Nachdem ich schon in diesem Thread zu Thema "UA nur für Modern Ages" einen von mir sehr geschätzten Artikel aus dem rpg.net-Forum des dortigen Mitglieds JamesCat eingestellt habe (ab Post #17 ), möchte ich hier dessen Ausführungen zu Mysterien-Kulten in UA (aus diesem Thread im rpg.net-Forum ab Post #31) vorstellen. Ich fand sie sehr interessant. More old notes. This time: Mystery Cults! Note that God's Heralds made it into To Go ... [Design goals: Well, these guys are mentioned briefly in the rulebook in a couple of places, and are a fairly logical part of the UAverse. After all, worship/emulation/religion is a pretty logical follow-on to finding out that there’s gods out there. I’ve tried to avoid the ‘evil subversive conspiracy’ theme, but to make them worthwhile opponents/allies/curiosities/adventure hooks …] The Mystery Cults Humanity seems to have a natural inclination towards religion, a deep desire to believe in and worship forces more powerful than us. It isn’t surprising, then, that when people found out that there were beings out there in the Statosphere distinctly greater than us, some of the discovers decided to worship them. Discovering the power of Avatars, they attempted not only to emulate them, but to set up rites and rituals that would aid the process of becoming an Avatar, and which would honour the Archetype as a god. Some of these rituals simply encouraged initiates into certain behavioural patterns which echoed the Archetype’s function, such as the solitary wilderness rites required by cults focused around the Masterless Man, or the requirement of the Cult of Cybele, which followed the Mystic Hermaphrodite, that her initiates castrate themselves. Some, however, were genuine rituals, focusing and channelling the power of the Archetype to great effect. As described in the History chapter, the Mystery Cults as organised institutions were wiped out by the fearful Roman Underground, and dealt a further blow by the birth of Christianity. You can’t keep a good religion down, though, and the basic ideas and processes of the Cults have returned again and again throughout history. In today’s Occult Underground, the various scattered cults are one of the most potentially powerful forces – and, indeed, the newly forceful Sect of the Naked Goddess is a classic Mystery Cult, although its use of an entirely new school of magick is unusual, and helps account for its remarkable success. Indifferent Gods Nobody really knows what the Archetypes think, or feel, or whatever it is that Archetypes really do, about the Mystery Cults. Many of the cults are convinced that their Archetype watches over them directly, but it seems as though most of the worshipped Archetypes frankly couldn’t give a damn about their followers. Steve Johann, a Midwestern trailer-park seer, claimed once in conversation with Dirk Allen that the Archetypes are a tad embarrassed about the whole business, but to attribute blushes to such entities seems a little unlikely. However, a couple of Archetypes appear to take a more direct interest in their cults; certainly the Sect of the Naked Goddess seems occasionally to be helped by their deity, perhaps because it has been such a short time since she Ascended. Are They All Avatars? In a nutshell, no. Out of any Cult, only perhaps one in ten members, if that, actually channel the Archetype the cult worships. Most people simply don’t have the necessary commitment and devotion that being an Avatar requires, or the skill at manipulating symbols and perceptions, or the stubbornness and alertness not to break taboo - which is why, outside of the cults, every politician isn’t a Demagogue, or every loyal secretary a Necessary Servant. The actual Avatars, who normally head the cult hierarchy, tend to keep the symbolic tricks that help maintain Avatar status secret except for a chosen few, out of a combination of any one or more of jealousy, privacy, a wish to maintain their own unique status, and a belief that certain things are best left to the chosen. What do the non-Avatar members of a cult get out of it, then? They get to be close to something magical, they get the reassurance that any faith, no matter how ridiculous, gives to people, and they get a sense of community and family. Many of them may have had somewhat tough lives, or be quite lonely, and the cult provides them with a great sense of comfort. They tend to turn to the cults rather than more conventional religions for two reasons Much of the activity of many Cults, then, is given over to the normal activities of any small church; communal worship, rites of passage, support groups, theological study. Of course, the worship occasionally involves animal sacrifice, nudity, or flagellation, but more often it’s restricted to silly outfits, ritual objects, and symbolic actions. For example, The Blessed Fools, a San Diego cult, celebrate April 1st by dressing up in butterfly costumes and dancing round the front room of their Exalted Foolish Hierophant. The Church of Our Lady Jesus, a Brazilian semi-Christian cult of the Mystic Hermaphrodite welcome a new member by holding a large drag party, to which numerous transvestites unaffiliated with the Church show up, and where the Church members switch sex halfway through. The Sistren of the Sun, who follow the Flying Woman, run regular study groups at a local feminist bookstore which examine the magical power of sisterhood, lesbianism, and sun-worship throughout history, with particular reference to the peaceful ancient Aztec and Minoan matriarchies. Initiation Rites The most important part of any Mystery Cult is its initiation rite. This is a ritual, in both the magical and conventional sense of the word, which marks somebody as a member of the cult or elevates his or her status within the cult’s hierarchy. (For all you purists out there, this isn’t really a ritual as such, because the cult generally invents it themselves; rather, it’s a specific application of collective willpower and belief somewhat akin to Tilting the Statosphere.) Most Cults possess only one initiation rite, but some have multiple levels of initiation. The specifics of rites vary wildly, but generally involve the participant, alone, undergoing a series of ordeals which symbolically represent the nature of the Archetype. To take an ancient example, the initiation rituals of Mithras, involved the initiate being left in a dark cave, where he remained for a day and night before participating in the sacrifice of a bull – thus representing both the solitary, self-reliant nature of the Masterless Man and his physical strength. The initiation rites of modern cults can be equally daunting. The Made Men, a group of New Jersey Mafia wannabes who worship the Executioner, require the initiate to firstly be symbolically killed themselves, in the traditional street-style posture, with an empty revolver – well, almost always empty, and then to personally kill their own pet. They would require an actual human killing, but they don’t really have the guts. The Esoteric and Ancient Order of Hermes, a Magus cult, requires the initiate to spend the night in prayer and meditation before his own reflected image in a deep underground lake, before swimming the length of the lake clad in full robes. The Lady-Killers, a Mystic Hermaphrodite cult consisting entirely of high-flying city types, requires the initiate to have some form of sexual contact with every other member of the cult, and to break off all sexual contact with outsiders. The psychological effect of initiation rites is to make the initiate feel special, and to bind them more closely to other members of the cult – or, if they are being initiated into a greater degree of initiation, to impress upon them the importance of this new status. Sometimes several initiates participate in the rite together, in order to strengthen this sense of bonding. The supernatural effect is twofold. Firstly, it can either start somebody on the Avatar path – if they have the proper inclination and will – at a skill of 5%, or else raise their existing skill by 3-7%, depending on the extent and difficulty of the rite. Later rituals generally raise skill by only 1-3%, however. Secondly, it marks them, magically, as a member, and makes it possible to use certain other rituals, detailed later, upon them. Types of Cult Every Mystery Cult is different, of course, and the Archetype worshipped makes a considerable difference to their outlook, but there are certain basic patterns that seem to regularly crop up. Here are some of the more common types of cult. Ancient Survivors Almost every mystery cult claims some antique heritage, but in a very, very few parts of the world, mystery cults survive that can genuinely trace themselves back to the ancient world. The most common areas to find ancient survivals are Iran and Afghanistan, areas heavily influenced by both Persian and Roman culture which consequently fell into a relatively ‘primitive’ state. In general, they are based in a tiny, tiny area – perhaps just a few people in one village – and, not infrequently, have entirely lost the supernatural element of their rituals and become a simple religion. These cults are of great interest to occult historians, but have little to offer in terms of practical power, except, just possibly, an artifact or two. Lunatic Visionaries Occasionally a particularly gifted mortal gets a glimpse of the Statosphere in a dream or vision, especially if he or she happens to visit the site of an Ascension. Some of them go crazy, some die on the spot, but normally they interpret it within a religious framework, and quite often, especially if they happen to be naturally charismatic, they start a group around their vision, normally under the general aegis of their old religion. Many of these groups have no powers at all, but a few manage to key in to the tricks of channelling Archetypal power. The original visionary is often a Demagogue Avatar, but the cult may worship a different Archetype altogether. Desperate Losers The shortcuts to power represented by the rituals of Mystery Cults is a powerful temptation to those who feel life has dealt them something of a kick in the teeth, as is the comfort that any form of faith offers. Many Mystery Cults are therefore centred around the downtrodden and desperate of society; the poor, the homeless, the lunatic. The ‘mole people’ of the New York underground are thought to harbour at least one cult, and at least three operate on the Indian Reservations. Pragmatic Schemers Not all Mystery Cults actually worship their Archetype; some merely see them as a convenient path to power. This kind of practical, pragmatic approach to the Avatar path is relatively rare among the Cults, because individuals with this point of view tend to figure out the Avatar approach on their own, and not feel the need for others to help them. It isn’t unknown, though, and it’s also fairly common to find a pragmatist or two among the membership of other cults. Pragmatic Cults are generally founded by people who are fairly clued-in as to the nature of the universe, and have more genuine information than other cults; the members are often magicians as well as Avatars Fakers Gone Real Faking religions for money is nothing new; depending on your cynicism, almost all religions can be seen as being money-making schemes in one way or another. As shown in chapter X, the Underground is rife with false cults, rip-off schemes, and con men, seeking to exploit the lonely and gullible. Occasionally, however, these fake schemes go wrong, and become real. If a good conman creates a plausible enough religion, drawing upon real archetypal images to create something that will, so to speak, pull the punters in, he can end up tapping powers far greater than he realized. In this case, the conman at the top of the operation may well be totally unaware that his followers do, in fact, have actual mystical powers – or he may have realized what’s happening, and either seized the opportunity or disappeared, terrified. Katie Turnbull, also known as Sandra Topley, Sister Beauty, Rainbow Cornwallis, Ash Loveblossom, and Moonbeam Sunshine, was one of the most successful pseudo-religious con-artists of the late 1960s. Katie could start a religion in under a month, provided she was in either California or India, have the suckers milked in six months, and be out of there within the year. She didn’t discriminate; she was as happy to bilk Catholics with a fake Madonna as she was to skin spiritual seekers in Benares, but eventually she settled down in the mid-1990s, having established herself as the Mother of Love’s Children, a thriving sect on a private commune in Oregon with several rich and gullible members. She’d made the beliefs of Love’s Children up one drunken night; they were a mixture of pseudo-Buddhism, alchemy, channelling, bisexuality, tantric sex, and Doom Patrol comics. As time went by, the bisexual and androgynous elements of the cult became more and more emphasised, and the rituals and orgies involved more complicated and disturbing; Turnbull found herself caught up in something quite beyond her control, and the realisation that she’d tapped into something much deeper than she expected came when one of the more devout members of the Children went to bed a man and woke up a woman. Now Turnbull is desperately trying to figure out what’s going on, and is making tentative contact with elements of the Occult Underground while trying to keep control over fifty-odd cult members who are quite convinced that she is the living incarnation of Rebis, the alchemical union of male and female.