The Religions of Valara
Th ere are seven major religions on Valara. Six religions are based upon worship of the deities from the elemental Realms that surround Valara: Undinae, Ra’tol, Elyssinu, Cragmathe, Ge’lina and Ga’lar, and Seneroth. The seventh major religion is devoted to Anima.The highest leaders of each of these religions are called the Embodiments and they sit in convocation to keep Valara in balance. The Convocation of Embodiments is always led by the White Tree Embodiment, the designated leader of the Anima faith, who speaks for Valara itself. Th e White Tree is almost always represented by a Florakyn. Many believe that Anima ties the elemental Paragons together and thus the White Tree Embodiment is accepted as the primary leader of the Embodiments. The White Tree also stands as the representative of any minor religions practiced on Valara.
The Convocation of Embodiments
The Convocation of Embodiments meets for one month every five years at an ever changing secret location. The primary purpose of the Convocation is to discuss items that threaten the balance in Valara. If one of the Embodiments is not in attendance, the meeting is postponed for 30 days and the Embodiment’s religion must donate goods or services as a penalty. During the 30 day hiatus a messenger is sent to the Embodiment’s primary location to identify the reason for the Embodiment’s absence. If, after 30 days, the Embodiment or a designated representative still has not arrived then the religion is expelled from the Convocation for threatening the balance of Valara. A new Embodiment must be chosen following the rules of the specific religion and must be affirmed by the White Tree before the off ending religion is allowed to attend future Convocations.
Aside from discussing threats to the balance of Valara, the Embodiments also discuss their own goals for the coming years. The White Tree has the final decision-making power as his or her decision counts as five votes. The only way that the White Tree’s decision can be overturned is if all six of the Embodiments vote together against the White Tree.
The White Tree
Th e White Tree Embodiment is chosen by Valara though Wild Magic. The chosen Embodiment is marked by the appearance of a multi-pointed star that appears on his or her chest upon reaching his or her 20th name day. The newly chosen Embodiment seeks out the current White Tree, or travels to the Ancient Grove to begin preparing for the next Convocation meeting. The Ancient Grove, known only to the current or soon-to-be White Tree Embodiment is a sacred place. From inside the Grove, the White Tree is able to commune with Valara through meditation and prayer. This communion allows the White Tree to gain insight into the goods and ills of the land. It is believed that Anima appears to the White Tree during times of unrest or great illness in the land, often taking the form of nature spirit or animal.
The year before a Convocation occurs, the White Tree emerges from the Grove and walks the land. This is the time when the minor faiths can meet to air grievances or ideas and be assured they will be presented at the Convocation.
The symbol for the White Tree is the multi-pointed star.
The Overflowing Spring
Religion of Water and Ice
“Undinae is the calm that belies the under-current of my strength.”
The Overflowing Spring is a religion of inner peace and hidden strength. Life is constantly changing and one cannot step in the same ocean twice. Success and failure, gain and loss, comfort and discomfort all come and go and there is little that can be done to control it. One can, however, decide to cease the struggle against the tides of life. Like Water, one must strive for inner peace while maintaining an underlying strength. One must be patient, but persistent, and while it is wise to seek out the path of least resistance, one should not hesitate to carve out a new path if necessary.
Temples for the Overflowing Spring are called Reefs and their names are chosen from the beautiful and flowing nature of Undinae. Two of the more prosperous Reefs are known as the Living Reef and the Shimmering Reef. Every Reef is built either along a stream or, barring a source of running water nearby, over a well. Blocks of stone are set into the floor of the temple to create a pool that collects water from the stream or well to be used for mediation and reflection. These pools are required to be kept clean and clear at all times. Th e pools are also used for initiation rituals performed by the clergy. They serve as a reminder of the peace and calmness that Water provides.
Initiates are known as Streams. It is the duty of the Streams to keep the pools clean as well as help new congregation members learn the process of pool meditation. The priests are called Waves and there are four Waves per Reef who teach the ways of Undinae. The religion of Water has a central figure head, known as the Tide, who provides supreme guidance and direction as the Embodiment of Water on Valara. The current Tide is a Moon Elf by the name of Yadira who resides within the Living Reef, south of Pozeph.
The Embodiment for the Overflowing Spring is chosen from among the Waves through a special pool ceremony. Any Wave may submit him or herself for consideration. To those who submit themselves for choosing the water will feel cool and refreshing. Th e Wave destined to become the Embodiment will feel the water of the pool turn warm and accepting. The Embodiment for the Overflowing Spring serves for life.
Th e symbol for Overflowing Spring is a downward triangle. Th is symbol is worn on necklaces by all devotees of the religion.
The Scorching Conflagration
Religion of Fire
“Ra’tol is all and all is Ra’tol.”
The Scorching Conflagration is a religion of purity and perfection. It is believed that once there was the perfection of fire, lost on Valara when Ra’tol gave of himself to create this new Realm. Worshipers are taught that they must strive for purity in spite of their imperfect natures which are caused by the amalgamation of the elements. Their lives must be devoted to finding perfection so that when their time on Valara has ended, Ra’tol will restore them to primordial purity by burning away the dross of life.
Houses of worship for the Scorching Conflagration are called Chantries and their names are always a reference to fire, such as the Blazing Chantry. Each Chantry has, at its heart, a throne made of volcanic glass, with the more prosperous temples boasting thrones made of such material from the Realm of Fire itself. A fire that burns high around the throne is kept going at all times in the hopes that one day Ra’tol himself might appear to the congregation. This also serves to heat the Chantry to an uncomfortably warm degree and causes the worshipers to sweat, another symbolic cleansing of impurities.
In each Chantry are Embers, or priest initiates. It is the duty of the Embers to keep the fire around the throne burning. The priests are known as Flares and each Chantry has seven Flares to guide believers on their own path to purity. Th ere is no centralized place or person that serves to lead this religion as no Flare would ever dare presume he could speak for Ra’tol directly, as they themselves are still far short of perfection. The Embodiment of Ra’tol is chosen every five years among the Flares by majority vote. No one Flare may serve as the Embodiment at Convocations more than twice in their lifetime.
Th e process for becoming a Flare is a long and arduous journey of self-reflection. Most commonly, those who set themselves upon the path to becoming a Flare have seen some catastrophe involving fire and have seen something within the flames that has called them to the service of Ra’tol.
Over time, what defines ‘perfection’ has changed, given the local Flare’s interpretation of what it might mean. As example, Flare Flug, an Orkling from the Scalding Chantry in The World’s Furnace teaches that perfection is found in the strength and surprising beauty of fire. To reach perfection, one must hone their bodies to become as strong and as powerful as possible. Another example is Flare Adorellan, a Moon Elf from the Smoldering Chantry in The Aesner Desert, who teaches that perfection comes with knowledge and enlightenment, a purification of the mind that involves a symbolic burning away of excess and unnecessary thoughts and emotions, leaving behind the passion of truth.
Th e symbol for Scorching Conflagration is an upward triangle. Th is symbol is usually branded on all devotees’ skin.
The Exalted Tempest
Religion of Air
“Elyssinu is the wind that guides me and the storm that transcends me.”
The Exalted Tempest is a belief system of ever changing and often unpredictable activity. It is taught that with life comes change, sometimes on the back of a gentle breeze and sometimes in the midst of a raging storm. One can either float along with the wind like a fluttering leaf or one can stand against it and use the power of the storm to lift themselves above the mundane routines of everyday life. Devotees of Elyssinu are encouraged to step into the wind to let it guide them towards new experiences. Like the volatile nature of Air, oft en the winds of change can conflict with each other and cause a tumult of new sensations and emotions. The congregation is taught to experience these flashes of high emotion so that they may learn the full range of emotional capability.
The houses of worship for the Exalted Tempest are called Aeries and are almost always open air pavilion-like structures. Th e Aeries are named for the wind, such as the Twister Aerie in Bok’la high in the Garnet Mountains or the Whirlwind Aerie on Lunea Majora. They are often made of a series of archways that are built in a circle. Sometimes there is a roof, more often there is not or the roof is not a solid construction, but a series of inner arches to allow full movement of the winds of Elyssinu. The archways are usually carved with various shapes of birds and leaves and flowers. Th ere are no set times for worship. Followers of the Exalted Tempest are encouraged to come to the temple whenever they need to feel closer to the winds of Elyssinu.
Initiates to the Exalted Tempest are referred to as Breaths. While leaves and blossoms and other such natural debris are not to be cleared from the Aerie floors as they are often gifts from Elyssinu to remind her followers that the wind may carry anyone to any place, Breaths are responsible for not only learning the ways of guided reflection, but also keeping dirt, dust and mud from the floors and pillars.
The priests of Elyssinu are called Gales and there are six Gales per Aerie. There is no ultimate leader of this particular religion as there is no set doctrine. Th e Embodiement of Elyssinu is chosen from the collective priests and initiates. It is said that the Embodiment is chosen by the breath of Elyssinu herself and upon being chosen travels to the ruins of the oldest Exalted Tempest Aerie found high in the Sunset Mountains to receive more formal training. The Embodiment serves until such time that he or she no longer feels Elyssinu’s breath on their skin. For some that may be for one gathering of the Convocation but for others it may be for close to a lifetime. The Gales provide advice that allows parishioners to lead themselves to where they feel called.
The symbol for Exalted Tempest is an upward triangle with a line through it. Th is symbol is worn on the clothing or in the hair of the devotees that follow this religion.
The Steadfast Crag
Religion of Stone
“Cragmathe is my pillar of stability. Unchanging. Forever.”
The Steadfast Crag is a belief system that preaches resolve, patience and unwavering strength of character. The world may change, but it is not necessary nor wise to change every time the wind blows. One should seek to control wayward emotions to become stable, dependable and unyielding to outside forces that seek to sweep the unprepared from their pillar of stability. Nothing can sway a disciple of Stone if they choose to stand firm.
Houses of worship for the Steadfast Crag are known as Grottoes and their names are chosen to reflect the unwavering character of Cragmathe. The Adamant Grotto of Fellmunr and the Persevering Grotto of Ironwall are two such examples. Grottoes are specifically built to replicate the deep feel of the Realm of the Paragon of Stone. If a natural cave can be found, that is preferred, but a free-standing structure built with thick, stout walls and devoid of windows is acceptable. The interior is left dark when services are not being held and when they are, the only light that exists is the light brought into the cavern by the congregation and the clergy.
Initiates to the Steadfast Crag are called Pebbles and part of their duty is to carry light sources in and out of the Grotto for services. Priests of the Steadfast Crag are known as Shards. It is their responsibility to teach the ways of the stable, unyielding mind. There are three Shards per Grotto. Th ere is also a central figure head known as the Diamond who guides the individual Grottoes on their way to following in the shadow of Cragmathe. Th e Diamond serves as the Embodiment of Cragmathe during Convocations. The current Diamond is a Dwarf named Durgim Tinmoor who serves his congregation in the Rooted Grotto in Skeborg.
The symbol for Steadfast Crag is a downward triangle with a line through it. This symbol is worn on metal or stone badges of the devotees that follow this religion.
The Fount of Vitae
Religion of Life
“Ge’lar is the blood that fills my veins. Ge’lina is the breath that fills my soul.”
In the name of the Twins, devotees of Life seek to learn and protect Life’s place in the Valaran cycle of life, death and rebirth. Like the Paragons, followers of Life generally fall into one half of the teachings. There are those that see Life as an influence of healing and revitalization to be cultivated and revered. Others embrace that Life, while wild and dangerous on its own, should be protected at all costs, especially from those who would seek to escape death by hiding in false life. Neither half seeks to undermine or hold back death. Instead, their purpose is to protect it so that cleansed Vitae can be returned to Valara and that the cycle may begin again.
Houses of worship are called Chapels and are often named for some aspect of vitality, such as the Breath of Life Chapel or the Vital Spark Chapel. These temples are oft en not temples at all, but merely an area of natural ground demarcated by four tall, white pillars usually carved from marble or granite. Three sides of this area are allowed to grow naturally: rose vines are encouraged to twine around the pillars, grass is left to grow tall and thick and brush and bushes are left untamed. The fourth side is used as entrance to this sacred area and is maintained with lush grass and naturally growing flowers and plants that extend into the interior of the worship area. Roses are the preferred flower as no other plant represents better the delicate balance of beauty and danger. Instead of an altar, there are two small thrones that represent the thrones of the Twins in the Fountain of Life. More affluent Chapels can afford thrones of gold, but smaller Chapels content themselves with thrones of locally found white stone or wood.
Initiates of Life are known as Sparks, who also work in male-female pairs, and it is their responsibility to maintain the grounds with loving care as well as protect them from desecrators and vandals. The clergy that maintain these temple areas always come in male-female pairs known as Vitals. There is only one pair per Chapel and they preach together, one standing before the throne of Ge’lina and one before the throne of Ga’lar. While their message is the same, one preaches from the perspective of the beauty and sanctity of Life and the other from the perspective that followers must strive to protect Life from those that do not respect it.
The Embodiment of the religion of Life is represented by the longest serving pair of Vitals in the faith.
The symbol for Fount of Vitae is a jar with an opening in the top. Th is symbol is worn as rings or bracelets on devotees that follow this religion.
Harvest of Vitae
Religion of Death
“Give of my Vitae. Return me to Sand. Death is a journey. Seneroth is my guide.”
The priests of the Harvest of Vitae teach that Death is not an end, but a part of the cycle of Valara. Life is not the enemy, but just another part of the same cycle. The dying are not to be pitied, but should rejoice in the knowledge that their Vitae will be cleansed, purified and then reborn. Vitae returns to the cycle of life, death and rebirth, but souls belong to Seneroth, the Paragon of the Realm of Death. While the truth is uncertain, there are various beliefs about what happens to the souls that Seneroth collects. The most generally accepted doctrine is that all are the same in the eyes of the compassionate Seneroth, but the theory also exists that souls are sent on to an afterlife determined by the weighing of their souls. No matter what an individual believes happens to the souls, all agree that the process of death is necessary for the cycle of Valara and should be embraced as natural, necessary and inevitable.
Places of worship for the Harvest of Vitae are called Cathedrals. Cathedrals are castle-like structures built from dark stone. Constructed with the majesty and power of death in mind, they are erected with sweeping archways, and imposing towers. Each wall of the elegant, imposing edifice is lined with windows of stained glass that depict endless seas of black sand, great chasms, black pyramids and, occasionally, an image of Seneroth with the head of a jackal. A ring of dark sand extends from the foundation, two or three feet wide, and behind each Cathedral is a larger pit of the same dark sand mixed with ashes that is used as a funeral pyre. Inside, the floors are laid with black sandstone to replicate the feeling of the desert of the Realm of Death. Each house of worship contains an altar that holds a miniature version of a black pyramid and a bowl of a clear liquid. More affluent Cathedrals may also place a mask of a jackal head as well as a pair of Cerberus statues next to the pyramid.
The “priests” of Death don’t generally have a title for themselves, as that would set them apart from the congregation. All are the same in the eyes of Seneroth, right down to his clergy. They believe that they are not above being weighed in the heart of the maze and so do not seek to put themselves above the followers. All will be cleansed and purified in the end.
The Embodiment of Seneroth is chosen at random and serves for life. In order that the Embodiment remains nameless, the Embodiment wears a dark gray mask that covers his or her visage while in Convocation.
Th ose who seek atonement from Seneroth’s priests are met by a clergy whose face is covered in a light gray mask. The face of the mask is a stern countenance with a hint of compassion. Atonements are carried out in private, known only between the priest, the penitent and Seneroth.
Th e symbol for Harvest of Vitae is a jar with an opening in the bottom. This symbol is worn as tattoos on devotees that follow this religion.
Religion of the Creator Deity
“Creator. Protector. Mother. Anima.”
In the beginning, Valara was an empty, desolate husk. The Paragons gave of themselves to change this Realm into a living, breathing and ever-changing elemental utopia. Water flowed, plants flourished, magma boiled, and the sky cried out in strikes of victory. Valara had been born and she was young and beautiful. A guardian was chosen from the ranks of the elementals and given the powers of each to continue the paragons’ labors. Known as Anima the Creator, this guardian helped to shape Valara.
Over time Valara birthed children to roam her lands and swim in her oceans. The first of these creatures were small in form, but great in number. Centuries passed and Anima grew lonely. Though an eternal bond was shared with Valara herself, the guardian yearned for something more. Using the gifts bestowed by the Paragons, Anima shaped and sculpted raw materials collected from Valara and gave life to creatures who shared a similar form to the elemental Paragons, thus creating the races of Valara.
The religion of Anima is often a solitary practice for those that hold the Creator deity in highest regard. There is no temple, no set time of worship, no congregation and no clergy. Devotees of Anima find their peace and their purpose by communing in their own way with the life that the guardian has created. Above all else, it is believed that all things have purpose, all life is precious and the cycle of Valara must be maintained.
The Embodiment of Valara, and by extension Anima, is the White Tree.
The symbol for Anima is a circle with curved lines in it. This symbol is worn in numerous places on devotees that follow this religion.