The Church of Ao

What began as a few hushed whispers among the Cathartan populace became the roaring voice of millions. Today, having overcome countless trials and setbacks, Aoism is the predominant religion of the empire, and many other countries as well.

The Priusarium, located within the walls of Catharta, is the chief Aoist cathedral, and is also the archon’s palace. The Priusarium itself and the surrounding apartments and other buildings are walled off from the rest of the city, and operate autonomously from the rest of the empire. This benefits those who live as part of the “holy city,” for they are exempt from paying taxes to the emperor, and are free to set their own laws within their walls.

Church Hierarchy

The authority structure of the church is relatively linear, and is not dissimilar to the way most monarchies are ruled.

There is a strict divide between male and female members of the church. Men take up primary authoritative positions of the church; those of priests, magisters, inquistors and the like. Women occupy a tertiary branch, which include many orders of healers, mystics, and oracles.

The head of the entire Aoist church. The archon is the primary source of wisdom and spiritual leadership to his people, whose word is as good as divine law to his subjects. The archon commands all of the wealth and power of the church, and by proxy commands respect and dedication from the kings and rulers of other Aoist countries. The office of archon is held for life; rarely ever does an archon resign from his position. When an archon dies or is otherwise removed from office however, the lyceum (council) of praefigurates elects a new archon by way of majority vote. By the church’s edict, any man who has been blessed by a member of the church may attain the position of archon, even laymen; though historically only praefigurates or rarely magisters have been elected.

The praefigurates act as princes to the archon, and are hand-selected by him. Though the number of praefigurates varies from time to time, typically no more than a dozen serve at once. They assist the archon in the governing of the church, and advise him on various matters. Unlike the magisters, the praefigurates operate solely from the Priusarium, and rarely venture outside of the city.

Magisters are the true backbone of the church, for they play many key roles within it. In addition to the magister’s theological duties, they may also serve as diplomats, hold governmental or political offices, teach in a school or college, and so on. Within the church itself, magisters are the primary authority figures, answering directly to the archon and passing down his holy decrees. Magisters serving as the head of a temple or church is rare, but not unheard of. Only one who has held the position of priest may be appointed to the office of magister.

Priests serve the church locally, leading a congregation of worshipers in a community. They are often of great benefit to the communities which they serve, offering spiritual guidance and wisdom, as well as tending to the poor, invalid, and misguided members of society. Aoist priests can be found in almost any town or city in Templore.

When an acolyte (a young boy serving under a priest) reaches puberty, he is eligible to be promoted to deacon. A deacon is essentially a retainer for a local church, who delivers messages, keeps church records, performs minor religious rites, and other lesser duties. Once a deacon comes of adult age, he may take the necessary steps to become ordained as a priest.

An acolyte is any child who is old enough to read and write, and has volunteered to officially serve in the church. Acolytes have the most minor of responsibilities, such as cleaning the church, running errands for the priest or deacon, and so on.

Monastic Orders, Mendicants, and Others

Not all Aoists follow the dogma of the Priusarium. While several of these splinter groups exist, which have their own beliefs concerning Ao and his teachings, the most numerous are the monastic orders. The monks who belong to these fraternal orders have chosen to forego worldly pursuits such as wealth, marriage, family, or political power and instead live in secluded monasteries and abbeys. Away from the distractions and temptations of society, they may worship and seek spiritual enlightenment in quiet contemplation. There are monastic orders dedicated to other religions in other parts of the world as well, but only Aoist monasteries are discussed here. In a monastery, there is no rank or power structure, only men (known as brothers) and women (known as sisters).

Mendicants are largely the same, though instead of choosing a life of hermitic worship, they are constantly in motion from village to town to city, spreading the word of Ao and providing much-needed assistance to the poor and sick. Mendicants most commonly travel alone or in small groups, with food and medicine for those in need. Having no church from which to earn a living, mendicant Aoists throw themselves on the mercy of the common men whom they help, seeking food and shelter from any who will offer.

While there is mutual respect between Aoist monastic brotherhoods and other worshipers of the one god, the Priusarium does not recognize them as being of the same faith. Dogmatic differences prevent them from recognizing each other as belonging to the same religion, and rarely if ever do they cooperate on a religious level.

The Church of Ao

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