Religion In The Nameless World

29 Sep

Another expository post, for SIM 12.

The Nameless World is quite definitely pagan in how it approaches religion. Instead of a monotheistic religion, it is generally believed that there are entire multitudes of gods and godly families. Indeed, it is agreed that certain gods are actually the same god, but called by different names. (Like Mars and Ares, both Gods of War.) Therefore, despite the vast number of religions and sects, there is actually surprisingly little religious conflict.

Gods are generally divided into three different categories. The Great Gods represent aspects of the physical and spiritual worlds, such as health, war and farming. The Loci Gods represent particular locations and are rarely worshipped outside it. The Household Gods represent a specific household. It is generally considered polite, when entering a city or a home, to visit the temple and pay your respects to the city’s god, even if you are not staying.

(There is some debate over the exact nature of the Household Gods. Some people believe they’re the souls of the family’s ancestors, while others believe they’re actually newborn gods.)

It is important to realise that the vast majority of worshippers believe in the gods, even if they don’t worship them. One is not expected to worship any god – or worship at all, if one chooses – but it is generally considered unwise to deliberately insult a god. Another person’s rites or rituals may seem odd, yet that doesn’t make them invalid. Tolerating other rites is considered good manners.

The vast majority of people will pay their respects to a multitude of gods throughout their lives. However, a number choose to dedicate themselves to one particular god – almost always one of the Great Gods – and never worship any other. These people are devotees (dedicated followers), initiates (junior cultists) and priests (senior cultists).

Unsurprisingly, the majority of religions are effectively cults and operate accordingly. Most of them try to find something unique, something exclusive – and often secret – to draw in new and significant worshippers. A small cult may be quite sincere; a larger cult, which may draw in thousands of worshippers, may be run more as a racket than anything else. Devotees are expected to make contributions, for example; initiates often turn over their possessions to the cult. (A number of cults are really astonishingly rich.) Cults also find ways to fleece outsiders – a number of cults operate a sacred prostitution service disguised as a fertility rite, for example; others sell prayers and blessings to those who are prepared to pay.

The general attitudes of outsiders towards specific cults can vary widely. Some cults – the Harvest Goddess followers – are regarded as largely harmless. Others, including the Blood Worshippers or the Crone’s followers, are regarded with considerable suspicion. There are no shortage of rumours surrounding their innermost mysteries and rituals, most of which are exaggerated. Parents tend to get annoyed when their adolescent children rebel by joining some of the more harmful cults. They feel that the rites and rituals serve as an excuse to engage in forbidden practices. They are not wrong.

It is unusual for a government to interfere in religious matters, provided that religious teachings do not threaten public order. Most religious cults don’t attempt to encourage their worshippers to question authority, let alone stand up to their rulers. Those that do are targeted for extermination. Rumours of their presence can unleash a – sometimes literal – witch-hunt.

13 Responses to “Religion In The Nameless World”

  1. bretwallach September 29, 2016 at 7:28 pm #

    My first reaction was that this isn’t plausible for a fairly primitive set of peoples (religion tends to explain and provide an organizing principle and neither of those drivers is present here at a society wide level). But then these folks have been around a really long time. That made me wonder what religion was like in the distant past and how it evolved to this point.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard September 29, 2016 at 7:32 pm #

      What does “primitive” mean and how are they “primitive”?

    • Jacqueline Harris September 29, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

      This isn’t plausible? Dude…have you read the bible or looked at ancient history ? religion of some form is always part of a society. The egyptions the Babylonians the people of caineen all had develped complex systems of religians . or pecan cults. Fertility rites were common secret sects and such were normal especially in this time period.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard September 29, 2016 at 8:28 pm #


        IMO the only “primitive” people that might not have religions would be hunter-gather people and even those groups could have had religion of a sort.

      • bretwallach September 30, 2016 at 1:43 am #

        No. I’m saying that religion isn’t integral ENOUGH in this relatively primitive society to be plausible to ME.

      • chrishanger September 30, 2016 at 9:16 pm #

        Bear in mind this is a society where immensely powerful beings (human and otherwise) are known to exist


      • bretwallach September 30, 2016 at 10:13 pm #

        chrishanger wrote: “Bear in mind this is a society where immensely powerful beings (human and otherwise) are known to exist.”

        Yes, but it wasn’t always so as we learned in book 10. For example, didn’t we learn that prior to Myrrdin the Sane, who was Whitehall’s Master, so a mere 1,000 years ago, that human magic welders went insane long before they became “immensely powerful”? And wouldn’t clear evidence of mana and magic strengthen the likelihood of belief and worship in deities? It seems that “miracles” is a fundamental piece of the narrative in many religions.

        I’m still very curious about what religion was like prior to Whitehall’s time and how it evolved.

      • Don Yu September 30, 2016 at 3:43 am #

        I agree with Bretwallach in that all through history religion is a major force that can make or break a ruler. Throughout the bible ruler is either in favour of GOD or not can have good or bad effect on the kingdom as a whole.

        That is why kings are gods in large amount of past histories from Egyptians to Romans. Most past people look for signs sent by gods that is in favour of a given war or actions. All the people, even the rulers, go to oracles and/or sacrifices to bless their future actions.

        When Christianity replaces all the religions in the west, the King justify their right rule by saying that they are given divine right to rule. That is why priests and especially Pope had huge power even equal to or more then the king as majority of the people follow what they said is true.

        With powerful forces in the nameless world that can kill and/or make their lives hell that they would be more religious to help them in time of need.

        People from hunter and gathers to this day is religious. There is degree of belief and devotion but everyone has faith. Even the Atheist believe in something,that there is no god.

        So it seem strange to me that there is no powerful priesthood in the nameless world. I can see it as reducing the forces at work in the nameless world but human is human. Other then something happen to wipe out or hugely reduce religious forces then I can’t see it happening.

      • chrishanger September 30, 2016 at 9:17 pm #

        There are a LOT of priests, but very few of them have hundreds of thousands of exclusive devotees.


      • Stuart the Viking September 30, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

        I would think that having people walking around with “godlike” powers would “raise the bar” so to speak on faith. After all, even a mediocre Whitehall graduate would be able to do seemingly miraculous stuff that they could actually SEE with their own eyes.

        Why bother with a Deity that is SUPPOSEDLY very powerful… except only the priests have ever actually SEEN that power, and face it, some of those priests seem a bit dodgy.

  2. PhilippeO September 30, 2016 at 3:44 am #

    look at India and Japan, they similar enough, Abrahamic religion is actually aberration.

    most ‘primitive’ people is animist, and not having ‘integral’ belief, they worship any Gods that they happen to encounter, weather, weirdly shaped tree, ancestor, etc.

    Ancient Jews, even when they still henotheist (worship one, acknowledge existence of many) is already considered unusual by many other people.

  3. William Ameling September 30, 2016 at 10:36 pm #

    I would guess that this is a hint or lead into what we may be seeing in Fists of Justice (Book 12) and later.

    As a general comment, human beings, starting from a very young age, have a strong tendency to look for animate causes for everything that happens rather than inanimate causes. In particular, they look for intelligent beings as a cause for everything. This leads to superstition and then religions as explanations for what happens when there is no real person nearby to blame, i.e. witch trials, etc. or to propiate (i.e. worship or bribe/gifts to the local temple). It is also part of why we give Names to inanimate objects (such as ships) and even pets; we are treating or viewing them as people or intelligent beings, and also as having feelings.

  4. Big Ben September 30, 2016 at 11:55 pm #

    I agree with Stuart the Viking, in that religion in the “modern” Nameless World would have a hard time getting established due to the existence of magic.

    Are you a noble whose crops are dying due to drought? Well, you can pray to a god or two, pay some priests a bunch of coin and maybe get some rain … or maybe not. All the priests would have to say is that the lack of rain is the gods’ will or some such. And if you do get rain, was it going to happen anyway or did the gods do it?
    Or you can pay a powerful Mage and he or she will have rain over your lands in a day or two, guaranteed.

    Hurt bad, maybe dying? Would any rational person of means pray for healing to these fickle deities, or get themselves to a healer with a proven record of success?

    Are you a king going to war? You can pray for victory and hope your army is good and virtuous, but if your opponent has emptied his treasury buying the services of a bunch of experienced battle mages and healers you’re probably going to lose.

    Now I understand that there are still a whole lot of poor and uneducated folk in the Nameless World, people whose only chance may be prayer, but even they must know – at least by rumor and legend – what mages are capable of.
    Seems to me a priest would have a tough time explaining, “Well, make a donation of your hard-earned coin and my God may help you if he/she feels like it.” When a Mage could say unequivocally, “Pay me so much money and what you want WILL happen.”

    And that’s leaving out the existence of such omnipotent-seeming beings like dragons.

    Ah well, religion is proof that humans are weird no matter which world we’re living on.

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