“…he must pay God a twofold adoration, one spiritual, which consists in the interior devotion of the soul, the other corporeal, which manifests itself in the outward form of worship, for there is no inward sentiment or feeling which man is not wont to express outwardly by some suitable gesture or action.” (Contra Gentiles, III, cxix)
Ritual is the ceremonial practice of beseeching a higher power for intervention on your behalf, or on behalf of another. Rituals are intimately tied in with the philosophy of the religion from which they spring, and often seek to venerate and aggrandize the central figures of that religion in exchange for some consideration from those forces. The venerated texts of those religions are poured over for centuries to discover the hidden truths and meanings of the parables and stories within, to give some insight into the hidden workings of the world and its sacred or profane powers. Over time, the secrets of ritual are learned through study or revelation, and the practices of the faith are determined.
Priests are characters who have gained an inkling of understanding of the immortal cosmic powers that they serve, and can beg for the intercession of those beings in the real world as a miracle. The Rituals that they perform are the methods that they believe are most likely to successfully beg for this intercession. Priests do not believe that any effects of their rites come from their own power or abilities – rather through the faith and belief that they hold within and express without, they hope to please and communicate their hopes to a being infinitely more mighty than they, and can be grateful of it if they believe it has succeeded.
Priests may learn Rituals from the gospels and other books or stories of faith from their religion. Some religions, such as the Church of Mankind, divide their priesthoods into many orders, and the rites of those orders are only practiced by members of those groups. A character must be a Priest of the required group and learn the Ritual for 1 Experience Point before they can perform it. Sacred Rituals are special, rare rituals that may only be learned by spending 1 Priest Achievement.
Rituals involve precise instructions that must be performed word for word in order for the desired effect to occur. If any deviation is made from the instructions, even for a moment, the Ritual fails. For instance, if a Ritual calls for six candles to be lit in a specific order, and the Priest has only five candles, the Ritual cannot succeed. Some Rituals may have consequences for failing if attempted.
Some parts of the Ritual might be optional. These instructions are written as “may” or “should” statements. If the Priest cannot or does not wish to perform these steps, the Ritual can still proceed, but usually with either some added risk or missed opportunity.
Ceremonies are large, elaborate Rituals that call upon other Rituals as part of performing them, and thus may become more powerful as the Priest learns more Rituals. Ceremonies are usually the most important duties that the Priest is responsible for.
In the Throne, the Church of Mankind holds religious Dominion inside almost any town or settlement, but its Dominion stops where the Wilderness begins, and becomes the Dominion of Vecatra. This means that rituals of the Church of Mankind cannot be practiced in the deep woods, unless a Priest of Mankind can establish Dominion there. Likewise, rites of Vecatra couldn’t be practiced with the city. If some hostile religion maintains a secret shrine within another Dominion, rituals only work at that shrine, or in whatever area that religion can control unchallenged.
SPIRITUAL FAITH VS PRAGMATIC FAITH
Every character either holds a Spiritual or Pragmatic world view. This is a fundamental paradigm about how they view the world and the consequences of action and inaction. A Pragmatic farmer believes that if their crops failed, they must not have planted early enough, or the soil might be rotten. A Spiritual farmer believes that if their crops failed it was because they are being punished for sin, or that the crops failed in order to facilitate some other virtue elsewhere needed more.
This affects how Ritual functions as well. The effects of Ritual are usually subtle and internal, and Pragmatic characters do not experience these effects. Characters with Spiritual Faith, even if the higher power they serve is not the same as favored by the Priest, believe in the power of miracles and are open to accepting their power in their lives. When a Priest, even a necromancer or demon worshiper, calls down the power of their supernatural benefactor upon upon a Spiritual person, they know that this can and does work, and their Faith helps make it so. Likewise, a character must be Spiritual themselves in order to perform any Rituals. A Pragmatic character does not see the world in such terms, and Rituals just don’t have any meaning in their life.
In game terms, for good and for ill, characters with Pragmatic Faith can’t be affected Rituals that are performed directly on them or have them as a participant. Game Effects that derive from Rituals usually have the Spiritual Quality to denote this. Pragmatic characters simply call “No Effect” to any game call with the Spiritual Quality, or any other effect that obviously comes from a Ritual. Items created by rituals or other kinds of secondary effects also do not provide any special effects for Pragmatic characters.
Over time, Priests often identify those of little faith and exile them to the sidelines of the community as interlopers who impede the blessings of their Lord through their weak spirit.
THE HOLY CHURCH OF MANKIND
The liturgy of the Holy church is written into a series of gospels authored by various saints and priests, collectively called The Testimonium. Each gospel imparts the specific philosophies and stories of its originator. The given works themselves rarely explain the specific prayers and actions that eventually become the Rituals, but instead provide a philosophical basis for those Rituals.
Over the course of centuries, religious scholars have scrutinized the holy texts for every detail and inference, taking meaning from the number of letters in a passage, the exact phrasing of a verse, and every other kind of esoteric extraction and hidden clue that can be found within the language of the gospel. From these, they have extracted the ceremonial supplications of the Canon, the Rituals that are performed by each of the Covenants.
The Literacy Ability and knowledge of Aldersabin, the language of Holy Lethia, are required to learn these Rituals through direct study of the Testimonium. Holy Ordination contains the training to extract the Canon from the Testimonium. An illiterate Priest cannot benefit from the holy Testimonium, but may still learn through direct instruction from another.
Covenants, Rank and Dominion
When a Priest of Mankind attains Holy Ordination, they also swear a sacred Covenant to live their life in according to a specific promise to the Lord. This Covenant is the foundation of their Priesthood, and if they betray the Lord by breaking it, a Priest of Mankind automatically fails all attempts at holy Rituals. If the Covenant is broken, the Priest is guilty of Mortal Sloth for breaking a sworn vow, and must complete Atonement from a superior of their own Covenant. Priests of Mankind swear one and only one Covenant with the Lord, and must be inducted into the clergy by a Bishop or higher from their Covenant.
The High Canon are the Rituals that derive from Epicus, the stories of the Prophet, Holy Benalus. They can be performed by any Priest of Mankind, as well as lesser Priests, such as Holy Knights. Additionally, Priests of the Church of Mankind swear themselves to one Covenant, the specific order of Priests that serves the prophet of one of the seven Archangels, and may learn and perform those Rituals as well.
The Throne of God on Earth is more than a place, it is an idea of human dominion over the world united by – an acting as – God. It is the aim of each Priest to create a paradise of the world where sin is unnecessary. The places where this is most true is the Dominion of Mankind, and the holy Rituals of the Church only work within this Dominion. The Dominion for the High Canon is anywhere where there are human beings that worship the Lord, so effectively the High Canon can be practiced wherever the Priest finds themselves. The Covenants require a shrine to an Archangel in order to function, and that must be created, consecrated and venerated before those Rituals will function. A Priest must pray at this Shrine at least once each Event in order to perform any Rituals of their Covenant. The Mendicant Priests of the Melandihim use their Icon to bring the Dominion of Mankind wherever they travel, and can allow other priests to perform rituals when it is near.
Rank within the Church is a matter of social standing and authority, as well as the Priest’s authority within the faith as a religious figure. Rank carries responsibility with it within the Organization, and thus is granted by one’s superiors in the Church. Rank is also the level of the sacred with which they are permitted or endowed, on a spiritual basis, to have interactions with, and some Rituals are only learned and performed by a Priest of appropriate Rank.
Rank within the Holy Church of Mankind carries across the Organization and is held equivalent between Priests of different Covenants.
The Aa’boran Faith of the Shariqyn people has no official clergy, but instead recognizes the station of Magus, a kind of theological expert who may act as a guide for themselves and others of their faith. There are three kinds of Magi in Shariqyn culture – Magi’tariq, Magi’biraq, and the Indr’atma.
THE OLD WAYS OF THE NORTH
Rituals are rated from least to greatest, and require appropriate sacrifices. The appropriate Offering must be made, but a stronger one can be always be given.
As well, each Ritual is governed by a certain set of runes, and the Wise One must draw a set of runes when they perform the ritual. The Wise One gains a +1 Mastery Bonus for each rune that they cast, and a +3 Mastery for the favorable Rune. If one of the unfavorable rune appears, it indicates that the Old God that was invoked has become angered at the insolence of the mortal who dared to grovel before them. The ritual is ruined, and the Wise One takes Despair.
The Wise Ones of the North, called Goði in their own tongue, do not have a formal structure or ranks, and while they keep their traditions orally and write on ancient runestones, learning the ancient Rites is difficult without a direct teacher. When one becomes a Goði through initiation and mentorship by some other Wise One, they usually hungrily learn whatever Rites they can, not knowing when they will get another chance.
The Old Ways, a collection of rites that are in general use across the Rimelands, are safe to use by any Wise One, but there are some that invoke the power of a specific Old God. Wise Ones almost always dedicate themselves to only one of these sets of Rites (and usually the one that their teacher had done, as they know these Rites to teach) and dedicates themselves especially to that one Old God. Once a Wise One has begged to be spared from one Old God using these rites, using the Rites of any other causes Despair with each use.
Lesser Rites – Food, wealth
Common Rites – Fresh Blood (1 Injury or animal worth)
Sacred Rites – Human Sacrifice
Great Rites – A mighty person, a Branded Man
Terrible Rites – A legendary person or creature
After Character Creation, learning more Rites will become more difficult without access to more experienced Goði as mentors.
The Altar of Vecatra
The ancient rites of the three-faced Goddess of the world are older than anyone can remember, practiced since the Age of Heroes. The oaths and bindings made in those primeval times still hold sway, though it seems the old faith is wilting. Its rituals require increasingly esoteric things such as unicorns or ancient potions no one knows how to brew. The rituals that still survive are likely largely corrupted from their original forms, but those who worship Vecatra in secret vales and woods call to her still, and sometimes she answers.
The Rituals of Vecatra are performed with no particular system, and do not use Vulgarity and Mastery the way others do. Instead, the ritual is simply performed, and it may or may not work. Staff should be notified when Rituals of Vecatra are attempted.
The few Ceremonial Rites work if performed as described.