This world has a host of Powers That Be, but they are neither ineffable nor are they omniscient. They are petty, cruel, kind, benevolent, capricious, and as varied in their temperaments as any person is from another. They can have understandable motivations and they do not always react like we tend to think Gods will react.
Moreso, there are two different structures: the Old Ones, ancient deities that are said to have traveled to Wyrlde with us, that we brought them. And then there is The Host, who arose from us, and became the Powers That Be we know.
Only the Old Ones are called Gods. This because people don’t like Gods. Gods led them into a war that destroyed everything, and then abandoned the people when they were needed the most, having made great and grand promises.
Gods are cruel, scheming, traitorous. Powers are just folks who can do a lot more than the average person. If nothing else, Clerics are good at marketing. Clerics and related sorts within the Empire are looked at askance; as weird, somewhat dangerous, and yet useful.
The habit of the population, by and large, is to avoid attracting the attention of one of these powers. People on Wyrlde do not pray so that a Power will help them or give them something, they pray so that they will not be seen, lest they decide to help overmuch. Lay Prayer here is averring, negative, distracting, except for the rites, when folks have found the blessings and benefits to be useful – but not all, and not always on terms the Powers like. This is part of why people can be consecrated to three different Powers.
Clerical prayer is always affirmative, beseeching, requesting, and hopeful. This is supposed to cut down on distractions in a lot of ways, enabling Clerics and Druids to have more rapid contact and receive greater boons, above and beyond their existing mandate to convert others.
It seems to work for me.
A generic term for places of worship is a Cloister. This applies to Temples, Shrines, Manses, the assorted schools and residences for the religious, and similar such places.
Temples have been raised by a Power before – the Tempe in Dorado is an example of such, and often Temples will be pulled into the minor clashes between the powers – for all of them are competing within each Host.
Temples exist in walled compounds, and not every city or town will have a Temple to all the assorted powers – usually there is only one, sometimes two. They will be dedicated and consecrated ground, and only those who are baptized to that Power will be able to enter upon and receive the boons of that Power, or make offerings and worship.
A standard temple is surrounded by a 15-foot-high wall, five feet thick, and marked by a single gate. The gate is surrounded by ornate carved relief sculptures depicting assorted Saints who served the God whose temple it is.
Temples themselves are large, rectangular structures that are raised by a high ranking Cleric and that follow a set floorplan that is functionally part of the spell used to create them.
Beyond the gate is a fifteen-foot-high set of stairs that leads down to a large open space that is divided into assorted functions on the sides and at the back and given over to gardens around several areas that are set up for different functions and each will contain a square, raised altar surrounded by a wide space reached by five steps that is called a Dais. A Dais is about twenty-five feet to a side, with a square altar about 5 feet to a side and is fully sacred and Consecrated ground.
A path will lead through them, never directly, to the center of the complex, where the tall, column-fronted, doorless entrance to the Sanctum lies.
Within the Sanctum lies a shallow, columned, hallowed area that is given over to a narrow, long altar set before a tall plinth on which rests a stature or other representation of the Power That Is. The statue is typically twenty-five feet tall, carved (some say from bone), gilded and inlaid to match an appearance known to have been used by that Power.
The Approach to the Sanctum always consists of three buildings connected by a walkway – the first is a square, columned purifying area, the second is a square, plain baptismal preparation area, and the last is a circular and domed building that holds the penitent area, where people wait after purification to offer their worship at the feet of the statue.
Temples often have bees all around them, and beekeeping is a traditional role for Clerics, as they are the source of Mead, the making of which is a well-guarded secret and rumored to be ruthlessly enforced with great cruelty. Mead brings in a rather essential amount of money and is often spoken of as the only worthy drink, with some locations having a Cleric who rails against the evils of other alcohols. It can often be quite comical. They get a tad bit angry about that.
Shrinesare usually smaller than Temples, never as ostentatious, and rarely located within sight of a temple. Unlike Temples, where treading Holy Ground is not possible, Shrines cannot be disturbed – the parts and pieces of a Shrine cannot be touched or moved –except by the followers of the Power That Is to whom the shrine is dedicated.
Shrines have similar stalls out front and often have many things for sale that go to support the living and work of the Shrinewardens. This can and does include mead, and beekeeping is still an ongoing effort among many of them – though they may have some other broad service.
Shrines are not only raised to the Host – there are other Powers that exist, and A Shrine may be raised to them – or to a local and smaller Power of the World. For example, it is said that Acacia has some small Shrines in assorted cities. One thing always holds true: there will be no Shrine within a walled city if there is a Temple to the Power already. Temples are often seen as “superior” to Shrines, though the Powers themselves don’t seem to agree with hat, and so it is purely a function of the people who run them – but one cannot consecrate a shrine to a power who already has a Temple built within 100 miles of that Temple. According to Antelle, this has to do with something called “the franchise”.
A Shrine is often located outside of a smaller settlement, usually in a place of great beauty or special feeling. The area around it is consecrated, and a small wooden barrier is erected around it. This area is far less formalized, often more rustic, and will be composed of the Shrine, proper, a penitent area, a purification area, and a ritual space, as well as a small area for ritualized education and other features that can often seat around two dozen people – though larger Shrines may seat up to sixty in their areas.
The Shrine proper is always raised at least 3, 5, or 7 steps, is typically covered by an ornately carved wooden cover or shelter and is open on one side. Within the shallow shelter there is a small figure (3 to 5 feet tall) to the deity in some form or aspect of them that sits behind a low Altar, usually three feet by five feet, before which supplicants can leave offerings. Only a few folks may kneel and worship at the Shrine at a time.
Shrines typically filled with the things that please the spirit or Power as offerings, and are located in markedly special places. They may have great beauty, or immense peace, or offer some benefit (such as hot springs), but are always places that people feel are special, and they are preserved by the blessings and consecration Shrines do not have a structured and codified layout or space – they are, however, defined by the consecrated grounds, and often cities will have several shrines scattered around them, where they will be seen as a kind of park like area, protected and preserved by those who oversee them.
Fortune telling, ritual dances, and storytelling of the Heroes that have served the Powers That Be are all performed in a nearby Pavilion that can usually seat around sixty people nearby. Rituals are held in a very sacred space off to the side of the Shrine proper, and are very much the same as those done in Temples.
A Manse is a place where the Dread Powers are worshipped, a space sacred to the Dread Host. The Dread Host does not generally have any kind of clerical service – but they may give certain people powers akin to them through intermediaries or via some artifact, and in such a case, they will operate in secret, in the shadows and often beneath the city or town itself in warrens and caverns natural or crafted.
There is no known settled term for a head priest of a Manse, and those that have been discovered and routed all feature a space for cruelties and horrors, seating to witness this spectacle of terror, and an altar on which sacrifices are given. Manses always involve sacrifice, and they most commonly choose those in a way that makes the sacrifice truly noteworthy and memorable.
It should be noted that consecrating a Manse to a Dread god requires the deaths of 100 non believers in an ordained fashion that relies on torture and takes at least three days for each. An exception to this is Urisha, who additionally requires that none may have the same kind of harm done to them – all must be distinct forms of death.