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Blasphemy in Creation

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  • Blasphemy in Creation

    So was rereading some books and chatting with those I play with and it got me to thinking on something. Now obviously Exalted draws on a lot of sources including amongst them Greek Myth. A set of legends and tales rather full of cases where openly mocking or defying the divine leads to to some rather direct and clear divine retribution. So it and other parts about the rather human nature of gods at times did get to me wonder how the idea of blasphemy fits into Exalted cultures as most places it touches on religion doesn't really cover it. Would a mortal be worried about being lauded for being more beautiful than Venus? If your wandering nomad army sacks a city in the south do your soldiers kick down the door to Ahlat's temple to steal the silver and kill the priests or would that been seen as suicidal idiocy? If some peasants are labouring in a field and one of them curses his fate and the gods for his life of toil and hardship will those around him try to caution or try to make amends and how much of that is a legitimate fear, how much is more a cultural thing, and how likely or safely could one perform various acts of offence to the gods? Now obviously this is one of those setting elements that is going to depend on the stories you want to tell but where do you see the idea fitting into the world of Exalted? I play a lot of videogames.

  • #2
    I'm guessing that:
    - A mortal might be worried about being lauded for being more beautiful than Venus, but probably shouldn't be (Venus might be petty enough to get annoyed, but she's not going to notice some random mortal saying her name). Doing this in reference to a god who might actually hear what you said might risk offending them, though.
    - If your army sacks Ahlat's temple, you're liable to see a bunch of pissed-off Brides of Ahlat coming your way at the very least, and while I doubt Ahlat himself would appear to personally kill you with his spear he probably would slap a curse on you unless he was confident that his wives and worshipers didn't need the help. Of course, the fact that Ahlat is a martial deity with a large culture that venerates him makes this a lot worse -- your soldiers would have to be insane or terminally clueless to piss off the war god of the entire direction -- but I suspect any god with the influence to come after you is going to do so if you rob their temple and kill their priests. They literally cannot afford to tolerate that.
    - Randomly cursing the gods in general for how much your life sucks probably won't hurt you, unless a local god decides to take it personally and is particularly vengeful. I think you'd have to be pretty unlucky to come off badly if you haven't sassed any particular god. I'm sure many mortals would fear to do this and/or try to shush someone who did, though.

    In general, being insulting to a specific god in a manner loud or blatant enough to actually catch that god's personal attention is probably taking a serious risk of consequences. However, I don't think Plentimon actually hears it every time someone who draws a bad hand of cards curses his name; "fuck you Plentimon" probably doesn't count as a prayer, unless you deliberately make it one (don't do this). Petty offenses probably earn petty reprisals unless a god is a real bastard; if Plentimon does hear you insult him on a bad roll of the dice, he'll probably just flick a small dose of bad luck your way, but if you rob his temple you'll probably be rolling snake eyes for years.

    Of course, doing things in public also makes things worse. A god who doesn't actually care what some mortal says about him might still feel the need to take a swing at you in order to save face, if people heard you talking shit.

    On the third hand, the Unconquered Sun didn't seem too upset about Perfect Soul smacking his statue and raging at him. Some gods probably do respect defiance, up to a point. You never know.

    I expect many individuals and cultures are quite leery of blaspheming in general, though. I doubt the average mortal knows that Plentimon doesn't hear everything they say about him.


    • #3
      The celestial gods in Exalted seem much more distant than the Greek Olympians as a rule. I think affronted followers of a god might be more of a threat than the god itself in this case. Besides, the Maidens in particular seems much more alien and mysterious than the Greek counterparts, so they in particular might not really care that much about individual mortals.

      When it comes to terrestrial gods, it might be different. If you don't have clout in heaven, you'll have to guard what you have on Creation. They might be more inclined to go after perceived slights, particularly if they risk showing weakness otherwise.
      Last edited by Weimann; 01-10-2020, 06:53 AM.

      Dex Davican wrote: I can say without exaggeration or dishonesty that I am the most creative man ever to have lived


      • #4
        I would think that the most common "Blasphemy" in Creation is praying not in accordance with the Immaculate Calendar and Immaculate Rules. And proportionally punished by the Order whenever possible. It is the basic inquisitive job of the monks, far more frequent than the Hunt, especially when it concerns Terrestrial Gods (or entities) because Celestial ones don't interfere often.

        But I wouldn't say that invoking their names is that Blasphemous. As administrators over aspects of life you can grumble and complain or thank in passing, as long as it is not a prayer or a strong enough thankful response (for instance with offerings) that it would direct essence towards them.

        I would classify also as Blasphemous under Immaculate Law all the silly rituals commoners do in the threshold : throwing salt to cancel bad luck, leaving milk outside the window for forest spirits, pouring alcool on tombstones for the ancestor to taste, walk around a campfire twice before cooking so the flammes are gentle with your food...

        Also yeah, if you b**** about the town god loudly be prepared to face consequences, as much by people than by the god !


        • #5
          The Incarnae don't strike me as the types to mess with mortals who bad-mouth them. They're more of the distant, d&d-style "they objectively exist but good luck getting a response" type of god. If the Unconquered Sun is too busy with the Games of Divinity to keep huge swathes of Creation from falling into the Wyld, he's definitely not going to respond to someone calling him a ****.

          Terrestrial gods, though, absolutely seem like the types to get prissy about insults or challenge you to a contest then curse you if you win. That's a standard Exalted plot hook right there-- "I called the river god a **** and he heard me and now the river's turned poisonous, please save our town!"


          • #6
            I will add that the competition between gods is completely different for Terrestrial Gods and Celestial Gods, and it affects their view of mortal badmouthing.

            Celestials have a bureaucratic setting (which I won't get into details) while Terrestrials are more territorial beings, younger, closer to mortals, and the competition is much more strong-armed. Crude even, from a scholar point of view.


            • #7
              So, I just started reading a blog by a classical and medieval historian that has some useful insights on this. He recently posted a collection of essays on how polytheism worked (that is, how the people who practiced it viewed it and what they did about it). I highly recommend all four parts of the collection (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4) for questions about how religion in Creation would tend to work, but for this question, I think the third and fourth parts are particularly relevant. The essential points discussed in those two parts is that a) the gods were viewed as members of the community, and assumed to have relationships and attitudes that reflected that, and b) that gods had different levels of power, and that while it was never considered a good plan to go against a god, you could afford to give less consideration to one whose sphere of influence didn't really overlap with you.

              What are the implications for these ideas on blasphemy in Creation? Well, obviously, it means that you can probably get away with offending a god outside his or her sphere of influence. Screaming to the sky "Ahlat is a stupid walrus-fucking tosser!" will probably earn you a quick punishment in the South, whereas in the North, it might not. Similarly, a fairly small god might not create worries of blasphemy outside their own community: a band of mercenaries from a couple of kingdoms over probably won't think much of looting a field god's shrine along with the rest of a community, because the field god is nowhere near the places they live or are worried about, so what's she going to do?

              There are also some less-obvious implications as well, though. For one thing, the local people's attitude toward blasphemy is going to depend heavily on both the personality of the god, and the nature of the god's relationship to the humans. The personality of the god will dictate whether they are likely to act directly an given act of blasphemy, of course, which will govern people's immediate reaction will be on witnessing it. Do they frown and shake their heads? Back away slowly, muttering "I'm not with her"? Flee at full speed, begging forgiveness at top volume? But a god's personality also governs how likely they are to hold the community in general accountable for blasphemy, or treat it as an individual offense, and that is likely to dictate the population's long-term reaction to blasphemy. If a god has a strong reaction to blasphemous words or deeds, but just tends to hurt the actual offender, then the majority of people who witness or hear about blasphemy will probably avoid the blasphemer (because if you were dumb enough to do it once, you might do it again), but there might not be much more social punishment than that. Conversely, if the god is the sort who believes in collective responsibility, and punishes a whole community for the transgressions of a single member, there's likely to be more substantial social opprobrium heaped on blasphemers, certainly including outright legal action.

              The relationship between the people and the god will also have an effect. Since gods will generally be treated as members of the community, the people will have an emotional relationship with them that affects how they react to insults and attacks on the god. A popular god who is generally liked will probably inspire more severe reactions against blasphemy than one who isn't much thought about, or who is actively hated. Consider an analogy: if two neighboring cities have governors, one of whom is well-liked, popular, goes out among the people and makes some personal connections, etc., while the other basically stays in her palace all the time and just sends out government officials on the business of the state, the first is more likely to find people defending her in the tea houses and the streets when some stranger shows up and starts badmouthing her. Of course, this element of how blasphemy is perceived is one that's going to affect outsiders much more strongly than insiders. People attach their identity to popular members of their community all the time, and treat attacks against those people as attacks on themselves, but if you have other in-group markers, you can be "allowed" to attack the popular person without being treated as attacking the group. So a wandering Circle might find a city where a resident is allowed to grumble about the mismanagement and corruption of the City Mother, but if anyone in the Circle makes a negative remark about her, everyone around them (quite possibly including the people who had been grumbling just a minute ago!) will come down on them in wrath: "You can't say that about our god!".

              Gods have personalities and exist in a community with humans in Creation, of course, but they also exist in such communities with other gods, which is also an important consideration in whether blasphemy might be punished. While I agree with the general attitude already expressed in the thread, that Venus herself would be unlikely to take offense to a random mortal claiming to be more beautiful, Venus does have a number of friends, companions, and loyal subordinates among the gods, and one of those deities might very well hear of the offense and take action. Conversely, if you know one god is antagonistic to another, it becomes safer, possibly actively beneficial, to blaspheme against the one in the other's domain. The classic example from 2e would be Golden-Eyed Jorst, God of Deciduous Trees, and Caltia, God of Conifer Trees, the rival patrons of Linowan and Halta respectively; blaspheming against one of them would earn rewards from the other. But many other similar rivalries are possible. Even if they aren't as intense as that one, if one god secretly dislikes another, they're likely to just ignore blasphemy against their opponent if they hear about it.


              • #8
                You're probably in more risk of reprecussions from Terrestrial deities if you start cursing them or doing things that might insult them than a Celestial deity. Like dude telling his wife, " I can't imagine Venus looking lovelier than you right now," probably safe owing that Venus isn't likely paying close attention and its a compliment and all that. Dude starts handing out pamphlets saying his wife is more attractive than Venus and holding a party in a place dedicated to Venus and talking about how much prettier his wife is than Venus, is screwed.

                Of course the domain probably also plays into it. Plentimon is god of luck and chance; so he's probably used to, and expects to, be thanked or blamed for good luck and misfortune even when he's not involved so not much of an issue unless he feels someone is going a bit too extreme with it. Ahlat is a war god who had raiding as a major thing in his worship ages back, consequently he's probably going to be less pissed off at raiders storming a temple, kicking in the doors, and stealing the loot than Saikal would in the same situation. They're not likely to let it stand uncontested, but Ahlat is more likely to view having people or servitors of some sort hunting the raiders and harranging them as more a matter of course and ensuring they earn their spoils than other gods. By contrast I can see him being more annoyed with an Ocean's 8 style heist, because its combines the standard temple defiling that looting is with doing so in a way that goes against his domain.