Patriarchate of Etosil
Having its foundations in the First Schism of 92 AC, the Patriachate of Etosil is one of the oldest, and most well structured churches of Unionism. Originally calling themselves the Evintarian Patriarchate, the Patriachate was a group of Unionists who believed that the Eighth Creed permitted the appointment of living Herons, which quickly drew the ire of the rest of the Reverends. The group was exiled from Regalia, causing them to flee to Etosil. Here, their name changed as they embraced the new culture of their new homeland. Over the centuries that followed, the Etosians would replicate the various structures of the Sancella of Union. This led to the Patriachate becoming highly structured and allowing it to reign over Etosil as a theocracy. Etosians are some of the most fervent Unionists in the Empire, and often build their own houses of worship, which frequently hold relics of the Etosian Herons. And although the Sancella dislikes their different practices, their long existence and organized structure have granted them the most leniency when it comes to the Clastic Laws. Theirs is a faith of following the examples of the Herons, of living a just life, and above all, pursuing the Great Way.
Offices of the Patriarchate
Symbolized by a sun with seven rays of light shining out from the center, the Office of the Exalted Patriarch has similar construction to the Sancella of Union. The official title is Most Exalted Patriarch of Etosil, Chief Deacon of the Spirit, and Patriarch of Thessalonikon. At the top sits the Exalted Patriarch, who acts as the leader of the Patriarchate. The robes of the Exalted Patriarch are a simple white, with a black cloth and a yellow cloth wrapped around the midsection. Over their shoulders, they wear a stole bearing the sigil of the Patriarchate of Etosil, along with the seven symbols of the Diocese. Beneath him, sits the seven individuals known as the Septarchs. It is from among these individuals that a new Exalted Patriarch is chosen when the previous one passes into Paradise in the next life. Traditionally, the Exalted Patriarch will pick an heir apparent from among the Septarchs before they die, and that decision has historically been respected by the other members of the Septarchy. On the rare occasions where the Exalted Patriarch did not pick a heir, the seven Septarchs deliberate and vote from among themselves to decide who will step up to become the new Exalted Patriarch. Finally, the seat of the Exalted Patriarch has always been held by a male. This is due to the fact that the Etosian faith believes that woman should never be allowed into the priesthood. The Exalted Patriarch acts as both the political and spiritual leader of Etosil. Because of this, the Exalted Patriarch can be considered to hold more power than the Supreme Reverend of the Sancella, as Etosil is several times bigger than the small island of Basta. However, Etosil still recognizes the Authority of the Empire and the Emperor. As such, The Exalted Patriarch is considered the third most important authority in all of Unionism, after the Emperor and the Supreme Reverend (who leads a larger church). The Exalted Patriarch is the official representative of the Etosian Unionists, and attends Imperial Diets as their delegate. They have traditionally stood by what the Emperor says, only taking counter-positions when it directly threatened them. This was most recently observed when the Patriarchate participated in the Purge of Vultaro, sending inquisitors and deacons in order to convert the faithful away from the Vultar Heresy. Because of this cooperation, Etosian Unionism is the most tolerated form of Unionism after Sancellist Unionism. As the political leader of Etosil, the Exalted Patriarch rules the island nation as a monarch, receiving guidance from a small council of priests dubbed The Septarchy. Powers of his office include the passing of laws for the island, appointing justicars to preside over court cases (both legal and spiritual), as well as being the face of Etosil to outside nations. One of the few powers the Exalted Patriarch holds is that of the war, due to Etosil’s status as a client state of the Empire. Because of this, the Exalted Patriarch can field an army to defend the nation, but cannot declare war on other nations without the Emperor’s approval. Overall, the Exalted Patriarch is allowed to lead Etosil in whatever direction he deems necessary, as long as it does not interfere with the Empire’s plans.
A step down from the Exalted Patriarch sits the seven men of the Septarchy. Called Septarchs, these seven priests make up the ruling class of Etosil. These seven are chosen from among the Deacons of Etosil by the Exalted Patriarch, and wear black robes with a bright yellow cloth wrapped around their stomach. They often exhibit great zeal for the faith, and an understanding of the complex religious-political system of the Patriarchate. Etosil is divided into seven Diocese, or political divisions run by a Septarch. They in turn serve the Exalted Patriarch, and hold both a spiritual and political role in Etosil. Each Diocese has its own special seal, designated on the stole that the Septarch wears over their shoulders. They act as administrators of the Patriarchate’s will, taking care of the cities within their Diocese like a feudal Lord. The Seven Diocese date back to the early part of the second century AC, when the Exalted Patriarch at the time, Aloysius I, created them to help organize the island more efficiently. Within each Diocese, a Septarch is the direct leader of all Deacons and Cantors that operate within. The Septarchs help decide what to do with their clergy; from organizing charity efforts, to planning religious celebrations, to leading inquisitions, to even acting as foreign delegates should it be necessary. Many also take tours around their Diocese, visiting the various chantries and tabernacles to check up on them.
Deacons and Cantors
The bulk of the Etosian Patriarchate, the Deacons and the Cantors, can best be compared to the Reverends and Curates of Sancellist Unionism. However, unlike the Sancellist clergy, Deacons and Cantors do not participate in missionary work, as the Patriarchate is not able to send out missionaries due to the Clastic Laws. The main difference between a Deacon and a Cantor is where in Etosil their house of worship is located. A Deacon is a higher ranking member (simply due to the prestige) of the clergy that presides over a Tabernacle in a city. Tabernacles are often larger and more impressive than the other churches of the Etosians, and feature a large domed chapel where services are held around a centrally located altar. The Deacon is the main priest presiding over the daily service, and in larger cities, he may have up to three Cantors serving under him. They also wear bright yellow robes with a black cloth wrapped around their stomach for service. Meanwhile, a Cantor is a lower ranking member of the clergy who presides over a Chantry, which are located in more rural settings. Often a Chantry is a simple, two room building in a small farming settlement; with one larger room for services, and a smaller room for the Cantor to call his living quarters. Cantor’s wear white robes with a bright yellow cloth wrapped around their stomach. Despite this difference, their roles are fairly similar, with both levels leading the evening services of the faith, performing the Sacraments for individuals, and providing spiritual guidance to the troubled souls of their church.
Pateras of Faith and Miteras of Devotion
Originally started by a group of Dogartan outcasts, monastic traditions have become the main pillars of Etosian Unionism. They make up the largest portion of the Patriarchate’s population, and the name comes from the local word for Father. The earliest monastery, titled the Radiant Monastery of Heron Stylianos, dates back to roughly 126 AC, and is now one of the largest monasteries in Etosil, housing upwards of 250 Pateras. However, despite this being the biggest, it has little say over the countless other monasteries across the islands. Each monastery has control over its own residents, a fact that is clearly evident by the sheer diversity among them. A majority of them operate as small communities, devoting their time to singing prayers and practicing the faith. They also picked up the habit of the Dogartans and began to raise bees. The wax from the bees is then used to create prayer candles which are distributed at local houses of worship. Then, there are the select few that operate similar to the Dogartans, where their members travel the countryside proclaiming the good news of the Imperial Spirit and performing good deeds. Then come the most extreme of the Pateras, often called the Exiles. These men choose to live the remainder of their life in isolation, proclaiming self-exile and traveling to the empty corners of the world to reflect by themselves. They become hermits, and are praised for their devotion to the Imperial Spirit. Because of this, it is considered extremely dishonorable and even heretical to stop being an Exile, as it is a clear sign of sin and weakness of faith. The Miteras of Devotion are a newer addition to Etosian Unionism, and serve as the female counterparts to the Pateras. Currently, there are three monasteries devoted solely to women. They have much fewer freedoms, and largely consists of widows whose children have grown up. These women devote their times to silent prayer in the company of others like them.
Worship and Traditions
Due to the extent of time that the Sancellists and the Etosians have been separated, they have developed a great number of differences in traditions. The most evident relates back to the origins of the schism is the difference in Heron worship. Etosian Unionism is built upon the idea that anyone is able to become a Heron, even in life. Their requirements for becoming a Heron are considerably more lax than the Sancellist, as evident in the large number of Etosian Herons that exist. In addition, Etosians hold the belief that Herondom can be achieved even whilst one is still living. There are past Exalted Patriarchs who take on the arduous process of becoming a Heron and having their name canonized in the annals of history. From this, there is a large belief in sacred relics among Etosian Unionists. Most tabernacles and many chantries house some form of sacred relic; generally a bone of a Heron. They hold the belief that the Herons are examples of the lifestyle of a Good Unionist, and claim that worshipping them is akin to worshipping the Imperial Spirit who sent the Herons to guide the people. Going seemingly hand in hand with Heron worship, the Patriarchate has strict laws about iconoclasm. These laws prohibit the making of any piece of art that depicts the Imperial Spirit or the Emperor; the punishment for creating such pieces in Etosil range as high as death at the stake, for grievous heresy. As such, all religious Etosian artwork focuses on the Herons and portraying their lives. Etosian Unionists also only have one service a day, taking place at sunset each evening. This service is started and ended with a pair of songs, called the Elpida and the Charistia. These are sung by the congregation without the assistance of any instruments, as they believe that instruments are not required to praise the Emperor. Another common tradition of Etosian Unionism is the lighting of prayer candles and incense. On religious holidays, the city streets of Etosil twinkle with countless flames as people light candles in prayer to the Emperor. Some of the oldest tabernacles in Etosil have years upon years of built up wax from the vast number of candles that are burnt. Every service also includes a portion where the priest walks around the congregation purifying them with incense. Incense is actually one of the main imports of Etosil, being used in great abundance every day. In addition, the Etosians have a few differences for the Sacraments. The most obvious is how they perform the Sacrament of Slumber. After a person dies, the body is set on display in their best dress in a side room of the local house of worship (or the main room if in a chantry). The family of the dead will then often hire wailers, who will shriek and cry at the loss of life. The belief is that the louder the crying, the more important the individual. This often is where social differences are most evident, with higher class citizens being able to afford a multitude of wailers while lower class ceremonies will often consist solely of the deceased’s family. After a day, the body is brought to a special room that is open to the sky. The body is placed in the open air, and left for days as birds and the elements strip the meat off of the bones, leaving only the skeleton. The bones are then bleached, and either returned to the family to be placed in a family mausoleum, or placed into a public crypt. This was done to prevent undead from rising, the thought being that if they remove the flesh, the body cannot return. Etosil has long suffered from undead, due to the large amounts of lapis under the island. Finally, Etosian Unionism holds the act of marriage to be the most sacred of the Sacraments. To them, the union between two lovers is only to be ended by the death of one of its members. Even historically, there have been fewer than ten divorces granted by the Exalted Patriarch, and those come from situations where one member of the marriage was incredibly belligerent to the other. It is actually more acceptable for a spouse to hire an assassin to kill their significant other than to try and receive a divorce. The other part of this is that the Etosians hold virginity to be sacred, and consider it incredibly sacrilegious to be with another outside of marriage. Members of the clergy all swear vows of celibacy, meaning that they reject the personal company of the other sex for the rest of their lives in honour of this. These vows are taken incredibly seriously, with the Patriarchate even having a law that punishes priests who break their vows.
- Surprisingly enough, Pateras of Faith who choose the life of a hermit can be found all across the Empire. It is just rare to find them due to their choice of occupying sparsely populated places. They also make the best hide and seek players.
- There was once a gathering where the seven Septarchs of Etosian Unionism and the sixteen Ministers of Sancellist Unionism discussed differences between the faiths in an attempt to mend the schism that was created back in 92 AC. It was going well until an assassin’s guild interrupted the event, killing one of the Septarchs and two of the Ministers before being stopped. Needless to say, they have not attempted a similar meeting since then.
- Despite not allowing images of the Emperor or the Imperial Spirit, artwork of the Herons is widely revered for its beauty and skill. One of the more popular pieces was a statue titled ‘Mitera Prosektiki’, or ‘Mother Watchful’. It depicts Heron Olennais tending to a young orphan, and is considered one of the wonders of the art world.