Across the Seven Skies
The Church of Vaoz
The Church of Vaoz has spread across the World from its humble beginnings on Colrona. The Church mediates between peoples when there is no other common ground, educates the young, and advises everyone on how to keep their honor bright.
The Creator God, Vaoz, made the World, and all within it. He giveth and he taketh away. He challenges his people to learn how to be, how to do, how to speak, and how to live with Honor.
The symbol of the Church is a golden solar circle (the same as is used by the Colronan Zultanate.
Tenets of the Faith
As laid down by the First Prophet, Honor is the foundation and the mechanism for successful communication between people. Protect the weak; keep your word; tell no lies. Give favors lightly; receive them gravely. Honor lasts beyond physical life. Honor shines from everything an honorable man touches. Dishonor muddies everything a dishonorable man touches. The Honorable become Angels of the Sun after death, the Dishonorable become Demons of the Uttermost Dark. Ghosts are poor souls that need to resolve a matter of Honor before they can pass on.
Honor others rightly, so that you may be honored rightly. Honor others for their words, deeds, integrity, and accomplishments.
Honor: Vaoz, as your Creator; your parents and family, for preparing you for the battle of life; your superiors, for your duty to them; your peers, for it is just to give Honor where it is due; and your subordinates, for your responsibility and care for them.
Defer humbly to superiors, assert kindly to inferiors. In all things, hold yourself worthy of your Honor; judge the Honor due you accurately, neither seek more nor accept less.
Honor cannot exist in an atmosphere of lies, deceit, or fraud. Honor must be pursued and held tightly, despite danger, loss, or inconvenience. If your Honor is lost or compromised, your very life is lost or compromised.
Church Holidays & Rituals
The Church of Vaoz celebrates two religious holidays—Winterfeast (midwinter) and Summer-revel (midsummer). Both are large parties, with much drinking, eating, singing, dancing, and gift-giving—everything that helps build community ties.
Church services are held regularly (daily in large or devout population centers, weekly in smaller or more casual ones, monthly in tiny or irreligious ones). A Church service is usually composed of a reading from The Mirror of Honor, a sermon, a short meditation, and a short dialogue with the celebrant.
The Church’s priests also administer seven personal rituals for the faithful — Celebration of Birth, First Day of School, Cleansing of Honor, Rite of Adulthood, Rite of Marriage, Rite of Childbirth, and Mourning of Death. Each personal ritual has a distinct spiritual effect on the recipient; the mystically-minded claim to be able to perceive small alterations in ritual recipients’ auras (for this reason, the Cleansing of Honor is sometimes used as a curse-breaking or exorcism ritual). These rituals may also be used on (and affect!) inanimate objects—for example, a slightly altered form of the Celebration of Birth is used as a ship-christening and first launch ceremony.
All of the priests of Vaoz are entrusted to instruct everyone on the nature of honor and its exercise in the political, theological, philosophical, and practical areas of life, and to protect and strengthen the weak. To that end, they have become general teachers and perpetual students, in order to best speak the language of the people that they wish to educate.
To enter the priesthood, a layperson (male or female) is tested for clerical aptitude— a strong sense of honor, a sharp mind, and a desire to aid others. If successful, he or she enters a monastery as a Novice, to learn literature, Church rituals, history, first aid, teaching methods, and a useful domestic craft (alchemy, brewing, cooking, smithing, weaving, etc.). After his or her competency is proven by passing the Test of the First Gate, the candidate becomes a Monk (or Nun) and joins an Order (see below). Novices, Monks, and Nuns are called “Brother” or “Sister” depending upon their gender.
The new Monk/Nun is trained in debate, oratory, philosophy, and theology, as well as basic training in administration, business, science, and linguistics. Successful completion of the Test of the Second Gate elevates the cleric to the rank of Priest (or Priestess), grants permission to perform the rituals of the Church, and—depending upon the Order—certain rights or duties (for example, running a parish on some backwater island or independent study in a field of interest).
More prestigious ranks in the hierarchy can be achieved through additional rigorous testing and appointment by superiors (since the Tests for the clergy are nearly the same as the Examinations for the secular, see How the Zultanate of Colrona Is Ruled, p. 51, for further details). Priests and priestesses of the Church can marry and raise children; however, marrying someone outside of the clergy, or even of a Church rank “too far away” from one’s own, is frowned upon.
There are three main Orders of priests: the Peregrinators, the Cenobites, and the Eremites.
Peregrinators wander the 7 Skies in order to learn what they will, teach when they can, and preach where they may. Cenobites are deeply involved in communities, either that of a parish or a clerical monastery. They instruct the young of many Worlds in their reading, writing, arithmetic, good manners, theology, and philosophy, and often provide an additional service to their community (running a brewery, granary, scribe service, apothecary shop, etc.). Eremites are solitary priests, living alone in a remote site, dedicated to trying to glean Vaoz’s Plan through meditation, scholastic research, or mystical pursuits.