By Caedmon

Soulwork is essentially a metapsychic power concerned with the control and manipulation of the mental and spiritual states.


The Nicolatians

In the years immediately following the Fall, the isolated Diocese of Upper Thule on Malignatius saw the birth of one of most infamous heresies in the history of the Universal Church. Known as Nicolatians (after Nicholas, the local bishop and primary architect of the heresy) or Skotophagi, these heretics taught an extreme form of anti-materialism. Such beliefs (that the physical is inherently evil) are perhaps the most common heresy in Universalism, but the Nicolatians managed to come up with several new twists on the theme.

Essentially, the Nicolatians taught that the soul because it is created by the Pancreator is inherently perfect and good. The body, on the other hand, is a product of the Qlippoths and is an inherently evil thing in which the pure soul has been trapped. The first implication of this teaching was that the soul, being perfect, cannot sin. The body, on the other hand, cannot help but sin. Accordingly, no individual is responsible for any sin--a position which led almost immediately to anarchy since the soul was not responsible for any action (rape, murder, general mayhem) the body might take. But even beyond that, and the part of the heresy which caught the public imagination so that 1000 years later the Sarcophagi are still well-known, was their teaching on death and the afterlife.

Unlike Orthodoxy, the Skotophagi taught that death did not automatically release the soul from the body. After all, the body was a prison designed by the demons. In order for the soul to be released, the body had to be gotten rid of; and simple physical destruction (e.g., cremation) was not enough, for the material of the body remained, and it was this "evil clay" which would continue to anchor the soul in Hell (their name for the world). Instead, the evil of the body had to be consumed, literally. In other words, to release souls back to the Pancreator, the Nicolatians instituted formal cannibalism. The dead were consumed as part of their liturgy, with the clergy eating the majority because, by virtue of their ordination, they were best able to absorb the darkness of the body. And since the cannibalism was actually a favor to the meal (allowing it to return automatically to heaven), they often did not wait for individuals to die of natural causes.

[Note: Upper Thule is a rather isolated region even today. During the Second Republic, its mines had led to heavy industrialization, but it had almost no agricultural base and little arable land on which to create one. The chaos of the Fall had led to an almost total cut-off of food imports and starvation was rampant. The heresy of Skotophagism is accordingly generally seen as an cold- blooded move on the part of Bishop Nicholas and his clergy to save themselves. At the same time, there is plenty of evidence that many people, including many of the victims, sincerely believed in the spiritual necessity of the cannibilism).]

The reign of the Nicolatians continued for over ten years. Eventually, however, the surrounding regions and planets began to get their own houses in order and began to pay attention to the rumors filtering out of the region. A massive army, led by the Archbishop of Malignatius, was assembled and crushed the sect.

While the Nicolatian sect was destroyed and its leaders executed, many of its lower-level adherents managed to scatter and hide in the general Malignatian population. In the years following, they gave rise to a "sanitized" version of Nicolatian practice which has become firmly entrenched in the folk religion of Malignatius: the sin-eaters.

The practice of "sin-eating" is essentially a symbolic transformation of the literal practices of the Nicolatians. When a Malignatian villager dies, his family prepares a meal for the wake. There are two portions to the meal. One, ascetic in character (dried bread and vegetables) and generally composed of light-colored foods, is served to the funeral guests. The other, made up of all the richest and darkest foods the family can put together (dark chocolate cake, cherries soaked in brandy, etc.) is placed on the casket (or directly on the body in some villages). This food is reserved to the sin-eater. This luxury food represents all the sins committed by the individual during life; and when the sin-eater eats it, it is believed that he takes all these sins upon himself, thereby allowing the dead soul to return, unburdened, to the Pancreator. In many cases, the same principle can be used by the living. In this case, the sinner will bake some type of rich food symbolically placing his sin in the food (this may be done by actually sticking a written confession in the dish or by other means--for example, an adulterer might bake strands of his and his lover's hair into the cake, etc.). It is then taken to the sin-eater who takes on the sin that way.

The sin-eater is generally a hereditary office passed down to the firstborn in each village. Because they take other's sins onto themselves, they are generally viewed as unclean and stand outside the general community. This is one reason their existence as an alternative to Church confession is supported by the people. The priest is a member of the community and has to actually hear your sins to forgive them. Whatever the seal of the confessional, many people prefer to avoid that if they have an alternative--particularly since unlike the priest, the sin-eater does not command penances.

Sts. Photini & Gulo

In 4486, the Amalthean priestess and anthropologist Photini Juandaastas came to Malignatius to study the sin-eater phenomenon. There she met Fr. Gulo, who was an illiterate village priest, a sin-eater, and a powerful psychic. She also found that Fr. Gulo had developed a new psychic path uniquely suited to his theological preconceptions.

Fr. Gulo became Mother Photini's primary source of information as well as her friend (and some say lover though that was never confirmed). Then the Inquisition caught Fr. Gulo. Their original intention had merely been to send a general reminder that the Church did not approve of the practice of sin- eaters, and Fr. Gulo had been chosen as a random example. Their investigation, however, uncovered his psychic powers and instead of a slap on the wrist, he was shipped to the monastery of St. Paulus on Luna.

The Penitents

During the Second Republic, the Church was wary of psychic powers but not so automatically suspicious as they have become since the Fall. In fact, there was a minor clerical order (the Order of Sts. Paulus and Horace) composed of psychic clergy. The symbol of the OSPH was an open eye within a jumpgate and at least some rumors connect the terraformer Doramus with it..

During the Fall, the reputation of psychic powers declined even more quickly than that of science. Then, in 4047, the Inquisition uncovered evidence that one Fr. Nicholai Maccavel, the second-ranked member of the OSPH, was attempting to mentally dominate the Patriarch and thereby take control of the Church. The Church reacted swiftly. All property of the OSPH was confiscated, all its records destroyed, and all its members arrested. The order's chapterhouse, the monastery of St. Paulus built on Luna, was converted into a concentration camp and to the initial OSPH population were added any psychic uncovered by the Church (unless, of course, the psychic's noble or guild ties could protect him). This situation continued for several centuries and was still in place when Fr. Gulo was interned there.

While there was nothing Mother Photini could do to directly interfere with the Inquisition's arrest of Fr. Gulo, she did have certain contacts in the Patriarchal establishment (specifically, one of her cousins was the Patriarch's lover) which she used to get an interview with the Patriarch and explain to him the implications of Fr. Gulo's new path. Fortunately, the then Patriarch was a pragmatist interested in changing the relationship of the Church to psychics--if for no other reasons that the Guilds and Nobles were benefitting from the use while the Church had a strictly adversarial relationship with this potential tool in the ongoing power struggles of the Know Worlds.

The patriarch removed the Avestite Bishop-Abbot (vide Warden) of St. Paulus, and replaced him with his own brother (or bastard son, records vary). St. Photini was made the new abbot's second-in-command, and he was instructed to watch them carefully but otherwise give her and Fr. Gulo a free hand in rebuilding the psychics: and so the Penitents were born.

The Present

The monastery of St. Paulus remains the center of Penitent activity although the Patriarch has authorized the creation of sketes on some of the more populated planets of the Known Worlds (BII, Criticorum, Leaguheim). These sketes have a small permanent population headed by a Penitent priest who answers directly to the planetary Archbishop. They serve as residences for traveling Penitents and centers for boarding new recruits until they can't be sent back to the Motherhouse for full training. Above the abbots of each skete is the Abbot of St. Paulus who dwells on Luna. He is also a priest who answers directly to the Patriarch although he is also more directly observed by the Bishop of Tranquility (the position of Bishop-Abbot was split in the 48th century). There is also a single Penitent bishop, the titular bishop of Atlantis who serves directly on the staff of the Patriarch.

The psychic path of Soulwork has become the cornerstone of Penitent discipline. Though not all Penitents can learn it, all are encouraged to try, and it practically unheard of for a Penitent who is not well-advanced in the discipline to be ordained a priest. And all Penitents whatever there rank are expected to undergo periodic (minimum of once a year for highly trusted psychics) examination of both their Urge and conscience by a masters of Soulwork and Psyche. In the case of the Bishop of Atlantis and the Abbot of St. Paulus, this examination is performed by a committee of Penitent priests in conjunction with the head of the Inquisitorial Synod and the Kalinthi.

Part of the commitment of the Penitents is that their mind belongs to the Church, not to themselves. Accordingly, a member of the Penitents must accept that a superior may use psyche or soulwork on them at anytime. Such investigations can also be ordered by any Orthodox cleric of the rank priest or above. Capricious use of this authority can be appealed,but authorities generally only act if a clear case of repeated persecution without any cause can be shown them.

It should be noted that one of the greatest fears among many conservative hierarchs (including Patriarch Hezekiah) is an alliance between the Penitents and the Eskatonics. Any contacts between the two are closely watched by the Church during the Penitents periodic examinations, and the Penitents are more rigorously policed for doctrinal conformity than any other group. Penitents who demonstrate any deviation from received Orthodoxy are refused permission to travel and thereby restricted to St. Paulus until they demonstrate a proper appreciation of the Orthodox point-of-view.

The patron saints of the original OSPH were, obviously, Sts. Paulus and Horace but that was long forgotten by the time the Penitents were established. In part to reassure the Patriarch, the new order was committed directly to St. Palamedes the Protopatriarch. In later years, St. Cardanzo (Li Halan) the Penitent also became popular and the skete on BII is dedicated to him. Sts. Photini and Gulo were canonized in the 46th century and though little known outside the Penitents have a very strong cultus within that order.

The Path

Soulwork is essentially a metapsychic power concerned with the control and manipulation of the mental and spiritual states (in game terms, the spirit characteristics) of individuals, particularly those with occult abilities. The specifics of the path are a closely guarded secret, restricted to the Penitents themselves and to the top hierarchy of the Church. The Orthodox leadership believes that Soulwork (and the extensive use of Psyche) makes it possible for them to weild the Penitents as a useful tool, and, to date, history seems to agree with them. However, the implications of certain Soulwork powers (e.g., suppression) are such that if they were to become commonly known, it is unlikely that the Church could resist pressure (much of it from their own theurges) to cease cultivating the power--and so the Church would lose the use of the Penitents.

Level 1: Article of Faith (Faith+Focus, temporary, 1W)
This simple power allows a Penitent to use Blessed Vestments and Relics to augment his Psi in the same way that a Theurge uses them for his rites.

Level 2: Shadowsight (Faith+Observe, sight, temporary, 1W)
This power allows the Penitent to discern occult darkness (Urge, Hubris, Fealty, and demonic activity) in those around him. The amount of information available is dependent on the number of Victory Points gained in the roll. Note that this power discerns only occult darkness, it reveals nothing either mundane evil or occult abilities which are not themselves "dark"--a mundane serial killer, a psychic without urge and a living saint all appear the same to this power.
1Perceives presence of occult darkness
2Perceives general strength of the darkness (weak, moderate, strong, overwhelming)
3Distinguish between Urge, Hubris, Fealty, and Possession
4Perceive specific strength of the darkness; can distinguish between forms of Hubris (i.e., Universalist Hubris, Gjarti Antipathy, Manja Haunted) and forms of Fealty (Demonic, Necromantic, Horispictatory)
5Can perceive "trail" of darkness--i.e., that a character was once possessed, that a demon was in the room within the last hour. GM may allow the character to pick up certain details about the target's bad side or the demonic personality beyond simply strength and type.

Level 3: Adjustment (Introvert+Stoic Mind, prolonged, 1W)
With this power, a Penitent can alter her own spiritual make-up. In practical terms, this means that the psychic can "switch" the scores for one pair of spirit traits for the duration of the power (e.g., a psychic with Passion 5 and Calm 2 could exchange them giving her a Passion 2, Calm 5 for a span). Urge can also be used as "wild card" exchanging with any one score. Attempting to use one's Urge in this way, however, always wakes it for the rest of the span, even if the roll fails. This power requires a full 5 minutes of silent meditation to effect; furthermore, whenever it ends the character finds herself somewhat disoriented for the next span (-2 penalty to all rolls involving Psi or the adjusted Spirit traits).

Level 4: Shadowtalk (Human+Empathy, touch, temporary, 1W)
This power allows the Penitent to open a direct telepathic communication with the darker recesses of a fellow occultist's mind. For psychics, this is the actual Urge, for theurges it is the equivalent (id perhaps?) although Hubris is not normally personified. In the case of Antinomists, it opens a direct conduit for conversation with one of the demons exercising Fealty--*not* recommended. This power is of no use for those without Urge, Hubris, or Fealty.

The number of vps on the roll will determine the general attitude of the Urge or Hubris to the Penitent (demons are always simply demons). With 1 vp the darkness is surly and uncommunicative, with 5 vp it is eager to please. In any case, the darkness remains what it is, a distillation of all the worst traits of the target individual, and it will seek to use the conversation for its own selfish ends. On the other hand, the shadow knows everything the conscious mind knows and may be willing to share it if given proper motivation. Note that the "touch" requirement is only necessary to establish the link; after that the telepathic communication can continue as long as the target remains in sight range. Also note that use of this power automatically wakes the contacted darkness with effects as detailed under "Making a Deal with the Devil" in FS 139. Use of this power is generally not encouraged among the Penitents.

Level 5: Suppression (Human+Stoic Mind, touch, prolonged, 1W)
This level is almost a perequisite for the priesthood among Penitents for it is at this level that the Church truly begins to consider Soulwork useful. Suppression allows the Penitent to temporarily lower a single spirit trait of the target (including himself). The only Church-sanctioned use of this power is againt Urge or Hubris, but any Spirit trait can be affected. The specified trait is lowered by a number of points equal to the VPs scored on the roll. Urge has the added benefit of being put "back to sleep" on a successful roll. The GM must adjudicate any score which is actually lowered to 0, but in general such a score manifests as some temporary insanity (e.g., Human 0 would make the target a psychopath, Passion 0 would destroy all active volition, Extrovert 0 hysterical shyness, etc). This roll is always opposed.

Level 5: Snip (Human+Focus, touch, instant, 1W)
This power allows to Penitent to destroy an external tie or influence on an individual's mind/spirit. This includes psychic and theurgic powers (bonding, psyche powers, Inquisitory Commandment), possession, and even addiction. This power cannot effect Urge or Hubris since they are internal not external. The lower levels of Fealty can be affected temporarily but the Fealty score itself is unaffected and the effects will return.

To use Snip, the Penitent must have a vague idea that a connection exists to be broken though he does not need to know specifics (e.g., he would have to know the character was bonded or that someone was using psyche but does not have to know the source). The penitent can effect only one tie with each use of the power (e.g., an individual bonded by two psychics and addicted to selchakah would have to have the power used on him 3 times to have all the ties removed).

The actual roll to use snip is a contested roll against the score achieved by the originator of the tie. (For this reason, while Snip can be used as a form of exorcism, it is very rare). If the connection is active (e.g., a telepath is using mindshackle as opposed to Bonding which is passive) then the originator will know the Penitent is trying to interfere. If the rolls tie, then the Penitent can maintain the power and attempt to Snip again the next turn without expending more Wyrd. For addictions, the GM should give the drug a roll based on its strength (e.g., tobacco might have a target number of 8 while selchakah might have one of 16). The target of Snip may add his faith as a bonus to the Penitent's roll or his ego as a bonus to the opponent's roll depending on whether he wants the tie broken or not.

Level 6: Sin-Eating (Faith+Vigor, touch, instant, 1W)
The original focus of St. Gulo's work, sin-eating allows the Penitent to consume the darkness (Urge, Hubris, Fealty) of a willing target. For every VP scored on the roll, the target loses one level of darkness. The penitent gains a level of either vitality or wyrd which lasts until expended (any damage or expenditure comes from these virtual levels). The Penitent's own Urge also increases by one and remains so until the energy gained from the target has been expended. While Sin-Eating weakens another's darkness, it does not destroy it completely. The beneficiary has a penalty of 3 on all rolls to gain Urge (or Hubris or Fealty) until the score possessed prior to the sin-eating is regained.

Note: For both this power and the next (Catharsis), it has been theorized that there are variants that would allow them to function on other Spirit Traits (much as Suppression does). However, no confirmation of this theory has ever appeared (or if it has, it has been kept very quite). In any case, the Church has pre-emptively condemned such practice as "blackest Antinomy" and it carries an automatic death penalty. If such powers exist they would be seperate 6th and 7th level powers respectively, rather than different uses of the same power as with Suppression.

Level 7: Catharsis (Faith+Torture, touch, temporary, varies)
Catharsis gives Penitents the power to actually destroy occult darkness rather than simply shifting or weakening it. It is not however an easy process and unlike most psychic powers it requires a physical component as well. Catharsis first establishes a connection to the darkness (similar to Shadowtalk). The Penitent then begins to torture his target (barbed whips, brands, and razorblades are the most common). The psychic power focuses this pain to disrupt the occult darkness, but it does nothing to buffer the physical body or the normal conscience. In fact, the target cannot receive any sort of palliative to the pain or the power will fail. The torture must be severe enough to actually cause damage--and for every one level of vitality done, one level of Urge, Hubris, or Fealty is permanently destroyed up to twice the number of VPs on the initial roll (e.g., A penitent gets 3 VPs; by inflicting 6 levels of vitality damage, she may destroy 6 levels of Urge, etc). Furthermore, this power takes time, only one level of vitality/darkness may destroyed each round.

The cost of the power is 1 point of Wyrd for every point of shadow destroyed. This power may only be used on a willing subject. The target's assent can be gained by trickery or threats but it must be gained without occult influence. The GM must be careful that this power is not abused. Its effect is very desirable for most occultists, but remember that actual torture is required for the effect. Repeated use, even in a good cause, can have bad effects on a Penitent's own Urge, and repeated treatment of the same subject can create all kinds of non-occult but equally debilitating psychological problems.

Level 8: Harness (Ego+Stoic Mind, temporary, 1W)
This power allows a Penitent to totally rearrange his spiritual landscape or even to "cannibalize" it to affect his physical and mental traits as well. For every Victory Point scored, the Penitent may take two points from any Spirit trait (including Psi and Urge) OR from his personal Wyrd and add them to any other characteristic (Physical, Mental or Spiritual and Wyrd and Vitality as well).

A corollary of this power is that while it is in effect the Penitent's Mental state is in complete flux making him totally immune to Psyche powers and preventing any reading of his aura with powers like Second Sense, Wyrd Sense, or Shadowsight.

When the power's duration expires all "added" points disappear. However, they do not return to their original place until after the Penitent has had a full night's rest. (e.g. A Penitent with Passion 5, Strength 5 uses Harness to transfer 4 points from Passion to Strength giving her Passion 1, Strength 9 for 10 turns. After 10 turns, her Strength will return to 5, but her Passion remains 1 until she gets some rest). Additionally, a Penitent cannot lower any trait below 1 using Harness.

Level 9: Interdiction (Faith+Impress, temporary, 1W)
Invocation of this power allows the psychic to surround himself with a field suppressing all dark occult activity. The range is 5 feet from the psychic for every VP scored on the roll. Within the field of intediction, all Urge, Hubris and Fealty scores are treated as 0. An Antinomist who wishes to use his power must spend his wyrd point and succeed on a contested roll of Antinomy+Impress vs. the Penitent's Psi+Impress. Demons caught within the field must win a similar contest using Ego+Impress or be dispelled; they must do the same if they are outside the field and wish to enter or affect anything within it. Note that if the demon has possessed an individual, Interdiction does not act as a permanent Exorcism. The demon's power over the individual and the powers he gives the individual disappear while in the Interdiction, but the connection between possessed and possessor still exists and the demon can move back in as soon as the Interdiction ceases unless other steps are taken.