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This text is a part of a larger plot. So it is better to read first «The Kiss of the Worlds», in order not to spoil it.
By Yichard Muni, elf bard
There is no idea of having several different religions in the Nyidiath world, but each place, country or spiritual school has its variants of the main gods, or local gods, thus allowing for a free and large choice for individuals to worship a given god or to join a spiritual order. However all spiritual activities are more or less revolving around the ONE, chief of all the gods, an abstract entity at the origin of everything, and expected to harvest the good souls and good things at the end of the times. The Sacred Trigram «UNQ» (Unique) was recently found by archaeologists in 9 000 years old elven caves. Some spiritual schools are emphasizing on the direct cult of the ONE, but most common religion consider it too abstract or difficult, and worship other gods as more efficient or more understandable mediators. All those spiritual streams are considered to have emerged of a pure source at the origin, but in practice most are degenerated into popular superstition and spiritual materialism, people just asking for worldly favours in place of spiritual progress. Only a minority of practitioners still holds the original light.
There are several orders of monks and nuns, worshipping the ONE and seeking high spirituality, or performing charities and humanitarian help. Some goes as far as stating that only the ONE should be worshipped, and that the other Gods are worthless, see delusive. Those orders are often surrounded by lay people, who support them or do spiritual practice without taking monastic vows themselves.
The ONE himself never had large temples in Tellutaar, from the taboo on representing him. But he has chapels in monasteries and the sacred trigram «UNQ» (UNIQUE) often appears in many households, above private altars, engraved on the walls, or even coded in the very shape of the buildings. This trigram is often enclosed in a house-shaped frame, which represents the inner temple of the heart. (This symbol is ascci 127 or UTF8 , but the Internet browsers are unable to show it. A similar symbol is the shogi ☖: ☖)
The Elves are free to adore any beneficial god, and even sometimes rather Rabelaisian nymphs or satyrs. But the only collective temples and the only official teachings in the Elven lands are of the ONE, Shelenaë MakTar, more some saints or lesser deities.
Ishtar is the most popular Human goddess, bearing the chisel and hammer of woodcrafters, patron of trades and skills. She is worshipped nearby everywhere, especially among workers and artisans of every categories. Of course she has the largest temple in Tellutaar, as in most towns around. Numerous lesser divinities intervene as helpers or patrons of the different trades.
Mer is a generic name for several goddesses, such as Amaer, Alia, Nila, Mershania, and others, worshipped into one country or another. All are goddesses of light, merriness, spring, nature. Some emphasise more on beauty, love and love plays, except Mershania who defends marriage and family values. From this she is often promoted by city governments, and she has the second large antic temple in the ancient Tellutaar. Nearby everybody has a place in home for invoking one or the other of these goddesses, making offerings or having an image or statue. Nearby all women wear a cowry shell in their necklace, symbolizing one or the other Mer or Mer's attribute, depending on its colour. Of course numerous Mer nymphs are here to tease men, but they may show stern reminders of marital fidelity, able of playing painful tricks to the flighty husbands.
Marna is a goddess of luck, on whom travellers and lovers call her good influence. But she doesn't like to be invoked for business or war purposes, even indirectly. So it is said that in such case she rather sends unpredictable complications.
Talian is another goddess of beauty and love, who was recently brought to Tellutaar by foreign merchants of the south. She has a dark brown skin, like in those merchant's country. At the time of the story, it was fashioned among the young women of tellutaar to wear her scarf, the talith, and clothes, mostly black with large patches of bright colours. There is a debate going on to know if Talian is a Mer or not, but anyway some started to wear a black cowry.
Foggier (pronouce Fo-djee-ar with Fo like in Fog. But this name is by no way related to fog) is widely considered in popular religion as the god of evil, always trying to ensnare people into bad deeds, and drag them into his terrifying hells. However we cannot equate Foggier with Earth's satan: intellectuals with more spiritual insight rather consider him as the Temptator, entrusted into this role by the ONE himself, in order to test people, and give them a real value to their commitment, through trouble and hardship. Others consider him as the Retributor, granting punishment, reincarnation or paradise, depending on merit. Punishment can occur in a variety of painful or horrible hells, but it is always for a limited time. Foggier has numerous servants, in the hells or in the world.
This ambivalence makes that, in many places, Foggier still has official and public temples and cults, in a different place of the main temples. In Tellutaar he has the Horzug, the Dark Temple of black basalt stones, in a closed valley beyond the city, overlooking the cremation grounds. The official purpose is to ask mercy for the deceased. But cults of evil use to gather here in secret, and some invoke Foggier for black magic, to fulfil their worldly purposes, even if they perfectly know they will automatically get a stay in hell from this. Some pressure groups also have private Foggier altars or chapels, even if this is forbidden, and they incur death penalty if found. At last some monastic orders are allowed to have MakTar or Foggier chapels, because they consider them as holy protectors against attacks, much like in the Goenkhang of Tibetan temples on Earth.
Elfes do not render any cult to Foggier. It is said that he does not care to check their soul at their death, they even not pass through his judgement, and go directly to the paradise. However Elves wishing to reincarnate sometimes pray Foggier, because he is the responsible for setting the path of the soul after the death.
Niszun is the god of thieves, pirates, bandits, etc. He is considered as a true evil god by everybody, and of course his cult is forbidden in cities. But many invoke him secretly for shady purposes, including rich merchants and work masters. There are more than a hundred of other minor evil gods, responsible for diseases, natural disasters, disputes, etc. Of course Elves never deal with any evil god, they generally ignore them, at worse they make rituals to ward them off.
However, Elves and Humans as well observe a curious collection of taboos on the way to set the table, to do the bed, sweep, and even build the toilets. The origin is the forbidding to make an altar to Niszun, an act punished with terrible tortures. His worshippers went round this forbidding with using very ordinary objects, common implements, which were set in the ritual way only at the moment of the secret ceremonies, on an ordinary dining table used as an altar. The priests, furious, forbad to set the cutlery in this way, but without describing which. This gave rise to many stories, of brave innocent people slaughtered for having posed their spoon in the wrong way... From here the curious collection of taboos, that everybody was abiding to, without really believing, but who knows. In the Dauriath, the Elders forbad those useless beliefs. It was one of the rare instances where they shown a strict authority on the Elves.
Pranktor is the god of fools, jokers, etc. He often has lewd statues in public places, gardens and fountains, to which people make offerings. He is also considered as the chief of a great number of male gods and satyrs, which cult is indicated by a recognizable shape often visible in gardens, fountains, springs, rocky places or entrances of caves. He also has a yearly festival, where it is allowed to mock at the government, rich people, and even priests. More or less secret brotherhoods of Pranktor worshippers organize Bacchanals and hoaxes. In the story «Midsummer love», Jossie and his scoundrels defended themselves in the court by claiming to be followers of Pranktor. Bad luck, the judge was a genuine one, and he knew that humiliating or making bad jokes were not true attitudes of authentic Pranktor practitionners.
Shelenaë and MakTar are the mother and father Gods of the Elves, worshipped all over the different elven countries as the source of the elven magic. They are said (like many other gods) to have had a past life as Humans, where they became the first Elves and started the Elven race. Later, other Great Elves created the Elven culture, language or writing, but they were not deified.
Shelenaë is also worshipped by Humans as a Goddess of wealth and crops, creator of agriculture. The third large antic temple of Tellutaar was hers. She is also known as Mylena in other human countries (pronounce Meeleynah).
MakTar is also worshipped in some Human countries as a god of war, but in Tellutaar and the Shartan continent at large, he was considered as a renegade god, from His magical help to the elven warriors. So we could hardly found any trace of his cult in Tellutaar, save of course in elven places like the Old Pastel Inn.
Copyright… yes this text is copyright 2008 Yichard Muni, my identity in Second Life, or copyright 2008 Richard Trigaux, my identity in First Life.
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