How folk worship

How FOLK WORSHIP   Most people in the Realms embrace a patron (pri¬mary) deity, and carry a token, a holy symbol, or a remembrance of that primary god. Adventurers usually pray briefly to this deity in the morning, when they aren’t under attack or in some emer¬gency, as well as at moments of crisis, such as healing a wounded friend or trying to keep a sick or poisoned person alive. They offer lengthier private prayers following evening meals or upon retiring to slumber. Such prayers are usually re¬quests for protection and direction, and deities or their servitors often reply with guidance in the form of dream visions, or more rarely in sud¬den mental visions received while awake. Each of these visions is usually a snapshot seen only by the worshiper, and it usually comes tinged with a feeling of favor or disapproval.   Rarely, a divine response to a worshiper comes as a sign visible to everyone present. Lathander, for example, might manifest as a rosy glow around a weapon, a person, a keyhole, or a secret door. Lurue might send an image of a unicorn that guides by movement or by touching persons or things before glowing blue-white and fading, to make its divine nature clear.   Upon arriving in a town or village that has a formal shrine or temple to one’s patron deity, most Realms folk attend a service and give an offering. The offering is customarily coin, but sometimes food or trophies from fallen foes, or something appropriate to the deity. For Malar, hunted game makes a good offering, and for Tern- pus, the weapons of defeated foes are favored gifts. Empty-handed worshipers usually offer in¬formation about their deeds and observations to priests—but paltry or verbal-only offerings often result in a request from the clergy to do a service. This service can be something as simple as “Help move this temple furniture” or “Confess in full to the superior priest tomorrow” or “Help guard the temple doors tonight.”   A traveler who comes across an untended or desecrated shrine of one’s patron deity is expected to cleanse it and pray there using one of the more elaborate prayers of that faith, usually involving a chanted or sung ritual. Wayfarers who encounter holy hermits or traveling priests of their patron deity are expected to share food and drink with those personages, and offer to encamp with the priest and provide any protection they can render.   Those residing in a locale that has a temple usu¬ally attend services at least once every two days. Priests of many faiths do a lot of “influencing the laity” work by dispensing news and gossip slanted to promote the importance of their god as well as the creed and the aims of the faith. At the end of formal services, sometimes while blessing departing wor¬shipers, priests also try to motivate the laity to do certain things that further the work of their god.   Every settlement in the Realms has private family chapels as well as public shrines to most deities, even if it lacks a temple. So, the lack of a temple to a particular deity in a community does not mean that deity is not venerated locally. Tem¬ples, in contrast, are permanent buildings staffed by live-in clergy, each dedicated to one deity.   Folk in the Realms also pray and make of¬ferings to deities other than their primary one. They often make these offers in the hope of ap¬peasement, such as “We’ve got to cross the Neck in a boat, so Umberlee, please don’t sink us, and Talos, send no storms . .   It is not acceptable to treat any gods disrespect¬fully. Their worshipers and clergy can be resisted, yes, and sometimes, for followers of good-aligned deities opposed to human sacrifice, their altars can be shattered, too. However, the gods them¬selves are known to be very real, so while you are thwarting their mortal servants, it’s always best to not personally defame the god. Mocking their holy sayings is about as far as most folk dare go. For example, a man slaying a Stormsender (priest of Talos) in battle might snarl, “Send a storm— now reap a storm!”   Only clergy, paladins, and fanatics specialize in the worship of certain deities. Everyone else in the Realms is constantly poised between the gods, making offerings, participating in rituals, and seeking guidance as they see fit from among all of the gods, as the situations and necessities of their personal lives suggest is most appropriate.  


Almost all rural temples and monasteries provide basic food and water for handfuls of “half-wits,” the disabled, orphans, lepers and other disease¬sufferers, the destitute, and in some cases, even outlaws claiming sanctuary, or lycanthropes. In return, these people offer basic labor, such as splitting and stacking firewood; shoveling and transporting dung; watering and tending crops; peeling potatoes and other crops for kitchen cook¬ing; and picking fruits, vegetables, and herbs. As a general rule, the sick are to be tended without question or hesitation. In practice, hesi¬tation occurs if “the sick” brought to the temple are monsters, appear to be under the influence of dangerous or multiple enchantments, or are clearly the clergy of another god. Those of this last variety are rushed to the proper temple, if one is available.   Treatment of adventurers, the displaced, and those who have fled battle or been left behind for being wounded in battle largely depends on existing local attitudes. (“These’re some of the dwarves who’ve raided us for years? Well, kill them!”) It can also be affected by what has happened recently. For example, has the com¬munity been overwhelmed by refugees? Have other adventurers marauded locally in the past? If residents don’t try to dispatch such “problems” outright, or direct them to areas of danger where a known monster will eliminate them (or they will dispose of it, making them therefore worthy of aid), the locals either provide charity (“You can shelter in my barn, and here’s some stew and water and bread; please be gone in the morning”) or bring local priests to examine them and decide if the church will offer aid.  


  Most folk in the Realms know that priests of some faiths (such as Waukeen’s) sell pardons and medi¬cines, and demand offerings or sometimes set fees for performing certain rituals, such as cleansings, weddings, and atonements.   The income of a temple is usually far broader in source and nature than that. Offerings of food, accepted from poor worshipers, go to temple kitchens to defray food expenses. Almost all cler¬gies expect offerings in return for the utterance of certain prayers and certainly in return for spell¬casting. Most clergy also expect compensation for most services, such as burials, consecrations, blessings of new businesses, or the god’s favor for a journey. Almost anything that requires prayer before the altar is also cause for an offering—as opposed to advice given by priests without the guidance of prayer or ritual, which by tradition is supposed to be freely given.   Faiths of fierce deities such as Umberlee and Talona deal in protection rackets (in effect) by demanding offerings of appeasement to keep the holy wrath of their deity away from those making the offerings. Even wandering clergy of gentler faiths (such as the Alicorna, priests of Lurue) might request payment from landowners when they eliminate dangerous local monsters.   Some priests sell holy relics and their lesser cousins. “Favors of the god” are blessed items meant to bring good luck to the bearer or house¬hold, and “tokens of the god” are holy symbols of recognition and veneration for lay worshipers (not to be confused with a cleric’s holy symbol).   The largest source of daily income for most churches is payment for the delivery of verbal or written messages, documents, and small valuables over vast distances, from one individual to an¬other. All such deliveries are “altar-sworn” safe. The priests swear before their deity to deliver their charge faithfully, without altering or distort¬ing it, pilfering from it, or violating its privacy if possible. Obviously, the contents of a verbal message are known to the bearer, but a writ¬ten message will not be unsealed or read by any member of the priesthood, nor will anyone allow a third party to read it. This oath is sworn upon pain of losing the favor of the deity—that is, being expelled from the church.   This widely available service has given rise to an interesting dodge: Someone in possession of something that could get her killed, such as stolen royal regalia, might in desperation deliver it into the hands of temple priests with a fee for deliver¬ing it to either a fictitious person or one whom the sender, but few others, knows to be dead. This enables the priests to keep and conceal the item forever as they attempt to deliver it to the proper person . . . whom they will never be able to find.   Many temples serve as banks and keepsafes (safe deposits), securely storing all manner of things for worshipers, from legal documents to great-grandma’s mummified fingers. Temple storage is especially popular with the homeless; poor commoners who fear for the security of their property while they’re working or seeking food; and those who travel for a living, such as drovers, caravan guards, and wagon merchants. Temples also perform the same moneylending and money changing functions as our real-world banks, and of course charge fees for doing so. Like real-world banks, they invest such funds (and the money they earn from offerings and rents) in livestock and farm crops and cargo ships and businesses, charging interest on every loan. So, most urban and “verdant breadbasket rural” temples are usually wealthy, not poor. Almost all priesthoods use their income to buy land, build properties, and become landlords, taking in a constant stream of rents from tenants, tenant farmers, and “rental” farmers. They also acquire houses, farms, and sometimes even cara¬van companies or shipping fleets, willed to them by the devout. In this way, many temples have slowly become the owners of large amounts of valuable city real estate. It’s generally understood that being a landlord does not allow the clergy to discriminate against tenants who primarily ven¬erate rival deities, or to curtail prayers and other religious observances of other deities performed in rental premises that a temple happens to own.     Certain priesthoods, particularly those of Mask and Waukeen, often engineer price increases and currency inflations, and profit by loading or un¬loading their stores of coinage or goods at times of high margins. Clergy of Siamorphe work to en¬rich nobles who have pledged much to the church, “when we can afford it.” Priests of Mask sell dis¬guises, and for much higher fees can hide people for short periods. Some faiths pay children copper pieces in re¬turn for business or political information that such “innocents” see and overhear, which temple agents then resell for much, much more, saying only of their sources that “The god sees all.”

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