This page serves as a portal for the religions or belief systems of Almea. The pictures show the first four worlds created by the Cuzeian god; Enäron vanquishing a ktuvok; Babur contemplating Jippir; an Itsenic shaman with the tattoo of his fox spirit; a Mešaic goddess; and an Endajué penitent.
What are belief systems? I've answered this extensively here. Religions need not believe in a god or gods, and need not be centrally organized nor exlusively believed. There's no clear dividing line between religion and culture, especially in premodern societies— religion, in fact, is often used to justify and explain a people's distinctive way of life.
Ereláean belief systems
The religions of Ereláe tend to be exclusive: people adhere to one or another and rarely mix them.
- Cuzeian monotheism, said to be derived from the beliefs of the iliu, worships one god in three aspects— Iáinos the Idea, Eīledan the Maker, Ulōne the Response. After the fall of Cuzei, the religion was persecuted, and its followers were known as Arašei— sons of Araš the first man. In 2870 the Elenicoi arrived in Avéla from a strange planet with a messianic religion; this merged with Arašát to form Eleďát, which has attracted perhaps a quarter of the people of Eretald. One of the foundational Cuzeian texts, the Count of Years, has been translated into English.
- Caďinorian paganism is the religion of the Central peoples, focussed on the worship of about a dozen gods— though their particular identities originally varied by region. The chief god is Enäron, though Caloton and Išira give him a run for his money. The Caďinorian empire institutionalized paganism as a means of resisting the Munkhâshi occupation, resulting in a level of regularization and theologization not typical of polytheisms. It remains the dominant relgion of Eretald.
- Mešaism was the polytheism of ancient Xengiman. It's essentially a syncretistic melding of the gods of the Wede:i and their Ezičimi conquerors, and one of its chief purposes was to explain and justify the subjugation of the Wede:i people. It was noted for an increasingly complex cosmology, positing an infinite set of cosmic cycles and one hundred planes of existence, with a supernatural population to fit. It was extensively reformed and replaced by Endajué, a belief system without gods, based on monastic study and asceticism as well as intense popular festivals; it's the religion of Xurno. Bezuxau, a dark offshoot often described as nihilistic, once dominated Čeiy from an island fortress, and is still popular there.
- Jippirasti is the revelation of Babur, a Tžuro who recorded the revelations of Jippir, said to be the only god of the world, known by all peoples but lost in confusion and men's mythmaking. Understandably miffed to be misunderstood, Jippir explained himself and his desires clearly to Babur. It's the only Ereláean religion with a presence on two continents, since the Tžuro colonization of Fananak. Its most characteristic feature is perhaps its list of 35 istujau or uncleannesses; clerics have identified 35 subcategories within each one.
- Gelalhát is the religion of ancient Munkhâsh and modern Dhekhnam, devised by ktuvoks to keep humans loyal to these ktuvok empires. Naturally, it's always preached obedience to the ktuvoks, described as ideal and divine masters— Gelalh is described as a sort of supernatural ktuvok. There are important differences from ancient times, however: Munkhâshi Gelalhát was polytheistic, with Gelalh just one god among many. Sacrifices, including human sacrifices, were a key feature of the cult. Due to Jippirasti influence, the modern religion focusses more on Gelalh alone, and sacrifices are only performed in wartime. Its neighbors describe it as demon worship, but on its own terms it doesn't advocate evil, merely a very strict, hierarchical, imperial society.
- The ancient Skourenes were polytheists, and indeed each city tended to have (or develop) its own gods. Various philosophies flourished with no state interference. Gurdago settled on a fixed pantheon with a powerful priestly hierarchy, inseparable from the imperial administration; the western Uṭandal kept a dizzying agglomeration of gods and spirits (though some adopted Endajué); those of Gelihur, nearest the Tžuro, generalized their gods into an abstract quaternity: Mind, Will, Power, and Love.
- Nanese religion is animist; the spirits of animals, trees, and mountains are venerated, and shamans (emki) serve as intercessors with these. The Nanese colonized Bekkai, but their religion there developed a set of gods and goddesses, while keeping a large collection of spirits. In Omeguo there is a strong tradition of monasticism, focusing on knowledge, meditation, and physical discipline.
Arcélian belief systems
As a general rule, the people of Arcél (especially the large civilized states) feel free to mix and match religions, taking what they consider to be the best from each. Modern Arcélian religious texts can be quite difficult to follow, as they allude to dozens of authorities, now including some from Ereláe.
- Uyram culture (including Uytai) is based on ancestor (uy) worship. The Uyram maintain that our spirits persist on Almea for a time, before moving on somewhere else. The impulse to move on is strong— spirits may even resent being held back; but they can be induced to remain with suitable supplications, or they may have their own reasons to stick around. The Uyram make an important distinction between the good ancestors (puruy) and the mad ancestors (fretuy). ‘Mad’ shouldn't be thought of as ‘evil’ but ‘irrational’; the mad ancestors might bestow creativity and humor as well as insanity or passion. Major philosophical currents include:
- Swolan, which might be considered Uytainese fundamentalism; its chief virtues are han (moral purity, ritual and sexual), kran (decency or virtue), twan (martial hardiness). It’s been most popular in periods where the Uyram felt threatened by ecological decline or barbarian invasion.
- Hyemsur, founded by the hermit Syalenar after the collapse of Krwŋ. It advocated inner peace (hyem) and social harmony (sur) based on the principle of syalen (not-having), pauʔen (not-ruling), and thanen (not-fighting). It was profoundly distrustful of all authority, from the emperor on down, and has been most attractive in periods of serious social unrest when traditional answers are inadequate.
- Loyhret or magic, the service of purhret, spiritual powers. Uytai institutionalized the operation of magic more than any other Almean nation.
- The Purpau or Reform movement, which became predominant in the restored Uytai of the 2700s. It was chiefly interested in pragmatic improvements, social consensus, and able administration. It attempted to thread a moderate path between the rigidities of Swolan and the provocations of Hyemsur.
- The religion of the Bé is polytheistic, but its (mostly female) deities don’t have portfolios so much as personalities: cheerful and helpful Ŋisú; ambitious and haughty Jíŋ; sullen and withdrawn Tɔ̀; malicious betrayer Kâ. There is a fundamental division between the dòŋǎ, the world of death, our world, and nɔŋǎ, the spirit world; shamans are useful bridges between them. The principal philosophic schools are:
- Hǎełó, the pragmatic or rationalist school; it seeks to be guided by reason, law, and practicality, and though it accepts the spiritual world it attempts to deal with it by strict ritual.
- In addition Hyemsur has spread to the Bé.
- The Itsenic and Dnetic peoples believe in animal spirits (Itsenic jagoskamadkwe); shamans (maniʔjinkwe) would seek out a particular spirit to be their own mentor and companion. The story of Bečagbi offers a portrait of Itsenic religion as well as its influence on Uytainese magic. The Mnesean peoples have their own form of shamanism, as seen in the story of Ȟmeŋ; however, their shamans do not associate with particular spirits.
- The Kereminthic peoples of eastern Arcél, influenced by the iliu, believe in one god, whose different faces become the gods of their polytheistic neighbors. They disdain common religious activities, however; enlightenment and visions are to be sought alone.
- The iliu are monotheists; they have taught their beliefs to the Cuzeians, the Qaraus, and the Kemic peoples; the resulting belief systems are similar but hardly identical.
- It’s assumed that Gelalhát is an adaptation of whatever the ktuvoks believe— at least in terms of morality and metaphysics. The ktuvoks at least claim to worship Gelalh, though this may also be a ploy to induce humans to do the same.
- The flaids of Flora used to have a polytheistic system of their own, but converted to Irreanism, devised by the sage Irrean, who described a cosmic, unending struggle between good and evil, in whcih every action matters and every being must choose sides. Strictly speaking this choice is purely arbitrary, though Irreanism as a religion is a commitment to good. Irreanism has spread to some humans in Eretald.
- The elcari worship Khemthu-Nôr, the First Spirit, but have no public worship and little theology. Their god is considered the source of morality and is described as building the world; there are rites of appeasement and thanksgiving, but these take little time. The elcari are never zealous and seem to have little to say about Khemthu-Nôr, though they are quite uninterested in human (or iliu) religions.