Religion In The Sunset Isles

Countless gods and spirits are worshipped by the natives and refugees of the Sunset Isles. Most of the traditional theology surrounding these entities has been garbled by the trauma of the Red Tide and the death of so many trained priests, and so the cults that remain tend to be very simple faiths with little concern over contradictions or vaguenesses. Two priests of the same god can honestly hold to very different interpretations of his divine nature, and these arguments occasionally become violent when the interpretations are deeply opposed. Despite this, most locals are more interested in what the gods can do for them than in any duty to the divine. The following is a list of the more popular gods in the Sunset Isles.

It is worth noting that the gods have been singularly distant towards the world since the Red Tide arrived. While Commune spells and other forms of divine communication still function to give practical information, the gods seem very reluctant to say anything about the Tide, or clarify the doctrinal confusion among their worshippers. Before the last of them succumbed to age or battle, the great hierarchs that survived the flight from the Tide found themselves deeply frustrated by these divine silences. The gods no longer plainly spoke their will, and even great priests and shamanesses could not agree on the right way to serve them.

The Nine Immortals

The traditional gods of the Ninefold Celestial Empire, the Nine Immortals are the most widespread deities among the Sunset Isles. Popular as they are, most devotions are no more sophisticated than quick prayers for good luck or pinches of rice tossed into the kitchen fire as a sacrifice. The most complex rituals that most folk ever take part in are the elaborate funerary rites intended to prevent devils from stealing away the souls of the recently dead. Even in that case, the poor or confident often make do with no more than a few prayers uttered over the body and the waving of an incense-stick or two.

The nine deities are composite in nature, having absorbed many sub-aspects of local gods and goddesses and often receiving worship in ways orthodox to the particular location they are found in. The Imperials tended to simply aggregate any foreign gods into whichever of the Nine Immortals most closely matched their portfolio, often representing them as powerful devil-avatars or kindly tulpas of the god. The shugenja of the ancient Kueh empire resisted this impulse by attempting to develop a more sophisticated theology that still had room for native Kueh nature-spirit worship, and their theological handbooks and scriptures are still highly respected as being "pure" understandings of the Immortals.

The Nine Immortals are represented by traditional colors and attributes. Kusha, the Red Goddess, represents warfare and struggle. Fa Chia, the Yellow God, embodies the concept of law and principle. Mimamsa, the Blue Goddess, represents learning and intellect. Sankhya, the Gray God, is a mystical deity revolving around being-as-such. Shinrai, the White God, is the principle of ending and negation. Kega, the Green Goddess, is the deity of becoming and transformation. Tendai, the Black God, oversees distortions and corruptions. Hesika, the Vermillion Goddess, keeps charge of sensation and perception. Lastly, Inren the Purple God is the god of that-which-is-overlooked and the blank spaces within any theological schema. Unsurprisingly, Inren does not have many clergy.

Each of these gods is reputed to be served by legions of devils and armies of benign "tulpas", celestial emanations of their divine power. The devils enact the more negative, chastising aspects of the divinity, while the tulpas act to succor and maintain. The devils of Fa Chia scourge lawbreakers and hypocrites, punishing them for their failings, while the tulpas enlighten judges and reveal the right paths to those who faithfully seek them. In a similar vein, the devils of Tendai corrupt and confuse, seeking to cause pain and suffering through twisted words and customs, while his tulpas bring innovations and revelations of new possibility to the worthy. This attitude is to be contrasted with the devils and demons of the Hells, whose Hell Kings have no sense of proportion and limit and desire only to fatten their stock of wailing souls. Due to the difficulty of telling the difference between a divine devil and a Hellish one, devil-worship in general is considered a somewhat dubious religious pursuit in Xian, though it is not officially banned.

The Skandr Gods

The Skandr were never a terribly pious folk, and their descendants in Nordheim are no different. Small temples remain to the three major Skandr gods, but their worship is a thing honored chiefly in the breach. Still, merchants and raiders both pause to pour beer for Sifr, the lord of the waves. Farming villages around Nordheim itself are careful to propitiate Anghad, the mistress of the mountains, in trust that she will permit the rocky land to bring forth food. And almost all Nordheimers have reason to sooner or later seek the favor of red-handed Hjal, the god of battle.

For the most part, Skandr religious observances are longer on words than actions. Beer might be poured out in honor of a deity, but most worship simply consists of an oath to a particular god to give him so much beer, so many burnt sacrifices, or so many foemen's heads if the god will help accomplish the task at hand. Due to this very practical attitude towards divine help, Skandr tend to pick up whatever gods seem most useful for the moment- and are quick to drop them when they prove ineffectual.

Gods of the Eirengarders, Kueh, Eshkanti, and Gadaal

The other ethnic groupings that arrived in bulk on the Sunset Isles left most of their gods behind them. The Gadaal never had the sort of pantheon that other nations had, instead preferring to worship rather impersonal conceptions of destiny and free will in a subtle, complex way that was almost completely lost in the exodus. Now it serves as no more than a simple folk creed, with Gadaal peasants praying that Destiny might spare them from evil fates and Liberty might let them attain greatness.

Eirengarders held to a monotheism that was peculiar by the standards of their neighbors, revering a Maker thought to have created all that was good in the world out of a chaos of formless evil. This cosmogony was not much appreciated by the worshippers of other gods, who found the idea to be laughably hubristic, but Eirengarder warpriests were responsible for some of the most impressive battlefield miracles recorded in the world before the Tide.

The Eshkanti did not lack for gods, and indeed, collected them as other traders collected souvenirs. Merchants would bring back little shrines and tokens for their god-niches, and a clan would boast of how many deities it served and how mighty the blessings they received from all their divine patrons. Even today, small Eshkanti clans can often be found venerating gods completely forgotten to the rest of the Isles.

The Kueh had ceased to exist as a clear ethnic grouping centuries before the Red Tide struck. Their ancient traditions of nature-spirit worship and isolated meditation still existed in the northwestern corner of the Empire, but they were practiced by men and women who considered themselves as Imperial as any mountain heartlanders. Their shugenja had acquired an honored place as spiritual sages and hierarchs, but the tradition was seen as an Imperial one by most moderns rather than as the special province of the Kueh.

Other Gods

Almost any deity of any particulars can be found somewhere among the worshippers of the Isles if a long enough look is taken. While the gods noted above are the most commonly known and revered in Xian, hardly a year goes by without some new divinity being proclaimed as the saviour of all who shall worship and believe. The locals are notably resistant to such appeals- if the new gods are so mighty, they reasonably ask, then where were they during the Red Tide's advance?

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License