A major consideration in the characters’ backgrounds and the societies of the countries in the gameworld is the peoples’ religion(s). Religion as a topic has deep importance to the gameworld societies in general. It permeated the breadth and depth of most cultures in the period of the game. Historically, it touched nearly every aspect of the peoples’ lives from cradle to grave. Any consideration of religion touches on character background due to the fact that the PC’s grew up with it.
In addition to the magick of practitioners such as Wizards and Witches and the various sorts of Druids, the GM must consider the Mystics and the role of the gods and religion in his gameworld. It is essential that the GM read their trade description in The Grimoire, as well as the other rules and notes on magick to be found there, its uses, and manifestations, etc. so he can make informed decisions on how he wants to implement the status described for them, for the status quo provided in those trade descriptions generally works best to preserve the special-ness of magick and those who are skilled in its use for a longer duration among the players as the game progresses.
The extent to which religion should affect play is discussed under the heading “The Medieval Mind”, but more from a social, day-to-day point of view for the purposes of roleplay and to familiarize the players with the place it fills in the environment around the characters. The GM needs to make some decisions concerning how much the gods in general have to do with the daily lives of mortals. What “role” do the gods play? How numerous are Their Mystics, and how readily available are the miracles that flow from their hands?
As a rule of thumb, Mystics should not be any more numerous than any of the other types of practitioners – Witches, Wizards or Druids – individually, NOT equal to the numbers of all combined. While the servants of the gods, the faithful laity and actual ordained priests who form the body of the religions serving the gods are legion by comparison (c. 2% of the entire population), only a VERY small percentage of these are likely to be Mystics in the PC sense of the word, having achieved sufficient spiritual perfection to gain sufficient attention from the gods and be granted Their patronage, access to their Power, able to perform miracles in Their Name(s). Although religious hermits and mystics (note the lower case “m”) are fairly common in certain settings, mentioned in the description of the Mystics’ trade, NPC’s of the same power and ability described in the PC trade who are encountered by the PC’s in their travels and/or adventures should be rare in the extreme.
Indeed, compared to the members of the religious bureaucratic machine, the ranks of ordained priests themselves, deacons, archdeacons, monks and nuns, abbots and abbess’, priors and prioress’ of the various orders, the Mystics stand as a drop of water to the ocean. The Mystics may or may not occupy the cathedrals as bishops, or archbishops, even the office equivalent to the pope in the GM’s gameworld, except at the insistence of the Light, or any other appointments to similar offices. The actual work to be done in the name of the Light by Its Mystics may lie elsewhere, and sometimes the responsibility for the mortal realm is laid on the shoulders of men as a test, and a Mystic can always be sent to save the day if the situation should warrant it. Balancing the worldly necessities of the temporal offices of the Church, the proper governing and management of assets and distributing the proceeds for the proper use by the call of the Light while also trying to maintain a truly holy path in daily life is a strain not many, even of the true calling of Mystic, can juggle for long or particularly well. And the special needs of maintaining diplomatic relations with heads of state has not even been mentioned …. True Mystics are best suited to a simple, humble existence, wandering freely in pursuing at need the tasks set by the Light. Occupying high office makes that life impossible. Whether from the offices governing the Church or from beneath with their counsel, the Light makes sure that Its Will is known. Those who do not heed the words related by the Mystics in the causes of the Light canNOT retain their lofty office for long. Mystics who fail to heed the call of the Light when they are sought out to repeat their vows and take on the actual mantle of priest to serve in the Church in some great office or even a post as a lowly parish chaplain, even to go abroad to perform missionary work, canNOT retain their holy patronage for long.
Politicking from within the organization of the Church after having been ordained as a full priest, while also maintaining the ascetic habits and holy lifestyle of a true Mystic isn’t a means of speeding a character’s progress up through the ranks of the Church beyond what can be achieved through normal channels by cultivating contacts and patrons to aid him, and all that politicking in no wise affects the rate at which a holy Mystic’s power increases. Indeed, whether that power ever increases when engaged in pursuing such a path is doubtful.
Humbly serving the Light in whatever capacity presents itself while serving also side by side with his fellow faithful within the ranks of the priesthood and steadily increasing in apparent power of holy patronage may have some affect on the rate at which he is curried and favored for higher office in the hierarchy, on the other hand. If he is properly humble, it may actually take the character’s superiors in the hierarchy some time to realize his holy power. Once they do, they may well shuffle him aside to a place where his talents may be of use but where he can discomfit his superiors as little as possible, as discussed in the trade description.
A Mystic who indulges in ego and vanity, or ANY form of Vice for that matter, especially as his power and holy patronage wax greater certainly stands to lose that power and patronage. The GM must watch such characters and their behavior closely.
Mystics comprise the only body of practitioners of “magick” in the game that can be stripped of their supernatural or arcane power by the GM as a result of failing to uphold the dictates of the trade. This is due to the fact that their power depends on their relationship with the Light. They must Ascend to retrieve the most potent manifestations of it. The Light must receive them willingly when they Ascend or the exercise comes to naught. When such a dressing down by the Light becomes necessary, however, it must be handled with a deft and slow hand. The GM must be sure to document a pattern of lapses and an accumulation of Vice before he starts putting limits on the PC, and this must be taken fairly far, with gradually stricter and stricter limits imposed, (-1/4, -1/2, -3/4) before the power is taken away entirely. The player must be briefed on what is happening and why, as it cannot fail to be understood by the character exactly what is happening, but this must be done in private, with discretion. It is quite possible the player may wish the character to intentionally forsake the harsh limitations and restrictions on his behavior that are required by the holy life of a Mystic – or it may be inadvertent, it may be that the player does not personally have the discipline to make sure the character adheres to the life that trade requires of him.
While no system can be imposed for the deployment of gods or governing the manner in which they exert their influence, (after all, they are gods!!), they must be defined to some degree for the GM’s purposes.
IF the GM is relying on the simple 3-party system of cosmology provided in RoM (Light, Nature, Darkness), the Light is most active during the day, and Darkness at night, and in the wilderness’ Nature is most active at all hours, and each is free to manifest any (magickal) effect to achieve its ends. Some proposed limitations on the power the gods are willing to sling about in the mortal world are discussed in The Grimoire, where the subject is discussed more extensively.
To the suggested POT of the manifestation of a god’s power the GM might use, as discussed in The Grimoire, the GM should consider adding (number of faithful worshippers in attendance), in the same manner as described for the miracles channeled by Mystics, as described in the Mystic trade and in the rules for determining the POT of magicks.
The collection of rosters of magicks in The Grimoire are of inestimable value to the GM in determining the sorts of miraculous (magickal) effects each of these individual Lords or nebulous principles of deity (Light, Nature, Dark) manifest through his Mystics, followers, or those bent to his cause(s). These should be his primary resource for determining the expressions of deific power in the mortal world. Being readily available, they are easily used as a guide. If the description does not quite fit or suit the GM, he is dealing with a miracle, he need merely adjust it to suit his purpose. Otherwise, the player determines what miraculous effects manifests from the Power he fetches back from On High.
If the gods themselves are given too great (active) a presence or role in the world, if they take too great a part in the lives of mortals, whole towns, cities, or especially countries, the roles of the players’ characters are diminished, and the players none too happy about it. They grow to resent it, in fact. Even then Greek gods, the greatest of meddlers, only manifested blatantly during their Golden Age, whence the tales of their legends and myths were written. That era is FAR in the past in the period of this game. Even when those gods did directly intervene in the affairs of mortals, and this applies not just to the Greeks but also to the Norse gods who were famous for walking about in Midgard (earth), the interference of the gods did not have any major or far-reaching effects in regards to the histories of the kingdoms of Greece (or Scandinavia). The Golden Age “adventures” in which the gods’ intervention allowed their favored mortal heroes to prevail were rather singular in nature, generally gifts to offset the magickal, supernatural nature of many foes that lingered from an earlier Age, including gifts of knowledge of the weaknesses of those foes that could be exploited to their benefit, but they didn’t generally interfere in such things as international politics. In many cases it was to dally with a mortal lover, which often resulted in the birth of a hero, who they then showed their favor. In some cases, their intervention may have been used by later chroniclers to explain away past events that lay outside their knowledge or otherwise defied their ability to illuminate.
The GM is strictly advised against using direct influence and especially intervention of the gods in his game, whether it involves any sort of direct “finger of god” pillar of fire, or “fountain of coins” type of manifestation or not. While the gods should be accepted as real forces with whom to be reckoned by the players on behalf of their characters, the PC’s should understand that the gods use Their Mystics as their primary agents in the mortal world first, as conduits for channeling and performing Their Works by proxy only if absolutely necessary, or They would not bother having Mystics serving Them. They are, OF COURSE, more powerful than the PC’s – infinitely so. To use even a single god, much less an entire pantheon, as a foe against the PC’s gives them NO hope and certainly NO chance of winning – even if the gods are constrained only to work through willing and dedicated or completely unwitting agents. In the same vein, giving the PC’s the direct patronage of the gods inevitably leads to them becoming essentially invincible, effectively beyond punishment, except by their patron deity, if the PC’s should take it into their heads to abuse the power they have been given. Certainly such a situation would swell their heads with an exaggerated sense of their importance in the overall scheme of things.
Always remember the words of Aristotle:
“The gods, too, are fond of a joke.”
Truly, the PC’s should be no more important than any other average Joe on the streets of equal birth and ability. To give the PC’s special treatment in situations that do not warrant it and make them feel that they are better than their position and birth would normally allow is to rob the players of the sweetness of the rewards earned by having to work through obstacles to win friends, or influence, or increases in abilities, knowledge, or skills. This goes back to the principle of not robbing the players, and also of game balance, as discussed under the heading “GameMastering 101”. It is with the successes of their exploits and increases in their abilities through their own hard work that the number and importance of their friends, and their own importance in the scheme of things, their local and later national fame, and even international renown should grow and spread.
The GM has surely taken note of the fact that the deities or the principles of deity for RoM have not been defined for him specifically, but have been described in loose and nebulous terms as powers of Light, Darkness, and Nature. That is due to the fact that these things are considered so integral to each GM’s own fantasy gameworld, and as such are left for him to detail at his leisure – IF he deems them in need of further development. Depending on the country of the GM’s world and his idea of what these forces are striving for, the aspects of the gods (names, attitudes, attributes, manner of worship, etc.) can vary greatly, but their positions as members of the forces of Light (the right reign of orderly civilization, Virtue and humble learning) and Darkness (the threatening specter of Vice, cold-hearted ignorance and chaos) or Nature (the Powers of Earth and Sky, Fire and Sea, of mountain, river, field, flower and fruit, of hunter and prey, sometimes nurturing, other times destructive, subject to the tides of the seasons) should remain fairly constant.
Of course, these basic forces may be further divided and defined if the GM likes the idea of having these forces concretely identified as specific gods, as pantheons or collections of deities on each side. This arrangement can be easily adapted to the loose structure provided to fill the place the Catholic Church occupied historically, with the Green Lords representing the “pagan” gods of field and stream, slowly fading but tenaciously hanging on before the rising tide of the Church of the Light as it spreads into the rural districts from the cities where it has always been strongest. The three principles of deity can be easily translated not only to emulate the place of the catholic Church in the gameworld, but also can be applied to the beliefs of the peoples of India, Greece, Rome, the Nordic peoples, the most polytheistic the GM can use as a model. The three principles could just as easily be translated as the Lords of Law, Lords of Chaos, and the place of Nature filled by the Gray Lords of Balance, to take a cue from the author Michael Moorcock. Polytheism merely refers to the perception and identification of the principle of deity by worshipping it through assorted specific personified forces of nature, aspects and activities of everyday life, and emotions, or the worship of all such gods together, called pantheism.
The basic forces are easy enough to pull from history and identify – war, hate, destruction, usually identified with the element of fire, and the gentle sun, often associated with medicine and healing; the spirits of the different (usually locally significant) bodies of water, also associated commonly with healing, and also with the moon, the spirits of air and wind, the storms and rain; of seas and oceans; of field and animals and plants, identified with the fruitful Earth Mother, harvest, bounty, light-hearted joy and laughter; the sun and Light in general; dance, music, song, and entertainment; knowledge, the sciences and philosophy (the Greek Graces), truth and justice; magick; Darkness, misery, sorrow, loss, pain, suffering, deceit, corruption and pestilence, famine and death.
Each of these could be depicted and represented as a different deity, in male or female aspects or one of each sex for each. These principles could be paired, mixed and matched and any number of attributes heaped upon the different deities as the religion slowly transformed with the absorption of other faiths over time, at the GM’s discretion. If the GM wants to reinforce the feel of the medieval period, the Light can be represented by saint-like intercessory spirits, divided up in service amongst the personifications of the Virtues, and the same done for the Darkness and the representatives of the Vices.
All of the religions of the “Indo-European” peoples (Greeks, Romans, Scandinavians, Celts, Brahmins of India, and so on) share a core of six major principles of deity. This has the virtue of being an easily managed number. As a tool for creating deities for the three religious factions (Light, Dark, Nature) it provides the perfect place to start. These core or root principle deities shared by all these peoples are known as the Father of the Gods and/or the People; the God of Law & Justice; the Divine Warrior; the God of the Sun; the Great Mother; and the God of Travel and Trade.
The Father of the Gods is the head of the pantheon, their chief. This is almost always the creator-type god, the founder and foundation for the overall religion, to the Scandinavians he is Odin (Odhinn, Wodin, Wodan, Wotan); Zeus to the Greeks; Jupiter to the Romans; Varuna to the Brahmins; and Cernunnos (The Horned God) to the Celts. This principle or class of deities is the one that binds their people together in religion. Varuna is associated with bonds in several of the Vedic Hymns. Cernunnos is the only Celtic god depicted as offering the torc, symbol of the celtic peoples’ faith that is worn as a collar, a symbol of bondage. Odin is called the “God of the Rope”, or the “Hanged God”. This principle of godhood has also been called the “great furious magickal king”. These gods are, in fact reminiscent of shaman. Indeed, another of Odin’s titles is “The Great Shaman”, and his legend as well as those of the others of his type contain the elements of the initiation of a shaman from symbolic death to regeneration. Odin’s reward afterwards is even in the form of magickal power, the very same sought by the shaman. In their early histories, the people and their chiefs often trace their ancestry back to this principle deity.
Balancing the Father God is the God of Law and Justice, often conflicting with the head of the pantheon in an effort to maintain a sense of justice in the face of the caprices of the Father God. In the medieval context, this god runs the court of the gods and renders judgement. Among the Scandinavians, he is called Tir (Tyr, Teiws, Tiw, Ziu); Athena to the Greeks; the Romans call him Fides; the Brahmins name him Mitra; and the Celts know him as Teutatis.
Serving both the gods and His people is the Divine Warrior. He is the champion of the gods and of the religion. He is the protector of the people and their patron in righteous battle. He is their God of War, called Mars by the Romans; Ares by the Greeks; Thor by the Scandinavians; Indra by the Brahmins; and Tarranis by the Celts. For the Celts, however, the god filling this role actually varied with the tribe, filled by whomever the patron god of the tribe was, whether a figure from the core pantheon such as Cernunnos or Tarannis, or some god local to the tribe and its territory, like Cocidius; Rudiobus; Lenus; Corotiacus; Alator; or (Irish) The Morrigan.
Of vital importance to agrarian societies that live primarily by farming is their Sun God. To the Græco-Romans He is called Apollo; Belenos by the Celts; and corresponds to Frey among the Scandinavians, god of good weather and prosperity. Apollo is a complex deity of prophecy, poetry, medicine and healing, but also known as the “Far Shooter”, dealing out death. His oracle at Delphi was renowned throughout the ancient world. Belenos is similar in that his attributes include healing, however, regardless of his being a fiery sun god, he is also associated with water, or specifically wells whose waters are purported to heal.
Although the previous have all been male, there are a number of goddesses. All of these seem to have developed from the same root, called the Magna Mater or Great Mother. She is called Epona by the Celts, and like Greece’s Hera, Rome’s Juno, and the Scandinavian Frigga, She is often the wife of the Father God. These mother goddesses are often totemic in nature, or strongly associated with an animal of some sort, the animal which helped the people to survive in their distant past. Epona is also known as “The Great Horse”. The Irish goddess Macha (MA-ha) is another “Great Horse” goddess, called Rhiannon by the Welsh. Bear and Boar are also popular mother-goddess totems, and the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus were suckled by a wolf. These hint at some sort of creation myth the GM can easily fill in on his own, in which the people of the faith were actually given birth by their goddess through Her sacred totem form, in more advanced societies mellowed to having simply fostered and provided for the people, as in the case of Romulus and Remus with their she-wolf.
The attributes with which this goddess is usually associated are fertility in both the people and their crops; beauty; love; water; and the moon; sometimes also music and the arts. She may be viewed in differing aspects like the moon, as well – the virgin, the lover and “devourer of men” and the crone. In the more “advanced” societies, the attributes of the mother goddess may be divided between several goddess’. The fertility goddess or Magna Mater of the Scandinavians was expressed as both Frigga, wife of Odin, and Freya, goddess of love and beauty; the Greeks had Hera, Zeus’ wife and goddess of childbirth and the proprieties of marriage (called Juno and Jupiter by the Romans), and also Hestia, goddess of the hearth and domestic life (called Vesta by the Romans), as well as Aphrodite, goddess of love (called Venus by the Romans), and Demeter, goddess of fertility and the fruits of the earth – grain in particular (called Ceres by the Romans), and the nature goddess Diana, closely associated with the Greek virgin huntress and moon goddess Artemis. As the huntress, Diana is associated with the boar (totem). The motif of huntress and boar figures prominently in both Celtic myth and icons, tying Diana strongly to the Celtic goddess Dana or Ana and the Tuatha de Dannan or “people of the goddess Dana” (the old gods who dwindled to become the færies living in the hollow hills of Ireland).
Last we come to the God of Travel and Trade, also riches and good fortune. Among the Celts he is called Esus; among the Romans he is Mercury; and Hermes to the Greeks; Esus also has some connection to the arts, like Apollo, but Apollo’s Celtic counterpart, Belenos, lacks that attribute. In their capacity as trickster and patron of thieves, Mercury and Hermes can be likened to Loki among the Scandinavian gods. Mercury and Hermes are also the heralds of the gods of their pantheons. In regards to riches, Esus shares a tie with Roman Pluto and Greek Hades. Unless the society to which this god is attached has a very well-developed economy and system of commerce, this god and his followers won’t have very much influence
Prior to their conversion to Christianity, the Celtic and Nordic peoples maintained faith in this sort of small group of core gods shared by all their tribes (with slight variations in name or attributes), but each tribe also had its own specific elemental nature gods and goddesses for each lake, river, forest, and mountain in the tribe’s territory, resulting in some two or three thousand different gods scattered all over the territories they collectively ruled.
The above type of polytheism breaks down the simple and more nebulous Light and Darkness principles already explained, and the Olde Ways of the Green Lords of the elfs, the Druids and Witches. As the people of the gameworld approach the medieval stage of development of the game, their religions should similarly advance towards the premises provided in these pages. Even among the adherents to the Olde Ways, the view of the totem animals of their Green Lords (and Ladies), the animal associations with the Magna Mater goddess principle, should shift from one in which the beast is seen as an incarnation of the god(-dess) to one in which the beast is simply viewed as being sacred to Him/Her, perhaps as a messenger or an animal of omen, but certainly under the patronage and protection of the deity.
If he is planning on making his gameworld a polytheistic one, in which the sense of godhood and Deity is divided into a pantheon of personifications for the specific forces and powers such as are mentioned above, whether simple or elaborate, the GM must write a profile for each deity and at least the general practices of the religion responsible for supervising its worship, perhaps just the high-points that make each special.
Each profile should include such points as the Sphere of Influence, those things in the world which are the god’s or goddess’ special concern or responsibility, constituting the arena in which the god or goddess has the greatest amount of power and control, over and above any other god or goddess. The deity’s general character and personality should be sketched (as perceived by the people), a brief outline of any myths explaining the god’s position in the pantheon, special beliefs and/or practices stemming from the myths and legends associated with the god, traditions, special rites or practices or prohibitions for the priests (and thus Mystics) and the faithful, particular mode of dress for the priests and/or the faithful, and so on.
These are all aspects of the religions the GM should think about and address.
Tonsure is a custom the GM should definitely consider for the monks and priests of his world. Tonsure is the rite denoting entrance into the clergy, the first of the vows to the Church. It involves the shaving of the head in some manner. Historically there are three different types of tonsure. When the head is shaved from the forehead back so the hairline forms a straight line from ear to ear across the top of the head, it is called a Celtic, St. John’s or Simon Magus tonsure, and is the one practiced by (true) Druids. When all but a narrow band around the head is shaved, leaving the crown bare, it is called the St, Peter’s or Roman tonsure, while the practice of shaving the head completely bald is called the Greek, St. Paul’s or Eastern tonsure. From the names the GM can see that the differences are regional, however, he should also be aware that the differences are also theological.
The GM is cautioned not to take the divisions of Light and Dark and Nature as graven in stone. There are always those deities of the Darkness who are not as black-hearted in nature as others, and those among the Lords of Light who may not be as Light as they might. However, the only ones who truly walk in the ill-defined Shadow areas between are the so-called ‘pagan’ deities of Nature, generally elemental in nature, of the earth and the waters, the living beats and growing things, animalistic, of the rushing winds and crackling fires, referred throughout the text as The Green Lords of the Olde Ways.
Whether or not all the chapters of a given religion scattered over various countries agree on the points set forth in the GM’s profile must also be considered.
A historic example of the differing points of view between the sects of Catholic monks was the heated debate between the Dominican monks, great teachers of the day and staunch supporters of the Pope, and the mendicant wandering Franciscan friars, known as the Fraticelli (“Little Brethren”). Pursuant to St. Francis’s severe requirements concerning the poverty of the members of the order, his followers actually divided into two branches, the Zelanti or Spiritual Franciscans, and the Relaxati, later known as the Conventuals. The Fraticelli came of the Zelanti branch.
This sect of Franciscans were extreme proponents of the rule of Saint Francis of Assisi, especially with regard to poverty, travelling the land preaching and disclaiming ownership of ALL worldly goods, even the very clothes upon their backs. They differed in opinion with the Church over whether the Christ and the Apostles actually claimed ownership of the clothes they wore. This translated in effect into a dispute between them over whether the Church had a right to keep its extensive worldly goods and property or should divest itself, as the Franciscans asserted. They regarded the wealth of the Church as scandalous to the point of being offensive, and the wealth of individual churchmen as invalidating of their spiritual offices. The Church’s holdings amounted to roughly two-thirds of the landed wealth in Christendom, and the pope and Benedictines would not hear of it.
Thus the Fraticelli were eventually forced into open revolt against the whole authority of the Church.They denied that John XXII was really pope, as he had abolished the Rule of St. Francis, which, according to St. Francis, only represented the Gospel, pure and simple. They held that the pope’s decrees were invalid, all other men of religion and prelates standing with him were damned, and that the commission of their mortal sin deprived priests of all spiritual dignity and powers.
It is not uncommon for differences to arise as a religion spreads to new regions and cultures, but this is where the division between the Western Catholic Christians and the Eastern Orthodox Christians came from, and the concept of orthodoxy (adherence to dogma) and heresy within each.
The Eastern or Greek Church was the conservative orthodox Church known to Theodosius, which forbade the use of any realistic image in association with religion. The Roman Catholic Church used realistic images as a tool for reaching and teaching the overwhelmingly illiterate masses of worshippers. The once-Celtic British Isles gave the Roman Church and its pope no end of trouble over theology and liturgical practice, the missionaries there (especially those in Ireland) having been cut off from the body of the Church for many years, between the Dark Ages and the rise of the strong Church of the medieval period.
Even after the emperor Theodosius of the Eastern Holy Roman Empire (Byzantium) replaced the old Roman pantheon and state cult of the emperor (acknowledging the reigning emperor as a god) with Christianity, he had difficulties with the religions of the Germanic Goths who settled in his borderlands and were incorporated into his armies. They had been indoctrinated by missionaries versed in the theological teachings of Arius of Alexandria, Egypt with a view of Christianity which came to be known as the Arian “Heresy”,
This schism was based upon the interpretations of scripture of Arius of Alexandria, Egypt, who asserted that the Christ had not always existed, that he had been created by, and was therefore subordinate to, God the Father in the trinity. The Christ was created a perfect being, an avatar, not quite human but not quite divine, either. Although supposedly solved by the Council of Nicaea, the adherents of Arius hung on for another 50 years before finally being crushed in the Roman world – not before their missionaries had converted some important figures among the Goths, however. The circulation of Gothic translations of the Arian scriptures gave them a distinct advantage in their missionary work over the orthodox Church. This heresy caused many problems on the frontiers of the late Roman empire, even within the Roman army, which by that time included a strong Gothic element. The world “heresy” is placed in quotes here in acknowledgement of the fact that, had the Arian faction won the struggle in the Nicaean Council, Catholic dogma as it is known today would have been the doctrine to be labeled “heresy”.
History is written by the victors.
The Cathars were a sect heretics that stood in opposition to the Catholic Church, protesting what they perceived to be the moral, spiritual and especially political corruption of the Church that appeared in theLanguedocregion of France and other parts of Europe in the 11th century. They flourished in the 1100’s and 1200’s. They were sometimes also known as Albigensians (French : Albigeois), from the town of Albi, where they settled, northeast ofToulouse in southern France.
Cathars is a name given to the movement and not one that its members chose. Indeed, the Cathars had no official name, preferring to refer to themselves only as Good Men and Good Women or Good Christians.The name “Cathar” originated from Greek (Katharoi), meaning “pure ones”, a term related to the word Katharsis or Catharsis, meaning “purification”.
The first group espousing similar (Cathar) beliefs is reported by the cleric Eberwin of Steinfeld, confirming their being active at Cologne (1143). A landmark in the institutional establishment of the Cathars was the Council attended by many local figures and also by theBogomilpapaNicetas, the Cathar bishop of (northern) France and a leader of the Cathars of Lombardy, held at Saint-Félix-Lauragais0 (1167).
Catharism spread throughout the Rhineland cities (particularly Cologne) and northern France in the mid-1100’s, and particularly in the Languedoc in southern France and the northern Italian cities in the mid-to-late 1100’s.
The traditional view of the Old Testament was rejected in this doctrine. According to the Cathars, the material or physical world had been created by a lesser deity, the Demiurge of the material world. The Cathari claimed that this god was a usurper who under false pretexts tormented and even murdered those whom he labeled so possessively “His children”. The God of the Old Testament was identified with this creative Demiurge, known as Satan or the Devil. The Cathari called this false god Rex Mundi, or “The King of the World”. They proclaimed that there was a higher God—the True God—and Jesus was described as being that True God’s messenger. Jesus, the Christ, was a manifestation of spirit unbounded by the limitations of mortal matter—a sort of divine spirit or presence entering into a person.
The Cathars believed there existed within all of mankind a spark of divine light. This light, or spirit, had fallen into captivity within a realm of corruption identified with the physical body and material world, the world of the Flesh. Thus, Spirit, the vital and divine essence of humanity, was trapped in a polluted world created by a usurper God and ruled by his corrupt minions. Thus, the enslaving bonds of mortal matter must be broken. This was a step-by-step process, accomplished in different measures by each individual.
Those who were unable to achieve liberation during their current mortal existence would return another time to continue their journey and the struggle for perfection. Thus, the Cathari accepted the concept of reincarnation. Being reincarnated was not necessarily inevitable neither was it desirable, however, occurring only when a man could not break the enthralling chains of material existence within a single lifetime.
Their belief in reincarnation caused them rejection of Hell and Purgatory utterly. For the Cathars, the physical world in which they dwelled was the only Hell — there was nothing to fear after death, except perhaps rebirth and having to engage in the struggle all over again. No soul could ever be denied (eventual) entry into Paradise.
The dogma of the Trinity and the sacrament of the Eucharist, among others, were rejected as abominations. Baptism was rejected, as was the cross and the signing of the cross due to its focus on the material body of the Christ. The entire hierarchy of the Church was rejected, from the Pope down, and in donning the mantle of Rome as a priest a man became one with the Whore of Babylon or the Beast of the Apocalypse. The Cathari renounced ALL violence, homicide, war and even secular justice – a completely foreign and aberrant idea for the medieval paradigm. Cathars rejected the giving of oaths as contrary to their spiritual quest; an oath served to place one (further) under the domination of the Demiurge (Satan) and strengthened the shackles of the material world.
Rejection of the making of oaths was courting anarchy itself in the eyes of a society where almost all business transactions were sealed with an oath, and most forms of land ownership were based on binding one’s self by making oaths of Fealty and performing submissive acts of Homage. The sacrament and vows (oaths) of marriage were also rejected, and celibacy was the ideal.
Pope Innocentius III preached a crusade in 1209 to exterminate the Cathari when his diplomatic attempts to contain them failed, carried out with fire and sword most brutally primarily by nobles of northern France hungry for new estates in the south. In the Languedoc and northern Italy, the Cathars enjoyed the greatest popularity, surviving in the Languedoc and in the Italian cities (though in much reduced form) to around 1325. The Inquisitions set up in the 1260’s and running into the 1300’s finally stamped out the last vestiges.
The GM must make all of this information he generates for his game world available to the players before they can make any decisions on what to do about or how to handle the matter of religion for their characters – IF he intends for religion to play any significant part in the characters’ lives or the gameworld at large, as social background.
He need not if he does not want to.