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The afterlife

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Tom, Feb 5, 2015.

  1. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

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    I was being a little snarky in the original post so I'll take a fair share of blame. Believe me I put on my thick skin before getting on the internet. My point was that belief will overpower any facts or truth that may come up about your religion. It's human nature.
     
  2. Tom

    Tom Istar

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    I admire you for your thick skin. I've never developed mine. My temper lurks too close to the surface.

    My problem with my religion-building stems from the fact that I write from a very close, personal POV. Sometimes when I take an authorial step back, I become disoriented by the big picture. When I wrote my world's religions, I wrote them from the point of view of people who followed them, but then tried to figure out how they would realistically fit into the world.

    It...eluded me.
     
  3. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I'm developing a religion and I'm having the same problem. So, now it's not fitting into the story and it's like "why do I still have this in the setting at all?"
     
  4. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

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    I haven't tackled religion in a big way in my stories, yet. I've got a few names and organizations, but until a religion becomes a central part of a story or character I'm just playing it loose. My biggest challenge religion wise is a story I've got planned about Golems, and their status in the world. Are they just tools, or do they deserve some rights like animals, or are they true living creatures? It's twisting my head around trying to make sense of it all.
     
  5. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    I would say don't put the religion in if it doesn't fit, or don't force it in.

    I like to have religion as something important to a character, but it's importance in the story itself varies.

    One example is two characters who are being played in RPGs on this site.

    My Dragon's Egg character is a Joan-of-Arcish barbarian who is inspired by her valkyrie guide. Having seen proof of her religion, she's become very enthusiastic in battle and does all in her power to please her goddess in hopes of earning her wings. I haven't gotten around to writing a story with her, and sometimes I wonder if the story would end with this character dying and getting the wings she so desires. Just thinking of that gave me visions of what the valkyrie's corner of the afterlife would be like: mostly whites and golds, flowing water, some natural structures and some that appear to have been built. Whether I would show that in the story would very much depend of whether the MC's death would be the end of her told adventures, or whether she would be sent back to the human world with a winged body (perhaps centuries later).

    My Winds of Ysgard character hasn't been played, but I've written short stories with her. The only mention of religion I can think of is a moment of impatience, in which she says, "For the love of the virgin goddess..." That's a reference to Artemis, but I never mention the goddess by name. She's a huntress so she follows a hunting goddess. But she's not a zealot like her friend mentioned above, and her goddess does not intervene (whether or not She exists). Aside from the character vaguely referencing her goddess when she complains, religion doesn't come up in her stories--at least not the stories I've written so far.




    In a story I wrote years ago, I had some angels who intervened. There was a battle in which the angels were fighting a large army of undead. The demons were attempting to desecrate the church, as the angels (a male archangel and female angel of death) had the power to resurrect on holy ground. They were protecting the priest, and as his death would mean a successful desecration--ridding the angels of their means to cheat death on the island--they fought recklessly and died and resurrected several times. The angel of death could make swords of light appear and she was throwing her swords like the Gauntlet valkyrie. The archangel had to do the Luke Skywalker thing to bring the hilt of his flaming sword back to his hand, which took a bit of time, forcing him to fight unarmed. The angels had limitations, one of them being the ability to summon Angel Armor, but only a single suit each. They used their armor to protect a child, so they had to fight naked after the first death and resurrection. The priest asked them to cover up after the battle was over.

    Well... it was my first novel, but I did have fun with that scene.
     
    Tom likes this.
  6. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

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    I also say that if a religion (or anything else for that matter) doesn't fit into your world, then don't force it. You'll find a way to organically fit in things like religion and whatnot.

    In regards to an afterlife, in my current story there is a city of wizards. These wizards don't believe in a deity. Instead they believe that all things are part of the universal magical energy of the world, and that when a person dies they become part of that universal energy. Kinda like certain Eastern beliefs or the concept of the Force. But I would definitely take a look at each of the cultures in your world and see what kind of afterlife fits them. For example, for a warrior race like the Vikings you might go with something like Valhalla, or perhaps take a Greek approach with different regions in the afterlife. It all depends on the cultures.
     
    Tom likes this.
  7. phantommuseums

    phantommuseums Scribe

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    I would read some of Joseph Campbell's works. He breaks down the purpose of myths in religion, and how they come to form from different societies (how hunting societies develop religion, how farming societies develop religion, how metropolises develop religion).

    George Lucas was really inspired by Joseph Campbell's work--it really breaks down the function and origins of religion, all types of religions.

    Heck, Dune is a great example of a science-fiction about the science of religion.

    Do it. The thing is, religion is an awesomely human thing, more human than god, actually. Don't stay away from religion, because it's a part of human life. If you can't be inspired from human life, then you're really blocking yourself off. Go for it.

    But do read/listen to Joseph Campbell's lectures. It'll inspire you. It's the skeleton of religion really.
     
    Tom likes this.
  8. phantommuseums

    phantommuseums Scribe

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    Also, here's another idea: spiritual experience, (the essence of all religious belief) is the experience of awe.

    So if you think about it, people develop philosophies and religions to better understand their awe-inspiring world, correct?

    Therefore, the landscape inspires the people, which creates the philosophy.

    Can you think of any landscapes in your world that would generate a feeling of awe? The way the stars move perfectly mathematically? The way a river floods in perfect time every single year? The way the tides pull in and out on a perfect measure of time? That's the basic awe that makes people wonder, "Is someone controlling this?"
     
  9. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Joseph Campbell is completely overrated, imo.
     
  10. phantommuseums

    phantommuseums Scribe

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    I'm sure there is a different, more underrated philosophy in the Perilous Realm.
     
  11. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I think phantommuseums is on the right track. In a strange, indirect way, Campbell is one of the biggest influences on fantasy. More so than Tolkien.

    I can't really say that his work is terribly useful for creating a religion since it was meant as a tool for comparing mythologies, not inventing them but reading his stuff pointed me in the direction of other writers whose works I used as the basis for my fictional religions/mythologies. His stuff is as good a starting point as any.

    Though I think at the end of the day, history and real-world religions is the best place to look to for inspiration.

    I'm pretty much trying to do what it sounds like your doing. Religion does fit, I just needed to figure-out how. It's all good now.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2015
    Laurence likes this.
  12. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Oh dear God, I hope not. Campbell interpreted mythology through a distinctly modern and narrow worldview, which makes his work particularly useless in the long run, no matter how popular it was at the time. As a mythologist, Campbell was terrible. His work is full of cherry picking examples, bad logic, his pet philosophy, and ridiculously generalized conclusions. Which should be obvious to anyone who has read actually read the mythologies he talks about. As a long time lover and reader of mythology, in my opinion Campbell's legacy should be expunged forever. If you're interested in mythology, don't go to Campbell, go to the source. Read the mythologies yourself.

    But now that I think on it, this makes some sense. This may be why I hate contemporary fantasy works so much compared to classic fantasy.
     
  13. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Although I don't want Campbell expunged from the record, I agree with many of the sentiments in this post.

    If you want to understand historical mythologies and religions to inspire your own, you don't need to read through the filer of Campbell. Go right to the source.
     
  14. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Ok, that part might have been a bit harsh. But too many people look at Campbell like he's the be all and end all of mythological study. It's really very disturbing.
     
  15. phantommuseums

    phantommuseums Scribe

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    God forbid if I give a recommendation about one mythologist, it's the end all be all.

    Of course go to the source of the myth. But what if that doesn't make sense to you? What if you wonder WHY one culture has a mythology based on animals, and the other based on cosmology? How has this myth effected a group of people, their psyche, their social order? This is why I suggest Joseph Campbell, but if you can find other and better mythologists, please inform me of what I am missing out on.

    What I'm saying, is that the myth makers were people just like us. I was suggesting that Tom look into analyses of the people writing the myths along with the myths themselves. My apologies if I offended anyone.
     
  16. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    You can recommend whoever you want. And I can post my opinion about your recommendation if I want to. That's how forums work.

    I can recommend that if you are searching for meaning in ancient Egyptian beliefs and stories, there are two books by Egyptologist Jan Assmann that are simply fantastic:

    Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt
    The Search for God in Ancient Egypt

    These two books (along with a compendium of Ancient Egyptian literature that allows me to read the original translated works themselves) utterly changed my understanding of the Ancient Egyptians even after many years of being obsessed with their culture. I highly recommend them to anyone who is interested in an in depth and meaningful look at what the Ancient Egyptians thought and believed.

    You didn't offend anyone. But don't get upset if people express opinions that differ from yours on an internet forum. Discussion is meaningless if there aren't different viewpoints being expressed. That's what this is all about.
     
  17. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    Hey, I didn't say he deserved to be a big influence. I just said I think he is.
    He's influential and accessible so he's as good a starting point as any.

    But this thread isn't about that. It's not a discussion about the merit of Campbell as a mythologist. Let's not get too off topic.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2015
  18. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    Afterlifes are fun and meaningful constructs in a fantasy world if the author chooses to include them. For me it’s as simple as looking at the main themes within a given culture and from there building up a cohesive, intriguing, and believable afterlife. My Universe has three main planets, which gives me tons of opportunity to craft religions. I’ll only mention a few, though.

    Furthermore, back two pages or so when you guys were talking about the truth behind religions, for me it’s important to have some idea of a history behind that religion. Especially when it comes to ancient history, back to the birth of the Universe. Knowing how my Universe was created, what key players are involved from there on, and how the Universe will ultimately end has allowed me to sprinkle religions across planets with grains of truth, which can act as foreshadowing devices as well as tidbits to those who pay close enough attention (the sort of thing which I love in series like the MBotF).

    One culture of mine in is heavily tied to nature and night. As a result they believe the body is only a natural vessel for a soul which returns to the earth. The soul, however, enters a realm of darkness with what they are buried with (food and a weapon) for the Night Walk. During the Night Walk, the family mourns. It is forbidden to speak the name of the one who has died once the body is buried, for it is seen as a call that brings the soul back from its journey (this is supposedly what causes ghosts) until a full cycle of the moon has passed. By then, the soul has entered the night sky, and has become a new star.

    Another religion is steered by the principle of the Absolute Solitudes, the five moons of the night sky and what they represent: Truth, Faith, Glory, Passion, and Salvation. Their hell is an absolute one- Mir’IlleshSinn, the Sleepless Place. It’s a blasted wasteland under an eternal sun, with horns of silver for trees and shards of it for grass. The damned wander under the blinding light, the boiling heat, their ankles torn to pieces. Mages and pagans go there (the Penitent are church-owned mages who can earn their way out of this fate- one of my characters is promised this and she dreams of going to Mir’IlleshSinn, it was a somewhat disturbing passage to write).

    Another culture tied heavily to nature worships the embodiments of Sea and Sky, along with other symbols like Shore and Stars. They believe in cycles, and as such it makes sense that reincarnation is part of their culture. It depends. Most burn corpses (practicality would dictate this would be to avoid sickness) to allow the souls of the dead to climb the Sky, and either become a Star (same idea as first example, same cultural stem, different planet) or an animal. Evil men have spirits of the dark waters in them, and so this culture buries the evil men under the weight of stone, with stakes driven through their bodies, and pass water onto them (both pouring water and urinating on them). This way their souls (and the Sea) cannot climb the Sky and reach the stars. This ties in with certain beliefs regarding the serpent Uroboros who features in the Universe’s actual history, and is incorporated in different ways in cultures on different continents on different realms.

    I hope that’s not too long, but it illustrates my kind of method.

    (Also I fully support looking to real mythologies as well as anthropological/psychological/philosophical analyses them. As Mythopoet said, "discussion is meaningless if there aren't different viewpoints being expressed. That's what this is all about." That's true for forums and world views. The more angles you understand an object (i.e. a myth) from, the more you'll learn.)
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2015
    Tom likes this.
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