The Holy Principality of Vaunoo is one of the major realms of Gard, having grown substantially after incorporating two other realms in the last 200 years. Vaunoo is a religious state, whose people and culture are oriented around an unusual faith that places emphasis on the minor goddess Owendas and the loa.
From the signing of The Pact until 324 OC, the realm of Vaunoo was substantially smaller, and not considered a nation of any great importance. In that year, however, the brass dragon who was Prince of Vaunoo was murdered by a blue dragon from Arcland he had been feuding with. At that time, the dragons were still pretending to be human beings, seeming to grow old, die, and then be replaced with a “son” or “daughter” who was really the same dragon in a different disguise.
The death of the dragon ruler of Vaunoo had to be covered up, and the story was given out that assassins had killed the entire royal family. This caused a great upheaval and a realm-wide period of mourning. Meanwhile, a new dragon was secretly selected to lead Vaunoo – a young brass named Deriberlusa.
At the same time as this upheaval, Gard’s first colonies in the Bocan Islands were being founded, and new islands were being explored all the time. But there were also some ships returning to the Old World, carrying gold, refugees from failed colonies, and Jujulings who wanted to see the lands to the north. A convoy of such ships was on its way to Gideon City when it was knocked off-course by a storm. The ships ended up shipwrecked on the beaches of Vaunoo.
These survivors brought with them a strange magic, which they called Juju, and a strange worship of heathen spirits called loa. At first, the jujulings were little more than a curiosity. But then, in 325, another strange visitor came to Vaunoo. This man was a prophet, or so he said. He called himself Moscath. Claiming to have received divine knowledge, he began teaching his own religion, which combined the loa, the traditional gods, and Owendas, who he claimed was the goddess who had sent him to save Vaunoo. This religion came to be called Syncretism.
This religion spread throughout Vaunoo, especially after winning over Princess Deriberlusa. It even spread to to the smaller neighboring realms, which in 426, became parts of Vaunoo themselves.
The Holy Principality of Vaunoo is run under a power-sharing agreement between the Princess Deriberlusa and the leader of the Syncretic Temple, Minister Antonium. Prior to the Human’s Revolution, the Princess had the final political say, although she had given the Syncretic Temple great temporal power already. After brief but bloody fighting in Vaunoo, the arrangements were changed so that Princess Deriberlusa and Minister Antonium effectively have veto power over one another.
The Syncretic Temple’s decrees and laws govern many aspects of private life for the people of Vaunoo. The Temple has imposed a legally-mandated dress code, forbidden all work during its holidays, required all Temple members to carry a special talisman with them at all times, etc. It has both ecclesiastical and legal authority over marriages, contracts, funerals. It even collects taxes.
Princess Deriberlusa, on the other hand, has taken control of the courts. Many of the judges she appointed before the Human’s Revolution are still in power, and the Temple is not very interested in the messy work of law enforcement. The Princess has also stopped the Syncretic Temple from actually requiring all Vaunuans to follow the teachings of Syncretism. It is, however, illegal to preach against Syncretism or attempt to convert people to a religion other than Syncretism, and a heavy fee is charged for the right to conduct non-Syncretist services or rites, even in private.
Even though Vaunoo has recently absorbed two other Gardish realms, it is still the smallest major realm that is not a city-state. It is located towards the eastern portion of Occident’s southern coast. Chester lies to the north and west of Vaunoo. To the northeast is the minor realm of Rosine, and to the east is the Paparoneck swamp.
Vaunoo’s largest city by far is Whisperston, capital of the Principality and home of the Syncretic Temple. Whisperston is in central Vaunoo. To the east of Whisperston is jungle and wetlands, not much good for farming. To the south is Vaunoo’s coast, which has excellent beaches, but underused trading ports – sailors are reluctant to with the Syncretic religion, which most outside the Temple find strange. To the west of Whisperston is mostly woodland, a source of lumber, Vaunoo’s chief export. And to the north is what used to be the realm of Sprangledorf, recently annexed into Vaunoo.
Sprangledorf had been a barony with a majority gnome population. When Sprangledorf joined Vaunoo, there was a great exodus of gnomes to other realms in the empire. However, most of the gnomes stayed, and have been some of the most fervent adopters of Syncretism.
Life in Vaunoo centers around Syncretism and its customs and rituals. These rituals are community- and especially family-oriented. They require prayers in the home, rites performed by each family member for other family members. The religion also centers around group expressions of joy and ecstasy. Public prayer services involve the burning of sweet incenses, dancing, and the playing of instruments. Visitors to Vaunoo are often astonished at how pleasant and wholesome life in the Syncretic Temple is.
However, poverty is a major problem in Vaunoo. The Holy Principality’s main exports are lumber and artisanal goods, to which gnomes contribute a great deal. But a series of bad financial decisions and expensive construction projects by the Temple have caused the economy to stagnate. Increasing numbers of young people are becoming priests of Syncretism. While excellent from a religious standpoint, there is now a surplus of adepts who cost the Temple money in upkeep without bringing in additional gold. Except for the upper echelons of the Church and the Princess herself, there are few rich people in Vaunoo, and many, many poor people.
Vaunoo has the largest population of jujulings outside the Bocan Islands. While huge cities like Gideon City have attracted visitors from all over the world, including New World natives, most jujulings coming to Occident find a more familiar home in Vaunoo than anywhere else. They are almost completely integrated into society there.
The Syncretic Temple is organizing a charity and missionary voyage to the Bocan Islands. The goal is to bring the Syncretic religion and Gardish technology to nidou natives of the Bocans, and to promote cultural exchange between Bocan jujulings and the jujulings who live in Vaunoo. Neither Minister Antonium nor Princess Deriberlusa are treating this as a serious matter of state, but the idea of this mission has taken hold in the public consciousness. There have been a great many volunteers.
As for Vaunoo’s dealings in the old world, it is becoming increasingly ostracized from the other realms due to its unusual religion. The more traditionally religious realms, such as Wick, have even complained to the Emperor about it. But the Emperor is loathe to make waves at present, so the situation is unchanged.
For more information about the state religion of Vaunoo, see Syncretism.
The basic nature of Syncretism is to treat the Deities of Meier as loa, serving them as the loa are meant to be served. So, for example, there are many Syncretic followers of Ielda in Vaunoo. But they refer to Ielda as “Tranquil,” which is the name of a loa worshiped in the Bocans, and they perform services to her that are closer to Juju rituals than traditional Ieldan prayers. Syncretism also places extreme influence on Owendas, who is seen as the chief of the loa/gods. This despite the fact that she is a minor regional god in the Bocan Islands, and almost completely unknown in the Old World.
A number of gnomes in what is now north Vaunoo still worship Dilentu in the traditional manner, having to do so in secret (as they cannot pay the heavy taxes imposed on non-Temple members). Very few others outside the Syncretic Temple choose to stay in Vaunoo. And Syncretism is not found anywhere outside Vaunoo, except among Vaunuan expatriates and missionaries.
Gnomes are, of course, common in north Vaunoo, as it used to be a gnomish realm. Jujulings are also seen in Vaunoo. Some are descended from the original refugees, while other Jujuling families were attracted to Vaunoo by missionaries. The rest of Vaunoo is largely human, but other races can be found there as well.