A Loosely Organized List of Parallels between the Chantry and the Xtian Church

...which will Surely Coalesce into Something More Coherent when I have time to put all this together.

"Did you know Varric is Andrastian? He's the last person who would ever set foot inside a chantry. I aim to change that." - Cassandra Pentaghast

The structure of the Chantry in DA mimics pretty much exactly the setup of the Catholic church: You've got a big unseen Maker, a Jesus figure who sacrifices herself for the good of mankind (Andraste), a pantheon of old Pagan gods thrust aside for the new shit (the Old Gods and the Elven Gods), and people constantly arguing about whether "the less the Maker does, the more He proves his existence" is complete bullshit. I FUCKIN' LOVE IT.

Full disclosure: I'm a Pagan and an occultist who was raised Catholic, so a lot of this is like, theological deep dives about the early days of xtianity in pre-jesus Rome and shit. So, uh, sorry in advance.

  • Humans, Matriarchy, and the Chantry
  • Because Andraste ID'd as female, the Andrastian Chantry has a matriarchal structure: Female priests, female sisters, and the only role male religious folk play in the Andrastian chantry is as templars. This is a pretty cool reversal and I see why the matriarchal structure stuck when their Jesus is, y'know, a lady. In Inquisition, Mother Gisele states that this was added after Andraste's death, implying it was a tradition borne of people fortifying Andraste as a figurehead rather than being implicit in the tradition. She ALSO states, rather distrubingly, that only human women can be priestesses of Andraste - the Chantry religion has a deeply fucked up belief that dwarves and elves have "turned farther from the Maker" and cannot be ordained. If we're being generous, this is a mention to how both dwarves and elves have their own indigenous religions, but if we're being shitty, the Chantry is a racist piece of shit and Leliana is right to Murderpope her way into equality. I mean, if that's the ending you chose.

    This belief, of course, entirely stems from Andraste being a human woman, and is rather interestingly mirrored in Inquisition if you play as literally any other combination of races and purport yourself to be Andraste's Chosen One. People get to really question their beliefs and tend to use you as a sort of measuring pole about "the Maker's will" - whether he "really exists" (see: bottom of this page, 'What Even Is A God?') or not.

  • The Black Divine
  • With organized religion comes organized response. The primary arm of Maker-based religions in Thedas is the Chantry: Practiced by most of the Dragon Age Chantry-followers. The other arm is the version of Andrastianism practiced in Tevinter: Where they fundamentally disagree about Andraste's part in the religion.

    In Tevinter, they have a different version of the Maker myth: The central conceit of the religion, both Chantry-based and Tevinter, is that Andraste died for your sins, and that Magic is Meant to Serve Man, Not Rule Over Him. (We'll get to the occultist bit about this later). Tevinter and the rest of Thedas disagree on what this means. Chantry Andrastians believe that magic and mages should be shackled - "serve" - and Tevinter believes mages should be elevated and rule (a handy dandy misreading of "serve"). Dorian talks about this in Inquisition if you press him, he's actually got a lot of interesting worldbuilding stuff about the Tevinter Chantry that's super fucking valuable.

    The "Pope" in Andrastianism is a lady, of course; and in Tevinter he's a man ("just the way Tevinter likes to do things - YOUR Divine is a woman and sits on a golden throne, WE just have to the opposite." -Dorian). Dorian says outside of Tevinter, people call him "The Black Divine", although "back home he's just 'The Divine'". This is an obvious reference to A) The Antipope - look it up! History is fascinating! and B) one of the central splits of Abrahamic religions: the fundamental disagreement over whether Andraste - er, Jesus - is a part of the Holy Trinity or not. In the Elder Scrolls games, Talos worship is seen as controversial because Talos was a mortal before ascending to "godhood". Obviously one camp believes this is legit, another doesn't, eventually Talos worship is outlawed and Skyrim happens, etc etc. The humanity/divine dichotomy reminds me a bit of that, although, obviously, Andraste's more of a one-to-one Jesus figure.

  • Magic Is Meant to Serve Man
  • During the post-Jesus ascent of the xtian church (let's take an adventure all the way back to the Holy Roman Empire! Yay! I mean, nooo!), the study and practice of magic and the occult were disallowed from the populace. The bible obv makes all the "hey don't do a witchcraft" arguments, but the central conceit was that the only people who could authoritatively perform magic and miracles were the ones ordaiend by god - aka the priests and clergy. This was part of a controlled effort to declaw the people, ensuring they wouldn't be able to have the same agency (whether you think magic is functionally "real" or not, the level of independence and agency that the people FELT when they could take matters into their own hands is another thing). Many grimoire traditions all the way up to the Elizabethan days in Europe have whole sections where you may summon entities (and demons - thanks, Catholic church) to learn things such as knowledge of minerals, animals, sciences, and letters. It's hard not to see the desparation and paralells between wanting to learn more, or improve your lot, versus the gatekeeping of magic as being something only the Religiously Ordained may do.

    Funny thing, my gf grew up Quaker and she says a main tenet of that is the "direct line to god" thing - it seems like the vast majority of xtianity seeks to sever that line and cut in a middleman, and the Chantry in DA is no different.

    When Leliana says she saw a vision of the Maker, telling her to help with the Blight, she's chastized and basically ran out of the Chantry. Even (notable piece of shit) Wynne gives her crap over it. Leli's crazy! She's just seeing things! The Maker would NEVER be shown like that! She's not even a full sister! Why, seeing the Maker?! That's what ANDRASTE saw! Are you saying you're JUST AS GOOD AS ANDRASTE?! It's like growth is officially encouraged to be stunted.

  • The Less the Maker Does...
  • Here's the BIG one.

    A central theme of the religious storyline in Inquisition is this whole idea of "what even IS a God, and how do we define one?" During your time at Haven and/or Skyhold, the sisters of the Chantry have all kinds of ambient dialogue regarding this. Corypheus, the Big Bad of Inqusition, seeks to become a god by literally entering the throne of the Maker, which he believes to be empty. One of my favorite exchanges goes something along the lines of:

    Sister A: So... the less the Maker does, the more he proves he exists.
    Sister B: Right.
    Sister A: ...But... the more Corypheus does, the less he proves he's really a God.
    Sister B: That's correct.
    Sister A: But... that doesn't make any sense!
    Sister B: I must not be explaining it right. Go ask Mother Gisele.

    Which brings us to the big question: What even IS a God? In the context of DA, and, you know, in real life, too? Obviously there's a line between a human ascending to "godhood", or in this case, divinity (Jesus/Andraste), but is the line crossed when you get someone like Corypheus? What about the ancient Elven pantheon? [END OF INQUSITION/TRESPASSER SPOILERS]: if the old pantheon, including Fen'harel, started off as ancient elves - I'd use the word "mortal" here but, y'know, ancient Elvhen were immortal - and ASCENDED into godhood through powerful magic and taking advantage of their people, does that make them "less legit" than the Maker because they're "Real"?

    After the Temple of Mythal, Sera says that finding out the truth about the old Elven gods made her realize they were all fake - but it made my Inquisitor feel like it was all real. IRL, I probably wouldn't abide by any human being claiming godhood (what's up, Paganism, etc), but in the context of Dragon Age?! Maybe we should be questioning this whole Godhood thing after all! What qualifies as a "god"?

  • X
  • X