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COLONIAL RELIGION -
Religion in the Twelve Colonies is state-supported, less diverse, and also polytheistic. In general, religious life and secular life are more intertwined, and there is a more natural continuum of religious practice between the most religious and the least religious. In form and format, the religion of the Twelve Colonies is polytheistic with the chief god of the Colonial pantheon being Zeus; he and the other twelve Olympians are broadly the most important deities, though there myriad other myths, legends and lesser spirits.
The religion of the Twelve Colonies is a polytheistic faith centered on the "Lords of Kobol." Zeus is a considered "almighty" or foremost of the gods, while other Lords are prayed to by Colonials as a proxy to Zeus. The Colonials appear to use multiple names for their gods, interchanging "Mars" for "Ares," "Jupiter" for "Zeus," and so on.
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 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.
Colonial religion has a strong emphasis on the philosophy of eternal return. Those who believe in the gods 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.
The Colonials display a wide spectrum of religious practice, ranging from atheism to a support of theocratic government.
While religion is still enshrined by the state, many people - particularly Capricans and the urban, educated class - tend to be lax or nonexistent in their religious practices, and if they worship at all it is unlikely that they profess a belief in the gods.
The Gemenese are known for their literal interpretations of the Sacred Scrolls with the average person from Gemenon tending to be far more fundamentalist than those from most of the other Colonies.
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.
As a matter of daily life, an individual's relationship with the gods is often personal - worship can be an individual practice, with personal idols or offerings, and temples tend to enshrine a particular holy site rather than just serve as a house or worship, though they also serve as a place for people to gather and hear the sacred scrolls read or to participate in mystery cults and devotions.
Religious practice in general is focused around descendant traditions of sacrifice. Many religious individuals keep a small shrine or merely carry a set of idols to their favorite gods and then light candles in a sort of symbolic representation of a burnt offering. Similarly, the devout may set aside a portion of a meal or spill a little drink on the ground (a libation) to honor the gods. Finally, many of the devout carry a set of prayer beads (a rosary or mala) which they use to recite short, ritual prayers.
Public religious displays are far less common in the modern Colonies than they once were. Originally, large public sacrifices opened festivals and great undertakings, but since the outlawing of animal sacrifice this practice has all-but-disappeared save in some agricultural communities during harvest festivals.
Festivals - celebrating some myth, god or natural event - are now the principal public religious event. Once, they served as an important cultural pressure valve, providing the people of the Colonies with a chance for some time off, but now their importance has diminished in the face of ample leisure-time and plenty of competition for public attention.
The Colonials also have a historical tradition of mystery cults, where individuals are initiated into the secrets of a god's private cult. Mostly, these mystery religions have died out, though every few decades there is a resurgence in popularity and there has always been a continuous tradition in religious communities.
A dedication ceremony is a religious event held in temple for a newborn child. Each Colonial child is paired, or "placed in the service" with one or more of the Lords.
Finally, a relatively new religious observance is reading or study of the Sacred Scrolls, where under the guidance of a priest religious members of the a community come together to study religious texts, discuss the importance to modern life and most of all affirm their devotion in the face of an increasingly secular society. Such meetings often include group prayer or blessings, inherited from the mystery cult tradition.
The body of myths about the Gods is largely oral, or has been passed down in non-canonical texts; the religious text of the Colonial religion - the Sacred Scrolls - is instead importantly separate from the mythography of the gods, though the gods and the myths that surround them are referenced regularly the Scrolls. Instead, the Sacred Scrolls represent a history of mankind on Kobol, told largely through prophecy and stylized narrative. They also contain broader creation myths and a selection of songs and devotions as a sort of psalter or book of common prayer. The first line of the Sacred Scrolls is "Life here began out there."
Priests & Oracles
Clergy in the Twelve Colonies come - officially - in two sorts, priests and oracles, each of whom are trained differently and fulfill different ceremonial functions. In actual fact, the distinctions between the two categories have largely blurred due to the increasing secularism of society and the decreasing importance of public ritual. In both cases, clergy often has different jobs in addition to their religious role. Priests often 'double-hat' as civic leaders - part of a long tradition where the leaders of the Twelve Tribes were also their chief priests - and oracles regularly manage shrines or holy places or go into business as pharmacists or teachers.
Originally, priests were the people who presided over offerings, festivals and ceremonies; they were in charge of administering religious rites, of guiding prayers and sending messages to the gods, and their training tended to involve a great deal of study of the Sacred Scrolls as well as learning the particulars of various rites and rituals. Priests also administer oaths and preside over funerals - both situations where the gods are supposed to witness an event.
By contrast, oracles were those clergy who interpreted omens, received prophetic dreams and 'received' messages from the gods where the priests 'sent' messages to them. It was among the oracles that the practice of taking chamalla for visions began, and they still are often asked to give blessings to newborns, new enterprises, and people in seeking guidance in general. The training of an oracle focuses less on learning ritual and the Sacred Scrolls and focuses more on meditation and the interpretation of dreams and omens.
Both oracles and priests in the modern Twelve Colonies tend to be extensively trained in counseling and religious therapy; pro-religion laws allow individuals to request religious rather than psychological counseling, and priests of all sorts (the word is used in the modern parlance to refer to all clergy) are often sought out in an advisory capacity, up to and including the religious council which advises the government.