For some reason, I just can’t seem to write a story without religion in it. I suspect it comes from two things. First, I’ve studied a lot of religious history so I’m not-quite primed to see it in cultures and events. Second, because of the trend in sci-fi from the 1950s-1980s to omit religion or to make it the bogey-man of corrupting superstition and social control. Religion forms a critical sub-plot in the Elizabeth novels and in the other Colplatschki books to varying degrees. Rada Ni Drako’s conversion to Christianity sets up some of the internal conflicts that explode in the next Cat novel and some of the external conflicts that play a role in the following book. Religious change and an end-times belief drive part of the plots of Renaissance and Hubris. So it should come as no surprise that religion pops up again in the currently-called Rajworld books.
When times get hard, people turn to a faith of some sort, be it overtly and traditionally religious, political, or otherwise. The colonists of the First and Second Diasporas were no different, and one of the faiths that took hold in the colonies was Neo-Traditionalism, sometimes written as neoTraditionalism, or less politely called NeoTrad. The Traditionalism part refers to their social practices more than their theology. A goodly number of people, especially back on Earth (or Home as it is always called), have serious doubts about the neoTrads and their strange beliefs and customs. Their women are submissive and have no rights, their religious rituals are not always open to the public, and they dress funny, especially the women. And they have strange names.
Those who have read the RajWorld excerpts posted here are probably snorting with derision about the first accusation. Whoever said that neoTraditionalist women are submissive to their husbands and never speak up or think for themselves has not met Mrs. deStella-Bernardi or her daughters. What Rigi and her siblings don’t know is that her parents met at a shooting range, and their father fell in love at first sight—first sight of their mother’s target on the rifle range. The deStella family were one of the founders of neoTraditionalism back during the First Diaspora, and always insisted that women be able to support their men in all things, be it child care, domestic management, starship repair, weapons expertise, or cooking. Although they tend to marry young as compared to the imperial average, neoTraditionalist women all learn a skill that allows them to have at least a small income of their own.
The faith is based on belief in two spirits of creation, one seen as male and the other as female, the Creator and Creatrix. In the sub-branch that the Bernardi family follow, the leader of the men is the Guardian and the Matron represents the women. During worship and at many rituals, the Matron leads the men and the Guardian the women, because of the importance of balance within the faith. If you are thinking that this sounds like some of the popular (mis)understandings of the ying-yang concept in Chinese philosophy, you are spot on. Although each deity has his or her own “sphere of influence,” so to speak, they are equal and necessary to the smooth running of society and of the universe. They do express personal interest in their followers, and are open to petitions and pleas, rewarding virtue and punishing vice.
Women are not allowed to attend men’s meetings, and vice versa. However, most worship is open to both sexes, and visitors are permitted at mixed worship. There are certain beliefs and rituals that are not open to outsiders, especially those rituals done within the family. This is true of many religions, but for some reason the neoTraditionalists are the favorite of would-be expose writers.
You can spot a neoTraditionalist woman by her clothes, unless you are on a colony world, especially the more remote or harsher worlds. They tend to wear loose, practical garments in solid colors. Skirts usually come to mid-calf, or are worn over a underskirt or loose trousers (palazzo pants). Long sleeves are normal, or 3/4 length sleeves, and high necklines. Modesty plays a role, but so does practicality. neoTraditionalist women dress to work and to be comfortable so that they can focus on more important things. If their work requires something else for safety, then they will wear close-fitting garments or the appropriate uniform. Girls under age 16 wear dresses and leggings or tunics and loose trousers made of sturdy material that is easily washed. Mrs. deStella-Bernardi may not follow the heights and depths of the latest fashions from Home, but she is ready for anything from driving a wombow cart to helping clean a leaper for the table to entertaining a guest or caring for the house.
neoTraditionalists born into the faith all have at least one name based on the stars. Auriga, Lyria, deStella, Acherna, Arktur, Procyon, all are related to stars or constellations. What about Rigi (Auriga)’s father? He is a convert, so he doesn’t have a stellar name. Yes, he converted in order to marry Miss deStella. He tends to be quieter about his faith, but the signs are there if you know what to look for.
Will Rigi stay in the faith or marry out? I have no idea—I’m just the author. And she’s still a few years from marrying, as is a possible candidate, Tomás Prananda. He follows a slightly different version of the Tradition, one that would be compatible with Rigi’s if they were to get together. But first she must come of age, and he must have held a captain’s rank for at least a year, preferably longer. And if baby Paul Bernardi has one more of those horrible diapers that big-sister Rigi has to deal with, she might just swear off marriage. neoTraditionalist or not, sweet-potatoes do not agree with Paul’s system no matter how much he loves them, and she dreads the thought of have to deal with another Diaper Disaster on her own!