The settlers, or Landers, brought several religions with them to Colplat XI. Of those faiths (or lack of faith), two figure prominently in the books of the Colplatschki Chronicles: the worship of Godown, and of Selkow. Over the centuries, Godown’s followers developed a canon of saints, patrons and intercessors who attend to the needs of the faithful.
In many ways, saints are the face of Godown for the average believer. Godown has no image, and His symbol is an abstract design. In the beginning Godown had no sex, but that changed over the years between the Great Fires and the compilation of the Holy Writ as the Christian traditions blended with Judaism, strongly influenced by humans’ habit of assigning sexes to things. The war with the Turkowi and their goddess Selkow strengthened the tendency for believers to think of Godown as without form or face but still male. By now the clergy do not fight it, referring to Godown as “He” right along with everyone else. Even with that change, the majority of Godown’s followers find comfort in having a face and name to look to in times of trouble, and saints fill that niche.
A few of the saints are mentioned in the Holy Writ, including Gerald, Olympia, François/Francis, and Michael. Others appeared over the course of centuries. The first saints lived at the time of the Great Fires, while others lived and worked in the hard years that followed. There is no set standard for canonization, and the hierarchy of the church (such as it is), does not recognize all the saints followed by all the people. The standard, universally honored saints tend to be older, or to answer a deep need (St. Michael – Herdsman or St. Sabrina, patron of women in distress.)
The saints of Godown are not supernatural. They performed no miracles during their lives, although some of the stories associated with some have developed a bit of a glow over the passing years, improving with the telling. Everyone acknowledges that the saints were mortal and fallible, some spectacularly so, and posses no special saving powers. Saints provide guidance and serve as examples and inspiration (“St. Gerald, help me bridge the gap” for example) but they are not supposed to be able to intercede with Godown to sway His decisions or will.
That official limitation doesn’t stop the average believer from asking his or her patron to put in a good word or from promising an extra set of bead prayers or a donation if the saint will lend a hand. No matter how many sermons the priests preach about all power residing with Godown, the saints still get pestered with requests.
People obtain their patron several ways. The most common is to take the name and patronage of the saint whose feast-day is closest to a person’s birthday. Elizabeth Antonia von Sarmas was born two days before the feast of St. Elizabeth, so Elizabeth is her name patron. Lazlo Karlin Destefani arrived on St. Kiara’s feast, and “Karlin” is a male variant on “Kiara.” Lazlo favors St. Kiara and maintains a special devotion to her. Elizabeth, on the other hand, feels called by St. Gerald and makes him her patron, as readers of Elizabeth of Starland well know. Men are not limited to male saints and women are not tied to female saints, although it is a very rare man who will invoke St. Sabrina unless it is on behalf of a female relative or friend. No one ever claims St. Gimple (patron of fools and a purely legendary saint not recognized by the church) for themselves, but others might. “He’s a devout follower of St. Gimple” is not a compliment.
Two saints are never name patrons. Well, three if one counts St. Gimple. St. Jenna, patron of homosexuals, is always chosen by an individual as a patron, never assigned by a parent or priest. Followers of St. Jenna strive to match the saint’s ability to balance all things, living in moderation between desire and duty. And St. Foy is the patron of the innocent dead, of stillborn children and those who die young, and of innocent victims. Donations to St. Foy’s shrines are used to assist orphans and for burials and memorials for those who would otherwise go without.
Each saint has an attribute and a “sign.” For example, St. Gerald has his bridge, and his sign is made by drawing an upright curve across the chest from right to left, like the arch of a bridge. St. François is associated with seekers of knowledge, and his sign is opening closed hands, as if they were covers of a book. St. Jenna’s is a vertical line, from eyebrows to chest, and St. Kiara’s involves making a flame-like shape with the fingers of the right hand.
For all that Elizabeth von Sarmas twitches when people casually invoke the saints, or swear by them, she’s in the minority. The saints bring comfort in a very harsh world. After all, most people would observe that you would not approach Laurence V or Emperor Rudolph directly with a small petition for assistance. You go to your lord instead, or to one of the Archdukes if the matter is serious enough, someone with experience and the ability to either help you themselves or to whisper in the emperor’s ear. Thus the rise of the saints of Godown.