The West is a polytheistic world, which is the baseline assumption of religion. In such a system, a number of deities hold control over different aspects of mortal existence, such as death, honor, strength, law and magic. Religion in Oriental Adventures springs from a very different viewpoint, one that is fundamentally animistic.
There are two major religions in Kozakura: that of the Eight Million Gods, the most ancient belief system of Kozakurans, and the Way of Enlightenment, brought to Shinkoku by Shou Lung priests. The number of worshipers dedicated to the practice of a single religion is rather small, and consists of priests, monks, shukenja, sohei, and devout worshipers of the sect. These people do not entertain or practice the beliefs of other schools or shrines. Most worshipers, however, practice the rituals of more than one school or shrine. This group includes the majority of the common people, and far outnumbers those devoted to a single religious pursuit.
The Eight Million Gods in the Realms is the equivalent to the Shinto religion in real life.
Eight Million GodsEdit
This ancient religion is a collection of beliefs and rituals that relate to various nature deities. There is no great teacher or book for the Eight Million Gods, or uniform rituals of worship. Observances vary from deity to deity and shrine to shrine. Shrines dedicated to the Eight Million Gods fall into two categories. First shrines and normal shrines. First shrines have been officially recognized and supported by the emperor and other nobles for centuries. They are often located in the old districts of cities and provincial capitals, and are larger and more powerful than other shrines. Many establish branches in other provinces to promote their particular beliefs and acquire a larger economic base of support. Normal shrines are often built and supported by local peasantry. They may commemorate past events, ensure good harvests, ward off evil influences, or even appease powerful evil beings. Local nobility also support shrines, particularly in towns or villages near their homes. Regardless of the type, most shrines are independent and unrelated to others. They are usually associated with a site of natural beauty or legendary significance, and may be found on the slopes of major mountains, along riverbanks, by the sea, or hidden away in forests. Many important shrines are dedicated to the sun goddess and the emperor, who is believed to be of divine ancestry. Worship at these places often consists of ritual purification, offerings of food or donations of money, and prayers. At least once a year major shrines have more elaborate festivals, involving sacred dances, bonfires, and processions through the streets.
Way of EnlightenmentEdit
Shou Lung priests brought the Way of Enlightenment to Kozakura in the year 462, during the reign of the Emperor Shotoken in the Eighth Cycle, and is almost identical to the Path of Enlightenment practiced in Shou Lung. This well-organized religion draws lessons from the life and speeches of its great teacher in an effort to guide men to spiritual perfection. This religion is divided into three main schools of belief in Kozakura.
Toro-dai is the most popular school. To attain spiritual elevation under these teachings, a believer need only repeat a single verse over and over. The power of the mystical chant eventually bestows enlightenment. Toro-dai is very popular with common folk, since it is an easy teaching to follow.
Kanchai reveals to its followers an elaborate structure of invisible spirit creatures, some good and some evil. These creatures seek to help or harm, according to their natures. Worshipers hope to gain the favor of good spirits and avoid the wrath of evil ones. The Kanchai School draws freely upon the ideas and beliefs of the Eight Million Gods, sharing many of the same deities, spirits, and fantastic creatures.
Konjo is the highly esoteric third school of the Way of Enlightenment. This school uses the strict methods of meditation and contemplation to show that material things are only passing illusions that will change and decay. What matters is the strength of the person’s spirit. This school is very popular with samurai and the ruling lords, much of whose thinking is influenced by the Knojo School. Of all schools, it is the most difficult to follow and most true to the original intention of the Way of Enlightenment.
Temples Each school is a nation-wide organization, encouraging worship in temples built to venerate a specific deity or group of deities. A temple is almost always associated with a particular school, and is often built on a site, which has special religious significance to that school. If a site has meaning to several schools, there may be several different temples clustered around it. It is acceptable for the same deity to appear in two different temples, sponsored by different schools of the Way of Enlightenment. The temples of Kozakura and the schools, which sponsor them, represent a powerful political force. The main temple of each school, located in the capital of Dojyu, ensures that the sect is represented in the affairs of the court. Provincial temples representing that school are branches of the one in the capital, contributing taxes to the order and giving the main temp l e a b r o a d p o w e r b a s e . S m a l l e r s o - c a l l e d. subscription temples represent the interests of the provincial temple throughout a province, collecting donations in their turn and providing sohei when called upon for support.
Monasteries Monasteries are also associated with each school. Generally built in secluded places, they are centers of training and religious instruction. Many are merely meditative centers, while others incorporate harsh training in the martial arts, producing the monk character class. Where a monastery is located in more peaceful surroundings, emperors, nobles, noble widows, and samurai find it fashionable to retire to monasteries when they grow tired of the physical world. This retirement may be permanent, but many a retired warrior or statesman has returned to the world when needed by family, emperor, or cause.
Shintoism is a far descendant of ancient animism, mixed with ancestor worship, sun worship, and Buddhism. Shintoists see everything have its own spirits, which they call kami. Even a man becomes Kami when he died. It is said there are eight millions Kami in the world. ("Eight Millions" means "many")
There are various kami. Some kami made good harvest, which was called Fuku-no-kami. Some brought disaster, which was called Magatsu-Kami. The basic of ancient animism was to call Fuku-no-Kami and to repel Matatsu-Kami. Songs, dances and festivals were created for such rituals.
Each village had own Shinto shrine, in which they deified the most important kami in their village. Some deified water kami (Ryu-jin or a dragon spirit), some did an old tree kami. When a village member died, he was enshrined there. He became a minor Kami.
Animism is the belief that spirits inhabit every part of the natural world. In the world of Oriental Adventures, everything has a spirit—from the grandest mountain to the lowliest rock, from the great ocean to the babbling brook, from the sun and moon to a samurai’s ancestral sword. All these objects, and the spirits that inhabit them, are alive and live sentient, though some are more aware, alert, and intelligent than others. Some are also more powerful than others—some might even be called deities. But all are worth of respect and even veneration.
The multitudinous spirits of the world are not served by clerics, as are the deities described in the Player’s Handbook, but shamans and shugenjas can sometimes command or implore them to perform specific tasks on their behalf. Shamans actually have two to three specific patron spirits (who grant them domain spells and powers), but most other characters do not pay allegiance to any one spirit over the others. Instead, they offer prayers and sacrificed of incense to placate spirits such as the spirit of a forest, and sporadic prayers to a host of other spirits as well.
An animistic religion is very tolerant. Most spirits don’t care who else a character offers sacrificed to, as long as they get sacrificed and respected they are due. As new religions spread throughout the lands of Oriental Adventures, they typically win adherents but not converts. People incorporate new spirits and deities into their prayers without displacing the old ones. Monks and scholars may adopt complex philosophical systems and practices without changing their belief in and respect for the spirits at all.
Gods and Goddesses The Gods and Goddesses of the Japanese religion Shinto are also worshipped in the realms.
The teachings of the Way of Enlightenment have affected architectural design. Among other things, the Way encourages persons to live in harmony with nature, and in harmonious surroundings. This has resulted in structures built along simple, clean lines; the use of natural woods and fibers, or discreet use of decorated materials; a simplicity of form which draws the eye to a noteworthy object upon entering a room-be it an art object, a flower arrangement, or the view outside the doors.
This philosophy is exemplified in the so-called ìstudio styleî of design, which has been popularized in the last hundred years by Emperor Gofukakuji. In this style, tatami mats of woven straw are used to cover the entire floor. A special alcove, called the tokonoma, is set aside for the display of art objects. The Jade Pavilion built by Emperor Gofukakuji in 23/16 (1336) is a perfect example of this style of architecture, and is covered in further detail elsewhere. Variations on this theme are common now in the samurai and noble houses of Kozakura.
History In the Age of Gods, the waters of the world and the islands of Kozakura were created by the gods, while divine dragons created the vault of the skies and the seasons. It is generally agreed that the deities Nagikami (Heavenly Brother) and Namikami (Heavenly Sister) were responsible for these original creations.
From these gods also sprang the numerous deities and divine spirits now worshipped in Kozakura. Shinkoku was created when Heavenly Sister and Brother stood on the Heavenly Bridge and stirred the waters of the world with the Heavenly Jeweled Spear. Where water droplets fell off the spear back into the ocean, the sea coagulated around them and became land. The first droplet to become land was the holy mountain Ichiyama, around which the rest of Shinkoku formed. The Earth Dragon, liking what he saw in Shinkoku, laid down to sleep on the growing land, thus creating the Dragon’s Spine, the mountain chain which runs the length of the island. Earthquakes which occasionally rock the island are caused by the Earth Dragon stirring in his sleep. Fierce Wind Son, one of her offspring, created Tenmei when Heavenly Sister needed a new home after her banishment from Shinkoku. Hinomoto was created when Heavenly Brother declared his retirement and went there to live. Mikedono was created accidentally in the course of war between the gods Fire Bright and Fierce Wind Son, who in the process made the Senshi Islands and used them as stepping-stones to Shinkoku. Heavenly Sister later died in childbirth, and was buried by Heavenly Brother atop a snow-covered mountain of Shinkoku. That peak is Tokuyama, where the borders of the northern provinces of Takako, Ashi, and Yokozu join. The temple of Namikami commemorates the holiness of that site. So many gods and spirits sprang forth from Heavenly Brother and Sister that Heavenly Brother retired shortly after the death of Namikami. Today the greatest of the temples dedicated to Nagikami are located on the island of Hinomoto, where that god lives in seclusion. The reign of the Earth Spirit emperors began after the retirement of Heavenly Brother. In that age, the demigod descendents of the gods ruled the lands. The tales of this time combine fiction and fact, embellishing and exaggerating known events such as the War of the Oni Kings, the Stone-Bearing Empress, and the deeds of Naka no Moriya. Over time, Earth Spirit demigods intermarried with humans until their line grew weaker and all but vanished from Kozakura. Though this took place, the people of Kozakura continued to honor their deities, and the gods paid attention to strife between the human tribes. When asked by worshippers to take sides in their disputes, the gods finally chose Mori, the chief of the fierce Akimatsu tribe, to be leader of the people of Shinkoku. Mori was a descendent of the last of the Earth Spirit emperors. The gods supported his claim with displays of divine power, and Mori became the first emperor of Kozakura.