The Church of Lenver
The Church of Lenver is the premier Church in most known lands of the North. The Church has been the singular and central religious power in the region for as long as recorded history, stretching back to the era before the area was even under the control of the Great Southern Empire.
The Church has experienced several reorganizations of it’s Hierarchy. In ancient times, every priest in every community was unlike an authority to himself, with certain holy sites holding more prominence, but without a very firm hierarchy. That changed under the reign of the Great Southern Empire in which the church itself came to mirror the organizational patterns of that Empire. When that empire dissolved away from the region, it’s hold never having been very strong, the church itself re-organized itself again, becoming both more and less centralized.
The highest authorities within the Church are the Archbishops. These figured predominate over the most sacred of Holy Places, and over wide geographic area’s. This division is mostly political, rather than religious however. For example, there is an Archbishop of Jassit, and an Archbishop of Telva. There is also an Archbishop of the Northern Sea, who claims dominion over various islands, as well as the Sea-side City States. There have been several Western Archbishops, but at the present that ‘seat’ is unfilled and unrecognised.
The Bishops might be considered the central organizing principal of the Church itself. While each bishop is beholden to a particular Archbishop, they are generally in charge of the City in which they reside, or over those few holy sites that aren’t within cities. They tend to have control over a wide area, and responsibility for various priests beneath them.
Meetings of the Bishops are very rare, and are called usually only in reaction to large critical events in the faith. The two most recent events of this nature have been the growth of the Church of Zul and it’s religious acceptance by Telva, and the emergence of the Heretic sect known as the Earth Bleeders who emerged around a cleric claiming to be the direct incarnation of Zalktis. These conclaves often last for several weeks as they try to work out matters of dogma. Only the direct, unanimous declaration of the Bishops can do certain things; like declare a bishop heretic, or expel some-one from the faith.
An Archbishop is selected from within the Hierarchy of Bishops for that region, by a common election. The Systems demands at least 2/3 of the votes be cast for a single person to make them arch-bishop, and thus there are usually several votes cast before a consensus is reached. While the process is theoretically limited to the Clergy and is suppose to have ‘Divine’ sanction, in practice both the Telvan and Jassit Crowns have the effective power to intervene, though that is a rare occurrence.
Bishops are appointed by the Archbishops, from a list created by the other bishops, or of priests nominated by seven other priests in the selected region. Historically there has been a balance between selection of the basis of orthodoxy and populism. It is also important to note that no priest is obligated to take on the position of Bishop or Archbishop, though refusals are relatively rare.
Beneath the Bishops are the Priests. Most priests are residential priests, either serving beneath a bishop, in which case they are generally called Deacons or seeing over a town or village not large enough to warrant it’s own Bishop, in which case they are called Priests or Pastors. Most villages and towns will have at least one priest, and the larger ones several. Holy area’s might have a single priest or several depending on their importance.
Beneath the Priests are the Laity; those who work for the Church, but have not been official ordained. These include Musicians, Book Holders, Scribes, Clerks, Torch Bearers, and others who serve the church in direct or indirect ways.
It Should be noted that the various Holy Orders are only indirectly beholden to the Church. They may be punished or excommunicated or such by a council of Bishops, but members of them are otherwise only directly beholden to their own Hierarchies(See Also relations with Other Religious Organizations below)
Churches, Temples and Shrines
Holy places to the Church are varied, but can be broadly categories in certain ways;
Shrines are the smallest edifice of the church, and consist usually of an enclosure in which a Idol of One of the gods is presented. People might have personal shrines, and small shrines dot the landscape, or inhabit a thousand shops and buildings. A Proper shrine is sanctified by a priest, but very rarely will they have any divine properties beyond that.
Temples or Churches vary from the simple one-room stone and wood structures of a village, to the grand Cathedrals of the great cities. Most common churches follow the old mold; A Wooden steepled structure. Sometimes a symbol of a particular god is hung above the door if the Church is devoted to one particular god. More commonly a simple painting or image of an open hand, the symbol of the church itself, will preside there. Within there will be an altar at the far side, with space for the congregation to pray. All but the simplest temple will have a depiction of a Deity, a statue of some sort, and most will also have several shrines to several deities around the periphery.
Larger Cathedrals will often have several wings, with different side area’s devoted to different deities or different religious myths. All large temples and holy sites have a Hallow spell cast upon them. Some smaller church’s will as well, though only those that are supported by the wealthy, or that are viewed as particularly holy for one reason or another. Given the magical power and expense it takes to enact such rites, doing so is always a serious affair.
Relationship with Other Religious Organizations
The Church has a close relationship with most of the Chivalric and Holy Orders, but most especially the Order of the White Flame and the Order of the Wolf. These relationships can be strained at times as powerful personalities conflict for political privilege or prestige within a community, but they will general hold fast together against broader threats to the community and the faith.
The Church routinely condemns the Cult of Ragana, and indeed witches in general. Though it has been well over a century since any but the most superstitious has put a witch to the torch, there are those who are perhaps more eager to return to this earlier practice, and many more who view witches as abominations that should be shunned from any community. The Church seeks to stamp out the Cult of Ragana as heresy, and though, for political reasons, it must often tolerate witches, it makes sure to make it’s displeasure known.
Likewise the Church condemns the Heresy of the Earth Bleeders. Unlike Witches, the Earth Bleeders have very little political power, and thus can be targeted more freely, since their beliefs are often just as much a threat to the political elites and nobility as they are to the Hierarchy.
The Church also has strong conflicts with the Church of Zul. This dualistic southern religion has gained prominence in recent decades in Telva. The proclamations of religious tolerance form the King and some within the Nobility have worried and angered many in the church, but there is little they can do. There is far less tolerance in Jassit, but given the wealth of Zulish merchants now bypassing Jassit to flow into Telva and the City-states one wonders how long the King will listen to the words of his priests over the words of his nobles and purse-master.
Day-to-Day Religion Practice and Ritual
The Church’s influence is felt in many ways, both direct and indirect, in the daily lives of it’s followers, but the central ways include Observance, Birth, Naming, Marriage, and Funerals.
While ‘Observance’ or Worship at a holy place isn’t ‘required’ most people will seek out a local holy place tended by a priest at least once a month, and more commonly once a week. The occurrence of these visits varies for people, though in many rural communities Men will congregate on a New Moon, and women the Full moon.
The practical purpose to Worship is both to offer prayers ‘closer to the source’, and to offer up proper veneration, usually in the form of some donation to the temple. Alms are common, but many farmers will give up some of their crops, and craftsmen often offer services to the temple itself. Free Farmers, Merchants and Craftsmen often pay their Tithe this way. Priests will usually conduct services at various times during the day; Sunset, Sunrise and Noon being the most common, though a few temples will drop Noon and replace it with midnight.
Small communities will tend to see everyone engage in weekly Observance near the same time(or gender segregated as previously mentioned). Larger communities, such as cities, tend to see a clumping around professions or area’s of the city. Thus all the carpenters might attend at the same time and day. This is a consequence of the social benefit of the practice, and not anything ‘required’ by Dogma.
The ‘Life’ and ‘Minor’ Rituals are the other major impact of the faith in peoples lives. The Life Rituals are those detailing the life of the worshipper. Because of practical considerations, Priests are often present during Birth, and almost always called after the fact, to bless the child and give thanks to the gods for survival of mother and child(or to perform the funeral rites in that unfortunate case).
Naming is the next major ritual some-one undergoes. This happens with the onset of puberty, and Menstruation for girl, or the killing of an animal for boys. The later has ‘traditionally’ been when rural fathers take their sons out hunting, or involved a Son killing a Chicken or similar for the first time. In the modern day, while some rural area’s observe tradition, in the city the death is usually ceremonial; blood purchased from a butcher. The Rituals require a priest and see the child ‘named’ and thus brought into the community as an adult. Naming is considered the entrance of some-one into the adult world. Though little known now, the ritual is also suppose to guard against Changelings. The story goes that the ritual of demanding the Child repeat it’s name three-times is something impossible for a fey to do, since no fey can repeat the same lie three times.
Marriage is also performed by a priest, and involves many rituals and traditions that vary from place to place. The tieing of the hands together with a cord is near universal, as is the saying of certain prayers by the priest and the ritual spilling of wine by both Husband and Wife to honour the gods. Nobles have always also involved a formal exchange of gifts between the couple; The Groom presenting a Ring to the bride, the Bride presenting a belt to the Groom. Both, being unending loops are supposed to represent eternity, the ring the burden of care for the new household, the belt meant to hold the sword that is the traditional market of the aristocracy.
Last of the Life Rites is the Funeral, and the Death Rites. The later are performed after death, but before a funeral, and are suppose to speed a soul on it’s way. The full funeral rites involve many things, but much of it is to similarly speed on the soul, and to guard the body against animation as one of the undead. There are many rites and rituals involved, and they often vary with social status and with the place of the dead person in society. Murderers and those who lived on blood, be it Butchers, Leather Tanners, or Mercenaries and Executioners, are buried face down, in belief that their life-long association with Blood may cause them to rise as a Vampire.
Each of the entries for the deities below provides examples of daily and seasonal observances to that particular god or goddess.
The Afterlife and other Realms
The Church teaches that when you die, you are guided by the Mother of Veils to the after-life. A life well-led will see one judged by the gods and rewarded. The nature of these ‘rewards’ differs by sect or description, and in common ‘thought’ they are mostly just extentions of positive things in life; food, companionship, music, a chance to serve the gods. Those judged unworthy are given more mundane positions in the after-life. Left to the mercies of some of the lesser gods and spirits, or worst of all, left with no protection from the Demons who prowl the after-life.
The ‘Hells’, the abode of Demons, Devils and other such creatures, is separate from the After-life, though apart of it. Theologically it is thought to be place of discordant spirits. Those who have deviated from natures plan, or who have been corrupted and gone too far towards some aspect of nature(embracing Lust or Gluttony to the exclusion of all else for example.) These spirits try to expand their corrupted realm of chaotic magics and perversions, both by gathering up spirits of the dead that are unprotected, and by entering the world of the Livign to spread mayhem, corruption and taint.
Clerics who are members of the Church of Lenver may be of any alignment, and may choose from any of the domains available to the various deities of the faith, which include the following;
Animal, Chaos, Community, Darkness, Destruction, Evil, Earth, Glory, Good, Healing, Knowledge, Law, Luck, Magic, Madness, Nobility, Plant, Protection, Repose, Strength, Sun, Trickery, War, and Weather.
Currently Unavailable are;Air, Artifice, Charm, Death, Fire, Liberation, Rune, Travel and Water.
Favoured Weapons may likewise be of any of the appropriate deities.
Priests are in general unrestricted by Gender, though Male Bishops do tend to be more common and there have been only a hand-full of female Arch-bishops. Male and Female priestly garb is sometimes different, but social duties remain the same.
Priests are expected to don a Black Cassock as regular daily garb. Exceptions are made to certain orders and under certain circumstances, but it is the priestly ‘uniform’. Women will often add a black veil that covers the hair and drapes to the shoulders while leaving the face bare, while men often affect black skull-caps. Bishops will wear an additional ‘Outer Cassock’ of Red, Edged with Gold in the case of Archbishops, though some of the more pious will only deign to wear such during official functions.
Clerical Vestments are worn during ceremonies, including Services, Ceremonies, Consecrations, and so forth. For all priests a lengthy Stole that reaches down to the knee’s is required, though the colour and pattern are influenced by the Priests position, the region in which he serves, and the Deities to which he or she is most most closely in service. Other common Vestments include ceremonial Cuffs, Veil’s, and Shawls. These are almost always present with Bishops, but only common else-wise in larger, Wealthier Urban communities. Bishops also commonly have a Mitre, a holy-crown fashioned of a flat-top, slightly rounded hat usually embroidered and inset with valuable stones.
Misc. Game Information
Though positions within the Hierarchy are political, priests of larger towns and cities will usually be of corresponding higher levels. It would be very unusual to see a Bishop of less than 9th level, as the capacity to cast ‘Hallow’ is a critical one to many of a Bishop’s duties. The Three(current) Archbishop positions have both a political and ‘holy’ meaning, and thus while ‘level’ is an important dimension in demonstrating sufficient holiness, politics also takes central stage.
The Church’s ethos curtails certain ‘facts’ of life for clerics. Those who channel ‘positive energy’(or the Life-Essence as it is commonly called) are much more common than those who channel negative energy(called, not surprisingly Death-essence). The later tend towards Warrior Priests and Inquisitors, and are often viewed warily, even by their fellow clerics.
The Church considers ‘resurrection’ to be one of it’s holiest sacraments. While it views most clerical magic as intended to be used for the benefit of all the faithful raising some-one from the dead is viewed more seriously. The use of Raise Dead is tolerated as long as the subject is a member of the church in good standing, was killed in service to the church, or there is a compelling moral reason to bring them back(Being killed by an Undead or Demonic creature would generally qualify.) The religious justification for this is that Raise Dead restores life and the Spirit to the body while the Soul is still ‘in transition’. Resurrection and True Resurrection have more stringent theological requirements. Just being good and moral and a follower of the church is not enough. A Great Warrior who was destroyed in battle against an Arch-Demon might qualify. Some-one who selflessly sacrificed themselves for the betterment of countless people and had some essential service yet to perform might also qualify. Priests with the power to cast either spell are very rare to begin with, but such an occurrence is a significant event.
The Pantheon of Lenver
- Usin-God of Horses, Beer and Light, one of the Three Brothers
- Menuo-God of War and the Moon, One of the Three Brothers, Husband of Saule
- Meza-God of the Forest and Wolves, One of the Three Brothers
- Cerek-God of Fertility, closely aligned with Farmers and Agriculture. The First bite of food is ritually set aside for him.
- Laima-The Three-Fold Weaver, Goddess of Fate, Luck, Birth, Marriage, Funerals, patron of Women, especially while pregnant.
- Ragana-Goddess of Magic, patron of Witches, unfaithful consort to Meza
- Saule-Goddess of life and fertility, warmth and health. She is patroness of the unfortunate, especially orphans. Wife of Menuo
- Zalktis-God of Fertility and Abundance, Snakes.
- Mother of the Veil-Goddess of the Dead and Graveyards.
- Mother of the Sea-Goddess of the Sea and Healing, patron of Sailors.
- Mother of the Roar-Goddess of the Road and Protector of Travellers
- Mother of Rain-Goddess of Rain
- Mother of the Market-Goddess of the Marketplace and Commerce
- Mother of Wind-Goddess of the Wind and Birds