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Conspiracy Theory: Malleus Maleficarum

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  • Conspiracy Theory: Malleus Maleficarum

    Well everyone, light up your torches and wear your crosses, 'cause it's Deus Vult time!

    When people hear about "secret societies which hunt down monsters", it is very likely that something in the lines of the Malleus Maleficarum would be one of the first things to come to mind. Having a Secret Inquisition as the shadow army of the Catholic Church against monsters is as fundamental for a monster-hunter game/story as a Men In Black is- and of course, Hunter has them both. Now, considering how obvious is the idea that we are going to have a MM like organization in hunter, it is also very easy to disregard it- I mean, those are people who get the blessing of the Church in order to hunt down monsters- what more do you want? The MM wants what the Catholic Church wants, and priests and nuns which go around and kill monsters does align well with what the fact that the Church goes around, burns witches and banish demons. Overall, nothing to exciting to see here, right?

    Wrong. And you know it. You read the book, after all.

    The first thing to note is that while everyone have that stereotype of Catholic priests going around and burning witches, that's.. not very accurate. That's actually more of a Protestant thing- in fact, in the good old Middle Ages, if you were to come to a priest and blame someone for being a witch, there was a decent chance that you could be the one ending up burning. That's because the Catholic Inquisition wasn't all about burning witches- but about burning heretics, and believing in witches was, well, heresy. That's part of the whole "there is no one besides God" thing- only God can grant power in the form of miracles. The Devil has no power before God, as they say- and believing that you have supernatural powers, or that someone else have them, is heresy. You didn't got burned for being a witch, but for believing you were a witch. That's why the Malleus Maleficarum, the book which gave the conspiracy its name, was claimed to be heretic- even though it was still extremely popular. Because here is the thing- while the official stance of the Church was that there is not such thing as witches and monsters, and that at best the Devil could make you think that there are monsters in the dark, the existence of the supernatural (besides miracles, of course) was denied- but again, the key word here is officially. People still believed in witches- it one thing to put Jesus into the pagans, it is a whole other mess to get the paganism out. Centuries of traditions and fear from the dark don't just die out for being considered heresy- and that includes priests, especially those in the bottom and those who operate in more rural places. As such, it is not that there was never an instance where a Catholic priest killed someone for being a witch, but due to the fact that witchcraft was denied by the Church and belief in it branded you as heretic, well, it makes sense that the Church wasn't responsible for most of the witch trials in Europe.

    That's all nice and well for our world- but how this works out within the context of the Chronicles of Darkness? A place where monsters, such as witches, are not only real, but also very, very dangerous? Why would the Church try to keep it a secret that the supernatural exists in such a world? Were they somehow oblivious for the monsters in the dark? Were they controlled by monsters? Was the Malleus Maleficarum branded as heresy in order to hide the dark powers which manipulate the Church?

    I don't think so. I think that, in a way, it was their method to fight the supernatural.

    Here is the thing- Christianity grew out of Rome, a place where the supernatural, while not being exposed, was more or less a open secret. People knew that there are witches, gods, spirits, monsters and dead things all lurking just out of sight. They believed in those entities, and like how any ecosystem works, they tried to coexist with them. Keep the darkness satisfied, and it won't come searching for you. More than that, a lot of those entities, especially the more intelligent ones, have created cults around them- the Mithraic Mysteries, for example, a early rival of Christianity, are outright stated to be heavily influenced by vampires. Mages, demons and other entities are all well known to make cults around themselves- something which worked very well within the polytheistic system, where someone just had to claim they serve as a oracle for some god or be the manifestation of a local power and get the blood sacrifice flowing. When Mystery Cults and Secret Societies exist more as a statement of "we know cool things and so much better than you and less "we must hide our faith or else we'll get crushed and die out", you can i9magine how easy it was for monsters to exploit the mortal society. Again, just look on Requiem for Rome or Scattered Blossom- when the monsters can coexist with the mortal societies, they do it. They benefit from it. In ancient times, monsters didn't usually felt the urge to hide every semblance of their existence, especially not in the same devotion as modern vampires hold the Masquerade. Something changed- and it is not the hunters. Hunters were always there- heck, the Aves Minerva were the Roman Conspiracy, and they hunted down the undead alongside other monsters, and even that didn't stopped them from being so overly open with the supernatural. If that's the case. than what happened?

    Well, you know what happened. Christianity happened.

    Here is the thing- in a world where the supernatural is so entwined with the local faiths and cults of the local people, disrupting that power structure by a new and rising religion was devastating for the monsters. The fact that you have a body which goes around and destroying one religious system after the other creates some very, let's say, uncomfortable situation for the local monstrous population. And now this religion, heck this organization, comes and states that monsters do not exist, that there are no supernatural powers and that believing in them is heresy- never mind that now the cults and secret societies that monsters so dearly love are getting to the stake, the monsters themselves can get caught in the fire. And when the powers of certain monsters actively tries to erase its existence from the minds of the watchers, justifying that the supernatural truly exists is even more difficult, and monsters are now found in a constant danger of losing resources and connections which they need- not to mention, again, getting killed, considering that monsters generally have the tendency to believe in esoteric things by themselves. Now, it is very likely that at those points some priests did found out about the supernatural- but considering that the systematic fight against pagan faiths have, at least in the eyes of the higher ups in the Church, reduced the ability of monsters to manipulate the masses (at least, in their eyes), it would make sense why the Church would try to keep this as secret- just like the modern TFV. You fight the supernatural by pushing it to the shadows. You first reclaim the day, and then you can start talking about taking back the night.

    Of course, that method has its limits- the supernatural adapts or dies out, like in any common ecosystem. Some monsters have went deeper into the darkness, other have tried to find their place in the new system of faith, creating all kinds of heresies and cults- heck, some have even joined the Church! But overall, it seems very likely that the Catholic Church, simply by its own existence, have made life very difficult to most monsters. Still, we are far from having an actual conspiracy at this point- we only have the Church openly fighting against the competition, rooting out elements they are not interested in, and in the process, clashing with the supernatural on a regular basis while trying to cover it up out of hope it would push the monsters even further into the dark. Nothing well coordinated or structured, but still a big change in the status que- that is, until it becomes the status que. Until the monsters adjust to the new situation. Until they manage to worm into the Church and use its own enforced Masquerade against it.

    Enter Baudolino.

    I mean, we do know that vampires have created their own version of Christianity, and that vampires generally keep connection within mortal society- and more than that, that those "Christian Vampires", the Sanctified, have their own system of "miracles". It is very, very likely that some of those vampires have used their powers to lure people they can manipulate for their needs, creating blood cults for their own benefits- and it is very likely that Baudolino got into one of those blood cults. We don't know the exact circumstances in which he got into the cult and how he managed to fight off his master, but in the end Baudolino came out of this hellscape of blood induced brainwash with two very important conclusions- first, that the supernatural exists. And second, that they can no longer fight it through denial (unless you are a Cainte, but that's a whole other theory). Instead, a more active method must be used- one which is already being practiced by many disparate monks and priests, but has to be organized in order to root out the darkness from the Church and fight the corruption in the shadows. But the Church also can't just admit that the supernatural exist- not only that it would revert things to how they previously were, the the supernatural easily manipulating the masses, but it would also mean that the Church has to state that it was WRONG- something which an organization which claims to hold all knowledge is hesitant to do for obvious reasons. So what to do? to take those people who already fight the darkness and unite them under one system, one mission- to tell those people who are able to withstand the truth without falling into heresy and send them to fight the darkness. That's probably that convinced the Pope to sanctify the organization- the very existence of someone like Baudolino means that while he have escaped, there are probably many under within the Church which are manipulated by the monsters. Someone needs to root the darkness out of the Church's halls, and that meant creating an inquisition especially for that cause.

    Before going any further, I just wanted to note that while both 1e and 2e state that the Pope who established the MM was Pope Paul III during 1567, that's probably wrong for the simple reason that, well, Pope Paul III wasn't the Pope during that year- as he was, well, dead. Now, the 1e Core have probably made the mistake by just stating that the conspiracy was created 80 years after the Malleus Maleficarum was published and 2e simply added the numbers- but really, someone should have double checked it for 2e. I sent note about it during the Errata, so let's hope it would get fixed- but in case this will carry for the final draft, than either the timeline of the CofD doesn't align with our own world or that Pope Paul III was the vampire which ghouled Baudolino and that's the way of the book to let us know it. Is it likely? No, but hey, if you don't want Vampire Pope, don't make errors which lead to Vampire Pope. Writers really should double check such details before they publish them, you know?

    Aaaaaaaanyway, now that we have more or less what probably have lead to the creation of the MM, we can start ask ourselves other questions- like why the name? Why to be called Malleus Maleficarum? Also, how does their Endowments work? What is the power behind Benedictions? And what about Baudolino? He is still around, after all- what is truly in his mind for the conspiracy? Is he just there to fight the darkness? To get a steady blood supply? Or is there some hidden agenda? And what about those families which the conspiracy guards? Or the prophecies which they are known to follow? And what is their deal about the Sabbatarians? Is it just a superstition- or is there a secret agenda behind training those Saturday born hunters with specialized vampire hunting?

    Well, let's go and crack some shells to see what hides beneath.

    Let's start from the name- the Malleus Maleficarum, the infamous book originally branded as heresy, which probably has more nonsense in it than Cheiron's Manual (really, I would have LOVED to get a fiction book for this one as a stretch goal for the Kickstarter- but oh well, you work with what you get). One of the things which people find weird about the MM is that they are called after a book which is not only heretical, but also VERY geared towards hunting witches- when the MM are stated to prioritize vampires, THEN witches (and then demons, but that's less important). Now, the thing that I think we should keep in mind is less what the book is actually about (which is nonsense) and more what it represents- it is a symbol for revealing the darkness hidden in plain sight, of seeking after the signs of the Devil and hunting down his servants. This book is all about heresy which was accepted into the Church- which is the message that those early hunters had to take into account when they joined the conspiracy. That officially, they are heretics- that they know the truth that the Church actively hides, and that while they are part of the Church they are also outside out if. Besides, it is probably a branding thing- this book have probably resonated the most with those hunters who were the most devoted to fight the influence of the Devil in its more physical manifestations, and as such are more likely to get recruited into the group. But I think that its main aspect is that of revealing the truth hidden beneath the surface- especially the one within the Church itself. Search after the signs of the Devil and hunt them down- witches are still there, but vampires are the main threat, because they are always there, and some of them can invoke false miracles- which is a part of the warning. Don't believe those who work wonders while claiming to have the blessing of the Lord- search for the signs of corruptions and see the truth. Baudolino knows what he is talking about- from personal experience.

    As for Benedictions- well, let's stop beating about the bush.

    It's Theban Sorcery.

    I mean- just think about it: a certain ghoul who created a conspiracy which is able to invoke the blessings of the Saints in order to fight the darkness? I mean, it is not even a difficult math- Vampire + Holy Magic = Theban Sorcery, that's it. That connection becomes even more obvious in 2e, as instead of using the complicated system of Saint Days for Benedictions it goes straight for drawing power from Integrity- just like Theban Sorcery draws power from Humanity. However, that would explain how Baudolino may be able to use those powers- well, he and those archbishops he got ghouled and vitae addicted as part of him solidifying his power over the conspiracy. The things is, that unlike Vampires, the hunters of the MM don't need to have been touched by Vitae at any point in their life in order to use Benedictions- instead, they need the blessing of the Pope. The Pope connects them to God, and the Pope can also shut them out- unless they manage to find another system to use, like how the Order of St Jude claims to have managed to "hack" the system with their "Black Pope". Now, considering the importance of the Blood of the Christ with the act of transubstantiation, it is very tempting to say that Baudolino may have found a way to convert Vitae into "Wine" (that is, remove the addictive properties of Vitae alongside its other features) and that this is what the hunters of the MM drink every Sunday, which would work with the claims of the Cainte Heresy during the Inquisitions that vampires mix their blood in the wine in order to brainwash the masses, but besides that part about the Cainte (which are, after all, crazy and can't be treated as a reliable source), nothing in the books seems to suggest anything like it- Baudolino governing a number of families from which they recruit may be equivalent for ghoul families, but hunters outside of those families are also able to use Benedictions without drinking any Vitae. However- that all neglects a very important fact: that Theban Sorcery is not really a Blood Magic. It is Will Magic.

    Theban Sorcery does not, in fact, uses Vitae- sure, it uses the Curse and the supernatural nature of the vampire in order to work, but Vitae itself is not consumed by those rituals, which is the same as Benedictions. As such, like many other forms of sorcery which the Kindred use (with he exception of Cruac, and even that depends on the Style), Theban Sorcery is not actually tied to the existence of vampires- the Curse simply channels the powers of Theban Sorcery, but its origin comes from somewhere else. From where? Well, if you'll ask the Sanctified, the answer is clear- God. Theban Sorcery was granted to the Kindred by his angels- specifically, Amoniel. And that's one of the only things on which the MM are going to agree with the Kindred is about this point- oh, sure, "Theban Sorcery" is a blasphemy, but Benedictions, the totally-OG-holy-miracles-don't-steal, also comes from God and the Saints. Add to that the fact that certain members of the conspiracy are known to have prophetic abilities- which means that some power communes with the MM- and that's it, case close. God is real and he gives His blessing to both the vampires and hunters, the first through their Curse and the later through the whole infrastructure of Saints and the Pope, and Baudolino, while originally drawing the power through Vitae, have managed to unlock the system and get straight to the source. All done, nothing to see here.

    Except....

    Well, here is the problem- just like the MM would deny any connection between Benedictions and Theban Sorcery, the Sanctified would deny the idea that Theban Sorcery may have predated the Apostles of Longinus- but it does. There is a reason that the "angel" which gifted the Lancea et Sanctum with this magic is called "Amunel"- as true to its name, Theban Sorcery was "found" in Egypt, a land less associated with God and more with God getting people out of there. Amoniel has probably derived his name from the Egyptian god Amon, the God of the Sun, and we do know for a fact that Theban Sorcery was used by the vampires of Ancient Egypt- especially by those belonging to the cult of the Sun God. In that case, if Theban Sorcery, and by extension Benedictions, are not only predating Christianity but also being connected more to God's "competition" than God Himself- what the hell is going on?

    Like always, we have a number of options.

    The first option is the most asked one- the God Machine. I mean, the whole infrastructure of the Pope and the Saints pretty much screams "systems" and "wheels within wheels", which really aligns with the occult matrixes of the God Machine. While having the God Machine playing God and manipulating the masses through religion may look appropriate, there are a few issues in here- first, while in 1e it could have worked with the MM simply using rites and the infrastructure of the Saints Calendar to invoke Benedictions, in 2e we have the Pope sitting in the middle of this whole mess- and if the Pope is a part of a occult Infrastructure, one could quickly conclude that the WHOLE CATHOLIC CHURCH MAY BE A INFRASTRUCTURE OF A FALSE GOD. And guess what? I am NOT getting into this s***hole. Not just because I don't want the inquisition knocking on my doors, I also feel like it's just, well, not "cool". I still remember how annoyed I was for reading that Dark Eras fiction about how all of the prophets in the bible are basically mindless puppets manipulated by a freaking gear of the God Machine (seriously, I hate that fiction- not only that it is borderline offensive but it was also badly written IMO, but I am not going to talk about it). So yeah, forgive me for not wanting to brand one of the largest religions on the world as potentially a infrastructure used by the God Machine. You can do what you want in your own games, but I am going to leave the Pope outside of the God Machine's Infrastructures no matter how appropriate it is, ok? It could work for Theban Sorcery on its own, but once you tie it into Benedictions think go bad very quickly.

    So, if we ignore the lowest hanging fruit, let's aim for the second lowest- Utterances, or potentially a watered down version of them, like a less tainted form of Sekhem Sorcery. Now, this on the surface has some appropriate thematic- a lot of Utterances parallel different biblical miracles, and this would explain the whole Egyptian thing. Also, it would fit the description of the rituals as "old as time", not to mention that it could work with the Pope gatekeeping access to it through some kind of large scale ceremony/Neithian architecture thing where he is in the center. Now, while it could definitely work. Well, of course, it could also work well if the Pope serves as a manifestation of the powers which hold control over the world... like the Judges. Which would potentially make him benebet. Which again goes to a territory of "Places LostLight doesn't want to go to"... Well, we could avoid this whole mess by taking a different angle- not make the Pope connected to the Judges in any way, shape or form, but we can connect him to the powers of A'aru. After all, God is stated to have judged the gods of Egypt- so perhaps we can work with God being a divine power related to the Judges but not one of them? Of course, that is not supported by any text, and could make things even more complicated, and there is also the problem that Benediction is very much "New Testament" in style while Utterances are much more "Old Testament", but its description as related to exorcism and its like does make it sound like Closed Rites... In a way, Benedictions in such a state would work better if we were to remove God from the equation all together and have the Saints as some souls which managed to escape the Devourer and which connect the Pope and the MM to the powers of A'aru- but that would still won't explain the seemingly malicious nature of the Black Pope... or the fact that Mummy actively goes against the possibility of someone escaping Duat.

    If that's the case, maybe we should go to the easiest option- it's God. Just God.

    I mean, technically, the Empyrean is already established as part of the CofD setting- the "perfection beyond perfection", "Orr Ein Soph", "Unmoved Mover"- whatever you want to call it, it is mentioned across different books all across the setting. Heck the possibility of God being, well, God, is also mentioned in Danse Macabre, and actual terrifying angels are already presented in Inferno's famous sidebar- so taking all of that into account, it is quite possible that God-by-any-other-name is part of the setting. Is it the Principle? Could be, but He could also be something else- basically the entity which calls the Empyrean home, whether it is A'aru, the Divine Fire or sopmething else. However, having a direct contact with the Empyrean is dangerous- it could burn you out, mind and soul. So it works through messengers- like angels, or Saints. The system of the saints and the Pope is there in order to allow the divine light to reach down earth- but just like how Inferno corrupts everything, the Empyrean may go through many channels, be them the Blood, Sekhem or even the Infrastructures of the God Machine- so all answers are correct! However, if that's the case, why does that power being contained only be the hands of the Pope and the mechanism of the Saints? Why can't other true believers reach that power?

    In here I would return to the powers of the Blood.

    See, we have already mentioned it- transubstantiation. Let's admit it- there is something strangely similar between gaining access to Benedictions and becoming a ghoul: both instances are controlled by a powerful, external entity (the regent/ the Pope), and both could be denied with the decision of that entity. Both present a form of control and servitude, yet where the first works through addiction the other works through willingly submitting to the Pope. Could it be that Baudolino have managed to not simply purifying the principles of Vitae through transubstantiation, but to inverse the very process of ghouling, removing the aspects which taint the living and leave it as a direct connection to the Divine? If that's so, 8it could explain why the rouge MM cell hates the conspiracy so much- as they may have found by themselves how to transform Vitae into divine connection through the figure of the Black Pope, which means that technically Baudolino have kept control over Benedictions by hiding the secrets behind it- of creating a "regent" through some method (maybe there is "purified Vitae" in the holy wine indeed). And that could also explain the families that the conspiracy tends- those were originally ghoul families which were themselves inverted into the service of God. Not sure how to tie the Sabbatians in here- which makes sense, as it seems that this is not a Catholic concept as much as it is a Orthodox one, but it could just be that it is a part of the endgame- the whole point of choosing those who were born on Saturday as vampire hunters is because they could "see the invisible", which could lean into the Malleus Maleficarum teaching how to see the signs of the supernatural. The same theme of "seeing the Devil's sign", which works even better with their dog companions. Find the Devil no matter what form it could wear and all of that.

    Ok, so we explained where the conspiracy came from and how their powers work- but what about the endgame?

    Personally, I like the thought about it being another form of transubstantiation- yet instead of turning wine into blood, it is about turning Earth into Heaven. A controlled Heaven, that is. Basically, the vision of the Catholic Church as a pure world- not the same form of Ascension as the Ascended Ones seek after or the Apocalypse which the Long Night work towards, but and act of turning the Church into a channel to the holy, giving divine authority to the Pope by inverting the Curse of Vampirism into a divine Blessing. One God, One, Church, One Faith. A world where holy men, saints and angels control the world through a strict order, where the Blood becomes the Wine from which the living could find salvation. Basically, evil gets not just purified, but controlled and regulated, and people have to accept God and His love (as seen by the Church) or fall to Hell. This is not the End of Times, this is not the End of Evil- this is a world where the Devil exists for he is needed, a world where only the worthy and chosen are gifted with the blessing of the Empyrean where everyone else are being constantly watched by the piercing gaze of angels and Saints. It is a controlled world- a better world, yes, but one where damnation exists for it is required, and where the Devil has no power- all demons are banished to Hell, and their powers are converted to serve His glory. And that may be why the Lucifuge are, as a organization, kept so close to the conspiracy- for even after their endgame, God would need His Devil.

    Aaaand that's it. Thanks for Primordial newcomer for giving some feedback about this writeup, and next time we are moving for the religious conspiracies to Men in Black in all of their forms. See you next time!


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  • #2
    Originally posted by LostLight View Post
    Well everyone, light up your torches and wear your crosses, 'cause it's Deus Vult time!

    When people hear about "secret societies which hunt down monsters", it is very likely that something in the lines of the Malleus Maleficarum would be one of the first things to come to mind. Having a Secret Inquisition as the shadow army of the Catholic Church against monsters is as fundamental for a monster-hunter game/story as a Men In Black is- and of course, Hunter has them both. Now, considering how obvious is the idea that we are going to have a MM like organization in hunter, it is also very easy to disregard it- I mean, those are people who get the blessing of the Church in order to hunt down monsters- what more do you want? The MM wants what the Catholic Church wants, and priests and nuns which go around and kill monsters does align well with what the fact that the Church goes around, burns witches and banish demons. Overall, nothing to exciting to see here, right?

    Wrong. And you know it. You read the book, after all.

    The first thing to note is that while everyone have that stereotype of Catholic priests going around and burning witches, that's.. not very accurate. That's actually more of a Protestant thing- in fact, in the good old Middle Ages, if you were to come to a priest and blame someone for being a witch, there was a decent chance that you could be the one ending up burning. That's because the Catholic Inquisition wasn't all about burning witches- but about burning heretics, and believing in witches was, well, heresy. That's part of the whole "there is no one besides God" thing- only God can grant power in the form of miracles. The Devil has no power before God, as they say- and believing that you have supernatural powers, or that someone else have them, is heresy. You didn't got burned for being a witch, but for believing you were a witch. That's why the Malleus Maleficarum, the book which gave the conspiracy its name, was claimed to be heretic- even though it was still extremely popular. Because here is the thing- while the official stance of the Church was that there is not such thing as witches and monsters, and that at best the Devil could make you think that there are monsters in the dark, the existence of the supernatural (besides miracles, of course) was denied- but again, the key word here is officially. People still believed in witches- it one thing to put Jesus into the pagans, it is a whole other mess to get the paganism out. Centuries of traditions and fear from the dark don't just die out for being considered heresy- and that includes priests, especially those in the bottom and those who operate in more rural places. As such, it is not that there was never an instance where a Catholic priest killed someone for being a witch, but due to the fact that witchcraft was denied by the Church and belief in it branded you as heretic, well, it makes sense that the Church wasn't responsible for most of the witch trials in Europe.

    That's all nice and well for our world- but how this works out within the context of the Chronicles of Darkness? A place where monsters, such as witches, are not only real, but also very, very dangerous? Why would the Church try to keep it a secret that the supernatural exists in such a world? Were they somehow oblivious for the monsters in the dark? Were they controlled by monsters? Was the Malleus Maleficarum branded as heresy in order to hide the dark powers which manipulate the Church?

    I don't think so. I think that, in a way, it was their method to fight the supernatural.

    Here is the thing- Christianity grew out of Rome, a place where the supernatural, while not being exposed, was more or less a open secret. People knew that there are witches, gods, spirits, monsters and dead things all lurking just out of sight. They believed in those entities, and like how any ecosystem works, they tried to coexist with them. Keep the darkness satisfied, and it won't come searching for you. More than that, a lot of those entities, especially the more intelligent ones, have created cults around them- the Mithraic Mysteries, for example, a early rival of Christianity, are outright stated to be heavily influenced by vampires. Mages, demons and other entities are all well known to make cults around themselves- something which worked very well within the polytheistic system, where someone just had to claim they serve as a oracle for some god or be the manifestation of a local power and get the blood sacrifice flowing. When Mystery Cults and Secret Societies exist more as a statement of "we know cool things and so much better than you and less "we must hide our faith or else we'll get crushed and die out", you can i9magine how easy it was for monsters to exploit the mortal society. Again, just look on Requiem for Rome or Scattered Blossom- when the monsters can coexist with the mortal societies, they do it. They benefit from it. In ancient times, monsters didn't usually felt the urge to hide every semblance of their existence, especially not in the same devotion as modern vampires hold the Masquerade. Something changed- and it is not the hunters. Hunters were always there- heck, the Aves Minerva were the Roman Conspiracy, and they hunted down the undead alongside other monsters, and even that didn't stopped them from being so overly open with the supernatural. If that's the case. than what happened?

    Well, you know what happened. Christianity happened.

    Here is the thing- in a world where the supernatural is so entwined with the local faiths and cults of the local people, disrupting that power structure by a new and rising religion was devastating for the monsters. The fact that you have a body which goes around and destroying one religious system after the other creates some very, let's say, uncomfortable situation for the local monstrous population. And now this religion, heck this organization, comes and states that monsters do not exist, that there are no supernatural powers and that believing in them is heresy- never mind that now the cults and secret societies that monsters so dearly love are getting to the stake, the monsters themselves can get caught in the fire. And when the powers of certain monsters actively tries to erase its existence from the minds of the watchers, justifying that the supernatural truly exists is even more difficult, and monsters are now found in a constant danger of losing resources and connections which they need- not to mention, again, getting killed, considering that monsters generally have the tendency to believe in esoteric things by themselves. Now, it is very likely that at those points some priests did found out about the supernatural- but considering that the systematic fight against pagan faiths have, at least in the eyes of the higher ups in the Church, reduced the ability of monsters to manipulate the masses (at least, in their eyes), it would make sense why the Church would try to keep this as secret- just like the modern TFV. You fight the supernatural by pushing it to the shadows. You first reclaim the day, and then you can start talking about taking back the night.

    Of course, that method has its limits- the supernatural adapts or dies out, like in any common ecosystem. Some monsters have went deeper into the darkness, other have tried to find their place in the new system of faith, creating all kinds of heresies and cults- heck, some have even joined the Church! But overall, it seems very likely that the Catholic Church, simply by its own existence, have made life very difficult to most monsters. Still, we are far from having an actual conspiracy at this point- we only have the Church openly fighting against the competition, rooting out elements they are not interested in, and in the process, clashing with the supernatural on a regular basis while trying to cover it up out of hope it would push the monsters even further into the dark. Nothing well coordinated or structured, but still a big change in the status que- that is, until it becomes the status que. Until the monsters adjust to the new situation. Until they manage to worm into the Church and use its own enforced Masquerade against it.

    Enter Baudolino.

    I mean, we do know that vampires have created their own version of Christianity, and that vampires generally keep connection within mortal society- and more than that, that those "Christian Vampires", the Sanctified, have their own system of "miracles". It is very, very likely that some of those vampires have used their powers to lure people they can manipulate for their needs, creating blood cults for their own benefits- and it is very likely that Baudolino got into one of those blood cults. We don't know the exact circumstances in which he got into the cult and how he managed to fight off his master, but in the end Baudolino came out of this hellscape of blood induced brainwash with two very important conclusions- first, that the supernatural exists. And second, that they can no longer fight it through denial (unless you are a Cainte, but that's a whole other theory). Instead, a more active method must be used- one which is already being practiced by many disparate monks and priests, but has to be organized in order to root out the darkness from the Church and fight the corruption in the shadows. But the Church also can't just admit that the supernatural exist- not only that it would revert things to how they previously were, the the supernatural easily manipulating the masses, but it would also mean that the Church has to state that it was WRONG- something which an organization which claims to hold all knowledge is hesitant to do for obvious reasons. So what to do? to take those people who already fight the darkness and unite them under one system, one mission- to tell those people who are able to withstand the truth without falling into heresy and send them to fight the darkness. That's probably that convinced the Pope to sanctify the organization- the very existence of someone like Baudolino means that while he have escaped, there are probably many under within the Church which are manipulated by the monsters. Someone needs to root the darkness out of the Church's halls, and that meant creating an inquisition especially for that cause.

    Before going any further, I just wanted to note that while both 1e and 2e state that the Pope who established the MM was Pope Paul III during 1567, that's probably wrong for the simple reason that, well, Pope Paul III wasn't the Pope during that year- as he was, well, dead. Now, the 1e Core have probably made the mistake by just stating that the conspiracy was created 80 years after the Malleus Maleficarum was published and 2e simply added the numbers- but really, someone should have double checked it for 2e. I sent note about it during the Errata, so let's hope it would get fixed- but in case this will carry for the final draft, than either the timeline of the CofD doesn't align with our own world or that Pope Paul III was the vampire which ghouled Baudolino and that's the way of the book to let us know it. Is it likely? No, but hey, if you don't want Vampire Pope, don't make errors which lead to Vampire Pope. Writers really should double check such details before they publish them, you know?

    Aaaaaaaanyway, now that we have more or less what probably have lead to the creation of the MM, we can start ask ourselves other questions- like why the name? Why to be called Malleus Maleficarum? Also, how does their Endowments work? What is the power behind Benedictions? And what about Baudolino? He is still around, after all- what is truly in his mind for the conspiracy? Is he just there to fight the darkness? To get a steady blood supply? Or is there some hidden agenda? And what about those families which the conspiracy guards? Or the prophecies which they are known to follow? And what is their deal about the Sabbatarians? Is it just a superstition- or is there a secret agenda behind training those Saturday born hunters with specialized vampire hunting?

    Well, let's go and crack some shells to see what hides beneath.

    Let's start from the name- the Malleus Maleficarum, the infamous book originally branded as heresy, which probably has more nonsense in it than Cheiron's Manual (really, I would have LOVED to get a fiction book for this one as a stretch goal for the Kickstarter- but oh well, you work with what you get). One of the things which people find weird about the MM is that they are called after a book which is not only heretical, but also VERY geared towards hunting witches- when the MM are stated to prioritize vampires, THEN witches (and then demons, but that's less important). Now, the thing that I think we should keep in mind is less what the book is actually about (which is nonsense) and more what it represents- it is a symbol for revealing the darkness hidden in plain sight, of seeking after the signs of the Devil and hunting down his servants. This book is all about heresy which was accepted into the Church- which is the message that those early hunters had to take into account when they joined the conspiracy. That officially, they are heretics- that they know the truth that the Church actively hides, and that while they are part of the Church they are also outside out if. Besides, it is probably a branding thing- this book have probably resonated the most with those hunters who were the most devoted to fight the influence of the Devil in its more physical manifestations, and as such are more likely to get recruited into the group. But I think that its main aspect is that of revealing the truth hidden beneath the surface- especially the one within the Church itself. Search after the signs of the Devil and hunt them down- witches are still there, but vampires are the main threat, because they are always there, and some of them can invoke false miracles- which is a part of the warning. Don't believe those who work wonders while claiming to have the blessing of the Lord- search for the signs of corruptions and see the truth. Baudolino knows what he is talking about- from personal experience.

    As for Benedictions- well, let's stop beating about the bush.

    It's Theban Sorcery.

    I mean- just think about it: a certain ghoul who created a conspiracy which is able to invoke the blessings of the Saints in order to fight the darkness? I mean, it is not even a difficult math- Vampire + Holy Magic = Theban Sorcery, that's it. That connection becomes even more obvious in 2e, as instead of using the complicated system of Saint Days for Benedictions it goes straight for drawing power from Integrity- just like Theban Sorcery draws power from Humanity. However, that would explain how Baudolino may be able to use those powers- well, he and those archbishops he got ghouled and vitae addicted as part of him solidifying his power over the conspiracy. The things is, that unlike Vampires, the hunters of the MM don't need to have been touched by Vitae at any point in their life in order to use Benedictions- instead, they need the blessing of the Pope. The Pope connects them to God, and the Pope can also shut them out- unless they manage to find another system to use, like how the Order of St Jude claims to have managed to "hack" the system with their "Black Pope". Now, considering the importance of the Blood of the Christ with the act of transubstantiation, it is very tempting to say that Baudolino may have found a way to convert Vitae into "Wine" (that is, remove the addictive properties of Vitae alongside its other features) and that this is what the hunters of the MM drink every Sunday, which would work with the claims of the Cainte Heresy during the Inquisitions that vampires mix their blood in the wine in order to brainwash the masses, but besides that part about the Cainte (which are, after all, crazy and can't be treated as a reliable source), nothing in the books seems to suggest anything like it- Baudolino governing a number of families from which they recruit may be equivalent for ghoul families, but hunters outside of those families are also able to use Benedictions without drinking any Vitae. However- that all neglects a very important fact: that Theban Sorcery is not really a Blood Magic. It is Will Magic.

    Theban Sorcery does not, in fact, uses Vitae- sure, it uses the Curse and the supernatural nature of the vampire in order to work, but Vitae itself is not consumed by those rituals, which is the same as Benedictions. As such, like many other forms of sorcery which the Kindred use (with he exception of Cruac, and even that depends on the Style), Theban Sorcery is not actually tied to the existence of vampires- the Curse simply channels the powers of Theban Sorcery, but its origin comes from somewhere else. From where? Well, if you'll ask the Sanctified, the answer is clear- God. Theban Sorcery was granted to the Kindred by his angels- specifically, Amoniel. And that's one of the only things on which the MM are going to agree with the Kindred is about this point- oh, sure, "Theban Sorcery" is a blasphemy, but Benedictions, the totally-OG-holy-miracles-don't-steal, also comes from God and the Saints. Add to that the fact that certain members of the conspiracy are known to have prophetic abilities- which means that some power communes with the MM- and that's it, case close. God is real and he gives His blessing to both the vampires and hunters, the first through their Curse and the later through the whole infrastructure of Saints and the Pope, and Baudolino, while originally drawing the power through Vitae, have managed to unlock the system and get straight to the source. All done, nothing to see here.

    Except....

    Well, here is the problem- just like the MM would deny any connection between Benedictions and Theban Sorcery, the Sanctified would deny the idea that Theban Sorcery may have predated the Apostles of Longinus- but it does. There is a reason that the "angel" which gifted the Lancea et Sanctum with this magic is called "Amunel"- as true to its name, Theban Sorcery was "found" in Egypt, a land less associated with God and more with God getting people out of there. Amoniel has probably derived his name from the Egyptian god Amon, the God of the Sun, and we do know for a fact that Theban Sorcery was used by the vampires of Ancient Egypt- especially by those belonging to the cult of the Sun God. In that case, if Theban Sorcery, and by extension Benedictions, are not only predating Christianity but also being connected more to God's "competition" than God Himself- what the hell is going on?

    Like always, we have a number of options.

    The first option is the most asked one- the God Machine. I mean, the whole infrastructure of the Pope and the Saints pretty much screams "systems" and "wheels within wheels", which really aligns with the occult matrixes of the God Machine. While having the God Machine playing God and manipulating the masses through religion may look appropriate, there are a few issues in here- first, while in 1e it could have worked with the MM simply using rites and the infrastructure of the Saints Calendar to invoke Benedictions, in 2e we have the Pope sitting in the middle of this whole mess- and if the Pope is a part of a occult Infrastructure, one could quickly conclude that the WHOLE CATHOLIC CHURCH MAY BE A INFRASTRUCTURE OF A FALSE GOD. And guess what? I am NOT getting into this s***hole. Not just because I don't want the inquisition knocking on my doors, I also feel like it's just, well, not "cool". I still remember how annoyed I was for reading that Dark Eras fiction about how all of the prophets in the bible are basically mindless puppets manipulated by a freaking gear of the God Machine (seriously, I hate that fiction- not only that it is borderline offensive but it was also badly written IMO, but I am not going to talk about it). So yeah, forgive me for not wanting to brand one of the largest religions on the world as potentially a infrastructure used by the God Machine. You can do what you want in your own games, but I am going to leave the Pope outside of the God Machine's Infrastructures no matter how appropriate it is, ok? It could work for Theban Sorcery on its own, but once you tie it into Benedictions think go bad very quickly.

    So, if we ignore the lowest hanging fruit, let's aim for the second lowest- Utterances, or potentially a watered down version of them, like a less tainted form of Sekhem Sorcery. Now, this on the surface has some appropriate thematic- a lot of Utterances parallel different biblical miracles, and this would explain the whole Egyptian thing. Also, it would fit the description of the rituals as "old as time", not to mention that it could work with the Pope gatekeeping access to it through some kind of large scale ceremony/Neithian architecture thing where he is in the center. Now, while it could definitely work. Well, of course, it could also work well if the Pope serves as a manifestation of the powers which hold control over the world... like the Judges. Which would potentially make him benebet. Which again goes to a territory of "Places LostLight doesn't want to go to"... Well, we could avoid this whole mess by taking a different angle- not make the Pope connected to the Judges in any way, shape or form, but we can connect him to the powers of A'aru. After all, God is stated to have judged the gods of Egypt- so perhaps we can work with God being a divine power related to the Judges but not one of them? Of course, that is not supported by any text, and could make things even more complicated, and there is also the problem that Benediction is very much "New Testament" in style while Utterances are much more "Old Testament", but its description as related to exorcism and its like does make it sound like Closed Rites... In a way, Benedictions in such a state would work better if we were to remove God from the equation all together and have the Saints as some souls which managed to escape the Devourer and which connect the Pope and the MM to the powers of A'aru- but that would still won't explain the seemingly malicious nature of the Black Pope... or the fact that Mummy actively goes against the possibility of someone escaping Duat.

    If that's the case, maybe we should go to the easiest option- it's God. Just God.

    I mean, technically, the Empyrean is already established as part of the CofD setting- the "perfection beyond perfection", "Orr Ein Soph", "Unmoved Mover"- whatever you want to call it, it is mentioned across different books all across the setting. Heck the possibility of God being, well, God, is also mentioned in Danse Macabre, and actual terrifying angels are already presented in Inferno's famous sidebar- so taking all of that into account, it is quite possible that God-by-any-other-name is part of the setting. Is it the Principle? Could be, but He could also be something else- basically the entity which calls the Empyrean home, whether it is A'aru, the Divine Fire or sopmething else. However, having a direct contact with the Empyrean is dangerous- it could burn you out, mind and soul. So it works through messengers- like angels, or Saints. The system of the saints and the Pope is there in order to allow the divine light to reach down earth- but just like how Inferno corrupts everything, the Empyrean may go through many channels, be them the Blood, Sekhem or even the Infrastructures of the God Machine- so all answers are correct! However, if that's the case, why does that power being contained only be the hands of the Pope and the mechanism of the Saints? Why can't other true believers reach that power?

    In here I would return to the powers of the Blood.

    See, we have already mentioned it- transubstantiation. Let's admit it- there is something strangely similar between gaining access to Benedictions and becoming a ghoul: both instances are controlled by a powerful, external entity (the regent/ the Pope), and both could be denied with the decision of that entity. Both present a form of control and servitude, yet where the first works through addiction the other works through willingly submitting to the Pope. Could it be that Baudolino have managed to not simply purifying the principles of Vitae through transubstantiation, but to inverse the very process of ghouling, removing the aspects which taint the living and leave it as a direct connection to the Divine? If that's so, 8it could explain why the rouge MM cell hates the conspiracy so much- as they may have found by themselves how to transform Vitae into divine connection through the figure of the Black Pope, which means that technically Baudolino have kept control over Benedictions by hiding the secrets behind it- of creating a "regent" through some method (maybe there is "purified Vitae" in the holy wine indeed). And that could also explain the families that the conspiracy tends- those were originally ghoul families which were themselves inverted into the service of God. Not sure how to tie the Sabbatians in here- which makes sense, as it seems that this is not a Catholic concept as much as it is a Orthodox one, but it could just be that it is a part of the endgame- the whole point of choosing those who were born on Saturday as vampire hunters is because they could "see the invisible", which could lean into the Malleus Maleficarum teaching how to see the signs of the supernatural. The same theme of "seeing the Devil's sign", which works even better with their dog companions. Find the Devil no matter what form it could wear and all of that.

    Ok, so we explained where the conspiracy came from and how their powers work- but what about the endgame?

    Personally, I like the thought about it being another form of transubstantiation- yet instead of turning wine into blood, it is about turning Earth into Heaven. A controlled Heaven, that is. Basically, the vision of the Catholic Church as a pure world- not the same form of Ascension as the Ascended Ones seek after or the Apocalypse which the Long Night work towards, but and act of turning the Church into a channel to the holy, giving divine authority to the Pope by inverting the Curse of Vampirism into a divine Blessing. One God, One, Church, One Faith. A world where holy men, saints and angels control the world through a strict order, where the Blood becomes the Wine from which the living could find salvation. Basically, evil gets not just purified, but controlled and regulated, and people have to accept God and His love (as seen by the Church) or fall to Hell. This is not the End of Times, this is not the End of Evil- this is a world where the Devil exists for he is needed, a world where only the worthy and chosen are gifted with the blessing of the Empyrean where everyone else are being constantly watched by the piercing gaze of angels and Saints. It is a controlled world- a better world, yes, but one where damnation exists for it is required, and where the Devil has no power- all demons are banished to Hell, and their powers are converted to serve His glory. And that may be why the Lucifuge are, as a organization, kept so close to the conspiracy- for even after their endgame, God would need His Devil.

    Aaaand that's it. Thanks for Primordial newcomer for giving some feedback about this writeup, and next time we are moving for the religious conspiracies to Men in Black in all of their forms. See you next time!
    Thank you! But really you did all the work, absolutely loved reading through this, really appreciated the witch hunter clarification lol

    The reason for the MM to still uphold the idea of the supernatural not existing was very interesting also! I always wondered why it took until the Lancea Et Sanctum to make the Masquerade a tradition.

    The God machine is always troubling when dealing with religions, idealogies, and even cultural movements. With the other big entities (the shadow, underworld), you can involve them in real world things in an interesting way without necessarily reducing them to foolish pawns. Hell the dark era dealing with vikings did so in a very interesting way (in my opinion). The GM makes it...difficult, as it reduces things to a means to an end if it's the "origin point". Worse, it can also cause implications of no responsibility (such as "the inquisition didn't do bad things, the gm made the inquisition do bad things"). However, I hope this doesn't discourage possible theories or endgames you had in mind, as this is your conspiracy theory first and foremost.

    EDIT: I also do realize the irony in that by suggesting the Christian God (or really whatever monotheistic God you believe) is real, one could easily feel that every other piece of lore is second fiddle/pawn to God. So yeah, definitely a tough balancing act.

    Off of that tangent, Amoniel. We know the Bible actually has the Egyptians showcase a power of their gods, where the staff turns into a snake (which gets eaten by the one representing God's power). We also know the plagues were caused by God (if you're Christian, of course). So it could be tied to A'aru. With the Judges as the archangels (which considering the adherence to higher morality, and particularly the material punishment the old testament has), I actually like thematically as God/A'aru and the Angels/Judges are terrifying in their adherence to virtue and catastrophic in their punishment of those who break it. With benedictions being more like the miracles in the new testament (also, fun fact, "miracalum" is never used in the new testament (vulgate, made in back in 386) and only used 6 times in old testament), that brings interesting implications to what's changed with these Utterances. I could be missing a lot here though. Not well versed in Mummy lore.
    Last edited by Primordial newcomer; 01-21-2022, 01:19 AM.

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    • #3
      The main problem that I talked about it with connecting God to the Judges is, well, that the Judges suck. Like, they are literally powers which exist to make you suffer, which make Laws and tig the system against you so that everyone will go the Hell (or, more exactly, go yam yam to feed Ammut). If anything, in the "Judges are Archangels" analogy, the Devourer works out as "God"- a great power which even the Judges fear, especially as A'aru is desolated and empty- there is no one in there, no saints to connect the faithful to A'aru. I am not saying it can't work- like I said, it can, and in some cases would make sense especially with the Theban Sorcery thing, but things become a problem once you make the Pope into a part of this. If it was 1e Benedictions, both Utterances and the God Machine could have worked easily, with the first working as a system for Sekhem Sorcery and Closed Rites and the second with the Infrastructure of the Saints Calendar. Things become messy once you add the Pope into the equation, as he is kinda important for Catholic Christianity. Now, you could handwave it easily by saying that the Pope is simply a part of the system which grants Benedictions without being a pawn in the powers which play around with the MM- he is important for the rituals as a symbol, but isn't actually serving as a connection to the powers which grant Benedictions, and it could work great for your own table- but for a internet post in the forums I choose to be very careful when talking about such a subject, as there are real people with very real opinions about such subjects.

      Now, while you could say that having God just hanging around in the CofD cosmology could overshadow everything, that's as true as Mummy and Mage trying to take over the setting since their inception (well, Mummy waited to the corner for 2e, but now it wen;t to a full blown war about "what is the true nature of reality"), and the thing is we do know that the Empyrean is a potential part of the setting. Just saying God = the Empyrean (whatever it may mean) leaves a lot of room to play around, as the Empyrean is very ill defined, and while it exists it could very well be that the religions which worship God are interpretations of God through mortal eyes and not objective truth (not to mention that there is a plausible chance that A'aru and the Empyrean are the same thing). Basically, because the Empyrean is left undefined within the CofD's context, connecting it to God and saying "well, God is real- but His religious interpretation is not accurate" (especially if you take some more liberal interpretation about the existence of other deities in the Old Testament), I think that it would have far less of overall impact on the setting than, let's say, Mage and Mummy. Unless you want to, of course, and then it's a whole other kind of game. Personally, I would just say that God is whatever the Empyrean is, and that people don't really know what it is because it is so far away (and again, you could always just say that the Empyrean is the source of the Divine Fire, and as such God is the Principle and considering that Promethean didn't devoured the setting up to this point I don't think that such a connection would)


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      • #4
        Originally posted by LostLight View Post
        The main problem that I talked about it with connecting God to the Judges is, well, that the Judges suck. Like, they are literally powers which exist to make you suffer, which make Laws and tig the system against you so that everyone will go the Hell (or, more exactly, go yam yam to feed Ammut). If anything, in the "Judges are Archangels" analogy, the Devourer works out as "God"- a great power which even the Judges fear, especially as A'aru is desolated and empty- there is no one in there, no saints to connect the faithful to A'aru. I am not saying it can't work- like I said, it can, and in some cases would make sense especially with the Theban Sorcery thing, but things become a problem once you make the Pope into a part of this. If it was 1e Benedictions, both Utterances and the God Machine could have worked easily, with the first working as a system for Sekhem Sorcery and Closed Rites and the second with the Infrastructure of the Saints Calendar. Things become messy once you add the Pope into the equation, as he is kinda important for Catholic Christianity. Now, you could handwave it easily by saying that the Pope is simply a part of the system which grants Benedictions without being a pawn in the powers which play around with the MM- he is important for the rituals as a symbol, but isn't actually serving as a connection to the powers which grant Benedictions, and it could work great for your own table- but for a internet post in the forums I choose to be very careful when talking about such a subject, as there are real people with very real opinions about such subjects.

        Now, while you could say that having God just hanging around in the CofD cosmology could overshadow everything, that's as true as Mummy and Mage trying to take over the setting since their inception (well, Mummy waited to the corner for 2e, but now it wen;t to a full blown war about "what is the true nature of reality"), and the thing is we do know that the Empyrean is a potential part of the setting. Just saying God = the Empyrean (whatever it may mean) leaves a lot of room to play around, as the Empyrean is very ill defined, and while it exists it could very well be that the religions which worship God are interpretations of God through mortal eyes and not objective truth (not to mention that there is a plausible chance that A'aru and the Empyrean are the same thing). Basically, because the Empyrean is left undefined within the CofD's context, connecting it to God and saying "well, God is real- but His religious interpretation is not accurate" (especially if you take some more liberal interpretation about the existence of other deities in the Old Testament), I think that it would have far less of overall impact on the setting than, let's say, Mage and Mummy. Unless you want to, of course, and then it's a whole other kind of game. Personally, I would just say that God is whatever the Empyrean is, and that people don't really know what it is because it is so far away (and again, you could always just say that the Empyrean is the source of the Divine Fire, and as such God is the Principle and considering that Promethean didn't devoured the setting up to this point I don't think that such a connection would)
        Ahh gotcha. I'll have to re-read mummy again, I thought the Judges didn't necessarily try to stop worthy souls from entering A'aru.

        It's petty, but a plus to connecting Benediction to the Empyrean (whether being interpreted as God or not) has the added benefit of really annoying mages seeing themselves as above others due to the supernal.

        Also now that I think about it, the TFV will be a very interesting read, being even younger than MM. Looking forward to it

        EDIT: Much along the lines of the Cheiron Handbook, I'd love to the see the theological theories proposed by the MM priesthood.
        Last edited by Primordial newcomer; 01-21-2022, 11:04 AM.

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