Ristarianism is a monotheistic belief system based on the teachings of Ristara, a prophetess from the village of Brughar on the northern coast of Veşti. It was founded in -543 Reformed (12 Ristarian), but her writings and verbal teachings were not compiled and formalized into an organized religion until -515 Reformed (44 Ristarian), seven years after the martyrdom of Ristara. Ristarians worship the dualistic god Krandahl to the exclusion of all others, though they recognize other lesser spiritual beings of note.
While Ristara herself is described as the Prophetess of the Two-Headed God, there are differing views within Ristarianism about whether Krandahl actually has two heads, or two faces on one head, or simply two competing natures that are described as 'heads' metaphorically. Part of this debate arises from the fact that the religion is largely taught through oral tradition and there is no universally accepted canon of scripture for the entire religion. Ristara herself wrote very little, mostly as short letters sent to inquiring people from other parts of Veşti, as she was notoriously disinterested in travel - and these are themselves few, as she (like most of her village) was illiterate most of her life. These are, therefore, rarely seen as inerrant writings, as it isn't always clear what questions she was trying to answer or whether she had a sufficient grasp of writing to say what she fully intended to say. Most Ristarian religious writings that are given any holy consideration are written by people who listened to Ristara and attempted to copy down what they heard, and these are held in lower esteem even than Ristara's own writings. As such, various bodies within the religion will use differing texts as guiding works to help understand the oral tradition, but only one group uses writings as foundational to their understanding of Krandahl.
Krandahl is a being of balance, seeking to maintain both order and chaos in their proper degrees and places. Ristarians believe that the universe was created as an outlet for this balance, in which his dualistic nature could be displayed to beings capable of appreciating it and giving him proper worship. It is believed that living things are meant to contribute to this balance, increasing order or chaos as their natures dictate. Justicars are the most powerful form of created being, but humans are believed to be the highest form of created being, as they alone are capable of both bringing order to chaos and bringing chaos to order, sometimes in a single act, like Krandahl himself. However, due to the machinations of corrupted justicars, most notably the Nameless One, as well as mankind's lack of understanding about Krandahl and his will, humans have become misled and fail to maintain the balance unless they are guided by Ristara and her teachings.
Ristarians believe that the most important thing for humans to do is learn to understand the proper balance of chaos and order, in order to learn how to identify and address deviations within themselves and their environment. As such, most of their teachings and beliefs focus far more on conceptual understanding of creation than on practical application. Entire letters of Ristara are written as parables or a series of questions with no explanation or interpretation, which are sometimes used as tools for meditation and contemplation in the hopes of learning what Ristara meant by them.
While Ristarians hold a negative view of magic overall, believing that Krophin and Agnar magic are both corruptions of the balance woven into human practices by corrupted justicars, they seek an understanding similar to Fatebinding. Unlike other religions of Veşti and Prindern that teach that Fatebinding is a specialized talent that very few are born capable of performing, Ristarians believe that all humans have the capacity to see and influence the balance underlying reality with sufficient study and understanding, and have a responsibility to use this gift to increase balance in themselves and their surroundings. Those called 'Fatebinders' in other religions are simply humans born with a more sensitive attunement to this universal gift. Because of this, researchers from other religions commonly believe that Ristara was herself a very powerful, and possibly mad, Fatebinder who spent too much time staring at the threads of fate.
Because Ristarianism relies so heavily on personal interpretation of the teachings of Ristara, many of which are cryptic, there are few real formal divisions within the religion. The only large-scale organization is a group of dedicated monks who ensure that the oral traditions are being passed along correctly. Many of these monks will, upon completing their training, travel the world reciting their litany to any who will listen. All monks train at a single monastery outside of Brughar, where a small band of teachers live and study to equip the traveling monks. Groups who use the same texts to aid in their study tend to band together and identify with each other, but because none of the texts are commonly taken as inerrant or foundational, these differences do not spark much dispute among differing groups. The exceptions are the Order of the Empty Throne and Selvaan Ristarianism. Selvaan Ristarianism holds four texts (two letters of Ristara that are abnormally direct, one biography of Ristara written in the light of her martyrdom, and a commentary on Ristara's letters written by her son, Selva) as sacred and inerrant and judges all other groups as unnecessarily mystic. The Order of the Empty Throne uses nearly every text accepted by other groups, but holds that Krandahl is an impersonal force and that all references to him and other spiritual beings are metaphors for the internal struggle within each human being. These two groups are often at odds with each other, and will occasionally raise disputes with other groups. Selvaan Ristarians argue against the Monastery and its monks regularly.
Ristarians use their own calendar, developed in 54 Ristarian by a team from the Monastery. Unlike other calendars, it is purely Krophin, counting one rotation of Krophis as a month and 14 months as a year. Due to this arrangement, the Ristarian calendar counts 7 years for every 6 years in calendars which are at least partly based on Sholis. The first day of year 0 is the day Ristara was born.
This has created confusion in attempts to properly document the life of Ristara herself, because it's unclear exactly what sort of calendar was being used at the time, and therefore whether or not her age at various points needs to be adjusted. The Order of Branu, the only body to ever directly interact with her and keep careful records of it, never seemed to be particularly concerned with this detail. As such, while their account of the martyrdom of Ristara is useful for placing her into history, it does little to answer these concerns.
At the age of 12, shortly after entering an arranged marriage, Ristara began telling her friends and family about visions she was having about a two-headed god named Krandahl. As she got older, the visions became more intense, and she took to speaking in public in the streets of Brughar. When the village elders became concerned and started questioning her authority to challenge the old faith of the region, which centered around a handful of nature spirits and ancestor worship, she began to perform signs that she claimed were from Krandahl. At the age of 18, the priests of the old faith challenged her to a series of trials in which she would pit her Krandahl-based power against the magics of the nature spirits and guidance of the ancestors. Over the course of a grueling eight-week trial, which is recorded in carvings lining the halls of the Monastery, Ristara overcame the priests and they announced to the village that her god was above their spirits, and began to study under her and teach the way of Krandahl. The rest of the village quickly followed suit, and Ristarianism began to spread along the edges of the Black Forest.
While Ristara was willing to meet challenges from other local nature and ancestor cults, in order to show that the spirits were under the control of Krandahl and not worthy of independent worship, she and her followers did not attempt to overthrow any opposing religions during her lifetime. However, when she was 31, and a leader from the Order of Branu heard of her teachings and sent her a letter explaining their beliefs concerning Branu and his call to war and asking how he fit into her faith, she sent back a message that simply read, "Branu is a lie. War is inbalance." At this, the Order declared war on her and began to invade the districts where Ristarianism had spread. She sent out the priests to tell her followers not to fight the Order, but to use the gifts Krandahl had given them to redirect the soldiers away from major population areas. The Order was plagued by setbacks, poor directions, and inclement weather that eventually had them lost in the Black Forest. By the time they emerged outside of Brughar a year later, two-thirds of their initial force had been lost. They stormed into the village, found Ristara, and publicly executed her. Feeling justified for her insult to them, and tired of dealing with a people who would not fight and having no desire to enter the forest again, they confiscated boats and left Brughar by sea, sparing the rest of the village.