Writing About Cultures & Religion

In my current country of residence, we celebrate Sinterklaas; a children’s holiday at the end of fall that consists of gift-giving and the consumption of sweets. The origins of the holiday trace back to a patron saint of sailors. We also celebrate our ruling king or queen once a year, either on their birthday or a day that has been selected by this ruling party themselves. We also spend an evening handing out candy to children who come to our doors and sing a song and carry decorative lamps.

These holidays are but a small portion of the Dutch culture. Culinary endeavors, dress, language, religion and countless other things compose a culture or subculture. The element of a person’s or country’s culture is so exclusive, that it can be as hard to describe as a personality in itself. Culture is simply so extravagant and defining.

In creative writing, culture is also an important aspect to consider. When writing non-speculatively, it is important to understand that characters might be raised within different (sub)cultures and thus you could place them in different mindsets or even make them completely different in behavior.

In speculative fiction, the leashes are loosed on everything and thus also on culture. High fantasy especially, presents an opportunity to create complete cultures. I have encountered many works that assigned new langues to different races across the world. An example is that elves or dwarves speak different languages. Likewise so, do these races appreciate different values and worship different gods.

I myself have also placed gods in my creative world. The four parts of Nivitera rule over everything that can be seen, touched, felt and experienced. Though all are aware of these deities, not all worship them in the same way. In Hyron, to the northeast, the people have constructed large temples in every city; distinct ones for each portion of the gods. They worship them through prayer and offerings and by performing rituals of cleaning themselves within these temples; a symbol of washing clean their souls to allow divinity to enter. Though no saints or sages sit within the temples, a handful of clerics maintain the temple and offer advice and guidance when needed. Hyrians are likely the most religious. They have also adopted many expressions that include the gods or their respective domains.

In Elumia, a large nation to the west comprised of forest, the people are equally aware of their gods but their worship is otherwise. Rather than worshipping the gods directly and within structures, the people worship when and where they like. At the start of every season, the king or queen of the nation hosts a large party and allows the population to display their skills. During summer, the season of Ni, courageous activities are admired during the celebration. During autumn—the season in accordance with Vi—warriors and other champions display feats of strength. Every season follows the characteristics of the gods. Elumians worship the displays of the gods and their creation rather than the gods themselves.

In Cavant and Tearm, two countries that lay in-between the two nations, the gods are likely present. Tearm, being a small yet thriving nation keeps their worship of the gods to a minimal. The country is quite concerned with technological advances instead. Cavant, with prosperous cities and rather lacking farming communities, allows persons to worship on their own. Like Hyron, the Cavantians have adopted a handful of expressions including the gods yet have done so less exclusively. Many persons also choose not to worship at all in any way.

A grand example of a faithful person in my writing is a young lass named Mana. She hails from Hyron and from a politically respected family. Having always been within the lap of leaders and having felt the need to lead and protect others herself, her self-doubt is strong. Often-times in the story, she enters a temple of Ni to ask him for courage and guidance. Her worship compels her to do things she feels she would not do otherwise. It builds a pillar for her personality to grow around so she can make steps in the world that will change the future of the world forever.

Another example is my protagonist Syllin. She comes by grand powers due to hard training and past events that come to her, seemingly by coincidence. As a result of this and a handful of other twists and turns, she finds herself bound to Vi; the god of strength and power. Though grateful, Syllin devotes nothing of herself to the god for her aid. Instead, Syllin wields whatever greatness is thrust upon her by this goddess. In this way, she is greatly opposite to the faithful Mana.

I’d like to think this creates a good balance in the world and an interesting encounter between the two; one that will surely come as I continue writing.

May destiny be kind to you.

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