Shan'na is a monotheistic faith governed by the Church of Shan'na and led by the Sha. The Church is based on the principles laid out in The Book of Promises, a religious text written by Uli'a the First Sha during her communion with the One God. An adherent of the Shan'na faith is known as a Shanite. Following the five tenants laid down by God in the Book of Promises adherent believe they will earn a place in heaven until the Iso'lin (the rebirth).
Contrary to other many other major religions, Shanites know that it is not their god who created the earth. Instead The Book of Promises refers to the instant when God was created as the Birthing. The Sundering, which was triggered by the Birthing, transformed the once verdant Aldimar forest into a harsh and mostly arid desert.
Ministry of the religion however, did not become common until almost 30 years later with the rise of the Sha and her ministry. The Sha, Uli'am, used the Shan'na faith to bring order to the Al'dim'arri which had fallen to tribalism and banditry. She taught that the Sundering had delivered the chosen peoples from the evil that had made the old nations decadent and had instead offered them a second chance at salvation. Declaring all former titles and lands void she began to build about her a following of former peasants and beleaguered tribals which made her a major player in post Sundering politics.
Although originally pacifistic, the movement was forced to become militant in response to attacks by non unitary tribal forces. The following battles between Shanite forces and other factions within the Al'dim'arri are referred to in the Book of Promises as The Sorrows. The wars would reach their peak at the battle of Mar'kan which lead to Shanite victory and defacto control of the Al'dim'arri.
Nature of God
The Nature of God within the Shinite church is one of an all powerful, all seeing, sexless being. This God, unlike all living things is said to be infallible and currently only exists in the form of its three aspects. Each of these Aspects is individual from one another but still part of the one God. This means that each Aspect an operate independently from one another. However each of these aspects together constitute God.
Each aspect is said to have its own traits and appearance. The Wind aspect is said to resemble a male Makk'r clothed in flowing robes an a pitch black face. He is known for being fickle and trickster like yet creative and free. The Water aspect is depicted as a large male Ba'shi with disheveled feathers. He is said to be calm, thoughtful and an introvert. Life, the only female aspects is like the Water aspect a Ba'shi. He feathers are often depicted as the purest white and is passionate, self-sacrificing and stubborn.
The Seven Tenants
The Seven Tenants the core group of practises that are considered mandatory in a Shanite’s life. If one fails to adhere to the Tenants they are considered not a Shanite and are often hunted down by church officials if they try to spread these beliefs. The Tenants are outlined in the Book of Promises.
- This Tenant refers to the belief that God is the only true God and by following the commands set down by the Aspects a place in Heaven will be earned. This belief, “There is no God but God,” is represented in the first line of prayer that all Shanites are obliged to perform. Believers are expected to pray at least twice a day preferably at sunrise and sunset. The first prayer, referred to as Jilat, is preformed at Sunrise and is usually led by a local priest. The Second prayer, referred to as the Tilum, is performed at the setting of the Sun and is usually practised in private.
- Charity is seen as one of the more crucial Tenants of the faith by most church officials because it helps maintain the church structure by funding it. Although not outwardly stated that charity should be directed to Church coffers, informal charity collection is practiced by some church officials.
- This Tenant refers to how followers should treat their fellows. Although it is not outwardly stated whether or not this applies to honored pagans, heathens, or heretics, it is generally thought to include these groups. Enforcement of this Tenant is weak however, and has led to many a prejudice becoming common.
- This is a Tenant is mainly directed at church members. It states that followers must protect one another from external dangers as well as internal ones. It also mentions that the church is ultimately responsible for the well being all followers of the faith, as well as those under church protection.
- This Tenant refers to the pilgrimage that all believers expected to take to the Holy City of Mar’kan. It also refers to the Pilgrimage members of the College of Ministry are obliged to take when the Sha has died. Those who have completed the pilgrimage are referred to as Tal’il and are regarded with great respect.
- Shanite Burial rights are very important for believers wanting to make their way to heaven, rather having their soul tied to the mortal world. All Shanite Burials must be presided over by a member of the church in order to be considered valid.
- Corpses are traditionally dressed in white linen before the body is cremated on a funeral pyre. Although the linen clothes can be forgone the pyre itself is essential. As the body burns a church official is to read from the Book of Promises. It is thought that the recitation of the scripture will allow the soul of the deceased to be guided towards The After. When the body has completely turned to ash, mourners are to spread the ashes to the wind. This spreading of ashes is to allow the body to be reunited with the soul on the day of Iso'lin.
The After and Bakt
The After is the title given to the Shanite afterlife which serves as more of a holding place for the souls and bodies of believers until the Iso'lin occurs.
The After is usually described as a lush forest like place where food is plenty and mortal woes like starvation, pain and longing are distant memories. This realm, like the mortal one, is governed over by the Divine. So as to make sure the mortal souls in their care do not become too attached to this realm however, they are occasionally tested in order to prepare them for the return. If a soul is found lacking in one of these tests, or fails outright, it will be sent to the Bakt.
The Bakt, like its counter part, The After, is a holding place for souls. However, the souls contained within the Bakt are in transit between life and death. It is from the Bakt that souls purged from the After and those of non believes, are given animal bodies in order to feed the chosen peoples. If a soul within an animal is purged by that animal's death then it will once again be given a sentient body to begin the cycle to salvation once again.
The Shanite Calendar is unlike other astrologically influenced calendars in the fact that each year is defined at it's inception as being controlled by a certain aspect of God. For example, year 44 of the Shanite Calendar is both referred to as "Year 44 Wind" because the Wind aspect of God was said to hold the most strength that year. Which means that this year was expected to have many possible poor or bountiful harvests because of the Wind aspect's character. Each year it is the duty of the Sha to divine which aspect will be strongest.
The descriptive Monikers are as Follows:
- Wind - Years with this moniker are known for great changes
- Water - Years with this moniker are said to be calm with no great upheaval on the horizon.
- Life - Years with this moniker are said to contain either great births or deaths.
- God - Years with this moniker have only occurred during the life of the first Sha when God was a united being. It is unclear which signs would mark such a year.
- Silence - Years with this moniker have only occurred on two occasions but they signal the lack of a Sha to divine the year's future
Year 1, or Year 1 God, is to mark the Sundering and the birth of the Shanite God. The years before the rise of the first Sha are also given this moniker despite having no Sha to divine.
- The Sha is the mortal head of the Shanite Church and serves as a direct connection between the Aspects and to Church, and its followers. Often referred to simply as His/Her Holiness, the Sha is responsible for making sure religious practices within the church remain within the laws outlined by Book of Promises. He or she appoints Ministers to the Council of Ministry, ordains new Brethren, and controls the Tribes.
- As the head of the Church the Sha is the only person able to control the military arm of the church, the Tribes. This means using Jhals, a form of religiously sanctioned warfare, in order to punish those tribes who break church doctrine. These religious wars pit one Tribe against another with promises of land, funds, or Great Tribe, also known as "Yu", status. Sha’s also can pass religious decrees known as Sha’daks, which can be laid against individuals, groups or the church as a whole.
The Brethren Council
- The Brethren Council is a group of appointed officials responsible for running Church lands and the districts of the Holy City of Mar'kan. Each one of these officials must be an ordained Priest as well as a member of the College of Ministry. Each Councilman is expected to serve a life term following their appointment. Upon the death of one of the 23 Council Members, another must be raised from the College of Ministry by the Sha.
- The Brethren are the only group with the ability to veto any law laid down on church lands by the College of Ministers. Such a veto however would require a 2/3rds majority (16 votes) amongst sitting members.
The College of Ministry
- The College is an assembly of Ministers, Brethern, Priests and Baliols which function as a defacto government for the Church and The Aldim’ar. They have the right to pass laws that govern the church lands and laymen of the Church. Unlike the Sha however, the College has no direct control over the Tribes except that all tribes of non Yu status must apply to the College for an audience to meet with the Sha. Every member must be ordained under the Church rights set out by the Book of Promises. The Council is also responsible for making sure that new priests are ordained.
- The biggest job of the College however is the election of the Sha. In order for a new Sha to be elected 75% of the council must be present to cast a ballot.
- If the Sha was a Captain the tribe leaders would be her lieutenants. Each tribe leader serves as an envoy between their tribesmen and the church serving as both a religious leader and a military one. Although Tribe leaders do not have direct control of the church within their lands they serve as both monarchs and aristocrats. They are tasked by the church to protect the Laymen and Honored Pagans within their territories both from threats from within the church and from without.
- Tribe members are laymen who have joined a tribe rather than committing themselves to the protection of the church. They are responsible for protecting Laymen and Honored Heathens living with in their tribal lands.
- Ba’liols are land controlling Priests who take their orders from the Brethern council. Lands controlled by Ba’liol are called Ba’lic.
- Members of the church who have been ordained, priest are responsible for preaching the faith and converting heathens.