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Religion in the Twelve Colonies (RDM)

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This article discusses the religion of the Colonies as seen in the Re-imagined Series. For summary information on the Kobollian religion from the Original Series, see Religion in the Twelve Colonies (TOS).
For information on the various mythologies used in Battlestar Galactica, see Mythological references.
Part of the series on


The dominant religion of the Twelve Colonies, which the various characters of Battlestar Galactica practice to greater or lesser extent, is a polytheistic faith[1] with a strong emphasis on the philosophy of eternal return. There are several variants of this faith, in both belief and practice.

Contents

Origin

A portion of the Sacred Scrolls, specifically, a portion of the Book of Pythia.

The eternal-return aspect between the peoples of Kobol and Earth suggest a parallel or reverse-origin with humanity as a whole, or the Thirteenth Tribe that presumably populated it. See History of the Twelve Colonies for more analysis.

During the memorial following the escape from Ragnar Anchorage (TRS: Miniseries, Night 2), William Adama states, "Life here began out there,[2]" reminding the assembly that this was the first line of the Sacred Scrolls, the principal religious tome of the Colonial faith, told to them by the Lords of Kobol many centuries ago.

Belief

The Lords of Kobol

Colonial religion is centered on the Lords of Kobol. In the Re-imagined Series and Caprica, eleven Lords of Kobol have been positively identified:

The Colonials appear to use multiple names for their lords, interchanging "Mars" for "Ares", "Jupiter" for "Zeus", and so on.[4]

Afterlife

Believers think that they will go to Fields of Elysium after death if they led a good life (TRS: "Faith"). [5]

Paradise Lost

According to the Sacred Scrolls, the gods once shared a paradise-like existence with the people of Kobol. Later circumstances forced the exodus of the human population of Kobol to the Twelve Colonies and Earth, and lead to Athena's suicide.

The existence of the Lords of Kobol is attested to by the survival of numerous artifacts, including the Arrow of Apollo, the Tomb of Athena and the Gates of Hera. However, although she accepts their historic authenticity, Caprica-Valerii, a Cylon, questions their actual divinity.[6]

The Jealous God

Elosha states that the exodus from Kobol was precipitated when "one jealous god began to desire that he be elevated above all the other gods, and the war on Kobol began." This god was eventually separated from the others.[7] This figure may be related to or identical with "the one whose name cannot be spoken," whose temple is discovered on the algae planet (TRS: "The Eye of Jupiter").

The Path of Olympus

Tom Zarek conveys to Laura Roslin and her followers the news that Commander William Adama had resumed command of Galactica after the attempt on his life by saying: "Zeus has returned to Olympus" (TRS: "The Farm").[8] By Zarek's comment we can infer that Colonial religion appears to acknowledge the existence of a place called Olympus. It cannot yet be determined, however, if Olympus was thought of as the residence of the gods at a specific physical or metaphysical location of Kobol, as there has been no mention of Olympus elsewhere. If Olympus is a metaphysical locale, this may contradict Elosha's comment that the gods and man lived on Kobol together in harmony.[9]

Other Mythological Names in Colonial Culture

Various items have been identified which are apparently named after other gods and legendary figures of their faith, although these have not been explicitly identified as Lords of Kobol.

See main article: Mythological references

The Cycle of Time

"All this has happened before, and all this will happen again."[10]

According to Gaius Baltar, this line from the Pythian prophecy is very well known (TRS: "The Hand of God"). Laura Roslin later expands on it, reminding Kara Thrace,

"If you believe in the gods, then you believe in the cycle of time that we are all playing our parts in a story that is told again, and again, and again throughout eternity" (TRS: "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part I").

Various events have led some people to believe that they are playing out another turn of this cycle[11]. (see Sacred Scrolls for more detailed analysis).

Sanctity of Life

According to the Sacred Scrolls, abortion is "an abomination in the eyes of the Gods". The more fundamentalist Gemenese strictly adhere to this commandment, however the more secular Colonies such as Caprica apparently do not follow this as strictly: officially, Colonies-wide Federal law guaranteed a woman the right to an abortion, at least at the time of the Fall of the Twelve Colonies (TRS: "The Captain's Hand").

Individual Practice

The Colonials display a wide spectrum of religious practice, ranging from Billy Keikeya's atheism (TRS: "Home, Part II", cut scene) to Corporal Venner's literalistic readings of the Sacred Scrolls.

While not fully explained in the Re-imagined Series, it appears, based on the information from a dedication ceremony for Nicholas Tyrol and the prayers of Kara Thrace, that each Colonial is paired, or "placed in the service" with one or more of the Lords. Based on the dedication ceremony blessing, Zeus is a considered "almighty" or foremost of the gods, while other Lords are prayed to by Colonials as a proxy to Zeus.[12]

Artifacts

Bsg-arrow-apollo.jpg

Despite Gemenon's fundamentalist climate, the city of Delphi on Caprica was apparently of a mind to store an important religious artifact, the Arrow of Apollo, in a museum, rather than a devotional institution (TRS: "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part II").

Ancient temples may be also be the repository of special artifacts such as the Eye of Jupiter, believed to be stored inside the legendary Temple of Five ("Rapture", "The Eye of Jupiter").

Confession

At least some sects of the Colonial religion practice the concept of absolution of sins through confession. Brothers, and presumably priests as well, may hear confessions as demonstrated by Brother Cavil agreeing to hear Anders' confession (TRS: "The Plan"). It is not known if this practice is uniform throughout the Colonial religion or limited to certain sects.

A confession begins with the confessor saying, "Bless me, Brother, for I have acted against the example of the Gods." The Brother or Priest will then say, "Proceed in the name of the Gods," and after hearing the confession, they will end by saying, "You are absolved in the example of the Gods."

Dress

The robes of Dodona Selloi (TRS: "Exodus, Part I")

As seen by the various separatists orbiting Kobol (TRS: "Home, Part I"), it appears that many Colonials have clothing that suggests a religious deference. In the scene, one older, white-bearded gentleman is dressed in simple colored robes and a round, flat head covering[13] Other distinctive dress styles of other characters in the scene increase the sense of the dedication of religion in the Gemenese people (which appear to comprise the majority of Roslin's separatists).

The oracle Dodona Selloi dresses in a turban and robes, suggesting a special role in Colonial society or its religious hierarchy (TRS: "Exodus, Part I").

Idols

Idols.jpg

Kara Thrace, a devotee of Artemis and Aphrodite, prays to them on behalf of Leoben Conoy using figurines that bear a similarity to classic representations of Artemis and Athena. Artemis is depicted with her bow and arrow, and Athena with her helmet of war (TRS: "Flesh and Bone").

When visting the oracle Yolanda Brenn, Thrace receives a figurine of the goddess Aurora as a gift (TRS: "Maelstrom").

Prayer

The Farm-Group Worship.jpg

Some prisoners on the Astral Queen seeking rehabilitation have turned to group prayer. They greet Laura Roslin as a prophet and she provides them with a blessing (TRS: "The Farm").

Priest Elosha sings a group prayer in a Service for the dead after the Fleet escapes from the initial Cylon attack (TRS: Miniseries, Night 2).[14] The priest also gives a prayer after Colonial One is boarded by Commander Adama's troops to remove Roslin from power (TRS: "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part II").

A chaplain delivered a simple prayer at the funeral of Zak Adama, two years prior to the fall of the Colonies (TRS: "Act of Contrition")[15]:

"The burdens of this life are with us but a short time. For Lieutenant Zak Adama, son of William and Carolanne Adama, brother of Lee, the time was too short, but we take comfort in knowing his life was willingly given in service to all of us. We honor them for that. And thus, it falls upon us to repent our sins and with the help of the Lords of Kobol, make our own lives worthy of that gift. And now, we commit his body to the ground from which we were all made."

Corporal Venner asks Laura Roslin to join him in a simple prayer while Galactica is attacked as it desperately tries to find its Fleet (TRS: "Scattered").

(To Roslin:) Will you pray with me? (He begins:) Help us, Lords of Kobol. Help your prophet Laura guide us to the path of righteousness. That we might-- that we might destroy our enemies. Let us walk the path of righteousness and lift our faces unto your goodness. Help us turn away from the calls of the wicked and show us the knowledge of your certain salvation. We offer this prayer.

Prayer is also seen in the Season 3 webisode series in a temple (where prayers are written and then burned before an idol), and by Kara Thrace (TRS: Miniseries, "Flesh and Bone").

Rosaries

Rosary.jpg

As Laura Roslin begins to suffer from chamalla withdrawal in Galactica's brig, Corporal Venner, a Gemenese, anxiously clutches a set of white prayer beads (TRS: "Fragged").

Temple

Temples may have been more elaborate places on the Twelve Colonies, but the spaceborne remnants of humanity presumably use any space they can find on their ships to form a basic temple. As seen on New Caprica, a basic temple may consist of a simple altar with candles, idols of the Lords of Kobol, and what meager offerings the Colonials can give as a tithe. Some prayers are written on paper and burned (TRS: "Battlestar Galactica: The Resistance").

The temple on New Caprica was known as the Temple of Artemis (TRS: "Collaborators"), suggesting that temples are dedicated to a Lord or Lords, and may be related to the pairing of Colonials to a specific set of Lords at their dedication ceremony.

A similar arrangement to temple is found in an oracle camp (TRS: "Maelstrom").

A room used for religious services on Galactica is referred to as a temple (TRS: "Escape Velocity").

Sagittaron beliefs

Orthodox Sagittaron beliefs are more anachronistic than the Gemenese's, believing that the mind and body are myths, and that medicine is "an abomination, a sin against the Gods". Sagittarons also blame physicians for the spread of disease due to their ignorance of the aforementioned "myth" of the body and mind. They traditionally do not believe in violence, even to the point of not aiding the New Caprica Resistance in their fight against the Cylon occupation of New Caprica (TRS: "The Woman King").

Other minority beliefs

A small minority of the Colonials were secretly monothiests. While it is not clear if such worship was still in practice in modern Colonial times up to the Cylon holocaust, an unusual temple found on a remote planet suggests that monotheism was prevalent in the Thirteenth Tribe.

After the Second Exodus, Gaius Baltar later founds a monotheistic cult that finds itself in conflict with the established faiths. Baltar's faith comes into direct, violent conflict with the Sons of Ares as well as the general Colonial polythiests. Mithraism is also noted in practice (TRS: "Escape Velocity")

The Clergy

The religious and government bodies of the Twelve Colonies work together. This association is likely based on the religious homogeneity of the Colonies.[16]

Priests/Priestesses

A male priest. (TRS: "Collaborators").
Elosha, priestess and friend of President Roslin. (TRS: "Home, Part I")

Laura Roslin is sworn into the presidency by a priestess[17], Elosha, who continues on in an advisory capacity within Roslin's administration. Priests also preside over military funerals, without regard for the beliefs of the deceased.

Priests in the Twelve Colonies are apparently not required to practice celibacy, and can be male or female. Chief Galen Tyrol states that his father was a priest and his mother an oracle (TRS: "Resistance").[18]

According to Billy Keikeya, some priests use chamalla for its hallucinogenic properties. The prescient dreams it imparted to Laura Roslin may imply the use of something similar by Pythia, an ancient prophet. Oracles also use the drug.

Brothers

The false Brother Cavil (TRS: "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part II").

The term Brother is used as a title for male members of the clergy, although it is not fully apparent whether this role is similar to that of a monk or deacon.

As with priests, a brother offers consultation and leads prayer.

The only instance of this clergy is Brother Cavil, who offers guidance to Chief Tyrol.

Cavil, however, is revealed as a humanoid Cylon some time later. Because of Cavil's nature, there may be doubt as to whether Cavil is a useful example of the work of a Brother in Colonial religion.

It is probable that Brothers are lay clergy, unlike priests and oracles, who appear to have political status as well as their religious status.

Sisters

Sister Tivenan (right) at a dedication ceremony (TRS: "The Resistance: Episode 10")

As with Brothers in the clergy, there are Sisters as well.

Sister Tivenan is briefly seen tending to business in the temple on New Caprica, guiding prayer and officiating a dedication ceremony for the newborn son of Galen and Cally Tyrol (TRS: "Battlestar Galactica: The Resistance").

It is probable that Sisters, like Brothers, are lay clergy.

Oracles

Main article: Oracle
The oracle Yolanda Brenn (TRS: "Maelstrom").

There is little information as to the religious functions of oracles. Dodona Selloi is one of two oracles seen in the Re-imagined Series. She confirms the dreams of a copy of Number Three and the existence of Hera. It is not clear if Selloi is sitting in a tent designated as a temple, but there are numerous ornate or curious inscriptions surrounding and inside her tent that suggest the significance of the oracle's tent or her presence. A second oracle, Yolanda Brenn, gives counsel to Kara Thrace on her strange dreams aboard Galactica (TRS: "Maelstrom").

Priests and oracles may assume their roles due to an personal, possibly inherited affinity to sense spiritual changes or conditions. Galen Tyrol, believed to be the son of a priest and oracle, detects the presence of and finds the Temple of Five alone, based only on his senses, apparently detecting the hidden temple on the otherwise-unremarkable (and undocumented) algae planet (TRS: "The Eye of Jupiter"). However, it is revealed later that he is in fact a humanoid Cylon, one of the (TRS: "Final Five"), and had visited the site before.

A Cylon Connection

Main article: Cylon Religion
See Also: The Destiny, Final Five, Temple of Five

While humanoid Cylons show a strict, firm belief in a monotheistic God, referring to the Lords of Kobol as "false idols," a connection between the Cylon God and the Lords of Kobol may exist. During the Cylon occupation of New Caprica, an oracle tells Number Three (who has a dream of the oracle's tent and of holding the believed-dead hybrid child Hera") that she has a message from the one that Number Three worships (TRS: "Exodus, Part I"). This poses the question how an oracle of the Lords of Kobol is able to hear the messages of the Cylon God.

The Temple of Five, which a Number Three uses to visualize the identities of the Final Five", was not built for the Cylons (who were not created until 4,000 years later) but for humans. The Temple, according to the Sacred Scrolls, was built for five priests who worshiped "The One Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken". It is not clear if this was the spurned "jealous god" or another fallen member of the Lords of Kobol.[19]

Kara Thrace realizes her destiny, first from the words of a Leoben Conoy model, and later, in a type of dream, through an entity that took the likeness of Leoben, but was not a Cylon. From death, Thrace returns to the Fleet, not as an illusion, but resurrected -- something that, prior to Thrace, only a humanoid Cylon could do.

Notes

In a podcast, RDM mentioned that it was intended that there would be many sectarian divisions and religious denominations within colonial society, ranging from a Hellenic-style Cult of Athena to more Buddhist and Hindu forms of worship, and including monotheistic minorities. Mithraism is presumably one such minority belief, similar to the real-life minority Mithraic religion of Roman times. This diversity was not fully shown due to time constraints, but would later be made more apparent in Caprica.

It seems that Colonial society protects freedom of worship and encourages religious diversity to some degree. However, certain monotheistic organizations such as the Soldiers of the One and the Cult of Baltar are strongly anti-polytheistic, and some devout polytheists such as Jordan Duram take strong exception to the doctrine of monotheism.

The Tauron funeral rite (CAP: "There Is Another Sky") mirrors the Ancient Greek rite of placing a coin on the head of the dead for the Charon, the ferryman who took the souls of the dead across the Rivers Styx and Acheron to The Underworld. The idea of eternal return "all of this has happened before, and will happen again" is strongly present in many forms of Hinduism, which see the universe as cyclical. The use of oracles and icons of deities reflects many historical Indo-European religions from Ancient Greek to Hindu, as well as different shamanistic practices. Additionally the priests of the Lords of Kobol wear different vestments perhaps indicating divisions similar to Protestantism/Catholic/Orthadox in Christianity.

The use of the names of certain real-life pagan Gods as personal names (like the Germanic Odin) as well as the presence of interchangable Greco-Roman names for the same gods (i.e. Jupiter/Zeus or Mars/Ares) may suggest that the worship of the Lords of Kobol uses different names for the same Gods depending on language. Different colonies may call the same Lords of Kobol names like the Germanic Tyr, Roman Jupiter, Greek Zeus Pater, Indian Deus Pita interchangably. Alternatively, it is possible that some polytheists in the colonies worship a different pantheon altogether, or include the worship of other gods along with the 12 Lords of Kobol, just as how there are Titans and Olympians in Greek religion, Asir and Vanir in Germanic religion, or Devas and Asuras in Hindu religion.

The punchline of the joke that Tom Zarek tells Racetrack as he is escorted from the flight deck in "Blood on the Scales" suggests that pedophilia by priests may have been an issue among the clergy of the Twelve Colonies, similar to anecdotes and allegations involving the Roman Catholic Church.

References

  1. The Colonial deities are very similar to the Olympic gods of Greek mythology on the real-world Earth.
  2. This phrase is a homage to the Original Series, where each episode began with this phrase in a voice-over introduction.
  3. Aurora is the Roman counterpart of the Greek Eos. Eos is one of the Titans. Since the Lords of Kobol are modeled after the Twelve Olympians however, this could indicate that she is not one of the Lords, but belongs to another group of deities.
  4. Curiously, Laura Roslin mentions that the 134th day of the Cylon occupation of New Caprica is Mars Day (TRS: "Occupation"), suggesting that Ares may also be called by his alternate Roman pantheon's name. The same happens again in "The Passage" when Zeus is referred to by the name of his Roman counterpart Jupiter.
  5. This is clearly a direct parallel to the ancient Greek Elysian Fields, the part of the underworld corresponding to "heaven". The visual image of a ferry crossing a river also parallels the river Styx.
  6. There is a notion in fan circles that there are twelve lords of Kobol, by analogy to the twelve Cylon models, twelve Colonies, and perhaps the Twelve Olympians of Greek mythology. A post from Ron D. Moore's blog on March 12, 2005 loosely alludes on this coincidence, but further official sourcing has not been revealed.
  7. From a deleted scene cut from the episode "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part I".
  8. In Greek mythology, the home of the gods on Earth resided high atop Greece's highest mountain, Mount Olympus, at a time where access to the mountain summit would be almost impossible with the inhabitants' technology of that age.
  9. On the other hand, according to the ancient Greek poem Theogony by Hesiod, the gods lived together with humankind until Prometheus' deception at Mecone, after which they dwelt exclusively on mount Olympus and humans exclusively on Earth. Perhaps, then, some transgression caused the Lords of Kobol and humankind to part paths.
  10. In a short talk he gave before a screening of "Flesh and Bone", Ron Moore revealed that he "stole" the line from the introduction of the Disney animated version of Peter Pan (lecture part 1 and part 2).
  11. The notion of a circular progression of time (also known as eternal return or eternal recurrence) is a common theme in other faiths, particularly Mayan mythology and is a cornerstone of the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Moreover, Stoic philosophy did believe in the concept of ekpyrosis, the fire which consumes the old world and signals the birth of a new world, identical to the old, for a recurring cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
  12. This practice is similar to a Catholic practice of prayer to Mary, mother of Jesus. While Mary is a human, followers believe that, by praying to Mary, she can intercede to aid the acceptance of the prayer by the Trinity, the godhead of the Catholic faith.
  13. These robes may remind viewers of the tradition dress of Hasidic Jews, Islamic clerics, or Eastern Orthodox clerics of the real-world Earth.
  14. The language she sings is Sanskrit, a classical language of real-world Earth's Hindu/Indian peoples. More about the verses that she sings and their meaning can be found in the Language in the Twelve Colonies article.
  15. The prayer's mention of committing a "body to the ground from which we were all made" echoes the Biblical passage of Genesis 3:19:
    "By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
    until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
    for dust you are
    and to dust you will return."
  16. This differs from the United States, whose government is based on religious tolerance through the separation of religious practice and legislature. While the real-world Earth has many, many religions, the Twelve Colonies, as yet, appear to have only one religion and as such does not suffer greatly from schisms or other religious factions, although colonists such as the Gemenese show a different emphasis on how they interpret the religious writings.
  17. In "Blood on the Scales", Baltar refers to Elosha as "the Priestess Elosha", indicating that women priests have a femanine title
  18. Galen Tyrol's information may be skewed by the revelation that he himself is a Cylon (TRS: "Crossroads, Part II").
  19. While the notion of a fallen Lord is speculative in the Re-imagined Series, there is already a parallel series of characters from the Original Series: The Beings of Light and their fallen member, Iblis. Ron D. Moore, however, has stated in several interviews that he was not planning to use this Original Series concept in the Re-imagined Series.




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