Wednesday, 21 September 2016


Poul Anderson imagined many genuinely alien extraterrestrials, even some composed of quantum states and others inhabiting a pulsar. However, even when describing oxygen-breathing, beer-drinking, semi-reptilian, militaristic humanoids, the Merseians, he invited us to think outside the box.

The Merseians of the Roidhunate:

are primarily loyal to the Race, not to any current political regime;
separate "civilian" and "military" differently and less clearly than Terrans;
have less hierarchical military ranks;
expand the Race's frontiers, whether physical or intellectual, by means of enterprises led by aristocrats called datholchs;
clearly have no church-state separation.

The Roidhum stands for the God, Who:

favors the Race, not all life!;
is utterly transcendent - there is no mention of temples, priests, scriptures, revelation or incarnation.

Djana visualizes a militaristic Merseian Christ but that is her Christianity speaking. A Dennitzan Merseian placates hostile personified elemental forces. Thus, we infer that Merseian religion started in the same place as the earliest Terrestrial paganism but, like the Ythrian New Faith, developed in a different direction which, although monotheist, can never be ecumenical.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And, of course, the Merseian stress on the "Race," led to Merseia being dominated by an ideology of racial supremacy, based on the belief that Merseians were somehow superior to all other races. The Demonists we see in "Day of Burning" may have had ideas leading to this ideology.

It's necessary to also remind readers that racism/racialism was not something all Merseians INEVITABLY believed in. See, again, how "Day of Burning" had Star Believers who wanted to be friendly with non Merseians (admittedly, in a rather confused and over idealized way). And, there were beings of Merseian race in the Empire who were not racist and were loyal to the Emperor, not the Roidhun (e.g, the planet Dennitza).


ndrosen said...

Kaor, Paul!

"No mention of temples, priests" -- not quite. There's a scene in Ensign Flandry where Flandry and a Merseian go to a restaurant which is also the temple of an ancient faith (I don't have the book at my elbow). Is this a minority faith, which seemed to be implied, or a temple of the standard Merseian God? Are there Merseian pagans not on Dennitza? Are there minority religions which are more or less tolerated?

There may not be a sacerdotal priesthood ( although we aren't told explicitly), but the religion of the God, like Islam, to which it has been compared on this blog, would presumably have religious scholars, teachers, and preachers of some sort. Given what we see in "Day of Burning," Merseians are capable of believing in different cults, and of having religious leaders, not genetically programmed to be orthodox devotees of the God, so there would presumably be some kind of religious specialists with the functions of knowing more about religion than ordinary people, or learned specialists in something else, and teaching the people just what they should believe, or what the permissible range of beliefs is.

So would they also have scripture? Revelation to prophets who claimed to have special word from the God? It seems at least possible.

Best Regards,
Nicholas D. Rosen

Paul Shackley said...

Thank you. The ancient faith in ENSIGN FLANDRY is deffo a minority one but there are indeed other unanswered questions.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Nicholas and Paul!

Nicholas. Drat! My focusing on "Day of Burning" helped to make me completely forget about that brief mention of an ancient religion not that of the lands around the Wilwidh Ocean on Merseia. That hint, plus what we see in "Day" and beings of Merseian race on Dennitza who were pagans, gives us evidence of a wide variety of beliefs among Merseians.

Paul: you wrote that the dominant Merseian religion originating in the lands around the Wilwidh Ocean made "no mention of temples, priests, scriptures, revelation or incarnation." But, Chapter XVII of A CIRCUS OF HELLS tells us a bit more when Ydwyr the Seeker said to Djana, as he convinced her it would not be wrong for her to spy for Merseia against the Empire: "The real reward for you, my almost-daughter, will be the service itself. And knowing that your name will be in the Secret Prayers while the Vach Urdiolch endures."

Hmmm, this gives us a hint about the kind of "liturgy" the dominant Merseian religion used. Were there "Secret Prayer" used by all fully initiated devotees of the God? Or did each Vach have its own, somewhat different, "Secret Prayers"? Or both?

This too is another example of the diversity of ideas to be found among Merseians if we look carefully thru the texts!