Faith of Estel
|Faith of Estel|
|Pronunciation||Fai-th of Es-tell|
The Faith of Estel was once one of the most powerful Religions in Aloria, with millions of adherents in the Allorn Empire which ruled vast swathes of Aloria for centuries. It emerged with Empress Talea, the first leader of the Empire, and focuses on the power the Altalar were given over nature by the goddess of nature and life, Estel, who also birthed the world. Unfortunately, Void Worship, the Cataclysm, and the massive decline in Altalar society has dealt a hard blow to this once powerful faith. It is still a relevant form of belief though, as many millions of Cielothar, Avanthar and Altalar remain loyal to Estel, even if the details of their faith now widely vary from the ancient practices of their ancestors.
The Faith of Estel has long been tied to the Altalar Race, but to the surprise of most, it is possibly not their original faith. Scholarly evidence depicts a different being, the Moon-Well Goddess, as the first deity of the Altalar. She was a being to be worshiped under moonlight, and all places that held water were her domain. She was very popular up until the Awakening, when the rise of future Empress Talea saw her suddenly introduce her fellow Altalar to the Faith of Estel. Some believe she invented the Faith, others feel it was a low-level cult that she uplifted. Regardless, it rapidly became the central focus of worship for the Altalar. They converted all temples and structures from the Moon-Well Goddess into those dedicated to Estel, and so the worship of her began. But soon the Faith of Estel went through a second shift, as with the end of Talea and the beginning of the Consolidation, the Altalar turned to a group now known as the Altalar Pantheon. While Estel was still named as their creator, she developed into an omnipotent being above everything, physically, with her massive statue being solitary and draped in the shadow of temple ceilings while those of the Inner and Outer Court were heavily focused in a circle around her (in those major temples dedicated to the entire religion and not just one member of the Courts).
But after the Consolidation, the Altalar only continued to fall further and further away from the Faith of Estel, forming massive urban cities at the cost of natural beauty, felling trees that had stood for centuries to replace it with cold stone, and hunting animals to the point of needlessness across Daen. Lip-service to Estel’s glory was maintained for years, but by the time of the Blossoming, almost no one worshipped Estel in the old way anymore. Those who did followed an altered system of her beliefs, most populous among these being the Cult of Ciellonia, who would eventually morph into the Cielothar. Eventually, Estel is said to have gotten her revenge, for as the Cataclysm gripped Aloria, southern Daen and the Altalar heartland found itself gripped by a much different disaster: the Wildering. Vegetation erupted suddenly across the region as nature violently reasserted itself and in the wake of this event, it became known as Estel’s Punishment. Today, the Faith of Estel is fragmented and worshiped by many people, but each in their own unique ways. The closest to the original version of this Religion are the Cielothar, while the Avanthar and Altalar acknowledge Estel, but have returned to the views of her as a being beyond this plane. This belief was somewhat shaken, if not shattered, by the Battle of Curag Fields and the Bone Horror Crisis, which saw a very physical Estel attack the world seemingly in an attempt to start anew. This promptly galvanized her worship in Daen, where it has been steadily growing, though with her disappearance in the aftermath of the Bone Horror Crisis, some have returned to their old ways claiming that the statue never was Estel in the first place. Regardless, some look up in fear and hope at their own statues, wondering if they will suddenly speak.
The Faith of Estel has a very core belief: that Estel, the goddess of nature, life and perhaps even the universe, created all things before giving dominion of such a realm to her followers to cherish. Before her, the world was a dark brew of nothingness, and it was she who tamed great dangers, harnessed the powers of the world, and brought forth the Altalar Race from their meager position in the world. She then gave them their Rings of Talea to aid them in their domination and oversight of the land before she ceased her great projects, instead watching over her chosen children from afar as they governed the world she had built and put into their care. Estellians also tend to believe that Elves (mainly Altalar) are therefore a supreme being, better than the other Races because they received this mantle protecting the world long before the other supposed gods of Aloria, like the so-called “Imperial Spirit” of Unionism or Eliah of the Mevoriim Ailor. In addition to those beliefs, the Faith of Estel proclaims that Estel’s domain is everything green and full of life; From the jungles of Daen and Fendarfelle to the tropical coral reefs of Hadaria and the temperate forests of Corontium. Only wastelands, like the Northern Expanse, are beyond her domain and deserve only to be explored (in traditional Estellian beliefs, most modern Altalar believe spreading themselves across all continents, is a valid goal). Finally, one of the latest tenants of the Faith of Estel is that slavery is acceptable. Estel gave the Altalar reign of the world in her name, and if the animals and plants are to be bent to their will, so should those other Races she created or also rescued from the desolation of the past.
- Estel is the central, if not the only, real god of the Faith of Estel. Any others that do exist in the world are deemed as lesser than her in power, and those who do not accept such a dominance, deserve to be shown her majesty. Ancient Elven mythology claims that once, the world was a dark, wild, and savage place, filled with dead land, void of intelligent life, and reigned over by many monsters. Estel emerged from the earth during that time, and being tied to its pain, she immediately sought to remedy it. Over eight days she made the heavens and the celestial bodies, controlled many of the beasts, birthed water and proper healthy vegetation, and finally, brought the Altalar Race out of the dark, a people so oppressed and weak during this period that they had to be coaxed out of the dark caves in which they hid. She is commonly depicted as a gigantic female figure and one made of stone as well. Her specific features changed several times over the many centuries of artwork about her, the first works being somewhat alien and Seraphic in inspiration while the statues from the twilight age of her worship show her to definitely be Altalar in appearance. At all times, her statued body has been clothed, though her hands exist in a variety of positions, making up a set of gestures used in Atalar rituals and blessings. Her recent supposed return to Aloria saw a statue that bore many of these features and so many are now convinced she is a real god, though many others are not and see her merely as another magical creature the Regalian Empire defeated, or see the being that rose in 303 to 304 AC as some artificial magical trickery compared to the real Estel.
- Pantheon of Eight:
- The Pantheon of Eight are, in traditional Estelism, not the Altalar Pantheon, nor are they the Avanthar Pantheon. Instead, they exist as a group relatively undefined in Altalar writings. Scholars claim that Talea then converted them into standardized, named beings with specific traits, appearances, and powers of the Altalar Pantheon when she rose to power. The traditional Eight are said to have been the first eight Altalar who left the caves of darkness for the surface, heeding the smooth and warm words of Estel. For this they were rewarded with great powers and roles in her domain. The Eight are also each united into a pair, representing four elements that Estel was said to control. To the Pair of the Water, she gave all waters, all seas and rivers and lakes, so that the Altalar and the natural world would never go thirsty. To the Pair of the Sky, she gave them domain of the air, the weather, the wind and the rain (though they had to commune and agree with the Pair of the Water on such matters), all to help shift the world through seasons and times of change. To the Pair of the Flame, she gave them control over volcanoes, that primordial fire she had cooled to help bring forth the world, as well as lightning and let them use their power to keep the Altalar people warm. To the Pair of Nature, the most important of all the groups, she gave domain over animals and plants, to help keep the Altalar alive through sustainable use of the environment and their domestication of animals within the household. Estel then departed, and the Eight established themselves as protectors over their fellow Altalar, ultimately supposedly being the ancestors of the various petty kingdoms that arose prior to the Awakening. It is important to note that the Eight were almost never considered gods, they were at best, advanced and empowered mortals, and their names were always evoked second to Estel’s in rituals of tradition Faith of Estel ceremonies. The Pantheon of Eight is largely forgotten, except by the most devout living in Daen and scholars dedicated to the topic.
- Various (Now Lost):
- During the height of Estel worship in Daen, there were a number of Relics kept by the Allorn Empire and often used or worn by their leadership and those most likely to succeed them. But as Altalar society began to decay, and especially once Void Worship entered the picture, a vast majority of these Relics vanished. Some turned up later, ruined or horrifically affected by Void energy while others were never found and are said to still be in the possession of the Kathar in the Far West. Possibly the only Relics of the past that still remain are the various temples that dot all of Daen, some of which make up the network required for Altalar to earn their Rings of Talea.
The Faith of Estel has a few simple practices undertaken by its followers. The most common was, and still is, the tending of nature and animals. Through this act worshipers are seen to be upholding the values of their beloved nature deity. This act also helps them to survive, as useful animals such as bovines and plentiful crops such as fruit trees provide an individual with sustenance. The upper castes of Altalar society ultimately supplemented themselves doing this work for slaves and other people hired for the task, a practice which continues to this day, though it is pushed far more by a desire for profit and physical goods than its original ancient idea of worship. In addition to caring for and controlling nature in these ways, the Faith of Estel demands prayer, like most other Religions. Prayer directly to Estel is traditionally an act of submission, which is why the Altalar largely dropped it when they grew high and mighty, and involves dropping to one’s knees and lowering the head while raising up their hands, or pressing them flat to one’s knees or the floor. This is generally accepted as a symbolic gesture to let an individual receive Estel’s bounty. It is acceptable to move one’s arms down after ten seconds of “receiving” the bounty, but an individual can only stand up fully once the prayer is done. It is little wonder that the Altalar did away with such an act in favor of the diverse methods of prayer and worship made to the Inner and Outer Courts in their own Altalar Pantheon.
The Faith of Estel traditionally has several taboos. Harming animals and great plant life was a crime in the early centuries of the Allorn Empire, especially the Nenya, whose vast size was only rivalled by the greatest Altalar urban centers. In the middle years of the Empire though, after the Consolidation, such laws were repealed as they were said to “restrict Altalar dominion over all things.” Another taboo is the worship of other religions. Unlike Oldt Fayth, an Ailor Religion with enormous pluralism in what is accepted and not, the Faith of Estel demands that Estel is the only god you acknowledge, and that there are no others equal to her in strength, greatness and power. This ideal, however, became much harder to enforce as the Altalar Race fragmented, and leads to various tensions between the different groups of Estelians in existence on Daen and elsewhere. Finally, there is the taboo of worshiping Dragons. There is not a lot of detail on why or where this hatred for Dragons originates. Some modern scholars believe that some of the “many monsters” spoken of in Elven creation mythology were Dragons, and that Estel was never able to “tame” them for use by her chosen Race, the Altalar, and so the faithful came to hate Dragons as one of the last vestiges of this dark, horrible past. The feeling seems to have been mutual, as Green Nature Dragons attacked shrines and temples to Estel for years until their culling from Aloria, while other Dragon species on Daen kept away from the jungles and sometimes spoke of their dislike for “that earthen creature” worshipped by many Altalar.
- The Altalar follow a variety of the Faith of Estel deeply affected by their society and mental characteristics, which saw them putting more emphasis on their own Inner and Outer Pantheons. Though these Pantheons are roughly the same as the Cielothar and Yanar pantheons with translatable gods who serve similar functions, an Altalar will often be found saying prayers to the Inner Pantheon gods far more frequently than to Estel as a whole. Estel is the all-creator in the Altalar belief, but also the ward of divinity who passed the realm of mortals down to her Inner and Outer Courts, each of which contain four gods. The Inner Court is often favored over the Outer Court, because the Outer Courts is what is considered Dark Gods, gods who rule the less favorable side of the virtues of the Altalar and life in general. Additionally, a ninth goddess unofficially exists, Talea, the first Allorn Empress and a figure of enormous respect and veneration in Altalar culture to the point that in some areas, she is considered an official ninth god beyond both Courts. The Altalar get along best with the Cielothar and Yanar in terms of religion, though they deeply dislike the form of worship of the Avanthar which they see as a result of “Human corruption.”
- For more information on their system of belief, click here
- The Cielothar (and their Yanar allies) share the core tenets of their faith with the Altalar, in that they acknowledge and worship the existence of Estel and her Pantheon, but have unanimously abandoned Talea, the ninth unofficial member of the Pantheon in the Altalar form of the Faith of Estel. Instead, the Cielothar place a much greater emphasis on the worship of Estel herself, and her influence on the world surrounding her. As well as this, the Cielothar worship the Pantheon in ways far different to the methods used by the Altalar, though the Modern Altalar names used by the Altalar are still retained. Cielothar faith is deeply personal, but is still often curated and guided by a priest or priestess, with a focus on nature more in line with the ancient beliefs of the Faith of Estel.
- For more information on their system of belief, click here
- The Avanthar have a unique variety of the Faith of Estel that blends Altalar Faith of Estel beliefs with those of ancient Ailor, as well as a blend of unique elements cobbled together over the past three centuries of their contact with the Orcs and modern Ailor. Broadly speaking, the Avanthar believe in Estel and believe in her divinity. However, they have taken elements of the Altalar Pantheon and Human faiths to create a group of eight Constellation Gods, as they believe that while Estel is a physical being, her eight children are not. She instead inserted them into the heavens to provide light and guidance to the world at night after seeing how dark the night could be in her creation. As a result, most of their religious rituals take place at night, and have other features which makes most Altalar view them as very savage. The Avanthar get along worst with the Altalar in the area of faith, with the Cielothar happy enough that the Avanthar still follow Estel. But tension does exist with both of these other Elven groups due to the pluralism actively pursued by the Avanthar, which can lead to Estel worships in their population worshipping other gods, a grave offense to the Faith, and one usually remedied by their departure from the Faith of Estel for this other Religion or Religions. With Avanthar native faith reasserting itself though, this fluid conversion process is likely to be disrupted, if not reversed.
- For more information on their system of belief, click here
- The faith of the Sihndar is considered the oddest of all Faith of Estel offshoots and for good reason. The only god that is actively worshiped, is Evsrenllir-Mullontavan, better known to Regalians as the “Spider Queen.” Despite her hideous appearance, she is considered to be a servant of the greater good by the Sihndar and a direct servant of Estel. She gave them their Lordlings, helped them to refine their Archons, and has challenged them to be better warriors ever since with her command of Drowdar’s nature, specifically the Drow Giant Spiders that are her brood. She is a force of nature and something that no Sihndar should hope to displease, else she hears of such slights and slander through the Great Web. As a result of all these odd beliefs, the Sihndar get along the worst with all branches of the Faith of Estel, disliking Altalar and Cielothar beliefs especially as a native and in the case of the Altalar self-indulgent worldview. They similarly dislike the Avanthar’s beliefs, though admit a begrudging respect for the warrior culture they possess.
- For more information on their system of belief, click here
- It is said that Estel herself remained with the Altalar for centuries, residing inside a vast temple complex built by Talea in the capital of the Allorn Empire in her honor. It is said she vanished with the Cataclysm and the Wildering she inflicted on the Altalar, but most Ailor and even some of the faithful believe that all that was ever in the temple was the most impressive statue of Estel ever built that collapsed in the chaos of those turbulent years.