A priest is a clergymen that has learned to perform holy ceremonies in worship of a deity and have received permission from the divine realms to gather divine charge and keep some of it themselves to perform miracles. They can thus perform divine magic .
The duties of a priest
There are many religions within the galaxy and all their priests have different duties. For example priests of a god of dreams often have the added duty to watch over the dreams it's followers and priests of a church of Talor are always in search of knowledge. But many duties are the same no matter the religion or race of the priest.
Gathering divine charge
Divine magic is powered by "divine charge" and it as one of the duties of the priests to receive this divine charge from mortals worshipping their deity and send it to the divine realms. The priests are allowed to keep a part of the divine charge for themselves so they can perform their other duties.
Supporter of the community
Priests can give blessings to members of the community with the divine charge they keep for themselves. These blessings can help people in their daily lives but are especially potent when used to protect or strengthen people during direct conflict and danger.
Priests make sure the community keeps to the tenants of the faith. This also includes teaching young members of the community these tenants in the first place although in a lot of communities the parents share part of this burden. What these tenants are depends highly on the Deity being worshipped and the interpretation of the wishes of that Deity. Tenants and wishes of the Deities can change and are often handed down from generation to generation or are taught only in half by divine beings.
Lastly evil forces are at work to disrupt even such communications, falsifying religious documents, corrupting the education of the youth and even posing as divine beings or Deities themselves to further their own agendas.
The priest is charged with both shielding the flock and themselves from such heresy and temptations. Not an easy task.
Many priests are seen as a nuisance when all they simply want is to make sure that everybody is behaving good and proper.
Leader of ceremony
When a new child is born, when it is the birthday of a person, when somebody wishes to marry and ultimately when somebody dies ceremony is needed. Furthermore certain seasons, holy dates, birthdays of living saints, demand further ceremony. Than there are ceremonies tied to certain tasks such as the harvest or the spring cleaning. There should be ceremonies asking for healing when a sickness plagues the village, or when a ship leaves the harbour or spaceport on an extended journey.
It is a hard to find a facet of daily life that cannot be tied to a ceremony or ritual of some sort and the priest is expected to know what to do and say during such ceremonies so that the divine charge can do its holy work.
Converting people to your religion is not an easy task and is more often than not seen as bonus by some churches. Proselytizing worshippers from other religions is rarely successful and could anger rival clergy whether it is successful or not. Converting people without any religion is usually relatively easy and with less risk but meeting non-religious people on a world is a rare occurrence.
As mentioned, depending on the religion priests might have many other duties. Especially in small primitive communities they might double as a doctor or teacher. Some of the more common examples include:
- Supporting crusaders , saints or pilgrims
- Raising money for the church
- Fighting holy wars
- Travelling to and taking care of shrines or altars in settlements or places without a priest
- Performing duties for divine beings directly
- Travelling to other churches to spread to correct interpretations of the divine mandates, wishes and tenants of the Deity
Becoming a priest
Becoming a priest is done by carefully studying the known tenants of a Deity, learning how to perform all of the ceremonies needed and convincing a priest or divine being that you are ready. This could and often does, takes years of training under a priest as a lowly member of the clergy without any powers of your own.
During the initiation ritual as a priest you will receive the final instructions on how to channel the actual divine charge and how much of it you are allowed to keep for yourself. This percentage is probably very low if not nothing and will rise over time as you show your devotion.
Other deities and religions
Although not originally planned by the Deities, it is in the current time almost unheard of that priests don't encounter elements of other Deities and religions. How a priest is suppose to act in such a situation depends highly on the tenants of his or her own faith but the most common reactions are stated below.
Same Deity, other world
There are many forms of the same god in the galaxy. When a priest encounters a different form of the god they worship this is usually no longer a shock for the priest in question. There is always the core portfolio and personality of the god that remains the same and common ground can often be found amongst priests of different worlds.
However the different portfolio items of the same Deity can be so divided that they can be outright contradictory. In such cases a discord or conflict often occurs. Most religions that worship the same Deity try to actively convert each other their worshippers or try and merge the two gods into one by mutual acts of worship.
While visiting a different world priests sometimes hold on to sending divine charge, only releasing it once they are sure the god that will receive it is comparable enough to, allies with or even merged with the god they actually serve. Holding on to more divine charge than is agreed upon might in some cases be seen as stealing from the gods however, which could lead to terrible conflict.
Most priests have no problem performing ceremonies for worshippers of their gods from a different world. No matter the specific details of their belief.
Same Deity, other religion on the same world
There are many more religions than there are gods, even on one world. The different interpretations of the tenants and wishes of a Deity can be so divided that they are outright contradictory. In such cases a split often occurs and two different churches emerge from the conflict. Most religions that worship the same Deity try to actively convert each other their worshippers.
Most priests have no problem performing ceremonies for worshippers of their gods. No matter the details of their belief.
Other Deity, same face
Most priests would not say the worlds have 15 Deities but that there are 30 Deities. A common myth is that the gods all have two "faces" or "moods" (evil and good). Most priests would simply state that they are two entirely different warring entities that have the same appearance but different motives and needs altogether, some would even go so far as to give them different names.
Depending on the request, most priests would have no problem performing ceremonies of worshippers of the other face of their gods.
Some Deities hate each other and are actively at war. These wars and allegiances shift constantly but some core conflicts are almost never at rest and some core friendships have never wavered. Most experienced priests tend to recognize these conflicts and alliances even if they are officially never taught to them.
Most priests would have no problem with worshippers of a different Deity worshipping their Deity as a form of situational worship, not even when the two Deities in question are in a state of active war.
But most priests would have a problem with performing a ceremony aimed towards a different Deity. It can certainly be done. Although the trappings might be different the basic principle is the same.
If for example a couple would wish to be married in the eyes of Talor but only a priest of Januri is present, the priest of Januri will probably comply in the name of love (the portfolio item of their Deity). They might struggle a bit with the wording but most experienced Januri priests would know the proper holy words to speak at any wedding. The divine charge is gathered as normal and the brunt of it is send to Januri as normal (The priest will never send divine charge to some other Deity!) but the charge that the priest keeps can than be used as the priest wishes including performing the actual ceremony in name of Talor.
If however for example a good Tahordyn (god of protection) priest is asked to initiate a new member into a death cult of a different god there is an almost insurmountable large chance that the priest will outright refuse to perform the ceremony, no matter how much divine charge he is promised for their Tahordyn.
Non Deity religions
Unless explicitly approved, syncretised and integrated into the religion of the priest, a priest will not perform ceremonies not dedicated to one of the 15 (or 30) Deities.
For example: there is to be a "cult of the sand" that worshipped the sand of the whole of as one single entity (not even a spirit, but the actual material sand). A devote priest of the gods would not even know how to perform ceremonies for the worshippers of this cult and would probably refuse even if he was taught this occult knowledge.
Ofcourse many priests in communities that also have religions surrounding animism or ancestral worship are shamans as well and know how to perform certain shamanic ceremonies that they don't think will offend their gods. And many priests of gods with magic in their portfolio might see their study of primordial magic as a sort of second religion.