Sutannir Karim I Hazana I Guerra of the House Hazana sect in a rare thoughtful moment.
Freeborn religious beliefs emphasis celebration rather than sermonising.

Overview

Organized religion, in the sense of a study of doctrine or the creation of sites of communal worship is not common in the Brass Coast. This reflects their history - the motivation for the exodus from Highguard was not just to escape from the venal corruption of the patricians but also to leave behind the confines of the ascetic religion being pushed by the Highborn chapters. The founders of the nation were passionate idealists; they rejected the austere religious practices of Highguard, believing that people should be free to celebrate all the joys of life.

Still, it is wrong to think that the Freeborn are neither devout nor virtuous. Rather than study or debate the virtues, they try instead to embody them in their lives. "The Urizen think it, the Highborn believe it, we live it" is a common Freeborn retort to those who mistake their impiety and irreverence for a lack of virtue. In particular the Freeborn prize honesty, the ideal of a life lived openly and without shame. Many see embracing a virtuous life as the essential prerequisite to achieving a state where you can be honest about the things you have striven for and the things you have accomplished.

Dust, Flame, and Glass

The Freeborn believe their people are shaped from the elements of dust, flame and glass. The eternal wind-blown dust of the plains is their history, the loyalty for family and continuity of their people. The ferocity of flame is their burning passion for life and their bright and unquenchable spirit. The purity of glass is their soul, the reflection of their transparency and once broken can never again be mended. Dishonesty and wickedness shatter your soul and pieces of it are lost with each act of deception.

This belief underpins a very personal relationship with matters of faith and the spirit, one that is rarely articulated directly outside of poetry or song. Much of the Freeborn understanding of spirituality and religion was shaped by the philosophy of the founder Riqueza, further honed by those who followed in her footsteps. As a result, Freeborn religious ceremonies place their emphasis on celebration rather than sermons. They celebrate sacred festivals with entertainment, feasting, parties and dancing. Coal-walking, fire breathing, fire dancing and other symbolic performances that represent the Freeborn passion for life are always popular. Priests keep their words short and evocative, knowing their audience wants to be inspired to act virtuously rather than lectured.

Many families include a devout priest or spiritual family member who can be relied on to oversee these indulgences, but for large or important festivities the Freeborn seek out the services of a sutannir. A cross between a priest and a professional party organiser, the sutannir helps with all the arrangements needed to celebrate important moments with suitable festivities. These might be personal, a coming of age or a wedding, or they may be asked to bring the whole community together to celebratve some great accomplishment or other act of virtue.

Last night, Ramak invited me to what he said was a religious ceremony. This morning, my head is pounding and I will never eat again. We did not talk about Courage, but we danced on fire. We did not contemplate Prosperity, but we enjoyed the finest things from many lands. We did not read about Pride, but sang the songs of our homelands till our throats were hoarse. I can attest the Freeborn care deeply about the fate of their souls – but they just do not speak of it as we do.

Elina the Wayfarer taken from Epistles to the Winds of Virtue, 24BE

Orthodoxy

The Freeborn have great respect for the paragons and the Way of Virtue, but they have little time for the priests and Synod that exist to mediate – or dilute - their message. The Synod, with its doctrines and heresies, is often seen as being full of pomposity and self-importance, whereas a truly faithful person understands what is true and what is false in their soul. Rather than look to the Freeborn Assembly for edicts and guidance, people expect them to embody the ideals of virtue, to lead by example, and to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

The view of most Freeborn is that following the Way is simple but challenging. Simple in the sense of being uncomplicated - few Freeborn believe the virtues need much in the way of explanation or commentary. The tenets can help identify what is truly virtuous, but attempts to seek deeper meaning or complexity are viewed with suspicion, especially if they appear to be self-serving. Such sophistry is seen as an attempt to obfuscate simple truths so as to justify a failure of virtue.

People fail to act virtuously, not because the Way is hard to comprehend, but because it is challenging to live up to the ideals it lays out. If you practice honesty, if you can be honest with yourself, then you already know what the virtuous path is, the difficulty is in having the moral fortitude to act on your beliefs. Thus the role of a priest is not to tell you what to do, but to help you find the strength to do what you already know to be right. The celebrations of the sutannir are not simply an expression of the virtue of Prosperity, they serve to reward the virtuous and thereby encourage others to emulate them.

Heterodoxy

More so than any other Imperial nation, the Freeborn tend to be open to the idea that as long as someone isn't hurting anyone, they should be free to believe what they want. This speaks to a problem that has dogged the priests of the Brass Coast since the foundation of the Empire. The Freeborn prize liberty above all things, it is the founding ideal of the nation. They often cite the line from the Imperial Constitution that guarantees "dignity, freedom, and prosperity" to all citizens - and they laud Emperor Ahraz as the greatest Throne of all for his emancipation of the Imperial Orcs.

As a result, the Coast has often struggled with outbreaks of the spiritual force known variously as Anarchy or Freedom. During the founding of the Empire, sutannir who embraced Freedom were among the vocal opponents of the First Empress and her grand vision. They saw the Empire as a machination of the Highborn priesthood, seeking to enforce their limited view of virtue on all humanity. Even the Freeborn who followed other virtues were concerned that the way of life they had established might be swept away. To address those fears, the hakima of the Brass Coast created the egregores and convinced the nascent Empire to adopt them. Support for Anarchy was largely suppressed in the Coast after the first Synod forbade it - but not without bloodshed.

It has resurfaced many times since then. For example, those priests who had never completely given up on the virtue of Freedom were buoyed by what they saw as the success of the Orc Rebellion. In 324YE this inspired Crescencia i Marusa i Riqueza, a sutannir of briar lineage, to begin openly urging her followers to live their free of the restraints of law and authority, without the need to be inhibited by the disapproval of others. She attracted large numbers of followers which ultimately lead to the events of the Freedom Heresy. Her eventual capture and execution on charges of blasphemy was broadly supported by the Freeborn Assembly, though it was noted that they picked their words with great care, criticizing Crescencia for the failures of Montagne and the death of her followers, rather than dwelling on her heretical views.

To this day, a belief in the enduring ideal of liberty remains common throughout the Coast and many Freeborn have been passionate opponents of slavery. Janeia i Zaydan i Guerra was a regular foil to Emperor Frederick, a friendly rival who switched between heated debates on the need to free orc slaves and denouncing the Emperor in the Synod. Scholars point out that some of the arguments in the early chapters of Anarchy and Liberty are either founded on, or clear refutations of, Freeborn arguments about the need for a person to be "free to choose virtue" and that slavery as a consequence is an unforgivable crime against the soul. Unsurprisingly, Emperor Ahraz enjoyed the support of the abolitionists in the Brass Coast, especially among the priesthood, although he sometimes had to distance himself from their more zealous outbursts during the orc rebellion.

The last prominent Freeborn to be executed for blasphemy relating to Anarchy was Liliana i Hora i Riqueza who had been the Conscience of the Senate for a year in the time of Emperor Hugh. She admitted to her devotion to Freedom when confronted on it by the Gatekeeper of Vigilance on the steps of the Senate. When challenged at her inquisition as to why she had kept her beliefs hidden for so long she only laughed at the court and said "If we were looking to hide our devotion, we wouldn't call ourselves the Freeborn". If any Freeborn priests are devoted to the malign presence of Anarchy today, then they are careful to keep it hidden well away from the prying eyes of the Synod's inquisitors.

Reincarnation

Many Freeborn take a relaxed view of the Doctrine of Reincarnation. A popular old tradition says that those lost at sea take new form as dolphins who will guide and guard lost ships. While few claim to really believe it these days, it is a stock element in many stories involving sea travel. When questioned on it, the Freeborn tend to shrug - does it really matter if it's true?

This response reflects their view of the Labryinthe more generally. The Freeborn accept that human souls reincarnate; but they often argue it is a mistake to obsess over it. The teachings of Riqueza - generally held to be the first sutannir - said that "nobody is born virtuous". The inference is that what you did in your past lives is unimportant - all that counts is what you do in this life. One should focus on living an honest and laudable life, guided by the virtues, and let reincarnation look after itself. Freeborn might leap at a chance to experience a past life vision - who knows what such an experience will bring or what knowledge it will reveal? But few put much importance in who they were in a previous life - what matters most to the Freeborn is who you are now.

Perhaps as a result, most don't see death as a reason for sorrow. Death is usually mocked as a figure of fun and funerals are treated as the final opportunity to celebrate the life of the deceased.

Feast of the Broken Wheel

Sutannir try to support as many celebrations in the Brass Coast as possible. However, there is one festival they do not endorse: the Feast of the Broken Wheel. Known by many as Fool's Day, during this festival the Freeborn turn virtue on its head and celebrate the contrary. The festival takes place on the second day of the Autumn Equinox, and starts at sunset and lasts until midnight. The proud become humble, ties of loyalty may be ignored, the prosperous become ascetic and the wise act as fools. It is a time of foolishness, pranks and trickery that begins with a symbolic chase, where seven effigies of the paragons are chased from the camp in a gleeful and chaotic parade. Everyone is encouraged to try harmless skills like juggling and music – the more terrible the performance the more it is applauded. The festival usually ends in a drunken stupor. On Fool's Day, even the most moral Freeborn try their hand at telling untruths and lies - often with comical degrees of success.

The festival is considered blasphemous by some in the Imperial Synod but, to date, the Freeborn Assembly has done little to discourage it, or penalise those involved. Some have argued that, by permitting it, it helps the Freeborn embrace The Way more readily for the rest of the year.

This whimsical effigy of Aldones de Sarvos simultaneously pokes fun at that paragon of Ambition, and at Varushkan traditions, but is all meant in good humour.
The Feast of the Broken Wheel is as exuberant as it is irreverent.

Further Reading

Core Brief

Additional Information