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Female religious order, one of the last surviving groups to adhere to the Tao Sunni faith, renowned for their good works and their continuous battle for social justice. With convents on almost every world, they are the most widespread religious group in the Imperium. Despite some periods of persecution, they have long been tolerated by various rulers and factions due to their insistence upon political neutrality.
The Zophian Sisterhood traces its roots to the Empress Zophia, wife of the Emperor Kanth Tawmerik. After bearing Kanth four children, she asked the Imperial Congress for a legal separation from the Emperor. This she was given, along with a sizable settlement in money and property. Emperor Kanth reputedly was glad to be rid of her, and is alleged to have stated “Solemn vows I have taken, and yet the young courtesans will bring me greater pleasure than an old sow, no matter how true her blood.”
The Empress had long had an infatuation with the Tao Sunni religion, and particularly with its various orders of female monks. Upon her separation from the Emperor, she declared that she had adopted the faith. With the riches she had taken from her Imperial marriage she founded several convents, writing up a detailed set of rules of conduct, most important being celibacy of the Sisters, and their neutrality in all political affairs.
Growth, Influence and Conflict
From the time of Empress Zophia onwards, the Sisterhood has remained largely unchanged in organization, theology and policy. As the Sisters became more widespread, stories of their good works spread. Many system governments came to rely upon them for social services, and despite political neutrality, Sisters could often be found as advisors. The Imperium, ever uneasy about any power they saw as competing or overshadowing authority, wasn’t always pleased by this, and at times passed measures to limit their influence, or to punish them by various abusive taxes.
The chief opponent of the Sisterhood during the High Imperium were the various offshoots of the Kuberian Movement. For them, the Sisterhood represented a rival group that had won over the hearts and minds of potential converts. While the original, “pure” Kuberianism might have found common cause with the Sisterhood, the sects that blossomed declared war upon it, and for a time succeeded in their campaign of oppression. Under Antius Trevus I, many of the convents were seized under trumped-up charges of disorderly conduct, and most notoriously of “leading young women of virtue into crimes against the natural order.”
The Grand Reforms put an end to this, and the Sisterhood was actually given reference in various legislation of the period. Property was restored and it became fashionable again for the aristocracy to leave endowments. The Sisterhood never regained the influence that it had before its conflicts with the Kuberians, however. In some systems, particularly where the Kuberian Movement was strongest, the taint of the old accusations (no matter how false or even ludicrous) remained.
The Sisterhood’s long standing rule of political neutrality did not mean that it did not stand up against injustices. With the collapse of the Imperium, the Sisterhood found its popularity again championing the downtrodden and oppressed, of which there were an ever-growing number. Worst was the treatment of Anthorphs, and the Sisterhood soon became a singular voice during the latter years of the Imperial Interregnum, when the ruling Premieres no longer had the will or power to defend the genetically altered from the madness of the [Normalized Anthorph](/macropedia/normalized-anthorph)s and their death squads.
The death squads were merciless. Sisters, even Normals, were horribly tortured and mutilated, before being burned alive. Dozens of convents were destroyed, often with most of their residents locked inside. Despite this, the Sisterhood would not bend, and under the stern and brave leadership of the Most Honored Sister Elenarai Fathame, they aided many Anthorphs in escaping the lunacy of the Hundred Bloody Days. Many owe their lives to the Zophian Sisterhood, who cared nothing for their own safety, and stood while so many cowered in the face of evil.
The Sisterhood is a highly hieararchical organization, headed by the Most Honored Sister. There are half a dozen ranks beneath this, and promotion is based solely upon nobility. Women who enter the Sisterhood give up all titles of nobility or social class and release all property to the Sisterhood.
The chief ranks are as follows:
- Most Honored Sister – This is the leader of the Sisterhood. The first was the Empress Zophia, and upon her death, and ever since, a Conclave of the Esteemed is called to choose a new Most Honored Sister.
- Sister Superiors – These are the governoresses of the various Convents. Upon the death of a Most Honored Sister, the Sister Superiors or their representatives will join in a Conclave of the Esteemed to choose one from among their number to replace her.
- Sister Missionaria – These are the travelling Sisters, whose purpose is to go abroad and aid the sick and downtrodden. Often the Missionaria risk their very lives going into war zones and other places of extreme danger.
- Noviciate – This is a women who enters one of the Convents as an initiate for a trial period. She will become a Sister when and if she takes her vows.
- Antius Trevus I
- Elenarai Fathame
- Grand Reforms
- Hundred Bloody Days
- Imperial Congress
- Imperial Interregnum
- Kanth Tawmerik
- Kuberian Movement
- [Normalized Anthorph](/macropedia/normalized-anthorph)s
- Tao Sunni