Genosism is the religious faith of much of Vosca for the better part of 20,000 years*, particularly those areas formerly part of the Ruvian Empire. The chief god is Genosus the Sun, who lives in the great Solar Ziggurat atop Mount Genosus. The faith stresses hard physical labor, especially in agricultural work, as a divine endeavor. The head of the religion is the Pontifatrix, who also rules Solar Illegon where Mount Genosus lies. Devotees who die may return to Mundus as Paladin.
Genosians, much like early Christians, are much more concerned with the life after death than life itself. They see all of life as a preparation for the act of dying, and meeting a sort of spiritual quota before that time. There is a constant struggle in Genosian societies to dominate in terms of efficiency, work-ethic, and planning. Genosians also characterize themselves largely by their willingness to spend their wealth in ways that benefit the less fortunate. A great portion of wealthy Genosians' money and time often goes to the church, alms-giving and other such acts of mercy, unless he can find some other way to occupy his time that satisfies local parishes. A common one is crusading, or receiving the Mark of Supplication from a Paladin, which names the individual as an agent of Genosus, whose activities have already served the common ends of man sufficiently.
The product of this is a very high-stress society. Genosians work constantly and have little release. They tend to be high-strung, patient towards the weak but unforgiving towards the irresponsible, and prone to infrequent but extreme outbursts of artistic inspiration. It is not at all considered appropriate for a Genosian to be an artist by trade, but being an artisan who is struck by inspiration (and twenty years of repression) to create something beautiful is highly admired. One thing is definitely true: Genosians do not place high value on beauty or aesthetics, partly because the Dessians do.
Like all mega-cultures, Genosians vary depending on their individual cultures – the Osterbs and the Alandi differ greatly, as do the Illegosi and the Albish, but these are common threads that run through their societies to varying degrees.
There is no concept of original sin, in the sense that all human beings are culpable for some failure in their character. Rather, there is a concept of Human Duty. Every man woman and child 'owes' Genosus something. For the Orredinians and Ruvians, this is quite literal, since they believe that they owe their god labor in return for an afterlife. The Kaselites view it differently. Because Genosus is the sun, and thus the source of all life, they owe him their existence, and thus should exist to honor and glorify him through their actions.
There is a concept of sinful behavior, of course, and a very powerful culture of shame associated with this behavior. The Sunly Man is austere, humble, honest, noble, brave, compassionate, gentle, strong, and righteous. To fail to be any of these things is to dishonor Genosus, and dishonoring Genosus is extremely bad, since men exist to serve him, in one way or another. The Kaselites take it more seriously than the others, but this is present in all flavors of Genosism.
*The actual number of years Genosism has reigned in Vosca are implied in many lore pieces to be intentionally inflated, probably as a form of propaganda. Genosism probably has a history more similar to that of Christianity, I.E. about 1350 years given the in-setting similarities to 1400s era Europe.
The central Genosian religion is the Ruvian Church, based in Holy Ruvia. This church is headed by the Pontifatrix, a woman who is elected by the College of Cardinals to act as the envoy to Genosus himself.
The Ruvian Church is based around the idea of a "Solar Kingdom," or a feudal kingdom that operates according to Genosian principles. The King, and all other noble offices, rule by divine right – but they do so only so that they can protect and facilitate the lower orders in living virtuous lives according to Genosian strictures.
The Ruvian Genosians as a whole consider themselves to be slaves to Genosus, and so the idea of holding a Genosian as a slave is essentially theft from God. This extends equally to Genosians held in slavery outside of Genosian lands, which is considered abominable, and grounds for a Solar Crusade, one of the few events that can convince the Dacians, Kasels, Krajini and Clachmen to work together. It is a terrible thing to behold.
That said, they do tolerate the enslaving of infidels, though they are at least nominally supposed to convert the slaves at some point, after exposing them to good works, and then release them. The Kasonic Order does this with its converts, who repent for their heathen ways in the amber mines for ten years before being released. Slavery also cannot be hereditary, the children of slaves are born free, and are protected as Genosians.
The penalty for selling a fellow Genosian into slavery varies with the region. In Illegon, it is crucifixion. In Krajina, it is burning. In Clachland, it is stoning. In the Reich, it is being broken on a wheel. In Lagoria, it is garroting. In Dace, it is shoveling.
Thus, while the Orredinian Church does stress the same virtues as the Ruvian Church, it does so in a different manner. The Orredinians believe that one best serves Genosus and the cause of the Solar Ziggurat not through mastery of flesh, but through understanding of sacred geometry, ritual, and magic.
Thus, the Orredinian Church has a very strong emphasis placed on the learning of symbols and rituals that, when practiced, will channel power directly to the legions that labor on the Ziggurat in death. Ten observances of these rituals every day are believed to be the bare minimum for a Genosian to "do his part," and the entire culture has small rituals of this sort woven into the fabric of everyday life, for good measure. The Orredin are of course not the only members of this church, many human kingdoms favor it as well (usually those with strong associations with the Helian Empire.)
Sorcery is a huge part of the Orredinian tradition, since it also relies on such symbols, and a great part of the theological dialogue within Orredinian Genosism incorporates Sorcery.
The Ruvians, of course, favor Pyromancy, firstly because fire is a gift from the sun, but secondly because with pyromancy, individuals can 'burn away' unwholesome thoughts, desires, and memories, making themselves into more "Sunly" men
Combined with the fact that to Ruvians, this whole magical augmentation thing sounds like a slacker's excuse not to do any actual work, and you can see how these two groups don't get along terribly well.
Orredinian Genosians have a much more lenient view of slavery, because they consider themselves to be the "overseers" of others' labor, both in this life and the afterlife. As a result, slavery is legal in Helion, Osterbija, and a few other regions that subscribe to the religion. However, there are still rules, and at this point we would consider Orredinian Slavery to be rather more humane than serfdom or villeinhood.
It is still illegal to press other Genosians into slavery (though they may sign themselves away) but the children of slaves do remain slaves unless freed.
From time to time, there have been wars between the Ruvian and Orredinian factions of Genosism on this very subject, but for the most part they have learned not to step on each others' toes.
The Kaselite HeresyEdit
These guys are also Genosian, but they are a very extreme, very small sect that has recently formed in the Kaselreich.
The Kaselites reject the notion of the Solar Kingdom, and also of the Pontifatrix's authority. They believe that the only authority that any Genosian should answer to should be that of Genosus himself, because mortal authorities corrupt his teachings and abuse his power.
To an extent, this is certainly true, and in some situations, the Solar Kingdom principle has resulted in many thousands of people being worked to death or starved because of corruption and incompetence on the part of their 'divinely appointed' leaders. Peasant rebellions very often have Kaselite elements to them, and the heresy is finding increasing support among the peasantry as more and more literature is disseminated using the very recently invented printing press.
Obviously, peasant rebellions are sort of antithetical to the whole "Solar Kingdom" idea, and also wastes perfectly good labor, thus the Ruvians have fought back ferociously against any signs of Kaselite thought anywhere.
The Orredin also oppose the Kaselites, but for different reasons. Peasants rebelling against nobles? How long until this becomes humans rebelling against the Din? One century? Two? Best to nip it in the bud now.
A big part of Kaselite theology is that it rejects two things, and supposes one very big thing.
Firstly, it rejects organization. The Kaselites believe that each individual should read the Solar Scriptures and make sense of them personally.
Secondly, it rejects hierarchy. Everyone is equal. Nobody is closer to Genosus than anyone else. Nobody is above the rules, and nobody is below them. In an ideal, Kaselite world, every individual would make a pilgrimage to Mount Genosus and meet with God personally, though this is rather currently impractical (and, as the Ruvians have made sure with their cannons, fortresses and thousands of guards, exceedingly dangerous.)
It is the third matter, however, is perhaps the most dangerous: The Kaselites believe that Genosus is omnipotent.
They do not believe that human effort is necessary to build the Ziggurat, they believe that it has already been built, and that man exists not as a source of labor, but rather as a source of glory, and that all works are necessary not because they aid God, but because they honor Him.
As for leaders, the Heresy does have prominent members, but these change rapidly, as they are frequently caught and Bronzed for heresy.
There have been great prophets, who emerged from the temple with perfect clarity, and wrote down comparatively clear sections of the scripture, some of which provide the backbone for Genosian traditions today, since they're actually... You know. Sane.
The Kaselites believe that anyone could be one of these prophets, and that sending in one person per lifetime limits your odds of finding a prophet to 1/X, with X being the entire population of the human race.
When faced with the frustrating, confusing and meticulous nature of interpreting the Solar Scriptures over the course of generations, the knowledge that if you just found the right people to send into the gates, you could get the full story in plain Latin, black and white, clear as crystal, is enormously tempting.
Architectural style varies by region. In the heartland of Illegon, lots of the cathedrals may well resemble something more like old Romanesque temples, but in the rest of the country, the Kasel style is dominant, resembling gothic architecture more than anything else.
The combination of stained glass and bronze plates is also commonplace, and the crafting of such ornaments for the churches is one of the few mediums of artistry that is very openly supported by the Ruvian Church, so a lot of it happens. These may also be used in sunchambers.
Many of the churches are also impromptu fortresses, particularly in regions known for attacks by brigands, bandits and raiders. They range from simple blockhouses to multi-walled fortresses on artificial hills, some with moats and towers. Wealthy churches quickly become indistinguishable from castles, and oftentimes become the center of towns, much to the consternation of the monks who had desired solitude.
Of particular note are the Monasteries of the northern Slivers, the so called "Bitter Sea Monasteries." Thousands of small islands dot the chain, and hundreds of them are home to fortress-monasteries that act as havens for those seeking sanctuary, rest-stops for traders, merchants and travelers, and deadly lures for ambitious pirates and raiders. These islands are harsh, cold, and poor, the riches said to hide within are legendary. The hardened warrior-monks of the Bitter Sea have resisted centuries of attempts to crack open their secret faults, and none have yet succeeded.
Members of the Apatite Order are usually sent to train in the Bitter Sea Monasteries, where they learn how sieges work by living in siege conditions, and they get involved all over the place, often with individual members being sent to organize the defenses of important Genosian fortresses.
Genosian saints are essentially individuals who are believed to have achieved special status among Genosus's followers. Many of them later return as Paladins, but not all or even most of them. Additionally, many (even most) Paladins are not Saints, and in many cases their good works went totally unknown to the general public.
Saints are venerated as the chosen servants of Genosus, and it is believed that from their favored position at His side, they can offer protection, mercy and aid to those still living, essentially by pleading with Genosus on said mortal's behalf.
Most of them are honored with eclipse feast-days, and those who are not are usually honored with shrines and as the patrons of families, houses, businesses, and certain enterprises. There are well over 400 Saints in Genosism.
Genosian relics are generally items associated with saints, or with Paladins. The bones of both are said to hold holy power, and also to be able to seal oaths with divine authority. Paladins are said to be able to discern immediately whether or not a relic is real, and verifying the legitimacy of relics is a task that clearly none of them enjoy, but which they feel obligated to undergo.
Other relics include the weapons of great Paladins, which typically hold great magical power so long as they are held by one of the Genosian faith (and more still if by one of true faith, such as a Paladin) and which sometimes have wondrous powers. Sometimes pieces of armor, like helmets, breastplates or shields have similar qualities.
These are irreplaceable, and a Paladin who loses his relics cannot simply procure more. It is very common for a Paladin to go to extreme lengths to recover them if they are stolen from him, or if when he is slain they are pilfered by unscrupulous looters.
Faro is a sword wielded by four generations of kings in Lagoria. It once had a twin, which has been lost to time, but the sword was given to the king by a Paladin for safe-keeping, before he went to a battle at sea where he was slain.
Faro shines with an unearthly light, growing brighter depending on the depth of faith of its wielder. Merely looking upon the blade fills the hearts of the apostate with absolute terror. The fear is irrational and overriding, and grows from simple fear to physical pain depending on the convictions of the wielder.
Interestingly, despite being the blade of a Paladin, this weapon was at one time wielded by a Dessian, a slave who took up the sword to defend the body of the fallen king from wolves, and it had the same effect in his hand as in the king's. It is thus believed that Faro respects faith of any sort of divine, so long as it is genuine.
Reliquary of AlbionEdit
A less martially inclined relic (also known as the Reliquary of Krajina, by the Krajini), which is part of the kingdom's regalia.
It is a box made of gold, containing several hundred human teeth. Each is said to belong to a Saint, and there is a long-standing ritual in which a Paladin will come to the country, weigh the box, and "check" one of the teeth at random. If the box is light, or the tooth inspected is not real, then the King is expected to abdicate, but if it is real, he is said to have the sanction of Genosus himself to rule for another year.
Thusfar, the teeth have always been real. It is said that they have healing magic, but that using it destroys the tooth in the process. If this is true, the Crown isn't saying.
Genosians are big on interring their dead, preferably in tombs or mausoleums, but burial can suffice if it is the only option. Criminals and the condemned to death are often subjected to having their bones used as the base for mortar in other peoples' tombs.
Looting the dead is viewed as distasteful, though it's sort of considered "balanced" if you also bury whoever it is you robbed. Picking the battlefield after the day is done is considered a revolting behavior, but it isn't illegal. In a way, it's almost expected to happen. Why leave perfectly good weapons and armor to rust in a field somewhere? Terrible waste.
Markets where such things are bought and sold would generally be the lower districts, where the poor ply their trades. No merchant selling looted hardware would dare show his face somewhere where a knight might recognize his cousin's helmet, for example... But such merchants would certainly exist.
Genosians will make symbols of the sun as a sort of quick prayer, in pretty much exactly the same way Catholics make the sign of the cross. The method of doing so varies by region.
In the Ruvian tradition, followed by Gallians, Kamens, Lendians, Alandi, most of Iber and pre-Krajina Albion, the hand is held with the thumb, middle and forefingers touching, and a circle is drawn on the chest.
In Gearrloch and Clachland, the hand is instead held open, and the forefinger is used to draw the circle on the forehead. This difference is because Gearrloch converted to Genosism very early, and developed its own traditions which spread to Clachland and the rest of the Slivers before Ruvian traditions could make it there.
In Dace, the hand is either held straight with the fingers together (Taphonomy Bay and Vedrim) or closed (Pishka and Sarvuna), either way with the thumb pointed out at a right angle. The thumb is then used to trace a circle on the chest.