In the previous post I spoke about designing the people of a country. I also spoke about layers, how each layer adds more detail. Well it’s time to add another layer. We have designed the people, but what about their religious beliefs? Do they have any? Do they have several? Are they monotheistic or polytheistic or do they follow another system? These are only some of the questions and only pertain to religion. We must also look at generally accepted traditions and their value systems. The reason for asking these questions should be obvious. If I want to write about a character of a certain race from a certain country, then I need to know details about his background. What happens if he runs into a fellow countryman. How do they greet each other? Is it different if the person is a woman? Things like this can certainly be made up as they are required, but what happens if you are required to use a similar character with a similar background in another work? Are you going to remember all the details? I think consistency of vision helps give the world more depth in the reader’s mind.
How do I go about creating religions? This is a tough nut and probably the part of World creation I dislike the most. No matter how you do it, it’s tedious and doesn’t have much facility for shortcuts. I tend to stick with Polytheistic religions as the western mind tends to associate this with more primitive cultures, such as the Greeks and the Romans; Eastern cultures may have a different view on this. When it comes to zealots I tend to make them Monotheistic. An example of this from history I guess would be Christians prior to Rome becoming Christian. To start I find it’s best to come up with a creation myth. There are many in our own history so pick a religion and read their holy book. I’m open to correction on this, but I’d guess that chapter one, in most religions that exist today, is to do with creation. It’s a logical place to start after all.
So, creation myth. Regardless of the wording, typically it will involve the following. Nothing exists. A being creates itself, or gains self-awareness, or is literally the “nothingness”. Something happens, the being creates something, or becomes aware of another being, one diametrically opposed to it. If there are now two beings opposed to each other then they fight somehow and one of them creates something, the other will oppose it and create something else that will undermine the first creation. This goes on and on. In reality, the how of things doesn’t really matter. Use what you know to create your myth. Anything is possible and in my experience, nothing is too ridiculous. I expect that someone will leave a comment on my Facebook page and prove me wrong. I look forward to that!
The important thing to remember is that the reason for the creation myth is that it assigns roles to your god or gods. Some will be good, some will be bad, some will be neither. It’s all up to you. Naming your god(s) is also important. It has to feel real. A name that is easy to say and rolls off the tongue is more believable than a name that trips you up every time you try to say it. It needs to feel worn, well used, like a comfortable glove. It also helps that it’s something that your reader can pronounce without having to understand the subtleties of your fictitious people’s language.
Once you have your creation myth and your god(s) you need to decide a few more things. Is religious worship a private or public affair? Do the people worship using personal shrines in their homes or do they attend a temple of some sort? Are there religious leaders? What is the role of these religious leaders? Do they live within communities or do they live apart? How do they treat Birth, Marriage, and Death? Are there ceremonies to be observed during the life of a person, such as when a boy becomes a man and a girl a woman? How you answer these questions is all up to you but each answer helps define your religion.
And that concludes today's service!