By the Gods: Divinity in Tolara

The foundational faith and practice of the many Tolaran peoples

My dearest and most beloved friend, we are about to do something which is both incredibly foolish, and immensely dangerous... But by the dusk and dawn, Corellon himself has put us on the same path- and I am convinced that it was for a purpose. I only hope that there is enough time in our lives to complete this God given task.
Egmes Aceyr, in a letter to his companion Ytlena e'Ydohr; 4300 Unknown

  Tolara, simply put, is an immense melting pot... Not home to one single culture or species, but hundreds of them- all of whom coexist with only minimal barriers. Over the years of its settlement, the way Tolarans view the Divine has been influenced greatly by this diversity; their different faiths have blended together to create a singular, shared series of beliefs about the nature of the Divine.   Today a Tolaran may find a number of religions who hold minor variations of them, but the core beliefs themselves remain largely unchanged- and are held by most settlers on the continent.  

The Four Tennents of Tolaran Faith

Believing that the beginning of time was too long ago for anyone to truly know the reality of what happened, Tolarans care little to debate the hows, whys, and whens of Divine existence. They instead choose to look to the reality of the present... And the undeniable reality of the present is that several Deities exist- and they're tangible beings who walk freely among the various planes of existence.  
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Ritual by Kósa Zsolt
The Tolaran view of the Divine, however, is also influenced by their view of magic. Most notably by the belief that there's one source of magical power: The Weave; few Tolarans care what it is or how it came to be, but agree it's an invisible energetic force that surrounds and permeates everything- greatly impacting the final outcome of these core beliefs.

  First is that anyone with any inclination to do so can, with enough time and effort, learn to manipulate The Weave. Some of those who decide to study it may even master it- and, in doing so, learn how to become a part of The Weave itself.   As rationally follows, second, is the belief that Deities are nothing more than mortal beings who have mastered (and become one with) The Weave- unlocking access to powers normal people will only ever dream of possessing.   However, third: Tolarans also believe nothing is divorced from the natural cycle of Life and Death- including Deities. Because of this, even those who have become Deities are still viewed as mortal- albeit incredibly long lived mortals whose power (and mere state of existence) is beyond the comprehension of those who haven't achieved that level of power themselves.   Fourth, and finally: If Deities are mortal and anyone has the potential to master The Weave, then the nature of the Divine is not one which is static and unchanging... It instead exists in a constant state of flux- with new beings ascending to Divinity, and old ones falling or dying off entirely.

 

The Tolaran Pantheon

With the tangibility of the Divine so ever present in the world, one would be hard pressed to find a Tolaran who didn't at least marginally believe in their existence. As a result, the Gods (and even religion itself) plays an integral role in the every day life of the Tolaran people regardless of culture or race.   But where other places in the world are often harshly segregated in terms of who worships who... Little such segregation exists within Tolara. The interconnected nature of early life on the continent means that many Deities who were once worshiped by a handful of cultures now cross many cultural boundaries; distinct and separate Pantheons have long since been a relic of the past. Here, all are considered a part of the greater pantheon- and all are worshiped.

 

Veneration & Worship

Prayer and other active forms of worship aren't seen as wholly necessary. The Gods don't need sustenance to survive, or penance for poor deed. However, such acts are still considered important.  
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Chi-Hoo Shrine by Sean Soong
Many Tolarans believe that, while the Gods take an interest in mortal affairs, they're ultimately capricious and unreliable beings; they may bless you one day but curse you the next, or simply take no interest in your affairs at all.   Activities of worship, then, are viewed as positive and productive ways to curry favor with the Divine. The intended hope, of course, is that a Deity will be more inclined to bestow blessings or favors, or intervene on one's behalf, if you worship them. As a result, it's difficult to find a Tolaran who doesn't attend to their worship at least once daily- something which the landscape of the continent certainly supports with enthusiasm.   Shrines, Temples, and other places of worship generously dot the landscape- bustling centers of daily activity which take on many forms; traveler's Shrines are common at many street corners and intersections- even in the midst of urbanized areas.   Likewise, most private residences contain at least a small Shrine of some sort at which a household may perform its daily prayers. Businesses follow this trend, too, providing clients a small Shrine at which to make passing prayers as they patronize their place of business. And even in the most remote areas of the continent, Temples can be found dedicated in their honor.   The largest temple to date in Tolara remains the Temple of a Thousand Faces; located in Saethar'Kori, it was a collaboration between Deamod e'Lufaren and Aaina Viswan- the individuals in whose spirit the Priest's Guild would be founded later.
Do you know one who would do such a thing? One who would pray at this Chapel's altars; who would visit for health, restoration, and inspiration- and Meditate upon the Mysteries of the Gods in quiet contemplation?   Indeed... The earnest believer may improve both sprit and mind within the Temple of a Thousand Faces- for truly, to walk within the Hall of Faces is to glimpse the very nature of the divine, wrought forth in architectural marvel.
Sister Akassa Rammour, in a letter to her brother
As the central place of worship on the continent, its doors are open to everyone. And indeed, people travel from all over Saleh'Alire to wander its halls, attend its services, and pray at its altars; even Imalda e'Yisonn herself patronized the Temple, and lived out the later half of her life there.  

Religion & Cults

Agreements as to the core tenets of faith within Tolara hasn't stopped the formation of various religious organizations. All Gods being recognized within Tolara, after all, doesn't necessarily mean that all Deities are worshiped equally; many individuals pray to whomever they think is the most relevant in any given situation, or at different times of the year. Others worship only a handful of select Gods out of the greater whole. And even more have a favorite or two to whom they pray most often, or even devote their lives to.   As a result, various religions and cults can (and do) exist heavily here. These range from benign groups who promote the teachings of a one God as more important than those of others... To small Cults of dissenters who believe that some God or another is really a different God in disguise. Some (though they're incredibly rare) even believe that certain Gods never achieved Godhood at all.
Being a description of the lands and the customs of its inhabitants- and furthermore, a useful history of those places of interest by nature of their locations and the influence of their peoples... I must convey to you the sincerity with which they regard their Gods despite the abomination which has become their pantheon; a veritable melting pot of every Divinity beneath the moons, it is an affront to the pious. Nevertheless they believe, and they believe with the utmost fervor.
Feyrith Dirha, A Pocket Guide to Tolara and its Peoples
But despite the high level of tolerance and inclusivity on the continent, the existence of these groups has occasionally led to strife among Tolarans; while arguably one of the most tame events by comparison, perhaps the most memorable was that of the Ilerian Migration.   Between 5873 and 5880, disagreement between a subgroup of The Ferenian Ethnicity and the Solar Elves over the nature of one of their Gods led to catastrophic results within Eris'ka; the Solar Elves) persecution of this small faction culminated in violence, bloodshed, riots, and many lives lost- eventually a causing a cultural split a mass migration into Talaina'Vao.   Similar events would later occur again within the newly formed Ilerian Culture decades later during an event known as The Red Schism- resulting in yet another cultural split and migration that gave rise to the Tameri and Enethi.   Even today these four peoples (the Solar Elves, and the Ilerian, Enethian, and Tamerian ethnicities of the Human race) still retain a deep seated dislike of one another based on the religious grounds which caused the violence. By contrast, however, the original Ferenians maintain a vibrant relationship with all of them.   Regardless of their differences, though, one belief stands strong among the people of Tolara: Various cultures and religions may emphasize some Gods more than others... But no Gods are truly ever false ones except those that did not ascend to The Weave.

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Starsoul Amulet by Johnny Morrow

Divine Domains

As beings of near incomprehensible power who have the ability to effect great change within the world, many Deities choose to turn their attention towards some aspect of mortal affairs. And just as people have unique specialties, cares, and interests in life... So to do Deities after their ascension. These special interests are translated into Domains- of which there are three types:   Primary Domains themselves tend to be broad umbrella categories like Life, Nature, and Knowledge. These are then divided up into smaller, much more specific Subdomains. For instance, the Nature Domain would be further divided based on Element: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.   Occasionally these Subdomains are divided even further into Microdomains- such as in the case of the Water Subdomain of Nature, whose Microdomains may include things such as Storms, Lakes, Tsunamis, and so on and so forth.
                               


Cover image: Flooded Temple by Jordan Grimmer

Comments

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30 Apr, 2018 03:23

I really enjoy your styling. It's done beautifully. Awesome work!

30 Apr, 2018 11:42

Thanks, hun <3 <3 <3 That means so much coming from someone who's world has inspired me so thoroughly

30 Dec, 2018 02:50

This system makes me think of the Elder Scrolls where it's possible to ascend to godhood through achieving CHIM - though CHIM is more about coming face to face with the idea that you're not real and still insisting that you are. You have a gorgeous page, and I love reading about mortals becoming gods.

30 Dec, 2018 03:16

Good eye! I ripped the foundations from DnD since it's a DnD campaign setting, but Elder Scrolls has influenced it a LOT, because their world lore is some of my favorite :D

30 Dec, 2018 18:25

I hear you there, I have a region that may as well be called "Skyrim" in my world. XD

30 Dec, 2018 20:17

Right? Lol.

9 Jan, 2019 16:54

Its a great article as always. I loved the fact that with enough will and determination and mastery of the weave, any person can become a God and change the world. As always i loved the amount of detail that you gave here and this overall like your other articles makes for a very very interesitng read. The CSS and formatting is simply gorgeous and i love it and that was enough to garner my like. Well done and keep on rocking!

9 Jan, 2019 19:35

Thanks, love!