Syncretism is a religion found primarily in and around the Gardish realm of Vaunoo. The faith of Syncretism is built around the combination of Juju spirituality, traditional Old World beliefs, and a particular emphasis upon the minor goddess Owendas. The beliefs, practices, and political activities of Syncretism are directed by the Syncretic Temple, a regional but powerful organization with strong ties to the Vaunuan government.
Syncretism is the name preferred by followers of the religion, but outside Vaunoo, Syncretism is known more commonly as “Vaunuan Juju” or “Owendism”. The latter name is considered a great insult by Syncretists, but since Syncretism is a new religion without much influence outside its own region, few realize this.
The central belief of Syncretism is that natural events are governed by powerful spirits known as loa. These loa do not receive simple prayer, but demand complex services and rituals, most of which must take place in a communal setting to have any effectiveness. There may be gods or divinities greater than the loa, but these are so remote from humanity that there is no use praying to them, and anyone claiming to know much about them cannot know the real truth.
That core belief is shared by the Jujulings indigenous to the Bocan islands, and there are many similarities between Bocan Jujuling rituals Syncretic rituals, and but there are also great differences between Bocan beliefs and Syncretic beliefs. One immediate difference is that Syncretists depict the greatest loas in ways very similar to the depictions of the Deities of Meier known to the rest of the world.
For example, the loa Tranquil is ritually served both in the Bocans and in Vaunoo by soft singing and a ritual of lying still with flowers over the eyes. But in the Bocans, Tranquil is recognized as a young man who prefers comfortable seats and who loves, dark, quiet places, particularly lonely caves. In Syncretism, Tranquil is seen as a princess who loves romantic love and nonviolence – identical to the traditional depiction of the goddess Ielda.
Syncretism matches up all the loa that are traditionally the most important with gods in this way, although many minor loa are not matched up with gods, and not all gods have counterparts among the loa. In particular, Nameless, Poktlarok, and most of the minor deities have no correlation to any syncretic loa.
Another unique belief of Syncretism is that Owendas is the most powerful and most caring loa. She is often said to be one-sixtieth god, and therefore to have power over the other loa, as well as over the living and dying of mortals. Syncretists believe that Owendas is the loa who ushers all mortal souls to the world of the spirits. Without Owendas’ consent, a person cannot die, come back to life, or be ushered into the afterlife.
Syncretists believe that the World of the Dead is a positive and pleasurable place for all who go there, that the dead remain there eternally, and that Owendas personally rules it. (Bocans Juju belief is different – see Secrets of Juju.) They also believe that Owendas is the leader of all other loa, although they often disobey her.
The Syncretic Temple is the governing body of Syncretism. It standardizes Syncretic beliefs and practices strictly. Furthermore, in the Holy Principality of Vaunoo, it has the legal authority to enforce its strictures. Members of other religions are required to either leave Vaunoo, or pay a monthly tax to be exempt from the Temple’s rules.
The leader of the Syncretic Temple is Minister Antonium. He and his ten aides comprise the Ministerial Council, which manages the Syncretic Temple with unquestioned authority. All other clerics and shamans in the temple take direction from them. The Temple and Vaunoo are small enough that little ecclesiastical bureaucracy apart from this is required.
The Syncretic Temple has a great number of ritual laws, which it enforces strictly. These include the carrying of all times of a juju charm called a grigri; the requirement that all clothes be plain-woven, and have no trace of the color black; the banning of sitting on chairs with anything other than four legs, except on a specific holiday; and more.