The Stargazers is a religious order that deals in a plethora of things. They are worshipers of Junori and led by a high priestess who is chosen after being born on the night of the comet, Yoshi's, arrival. The Stargazers worked closely with the Society of the Sapphire Lotus many centuries ago.
The high priestess acts as a direct line between Junori and the catfolk of Basilla. She is a messenger of the stars, a woman who wields untold amounts of power despite her mortality. It's rumored that the high priestess is merely an aspect of Junori that is constantly reborn into the world as the priestess' true identity is never known. The podia asterion are clerics among her order that are divided between four domains. Clerics of the stars are the high priestess' inner circle and work closely with her to make sure that Junori's will is seen through until the very end. Ancestor clerics generally work among the ranks of the Dark Guardians, aiding in their efforts to connect the living with their departed loved ones. Medicinal clerics provide much of their service free of charge and operate clinics all over the islands. Clerics of imagination are the last tier among the podia asterion and are responsible for pushing back against any efforts to stifle the public's creativity and individualism. They are, by far, the most chaotic members of the Stargazers and don't take kindly to being silenced. The lowest rank among the Stargazers are the asterios mistae. They're scholars that work to preserve Basilla's religious texts and artifacts. Sometimes this means being tasked with translating catfolk mythology to share with other cultures.
The welfare of their communities is of utmost importance to the Stargazers. It's a task that's put above everything else, including their devotion to Junori. After multiple attempts by the nobles to silence the general public and keep them in the dark, knowledge has become quite important to the order as well. Knowledge is power and as such, they wish to arm the public with said power so that they don't become victims of oppression.
The Stargazers don't own much in terms of wealth. The wealth they gain through donations, whether monetary or valuable items, is redistributed through the local economy in order to maintain their clinics, schoolhouses, and church buildings. Members of the church are allowed to keep their personal wealth, but materialistic behavior is frowned upon.
Mythology & Lore
The Stargazers began in ancient times back before catfolk had a developed society. All tribes had a "stargazer" which was usually a magically gifted elder who passed down myths and knowledge to the younger generations. Tribal catfolk seldom kept written records of anything, but with enough of these grandmother catfolk sharing the stories of their people, the legends survived the test of time.
The belief is that Junori carved and molded The Isles of Basilla with her own two hands. Loneliness plucked away at her within the void. She created the kosmiko from the sprawling landscape that she designed. They were carved from the trees with gemstones for eyes, only evolving into mortal forms after they learned the meaning of self-preservation. Each early generation became less of a construct, becoming organic in order to hold their "stars" better. Stars are a representation of catfolk souls, painted into existence with the brush of Junori's tail across the night sky.
Tenets of Faith
- Corruption should never be left to grow unchecked.
- Materialism is a burden, generosity is a cure.
- The people have a right to arm themselves against injustice.
- Community is above all else. What's good for one should benefit the many.
- One cannot cast out their own darkness entirely, but they can learn to control it.
Desecrating the dead is seen as a direct attack against their ancestors. Necromancy within the church's ranks is heavily monitored by ancestral clerics to keep such crimes from happening. Needless cruelty is an obvious sin, but even the act of turning a blind eye to those in need can be punished by exile from the Stargazers. One should never lie and act as if they're innocent and guilt-free from any mistake. It's important to the Stargazers and the Dark Guardians that people learn to control their inner darkness to use it for the betterment of their communities.
Worship is commenced when the stars come out at night. Prayers are improvised on the spot, usually in the form of poems and songs to pay tribute to Junori's relentless creativity. Offerings of food and drink are left outside of the home for her as she wanders down the streets in the form of a glittering, black cat. These offerings usually consist of a bowl of cream or homemade sangria, with a plate of goat cheese, salami, lemon butter scallops, tuna, or crab meat. It's recommended that worshipers feed the stray cats on the islands and offer them a bowl of cream as well.
A high priestess leads the Stargazers. She's considered chosen after being born beneath the comet, Yoshi, on the night of its arrival. She's considered a celestial gift and held in high regard from a young age, holding more wisdom in a single thought than most mortals do. Her eyes are like bright gemstones and her skin glimmers and glows faintly like a distant star. On Yoshi's arrival every ten years, communities rally around those expecting to give birth soon in the hopes that their loved one is the parent of the next priestess. Not all of these celestial children are female though. Those born as a male usually transition to female later in life or carry an appearance of androgyny to mirror that of Junori's original chosen one, Iathis. They're appointed to the position of high priestess in their mid teens after receiving education and training on a wide variety of things. Such things include learning all that's available about Basillian mythology and reading through religious texts. The priestess-to-be is also combat and self-defense skills, both with magic and basic melee weapons.
Political Influence & Intrigue
While the Stargazers aren't politicians by any means, they have had direct confrontation with the royal families of Basilla. They're against the oppressive and strict regime that the families have tried to put in place on multiple occasions. The control that was slipping away from the nobility of islands was a result of direct intervention, much of their plans dismantled and destroyed by the church's clerics of imagination. Under the rule of The Council of Basilla, the Stargazers have taken a step back, but are understandably wary of the sudden change in government structure. They keep a close eye on the council's work, but for the time being, they haven't had a reason to confront them.