There are Five Gods, known as the Holy Family: Mother, Father, Daughter, Son, and Bastard. Each has his or her own colours, and each save the Bastard has jurisdiction over a season, as well as the various other aspects of life they govern. Each is also indicated by a specific point on the body, and touching each of these in turn—forehead, lips, navel, and groin, then the fingers spread over the heart—is a holy gesture, referred to as "signing the Five."
The Holy Family
The Father's colour is grey. His theological point is the groin, and His season is winter. The organ He is associated with is the genitals. He is the patron of justice, fatherhood, and a timely death. Judges tend to be lay dedicats of the Father.
The Mother's colour is green. Her theological point is the navel, and Her season is summer. The organ She is associated with is the womb. She is the patron of healing, motherhood, and good health. Healers and physicians tend to be lay dedicats of the Mother.
The Daughter's colour is blue. Her theological point is the forehead, and Her season is spring. The organ She is associated with is the brain. She is the patron of learning, love, daughters, and growth. The Daughter's military order and its dedicats devote themselves to internal policing and combating banditry within the land.
The Son's colour is red. His theological point is the heart, and His season is autumn. The organ He is associated with is the heart. He is the patron of the harvest, the hunt, sons, and honourable war. The Son's military order and its dedicats are the land's primary force devoted to defending the land from without, and waging war.
The Bastard's colour is white. His theological point is the lips, and he has no season. The organ He is associated with is the tongue, though He is also associated with the thumb, "the opposition that gives the hand its clever grip." He is the patron of all things out of season, of disasters, of the dispossessed, of bastards, and of untimely death. He is also the God of last resort, and a refuge for those whom the other Gods have forsaken. He is the offspring of the Mother and a demon, and as such, commands a legion of demons of disorder.
When a person dies, their soul is taken up by the Gods. It is at the time of their funeral rites that all men and women, no matter how small or great, are granted one miracle from the Gods. The rites involve bringing five sacred animals, blessed in the name of each of the Gods and with some indication of each God's colours on them, to the bier. Whichever of the animals reacts to the body indicates the God Who has taken up the soul of the deceased. Where they can be obtained, the sacred animals should be among those associated with the Gods they represent: for instance, a gray wolf for the Father, a green bird for the Mother, a blue jay for the Daughter, a red fox for the Son, a white rat for the Bastard. However, the rites can be successfully performed with far less: it is known that in poorer areas, kittens wearing ribbons the colours of each of the Five are used.
Sundering and Ghosts
However, not all souls are taken up by the Gods upon their death. There are two possible reasons for this: a soul could seek to remain in the world because it feels there is something yet that it has not done. Such ghosts, if they can achieve their aim within a short time after their death, can still find their way to their God without further assistance. If they remain for long, though, they may require great help to do so, if it is possible at all.
The other reason is that a soul wishes to deny the Gods, and itself, and forget. This is, indeed, the fate of all sundered souls: they become ghosts, who, over time, lose their memory of themselves, and the world. To those with the Second Sight, fresh ghosts wear the forms they had in life, but they will soon start to blur around the edges, and eventually fade to nothing but a coloured translucent smudge.
One other exception to this involves those slain by death miracle, known by the untutored as death magic. Death miracles are the sole province of the Bastard and His death demon. Such miracles are performed by the burning of herbs, praying sincerely and without reservation for the death of the one targeted, and the solemn sacrifice of a rat and crow, sacred to the Bastard, to carry the prayer to him. If the Bastard grants the prayer, His death demon is sent into the world and slays the target, then the one who invoked him, carrying their souls with him back to the Bastard's Hell, where all is dissolved into swirling chaos and oblivion. The penalty for attempting death miracle is death; anyone who succeeds is invariably slain and damned along with his victim, so further punishment is redundant. Furthermore, the records of true death miracles show that in every case, the "victim" was one who had caused great wrong to the "perpetrator," but gone unpunished. Thus, they can be seen as miracles of justice: justice of the last resort, as the Bastard is the God of last resort.
Saints and Free Will
The Gods cannot act directly in the world of matter. By bending all Their power upon it, They might nudge a single pebble an imperceptible distance. So, They must act through the souls of the living. But neither can They work through an unwilling soul: mankind has free will, and They must be invited in, by a soul fully open to Them without reserve. Such people are saints. The most common kind is a petty saint, who is able, when the God wills it, to call upon some small amount of one aspect of the God's power. Petty saints of the Mother, for instance, may be excellent midwives or healers, while petty saints of the Father may be able to discern, sometimes, who is lying and who is telling the truth. Some saints, but not all, have the Second Sight. This allows them to see the coloured auras that mark a saint, and see ghosts, where they dwell.
The Gods can sometimes act, in small ways, through animals, whose simpler souls cannot be fully closed to Them. However, save in very exceptional circumstances, such intervention would be no more than the smallest of things: a horse shifts slightly, causing a man to drop a gold coin for a poor beggar, rather than a copper. The tiny things that can make large differences.
Occasionally, a demon of disorder will break loose into the world. On their own, they can do nothing, so they must find a host. Usually, this host will be an animal. An animal that has been ridden for a long time by a demon will have its form slowly changed into something more monstrous.
If a man slays such a demon-ridden animal before the demon has become too integrated into it, however, the demon may leap from its dying host into the man. What ensues is a struggle between the man and the demon. If the man is able to dominate the demon within him, then he can come to use its power for his own ends. Indeed, it is not unknown for men to attempt, by rituals and sacrifices, to tear open a way to the Bastard's Hell for the express purpose of calling up a demon to gain the power of. Such men are called sorcerers, and while there are some rare few sworn to the Bastard who use their power solely in the service of the Temple, as a rule they are corrupt and evil. This is not merely because of the type of man who would seek such power: the very nature of the demon will tend to corrupt the men who command their power—and the commanding does not always go only one way. It is known that some such sorcerers use their powers to call up legions of dead bodies to fight at their will, or even to cause chaos for no other purpose.
There are other demons, however, who cannot be mastered, and who, when they have manifested in the world and taken a body they will devour the soul that inhabits it, using it for their own ends. The learned tell us that there has been war in Hell, and the Demon Princes seek to achieve mastery over each other by coming to the material world and collecting souls. They and their armies are much more fearsome than the monsters created by an animal inhabited by a lesser demon, and in their pride they even take a different name, calling themselves Daimons.
Because of their nature and origin, the extermination of monsters, undead, and Daimons is thus a sacred duty.
- Rituals and Festivals - Various rituals and festivals in the worship of the Five Gods
- The Beginning - An extended recounting of the origins of the Gods and the World
(This is heavily based upon the religion found in the Chalion series by Lois McMaster Bujold, and both deep thanks and apologies must go to her for its usage here.)