Faith and Church of the Goddess
Faith and Church of the Goddess of Oros Milav
Overview: The most common religion in the land of Oros Milav is the worship of an entity simply known as “The Goddess”. While Her name is lost to time, and many would consider it to be too holy to utter even if it were known, Her many titles include The Holy Mother, Her Beneficence, She of the Unending Compassion, and the Light of Righteousness. She draws the bulk of her followers from humans, Lilithiul, and Garaou, though gnomes and dwarves have also been known to participate in Her worship.
History: It is commonly accepted that the Lilithiul first introduced humans to Goddess worship. Garaou have always been first and foremost the Goddess’ children despite their connection with the wilder, more feral aspects of the world. Dwarves have only recently been introduced to the faith and ideals of the Goddess; as her worship does not directly clash with the rituals of their traditional shamanism, many dwarves have found comfort and purpose within Her flock.
In present-day Oros Milav, humans make up the primary bulk of Goddess worshippers, mostly due to their sheer numbers. Lilithiul worship the Goddess almost exclusively, seeing arcane study and furthering their knowledge of magic as an aspect of Her worship. Garaou remain divided on the issue; many cling to the old ways of Goddess worship while others utilize the more pragmatic methods of shamanism. Other Garaou blend the two, seeing shamanism as just another form of Goddess worship since, according to their creation myth, She created the world and its spirits before planting it with its various peoples.
Principles: While religious scholars and theologians pour over sacred texts and salvaged writings from Lilithiul ruins, Goddess worship can be broadly summarized by three different principles: the Principle of Truth, the Principle of Compassion, and the Principle of Tenacity.
Principle of Compassion: In a world battered by severe weather, monstrous creatures, ancient ruins, and unknowable magic, the Principle of Compassion is perhaps both the biggest draw to the Goddess, and the most difficult of her tenants to enact. The Principle of Compassion is exactly what it sounds like – the call of the Goddess for her people to act with consideration and compassion for their fellow living creatures. Share what you have. Help others in need. Exercise forgiveness. Forgo zealotry for gentle persistence, just as the rays of the sun melt away the seemingly immoveable ice in the spring. Humans, surprisingly, have an easier time with this principle than most of the other races; they learned very early on that it was better to make friends than enemies in this harsh wilderness. While humans certainly seem to set the standard for cruelty and greed, they also take well to the Principle of Compassion – using the Goddess’ teachings to overcome the darker side of their mortal nature and become something greater than merely human.
Principle of Truth: The Principle of Truth is often tied into the aspect of the Goddess as a light burning away the fog of falsehood. The Goddess eschews lies and deceit, for in such obfuscations lies fertile soil for the dark machinations and plots of the Tasuh. In lies and deception, cruelty and malign intent fester. If one is truthful, many a sin can be forgiven; if one holds to deceit, one willingly sins against themselves, the Goddess, and the world. It is said that, to the Goddess, all secrets are known and no hearts are closed. One may fool others, they may even fool themselves, but they will never fool Her. She is less concerned with white lies than with conspiracy; less with minor fibs said with good intent than evidence purposefully altered, than false rumors and cheated folk. Of all the races, the Garaou hold very tightly to the Principle of Truth. While they themselves live two lives, and the word “garaou” means “walker of two worlds” in the Garaou language, they are perhaps the single greatest consistently mobilized force against treachery and deceit. They hunt the corrupt politician, the serial killer, the seditionists. They seethe at the concept of treachery. Those who would keep dark deeds from the light of judgment have everything to fear from faithful Garaou.
Principle of Tenacity: Often the most misunderstood of the Goddess’ precepts, the Principle of Tenacity is not simply a long-winded paraphrase of the mantra “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. While grit is considered a virtue in this harsh wilderness, as is a certain level of sheer stubbornness, the Principle of Tenacity is the Goddess’ rallying cry. Get up again. Keep working. If it doesn’t work, try a different angle. Learn from your mistakes. She encourages her worshippers to find creative solutions, but above all to improve the situation. The Principle of Tenacity is also considered Her more martial aspect, as it takes both cunning and tenacity to not only eke out a living in Oros Milav, but defend it. The Principle of Tenacity encourages the meek to help themselves and the strong to prove their strength not against their fellows, but against worthy opponents to Her. The Lilithiul hold tight to the Principle of Tenacity despite their slender forms and sentiments of their detractors. They made a grave error with the Epoch Gate yet they learned from it. In spite of cataclysmic events, near-genetic bottleneck, and mere scraps of their magical power left, the ancient race has managed to survive to see a new age. Now their power is on the rise again and despite their relatively small numbers, they look to be major players on the new world stage.
Church Hierarchy: Despite being a common faith, only humans have institutionalized the faith of the Goddess as a religion. While Lilithiul and Garaou forms of governance are heavily moral-based on the Goddess and her Principles, only humans have an actual theocratic form of government. Some would argue that only they have the overwhelming numbers necessitating such a thing.
The head of the human government is the ruling Queen. The Queen of Oros Milav is considered a living conduit for the Goddess; whether they are supernatural beings sent by the Goddess to be Queens, mortal women that ascend upon assuming the throne, or one continually-reincarnated avatar of the Goddess is unknown. What is known is that every Queen, despite being human, lives and reigns for several centuries and demonstrates several remarkable spell-like abilities. An attack against the Queen is viewed as an attack against the Goddess Herself and Her divinely mandated order. The number of such assaults throughout recorded history can be counted on one hand.
Directly below the Queen are the three Handmaidens – the Maiden of Truth, the Maiden of Compassion, and the Maiden of Arms. Each Handmaiden is loosely correlated with the Goddess’ three Principles, and each oversees one particular sector of governance. Not every Queen has Handmaidens at all times; rather, like saints, each Handmaiden comes into her own through her own deeds or the selection of the Queen. Decades can pass with one or no Handmaidens in office. The governmental branches that they oversee can function autonomously, but it is considered a blessing and a sign of prosperity to have a Handmaiden overseeing their branch.
Beneath the Queen and her three Maidens is the Archbishop who presides at the Grand Cathedral in Salanista. Beneath the Archbishop are scores of cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, scholars and scribes, and other members of clergy who toil in the Goddess’ name to tend the masses.
The Goddess and Non-Humans: Races other than human can be and are active members of the Goddess’ clergy in human cities. Many Garaou toil in churches during the day, only to preach to their pack at night. What few Lilithiul survived outside their hidden strongholds often integrated themselves into the church for both spiritual comfort and a focus for their magic. Gnomes frequently live and tend churches, watching over generations of human clergy. Dwarves, with their natural inclination for structured office, find the message of the Goddess comforting and the official hierarchy of the church satisfying. Kurothe are only now being exposed to Goddess worship en masse; no one expects them to pass an overall opinion any time soon.
Religious artwork typically portrays the Goddess as a human female. Ironically, it was the Lilithiul that introduced humans to Goddess worship. Though she is often portrayed as different races in different locales, her race is never specified in any particular text. This has caused friction in some smaller circles, particularly in the two thousand years humans have had to think that the world revolves around them. Higher ranking, higher educated clergy tend to preach the Goddess’ message and principles while guiding questions of race into metaphors to encourage critical thinking; smaller towns and less-educated clergy tend to view matters more literally.