Religion and the Afterlife
The center of Giant society is The Great Church, whose head is called the Viceroy of A-dui. There is no other church permitted among the Empire of the Giants; disagreements and debate are allowed, but only so long as they all acknowledge the ultimate authority of the Viceroy of A-dui—who, for his part, has historically ruled with a light hand and erred on the side of not being too particular on too many points of doctrine.
Many outsiders confuse the relationship between the Empire and the Great Church. This is only understandable, given that the Great Church wields a kind of political power that is usually not seen in other nations, and certainly not on such a grand scale. Rather than being subservient to the Empire, it is perhaps more accurate to say that the Empire is a (very large) arm of the Great Church. The Viceroy of A-dui may bow before the King of Kings, but first the other must bow before the Viceroy, and as the Viceroy reciprocates any bow with one of his own—the representative of A-dui must be gracious in all things—it can hardly be taken as a mark of special esteem for the Viceroy to bow before the King of Giants.
It is said by some of the giants—those of the On-Caurna Sect—that when A-dui created the world, he next incarnated on the face of it in the form of the Titans in order to work out the finishing touches. The Oncaurnaists treat as holy writ a book which is said to record the names and duties of all the Titans or incarnations of A-dui which ever were. When they are in need, they do not pray to the Titans in general but to whichever Titan is said to govern the relevant sphere of activity (which can be very particular).
Another point of debate is on the nature of the Last Battle. It is generally agreed upon that there are three fates ultimately awaiting the dead. The righteous will rest with the Titans and hone their skill in war, in preparation for the Last Battle. It is a point of contention whether there will be many tens of thousands among them or only a handful; whether martial aptitude is required to be counted among the righteous (obviously this is an interpretation that is favored among the Guild of Soldiers); and whether non-giants have any chance of being among the righteous and, if so, whether this privilege is extended only to the Janissa or to other non-giants as well. A few giants believe that worthy janissa will be transformed into giants, either before or after the Last Battle.
Many believe that worthiness will be determined in part by how one has treated the janissa under one’s stewardship. Some go so far as to say that this criterion is so important that one cannot be judged as worthy without having janissa in one’s charge. To be without at least one janissa is proof to them that one is as-yet unworthy of the service of a janissa, which speaks volumes as to one’s lack of worthiness in general.
Those who are less valiant, but by no means unrighteous, will not have the pleasure of abiding with the Titans until the Last Battle. They are charged with forging the many great weapons and constructing the bulwarks that will be needed at the end of time. If they fulfill their duties well then they will be forgiven for their shortcomings and be permitted to dwell in the Paradisiacal Mire-Brissay that will follow the Last Battle. It is accepted that the world will be “rebuilt” following the Last Battle, but it is a matter of debate whether Mire-Brissay will be destroyed in the conflict, destroyed by A-dui in the aftermath, or simply “spiritually” rebuilt. In any case, the task of rebuilding will fall upon this group, as their final and most vital task.
All those who fail to fall into one of the other two groups, or who fail in their duties in the afterlife, will be banished to suffer with the Chthons. At the time of the Final Battle, Ompre will release them from their chains and they will take part in the conflict at the end of time, after which point Ompre will be bound and they will be fed to him before he, too, is utterly destroyed.
Giants wear head coverings in order to spiritually protect themselves from “destructive thought processes,” which may be taken to mean anything from heretical thoughts to anything that might spell that person’s doom. The nature of these head coverings varies from place to place, in accordance with local custom and climate. What the covering looks like is not as important as its presence.
One of the few realms in which the Viceroy has been very particular on is the set of purity laws espoused by the Great Church. When these laws are violated, and on certain other occasions (such as fast days), one or more washings are required. A “single washing” is a washing with sand, a “double washing” is a washing with sand and urine, and a “triple washing” adds water. Depending on circumstances (such as the severity of the misdeed), one must wash the hands, up to the elbow, the arms and face, or the whole body.
Members of Great Houses are forbidden to eat meat—animals are created beings of A-dui, and they are incapable of sinning against him, for they were charged only with maintaining their numbers and continuing in the world “according to the instinct that is within them,” which animals do so long as higher beings do not prevent them. Accordingly, it is a great sin to slay one of them without need, and in order to guard against accidental sin, the Great Church banned it for the Great Houses. A triple washing of the entire body is required for any member of a Great House who eats animal meat, though this is reduced to a double washing of the arms and face on major holidays. Along with members of Noble Houses they are also forbidden to drink alcohol, because of the effects that alcohol has on the mind.
Giants celebrate six main festivals throughout the year: the Festival of the Greening, celebrated in the waxing of spring and marked by the consumption of plant matter that is approaching ripeness at this time; the Festival of the Summer Solstice; the Festival of the Harvest, celebrated by each household creating a small figure out of local harvested plants, whether from their own fields or purchased from farmers; the Festival of the Herds, when livestock are brought inside pens in preparation for the coming cold, and some are slain and their remains salted or otherwise preserved to last through the winter; the Festival of the Winter Solstice; and the Festival of Celebrating Creation, when the Giants remember the great deed that A-dui performed when he created the world, and when they remember their dead, who are even now abiding with the Titans in preparation for the Last Battle (it is considered polite to not speculate who, exactly, is or is not “abiding”).
There are a number of other holidays throughout the year. The next most important set are those which celebrate certain of the Titans: there is one holiday each for the Titan or Titans associated with animals, which are prized creations of A-dui; with fire, the first spark of which came from A-dui’s forge when he was smelted the iron of the world; with metals, which the giants use for war and for construction; with the soil, from which is gotten all “food without blood or flesh”; with water, without which the world would die; and plants, which are the holiest of foods.
The giants believe in spiritual reflections: “In the world of flesh as it is in the world of A-dui” is a common saying. Every organization is a microcosm unto itself. The whole universe bows to the word of A-dui. The world bows to the Titans, as intermediaries for A-dui. Among the Titans, they have their ruler and their ruled. Within the world, there is the Great Church, and within families there are heads of families, and so on. It is believed that the universe is maintained solely through the exercise of A-dui’s will; A-dui commands that the universe be, and so it is. Similarly, orders must be followed whenever they are given by one who has authority, or that microcosm will in turn fall apart. As it is said, “There is no empire without the King of Kings, and no church without the Viceroy of A-dui.” The relationship between the giants and the janissa is, again, held as a reflection of that relationship which exists between the Titans and the giants, and some giants have created a schema in which the giants map to A-dui, the janissa to the Titans, and the other races to the giants, in mirror of the relationship that the giants have with A-dui and the Titans.
Fathers petition favored guilds to choose their sons. Usually, this is the guild to which the father belongs, but members of lower-classed guilds who have the right connections will attempt to draw the attention of greater guilds. Social mobility mostly only exists vicariously, considering how difficult it is to rise in status normally. Where more than one guild is interested in taking in the boy, that guild which is more highly-ranked will take precedence. Those who are not taken in by any guild, however rarely it is for this to happen, have no place in society. In order to retain respect in the community, such a boy must be left at the outskirts of the settlement by his father, in order to be eaten by wild animals, die from exposure, or be taken by travelers.
The colors of the guilds are as follows: red for members of the Great Church, for red is the color of celebration, and thus reminds the giants of the great day of rejoicing that will come after the Last Battle; orange for members of the Guild of Soldiers, for orange is the color of courage and perseverance; yellow for members of the Guild of Magicians, for yellow is the color of gift-giving, and magic is believed to be a gift given by A-dui; green for members of the Guild of Merchants, for green is the color of prosperity, dating back to the days when wealth was measured in agricultural produce; blue for members of the Guild of Administrators, for blue is the color of trust and trustworthiness, which the administrators are required to exemplify in all their actions as caretakers of the empire; and dark orange for members of the Guild of Workers, for dark orange is the color of obedience and steadfastness. Just as English-speakers distinguish between red and light red (what we call “pink”) and Russian-speakers distinguish between light blue (“goluboy”) and dark blue (“siniy”) with no single word to refer to all blues, so too do the Giants distinguish between orange and dark orange, and consider the two to be different cultures.
Giants are required to wear clothing of the color of their guild, and are forbidden from wearing clothing of a color associated with another guild. Where some sort of neutral state is desired or required, white may be worn. Technically, a giant must only wear a head-covering of the proper color, but as it is believed that A-dui himself dictated the colors that should be worn by the guilds, pious giants (and almost all clergy of the Great Church) will wear only that color. The colors available to female giants is determined by the Guild membership of their husbands.
Family and Social Life
The interaction between houses and guilds is another area in which the Great Church’s many purity laws come into play. It is forbidden, for example, for a member of a common house to speak first to a member of a Great House—if the commoner wishes to speak, then this intent can be revealed by a soft clap to get the Great One’s attention. To do otherwise is to pollute both individuals, for the proper conduct of things has been violated.
It is likewise forbidden for members of one guild to do the work of another guild, or even to take up the traditional tools of that guild. For this reason, soldiers may not touch hammers, merchants may not touch the quills of the administrative guild, and priests may not touch the sword. Just as A-dui works his will through a host of intermediaries, so too must giants use intermediaries for many tasks—soldiers appointing merchants to conduct their business for them, for example. These and similar restrictions are meant to unify the giants as a people and impress upon them the point that they can accomplish nothing except together.
Giants favor heavy, nutritionally-dense and high-calorie foods, because their large size grants a high metabolism. Their cattle are the largest cattle in the world—comparable to aurochs—but they don’t stop there. Many giants raise herds of elephants, which the Giants find easier to manage than other races do, for obvious reasons. Fishing fleets will simply haul in everything and render the whole catch down to a rich paste. Emus and ostriches are raised for their eggs, as are goose eggs. Giants don’t bother with chicken eggs, which are too tiny to be worth the effort.
As for plants, giants grow kale, peanuts, quinoa, garlic, and baskets and baskets of potatoes. They also collect seaweed. High-calorie vegetable oils (like from peanuts and olives) are used in a great many recipes, and coconut oil is often eaten on its own. Giants are also sugar fiends.
The King of the Giants is referred to in his full title as the King of Kings, Conqueror of the World, Regent in the Seat of A-dui. To the giants’ way of thinking, the whole world already belongs to A-dui (in whose name they are conquering and ruling, in order to unify the world and bring to pass A-dui’s return, the Last World, and the coming of Paradise). Any attempt to resist the giants, then, is tantamount to rebellion against A-dui and the divine order of things. This outlook is greatly responsible for the empire’s authoritarian attitude.
As a corollary to this, it is expected that, as it is the will of A-dui that the world be united under the banner of the giants’ empire, A-dui would never cause the empire to falter. Accordingly, political or military disaster for the empire is interpreted as a sign that those responsible have not been acting in accordance with the wishes of A-dui. A King of Kings who presides over a great failure, especially the loss of territory, will be removed from office. Whether this is necessary will be determined by a vote of the guild-heads, except for the guild which the King of Kings hails from.
The King of Kings is elected by the heads of the various higher guilds, with two caveats: (1) no guild may vote for its own candidate and (2) the Great Church breaks all ties. While there is nothing that explicitly bans a guild from continually holding the throne, the fact of the matter is that those guilds that are not in power are not inclined to allow a single guild to retain power for too long. It is rare for the King of Kings to be chosen from the same guild twice in a row, and rarer still for it to happen three times. No guild has claimed the King of Kings for a fourth time before the crown is handed to someone else. Regardless of the power that that guild has acquired, the Great Church has (at least so far) never been party to such alliances, and has thrown its weight behind whichever guild seemed most capable of ending the chain.
Not only the Great Church but the other guilds as well are wary of the danger of a single guild becoming too entrenched and, through many generations of holding power, becoming great enough to keep that power forever. When necessary, the Great Church has aligned with the two lower guilds against the rest of the higher guilds—as no guild may vote for its own candidate, this produces a tie of three against three, which allows the Great Church to go ahead and choose whichever candidate it likes (typically someone who will shake up the present power structures in the other guilds, which is a rather heavy stick for the Great Church to hit people with).
A great deal of the functionality of the King of Kings can be traced to the elective format. Only the most capable Giants are ever considered for election.
The great envy of the Administrative Guild is that their members may not be chosen, despite the fact that it is their efforts that are chiefly responsible for the continued maintenance of the empire.
The King of Kings and his advisors are held as a mirror of A-dui and the Titans. Down the chain, each chief advisor is himself assisted by a council, the heads of guilds have their advisors, and the Viceroy likewise has stand-ins for the Titans.
Relations with other races
For the giants, the world can be divided into two groups: those who have accepted the will of A-dui, and those who are still in rebellion against his will. Slavery is not the crime that some other races see it as. Rather, it is a means by which the giants can introduce people, to the extent that they are able to take it, to the glory of A-dui’s empire. To serve A-dui is greater than anything else, so to be a slave in A-dui’s empire is greater than being the richest of the free outside of the empire.
The giants dislike the Xindi for a number of reasons. First of all, because Xindi females are dominant over males, they are perceived as having a backwards social order. Secondly, meat-eating is already considered by the Giants to be impure to some extent and, even where it is allowed, is still considered to be a less spiritual diet than vegetarianism. The scavenger practices of the Xindi (especially when they eat the corpses of intelligent beings) is therefore beyond the pale. They are also associated with the Demondim, because of their shared reptilian appearance.
The Heesh and many Humans are considered heretics of the first order for believing in gods other than A-dui and venerating beings other than the Titans. This applies to the Xindi as well. It is suspected by many giants that clerics who are able to draw power from such gods are actually drawing on the power of Ompre, and treat them accordingly.
The fighting prowess of the Orcs is respected, and they are often pitied more than they are hated. It is understood that they are servants of the demondim and, in this way, are seen as twisted reflections of the janissa. Some giants say that, at the time of the Last Battle, some of the orcs will see that they have been deceived and will fight on the side of A-dui. This is especially true for giants who are aware that the orcs believe that they will ultimately be destroyed. For these giants, it is obvious that the orcs have been lied to, and while it may be impossible to convince them of their error in this life, it is their fervent hope that some of the orcs may be swayed in the afterlife. Among these giants it is common for prayers to the Titans to include a request that the Titans reach out to the orcs and soften their hearts.
The demondim, of course, are abhorrent to the giants because they seek to dethrone A-dui (as the giants perceive it) and upset His will.
In war, giants are terrible foes. Conventional plate armor, for all that it is able to protect against most attacks, is surprisingly light: at its heaviest, plate armor is still no more than fifty pounds, and this is evenly-distributed over the body. Giants are able to don armor that is disproportionately heavier, and because of the height difference it is harder to hit a giant’s vitals than to do the same to a conventional foe. Giants use their strength to their advance when on the offensive, too. Most giants wield nothing more complex than a giant hammer. Even plate armor is no defense for their foes, who can suffer crushing injuries even if the plate armor is not penetrated. It is not uncommon for the giants to simply wade into battle, swinging across the field, and leave crumpled suits of armor and crippled soldiers in their wake to be picked off by janissa or simply left to die in their armor.
Written by R. James Gavreau based on my notes.