To some, belief systems may simply be a comfort, a reassurance that something guides their life. This is not so within the Children. Regardless of the structure or form each Child takes for their worship, there is a strong belief amongst all true-believers that Nature is not simply something to be respected, but is an active and interventionist God, that miracles are literal and observable, and that ritual holds power in more than the symbolic. As such, ceremony is a background fact of each Child’s life. Whether they attend Silas’ preaching or worship individually, to suggest that the word of Fleur or the ideal of Nature as a Godhead may be allegorical would be heresy of the highest order.
All Children are therefore called to treat Nature with the utmost respect and care. For many this means cultivating sustainable gardens which can provide food and caring for other creatures as they are equal in Nature’s eyes. For others still, it means that when they kill for food, they thank the prey for their sacrifice, made to sustain them. These are not simply acts of kindness or of practicality, but sacred.
More than this, Children pray to different aspects of Nature for different goals, and each aspect is said to prefer different methods of prayer.
Nature is considered the overarching Godhead of the four aspects. Each are simply different sides of the Godhead, or four persons in one God. It follows thus that Nature can be kind and nurturing, and destructive and harsh. It can be stable and reliable and it can cause great upheaval and change. The multi-faceted nature of Nature is not considered hypocrisy, but proof that it is the source of all that exists. Each aspect, in turn, is also multi-faceted; all aspects give and take in their own manners and in accordance with their own personalities.
The Sun is the harshest aspect of Nature. With the vestige of itself it leaves, fire, it is the aspect associated with purging of impurities. Whilst Water may purify, this must be a voluntary act. The impure are subjected to purging. For the most part, this means that technology of all sorts is often ‘purified’ through fire, and its destruction is offered as tribute to the Sun.
However, the Sun is also known through ‘The Life and Times’ to be the giver of life, so is also associated with healing and protection. Similarly, there are ways to worship the Sun that are not in part destructive. Devoting purposeful time to tanning, for instance, is considered an act of submission to the Sun; cauterising wounds may be seen as a gift of healing; and lighting lanterns is done to keep the Sun close to you.
These may be a simple act of repentance or may be a prayer for health, protection, or the scorching of ones’ enemies.
The Sky is the wisest aspect of Nature. Its vestige, the cool winds that sweep across the city, can calm the fire or can spread it further as the Sky pleases. They can provide relief from the heat of the Sun or uproot trees and blow down buildings. The wind is never impulsive as a fire may be; it builds slowly across many miles and according to the Sky’s considered plan.
The Sky is also the gatekeeper of the Water. When the Sun in its anger may remove the Water by force of drought, the Sky may birth it anew to the world. Finally, the vastness of the Sky is a reminder of the Children’s place in the world and in Nature; that they are but one small facet. It is therefore to the Sky that Children pray for rain, for the wisdom to choose the correct path, and for the coolness of head to not let their passions overtake them.
Unfortunately, the Sky is known as the hardest of the aspects to make listen as it is the least susceptible to idle flattery or simple offerings. The air must be beseeched to carry the message back and it shall only listen if you make it fairly and interestingly as it is difficult to manipulate. Due to this, wind instruments are used when they can be found. Other smaller acts of prayer may include the blowing of seeds, or similar, to the wind.
The Earth, though the child of the Sun and the Sky, is the most reliable of the aspects. It provides a solid foundation on which all life may flourish. It causes destruction rarely while it always nurtures growth and renewal, and like the Sky it is rarely rash.
As such it is prayed to for stability; the safeguarding against change that may be harmful, and the promise of reliable sources of food and of peace.
The Earth is also the aspect most related to death and decay. Consigning dead things to the Earth is an act of reverence for the unbroken cycle of life and death and reflects the stable nature of reality. Everything must die and life will always rise up to take its place. The Earth is fertilised by decay and so new life springs. Due to this, prayer often involves the burying of organic sacrifices or the planting of seeds and cultivating of plants.
The Water is the most changeable of all aspects. Its fluid nature means it may be prayed to for change and for the ability to adapt oneself to new circumstances. This also gives it the power to purify from wrongdoing as it grants the ability for change.
It is also the most rebellious aspect. It often chases away the fire sent by the Sun to keep watch over their children. As such it is punished by its removal from Earth through scorching heat from the Sun which causes drought. The Sky must therefore be beseeched for its return.
Because of this, Water has invented clever ways of defeating stronger opponents. Water may worm its way through cracks to get to its destination, or may wear the strongest stone down to sand over time. Due to this, it is also prayed to for persistence or for the overcoming of those with greater force than you.
Praying to Water involves bathing or cleaning for purification, or drinking sacred Water for adaptability.
There are many different stances on Technology within the Children. Silas Adams takes a hard line that all technology that uses any form of electricity is anathema to Nature and must be destroyed. Others are more flexible. Many believe that only technology that is directly harmful to Nature is anathema. For instance, something that pollutes the world would be considered evil. Few believe that technology is in all instances permissible as long as it does not take away focus from Nature; it should be used as a tool, not a distraction from the world. Still others say it must be thrown into the fire and if it comes out still usable, then the Sun has permitted it, for it has been purified. This last view has been declared heresy by Silas.
What is generally agreed upon is that it is not simply a personal choice whether to use technology or not, as the issue of whether it offends Nature is one that effects all equally. The use of technology is a very grave matter of debate, as it is considered to be what brought the wrath of Nature upon the world, and the Children do not wish to squander this second chance they have been given.
The Cult of the Sun
Whilst patronising of a particular aspect is not uncommon, the Cult of the Sun have taken this somewhat further. They take passages in ‘The Life and Times’ to mean that the Sun is the greatest of all the aspects, as it is described as the giver of all life. They promote the Sun’s worship above all others and believe it to dominate all other aspects. This skirts close to quadtheism.
Due to this, they believe that the sun receding at night means that the night brings encroaching death. To protect themselves from this, they keep vigils with lit lanterns and pray for the return of the Sun, else they fear it may not rise again.
They are also known to take the purging rite of fire to extremes and there are rumours of people who have walked through the flames themselves.
The Godhead and Quadtheism
The few people who believed each aspect to be a distinct God and there to be no overarching Godhead called ‘Nature’ which unites them all in one entity, have been declared heretics by the majority of the young religion. This was called quadtheism and is the reason the Cult of the Sun is skirting close to heresy, as to suggest that one aspect dominates the others is to suggest one is more powerful. This is logically incompatible with them being simply a different side of Nature, and all aspects are wholly Nature. To say that each aspect is a different God is to deny the existence of Nature as a God or to minimise its power as simply being the ruler of the Sun, the Sky, the Earth, and the Water.
Silas explains this as a statue viewed from different angles. Each represents a whole and complete thing – this is Nature – with all its inherent strength, but each presents a different image and function to the world. They are therefore distinct persons with their own personality but are all part of the same Godhead.
There are two large opposing forces in this debate: Silas Adams and Kali Archaya. Silas believes that religious worship should be defined by those with the wisdom to interpret the word of ‘The Life and Times’. As such, he encourages people to attend his speeches and to participate in mass ceremony to show devotion and repentance, and to pray. He discourages the patronising of singular aspects and believes all demand equal reverence.
Kali Archaya, however, believes that all should read ‘The Life and Times’ and should interpret it for themselves, simply using the community for guidance rather than authority. She believes that ceremony can be personal and performed on your own or in small groups, and that there can be no defined way to worship. She encourages people to pick patron aspects and is herself devoted to Earth.
“The Sun damn you!” – An expression of anger and condemnation.
“The Sky give me strength…” – A plea for the wisdom to refrain from acting rashly.
“From Earth to Earth.” – Said when burying organic material to acknowledge the cycle of life and death.
“Water be with you.” – An expression that you believe an idea is foolish or that success is against the odds, but you wish them luck.
“Nature be praised / Thank Nature.” – Generally an expression of relief or happiness.
Silas Adams: The self-proclaimed Shepherd of the Children, Silas gathers the willing Children once a week to speak to them and to hold rituals in honour of Nature. Due to his skill as an orator, these usually gain a large crowd. He is the first to denounce certain lines of thinking as heresy and is the harshest member on the use of technology. Charismatic and forceful, he is thought of as a man of great integrity and strong faith.
Kali Archaya: Is a member who has been denounced as a heretic by Silas when she came to his speech to challenge his claims that he alone perceived the truth of Nature, as told by the ‘Life and Times’. He accused her of trying to lead people astray, down the path of easy worship where it does not inconvenience the worshipper. What if these people were to decide the use of technology was acceptable? Kali has, in response, defended the purity of her worship and has carefully not stated an opinion on technology, but has said that it is a debate for the community to decide. Intelligent and eloquent in her own right, she is one of the few Silas has declared ‘heretic’ that has managed to remain firmly within the community.
Munia: Is rumoured to be the leader of the Cult of the Sun. Little is known about her except that she has severe burn scars all over her body.