This is from a supplement officially known as Americana: Being the North American Continent in the Gas-Lamp Fantasy World, and Adventures to be found therein. But that is a bit of a mouthful.
This is a supplement for the Gas-Lamp Fantasy World, based on my Briggs and Prenderghast stories. This is a counter-factual world, and history has taken a different course in my world: Alaska is still owned by Russia; and what would otherwise be the USA is split up into the United States, Confederate States, Republic of Texas and Utah (which has not yet joined the USA).
The supplement covers each state, of Canada, Mexico and elsewhere, with around a page on each; mystic items and legends; some of the important characters; and other background – such as religion, detailed below.
Many different Christian sects have come to America to avoid persecution (or, in some cases, to build their own societies because the Christians at home were not extreme enough). Some of them are listed below.
Amish: Also known as Amish Mennonite.
The group originated in Europe in the 17th century. They were the followers of Jakob Ammann, a Mennonite elder who was strict even by Mennonite standards. He preached that those who lied should be excommunicated; that people should was their feet when they prayed; that the people should dress alike; that the men should not trim their beards; and that it was wrong to worship in a normal state church. They reject a lot of other elements of modern life, such as the newly invented zipper; and automobiles; and other such devices.
Because of disagreements with other Mennonites the Amish emigrated to North America in the 18th century. A lot initially settled in eastern Pennsylvania.
The Amish reject Magick in the same way that they reject modernity. No Amish is allowed to train as a wizard; and wizards are never allowed to join their community.
There are Amish settlements to be found in a lot of places in America, including Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA; Nappanee, Goshen and Middlebury, Indiana, USA; Holmes County in Ohio, USA; Dover, Delaware, USA; and in parts of Kansas, in the CSA.
Christian Scientists: This sect was established in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy. She made it into an international religion in 1892.
Many of the teachings are based on the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. This was written in 1875. Mary Baker Eddy espouses such things as homeopathy. She also makes claims for spiritual healing.
While there are very rare individuals who are able to heal by taking on wounds onto their own body, the sort of spiritual healing as espoused by Mary Baker Eddy has been criticised by some wizards as not being possible. This, however, has not deterred her. If anything, it has only entrenched the views of Mary Baker eddy and her followers.
There are communities of Christian Scientists in Lynn, Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts, and elsewhere. There are now over two hundred congregations in North America, and it is a movement which is still growing in size..
Church of Steam: This was set up in around 1880 by a former Protestant priest, who had a vision that all technology is divine, and a gift from God to raise Mankind above the animals. The priest, Reverend Malton, now calls himself Father Malton. He already has several thousand followers, but only in New York State, where he is based. Father Malton continues to preach that technology – and those aspects of Magick which aid and abet technology, such as Steam Magick – is the saviours of Mankind.
Father Malton claims that his church is Christian, but other Christian denominations have, so far, refused to have any dealings with him. Several wizards, and a few inventors, though, have joined up with his church, and it is likely that it will soon spread much wider than only New York State.
Church of the Southern Cross: This was set up in the Confederacy during the last few years of the American Civil War. It claims to have been founded in 1877 by a preacher called Eli Stane, who was an extreme racist and supporter of the Confederacy.
This sect claims that black people are in fact a different species to white people, and that, therefore, it is God’s will that black people should have no rights, but be treated like animals. The Bible has been rewritten to make this explicit.
There are unproven rumours that this sect is heavily connected with the Ku Klux Klan; and that a member of this group might be responsible for the Klan’s formation. This religion is unlikely to extend out of the Confederacy.
Disciples of Christ: This group developed from various Christian groups earlier in the century. Important people in its formative years were Barton Stone, and Thomas and Alexander Campbell. They had all been Presbyterian, and they said that the only article of faith for Christians should be the Bible.
They refuse to associate with any other sect. the religion has spread out across a lot of the Union. The faith, though, has not been without internal arguments in the past couple of decades, and there is a real danger of schism.
Hutterite: This is more accurately known as the Hutterian Brethren. They are an Anabaptist sect. They can be found in South Dakota, in the United States. A few can be found elsewhere.
They are named after Jakob Hutter, who was burned at the stake in 1536 on charges of heresy.
Jehovah’s Witnesses: The Jehovah’s Witnesses were established in 1872. The group was established by Charles Taze Russell who, after studying the Bible, began to dispute many of the accepted tenets of Christianity.
In 1876 Russell and Nelson H Barbour wrote the book Three Worlds, which set out their new religion, and the idea that Christ had returned as an invisible spirit in 1874.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that it is they who are the true Christians. They have not yet adopted the name ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’. A lot call themselves Christians, simply; or members of the International Bible Students Association.
The group now has several dozen congregations in the USA.
Longhouse Religion: This faith was founded by a Seneca Chieftain whose name (in English) was Handsome Lake. He created the religion after going into a trance, in 1799. He had revelations, a lot of which incorporated Christian beliefs, such as the idea of a creator deity; a devil; heaven, hell, and that people would be judged after their death. Jesus was identified with a figure out of the previous Seneca religion, the one which the Longhouse religion replaced.
The religion rejects alcohol, and Magick. It is, in some respects, puritanical in its beliefs.
The religion quickly spread among the Iroquois tribes of the east. There are now many Indians who follow this faith, in Ontario, Quebec, and New York State.
It is called the Longhouse religion because the religious ceremonies and preaching takes place in wooden longhouses.
Mormons: This is also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This religion was founded in about 1830 by Joseph Smith. He claimed that he was visited by an angel called Moroni, who led him to some golden plates on which there was mystical writing, which the angel helped him translate as the Book of Mormon. The book recounted the story of some of the Lost Tribes of Israel, who came to America before the birth of Christ.
Mormons believe that other Christians have strayed from the one true path. They believe that perfection of the soul is possible through spiritual evolution. They believe in the Second Coming of Christ; and that when he returns there will be a thousand years of paradise under his rule.
The majority of Mormons are to be found in the territory of Utah.
Native American Church: This religion came together as a distinct faith only in around 1885. It spread quickly among the Comanche and the Apache. In the past couple of years it has spread as far as Canada.
The religion involves the use of peyote, and adapts some Christian style beliefs, while not forgetting the previous, American Indian beliefs. the followers believe in a single Great Spirit, who they can commune with through the use of peyote.
Seventh Day Adventists: The Seventh Day Adventists became separated from other Adventists in 1863. They were initially led by Ellen Harmon White, who claimed that she had the power of a seer.
Seventh Day Adventists observe the seventh day of the week as the sabbath, rather than the first day – thus they will not work on Saturdays. They do not meat. They do not take narcotics or stimulants, or anything which might alter their perceptions.
They disapprove of Magick in all its forms, and any wizards wishing to join them must take a vow to give up Magick for the rest of their life.
Shakers: This is more accurately known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. They came to North America in the 18th century, having been founded earlier in the century. The first arrived in New York in 1774.
The Shakers live in groups or families in villages. The Shakers are celibate, and they add new members by adopting children or by conversion of people.
Voodoo: Voodoo is a mystical religion (with Magickal aspects) which has got a foothold in the Confederate city of New Orleans.
Voodoo originally came from Dahomey, in Africa, and came to New Orleans via Haiti. The followers of voodoo believe in the loa, a great number of spirits, who can be considered to be gods, although several of these loa can be considered to be analogous to Christian saints.
Male voodoo priests are called houngans; females are called mambos. Many of these houngans are capable of Magick. Some houngans claim to be able to turn people into living zombies.
In voodoo rituals the loa allegedly possesses the houngan while he is in a trance state.
Note: For more on voodoo see The Book of Magick: Voodoo and Hoodoo supplement.