Temple Of The Sun
The Temple of the Sun is the official state faith of Ralstaa, but it is by no means the only faith of that land, in fact it is not even alone in the worship of the divhi Rallah. The Temple of the Sun claims to be the more traditional of the various sects of Rallah, and their doctrine forms the core of most of the other faiths of Rallah, including the plethora of ancestor cults. The Temple of the Sun has a presence, usually a dominant one, in all of the cultural centers of the Ralstaans, especially Tohl Dannis, Tohl Caldare and Tohl, but exercises no specific political power. However all of the Kings of Ralstaa are trained as priests as part of their royal service. Despite holding no rank in the Cannonate itself they are initiated into the temple and given certain religious powers over the laity.

The temple does however concur that Viran Uth-Rallis and this the current ruling line is directly descended from Rallah, and thus that the High King rules by ancient divine right, and thus the temple enjoys a very close relationship with the ruling regime, to the extent that all noblemen in Ralstaa are required to train as priests of Rallah, and serve as the temple's ranking clergy, taking responsibility for the spiritual and secular guidance of the folk in their dominion.

Rallah


Rallah the resplendent and radiant sun, the lightbringer, is the centrepiece of the temple, and also its founder. The earthly divhi was both head of church and of state before her ascent to the heavens, and it is she who was at the heart of the current structure - making the heads of state and nobility responsible for the spiritual well being of their people, and establishing the canonate as keepers of lore, sages and teachers who keep the lore of the temple, and share it with the knights and kings, and guide them when they seek aid.

The Temple of the Sun teaches that Rallah took her place in the heavens at a time when the sun was slowing in the sky, dying in the void, and that she bound her own divine energy with that of the sun, to become one. At dawn and dusk every day she comes close to the land once more to gaze down upon her people, and see that they are well, and then she returns to the underworld, where she must pass beneath the world, to again emerge to her heavenly abode. The Ralstaans know that they must share the sun with the world, an accept that their divhi can only put a small amount of the day aside for her chosen people, and they are happy to call to her only when her face looks upon them, and to offer to her, to give her strength when the vapours hide her, or the moons harry her.

If a follower of the Temple of the Sun leads a pious life, and make sufficient sacrifice to Rallah, then they will be tested one final time upon their death, but they are promised a place by Rallah's side in the sky should they succeed. Those who have favoured places, the kings and queens and heroes of Ralstaan, have special duties to oversee Rallah's land when she cannot, and to aid their descendants as they can. As such ancestor cults are embraced in the Temple of the Sun, for these ancestors are merely Rallah's proxies in the celestial kingdom.

Pantheism

The Temple of the Sun encourages the veneration of the other Landsmen Divh too, though always along with Rallah, and thus shrines to Haedra, Galli, Erol and Mabh are dotted throughout the land and tended by the priests of Rallah. Prayers for strength in battle are addressed to Haedra, for wisdom and insight to Galli, for wealth and prosperity to Erol and for protection from evil magicks to Mabh. Because men are all of the same bloodline, and because Rallah gave up guiding her chosen people for the betterment of all, the Ralstaan temple reasons that these divh, her brothers, each have roles of their own in the world, and can be invoked by the adherents of any landsman religion. Of course, not all of the temple's fellow faiths share this outlook. Temple to Rallah will usually include small shrines to each of the other four landsman divh. Some radical theologians have suggested that prayer to the departed spirit of Nof for retribution and justice are also answered, but the canonate remains firm that the sundering is evidence of the patron of the Nofo's irrevocable destruction, and anything that denies this abandons mankind's contrition, and invites further retribution.

The Clergy


The clergy of the Temple of the Sun are unusual - where Haedrasia is a theocracy, ruled by its priests, and Iria and Ghana were established as secular states advised by independent churches, and Maldaakore is a secular state beholden to its faith, Ralstaa seems determined to have the best of each. Thus the head of the temple of Rallah, is always the High King of Ralstaa. He then appoints particularly pious or devout noblemen to a body called the Canonate, which administers several grand temple centres throughout Ralstaa - most notably in Ralsholm, Tohl Dannis and Tohl. However every king under the High Kingdom is required to send his heir to Tohl for a lengthy period, ostensibly to learn the ways to the High Kingdom, but also practically as hostages to ensure that fief's loyalty. During this time they are trained in every facet of nobility - as warriors, as statesmen, but most importantly every noble heir is expected to train as a priest at the temple of the sun, and these paiges, as they are known, are all required to found and fund a priory upon their return home to train priests to work under them. A king is given sole responsibility for ensuring that his people adhere to the teachings of the Temple of the Sun, and make their offerings to Rallah. The canonate's only job is to teach these paiges, and to decide exactly what the temple's teachings are.

Vestments

Understandably, a king would not deign to be uniformed as if he were subservient to a temple, when he himself is descended from divine blood. However members of the Canonate, and paiges studying at the Canonate, do have their own distinctive costume. All members of the Canonate wear a high collared, jet black, fitting robe, that extends to the ankle. Ranking members also make a habit of wearing black felt slippers, and black felt gloves, giving them a severe, shadowy appearance. Over this they wear a belted tabard. Green for a paige, white for a prior, decon, or canon, and white trimmed with green, red, or yellow for ranking canons and arch-canons. On ceremonial occasions the wearing of a ceremonial breast plate is the norm. Long, square, and fastening at the neck rather than fitting to the flanks like conventional armour, these wonders of metalwork are heavily ornamented, and depict scenes from the histories of Rallah, or often the ancestor cult of a noble paige. Over this non-paiges also wear a heavily embroidered stole of black or white. While men and women differ little in their vestments, women tend towards a wimple matching their tabard.

The Canonate and the Ruling Classes

A noble son or daughter who is not named an heir, either to a fief, or a territory within a fief, may go to the Royal University at their family's own expense. And once there they will receive the same training as any other student, be they a future king, or merely the son of a border ruire. However, they may also forgo their warrior training, and give up any claims to family land or wealth, to join the canonate. Women almost always opt for a life in the service of the church, over the dangers of warfare - though the temple accepts that Rallah herself was a warrior, and it is noble for a woman to emulate her. This temple is funded by offerings from various noblemen seeking Rallah's favour, common people, and even the High King himself. They are scholars, priests who examine the scriptures relevant to Rallah, and interpret what it is that Rallah desires, how best to worship her, and most importantly who is granted a place in the hall of heroes as formalized servants of Rallah, worthy of worship as noble ancestors.

The canonate also sends out powerful Canons, and their households. Powerful, wealthy priests who use temple resources to establish priories and libraries in the fiefs to ensure that kings adhere to the teachings of the temple, and to offer wisdom and even financial aid to kings who seek their guidance. Because the Canonate has the ear of the high king, and of Rallah herself, not to mention the temple's vast wealth, these Canons and their households can wield considerable power where they go.

Beneath the canons are their households, and the priors who keep up the Royal University, and the major temple compounds. Those prior who serve in the priories of noble ancestor cults, and indeed those who tend roadside shrines, while technically holdings the same rank within the temple, are not members of the Canonate, but are instead attached to a nobleman's household. In fact this division might not be clear to a casual observer, but there is a glaring schism between the true temple ruled over by the Canonate, which is isolated to a few large power bases, and the ancestor cults administered by the various kings of Ralstaa, with their own priors. But since the Canonate themselves ratify the founding of an ancestor cult, most clergymen prefer to ignore this ever-growing rift in the temple of Rallah.

The Questing Knights

Of course, not all students of the Royal University will be heirs to a fief. Many are second sons, of third or fourth, or sons from the wrong husband or wife. Of course, these are not always sent to the Royal University, for only the named heir is hosted as a guest of the High King. All other students attending do so at their family's expense. But many find that life as a knight is a good way to remove eligible heirs who might otherwise gather popular followings at court. Kings send their daughters away less, and those that are sent away tend towards joining the canonate, but the men become knights. And unlanded knights are tasked with wandering Ralstaa upon the quest - competing at tourney, slaying fierce beasts, bringing lawbreakers to justice, and crucially spreading the worship and word of Rallah to the free hamlets. Devoted to Rallah's name, they praise her to the unfaithful, and bring her word and teachings wherever they go, by their example, nobility, and might. And if they found a tor of their own, they will also found a modest chapel within the tor, which will one day grow to become a priory in their own fief.

Strictures and Beliefs

Because members of the clergy are so diverse and disorganized there can be relatively few formal strictures in the Temple of the Sun. Prayer at dawn and dusk is mandatory for initiated clergy, and a penance must be paid for any prayer missed. Entire armies locked in combat have been known to fall upon their faces to a man during battles amongst the Ralstaans, as the sun set on the battlefield, because their leaders commanded it. The laity tend only to pray when they have something to pray for, but in the presence of a nobleman it would be the heigh of bad manners to refrain to join him in prayer. Additionally it is considered an ill omen to do business, make war, or conduct politics on holy days, or badly overcast days, or after sunset, because Rallah cannot look down and punish those who deal in ill faith.

Rallah's faith does not discourage affluence, or comfort in the same way Haederas' faith does (though the strict martial training of the knights demands that their faith be toughened in the crucible of hardship) but it does warn against excessive pride, and council humility, both in the face of the curse of the race of men, and the gift of an immortal divine patron. To this end, the temple encourages generosity - especially by the wealthy - in making offerings, not just to Rallah, but also to those who are in need. Via temple-run initiatives of course.

Beyond this, the initiated are expected to always carry the rising sun of Rallah close to heir hearts, keeping nothing between it and their flesh. Usually this means wearing it on a chain around their neck, but many choose to have the symbol branded on their chests. And of course, it goes without saying that to worship a being not approved by the temple, for any reason, or even to accept it as divine, is totally forbidden.

Laity


Relatively little is expected of the laity in Ralstaa. They must make offerings in sacrifice on the appointed holy days, and offer prayer of thanks, or for guidance, to Rallah during the dawn and dusk. The most pious will likely pray twice daily as the clergy do, but most will reserve prayer for just the evenings, or even just spend the sunset is quiet reflection rather than formal prayer. They are expected to contribute to the local priory, and to volunteer an offering along with their tithes, for the upkeep of priories, and the employment of priors to maintain their shrines and local holy places. Pilgrimages are unheard of in Ralstaa, outside of those embarked upon by nobility to visit sites relevant to their ancestor cult. Most laity belong to the ancestor cult of their local lord, but in some places this is considered a special honour - this simply depends on the attitude of the local cult - but most commoners will as readily invoke the name of their lord's divine ancestor as that of Rallh, when they ask protection or fortune in the course of their day.

Teachings and Scripture


The faith of Rallah has become largely the product of spoken tradition, taught to the ruling classes in exhaustive detail, and altered from cult to cult. Thus, unlike many landsman religions, which have a vast array of important scripture, the Temple of the Sun has relatively little. The Sun Scrolls, or rather a modern translation of the Sun Scrolls, commissioned by Viran Uth-Rallis, form the foundations of the temple. Along with the history of the life of Rallah, and an account of the Ral odyssey, they tell how to worship Rallah, and describe the boons that her worship bring, and also outline the criteria for becoming a hero. However, many believe that originally there were nine sun scrolls rather than seven, and many priors have spent their entire lives trying to ascertain what those scrolls might have contained, and many a knight has spent his life searching for them.

Sacrifice

One of the cornerstones of the Temple of the Sun is the call for sacrifice. Throughout the year, this means that a household is expected to make offerings to Rallah, of food, good, and even beasts, by burning them during their dawn or dusk prayers. However, at certain times during the celestial cycle, especially during times when the sun goes dark, landsman sacrifice is also made. In every major centre of faith a sacrificial devotee is chosen, and that devotee is initiated into the temple, and kept in the best manner possible until they are needed. There are specialists within the clergy who do nothing but ensure the comfort and purity of this chosen one. Then, when it is felt that Rallah needs to be sent a message, or shown the trust of her people, they must freely offer their lives up to Rallah, trusting that she will come for their soul and guide it to her side. The the sacrifice is heavily drugged, until pain can no longer be felt, and at the height of the ceremony the sacrifice is cast into a bonfire to burn to death, as pass on the smoke into the hands of Rallah. Then, another is chosen to go to the temple and await the next sacrifice.

The chosen are often orphans, or people who are unlikely to have important roles to play in the community, seldom the elderly, infirm, or those of noble descent, and never criminals or outsiders who might displease Rallah. The chosen often live like kings for several years in the temple before their lives are offered up, and must always have absolute faith that they are going to Rallah. As a result sacrifice is a joyous time, and on occasion others have been known to also cast themselves into the flames in a fit of envious piety - though this is generally looked down upon by the officiating noble or priest, as none but the chosen has been properly prepared.

Sometimes, after the ceremony, the very old or very sick are allowed to pass into the fire too, in order to spare them the indignity of a long and painful death. But this is only allowed after the official in charge to the ceremony - be it a village elder, knight, or priest - has thoroughly ensured that the person's spirit is pure enough to offer up to Rallah, with a series of interviews with those closest to the individual, and a number of ceremonies that are designed to detect any taint in their spirit or motives.

Sacrifice ceremonies are always followed by temperate seasons, excellent crops, and good fortunes for the community in question unless the sacrifice was an improper or impure one. Still, Rallah's boon may carry a heavy price, but if the sacrifice is improper she does not visit her wrath, for the divhi loves all of her people, she simply does not grant her gifts without proper offering.

Celestial Divination

Many religions use the skies to divine the past, present, future, and the will of the divh. Usually the placement of stars, and cycles of the sun and moon are thought to be the best signals of what is occurring, and what has yet to occur. But the Temple of the Sun largely focuses on omens based on the weather, and the activity of the vapours. They reason that Rallah is above the world as the sun, so that which is effected by the will of mortals must be below the home of a divhi. As a result the wind, the behaviour of birds, certain cloud formations, and critically anything passing between the diviner and the sun, are considered key portents.

The Power of Prayer

It is said that regular prayer and offering to Rallah brings favourable weather, security, and prosperity, and sacrifice must be made for more, or if Rallah has been angered. However the Sun Scrolls also contain a number of rituals designed to protect against wraiths and spectors, to guide the dead on their passage, or to dispel away curses and evil magic. Myths of the missing Sun Scrolls tell of rites with the power to command the very winds, and make night as bright as day, but if these were once powers Rallah granted her faithful, she has not seen fit to share such secrets again.

The Afterlife


When someone dies his spirit departs his body and goes to the land of dust. The land of dust is a terrible place where all things are rotten and decayed, and the spirit decays and crumbles to dust, and once there the spirit will begin this slow disintegration. There are two ways out of the land of dust - the first is to return to the real world, either to your body or as a spectre, the second is to be taken to the halls of your ancestors, where the spirits of the dead serve Rallah, by those who know the way through the land of dust. Those who are cast from their ancestral house are doomed to either remain in the world as spectres and slowly fade away, or to dwell forever in the land of dust. These creatures are called wraiths, and seek to lure newly departed souls off the road through the land of dust to become lost and turn into wraiths themselves. Some who have returned from the land of dust even speak of a great palace of dust where a wraith king dwells.

Holy Days


The Summer Solstace and Winter Solstace are both very important times to the Temple of the Sun, when Rallah as the sun is closest and furthest from her chosen people and other observances based around the cycles of the moons are also important. When each moon is gibbous a midnight observance is made, but since such things are not consistent, or even necessary annual they are not strictly holy days. The full red moon is also a very important ritual day. Eclipses - signs of Rallah's displeasure, always become impromptu holy days, when prayers, offerings, and sacrifices must be made to persuade her to again reveal her glory to the land below.

Aside form these the only regular observances are Arrival; the fifteenth day of winter - when all of Ralstaa celebrates their ancestors arrival at Ralsholm. Ceremonial gifts, varying from region to region, are exchanged and songs of fellowship sung, and old histories and stories shared - and Ascention; which commemorates the day Rallah departed the world, and is celebrated by open and public mourning and wailing in the hope that their grief at her absence might encourage Rallah to one day return.

Day of the Dead

Throughout the Clanlands and in the less travelled parts of the Dunsain Kingdoms the people still celebrate the old Day of the Dead on the sixty-first day of winter, though it is banned upon by nearly all modern incarnations of the Temple. The day of the dead has a dark reputation, as a celebration of death that calls the wraith-king to lead the dance of the dead into the world. However to its practitioners it is a time when the unquiet spirits of passed ancestors and friends are invited to return to the world to put rest to their worldly concerns. Shrines are built around relics of the deceased, skulls are mounted over doorways, and everywhere the folk decorate their homes to look like they belong in the day of the dead, so that deceased souls become lost should they try to stay, and return to the land of dust. Even the people wear skull masks and colourful robes to confuse the returned dead, and so that the dead can walk amongst them unseen, and finish their business. The folk dance, and sing, and drink, and make merry, to celebrate the lives of those passed, and to give them freedom to move about and complete their earthly business.

Only in Tuarvael is this relic of the old faith of Rallah still embraced by the Kings - and thus the temple - as a part of their right to ancestor worship. In Tohl Serlot the King of the Tuarvae himself goes amongst his subjects in disguise, and it has been said on more than one occasion that the masked dancers thronging the streets have far outnumbered the population of the city - clear evidence that the dead had come.