Religious Mythology, Philosophy, and Practice

This section is incomplete.

In Drau-Mura, the importance of faith cannot be understated. Not only does faith shape society, but it is synonymous with philosophy, education, culture, and morality. It originates not merely from scriptures or the authorized commandments of priests and nobles, but also from daily prayers, folktales, holidays, and social and even economic relations. This is not to say that the people of Drau-Mura are all fanatics or evangelists; it simply means that in their lives, they are informed by beliefs about the universe and the mortal condition as much as merely practical wisdom.

Faith defines in (at least) three ways. First, it provides mythologies that explain the world, as well as entertain and instruct. Mythology, of course, is more than simply a description of what has happened in the past, and indeed only a very narrow-minded person would interpret myth as a literal record of events. It is also a statement about the present condition, as well as a map for what is possible in the future. Second, faith inscribes and explains philosophies about how the world and people are, as well as how they should be — in this sense, religions are moralities, and also anthropologies. Third and perhaps most importantly to the average person, a tradition of faith lays out a program for practical action, informing each person how to behave to others and to nature. Sometimes, practice is merely ritual and observance, but at other times it demands a substantive, material, and not merely symbolic commitment.

Philosophy: The Magical and the Miraculous

The people of Drau-Mura live alongside the supernatural, and this is a matter of fact and not belief. The vast majority of people know, for certain, that wizards and clerics live in a neighboring village or town, if not their own, just as they know that there exist magical creatures and phenomena in the world. (They may not be able to articulate specifics, and may well have misconceptions, but they are, correctly, certain.) This does not result in their abnegation of faith, nor does it make them credible toward any religious claim, because of the religious distinction between the magical and the miraculous.

Mainly, the magical refers to the casting of spells and various supernatural abilities, with which clerics, druids, wizards, and other magicians and talented people are endowed. Mainline philosophers from Ashoum, the Old Faith, and pagan faiths emphasize two principles: First, that the use of magic is the product of education and training, as well as of faith, intuition, and inner creativity. Second, mortal magic is the effect of personal will; a spell manifests because the a magician wants it to. These two principles apply both to arcane and divine magicians. The key implication here is that magic itself does not specially privilege one to speak on behalf of the divine. It may not even represent the attraction of divine favor on behalf of the person using magic. If a person uses magic to any end, it must be because she has intended it so, not because she has called on higher forces, which then step in to do the magical work for her. True, faith and spiritual devotion are important to the abilities of divine spellcasters and some warlocks, but it is never the whole engine

Quite differently, the miraculous refers to divine intervention, which is awesome, rare, and beyond mortal power (and some would say mortal understanding). Hardly common enough to be systematically documented, miracles are nonetheless familiar through their presence in folklore and oral histories. People in Drau-Mura are all too familar with, say, how a holy evangelist’s corpse did not decay for years after her death, or how a pilgrim lost in the wilderness fond his way back home by a series of burning bushes. Special individuals are also reputed to have miraculous powers, such as repelling a monster through mere prayer, or curing disease with a touch. Certainly, these powers resemble magic, but the miraculous person is actually a direct, spontaneous medium of divine powers that manifest their will in the world — in stories, the miracle-worker is most often an ordinary peasant of great virtue and faith, who is amazed that one such as he should be blessed so. The vast majority of people in Drau-Mura have never directly witnessed a miracle, and probably won’t in their lives. This is not always a hindrance in their belief.

The distinction between the magical and the miraculous is not universally accepted. Certainly, there are some people who really do believe that their magic powers go straight to the top, that they’re simply channels for the gods (or God) to apply their bidding, that whatever they do with magic must be by nature the expression of divine will. These people are usually charlatans, fanatics, or lunatics, but that doesn’t mean they lack smarts or charisma. If persuasive enough, they can gather significant influence, and they usually provoke conflict with orthodox priests. Perhaps the most salient example of this is a movement with the religion of Ashoum called Aurorism which dismisses the magic-miracle distinction as an unnecessary, overwrought appendage of theology. According to Aurorism, divine magicians do share in God’s divine will, and their power to cure wounds and wield celestial fire should be proof enough of that. This philosophy at its most radical calls for the governance of society by a righteous magical priesthood, and therefore the overthrow of the rule of aristocratic families. Similar beliefs exist in the Old Faith and the followers of Talos and the Great Hart. A significant minority of the population is sympathetic to Aurorism, even if the magic-working priests they cherish disagree with them.

Because it is possible to falsely manufacture miracles (especially with magic), religious authorities usually try to verify reports of the miraculous, when feasible. Upon verification they may well have a new relic, saint’s body, or even magical item to venerate, study, and charismatically show off to pilgrims and outsiders. Substantive evidence of the miraculous is popular among Aurorism and communities with sympathetic beliefs. On the other end of the spectrum, many reject the reality of the miraculous altogether, or minimize its importance.

What this piece of philosophy means, for the average adventuring cleric, druid, or warlock (or whomever else), it is no small task to win people’s hearts and minds simply by casting spells. Ordinary folk surely appreciate the practical value of some spells, and they may be won over with sustained attention and help, but a display of supernatural powers is just not enough to gain converts. If one would appeal to the gods to incite action, one must have a good sense of their faith, and what action to which they are already predisposed.

Philosophy: Where Are the Gods?

Certain questions arise in a world where faith in God and the gods is so prevalent, yet their influence on the mortal realm so inconsistent. If the gods really are just and powerful, then why is there mortality, injustice, and random suffering? If the gods can empower certain people — clerics, druids, paladins, among others — why do they not take an even more active role in the world? What if the gods (or devils, or sacred ancestors) are just exaggerated by generations of myth, if not outright imagined?

To some believers, the first question is simply answered: The gods aren’t just, and there’s no reason to think they ought to be. The face of the divine is as terrible and capricious as it is benevolent. Or, the gods are just, and the mortal races deserve their allotment of hardship because they have fallen short of the image of the divine. Or, the world is just what it is: A chaotic place where some things happen for no reason, or because a mortal person has made it happen. In this last view, the gods are inextricable aspects of the world, but not its architects or masters. The pagan faiths — diminished in popularity as they are — are not shy in espousing these explanations.

Religious Mythology, Philosophy, and Practice

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