Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Religion in Vanor: The Church of the Unconquered Sun

Sol Invictus is the Sun Personified; the Sun as Light, Warmth, Rebirth, and Symmetry; the Martial Sun who forges order throughout the cosmos; the Great Sun who rises each day to bring light and life to the world, then descends into the Star Sea to do battle with the Chaotic Night Below. He has never lost this war. He is the Unconquered Sun.

In the ruins of mighty Vanor, the Church of the Unconquered Sun conducts and maintains the Solian creed, directing the proper rituals; ministering to the faithful; and recording the litany of the past from the Great Solarium in the Campus Vaticanus regio. It is a henotheistic faith, which means it worships and holds preeminent a single god while also tolerating the existence of other deities, sects, spirits, and cosmologies in the world. In the past, this tolerance has not always manifested itself very positively in the Church's dealings with other faiths, but since the fall, it has generally comported itself more liberally, out of necessity if nothing else.

Sol Invictus's chief symbols are the sun disc, the sun star (a sun disc with six star points), and the flaming pilum (a short throwing spear).

The Creed
According to tradition, a Vanoran's life is one of cyclical change and perpetual renewal. The Church teaches that all life in the universe comes from the Great Sun in the form of sun sparks, which constitute one's conscious being (i.e., one's soul). Upon death, an individual's sun spark ascends up into the Great Sun, becomes cleansed in the holy fire, and then descends once more to the world to be reborn. Vanorans usually symbolize this process through funeral pyres and cremation rituals followed by the erection of ustrina, or cremation altars.

This perpetual and enduring process changed slightly with the coming of Lucius Aurelius Solius Invictus, the first Witch-King of Vanor. According to the Church, the first Witch-King, at the height of his glory, prowess, and might, discovered the immutable truth of the universe. This ur knowledge, normally beyond the ken of human understanding or comprehension, gave Sol Invictus the means to achieve Unitas ("unity") with the hyper cosmos (i.e., that which is beyond all). Upon his death, the sun spark of Sol Invictus rose up into the Great Sun and, instead of returning anew into the world once more, it transcended beyond.

Now when a person's sun spark joins with the Great Sun upon death, Sol Invictus himself sits in judgment. Those deemed worthy and ready are allowed to achieve Unitas and join the Hypersol ("The Sun Beyond"). Those deemed not ready for judgment are returned to the world to be born anew and to continue working toward the higher path of Unitas. Those deemed unworthy are cast out of the Great Sun into the Star Sea, never to be reborn or reach Unitas, to float for all eternity in the Blackest Night.

Therefore, those wishing to transcend beyond and join the Hypersol receive guidance and instruction in the higher mysteries from the Church itself, which remains the terrestrial arbiter of Sol Invictus's spiritual path to Unitas, and the Collegium Solare, or Solar College, which consists of saintly individuals past and present whose lives and deeds demonstrate this path.

The Calendar
One of the Church's most vital yet taxing obligations is the maintenance of the celestial calendar called the Decimemoria. Nominally for record-keeping and the timing of festivals and holy weeks, the Decimemoria represents the Church's efforts to provide the faithful with some semblance of order and structure in the chaotic world left in the wake of the Vanoran collapse. The Church has maintained the Decimemoria for over 420 years.

Measured by the regular if inconsistent movements of constellations and other stellar objects in the Star Sea (most notably the ringed planet Helios), the Decimemoria is a decennial calendar where one celestial year consists of 129 months of twenty-eight days each and forty-three festival/holy weeks of seven days each. This makes each celestial year 3,913 days long, or approximately ten solar years and nine months in length.

The Decimemoria is a complex calendrical system that proves difficult for the Church to maintain adequately. There are a number of reasons for this. First, the imprecise movements of stellar objects in the Star Sea and the irregular pattern of seasons make it difficult to measure consistently the passage of time in the world. As such, the Church regularly needs to revise the calendar, leading in some instances to the rearranging or removal of entire months of festival weeks. In one notorious incident, the Church decreed the removal of an entire solar year from Celestial Year XXXII (thirty-two).

Second, there is considerable debate within the Church over the proper role of the Decimemoria and the use of more accurate calendrical systems. Thus, while the Decimemoria is the canonical church calendar, other orders and sects associated with the Church regularly advocate their own idiosyncratic calendars. For instance, the Stylite Monks of the Seeping Dawn, popularly known as the Column Pissers (not a term of endearment), claim to have discerned a pattern of time keeping in the occurrences of rainfall upon the ruined city, leading to their insistent proclamations that it is currently the year 8,631 since the first rains fell on Vanor (this date has not changed for a number of years).

Finally, the complexity of the Decimemoria and the proffering of competing calendars has led to much lay resistance in adopting any calendrical system. Most living in the ruins of Vanor maintain a rough attachment to straightforward solar-based calendars pegged to any number of foundational years or merely note the passage of time by the seasons, with no particular care whether or not there are calculation errors or misalignments in the systems. This has made the Church's advocacy of the Decimemoria that much more challenging.

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Image Sources:

Image #1: Sun Disc by Bulldoggenliebchen (link).

Image #2: Giant Prominence on the Sun Erupted (link).

Image #3: Ars Pacis Virtual Recreation (link).