LESSON Religious Concluding Rites—Bite-sized Fantasy Worldbuilding

Discussion in 'BUILDING WORLDS' started by Malkuthe Highwind, Jan 6, 2016.

  1. Bite-Sized Fantasy Worldbuilding - Religious Concluding Rites

    Whether we like it or not, religions are something that tend to appear quite often in Fantasy settings. This is to be expected of most high-fantasy worlds, as they typically exist in what we would consider a medieval-esque time period. Without a proper framework for scientific understanding, these religions(be they true or false) are allowed to flourish and spread.

    However, there is something that would seem rather innocuous at first glance that actually bears some significance to the way that a religion can be understood. That something is the Concluding Rite, particularly, the concluding rites that close whatever is considered a form of institutionalized worship in that religion.

    Concluding Rites?A quick glance at any world religion, particularly those of the Abrahamic sort, confirms that many of them have some form of institutionalized worship. Note, however, that we are looking for forms of worship that involve people coming together in some sort of structured communal veneration of their god. Prayer, like what most Christians do before bed at night and before eating, does not qualify as it doesn't have proper concluding rites.

    Let us take a closer look at one particular religion, one that I happen to be intimately familiar with, having been a devout Catholic for much of my life before I saw the light of empiricism. Roman Catholicism is one of the prime examples of a religion with well-defined concluding rites to communal worship.

    Any examination of a Roman Catholic missal reveals that there are four parts to the Concluding Rites of a Roman Catholic Mass: the final blessing, the dismissal, the final hymn, and the departing processional that happens simultaneously with the final hymn.

    For the purposes of this bite-sized workshop, I want to outline the events of the Concluding Rites of Roman Catholic mass for you.

    The above is a wonderful example of a concluding rite. I am not nearly as familiar with other religions to know their concluding rites with any confidence, so I simply ask you to think about the concluding rites of whatever religions you are most comfortable with and keep those in mind.

    The Significance of Concluding Rites — Also known as "Why the fuck are you going on about Concluding Rites? Wouldn't it make much more sense to discuss communal worship altogether?" First of all, because I want to, and second of all, because it is surprising the amount of depth that one could find in the concluding rites of a particular religion.

    First and foremost, we must acknowledge one thing: everything that is done during worship is symbolic for something that is important to the religion. This makes it so that no one part of a worship ceremony or service or whatever you wish to call it is more important than any other, and that there is something that can be learned of a religion from the way that certain parts of its worship services proceed.

    It is also important to note that in many religions, prominent especially in Roman Catholicism, the bulk of the worship ceremony is dedicated to venerating the deity/deities of the religion, receiving wisdom from holy scripture, and giving thanks for extant blessings. The congregation itself doesn't tend to receive blessings during the main body of the service.

    If we examine the concluding rites of the Roman Catholic church, we can see that it is only at the very end, during the concluding rites, that the priest dispenses blessings among those that have attended mass. From what I learned in World Religions this past university term, Sikhism has something similar to this, in that at the end of every worship, a particular foodstuff is given among the congregation—who are all seated on the floor to emphasise equality—that represents the blessings of their one god.

    Furthermore, if we look at the Roman Catholic dismissal "Go now to love and serve the Lord" the congregation is reminded of whatever responsibilities or obligations it might have to its deity. Though this isn't unique to the dismissal, it is still a prominent part of the Roman Catholic concluding rite.

    What of Religions That Don't Have Well-Defined Concluding Rites? — Whether or not the concluding rites are well defined or not is irrelevant. Obviously, this post applies onyl to those religions that do have concluding rites, so if your religion just doesn't have them period, then this doesn't apply. On the matter of poorly-defined concluding rites, though, as long as there is something that is regularly done to end a worship 'session,' that can count as a concluding rite.

    Concluding Rites in WorldbuildingWhy would I ever need this? — The answer is simple. Why do we ever include any details in worldbuilding? Because they add life to the world. Adding Concluding Rites to a religion that you constructed not only helps to refine the ideology of your religion, but it makes it seem that much more lifelike. There is a term that I learned from film-analysis class and that is verisimilitude: the quality of being close to real.

    While realism is not something that all worldbuilding for all genres pursue, verisimilitude is definitely something that makes a good world feel even better, and this is what makes developing details like Concluding Rites worth it.

    Questions to Consider:

    Do the Priests of my Religion have the Authority to Dispense Blessings? — In Roman Catholicism, as evidenced by the Concluding Rites of the Roman Catholic mass, priests are clearly authorized to dispense the blessings of their god upon the congregation. This is because the Roman Catholics believe that the priests are the physical embodiment of Christ himself—as well as his salvific powers.

    As you will see in an example that I will provide later, the first caste of priests in my constructed religion, Di'Averrë Nenn(the Faith of the Nine), do not have the authority to dispense the blessings of the primary god of the pantheon: the Stranger. This is also made clear in the closing line of the concluding rites of Di'Averrë Nenn, which goes "You have affirmed your faith. Go now to see the guidance of the Nine," wherein the priest does not disseminate blessings to the congregation.

    What is the tone of worship? — the Concluding Rites can say a lot about how worship is conducted in your particular religion or church. The Roman Catholic dismissal is clearly a solemn one, and it is not too far of a long shot to assume that the rest of the service was similarly solemn. By creating a Concluding Rite, you are fixing, in your head and in your readers' heads, just how, emotionally, the adherents of your religion approach worship.

    Going back to the example of the Faith of the Nine, the Concluding Rite of that religion is very affirmative in tone. It reinforces the beliefs of the faithful and it ends with the priest saying that the congregation has affirmed its faith. In some Pentecostal sects of Christianity, however, the Concluding Rites are joyful and filled with song and dance. This is also true of the rest of the service, where worship is viewed as a joyful celebration of the grace of their god.

    What is the identity of the religious? — Perhaps most importantly, the Concluding Rites of your religion may help in solidifying just what the identity and purpose of the faithful are. In Roman Catholicism, for example, Catholics are reminded of their duty and obligation as servants to their god. Furthermore, they are told to love and serve their lord as well as be peaceful in all that they do. This is true of many Christian denominations. If instead, the dismissal said "go now and spread the word of god to all who would listen," the Catholic identity would be less servile and more evangelical.

    In the Concluding Rite of the Faith of the Nine, there are four lines that specifically deal with the identity of its adherents. First and foremost: "... And how do we thank Him?" "We seek Him through glory in life and in peace through death." These two lines together indicate that the adherents of the Faith of the Nine are expected to achieve glory. This typically means that they are of a martial inclination. Furthermore, this indicates that the faithful are expected to face death with acceptance, rather than fear.

    Then, there are two more lines: "...And his will?" "Let all who will listen know that He is Deliverance." This line establishes not only the expectation that the faithful should speak to others about the salvation offered by the Stranger, but it also demands that the faithful do not force themselves on the unwilling, as it specifies only "those who will listen."

    Final Word — These three things, i believe, are the three most important roles filled by creating concluding rites for your religions. However, obviously, there are many other things that you can include in the concluding rite, like say, for example, why it is that the religious are obligated to worship. Take everything here as a simple guide to creating concluding rites, and don't hesitate to put your own spin on things. This is not meant as law but rather, a helpful guide toward making a more vibrant and lively world.

    Example Concluding RiteThis concluding rite comes from Di'Averrë Nenn, the Faith of the Nine, a religion that is adhered to by my death-obsessed martial race of Elves, the Tretallë. This is known as the Litany of Questions, and though the first three questions and their answers are used to open events sometimes, the full Litany of Questions is not spoken unless it is to bring an end to a session of worship.

    Priest: I ask all who are gathered today—who is the Stranger?
    Congregation: He is Life
    Priest: I ask again—who is the Stranger?
    Congregation: He is Death
    Priest: How can He be both?
    Congregation: For neither one can exist without the other
    Priest: Then I ask this, why do we worship?
    Congregation: For He brought Death to our bondage and Life to our freedom
    Priest: And the price we paid for this gift?
    Congregation: A Life for Life. The Blood of our Ancestors.
    Priest: And how do we thank him?
    Congregation: We seek Him through glory in Life and in Peace through Death.
    Priest: And His will?
    Congregation: Let all who will listen know that He is Deliverance.
    Priest: You have affirmed your faith. Go now to seek the guidance of the Nine.

    So, what do you think? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Why? Why not? I would love to read what you have to say about this little workshop, and I encourage all of you who read this to try and create a concluding rite for a religion you may have in your pocket. Post it here! I'm sure we would all love to see it.
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