The organisation and general practice of the faith was done by the six priesthoods. Each priesthood had its primary temple and base in one of the Seven Realms with Hæthiod being the seventh, superfluous realm in this regard. In return, its capital of Tothmor had no less than six large temples with all of the priesthoods being generously represented. In the other capitals of Adalmearc, there was typically only one major temple dedicated to the deity associated with that particular realm; the other divines were represented by minor sanctuaries elsewhere in the city or small shrines attached to the major temple.
These temples were not merely sites of worship, but large complexes that fulfilled numerous functions. They were centres of learning and knowledge, training scribes both for their own purposes as well as for hire to those who could not read or write themselves. Located inside cities, they typically had large gardens, growing not only food but also herbs for healing. They also educated the future generation of priests and priestesses, and each major temple was responsible for sending replacements to the other realms to represent their order. Thus the temple in Plenmont sent priests of Egnil to Middanhal to service the shrine of Egnil in the great Temple, which in turn sent priests of Rihimil to serve at that deity’s sanctuary in Plenmont. While there might be vast territories where only one priesthood was present, members of all six could be found in every capital and most major cities; both because such places would at least have small shrines devoted to each of the divines, but also because many of the different priesthoods offered unique services.
Below follows a description of each priesthood, but a few things were common to them all. They all wore robes whose colour showed to which order they belonged and with patterns showing their rank inside the order. Novices wore a brown, coarse robe. Acolytes wore a robe with the colour of their order, but nothing more. Initiated priests and priestesses wore the animal insignia of their deity embroidered on their chest. Local high priests and priestesses of a smaller temple such as those in Tothmor had a pattern along the hem of their robe as well while the supreme priest of each order furthermore had this pattern along the edge of the hood. As an exception, the Highfather wore a completely unadorned robe of grey, un-dyed colour.
All members of the priesthoods might be addressed as ‘brother’ or ‘sister’, from the lowest novice to the Highfather. There were forms of address with which to show politeness towards those of the clergy with certain status, however. The high priest of a local temple would be addressed as ‘Reverend One’, whereas the leader of one of the orders alone was addressed as ‘Most Reverend One’. When speaking directly to the Highfather, it was common courtesy to use the title ‘Holy One’.
Order of the Dragon
Based in Middanhal, the priests of Rihimil wore black robes with a silver dragon upon it. They were colloquially referred to as blackrobes. As caretakers of the great Temple in Middanhal, they wielded considerable influence; although not a rule, the Highfather was nearly always chosen from their numbers. They were often consulted and given sacrifices in times of war or when matters of state were decided, considering Rihimil was a war deity and also lord of the divines. The guards of his temples and those few priests of this order trained in warfare wielded swords.
Order of the Raven
The priestesses of Idisea were probably the most numerous of the orders; especially when their many lay brothers were accounted for. This is due to the imperative tasks they performed. They were the midwives of Adalmearc, present at every birth. When life ended, it was also their responsibility to prepare the body as well as perform the burial ceremony. Apart from this, they were also very knowledgeable in the arts of healing and were thus caretakers for the sick. This was an immense task which the priestesses could not fulfil entirely on their own. Thus they educated and trained many lay brothers; only women could join their order completely. When they did, these women become priestesses with all the duties this entailed. Men could join the Order of the Raven and become lay brothers, being only taught the healing arts. Thus many courts had male physicians, men who spent their lives studying and improving upon the knowledge of the body and its ailments.
The priestesses wore a robe of a deep red colour while lay brothers wore ordinary brown. Violence was forbidden to their order, even for the lay brothers; the guards at their temples wielded staffs rather than sharper, lethal weapons. In daily speech, the priestesses were called norns in the North and sibyls in the South. This was due to the particular function they fulfilled when a child was born. Every child received birth words; three sentences spoken by the norn present, which were believed to be divinely inspired by Idisea herself. This should not be considered a prophetic gift as such, but simply a singular occurrence fuelled by the entrance of life into the world. There were cases of norns claiming to have had prophetic powers in general, and it is said that such was once a requirement for becoming the Veiled Sibyl, though that seems simply a rumour. See the last entry on the page concerning faith for more concerning this.
The great temple of Idisea was in Fontaine, the capital of Ealond. The leader of the order was called the Veiled Sibyl or simply the Veiled due to how she was dressed and always had to appear in public. Curiously, the role of the norns and especially the tradition of birth words seem to be northern in origin, even though the Order of the Raven was based in the southern realm of Ealond. Southern Adalmearc seems to have embraced the tradition fully, though, and in no other place were the norns as revered as among the rivermen of Ealond.
Order of the Bull
The main temple for Egnil was placed in Plenmont, capital of Korndale. His priests wore yellow robes with a black bull upon it, and they were commonly known as geolrobes. They typically blessed the harvest each year as it was brought in, and they were also known as master brewers. Much of their income apart from sacrifices made to their temples came from the sale of ale, which was generally acknowledged as being superior to all other forms. While the priests themselves rarely ever trained in war, their guards wielded fearsome flails.
Order of the Horse
The priests of Disfara were more scattered than their brethren. As the largest city in Thusund, they maintained a great temple in Herbergja. They also had a temple in Dvaros, the capital of Thusund, where the kings of the island realm were crowned and from where the Thusund fleets for fishing, commerce, and war were blessed. The main temple for this order of priestesses was not in either of those cities, however, but in a more remote location many miles from Dvaros. On the cliffs overlooking a small village called Bjarghold lay their sanctuary. Those uninitiated into the order were not permitted to enter, and exception or permission was only made rarely. Secret rites were performed in this place to ensure Disfara’s continued protection, though the temple also seems to have served as a retreat for those of their order that grew weary of the bustling activities in Dvaros and Herbergja.
Despite the distance and seclusion, the high priestess of Disfara was not uninvolved in the affairs of Thusund; a ship from Bjarghold could reach Dvaros within a day, and Herbergja could be reached within a few days. Due to their importance as overseers and neutral mediators in matters of trade, the priestesses wielded considerable influence. They also used their insight by making investments in many trading houses, which brought them exceeding wealth. Thus while not the most numerous of the religious orders, the priestesses of Disfara were in all likelihood the richest. They wore robes of dark blue colour with a white horse galloping as the insignia; the white was typically embroidered in a way to make it appear as if sea foam splashed around the hooves of the horse. The priestesses were sometimes called silrobes because among those highest in their order, the insignia was stitched on with silver threads.
Order of the Bear
Heohlond was a complicated affair, divided into its many clans of varying size and importance. There is no doubt that the greatest of these was Clan Cameron, however, whose territory was situated on the border to Adalrik. The priests of Hamaring had their principal temple close to Clan Cameron’s stronghold of Cairn Donn. It was situated in the Weolcan Mountains, on which these priests performed observations of the sky to ensure the calendar was kept. Prizing strength and craftsmanship, they considered idleness to be malicious. They often trained and competed in feats of strength, and many of their numbers were skilled in a variety of crafts. They also honoured pursuits of the mind, however, such as astronomy and mathematics, both instrumental in keeping the calendar. They particularly enjoyed when they could pair the innovations of the mind with the craftsmanship of the hands. Their robes were white, earning them the moniker of whiterobes, with a black bear as the insignia. Their temple guards wielded great hammers as weapons, and most of the white-robed priests were fully capable of fighting with them as well.
Order of the Hart
The major temple for Austre was placed in the capital of Vidrevi. The city was called Hareik, named after the great, ancient oak tree at its centre; Austre’s temple was built around this hallowed tree. The entire temple was built from wooden staves from the surrounding forests, divided into complexes. Part of it was oak, part of it was yew, and part of it was pine, the three most common types of tree among the vast forests of Vidrevi. Austre was very popular among noblewomen and women of wealth, and the priestesses offered various remedies for keeping a youthful appearance.
They were also known as gardeners of great skill and used their abilities to turn Hareik and other cities in Vidrevi into places of green beauty. Their temples were rarely built from stone if possible and were typically located in groves, preferably beech groves if available. It is a curious fact that the priestesses seemed to hold beeches in special regard; the tree was rarely found in Vidrevi, except in the great temple in Hareik, where the priestesses themselves had planted it in a circle surrounding the great oak. It is also curious that an oak was at the centre of the largest sanctuary devoted to Austre, since oak trees were normally associated with Rihimil; apparently this was another of the subtle connections between Austre and Rihimil. Most fitting, the priestesses of Austre wore green robes with a brown hart leaping upon it; they were commonly referred to as greenrobes. Most of them practiced archery in honour of their goddess as the huntress, and their guards were armed with long knives and bows. Since the bow was not effective in close combat, they also trained fighting with the bow staff as a blunt weapon when necessary. Typically their arrows were an effective deterrent, however; they were said to never miss their quarry.
These were the six priesthoods of the faith of Adalmearc. In general, they were on good terms with one another; they recognised the importance of the other orders, and they all had their separate duties. The fact that each order had one realm in which their authority was undisputed also helped. Should tension arise that could not be settled, the Highfather was typically petitioned to cast judgement. An exception was Hæthiod, which is an excellent example of what happened when there was no clear hierarchy. The position of court seer was extremely prestigious, granting great influence over the court and elevating its holder as the highest spiritual authority of the realm. While not an explicit criterion, only men held the office. This meant constant rivalry between the orders of Rihimil, Egnil, and Hamaring, who always sought to gain or retain the seat.