The Zenith of Herestra
Known as The Crone Child in Ephaesian lore, Herestra is the god of Children, Elders, and Magic. Herestra is thought of by the inhabitants of Ephaesia as the manifestation of timelessness. Embodying both the wonder of a child and the wisdom of an elder, Herestra is seen as the culmination of human experience. Given her association with magic, countless arcane users pay lip service to Herestra.
Many have claimed to have witnessed manifestations of Herestra throughout history; but few have been able to provide evidence of these supposed manifestations. However there is sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest that if Herestra has manifest, it has been as either a small very young or very old creature. Species appears to be generally irrelevant in the stories, but the appearance of a heavy cloak and a heavy pack seem genuinely common throughout.
The Witch of Xa’fni
Often referred to as the manifestation of Herestra, the story of The Witch of Xa’fni is as good a piece of evidence as any. In the legend, the city of Xa’fni was being decimated by a particularly deadly strain of influenza in 4203 AR. The virus spread faster and more lethally across the elderly and very young populations of Xa’fni, so the city declared that city be quarantined and that those affected by the disease be locked inside the city walls. Three days after the gates had been locked from the outside, an old woman with a dark heavy cloak and a heavy burden on her back appeared at the city gates, begging entrance. At first she was denied, but after she explained that she was a healer and that she could cure the sick, she was given entrance to the city. Mere days later, a small child of equal size with the same cloak and heavy burden reappeared to find that the entire population outside the city walls had perished from the plague.
The Covenant of Herestra
The Covenant of Herestra are regarded by many as one of the more favorable religions on Ephaesia. Members of the Covenant are generally amiable and frequently considered very wise. Given members tendency to give constantly of themselves in addition to their strong work ethic, many members consider them crucial to the bustling civilization that exists on Ephaesia. The belief system in the Covenant is adaptable; it has changed with the times as new interpretations are brought to light and examined.
Worshipers of Herestra have widely varying degrees of wealth for their members. As it is required that members of the Covenant give of themselves constantly, many choose to give up wealth to fulfill this ritual. Members practice what is referred to as hirei or non-attachment in the common tongue. To the worshipers of Herestra, wealth is gained in the production and refinement of Self, not in the gain of materials. To this end, most members fall somewhere between the wonderment of a child and the wisdom of the crone; but all strive towards the perfect balance of the two. All members are extensively educated in every subject of magic from every potential source. In addition, during the past ten years members have been instrumental in introducing magical fetishes as common household items for the general public.
Initiation rites for the Covenant of Herestra are very simple. First the initiate must give away everything they own to members outside of the Covenant. Once they have stripped themselves of all wealth, they return to the Covenant temple where they began their journey and receive two items: the first is a newly crafted robe and the second is a heavy old cloak. Once they have received these items, they are further inscribed with a magical tattoo to represent their Agreement Day. Each year thereafter, a member of the Covenant receives a new magical tattoo which furthers their magical powers. The robe and cloak are of grave importance to members of the Covenant. The robe must be replaced on the anniversary of the member’s Agreement Day every year and the cloak must never be lost or destroyed. Those who fail in either of these regards are relegated to the ranks of The Forgotten.
Worshipers of Herestra embrace earning and giving with equal measure. As a part of their weekly rituals, they must earn something and give something up. Worshipers can only give away things that they personally have earned. The thing earned and given up can be anything that the worshiper has earned through work; anything from a coin for a job to a new spell from hours of study. Worshipers are forbidden from harming children and must assist elders when requested. Absolute obedience is required for anyone above the age of twelve, those under twelve and under are exempt.
The Forgotten are members of the Covenant that have broken one of the tenets. They are stripped of everything; power, wealth, magical ability, clothing, even their voice and free will. The Forgotten mindlessly care for the temples of the Covenant, performing their duties without complaint or acknowledgement until they slip quietly unto death. Members of The Forgotten take care of themselves, but it is only to ensure their continued duties at the temple. There is some debate among scholars as to whether or not The Forgotten are the perfect embodiment of hirei.
The Covenant of Herestra is hierarchical in the extreme with the eldest members given the most authority by age. In all arguments, age determines the final factor in who makes the decisions of the organization. Any member of Herestra may command power over those who are younger than them and all members must obey their elders. Occasionally this sees a trickle down effect where policies are overridden by previous authorities because an elder authority has said so. As a whole, the Covenant of Herestra is considered poor by other religious standards. Despite members of the Covenant constantly earning goods, a fair portion of it is given away as charity and the remainder is spent on self-improvement for its members. Despite this, the Covenant of Herestra can be found to have a presence in even the smallest hamlets of Ephaesia.
Surprisingly little criticism is directed at The Covenant of Herestra. Despite obviously antiquated policies of hierarchical dominion, the affable nature of the Covenant has eroded any sense of disturbance that may have initially been felt by the people of Ephaesia. Policy regarding The Forgotten would seem inhumane to most, but the otherwise ethical treatment of The Forgotten has left many to forget that they are essentially slaves for life. A few outspoken creatures have made attempts to rally public opinion, but every attempt has radically failed.