Religions of Machen: The Church of the Maintainer and the Divided God.
The Maintainer, worshiped since before the organization of the first Machi tribes 3,000 years before the Thulhun invasion of the continent, is a sky deity associated with tradition, preservation and light. The "He" used to refer to the Maintainer is a gender-neutral super-pronoun reflecting His genderless state. Oral tradition and the Book of the Living Sun hold that the Maintainer came into being to shield Cthun from the ravages that sank the lost continent of Thul and that he chose the people of Machen for their virtue and steadfastness to be his flock.
Worship of the Maintainer in organized mass prayer is an integral part of the religion's structure. The religion's priesthood has a strong oral tradition dating back to the original sermons of the semi-human prophet known as the Living Sun, a manifestation of the Maintainer's grace and also a physical child of the god's own body. The Living Sun organized his progenitor's religion into an ecclesiarchy, placing the priests at the apex of society and appointing the first Hierophant or Father of Tribes as the society's head. Thereafter Hierophants were elected by popular acclaim to lifelong terms.
The Living Sun's message to the Machi people was one of brotherhood, generosity and goodwill toward one another, but never toward an enemy. "To a friend the meat of your table, to your blood the robe from your back, and to those perfidious ones who are not of your fold the steel of your swords, which are to be whetted nine and ninety times of a month." The cohesive nature of the formalized religion led to the union of the Machi tribes and the overthrow of the Thulhun Empire and its emperor, Azurean.
In Machen the Living Sun is looked upon as the first great sage to deliver true Alchemy to Man.
The Two-Who-Are-One, more commonly termed the Divided God, are two emanations of the same deity whose existence and teachings are preached by the half-Thulhun theocrat Ahmad Levi, the Shah of Five Thousand Years. The halves of the divine being are nameless and are identified by their attributes. In sharp opposition to typical light-dark deity pairings, the Two-Who-Are-One each embody seemingly random characteristics. The Left-Hand-God, represented by the porcelain half of the icon mask, is identified with sterility, indomitability of spirit, revenge, despair and transcendence while the Right-Hand-God, represented by the mask's obsidian or onyx half, is identified with fertility, war, labor, illness and scholarship.
Worship of the deities is mandatory and practiced in immense temples in the cities of Carnea and Shibola. A vast bureaucratic priesthood has sprung up around the institution with Ahmad Levi as its high priest and prophet. Sacrifice, both of the flesh and of the field, are demanded routinely of all worshipers. Slavery is heavily tied to the institution and temple slaves are numerous and often used ritually. Orgiastic behavior is also an important cornerstone of the worship of the Two.
Ahmad Levi's writing on the worship of the Two are collected in the nine volumes of his tract The Traveler in the Eyes of God.
Religions of Maturin: The Three
The Three, Ismael, Monar and Leshua, are a divine triumvirate of death gods who rule over the underworld. Worship is decentralized and informal, monastic orders are plentiful and the influence of the gods upon architecture, culture and dress is obvious. Funerary masks, sculpted in the likeness of one's ancestors or taken directly from death masks of same, are common ritual and formal dress in all echelons of society. Silk is prized both for the making of burial shrouds and the traditional mani robes worn by noblemen and monks. The three holy flowers, Lily, Chrysanthemum and Lotus are of paramount importance to the Maturi as are compsognathus, jackals and ramphoryncus for their associations with the Three.
Funerals in Maturin tend to be deeply involved and families often schedule weddings to coincide with them so that the Three will shed favor through the corpse upon the young couple. Black is the funerary color in Maturin while red is the color of marriage and white the color of war. The Deathless, the Maturi term for the alchemically reanimated dead (who they do not, in contrast to the Machi practice, lobotomize) are a unique caste in society and function in advisory, administrative and clerical capacity. A senate of liche, or dead, runs the Empire of Maturin's civic affairs and conducts any summits between the Noble Houses of Old Blood and Great Honor. In fact, a family can be raised to that peerage only by the Senate.
Cannibalism of the dead by their family and loved ones is considered a private matter in Maturin, but is routinely practiced especially by the peasantry and craftsmen.