Alright, this might be surprising considering I've coded the system of magic in this comic the way I have, but I'm not religious. It just wasn't part of my life growing up. But I've always been interested in the concept of faith and institutional religion. So, I wanted to explore that in Verse and to write up this blog post to talk a bit about the relationship between religion, Magic, and "the Verse" in the story so far. Partly to sort out my own thoughts, but also because it’s something that gets brought up in the comic as a background element in the first volume, and becomes increasingly more prevalent later on.
When I was first thinking about the kind of world Verse took place in I came up with a really rigid set of religious establishments and sects that evolved throughout three different eras in history. The first being when everyone could use Magic, the second being when nobody could use it all, and the third being the current era where the Verse is a weakened stand-in for Magic. Religion and Magic were inexorably tied together, and I wanted peoples viewpoints of Magic to be complicated because of that. They might see it as something linked to God(s) and the divine, or reject it outright. Some might see it as a tool, a teaching, or a mystery. This would changed depending on the part of the world they came from and different cultures as well. I have a long list of instiuitions and their values written out somewhere, but I knew I'd never be able to explain all this in a comic, nor did I want to.
I ended up focusing on the country Verse (mostly) takes place in, Essear. Generally, they are monotheistic with a significant focus on one of the twin messengers Ladis, who brought the Verse to the area a long time ago. I still think people have different levels of how closely they equate the Verse to god, or whether it’s just a tool. A large part of that is cultural, and characters who immigrated to Essear think about the Verse differently and have a different relationship to Ladis as a religious figure compared to a native. I mentioned this in another blog post about the geography, but basically, the world Verse takes place in has been globalized thanks to past Magic, so there’s a bunch of different cultures already co-existing. Also, the specific area the first volume takes place in is a city that still operates as a port. Everyone's got their own thoughts and beliefs.
Two characters that are good benchmarks for how people in Essear think about the Verse are Magdalena and Kidai. Magdalena falls on the end of the spectrum that sees it as a tool that some person unearthed and should be logically dissected and studied to serve everyone better. Kidai is way on the opposite end, the Verse is divine, it should be treated as such, and by using it, you are closer to God, etc. Which is why he thinks The Iron Gate is definitely blasphemous and awful, and Magdalena is maybe more sympathetic to their viewpoint. Also of note, I’ve mentioned before that Kidai isn’t native to Essear, and the place he comes from has a pretty different relationship to the Verse, so he was definitely a religious minority in his home country.
The final thing in all of this is the Vel. There’s still a lot of mystery in the story that will be revealed, but when Fife describes them in chapter 2, as "reincarnations of people that have done wrong” he's repeating a common viewpoint of people who treat Ladis and the Verse as divine. It was taught by Ladis as a sort of explanation to why the Vel even appeared in the first place. However, the truth is nobody really understands why they exist now, and why they didn’t exist before the Verse came into being. I definitely have THOUGHTS and story that explain the Vel better, but it’s something I have to sit on for the moment.
I also wanted to write up about the few rituals and religious markers you see scattered throughout the first 4 chapters. The first are the gravestones that bear the symbol of Ladis, that Fife visits in chapter 1.
Again, different customs for different areas of the world. The village and surrounding highland area had a tradition of burying people and engraving the stone markers with part of the Verse that they believe will keep their loved ones from becoming Vel. Compare this to the two funeral pyres we see later.
I think cremation is a more common practice the closer people get to the city, but they still perform rites that are supposed to prevent reincarnation.
This is something nobody will ever pick up, but the chain Isolf asks Neitya to wear in chapter 2, to prevent her from using Magic, is a similar chain to the one being held by the mourners in chapter 3. Both are supposed to ward off Magic/the Vel.
Another thing that appears a few times are these domed buildings!
It’s never mentioned, but they are all small temples of Ladis where people go to learn what the Verse is, and also how to use it in practical applications. The temples are probably more prevalent in smaller communities where people don’t have access to large educational institutions to learn the Verse and the history of Magic.
The last sort of religious object shown is the book of Ladis / the book of Verses itself. The Verse probably spans hundreds and hundreds of massive tomes. The book we see Kidai carrying around is almost like an abridged version of certain essential parts? In another post, I used the analogy of a big crossword puzzle for how the Verse is "deciphered", but you also have to imagine that this crossword puzzle is hundreds of thousands of pages long and span across multiple books. No wonder most people don’t understand it.
In summary… religion in real-life is complicated, and I think in this fantasy world it’s the same. Characters will contradict themselves, they will use tools and teachings in different ways, but I think that’s interesting! (I’m also insuring myself against my own writing, hah!) There's honestly a lot more I could write about but it's messy, so it'll have to wait for another post!
As always I will take any oppurtunity to talk about this comic, so if you got questions send 'em my way: https://curiouscat.me/_twothirty
WAIT! One last thing, I used this modified symbol of Ladis, on the book the mystery man in the hat is holding in the first chapter (and in this post). It's not as mysterious as I'm making it out to be, but it's something that gets explained in the comic.
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