A loose organization that worships Silvanus, lord of nature, and other related elven deities. Followers seek to protect natural beauty and wildlife, with different branches viewing the spread of civilization as either part of the great design or a threat to it. There is no central hierarchy in this church, though the leaders of the oldest conclaves on Curanost (the largest northern island and adopted homeland of the elves) are deferred to by other worshippers. Clergy often serve as caretakers for parks in elven settlements and are as likely to be druids or rangers as clerics. Also, while the majority of this church is elven or half-elven in heritage, a sizable contingent of humans – especially among the native islanders of Curabel – adhere to this creed.
Given the loose structure of the Verdant Fellowship, there are countless minor variations in the beliefs and customs of those that claim membership in this religious sect. However, there are two major strains of belief differentiated by how they view the spread of civilization throughout Curabel. The dominant of these two theologies, which informs the teachings in all conclaves located near or within settlements, views the growing civilizations of Curabel as part of the grand design of nature. While lamenting the excesses of development, they argue that the only reasonable answer is to work at alleviating past damage and teaching everyone to strive for balance in the future. In these teachings, Silvanus and his consort Ariabena are an elderly and cheerful elven couple who take a particular interest in watching over fields and husbandmen as well as shepherd and domesticated animals.
The minority subsect of the Verdant Fellowship, which is actually much more ancient, sees the spread of civilization (especially human civilization) as a threat to the natural order – a cancer eating away at everything beautiful in the world. Almost all followers of these teachings live a hermetic life, although there are rumors of peripatetic settlements deep in the jungles of Curabel where like-minded followers of this religion band together, living in a hunter-gatherer life they see as more natural and driving off anyone from more civilized areas. Often considered by outsiders to be unnecessarily cruel, followers of this theology counter that nature is not bound by notions of kindness and cruelty and neither are they. In this set of teachings, Silvanus and his consort Ariabena are deadly woodland archers who forever roam the dark corners of the island jungles on an endless and wild hunt.
It is an interesting historical footnote that the current division of belief in the Verdant Fellowship can be traced back to the early days of the empire. When humans led by a warrior calling himself the Immortal Dragon Emperor first arrived on the shores of the mainland many centuries ago and asked for sanctuary, the clerics of the Verdant Fellowship counseling the old elven lords advised against allowing these barbarians to settle freely; instead, they convinced the leaders to grant the new arrivals only small tracts of land in the least fertile areas of their immense kingdoms. They said that the civilization of the humans, based on the rapacious exploitation of the natural world, was anathema to Silvanus and the ideal solution would be to purge them like sickness from a body; but, if that was deemed unacceptably cruel, then everything else possible should be done to limit their growth.
The empire that rose in those barren patches of land granted by the elven lords suffered from these restrictions, but still grew is size and power as the humans proved more adaptable to hardship then those clerics had suspected. After centuries of slow but steady growth, a Dragon Emperor decided his people were finally strong enough and used their resentment to raise and motivate a vast army dedicated to overthrowing the elven nations. Despite the perceived superiority of the elven forces, the human empire prevailed and massacred the royalty and clerics they held responsible for their suffering along with many elven civilians. Eventually, the remaining elven population would find itself forcibly exiled to the islands of Curabel. It was the soul-searching prompted by this exile that birthed the more moderate branch of the Verdant Fellowship.
Hierarchy / Structure
There is no real hierarchical structure to the Verdant Fellowship, although some deference is given to the leaders of the oldest conclaves on Curanost are generally deferred to by worshippers and clerics elsewhere on the islands. All members of the fellowship refer to other members as brother or sister, regardless of seniority or role.
Within any single conclave, the structure is also fairly loose with most communal decisions being made by means of open votes during gatherings in which every community member can take part. Each conclave will also have certain members appointed to oversee daily responsibilities like the education of new acolytes and the upkeep of any gardens or shrines.
Customs / Ceremonies
Given the decentralized nature of the Verdant Fellowship, there are few consistent customs from one conclave to another. In general, brothers and sisters will seek to protect areas of natural beauty and (among moderate groups) land dedicated to farming or animal husbandry. They also tend to consecrate small gardens that serve as gathering areas and places for members to meditate on the beauty of the natural world.
One ceremony that transcends the theological division in the Verdant Fellowship is the prayers of thanksgiving, recited whenever a brother or sister must make use of a natural resource (i.e., cutting down a tree, hunting and killing an animal, fishing, etc.). In these prayers, the believer promises to take no more than absolutely necessary to attain their purpose and that this purpose is in keeping with the balance of nature.
The chief symbol of the Verdant Fellowship is a blossoming tree, which is closely associated with Silvanus. Indeed, most consecrated gardens are designed so that a particularly ancient tree grows at the center where the altar is located. Another important symbol of the fellowship is the crescent moon, sacred to Ariabena. Most regular holidays celebrated by members of this religion are tied to the lunar cycle, with the highest holy days coinciding with the waxing crescent moon. Clerics of the Verdant Fellowship will carry holy symbols depicting either the blossoming tree or crescent moon depending on their personal preference or the tradition of their home conclave.