The Great Spirits are extremely powerful spirits found on the continents of Japethe, Aphrike, and Shamach. Each Great Spirit is associated with a focus — a philosophical ideal which the Great Spirit personifies. These spirits also act as the patrons of nations in Japethe and northern Aphrike. The number of Great Spirits is not set in stone. Some have risen in recent centuries while others have fallen. Their rise and fall is echoed in the fortunes of the nations over which they preside.
While they wield tremendous power over the natural world, the Great Spirits are neither omnipotent nor omniscient. Their true influence is through their focus. A Great Spirit's focus is never a physical object or something concrete such as the sun. Instead, the Great Spirits embody intangible concepts such as courage, hope, justice, or curiosity. A focus shapes the personality of a Great Spirit, or perhaps the personality of the Great Spirit shapes the focus. Through these ideals, the Great Spirits touch humanity and guide them philosophically.
Great Spirits draw their power from their worshipers through offerings, which involve giving of something dear by the worshipper to the Great Spirit. Blood is the oldest and crudest form of offering to the Great Spirits, but this form of sacrifice has been all but abandoned in recent centuries. Instead, the Great Spirits seek devotion, creation, and adoration from their worshippers. A hymn composed in the spirit's honor and sung by a full congregation is an offering of stupendous worth to a Great Spirit. Some experimental philosophers believe that the common thread in all of these is time and that is the true offering to the Great Spirits.
Lady Luck; Great Spirit of Luck
Dama is the Great Spirit of Luck. She is said to once have controlled all matters of chance and happenstance. She was once one of the most powerful Great Spirits in Japethe with influence in many nations. Anyone who wanted to have her blessings prayed to her, and she answered them one way or another. She was the patron of Aileon with her Grand Basilica of Fortune in Paravál, from which her servants controlled the puppet rulers of Aileon.
This all came to an end fifty years ago when the Great Spirit vanished without any warning. Her blessings no longer protected her priests and she no longer held any control over the whims of chance. Within a month, her following crumbled. A group of arch-alchemists calling themselves the Magi seized control of the country with her followers powerless to stop them. The Magi ignored the priests, merely pushing them aside, as a broken and humbled group. Many philosophers have pondered what has happened to Dama but provide no answers. There is one school of thought that Dama was never a Great Spirit at all because Luck is a false ideal and chance is merely arbitrary.
Dama was a fickle spirit, as prone to hand out misfortune as her blessing. Her priests claimed that she must balance good luck with the bad. Her symbol was a coin — one side brilliantly gold; the other side blackened with soot — to show her two-sided nature. Her appearance was equally divergent with one being a stout woman prone to merry laughter and the other a rail-thin woman with her hands making a gesture of ill-fortune.
The priests of Dama were a competitive lot. They used the blessings of their patron to determine rank, policy, and dogma, with appointments determined by a coin flip — best of three. Radical members of her clergy preferred more dangerous gambles. Dama must have smiled on these chance-takers for they lived far longer than they ought. Dama's priests did not hold regular services. Instead, they conducted ceremonies on an ad hoc basis.
Dama's temples were gaudy, grand structures, dripping with ornamentation and statuary. Every basilica was built around a large pool that stretched the length of the hall. Petitioners cast coins into the pool and whispered their prayers to Dama. The Great Spirit smiled favorably on those who donated generously, leading to the phrase "Fortune favors the rich." The wealth the pools brought to the church of Dama was staggering. Since the disappearance of Dama, some of her basilicas have been plundered for construction materials, but most have been repurposed to act as halls of justice, marketplaces, or, ironically, gambling hells.
The Starkindler; Great Spirit of Arts & Sciences
Giavere is the great spirit of the moon and the patron of the arts and sciences. Her light shines through the darkness of night, bringing hope and salvation to those who have lost the light of the sun. She embodies femininity, knowledge, and the arts. It was she who first brought enlightenment to the world through her Twelve Revelations. She is also the patron spirit of Saronne. The seat of her church is in Arcaneaux, though she herself is rarely seen in the city.
Giavere appears to her followers as a tall, graceful woman with silver hair that hangs loose to her waist. Her eyes are as bright as stars, glittering with wisdom, and her mouth is touched with a soft smile. In addition to her human shape, she appears as a unicorn and very rarely as a white lily. Her symbol is the crescent moon, tilted slightly with a four-pointed star equidistant between its points.
The priests of Giavere are called Seers and are mostly female. The head priest of a temple is the High Seer. The bishop of a region is an Oracle, and the leader of her church is the High Oracle. The clergy of Giavere build grand domed temples with many towers that reach toward the heavens and many windows to catch the moon's rays. Holy places of Giavere tend to be repositories of books and learning, and each temple sponsors an educational institution. The priesthood also maintains many abbeys for isolation and privacy.
The Trueforged; Great Spirit of Crafting & Artifice
Knorre is the great spirit of crafting and artifice. He is the father of invention, who has taught humanity the use of the plow, smithing, metallurgy, and more recently, clockworks. He is a patron of those who take the gifts of the earth and transform it into something new. Sometimes called the Master of Smiths, anything Knorre makes can never break. Knorre is the patron spirit of Kleef and the seat of his church is in the town Grote Haag.
Knorre appears as a short, powerfully-built bearded man with burn scars from his forge dotting his arms. His hair is bound back away from his face in a long tail. He wears a pair of spectacles that he made himself which allow him to see through any illusion or deception. In addition to his human shape, Knorre takes the form of an enormous crab or, on a few occasions, a hive of bees. His symbol is a hammer and flame.
The priests of Knorre are called Crafters, and the head priest for a temple is called Master Artificer. They build their temples in the artisan quarters of cities, preferring many small shrines to a few grandiose temples. Some itinerant priests of Knorre travel to various parts of the world where invention is occurring. The Great Spirit himself can be found in his humble workshop in a forest reserve just outside of Grote Haag.
The Windwalker; Great Spirit of Travel, Exploration, & Curiosity
Taliesin is the great spirit of travel, exploration, and curiosity. He is the spirit of wanderlust and the desire to know more. Every valley must be explored and every hill crested. He is one of the most active great spirits, wandering among the people of Albyn from the dawn of recorded time. His followers took the tools of the philosophers of Giavere that measured the stars and used them to create the compass and the sextant. Taliesin was the patron of Lyonesse, which rose to prominence early in Japethe's history. In the fourteenth century, Taliesin took to the sea and challenged his followers to follow him to a new age of discovery. He crossed the western horizon in a small sailboat and has not been seen since. Without his guidance, Lyonesse fractured into many successor states, which still venerate the great spirit.
Taliesin appeared as a tall, handsome man with dark hair, a trim beard, and a cloak that would swirl around him as if caught by the wind. He would also manifest as an enormous eagle with bronze feathers. His symbol varies widely depending on the time and place, but common choices are a walking stick, a pair of boots, or a path leading to the horizon.
Priests of Taliesin are itinerant, rarely staying in one location for more than a month at a time. The call of the horizon is strong for them and their wanderlust. The absence of their Great Spirit has not dimmed their dedication in the least. They profess that he continues to travel in faraway lands, perhaps exploring Catai. Taliesin's priests do not build conventional temples and there is no one central point for his worship. Instead, his followers prefer to build circles of stones that are open to the wind and the sky. The stones are often arranged to form dolmen, which some whisper act as doorways to other worlds for Taliesin and his priests to explore. Small shrines to Taliesin mark the roads in fallen Lyonesse and the Freeports of the Kennard Reach.
Lord of Striving; Great Spirit of Glory, Ambition & Conflict
Thaust is the great spirit of glory, ambition, and conflict. Originally a spirit of the hunt, Thaust has transformed himself repeatedly over the centuries to reflect the needs of an ever-more complex civilization. Just as the hunter can never rest for long, Thaust challenges his followers to always seek more. He introduced the concept of Gloire to Japethe, infusing ambition and competition into almost every social interaction in the continent. Thaust is the patron of Morante and the seat of his church is in Coeurvain, where he regularly manifests seated on an enormous throne carved of basalt in his temple.
Thaust takes the form of a handsome, muscular man with auburn hair and a chiseled chin, clad in armor or vestments of great state and always with a crown of laurel leaves. When he manifests as an animal, he appears as a lion with gold fur and a mane of licking flames. He has appeared as a laurel tree, growing atop a rocky mount. His symbol is a gauntleted hand gripping a ring.
Priests of Thaust are well organized and form elaborate orders. Each of these orders has a specific role to play, such as care of his temples or a militant role. The Lord of Striving enjoys pomp and circumstance and his worship reflects this with long ceremonies with incense and music. Thaust disdains small shrines, preferring large and imposing temples that dominate the surrounding city. Every sanctuary contains a throne as its focus in case the Great Spirit chooses to manifest in that location. When he is absent, the throne remains empty.
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