The Church of Haran
The established, dominant religion in the Kiassan Empire.
Who is Haran?
Haran is both a prophet and a god to most Haranites. He is the first disciple of Logos, personified by the blue sun that is the linchpin of the Kiassan Empire. He is said to have been once a man like any other, though a very pure one. He was Logos' most ardent pupil and evangelist.
Haran arose a couple of hundred years after the initial founding of Priascialla. He saw the chaos and anarchy around him with dismay; people had abandoned the teachings of God to engage in pleasures of the flesh, greed, conflict, and cruelty. He saw the people's selfishness and their inability to consider the greater good anymore.
Somehow, through incredible personal magnetism and, his followers say, the blessing of God, Haran preached and brought entire cities to their knees. The amazing revival of faith he brought is still spoken of in awe today by great religious leaders and statesmen. During his time, he introduced the newly-translated scriptures, which were quickly known as The Book of Haran, or the Red Book for the color they are traditionally bound in.
When Haran was about to die, according to the Book of Haran, God took him alive, elevating him in the afterlife and voluntarily becoming one with Haran. Haran is both separate and part of Logos, consequently. That may sound slightly inconsistent to those with perception, but there are entire books of discourse dealing with this dichotomy. Suffice to say that when one hears about Haran, it can either be in relation to God, or in relation to Haran's role as prophet.
Little is known of Haran's early life, though stories and myths abound. One story about him involves his earliest childhood, in which his first words were "God is in me". This alarmed his mother, who took him to a church immediately for examination. The two-year-old boy's answers to the priests there so impressed them that he was inducted as an acolyte immediately.
Haran became the leader of his faith at an equally early age, some think around 18, though the church wasn't a major force till he turned about 33. He introduced massive reforms of both the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the image of the church. He also is credited with the introduction of the hermetic orders that exist today. Very few Haranites think he could have been doing this under his own steam.
His death, too, is considered something of a miracle. When he reached about age 45 (sources vary on the precise number), he preached one last sermon, called "The Farewell Discourse," in which he put forth the main principles of being kind to people, loving one's neighbors, not cheating or killing people, and supporting and obeying the priesthood he'd set up. That night, during a truly epochal lightning storm, he was "taken up to the heavens." His body was never found, though he did get a proper and reverential burial in Priascialla at the Temple of the Ascension, which was built much later on the hilltop where he was taken up by Logos.
Haran is identified with Logos, who in turn is identified as the blue sun Helios. The sun's "correct" and scientific name is in fact Helios, and most people will just say that name when referring to the sun as that big ball of fire in the sky that rises and sets every day. When referring to it in its more divine capacity, they would call it Logos.
Epithets of the Faith
Tenets of the Church
Holy Book: The Red Book of Haran
This book details the creation of the Kiasse by the Logos. It is typically printed on expensive vellum sheets, using the Aslantir language, and bound in red kidskin leather. Most people will have seen one of these and know what they are, but very few people actually OWN one -- they are expensive, being prepared entirely by cloistered monks under a vow of silence, using inks that are mixed with arcane ingredients. However, every church must have one, and all priests must know at least a little Aslantir before being ordained formally. It is a scandal to many that not all priests actually read from the Red Book every mass, but it does happen that way in smaller villages.
The Red Book also details what sins a person may commit, and outlines the penalties for committing them, as well as expiations. This is a fairly spiritual faith, in that most sins are spiritual and not physical and that most expiations are private. For physical sins, physical expiations, up to and including death, are prescribed. Obviously, the death penances aren't usually extracted. The general principle is "sin in private, penance in private. Sin in public, penance in public." The greater the sin, the more serious the penance and the greater the personal sacrifice involved. Penances used to involve saying canned prayers over and over again, till someone figured out nobody really cares about saying a bunch of prayers over and over again. Now they usually involve donations of a specified sum to charitable causes, volunteer work of a specified length of time at a specified venue, apologies and financial amends, and that kind of thing. For the most public sins, the Church has been known to require advertisements be purchased in local newspapers.
It is a vile and horrible blasphemy to defile or deface a Red Book. The book itself is identified, especially in more primitive areas, with Logos himself. Though people may argue against it sometimes due to its habit of using circular reasoning and other logical fallacies, and though people sometimes try to pick it apart using new translation theories for the archaic Aslantir language it's written in, for the most part the book is considered inviolate. In more urbane settings, the book is considered allegorical. In other, less educated areas, the book is considered the literal and forthright word of Logos, but these areas are vanishingly few. The Church upper hierarchy itself makes clear that they do not consider the book literal. Penance, however, for such defilement is extreme and serious. At the very least, a pilgrimage to a scriptorium out west and a volunteer stint refilling inkwells there for a few months would be involved.
Some sins, too, are specific to the clergy, and these are handled in-house. A clergyman who commits fornication or adultery is obviously a far worse sinner than some ordinary layman doing the same, and so the penances here are much harsher. For crimes like blasphemy and lies involving spirituality, there's even the possibility of physical punishment for clergy, whereas such martial punishments are rare for laypeople. Here are some sample ideas of past sins and what penances they earned:
* A choir nun who slept with her Father Confessor and got pregnant: the child was
given to an orphanage and the nun was condemned to converse work for a year.
The priest was demoted and sent to Saethbridge
to tend the Order's turnip farm. By contrast, a civilian man caught in similar straits
would be forced to support the child till it was 18 and publicly apologize to the church.
The woman he'd slept with would apologize as well and would have to bestow the largest
portion of inheritance on the bastard.
All priests double as confessors -- all people are required to attend confession at least every other year, and some people even travel to larger cities, like Weston far to the west of Valrona, to achieve this goal (though others are content to wait till a traveling priest comes to hear them, even if the circuit takes longer than 2 years). When a confessor confesses, he gets a small medallion stamped with the year, to prove he's confessed lately. He may not receive blessings, be married, be baptized, or have a funeral without that medallion, so most people keep them fairly handy. (Of course, a village priest may take liberties with this rule, and other priests will perform the rituals without the medallion -- for example, if they personally know that the target has confessed lately, or if they know it wasn't possible for the person to get to a priest to confess in time.)
The Red Book is broken down into chapters, each with its own name. These chapters are usually writings from early Church fathers that have become part of the canon. Histories, genealogies, proclamations, and instructions have all merged into one fairly cohesive document. Books of interest include:
* The Book of the First Light: A very allegorical-sounding history of
Logos, the creation of Priascialla, how humans were put there by Logos, and
how a Prophet was chosen.
The last chapter of the Red Book, the Book of the Last Marriage, is a very odd allegorical poem that seems to allude to space travel and an opulent wedding. There are entire books of commentary, carefully copied from hundreds of years back, about what this chapter might mean. Prevailing opinion is that it means that Haran considers his Church to be his bride and that his own origins lay somewhere in deep space. Primitive Sciallans just ignore the whole issue. Let the experts figure that out.
Haranite views of other religions
They say they're just trying to be in tune with nature, but they've got to be up to something. They dress all in green robes, usually with short hair, and tend to keep to themselves -- very suspicious.
They are the worst of the worst heathens. The Red Book very clearly states what we need to do about any Machinists we find.
Pontiff Leonis Dezra the III
Cardinal Gruyir of Degnes
Cardinal Eian Transil
Cardinal Sibrath Alores
Cardinal Valaran Destrir
Archbishop Treon Farwise of House Serebren
From there, archbishoprics are divided further into bishoprics, and from there into stakes. Archbishops, as one might surmise, preside over the archbishoprics, and their bishops in their individual bishoprics report to him. The bishops in turn preside over the churches, and priests in their churches report to their bishops. Friars, who are wandering priests without churches, are very rare but report to the priests. An archbishop must approve a friar's petition to wander; such petitions are usually for a set period of time and for a particular reason, such as "to increase spiritual awareness in the frontiers."
Abbeys are presided over by abbots or abbesses, and can comprise either a mixture of men and women, or be for women only. If for women only, the abbess will report to the nearest archbishop and there will be at least one priest or bishop on her council of directors (yes, this requirement causes some friction sometimes). Monasteries are presided over by priors and only men can live there. Priors, abbots, and abbesses can be considered to be roughly equivalent to archbishops for voting purposes, with the aforementioned restriction on abbesses.
Monks, or priests living in monasteries or abbeys, are equivalent to priests. Nuns, or priestesses living in an abbey, are subservient to monks and priests. Women are allowed to be priestesses outside of the abbey environment, but on Scialla this is a vanishingly rare phenomena. Priests and priestesses are expected to be celibate, though obviously abuses occur. They are also under vows of poverty, meaning that any money they earn or acquire gets given to the Church, and humility, meaning they attribute any worldly honors like medals or grants of land to the Church.
An important part of the church structure involves cloistering, or the practice of abbeys or monasteries of keeping well out of the affairs of the world. Abbeys are required to be cloistered must subsist on their own efforts. Monasteries, by contrast, are not cloistered. Cloistered orders are not supported by the Church and usually their residents spend their time in private pursuits relating to spiritual education and advancement. Non-cloistered orders usually are supported by the Church and generally spend most of their time either out in the community or doing things inside the order's walls that will benefit the community, such as charity work.
Acolytes, or unsworn monks and nuns, report also to priests. If they are part of a monastery or abbey, they report to the leader of it. An acolyte is only one step above a layman and has no voting power at all, nor any say in how his or her group is run. Acolytes can be of any age, though usually they're quite young; the Church permits those as young as 13 to take the First Vows. When their priest or abbot decides it's time to advance, usually when the acolyte is around 18 or 19, the Life Vow is taken.
One step below acolytes are the conversei, the ranks of the "poor nuns" who were taken in by their various convents as a mercy. Too poor to afford the large financial gift wealthier girls need to bring as their entrance fee, the converse usually make up a good 50%-75% of a convent's nuns. They serve as maids and cleaning ladies to the "choir nuns," or those wealthier nuns who do mostly ladylike things like embroidery, pastry baking, and singing. Wealthy women need maids, and this is how they get them. A converse (the name is very old) is not cloistered and not under the strict rules that a choir nun faces, but still takes the Life Vow and is under the same vows of poverty, chastity, and humility that any other Church worker is under.
Lay organizations report to the local priests. Considered one step down from friars, they can be a huge source of both income and manpower. Women particularly work with these organizations, which emphasize community outreach and service. Improvement drives such as the Ladies' Temperance Union in Weston are part of the huge Haranite lay organization network.
The Jubilant Council of Cardinals and the Esteemed Council of Archbishops are the two main authority structures. There is also the Waystar Tribunal for judging errant priests and nuns, and a host of other committees and sub-committees. The setup is extremely hierarchical, and "jumping the chain of command" is a really quick way to end up ostracized or worse in clerical society.
Once the Life Vow is taken, the priest or nun is officially under Church authority and no longer subject to the laws of his or her local duchy or even of the Kiassan Empire. This is a serious protection measure which has landed the Church in considerable friction with the Imperial government in the past.
Places of Note
A small chapel near the ruins, with a caretaker who seems to have been there for ages, is all that remains of Haranite influence. Lindis Chapel is said to be constructed of the stones from the old Abbey. The caretaker is a dear older man, Joshua (he doesn't give his last name), who is very tolerant of his Preservationist neighbors.
Lirwhinites get all warm and gooshy when they talk about archeology around this area.
The Temple of Ascension in Priascialla
The Convent of St. Elisis in Valrona
Saints and Other Beings
Becoming a saint isn't easy. First, the person in question needs to have either lived an exemplary life and to have died in the faith. Martyrs are particularly applicable here. Second, there must be three verified miracles attributed to the person in question; there is an entire arm of the Church of Haran that is devoted to the investigation of these claims (almost all such claims are debunked). Third, the Council of Cardinals must unanimously elect the dead person to sainthood.
The following is a list of those who've made the cut:
Saint Elisis of Cardiff
Saint Alexander the Pristine
Saint Ehlissa of the Sacred Heart
Saint Faran the Servitor
Saint Julian the Pure
What Happens When You Die?
When a person dies, his body is taken to his home, or that of his parents or some other loved one. It is washed carefully in three changes of water, then doused with fine oils and, if desired, perfume, then wrapped in at least 10 yards of linen (the amount and quality of the linen is predicated by the financial ability of the deceased). It is laid in a wooden box (type and fanciness of the box, again, predicated by monetary considerations), and taken to the deceased's home church (or the nearest church, for those in remote parishes). There, the priest offers a prayer for the deceased's soul and asks parishioners to pray as well. He may offer a brief eulogy about the deceased. Family members may offer up to 3 eulogies of their own. Then six people (usually men, but strong women are sometimes invited) take up the box using poles, and carry it to a graveyard, where it is interred.
The family traditionally stays in the mourning-house at the graveyard for 3 days. Mourners are expected to pay a visit and offer condolences. A priest, acolyte, nun, etc. stays in the house as well, cooking and doing the housework so the family may mourn.
The cost of all this is usually 1 month's wages of the deceased. It is given as a gift.
Before one dies, it is considered nice to confess, if possible, and receive last rites. Dying unconfessed may make it very hard to reach heaven, though not impossible.
If you have lived a good life, when you die, you are taken to Heaven to serve Haran. Haran will show you all of life's mysteries and secrets, everything you ever wondered, and you will live in peace with all the other followers of Haran.
If you have lived a bad life, you are cast into the Pit Infernal with the rest of Haran's failures. The principle of these failures is Iskapris, the Shade of Tranor.
What did you say?
Long ago, there were no sinners, and no sin. All people loved Logos and followed his ways. The most fervent of these people was a man of valor and compassion, Iskapris (the name's Lirwhinite, of course), who became envious of Haran's power in the afterlife, and plotted to overtake Haran and replace him. Naturally Haran knew about it, but gave Iskapris, a onetime priest, every chance to repent and confess. These chances were ignored. Logos had to make a whole new place just for those with impure souls. It's a bleak and desolate place, said to be a dog-eats-dog world where the strong abuse and overpower the weak with no fear of repercussion.
Iskapris had a strong spirit, so he quickly became lord of that dread realm, which came to be called Tranor. He is so strong that sometimes it is said he comes to the physical plane to tempt and bedevil mortals. Priests make a big deal out of this, though the Book of Haran doesn't really talk about devils much.
Is there a religion that worships Iskapris?
Only in the minds of the paranoid. There are always those who claim evil in the name of Iskapris, but there are no public records of a formal church or worship system devoted to him. No evidence has ever been found to support any organized efforts regarding him.
There is a sizable amount of legend regarding his supposed visits to the mortal plane. It is said that one may recognize a demon by its red eyes, or by the fact that its feet don't touch the ground. However, it would be inaccurate to claim that there's a lot of thinking being done about demons at all. There is no Inquisition (yet), and no indication that anybody is concerned about demons further than as metaphors for purely human evil.
Indications to the contrary would almost certainly get the juices flowing for those members of the Church who like a good burning.
Rituals of Haran
The child is taken to a chapel and held up above the altar. The priest dabs the child's forehead with holy water, intoning the following in Aslantir:
"Haran, bring light to this infant's life and guide his/her steps
all the days s/he lives. In the name of Logos, I bless this
child and name him
He then asks who the child's godparents are. He asks them to ensure that the child is properly taken care of, and asks if they mean to care for the child should the parents die. Naturally the godparents say yes. Being a godparent is a very big responsibility -- godparents have, in the past, had to remove children from the homes of alcoholic parents, and have had to provide dowries and other financial assistance if parents can't afford it. Godparents are usually chosen from a slightly higher SES level than the parents, though it is thought that a lower SES person is asked out of deep friendship, or maybe s/he just has a totally cool name. Godparents are expected to live close enough by that they can intervene if necessary, and expected to be a semi-regular part of the child's life -- close enough that intermarriage between godsiblings is taboo.
Last, the priest commands the parents to bring the child before Haran around its 14th birthday, for its confirmation.
The priest asks a series of questions, waiting after each one for an affirmative answer. A negative answer will end the ceremony with a blessing and instruction to the mortified parents/godparents to make sure he's better prepared next time. Next time may be anywhere from a week to 2 years from now. The child is deemed adult enough to sin, so if he dies before he is confirmed, he doesn't go to heaven.
The questions are these:
* Are you here of your own free will?
If the answers are favorable, the priest then tells the child, "Then I bring you into the flock. Live your life according to the Word of Haran and do all that you can to be acceptable to him." He tells those assembled, "Behold this child of Haran. Accord him the grace you would give any member of the true Church." The assemblage is expected to say "We will."
This ends the ceremony.
Some priests have a catalog of sins to ask parishioners about, in case the parishioners have no idea what is or isn't a sin. "Have you touched yourself? Have you given shelter to the morally dissolute?" -- things like that.
Naturally, the priest/litigant relationship is a secure and generally private matter, and priests can be trusted not to reveal what has been shared with them. Sometimes they do in circumspect ways, but will not directly reveal the identity of a sinner or specifics of what has been done. A priest who receives a confession of treason or child abuse, has a big problem on his hands. Kira herself doesn't seem keen on confession and has not done so in many years, and would be only too happy to invade the priests' perogative should she discover one is harboring a serious criminal.
The actual prayer for absolution happens after the confession and penalty phases are finished. The prayer comes from the Book of Consolations, chapter 5:
You have confessed your sins and made expiation for them before Logos. I absolve you in the name of Haran, I cleanse you of this iniquity, and I command you to sin no more. Go in peace.
Once the expiation is done, the sin is forgotten by Haran.
Priests are also required to say confession once every month.
There isn't an indulgences system, though the Church has upon occasion offered service opportunities to people with the promise that Logos will shine favorably upon their spirits after death. This only happens in times of direst need. Should someone think up indulgences and sell it to the Council of Cardinals, it'll likely cause a major schism.
Once a boy has asked the girl to marry him and she has said yes, they are engaged. This is a very formal arrangement with very formal wording. Usually there is no question of the wording, but in cases requiring annulment the wording of the proposal can be VERY important. To be sure, a girl should make sure the beau asks using the words "Will you marry me?" Boys know the correct wording; using vague or misleading wording such as "Would you like to get married one day?", asking in private, is sometimes used to get into a girl's pants.
A person may not be engaged to more than 1 person at a time. An engagement is a very legal and specific legal condition; fiances enjoy certain rights, including physical rights, over each other. A person whose fiance dies before the wedding is allowed to wear mourning and is treated as a widow/er. The community usually considers the couple to be as good as married. They may even live together, in the case of a remote parish with no resident priest, though the arrangement must be formalized as soon as is possible.
The usual exchange of presents is made, and banns read for 3 weekends in the local parishes -- giving the populace time to object, if objections are going to be made, and giving people time to mark the event on the social calendar.
The ceremony is open to the public. The couple is not required to invite everybody to the reception, however. The couple meets at the church door, and knock. The priest answers the door wearing a yellow (or cloth-of-gold) scarf and holding his Red Book. He asks, "What do you seek?"
"We seek to be married. It is the appointed day."
Godparents are particularly invited, as are parents. They usually walk just behind the priest after the priest lets everybody in. A Haranite marriage does not usually involve being given away or walked down the aisle by a parent, though parents are honored.
The priest goes to the altar, and the populace follows to the pews and is seated. When people are seated and quiet, the priest gives a short worship service that follows normal lines, including a sermon appropriate to the occasion. He then asks the couple these questions (they are required to answer together, the man first, then the woman -- the priest does not repeat the entire barrage for each person):
* First, to the parents: Do you consent to this union?
If all the answers are favorable, the priest says, "Then I
pronounce you husband and wife. Your first act as a couple may be a
kiss." The couple complies. Then the priest says, "Those assembled, I
present to you Master and Mistress
The priest then says, "I bless you both. Go in peace." The couple leaves and the congregation follows, with the priest following them all out.
A small celebration may take place near the church, in its yard or garden, and a reception follows at the home of the parents of one of them. Dancing is a very traditional pasttime at the celebration, and most areas have little rituals the couple undergoes, including chair dances, maypole dances, breaking glass (in affluent areas), and even jumping together over a decorated garland of flowers held about knee-height (the higher you can jump, the more years you'll have together).
Traditionally, the cost for this ceremony is a month's wages of the groom. It is presented as a gift to the church and is taken as a gift, though it's really more of a fee.
Divorce is granted only in cases of abuse or adultery. Both require witnesses or a confession on the part of the wrongdoer. A divorcee may not remarry until a priest gives permission, which doesn't generally happen for five or so years after the divorce was finalized. Haran takes marriage very seriously.
Separation is much easier to get than divorce. A person may separate from his or her spouse for many reasons, abuse or adultery being only two of them. While separated, a spouse may not indulge in any physical or romantic relationships (doing so may incur charges of adultery, which may lead to divorce hearings and various other religious penalties), and is expected to work with the separated spouse to get the marriage back on track. A separated spouse who has been separated too long may get a visit from his local priest to find out what progress is being made.
Annulment may be granted if it can be shown that the litigant is at least a first cousin of his spouse, if a pre-existing obligation was in place at the time of the wedding (notably another marriage, or any formalized engagement or even a proven concubine/lover), etc. Annulment is extremely rare and must be done through a bishop.
Obviously the occasion is very somber. The ritual is done in private, though the dying person may elect to have a very close friend or family member there. In the case of prisoners, civil law usually requires an officer of at least Lieutenant rank to be present as well. Though any level of clergy can perform last rites, the rank of the priest usually corresponds to the rank of the person involved: a priest for a commoner, a bishop for a Noble, and so on. The priest wears a black scarf embroidered with black silk symbols of the faith for this occasion; all priests are required to have such a scarf, though the other colors are negotiable in poorer areas.
A white taper candle is lit and placed wherever is nearby and convenient. The priest opens his Red Book of Haran to the book of Consolations, chapter 12, and reads:
Beloved, I tell you truly, there is somewhere set aside for us by the Logos where we will spend eternity in adoration and truth basking in the bright light of Helios. Take heart, even though the journey there is dreadful. Have faith and hope, because you are shortly to get your just reward. Cleanse your soul with confession and your spirit with blessings, and take your last journey, for indeed this will be your last journey. After this, Logos will fill your spirit and you will never again be asked to live away from him. You are the beloved of Logos, and he awaits you.
Then the priest will ask if the dying person has anything left to confess. If no, the priest continues onward; if yes, the priest deals with that with the ritual of absolution. After this, the priest dabs blessed water on his fingers and gently daubs the water on the dying person's eyelids. He continues reading the ritual:
This blessed water symbolizes the last tears you will ever need to shed. Go, my son/daughter, in peace, and know you have done all you can to be ready for your meeting with Logos. You are ready.
After this point, the priest puts his Red Book away, takes up the candle without putting it out, and either leaves or, in the case of soldiers, waits for the soldier to leave and the next to arrive. He does not put the candle out while the dying person is there; there is always a few moments between people for him to do that and re-light it when the next person comes in.
Symbols and Garb
The main symbol of the faith is a cross with equal-length arms set inside a circle. The cross' vertical arm indicates the believer's connection with the divine; the horizontal one indicates the ideal condition of being unified with the community and reminds believers that they have obligations to their fellow man. The circle indicates the universality of the Haranite message.
Red is the most common color in the faith, with varying shades of grey and silver accompanying. While upper-class believes and clerics might wear gold jewelry, the garb itself is red and silver. Acolytes wear plain grey woolen robes (a cassock, usually, which is a bit like a baggy dress with a hood) with a narrow red edging, and as they go up the ranks, the amount of red increases. A city priest wears red robes with silvery edging, and an Archbishop wears red robes embroidered in gold and silver with the silvery edging. The Pontiff wears pure white robes embroidered in red, silver, and gold, along with a tall pointed hat that looks distinctly archaic.
Laypeople working for the Church usually wear a tabard of black or grey with a red cross-and-circle on the front and back, or an armband with the same. They must wear this while performing their duties.
Nuns do exist in the Haranite faith, and typically wear black dresses with black-and-white wimples. They live in cloistered convents for the most part, and unlike abbeys, they're expected to support themselves through selling tithe documents, embroidery, baked goods, and the like. Nuns are almost impossible to miss. If you see one, she is called either "Sister" (if she's fairly young or you don't know her rank) or "Mother" (if she's fairly old or if you already know she's in charge of the convent she lives in). They take vows of poverty and chastity, and don't tend to break those vows. Because their mode of living is so much more severe, they don't follow the normal color conventions of Haranite clergy.
Daisies are a recent holy symbol to the Church; they are said to be representative of purity and chastity, and their yellow centers are like the sun that Logos represents.
Pomegranates, a rare fruit found mostly in the southern ends of Scialla, represents the pure blood of Haran's heart and show up in a number of portraits of his. Apples and apple trees, especially flowering apple trees, are also holy to the Church and appear in a number of fables told about early saints; their seeds are meant to represent the mysteries of the faith, and those who are really hardcore in the faith will recite the Seven Mysteries, one for each seed, as they find them in their fruit.
The plow is sacred to Saint Faran, and appears as a symbol of good honest hard work. The dove and its symbolism of purity and faith appears in many female saints' portraits. The ordinary housecat often appears in paintings of scholarly saints; the animal is said to represent learning and wisdom. There are a number of other representations, and the fields of hagiography and symbology are well-esteemed ones.
A number of people like to use a stylized necklace called a santamno for saying their prayers. The necklace has 24 large gemstone beads strung among 10 metal (usually silver) beads, with 3 particularly ornate metal beads at the necklace's bottom. A dangling pendant cross-and-circle symbol completes the necklace. The precise prayers used for the santamo vary from city to city but usually the 24 large gemstones are for adoration-style prayers, the 10 meant for giving thanks for particular things (this is thought to help people realize there are plenty of good things in their lives), the 3 for prayers asking for things or advice, and the pendant for one last prayer of praise and thanks. The necklace is not meant to be worn, but it is meant to be carried in special small boxes while not in use. The boxes for santamno necklaces are ornate and can be carved or painted in any configuration one wishes, though a cross symbol is always involved. The box can be made out of anything. It's said that the Empress has a santamno necklace in a triamandine box in her palace.
The sun, and symbols of the sun, are obviously sacred to the Haranite faith; jewelry and embroidery with these symbols are often seen. The sun-star symbol, which looks like a bursting star, is the symbol of the Stardancers, but there are a number of other ways of depicting a sun.
Daily Life in the Clergy
So what do you do while roleplaying a priest? You definitely have a huge role to fill in the community ingame. The exact duties will depend on your situation, but here's a sampler:
Workers do the gruntwork. They cook, clean, sew and mend, and take care of any animals in the organization. They're more like regular household servants.
Acolytes typically are training for future work as a priest, so do less of the household stuff and more of the gruntwork for priests. Typical duties include copying books, running errands, gathering information, preparing herbs, going with priests to see how their work is done, and being present during sermons to help the priest. They also are tasked with saying the prayers that the cardinals and archbishops demand each church to say on a regular basis. They are sometimes also asked to read from the Red Book while the other clergymen are eating every night. Acolytes are not allowed to hear confession or to do the serious rituals, with certain narrow life-or-death exceptions. But they have a lot of leeway about how they go about their day, so if you see a holy man around town, chances are he's an acolyte.
Priests minister to the flock. They visit the sick, give the rituals of confession and absolution, and give the last rites to the dying. They counsel the fearful and make sure alms get into the hands that need them most. They meet with the artisans and merchants who serve their individual churches, acquire the goods and services needed, and stick to their set budgets. If the priest is a craftsman himself, he'll also be making things for his organization. Priests also meet with laity and help run the meetings of lay organizations, so are often in contact with the citizens of their area. You will get into as much trouble as you want with a priest PC, consequently; you are encouraged to think of new ways to make your role interact with the other PCs.
Nuns and other cloistered folk are not actually encouraged ingame at this time. While they may have lots to do in their own little convents, this won't bring them into contact much with other PCs.
Friars, or traveling priests, are usually off on their own missions. One might settle in town for a long time while he sets up his agenda and meets it. Typical missions include "end alcoholism in this mining town" or "start up a Ladies' Temperance Movement in Valrona," or even just "encourage fervor in the people of this city." Friars are seen as a bit of a wild card, without real authority, and they have to be careful not to offend or step on the local clergy too much or they find themselves dragged off to a church court for heresy.
Blessings and Prayers
While the section on rituals, above, gives some blessings and prayers commonly used, there are a number that aren't really specific to any one occasion that are used by commoners and Nobles alike.
General prayers of praise and thanks:
From Light comes life, and so we thank Thee.
The Psalm of Joy:
The Haranite Creed:
While facing a tough situation:
When hoping for true love:
To ask Haran for something specific, like money or a better job:
A blessing for mothers:
A blessing for fathers:
A prayer for those who are sick or badly injured:
Becoming a Priest/Nun
People as young as 13 may make their first steps into the Church of Haran. For game purposes, since SciallaMud does not accept apps for characters younger than 18, if you choose this path, you are allowed to take Ritual as one of your initial skillpicks and are understood to have been in the Church all that time. You will have received a rudimentary education in the basics of the Haranite faith and would know anything on this webpage. You also definitely would be literate and have at least one "practical" skill, also chosen in chargen. However, you would not know any specific weapon skills.
Adults, once ingame, can also elect to join the Church. Either men or women can do so. All that is required is the permission of the church elder the potential recruit will work under--either the priest of the church, or else the abbot/abbess or prior if the acolyte wishes to join an order. Abbeys usually require a financial contribution as well. To join, the adult will have to renounce all worldly goods, separate from his or her spouse (divorce is not permitted unless the spouse refuses to be joined to an acolyte or later commits adultery), and commit to full-time service of the Church. No other outside jobs are permitted and nobody is allowed to join on a part-time basis.
The first step involved in joining the Church is a ritual called the First Vows. These vows vary from area to area but usually involve powerful oaths before Logos to serve Him and His prophet, most holy Haran, and to obey those above him or her in the Church hierarchy. If taken pre-game, the acolyte would have had that ritual in his past. If an adult joins, the ritual is very elaborate and would be attended by his priest/nun as well as any of his family who wish to attend, and is open to the other priests or nuns of the church/abbey/monastery. It's a huge deal, a bit like a wedding but only one person's getting the attention and the gown isn't as fancy. The adult's hair is symbolically shorn short and the end of the ceremony involves getting either a skullcap (for men) or a wimple (for women) to cover the hair. In smaller towns, the new acolyte usually gets a mention in the newspaper or other news sources. At the next mass, the acolyte is presented to the community again and introduced.
Acolytes have a number of thankless duties. They keep inkwells filled in the scriptoriums, sweep floors, draw water for blessing later, copy simple books, study till their eyes bleed, and hold the Red Book for the priest when necessary. They also dangle the incense burners when accompanying the priests outside and keep the oil lamps and prayer candles lit. When someone's got to say 200 prayers for a newly-deceased person, the duty usually devolves onto an acolyte. That said, acolytes still have a great deal of freedom. They have more free time than priests or nuns and their transgressions are punished far less severely. They can decorate their rooms and even leave the church or abbey/monastery to run errands. They aren't considered cloistered yet. As one might imagine, some people do take First Vows purely to get fed regularly and to get a bed to sleep in.
Though their life can be difficult, they get cut a little slack. Larger orders and churches have an official Master/Mistress of Acolytes who supervises them and arranges discipline when needed. Usually the Master/Mistress is an older priest or nun who's got a good reputation for dealing with the frequently undisciplined new members of the Family of God.
After a varying period of time, usually when the acolyte's served two years or is 18 years old, his or her leader will ask him to take the Life Vow. This vow is also a huge deal, attended by family and community. A bishop usually attends and co-administers the vows, which are usually along the lines of swearing to serve for life and swearing to abstain from hard liquor, sex, gambling, and "worldly pleasures." The acolyte is free to refuse to take these vows, at which point he's dismissed from the Church honorably and given one change of civilian clothes to wear, one pair of new shoes, and a cloak. Usually at that point, if the ex-acolyte has been a good worker, he or she might find employment with one of the lay organizations. The Life Vow is a huge deal, considered on par with actual wedding vows, and cannot be broken without significant trouble.
Once the Life Vow is taken, the acolyte is now a full priest or nun and if not part of a specific order is assigned to a church district to serve under a priest for a short while as a sort of intern. It's worth noting that a priest is not tonsured or shaved, though they are expected to be clean-shaven at all times and to wear their skullcaps. A nun is expected to be in clean clothing at all times and to wear her habit and wimple. After 6-12 months, the new priest/nun is given full duties and is ready to roll.
Once his Life Vow is made, he's in. If he leaves, it is dishonorably without dispensation from a cardinal (if below the rank of a bishop) or the Pontiff (for bishops and archbishops who wish to leave). No Pontiff or Cardinal has ever left the Church but the Empress would have to approve this. Once he retires, though, he's free to spend the remainder of his life as he wishes. Retirement happens when he's just too old to functionally contribute. In other words, he'd be too weak to walk, hands shake too much to write, cataracts (for frontier priests, since surgery easily corrects this where there's power) too bad to see, cases of extreme illness, etc. He is cared for the rest of his life by the Church as a reward for his lifetime of service.
A valid excuse for leaving is difficult to find. In the past, the main excuse that's worked is that all a man's brothers are now dead so he is now required to marry to continue the family name, but the family name better be impressive for that to work. Nobody cares if a peasant's family name dies! This excuse doesn't work for women, either; a woman might be allowed to leave if she were dishonored somehow while in service, but when a woman wants to leave, she usually just runs away and heads out west. It's been said that half the frontier brides west of Eliff are runaway nuns.
If a priest really differentiates himself through good service and piety, he may find himself promoted through the ranks. This promotion process includes serving on committees and councils and receiving various honors and awards specific to the Church. If a bishopric becomes available through retirement or death of the previous bishop, a priest is chosen by the Archbishops' Council to fill the bishopric.
If an archbishopric becomes vacant, the Cardinals name the new Archbishop. The local Duke of that area must ratify the decision, since an Archbishop will work closely with local government. This election process also applies to vacated abbeys and monasteries. If a Cardinal dies or retires, his replacement is chosen by the Pontiff with ratification by the Imperial Emperor/Empress.
Women can be named to any of these positions. They usually aren't, however. Old habits died hard, and an extensive good-ole-boy network usually prevents women from being named to anything higher than an abbess in charge of a nunnery/convent/abbey. There are currently no female Cardinals and only one female Archbishop (in Val Taqar). It would be a real uphill battle for a woman to advance in the Church, but staff ingame are happy to work with the concept for someone willing to tackle a real challenge!
In game mechanics terms, players won't often be allowed into cloistered orders. Simply put, there's no way staff can really make good game for these players due to the lack of mixing. Priests in non-cloistered orders, however, are more than welcome. An IG priest would be a busy bee--ideally staff would love to see a priest give sermons of his own choosing, take confessions and set penances, do business on the part of the Church, create and undertake charity work, whatever he can make work ingame! The non-cloistered orders would mix considerably with the playerbase. Priests are welcome to take lunch in a tavern or to visit artisans' shops on behalf of their Church, or to make social calls on those PCs who are allied with them.
Priests and nuns are under vows of poverty, chastity, and humility. The chastity part is pretty obvious. Poverty means that all their physical needs are met by the Church; a priest doesn't pay rent and does not need to buy food, clothing, or anything else. It also means that any time he comes into money, he doesn't keep a dime, but gives all of it to the Church. Humility means that the priest may not keep any honors he is given; any medals or grants of land go to the Church's coffers. He is also expected not to try too hard to advance his own family in the Church. Obviously, there are a number of abuses in this system, and not all priests do what they should. However, if a priest doesn't cover his tracks or make himself an unassailable opponent, his superiors could get involved. Penalties range from confiscation of the goods to demotion to reassignment to a really nasty place.
A priest or nun will learn a trade and skills while in the Church, of course; these will be used to the betterment of the Church. A priest/nun is not allowed to ever make money off of his talents while in the Church's employ. Just about any craft you can imagine is possible, though. Woodworker, painter, singer, whatever, as long as it fits in with the game's needs.
The Church also hires a number of laypeople for other purposes. Servants in the non-cloistered orders are the primary needs, but the Church also finds it expedient to hire Swordsmen for protection. In some past times, the Church has rallied considerable private armies! All of these are laypeople. There is no order of Holy Knights--who in their right mind would give such a politically powerful entity such military power? Indeed, the Church is sharply limited in how much military might it is allowed to bring to the field. None of its bodyguards, therefore, have taken vows, though the Church's leaders are usually careful to hire only those swordsmen who have demonstrated piety. Because they are not officially churchmen, they are under the ultimate control of the local Duke and do not enjoy any clerical protections.
Therefore, if a player wishes to have a PC who works for the Church but who isn't limited like a priest or nun, that works pretty well.