Couldn’t think of anything to write about, but I got this backlog of stuff to convert over…
Infernal Marian Cults
The presence of Marian cults in Hell is due to a clever idea that did not quite unfold properly, at least from the point of views of its creators; while arguably a success, it has not been entirely an unmitigated success. There have been worrisome developments and vague danger signs from the very beginning, and some Infernal researchers contend that the rate of both is currently increasing. The debate continues.
Origins of the Marian Cult in Hell
Hell has always had to deal with a central problem; put quite simply, they are outnumbered by their slaves and prey by at least ten thousand to one. Individually, one demon can easily destroy one human. A hundred humans — all of whom were sufficiently evil to deserve damnation — is a different issue. Granted, if the Princes worked in unison they could probably depopulate Hell of damned souls, but that would be a last-ditch effort, and mere slave revolts are beneath their dignity.
Unfortunately for non-Princes, it is not beneath a Demon Prince’s dignity to punish those who allow slave revolts to occur. It then follows that the medium-to-upper ranks of Hell’s organization have a vested interest in maintaining at least rudimentary social control over the mass of damned souls who are their responsibilities. Traditionally, this has been done via collective punishment, Quislings, unfortunate examples, and the channeling of rebellious energies into controllable outlets.
That last bit explains the Marian Cult. Once the corporeal version grew popular among medieval Christians, some nameless Servitor of the Game was quick to see the possible advantages; it would have the ring of familiarity to it for a good proportion of Hell’s population, and could be plugged into an existing framework of belief. Also, allowing it to exist without utter annihilation might also have a cowing effect on those damned souls who were not members of Abrahamic religions; after all, if the Christian Mary was strong enough to spread her message in the face of Hell’s displeasure and, say, Krishna was not, what does that say about Krishna, or his worshippers?
The Cult was created along straightforward lines, and its message is fairly brutal. You deserved this; shut up and pray to the Virgin Mary, and maybe she’ll pull your soul out of Hell. Maybe. She’s already spending a lot of effort protecting her cult’s holy places, just because she loves everybody, even evil little monsters like you who don’t even deserve it.
If you want to show that you’re less undeserving than your fellow damned souls, kick in some Essence every so often to your priest — that’ll show you’re on the right path. So will doing everything the priests say, because they’re much more likely to know what Mary wants you to do. Just remember that you’re damned, and that you don’t deserve the mercy you’re begging for.
The above was and is never explicitly spelled out, obviously, but the ethos permeates the entire ‘theology’ of the Infernal Marian Cult. It’s explicitly designed to be useless in making its adherents better people, reinforces the message that they are absolutely helpless, and gives ambitious souls a place where they can manage to get a scrap or two of power over those even less unfortunate than them. Naturally, the Essence gathered by the Cults mostly goes to those demons fortunate enough to have oversight over individual sects; for that matter, putting all the potential troublemakers in place has numerous applications, especially in the field of applied faction politics. Generally speaking, the Cult has worked out quite well; but there have been some complications.
The Infernal Marian Cult has one characteristic about it that causes headaches: it’s not centralized. Princes who liked the idea set up their own versions, pointedly ignoring any ‘suggestion’ that the Game be allowed to do it for them, and they actively discourage cross-connections. This makes it difficult for the Game to determine if a particular sect is developing abnormally, as there is no standard for normalcy to act as a baseline. This further means that if a third group is influencing Cultists, it’s often not discovered until after the explosions start.
There is also the problem of the damned souls themselves. Generally speaking, those who see through the false front of the cult are cunning enough to recognize that playing along will pay off, however marginally. But there’s always somebody who’ll want more, and nine times out of ten their clever plan involved creating ‘secret’ Cult sects. Not all of them get ferreted out afterwards; if Hell had the resources to police every block and slave pen, they wouldn’t need things like an Infernal Marian Cult. Some of those groups have been around for a while: their motivations, beliefs and plans are unknown, but unlikely to be palatable. Or even vaguely sane.
And then there’s the Host — particularly the very devout, very Christian Archangel of the Sword. Laurence may not be especially solicitous of what happens to those who damned themselves to Hell, but he tends to take insults to the Mother of God extremely personally. This means that angels who are especially solicitous of the Damned usually can count on the Commander’s assistance if their plans happen to incorporate the humiliation or outright destruction of those who oversee the Marian Cult.
At least, that’s the current Infernal theory to explain away the annoying recurrence of certain incidents in Hell; every so often a particular cult shifts focus to something more clearly Divine, slips its leash to the numberless warrens of Hell and fights a brief, yet violent guerrilla war until its members vanish, supposedly to Heaven. Obviously, this is a ploy by the Host to embarrass a particular demon (or faction), and raise unreasoning hope in the Damned. All reports and testimony must be seen in that light, particularly the ones that claim that these mini-revolts are generally ‘led’ by a middle-aged human woman with a blue cloak, and an incredibly annoyed look on her face. It’s clearly just a ploy of the Host.
The possibility that the Virgin Mary might simply exist, and might even dare to have an opinion about all of this is, of course, inconceivable.
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