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Draconic

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Not to be confused with Draconians.
Holy Draconic Church
200px
Theology: Draconic
(Pantheon with eleven gods)
Polity
Founding Date 228 AN
Made Official
Countries Holy Ralgon Empire (state religion)
Branches 121 Temples
15,000+ Shrines
Members About 132,400,000

Ralgon flag.png

Statistics: 112,300,000 adherents (foreign practicing population unknown)
80,650 deacons
912 priests
121 elders

Draconic is the primary religion practiced on the island of Dragos, the land upon which the Ralgon Empire situates itself. The religion is extremely widespread, being practiced by well over 90% of the island's population, with the exception of the vast, savage swamps in the vast island's eastern interior, and the even more inhospitable mountain valleys in the western interior. The Draconic religion is thought to have been founded in 228 AN, around the same time as the Ralgon Empire's predecessor state (the Kingdom of Stormhold) also first originated with a quasi-legendary warrior-chieftain. The religion espouses generally simplistic beliefs hinging upon living a virtuous life in pursuit of growing closer to the Gods, and upon death achieving reincarnation in a spiritual state closer to being divine than the previous life.

The religion is very highly organized and is centered around the Holy Draconic Church, which is currently based in a holy city in southern Nixtorm, near the border with Aurora and Glacier City, SAR. According to contemporary mythology (and very limited archaeological data) the religion originated elsewhere on the island, but the original sacred sites were lost after the Cataclysm and all records of locations were lost in the Dark Ages that followed. Draconic temples and clergy are everywhere, with dozens of full-sized Temples and thousands of consecrated shrines located throughout the island of Dragos, both in and out of the Ralgon Empire. Even the Emperor of the Ralgons is considered by most to be a deeply devout practicing member, and is officially considered to be the nominal head of the Draconic Church (although a council of elders exercise the real ecumenical authority within the organization).

Basic Tenets & Beliefs

Virtue & Reincarnation

The eleven gods revered by adherents of the Draconic religion represent the dualistic nature of the religion. According to Draconic teachings, there are five virtues from which all others spring, and the observance of which brings one's soul closer to the gods: Honor, Grace, Truth, Wisdom, and Strength. The gods themselves, in addition to being thoroughly virtuous in at least their given trait, also embody part of the fabric of the world, those core elements being Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, and Light. The gods are always worshipped as pairs, with the exception of Thr'or, the god of creation and life, who died to give life and being to the universe, and protect it against the lesser gods who once destroyed the world in a time before time.

Ralgons believe in reincarnation of the soul, as well as in a heaven of sorts. The goal of a Draconic adherent's life is to live a life of virtue and bring themselves closer to the gods, and after death to find rest until the End of All Things and then become one of them in heaven (the realm of the gods being forever separated from the physical universe), or be reborn in a position where they are better equipped to move closer. Those who live a life devoid of virtue are reincarnated into a worse life as punishment. If their lives continue this way, then their souls eventually fade from existence until their metaphysical life force is no more, and they truly cease to exist.

Coming Close to the Gods

Under current religious doctrine, the Emperor is the single person who is closest to the Gods, and the Kings (now the Emperors) are one of the few groups of people on Earth who reliably have a connection to the remaining life force of Thr'or, whose being is scattered throughout creation. On occasion, a past King (or Emperor) is even attributed to be the reincarnation of one of the other ten Gods. The King is meant to be a particularly pious individual and uphold all the five virtues and keep the Ralgon lands in harmonious balance between the five elements. If a King lives a particularly worthy life, they gain an apotheosis of sorts. They are then revered as having ascended to be one with, yet separate from Thr'or and/or the god whose virtues they represent. These are called "Avatars" of the god they most represent, and are revered as living saints set apart (and frequently above) the priesthood in a sub-cult of their own. There are currently only one dozen Saints that have been deemed the Avatar of more than one God. Only one, Saint Adrestia, holds three. No person, living or dead, has been named "Avatar of Thr'or" because this constitutes a deep heresy to the Holy Draconic Church. Awards for which god a person is an Avatar of does not respect gender, similarly to their beliefs of the cycle of reincarnation for the divine. Therefore, a man may be the Avatar of a female god, and a woman may be the Avatar of a male god, even if such practices are particularly rare.

There are few people apart from the past Kings of Ralgon declared by both the King and the Priesthood (who are viewed as different authorities informed by the gods of their sacred will) to be truly virtuous people deserving of reverence. One extremely rare example of a living person is the first Emperor of Ralgon, Shiro. Early in his reign, the priesthood conferred upon him the title of "Avatar of Bael'os" in commemoration of his successful efforts to destroy the darkness the Great Swamp represents and to subsequently open Ralgon's light up to the world, which awarded him a saintly "light" attribute. His personal and effective leadership over the very expedition into the swamp that reclaimed the Lost City of Jento as well as recovered thousands of somehow-preserved religious texts lost to history, and his ongoing efforts to uncover the rest of the island's religious history have earned him the "truth" tribute. Dispute exists as to whether he should have been awarded "strength" and "fire" instead for similar efforts, but this was narrowly voted down among the clergy for the time being.

Achieving Apotheosis

To date, no known foreigners have achieved any form of apotheosis, although the Draconic faith understands that one does not have to believe in the gods to live a virtuous life and reincarnate as a being who is inherently closer to the gods. It is because of this open and accepting nature that the Draconic religion spread rapidly throughout the island throughout its history. As of 1674 AN, the Draconic faith is observed at least passively by about 90% of the population, most of the rest (about 8%) observing traditional tribal faiths or, in much rarer occasions, other obscure beliefs or foreign religions. Key to maintaining this belief is the strict rules that no active, living member of the clergy, the Templar Knights, or the Council of Elders may ever be declared a Saint. Such status is conferred upon death, or far more rarely after their retirement at an age where they can't enjoy their saintly status for very long at all.

Ralgon etiquette is incredibly strict with dealing with Saints, living or dead. Firstly, a person who holds such a truly holy status is theoretically addressed personally as "Saint" regardless of title, even if they are called "Emperor." To the Ralgons, being a reincarnation of a divine being accords one a god-like status by reason of inapproachable, unshakable, virtuous and holy presence among other mortals in this world. Deceased persons are freely addressed by their title of Saint instead of their temporal title (be it King, Emperor, or even Serf) if used reverently. For the devout (and even semi-devout) Ralgon or any other adherent of the Draconic faith, any person exhibiting such spirit of a divine child of Thr'or in their own lifetime is deemed to be far above whatever temporal authority they might have otherwise held in life. Spiritually, Saints are considered on a completely different level than usual by these people.

Etiquette for Saints

Living Saints are never directly addressed by name in their presence. Nor are they addressed in second person by letter or over a communications device. Not ever, regardless of any social standing, or even whether they're from Ralgon or not. Whether the living Saint is a serf or the Emperor, the protocol remains the same. Any Saint is addressed in third-person if in their presence, or , and always with the voice directed away from their general direction. Saints may address one another directly, regardless of title or position. (Incidentally, a living Saint is among the very few people who possess the privilege of addressing the Emperor directly and, in some cases, without the need for invitation.) If they speak on religious, spiritual, or ecumenical matters, their words 'will' be listened to, regardless of their station.

To directly disobey a Saint on spiritual matters is considered tantamount to sacrilege, and disobedience by subordinates of Saints on temporal matters is almost akin to sinning directly against the gods. Neither are tolerated among society, and so Saints' words are customarily obeyed without question, and even treated as spoken scripture in some cases. In the case of contravening the Emperor, himself a Saint, any such defiance is doubly condemned. Violators are usually treated with a level of brutality that greatly exceeds the actual crime. Regardless of Saints' own efforts in the past to stop such practices, defying such a holy person is only met with the harshest punishments allowed under the law.

Ecumenical Conflict between Saints

Conflicts between two or more Saints are addressed by religious protocol, because such conflict usually pertains to spiritual matters, and also has to do with what a living Saint says about another previous (dead) Saint's words. One Saint's words may trump another's down the line if they hold dual or greater apotheosis of any combination (more than one god). In this particular matter, most of Saint Adrestia's prolific works on spiritual matters are effectively considered to be infallible doctrine in the Holy Draconic Church. Another case of overrule by a living Saint over another Saint (living or dead) includes holding a higher station of spiritual (church) or temporal (imperial) authority, depending on the subject referred to. The current head of the Church (which is, 'ex oficio', the Emperor himself) trumps matters on both fronts, and a living Emperor's words usually trump a dead one's. Only King Dalgar'an II trumps living Emperors in spiritual affairs, thanks to his dual apotheosis. In the absence of spiritual matters, Saints serving in any subordinate positions of authority are nonetheless respected or even revered by their temporal or spiritual superiors. However, it is almost unheard of for a Saint to challenge another Saint in a superior position on either temporal or spiritual matters.

Conflicts between Saints (living or dead) is a commonly accepted concept in Draconic thought, since even the gods are known to fight one another from time to time, in order to test the balance of harmony between each other and the world around them. No living persons enjoy dual apotheosis, and the current ruler of the Ralgon nation, Emperor Shiro, is himself a Saint (the Avatar of Bael'os, the first in many years). Therefore, he is seen as both a final spiritual and temporal authority in the land, something the Ralgon people have not experienced in nearly the last two centuries.

Qualities of the Gods

A common criticism of the Ralgon pantheon is that there are no Gods present that represent morally just traits such as mercy, compassion, kindness, and of course justice. This question has plagued religious doctrine and dogma in the Draconic church for centuries, and the high priests have frequently had to deal with heretics who have claimed to be some reincarnation of an unnamed, long-dead god of one of those virtues. Additionally, science has, even in centuries past, seen the discovery of a great many elements outside of the traditional five found in religious texts. As an answer to this, the clergy have published religious writings pertaining to the fact that each of the discovered elements originally came from one of the five "original elements" that divided into parts as the universe (and the new elements themselves) evolved according to the Creator's will.

Virtue is seen similarly as the elements. As the universe aged and Thr'or's creations themselves evolved, so too did their virtues. At one point there were indeed many lesser gods in the Universe. Among the mortal races there also appeared exceptionally virtuous demigods who, by their very lives, extolled the nature of at least one or more virtues, not always belonging to the original five. These were considered saintly individuals, for even the "evolved" virtues were seen as elements of a spiritually sound soul, just as the evolved elements added more wealth to the Universe's nature as a breathtaking divine creation. However, those gods whose virtues were only passive were destroyed long ago in the Time Before Time, or that era that occurred long before recorded history, when the gods were the only sentient beings in the Universe before Thr'or also poured part of his soul into the cosmos to create life, as he did with his body so long ago to create the first matter.


God/Goddess M/F Element Virtue
Thr'or N/A All All
Bael'os M Light Honor
Rhud'on M Wind Grace
Glaur'on M Water Truth
Dur'on M Earth Strength
Drag'os M Fire Wisdom
Gae'as F Earth Grace
Fre'as F Fire Honor
Mar'na F Water Wisdom
Rae'as F Light Truth
Lea'na F Wind Strength

Treatment of Foreigners

Treatment of foreigners is much the same for natives as for foreigners, for those who practise the Draconic faith. Anyone not an enemy in need of shelter is given good shelter and sustenance of not less than two days' time in the summer, and not less than one week in winter. They are also given protection by the master of the household during this time unless they abuse this protection or serve to the detriment of their host in any way. (There are exceptions for vagrants known to abuse this privilege, and they are frequently sent to work for the State.) The State takes in all unable to find their own shelter after this time, and then employs them in either the civil service or the Army. Combat veterans in need of shelter are never pressed back into armed service, but are instead shipped to an overseas colony of their choice, where they are free to work to rebuild their life and their family (where applicable).

Some foreigners are known to be venerated by the Faith for having virtues of their own. Due to their cultural similarities, most of said foreigners the Draconic Temple encourages their overseas believers to emulate happen to be Jing people, who themselves might not even be practitioners of the same faith. Since Draconic religion does not draw a hard bond between virtue and faith, those foreigners honored by clerics usually find this unexpected and, in some cases, quite odd. This oddity is only compounded by this honor coming from a faith that has such a relative profusion of missionaries running around trying to convert people or, at the very least, influence them to lead virtuous and honorable paths in life for themselves.

It is for these reasons that there are more adherents to the Draconic creed than to the religion itself. The legal status of the former is entirely ambiguous since practitioners of the Draconic creed are more than free to follow almost any primary religious belief they previously espoused. The legality of the religion itself outside of Ralgon territory is, however, another question entirely and not known even to the Ralgon government itself.

Mythology

Ralgon mythology follows three basic "eons." The first eon in Draconic mythology is known simply as The Beginning, during which Thr'or still maintained his old form as a normal god. This lasted until the Time Before Time, when the Universe was created and all but Thr'or assumed mortal, perpetually reincarnating forms. Although it occurred before recorded history, the Time Before Time is thought to have ended with the discovery of fire at least 200,000 years ago or so. The Current Era is considered by most scholars (along with the royal household) to have begun with two very auspicious events: Firstly, with the verified death and subsequent spontaneous combustion of the Nameless Prophet in 1 CE, about 1,440 solar years ago, and with the birth date of the first ruler of the current Ralgon state about six months after. (Both people were considered to be a rare instance of the god Drag'os choosing to immediately reincarnate after his death into another similar form.)

The Beginning

Unlike with many other religions, the Draconic creation myth begins well before the Universe formed. Instead, their mythology begins with a period known in mythology only as The Beginning: in other words, the spontaneous and independent formation of the Creator God, Thr'or. Thr'or was the first of the Gods to slowly form from the empty, infinite void and gain consciousness after spending incomprehensible amounts of time forming an ethereal existence, a soul, and eventually a body. Thr'or is the one recognized in mythology as the first god to not only gain self-awareness, but also learn how to assume a physical form. Thr'or is thought to have fashioned the first forms for other souls who, like him, had spent the endlessly long era known now as The Beginning as disembodied spirits.

Over time, the gods grew restless in their new forms, and, having gathered together from the infinite Void, attempted to determine what they were, exactly. Over the course of time, the Gods came to define an existence akin to themselves as a "soul": a spiritual being independent of the body, yet permanently attached within it. The question of what defined existence was answered for a time. Eventually, their bodies had evolved past the originals they either were granted or formed for themselves, and during this time the concept of morals was developed among the gods, who had by this point lived in groups for eons and discovered their physical forms to be mortal, however long-lived they were. Having no concept of a higher power, they sought to determine who among their number could answer the question of purpose for their lives, for the Gods found that, in addition to creating new things with their minds, they could propagate a new generation of themselves by using enhanced versions of their own physical forms.

Eventually, the Gods came to the conclusion that they should create a space and lesser beings to live within it, and observe those beings to see whether their own existence could find purpose. The question over how to create this "universe" and who should rule over this vast creation immediately caused conflict, and the Gods went to war for it. Some scattered and returned to their ethereal forms, then went into the void whence they came. Others found a way to destroy each other outright. Thr'or, eventually being dragged into the conflict, turned on the rest of the Gods and drove the most violent from their midst. By the end of this conflict over Creation, only eleven gods remained gathered: of those eleven, only Thr'or and Gae'as retained their physical forms, and Drag'os had managed to manifest himself as an eternal, albeit primeval fiery spirit.

A pact was made among the Gods: the only other two among those retaining their own physical forms (Drag'os and Gae'as) were to contribute a part of their evolved physical attributes that Thr'or himself did not posses, those being warmth and true substance of form. This fire and substance, combined with Thr'or's immense soul and power of constitution, gave rise to a solid Universe capable of holding ever-changing life. Thr'or would give up his very form and body to breathe life and into the Universe and give the cosmos and its inhabitants lives and forms of their own, in addition to the souls created by the various Gods. Additionally, Thr'or's near-eternal soul, unique among the Gods, would provide an impenetrable barrier between the Universe and any remaining hostile, warring Gods. This way, the Gods' creations could also take physical form among the stars and even directly interact with their deities while they still possessed their original bodies. In this way, the Gods could all learn the meaning of life for themselves, side by side with the beings they created and allowed to evolve along with themselves within the Universe over the eons.

The Time Before Time

The moment of Creation was considered the beginning of the Time Before Time, this being the second era in Draconic mythology. Although the War of the Gods continued well past the moment of Creation, this was not considered a separate Era, but rather a consequence of the transition into the Time Before Time. After the Great Pact was struck and the ten Gods wandered into the Universe, most of their forms (with the exceptions of Thr'or, Gae'as, and Drag'os) began to slowly decay because of a dynamic and chaotic Universe now bound by the laws of Time. Eventually, eight of the original ten Gods died. Bereft of their bodies, found they could not continue their existence as normal without reincarnating into a form similar to their creations. As for Gae'as and Drag'os, they too eventually found they too needed to reincarnate to keep themselves whole, despite the eternal nature of their souls. Thus, the Gods are the only beings in the Universe perpetually bound to the cycle of reincarnation until the End of Time, rather than having their souls eventually rest until the End of All Things, when their souls pass out of the Universe to join Thr'or in the vast heavens. In return for the Gods' forced reincarnations, though, they are always reborn with great power and talent matching their virtue and element, although all but Gae'as and Drag'os usually lose the memories held by their previous bodies upon being reborn into the Universe.

The Current Eon

The Time Before Time is said to have ended when the gods Drag'os and Fre'as, sensing the gods' collective creations were ready, entrusted the eternal power of Fire to the mortals of the Universe and voluntarily reincarnated themselves, this time with a mind to join the mortals of the Universe. Since the Ralgons do not know when Fire was discovered (this being well before recorded history), they instead tie the first year of their calendar with the founder of their religion. The Nameless Prophet, a potential reincarnation of Drag'os, wielded the power of Fire along with the Gods' story for everyone in the land to hear. This person is verified to have died of old age and spontaneously combusted into ash on the day of the spring solstice. This occurred exactly six months before the verified birth date of the first Ralite clan ruler who managed to unite his own clan with other warring families in the central mountains into one tribe with the same name. These two events occurred in what was to become known as the first year of the Current Era, or Current Eon as other scholars posit.

Clerics generally agree that Ralgon mythology ends here, as no other major Prophets have emerged, nor have any of the lesser Gods been known to truly manifest themselves in their reincarnations on auspicious occasions. On extremely rare occasions, a fire spirit has emerged to impart wisdom to the people, but this is usually for brief periods before it disappears. This is attributed to the god Drag'os manifesting his unique ability to appear without physical form. Gae'as is widely thought to prefer dwelling within very large, long-lived plants and living within the same form for hundreds of years, being content to watch the years roll by. Certain species of very large trees, therefore, are considered to be sacred to the Ralgons, for they do not know which plant Gae'as chooses to inhabit and use to bless the land on rare occasions -- just as dragons are considered sacred because, on equally rare occasions, these fire-breathing creatures have been known to speak and impart great wisdom on whoever hears.

The Holy Draconic Church

Organization

The Council of Elders

The Priesthood

The Knights Templar

History