One of the largest faiths on the continent of Turoza, Walanniism is the most common religion in the south of the continent and has millions of adherents in the Sultanate of Fashaddon and the Emirate of Taqwal. The faith is founded around three deities, headed up by Walanni, the eponymous head of the religion, her son Labarnas and her daughter Annella. Between them, each of these deities takes responsibility for seeing to the care of their faithful within certain areas, and combined they make a stable pantheon, with a fairly reciprocal relationship between the divine Celestials and those that follow them on the Material Plane.
The divine structure of Walanniism is that of a Celestial Divine Line, which is governed by a small group of deities, with the principal deity being Walanni herself after whom the religion is named, who has two deities beneath her, Labarnas and Annella. Walanni is the ultimate authority in Walanniism in all aspects, and in all of the Planes of Existence in which the religion operates. As with other Celestial Divine Lines, there is an order of lesser Celestials beneath the three deities, who carry out the management, administration and protection of Walanniism’s assets in the Upper Plane of existence. As Walanniism has a strong following on the Material Plane, it is governed by a single representative of the pantheon, known as the Eresh, who heads up all of the Walannite activities on the Material Plane. Beneath the Eresh are six High Priests (with each deity in the Pantheon being represented by two each), who along with the Eresh make up the Council of Seven, who make all of the major decisions relating to the Walannite establishment and undertakings on Ulskandar’s Material Plane. Below the Council of Seven are a multitude of Priests and Priestesses dedicated to one of the three Walannite deities, who fulfil a variety of functions, from the carrying out of the liturgical and pastoral aspects directly linked to the priesthood, through to working in the religions administration and bureaucracy. Sitting beneath all of the layers of the clergy, are a large group of lay servants, who see to the up-keep of Walannite buildings and act as cooks, cleaners and servants for the clergy.
Because of its close relationship with the Sultanate of Fashaddon and the Emirate of Taqwal, the faith of Walanniism has a great deal of land at its disposal in the south of Turoza, that has been donated to them by the governments of the Sultanate and the Emirate so that temples, clerical accommodation and alms-houses can be constructed, along with land that has been donated so that the Walannite lay servants can carry out agricultural and occasionally manufacturing activity to provide food and income to sustain the temporal structure of Walanniism. For example, the vast majority of the land that makes up and surrounds the city of Sharzuten has been gifted to the faith by the Sultanate of Fashaddon, who leave the management and governance of the city to Walannite representatives to oversee, with the guidance and presence of a Royal Administrator, appointed by the Sultan himself. Even though the people who live and work as part of the Walannite faith will have started life as citizens of either the Emirate of Taqwal or the Sultanate of Fashaddon, with an additional minority who were citizens of other nations as well, when they enter the service of Walanniism, they are considered to no longer be citizens of their country of birth, but belong to Walanni and her children. All those who enter the service of the faith as either a member of the clergy, or as a lay servant, are expected to follow the orders and rulings of the faith’s deities, members of the Celestial order belonging to the Divine Line of Walanniism and their temporal superiors, with special focus on the Eresh, the head of the temporal structure.
The Celestial Divine Line of Walanniism has at its disposal the military strength of all of the lower orders of Celestials at its disposal, whose numbers are not known exactly to the mortal institution of the faith, but who are thought to be great in strength. However, this force is only used to protect the institution of Walanniism in the Upper Plane, primarily to defend the Divine Line from incursions of Demons and Devils from the Lower Plane, and to protect the areas of the Upper Plane that they claim from other Celestial Divine Lines. It would be a rare and dire situation indeed for this force to be deployed in great numbers to the Material Plane. Conversely, there is no dedicated military force that exists to protect the temporal institution of Walanniism on the Material Plane. However, this is not a problem, as the faith is embedded into the state structure of both the Sultanate of Fashaddon and the Emirate of Taqwal as the state religion of both nations. This means that both the Emirate and the Sultanate have bound themselves to protecting the earthly presence of Walanniism, and they will post troops to garrison important shrines and temples to ensure that the liturgical and physical treasures within, and the Walannite clergy are protected. Even though both of the countries are at war with one another, they refrain from attacking temples in each other’s lands, even if they are garrisoned, out of respect for their faith.
The origins of Walannism are integrally tied up with the origin of the Sultanate of Fashaddon. The faith was originally brought to the area of the Sonsuz Desert by the Fashaddonite tribe, who had once themselves been part of a much larger tribal organisation, that had been comprised, unusually of both Orcs and Humans, with the mix of these two peoples giving rise to a large population of Half-Orcs amongst them. This larger tribe was held together, in part, by the connection that was made with them by the Celestial Divine Line, that would eventually become Walanniism. The natural ferocity of the Orcs, and their innate strength appealed greatly to Kulittu, whilst the gentler, noble aspects of the Humans and Half-Orcs appealed to his wife, Walanni, and for a time, both deities and both peoples were able to co-exist, and provide for their people. It is thought that Kulittu, seeing that Orcs were willingly living side by side with members of another species, that they would normally view as being weak and beneath them, and interbreeding with them no less, was a sign that Orcs were perhaps misunderstood, and that with careful guidance and handling, they might cast off their feral side, and become more ‘civilised’. Kulittu, however, was wrong. It would appear, that spending so much time attempting to influence the mind-set of Orcs, began to twist Kulittu’s own mind, and he too began to lust for power in a way that was considered to be unbecoming for a Celestial, and that increasing began to look as if Kulittu was turning towards the practices of the fallen deities that had given rise to the Devilish and Demonic powers of the Lower Plane of existence. Attempting to bring her husband back from a path that she knew there was scant chance of him returning from once he had progressed too far, Walanni and her children, Labarnas and Annella tried everything that they could to get Kulittu to see sense, but to no avail. As Kulittu descended further into a primal, feral madness, he became increasing violent towards the Celestials that served him in the Divine Line, encouraged his Orcish adherents on the Material Plane to enslave and kill those deemed to be weaker species and even became increasingly violent towards his wife and children. There were several times where he nearly killed one of the three of them in an insatiable rage that could not be stopped. It was when Walanni discovered that Kulittu had visited the Lower Plane of Existence several times, and had begun to parlay with an unknown, but greatly powerful entity there, who was encouraging his fostering and promotion of Orcs and their increasing promotion as a superior race, that Walanni decided enough was enough. When Kulittu returned from his last trip to the Lower Plane, Walanni, Labarnas and Annella ambushed him, and after a great struggle killed him, in order to save the Material Plane from whatever fiendish plan Kulittu was concocting. After the deed was done the three deities, and all of the Lower Orders of Celestials that remained loyal to them, split off and created their own Divine Line, that of Walanniism. As for their followers on the Material Plane, word was sent to the Half-Orcs and the few Humans that remained, that they should separate themselves, and become their own tribal entity, under the divine protection of Walanni and her Divine Line. This new tribe, took the name Fashaddonite, a derivative of a Celestial word that is translated in to Common Speech as ‘to be renewed with greater strength’. Since the emergence of the Walannite Divine Line, and the Fashaddonite Tribe, the faith has gone from strength to strength. After the end of the Nomadic Era and the beginning of the Settlement Era, it was the Fashaddonite Tribe that became the most powerful and influential in the south of the continent of Turoza, and who created the eponymous Sultanate of Fashaddon, elevating Walanniism to the level of state religion. Even when the Emirate of Taqwal seceded from the Sultanate, this region too retained the faith, which is now practiced and adhered to by millions of people in the south of Turoza, making it more than rival for the Pantheon of the North at the other end of the continent.
With regards to worship in Walanniism, a personal prayer life is seen as being a rather important feature when it comes to being an active participant in the faith, and it is recommended and encouraged that adherents make time within their day to offer up their own prayers to the deities in the faith’s small pantheon. In addition, as the temporal activities of the faith have been very strongly shaped by peoples that have lived in a desert environment, important prayers, petitions and thanksgivings will often be accompanied by the pouring of a libation, often over the statues of Walanni, Labarnas and Annella that most faithful will have in their homes, set aside in the context of a domestic shrine. These libations can be made up of anything that can be consumed, though one of the favoured items is fresh water, which is obviously quite scarce in the Sonsuz Desert where the faith originated. Those that practice Walanniism will often make more expensive libations at Walannite temples, as a sign of respect, or to mark a particularly momentous or important event, or to really attempt to find favour with the deities for what they are asking for. Often these libations that are given in the temples will be of perfumes or fine wines, rather than just water. It is interesting to note that it is considered an anathema to use salt water as a libation to one of the three deities in the pantheon. This is because salt water cannot be consumed by the mortals that act as the faith’s earthly adherents, and so it is not considered fitting to offer the gods something that they have no use for either. The only place where the use of salt water libations is deemed ‘appropriate’ is when one is looking to curse someone, with a common curse being ‘I pray to Walanni that all that enters X’s mouth turns to salt water….’
Those wishing to become Walannite Priests and Priestesses must pass a rigorous religious training programme that is conducted in the Sacred College of Walanni and her Children, which is located in the holy city of Sharzuten in the north of the Sultanate of Fashaddon. Those that are admitted to the Priesthood of Walannism must then spend at least 10 years working as Priests or Priestesses, before they are then eligible to put themselves forward to be a High Priest/Priestess. As there are a plethora of administrative and liturgical roles that can be filled by Walannite Priest or Priestesses, it will only tend to be the most experienced of clergy that are actually successful in their applications to become a High Priest or High Priestess, as it is the existing members of the Council of Seven who vote on who gets elected to their membership. The position of the Eresh is actually appointed by the previous incumbent specifying which of the Council of Seven they wish to succeed them, a decision that has to be offered up for approval, but is almost always accepted by the patron deity. If the decision is not accepted, then all of the Council of Seven present themselves and Walanni herself makes the decision of who she favours to become the next Eresh.
Political Influence & Intrigue
Because Walanniism is so integrated into establishment of the Sultanate of Fashaddon and the Emirate of Taqwal, it is inevitable that the faith will wield and become involved in influencing the politics of the region, and the wider continent of Turoza. In terms of the politics of the south, Walanniism has managed to mostly maintain a neutral position in the ongoing war and crisis in diplomatic relations between the Sultanate and the Emirate, with the former still refusing to recognise the latter as an independent nation, and instead viewing them as a breakaway region. Whenever peace talks have been opened it has always been representatives of the Walannite faith that have been the arbiters, and even though none of these talks have resulted in a peace agreement having actually been reached, it is a sign that the faith want to remain favourable with both sides, rather than declaring for one or the other and risking that the faith too is split. On the other hand, it is well known that Sultan Mutasim I is keen to apply pressure on the Eresh, in an attempt to get them to openly condemn the secession of the Emirate. As with the Pantheon of the North, the Walannite Eresh has been called upon since the founding of the Sultanate to bless the upcoming rule of a new Sultan and to conduct the coronation. It would appear that this is one area where Sultan Mutasim has been able to get the Walannite temporal establishment to acquiesce to his wishes, as the Emirs of Taqwal are not crowned in a religiously convened and sponsored religious service, as the Sultans are. Out of the two Emirs that have held power in Emirate of Taqwal since the Emirate seceded, the first was not officially crowned at all, and the second, the current Emir, Hortènsia Tarradel was crowned in a secular ceremony, rather than in a religious service. Emir Hortènsia Tarradel was the focus of a service of blessing, that was conducted by the Eresh themselves, but it was vaguely worded and focused on proclamations that she be guided by Walanni to conduct herself in a way that best serves her people. So far, this is the only indication that has been given that the Walannite faith leans slightly towards favouring the Sultanate over the renegade Emirate of Taqwal. When it comes to the wider political situation on the continent of Turoza, Walanniism has a much clearer goal, namely the promotion of the faith further north that the edge of the Sonsuz Desert. This is a goal that faith does have the backing of the Sultanate to carry out, and it is widely thought that the Sultanate put a lot of funding into the establishment of Walannite enclaves in the areas to the north of the Sultanate, the Republic of Castar and the Union of Mishtoon especially. Both of these nations, along with the Kingdom of Sharisar are areas of theological dispute between Walanniism and the Pantheon of the North, who are both keen to proselytise to the people there, regardless of the fact that all three nations have their own predominant faiths.
There is an underground sect, which is not supported or condoned by Walanniism, the Cult of the Dead God, dedicated to Kulittu. Kulittu in the mythology of Walanniism was the husband of Walanni, and the father of Labarnas and Annella, but he was controlling, abusive and cruel to Walanni and their children, to the point where he would grievously injure them, and several times came close to killing them all at one point or another. In addition, Kulittu’s obsession with Orcs, first with the aim of ‘civilising’ them, then with the aim of promoting them above all other species, meant that he actively promoted genocidal actions against other species, all of whom he viewed as inferior to the Orc. Their and their followers’ hideous treatment at Kulittu’s hands, along with the discovery that he was planning to abandon his Celestial roots and throw in his lot with some powerful Demons in the Lower Plane drove Walanni and her children into action, and they killed Kulittu, executing him for his past and future crimes. However, it is very hard to kill a Celestial, especially one that is a Deorum, and Kulittu’s malign spirit lingered on, and is worshipped in closed circles as the ‘Dead God’. In this guise, Kulittu’s cult is attractive to those who practice necromancy across the south of Turoza, and occasionally beyond, to the extent that one of the core missions for Walanniism is to root out and extinguish Kulittu’s cult altogether. Kulittu is also still worshipped by many Orcish tribes across the south of Turoza and beyond, who continue to be drawn to his creed that the savagery of the Orc is dominant over all.