this world live sentient races and they must deal with the harsh realities of living where continents flow like tar.
Are the Gods Real or Not?
Belief can be described as a measure of certainty in something that cannot be proven to exist. In many fantasy settings the gods are real, even killable. Faith in these worlds is about which god you wish to worship and follow, rather than faith that the divine even exists. I am wary of gods that are real and involve themselves too much in mortal affairs. It can be a method of empowering the characters, but you have to ask the question – if the gods care so much for their pet mortals/worshippers why not act in person? My narrative for Jimano’s World is a nihilistic one. The gods do exist, but they are so large that smaller life does not interest them. They are also not the gods of this tribe or even this set of stars. They are the gods of the entirety of creation. What happens on some small lump of rock is exceptionally beneath them.
Founding a Religion
Where do religions come from? Several of the well known one’s in our reality are attributed to the actions of an individual whose teachings form the basis of later writings, building into a set of principles that more and more people follow. Religion is about ideas and ideas are nebulous things to pin down. They just seem to start. In a setting where the gods are not real, an idea is all that’s needed and then faith follows. In a world where the gods are real, there must be a source of information. If the religion is correct in the names and natures of the gods, how did the society come by that knowledge. On Jimano’s World, the myth of founding comes from the discovery of fire. The goddess of fire brought flame to the folk and told them of the Greater Court. This is a myth I’ll be expanding on at a later date.
Spread of Religion
Taking lessons from our own history, it is by word of mouth that religion spreads. It was nearly 500 years before anyone wrote down the buddha’s teachings. People hear the teachings and it resonates a measure of understanding within them. They then attempt to pass on this understanding. With the exception of a very small number of groups, all the folk of Jimano’s World are in some way nomadic. In the primordial times, these nomads would infrequently have met and interacted with each other. Belief in the Greater Court spreads very effectively because it comes with the evidence of fire. So as the use of fire spreads, with it spreads the knowledge of the gods. This accounts for why all the known folks of the world follow the same religion.
Worship of the Gods
This starts to get into a discussion of what is worship. Is is a call for help? Is it praise? It is letting the god know we believe in them? Some of the earliest cave paintings have been attributed to rituals that ask for luck in the coming hunt. A barter system of worship and offerings in exchange material or spiritual rewards is a common one. Does the religion of the Greater Court extend beyond rituals into a set of rules by which the folk live their lives? How much the populace believes their actions affect the actions of the gods determines this. If the gods are disinterested, then appealing to them or obeying their rules will give little reward. If the gods are overly attentive then you follow dogma precisely to avoid being struck down. Having established that the Greater Court is made up of deities disinterested in little mortals, it would imply little worship.
But sentients beings are anything but logical when it comes to faith and I want a solid amount of worship. Each month of the year is dedicated to a different deity. On the full moon of that month there is a large ritual for that deity, which is focused around the realm of that deity. On a day to day basis, folk appeal to the deity in question for favour or guidance in that realm. Example would be appealing to the god of dreams for a peaceful night’s sleep or starting a trial by asking that the god of justice grant the judge wisdom.
If this all seems a bit Greek to you, it’s probably because I’ve recently been very immersed in ancient hellenic traditions.
Image Credit: About Religion in Asia by Michael Garrigues (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)