The Word Bearers are the vague equivalent to clergy in Sidh society. Originally a military office combining the roles of chaplain, psychologist and political officer, it has since spread to civilian society as well, the majority of Word Bearers now ministering to the civilian populace. They are oftentimes admired and resented in equal measure, the former because of their unshakeable devotion to the one true Way, and the latter because of riot and trouble that overly-zealous ministers of the Word tend to cause when others fail to meet their expectations in piety and devotion to proper Sidh virtues.
The office of Word Bearers was established during the Age of War, when the need to tend to soldiers' spiritual needs became apparent. During the most difficult stages of the Age of War, many fighting men would despair, seeing no hope for victory or end to the war, only senseless slaughter ultimately leading to the extinction of their species. Keeping up the morale of Imperial troops became a paramount issue that couldn't be adequately met by ideological war propaganda alone. Consequently, a cadre of charismatic soldiers with excellent combat records, unyielding ideological zeal and education in psychology was selected by Imperial Command to form a principally-new service within the Imperiuim's armed forces, one tasked to bolster morale by applying methods traditionally used by religions, long since discareded by the avowedly-secular Imperium.
Much of the Imperium's mythology and later ideological doctrines including the Word of the Emperor were composed during this time, adopting the distinctly quasi-religious character that would become the trademark of Imperial ideology in later ages. The men selected to deliver these ideological messages to the troops and the masses eager for purpose and hope would become known as Word Bearers.
The Word Bearers are by no means a centralized organization, or even a distinct organization at all, there existing dozens of chapters and orders with their own independent statutes. Rather, it is a title of their office that embodies their purpose - to bear the Word of the Emperor to the masses and in their hearts.
Regardless of what faction a Word Bearer belongs to, all of them share the same ardent religious devotion to the teachings of the Emperor.
Originally a body of propagandists and political officers within the Imperial military, Word Bearers have since proliferated to broader society. While a distinguished military service record is still a requirement for any aspiring Word Bearer to be considered eligible for the title, most Word Bearers of the present day in fact minister to the spiritual needs of civilians, serving as a sort of priesthood in an otherwise secular society.
As bringers of the Emperor's Word, Word Bearers are held to very high ideological and moral standards. A prospective candidate must have repeatedly distinguished himself in combat, since only such a man can command the moral authority to preach about virtue and duty to fellow soldiers. The candidate must likewise have a pristine personal reputation, since a Word Bearer must set personal example to others in following the teachings of the Word. Furthermore, one must be charismatic and talented at public speaking. Prospective candidates are provided the necessary instruction in psychology, propaganda techniques and rhetoric, and required to memorize the Word along with a number of supplementary sources before being eligible for ordination. After passing rigorous examinations, those who succeed are ordained as Word Bearers and are from there on eligible to preach the holy Word of the Emperor to the Sidh people.
The process of ordination itself is a semi-formal one, the Word Bearer chapters collaborating with the military to provide the necessary tutelage, the military covering the practical aspects of instruction while the chapters deal with instructing candidates in more spiritual matters and examining them. Upon ordination, the new Word Bearer is granted his Aquila Staff, his badge of office, and a manually-transcribed copy of the Word, richly ornamented and meticulously written in elaborate calligraphy and often crafted by the candidate himself as part of his memorization of the Word. The staff often serves as a mount for the tome, Word Bearers traditionally displaying it open during their sermons as to let any disbelievers come and read for themselves that they speak His Word verily.
After their training is complete, a process that typically takes around 5 years, the Word Bearers usually continue to serve in their previous units, ministering to the spiritual needs of their fellow soldiers. Most eventually retire from the armed forces and continue the job as itinerant preachers in civil society.
There are no special sets of rules universal to all Word Bearers asides from maintaining their reputation and decorum as upstanding and devout Sidhae, various chapters having their own independent codes of conduct. Some do not bother with imposing additional strictures on their members besides what would typically be expected of Word Bearers under military regulations, while others practice elaborate sets of additional rules similar to those of historical monastic orders. Some chapters require their members to take vows of celibacy and renounce their personal possessions in the belief that only those fully free of earthly concerns can fully devote themselves to study and preaching of the Word.
Typical duties of a Word Bearer largely overlap with those of a priest in other societies. Counseling soldiers and citizens on ethical and spiritual matters, inspiring troops before and during battles, comforting the dying, presiding over funerals, heading various public ceremonies with an ideological twist and propagating the Word are all under Word Bearers' regular duties. While not commanding a formal legal authority, Word Bearers also hold considerable sway in legal matters, a Word Bearer vouching for a citizen or testifying in court often meaning the difference between condemnation and acquittal.
Word Bearers are often seen on the street corners of Imperium's cities, surrounded by a formation of loudspeaker servo-skulls and preaching to enthusiastic crowds, their passionate sermons often inciting the seemingly-spontaneous flag-waving processions of citizens chanting verses of the Word in patriotic frenzy. While generally approved by the authorities, their skill at rabble-rousing can nonetheless backfire occasionally when a particularly-zealous Word Bearer incites a pogrom against unbelievers and even fellow Sidhae who have strayed from the light of the Word and Way.