Part I: World Building Considerations: Creating Religion
Part II: World Building Considerations: Entities
So you’ve got your basic structure of the religion itself as well as its entities, deities, gods, goddesses, sprites, and other mythological beings, but what about the people?
You’ll need a way to address your religious officials. They may have a formal title and a casual title, or just one of those. Either way, these titles usually show what rank these officials are. This title dictates how they are addressed, such as: brother, sister, elder, highness, father, and other titles. Some religious officials go by a different given name, sometimes taken from a deity or other important historical religious figure.
How are your religious officials named? How are they addressed? Do they change their given names as well? How are these given names chosen?
Then you have the actual ranks and how religious officials move throughout them. These ranks will set up the role these officials have within a religion and how much power or influence they have.
How many ranks are there? Who is in each rank (see above)? How difficult is it to move up and down in the ranks? How is a religious official “promoted” or “demoted”? Does everyone start at the bottom? How many people can be in each rank? Who does each rank have authority over? How important are these ranks? Are they based on anything or used to parallel the religion itself (such as a hierarchy within deities and entities)? What is each rank in charge of? Is there a ceremony for becoming a religious official?
Ceremonies & Duties:
Religious officials will be a part of religious ceremonies and they may even be necessary. What part they play in a ceremony may depend on their rank and the duties of that rank. Higher ranking officials may only show up for extremely important ceremonies while lower ranking officials may handle common ceremonies.
When do religious officials take part in ceremonies? How important is their role? Do they represent anything? Why are they needed? Do they conduct the ceremony? Or are they just needed to perform a ritual or a ceremony within the ceremony?
Your religious officials will probably have life outside of ceremonies. If they know how to read and write, they will probably be teachers or they may record historical accounts. Sometimes religious officials must look after orphans or a town’s money and food. Your religious officials can do any of that and more, such as farming or trading.
This is the attitude that others have toward religious officials. There can be a general attitude that is shared by the majority of the people and there can be individual opinions within that as well. People may change their attitude and behavior around religious officials.
Do people fear religious officials? Are they supposed to? Do they love them? Dislike them? Respect them? See them as powerful? Go to them for guidance? See them as equals?
As with any profession or position, there is an expected behavior. In a religious setting, this behavior can be anything and it’s up to you to decide what that expected behavior is.
Is it quiet? Extroverted? Opinionated? Are religious officials expected to interact with audiences? Or just speak at them? Are they expected to be seen in public? Are they supposed to be kind? Or fearful? Or silent? Do they have to wear certain clothing? Can they have friends who are not religious officials? Can they have children? Can they have another job?
Then there’s also the behavior expected from the audience. Are they supposed to be quiet? Are they encouraged to participate? Must they memorize certain phrases, prayers, songs, or stories? Are they supposed to approach a religious official a certain way? Are they supposed to behave a certain way in the presence of a religious official?
Of course to be an official in anything, you need substantial knowledge on the subject. Your religious officials need to know a lot about their religion and those in higher ranks will probably know more or have more experience when it comes to analyzing an aspect of their religion.
Think about how much your religious officials know and where they learn it. Is there a school? Are they taught orally? Are they self-taught? Is it a family tradition? Do only they know how to read and write? Must they learn another language to read religious texts? Or is there just a religious language they must use? How long must they learn before they can become a religious official? Is there a test they must pass? Is there certain clothing to show how much a person knows?
To tell your everyday characters apart from your religious officials, you’ll probably need a visual indicator. Most religions have religious clothing, worn by both officials and non officials, but the officials often have different types.
When creating an appearance for your religious officials, think about hairstyles, accessories, dresses, coats, shoes, sashes, cloaks, pants, shirts, vests, hats, and anything else you can think of. Must they be dressed in this clothing at all times? Do they have different styles and outfits? Do these outfits differ based on religious ceremony? Are there different uniforms per rank? Is there any symbolism in the color or the style of the clothing?
Where do these officials live? Is there special housing for them, or do they live on their own? What about those in training? Do they live together? Do these officials live in the public, or in solitude? Why? Are they nomadic?
Some religious officials must follow rules within their rank. For example, some officials must be at a certain rank to enter certain rooms and touch important religious objects. There are also other rules they must follow, such as not being allowed to indulge in certain behaviors.
Do your religious officials have to follow any rules? What are the reasons behind these rules? What happens if they break a rule? Do the rules vary based on rank?
Who is allowed to be a religious official? How are they chosen? Do other religious officials choose them? Do parents choose them? Is it a personal choice? At what age are these choices made and why? Who is not allowed to be a religious official? Why not? Are there requirements that must be met?
Your officials must have gotten where they are somehow, whether through hard work or chance. If you have a major character who is a religious official, you might want to think about their journey a bit more.