The Cult of the Flower is the religion based on worship of Jabharil, Goddess of Love and Fertility. This religion became quite popular and evolved into a catalyst for discontent and social upheaval for the hegemonic Negeémi empire.
This is a religion native to the southern drow Kalhari people of southern Kazrrad, beneath the continent of Zarhuy, with Jabharil being their matron goddess. The religion spread north after Kalhari became part of the Negeémiliel empire.
Spread into NegeémilielEdit
As Kalhari was part of the powerful Negeémiliel hegemony, the adherents to the religion naturally came to live in the Negeémi native territories of Kazrrad, certainly in the great capital city itself. Many of the early Jabharil worshipers were brought to the capital as slaves taken in war. This caused the religion to take root amongst the slave class and working class peoples. Trade from the south also caused Jabharil adherents to come to live and preach in the cosmopolitan city, helping to spread the new faith to the middle class and some of the entrepreneurs of Negeémiliel.
Surely, many of the Negeémi commoners found it refreshing to worship a deity that promoted love in all its forms rather than the stern goddess of war, Negeé. Also, there was a great deal of resentment as at the same time that the Cult of the Flower was growing in the city: the wealth of the city was growing--but concentrated in only a percentage of the population, with growing poor, a growing number of foreigners, or those who were non-drow, and a growing institution of slavery.
Over several years, the new religion became a major force in the city, the poor of the city, the vast legions of slaves, and often the middle class, or sometimes even the rich commoner oligarch owners became worshippers of Jabharil. Increasing poverty of commoners, and increasing wealth of the Acolyte elites or rich commoners fueled the growth in interest in the Cult of the Flower. In many ways, the religion became an avenue for a sort of "Robin Hood" social movement of the commoners rather than just one of faith.
Conversely, those wealthy commoners who had failed to break into the exclusive elite class of acolytes were also often drawn to the cult. Wealthy commoners had developed 'parallel systems' of contacts, prestige and influence to compensate for their inability to place a daughter into the Academy and produce an Acolyte. Having a citizen in the family made the family a member of the elite class along with certain contacts and institutional favoritism related to the Church of Negeé and living in a theocratic system. Even some commoners who had been successful in placing a daughter into this system might hedge their bets with the new religion. The Cult of the Flower was a fast growing power in the city, and the path of a daughter making it through over a century of training and mandatory service was slow, arduous, and fraught with peril.
Means of WorshipEdit
Worship of the goddess Jabharil seems to revolve around promoting life and vitality, in one's self, and others, and in the fabric of the social order. The attempt at creating a society apart from the war and violence that the various refugees that became the Kalhari drow promoted this sense of oneness? Perhaps they rejected the common drow penchant for selfishness and came together internally as they were from many different cities and cultures? In any event, strong and positive emotions were prized in living one's life, and achieving one's best, and in serving the community.
Flowers and SpringEdit
Very little is known of the observances of the Cult of the Flower. It is known that the Kalhari drow were much fascinated by the surface world and the display of flowers as sexual demonstrations of fertility and life in the natural world. Use of floral designs on silks is a common indication of Jabharil worship displayed by open members of the cult. Celebrations can be conjectured to take place in relation to the passage of seasons, circumstantial evidence points to the vernal equinox being the time of an important celebration that goes on for several days.
There seems to be a great deal of hedonism in the celebrations or periodic observances. Ritual sex and orgies are a common means of worship for individuals using Jabharil's Temple of the Flower prostitutes, or for mass gatherings. For this reason, prostitution in regions of Jabharil worship have some degree of connection to the religion. Even the owners and managers of slaves might give their slaves time off from work to worship Jabharil in some form of mass orgy. It seems to be an ecstatic religion based on joy and good will, and fueled by endorphins.
Openly and officially, the Cult of the Flower is opposed to violence, particularly disproportionate, overt violence. Worshipers are supposed to show love and compassion to their fellows as a means of furthering Jabharil's will in the mortal world. Indeed, there have been instances where the cult has been less lethal than it might have been, given the provocations of its adversaries of the cult of Negeé.
Increasing Violence and PoliticsEdit
Nonetheless, the cult fell into a spiral of an escalation of violence with its Negeé persecutors, and in its later years, the Fanatics of Jabharil had become political tools of the Negeémi Populist Party of the Negeémi hegemony, as well as the foreign, subject state of Kalhari from which the religion has sprung. As a result of this, certain sentries in the cult were effectively foreign or factional agents, and the fanatics were ignorant and disposable revolutionaries, the official and unofficial groups working together and became well versed in violence and assassinations as an organization. However, most individual fanatics never were very well trained or deadly.
The leadership of the Cult of the Flower had joined forces with the Negeémi Populist Party thinking that the religion would receive a favored recognition and state support following a planned take over of the Negeémi government by the Negeémi Populist Party. The rank and file of the Cult of the Flower, particularly the unacknowledged--but organized--fanatics, were unaware of this connection. More than serving their religion's mandates, fanatics were joining the cult in desperation, or more interested in a social revolution that the Cult of the Flower was seen as an organized, divinely inspired force, would promote.
Negeémiliel, for an official theocracy, is fairly tolerant of other religions. Largely, this is due to it being a polytheistic faith, but the arrival of a foreign goddess, a matron deity to another Drow people placed strains on that tolerance. Mostly because the religion became so popular so quickly, and that popularity revealed the social division between classes of the peoples of the hegemony. Public demonstrations of the poor were common, and were increasingly connected to the Cult of the Flower, which was evolving into a political organization as much as a religious one.
But conflicts actually started among the commoners, as they were naturally divided between those enamored of the new religion that seemed to care more about them, and the traditionalists who remained faithful to either the matron goddess Negeé, or at least other deities of the native pantheon. Eventually, demonstrations between the commoners over faith broke out into street battles. Eventually, many bands of worshippers called "Fanatics" appeared among the sides, who either openly and covertly assaulted each other, destroyed or stole property, and even killed one another.
Dress of the Opposing FanaticsEdit
Jabharil fanatics typically wore cheap black silk leggings, arm gloves, and black bottoms, these were often made by sympathetic shops, or put together by the cult of the flower themselves. They came to wear masks as their activities were often illegal and the punishments placed on them became severe. They were distinctive in that they wore no top, as the Jabharil religion and Kalhari culture discouraged it, finding bare breasts a sign of fertility and topless men and women pleasing to Jabharil. This was a switch from the normal state of Negeémi commoner culture, which was traditionally more modest than that of the Acolyte elites.
Conjecture: The Acolytes in their 'ceremonial uniforms' (everyday uniforms, not dress uniforms, although dress uniforms also were tight and showed a lot of skin) dressed rather scantily or even sexually provocatively, sometimes even eschewing a top to their uniforms. This was due to religious reasons as an Oracle of Genai in the Temple of Doom once issued a command from Genai, the consort of the matron goddess of Negeé, that acolytes needed to wear such revealing clothes.
Socially, it is worth noting that other Drow cultures typically also wear very little, and the drow elites may have come to like dressing provocatively as they took pride in their toned bodies, and as a subtle demonstration of power. Commoners being seen as having less to show off, or not daring to take such liberties? By dressing less than the Acolytes, the Cult of the Flower may have been challenging the Acolytes in this manner?
Negeé fanatics were surprisingly similarly dressed, though, in that they too, would dress in a scanty fashion to counteract the fanatics of the Cult of the Flower. They differed from their religious adversaries by wearing purple or other colors other than black, wearing tops, and going unmasked. This was done to show that they had nothing to hide in contrast to the more occult and secretive Jabharil fanatics. The uniforms that the Negeé fanatics wore often came from shops specializing in slave liveries, which the fanatics wore proudly as they were 'slaves to their goddess Negeé'.
The Negeé fanatics were disorganized small groups that had little connection with the main temple structure of the matron deity. The acolyte elite priestesses seeing these street squabbles as not of great notice, expecting that the acolyte soldiers would put an end to this upstart Jabharil cult if need be. For mere commoners to take it on themselves to fight on the behalf of Negeé was unnecessary, or maybe even heretical in its own right.
So the commoner Negeé fanatics didn't receive much support from the temples in the beginning, and remained disorganized cells; though they eventually received praise for their efforts from the temples nonetheless. Due to this lack of direction, the Negeé fanatics became less and less of a factor, as they could not compete with the greater organization and numbers of the Jabharil worshippers. Eventually, the commoner Negeé fanatics largely faded into the background, having failed to stop the spread of this new religion.
This failure of the faithful commoners had much to do with the disinterest, slow actions, and insufficient support of the Acolyte elites running the city and State religions. A sign of the social divide and growing antipathy between the classes of Negeémi drow as much as the rise of the Cult of the Flower.
In contrast, the fanatics of the Cult of the Flower had a great deal of guidance and support of the open Jabharil cult. The visible church denied all knowledge of the actions of their fanatics, but that was a lie that few believed. Ironically, the Cult of the Flower's fanatics received more support from the Acolyte elites of the Negeémi Populist Party faction hoping to use them as expendable minions, than the fanatics loyal to Negeé received from the temples of the matron goddess and the traditionalist citizens.
The fanatics and the open Jabharil Church also received support, advice, and orders from Kalhari agents who wished to destabilize the Negeémi State. The Jabharil Sentries in attendance in the main temples were sometimes foreigners from Kalhari sent to train new recruits and to act as enforcers to stiffen the resolve of the new Sentries or the secretive fanatics.
Punishments for the FanaticsEdit
Technically, both groups engaged in activities that were illegal, such as street battles and damage and theft to property. Predictably, the acolytes and the courts would tend to overlook or mildly punish the crimes of the Negeé fanatics, but the crimes of the fanatics to the Cult of the Flower were, eventually, given automatic 'capital offense' status. That is, capital punishment by execution, sacrifice in a temple, or enslavement. Generally, crimes of murder were answered with death, but enslavement was given for lesser crimes.
Crimes of the Cult of the FlowerEdit
Despite these stiff punishments, the activities of the Cult of the Flower fanatics continued almost unabated. This was largely because the Negeémi Low Council was deadlocked on what to do about the Jabharil religion. Also, the leadership and organization of the Cult of the Flower had sufficient resources to pay the fanatics for their actions in food, and paid their sentries in the church well, so it was more than religious or social zeal fueling these activities.
Producing the grain for paying the fanatics and sentries, and keeping the organization growing required a lot of capital. To this end, the fanatics became increasingly often used to stealing for the Cult of the Flower. This was not a big leap, as there was a great deal of resentment against the rich, and the Cult of the Flower had something of a socialist philosophy. Many in the cult thinking that they were fighting for a new social order rather than just for their goddess. Thefts done for the cult were very much thought of as "robbing from the rich to give to the poor", or punishing other commoners for stubbornly supporting the cult of Negeé and the existing power structure of the city-state.
More forbiddingly, acts of kidnapping and assassinations became increasingly common. Bands of Jabharil fanatics would attempt to murder lone Acolytes on the street, or citizens in their beds as they slept, or to murder members of the rival Negeé fanatics, of course. Increasingly, they targeted the Initiated girls in training to become acolytes as they were relatively vulnerable points in the Acolyte system. They would kill these girls as well, or more often, would kidnap them for money or political influence. The fanatics Akordia and Briza were responsible for one of the first kidnappings of an Initiated girl.
Of course, these sorts of crimes were a leading reason why the penalties for being caught committing any crime as a fanatic of the Cult of the Flower became so dire.
The truth was, was that the Cult of the Flower was viewed not only with a sense of alarm by the ruling Acolyte class, but also as an opportunity. The Negeémi Populist Party of the city saw the rise of the cult as a useful political base and lever for their attempts to change the government to their rule. Indeed, the Populists had made much progress in this area, and exercised considerable control of the Low Council, however, they were frustrated by the Negeémi Senatorial Party's control over the High Council. Doubtlessly, there were strong elements of the Councilwomen, temples, guilds and courts that frustrated their efforts as well.
Eventually, the cult was seen as being useful enough to use as ground level minions of the Negeémi Populist Party. Hence, the Populists refused to allow any resolutions against the Cult of the Flower that would lead to a military action crushing the cult; the Populists wanted to keep this political base alive and strong. Secretly, grain imports were diverted by the Populist Party and were funneled to the Cult of the Flower; this had the dual effect of exacerbating the endemic food shortage in the city of Negeémiliel, (where vast food caravans came and went every day to feed the city), and also of giving the Cult of the Flower the grain needed to serve the causes of the cult, and secretly, those goals of the Populist Party.