Sighurdan: Tradition & Fire
The official religion of the Sighurdish theocracy does not have a proper name per se. To call it the Sighurdish religion is acceptable but not totally accurate, because, despite its official status and political control over the country, it does not represent the actual beliefs of many (perhaps even most) Sighurdi. It could descriptively be referred to as Runic Monism or, from a religious philosophical perspective, as a form of dialectical panentheism, but none of its practitioners would refer to it in either of these ways.
For our purposes it will be referred to as Runic Monism here and elsewhere.
Runes & Powers
Runes are the only thing that be said to be universal in traditional Sighurdish religion. To the layman, the runes are symbols of divine powers that affect the universe. To one properly trained in theology, however, to say that they are mere symbols is blasphemy. Orthodoxy holds that the runes are evocations of or conduits for these divine powers.
The laity is largely unconcerned with the “powers” behind the runes. Instead, rural practitioners attach superstitious value to the runes. Even the otherwise illiterate may often carve runes into objects or trace them in the air to invoke the power behind them; as the uninitated are not taught the orthopraxy behind the runes’ invocation, this amounts to little more than a psychological placebo effect. Still, it is not uncommon for every anvil in a town to bear the Mastery rune, every meeting hall’s door to be carved with the Harmony rune and every field outside a village to have an empty area in the center where the Fertility rune is dug into the soil and maintained. Though heretical, the theocratic order generally does not put effort into stamping out such practice, seeing it as harmless. Runewrights, who specialize in carving and drawing ornate and striking but ultimately ineffectual runic designs, have always found lucrative business throughout Sighurdan.
On the contrary, priests, theologians and theocrats think less of the runes than the governing powers of the universe. These powers are disembodied, non-anthropomorphic and unconscious, and it is believed that the balance of strength between them defines the cosmos. Accepted doctrine is that the universe is currently in a state of total balance, which is what makes it hospitable. The universe was not “created” and is not going to “end,” but rather, it has not always been in the same form that it currently is and is likely to change.
The runes and powers are as follows:
Laymen or heretical orders often add other runes or manipulate their forms. One common way is to invert a rune to symbolize its “opposite,” even for opposing runes. An inverted “Luck,” for instance, would be seen as “unluck” or “bad luck” as opposed to “Fate,” while an inverted “Fate” may be interpreted as “happenstance.” All such practice is rejected by the theocracy.
Also important is that orthodox doctrine holds that none of these powers are inherently good or evil, as they all contribute qualities that are essential to the universe. Many a priest has struggled to explain this concept to farmers who have had a poor season.
The laity and the theocracy can agree on the manner of worship, even if the former is often thought to be carrying out their worship inappropriately. Runes are carved or written to evoke the powers but for different reasons: while the laity often does this as a form of prayer, hoping that the power behind a rune will have a localized effect where it is evoked, theologians use the runes to assist in meditation and contemplation of the powers behind them.
There is also a wealth of fables and myths that are recounted during sermons and are almost universally recognized. These usually deal with saints, historical or semi-historical individuals who either had an unusually intimate connection to a single rune/power or who did some great deed in the name of the church. Retelling and interpreting these myths is a major form of worship and reinforces a communal, Sigurdish identity.
Cosmology & the Evren
The most esoteric concept of Runic Monism and the closest thing to a “god” in the religion is the Evren (Sighur: [ˈɛβɾæn]~[ˈɛv…]). The simplest way to describe the Evren is that it is the set of qualities determined by the balance of the powers. It is also the bridge between the powers, which lie outside of the physical universe, and the cosmos but which also includes the cosmos within it.
The Evren can be said to be “everything except the powers themselves” or, at least, the spirit of “everything except the powers.” It can be thought of as a panentheistic “deity,” except that it is only semi-conscious and, like the powers, is not a personified entity.
The concept of the Evren is largely irrelevant to lay practitioners and rarely taught to them as meaning anything but “existence.” Heretical cults, however, often latch onto the concept and (theologians would say) misinterpret it as a full-fledged deity or as something that controls the powers and wields them.
The monistic theocratic order greatly restricts the use of magic, even among their own cult. The reasoning is that use of magic calls on and manipulates the powers, bypassing Evren, thereby implying that the magic user knows how to apply the powers to the universe better than the universe itself. Heretical cults that freely use runic magic are the most persecuted, and followers of non-runic magical traditions are regarded as enemies of the state. The theocratic order does not have a cordial relationship with the University of Constain, to say the least.
Religion & Aristocrats
Feudal lords often take a more Confucian stance on powers and runes: respect them and their influence but stay away, reduce their impact on one’s personal life and try not to think about them except where politics is concerned. Because of their closer interaction with the theocracy, they are more familiar with the complex nature of using runes and also more likely to be targetted, inconvenienced or perhaps punished by the country’s religious leaders for heteropraxy. It is best then to send a younger child to the seminary and then be done with religion.