Friday, November 6, 2009

New Age

Despite much of the Southwest originally being Catholic in nature, religion in the desert can be a lot like flooding a basin. The isolation means the message gets spread to everybody, and there are not too many outside forces to compete with. That's the nature hydraulic empire--religions can be pretty uniform, easy to enforce, and prone to some very bizarre whims. In the Industrial Age, New Ange movements were informal and de-centralized, and hard to define vagaries. But in the new Middle Ages, most New Age believers were flushed out as heretics, and in the Southwest Hydraulic Emperors tightly guided from a grassroots belief system into a a highly organized and heiarchial one.

In a lot of ways, New Age is like Buddhism. There's a reverence for their Earth, a belief in enlightenment, and a need for purity and meditation. However, in other ways there are complete opposites. Buddhism focuses very much on the earthly surroundings of the natural world, while New Age focuses on the beyond. The clear skies and the somewhat barren landscape have led them to study stars and see them as sacred.

Astrology plays a large role in the religion. The Zodiac is the frame of reference for religious doctrines and practices. Priests are required to study the movement of the stars and planets. Both governor and peasant alike take their horoscopes very serious. Signs will often play a role in the name a child is given, and the career they are apprenticed towards. It's also a large part of matchmaking, as marriages between incompatible signs are a taboo. Many a tragic tale is told over "star-crossed lovers".

Priests have a very active role in the lives of the southwest populace and royal courts. Besides astrology, they are also trained to develop therapeutic teas and massage techniques. They are often charged with healing, which may sometimes rely on herbs, but just as often disease is countered with crystal baths and chanting. In funeral rites, they may place emeralds with departed.

There is a specific priest caste which religious higher ups are born to, but ever now and then they will learn of a child with strange or autistic behavior, who they will induct into their ranks. They are called Indigos, and their jobs usually involve calculating or deciphering mathematical equations, which the priests will interpret the meaning of.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


In the Industrial Era, much of the West Coast was secular in nature, with basic Christian tenets merely informing its lifestyle. From Las Vegas to Los Angeles to San Francisco, much of the regions west of the Rockies had, at best, a tenuous relationship with the country's religious leaders. However, once society slid back into medieval era, people were going to slide back into religion no matter what. All it needed was something to fill the vacuum.

The Church of Scientology started out as a fringe cult fronted by eccentric celebrities. This tended to be a boon when society started devolving. Even though performers have little practical use in a back-to-basic civilization, wealthy performers may have a little more clout. Estates of the rich and famous would be lent out to the peons, and celebrities could maybe amass a few loyal bodyguards. Some may have even had enough foresight to stock up on goods and hide in a personal complex until the worst was over, and they could come out to pick up the pieces.

This is where the Church of Scientology stepped in. Often criticized for its bizarre ideas and scare tactics, the fact was, nothing really stood out as insane as somebody had some kind of out-there religious epiphany on every corner. It's just that the CoS was well-equipped with charismatic and already well-known preachers. Many of the huddled masses even found comfort in familiar faces from better times, and a tightly rigid structure. Sure hierarchy was brutal and treated them as little more than slaves, but this was par for the course everywhere in the desert, so it might as well be them. Laws against detergents and psychiatry mean rather little when they're not around anyway. Criticisms on how credible the back story is also bounce of a populace that is mostly illiterate and superstitious anyways.

While things like Xenu, Thetans and Auditing still exist in the Church, a large amount of the canon has slowly been permuted with what's known as "Hollywood folklore". It's filled with heroes like Indiana Jones, goddesses like Marilyn, wizards like Vader, monsters like Kong, and locales like Casablanca. The Mann's theater is a place to canonize their heroes and saints, and rulers are appointed with a gold statue of a man at their coronation. It's said that upon death, the President of the Church will join his ancestors and become a star in the sky. These figures of Californian mythology appear in a lot of art and sculptures, as the CoS is the largest employer of artisans and masons, and often wish to make their places of worship ornate and easy for the peasants to understand. Californian art and architecture also has a recurring motif of rings and arches.

Interestingly, many of the Holidays of the Church match the Non-Denominational ones. Festivals are held around the same times Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July are in the East, however the celebrations are strictly held to the weekend. There is also a major Memorial Day, to commemorate those destroyed by Xenu. (Because there are not a lot severe winters in California, spring festivals do not feature in Scientology very much. More often Scientologists use spring as a time to discard or use up lesser possessions) These festivals are known for producing large theatrical productions which tell stories of many great heroes and events in the culture. November tends to focus on stories for children, December pageants tell their stories with song, and July presents stories of the most heroic and bombastic feats.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


The Northeast of America has always had a somewhat adversarial relationship with the rest of the country. Further west, the Non-Denominational Church has been essentially rejected. In the south, the Church districts are farther and farther apart, and nations pay less and less attention to what the Supreme Court has to say. Religion has been relatively unorganized and independent, and typical evangelist congregations have been supplanted by Voodoo along the Gulf Coast.

There are a couple of other reasons for the spread of Voodoo. Besides the growing infusion of Caribbean culture, the more African descended population may have felt more of a kinship than religion dominated by the ethnically different Yankees. Its spread also has a lot to due with the presence of Secretarial States. Women are given a prominent role in the bureaucracy and stability of the deep south, because the men are off fighting, fishing or doing merchant work. With males usually away, women were also left to their own devices in the field of worship. As Louisiana Voodoo is a faith that gives women a prominent role, it seemed like a pretty natural fit. Spiritual leaders called Voodoo Queens can provide the spiritual needs of the community. It's also a reflection of the Non-Denom church performing the bureaucratic services of its territory. Since the bureaucracies of the Gulf Coast are made up of women, women might as well be helping out with the religious duties. Schools are taught in Creole, medicine is administered by priestesses, and whatever passes for Voodoo organization keeps track of will and deeds. Voodoo Queens may also play a part in the royal family's linage.

Because property is passed from father-in-law to son-in-law, there's less of a pressure to produce male heirs. If the queen gives birth to a boy, that's great, and makes things a little more straightforward. But if it's a girl, she's simply trained to be a High Queen, and they look for a worthy bridegroom among the noble families. Heritage is matrilineal anyways, and this allows the father's direct line to at least play some part in the authority of the state. This of course, has led to a lot of politicking and abuse in its own right, but the point is, nothing short of infertility will cause a succession crisis.

By the way, the presence of Voodoo Queens in the royal family make these states, in theory, theocracies, but the very informal nature prevents secular and religious conflicts of interest. Voodoo leaders are more or less charged with organizing and performing rites, or divinations. There isn't a particular lot of dogma to create schisms with anyways. But that's not to say rulers haven't used to to their advantage.

In some ways,Voodoo does resemble Catholicism, with the importance of Christ and much of the pageantry. However, the Voodoo Church is in many ways quite divergent with the Non-Denominational Church, and only moreso as the two faiths have canonized different saints over the years. Marie Laveau is there most important figure. Voodoo also uses widely different symbols (aside from the cross), with imagery like snakes, skulls and card motifs. Combined with the language, rites, and prominence of women, Non-Denoms view Voodoo practitioners as little more than pagans, and nations like Mississippi and Red River have found themselves embroiled in furious religious wars for Louisiana.