The Divine Church of Modoaldus
'He is the Astral Harvester, the Lifegiver, the Sun King. Without him, the world is naught. And we, the members of his Divine Church, serve only at his command. It is by this holy order that we convert the universe.'
- Exarch Hardulph Symphorian
Not only a faith but a state, the Imperial Modoals are the largest force in the Continent. Can they hold their position as the Sectarian Wars begin?
Few dispute the fact that Modoaldus is the longest worshipped god on the Continent. Though he has been called by many names and exalted in many ways, he has been praised since man first gazed in wonder at the sun. Honored as a key god in the Teberian pantheon, sun cults across the continent were grouped as titles or manifestations of him: Modoaldus of the Sun Disk, Modoaldus of the Sky-Fire, Modoaldus the Unconquered and Rebirthed, etc. The breadth and strength of the Teberian Empire syncretized the smaller cults into a single god under the Teberian pontiffs. When the Empire collapsed and the barbarian tribes established their new kingdoms, the Hierarchy remained and was filled with barbarian shamans and priests. Theology was quickly changed: Teber was no longer the place of Modoaldus' descent, it was Cedant; there was no Cult with a high pontiff at its head, there was now only the Church and the leaders of the Hierarchy. King Rorthan was declared the living Chosen of Modoaldus, the god's vicar on earth and supreme head of church and state. The once Teberian cult was now fully native.
According to official Modoal theology, the Regnant and her line have been the Chosen of Modoaldus from the beginning of creation; any prior associations with other lines are apocryphal. Thus, on the first day of creation:
...when Modoaldus shined upon the darkness and demanded existence, it was so. So came the sky, the firmament of heaven, and then the seas below. Upon the seas came the land, and thereupon the wheat and growth. The Astral Harvester took a sheaf of grain and shined upon it lovingly. The sheaf took form, and was called 'man'.... Thus the Lifegiver spoke: 'Go, ye shall have reign over the things beneath the firmament, and thus you shall be called 'Regnant.''
- The Sacred Book of Solarity, Book of the First Harvest, Ch 2, v. 3-6, 19
This, it is said, is when Modoaldus created his covenant with mankind.
Beliefs & Teachings
According to the Church, Modoaldus has always existed. The sun god was there even before he blazed across the sky. With mercy and love, he formed all the universe by his will. The first creation after land is notably grain: Modoaldus has always been associated with harvest and growth. It was from this very grain that Modoaldus created humanity:
The Astral Harvester took a sheaf of grain and shined upon it lovingly. The sheaf took form, and was called 'man'. As man woke, he was tired and alone. Thus he begged the Sun King: 'Lifegiver and Lord of All! Smile upon me, your servant and creation. Send down a savior lest I die of loneliness!' Modoaldus, in his mercy, took pity on man. He spoke thus: 'Gather ye up a bundle of grasses.' The man took of the finest grasses and bundled them. Man placed them on his sun altar and prayed. The Lifegiver took of the bundle and shone his visage upon it, and it too took form. It awoke, and was called 'woman'. So the man and woman met, and knew of each other's fruits, and bore many children.
- The Sacred Book of Solarity, Book of the First Harvest, Ch 2, v. 5-15
Modoaldus guided his creations into the world and gave them dominion over the lands and seas. The firstborn son of Regnant became the new Chosen after his father's death, leading the people to their creator god, and thus the line is unbroken from the beginning of creation.
Without the Sun King, crops would fail, mankind would stumble in blind darkness, and the world would be ever cold. It is only by his rising daily that the world continues, and his constant cycle of falling and rising reminds mankind of what might happen were Modoaldus to abandon his people. Through prayer, fasting, and supplication, Modoaldus is appeased and continues to smile on his creation.
The Church acknowledges no other god than Modoaldus. Those who worship strange gods are considered heathens; those that worship Modoaldus beyond the Church, heretics. As the Church is both a religious organization and a political state, the religious status of such people has an impact on their social standing. Heathens do not have rights to run for government office or serve in the military. Heretics are generally rare due to the all-encompassing religious empire, but are refused political office.
For the average follower of Modoaldus, worship is simple. Twice weekly, on the Day of Sun and the Evening of Dusk, a worshipper will go to the local church and observe the ceremonies performed by the priest. On certain feasts, more may be expected, such as certain prayers of oblations. Otherwise, the Modoal's religious obligations are complete.
For the clergy, however, things are much more than they seem. Behind the seamless liturgies - which usually involve song, incense, scripture, and sun adoration - are a countless number of laws, rules, rubrics, and sacramentaries. Every sabbath is a different feast day and requires different scripture readings, hymns, and rituals. As the Church grew through the years, feasts were added and liturgies modified. The recorded corpus of these canons and rubrics is known as The Canonical Sacramentarium. These varying canons can lead to complex and confusing liturgical laws:
The Fourth Feast of the Sun-Disk shall occur during the Eighth Month on the third Day of Sun. Should the third Day of Sun fall on the normal Solemnity of Saint Thelsanius, the solemnity shall be suppressed. Should the third Day of Sun fall on the Second Festival of Golden Light, the Feast of the Sun-Disk shall be moved to the fourth Day of Sun...The incense shall thus be sweetgrass. If sweetgrass cannot be found, labdanum may be used. The incense shall be burned by a flame taken from the Sky-Fire candle no earlier than three hours before the liturgy. The incense must be burned in the incensor of electrum. If electrum cannot be found, gold may be used, but not silver alone, nor bronze, nor copper, nor nickel.
-The Canonical Sacramentarium
Due to the complexities of religious law, priests must be highly trained. Several large seminaries exist, as do smaller missionary ones, to train initiate priests. Priests are thus generally well-read and knowledgeable in both ecclestiatical and secular law.
A number of important feast days exist on the Modoal calendar. The highest is the Feast of the Astral Harvester, celebrating the annual harvest granted by Modoaldus' blessing. For three weeks before the feast, fasting is observed. On the feast day, grains and vegetables are traditionally eaten, the fruits of the harvest. The Regnant commonly provides some food to the people of Cedant as a gesture of unity and charity.
Everday is one of the most beloved festivals of the Church. Traditionally, night and darkness represent the absence of Modoaldus' light, a reminder from the god that humanity is nothing without him. On Everday, however, the faithful remember that even in the darkness Modoaldus guides them. The whole day is spent in preparation of the feast. At dusk, all the congregation will gather at the local church with candles, lanterns, and torches. As the sun dips below the horizon, a torch with fire from the church's own Sun-Fire candle is passed through the crowd. They all light their instruments and, when the last candle is lit, go throughout the town singing hymns and basking the bright light that Modoaldus gives even during the darkness.
Aside from the liturgies, many Modoals wear a twelve-point sunburst pendant as a sign of their faith and as a protection granted by the Astral Harvester. Popular prayers are often memorized by the lower classes and recorded in books and codices by those with more wealth. Modoals are forbidden to have private shrines in fear that they may confuse the Imperial liturgies with their own prayers. Disagreement in this area caused the Parchelsian Schism which plagued the Church for decades.
Among the many virtues and laws of the Church, there is one dreaded word which can strike fear or zeal in the Empire: staraphos. Though an exact translation of the Teberian word does not exist, it essentially means a holy war. Staraphos has been declared only four times in the history of the Church: first, against the Barrion Heretics immediately after the fall of Teber; second, against the barbarian Seafolk that invaded the Continent 500 years ago; third, against the long-lived Parchelsian Schism; and finally, against all heathens and heretics in the Empire at the start of the Sectarian Wars. When the Hierarchy declares staraphos, all the faithful are expected to be ready to fight in the name of Modoaldus. Holy war is a time for the followers of Modoaldus to prove their faith, and for his enemies to shake in fear.
Like the Dalraaenites, the Imperial Church is organized hierarchically (though comparisons between the two are likely to result in a lengthy argument). The official head of the Church is the Regnant. The immediate descendent of the first man in a supposedly unbroken line, the Regnant's reign of the Modoal Empire is a result of a covenant forged between the god and the first man. The position normally falls on the firstborn son of the previous Regnant, but on many occassions it has instead been bestowed on the Regnant's daughter in cases of no other heir. The role of the Regnant varies: some Regnants are zealous and dominate religious life, while others have practically ignored the Church in favor of political focus. During the Sectarian Wars, Queen Regnant Eloria IX rules the Church and state.
The body of Church officials is known as the Hierarchy. The leader of this structure and spiritual head of the Church is called the Hierarch. immediately beneath him are the Exarchs, the rest of the higher Church officials. The Hierarch is considered first among the brethren of the Exarchs. Generally, the Hierarchy as a whole does not convene. The individual Exarchs govern their respective religious provinces, called Exarchies. The Exarchs assign priests to individual churches (eparchs) and ensure the Church laws and decrees are followed. When deemed necessary, the Regnant - usually at the advisement of the Hierarch - will summon the Exarchs together and call a synod. Synods occur in times of crises or drastic change. Notably, the Cedanti Synod declared all non-Imperial Modoals to be unlawful in the Empire, effectively beginning the Sectarian Wars.
Each eparch is assigned one or more priests with the occasional lay deacon. Eparchy priests serve the needs of their congregations, leading the feast liturgies and attending to the poor and dying. All priests wear some shade of yellow vestments, ranging from pale homespun cloth to rich golden silk. In recent years, priests have become notorious for using church tithes to line their own pockets and for ignoring the needs of the poorer congregants. Though some of these claims are substantiated, the problem is far less widespread than is rumored, and a majority of priests own little more than their sand-colored vestments. Per the oldest traditions of the Church, all priests are male. There are a few lay monastic orders, mostly mountain hermits and city healers, and one does find women among these myriad ascetics.
Geography & Demographics
As the Divine Church of Modoaldus is both a religious and political institution, it is appropriate to address the people and places of the Empire as well. Ranging from the center to the southern stretches of the Continent, the Modoal Empire is marked by a temperate climate and gentle rolling hills. The soil throughout is excellent for agriculture, lined with small streams and rivers that are easily irrigatible. Looking at the Modoal landscape, one can easily see why they worship their god as the Astral Harvester. The Empire's territory is an elongated oblong shape from the further Eastern coast to the swamps of the West. A small mountainous range, the Quornat Mountains, crosses from North to South about a third of the Empire's length from the Eastern coast. This range divides the old nobility of the East from the middle and peasant classes in the West. The ancient capital of Cedant, an old walled city dating back to pre-Teberian cultures, lies near the Eastern coast. A few other cities dot the Eastern portion, with a network of many smaller villages and hamlets comprising the West. Other notable cities are Atrora, a city at the main pass through the Quornats, and the large farming town of Quaines in the West, famous as being the hometown of St. Vedast.
A majority of the populace are farmers, mostly free but a few of the ancient serf variety. The land is owned by the noble families of the East who rely on the lower classes for food. A sizable middle class exists, mostly merchants and skilled craftsmen. The noble families make up the military and government. While there is no set rule that relates class to religious status, peasant-born priests are far less likely to become Exarchs when compared to noble sons. Race is mostly homogenous and largely a non-issue. People of the West tend to have Teberian features, darker skin and fair hair. They are of lithe Tiberan stock: short, thin, and broad-shouldered. The noble families of the East are lighter skinned and usually have red, auburn, to brown hair. Most are taller than their Western cousins and have bulkier frames. These rules are not strict, however, and one often finds intermingling of the breeds. The one more isolated race is a small community at the foot of the Quornat Mountains appropriately called the Hillfolk. They have much darker skin and hair, and are marked by short torsos and naturally strong legs. Historians believe them to be far Western nomads who settled in the mountains during the fall of the Teberian Empire.
As the largest political and religious power on the Continent, the Imperial Church of Modoaldus has great sway over Continental happenings. Aside from the independent Freestates in the South, the only unconquered territory of the Modoals are the Judicial States. War with the Dalraaenites at one time was fairly frequent and intense, but tensions have cooled over the past few centuries. That is not to say there is animosity: the Dalraaenites and Modoals traditionally have nothing but dislike and distrust for one another. The recent expansion of the Order's courts into Modoal territory does nothing to sate the rivalry. Despite their differences, the two great religions do manage to mostly respect each other's dominion.
The Yamasatrans are looked at mostly with wonder and occasionally disdain. 'Water witches' is a common pejorative term used by Modoals for the Sisters of the Pelagic Queen, and they often find their way into sermons as objects of infidelity to the Sun King. The Sisterhood is happy to maintain their enigmatic and distant position, the feelings between the two being largely mutual. As for the Vautuans, the Church has considered them happily extinct for a hundred years. In the past there has been nothing but hatred between the two, and the Modoals repeatedly stamped out any Vautuan influence in the Continent. Given that the Cultus has secretly operated under the nose of the Modoals for decades, it is difficult to foresee the future interactions between the two.
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? Responses (2)
Extensive, a well written theocracy. I would comment more, but so many words...so many words.... (I'm in the process of assimilating the bulk of the Sectarian subs in a sitting so bear with me.)