"You may not be clad in the blessed Flak Armour of the Imperial Guard. You may not bring the Emperor's wrath through the barrel of the righteous Lasgun. What you lack in the Imperium's most blessed weapons of war you replace with fervour and faith. No army forged can stand before the might of the Emperor's judgement, wrought by our hands."
- — Abbot Von Schteil at the Veneris quarry uprising
The Frateris Militia are the masses of the Imperial Cult's most zealous faithful who have gathered to fight Wars of Faith against the enemies of the God-Emperor and Mankind. They constitute the unofficial and generally ill-trained troops of the Adeptus Ministorum who fight in the interests of the Ecclesiarchy.
Although most such mobs consist of no more than faithful Imperial citizens drawn from a broad walk of life, some "Brothers" have had military experience in the Astra Militarum or a Planetary Defence Force (PDF). They make up for this general lack of military training with selfless fanaticism.
Since the Ecclesiarch Sebastian Thor's great reformation of the Imperial priesthood following the dark days of the Age of Apostasy in the 36th Millennium, the Adeptus Ministorum has been prevented by the dictates of the Decree Passive from maintaining forces that consist of "men at arms." Although this statute put an end to the vast standing armies of the ancient Ecclesiarchy's Frateris Templar, the archaic wording of the decree has been subject to many abuses over the centuries, and only a fool would assume that the Ecclesiarchy lacks military power.
In times of great need (such as Wars of Faith or during Imperial Crusades) the Ecclesiarchy arms its male servants, both from the clergy and the mass of lay followers. A great mass of clerks, Deacons, Pardoners and other minor functionaries swarm from the great temples and cathedrals, armed with whatever weapons they can lay their hands upon. To some, they are nothing but a disorganised rabble, a greater threat to themselves than to any opposing force, but on many occasions the Frateris Militia have been known to perform tremendous acts of courage and valour in the name of the Emperor.
In battle the Frateris Militia are barely organised and operate in huge mobs consisting of any number of brethren. Members of the Frateris Militia are not professional soldiers, and receive no training to carry out their role. However, their faith is strong, and they often go on to perform great and terrible deeds in the name of the Master of Mankind. Mobs vary from ordinary Imperial citizens incensed against Heretics or xenos by Confessors, to those truly faithful individuals who pursue zealous self-sacrifice, to the already fanatical members of extreme Imperial religious sects. Such is the brethren's devotion and willingness to self-sacrifice that the more dangerous and desperate the fighting, the more likely they will fight to the death.
Becoming Frateris Militia
Those who serve the Ecclesiarchy are often drafted into the Frateris Militia to serve in times of need. While not formally trained or given a wage as members of a proper military would be, they are excused from other official duties during their service. Anyone with strong loyalty to the Ecclesiarchy could have served in a Frateris Militia and an Inquisitor or Cardinal values those who bring experience at arms to a cell of Inquisitorial Acolytes in the field.
While often reviled as a useless and disorganised pitchfork-wielding mob by professional Imperial soldiers, the Frateris Militia have proven their worth time and time again in low-level conflicts throughout the galaxy. Veterans of the Frateris Militia often identify strongly with one another as comrades-in-arms, just as in any other military unit. On many Shrine Worlds organisations of ex-militia can grow very politically powerful, as the tight-knit nature of the group assures mutual support. It is true that the Frateris Militia are by no means professional soldiers, yet on many worlds they are in effect the dominant military power, and high-ranking clerics repeatedly turn to them to prop up their theocratic regimes.
The Inquisition has a mixed view of the Frateris Militia. On the one hand, individual Inquisitors often frequently recruit Acolytes from the ranks of those few survivors of heroically doomed Wars of Faith. Yet, on the other hand, the Inquisition as a whole, and in particular the Ordo Hereticus, is mindful of the historical precedent of the Age of Apostasy, when the military forces of the Adeptus Ministorum grew too powerful and threatened the stability of the Imperium.
The religious cult known as the Red Redemption, or as they are more commonly called, the Redemptionists, is one of the most notorious of those extreme religious sects that often form the Frateris Militia. The Redemption is drawn to the poor underhives, wild Frontier Worlds and primitive feudal cities of the Calixis Sector, feeding on the fears of common men. Their creed is one of violence, paranoia and xenophobia, as they see all humans as inherent sinners against the Emperor, unless proven otherwise.
The Redemption preaches a zealotry and intolerance beyond even that shown by the greater Ministorum. They teach that only through pain, cleansing fire and the complete rejection of anything that does not show total and utter devotion to the God-Emperor can a citizen hope to be saved from damnation and the touch of the Ruinous Powers. As a militant sect, they frequently gather to fight self-declared Wars of Faith in the name of the Emperor, whether the Ecclesiarchy desires these conflicts or not. While at times the Ministorum and the Redemption are at odds, the Imperial Church finds them more useful than not and is happy for them to do the dirty work of the faith.
Frateris Militia bands were available to Sisters of Battle armies in the Second Edition of Warhammer 40,000. In the Fourth Edition they were reincarnated as the units designated "Zealots" for the Witch Hunters armies of the Inquisition's Ordo Hereticus.
- Codex: Sisters of Battle (2nd Edition), pp. 34, 36
- Dark Heresy: Blood of Martyrs (RPG), pp. 35, 62-63
- White Dwarf 304 (UK), "Zealots" article by Graham McNeill