Inside Idasia: Religion, Part 1

Welcome, one and all, to the first edition of “Inside Idasia,” a new feature here on the Waking Den that I hope will shed some light into the dark places of The Hollow March. The opening topic, as the title would imply, is religion—something I don’t think we see quite enough of in the fantasy realm.

Religion is one of those critical forces in the Empire of Idasia and the continent of Marindis at large. It is one of the great polarizers, as well as one of the great equalizers (in theory, at least). While historically the unifying brotherhood of the continent has been the Church of Visaj, recent decades have seen a schism within the faith. While some point the finger to the Zuti heathens that have crossed the sea and entrenched themselves in the former Kingdom of Narana, most see the reverend Farre and his followers as to blame. While originally believed to be an issue of “the littlefolk,” it has begun to cause dissent among the lords, and even the royal family has not been immune to its chaos.

So we begin with a breakdown of the two major faiths in Idasia:

  • The Visaj:
    The traditional power on the continent. With its church based within the Principalities of Ravonno, to the south of Idasia, its whims have long been seen as mandate by pauper and prince alike. Their faith centers around the idea of “the Circles,” reincarnation, and breaking free of the mortal. At the core of this lies their god, known by many names but called most prominently Assal. Belief holds that those who traverse the circles of existence and break free will eventually become as one with Assal, and pass beyond the mortal coil. Their faith is laid out in a text known as the Vorges, written by the prophet Ademius (who would, in fact, later take the name Visaj) and his men centuries ago.The Church is led by a patriarch, though men and women alike are welcome within, and both are welcome as priests. Neither are allowed to marry. Owing to its key place within society, noble families are expected to offer up their second son or daughter’s life (if they are so blessed) to devotion within the Church. Peasants are not so bound. The Church itself can be broken into two internal categories at the moment (its various “sects” aside): the Orthodox, and the Humanists. The Orthodox are traditionalists, adhering strictly to the old tenants of the Faith. Humanists are more in line with the Farrens, in truth, straddling that heretical line while seeking to reform the Church from within. They believe a focus solely on achieving the final resurrection disconnects one from reality, and that, in truth, one must be concerned with the earthly realm to better themselves—a focus on the present, rather than the later.

    Much of Idasia’s old nobility remain firm Visaji, and greatly resent the spreading Farren faith. Until the last 15 years, Emperor Matthias of Idasia was long-heralded as the Church’s Defender of the Faith.

  • The Farrens:
    Revolutionaries. Reformers. Heretics. Visionaries. The term changes depending on who one asks, but the facts are simple: the Farrens are the result of a church too long corrupted by time’s corrosive march. It grew out of the Humanist movement within the Church, causing some of the ill-will felt toward those would-be reformers. Founded by Asanti theologian Rev. Farre in his homeland to the west, his religion originally seemed nothing more than a cult—and one easily quashed. After being driven from Asantil, however, Farre’s words began to take especial root among the littlefolk throughout the continent, but most prominently in the heartlands of Idasia.Since then, the Farrens have become so heavily entrenched among the people that only the Visaj Church still feels they can honestly be rooted out. Their cause received a massive boost with the conversion of the royal family of Banur, in the east, and several lords within the Idasian Empire. Their greatest claim has come, however, with the passage of a would-be “Freedom of Religion” decree within the Empire, following the Emperor’s marriage of a Farren bride. Though this has caused a great straining of relations between Idasia and the Visaj Church, and a number of the Emperor’s nobles (and family, for that matter), it has garnered the Emperor great respect among the people.

    Farrens seek to end the suffering caused by a focus on the later rather than the present. They seek to engrain their religion at a more base, human level, rather than on the lofty, often vague “circles” the Visaj church preaches to.

Yes, you heard me, "circles."

Over time, concerns have grown that the tensions between the two groups will eventually spark some sort of religious war, especially now that the Visaj have pursued the extreme measure of crafting an inquisition. While many nobles dismiss the capabilities of “peasant rabble,” others are less certain. With an issue that splits even the royal family, one thing is certain—things can only get worse before they get better.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first little peek inside the world of The Hollow March, and return for more such information prods in the weeks to come. This is hardly the end of religion either—while this deals with the two main faiths in Idasia, it doesn’t even touch the Zuti faiths, nor those of the Kuric northmen, and that’s a fact I intend to remedy in the future.

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