Eleďát [ɛ lɛ ˈðat] is a religion of Eretald, formally a fusion between the beliefs of the Arašei, which derive from Cuzeian theism, and those of the Elenicoi. It is the majority religion in Érenat, Benécia, and Hroth, and is accepted by 40% or more of the population in Verduria, Peleu, Isiza, and Bešbalic.
The Elenicoi arrived in Avéla, the capital of Érenat, in 2780, bringing news of redemption. The starting point of their voyage was on our planet— the Greeks left Arsinoe, Egypt, on a trading expedition, in AD 325; their preternatural transportation of their vessel to Almea is known as the Miracle of the Translation, and their doctrine would become the foundation of the Avélan Catholic Church (Aďeton Naurondise i Avéla).
The local people, burdened by the rule of Kebri, were as thirsty for political as for spiritual redemption. The Elenico leader, Mihel, quickly grasped the situation, and found himself organizing both a spiritual awakening and an underground uprising. The Kebreni execution of Mihel only created a martyr (2820). The rebellion intensified, and Avéla was free by 2840. Many of Mihel’s original converts were Arašei, and it’s told that an iliu, Beldobre, helped the Elenicoi accept these locals as helpers and precursors rather than rivals.
Over the next centuries the doctrines of the Elenicoi spread throughout Eretald and Sarnáe, finding a special attraction in the Eärdur valley, where an Arašei presence had remained since Cuzeian times. Many Arašei indeed hailed the appearance of the Elenicoi as a confirmation of ancient prophecies, and evidence of the present action of Eleď (Cuêzi Eīledan). After some tension— there were some on both sides who suspected a diabolic trap— the Elenicoi accepted the identification, and at the Council of Avéla (2987) the two religions merged, under the name of Eleďát. (The Council was attended by representatives from across Eretald; but local acceptance of the Council was not always immediate; the Barakhinei bishops were the last to accept it, in 3225.)
Clerics spent a good deal of energy working out a common creed and canon. However, in a sense the merger, rather than turning two religions into one, turned them into three:
- The eastern patriarchates, Avéla and Kebropol, whose doctrine and practice are almost entirely Elenico. Their attitude toward the Arašei is similar to that of enlightened Christians toward Judaism— they view it as a precursor religion, interesting for its local resonances and certainly the work of the same God, but mostly of antiquarian interest.
- The Eärdur patriarchates, Ilad (in Hroth) and Nëron Pavel (in Benécia), the homeland of Arašát, and still largely Arašei in most matters. They are more interested in the Elenicoi than the latter are in them— the whole story is a welcome evidence of God’s action in an region which had grown accustomed to permanent bad news— but they are not that interested in the salvationist aspect of Elenico belief, and their practice has not changed much, except for the addition of a yearly communion meal, in which the story of Iesu is recounted.
- The central patriarchates, Verduria and Dobray, where both Arašei and Elenicoi were active, and the only areas where a syncretic doctrine and practice have emerged. Here both traditions are studied, both sets of holidays are celebrated, and theologians have continued the work of integration, drawing out similarities and papering over differences.
The Eleďe scriptures, as agreed upon at the Council, are composed of three books:
- The Book of Eleď (so Ivro i Eleď)— essentially the Cuzeian holy books, as edited by the Arašei. The ‘true language’ of these books has always been considered to be Cuêzi, though only a minority of clerics and scholars has ever been able to read it in the original. Failing that, the classical Caďinor translation of Ḣimauro, from Z.E. 1421, has been treated as authoritative; modern believers happily translate it into their own languages.
- The Book of Iesu (so Ivro Iesui) — our New Testament. The Old Testament is known (and called soî Ivroi Oikumenei, the Books of Earth), but as it is exceedingly exotic and difficult for Almeans, it is rarely read. Early on the ‘true language’ was of course Greek; but knowledge of Greek was restricted to the adoptive families of the Elenicoi and soon died out; the canonical text is thus Old Verdurian. (The Greek manuscripts were preserved, as well as a few incomplete glossaries; and modern scholars have taught themselves to read the original; but since the Old and New Testaments are their only Greek sources, and their meaning is back-projected from the OV, this study rarely offers much insight.)
- The Book of Mihel (so Ivro Mihelei) — a set of three books recounting the arrival, sufferings, conflicts, and eventual triumph of the Elenicoi in Avéla, plus three books of miscellaneous teachings, prayers, and table talk from the most prestigious Elenico leaders. These were written in the late 2800s in contemporary Avélan Verdurian; outside Érenat, the preferred edition normalizes the spelling and morphology to modern Mažtane norms (but leaves syntax and idioms alone).
The Council of Avéla agreed on the following points:
- There is one God (Aď) in three aspects:
- Iáinos (Ver. Iain), the Idea, the Father, who arises from nothing but himself, who conceives of creation and reigns over it.
- Eleď, the Shaper, the Son, who arises from Iáinos, and faithfully executes his conception.
- Ulone, the Response, the Holy Spirit, who arises from Iáinos and Eleď, who is the responsive audience for Creation, and underlies every creature’s response to God.
- When God created the universe it was entirely good; but evil arose through the rebellion of Ekaia. Ekaia is not the counterpart or equal of God; he was created by God, and his corruptions are tolerated by God furthering a greater plan of Iáinos, who values those who can triumph over evil above those who have never known it.
- Men (uestî) were created to love and serve Iain, but they followed Ekaia and became both good and evil in nature, according to their own free choice. In the natural order of things, men can no longer enjoy full communion with God.
- In the world called Oikumene, Eleď was incarnated as a man named Iesu. Ekaia caused him to be persecuted and killed; but Iesu’s sacrifice, since he was divine and sinless, redeemed the evil of all men who followed Ekaia.
- Men can now be restored to full communion with God by choosing to follow Eleď. This involves:
- Renouncing Ekaia and all gods save God.
- Valuing God above all earthly authorities, riches, and pleasures.
- Obeying the laws of God and men.
- Loving all men, even one’s enemies, as Iesu died in love for those who had rejected him.
- Eleď will return, to defeat Ekaia and those who have followed Ekaia, and to remake the world, more glorious than ever, as an eternal kingdom for himself and those who have followed him.
From the Arašei point of view, the main novelty is of course the story of Iesu. Many Arašei believed that Eleď sometimes walked as a man— he was often identified with the Sojourner of the Cuzeian epics— and readily accepted the story of Eleď’s incarnation on another world. Likewise, the Arašei recognized and deplored men’s separation from God. But they had never imagined that he could sacrifice himself to undo it.
As a corollary, they had not had quite so Manichean a worldview. There was no doctrine of hell in Arašát; on the other hand, there was a hunger for vindication for two thousand years of oppression. The Arašei usually interpret hell as destruction rather than as eternal punishment.
The Elenicoi, on the other hand, had to get used to a new vocabulary for the Trinity, and a theology whose major theme was creation. They were also troubled and fascinated by the iliu, who they could not relate to anything in their religion: though mortal, they seemed as sinless and powerful as angels.
The Elenicoi left the Mediterranean at a time when the Catholic Church was already well-organized, in a geographical system patterned on the Roman government: the Pope corresponding to the Emperor, archbishops corresponding to provinces, overseeing a number of bishops, themselves overseeing priests.
This system was largely transferred to the Plain. Nëron Mihel became the first Patriarch (perař) of Avéla, and for some centuries the Patriarch appointed or at least approved the appointment of all Eleďe bishops.
When the religion spread to Kebri, Ismahi, and Sarnáe, a primate (ešcüre) was appointed in each region. The Kebreni church was at first persecuted, largely because it was viewed as a subversive movement under Avélan control; the primate Sevasto solved this problem by declaring himself a perař independent of Avéla (2910).
Elenico missionaries in the Plain at first operated under the jurisdiction of Avéla. There was soon enough of a presence in Verduria province to appoint an ešcüre there (2933), and later one in Barakhún (in Ilad, then under Barakhinei control, in 2951) and Dobray (2975).
With the Union of 2987, the Arašei hierarchy had to be absorbed; it was easiest to simply declare the Numícoro, the leader of the Arašei, as the perař of Barakhún. When Benécia became independent, there was a good deal of political conflict, which predictably ended with the establishment of a Benécian patriarchate (3072).
With the flowering of Verdurian power, the Verdurian church demanded its own patriarchate, which was established in 3081; the first patriarch was Nëron Tuhico. That of Dobray, responsible for the south of the Plain, was established during the reign of Utu (3218), when communications with Verduria were difficult.
This left six patriarchates: Avéla, Kebropol, Verduria, Dobray, Nëron Pavel, Ilad. In theory the first of these still exercised authority over the church as a whole, but in practice this rarely went beyond consultation and expressions of esteem, and the Avélan patriarchs wisely sought to avoid confrontation.
After the Dhekhnami conquest of Sarnáe, the ešcüre there was murdered. The Dhekhnami demanded gestures of abasement toward Gelalh from worshippers of all religions. The Eleďi refused, and their church was persecuted, and went underground. In the last century, at the insistance of Kebri, the Dhekhnami have allowed the religion to be practiced, requiring only political submission, though proselytization is still prohibited, as is any hierarchy of leadership above the level of a single church.
The challenge of Eleďát
The rise of Eleďát has been a challenge, arguably a salutory one, for Eretald and especially for the followers of Caďinorian paganism. Social systems sometimes need a kick in the pants; Eleďát has forced people to argue for their convictions rather than assume them, and spurred the development of less superstitious and more ethical forms of paganism.
The Arašei were never considered progressive— quite the opposite; they were seen as a curious or embarrassing relic of ancient times, and were associated with the least advanced countries of Eretald. Eleďát, by contrast, was seen as something new, and associated with both rebellion against tyranny, and the advanced seafaring states. It thus aquired an association with modernity and liberalism. Ironically, perhaps, many Eleďi are in fact more dogmatic and less interested in the scientific method than educated pagans.
Many pagans cordially detest Eleďát as a newfangled foreign import. Verdurian pagans especially resent the impudent success of the Eleďe dynasty, and its assertion of legal equality between paganism and Eleďát. (The Eleďi extended this legal tolerance also to Irreanism, which has not been as controversial.) In the southern portions of the Plain, such as in Svetla, where the religion has been weakest, Eleďát has spread mostly among intellectuals, the urban poor, and former Arašei; the elites disdain it, and sometimes devise legal humiliations, such as taxing non-pagans at a higher rate, or restricting them from holding public office.
The increasing importance of the northern countries led to some converts in the south of Ereláe, chiefly in Čeiy and among the Uṭandal. The fierce monotheism of Jippirasti and the anti-theism of Xurno has provided little welcome, though some Xurnese converted following queen Andrea's visit to Xurno. Xurnese Eleďát is understandably heavily influenced by Endajué, apparent mainly in a much greater emphasis on moderation and an encouragement of the arts.
A few flaids have embraced Eleďát, as a few followed the Arašei, but they generally feel free to discard doctrines and practices that don't make sense to them; attempts to encourage greater orthodoxy generally founder, as it's hard to get the better of a flaid in an argument.