Virtual Verduria Almean Belief Systems

Cuzeian theism

Beliefs + The Cuzeian trinity Creation and subcreation Community Marriage, gender, and sex
    Responsibility and sin Holiness The soul Was Cuzeian religion monotheistic?

Practices + Priesthood Prophets Public rites Private practices Festivals
History + Origins Golden Age religion in its social context Later times

Location [To Index]

Map of Cuzei Cuzeian theism was the established religion of the state of Cuzei, whose official founding was in -250 Z.E., and which was absorbed by the Cadhinorian Empire in 1024. (Zonî Erei (Years of the South) are the Cadhinorian year reckoning, centered on the founding of Ctésifon. The Cuzeians reckoned time from the founding of Cuzei.)

For most of its existence Cuzei occupied the valley of the Eärdur (then called the Isrēica) of the Cadhinorian Plain (see map). It was the dominant state of the Plain, and its religion was shared, in some form, with the related, semi-civilized Karazi "Little Cuzeian" peoples. The first states of the Cadhinorians were organized along Cuzeian lines, and learned writing and other arts of civilization from the Cuzeians, but never adopted their religion.

There is no fixed date for the beginning of the religion, and no single founder. In Cuzeian mythology, all men once worshipped Iáinos, but only Cuzei and the ilii remain faithful to him. The effective formation of the religion can however be dated to the centuries before the invasion of the Plain (c. -375); even in mythology this is the period of the most important revelations from Iáinos. Contact with the ilii, which could not have been important before the invasion, also greatly influenced Cuzeian theism; and further formalization occurred in the first few centuries of the Cuzeian kingdom.

After the Cadhinorian conquest Cuzeian theism was persecuted, and evolved into the Arashei religion, which is treated in a later chapter.

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ā ē ī ō ū Ā Ē Ī Ō Ū č ď ř š ť ž Č Ď Ř Š Ť Ž

I believe Windows and MacOSX users will be OK. If MacOs9 users have problems, they should load the Central European fonts from their System disk (do a custom install and look under Language Kits). For pronunciation notes and more about the language, see the Cuêzi grammar.

Beliefs [To Index]

The Cuzeian trinity [To Index]

In Cuzeian theology there is a threefold God, or three gods. (We will return later to the question of whether there the Cuzeians had one god or three.)

Iáinos is the abstract Idea (fâtas), whose eternal and perfect conception and law underlies all creation. Eīledan is the Shaper (edrouvas), who turns Iáinos's conception into real matter and time. Ulōne is the Divine Response (sûdunas), the divinity created by Eīledan's and Iáinos' activity, and the response of love and worship evoked in every created being.

(The astute reader will here recall Dorothy L. Sayers' The Mind of the Maker, which indeed would serve as an acceptable introduction to Cuzeian theology.)

To explain this doctrine, Cuzeians have recourse to the metaphor of artistic creation: Iáinos corresponds to the artist's abstract, perfect, holistically perceived conception of the work; Eīledan to the physical work needed to create the work as a material object; Ulōne to the spectator's response of admiration and comprehension (and also to the response of the work itself, since in this case the creation is itself a conscious entity).

Naturally the believer's relation to each of these divine mētū ('roles') is different. Iáinos is the ultimate Source, but for that very reason is rather distant. Mai duni Iáinos sāsi-nô, "Iáinos does not act, but conceives," as one prophet insists. Eīledan, as the active force in creation, is more approachable. One can ask favors of Eīledan; and one can collaborate in his work. Finally, every believer is intimately associated with Ulōne, since she is present in the heart of every thinking being. It is Ulōne who makes us see the divine plan in creation, and impels us to acts of love and creation.

(In Cuêzi it was absolutely forbidden to use personal pronouns in relation to the mētū. One repeated the divine name, or paraphrased. These practices are rather awkward in English, and I have not followed them here. I am somewhat emboldened by the example of Verdurian Eledhî, who do not observe this scruple. I have followed the grammatical form of the divine names, and used masculine pronouns for Iáinos and Eīledan, and feminine pronouns for Ulōne; this is the practice also in Verdurian.)

One can pray to any of the mētū, but with differing ends in view. You praise Iáinos, or seek to grasp his vision. Requests that things happen in the world-- that a trial cease, that the crops grow, that peace come-- are addressed to Eīledan, as of course is thanksgiving when such favors are granted. Requests for healing and for inner growth, and confessions of sin, are spoken to Ulōne. Visions, revelations, and miracles generally come from Eīledan; wisdom, compassion, and peace are gifts of Ulōne.

Creation and subcreation [To Index]

The Cuzeians, as should already be evident, place great value on creation (dêrias). They admire the divine creation; and encourage subcreation by humans as a proper response to it.

Eīledan's great work, of course, is the world (Ataiggār, 'the place of life'); and so the Cuzeians have a great reverence, almost a worship, for nature. They revel in the splendor of mountains and rivers and seas; in the beauty of plants and plains; in the complexity, fertility, and activity of animals. They worship out of doors, in specially stewarded gardens or meadows called lutā ('glades'; sing. lusi). They endeavor to make their houses, cities, and fields pleasant to the eye, and retain as much as possible of natural beauty in their architecture-- flowers, trees, waterfalls, bubbling streams. Decorative motif

They also believe in the holiness of personal creation (xudêrias); which includes but goes beyond what we call art (writing, painting, sculpting, dancing, singing). Building a house, growing crops, cleaning a street, sewing clothes, forming a pot or a tool, tending a garden, baking bread, even raising a child, are all acts of creation, and are all to be done as seriously and beautifully as any work of art is made.

As a corollary, acts of destruction, or merely the ugly, banal, and shabby execution of creative work, are despised. There are some professions, too, which are considered non-creative, although necessary, notably trading and soldiering. Traders were not respected in Cuzei (they were considered to add no value to the items they traded, and making profit by doing nothing was viewed as little better than fraud). Moreover, many of those who lived on trade were foreigners, particularly Karazi and Methaiun. For soldiers the state relied on levies on the Houses; very few people, then, had to serve permanently as soldiers.

(The word for trade (sālādeca) derives from a word meaning 'travel'; a trader was originally a traveller, doing some trading along the way. Travelling wasn't very respectable either: why weren't you home in your aure?

The word for soldier, omanabodelo, in fact means 'one who is paid'-- a mercenary, by contrast with House men at arms (pomi sonurdex) and King's Men (pomi narrûex). Even at the height of the struggle against Munkhâsh, when the army was effectively a career for thousands of men, it would have been considered an insult to call the bulk of the army omanabodelō-- they were fulfilling their duties to King or House, not fighting for money.)

Cuzeian artistic values are quite different from our own. They did not search for unconventionality, shock, energy, or "originality." Their chief values were beauty, technical skill, harmony, complexity, and integrity-- virtues which they attributed also to Iáinos' conception. They were very fond of the use of subjects from the holy books, the epics, or well-known plays, and of the mimetic evocation of nature.

(At least in theory. They had not discovered perspective, and early works were stylized in ways that became conventional. Ancient Greek art makes a fair analogy.)

The human figure is almost always depicted in the nude, because the body (Eīledan's creation) was seen as more perfect than clothes (the work of humans). They did not depict only the young and healthy; they depicted the fat, the old, the diseased, the ugly, with equal frankness and skill. (Cuzeian art is indeed an important source of information on contemporary nutrition and disease.) The convention of artistic nudity produces some oddities: scenes of peasants plowing, servants cooking, or Lords sitting in judgment, all completely naked. (By another convention, however, costumes are carefully rendered in depictions of battles and plays.)

Community [To Index]

Community (bardāu) was also of primary importance to the Cuzeians, and was seen to be grounded in the nature of God; Iáinos, Eīledan, and Ulōne were invariably described as ānte, "at one". Love and unity were part of the Divine Response called forth in all creatures by Ulōne.

This value was reflected in the organization of society, which was communal. The nation was divided into aurē ('Houses' or hereditary dominions), in which the basic farming work, the growing of crops, as well as the maintenance of the land as a whole, was undertaken as a common task.

A large aure was divided into villages (acāumāri), each of which had common tasks of its own, such as the maintenance of the local lusi, the support of orphans and the elderly, and the teaching of the young.

The family (yinos), of course, was another level of community. By yinos was meant, naturally, an extended family. It was rare (at least in the peasant and craftworking classes) to live outside the village of your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

The entire nation was also seen as a community, a confederacy of aurē. The nation as a whole defended itself, looked after poorer communities, watched over trade and crime (which were not, of course, viewed as all that different from each other.), and undertook great public works, such as canals and roads. This idea even extended to the rest of the Plain; the nearby principalities and tribes were encouraged to group themselves together under the fraternal leadership of Cuzei.

A Cuzeian thus had multiple levels of belonging, each accompanied by rights and responsibilities. There was no idea of the solitary individual, such as is the guiding ideal of modern Western society. Both peasant and lord had well-defined responsibilities to their aure, and were responsible to each other if they failed in them.

However, community was always balanced by a respect for individual differences. The aurē were considered sovereign states, voluntarily allied. The chief crop of an aure was farmed in common, but each peasant had land of his own as well, on which he could grow whatever he liked; he could even use the communal animals for plowing it. Every married couple had a right to build their own house (or a room or two off the family complex). And in the larger Houses, one's duty to the community was assigned a value in some common commodity (silver, sheep, grain, etc.), and each household decided how best to fulfill that debt-- by tithing their crops; by physical labor; by serving as a soldier; by craft work.

Marriage, gender, and sex [To Index]

The twin principles of creation and community will be seen to account for the bulk of the Cuzeians' ethical reasoning. A few other points need to be mentioned (although it should be said that a Cuzeian would have found a way to tie them to the preceding sections).

As in most traditional cultures, there were fairly well-defined sex roles. It tended to be women who cared for small children, cooked dinner, tended gardens and small animals, made and cleaned clothing. Men worked in the fields, hunted, cared for large animals, built houses, dug wells, prepared wine and cheese. Either sex could watch sheep or goats, make tools, pots, and carpets. Soldiers and diplomats were usually men; doctors and barbers mostly women; the intellectual professions were open to both sexes. Children worked alongside their parents, though they were allowed time for play as well.

Cuzeians believed in monogamy (ānrīdias), and sanctioned it with theological blessings, and a rite of matrimony (barīdeca) conducted in the Glade. (In very early Cuzeian religion, it was sometimes justified by the example of Eīledan and Ulōne-- Iáinos was too abstract for such things-- who together were responsible for the creation and development of the world. However, this notion lost favor in the Golden Age, and to take writings about "the marriage of Eīledan and Ulōne" literally was later condemned as anthropomorphism.

(Anthropomorphism is dêroêllāuas, literally, the application of the nature of a created thing (dêroâ) to God.))

Cuzeian religion also enjoined a very high respect for women. Theologically, at least, women were the equals of men, and indeed they could become evissi Eīledanex ('Knowers of Eīledan', priests), prophets, and Lords. Male theologians occasionally complained of the weakness of women; but since there were female theologians also, who complained of the pride of men, such recriminations never became doctrine.

Many of the structures of power in Cuzei belonged to communities, not families. For instance, there was no right of inheritance per se. A couple received land from the community, not from their parents; and the community as a whole always held the theoretical right to reclaim land or houses upon the death of their inhabitants. In practice, if the owners of a house died, their children had a right to it; but if they had none, or if all the children all had houses of their own, the village would give it to a newly married couple.

(Where an extended family lived in a single house, as in certain parts of Cuzei, the house was in effect the property of that lineage, rather than the community. )

If you married within your own village, you simply lived somewhere in the village. If you married outside the village, the tendency was for the wife to come to the husband's community (patrilocality). However, all the villages of an aure were closely linked together, and it was likely that the bride would already have friends and relatives in her new village.

Especially among the servant and upper classes, much attention was given to the inculcation of coelīras, or devotion to women. Some amount of coelīras was enjoined by religion proper; gratitude was due to women for their role in bearing children and teaching language; and women were said to be specially (though not exclusively) gifted for community (and men for creation). However, the great flowering of this devotion was the result of the secular epics (roccē), which fostered a worshipful submission to woman, especially on the part of an unmarried man to his namiēi cipatora yēve-to (his "noble and virtuous Lady") in particular--either his sweetheart or the local noblewoman-- and to all women in general.

Accounts of contemporary life make it clear that this was an influential ideal, but by no means a universal reality. Indeed, the frequent exhortations to coelīras in Cuzeian literature may be interpreted as pointing to a lack rather than a superabundance of this virtue. It seems to have been strongest in the Golden Age, which was relatively peaceful; both older and later times were more preoccupied with war, and consequently harder on women and the peaceful virtues alike. Still, we will see a far greater sexism in other cultures of the Plain; Cuzei was certainly one of the better places to be a woman in ancient times.

There was a tension between marriage for love and arranged marriage. The epics praised relationships based on love; but it was also widely believed that young people were not wise or self-aware enough to choose a mate for themselves. Parents, on the other hand, were considered unrealistic and greedy. (A marriage was an economic transaction, in that a young couple was given gifts and help by the entire village; naturally, no one wanted to invest in a union that wouldn't last.) Typically, then, it was aunts and uncles (or brothers and sisters, if they were old enough) who found partners for a boy or girl of marriageable age. Either the boy or the girl could refuse a match, however, and if two young commoners did fall in love they were generally allowed to marry, unless the match was viewed as extremely unsuitable.

As for sex, religion was quite clear that wives and husbands were to be mutually faithful. This rule was openly violated among the aristocracy, whose marriages (being highly important links between Houses) were arranged, but whose personal attitudes were highly colored by coelīras. The majority of Lords and Ladies, perhaps, had lovers. They were far from promiscuous, however; their loves were passionate and long-lasting. It was highly disapproved of for a man to change his namiēi cipatora yēve-to. But where society does not allow love and marriage to coincide, adultery is the inevitable result.

The upper orders of society would have been heavily influenced by their example; the peasants, less so. The lower classes were not as devoted to the epics, and were more likely to be satisfied with their own mates.

Cuzeian society was fairly forgiving about sex before marriage-- largely, perhaps, due to a botanical accident: a common vine in the forests of Cuzei, uciro, yields a serviceable contraceptive.

(It is likely that women cannot be completely free in a world without contraceptives, and not only in the sexual sense. Where pregnancy cannot be controlled, society is likely to substitute strict male control over daughters and wives. Compare also Marvin Harris's thesis, that sexism is due to tribal war, whose purpose, in turn, is to put a premium on the breeding of strong males, and thus limit population (which is limited only by the supply of females).)

Some evissi did recommend abstinence before marriage; but others considered sexual experimentation to be a harmless part of growing up. Again, it should not be assumed that young Cuzeians were highly promiscuous. Both coelīras and uciro (which was made into tea and drunk by the girl) gave effective control over premarital sex to girls, who naturally made it a reward for romantic and respectful relationships. There was no oppobrium, and thus no parental or communal impediments, attached to such liaisons, so long as they were not disruptive, and did not impede the girl's marriage.

(Naturally women did not forget how to prepare uciro after marriage; but a man wanted his wife's children to be his own, so there was social pressure, after marriage, for mutual fidelity. Adultery, while it certainly occurred, was viewed as sinful, unlike premarital sex.)

Cuzeian attitudes toward the body were similarly free of morbid shames and scruples. An incident from In the land of Babblers speaks volumes: we see an upper servant and his Lady bathing together, alone and naked, and there is no indication that this bothered anybody.

(Cadhinorians, reading this book, usually assume that the two were lovers, but no Cuzeian would assume so. They seem to have been romantically attached before her marriage, and may conceivably have slept together, with benefit of uciro, but certainly did not once she was married. )

Cuzeians considered bodies beautiful, and clothes to be adornment or protection against the weather, not cloaks for uncleanliness. Women were as free as men to go bare-chested; women and men commonly bathed together; and dancers commonly performed in the nude. This attitude even appears in the holy books, as for instance when the prophet Brinūmio removes his clothes to worship in the lusi, declaring that he would hide neither body nor heart from Iáinos. (Care for the body was nonetheless enjoined. Babblers also reveals that Cuzeian women, but not Cadhinorians, learned to hold in their stomachs, to enhance their appearance.)

Responsibility and sin [To Index]

Cuzeian morality (yēvīras) was wholly oriented toward the community. "What harms no other is not sin," as one of the prophets declared. Wrongdoing, such as adultery, rape, stealing, assault, murder, social injustice, insubordination, or betrayal of one's word, consisted entirely of offenses against another person, or against the community. What harmed no one, or only oneself, was not wrong; thus Cuzeian society was free of strong scruples against drinking, dancing, games, masturbation, and homosexuality; nor did it have rigid codes of diet or dress. Of course, no private pleasure was to be indulged to the point of neglecting one's family or work.

(This is not to say that Cuzeian attitudes were wholly enlightened. Both drunkards and male homosexuals, for instances, were viewed as comic figures. In neither case would it have occurred to anyone that they could or should be cured. however.)

The influence of the ilii can be seen here. There is no morality among the ilii above the individual, and what the individual iliu considers moral, he or she does, without exception. An iliu would not dream of telling another iliu what to do in private, and they applied the same rule to humans.

Attitudes toward wrongdoing were eminently practical. The emphasis was not on guilt or punishment, but on recompense and prevention. The offender must make good (eyēvu, make yēve 'right') his offense; and once this was done he bore no further responsibility. What could right a wrong could always be negotiated with the injured party, or decided by an eduntrâcas (a judge; who might be a parent, a community leader, a Lord, or the entire Council, depending on who was affected), although there were certain traditional compensations (eyēvvē) . The usual principle was that the recompense must overbalance the offense: crime must not pay. For instance, a thief by convention owed twice the value of the items stolen. (In later, more corrupt times, this was increased to three and then four times-- a sign that thievery was becoming more prevalent.)

Sin could be passive as well as active. To allow another to starve or perish by one's own inaction was an offense against justice (rāvas). Obligations were always mutual; if a Lord could punish a peasant for not doing his work, the peasant could bring suit against the House for failure to help during a calamity, or for oppressive treatment. (Such complaints were addressed to the Council, which appointed a Knower to decide them. So far as we can judge from historical records, the deliberations tended to gave the benefit of the doubt to the Houses, but did regularly act in favor of the peasants if the evidence was strong.) The prophets also ringingly condemned Lords who oppressed their Houses, or lived richly while their peasants lived in deprivation.

Although it was understood that a righteous life was pleasing to Eīledan, there was no great sense that sin was an offense against Iáinos. The Christian idea that man needed redemption would have been puzzling to a Cuzeian: sin required recompense, but once it was given it was done with. There was likewise no emphasis on soul-searching or repentance. An arrogant sinner offended judges, and was generally assigned a stricter recompense; but the community demanded only outward compliance, not inner repentance.

The effect on morals seems to have been positive. A higher standard is harder to meet, and leads to widespread hypocrisy; Cuzeians did not lay upon themselves an impossible burden, and therefore made a real attempt to meet it.

Holiness [To Index]

Holiness (nēreyas) was consistently distinguished from righteousness (yēvīras). To be righteous was simply to do right, to refrain from offending your neighbor, or if offense was given, to make it right. To be holy was to have a character particularly full of the nature of Iáinos, particularly responsive to the prompting of Ulōne.

The holiness of Evangelical Christianity is to a large extent binary: either you're right with God or you're not; sin renders all men guilty before God, and Jesus makes them all holy. "The saints" are simply the believers in Christ.

In Cuzeian religion, by contrast, holiness is a matter of degree. Mere righteousness is only the bottom rung, the entrance requirement. Beyond it one can advance as far as one pleases; and as one advances, mere morality recedes into insignificance. As the Book of Eīledan says, "The one who must think about right and wrong is the one for whom goodness is not by nature."

Holiness involves a pure heart, creativity, love, the disposition to do good, devotion to Iáinos. It is the gift of Ulōne, and yet requires discipline and dedication, and is never perfected. There is much counsel in the holy books on the pursuit of holiness, and praise of holy men and women.

The scriptures firmly separate holiness from the observance of law and (even more irrelevantly) ritual. The prophets declaim against all forms of Pharisaism and dogmatism, and indeed emphasize the spiritual paradoxes of holiness: "The holy one knows nothing of good and evil." "Reject the world, and Iáinos will give it to you." "Advancement comes from not knowing." "The simplest heart is the most full."

In a sense, holiness is expected of all: "Ulōne grieves over the man who never desires nēreyas." And the Count of Years declares that Cuzei was founded by Eīledan for the purpose of producing not only a righteous but a holy society.

In another sense, however, the pursuit of holiness is optional. Knowing Iáinos is its own reward-- there is no promise of prosperity or honor for the holy one; and there is no particular doctrine promising an afterlife. The Cuzeians recognized both the impossibility of pursuing holiness out of guilt or obligation, and the danger of spiritual pride. The first was addressed by the teaching that holiness must be pursued only out of desire; the second, by warnings that pride must be destroyed before spiritual advancement was possible.

The soul [To Index]

To the Cuzeians, a human being was composed of body (sīra), life (taiggâ), and rational spirit (landāua). Sīra was the mere dead flesh; a dead man left behind his sīra. The living man, like all living things, possessed taiggâ as well. In addition Eīledan gave the xēcū lanetēi (the Thinking Kinds) a spirit (landāua, related to lanê 'think') as well-- the ability to think, to reason, to understand, to know right and wrong, to love.

The Cuzeians thus believed in a basic community between humans (eîcē) and the other rational species. There were also purely spiritual beings, the einalandāuē ('first spirits') or angels.

There were great debates on the relation of body, life, and spirit. The usual scheme located different capacities of the spirit in different parts of the body.

(This scheme, though never part of doctrine, had a wide influence on thought and language. It explains otherwise baffling derivations, such as yilindoro 'lustful', from yilindu 'guts'; or cipatoro 'noble, generous', from cipato 'liver'-- and a slew of other liver-based terms; where we would praise a person's heart, a Cuzeian would praise her liver. And it is the key to spiritual disciplines based on the theory, such as the erēinesē 'purges' recommended to those suffering from domination by the baser passions.)

There was a clear moral gradation within the soul; philosophers differed, however, in whether the noble passions and the understanding were or were not wholly good. Some very strict thinkers maintained that every man was dominated by one organ at birth, and must renounce its control and submit to that of Eīledan to achieve holiness. They warned that the domination of the brain or liver was no better than that of the intestines-- worse, perhaps, because it took longer to recognize. Others considered that no evil could come from the organs that were the source of man's better nature. There may be seen here an echo of terrestrial debates over original sin.

The debate on such issues was heated, but was curiously untinctured by religion per se. Because there was no notion of spiritual responsibility for sin, for instance, the issue of free will was of no great moment. The consensus was generally that men's wills were indeed free, if for no other reason than that Eīledan could not reasonably be bothered to be the cause of all action. It was usual to attribute holiness to the action of Ulōne, but this was more a rebuke to spiritual pride than a definite position on the interaction of man and God.

Philosophers set great store on the idea of perfection (sofuseca); they loved to classify things-- actions, nations, animals, books-- according to their inherent quality or sophistication. Some, indeed, went so far as to deny that evil existed; there was only greater and lesser perfection, and bad actions were simply those which most failed to resemble Iáinos, or respond to the promptings of Ulōne.

Was Cuzeian religion monotheistic? [To Index]

It has often been asked whether the Cuzeians believed in one god or three.

Our answer must not be influenced by later reinterpretations (including those enshrined in the Book of Eīledan). The case for three gods--Iáinos, Eīledan, Ulōne-- is quite strong. The three mētū had distinct personalities, were treated differently by believers, were of different categories of being. They were even called nūmiū 'gods' in many writings, including some of the holy books.

Theologians did describe the three as "one" (ānte, or the even stronger āno), and sometimes explicitly declared that all three were "parts" (vûnnē) of one god. These statements were the basis for more monotheistic formulations in Cadhinorian times; but in context they must be interpreted as partly tactical; they usually occur in comparisons of Cuzeian beliefs with those of the polytheistic barbarians. It made a stronger contrast to speak of "God vs. the gods" than "three gods against many." It should also be noted that ānte and even āno could in other contexts be attributed to collectives-- the King's Council, for instance.

Even if there was one god, this doctrine had almost no practical effect, before the Cadhinorian conquest. There was not even a name for the Cuzeian trinity. Nūmiu 'god' was never used as a vocative or a proper name; it occurred instead in statements like "Caumēliye is devoted to nūmiu." In the context of Cuzeian religion it may best be translated 'the divine.'

(Nūmiū 'gods' was also the term for the beings worshipped by the barbarians.)

The best analysis simply avoids the question of number. Cuzeian theism differs from Cadhinorian paganism in much the same qualitative way as Hebrew monotheism differs from Greek or Phoenecian polytheism: it is theologized, moralized, universalized, and distinctive. To put it another way, the Cadhinorian gods acted like powerful kings, and it is not much of an exaggeration to say that they are the same kind of thing as their worshippers. The Cuzeian gods, by contrast, belong to a different category of being than humans and indeed all created things: they are nūmiu, not matter. It is the ontological divide, not the population on the other side of it, that is important.

Controversies [To Index]

Among the lasting controversies in Cuzeian theology:

Practices [To Index]

The public and private practices below comprise the major specifically religious observances in Cuzeian life. The modern terrestrial must avoid the mistake of identifying these alone with "religion"; there was no boundary line between religion, work, and family and community life in Cuzei.

Indeed, a steady stream of Cuzeian inspirational writing disparages ritual and discipline. For instance, says Numisidiē: "He who has worked in a spirit of honesty and creation, who has shown love to those he lives with, who has given thanks for the beauty of sky and tree, who has shown compassion for his neighbor-- what need has he to sit in a corner and pray? He is right with Eīledan."

Priesthood [To Index]

The priests of Cuzei were known as evissi Eīledanex, 'knowers of Eīledan'. They were said to have a special vocation of knowing the ways and will of Eīledan; their tasks were to study theology, to lead other Cuzeians in spiritual growth, and to celebrate ritual. The profession was open to both sexes, and Knowers were allowed to marry.

Like all Cuzeians, they lived on the common grain distributions, built their own houses, and grew other crops of their own. It was a pious act to materially assist the Knowers; but poverty was considered a mark of saintliness, and rich Knowers excited a certain contempt. (In Imperial times they were quite common, and unsurprisingly corrupt.)

The Knowers did not have a monopoly on even theological knowledge, and their authority over other believers was in theory only that of example. Nonetheless their power tended to increase over the centuries, and their influence was frequently in favor of increased religious strictures. They increasingly opposed the nobility-- occasionally in favor of greater democracy or justice, more often asserting their own rights to educate or judge the people. However, since Knowers were never allowed to become Lords or members of the Council, their actual power always remained limited.

In early years there was no hierarchy of Knowers. Each Glade had one Knower, and that was that. In later times Knowers began to have assistants (osofuselō, apprentices for Knowership), and large cities had communities of Knowers. Individual Knowers generally picked their own successors, but in the Houses their choices were subject to the veto of the Lord.

The Knowers of the Glade of Eleisa had no official authority, but in practice were the most respected Knowers in the land, and were the recognized arbiters of morality and theology.

Prophets [To Index]

Prophets (numīcuri) were Knowers selected by Ulōne to receive miraculous gifts: speaking for Iáinos; prophesying; healing; exorcism. At any one time there were perhaps two to four dozen of them in the whole of Cuzei; they had no fixed home, but wandered the land exercising their gifts.

In later years there were more of them, and the quality seems to have gone down; moralists in Imperial times often complained of false or weak prophets.

Some of them left records of their fulminations or words of wisdom, and these are well represented among the holy books of Cuzei. Prophets traditionally had no respect for authority of Lord or Knower, and many of them were persecuted or put to death. Some of the martyred prophets soon became considered holy men (and women), rejected by an unworthy society; others, perhaps the majority, were never viewed as anything but dangerous radicals and heretics.

Public rites [To Index]

Public rites accompanied each major life transition. Typically they incorporated a symbolic movement between the Glade and the house, and were led by a Knower. In each case a meal was incorporated into the event.

Private practices [To Index]

The ordinary believer was encouraged to sing songs of praise to Eīledan, to read the holy books (more than half the population was able to read and write), and to fast and confess faults to Ulōne at least once a year.

For one who wished to seriously pursue holiness, there was no lack of disciplines: study, meditation, self-examination, prayer, alms, physical labor, counseling other believers, acts of creation, visions, ministries of healing or deliverance.

The modern terrestrial will recognize similarities to Western religions; but should be aware also of the differences. For instance, Cuzeian praxis was much less individualistic than Christian (or even Greek or Jewish) spirituality. There was something suspect, not admirable, in the solitary hermit. The Cuzeian holy man, though he spent time in solitary meditation, was to be integrated into social life; the very sign of his holiness was the love, compassion, and guidance offered to his fellows.

The holy man aspired to a simple life, and was taught to despise luxuries and indolence; however, there was never any emphasis on self-mortification, or any belief that matter or the body were intrinsically bad. The prophets offered scorn for "fools who think that abstemiousness is virtue, when Eīledan created the earth for our enjoyment and admiration", and mocked "ascetics whose favorite word is no and not love."

Likewise Cuzeian religion, though it believed in visions, never strayed very far from rationality (lanêde; related to landāua 'spirit'). Iáinos was seen as supremely rational, and had given men minds that they might think, and learn, and dispute.

The believer was expected to admire Iáinos and be open to Ulōne's influence; but there was no command to have "faith" as a virtue opposed to reason. Indeed, though Cuzeians struggled in their spiritual life as much as anyone, it was the rare Cuzeian who even recognized that belief in Iáinos could be difficult, much less laudable. Belief was the matrix of his society, and the distinct sign of the most advanced society he knew of, apart from the iliū, who far from offering any competing vision were seen as the source of his beliefs-- why should he not believe?

Likewise Cuzeian religion made no use of drugs or other consciousness-changing states. Drugs were known-- all the pagan religions used them-- but were seen as leading not to any spiritual insight, but to mere drunkenness, like wine.

Festivals [To Index]

The chief celebration of the year was the seven-day Festival of Making (vissiveyas dêriex; or just Dêriex), held in the early spring. Its earliest purpose was undoubtedly to ask Iáinos' blessing on the crops; but increasingly it was perceived as a celebration of the divine creation, and commemorated by feasting, dancing in the streets, and staging religious plays. In the Silver Age it became customary to dedicate works of art-- sculptures, plays, musical works, dances-- to Iáinos during the Festival, giving the season something of the feel of an arts festival.

The other major festival was the Fast of Iáinos (gāemāu Iáinex), held in the fall. It featured thanks for the harvest, corporate dedication to the virtue and holiness expected of a people given special revelation by Eīledan, and of course more eating and dancing. (The fast itself lasted only one night.)

The nine-week Adoration of Prophets (cāpias numīcuriē) took place in the winter; once a week half a day was spent celebrating the life of one prophet or another. There were naturally readings and songs, but also games, plays, and symbolic activities, all bearing some didactic point related to the prophet being celebrated. For instance, on the day devoted to the prophet Brinūmio, who rebuked the Lords of Eleisa for their high living, Lords, Knowers, and servants are expected to invite poor men and peasants to their table.

Kings, Lords, or local Knowers could also declare a holiday (vissiveyas) at other times. The Council might declare a day of thanksgiving after a military victory, for instance; or the local Lord might wish to commemorate the day of his marriage or accession. Holidays would include public worship in the Glade, involving readings, sermons, songs, and dancing; and also a public or family meal. There were also, as noted above, public festivities over the life changes of individuals. It was typical to have a holiday or other festival about every three or four weeks.

There was no set sabbath or day of rest; but the majority of Cuzeians were, after all, individual craftsmen or farmers,whose duty to their Houses was strictly limited, and who mostly set their own schedules. The Book of Instructions chastised employers who gave their full-time servants no time off; and first the commentaries and later the law turned this into a right to half a day off every six days, plus holidays. Free merchants and craftsmen in the cities observed the same rule. There was no idea of everyone having the same half day off, however.

History [To Index]

Origins [To Index]

The religion of Cuzei seems to have antedated the invasion of the Plain. This at least is the testimony of the Count of Years, and seems confirmed by the behavior of the Cuzeians during the invasion: unlike the Cadhinorians, they did not adopt any of the features or organization of Methaiun religion.

Cuzeian religion is fairly clearly (like Qarau monotheism, q.v.) an adaptation of ilian monotheism. According to the Count of Years, the Cuzeians originally worshipped just one god, but knew nothing about him; the ilii declared to them the nature of the One they worshipped.

Some modern scholars have doubted this. Their evidence is circumstantial: the Cadhinorians, Naviu, Chia-Sha, and Xurnese, fellow heirs with the Cuzeians of the Easterners, were all polytheists. This argument is not decisive, however. The Easterners might as easily have been monotheists as polytheists (like some primitive peoples on Earth-- the Samoyed, for example). Linguistics provides evidence compatible with either view. Only one name of a god can be reconstructed in proto-Eastern, *Endānor (cf. Cadhinor Endauron, Cuêzi (Eīl)edan, Axunashin Inbámu); but it is very possible that the notion of a fixed catalogue of gods is a later importation, not to be expected at this early date anyway.

Golden Age religion in its social context [To Index]

All religions fulfill social roles; but they do not all fulfill them in the same way.

Throughout most of its history Cuzei was the predominant political and cultural power of the Plain. On all sides of Cuzei were barbarians who respected and imitated Cuzeian culture; the ilii were a superior civilization, but interacted with Cuzei only at rare and highly charged intervals.

It was no wonder that Cuzeian religion underlined the superiority of the Cuzeian people, assuring them that their worldly domination was the reflection of Iáinos's favor, and the form of their society approved of by heaven.

These circumstances were the source of the religion's strengths and limitations. Cuzeian culture can be maddeningly smug and parochial; still, it was saved from racialism by the universalism of the ilii-- the Cuzeians never believed that Iáinos was merely their property, and encouraged their neighbors to worship him.

Early Cuzeian theism can be very literal and materialistic, equating virtue with material wealth and power. Even before the Golden Age, however, the religion was increasingly spiritualized, partly due to the ilii perhaps, but even more so due to reflection on the difference between the spiritual ideals of the religion and the actual, usually unsatisfactory behavior of the lords of Cuzei. The epics can be seen as a form of social protest, calling the nobles to the (imagined) level of righteousness of their ancestors. The early prophets were also instrumental in promulgating spiritual rather than mere wordly virtues.

That morality and holiness were never unified shows in a sense that the prophets never succeeded in fully spiritualizing the religion. Holiness always remained optional; religion never criticized the principles of Cuzeian society; and the law did not attempt to enforce personal righteousness. Religions which have had to struggle against oppressors, such as Cadhinorian paganism and Arašát, have gone much further in the way of divorcing religion from the state, and demanding a uniform, spiritualized morality of everyone: when political power is denied to the repressed group, it declares that political power is unimportant anyway, and seeks spiritual superiority.

Later times [To Index]

The struggle with Munkhâsh was certainly given spiritual overtones-- the ktuvoki were described as amnigō, sons of the demon Amnāi-- but it had surprisingly little impact on Cuzeian belief and practice. Before the Silver Age, the struggle was largely theoretical anyway; and though the invasion of the Plain put Cuzei itself on the front lines for some time, little religious literature came of this period. Later on the Cadhinorians bore the brunt of the fighting; though many Cuzeians fought in the wars, they had to travel far from Cuzei to do so.

The internecine conflicts of the imperial period, the decadence of the lords, and the increasing strife with Cadhinas, did affect the tenor of later Cuzeian religion. One prophet after another rose to call Cuzei back to virtue, or to unity, or to war. Heresies and cults arose; other gods were worshipped. Ecstatic and world-denying forms of Cuzeian theism developed-- obvious forms of escapism.

As has been noted, the pietist party grew increasingly influential; Knowers bid to be the arbiters of morality and the guides to holiness for Lord and common man alike. The result, naturally enough, was an increase in hypocrisy: the standard of public morality grew ever higher, the practice ever less; and this was advanced by the Knowers as cause for even more public piety, forced prayer, persecutions of the immoral.

How decadent was late Imperial society, really? The reader should not imagine something like Petronius' or Fellini's Rome. Imagine, rather, a tired society, over a thousand years old, incapable of reform or even technological innovation. Economically, things don't seem to work as well as before. The rich are still rich, but the lords seem more intent on dissipating the wealth they earn from the peasant's back, rather than ruling the land in virtue; the real rulers are the Emperor's bureaucrats and generals. Literature is divided into a dozen genres, sophisticated but divorced from immediate life. Cuzei itself is divided; and outside the Cuzeian lands the barbarians have organized themselves into active and insolent kingdoms; they don't even pretend to worship Iáinos or consult the Emperor any more.

The prophets complained of pride, of hypocrisy, of injustice, of sexual excess (Adultery had always, of course, been a way of life for the elite, and Cuzeians were lenient about what we would call perversion. To spend too much time and energy on sex, however, was shameful), of a turning away from Iáinos; it is not hard to see that the underlying problem was simply apathy. Cuzei did not know how to bestir itself to change; no wonder then if those who could turned away from the gathering gloom to indulge themselves in pleasure, or in the distractions of culture, or in lonely spiritual pursuits.

For the development of Cuzeian theism after the Cadhinorian conquest (1024), see the section on Arašát.

Writings [To Index]

The chief scriptures of Cuzei were collected after its fall into the Book of Eīledan. In classical times there was no perception of these books as a unity, but only as the cream of a voluminous religious literature. Among the works most cited:
Rēneca sōniē The Count of Yearshistory
Pettē bisrêsorē Unending Songs songs
Selirda caddeē The Book of Instructions commandments
Sofuseca narrûyē The Teaching of Kings community
Dêt numīcuri The Ten Prophets hagiography
Cāpias golodorāex The Praise of Poverty holiness
Selirda mosex The Book of the Ram theology
Cipato Ulōneē The Compassion of Ulōne holiness
Pettē Iáinex Songs of Iáinos songs
Brinūmiex selirda Brinūmio prophet
Araunixueē selirda Araunixue prophet
Îceīledanex selirda Îceīledan prophet
Missīllecē cueporē The Wise Sentences proverbs
Numisidiēē onāemu Numisidiē commentary
Banas vissecaē The Way of Knowing holiness
Cueporāu evissiē The Wisdom of Knowers Glade practice
Onāemu leribodēinu The Lovers of Learning commentary

Almost all of these books were revised and expanded many times over the course of Cuzeian history. The Count of Years, for instance, was a history of the world and of Cuzei, from Creation to the present; each scribe who recopied it brought the story down to his own times.

The books of songs and proverbs, and the manuals of holiness and of theology, grew in a similar way. The writings of a famous Knower would be added by his (or her) successors to the holy books-- or perhaps removed, if the judgment of later times was that the addition was not worthy of the canon. Or a poet or Knower would modify the language of a book, or improve a verse; occasionally a very great prophet or Knower would revise an entire book, incorporating the revisions of previous centuries, and correcting errors (according to current interpretation).

Besides this chronological variation, in the latter days of Cuzei there were often different versions of each book, conforming to the theology and history of different schools of Knowers-- those of Eleisa, of Lānavo, of Aure Arrasi, of Masāntie. It is no wonder that almost every manuscript of the holy books we possess from ancient Cuzei is different.

Quite a few "heretical" works were well known in the days of Cuzei; despite the efforts of the mainstream Knowers, there was a very wide variation of thought among Knowers, writers, and poets, and some very strange ideas could be found at the margins. It must always be remembered that the later Arašei religion was turned by persecuted Knowers into a rigid orthodoxy; the original religion was very much looser and more locally variant.

© 1998 by Mark Rosenfelder
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