Saturday, 20 August 2011

Building a religion (is not as easy as they would have you believe and that's a good thing)

An interesting thing I've noticed about writing is that there is a sheer amount of research that goes into it. Lately I've found myself needing to search for more and more exotic subjects that, on their own, have little or nothing to do with the story but without them the world is flat.

Nothing interesting ever happened on a flat world.

What prompted this post was the fact that I suddenly needed to know how a world with one sun and two moons would operate celestially speaking and what elephant it would have on the world.
In the book itself the issue is a big one as before the Great Change there was only the one moon in the sky. My research took me into Astrology, Astronomy (1) and into Newtonian physics.
It was at this point that I went back to the the comics about Laika the Russian space dog and started claiming that it since it was the will of the Gods then they could sort it out (2)

The other problem that I had was the religion of Kalagrim, that green and verdant land in which Harts Change (3) is set:
Because they were a slave country to the Great Southern Empire the people were not permitted to worship their own Gods or the Empires which left them at a bit of a loose end, theologically speaking.
So I decided that they would snatch what they could from the big boys table and hope for the best.(4)

For the base of it all I pinched a lot of theology from the Aztec's and the Egyptians, threw in a touch of voodoo and a large load of bull mixed it all together and let it settle for a while.
The book takes place around 90 years since the slave uprising, great grandfathers might just remember their grandfathers talking about it, that won their freedom and Kalagrim now has a nice functioning religion of its very own. You can still see large chunks of the Empires teachings but these are slowly fading away.

An example:
I decided that everyone in the empire would wear a mask. I haven't had to justify this yet because the Empire doesn't enter into the picture until Book 2: Harts Blood.
People that don't wear masks are slaves, criminals or traitors or, gasp! Foreigners.
In marriage they have a crocodile, the symbol of long life, painted on their mask which they leave on until it fades away.
But since the slaves of Kalagrim were unable to have masks they took to tattooing the sacred crocodile across their hearts. Over time the actual design of the tattoo grew until the tail started at the heart, the body wrapped around the neck and the crocodiles mouth married up with their own. (5)

Now so far the Kalagrim Church was relatively benign but I decided that I wanted them to have a darker side. A lot of it steming from the natural resentment that they aren't the ones running the country when they totally should but due to ancient law that is, quite literally, written in stone, no priest can hold the seat of the Barons or the king.  (6)

Then it occurred to me that I had all these bodies just lying around (7) and I had no graveyards at all and the only reference had been the priests “Going down to the waters” which I had left intentionally vague at the time because back in that draft the church simply wasn't going to be all that important (8)

So I've taken the easy way out and turned the Church into cannibals and not the good kind either.
Over in the Empire they know how to do it properly since they invented it, for reasons I don't get paid enough to speculate about, The body is prepared for their journey to the next world and as they do so they take a small piece of the heart and the brain which is shared amongst the family in a private ceremony after much ritual fasting.

But in Kalagrim the ritual for dealing with the dead is slightly different:
1: The names of the dead are entered into the book and brought to the high priest. The books are burnt and the ashes are sprinkled over the holy waters in the temple itself.
2: Corpses are tightly wrapped in honeyed bandages and taken by the priests down to the waters. This is a secret area which is guarded jealously by the priesthood and exactly what they do with the bodies is unknown to anybody who isn't a priest.
3: The bodies are consecrated and butchered with the choicest parts going to the Holy animals. The rest is eaten by the priests attending and this is the major secret that every priest holds close to his heart at all times.
4: The remains are interred in a huge ossary that was originally an old silver mine before cave ins buried all traces of it. It has been widened and made stronger, the bones are ground into dust and mixed with the inks that are used for the tattoos of marriage and also integrated into the parchments and paper that is spread around the country.

  1. Once I learned the difference between the two!
  2. Bonus points if you can find the fatal flaw in this argument.
  3. As it is currently known.
  4. No lightening so far. Fingers crossed everybody
  5. Lets see De Beers match this!
  6. This came about because in the days of Imperial rule those priests that were sent to Kalagrim were being punished and many of those priests stood firm with the overseers during the uprising. Because of this ancient law the more ambitious members of the priesthood have had to be content with being a power behind the throne but those in that position never last long. No because they are not suited for the role but rather because the type of person that aspires to this is always going to have at least three enemies that they know of and, to their misfortune, one that that they don't.
  7. A sentence that I'm sure has suddenly made me the subject of more than a few watchlists. But on the plus side Hello new followers!
  8. Still (4)


  1. It's awesome that you're putting so much thought and research into it. There are so many books out there that just drop you into this created world, and you have no idea what is going on because the author neglects to introduce you to it, or the goings-on in it (such as religion, or whatever), even if a little bit. The teasers you've given us about your created world sound fascinating, and one can tell (from the teasers) that it's becoming your "baby". I hope you get what I'm trying to unsure if I am wording it correctly. It's a compliment, at any rate.

    Do people know that the bones are used in ink and paper? If anything could make me squeamish about a'd probably be it.

  2. More often its a horrifying Frankenstein creation that has to be repeatedly beaten until it either does what you want or begins rampaging across the countryside.

    Nobody outside the church knows about what they do with the dead, it is a "second-gunman-on-the-grassy-knoll" level secret. I haven't yet decided exactly how to do the reveal so for now it's going to be in the distant future.