Building this series has been a daydream come true. From the characters who won’t leave me alone to the little details that only I will never know, this series will probably stay with me for as long as I live. But, one of my favorite things about this series, is the religion I built for it. And, I don’t mean “built” as in “I had this shit all planned out from the beginning.” Oh, no. I mean “built” as in, “The story kept throwing bricks at my head in the shape of gods, and I happily complied and turned it into a religion.”
Ever come up with an idea that was so cool that you couldn’t wait to tell people about it? I love that shit. It’s my favorite. You know what sucks, though? Having to wait to tell people because the damned book’s on pre-order. Now that the main books with the religion spelled out in it are on virtual bookshelves, I can now officially geek out over my favorite bits.
So, if you haven’t read the books, the story goes like this:
A few thousand years ago (in God Jars’ time), a very powerful mage preached to the people that the will of man was and always would be more powerful than any god. The people were so butthurt about this, about him daring to badmouth the gods they had been worshipping for centuries or longer, that they collectively said, “Oh yeah? Well, if your will is so strong, it will save you.” And they butchered him on the altar to their gods. Pretty nifty, yeah?
A Gruesome Death
They not only killed him, but cut him into TEN PIECES: Head, neck, 2 shoulders, 2 arms, chest, abdomen, 2 legs. Yeah. Creepy, I know. The worst thing? They stuck around for hours waiting to see if he’d somehow miraculously come back from multiple amputations and, you know, not breathing for several hours. After they all left, a kind potter collected the pieces of that man, carted the macabre, dripping, sticky mess back to his pottery stall, and set it in the corner so he could fashion ten jars. Once those were done, he went and did what any normal guy would do. He put a single body part in each kiln he had, and cremated them at the same time, because expedited cremation is great.
But wait! There’s more!
But, while the kilns were reducing that great mage to ash, an explosion nearly leveled the potter’s shop, and he raced out to find all the townsfolk pointing up at the sky. When he looked, there was that mage staring down at him from the stars. And in the next breath, that mage exploded into ten pieces.
Instead of arguing that it was a collective hallucination (like I would, because skeptic), they listened as the new “gods” spoke their names, taught their hierarchy, and commissioned the potter to build a city for his “students”.
Yep. After he ascended, this mage still followed his own teachings, which I think is quite admirable. If I had ascended into godhood, I’d be a little more ego-driven. Not this guy, though. He considered himself a teacher, and still taught that the will of man is greater than any god.
The Man of Many Faces
The mage’s name when he was alive was Sovras Moyeval. But, after his ascension, he became:
- Phaerith: Violet: Head. God of many faces/aspects. God of compassion, community, focus, mentality, higher thought.
- Qos: Blue: Used to be the “Neck” or Phaerith’s support. God of suffering, disability, medicine, free will, control, and instinct.
- Karei: White: Left Shoulder. Goddess of Peace and dreams.
- Vorik: Carmine: Right Shoulder. God of War.
- Sotec: Silver: Left Arm- Cultivator of Peace. Carries out Karei’s will.
- Xysoz: Vermilion: Right Arm- Harbinger of War. Carries out Vorik’s will.
- Asenth: Green: Chest- God of the heart, love and family.
- Delys: Yellow: Abdomen- Goddess of fertility and harvest.
- Dapen: Indigo: Left Leg- Goddess of mobility, direction and journey.
- Racal: Black: Right Leg- God of speed, protector of the lost, leader of the Way.
(Comment below if you know the name of the potter!)
That’s just the structure. Back to the story!
The potter, once over his initial shock, and after hearing the request/demand from Phaerith to build a monastery and city, goes back to his pottery stall to finish the cremation, and places the ashes of each body part into a separate jar. These ten jars go down in history as “The God Jars”. (It’s rumored that if you put them into the right order in a precise way, that Sovras will return to his human form, or you may get special powers, or maybe the gods will give you favors. The mystery is neat, but I’m not sure I buy it. What do you think?)
Some time after the monastery is in full swing—completed, inhabited, and a priestly hierarchy is achieved—one of the God Jars goes missing. Knowing that the masses would lose their collective shit if they knew a jar was missing, the potter creates a new one and rounds up a bunch of magically inclined warriors, swears them to secrecy, ordains them as priests, and sends them on the hunt to find the missing god jar.
And that search has spanned almost two millennia.
Why is Phaerith called the God of Many faces?
This is explained in the first book. In Arlvorian, “Idai Sos” means many aspects, but it translates to Evaki, Valis’ native language, as “many faces.” It’s explained to Valis that each land calls Phaerith by a different name. What’s not said, is that, of course, it is because of language variances, translations, and word-of-mouth-gone-wrong. More on this later!
Over the following years, it was noted that same-sex couples made the best seekers. Later, it became mandatory that in order to join this elite group, you had to form an unbreakable same-sex bond before you could take the vows. Thus, the Aesriphos were born. Since they are often abroad for weeks, months, or even years at a time, it wasn’t feasible for these men and women to have children. That would be considered child abuse to make a child go that long without their parents, and the parents would be too distraught missing their child(ren) to be viable in the field. But, as married couples in the heat of battle, the Aesriphos, under their same-sex bonds of Ezhav, were near unstoppable, because they were hell-bent on protecting their mate at all cost. This made them the most fearsome force the world had known to that point.
The Seeds of Love and Evil
The missing God Jar belonged to the Neck, Qos. Of course, he had to be the god of suffering, right? Qos once supported the Head, Phaerith. Now, he spreads evil in the hearts of men like a plague. But, it turns out that isn’t all.
Qos is still linked to the other nine gods. They were once a whole person, and that link won’t ever sever.
And as Qos continues to fall deeper and deeper into corruption, that corruption is starting to spread to the other nine gods.
If Valis doesn’t find the missing God Jar, Sovras as a whole will become corrupted, and, paraphrasing his own words, become a terror unto the world the likes man has never before seen. He will become the greatest horror. And, it could very well end up in global catastrophe.
You see, in each person, there is the Seed of Love, and the Seed of Evil. They are usually pretty balanced. Not everyone is an ax murderer, nor is everyone Mother Theresa. Most people have a pretty chill equilibrium between the two. But, with Qos running amok, the seeds of evil in people were growing into ugly things in the hearts of men and women who might not have gone completely power mad without his influence. Qos, of course, was the god housing the Seed of Evil. (Asenth is the god housing the Seed of Love, of course. God of the heart, love, and family.)
The Priesthood Hierarchy
This post can’t be complete without actually giving you the hierarchy of the priests. Ready? Here we go!
- August Patriarch/Matriarch (This position is only known by a very select few.)
- Lord-Priest Devout (Retired SP)
- Sovereign Priest
- High Priest
- Patron/Matron Priest
- Priest Initiate
- Grand Master Aesriphos
- Master Aesriphos
- Aesriphos Commander
- Reliquary Guard [More than 350 years service.]
- Cardinal Aesriphos [More than 200 years service.]
- Aesriphos [More than 50 years service.]
- Aesriphos Valiant [Just entered Ezhav]
- Aspirant (Aspiring Aesriphos. Not used often, mostly assumed.)
Note that the Aesriphos both outnumber, and outrank the “normal” priests. They just have more shit to deal with, and let the regular priests do most of the priestly duties in and around the monastery so they can keep themselves fresh for seeking out the lost God Jar. However, the August Patriarch/Matriarch is the be-all, end-all of the entire system. The Grand Master Aesriphos takes orders directly from the August Pa/Matriarch.
Devon, how does all this align with YOUR views?
Uhh… Several people have asked this (rather daunting) question after I tell them this story. And you know? I’m semi-Christian. Nothing to be ashamed of. I say “semi” because I have anxiety, and going to church is the epitome of “do not want.” You know, like, I “do not want” to go to the emergency room from having a panic attack so bad that my throat closes shut. That kind of “do not want.” (Churches are, of course, full of people. I have both social and general anxiety. Sucks, but that’s life.)
From my vague recollections of reading the Bible, Jesus considered himself a teacher, too. So, I guess Sovras would be like Jesus. His death was a bit more gruesome than Jesus’, but they still got resurrected in a way. So, yeah. There are a good many similarities. Didn’t find these out until AFTER people started asking me uncomfortable questions. Neat fact, though! And, the Aesriphos could, in a way, be construed as likenesses of the Knights Templar, I suppose. The first priests would be the disciples. …I could get buried under all of this with all the bunnies it’s giving me.
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…
Now, I promised you earlier there would be more about the “God of Many Faces” bit. Well, I said I was semi-Christian. That also pertains to the God of Many Faces. I truly believe that all people who believe in/worship a higher power are all praying/worshiping/believing in the same entity. They just have different names for Him/Her due to language and word-of-mouth differences in their cultures. Pantheons of many gods? They’re just aspects of that one higher power. So, in essence, I believe that all religions believe in “the right” God. All religions are “correct.” And that makes me happy. I like thinking that, you know? people aren’t going to hell because they have the “wrong” beliefs. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m all for the God of Love bit, and I don’t think He/She would condemn great swaths of people to eternal misery for giving Him/Her the “wrong” name(s).
Again, I didn’t realize any of this pertained to the series until I had to answer really awkward questions. LOL But, now that I think about it, it’s really rather interesting how hard our subconscious works in the background to make a real impression on our conscious efforts. Creating, or rather, breathing life into The God Jars Saga has been wonderfully fulfilling at the same time it’s been a true test of my patience, sanity, and ability to focus on one thing at a time. If nothing else, I think this religion I created was my favorite part. Especially because it came to me so naturally during a writing binge.
Attack of the Plot Bunnies
I think it would be SUPER NEAT if, like the kindly potter, Jesus had a friend who is still alive all these centuries after his death. Not sure what he’d be searching for, but that sounds like book fodder to me.
Now, please excuse me while I try not to daydream about Jesus’ bestie in the 21st century. I still have 4 ⅔ chapters left to write of God Jars 5. It’s turning out to be pretty epic!