Ezra is one of the deities of Ravenloft. Her symbol is a silver longsword superimposed on an alabaster kite shield and adorned with a sprig of belladonna. She is usually depicted as a lovely, dark-haired woman bearing these accoutrement. She is often referred to as “our Lady in the Mists” or “our Guardian in the Mists”.
The Church of Ezra was born almost ninety years ago by Yakov Dilisnya who claimed that a divine entity, Ezra, Our Guardian in the Mists, had given him a message to spread to all the world. According to most traditions in the church, Ezra was a virtuous mortal woman who, despairing of the evils of the world, forever surrendered her mortality to the Mists to become an eternal guardian of mankind. However, the sects of the Church of Ezra have been debating the true nature and teachings of Ezra for decades.
Priests of Ezra are called anchorites and like their Lady, they are protectors, healers, and upholders of the law. They are seen as personal emissaries of Ezra, and she gives them power over the Mists, as well as power to heal and protect her followers, and to combat the Legions of the Night. There are many paths available to anchorites; some choose to wander the world and spread her word, while others lead congregations of lay people in her worship, and others yet devote their lives to the study of religious writs in an attempt to divine the Grand Scheme.
As She who is one with the Mists, Ezra grants her most devoted anchorites a degree of her own abilities. Once trained, all anchorites can display a Shield of Ezra unique to their sect. Powerful anchorites are known to be able summon, or even dissolve into, mist. Some of the greatest anchorites have been said to be able to use the Mists to move objects, or to be able to step into the very Mists themselves and emerge anywhere they desire, unscathed. Legend has it that the greatest anchorites may imprison their enemies in the Mists forever.
Warden: An anchorite who does not lead a (5 person) congregation. They may be lesser priests serving in a temple, or they may be wandering anchorites working to spread the word of Ezra to new lands.
Toret: An anchorite qualifies for the title of Toret simply by establishing a temple that boasts a congregation of at least five followers. A Toret serves as the guardian of his congregation. They may request financial assistance from their founding sect, and the Toret may occasionally be called upon to act as council for their local Sentire. A Toret might lead a temple in a small village.
Bailey: Though not technically an ecclesiastical title, Bailey a title of respect given to the eldest anchorite in a temple. They are usually given higher accord and generally considered to be the wisest of the anchorites in the temple. A Bailey might be the head of church in a modest town.
Sentire: Sentires are the leaders of significant temples. Often the head anchorite in their city, they are in charge of a particularly large congregation, or have power over a number of smaller temples. Sentires often act as the advisors of their respective Bastions. To qualify for the title, Sentires must have at least five anchorites serving under them, and their temples must have a “healthy” congregation, capable of supporting the temple financially without assistance from higher in the Church. A Sentire might be the head of church in a large city.
Bastion: The leader of a sect, they have authority over other Sentires in their sect. The title is granted to the founder of a new official sect, who then hands the title to their chosen successor. Bastions hold considerable influence in their roles, and are occasionally called upon to speak at Bastions’ Councils in Levkarest, to determine vital issues affecting the Church. A Bastion would be the leader of the church in their country.
Praesidius (or Praesidia): Leader of the entire Ezran religion, the Praesidius has authority over all the faithful, including the other Bastions. The leader of the Church of Ezra as a whole; the Praesidius is often referred to as Ezra’s Champion. There can only be one Praesidius at a time, and the title has been handed down from the Church’s founder, Yakov Dilisnya. Although the ruling has ruffled feathers among the other sects, a new Praesidius must always be drawn from the ranks of the Home Faith.
Note that higher titles are inclusive of lesser ones. The Praesidius is Bastion of the Borcan sect, the Sentire of Levkarest, and a Toret.
Rite of Revelation
There are four sects in the church of Ezra: The Home Faith is in Borca, and the other three sects are based in Mordent, Dementlieu, and Nevuchar Springs. The original sect, also called the Home Faith, is centered in Borca. It appoints Ezra’s faithful clerics, called anchorites, to the task of protecting and healing her faithful, keeping them safe from the forces of evil. The sect in Mordent also teaches that anchorites must convert as many souls to Ezra’s flock as possible for their own good. The Dementlieuese sect claims that Ezra was a goddess who abandoned her callous fellow gods to offer mortals succor, and spends its time studying the true nature of their goddess. Lastly, the sect centered in Nevuchar Springs prophesies an imminent The Time of Unparalleled Darkness, when the unfaithful will be consumed by darkness. All anchorites agree that Ezra cannot protect those who do not accept her into their hearts. The Rite of Revelation was created after the First Schism in 698 BC, and is used to weed out madmen and subversives from those who have truly been shown a new aspect of Ezra.
To be recognized as a new Bastion, a petitioner must complete several tasks. First, and most simply, the supplicant must personally pen her new Book of Ezra and deliver a copy to the Great Cathedral for review. The Great Cathedral has a full library of these texts, the majority extremely heretical. Second, the petitioner must manifest a new variety of the shield of Ezra, demonstrating that the goddess has revealed a new aspect of her protection. Lastly, the petitioner must present five anchorites, usually her followers, who manifest the same, new variety of the shield of Ezra, demonstrating that the goddess wishes this new chapter of her teachings to spread. Should the supplicant pass all three tests, she is recognized as the leader of a new sect. All but three such petitions have been discounted in the past, sometimes revealed as purposeful attempts to subvert the faith. Many anchorites, however, believe that a fifth sect will someday appear. This, the Final Sect, will at last reveal the final aspects of Ezra’s Grand Scheme and will herald that it is at last coming to its ultimate fruition.
Anchorites pray daily at sunrise. Worship services consisting of hymns and sermons are held once every fifth day at noon, to renew Ezra’s vows of protection over her congregation. Lay folk who do not attend services for longer than five days risk stepping beyond Ezra’s spiritual reach until they return. When attending services, lay worshipers are expected to dress entirely in white, while clergy don ceremonial robes of green with white trim; the wider the visible trim, the higher the anchorite’s position within the church. Anchorites are not required to don priestly vestments unless performing ceremonies, though many often do.
Individual temples adopt the holy days of their local congregations. Thus, while the Mordentish sect shows their respect to Nocturne in October, the Darkonese sect would ignore that holiday while holding Darkest Night in deepest reverence. In fact, all temples hold only one holiday in common: The Feast of the First Epiphany, held on the first day of worship in May (and thus the Feast is held on different dates from year to year and from village to village). The Feast is a joyous remembrance of Ezra’s first appearance to Yakov Dilisnya. Celebrations are marked by a feasts, dances, and the reciting of blessings received in the past year. In fact, the Feast of the First Epiphany is often folded into the traditions of local spring festivals.
The Supplication: A Prayer
Blessed Ezra, Our Guardian in the Mists, She who sacrificed Herself to fill the Hollow,
Healer of the sick, protector of the weak, guide to the lost,
To You we pray. Watch over us, Your people. Take us under Your protection,
Show us the light when we are lost in darkness, defend us when the Legions of the Night draw close,
Lead us to our place in the Grand Scheme, and bring us through the night to the shelter of peace.
An Excerpt from the Book1. In the time before, in a land cloaked in Mists, there was a woman, and She was Ezra. 2. Ezra was a healer of the sick and protector of the weak. Such was Her lot in life. Such was Her role in the grand scheme. Ezra took pride in the role Fate had given Her. Her duty was Her joy. 3. For many years, Ezra healed the lame and watched over Her people. Yet as time went on, Ezra began to see the Hollow. From the Mists of Death came horrors of the night. They were the drinker of blood and the stealer of breath and the beast that rends. Many were their legions. Many were the roles played by darkness in the Grand Scheme. 4. Ezra knew that Death would come for Her, as it comes to all in time. When Ezra entered the Gray Land, there would be no guardian to fill Her role. There would be no one to stand between Her people and the Legions of the Night. 5. Ezra set forth on a quest to find a guardian for Her people. She sought the One Pure Heart who would assume Her role. Ezra sought for the One Pure Heart in many lands, but ever did She seek in vain. 6. In time, Her quest brought Ezra to the end of all things. Behind Ezra stretched all the lands of the world. Before Ezra rose only the Mists of Death. 7. Ezra spoke to the Mists. Asked She, “The world is yours. You set its shape. Why do you allow its people to wander, lost and afraid?” But the Mists did not answer. 8. Again Ezra spoke. “Why have you filled your world with the Legions of the Night?” Yet the Mists would not answer. 9. A third time did Ezra speak. “All things have their role in the Grand Scheme. The Legions of the Night have their place, but Guardians and Guides have their roles in turn.” Still the Mists offered no reply. 10. Ezra spoke once more. “I have searched all the vastness of your lands, but I have found no Guardians for My people. I have found no Guides for the lost.” Again the Mists were silent. 11. For the last time did Ezra speak. “You have failed the Grand Scheme. You have created a Hollow that must be filled. If you will not watch over your people, then that task falls to me.” Upon the fifth entreaty did the Mists of Death reply. 12. From the Mists came a Voice, and the Voice spoke, saying, “Turn back, Mortal. You know nothing of the Grand Scheme. You know nothing of the Mists. You have reached the end of Your world. Continue and You shall find only Your destruction, nothing more.” 13. Yet Ezra held fast against the Mists, saying, “You cannot bid Me enter, yet I cannot turn away. I offer Myself to you so that you may know the suffering of My People. If I must be destroyed for them, then that is what must be.” The Mists of Death fell silent. 14. Then the Voice spoke once more. “Enter the Mists if You must, Mortal, but not as You are. Your kind has no place here. To enter the Mists, You must become as one with the Mists. Never again shall You leave them. Will You forever sacrifice Yourself to watch over these few mortals?” 15. Spoke Ezra, “Such is My role in the Grand Scheme. So must it be.” And with these words did Ezra become Our Guardian in the Mists.
-The Book of Ezra, I:i-xv