Most talismans are worthless, but when you have one that works it can be an amazing thing.

As you may have gathered from my first post in this series, the Longminjong worship Abin-Thul largely because he rescued them from the Fo’gwok.  However, over the four hundred plus years of his rule a great deal of theology, mythology, and an assortment of beliefs have grown up around him.  The worship of Abin-Thul can be separated into two large aspects: worship in life, and beliefs about the afterlife.

Worship in Life:  The Longminjong worship Abin-Thul as a great protector and ruler.  Not only has he successfully built them a stable kingdom, but he also protects them from the spirits of the land and demons left over from the time of the Fo’gwok.  Offerings are made at temples and shrines, sometimes daily, in order to procure the blessings of Abin-Thul.  People also come to the priesthood for an assortment of reasons: from advice, to magical blessing, to talismans, to the exorcism of spirits.  However, the services of the priesthood are never free.

The Priesthood of Abin-Thul: The priesthood supposedly exists for the people, to protect, guide, and aid them.  However, priests of Abin-Thul are often self-serving.  Advancement through the priesthood is one of the quickest paths to power in any of the Five Cities, and so the priesthood attracts as many power-hungry politicians and con-artists as it does genuine faithful, perhaps more.  What is even more disturbing is that Abin-Thul does nothing about the obvious corruption among his priests.

Talismans: Every Longminjong with any money owns talismans.  These could be as simple as a little statue that grants a small boost of energy in the morning, to an elaborate design worked into a tower that causes crops to grow faster.  Almost every priest in the Five Cities will make talismans and sell them to anyone who asks.  However, many of the talismans found in the Five Cities are worthless – either because they were made by a charlatan, or because they were made by a priest but no actual magic was put into the object.  Many priests will sell more talismans than they can actually make, and so they only make the most powerful of the talismans, and the rest are just pretty clay statues or nice pieces of calligraphy.  While many people suspect that this is happening, nothing can be ‘proven’ and so nothing is done.  Still, the people buy talismans from supposedly reputable priests in the hopes that one will work.

The Afterlife:  Any temple or shrine dedicated to Abin-Thul will have a spirit home.  When Longminjong (who are in good standing with the temple) die their bodies are burned before the spirit home.  It is believed that the persons spirit leaves the body with the smoke of the fire, and it is the duty of the officiating priest to lead that smoke into the spirit home.  If the smoke does not enter, then an evil spirit is inevitably formed and will cause great misery to the people of the city or village.  The more powerful the person was in life, the stronger the evil spirit will be in death.

A spirit home at a shrine in Shiji.

Spirit homes are usually grand affairs, often larger than the shrine itself, and built with hundreds or even thousands of tiny rooms for the spirits to inhabit.  In the city of Kongwei Abin-Thul’s spirit home can be found.  This is where priests are interred, and it is as large as the God-King’s palace.  Obviously the larger and more elaborate the spirit home, the happier the spirits there will be.

Conflicting Views of Abin-Thul: Though much of the populace is still loyal to the God-King, there is a rising antipathy to his rule.  Between the corruption of the priesthood, and the often tyrannical Shengba (district lords) that he places over them, many people have begun to turn away from Abin-Thul and worship other gods, or even the ancient demons of the land.  This is always done quietly, because the worship of any other god is forbidden by law, and punishable by death, but it is growing in frequency.

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