Circlism is a polytheistic religion centered on the worship of the Circle Gods.
Many thousands of years before time, Vitanism was the largest religion in the world. Circlism began in Roannah, among the mountains and streams that would one day be Estua, by a lone prophet named Ro.
Ro often spoke with mythic beasts, who trusted him and often spoke to him, as well as allowed him to witness their magical abilities. The man saw their power and wished to learn it, in order to make himself more perfect. Eventually, his pleas paid off. The mythic beasts awarded him the ability to speak to the mona and understand Monite, an ability that involved the altering of his genes. Ro learned the technique of Monite from the hatchers, with whom he had a special bond. Ro was the only human to have been taught directly by a mythic beast, and in legend he is said to have had the full power of these creatures at his command.
The number ten had long been used as a base for a number system, owing to the number of fingers on human hands. There were also ten tribal nations (which would eventually become the Ten Kingdoms). It was a small leap for Ro to assume that the number ten was perfect.
Ro postulated that the act of learning magic from the mythic beasts meant that mankind had become closer to perfection; he also imagined that the beasts had gotten their ability from some higher intelligence. He began making claims that the beasts had spoken to him, telling him of ten gods that circled the world, protecting it. Because mythic beasts were worshiped under the old rule of Vitanism, he was believed, and his mystical powers terrified and awed his followers.
Ro rejected the idea that everything was equal, a teaching espoused by Vitanism. He set himself up as another demigod, fathering several hundred children to many different women. Upon seeing these children also able to perform magic, he claimed that because some humans could learn magic and some could not, some humans were superior to others, and therefore to all animals. This religion caught on quickly among his descendants and others, who were easily cowed by his power.
Generations passed, and although the magical gene weakened with interbreeding, the ranks of the galdori grew and grew. Circlism also grew; soon, Vitanism was almost entirely phased out of existence. The ten gods, who were called the Circle Gods, were given names and domains and aspects; not only did this make them easier to remember, but it endeared them to the lingering Vitanists, who worshiped spirits in association with aspects of the world.
Conversion to Circlism was usually peaceful, but occasionally wars were fought to enforce the belief. These wars were poorly recorded and remain somewhat taboo to speak about among Circlists.
Circlist legends teach that the gods once occupied a divine realm of formless, resonating mona. At the beginning of the universe, this realm was broken apart by a vast storm called the Tempest; the gods were thrown from their home into space, clinging to a single remnant. This chunk of their former world became their new home; they shaped it into a perfect sphere, and arranged themselves around it in a Circle.
Not only does this myth deny that the Circle Gods created the world, it alludes to the possibility of other gods, ones that exist on other "remnants" of the divine realm. Sometimes, a myth will mention an evil force, presumably an invading god from another world; the Circle gods will always fight off the invading god. There is an undertone of civil war amongst the gods, many of whom are thought to travel the universe looking for a permanent home such as Vita. (In Circlism, Vita is thought to be the perfect world.)
The Circle Gods regularly commune with one another, and are thought to act with a hivemind, without any god having knowledge another does not; there are exceptions, notably in the mythology surrounding the fall of Roannah, where each culture claims their prime god acted against the will of the others.
In galdori legends, the gods have a special purpose for the galdori; this is vastly different from human interpretations, which claim that the gods do not give priority to one life over another. The egalitarian approach of the human mythology insists that the human races are no more important to the world than plants or animals. Indeed, humans often reject the Circle Pantheon in private, choosing instead to worship the world god Vita, who espouses these ideas of living equality.
- The Circle Gods are seen as protectors, not creators; the creation of the world is not attributed to them.
- They protect against invading gods, who are trying to take over the perfect world of Vita.
- The human races must strive for perfection to bring themselves closer to the gods.
- One should work towards the betterment of all mankind; self-promotion is not as important.
- The search for knowledge of the world is one way to improve mankind.
- Only the human races and mythic beasts have souls; other living beings are not close enough to the gods to warrant a soul.
- After death, a soul enters an afterlife, a transition period during which a soul wanders the earth. After some time in the afterlife, the antelife begins; after this, a soul is reincarnated into a new body.
- The gods should be worshiped to show mankind's gratitude at their kindness.
- Mythic beasts are seen as messengers of the divine, and deserve reverence and worship as well.
- Note: this particular belief is being phased out of the religion; very few Circlists worship the mythic beasts anymore.
The Circlists do not believe in fate, as their belief dictates that time is linear and that the "future" is being invented as time progresses. However, the belief in a lifeline suggests that a dimension outside of time itself leads people down certain paths together. They formulate this belief with the parable of the invisible road through the brush. One walks through the brush and sees nothing ahead of him, but when he turns back he sees the road fully formed by his feet. He may not see others on roads near to him until their paths converge.
This suggests that our own lifelines become clear only after the fact. The existence of a set path is taken on the basis of faith, but nothing in the Circlist faith says that these lifelines are set in stone, or cannot be changed by a sudden swerve. The ideal state of mind for following one's lifeline is purity of character. Too much careful thought about a decision can sway someone from their lifeline if they are the type of person to follow their heart; conversely, if someone is very thoughtful, making rash decisions can lead them off their path as well.
The worship of the Circle Gods takes place in a variety of forums, from formal church sermons to festivals. Sermons and group prayer are integral to worship, with an emphasis placed on storytelling and discussion of moral issues. Singing is a popular form of religious expression for all cultures.
Children are taught about Circlism from a young age. Often, children are engaged in youth groups, where Circlist myths and fables are told and songs are sung.
In certain cultures, notably Naulanon, human and animal sacrifice has been recorded as a means of paying homage to the gods. Burnt offerings are considerably more common, appearing in most countries in various forms - even in Anaxas, wicks have been known to burn ritual herbs to honor the Pantheon, though this is regarded as a somewhat primitive practice by the galdori.
The taking of certain drugs is a time-tested method of worship. In Anaxas and other countries, chan is imbibed in religious as well as secular settings; during prayer, it is thought to open one's mind to the divine. In other countries such as Gior, Bastia and Hesse, opium is preferred.
Although there is no single religious text that serves as a guidebook for the Circlist faith, teachings of prophets past are often incorporated into sermons. The Legacy of Ro, an ancient biography of the first prophet of the gods, details Ro's teachings and beliefs and chronicles his life story. The Vesmanadan is a collection of Roannese poems written in reverence of the gods, used as common prayers.