by Greg Call
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
Vorinism is the one of the primary religions of Roshar. It is most prevalent in Alethkar, Jah Keved, Kharbranth, New Natanan and Thaylenah, collectively known as the Vorin kingdoms, and becomes less common further west. The religion worships the Almighty, a deity based on Honor, and the ten Heralds.
In Vorin religion, people believe in the Almighty, the force of good and creator of mankind. The glory of Almighty is such that anyone looking upon him would immediately burn to ash. As such, he is typically represented by the divine prism with ten facets, one for each of the Heralds. Each Herald is an emissary of the Almighty, wielding potent magical powers, as well as the ability to respond to prayers and patronage over a specific part of human experience. Vorinism typically places Jezrien and Kalak as the highest among the Heralds, with others beneath them. Occasionally, either of them are conflated with the Stormfather, who in turn is commonly equated with the Almighty himself, although this depends on the particular Vorin country.
The Vorin creation story places mankind's origins at the Tranquiline Halls, a paradise from which they were forced off by the Voidbringers, wicked creatures forged in Damnation. The Voidbringers possess terrible destructive power, and are regarded as the embodiment of evil.
The Voidbringers followed humanity to Roshar trying to destroy it or force humanity off it and into Damnation. Mankind, led by the Heralds and their chosen knights, fought them off ninety nine times in what are known as Desolations. Finally in Aharietiam, the Last Desolation, the Voidbringers were defeated and cast back into the Tranquiline Halls. The Heralds followed to force them out of this heaven as well.
On Roshar, the Knights Radiant were left behind, although they ultimately betrayed humankind in the Day of Recreance. One explanation for the betrayal is that the Knights Radiant imitated great powers and pretended a holy calling using elaborate tricks and once this was discovered they fled.
All Vorins are expected to choose a Calling, their greatest talent, and practice it until death. Those who grow to be the very best at their Calling are chosen to join the Heralds in the fight to regain the Tranquiline Halls when they die. Their particular afterlife differs depending on the Calling -- those who were the very best at farming become farmers for the Heralds, those who are the greatest at battle are chosen to fight beside the Heralds, etc. Those who do not achieve their greatest potential are stuck in a dreamless sleep until the Halls are reconquered, while those who do horrible things are cast into Damnation.
In the Alethi variety of Vorinism, fighting is considered the most important Calling, as the Almighty depends on Alethi to join the Heralds' army in their afterlife and win back the Tranquiline Halls.
Closely tied to the concept of a Calling is Glory. A Glory is a particular attribute of the Almighty that one is supposed to emulate in the pursuit of their Calling. One typically choses their Glory alongside their Calling, as the two are supposed to work together; for example, the Calling of a warrior and the Glory of determination.
When it comes to relationships, Vorinism is focused on making and upholding oaths. Breaking oaths, or acting without proper oaths, such as having sex outside of marriage, is frowned upon. However, Vorinism offers a wide variety of partnership oaths for those who do wish to pursue relationships, including some for same-sex couples.
Belief in Symmetry
Symmetry is considered holy in Vorinism. Among others, glyphs are shaped symmetrically, Silver Kingdoms have perfectly symmetrical names and many people's names are close to symmetrical. However, people who have names that are actually symmetric are looked down on as "too holy" and therefore blasphemous.
Traditional Vorin temples are circular and domed. Usually, the dome is exactly ten feet tall at its highest point. They are often filled with statues and pictures of the Heralds. A major city is expected to have a separate temple for each Herald. Additionally, wealthy lighteye families will often have private chapels, and the ardentia maintains monasteries throughout the continent. Such monasteries, like Jokasha, are often seen as highly desirable postings, with many ardents working decades to get into one.
Vorin pray through glyphwards, prayers written in glyphs, typically on a strip of paper, calling on the Almighty and, sometimes, one or more of the Heralds. They are typically burned to carry the soul of the prayer to the Almighty.
In higher classes of Alethkar, much of the religious observation falls to the the priesthood, the Ardentia, rather than the lighteyes themselves. The ardents in the employ of a lighteye are supposed to perform the required rituals for their master, so that the lighteyes do not have to worry about the spiritual aspect of their lives.
The original purpose of the Oathgates has been lost to time, though they are still considered sacred. In the present day, it's believed that the eleven lamps stand for the ten Epoch Kingdoms and the Tranquiline Halls, while the huge keyhole is "the need for ardents to ignore borders, and look only at the hearts of men".
The Vorin religion is closely interwoven with the culture of the Vorin kingdoms, to the point where the same word is applied to both the faith and the culture. Its modern form appears to be based on the book Arts and Majesty, outlining what is proper for men and women. Women are expected to completely cover their left hand (called Safehand in Vorin vernacular) from the age of roughly eleven or twelve, as it is generally considered obscene. They are, however, permitted to learn how to read and write, and expected to manage a household and business. Feminine arts include painting, reading, writing, and music. Flutes are a commonly chosen instrument, however, it is rare for side-blown flutes to be found on Roshar. More confrontational positions, such as politics and military, are considered masculine -- however, men are forbidden (or at least discouraged) from learning the alphabet. Additionally, Vorinism differentiates between feminine and masculine foods (sweet and spicy). Those division between genders do not apply to ardents, who are considered genderless from cultural standpoint, and thus permitted to engage in both feminine and masculine activities. By tradition, every person can learn a trade at a Vorin temple, including those of the opposite gender.
In addition, the Vorin religion justifies the cultural divide between the Lighteyes and Darkeyes, with the former being considered closer to the Almighty and thus more holy, giving them power over the darkeyed masses.
There is some crossover among different groups within Vorinism, such as with Essential Theology, which is known to be used by ardents, scholars, and Soulcasters, and is related to polestones.
All official Vorin betrothals must be signed and verified by ardents. As a result, people sometimes use a causal betrothal, which makes them practically engaged but confers no legal benefts.
Apart from cultural and religious aspect, Vorinism has an impact on the legal system, as the teachings of Heralds demand implementation of certain laws.
The Right of Travel
”Institute a right of movement, so that a family who feels their lord is unrighteous can leave his area. Then tie a lord's authority to the people who follow him.
The Right of Travel allows every Vorin citizen of sixth nahn or higher to freely travel between various Vorin lands. Vast majority of darkeyes have this right. Lacking it ties a person to the land they were born in, and usually means that something has gone very badly for their ancestors. However, joining the military automatically forfeits the Right of Travel for the duration of service.
The Right of Travel is derived from the Heralds teaching that all borders should be open. More specifically, it was established by Nale, as a way to protect the weak from abuses of power. It also serves as a form of addressing the power imbalance between lighteyes and darkeyes, as most darkeyes are able to leave a land that is poorly managed.
The Right to Learn
Most people in Vorin kingdoms have the Right to Learn professions in any temple of the Almighty. Larger Vorin temples have at least one ardent who is an expert in any given art or trade, and they provide training to anyone who's interested, regardless of eye color. This Right may not be available to the lower nahn ranks.
The Right of Challenge
The Right of Challenge allows a distinguished lighteyed warrior to demand justice through combat from the one who wronged him. Though the Right is almost never used in the modern day, it can still be exercised, and is well-known among lighteyes. This Right, however, does not extend to darkeyes, and a darkeye attempting to call on it can be punished with execution.
The Vorin priests are called ardents; the entirety of them is referred to as the ardentia. In matters of faith, they are led by a council of Curates, operating out of the Holy Enclave in the Veden city of Valath. This council has the authority to excommunicate members of the church, including the leaders of Vorin countries, for heresy -- a right given to them by the Covenants of Theocracy, an unspecified, but centuries-old document. They can be recognized by their blue robes, as well as gem-encrusted staves, far more ornate than is considered proper post-Hierocracy.
Other types of ardents are likewise differentiated by the colors of their robes -- regular ones wear gray, while the soulcasters wear red. Many ardents have shaved heads, and men often have long beards. Both male and female ardents are considered genderless from the social standpoint: women do not need to cover their safehand, while men are allowed to learn to read and write, and both can eat both sweet and spicy foods. This being said, while they are technically allowed to pursue both masculine and feminine arts, they are often pushed to follow their gender.
Ardents are, technically, slaves to lighteyed nobles of Vorin countries, with some serving specific households while others are beholden to the national ruler. They can neither hold land nor own property -- a safeguard to prevent a second Hierocracy. Like Parshmen and other slaves they are not paid for their work, but they are highly respected, even by people above them in the social hierarchy. It seems one cannot be forced to become an ardent; rather, people join willingly, and can also leave if they so choose.
Ardents are forbidden from participating in politics or holding social offices. However, their word and opinions are still highly valued, and they hold authority in spiritual matters.
Ardents are responsible for the spiritual well-beings of their masters, and often tend to various rites and rituals in their stead, so as to allow the lighteyes to go on with their lives unburdened. For the darkeyes, ardents provide advice in pursuing their Calling, as well as education -- the Right to Learn means that any person who asks for it must be taught by the ardents. For this reason, most major temples have ardents specializing in most common skills, from fighting to writing. This also means that they are allowed to wield Shardblades, as they must be capable of teaching the lighteyes how to use them.
They are the only people allowed to speak Almighty's tenth name, Elithanathile, or He Who Transforms.
In Alethkar, ardents are the only people allowed to use Soulcasters. They surround the practice with mystery, carrying out Soulcasting at night and under heavy guard to prevent the general public from seeing. They are, however, not allowed to use Soulcasters on people. Those among the ardentia who use Soulcasters are often worked until they die of savanthood as their bodies become more and more like the things they Soulcast.
Ardents are separated into Devotaries, sects devoted to different aspects of Vorinism. Devotaries come in different forms: some, like the Devotary of the Mind, are monastic, sequestered away from civilization to devote themselves, while others permit their members to remain in touch with the rest of the world. This being said, ardents are generally not allowed to marry outside of their orders, though at least some orders allow them to marry each other. Overall, their chief purpose is to aid in nurturing the believers' Callings.
Known devotaries include:
- The Devotary of Purity is dedicated to wholesomeness and honesty. Members of this devotary are expected to keep their thoughts and actions 'pure'. A member's talents are expected to be dedicated to purity as well, such as an artist depicting only religious topics. Shallan Davar is a member of this devotary, by her father's choice.
- The Devotary of Sincerity is dedicated to seeking truth in all things. Members believe that there is always something to learn, and everything is subject to scrutiny, even their own religion. No question is rebuked. It is the smallest devotary.
- The Devotary of Insight is not described. Many ardents from the Devotary of Insight are seen exchanging dulled lamps from the Palanaeum and putting infused ones in their place. They have a temple in Kholinar.
- The Devotary of Denial seems to emphasize the denial of desires to the point of asceticism.
- The Order of Talenelat is related to the Herald Taln and, likely, the attributes ascribed to him by Vorinism. Those dedicated to this particular devotary are said to have a dislike for theological debates. It is viewed by some as an order for lesser people. The Order of Talenelat maintains a presence in western Kholinar, adjacent to the temple of Talenelat. Dalinar Kholin was a follower of this devotary prior to his excommunication.
- The Devotary of the Mind is a monastic devotary with its home at the Jokasha Monastery on the western slopes of the Horneater Peaks. It is devoted to historical and linguistic study, with the focus on literature.
- The Devotary of Kelek is a devotary with a presence in Urithiru. Their ardents will take commissions for prayers and glyphwards.
- The Devotary of Mercy is a devotary with a presence in Urithiru. Their ardents care for those who have trouble with their minds.
Origins and Old Vorinism
Though the origins of Vorinism are lost to the Shadowdays, it's known that the name "Almighty" was used to refer to Honor even back during the Desolations -- in fact, it might predate human arrival on Roshar, as it was used even by the Heralds themselves. The Vorin religion came about around that time, basing itself on writings of a currently-unknown, but highly influential writer whom it was eventually named after. Nohadon was another important figure during that time, and The Way of Kings he penned was one of Vorinism's early holy texts.
Back in the early days of the religion, now called Old Vorinism, the Knights Radiant were an important part of the faith, and the First Ideal was a religious doctrine. The primary tenet of the faith, as far as can be ascertained, was that how one lived was far more important than what one had accomplished. Religion premeated every aspect of life, allowing the ardents to own land and property.
Following the Recreance, the attitudes towards the Knights Radiant changed drastically, with them being seen as traitors rather than heroes. The focus shifted from the First Ideal to other texts, chief among them Arts and Majesty, leading to the gender divide among the Vorins that exists until the modern day. In spite of that, the lighteyes-darkeyes divide likely began during the same time, with pale eyes becoming the symbol of Almighty's favor despite their previous association with Radiance.
As time went on, ardents took over more and more segments of society, claiming divine mandate to rule. Ultimately, this led to priesthood holding near-absolute power over large swathes of land and populace as they sought to bring Vorinism to the whole of Roshar.
The Hierocracy, as it would come to be called, saw the ardentia go to great lengths to control its subjects through access to information. The priesthood claimed to have the sole authority to interpret the holy scriptures and the will of the Almighty; the commoners were to follow them blindly as they were told what their Callings were and what their god had planned from them. Knowledge of the Knights Radiant was heavily censored, and what remained was altered and mythologized to fit the doctrine. Yet even as Surgebinding was discredited and deemed to be mere trickery, ardents themselves claimed to be able to predict the future through visions and prophecies.
Hierocracy: Fall and Aftermath
As with many empires, Hierocracy's greatest weakness was its sheer size. It grew larger with time, but so did the fractures within, and those fractures allowed Alethi warlord Sadees, later called the Sunmaker, to make war on it. The resulting conflict, known as the War of Loss, saw the ardentia fractured into devotaries, and the ardents themselves stripped of much of their power. No longer were they allowed to hold land or own property; no longer were they even free men. Rather, they became slaves to lighteyes.
Moreover, as Sadees conquered their strongholds, he interrogated them and their correspondence, and claimed to have learned that the so-called visions were little more than fabrications made to keep the people in check. This marked yet another shift in Vorin doctrine: now, prophecy was an evil thing, of Odium and the Voidbringers, and to pursue it was heresy. Yet more changes were made to free the church from ardentia's grip: rather than holding ultimate authority, they became merely advisors, and each man and woman was supposed to find the faith's meaning for themselves.
Present and Future
Though Sadees' war of conquest stretched as far West as Azir, Vorinism did not find foothold there. On the other hand, the states formerly under Hierocracy, now known as the Vorin kingdoms, retain the faith to this day.
Despite ardentia having few privileges remaining from the days of Hierocracy, their social status has been slowly climbing back up over the past decades. The curates retain their right to excommunicate members of the Church without consulting with any political authority, and though they are forbidden from amassing wealth, some of it still finds its way into their hands. In addition, ardents are increasingly often used as yet another political tool by the lighteyes. Some people -- not only ardents, but even laymen -- seek the return of Hierocracy, chief among them the Sons of Honor. Other groups, like the Envisagers, desire to go even further back, to the age of Old Vorinism.
With the coming of the Everstorm and the return of the Knights Radiant, the future of Vorinism is unclear. Many of its tenets, chief among them that the Aharietiam was the final Desolation, have been proven wrong, the Heralds are quite mad, and the leaders of the largest anti-Odium faction are a heretic and an atheist. For now, the church strives to retain control through hamfisted means -- most notably, the Curates' sudden excommunication of Dalinar Kholin, who, at the time, had began to loudly proclaim Almighty's death. This is unlikely to be sufficient, however, as there are some who believe that now is the time to break free from Vorinism.
- Kabsal - Ghostbloods member who lives in Kharbranth and attempts to assassinate Jasnah.
- Geranid - A scholar of spren who lives on a small Reshi island with her husband.
- Ashir - Geranid's husband, who studies chemistry through cooking.
- Kadash - head of the ardents under Dalinar’s household. He is a former elite solider who became an ardent after he witnessed the events at the Rift.
- Zahel - warrior ardent who teaches Adolin, Renarin and Kaladin swordmanship and how to fend off a Shardbearer.
- Ellista - scholar ardent from the Jokasha Monastery who works on deciphering Dawnchant texts.
- Pai - new member of Queen Aesudan's retinue. Denounced the queen for her waste and was executed as a result, sparking riots.
- Lhan - another member of the Queen's ardentia. Eventually subverted by Ashertmarn.
- Rushu - an ardent scholar, associate of Navani.
- Dalinar Kholin - Bondsmith and Alethi highprince. Member of the Devotary of Talenet and the head of the Alethi church until his excommunication.
- Shallan Davar - Veden Lightweaver. A somewhat devout member of the Devotary of Purity.
- In the English language, the word "ardent" is an adjective meaning eager, zealous or passionate.
- Though "ardent" shares some similarity with arteth, the name of Shu-Dereth priests from Sel, ardents and arteths are not connected.
- Though ardents are around in The Way of Kings Prime, there, they are simply called monks.
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