Rokugan: Return of the Jade Raven
In Oriental Adventures the most common religion is based on ancestor worship, the spirits of the ancestors are in realm of Yomi where they can from time to time offer aid and guidance to their ancestors. Prayers and offerings are made to the various spirits at various times depending on the requests made of them. No one spirit is venerated over another, although one may be seen as a patron for an area or field of endeavor. Everything has a spirit and those spirits must be respected. Shamans and shugenjas use their spells to gain help from the spirits or kami. Shamans and shugenjas do not have only one patron deity, but instead honor all the spirits.
In Rokugan there is the philosophical system of Shinseism or Shinto that overlaps the religion of the spirits. It emphasizes the individual’s quest for enlightenment. By focusing on the five elements (air, earth, fire, water and the lack of all elements Void) rather than the temporal world, a follower of Shinato hopes to free their soul from the material world and achieve enlightenment.
There is also the co-existing religion of the Fortunes. The most important are the 7 kami; children of the sun deity who founded the great clans: Akodo, Doji, Baysushi, Shinjo, Shiba, Togashi, and Hida. Hantei, the oldest, founded the imperial line. Fu Leng, now dead, was dropped from the heavens falling into a pit he is responsible for the Shadowlands and its demonic inhabitants. Lord Sun, Yakamo, and Lady Moon, Hitomi, are the heads of the celestial pantheon. The world existed at one time, devoid of Rokuganies. The Nezumi had an advanced civilization. Lord Sun and Lady Moon founded Rokugan and the destruction when Fu Leng landed all but destroyed the Nezumi civilization. There are hundred’s of Fortunes and countless ways to draw their disfavor. Peasants have endless superstitions on how to avoid the wrath of the Fortunes. The Fortunes rarely interact with man and most could care less about human’s behavior. Atoning for a transgression against the Fortunes is simple enough, once the proper ritual is known. The Phoenix and the Brotherhood of Shinsei keep detailed texts on these matters. Often times a simple prayer in a temple or family shrine is enough to purge the sin from a soul. If the sin is greater the penance can involve fasting for days, sacrifice of worldly possessions, joining a monastery for life or even seppuku. Seppuku is reserved for the most serious of sins, but it is the cleanest way to erase the stain of sin. Fear is a sin because it drives men to do shameful things. Desire is a sin because it inspires samurai to disobey their duty in life. Regret is a sin because it leads to the other two sins, and it’s the sign of a weak mind. Taint is a sin because contact with the realm of Fu Leng and a sign of his influence.Uncleanliness is a sin; those in the samurai class are separated from dead flesh, which is handled by the Eta for that is their place in the Celestial Order and is unclean.
The ancestors are the weakest forces in the Celestial Order, but the most active. It is easy for them to move into ninjen-do as long as they have an anchor, their family who they can live vicariously through. Ancestor worship is not remotely and organized religion, but family shrines to them are common. All families regardless of caste maintain shrines to their ancestors. Rokugani believe that the souls of the dead must be first purified of their sins before moving on to reincarnation or eternal rest in Yomi. By praying for them Rokugani can alleviate their suffering and hasten their trip through the underworld.
Kami come in all shapes and sizes from all objects and creatures they are what binds the world together. Greater kami like a mountain would have more power than a kami who inhabits a lake, who would be more powerful than a kami who inhabits a stone. The more powerful kami watch over the less powerful. The greater kami in turn answer to the Oracles; manifestations of the Elemental Dragon’s power in Rokugan. They change whom or what they rest in from time to time. Each Oracle must answer a question for a mortal, but only once, often they don’t know the answer until the question is asked.
Above the Oracles are the lesser Fortunes — hundreds of minor gods, patrons of certain aspects of life or the world such as roads, joy, households, windows, contentment, and so on. Sometimes they are even mortals elevated to divine status.
The Dragons each represent a fundamental part of the universe. There are 5 elemental dragons; air, earth, fire, water and void, the two remaining dragons are the Thunder Dragon who represents the forces of the storm and the human spirit, and the Celestial Dragon, who is charged with the stewardship of the Celestial Heavens and who carries worth mortals to the Heavens. There are reports of a Jade Dragon, but they are attributed to an aspect of the Fortune of Strength, Bishamon. They often appear as mortals, but they are not limited in power as are the kami or the Oracles, they are fond of mankind though and don’t express their anger on a whim. They can’t be harmed by any means comprehensible to mortals. There are 7 Dragons in the Celestial Heaven, all which represent part of the universe’s foundation. The 5 Elemental Dragons (air, earth, fire, water and void) are the best known, they are joined by the Celestial and Thunder Dragons. They do walk the earth and are the most closely tied to humanity. The interfere in the lives of mortals a lot, say once per 100 years. They chose to affect the mortal realm through their Oracles and by sending mortals dreams or visions. Each dragon is the embodiment of its element, but they can appear in any form. They hold reality together with their very existence.