Religion in the Chalionese universe

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The Fivefold Pathway of the Soul, written by Ordol, is one of the primary religious texts of orthodox ('Quintarian') cultures in Lois McMaster Bujold's fantasy novels The Curse of Chalion (2001), Paladin of Souls (2003), and The Hallowed Hunt (2005). This entry outlines that (fictional) book based on background from Bujold's three books in this fictional realm. The Fivefold Pathway does not exist as an independent book. The inferred content is distinct, but Ordol's title alludes to the Quinquae viae ('five paths') of Aquinas, five 'proofs of the existence of God' that remain very important in Roman Catholic theology.


The Daughter The Mother The Son The Father The Bastard
Season Spring Summer Fall/Autumn Winter None[3]
Primary color Blue Green Red Grey White
Secondary color White Yellow Orange Black Cream
Theological sign Forehead/brain Belly/womb Heart Groin/genitals Mouth/tongue as well as thumb
Represents Birth and life, symbolized by the opening of the new year Health and healing Friendship, the outdoors, animals, and hunting. Closure, justice and "deaths in good season", as typically symbolized by the closing of the year Balance and all things out of season.
  1. ^ While the other four gods' feast days are the start of their respective seasons, the Bastard's feast day is "that intercalary holiday inserted every two years after Mother's Midsummer to prevent the calendar's precessing from its proper seasons" (The Curse of Chalion, p. 221), corresponding to our February 29. The Bastard is sometimes referred to as the "God of the Unseason". The major religious schism (the 'Quadrene Heresy') turns on denying the divinity of the Bastard.


The story of how the world came to be is outlined in chapter three of Paladin of Souls. Notably, in contrast to today's Western monotheistic religions, the gods did not create the world: "The world was first, and the world was flame" is the beginning of the story. The World-Soul proceeded from the world itself.

Essentially, the World-Soul could not perceive itself, and so split itself in two to be able to see itself. This split created the Father and the Mother. In their love, they created the Daughter and the Son, and split the seasons up among themselves.

Later, a great demon-lord was granted a soul by a saint of the Mother, and then took up service in the Mother's name, to banish all other demons from the world of matter. He was finally slain, but the Bastard was born of his union with the Mother, though the precise way in which this happened is unclear. From him, the Bastard inherited control of all the demons he had overcome.

Aspects of worship[edit]

Churches and structures[edit]

Churches are typically built with a four-lobed footprint, reminiscent of a four-leaf clover, with a lobe dedicated to each of the Father, Mother, Son, and Daughter. Each lobe is of equal size, as the gods are equal. A second building, typically a tower, is built behind the Mother's lobe as a place of worship for the Bastard.

The Fivefold Religion in everyday life[edit]


The Sign of the Five is a small ritual performed whenever the Gods are invoked. The signs are usually made with the thumb, first, and second fingers of the right hand briefly touching the forehead, mouth, belly, and groin before spreading the opened hand over the heart. (Cf. The Sign of the Cross.) The Quadrene form omits the Bastard, touching forehead, navel, groin, and heart, with the thumb folded inward.[1]


Prayers are typically offered both at the beginning and at the end of a meal.



Around their 12th or 13th year, male children of nobility are typically inducted into the Order of the Son, or the Order of the Daughter. The former is the larger, and is analogous to a standing army. It is primarily concerned with the external security of the relevant kingdom. The Daughter's Order is smaller and more concerned with internal security, particularly in protecting travelers on the roads.

Misfits of various sorts sometimes feel called into the service of the Bastard.



At the deceased's funeral, acolytes of each of the Orders, dressed in their God's colours, bring animals of their God's colors forward, one by one. Whichever God has taken the deceased's Soul into His/Her heaven has their divine animal make some sign that the God has taken the deceased's soul.

The Father generally takes the souls of fathers, or men of equal paternal duty (for instance, a childless lord who has cared well for his people, often in the Father's name). Sometimes families don't find out that their sons or brothers even had children until the funeral.

The Mother generally takes the souls of mothers, or people who have served in her duty, as gardeners and the like.

The Daughter takes childless women and girls, and childless soldiers in her Order.

The Son takes childless men and boys, and childless soldiers in his Order.

The Bastard takes everyone else, especially those whose lives have been made into a disaster. Notably, all those who died in the commission of death magic belong to the Bastard. So do all homosexuals—regardless of whether they might also qualify for selection by one of the other gods.[citation needed]

Some souls, the sundered, refuse the gods and remain as ghosts. These ghosts slowly decay and lose personality.

Seasonal ceremonies[edit]

The quarterly changes in season are accompanied by ceremonies honoring the god of the upcoming season. This is also typically when the church gathers its quarterly donations from the local populace.

Winter to Spring[edit]

An old man, dressed in the colors of the Father of Winter, leads a young maiden, dressed as the Daughter of Spring, to the local church for a service of change. On the journey, the Father is pelted with balls of wool mimicking snowballs. It is considered a bad omen when real snowballs can be used (at least by the Father's avatar). Traditionally, young women touch the skirts of the "Daughter" as she passes for good luck in finding a husband in the next year. Once at the church, the avatar of the Father cleans off the central hearth and withdraws. Then, the avatar of the Daughter sparks a new fire for the new year.

Spring to Summer[edit]

A young woman, usually a newly wedded bride, leads a pregnant woman to the temple for a service of change.

Summer to Fall[edit]

There is no description of this ritual in the books, but from the symbolism of the other seasonal rites it most likely includes an old woman in the dark green of a widow, leading a young man in the colors of the Son.

Fall to Winter[edit]

A young man, in well worn, ragged clothes the color of the Son of Autumn, leads a young father, dressed in a judge's robes the color of the Father of Winter, to the local church for a service of change.


Living saints of each of the five gods exist, and typically have the power of second sight—vision in the spirit realm—as a side effect of their theological state. They are known to each other by the alterations in their aura, visible as a "glow" in the colors of the god whom they are serving. They cannot see their own aura, only the auras of other saints and the cursed. They do not immediately reveal themselves otherwise (with very few exceptions).

Frequently saints have been given a specific task by one or another of the gods, and their sainthood only remains in effect until the task has been performed. Others, called "petty saints", have been granted minor powers (a magistrate will "occasionally" be able to recognize when someone is telling the truth; a midwife will have special healing skills) which remain with them for some time. Former saints evidently remain recognizable, at least to each other, if only because of their demeanor.

Sainthood is described not as being awarded to those who are particularly good, or faithful, but as something that happens when the gods need a tool for a job, and find someone who has relinquished their will to the gods; someone who has given up their own drives and desires and made themselves empty. The parable describing this act involves a cup and some liquid, and is described as making a mess. Inferences can be made that the cup represents the person, and if it is full of something (or set upside down, indicating it is closed) - will, drive, ambition - then pouring more into it will just cause that poured liquid (metaphor for the will of the gods) to spill out. If it is empty (the person has emptied themselves of their will), the gods can come in and fill it, creating a saint - someone possessed by some portion of the gods' essence.

Sainthood is often described as a burden, and the relation of the saint to the god is described in unflattering terms - "beast of burden" is one of them. Despite this persons who have been saints are described as being "addicted" to the service of their god above all other vices.

In The Curse of Chalion, Cazaril becomes, temporarily, a saint of both the Daughter and the Bastard. Another important character, Umegat, is a saint of the Bastard until the tools of his mission are destroyed and he himself is badly hurt.

The Dowager Royina, Ista, was at one time a saint of the Mother, but failed in her task at that time (a task which Cazaril finished successfully). In Paladin of Souls her argument with the gods ends with her becoming a very temporary saint of the Father, and a more permanent saint of the Bastard, with a long-term mission.

A more complicated set of theological issues involving the possession and exorcism of animal souls 'taken up' by human beings are raised in The Hallowed Hunt, which has a distinct cast of characters and location within the fantasy world. These issues are plainly not a part of Ordol's orthodox theology, but illuminate its concerns and limitations.

Future developments[edit]

The trilogy is not necessarily complete. The three published novels centre successively on theologies of the Daughter, the Bastard, and the Son; implicitly, two further novels should concern those of the Mother and Father, and in answering a question after her 2004 address at the Library of Congress Bujold said that while she had no immediate plans to do so, she would like to write those novels and create a quintet.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paladin of Souls, p.108, Chap. 7
  2. ^ [1], [2], Fourth National Book Festival, Library of Congress, October 9, 2004

External links[edit]