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Designing religions

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Red Star, Apr 26, 2020.

  1. Red Star

    Red Star Scribe

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    Hey everyone, I've been writing a fantasy novel and have to come up with at least a few religions. Anyone have experience with designing some as far as customs, ranks, beliefs, etc? I'm drawing inspiration from early Christianity, Lovecraft, Greco Roman and Mesopotamian religion so far.
     
    elemtilas likes this.
  2. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

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    For "Christianity", what actually do mean? What we now call Catholic/Orthodox was there at the beginning, so you can hardly go wrong studying their history and traditions. A number of "alternative" (essentially heretical) streams were in evidence early on: the Gnositcs, of course; the Adamites; the Arians; the Marcionites; the Donatists. Many streams of alternative Christianities have evolved out of the 16th century upheavals (Martin Luther et al.) And there's simply loads of even more modern streams, fads and syncretisms (Voodoo, Santeria, Holiness, JW, LDS and the list goes on!) You can hardly go wrong with a study of the Church Fathers if you want to delve into the foundation of what are now called Catholicism & Orthodoxy. Also check out an ancient para-scripture called the "Didache". And of course, if you're interested in the more esoteric stuff of Gnosticism, loads and loads of their writings have been recovered and published and quite a lot is online.

    I've recently learned, regarding the Old Paganism, that there was a kind of "broad ecumenism" stretching in a great triangle from subsaharan West Africa, up into Britain & and the North Countries, down through Balto-Slavic and Grecco-Roman Europe, across Egypt, Mesopotamia, and down into India. In this broad region, in a sense, the "gods were the same" as far as basic function and people's understandings of them goes, even though names and specific attributes were different. Plenty of inspiration for a kind of modern Pagan religious system.

    At the risk of blowing one's own trombone, I'll link to my worldbuilding questionnaire, as there is a pretty good section on religious considerations in there.
     
    Derek Smith likes this.
  3. Red Star

    Red Star Scribe

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    Awesome, I'm going to check that link out. I guess what I meant to say is that there's a faction heavily inspired by the Roman Empire. They're monotheistic sun worshippers and there's virtually no separation between church and state. Large, grand places of worship and all that. So I guess if I had to equate it, 4th and 5th century Roman Christianity. Other than those things, its an original creation for the most part.
     
    OberonLordofSylva likes this.
  4. Derek Smith

    Derek Smith Scribe

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    elemtilas likes this.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I have a question for you--they're much easier to come by than answers: how much do you feel you need to create for it to be a well-rounded religion? What elements, iow, make up a religion, in your eyes?
     
    OberonLordofSylva likes this.
  6. Red Star

    Red Star Scribe

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    I'd say a general history, a basic set of customs/rites and core beliefs at the very least.
     
    OberonLordofSylva likes this.
  7. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

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    Cool. In that case, I'd look into the Interpretatio Romana & Interpretatio Graeca. Also check out ancient Roman Mithraism. Mithra, of course, was well known across the ancient world, from Rome over through Iran and down into India. Very popular among the legionaries, and evidence of this religion can be found right up to Hadrian's Wall in Britain. Look into the Roman state religion. Not just emperor veneration. Depending on how deeply you want to get into the question, there are load of books, old and new, on Roman Paganism; otherwise, the Font of All Knowledge is as good a starting point as any!
     
  8. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

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    Yep. These kinds of societies, as well as mystery religions, were very common in those days. There's so much room and so many springs from which to draw inspiration for the writer!
     
  9. Red Star

    Red Star Scribe

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    Alister Crowley right? I'm definitly going to look more into that as well.
     
  10. huscarl

    huscarl Dreamer

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    I am also working on some religions for a setting. I think that mythology and origin stories are the place to start. Mythology informs culture and philosophy and out of that people create religion. The YouTube series from CrashCourse I think does a good job in helping one understand the commonalities (and perversion) of us humans and how we have said the world began... You may not want to go back that far, but I think it merits a look.

    Semper Fidelis
    Eric
     
  11. Derek Smith

    Derek Smith Scribe

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    I'm very interested in Mithraism:-
    Roman Temple of Mithras May Align with Sun on 'Jesus' Birthday' | Live Science
    The celebration of Mithra’s birth, Saturnalia, and Yuletide
    Please note i'm not discussing religion here as such, just giving interesting links.
    I can be suspicious of "The Birth of Mithra" on 25th December by examining our calendar, in 1582 when 10 days were taken out of the Julian Calendar to start the Gregorian Calendar, also taking out 3 leap year day's, every four hundred years, that come into play at the end of each century, there wasn't enough days taken out to go back to 1st January 0045 BC when the Julian Calendar was started.
    The days taken out was only up to "The First Council of Nicaea" in 325 AD, when the church first noticed that the Julian Calendar was too long and the Equinox's were slipping, actually in 0045 BC, the Winter Solstice which had a lot of ancient beliefs attached was falling on 25th December, and was so during the period of Jesus Christ.
    First Council of Nicaea - Wikipedia

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2020
  12. Derek Smith

    Derek Smith Scribe

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    Some follow 6th January as the birthday of Jesus Christ, some 25th December, we really don't know, sadly i know when Cleopatra and Julius Caesar died but have no idea of the date or year Christ was born or died. however we may find some information in investigating these dates.
    I will now go 6th January, early travellers to Bethlehem found that Christmas was celebrated on 6th January:-
    www.agos.com.tr...
    The other date we can investigate is dates near the Winter Solstice, that was very important to ancient people, Edward Carpenter is wrong on some points in his Book "Pagan and Christian Creeds.
    The Birthday of Osiris was indeed near the end of the year, but the Year began and ended in the Summer in ancient Egypt.
    www.sacred-texts.com...
    At the bottom of this thread section i will show a chart for 6th January 0001 in Bethlehem, it doesn't matter about year as the alignment is there every year on date for approx. two hundred years due to the 24,000 year cycle.
    The astronomy chart is set for how the Jews align the day being sunset before date being on 5th January, and shows as the Sun set, Sirius was rising.
    I could as an archaeoastronomer have followed that alignment from Persia, like the 3 Kings, however i would have needed date of birth before i set out on my journey.
    It does seem suspect as we don't know if the Three Kings is a myth, and Sirius as the "Star of Bethlehem" does sound Egyptian, perhaps an astrologer picked this day, all religions have stolen myths of previous religions, in the end, you have to make your own minds up, it wouldn't have been the first time that an astrologer has picked a day to correspond to a Sirius alignment.
    I find it suspicious that also the first miracle and baptism would show the same alignment!
    Other sources link The coming of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem, the turning of Water into Wine, being the first Miracle, and the Baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist, these events were called Epiphany, however i find it dubious that all three key events happened on different years on the same date being 6th January, all the events are relatively close to each other and on the same approx. Latitude.
    Perhaps an ancient astrologer picked this date, the ancient Jews and Persia used Sunset previous to date to start the day, so it might be interesting to look in Bethlehem?
    The actual year of birth isn't needed as by procession a star will stay in position along the horizon for 200 years before becoming out of synch using 1 degree margin, which i use as the Sun appears to move along the horizon by approx. one degree per day.
    Did the Three Wise Men or Kings/Mystics really follow a star or is it just a myth?
    I am only a researcher, and faith means everything to people, so have no wish to trouble anyone.
    Please right click on IMG below, you may then have to right click on view image to see Sirius rising as Sun sets on 5th January during period of Jesus by Jewish way of calcalating 6th January by sunset previous.
    [​IMG]
     
  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >Did the Three Wise Men or Kings/Mystics really follow a star or is it just a myth?
    Since this is a forum for fantasy, this probably isn't the best place to be pursuing "really." There are plenty of astronomy forums and history forums and religion forums that would be able to provide detailed responses. I'm not trying to close off conversation, just suggesting alternatives that are likely to prove more fruitful.
     
  14. Derek Smith

    Derek Smith Scribe

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    Hi Skip Knox,
    I'm responding to the first comment in thread.
    How do you know that i'm not just creating fantasy, that can be believed, a lot of fantasy writers use the stars, the difference with me is you never know when i'm kidding Ha Ha!
    The best myths in "World Building" are ones that mix truth with fantasy, so you don't know the difference, a bit like Dan Brown.
     
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    It was the "really" bit that caught my attention, supplemented by other references to specific research. For that sort of thing, I'd still reiterate there are other resources that are likely to provide answers in greater depth. All we need to know as fiction writers is, is it possible? To which the answer is certainly yes and let's go write it. Make sense?
     
  16. Derek Smith

    Derek Smith Scribe

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    I didn't mean to touch a nerve, i will leave the thread, i hope it is still okay to stay on the Harry Potter thread?
     
  17. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I assure you, it's didn't touch a nerve. In fact, I'll return to the OP, who said this in response to my question about what was needed to design a religion.

    >I'd say a general history, a basic set of customs/rites and core beliefs at the very least.

    So, a general history is hard to come by, imo. Probably better to start with customs and beliefs (practice and dogma). My next question would be how did these customs and beliefs come about? There from the first? And so we go back to history, but now it can be a history that is tied more explicitly to the religion.

    But I also have to add more questions. How many customs? Dogma regarding what? One of the places you might start is whether you're dealing with one god or many, and whether the gods are to be propiated (sacrifices, offerings) or whether they are more abstract and do not intervene in the affairs of humans. Or elves. Or dwarves or whatever. It it's a god to be propitiated, now you can build a ritual around that. Probably just two or three rituals would do you just fine. And the dogma provides the justifications and reasoning for the ritual.

    And I'll add another factor. Is there a priesthood? That's going to open up a whole nest of questions but also possibilities for your religion. There doesn't have to be priests, though, and that opens a different set of doors.
     
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  18. huscarl

    huscarl Dreamer

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    To address Red StarRed Star's original question....

    Here are some more things to think about:
    • What are the fundamental teachings of the religion? Once again - what is the creation myth that lies beneath it?
    • What is valued by the religion? Wisdom? Tithings? Adherence to the "Way?"
    • What is valued by the people who believe versus the people that lead and direct?
    • How were the religions founded? Was there a prophet? Is it even an "organized" religion yet? Does an "organized religion require a hierarchy? What event sparked its founding?
    Semper Fidelis
    Eric
     
    Red Star likes this.
  19. Karlin

    Karlin Acolyte

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    Watch out for a religion's "beliefs" or "belief system". Those who come from a Christian background sometimes assume that all religions are belief-based. They aren't.
     
  20. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    You might wish to elaborate on your view here, as I'm quite sure there are enough scholars who would claim that a religion is inherently a set of beliefs/all that is believed by a people to lie between the transcendental, divine or supernatural and the temporal.
     
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