Why there is evil in the world really isn't a question on Innistrad. There always has been, and no one expects it to change. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, spirits, devils: these are part of the natural order of the world. Humans have always battled the forces of darkness and had their back to the wall in the fight of good versus evil. At times the prospects for the continued existence of the human race have seemed grim indeed.
The Blessed Sleep Edit
For the humans of Innistrad, the purpose of life is not to live forever, but to have a restful "sleep" after death—tranquil oblivion, or perhaps oneness with everything, rather than becoming a tormented spirit, mutilated corpse, or undead abomination, as so often happens on Innistrad. The Sleep is considered a reward for a virtuous and vigilant life. "May you spend an eternity in the ground" is a common blessing among the people of this plane.
Theological Underpinnings Edit
Faith in the church of Avacyn actually works, but there are no formulas that are consistently successful. Saying the mystical words in the right combination will result in protective magic, but some days it works better than others. And sometimes the evil it's warding against is more powerful than other times. The unreliability of the wards and blessings has led to disagreements over dogma. Although there is still only one church, sects have emerged over disagreements about the right way to do things. The goal of the church is safety, not perfection. Humans want to live in reasonable safety until they die, and then they want to remain peacefully in their graves. Cremation is forbidden because it is believed to result in a restless, angry spirit.
In the Church of Avacyn, there is no conception of heaven and hell. The humans of Innistrad do not believe in a heavenly afterlife to reward their past deeds. And their equivalent of hell is a very literal thing: there are actual cracks in the ground where demons dwell. Avacyn is not expected to eliminate evil in the world or to create a perfect life for everyone. Instead, she is the font of safety and protection. She is the authority to whom the faithful must go before something bad happens, to help ward off those evils that have always been a part of the world.
Church and State Edit
In Innistrad, church and state are deeply interdependent; there is virtually no separation of the two. Local governments rely on the power of the Church to keep order and maintain public safety. Often the rule of law is adjudicated by the prelature, lawyers and judges ordained by the Church. All education is handled by the Church, although different sects sometimes establish their own schools and training grounds. Except for merchants and artisans, all professions are part of the Church. Even merchants and artisans are governed by fellowships, which must be sanctioned by the Church.
Church Hierarchy Edit
The archangel Avacyn is the focal point of the human's worship. She is believed to be the source of all protective magic. It is thought that she controls the seasons and is the force that brings an end to the long and bleak Hunter's Moon. Adherents to Avacyn are called Avacynians, and their church is the Church of Avacyn, or the Avacynian Church.
Avacyn's Host Edit
The archangel Avacyn has a host of angels who serve her.
The Flight of Goldnight Edit
These angels are associated with the sun, in contrast with Avacyn herself. Once a year during the Harvest Moon season, the sun will not dip below the horizon for two full days, and during this time the moon isn't visible. Known as the Feast of Goldnight, this is the holiest day for the humans. It is the time when the Avacynian enchantments are strongest throughout Innistrad. Edit
The Flight of Alabaster Edit
These angels personify the Blessed Sleep and are associated with the Hunter's Moon season. They provide magic that wards against the desecration of dead humans.
The Flight of Herons Edit
These are the angels of birth and purity and are associated with the New Moon season. Their magic is said to ward humans against harm in life (as opposed to the Alabaster host, which wards against harm in death).
Clerical Ranks Edit
The head of the church. This is a position elected by the council of bishops. Currently, it is held by a man named Mikaeus, who is searching desperately for the reason behind the decline of the church's power. Edit
The highest order of clergy. They reside in the cathedral at Thraben as members of the Thraben Council, the governing body of the church.
Sometimes called the elder, this is the political leader of a parish. He or she has a mix of administrative and religious duties, but the day-to-day administration is left to the priests.
Priests oversee the church and attend to parishioners' needs. They all use mana to weave spells, but with varying degrees of skill.
These wandering priests are the lowest order of clergy. Some have been sanctioned by the church to seek out people living alone in the wilderness. But many are fanatics who are no longer formally part of the hierarchy,
having said the wrong thing or enforced the wrong dogma and been cast out.
Blessed weapons are an important part of Avacynian magic, and these clergy are trained in the art of weapon-making. Certain blessings must be said at certain times during the forging process to make a weapon magically effective against a particular foe. Silversmiths are particularly revered because of the difficulty in imbuing the silver with strong magic, especially anti-lycanthropic magic. Edit
Inquisitors are cathars who can be hired out to come help a parish if they have a particular problem with vampires or devils. Edit
Cathars stationed in parishes serve as escorts along roads or protect the cathedral in Thraben. This is an ordained military force that assembles whenever the clergy demands.
Runechanters are a specialized branch of the clergy that specializes in engraving blessings on material objects, including weapons. Everything from swords to axes to children's toys has words written on it in an effort to protect its owner. The best runechanters can write so small that hundreds of these blessings can be squeezed into a small space.