The "official religion" of the western empire:
At the most basic level of understanding, the Church of the Triumvirate is the worship of three gods: Aceola (the masculine essence, the sun), Alunia (the feminine essence, the moon) and Dormun (a sexually ambiguous nature spirit depicted as the union of earth and water)
Few remember that worship of Dormun is far older in this land than the worship of Aceola and Alunia that was introduced by an invading mounted horde from the southern steppes. The followers of Dormun were farmers who saw the divine in the union of earth and water that each spring brought their crops forth and began the harvest cycle anew. Pockets of the old religion still exist in certain remote areas, and many of the fertility rites survive to the present day in altered form in official church ceremonies.
In the modern Church of the Triumvirate, Aceola is normally portrayed as the dominant figure, the masculine sun god, the shining symbol of light, virtue and strength in battle. Alunia is a secondary figure, feminine, symbolic of quiet supple durability, magic, the moon, the night and the sky in general. Dormun is a tertiary figure, often overshadowed in the iconography of the church and the sermons of the priests. Dormun is portrayed as the union of the earth and water, god of plants and fertility. While the moon in sun symbol of Aceola and Alunia serves as the holy symbol for most clerics of the triumvirate and their gospel speaks to the well heeled elite of an agricultural society, Dormun’s blue and black circle is more common among low ranking rural priests and the poorer lay worshipers who appreciate the simplicity of Dormun’s message.
The Gospel of Aceola:
There are two distinct gospels of Aceola:
One is an ancient text known as the Vedena that is inscribed on five sacred rocks and is among the holiest relics of the church, and the other is the relatively recent revelation of Sidonean the Elder which led to the Church attaining its present form.
The Vedena, which means ritual lore or knowledge in an ancient form of the modern language, contains many of the prayers and rituals still performed by the church today. Some of the more demanding sacrifices are no longer fashionable, but during several particularly trying periods in recent memory an orthodox priest has conducted them in an attempt to win divine favor. The message of the Vedena can be summed up simply as follows: worshipers of Aceola must constantly prove their devotion to the sun through costly sacrifice and rigid adherence to ritual prescriptions, and non-believers must be converted or perish in the light of the sun.
The Gospel of Aceola according to Sidonean the Elder
Sidonean the elder is the pivotal figure in the early history of the Church of the Triumvirate. The grandson of the tribal leader who led the invasion into the fertile farmlands, Sidonean grew up watching his people treat the earth worshiping farmers that they had subjugated worse than they treated the village dogs. His people had long worshipped the sun and the moon in the persons of Aceola and Alunia, and they understood Aceola to be a harsh and uncompromising god who demanded of his followers to conquer and convert any unbelievers. Those that refused to convert were enslaved and worked to death. When a young man, Sidonean had the first of a series of prophetic revelations that took the form of a waking dream in which he conversed with Aceola. Aceola revealed to him that his followers had misinterpreted his desires; he wished to convert new followers by setting a shining example, not through brute force and the threat of enslavement. Aceola related to Sidonean that a series of terrible tragedies would befall the tribe unless they reformed their ways. First, a drought would decimate the croplands. Then, a strange wasting sickness would claim the tribe’s prized horses. Finally, the women of the tribe would become barren and the tribe would slowly disappear into the long sunset. Sidonean was deeply shaken by this conversation with his god, and sincerely tried to convince his people that they were on the precipice, teetering on the brink of a great disaster. But his grandfather laughed, and the tribe continued to revel in the bounty provided by the enslaved earth-worshipers. Sidonean finally retreated into the mountains, to purify himself through ritual fasting and meditation. Over the five years that he spent in the mountains he composed a series of poems and hymns inspired by his understanding of Aceola which, along with his later teachings, are known as The Gospel of Aceola according to Sidonean the Elder.
When each of the curses that he had foretold befell the worshipers of the sun god, Sidonean was sought out by the terrified population and made high priest and ruler. He quickly lifted his people out of the darkness by including the subjugated earth spirit worshiping population in the organized religious expressions of the church. Dormun was worshiped alongside Aceola and Alunia by order of Sidonean, and the long aggrieved population was granted many civil rights in a series of far reaching reforms that Sidonean embarked upon. The strict ethnic and class boundaries that had prevented vital new blood from reaching the long inbred horsemen dissolved, and over generations a new society was forged with a common heritage and a shared religion. While the mountain of theology that has arisen since Sidonean's original burst of revelation comprises the bulk of the texts used in the modern church, it is to Sidonean that both the church and the western empire in its current form owe their existences.
(This post is another snippet of material I created for and about my 3e campaign world. I will try to scan and post some pictures of the holy symbols and some of the iconography of the church before I leave for my honeymoon on Thursday, but I make no promises... the Church of the Triumvirate will also feature prominently in the forthcoming posts about Gragon city).