Sunday, 3 July 2016

Archmother Himwyra’s ‘On the Church of the Divine Empress: Hierarchies and Origins’

It's been a while since I did a lore post, and in order to break up the bombardment of short(ish) stories that will be pounding the good reader for the rest of  summer, I decided to do a quick piece about the Church of the Divine Empress. This is something that keeps coming up in everything I write about - be it lore posts, short(ish) stories or the extended pieces of writing (which I've resumed and written a few more chapters of). It's also something that is never gone into in a great amount of detail, simply because the majority of the characters I've touch upon so far aren't themselves overly pious - for example, the next story focuses on a priest who calls himself the "worst priest" in the Vidorian Empire! The Church of the Divine Empress is both peripheral and, perhaps, familiar. Its simple, laid-out hierarchy is described - of course, in the form of a scholarly article - in all its simplicity below. With the dating in the scholarly sections, 1E 1500Y refers to the fifteen-hundredth year of the First Era of Imperial History. Happy reading!


What follows is a transcript of Archmother Belinda's c. 2E 198Y copy of the much earlier Archmother Himwyra's 'On the Church of the Divine Empress: Hierarchies and Origins'. As one may imagine, this is a document of huge scholarly importance: not only does it outline the hierarchy of the Vidorian Faith itself, but it also draws parallels to the secular order - something scholars have recently locked antlers over as they battle to determine just how similar the Empire's secular offices and spiritual offices were meant to be.

The document here survives as a transcript copied from an original by Archmother Belinda. It is unclear how Belinda, who was archmother of the Altmerian province from c. 2E 197-200 came to posses or encounter a copy of Himwyra's original text. Altmeria was conquered 2E 150 by Emperor Lyshir III, successor of Empress Almani, though it remained an unstable and war-torn province for the following half-century, well into the reign of Empror Lyshir IV. It seems unlikely that the Empire would have happily given a text as important as Himwyra's 'On the Church...' to the archmother of an unsettled province for fear of it being destroyed in rebellion. As a result, it appears probable that Archmother Belinda's version below is in fact a reproduction of an earlier copy of the original document, which is housed under tightest lock and key within the Imperial Citadel itself. 

Little is known of Himwyra. Her time as an archmother seems to have been short, and there are few hints in regional or Empire-wide records that hint to who she was or to which province she was assigned. 'Himwyra' is also an uncommon name, though it seems to have its roots within Heartlandian naming-tradition. That said, it could quite reasonably be Westernaean, as argued by Professor Humbald Kerras at the Imperial University. As a result, just who wrote this most important document is unclear, though the facts within it are irrefutable: this is exactly how the Imperial Faith operates, so Himwyra clearly had a detailed understanding of what she was writing about.

More problems are thrown up by this anonymous 'middle-man' or 'middle men' who made the copy - or copies -  of Himwyra's original that Archmother Belinda herself then transcribed from. The original document has not been seen for some fifteen decades given its importance, so one is left to guess at just how accurate this version is, as one is left to with most historical documents. The infuriating thing about this particular text, though, is that the scholar is told that is does survive, but that he is simply not sanctimonious enough to look at it. 


Like a star in the inky-back sky, atop all is She, who brought with her light and uplifted the people of the Imperial Heartlands. She struck from their necks the collars of oppression and freed her loyal followers from the stain of the monarchy. The crowns of those who would challenge Her fell, bloodied and broken, to Her feet. And then, when into the Dark Beyond she passed when her mortal body was broken, she vanquished the demonic Old Gods and had them driven away, out of time and reality. The yoke of kings was gone, and the shadow of Old chased away by Her light and truth.

When her body broke, she left behind a void in Esdaria. The light She had brought, wielded, and nurtured, faded. Seeing this, from where she was in the heavens, she blessed one who was as She was: a woman, upright and outstanding in leadership, love, life and devoted to Her light. This woman, known as the Empress’ Elect, became one of the hands of the Divine Empress within the World, whilst their Imperial Highness was the other. Our first, Elect Aelgif, together with Emperor Lyshir I, Her successor who took upon Her Imperial Mantle shortly after the mortal shell of the Divine Empress broke down, formed the Church of the Divine Empress. The void She left could not be filled by one, so instead it was broken into two. Elect Aelgif took up the flag of spiritual guidance for the Children of the Phoenix, whilst Emperor Lyshir I took on those matters temporal.

Within the Church of the Divine Empress, Elect Aelgif then created a careful hierarchy beneath the office of Empress’ Elect. Through Divine-blessed wisdom and spiritual guidance sent to her by the Divine Empress herself, Elect Aelgif created within the Church of the Divine Empress a meticulous and well-thought structure to allow for the light of Vidoria to forever be maintained within her lands. First, the office directly beneath that of Empress’ Elect, sits the Council of Archmothers. Aelgif decreed that each imperial province would have its Archmother – one woman to act as the Elect’s eyes, ears, and voice when she could not be present. The Archmothers are the heads of their regional churches, they are to the Elect as Dukes and Earls are to the Emperor, answerable only unto the Elect and the Divine Empress herself. They are expected to oversee all spiritual matters in their provinces.

Then, Aelgif established the Mothers and the Fathers of the Faith. These wise and honourable souls work on a level to galvanise the faith amongst those of lesser rank, overseeing smaller, regional areas of provincial spirituality. They are conduits, channelling faith and hope from the Elect to those others beneath them, and taking concerns and greater matters to those above. They are as Lords and Barons are to the rest of the wider nobility, of greater number than those above them, yet of high status and rank, known for their wisdom and spiritual strength.

Beneath the Mothers and Fathers lie the Bishops and the Priests. Those men and women from a community who are upright and firm in the faith can become the head of their own communal churches, chapels, or other place of worship – though, it should be noticed, practice of faith in the fashion of the Old Gods is punishable by condemnation to the Divine Empress’ flames. They are to work together, the Bishops and Priests, like a Lord’s sworn-men and knights, to further the faith in the community. They are to be fonts of Her light amongst the people of the Vidorian Empire; for they should sing her word amongst the masses, and open their hearts to Her truth.

Below are the Deacons and the Blessed Sisters – men and women who wish to devote themselves to the service of the Divine Empress and the Empire she created. The Blessed Sisters devote their lives to becoming more like She who built us the Empire in which we live. Each day they strive in quiet solitude, chaste and virtuous, to better themselves and come closer to becoming pure beacons of her light. Those others, the deacons, the monks, and so-on, are those of great faith who elevate themselves from the faithful masses in the depth of their devotion, and enter a life within the Church of the Divine Empress.

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