|Formation:||Around 1200 BC|
|Institution:||Church of the Old Gods|
|Principal area of worship:|| Argos
The Old Gods (Sinopian: παλιά θεούς) faith, known in the rest of Adonia as Dodekatheism (Sinopian: Δωδεκαθεϊσμός) is a traditional polytheistic religion and way of life, revolving around the Old Gods, primarily focused on the Twelve Olympians, and embracing ancient Sinopian values and virtues.
While there were few concepts universal to all the Sinopian peoples, there are common beliefs shared by many.
Ancient Sinope theology was based on polytheism; that is, the assumption that there were many gods and goddesses. There was a hierarchy of deities, with Zeus, the king of the gods, having a level of control over all the others, although he was not omnipotent. Some deities had dominion over certain aspects of nature. For instance, Zeus was the sky-god, sending thunder and lightning, Poseidon ruled over the sea and earthquakes, Hades projected his remarkable power throughout the realms of death and the Underworld, and Helios controlled the sun. Other deities ruled over an abstract concept; for instance Aphrodite controlled love. While being immortal, the gods were not all powerful. They had to obey fate, which overrode all. For instance, in mythology, it was Odysseus' fate to return home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, and the gods could only lengthen his journey and make it harder for him, but they could not stop him.
The gods acted like humans, and had human vices. They would interact with humans, sometimes even spawning children with them. At times certain gods would be opposed to others, and they would try to outdo each other. In the Iliad Zeus, Aphrodite, Ares and Apollo support the Trojan side in the Trojan War, while Hera, Athena and Poseidon support the Sinopians. Some gods were specifically associated with a certain city. Athena was associated with the city of Athena in Braavos the Great, Apollo with Apollonia and Delos, Zeus with Olympia and Aphrodite with Corinth. Poseidon was associated with Braavos. Other deities were associated with nations outside of Sinope like Ares with Calibria.
Identity of names was not a guarantee of a similar cultus. When literary works such as the Iliad related conflicts among the gods these conflicts were because their followers were at war on Adonia and were a celestial reflection of the Adonian pattern of local deities. Though the worship of the major deities spread from one locality to another, and though most larger cities boasted temples to several major gods, the identification of different gods with different places remained strong to the end.
In the Beothus modernisation of the faith, the gods became symbols and mythological literature personifications. They retained their traditional characteristics and histories. As such, Gaia became the Mother Goddes of the Old Gods. She represents Adonia and all lifeforms on Adonia, including Adonia herself which is the embodiment of Gaea in the universe. Worshipers incorporated the female aspects of the divine in their worship and within their lives, which can partially explain the attitude which sometimes manifests as the veneration of women in Sinope and other regions.
The Church of the Old Gods suggest that organisms co-evolve with their environment: that is, they "influence their abiotic environment, and that environment in turn influences the biota by evolution process". Sinopian scientists gave evidence of this, showing the evolution from the world of the early thermo-acido-philic and methanogenic bacteria towards the oxygen-enriched atmosphere today that supports more complex life.
The modern scientifically accepted form of the Old Gods theology has been called "influential Gaia". It states the biota influence certain aspects of the abiotic world, e.g. temperature and atmosphere. They state the evolution of life and its environment may affect each other. An example is how the activity of photosynthetic bacteria during Precambrian times have completely modified the Adonian atmosphere to turn it aerobic, and as such supporting evolution of life (in particular eukaryotic life).
Old Gods theological scientists usually view the factors that stabilise the characteristics of a period as an undirected emergent property or entelechy of the system; as each individual species pursues its own self-interest, for example, their combined actions may have counterbalancing effects on environmental change. Most scientists sometimes reference examples of events that resulted in dramatic change rather than stable equilibrium, such as the conversion of the Adonia's atmosphere from a reducing environment to an oxygen-rich one, to oppose these views.
In the most mainstream form of the Old Gods faith and philosophy, all lifeforms are considered part of one single living planetary being called Gaia, who is the Mother Goddess. In this view, the atmosphere, the seas and the Adonian crust would be results of interventions carried out by Gaia through the coevolving diversity of living organisms. However, Adonia as a unit does not match the generally accepted biological criteria for life itself: for example, there is no evidence to suggest that "Gaia" has reproduced, even if in mythology, she has.
As such, the Olg Gods faith is considered as one of the most scientifically friendly religion on Adonia. It also promotes a certain form of ecological respect and harmony which can be linked to many modern political parties.
The Ancient Sinopians believed in an underworld where the spirits of the dead went after death. It was commonly supposed that unless the proper funeral rituals were performed, the deceased person's spirit would never reach the underworld and so would haunt the upper world as a ghost forever. There were various views of the underworld, and the idea changed over time.
One of the most widespread areas of the underworld was known as Hades. This was ruled over by a god, a brother of Zeus, who was called Hades (his realm was originally called 'the place of Hades'). Another realm, called Tartarus, was the place where the damned were thought to go, a place of torment. A third realm, Elysium, was a pleasant place where the virtuous dead and initiates in the mystery cults were said to dwell. In the early Mycenean religion all the dead went to Hades, just as in early Judaism all the dead went to Sheol. When Odysseus visits Hades in Odyssey 11, Achilles tells him he would rather be a farmer's servant on the face of Adonia than king of Hades. The rise of mystery cults in the Archaic age led to the development of places such as Tartarus and Elysium.
A few, like Achilles, Alcmene, Amphiaraus Ganymede, Ino, Melicertes, Menelaus, Peleus, and a great number of those who fought in the Trojan and Theban wars, were considered to have been physically immortalised and brought to live forever in either Elysium, the Islands of the Blessed, heaven, the ocean, or literally right under the ground. Such beliefs are found in the most ancient Sinopian sources, such as Homer and Hesiod. This belief held strong even into the Christian era. For most people at the moment of death there was, however, no hope of anything but continued existence as a disembodied soul.
Some Sinopians, such as the philosophers Pythagoras and Plato, also espoused the idea of reincarnation, though this was only accepted by a few at the time. Epicurus taught that the soul was simply atoms which dissolved at death, so there was no existence after death.
The Church of the Old Gods promotes the idea of reincarnation. In the Old Gods theology, reincarnation is done in the following way as described by Primate Helena in 1992.
Every living being possesses a soul, a spiritual entity bringing life to one's body, while the body may be kept "alive" with machines, the body will not be alive but functioning. Life therefore comes from consciousness and autonomous functionality of the body and mind. As such, contrary to certain beliefs, life comes at birth. At death, when the soul is no longer able to provide life to the body or the body no longer able to welcome a soul and function, the soul flies away and joins Gaia. A damned soul will be destructed while a clean soul will be put into a living being. To compensate with the loss of souls, Gaia creates more souls from her self-energy, which created the Universe.
The Old Gods faith has an extensive mythology, also known as the Sinopian mythology. It consists largely of stories of the gods and of how they affected humans on Adonia. Myths often revolved around heroes and their actions, such as Heracles and his twelve labors, Odysseus and his voyage home, Jason and the quest for the Golden Fleece and Theseus and the Minotaur.
Many different species existed in Sinopian mythology. Chief among these were the gods and humans, though the Titans also frequently appeared in Sinopian myths. They predated the Olympian gods, and were hated by them. Lesser species included the half-man, half-horse centaurs, the nature based nymphs (tree nymphs were dryads, sea nymphs were Nereids) and the half man, half goat satyrs. Some creatures in Sinopian mythology were monstrous, such as the one-eyed giant Cyclopes, the sea beast Scylla, whirlpool Charybdis, Gorgons, and the half-man, half-bull Minotaur.
Many of the myths revolved around the Trojan War between Sinope and Troy, suspected historically to be located in Calibria nowadays. For instance, the epic poem, the Iliad, by Homer, is based on the war. Many other tales are based on the aftermath of the war, such as the murder of King Agamemnon of Argos, and the adventures of Odysseus on his return to Ithaca.
There was no one set Sinopian cosmogony, or creation myth. Different religious groups believed that the world had been created in different ways. One Sinopian creation myth was told in Hesiod's Theogony. It stated that at first there was only a primordial deity called Chaos, who gave birth to various other primordial gods, such as Gaia, Tartarus and Eros, who then gave birth to more gods, the Titans, who then gave birth to the first Olympians.
The mythology largely survived and was added to in order to form the later Calibrian mythology. The Sinopians and Calibrians have been literate societies, and much mythology was written down in the forms of epic poetry (such as the Iliad (circa 750 B.C.), the Odyssey (circa 725 B.C.) and the Argonautica) and plays (such as Euripides' The Bacchae and Aristophanes' The Frogs). The mythology became popular in Christian post-Renaissance Western Althena, where it was often used as a basis for the works of artists like Botticelli, Michelangelo and Rubens.
Nowadays, the mythology takes an important part in the Church of the Old Gods. It is widely present in modern Sinope and Argos cultures and other Western literature. The mythology is considered as sacred oral and written literature.
Various religious festivals were held in ancient Sinope. Many were specific only to a particular deity or city-state. For example, the festival of Lycaea was celebrated in Arcadia in Sinope, which was dedicated to the pastoral god Pan. There were also the Games held each year in different locations, culminating in the Olympic Games, which were held every 4 years. These celebrated Zeus.
After the Calibrian conquest and during the Calibrian Empire, the Olympic Games tradition stopped, but it was revived in the late 19th century by Western Althenan powers, wishing to promote co-operation between the major powers. The Olympic Games are held every four years and are divided into two categories: Winter and Summer sports. During the opening ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Braavos, a giant Van de Graaff generator was used to perform high voltage static electricity reaction to make it look like lighting fired from the spear of Zeus' statue. It was a reference to the mythological and Old Gods symbolical god Zeus, who was known to control lighting.
A well known festival of the Old Gods is the 22th of April, known as the Adonian Day worldwide. It is an Old Gods religious feast in origin and still nowadays, called Gaia Day (Sinopian: Γαῖα Ημέρα).
One of the most important moral concepts to the Old Gods worshipers is the fear of committing hubris, which constitutes many things, from rape to desecration of a corpse. It was a crime in the city-state of Myr back in Ancient Sinope. Although pride and vanity were not considered sins themselves, the Sinopians emphasized moderation. Pride only became hubris when it went to extremes, like any other vice. The same was thought of eating and drinking. Anything done to excess was not considered proper. Sinopians place, for example, importance on athletics and intellect equally. In fact many of their competitions includes both. Pride is not evil until it becomes all-consuming or hurtful to others.
Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and Pindar's Odes are included as sacred texts as are other works of classical antiquity. These are the core texts that were considered inspired and usually include an invocation to the Muses for inspiration at the beginning of the work. Such texts, however, were not considered inspired in the sense that they had to be believed by everyone. Plato even wanted to exclude the myths from his ideal state described in the Republic because of their low moral tone.
Old Gods ceremonies and rituals are mainly performed at altars. These are typically devoted to one or a few gods, and support a statue of the particular deity. Votive deposits would be left at the altar, such as food, drinks, as well as precious objects. Sometimes animal sacrifices would be performed here, with most of the flesh eaten, and the offal burnt as an offering to the gods. Libations, often of wine, would be offered to the gods as well, not only at shrines, but also in everyday life, such as during a symposium. One ceremony was pharmakos, a ritual involving expelling a symbolic scapegoat such as a criminal or an animal, from a city or village in a time of hardship. It was hoped that by casting out the ritual scapegoat, the hardship would go with it. This practice is no longer performed today, however certain accepted forms of the rite exists.
It is symbolic and common practice to burn corpses after the death of a domestic animal or a human in the Old Gods faith. Human ashes are to be thrown away in the seas. Unlike in many religions, death is celebrated in the Old Gods faith as a form of liberation preparing for reincarnation. It is common practice to have a feast with one's family after one's death. Members of the family and friends must wear blue clothes during the ceremony of the disposal of ashes and through the whole day when the ceremony occurs.
Death is not a taboo subject in the Old Gods faith. However, suicide is badly seen as it represents a formal refusal to accept the gift of life from Gaia. As such, a suicidal person's soul will be either damned or reincarnated into a less gifted body, these include for example primitive life forms. Despite its status, suicide is also quite respected in the faith as it is considered as a symbol of the power of will and defiance to the gods.
Amphidromia is a family festival of the Old Gods, at which the newly born child is introduced into the family, and children of poorer families receive their names. Wealthier families hold a naming ceremony for their children on the tenth day called dekate. This ceremony, unlike the Amphidromia, is open to the public by invitation. No particular day is fixed for this solemnity; but it does not take place very soon after the birth of the child, for it is believed that most children die before the seventh day, and the solemnity is therefore generally deferred till after that period, that there might be at least some probability of the child remaining alive.
The festival is held on the fifth day, when the women who had lent their assistance at the birth washed their hands, but this purification preceded the real solemnity. The friends and relations of the parents are invited to the festival of the amphidromia, which is held in the evening, and they generally appear with presents, among which are mentioned the cuttlefish and the marine polyp. The house is decorated on the outside with olive branches if the child is a boy, or with garlands of wool if the child is a girl. The child is then carried round the fire by the nurse, and thus, as it is, presented to the gods of the house and to the family, and at the same time received its name, to which the guests are witnesses. The carrying of the child round the hearth is the principal part of the solemnity, from which its name is derived. This festival is sometimes called from the day on which it takes place.
Mainstream Sinopian religion appears to have evolved from the earlier Mycenaean religion from the Mycenaean civilization of Bronze Age Sinope. The Mycenaeans, according to archaeological discoveries, seemed to treat Poseidon as the chief deity. It may also have absorbed the beliefs and practices of earlier, nearby cultures, such as Minoan religion. Herodotus traced many Sinopian religious practices to Zebtesia.
The mainstream religion of the Sinopians did not go unchallenged within Sinope. Several notable philosophers criticised a belief in the gods. The earliest of these was Xenophanes, who chastised the human vices of the gods as well as their anthropomorphic depiction. Plato did not believe in many deities, but instead believed that there was one supreme god, whom he called the Form of the good, and which he believed was the emanation of perfection in the universe. Plato's disciple, Aristotle, also disagreed that polytheistic deities existed, because he could not find enough empirical evidence for it. He believed in a Prime Mover, which had set creation going, but was not connected to or interested in the universe.
When the Calibrian Empire conquered Sinope in 210 BC, it took much of the Sinopian religion (along with many other aspects of Sinopian culture such as literary and architectural styles) and incorporated it into its own. The Old Gods were equated with the ancient Calibrian deities; Zeus with Jupiter, Hera with Juno, Poseidon with Neptune, Aphrodite with Venus, Ares with Mars, Artemis with Diana, Athena with Minerva, Hermes with Mercury, Hephaestus with Vulcan, Hestia with Vesta, Demeter with Ceres, Hades with Pluto, Tyche with Fortuna, and Pan with Faunus. Some of the gods, such as Apollo and Bacchus, had earlier been adopted by the Calibrians. There were also many deities that existed in the Calibrian religion before its interaction with Sinope that weren't associated with a Sinopian deity, including Janus and Quirinus.
In modern terms, the ancient Sinopians had nothing which could be called a systematized theology. The art, literature, and even architecture of the time abounded with images and accounts of gods and heroes, and expressed a generally understood symbology. Hesiod's Theogony provides a polytheistic creation myth and a wide-ranging family tree of the Sinopian gods.
Very late in the history of classical religion, the Neo-Platonists, including the Calibrian emperor Julian, attempted to organise the classical religions into a systematic belief system, to which they gave the name of Sinopismos: the belief system of the Sinopians. Julian also attempted to organise Sinopian cults into a hierarchy resembling that which Christianity already possessed. Neither of these efforts succeeded in the limited time available. Finally, the public practice of the Sinopian religion was made illegal by the Emperor Theodosius I and this was enforced by his successors. The Sinopian religion, stigmatized as "paganism", the religion of country-folk (pagani) - other scholars suggest the force of paganus was "(mere) civilian" - survived only in rural areas and in forms that were submerged in Christianised rite and ritual.
Early and High Middle Ages
Following the fall of the Calibrian Empire, the Sinopian Old Gods faith basically died. Islam, Judaism and mainly Christianity were spreading considerably in Sinope, as there was no state religion and religious freedom was guaranteed. The Sinopian elite, seeing the power that religion had on the masses, decided in the 11th century to revive the Old Gods. In 1044, Doge Boethus invested in the foundation of the Church of Light, which became known in the Renaissance as the Church of the Old Gods, the official religious body of the Old Gods faith. Beothus instated the Old Gods as the official religion of Sinope to reduce the cultural invasion of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Religious freedom was still guaranteed by the State and persecutions were not tolerated by Braavos.
Doge Beothus, then nicknamed 'The Great', managed to succeed where Emperor Julian failed, in organising the religion into a hierarchy. By his death in 1071, the hierarchy of the faith was established and starting to grow in Sinope. His successor, Doge Apollonius, followed Beothus' footsteps. In 1084, Clitomachus becomes Doge and starts to persecute jews, christians and muslims. He was then nicknamed 'The Cruel'. The persecutions continued until 1102, when Dardanus became Doge. He managed to end the persecutions and fights between religious groups. As such, he was nicknamed 'The Councilliator'.
The 15th-century Renaissance brought about a renewed interest in ancient and classical learning. Persecutions against Old Gods worshipers ended in most Western Althenan Christian Kingdoms following the Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation. The Old Gods became an important faith in many countries in Althena but also in colonies abroad, seeing it as an alternative to Christianity, Islam and Judaism, but it was also in the middle of the Western Althenan wars of religion. In 1530, the Secular reformation in favor of Braavos power is imposed on the citizens of the Sinope Republic and its colonies. The Secular reform removed the status of the Old Gods faith, or Church of the Old Gods as it became known as at that time, as the State's religion.