|The Golden Faith|
The Golden Faith, sometimes also called the Aurot or the Nirosi Faith, is the dominant religion in the Brazenmark Empire and a minority religion in the Orient. The faith's dogma centers largely around the life and teachings of its founder and central figure, Auros, a golden-skinned human God, notably the first and only of his kind. In his life, Auros lead several upstart human kingdoms against the elves in a series of brutal crusades. After the elves had been toppled as the dominant race in Edriel, Auros retired to the city of Niros, where he established a church to spread his teachings. From then till now, Auros has remained entombed by his own will in Niros, not communicating with the world outside. No one knows if the godly man still lives, but his power and the legacy of his life still ripples across Edriel today.
The tenets central to the Golden Faith are based around the teachings and life of Auros, which he chose to pass down from [[The First Writ[[, an artifact that details much of his life in depth, but also his beliefs and what he saw the future to hold for humanity. The nature of the writ and its copies, however, have made it difficult to maintain a constant interpretation across a period of nearly two thousand years. However, the core principles have remained consistent, and as such, the Golden Faith bases itself upon the followed which have maintained themselves in the scriptures since the days Auros still walked among mankind:
Auros is the coalescence and divine manifestation of the collective spiritual will of humanity. The Heavens are the paradise promised by the Last Judgement. Beings other than humans reincarnate after death. They are apart of the world itself and should be respected, but also used to the greater purpose of humanity’s destiny. Humanity’s solemn task is to prepare for the divine crusade. The strength, piety and virtue of a man determine the transcendence of their soul. Men who damn their souls by tainting their bodies and spirits will fade into nothingness.
The First Writ
The First Writ are the writings of Auros inscribed onto golden plates in the years preceding his entombment in the Vault of Niros. The texts are said to grant visions of divine providence to the reader and a unique understanding of Auros and humanity’s greater calling. Though the interpretation of these visions differ vastly in a way not dissimilar to the recollection of dreams. The First Writ was immediately stored away within the Vault of Niros after their message was transcribed onto documents known as the Radiant Scrolls. The scrolls share all the properties of Auros’ divine word, though unlike the original, they were susceptible to wear and the passage of time, and due to various incidents over the centuries including contradictory interpretations of the word that did not fall into the mold of what the Nirosi Church deemed as proper, they were stored alongside the First Writ within Auros’ vault.
The Aurosian standard of the Afterlife is a lack thereof. It is said that when the virtuous die, their souls leave their bodies but are tethered to the physical plane and therefore congregate around Auros within his tomb, existing in a perpetual limbo until the time of the Last Judgement. Interpretations of the Last Judgement have vastly differed over the centuries, however, the following excerpt from one of the earliest Ecumenic Encyclicals has stood the test of time as the ‘accepted’ notion of the end times by the Nirosi Church.
“In the waning years of Edriel shall darkness prevail. Mankind will succumb, and all men will worship the fruit of greed and indulge themselves in heathenry. The body shall become fat and bloated, and the soul empty. The skies will grow dark and the clouds will choke the light from the lands of men. The land itself will rise against men, the heat of summer and cold of winter coming to sweep away the toils of their labor. The rains will abandon Edriel, and in its place famine. But in this time of tribulation and adversity, a fire shall burn. One that will envelop the lands of men, from the Holy City of Niros to the far Orient. And from the vault, Auros shall rise, and with him a vast host. The souls of the virtuous and faithful shall gather beneath his holy banner like moths to a flame; and a flame shall they become, an everlasting fire to scour the lands and bathe the tainted ones in cleansing flame. And with his coming shall the dark be driven away never to return again, and all Edriel purified by his wrath and by his love. And in that moment shall mankind be rebirthed from the ashes of his labor, a new world born without strife, to be cherished by his children forevermore.”
Saints and the Virtuous
There are few individuals more rightfully lauded than the three Saints; Humanity itself can be summarized and understood through their deeds. Many men have stood as testament to the mortal spirit and ingenuity, but there are three among them who stand as representations that hold a candle to the Spirit-borne flame that is Auros’ will made manifest.
Among them stand Saint Gwillhelm the Martyr; he who lived and died for the Human ideal without hesitation, and spared no transgression upon the collective dignity of man. Saint Callahan the Soldier; father of mankind’s armies, the man who let his love for our people turn the Elf from our lands and reclaim all that was destined to have been his peoples’ since the beginning of the world itself: a testament to the fact that mankind will never have their destiny fulfilled without great men to work towards it. Therein lays the final virtue, and the most crucial of them all; he who can be looked to unequivocally as the Human Ideal, the man who laid his own desire aside to build a future beneath the flame for Mankind; Saint Gorobrand the Humble. Without the laborer, without the devoted servant, there would be no future to look forward to: and thus, there lay the land of the Virtuous.
Many of those who have accomplished great deeds in the service of the Golden Faith or mankind have their services rendered immortal and recognized, entombed within great sepulchres spread across the vast domain of humanity, alongside their brothers in arms and the personification of Mankind’s own grave.
They are the generals, the priests, the servants and the pioneers of faith and logic: any who make great strides towards bringing the Last Judgement closer are considered to be virtuous, and often see ratification at the hands of the High Catechist so the story of their deeds might be disseminated among the faithful as a source of inspiration and passion. Many of these have come to have devoted followings over the years; followers of the Virtuous and the Saints are known to carry idols, talismans, and the wealthy and powerful go so far as to seek their possessions as to better understands the circumstance of their life. Though this is more common with the Saints than Virtuous, it is seen in all fields.
Nature of Soul
According to the Golden Faith, the soul is a vessel created at birth. One that can be strengthened through goodwill, or weakened by evil and non-virtuous deeds. Seperate from both body and mind alike, both however play a part in the constitution of the soul. Through these acts of virtue or honing one’s prowess through adherence to the three core principles of faith, individuals can fill their soul with light, and in doing so, strengthen themselves that they may withstand the test of time to join Auros in the Last Judgement and thereafter be reborn into a world of light. However, acts of wickedness and the sin of lethargy can atrophy the soul, rendering it unable to depart the mortal coil that is the physical body, and eventually fade away into nothingness. The nature of humanity is that they are born with an innate virtue, and to prevent another man from fulfilling their soul is considered a heinous and sinful act that will damn one’s own.
The basis of faith is our sacred duty. Three virtues stand as the basis of what can be considered good and righteous beneath the Golden Faith, as proscribed in the writings of Auros himself; three virtues carried from the writ. While they can be condensed as simply being ambition, duty and purity, the musings of the clergy have put meaning to them. The following are excerpts from an Ecumenic Encyclical predating the Gallanite Heresy:
“Without the noble laborer, the dedicated servant, the stonemason and the soldier, the goal of our Final Judgement would be a distant dream; though there is such a thing as a great man, they need not be the war hero or the martyr. Any dedication to the cause is something to be revered. Those who put their lives second before that goal are those who deserve reverence near as much as Auros: for they are our collective dream of a better world personified, willing to lay aside what is for the potential of what could be. It matters little; they could be a great man, an Emperor or a farmer, so long as their efforts are invested: for it is the flame that burns in our hearts that defines the faithful. Therefore, it is found that DUTY is the heart of man.”
“Yet in as important duty is, it is found that without the will of the flame, the desire to expand and consume, we are left to stagnancy; Auros’ vision is one that must eventually consume the entire world in it’s light, and must be broughts to greater heights. Therein, we find AMBITION to be the second most crucial: when it is found in the basis of duty and our collective goal, there is nothing more virtuous and noble. It is the desire and heart to push on and paint the world not as it is, but as it should and will be when His Flame sweeps across the world and brings about the end of the heathen and the unclean in an act of unparalleled judgement.”
“Therein, we find the third virtue: ambition unfounded in duty and instead for the benefit of the exclusive self or the heathen is among the greatest sin. The third virtue is PURITY to our cause and our duty alone, advancing the collective interest of Man and our dream of the future. Duty to a foreign cause and ambition for the benefit of self-enrichment are no noble pursuit when found outside the sacred domains; it is only the shadow cast by the light of the Golden Fire that sanctifies and renders them commendable.”
“Sin” as a concept is tied to the inversion, or willful reversion, of Mankind’s destiny: the Elven extremist, opposed and determined to stop the Final Judgement, is a sinner. The Human who betrays his people and converts to or serves the interest of another faith counter to Humanity is a sinner. There are no specific acts that preclude being sinful: inasmuch, the Church is one that is remarkably liberal and non-moralistic as a matter of policy. That, however, does not extend to the seditionists defined by “sin”: they are spared no inhumanity or cruelty, and those who continue to live after being outcasted have their rights and the rights of their family to be considered lawful citizens and Humans revoked: rendered to a social class lower even than the non-Human grottos in the metropolitan areas.
One of the chief, prevailing motifs found in Aurosian art and religious symbolism is the Trifex, or simply the number three. Idols of Auros depict him most often with a triangular halo behind his head. Others depict the Golden God with a third eye upon the center of his forehead. Tapestries and paintings depicting the events of Auros’ life, the faith’s history or other tellings related to the Nirosi Church are typically done in parts of three, and statues of religious figures are usually grouped in trios. This religious symbolism bleeds into architecture across the West. Triangular patterns are hidden throughout structures as well as features grouped in threes or multiples of that number. This is also a prevailing feature in the doctrine of the faith itself, with there being three Saints, the threefold Trifex and other various aspects of spiritualism that include the number three.
Fire is a constant theme in the Golden Faith. Derived from tellings of Auros’ crusade against Elvendom, where golden fire was wielded in battle against the enemies of Mankind and entire cities were scoured from the earth with cleansing flame, it has remained close to the heart of the Aurosian faith near two millennia after their god walked the earth. Depictions of Auros often show him wreathed in fire, foretellings of the end times share the constant of a world reborn in a sea of flame, and Aurosian temples and altars are always fitted with some manner of brazier or hearth. Fire in artistic depictions are always golden in lieu of natural colors, symbolizing the pure, cleansing nature of fire as well as the connection to Auros himself.
The Golden Faith has a long history of monastic tradition reaching back to the earliest days of the Church of Niros. Under the Aurot, three norms of monastic service exist. Asceticism, which is the most commonplace and forms the stereotypical backbone of the faith’s monasticism through monks and monastery life in the countryside of the Empire. The other two forms take a more hands on approach in service to the Faith. The Holy Sepulchre Orders of the Nirosi Church are the most prolific, well-organized and influential of the two. Holy Sepulchre Knights swear vows of lifelong service to the Church, and are in essence, militant monks who do not adhere to the stringent vows taken by their non-combative counterparts, however live similar lifestyles when not travelling in their vast sepulchre chapter houses (save for the Order of Saint Callahan), and practice holy magics through their ordaining via the Sacrament of Consecration. On the other end of this spectrum are the Nirosian Clerics. In a similar vein to the Sepulchre Knights, they endeavor in service to the Church and similarly put a focus on divine prowess, however to a much greater extent their the church’s paladins. They travel the west as missionaries, healers and serve a role much alike to priests, spreading the word of Auros wherever they tread. While it is not required of Paladins nor Clerics, they will often swear vows of poverty or abstinence to ‘vices’ such as alcohol.
Sacrament of Consecration
The Sacrament of Consecration is a sacred rite that has long been a facet of the Church of Niros and it's power structure since the foundation of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, bestowing the divine potential of Auros unto his mortal followers. Consecration is achieved through the Threefold Trifex, colloquially known in the Brazenmark Empire as the Tour of Saints. There are nine locations across the entirety of Edriel where the Sacrament may be bestowed. They are the sites of great pilgrimage, the resting places of the nine patrons of humanity. These sepulchres are each maintained by the Church of Niros through their bishops as well as knightly orders of both secular warriors and the Paladins of the Golden Faith given in service to their respective saint.
Beginning on the border territories of the Brazenmark Empire in the Manus Marches, pilgrims travel from the Sepulchre of Saint Gwilhem there to pay their respects in Saint-Callahan and its namesake Sepulchre at the foot of the Imperial Palace. The Tour of Saints leads west into Verlain and the Sepulchre of Virtuous Arianne at Rivedeaux before turning south thereafter to the Sepulchre of Virtuous Lorenzo at Arma-Giori, and then into the heart of the Nirosi Church, between Virtuous Cornelius’ mausoleum in Maulney and the Sepulchre of Saint Gorobrand in Niros itself. Most do not complete the full circuit, and the vast majority of the faithful in the Empire who embark upon the Trifex end their journey there as it is not an explicit requirement to visit each shrine, however, the last three patrons; Virtuous Faure, Vicens and Raimon, who each have their sepulchres in the Immerian Duchies, in the provinces of Cezia, Volentia and Immerti respectively, are favored heavily by the locals.
Upon choosing to end their tour and select a patron, the pilgrim begins down the path to their consecration. This is done through three ways; formal entry into the Priesthood of Niros, entry into a knightly Sepulchre Order, or through expression of faith and virtue worthy of a cleric. When any of these criteria are met, the person in question will be brought before the local bishop, wherein they shall be conferred with holy blessing via the patron's bones. Through this, a person is consecrated, and anointed with the divine power of Auros. The Sacrament of Consecration often entails a life sworn in service to the Church of Niros and the faithful at large, however, there have been reported incidents over the centuries of missing relics and rogue servants of Auros, though such rumours have been mostly suppressed by the Church and talked down as mere gossip and heretical whispering spurred on by Gallanites.
Sacrament of Purification
The Sacrament of Purification has long been a mainstay of clerical ritualism within the Golden Faith. The conversion of non-believers to the Nirosi Church has often been a strenuous task, one that has seen its ups and downs, and it has often become the case that the Church of Niros has had to employ ostentatious tactics to sway pagan believers from the traditional beliefs of their own, native gods. What was born from this necessity was the sacrament, known also as the Ritual of Purifying Flame. Exclusively practised by the clergy of the Nirosi Church, the Paladins of Virtuous Faure and Aurosian Clerics, the Sacrament is generally regarded as a display of Auros’ divine power, and a rite of conversion for non-believers turning away from their false gods in favor of the Aurot. Converts are brought forward en masse, often into a temple (or an open field when conducted in lands not already given to the Golden Faith) and brought forward into a gauntlet of holy fire. In their first expression of true faith, they are made to bathe in the flames, and will almost always come out unscathed. The Church of Niros maintains that converts who are true of heart are not harmed by the divine powers bestowed by Auros, though the truth of this is dubious at best.
Marriage under the Nirosi faith is seen as a sacred rite, similar in the gravity placed upon the Sacrament of Consecration. However, unique to the Aurot is the idea of marriage by ordeal. An Aurosian wedding can only commence once a challenge is levelled against the couple-to-be, and completed. These are typically given and overseen by an ordained priest, and are personalized at their discretion. Because of this, there is no uniform ritual or practice, and many couples married under the Church of Niros will have experienced wildly different ordeals in securing their marriage. Examples of this could be forcing the partners to tread a field of hot coals, or spending a fortnight together, away from civilization. However, among upper class families where wealth is a luxury, it will often be something as simple as a week long fast, or subjecting themselves to monastic routine for a certain amount of days.
The ceremony itself is simple. When a couple has completed their ordeal, and their faith found to be resolute, they will be joined under the faith. Wedding ceremonies take place strictly at dawn on Tuesdays and Fridays, the third and sixth days of the week in honoring the Trifex. The overseeing priest will bind the hands of the partners thrice over with a cord of golden silk, and issue the Sacrament of Joining, wherein they join their hands over an open fire while the sacred words are delivered, after which they are then deemed married under the eyes of the faith. Generally speaking, while the ceremonies themselves are tame and often only attended by the couple, their parents and whomever is presiding over it, the festivities of the following day are a different story entirely. Aurosian weddings are often followed by excessive feasting, drinking and merrymaking and will drag on for another three days until finally the marriage is consummated and the couple are free to live out the rest of their days.
While divorce is a practice that is rarely heard or spoken of, it has a history within the Church of Niros and is typically granted under three circumstances. If the husband is found in neglect of his marital duties to his spouse (I.E a failure to provide for his family), if the wife is found to be infertile and has not produced a child by the third year of her marriage, or if either party is found to be adulterous and engaged in extramarital affairs.
Prior to the birth of Auros, humanity, like most other races, took to worshipping the gods most important to them. The fisherfolk of the north-west would often pay homage to Baloros the Whale, a God that granted good harvest to his most loyal followers. Gods like these existed across the West and the Orient, though largely individual deities were only ever worshipped on a local scale, rarely ever being assembled into a pantheon, let alone an organized faith.
This would change in the year 3 AE, when Auros first visited the village of Uldacia, then a part of the Kingdom of Zoran. Auros amazed the humans there with his features. His stature was inhuman, standing nearly twice the height of an average man. Further, his eyes gleamed like two suns embedded in his skull, making it painful to hold his gaze for too long. Yet despite this powerful appearance, the holy texts record that Auros was kind to the people of Uldacia, promising wealth and greatness to those who would walk with him. To prove his worth, he cured an ill man, rejuvenated a blighted crop, and returned a stillborn child from death. Amazed by these miracles, the people of Uldacia swore to him quickly, and it was not long after that all of Zoran stood behind him.
As Auros travelled from Zoran, his followers begged that he not cross into the Hel'athan, a nation of humans ruled by elves, for there would be only death for his congregation there. Boldly, he pressed on. Village by village, Auros spread his goodwill, healing the sick, and undoing the ill effects of plague and famine. Along the way, his dogma was founded, one of human supremacy, declaring his people as the rightful rulers of Edriel. Though humans had long reviled elves, they now they had a figure to rally behind, their attitudes emboldened by the enigmatic figure.
Along their passage, Auros was stopped by a cavalry of twelves elven knights, who asked what Auros was, and what he was doing in their territory. Auros simply lifted a hand, and from it sprung a magnificent flame that arced with the speed of lighting. Auros bade his followers understand that elves no longer had the right to question humanity, and in his action showed that he was not only capable of good but terrible violence as well. From this point on, much of his congregation armed themselves, preaching goodwill while simultaneously preparing the battles to come.
In three years, Auros had navigated the whole of the west, sacking elven towns and villages on the way. His meagre congregation had grown into a fully fledged crusade, now capable of withstanding even the most well articulated elven counter-attacks. Freed from elven control, the West became a myriad of small petty kingdoms who all looked to their golden-haired god. East, was his next goal, and so his armies marched. Mile by mile, what was now called the Golden Faith, after Auros' likeness, ransacked elven populations and freed human ones. Wherever he went, followers were found, his attitude and demeanour magnetic and hard to resist.
In the year 198 AE, Auros and his great host stood before the moat of Aeryn Citadel, the last true elven city. It was there that Juil'ara, the city's king, traded the last fragment of the elven demesne for the lives of those within. In a rare moment of mercy, Auros and his followers allowed the elves of Aeryn to withdraw into the wilds before the city was looted. With the great crusade over, Auros founded the city of Niros in 200 AE, and with it an organised church to carry out his will as he rested.
Gorobrand the Humble was chosen as his first High Pontiff, the executor of his will, and thereafter, Auros bade his followers entomb him in the heart of the city. None have heard from or seen Auros in the nearly 2000 years since his entombment, and none have dared trespass into his resting place, fearing what holy wrath might fall upon them for disturbing the rest of a God. Rather, the Church of Niros would continue to convert pagans to what was considered the "true faith", particularly in the Orient where Auros had failed to fully convert in his time.
In 515 AE, a child with glowing golden eyes and stark white hair was born in the eastern nation of Zhuansun, the young boy's likeness uncannily similar to that of Auros, who had never taken a wife nor had children. Though the Church was hesitant, the High Altarer of Koros quickly declared the infant to be the descendant of Auros, and inheritor of the faith. This would spark a fierce schism between the West and the Orient, who immediately thereafter began to feud over the child. High Pontiff Bulziar sent emissaries to fetch the boy, now named Huran, and return him to Niros, but their refusal at the border of Zhuansun would spark the First Oriental War.
The West would ultimately lose this war, leading to the Orient abandoning the Church of Niros to instead form the Kudayar, a faith centred around Huran and his own life.
|Last editor: Arendan|
|Last edit: 26/03/2019|