The Æcyr Gréne Campaign 

The Sœcisc Faith

Sœcisc Monasticism

The Sœcisc monastic tradition seems, at first glance, much like that of Salisian Monasticism - communities who seek to reach a greater understanding of the gods through withdrawal from the world and its mundane distractions. The differences, however, are much greater. Salisian monks act as an exemplar, living proof that spiritual perfection is attainable and that salvation is possible for all who seek it. Sœcisc monks do not seek spiritual perfection, only understanding. Salisian monks are segregated into male and female orders, with celibacy as an assumed norm. Sœcisc monks regard this as utterly bizarre, preferring to form living, thriving communities that may last for generations.

The quest of the Sœcisc monk is to penetrate the mysteries of the so-called harmony of the gods, the delicate balance that will collapse into chaos should Gehælanende fail to be achieved. Rather than attempt the impossible task of understanding all the gods, a monastic community devotes itself to one god only. This does not mean that all the others are ignored, for that would be heresy. The other deities are invoked and appeased in the course of everyday life, just as they are with the general populace. But one god in particular will be singled out for special attention, in the hope that he or she may be better comprehended. As is normal with such mysteries, the insights gained through devotion are difficult if not impossible to communicate. They must be experienced at first hand. Nevertheless, the local Church maintains close ties with the monastic system, respecting it as an important source of knowledge and theological theory.

At the most basic level, a monastic community will live a lifestyle that brings its members into direct contact with the Virtues and Vices of the chosen god. This may be in obvious and straightforward ways, but it may also be oblique and not immediately logical. The usual aim of the community is a promotion of the Virtues and mastery over the Vices (which is why, for example, monasteries of Eostre are not normally covens of unrestrained licentiousness). It is through such ways of living that the members of the community can directly experience the Ægwas of the deity. Ægwas is a complex term, harder to describe than it is to understand. It refers to the entirety of the deity, his or her will and form, manifestation and obfuscation, the manifold ways in which a deity might operate and be perceived, and the complexity of his or her relationships with the other gods, the world, the cosmos, and with mortals.

Although valuable to the local Church for the work they do, monasteries nevertheless walk a fine line between orthodoxy and heresy. If they pursue their devotions too far, their observance of the other gods begins to lapse. The Tiras Heresy, which cites Tir as the first god and sole creator of the universe, emerged from a Carangeard monastery, and is the best known of many heresies that have cropped up over time. Due to the lack of a centralised or strong Heirarchy, the suppression or acceptance of a Heresy is typically something that is more a political decision than a religious one, and this has led to some of the more prominent regional variations in the practice and beliefs of the Sœcisc faith. It is also not unknown for heresy to be declared to suit political aims. Monasteries generally enjoy good relations with the local people, and this undermines the authority of the Church. The lay populace, attracted by the mysticism which monks wrap around themselves, can adopt the doctrine of the monks without truly understanding it, and hence distort it into a simplistic untruth. Indeed, the Tiras Heresy arose in just this way, but went further in that monastic communities were then founded on the debased ideas that produced the heresy. It is also a truism that monks often care little for the division of Sœciscism into Norsœcisc and Ænesœcisc factions, and if this indifference becomes too blatant then this too will attract the wrath of the local Church.

Most monasteries are unique. The monastic landscape is constantly changing, as new communities are founded and old ones wither and die. Monasticism permits a level of religious experimentation that is otherwise unavailable within Church orthodoxy (whether of east or west). Communities are frequently founded by one particular bold thinker who then attracts a greater or lesser number of followers. Wherever possible, a community will seek patronage from a secular power, who gains prestige from his or her patronage (gifts of land, labour and/or building material) whilst in turn vouchsafing for the community’s integrity and respectability. The more powerful the patron, the better. Communities with particularly extreme ideas, however, or those who wish to withdraw more fully from the mundane world, may well take the trouble to hide themselves away in the more isolated and inaccessible regions, though doing so attracts suspicion from the Church.

Most monasteries cultivate good relations with the people living around them. Like the Church, the monks provide schooling and hospital services, and work actively within the laity performing acts of charity. The people in turn will usually assist the monks in sundry ways, offering their labour and their skills. Sœcisc monks, like Salisian monks, are generally thought of as being a cut above the average layperson - or indeed the average priest - in terms of piety and courtesy. (And, as with Salisian monks, this high regard is not always warranted.) As far as religious rites are concerned, however, monks are no more qualified to conduct these than the lay person (though in the absence of a priest, a monk will be brought in wherever possible. Lay persons can stand in for priests should the need arise).

Some monasteries are wealthy, even politically powerful locally. Powerful patrons can be lavish with gifts, and monasteries are exempt from secular - though not Church - taxes and tithes. Most, however, are poor if not outright indigent, and often through conscious choice. The founders of a community are treated with particular reverence (though not, of course, actual worship) and their property or mortal remains may acquire a status similar to that of Salisian relics, attracting pilgrims who believe that the insight of the founder may be bestowed upon them. The Church does not oppose this, unless the community itself is suspect. Besides, the pilgrim trade can be a highly lucrative one.

Monks are very diverse in terms of their origins. Many are peasants (or indeed, runaway serfs or thralls), but there are artisans and merchants, penitent rogues and not-so-penitent charlatans, bastard nobles (and even landed nobles who have given away their estate to pursue the monastic calling). There is a common jest in the north that the smallest monastery contains more criminals than the largest prison, an irony that many Salisians take seriously. In actuality, monasteries vet prospective novices very carefully, and cooperate closely with the authorities.

A further difference between Sœcisc and Salisian monasteries is that Sœcisc fugitives can claim sanctuary in a monastery, for a period of 30 days, but not in a church. With the Salisians, sanctuary can be sought in a church but not in a monastery.