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Creating a religious system/order

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Onemaus, Jun 11, 2020.

  1. Onemaus

    Onemaus Dreamer

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    Hey everyone, thank y'all for taking the time to read this. It means a lot.

    I've started getting into the church infiltration scene of my W.I.P. and have come across five characters that, at this point in the story, are very unique. They are: three Fathers and Mothers, specifically the Earth, Air, Death Fathers and the Fire and Water Mothers.

    At first, I wanted to create everything out of fresh air. Not taking anything from any existing literature or world but then I added common races in my notes and fell in love with some of the characters. So my thoughts changed and I began to piece together things that I know and things I wished to reveal or describe.

    The Fathers and Mothers are pretty high in the religious order of the Void, but they aren't high tier or endgame characters (as of now). I have a hierarchy so far for the lower level followers:
    • Monks
    • Cenobites
    • Anchorists
    • Sarabites
    The Fs and Ms are mid/high tier. I recently introduced the Guardians and High Priestess who, as of right now in the story, are high tier characters.

    The main character infiltrates the Church of Vosha tracking his mother who he wants to kill. Long history of abuse, the fact she was responsible for his father's death, and the typical memory loss when it comes to trying to remember her has sadly driven him to this point.

    I wanted to ask: does anyone have a religious order in their works or have knowledge of how they function, hierarchically, so I may better craft this system.

    Thank you again!
     
    Dark Lord Thomas Pie likes this.
  2. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

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    Well, let's get one thing out of the way from square one: there's nothing new under the Sun. :cry: The best we can do is rearrange the furniture!

    Religious hierarchies, monastics, deities of natural forces & phenomena --- you're ticking all the boxes mankind has ticked since, well, pretty much forever!

    I'd note that monk, cenobite, anchorite (not anchorist), and sarabites are all people who practice different sorts of monasticism. These aren't levels of hierarchy in and of themselves. "Monk" is a kind of generic term. A cenobite is a monk who lives in a community, as opposed to an anchorite who withdraws from society. A sarabite is a kind of independent monastic, one who doesn't belong to an order.

    These are all very Catholic terms with specific meanings and connotations. I'd recommend that if you're working on a different kind of religion, that you try to avoid these kinds of words, maybe come up with your own!

    I guess the main question I'd ask in order to answer your question is: what model of "religious order" are you using as a basis? As you can see with Christian monasticism, there's quite a difference between a monk living in a community following a certain Rule and a monk living on her own, determining her own role in society. There are also monastic orders among the Hindus and Buddhists at least and possibly Confucianism. Islam and Zoroastrianism forbid the practice.
     
    Dark Lord Thomas Pie likes this.
  3. Onemaus

    Onemaus Dreamer

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    Thank you!
    I realized that it would be best to use these terms as placeholders because I cannot think of classifications for titles.
    I was inspired by social differences between each group. As you pointed out they differ based on communal living and independence.

    As for a model: I wanted to differentiate power or influence in the church by their physical power of the follower. But then I was confronted with the question of "how does one obtain their physical power" and began thinking that their status as: monk, cenobite, anchobite, sarabite, would inform how confident they are in their own abilities.

    I have introduced other character higher up on the power scale as High Fathers/Mothers, Guardians, and a High Priestess. I'll definitely think of different terms to use. Thanks again!
     
  4. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    I have a number of religious institutions in my story setting that I'm presently figuring out. I've done some research on religious orders in the real world to get some ideas for what sort of logistics have been used for the way things can be structured. One thing I've noticed is that if a religious institution is widespread and well-organized, there's a very definite structure and hierarchy to things. For example, the Catholic Church has a setup like this:
    [​IMG]
    While it's a bit more complicated than what this chart implies, the point here isn't to get into the finer points of the Catholic Church. The point is to use this chart to illustrate the idea I'm trying to convey. In a large-scale religious institution, you have a hierarchy within each individual house of worship, let's use the term "temple," for the sake of simplicity. At the top of that hierarchy is your priest. The priests of a certain number of temples, covering an area of a certain size, all answer to one bishop. The bishop is in charge of the area containing a certain number of temples. So, for the sake of this example, let's say every bishop is in charge of 10 temples. We'll use the term "diocese" for the area overseen by the bishop. Above the bishop, you have the archbishop, who we'll say is in charge of 10 diocese, for a total of 100 temples, and the archbishop's area of influence is called the archdiocese. That could very well be all the temples in a given country, if you'd like to think of it that way. Again, we're keeping things simple, here.

    Anyway, if your religious order spans multiple countries, it's going to need people coordinating things with all those archdiocese. That's where the cardinals come in. You could have them be separate from archbishops or you could have them be in charge of multiple archdiocese, just as the archbishops are in charge of multiple bishops who are each in charge of multiple priests. So, let's say each cardinal represents five countries each, again, for the sake of argument. Above these cardinals, you have your pope, the head of the religious order as a whole. So, it works like a pyramid, with each rank of the pyramid representing a different sized area.

    When you get down to it, there's a practical reason to have things set up like this - keeping things orderly and connected. A bishop will stay in touch with all the priests under him, so if one temple is having a problem, he can arrange for the other temples to lend a hand, and so it goes, up the pyramid. Religious orders aren't just about religious. They can serve a lot of other functions, such as helping different communities remain in contact with each other, helping to coordinate the delivery of aid to places in need of it, and other things.

    As for worldbuilding and storytelling, you can go about this a lot of different ways, but having a sense of what the hierarchy is and what the different roles within the religious order entail is definitely important. And be sure to keep practical factors in the back of your mind. Someone has to be in charge of keeping the temple clean, someone has to be in charge of the accounting, and someone has to be in charge of getting things like wine, candles, and other essentials. Are those people involved in the religious rituals or are they purely administrative? If you're doing an infiltration story, then that kind of information is probably even more important to figure out, since your character could pose as, say, a janitor but discover he has to perform a role in a religious ceremony, too, which might blow his cover.

    Also, keep in mind that, historically, temples had a lot of roles besides places of worship. In ancient Greece, they also served as treasuries, market places, and just spots to socialize. They were community centers in more ways than one. You might want to consider what other roles the Church of Vosha has in your story setting's culture.

    Anyway, that's all the input I can offer off the top of my head. I hope it helps!
     
    Dark Lord Thomas Pie and Onemaus like this.
  5. Onemaus

    Onemaus Dreamer

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    This was very insightful. Wow, I'm asking myself a lot of questions after your comments. I definitely appreciate the visual aid.
    The janitor suggestion may offer better avenues for the story later on, or when I add more to the chapters specifically dedicated to the infiltration.

    Even though I knew some of these things you brought up, I didn't think of them as I was writing. I'm in a "get the story down and add the finer details later" space at the moment but I really like the depths of your comment.

    Thank you
     
    Patrick-Leigh likes this.
  6. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    On, no, I've been there plenty of times, too, so I understand. You can always refine things in the second draft, and sometimes, writing the first draft helps you figure out a lot of stuff so you can fine-tune things more effectively, later. There's no one way to go about writing a story. Sometimes, you have to plan first, sometimes, you've got to write things out until your brain starts to get a feel for what you need to do. Whatever way works best is the right way, so do what works best for you!
     
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