~Since the time of Sigmar Himself, we have been no more than a flickering beacon of hope amidst a sea of despair and corruption, but never before have we faced so many dangers. We must suffer the simple-minded liberalism of our burgomeisters, the sanctioning of magic use, the heresy of false prophets and religions, the arrogance of the Arch-lectors, and the convoluted plots of the Dark Gods - the rot has sunk deep into the flesh of the Empire, where even now it festers and grows. The time has come to acts and only within this proud and ancient order lies the strength of will, the zeal, and the righteous fury required to save us. The call us Witch Hunters, in their fear and ignorance, without even the slightest idea of the monstrous deeds we must commit on their behalf.~
+++ Any person who speaks ill of the Emperor, the Imperium, cites his loyalty to any entity besides the Emperor, defaces holy artifacts or buildings, incites heretical thoughts or actions, talks openly about forbidden subjects and generally behaves in a manner disrespectful to all that is holy and good will have his extremities removed and left to bleed to death, for the Emperor's pleasure. The body will then be burned to ensure no taint remains. +++ The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer, Art 6741/09a +++
In the most basic WH40K sense, heresy (or HERESY!) is the most severe accusation the Imperium could accuse you of which is mostly punishable by death. Heresy is mostly willingly consorting with Chaos, which the Imperium gravely forbids and anyone guilty of merely saying anything good about Chaos or American pop music will merit a fist-fuck of Inquisitorial proportions when they least expect it. The other popular form of heresy is the blasphemy and defamation of the Emperor and the Imperium, which is basically saying anything remotely bad about the Emperor or the Imperium. The others are basically anything against the Imperial Creed which is pretty much everything not related to the veneration of the Empra.
In Warhammer Fantasy, the Empire of Sigmar is FAR more benevolent than it's science fiction counterpart. Religions of any (non-Chaos) form are allowed despite the state religion being the worship of Sigmar Heldenhammer, magical (psyker) aptitude is met with apprehension but is encouraged within the halls of the Colleges of Magic (established by a xeno ally of mankind), and humanity seeks alliances with other races and actively recruits them as soldiers, or enters into trade and treaties with them (Halflings are all citizens of the Empire as a matter of fact despite having the personalities of Tyranid Kender). Scientific innovation is greatly encouraged, and as a result the Empire is the most scientifically advanced race in the setting. There is less freedom in other ways however; as humanity within cities is VERY prone to rioting, behaviors seen as likely to lead to a riot (including spreading factual news about the current state of the realm and of impending invasion) are suppressed. Undeath in all forms (including concepts accepted in 40k such as the state of the God Emperor and use of Dreadnoughts) is a worse form of heresy than consorting with the Ruinous Powers, and any magical act not taught and officiated to you from a College of Magic is considered at best malicious mischief. While it's commonly known that Chaos Mutations occur with regularity and are normally just unpleasant afflictions, mutants are not officially second-class citizens as long as they are loyal. Unofficially however they are prone to mistreatment and are the general victim of any riot (well, them and teenage girls) and in areas commonly attacked by the servants of Chaos are killed at birth. Chaos Mutants called Beastmen dedicated to the Ruinous Powers are one of the biggest threats to the Empire, but despite the fact that most learned men are fully aware of the existence of the most powerful of these groups (Skaven, who possess technology on par with real world World War 1 weapons) they are considered to be fictitious by the general population. Generally, while considered heretical, speaking of Skaven is more likely to be met with public mockery rather than BLAMing. Those who have actually encountered them laugh nervously, those living in ignorance guffaw with the crowd, and those in positions of authority who fear a sudden riot just as capable of destroying the city as an attack by the mutants scowl and throw accusations of madness. The Witch Hunters of Warhammer Fantasy, despite being far more effective than their "'Kill Everything' Button"-happy counterparts are also entirely more insane than the Inquisition of Warhammer 40k and consist of personalities akin to Chaos Cultists. They themselves are secretly dedicated to a Chaos God of Order (what, you expected logical rules from Chaos?) who empowers them against the servants of the Big Four and Undivided. Most Witch Hunters are severely traumatized individuals taught that their word is higher than that of the Church (they are known to burn Sisters of Sigmar at the stake due to receiving visions from Sigmar and occasionally), who see heresy in all actions, and their past is full of self-purges and mass murders as the head of their order inevitably falls into paranoia and senility each generation. Those in the Warhammer equivalent to Russia, Kislev, are a much more suffering lot than the Empire. Sitting right at the invasion route from Warriors of Chaos, greenskins, and dwelling in a land where portals to the Warp constantly open and close letting in entire Daemon armies but themselves being a poor and uneducated people, they lack any Inquisitorial group. Each position of authority from local Sheriff straight to Tzarina Katarina herself take it upon themselves to personally purge the population. Any sign of Chaos mutation marks the afflicted for immediate execution, any strange behavior or sign of madness is an indication of an incoming assault. The people of Kislev themselves have become a hardened race, who will face an army of Bloodletters outnumbered armed only with rocks while standing shirtless and in bare feet in the middle of a blizzard and come out triumphant with minimal casualties (in other words, Imperial Guardsmen who can out-NONEPURER Gray Knights). In addition, the High Elves of Ulthuan (like Eldar, but are badasses who solve the worlds problems instead of fuckups TRYING to solve their own) have their own internal Inquisition. The order of the Swordmasters of Hoeth is older than mankind's first civilization, and were founded by one of the early Phoenix Kings as a way of purging Elves who joined the Cult of Pleasure. While officially they are Sapherian bodyguards, messengers, and general police force of the High Elves and more specifically the spellcasters of the race, the Swordmasters were also master informants who collect information in a complex spy network and send it all to Hoeth, the center of learning in the Warhammer World (also the location of the magic internet). There, the High Loremaster (who is blessed by Lileath, a Lawful Good loli Tzeentch) filters it and signs the death certificates of those Elves so strap-on on head insane they'd fucking worship a god who just wants to eat their souls. The Swordmasters themselves are actually more like the super calm variety of jedi knights, spending most of their time training with animu greatswords bigger than their own bodies which are continually smithed and re-forged using magical liquid metal cores and Ithilmar (hard as steel, lighter than sheet tin) to the point that the lengths of their fingers and the weight of their eyelashes are accounted for in their balance and technique. The result is lightly-armored Elves who fight like Zorro on the Speedforce in groups of one hundred at a time.
What IS heresy?
The Imperium realizes that Heresy is a serious matter that must be explained with great detail from the lowliest servant to the highest Commander. And so with the aid of the most wise Inquisition and holy Ecclasiarchy, they have defined what is heresy in the eyes of our immortal God-Emperor:
- EVERYTHING IS HERESY
If you are not sure if something is heresy, it probably is. Play it safe and report it so that it can be properly BLAMMED.
Those interested in finding out more about Heresy for the purpose of removing it from our world are encouraged to check out a copy of "The Witch Hunter's Handbook" which is available at any Temple of Sigmar and contains useful information on the subject, as well as amusing anecdotes from the late Kasper von Liebenstein (upon release of the second edition, which will have been cleansed of it's borderline-heretical text by Huntress Karin Schiller, all those in possession of the first edition copy will have one day in which to burn the book and pray away the sins of knowledge from their mind before they are considered Heretics in the eyes of our Lord Sigmar).
But Seriously, What Is It?
Well, outside of the warhams heresy was a word used to describe deviation from established religious doctrine. It's usually used by the Catholic Inquisition, who went absolutely apeshit for it in the Middle Ages. Being as how he held the keys to the kingdom the pope could issues orders of excommunication and interdiction, meaning the affected people and/or countries could no longer partake in the sacraments. So you weren't allowed to eat their juice and crackers or go to their clubhouse, who gives a shit? Well everybody. For starters it was a one way ticket to hell, which more people took seriously then. Also there was the little issue that all important oaths of the day were sworn before God, meaning excommunication rendered them null and void, and you were essentially an outlaw. Your knights didn't have to serve you, your peasants didn't have to pay their taxes, and if one of them tortured and killed you they got a high five from Jesus. Since the church functioned as the court of last appeal for most major matters this gave them incredible power, which they wielded like a club to bludgeon intransigent monarchs into acting right. That isn't to say there wasn't real heresy going on. In a society as insular and overwhelmingly illiterate as medieval Europe people developed some funny ideas about Christianity. Heresies ranged from the fairly pedantic (Christ was pierced with three nails, not four!) to the pants on head crazy (Catholic mass is a satanic ritual to shackle Jesus' spirit to his dead body so he can't save the world!).
Like all catchy memes it was eventually smote into the ground through overuse. Popes regularly threatened excommunication to kings, bishops, witches, countries, particularly retarded crusades, the city of Jerusalem, each other, and generally anyone who wouldn't do what the Church wanted them to do. By the time the Protestant Reformation (which was naturally labeled heresy itself) started to gain ground, excommunication was just seen as the price of doing any sort of business with/against/anywhere near the church. In the present day, most forms of what would once be called heresies are simply ignored because they ruined their reputation among Protestants, atheists, the scientifically-minded, sane people, or any mix of the above in civilization forever by declaring Galileo a heretic for writing about the scientific fact that the Earth orbited around the sun (although even in this day and age, there are still double digit percentages of every country on Earth who disbelieve this fact). Ever since that time, the Catholic Church uses the stigma-filled term "heresy" itself sparingly lest they themselves be burned by Protestants and atheists for stupidity, forcing them to opt for other euphemisms such as "heterodoxy".
With the papacy of Pope Francis, which began in 2013, many past major heresies (including homosexuality and atheism) are beginning to be seen as non-issues. He has suggested in interviews and in speeches that any being intelligent enough to ask for baptism should not be barred from it (with the direct example of "Martians" being given by him), that women are spiritually equal to men, that entry to heaven is based on life actions rather than church attendance and could conceivably include those of any faith as well as atheists, that polarizing issues such as homosexuality and abortion need take a backseat to caring for the poor and the needy, and that forgiveness (both requested and given) and mercy are the lot of mankind rather than judgement and prescribed repentance. Needless to say this marks a great departure from past doctrine, although policy changes to reflect these statements have not yet been put into place.
What do they do with heretics?
In Warhammer Fantasy, heresy is usually met with historically appropriate torture until a confession is extracted and the TRUE torture (or immediate execution in a busy week) can take place. Although the various churches of the setting are slow to act and generally are only capable of convicting those who march into a city square covered in Chaos tattoos and trying to recruit Priests of Sigmar or are doing Thriller in a group of Zombies while singing "I am a Vampire" at the top of your lungs, Witch Hunters tend to BLAM without second thought any who smells a bit too nice/bad or stutters when attempting to recite a prayer on command. Any time a major event that does not involve large armies occurs, chances are good Witch Hunters will soon be converging on the area to execute anything still moving.
The Imperium has a much more complex system of dealing with things. If your heresy was serious but you are repentant in your trial, the church may strap you to a horrific war machine called the Penitent Engine, which is a bit like a Space Marine dreadnought except it's designed to be really painful and humiliating for the pilot who themselves are drugged and tortured until there's nothing left of their mind but rage and shame. What's creepy is that it's an entirely voluntary way of seeking absolution (obviously, since strapping someone to a war machine against his will is NOT SMART). Considering how many of these are stomping around, it's a wonder the AdMech hasn't designed a not-insane version to be used by the Imperial Guard as an assault walker. ... right.
The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer says that a heretical Guardsman should have his extremities severed and left to bleed to death. At the discretion of the commanders, he may just get moved to a penal battalion or classically BLAM'd.
On remote Imperial worlds and highly populated hiveworlds, minor heresies naturally spring up all the time because the Ecclesiarchy has a weak presence, so visiting preachers may try to take a softer approach with these things. They may even tolerate some fanciful unorthodox beliefs as long as they don't offend the core values of the church. While this might seem at first to be common sense over-ruling grimdark in some some small way, the scary bit is that how far this tolerance extends varies a lot and shifts, some benign little deviation which one high ranking priest would know to be a harmless quirk of local customs may be seen as another as being heretical and dooms millions to die as heretics.
Witch Hunters from Warhammer Fantasy are usually recruited from those who had come dangerously close to heretics or Chaos mutants, but who had themselves been spared. Their training is regimented and involves self-flagellation as well as group flagellation to give a high tolerance for pain, constant schooling so that all prayers and religious works concerning Sigmar can be recited by heart simply by being asked for specific page and paragraph number, and tests with a higher mortality rate than facing an actual Chaos incursion. Chaos Spawn are brought into more elite classes to harden the minds of the young recruits against the taint of Chaos and to teach them how to fight that which is unnatural. They are taught the use of martial weapons, both large and imposing like the titular Warhammer to bootknives which can be brought to bear against those thinking they are merely being briefed on situations. Poisons, wilderness survival (in all climates of the world), and general knowledge of the regions of the world are taught to any who manage to make it thus far as knowledge is far more dangerous than weaponry. Witch Hunters are familiarized with all forms of codes and secret languages known in the Warhammer World, with the exception of arcane scripts which they are taught only to recognize but not to read. Those who manage to pass all other forms of training are taught how to use crossbows and flintlock pistols, which are blessed with each bullet they fire being inscribed with prayers to cause maximum damage to the unnatural forces of the world.
Those deemed particularly possessing of zeal are given access to tainted texts recovered from everything from Necromancer Covens to Chaos Cults. Generally speaking, the information in these are histories of heretics as well as all the knowledge available to those on the other side of the fourth wall who read the Army Books and Codexes of the games.
Once recruits pass their trials they are then depending on their specialties either armed with crossbows (which is why rather than BLAMming, execution may come in the form of a FWIP instead) and assigned to city bastions or to patrol groups, or are sent out on their own to follow any rumor of heresy and pass judgement on those they find.
Extra heresy is a decree recently enacted by local Commissar Fuklaw. While we're still a bit sketchy on the details, it is clearly mentioned that Xenos love is Extra heretical (that just makes it even more appealing) but it is a well known fact that anything remotely related to Jersey Shore, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus or anything Western pop music is extra extra heretical, and so is furfaggatory.....weeelll unless you're one of the Space Wolves, anyway. After all, they were just badass space Vikings until a certain update and string of model releases (We're looking at you thunderwolves and Canis). Punishment is still the generic execution by your local commissar... those dic*BLAM* -Most virtuous and excellent officers of the Emperor. Actually, if the Emperor saw all this shit, he'd have a single manly teardrop from his eye.
What isn't heretical (40k)
Much like the whole Rule 34 and Rule 35 gig, there are a few things that aren't heresy. Here's a short and general list:
- The immortal God-Emperor of the Imperium of Man
- Veneration of the immortal Emperor
- Dying for the Emperor in the most manly way possible.
- Brutally slaughtering and burning heaps of xenos, mutants, heretics and most especially Beliebers, for the God Emperor of Mankind. (If you can live long enough to fire that flashlight that is--)
- Discovering new planets so the Emperor can have even more wars. Unsullied planets + war = More burning Heretics for the Emperor, hurrah!
- Building gigantic Gothic cathedrals the size of sky scrapers for the Emperor.
- Rendering said cathedrals spaceworthy.
- Praising of the Emperor.
- Hailing to the High Lords of Terra/Administratum/Ecclesiarchy- except when they commit heresy.
- accusing random people ofHERESY!!!
- Why are you still reading this instead of venerating the motherfucking Emperor?! You must be a heretic for having doubt! Die heretic scum! *BLAM*
What isn't heretical (Fantasy)
- Our lord Sigmar Heldenhammer, true god of the Empire
- Veneration of the holy comet
- Growing mustaches
- Brutally slaughtering and burning heaps of daemons, witches, Chinamen, greenskins, Vampires, walking skeletons, talking cats, and Scandinavians (remember, the pointy end of the spear faces AWAY from you)
- Fucking Elfmaidens
- Getting drunk with Dwarves
- Adding steam engines to things
- Not rioting
- Praising the Elector Counts (except in times of civil war), and the glorious Emperor Karl Franz
- Not talking about the
giant rat-men armed with weapons that spit fire, who spread the plague through the water, who have planted a bomb in the city square and... IT'S ALL OVER, OUR ONLY REMAINING SOLUTION IS TO RIOTHERESY! *FWIP*(fwip? they have guns you know)
Commissar Fuklaw wants to explain a few things to you about Heresy.
Half-Xenos cosplaying commissars? EXTRA HERETICAL.