Sargava & the Acts of Iomedae


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

Scarab Sages

An interesting conundrum for all of you Golarion continuity obsessives to consider:

According to Sargava, the Lost Colony, construction began on the future site of Eleder in 4138.

Yet, in the Acts of Iomedae (described in The Sixfold Trial), her second miraculous act was to free Eledar from a coven of Garundi witches.

Here's where the problem lies:

The Acts depict miraculous events during the time when Iomedae was a mortal servant of Aroden. According to the Campaign Setting, Iomedae would ascend to godhood in 3832.

Hence, nearly three hundred years before Eleder is founded, Iomedae frees the city from Garundi witches.

I've been giving this some thought, and a few possibilities occurred to me that could resolve this issue:

1. The city of Eleder itself was not freed by Iomedae, but the city's future site (and the M'Wangi people who inhabited the area) was, in the 3800s, visited by Iomedae. So, what the Acts actually mean is, "The future site of the city of Eleder was where Iomedae defeated the Garundi witches."

I find this the least compelling argument, personally, as it lacks any real drama.

2. The text in Sargava, the Lost Colony is viewing the issue from the viewpoint of Cheliax, as there was a preexisting civilization where Eleder now stands. The name Eleder cold refer to an earlier location or people that Iomedae freed, i.e. "Iomedae freed the tribe Eleder" or "Iomedae freed the city of Eleder". In this case, the naming of the city is inspired by the Acts.

This option begs the question, of course, what happened to the original people of Eleder? Did some great calamity fall upon the city, and there are yet-undiscovered dungeons beneath the current Sargavan capital? Was the colonization of Sargava such a brutal affair that the original people of Eleder were stamped out? Or, as an unforeseen consequence of Iomedae's liberation of Eleder, social order collapsed and the people of the area factionalized into the various tribes that we know of today, like post-Tito Yugoslavia?

3. The Acts were not compiled during Iomedae's lifetime, and were only written after the founding of Sargava in 4138. Existing as a series of oral traditions before this point, the miracle stories of Iomedae evolved over time to reflect the current concerns of the Chelish people. When they were finally codified into canon, there was bound to be some discrepancies.

This may seem absurd, but it does have some real-life parallels. Modern Biblical scholarship indicates that the Gospels were not written until decades after the death of Jesus and were compiled from third-hand accounts of parables and miracle stories. These oral traditions were collected and organized into narrative formats, leading to a number of discrepancies between the various accounts, such as the chronology of Jesus' travels, his exact genealogy, and (more simply) the number of angels that appeared to Mary after his death.

Although 300+ years is a long time to maintain oral traditions for the church of Iomedae, it seems unlikely that she had an extensive following before Aroden's death. Not only did Aroden have a more expansive portfolio, but the relative youth of her religion means that it probably spread fairly slowly. Also, a certain percentage of Taldor's empire (at this time being the dominant political force in Avistan) would feel uncomfortable worshiping a Cheliaxian goddess who did enjoy the "purity" of Azlanti origins due to her Ulfen blood. This seems even more likely when you consider that political tensions between Taldor and Cheliax were probably on the rise, as the Even-Tongued Conquest would occur only two hundred years later, in 4079.

While she likely had a strong following in Lastwall, the after-effects of the Shining Crusade likely kept the budding nation very busy as they engaged in their unending war against the orcs of Belkzen, who would prove to be more resilient foes than Tar-Baphon himself. Iomedae's clerics are not exactly the scholarly types besides, as they're depicted as constantly on the move in search of injustice, which Golarion certainly has plenty of. Therefore, field training of the clergy could have been held in higher regard than cloistered study.

During the compiling of these oral traditions into the Acts, there would likely be a lot of chaff to separate from the wheat, as the elder clergy debate which miracles are to be included and which are considered non-canonical. In the case of the Second Act, this relatively new story could have been selected for political reasons.

While religious faith often teaches us that scripture was passed down from the heavens, history indicates that these documents have an element of realpolitik as well. Concessions are made for the concerns of the day, and theology evolves over time to meet the needs of the faithful. From the transition of the ancient Israelite religion to Judaism with the destruction of the second temple to Mormonism's revision on their stance on polygamy, religions adapt or die.

Although Iomedae may despise those who use the "greater good" to justify wrongdoing, her emphasis on bringing "civilization" to savage peoples allows the clergy of Iomedae to endorse the colonization of Southern Garund. This endorsement would likely lead to larger donations to the coffers of her church, which would help fund the ongoing struggle in Belkzen and the cost of maintaining Lastwall's infrastructure. Further, through this endorsement of the creation of Sargava the Shield Knights would be essentially "buying a seat at the table". Clerics and paladins of Iomedae would be on the ground in Sargava to ensure that the most exploitative practices are stopped, and the clergy can also influence Cheliaxian policymakers to make just decisions thanks to their active involvement in the foundation of the colony.

If this seems out of character for a NG church, keep in mind that the Third Crusade of Mendev was used to justify the persecution of Sarkorian druidic culture and religion and the native Ioberian people of the region have been systematically brutalized by the Crusaders. Yet, despite these abuses, it is clear that no trials for war crimes are forthcoming, in part because of the "Blue Shield" that prevents Crusaders from turning on their own.

Thoughts?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

It's an example of a canon error. If/when we go back and address the issue, we'll switch Iomedae's act to have taken place somewhere else. Probably a location in Katapesh.


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
It's an example of a canon error. If/when we go back and address the issue, we'll switch Iomedae's act to have taken place somewhere else. Probably a location in Katapesh.

Could be that the founder of Eleder in Sargava grew up in a small Chelaxian fishing village called Eleder and named the new city after his old home, too.

Of course, I have this sneaky feeling that there's something in the Sargava Companion that completely invalidates my suggestion.

Scarab Sages

James Jacobs wrote:
It's an example of a canon error. If/when we go back and address the issue, we'll switch Iomedae's act to have taken place somewhere else. Probably a location in Katapesh.

Thanks, James.

I knew that it was actually a continuity error, but thought it might be more fun to reconcile the discrepancy rather than simply point it out.

These sorts of things are bound to happen when writing in a shared world, and I imagine its even more likely when working under a tight production schedule. These errors are no big deal, really, but I do have a bit of fun trying to make sense out of them.

To be clear, I wasn't trying to nitpick, but instead use the error for a bit of creative thinking. In the case of this particular gaffe, it has given me quite a bit of food for thought about what Iomedae's likely role was in the Everwar, i.e. Cheliax's adventures in colonialism.

I do appreciate you weighing in on the issue, though, and if you decide at some point in the future to polish up the Acts you might want to try and reconcile the two versions of the Seventh Act (between The Sixfold Trial and Guide to Absalom).

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Sometimes, explaining away continuity errors does make for some pretty cool new canon. This one, though, is easier to just retcon, I think.


I wasn't under the impression that the abuses visited on the druidic faith of Sarkoris by the crusaders was meant to be something that the church actually approved of, but was supposed to be representative of how the Mendevian crusades have attracted a great deal of misanthropic marauders who use the crusades as an excuse to rape and pillage, and that the genuine paladins and clerics and priests of the church are simply stretched too thin by their role in the fight against the demons to have the time to deal with in person.

It's all in what version of the faith you want in your game, but I think that that particular instance is supposed to be more of a case of "Evil people using Iomedae's call as an excuse to do evil things, and the church is stretched to thin to actually stop it" rather then "The church has a darker side that is only now showing itself"

I may be gain-said on this, of course.

Scarab Sages

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TheWarriorPoet519 wrote:

I wasn't under the impression that the abuses visited on the druidic faith of Sarkoris by the crusaders was meant to be something that the church actually approved of, but was supposed to be representative of how the Mendevian crusades have attracted a great deal of misanthropic marauders who use the crusades as an excuse to rape and pillage, and that the genuine paladins and clerics and priests of the church are simply stretched too thin by their role in the fight against the demons to have the time to deal with in person.

It's all in what version of the faith you want in your game, but I think that that particular instance is supposed to be more of a case of "Evil people using Iomedae's call as an excuse to do evil things, and the church is stretched to thin to actually stop it" rather then "The church has a darker side that is only now showing itself"

I may be gain-said on this, of course.

This echoes to several other discussions on these boards about moral ambiguity on these boards, and so I'll first say that each GM and group of players must decide for themselves the level of ambiguity that creeps into their own games. However, there are certainly hints that seem to suggest that not every cleric or inquisitor is a kind-hearted soul and that an undercurrent of cultural bias exists in the faith itself.

Here's where I'm seeing this:

From Gods and Magic, p. 20,

"Followers of Iomedae have a strong sense of justice and fairness and an even stronger dedication to swordcraft, statesmanship, and bringing civilization to "savage" people." (emphasis mine)

Note that while justice and fairness are important to Iomedae, they are of secondary importance to the promotion of Chelish cultural values over those that are deemed unfit.

From The Sixfold Trial, p. 68,

"News of stake-burnings and pillaging by soldiers and mercenaries in Iomedae’s name has troubled church elders, and they are considering authorizing a small branch of the church to investigate these stories and rein in activities that exceed the goddess’s teachings; unfortunately, such a job would be unpopular and the elders would have a difficult time finding enough priests willing to conduct investigations of their own brethren. In the meantime, priests try to lead by example and curb any egregious behavior by other crusaders." (again, emphasis mine)

As a reader, this is highly evocative of the famed Blue Code of Silence, where police officers are pressured not to report the wrongdoings of their fellows. While the majority of police officers would likely be considered LG, they are under tremendous pressure to show solidarity in public, and therefore turn a blind eye to abuses.

From the Campaign Setting, p. 98,

"The clergy of Iomedae led the way, stepping from the shadows of their bewildered masters in the faltering church of Aroden. Nobles in Cheliax, Isger, and Andoran, fearing growing domestic discontent fueled by dispossessed nobles and idle mercenaries roaming their countrysides, joined with the Iomedaean church to sponsor the first Mendevian Crusade in 4622."

This particular passage can be read in one of two ways. First, that the clergy of Iomedae chose to seize the opportunity to suppress the evils of the Worldwound and domestic discontent, easing the panic and chaos caused by Aroden's death.

The other, more cynical, viewpoint was to say that the followers of Iomedae used this as a blatant grab for power amidst the chaos and conspired with the governments of Cheliax, Isger, and Andoran to rid themselves of undesirables by sending them on a holy war. It's undeniable that the Church of Iomedae would see themselves as doing good in either circumstance, but in the second instance there is a darker element there, as well.

Also from the Campaign Setting, p. 98,

"The uneasiness is worst in the border town of Kenabres, where the aging prophet Hulmun leads a zealous pogrom against demon worshipers, and his passion for inquisition remains undimmed by the passing years. In truth, much of the Third Crusade seemed nearly as concerned with purifying the citizenry and the hinterlands of Mendev as with matters on the front lines. As far back as the First Crusade, many immigrating crusaders suspected the native Iobarian culture and its druidic faith of being demon-tainted. Hundreds of indigenous Mendevians and pilgrims have burned at the stake in Kenabres alone since these trials began. Crusader leaders in the past turned a blind eye to this cruelty, preferring to focus on military matters, but the Order of Heralds instituted with the Fourth Crusade has made considerable strides in curbing the inquisition. Even in Kenabres, the ardor of the inquisition has dimmed somewhat, and many hope it is utterly extinguished with the death of the aged prelate—but quietly here and there throughout Mendev the screaming flames still echo the passion of her most fervent zealots."

A few key points to consider here. First, much of the depredations of the Third Crusade were inspired by manipulation by demons, and many of the participating Iomedeans were tricked into acts of cruelty.

However, the prophet Hulmun is not considered to be a "false prophet", indicating that he continues to receive divine powers from Iomedae. Nor does the text refer here to depredations by marauders, but instead by zealots, who may very well have been clergy.

On top of this, despite reforms, we have another indication of the "Blue Code" with the leaders of the crusade being aware of these practices but turning a blind eye to them for years before stepping in.

Finally, we see another indication of a sort of cultural supremacy promoted in Iomedae's faith (or at least her faithful) with the suspicions cast at the druids of Ioberia from the earliest days of the Crusades.

From the Campaign Setting, p. 99,

"Foreigners engaged in the holy wars against the blight of the Worldwound now outnumber the native people of Mendev, who have been pushed aside and treated as an underclass by the nation’s new inhabitants... Still, [the Queen and her councilors] hear the cries of persecuted native Mendevians at the hands of inquisitors and thuggish “low templars” alike."

Although the chapter makes it clear that the pious are now a minority as compared to the mercenaries and thugs, I have to wonder if this underclass status stems from roots planted within the religion itself, and can't help but note that the inquisitors and "low templars" are considered separate threats to the people of Mendev. After all, if a religion recognizes certain cultures as "savage" and attempts to promote hegemony, they have already dehumanized those "savages". It is a slippery slope from that point, I think, between LG and LN, which is still within the bounds of Iomedae's religion. I also note that the druids of Estrovian Forest were so angered by the First Crusade that they laid the "curse of the winterthorn" on those who would dispossess them, and this was well before the "low templars" were running the show.

Again, I want to emphasize that this is just a matter of personal taste. My interpretations here are based on my preference for games that allow for a level of corruption and uncertainty in even the G faiths. I am not proposing that Iomedae is, in fact, a villain or that her church is comprised of nothing more than rogues posing as heroes. Instead, I would posit that there are corrupt individuals in the church, that decisions are made by good people for the sake of political convenience, that motives are not always entirely pure, and that one of the core tenants of Iomedae's faith has historically been used to justify cultural imperialism.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

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Yes.

Scarab Sages

Erik Mona wrote:
Yes.

Yes...?


weirmonken wrote:
TheWarriorPoet519 wrote:

I wasn't under the impression that the abuses visited on the druidic faith of Sarkoris by the crusaders was meant to be something that the church actually approved of, but was supposed to be representative of how the Mendevian crusades have attracted a great deal of misanthropic marauders who use the crusades as an excuse to rape and pillage, and that the genuine paladins and clerics and priests of the church are simply stretched too thin by their role in the fight against the demons to have the time to deal with in person.

It's all in what version of the faith you want in your game, but I think that that particular instance is supposed to be more of a case of "Evil people using Iomedae's call as an excuse to do evil things, and the church is stretched to thin to actually stop it" rather then "The church has a darker side that is only now showing itself"

I may be gain-said on this, of course.

*Lots of awesome stuff*

Well argued sir. Your vision is an interesting and well-thought out interpretation, and I enjoyed reading it. Congratulations, you've made me think ^_^

~TWP

Scarab Sages

TheWarriorPoet519 wrote:


Well argued sir. Your vision is an interesting and well-thought out interpretation, and I enjoyed reading it. Congratulations, you've made me think ^_^

~TWP

Thank you, sir.

Dark Archive

I wish the Acts of Iomedae were written in a books as a series of short stories or accounts. It would be an awesomely twisted book and would be a helpful rp tool for followers of Iomedae, especailly her clerics and Paladins.

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