Sunday, 25 September 2016

Church Of Westra

Church Of Westra by +Kookko Jaskinen 

INTRODUCTION

One of my favorite parts about DMing is the world building. For me one of the most important elements in a fantasy word that feels real and immersive are the religions and beliefs. Whenever I sit down to create a new setting I seem to spend most of the time thinking about the world's pantheon and the Gods individually. This religion is something I came up when I wanted to create a single God religion mostly followed by humans. The setting that I created this into is a high magic setting so I wanted to make this sort of a "simple man's" religion. I think this religion works well outside of the original setting too, as we are using this in totally different campaign and setting with my buddy Thaumiel Nerub. So that being said go ahead and use this in your own worlds if it pleases you. The illustrations are quick and little bit shitty references (drawing isn't my strong suite) trying to help you envision my idea.

THE LORE

"The God of all good things..."

Westra is also known as the "Timeless Wanderer" as he wanders through the realm disguised as an old man dressed in rags. Wherever he went he healed the sick and injured, blessed the crops and granted light for the ones dwelling in the dark. Every time he performed such a miracle he told everyone to have faith in Westra and pray for Westra's blessing. Needless to say that most people thought that he was just another mad wizard. However, there were some people who were so impressed and happy because of this helpful stranger that they started to pray and build altars, shrines, and even churches for him. Many lords and kings felt that their position was threatened by this strange man as more and more people fanatically preached about his miracles. And so these people were labeled as heretics and they were banished from cities and towns. They quickly found each other and formed the original congregation of the Church of Westra, also known as "The Wandering Congregation".
They followed in the footsteps of this strange old man wandering across the realm and preaching about Westra waiting for signs of their God's actual existence. The first sign came in the form of powers and abilities that the most fanatic members of the congregation started to manifest. These members became the leaders of the congregation. Performing miracles of their own they started to call themselves "clerics" (or priests, whatever fits better into your setting). The second sign came when the congregation stumbled upon a cave where they decided to spend the night because of the terrible storm and they were not the only ones with the same plan. The same old man that once told them about Westra had already set up camp in the cave and that night the very first divine service was held. On this service the old man told the truth to his loyal worshippers that he was indeed Westra in disguise and passed his divine wisdom and teachings. The clerics recorded Westra's every word that night and so the "Book Of Wisdom" was created.
During the service Westra told about his vision of a cataclysmic (or apocalyptic even, if you prefer) event looming in the near future. Westra promised that all who follow his teachings would survive that event unharmed. The third sign came when the event that Westra spoke of actually happened, and the people who were part of the congregation survived just like Westra promised. After this event no one could deny the divine existence of Westra and the church quickly established a sturdy foothold in the realm.

CHURCH OF VESTRA TODAY

The church is alive and well and churches and even temples can be found in most of the major cities and towns. In villages and settlements there is usually an alter or a shrine. Clerics work in these holy sites or as wanderers honoring the origins of their lord. The clerics address their equals as Brothers/Sisters and their superiors as /Fathers/Mothers. Every church and temple has an elder cleric in charge and the entire congregation is led by the High Cleric. All the members address the High Cleric as High Father/High Mother. The overall theme of the congregation is very strict and disciplined and the hierarchy is respected at all times. The average members of the congregation (your simple Jill's and Joe's) are of course at the very bottom of the food chain kneeling before the clerics to stay in good terms with their God. Clerics bend the knee to elder clerics and disrespecting your superior is believed to be one of the most effective ways to be smited by the wrath of Westra himself.
Church of Westra is known the be the "simple man's religion", because of the fact that the congregation never questions their God or superiors. Whenever the phrase "behold the word of God" is spoken (or written) by a superior member of the congregation, all the inferior members must believe, obey, and accept or face the consequences. This means that kings and lords mean nothing to the congregation. This usually creates a lot of tension between the congregation and the rulers of the realm.
The strict code of onedience is not seen as cruel or wrong by the congregation because that's the way it always has been. But people outside the congregation often see this as twisted. The rules of hierarchy are of course more relevant to the clerics serving in the temples and churches than to the clerics wandering around the realm. This is the reason why wanderers are usually people with authority issues or people who prefer the solitude on the road. Wanderers rarely stop at temples or churches, but when they do, the same rules of hierarchy apply for them. Usually wanderers work alone, but some wanderers work in small groups. In a group like this the same hierarchy applies; one of the clerics is the elder cleric in charge, just like in a temple or a church.
Those who wish to become clerics must pass the Path of Enlightenment, a physical and spiritual training known to be extremely challenging. Before one can step on to the Path of Enlightenment, one must be a baptized member of the congregation.

THE HOLY SYMBOL
The holy symbol of Westra is fairly simple, but has a specific meaning to it. It is made from any material at hand. For example a blacksmith could make himself one from iron and another peasant could carve one from a piece of wood. The clerics of course put more money into their symbols and usually have them made from silver, or even gold. Jewels are rarely used in the holy symbols, but the center dot might be a ruby in the holy symbol of the High Cleric.
The black dot represents Westra himself looking down to the world. The dark gray part (the carved part in worn symbols) represents the congregation as Westra takes care of his followers and worshippers first and foremost. Finally the light gray part represents the rest of the world and it's inhabitants as Westra looks after all the mortals of the world.

THE OUTFITS OF THE CLERICS

Clerics working in the temples or churches are dressed in white robes with a bright red cloth belt. The holy symbol is always worn on top of the robes. They never wear hats. The outfit of an elder cleric is similar with the exception of a bright red shoulder cape. The robes of the High Cleric are the same as those of an elder cleric with the exception of a holy symbol stitched onto the chest part of the robe and the jewelry worn on top of the cloth belt.

DOMAINS

Last, but not least, I wanted to include my vision for domains of Westra, because the setting I created this religion into is being played with D&D 5th Edition* rules.

  • Life
  • Light
  • Nature
  • Knowledge
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*Church of Westra has also appeared in The Black Hack and Labyrinth Lord.