Rao is the patron of peace, reason, serenity, truth and harmony. Although he never intervenes directly, he is the creator of several artifacts of Good. At a glance, he is able to inspire the greatest calm in the most belligerent of creatures, even the belligerent god Nerull.
Rulers, diplomats, sages, scholars, and philosophers make up the bulk of his faithful, and Rao has never appealed greatly to commonfolk. Rao's powerful worshipers have made their deity's teachings far more influential than mere numbers would suggest. Monks and spellcasters who seek uninterrupted meditation also revere Rao. Many gurus urge their flagging pupils to be as Rao is.
Rao is most popular in Veluna, where Raoism is the official state religion. Worship of Rao is also heavily concentrated in Furyondy and Bissel. The church of Rao is a significant force in Greyhawk City, though far from the most popular faith. Temples of Rao also exist in Keoland, Gran March, and on the Wild Coast.
The order of Rao is divided into three parts: the masses, the priesthood, and the Temple Militant - Holy Knights of Rao (see Orders below).
ClergyRao's priesthood seeks knowledge, and prefers peaceful solutions, though they are not above using violence when the situation calls for it. They are mediators and negotiators.
Priests spend most of their time in meditation and learning. They are looking for new schools of thought and mythical places devoted to peace and tranquility, without forgetting any form of magic capable of serving the cause of Good and the Law.
Some dispense justice, who could just as easily be judges or lawyers. Others are employed as advisers or negotiators, and when noble houses are in conflict, they often call upon them to mediate and put everyone around a table so that they can discuss in peace.
The Raoan clergy is predominantly male. They are quiet, studious people. Their motto is "There is a time to think, and more rarely to act; but in that time, action is wisdom."
VestmentsMediators are simply dressed in a white robe.
HierarchyVeluna is a theocracy led by the head priest of Rao, the Canon of Veluna, Pastor of the Faithful. The Archdiocese is divided into seven dioceses, each jointly headed by a bishop of Rao and a member of one of the seven noble secular families.
The Archdiocese is under the control of the Canon of Veluna, who appoints an archbishop to administer it. This position is very coveted by the bishops because it is often the footstep to succeed the current canon. The archdiocese is divided into seven dioceses, each headed by a bishop of Rao and a member of one of the seven noble secular families. The influence of the Church of Rao is felt everywhere in Veluna, gently imposing its doctrine through the administration of just and firm laws (without being too severe).
Canon of Veluna: The title given to the Archbishop of Rao who heads the country and who is also the head of the College of Bishops. Appointed by the College of Bishops, he is elected for life after ratification of this choice by the Celestial Order of the Moons. He then has full powers, although he is advised by the College of Bishops and the Celestial Order of the Moons, and these two organizations have the power to dismiss him (which has never happened since the creation of the archbishopric 600 years ago).
College of Bishops: The ecclesiastical arm of power made up of 21 people who advise the Canon and hold various religious positions in Veluna. The College is made up of each bishop of Rao at the head of one of the seven dioceses, the archbishop of Rao, the governing council of the Velun Church of Saint-Cuthbert (5 members), of the Triad of Heironeous, of the High Priest of the Order of the Knights of the Deer, of a representative of the elf contingent, and of three members designated directly by the Canon.
Celestial Order of Moons: This is the secular arm of power made up of two representatives from each of the seven secular noble families of Veluna, and a representative of the Viscounty of Verbobonc. The latter has no voting rights, his opinion counting only in an advisory capacity. The Celestial Order is chaired by the Archbishop of Veluna, although he has no right of "official" interference in the debates and decisions of the order. The real head of secular power is the Plar, title given to the most powerful of the lords among the seven great noble houses of Veluna. This title is not hereditary even if it is commonly transmitted from father to son as long as their house maintains its predominance. In the event of a conflict between the ecclesiastical arm and the secular arm of power, it is always the College of Bishops who has the last word. However, the heavenly Order of the Moons has the power to dismiss the canon, which allows the nobility to exercise its influence and maintain its prerogatives in the face of possible religious excesses.
TemplesMost temples of Rao are majestic structures, typically with five 120 foot tall towers, one at each corner and one in the center, connected by walls supported by flying buttresses and other adornments. Around it and in its courtyards are open gardens of flowers. Stained glass windows provide plentiful interior light during the day. Open to all, these temples are filled with the sound of sweet religious songs and philosophical discussions, as well as the smell of incense. They often house large libraries and knowledgeable sages are always available to try to answer even the most esoteric questions.
RitualsRaoan services are long sermons, prayers meditation, theological discussions and group meditations. They often include periods of quiet prayer and lamentation over the many evils of the world.
Holy DaysRaoan holidays are on nights of astrological importance, such as times of eclipse and comet sightings.
Breadgiving Day: On this day, taking place on the 4th of Needfest (the Winter Solstice), Greyhawk's clerics of Pelor, Rao, and Saint Cuthbert distribute food to the poor.
The Feast of Edoira: Celebrated on the fourth of Growfest to commemorate the work of Edoira, a priest of Rao and a great religious unifier who instituted the pact of Edoira: a set of rules by which good-aligned faiths can exist in harmony (although not all churches have joined this pact, notably Pholtus and Trithereon). This celebration has lost its importance over the years and, with the exception of the priests of Pelor, the priests of Rao are finding it increasingly difficult to convince priests of other religions to join this celebration.
The Holy Day of Serenity: On Reaping 10, is celebrated in Veluna as a holy day of Rao, though it's actually the anniversary of Veluna's secession from Furyondy in 476 CY. It is celebrated with religious singing and worship.
The Night of Hopeful Judgement: Called the Dark Night by most people, and the Night of Hopeful Dawn by those without faith in Rao. This night, occurring on Goodmonth 11, is a particularly holy time for the faith of Rao, as the Book of Incarum states that Rao will cleanse the world of evil on a night when neither moon shines in the sky. Raoans believe that it is during this night that Rao leads the souls of the righteous to salvation or damns the unrighteous to their eternal punishment.
Midsummer's Night: In the lunar calendar, this is the opposite of Dark Night, for it is on this night that both moons shine full in the sky. As such, this is another important time for the faith of Rao.
The Days of Thought: These days are devoted to introspection and study. They take on a sacred character in the eyes of the followers of Rao, as well as Delleb, Boccob and some sages of other religions.
ScripturesThe Word of Incarum, said to be written by Incarum, a deva servitor of Rao's, is regarded as the primary religious text of the faith.
OrdersThere are numerous clerical, monastic, beggar, esoteric and combatant orders dedicated to Rao. The most notable clerical orders are the Order of the Balance (of the Law), the Order of Soothing Virtue, The Order of Charity of the Brotherhood of Saint Simon, The Order of Saint Oven and the Sisters of the Just Serenity. The most remarkable monastic orders are the Shroud Community which runs a leper colony in the Forest of Vesve, the Brotherhood of Saint Stepphan and the Brotherhood of Saint Harold. Notable begging orders are the Order of the Imploring Voice, the Order of Saint Tristan, the Assembly of Truth, and the White Shadow Walkers. We know of three esoteric orders which bring together pious mages and other spellcasters entirely devoted to Rao: the Brotherhood of the Inner Eye, the Order of Harmonic Dissonance and the Order of Saint Sylvester. The fighting orders include the order of chivalry of the Temple Paladins, the Knights of Saint Justine, the Order of Peacekeepers, the Order of the Sword of Truth "Kar Am Fav" and the Vigilant Guardian Knights of Saint Michael.
The Temple Militant (Holy Knights of Rao): The Holy Knights of Rao include the paladins, who are supported by hundreds of fighters and retainers.
Paladins of Rao are called Envoys or Heralds. Their motto is Peace through Strength of Words and Weight of Reason, but they know that peace must often be won by strength of arms, and do not fear to use their martial as well as their intellectual abilities to bring about the ends they seek.
Rao's paladins generally go lightly armed and armored, unless expecting the worst. They are serene, patrician figures with spotless manners and erudition. They typically wear gray or blue-gray tunics trimmed in white and gold, and sometimes wear cowls. Rao's symbol is emblazoned on their chests.
Rao's Soft Hands Order: Established in the kingdom of Furyondie, the Order of Rao's Soft Hands is an unstructured organization of Raoist monks who practice a form of martial arts highlighting non-lethal techniques. Its members seek to resolve violent conflicts as peacefully as possible. They prefer to knock out or disarm fighters rather than kill them, however they are not stupid idealists and they are more than willing to use more lethal techniques against dangerous monsters and beasts (as well as against those who have sold themselves completely to the forces of Evil).
The Order of Rao's Soft Hands was founded by Tara Risalle, a Raoist monk from the Pantarn monastery, following his attempts to reconcile the peaceful aspect of his deity with the martial arts in which he had been trained. Tara Risalle eventually developed a style of martial art that became very popular among the Raoist monks in the region, because it neutralized most opponents by inflicting less harm on them. Although its founder had long since fallen on the battlefield, the order developed throughout Furyondia and became one of its most important protectors outside the orders of chivalry.
Order of the Cross of Truth: This order was founded in 587 CC by Ormus, a former cleric of St. Cuthbert, who had converted to a priest of Rao. When Ormus discovered that an evil warlord had been corrupted by a disguised devil, he founded the new order with the aim of chasing down the other living fiends hidden among the mortals. The members of this order are exclusively priests and paladins of Saint-Cuthbert or Rao. To be accepted in order, it is necessary to show a flawless will to fight the fiends and other evil external creatures, while showing an exemplary faith and devotion.
Reason is the greatest of virtues. It leads to dialogue, which leads to peace, which itself leads to serenity. If everyone reasoned with their neighbor, the world would benefit from the harmony of order. Some refuse to hear the way of reason and prefer to rely on violence. It is then that we must act - with reason and wisdom - to thwart their actions and restore peace.
Rao is often depicted as an old man with bushy white hair, dark skin, slender hands, and a peaceful smile. Any time an offering of peace is made, Rao grows a day younger. With a mere glance, he can cause any being to fall into agreeable calmness; even Nerull is not immune to this. Rao is rarely seen without his Serene Staff, an undersized shepherd's crook that he wields as a light mace.
Rao is an ally of Heironeous, Pelor, Zilchus (due to his peaceful nature), and Saint Cuthbert, and an enemy of Incabulos and Iuz (who is the cause of many wars in Oerth). Rao is served by Zodal, lesser god of Mercy, Hope, and Benevolence. Allitur is said to be his younger brother. Rao treats Saint Cuthbert as a younger brother as well, and he may have originally brought the saint to Oerth from another world. Raoan priests gently chide priests of Zilchus for their worldliness, while clerics of Zilchus claim that Raoans are too idealistic, but there is genuine affection between the two groups.
He is disliked by the tempestuous Joramy.
HistoryRao is an old god whose great wisdom was long respected by the Flan peoples. He was historically worshiped by the Flan of the Vale of Luna, most sacred of the lands protected by Rao, as a god of the moons, and his worshipers welcomed the lost and wandering Vollar tribe of Oeridians who came to settle there. The Vollar interpreted this primitive god as a deity of reason and serenity, and by 9 CY, when the Crook of Rao was first located, their cultures had become as one. The location of the Crook's discovery was called Mitrik, which means "salvation" in the Velondi tongue.
Edoira is an ancient priest of Rao who united several argumentative sects of his faith within the Domain of Greyhawk, establishing the Edoiran Compact. The Edoiran Compact is a set of rules by which good-aligned faiths can exist in harmony. Edoira never became a deity, but his memory is still honored by many.
MythologyThe Gift of the Moons
The Book of Incarum states that in the beginning, all humans respected the wisdom and reason of Rao. Then Tharizdun came and tempted them with false promises, and they turned away from reason and embraced evil. Rao took the light of his soul away from them, and the world was plunged into endless night. However, a few repented, and Rao gifted the moons Celene and Luna to the people in order to light and guide the way from the darkness and tyranny. Then Rao sent the deva Incarum with the Crook of Rao to drive away the fiends of Tharizdun. Rao returned his light to the day, but true peace will not come until a night when neither moon shines in the sky.
The Swordless Scabbard
One pervasive legend among the paladins of Rao is that of a "man with a swordless scabbard," who defeats his opponents without the need for a weapon.