Cosmology & Religion(Merika Supplement)
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The Gods of the world, from the God of Man to the the patrons of sorcerers, are unknowable. Even today some dispute their existence and suggest those that call upon their might are but another type of wizard or warlock. It is true that in some cases the abilities seem similar, but for those that make use of divine magic, there is no doubt that the forces they call upon have a will of their own.
None know from whence the faithful of the God's came, all that is known for sure is some time during the Great Fall some few insightful folk began speaking of the God of Man, and these men and women of faith served an integral role in the defense and succor of whatever community they found themselves in. The world of Merika is a bit different than many settings. There are few gods of any real power that have a wide impact on the world, in truth the only god that commands a following of any great size, and indeed fields clerics and paladins capable of wielding divine magic, is the God of Man. Faithful of the Divine acknowledge no other power. They refer to the personal gods of warlocks and the minor cults as demons and heresies.
The Church of Man
The Mighty god of the Empire of Man and the driving force behind their society. It is said that the Divine created Man in his own image and in doing so imparted a tiny "godspark" in each man and woman of pure flesh and spirit. Faithful of the Church of Man preach the need for hard work, honesty, charity, honor, and compassion for one's fellow man. No man goes hungry in the empire, no sickness goes untreated. The Church warns against murder and violence towards humanity, as all are reflections of the Divine an injury against a man is an injury to Man's God.
But the church also speaks of those of marked flesh, for in the Gospels of the Divine it is said that the souls of men are reflections of the Divine soul, and that their flesh is the reflection of the spirit. Warped flesh speaks of spiritual corruption amongst the faithful and is therefore anathema. The charity of the Church of Man stops at the human race. Those outside the church speak of ruthlessness and cruelty in their attempts to maintain "physical and spiritual purity". A human infant born with a club foot is treated as harshly as warped sorcerers who have forgotten their human form.
In the past infants born with the blight were destroyed, as time passes and they become more common they are often entered into slavery instead. Blighted within the empire are castrated and set to work in menial jobs or used as cannon fodder in the Imperial regiments. This rise in marked births is also looked upon as the physical manifestation of the Divine's displeasure over the increasing debasement of Imperial Society. So much so that the current Grand Ecclisiarch, Jonas Pious III, has pushed harder and harder for a return to traditional aesthetic values and increased rejection of those societies outside the border.
The God of Man Also known as the Divine. The God of Man is attributed a masculine aspect in most cases, but can also be depicted as being female or even androgynous. He is said to have dominion over all things by his followers and his name is invoked to heal the sick, smite one's enemies, and ward off corruption.
Those that worship the Divine say that man was the first and only race of the world, and all other thinking races are twisted offshoots corrupted by dark heresy and sin. His symbol is a four pointed star burst, his animals are the lion and the falcon, and the colors of his priesthood are white, silver, and gold. His metal is gold and his gemstone is ruby.
Of Serpents & Darkness
Far to the south, in the empire of Me'Sia, Suutep is worshiped with a fervent devotion that is rightly called fanaticism. What is strange is very, very few of his "priests" exhibit much ability with divine magic. Most seem to display abilities much more akin to sorcerers.
The majority of the populace pays lip service to the Serpent God if only to mollify his priests. Those whose "faith" is found lacking often find themselves stripped of property and sold into slavery, or disappear outright. The priesthood rules all levels of government without question. No other faiths or cults are tolerated (though they do occasionally crop up, particularly among slave populations).
It is no secret that the most favored among the priesthood exhibit serpent-like features congruent with their devotion. In the Merika campaign setting it is the faithful of Suutep that are the origin of the Yuan-ti.
Suutep, the Night Serpent: The Lord of Serpents and Darkness is attributed a masculine aspect and is said to have dominion over darkness, venom, domination, excess, consumption, virility, and lies. His name is invoked at orgies, hedonistic acts, to bring ruin to one's enemies, and to ward off his wrath.
Those that follow the Night Cobra say that nothing escapes the grasping coils of their lord and that all other gods shall eventually smother within his crushing embrace and be consumed to sate his eternal hunger as his priesthood consumes their followers. All the pleasures of the world belong to the faithful and all the souls of men belong to Suutep.
His symbol is a serpent coiled about the sun, and the "eye" pattern of the cobra's hood. His animal is the serpent. His colors are black, violet, and green. His metal is copper and his gemstone is jade.
The Major Cults
The Church of Man is the most influential and well known religion but there are other cults and minor churches that all claim patrons of some questionable level of divinity.
What sets many of the cults apart is none of the faithful "priests" can channel magic as a cleric. The minor cults have warlocks and witches as their head priests. This is not to say that their patrons have nothing to offer, however. The "divine" patron of many cults may act in a much more direct fashion to aid their "faithful" than the mighty and unknowable God of Man.
As to the nature of these patrons, many are beings of the Outer Dark of varying power. They offer dark investments and direct intercession to their followers. Some are ancient spirits that may have once been men themselves. Others are more enigmatic entities that may in fact be minor gods. Some of the more prominent cults follow:
Gormesh, the Thrice Gold Lord: Gormesh is depicted by his faithful as a large man of enormous girth with bronze skin and curving ram's horns bedecked with heavy golden jewelry. His cult promises to make the faithful wealthy and grant them temporal power with that wealth. Gormesh demands flesh and blood to placate him. His rites include feasting and drinking to excess that culminate in blood sacrifice. His symbol is a gold coin bearing his countenance.
Sutheruss of the Black Circle: Sutheruss is depicted by his faithful as a tall, thin, man of regal bearing in fine robes with a black, lambent flame surrounding his left hand. In life Sutheruss was a grand warlock capable of great feats, in death his faithful labor to maintain his store of knowledge and restore the dread sorcerer to life. The faithful join his cult to gain access to the store of his knowledge. He had a powerful ring of onyx that was lost when he died at the hands of a rival, and a ring carved from onyx or bearing an onyx gem has become the symbol of his acolytes.
The Purifying Flame: The Purifying Flame is less a cult and more a philosophy. The flame purifies and destroys. It brings light and destroys lives. It is a force of enlightenment and danger. Those that are called to the flame embrace the light of civilization and science, and eschew blind faith and mysticism. The faithful follow the flame to debate philosophy with like minded individuals and support the endeavors of each other. A simple signet struck with the symbol of the flame marks the members of this cult.
For those learned sages who study such things, it is well known that there are other worlds than the one we dwell in. These worlds are perhaps countless. Strange alien landscapes that are found in some remote areas of the world are said to have taken root from other worlds during the Great Fall. In other places there are even strange thinking races who are said to have come from these other realms. However, as the barrier between slowly healed itself into the ragged scar we know today these world became distant once again, leaving behind their refugees and becoming unreachable.
When sages point to the other worlds, two are most often mentioned: The Outer Dark and the Dim. It is these two that intersect ours most often, bleeding through the Barrier Between in places that it is still thin to impact the course of the world. A third realm is speculated upon by the Church of Man, but most scholars point to a lack of evidence when they speak of it.
- The Outer Dark – The Realm Beyond: Also known as the Nether, the Void, Hell, and the Abyss. Legends say that all evil is born of the Nether. It is this realm that many of the most terrible creatures of nightmare dwell. Demons, devils, infernals, and daemons are all labels man has applied to them. They have a host of names for themselves. These creatures play by a strange set of rules. They cannot gain ingress into the world without being called, and they are more than happy to exchange power and knowledge for influence in the mortal realm. Many warlocks draw upon the Nether as a source for their power.
- The Dim - The Realm Below: Also known as the Underworld, the Land of Death, the Shadow, and the Gray. Some say that this realm is part of the Nether, others say it is something else entirely. In truth it is both and neither. The Dim bleeds into all other realms. It is like a reflection of all other things. It is the home and the source of the unquiet dead and necromantic energies. Legends say that the reflections shown in mirrors are the gateway to the Dim. Perhaps there is truth in this as most rituals intended to tap into the Shadow make use of mirrors as a focus.
- Godhome – The Realm Above: This realm is only speculated about. The Church of Man says that this shining realm is the home of the God of Man. It is said that this is the wellspring of the beatific, and the dwelling place of the Divine. No divinations have revealed anything of the Godhome, and no mortal has found their way here by design or accident.