It is a belief considered by the elder theologians of the Cult of the New God to be misguided at best—and blasphemously heretical at worst—that the New God proclaimed by the blessed Saint Astrid is anything but the lone, supreme deity that rules over all of Creation. There is much debate among these same theologians as to the precise nature of those beings of ancient devotion known collectively as “the Old Gods”.
The more liberal-minded among them may argue that these Old Gods are primitive, unguided attempts to discern the nature of the New, blind stumblings in a pre-enlightened time that found evidence of the divine without correctly interpreting its true nature. In contrast, a hardened zealot who fears even the faintest breath of theological impurity might declare the Old Gods to be creatures of corrupting power—demons perhaps, who seek to mislead mortals away from the Wheel and into sin, or duplicitous faerie folk who dazzle the followers of older paths with trickery and ensnare their senses.
Between these two extremes is the canonical word of Astrid herself, which decrees that the Old Gods are, in essence, nothing at all. The fervent belief of mortals in these elemental beings who turn the seasons and shape the moon created pale shadows of gods, formed of nothing but the longings of the devout. They hold some power, but they are dumb things devoid of true life or will.
I risk excommunication by writing this, and perhaps even worse, but all three of these beliefs are wrong. Yes, I—an anointed priest of the New God—have come to believe truly that one of the so-called Four Truths preached by Astrid is untrue. If it offers the reader any comfort, I believe truly in the remaining three: the soul is eternal and turns on wheel of life through seasons of life, death, purging, and rebirth, and the demonic host seeks to pervert that cycle by corralling mortals into cages of sin.
In a way, I am not even so far from believing the fourth. I believe there is only a single divine being, and that Astrid’s New God is a window into that divinity through which we trembling mortals may peer in order to seek comprehension of the incomprehensible. Recent events, however, have led me to conclude that this singular celestial force is far greater, and that the New God is but one of its faces.
Long ago, we were less gentle beings. Survival was a daily struggle as we strove to stand up against the harsh elements of the world. The night blinded us, the winter froze us, and the woods held untold horrors that sought to devour us. Much as the canonical teachings of Astrid state, I believe that we sought to understand the order behind these colossal forces by seeing divinity and intelligence within them. Unlike Astrid, however, I believe that we were correct.
What is a god without devotees? What is a mortal without the divine? It is my belief that beings both mortal and immortal are intrinsically bound through some mysterious affinity. When we were more brutal people, the immense and unknowable divine showed us its face through brutal gods, but now as we have become more settled, living safer and more predictable lives, here is the New God, a less brutal but more philosophical deity that busies itself with the trappings of modern life.
We see this great being in whatever form we need to see it. Like an intricately cut diamond, this divinity has a multitude of faces, and while none of them is its “true” face, none of them are false either. Freezing hunters who feared the icy embrace of the cold saw the divine in the cruel power of winter, and a cold, cruel god is the face that the divine wore when it spoke to them. Human-dominated cities are full of complex social relationships, ever-changing technologies, and labyrinthine politics, and we have a New God who speaks to us in words we can understand.
Last night, I performed a binding ritual to imprison a malignant archfiend within a powerful magical circle. The ritual was not of my own making—I merely repeated the steps given to me by those who had performed it before me—and yet I could not have succeeded in my task without the cleansing and fortifying power of the New God flowing within me. However, there was another there with me, and we were equals in the task. We each took our part, performing many of the steps in equilibrium, but also apportioning some to one or the other who was more confident in that activity.
At the climax of the ritual, I slashed open my own belly with a blessed sword of Astrid, and my companion and I spoke the final words in unison as my blood spilled into the sacred fire of that binding circle. She then helped me drink the holy, healing water of the New God from the ouroboros chalice, and she supported me as I staggered from that accursed room, safe in the knowledge that the vile creature within was safely imprisoned for another six and sixty years.
That companion was a woman named Blys, and she is a true believer in the old gods. I have seen her wield divine power, just as real and potent as any of the miracles the New God channels through my hands. The divine force that gathers at her back is no less real than the one that lurks within me, and yet it is clearly divine. If her power came from demons, then she must surely have corrupted the binding ritual we completed together. If her power came unknowingly from the New God, then surely it would not tolerate her blasphemous claim that it comes from elsewhere and her connection to the divine would be severed.
Yet, Blys spoke the words of binding with me, and the binding held. Blys painted the circle and placed the iron bars around it, and those barriers proved true and strong. If the source of her power were anything other than genuine and good, truly divine, then that ritual would have failed and I would not be alive to write these words today. Further, the ritual included elements of witchcraft, suggesting that it, too, is not only real but also divine, for if it were intrinsically evil, the ritual could not have acted against the will of the demon.
The Inquisition of the Swords of Astrid would take my life for daring to write these blasphemous words, but I cannot deny the truth of what my own eyes have seen. If Blys wields a divine power that is real and true, and that power bears the purity of purpose required to successfully bind a powerful demon, then the gods in which she places her faith must be real. Equally, I know that my own faith is truly placed, as the New God sends his will coursing through me as lightning down a ship’s mast. If both my faith and Blys’s faith are true, then the old gods are just as real as the New.
The only answer to this riddle that I can fathom is that they are all one and the same, a single profound well of divine energy and purpose that is beyond our feeble mortal comprehension in its entirety, but which can reveal tiny portions of itself to us in guises that make sense to us. These guises are real and true, tiny splinters of a truth too immense to be comprehended in its entirety.
Though the wide ocean may smash our boats, the harbour yet grants us safety.- Sister Hüvje van Chuton, Priest of the New God