- The Overarching Religion: Andrastianism
- The Key Point Of Division Between The Chantries: Mages
- How The Imperial Chantry And The Orlesian Chantry Differ Now
As fans of the Dragon Age series anxiously await Dragon Age 4, many are researching the country in Thedas where it will be set: the Tevinter Imperium. Things are very different there than anywhere else we've seen before, and religion is no exception.
In Dragon Age, everywhere we've seen so far has been dominated by the Orlesian Chantry. In Tevinter, that's about to change; they worship the same figures, but very differently. They're called the Imperial Chantry. In this article, we'll dive into the differences between the two.
The Overarching Religion: Andrastianism
The first thing to know is that the Imperial Chantry and the Orlesian Chantry are two sects of one religion: Andrastianism. While certain smaller groups exist, such as the Blades of Hessarian, the Order of Fiery Promise, and the Chantry of the Stilled Tongue, the two Chantries have the largest followings and all other Andrastian sects are generally considered heretical.
Andrastianism centres around the worship of a God, called 'the Maker,' and a human woman, named Andraste. While Imperial Chantry and Orlesian Chantry disagree about Andraste's role, they both feature her as a prophet and quintessential figure. Andraste is thought to have been born in Denerim, but she grew up as a slave in the Tevinter Imperium (these details are often contested, though).
She went on to become a powerful prophet, military leader, and religious icon. Andraste rallied her people and began to spread the word of the Maker, capturing significant land. However, her husband conspired against her, and she was captured by the ruler (the Archon) of the Tevinter Imperium. The Archon had her burned at the stake, but he only turned her into a martyr. The religion, and a document of Andraste's teachings called the 'Chant of Light,' spread under the name 'the Cult of the Maker' before becoming known as the Chantry.
The Key Point Of Division Between The Chantries: Mages
While there's lots of history to know about Andrastianism and the Chantries, there was one main point of contention that caused the religion to split into two major sects.
By the third age, Andrastianism had spread far and wide across Thedas. However, it was being taught differently in Orlais than it was in Tevinter. That's because they had different interpretations of one line in the Chant of Light: "Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him."
Tevinter had a long history by this time of prizing magical ability; selective breeding was common to keep magic in wealthy families, powerful mages were the society's leaders, and so on. So, the Chantries in Tevinter were teaching that magic was meant to serve the collective good, but not for mind control, and this justified the role of mages in government. Meanwhile, in Orlais, they taught that magic was dangerous, and needed to be rigidly controlled. This justified locking mages away in Circles, stripping them of their titles and/or inheritances, and allowing the templars to harshly police them.
This difference in beliefs about the role of mages in society ultimately led to the division that created the Orlesian Chantry and the Imperial Chantry.
How The Imperial Chantry And The Orlesian Chantry Differ Now
The Orlesian Chantry has influence in most human nations in Thedas. It is called the 'Orlesian' Chantry because the capital of Orlais, Val Royeaux, is the seat of the Divine. The list of places under their influence includes (but is not necessarily limited to)…
- The Anderfels
- The Free Marches
The Imperial Chantry has influence primarily in the Tevinter Imperium. Though their followers can be found elsewhere (for example, Seheron, which is now under Qunari control but was once a part of the Imperium) they do not have nearly as much reach as the Orlesian Chantry.
The Divine is the leader of the Chantry. The Imperial Chantry and the Orlesian Chantry have their own Divines.
|The Orlesian Chantry's Divine is…||The Imperial Chantry's Divine is…|
Circles of Magi existed before the schism between the Chantries – and indeed, even before the Cult of the Maker had begun.
In the Orlesian Chantry, the quality of the Circles of Magi differs wildly from Circle to Circle but, generally, they are just glorified prisons. Mages there study magic (among other subjects) under the watchful eye of the Templar Order. They are brought to a Circle as soon as they start to exhibit signs of magic and are not allowed to maintain connections with their family, inherit any land or titles, or have romantic engagements with others in the Circle. Mages who do not live in a Circle are labelled as 'apostates' and are hunted down by Templars.
In the Imperial Chantry, the Circles of Magi are closer to their original purpose as centres of education and knowledge. Mages aren't forced to live in the Tower, can still inherit land and titles, and are actually encouraged to marry and have children to pass on the magical talent. However, attending a Circle is a privilege. Magisters are the highest class, second only to the Archon. All other mages do their bidding. Mages who are not from well-respected families probably won't climb high in the Circle. There is a Templar Order in the Imperial Chantry, but it doesn't actually police mages because they are usually high-ranking, powerful members of society. For example, Templars should stop Magisters from practicing blood magic, but they don't.
In the Orlesian Chantry, men are considered to be unsuited to leadership positions and women are thought to be purer than them by nature. This belief is rooted in Maferath's example; he was Andraste's husband who betrayed her and gave her to the Tevinter Archon to be killed. They are allowed to become members of the Chantry, but are not allowed to rise higher than the rank of Brother. Members of the Chantry (of any gender) are also expected to remain celibate.
In the Imperial Chantry, men had been serving as Grand Clerics even before they split from the Orlesian Chantry. However, before the split, the rest of the religion didn't recognize the male Grand Clerics, or didn't know about them. Today, men are able to serve in any role in the Chantry. They do not cite any part of the Chant of Light in particular to justify their gender inequality but it probably originated because they cared more about whether you had magical ability than whether you were a man or a woman. In contrast to the Orlesian Chantry, members of the Imperial Chantry, of both genders, often get married.
In the Orlesian Chantry, Andraste is the bride of the Maker. They believe that when she died, she was taken up to the Golden City to stand beside him. Her sacrifice is to be remembered and honoured.
In the Imperial Chantry, Andraste was just a human prophet. Their religion honours Andraste, but they do not worship her directly, instead focusing on the Maker himself. They also hold that Andraste was a mage, and a considerably powerful one at that.
The Darkspawn And The Blights
In the Orlesian Chantry, people are taught that human sin (particularly pride) brought about the darkspawn and the blights. They say that ancient Tevinter Magisters who worshipped the Old Gods (a pantheon of dragon gods worshipped in Tevinter before Andrastianism) attempted to enter the Golden City, which is where the Maker sits on his throne in the Fade. They managed to reach the Golden City but tainted it with their human imperfection and were cast out back into the world as the first darkspawn.
They spread their taint, turning others into darkspawn, and went underground. There, they spread the taint to the Old Gods who were asleep underground. When the first Old God, Dumat, was awoken, he became the first Archdemon. He organized the darkspawn into an army and attacked the surface in an event that would come to be known as the First Blight.
In the Imperial Chantry, there is no official statement (that we know of) about the darkspawn and the Blights. However, the Magisters themselves claim that there never was an event where ancient Magisters entered the Golden City and that they were not the first darkspawn. Rather, they suggest that darkspawn have simply always existed. The Imperial Chantry and the Magisters do not seem to deny that the Archdemons leading the Blights are awakened Old Gods, though.
Blood magic is a type of spell casting in which the living power of someone's blood – rather than the power of lyrium – is used for fuel. In an uncommon agreement, both Chantries forbid the use of blood magic. However…
In the Orlesian Chantry, blood magic is rigidly forbidden and this tradition is upheld by the Templar Order. Any mage caught practicing blood magic would be executed or made 'Tranquil' (which means they would be cut off from their ability to use magic). They believe that knowledge of blood magic came from the Old Gods, which is where Thalsian, the first known blood mage, claimed to have learned it.
In the Imperial Chantry, blood magic is forbidden, but only officially. In reality, all or almost all high-ranking mages in Tevinter society use blood magic. They also teach that knowledge of blood magic came from the ancient elves in Arlathan, though there is no history corroborating this claim. If it's a lie, it may be out of some shred of loyalty to the Old Gods, who were worshipped by many before Andrastianism, or a ploy to get the Orlesian Chantry to blame blood magic on elves and not on Tevinter.
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