Virtual Verduria Almean Belief Systems

Caďinorian paganism



Location
What it is
Earliest manifestations + Priestly religion Popular religion Which is earlier?
The Munkhâshi occupation
Classical religion + The state takeover of religion A plethora of gods Theologization
Medieval times + The Adhivro Medieval practice
Modern times + Official status Organization
Beliefs + The gods Other spirits Life and afterlife The soul Matter
The ages of Almea + The First Age The Second Age The Third Age
Practices + Feasts and celebrations Birth, marriage, death Personal piety Family life Marriage Sexism Sex
Cadhinorian philosophy + Genremos Ilcorea The natural philosophers Cistile Churmey
Magic
 

Location [To Index]

The heartland of Caďinorian religion is the valley of the Svetla, the site of the first Caďinorian kingdoms and the holy lake Como, the birthplace of the gods. When the Caďinorians conquered Cuzei and the Meťaiun they brought their religion with them; and with the defeat of Munkhâsh it spread in the east, in Sarnáe, as well.

Today it is the majority religion in almost the entire Plain, as well as the Mišicama littoral, and though persecuted it is still the religion of the common people in Sarnáe (western Dhekhnam). It is absent only among the western and southern barbarians, in the Rau jungle, in Flora, and in Kebri.

In the last milennium it has faced a powerful rival in Eleďát, which developed from the merger of the Arašei (the heirs of Cuzeian religion) and the Eleniki evangelists who appeared in Avéla in Z.E. 2870. Eleďát is the majority religion only in Érenat and Benécia, but it is strong in Verduria, Kebri, and along the Eärdur valley.

What it is [To Index]

It is almost irreparably misleading, though perhaps necessary, to give "Caďinorian paganism" a name and a chapter of its own; it implies a unity of belief and organization which have never existed, and suggests that we are dealing with a body of belief as theologized and as dogmatized as are the monolithic religions described in this work, such as Cuzeian theism or Jippirasti. The peasant at his festival has little in common with the philosopher in his study, with the ancient godspeaker possessed by fantit in her hut, with the magician following his secret disciplines. They are not all asking the same questions; they so differ that they do not compete. It would be more accurate to speak, not of the Caďinorian religion, but of the Caďinorian atmosphere, a background or set of common assumptions which both has its own offshoots, and contrasts with alien intrusions like Irreanism, Endajué, and Eleďát.

There is even a problem of nomenclature. There was no Caďinor word at all for the Caďinorian religion. The closest Verdurian word is tësaďát (from tësi aďi 'all gods', and more or less meaning 'polytheism'), but this has a meaning both narrower and broader than we seek: it excludes many offshoots we shall be treating as pagan if only in origin, and it is used also for foreign paganisms, such as that of Téllinor. Tësaďát is not what anyone calls their beliefs; it is what you put after 'Religion:' when filling out forms, and reflects the fact that Verduria has become a religiously pluralistic society, and needs some way of telling beliefs apart.

Narrower still is so ül uris 'the old worship', something of a propaganda term; it is what we might call 'organized paganism', with its temples, schools, priests, liturgies, and more or less official support. (It is the established religion in most Caďinorian countries (outside the Eärdur, of course). In Verduria, as we will see, it has the royal patronage, but both it and Eleďat have some degree of state recognition and protection, as well as a certain freedom from state control.) However, the term covers certain offshoots or independent cults and excludes others, in a fashion which seems straightforward to Verdurian observers and baffling to terrestrials.

Finally there is řemuris, which might be translated 'temple worship', or even 'traditional belief'; in older times it was restricted to the less radical Caďinorian sects, but by a courtesy which has become conventional, it is applied also to Eleďe and Irrean worship. It has something of the sense of 'religion' as used by the 'family values' folks: the solid, traditional, unquestioned practices of people who go to temple every week and hold no truck with newfangled foreign imports, or various hifalutin philosophies which make you read too much and stop believing the same things as your parents or neighbors.

Earliest manifestations [To Index]

Our earliest trustworthy description of Caďinorian religion is that of Beretos of Eteîa Mitano in In the Land of Babblers. It is a picture which already reveals much complexity; indeed, Beretos was perceptive enough to realize that the Caďinorians practiced not one religion but two, which he called the 'castle' and 'village' beliefs, but which we from a broader perspective will call 'priestly' and 'popular' religion.

Priestly religion [To Index]

The priests (aiďocliťuis, 'those who address gods', godspeakers) were an established caste in early Caďinorian society, ranking just below the nobles and warriors, and well above servants, craftsmen, traders, and peasants. The caste was hereditary, but men of special piety could be accepted into it; and it was a repository also for sixth or seventh sons of nobles (or nobles who had lost their estates). In earliest times the priesthood was exclusively male, and priests were allowed to marry. Like the nobility, it was supported by tithes from the peasantry. (The actual amount varied by region and by time. The total bite ranged from less than 10% in prosperous areas with small nobilities, to almost 50% in war-ravaged, noble-ridden lands.)

(Terms relating to ancient religion (treated in this section and the following two) are given in Caďinor. The Verdurian for aiďocliťu is cliďu.)

The priests directed the official worship of the land, which revolved around seasonal celebrations and commemorations of important historical dates, as well as sacrifices imploring the gods' blessing at planting time, before wars were undertaken, or in times of want. Beretos informs us that red meat was never eaten except with a sacrifice to the gods (who like all pagan gods conveniently preferred entrails and bones to muscle). They also oversaw the milestones of noble life: births, marriages, deaths, negotiations.

In earliest times only second and later births of children were celebrated and blessed by priests. One did not want to attract the attention of demons to one's first child by boastful celebration. The Empire viewed this custom as unworthy of a great people, and blessed all babies; but the custom remained to celebrate specially the birth of a second child. )

They were also responsible for the transmission of key legends and moral values, and served as counselors to the barons and princes, in small matters and great. Devotion to the gods was considered especially seemly in women, and noblewomen often had aged priests to attend them.

The precise content of their beliefs varied regionally. We know of at least three complete sets of gods. Beretos names the following gods, found in the Ctelm mountains:

Endauron lord of the heavens and storms
Iscira goddess of light; his consort
Mieranac patron of war and the hunt
Kravcaena goddess of the earth, farmers, and fishermen
Necťeruon god of craft
Veharies goddess of love

All of these are still worshipped today; as the modern gods derive from those of Ctésifon in the center of the plain, these gods at least can be considered fairly widespread. However, Aránicer and the whole of the south worshipped an entirely different pantheon, headed by Aecton and Aelilea (Aežon, Aelea); and Kaino had its own gods as well.

(Beretos' list is missing Caloton, arguably the most popular god in Ctésifon after Enäron; and the inhabitants of the Ctelm assigned war to Mëranac rather than Boďneay. )

Beretos and other observers inform us that many minor gods were worshipped in small regions only, or by one craft or lordly family only. The continuity with later belief is obvious; but there is no warrant for supposing that any one early Caďinorian would have been able to name, much less worship, the hundreds of gods in classical belief, whose number was grossly inflated by syncretism. Probably no more than ten to twenty gods were worshipped in any one region.

The early gods all had eminently practical functions. Řavcaena was not the goddess of nature, but the patron of agriculture. The wilderness was, indeed, commonly described as bunaiďris 'godless': the task of the gods was to make the earth comfortable for man, not to amuse themselves with creation for its own sake. All the gods were people you could (indeed had to) ask favors of. Only Iscira has a somewhat abstract brief-- night and winter-- but her function was simply negative rather than positive: one implored her not for favors but for restraint in the operation of these scourges.

Certain regions of special holiness were the sites of pilgrimages by those seeking extraordinary favors: Lake Como near Aránicer was one, as it still is today. These areas had large numbers of attendant (and impoverished) godspeakers, who served as guides and intercessors for the pilgrims.

Godspeakers were trained by their predecessors; there was no formal interregional organization or ordination of priests. Within each noble's domain there would be a chief godspeaker (and in the pilgrimage areas, there might be a true hierarchy).

Popular religion [To Index]

The people participated in the priestly religion; but their real devotion lay elsewhere. They had their own godspeakers and their own beliefs.

Their godspeakers were no organized caste, but chosen by fate-- a madman here, a cripple there, or simply a revered or feared old person. Either men or women could be godspeakers; curiously, they seldom married. They too lived from the offerings of the people; but these gifts had to be earned by service.

Their main function was to hold regular sessions at which they were possessed by fantit-- supernatural beings, the spirits of animals, minor godlings, ancestors, or archetypal figures. (They were never the gods of priestly religion.) These powerful beings could grant favors, apply or remove curses, bless second-born babies, and cure diseases. All these important services required rewards.

Curiously, the village godspeakers did not officiate at marriages or funerals. Rich peasants would pay the nobles' priests for these services. The majority of peasants, however, were simply married at and via gatherings organized by the families involved (and mourned at similar all-day parties).

There were legends and stories associated with fantit, and with the world in general (just-so stories, and morality stories involving monsters or animals, were particularly popular). The common people seem to have rarely told stories about the gods, except as incidental figures in fantos stories.

Did people believe these stories, implausible and grotesque as they often were? Almost certainly they did. To the modern, the myths are obviously untrue, because they were made up by men. To the ancient pagan they were true for virtually the same reason. That a man had a gift for telling stories about supernatural beings was itself a supernatural sign. He could tell those stories because they were dictated by a fantos.

Another element of popular religion was the gesit or household gods; these were idols made of wood or clay, and stored in a house (sometimes actually built into the walls) to watch over its inhabitants. They were fed with ashes, blood, or beer in return for their favors and protection. The attitude of the Caďinorians toward their gesit was alarmingly practical: if it didn't perform, it would be punished, by being starved, buried, or even broken. The use of gesit had nothing to do with godspeakers-- they were made by the families themselves-- and survived unchanged through classical times. Although the gesit as such have died out, they have given their name-- modern žes-- as the Verdurian word for 'home'.

Which is earlier? [To Index]

Inevitably the scholar wants to know the origins of these competing belief systems, and whether one or the other can be traced farther back in history.

For several reasons, the priestly religion is likely to be the oldest Caďinorian belief system (though its outward form no doubt changed greatly since its origin).

Caďinor Endauron can be traced back to proto-Eastern *Endānor (likely meaning 'first elder'), which also underlines Axunašin Inbamu, Obenzayet Ädänä, Cuêzi (Eīl)edan, Ša Danin; Iscira can be traced back to proto-Eastern or early Central *Asighīra 'high wife'. These words are more than two thousand years older than even the primitive times (c. 290) described by Beretos. What we know of Eastern tribal society makes it exceedingly unlikely that the divided belief system he described, and which no other descendant society shares, can be traced back to it: it was much more egalitarian (practicing only garden agriculture, and with no division into nobles and peasants). Since at least some gods can be traced back that far, the gods and not the fantit seem to be the more primitive conception.

Why then did the two-level religion of the Caďinorians develop? The most compelling explanation seems to be that the gods were, in effect, taken from the people. As society became more stratified, and religious justifications were sought for the existence of a noble class, the worship of the gods became more and more an affair of the upper classes-- the nobles, warriors, and priests. The people, discouraged from importuning the gods with their sordid wants, simply created their own religion to fill their own needs for the supernatural.

It has also been suggested that the class division derived from the invasion of the Plain by the Easterners, c. -350; the Caďinorians retained their own gods, while allowing the conquered their traditional worship of spirits. This suggestion is unlikely to be correct. For one thing, the Monkhayic peoples conquered by the Caďinorians and Cuzeians are known (from Cuzeian and ilian records) to have been polytheists, much like their conquerors; for another (unlike the situation seen for instance in Axunai), there is no trace of any racial or ethnic basis to Caďinorian class divisions; the peasants felt themselves as fully Caďinorian as their lords. It has been more plausibly suggested that at least some of the Caďinorians adopted Meťaiun religion fairly closely. Aránicer, as we have seen, worshipped not Enäron and Išira but Aežon and Aelea; it is very likely that these are simply the Monkhayic gods, slightly Caďinorianized.

The Munkhâshi occupation [To Index]

The great crisis of the Caďinorian people, the invasion and seven-hundred-year occupation by Munkhâsh, and the subsequent struggle to liberate the Plain, profoundly affected the Caďinorian religion.

The deepest myths, and those truest to the Caďinorian spirit, were first told during the occupation itself. In them we see the gods fighting fiercely for their people against the demons of the east; and their victory is never assured. The end of the tale approaches but is not seen, and it may be a bad end. The myths express and teach the will to struggle on, to cling to life and hope, against overwhelming odds, and against a background of almost utter loss. The lesson seems to have been as salutary for the character of the gods as for men. Against this background of eternal conflict, the lives of the gods are portrayed as domestic, even bourgeois. Enäron himself, like his followers, keeps his wheat and his maize, and lives happily with Išira, with none of the wild affairs so notorious in the home life of Zeus. (We will hear of an exception below; but it does not date to this period.) There is incident in the stories-- jealousies, quarrels, trials-- but at the end of the story the sun must set upon harmony among the gods. There must be harmony in heaven, because there is hell on earth.

The occupation levelled the class distinctions of Caďinorian society: every able-bodied man had to serve as a warrior; and the nobility in the occupied areas was almost destroyed anyway. Caďinorians of all types were thrown together, and forgot their differences in the face of the enemy.

Not surprisingly, the beliefs that emerged were an amalgamation of priestly and popular religion. Both aiďit (gods) and fantit were incorporated into the new religion, and ordinary worshippers seem to have called on both. As a partial reconciliation of the two traditions, the fantit were usually now described as serving or descending from one or another god, or were treated as minor gods themselves.

Classical religion [To Index]

By the time the Munkhâshi were expelled from the Plain (1150), Caďinorian religion had already assumed its classical form. The key developments were organization, syncretism, and theologization.

The state takeover of religion [To Index]

One of the early emperors is credited with the dictum, "The gods are too important to be left to priests." The emperors indeed recognized the importance of Caďinorian religion in imparting consolation, hope, unity, and fighting spirit, and to increase its effectiveness they saw to it that the priesthood was organized into a hierarchy as strong and as responsive to imperial needs as the army.

The selection of godspeakers was no longer left to heredity or fate. Schools (claetandet) for godspeakers were organized, in chief towns and places of pilgrimage, to ensure correctness and uniformity of ritual and teaching, and to ensure that all godspeakers were strong cheerleaders for the crusade against Munkhâsh and loyal followers of the Emperor. The importance of the latter of these requirements, of course, steadily increased with time.

Temple was strictly subordinated to State. The Patriarch (pidrarkh) or chief of the hierarchy of godspeakers was appointed by the Emperor and served at his pleasure. Godspeakers were, like royal officials and messengers, agents of the Empire, and expected to assist in the implementation of royal decrees, and to report untoward happenings of any kind. The hierarchy also regularly relocated godspeakers, in order that the people's loyalties might be to the gods and to the Emperor, rather than to their local priests.

The rigid organization of Caďinorian religion is the chief difference between it and Roman polytheism, which had hardly any organization to speak of. And this difference certainly explains some of the differences between Caďinorian and European history; the greater cultural cohesion of the Caďinorians, and their greater resistance to Eleďát (save in areas where the 'old worship' was already weak).

A plethora of gods [To Index]

Though the hierarchy was rigid, there was little attempt to impose uniformity of belief. The gods worshipped in Ctésifon were, naturally enough, spread to all the major cities of the realm, as much due to the natural Caďinorian tendency to begin worshipping gods who have proven themselves powerful, no matter where they come from, as to any Imperial proselytization.

(When Cuzei was strong, Caďinorians regularly offered sacrifices to Iáinos and Eīledan, despite the protests of any Cuzeians who were about.)

The movement of godspeakers from place to place, the policy of allowing people to keep their traditional gods, and the incorporation of fantit into common doctrine, led in practice to an enormous multiplication in the number of gods worshipped in the Empire. Where once no more than ten or twenty gods were worshipped in a locality, a hundred now might be; and in Ctésifon itself there were said to be temples or shrines to half a thousand gods and fantit. The gods of Kaino found themselves minor members of Enäron's court; while those of Aránicer, while continuing to be worshipped as the primary gods in the south, were honored as the "First Pantheon" in the imperial religion, after the Caďinorian conquest of Aránicer in 1499.

The gods of Munkhâsh were also absorbed into the system, but as demons; the chief Munkhâshi god, Gelalh, being identified with the old demon-figure Kezon. The role of the demons was greatly enhanced by the Occupation; they were now the cosmic opponents of the gods and the relentless enemies of man, while in the old, peaceful religion they had been little more than perverse and annoying fantit.

(Myth did not always keep up with these realignments. Išira was still implored to moderate Night and Winter, the signs of her wrath, even as she was worshipped as the patroness of marriage and navigation, and the worst excesses of winter were blamed on the demons Ice and Hurricane. Fortunately paganism has no particular need to be consistent.)

The only gods who could not be so absorbed were those of Cuzei, who insisted on reigning alone in the sky. The Cuzeians fiercely resisted the Caďinorian conquest of their land (1024), to the point that Caďinas felt compelled to outlaw the worship of Iáinos and the speaking of Cuêzi, and declare the laws of Cuzei to be superseded by those of the Empire. The effect was a surface obedience and a deep reservoir of rebellion. The Caďinorian religion never took deep root in the Eärdur valley (though migration of Caďinorians there, encouraged by the emperors, and the conversion of some Cuzeians, did establish it as at least a strong minority religion in the area).

These decrees were repealed (1470) by Keadau II. It was too late for the language, but the Arašei religion could again be practiced openly.

Theologization [To Index]

As Caďinorian civilization increased in sophistication, put the Occupation behind it, and ruminated on contact with Axunai, Cuzei, Jippirasti, the ilii and elcari, and other contemporaries, educated men increasingly considered Caďinorian beliefs with a critical eye, and began to consider afresh what the universe was and what their place was in it.

The conclusions of the philosophers will be considered later; we are concerned here only with their influence on traditional religion, which was considerable. Their influence was first of all moral. In the period when the philosophers gave serious thought to the traditional gods, they insisted that the stories about them be edifying. They succeeded in popularizing bowdlerized forms of certain myths, and encouraged the practice of appending explicit morals. They were also (which is more to modern tastes, perhaps) the first folklorists and epic poets of Caďinas. Many of the classic retellings of traditional myths are theirs, and without them we would know very little indeed of popular and regional beliefs in classical times.

Their ultimate effect, however, was to remove the intellectual class from paganism itself. Once there were rationalistic, philosophic (and officially tolerated) alternatives to the worship of the gods, educated men and women rarely accepted unmodified the beliefs of the priests and the people.

This was a narrowing of the temple religion, and yet a broadening of Caďinorian thought, which was always inclusive of everything Caďinorian, and dogmatic only about devotion to the state, not about what exactly one believed about the gods. The model for the terrestrial observer, then, is not (say) the division of modern American society into a largely materialistic scientific and literary class, a religious faction distrustful of the excessive use of reason, and an agnostic majority; but the pleasant confusion of ancient Rome, where no great discontinuity was felt between the ordinary and fervent worship of the usual gods, the more calculating devotion of the upper classes, outré native and foreign cults, the peculiar disciplines of mystics and magicians, and the cosmic speculations of the philosophers.

Medieval times [To Index]

The Aďivro [To Index]

The Empire was already well past its prime when the Caďinorian holy book, the Aďivro, was compiled. The project was started by order of the emperor Cuomolondos (Comblon) in ZE 2290, and completed sixty years later.

(Terms in this and the remaining section are given in Verdurian. The Aďivro was simply called the aiďie ibro ("Book of the Gods") in Caďinor.)

It was a period of precarious renewal, after the first great barbarian invasions (those of the Coruo, in the 22nd century), and with the terrors of the Red Cabal (2107-2220) still fresh in memory. It was evidently hoped that a codification of Caďinorian ritual and belief would help shore up the Empire and the Caďinorian spirit, and prevent a relapse into the decadence which it was felt had caused these evils.

In form the Aďivro is a manual of liturgy, organized by the calendar, beginning with the Investiture of Spring (1 olašu) and proceeding to the midwinter festival of Aďcet (1 bešana). From this skeleton the compilers went off on every tangent, inserting homilies, retelling myths, defining the roles of priests, recalling the lessons of history, and even explaining points of science and agriculture.

Intended as a catchall reference work for priests, it ended up as the Dark Years' chief source of knowledge. Whatever one desired to know, from the most auspicious time for planting oats to the story of the terrible Munkhâshi occupation, it was found in the Aďivro, or it wasn't worth knowing.

(It also left its mark on the Caďinorian mind as a model of scholarship; to this day Verdurians love to organize their works according to the calendar, rather than, say, the alphabet.)

The book was written in as classical a Caďinor as the high priests could muster. The scholar of Caďinor can detect the differences-- intrusions of Old Verdurian syntax, misspellings that signal sound changes, a shaky grasp of the disappearing ablative-- but the Caďinorians of the time were steeped in classical writing, and never wrote in the vernacular, so that on the whole it is a creditable performance.

Medieval practice [To Index]

The priestly hierarchy was perhaps the strongest Caďinorian institution throughout the Dark Years. Priests continued to be trained at the great priestly academies (V. cletani) and attempted to follow imperial law and teach imperial doctrine, even when barbarians sat on the throne of Ervëa.

The central hierarchy could no longer move priests about like counters. Priests stayed in one town or village for life; and promising young boys were sent to the nearest cletana, to return to take the old man's place after his death. The result was a pronounced regionalization of the religion, centered on each of the academies, which numbered more than a dozen. The most prestigious were those of Ctésifon, Verduria, Aránicer, and Scormai.

(The insecurity of the Dark Years can be gaged from the fact that Scormai, located in Zeir in the far north of the Plain, was sacked by the Coruo and destroyed by the Gelyet.)

The great feature of the Dark Years was the multiplication of cults, monastic orders, and mystical practices. The times were difficult, filled with invasions of horsemen, raping and pillaging; civil war; plague and drought; and the daily abuses of local lords. The more triumphal passages of the Aďivro, and its assurances of the benevolent protection of the Emperor in Ctésifon, must have been bitterly received. It was no wonder if some strange new cult always seemed to be springing up: the Syetnorië, devotees of enlightenment through drunkenness; the Poneonemi, vegetarians and anarchists; the Polnekadi, who lived naked, communally, and never cut their hair; and many more.

There were holiness movements; messianic peasant rebellions; pilgrimages of thousands of souls; establishments of monasteries dedicated to contemplation, book-copying, or perhaps self-mortification (ažciti (meaning 'away from the city (walls)', and like suloro "master of solitude, hermit", suggesting a desire to get away from the failed old order and start afresh). Monks tortured themselves, that the evident blood-lust of the gods might be appeased, and turned away from the people. Or magicians retired to abandoned fortresses, seeking the secrets of power-- the mystical might that Caďinas had once possessed, and whose formula could perhaps be recovered.

Sometimes the authorities intervened, usually on the pretext that some cult had turned to worship of Kezul, the arch-demon of Munkhâsh. Modern Verdurians tend to take them at their word-- was not the realm of Dhekhnam reestablished in 2537? But there is no evidence of any actual Dhekhnami presence in the Plain at this time. It is more likely that the stories were convenient fabrications, designed to increase the peasants' dependence on the authorities and their fear of the radical cults, at a time when the peasant's natural tendency was to ally himself with the latter and not the former.

Modern times [To Index]

The renaissance of the Plain, with the beginning of the fourth millenium, at first served only to confirm the centrifugal tendencies of the Dark Years. If anything there was even less reason to follow the fuddy-duddy old village priest, wedded to his thousand-year-old scriptures, intoning rituals in a language no longer understood.

The cults continued to prosper (though they tended to settle down and moderate their views-- the Polnekadi, for instance, still lived communally, but put on clothes and asked to be called Baraďî scurii, Brothers of the Land); Irreanism, Endajué (Verd. Andažuei), and Bezuxao (Behusa) found converts on the Plain; and the Arašei religion, the continuation of Cuzeian monotheism, flourished.

The spread of Eleďát, beginning in ZE 2780, was the greatest challenge of all. Érenat embraced the new religion, as did most of the Eärdur valley after the merger with the Arašei; and Eleďi sat on the throne of Verduria starting in 3241.

It was this last event which shook the Caďinorian hierarchy from their customary tolerance. The erection of a few dissenting temples, or even the loss of an entire distant province, was no great worry; but the upstart Eleďi were now threatening the eternal verities, one of which was surely that Caďinas, or Verduria which they saw as its divinely appointed successor, and above all their monarchs, must be faithful to Enäron, who had seen them through the demons' occupation and won them their Empire.

Throughout the Eleďe period, the Verdurian kings and queens were resisted by the Caďinorian clergy, in alliance with the traditional landholders and other conservative elements. They fought in the Esčambra, and occasionally rose up in revolt. With the accession of the conservative pagan Mëranac, after the disappearance of Andrea Eleďe in 3301, they won a victory of sorts; but the world was no longer the same.

Nonetheless there has been a revival of Caďinorian religion; and not only among conservative elements of society. The 'old worship' is the religion of antiquity, and there has been something of a classical revival in recent times-- a rediscovery of ancient learning, and a hearkening back to Caďinorian virtues. The gods are popular in Verduria because they are Caďinorian; and they are popular outside Verduria (especially in the southern part of the Plain) because they are not Verdurian.

In the more progressive states, the priests have even come to conduct the major part of their ritual, and of course their homilies, in the vernacular. As could be expected, this change was fiercely resisted by many; but the hierarchy was farsighted enough not to insist on the change, so that even as younger or more progressive people were attracted back to the modernized temples, dissenting city priests could remain within their dwindling congregations, intoning the rituals in Caďinor. (Village priests, and their followers, generally saw no need to depart from the sacred words of the Aďivro. Enäron had spoken in Caďinor and by Calto the priest was going to too.)

The hierarchy has also reacted to Eleďát by calling in the philosophers, and constructing theologized variants of the Old Worship. You will not find the First Patriarch in Žésifo and his loftier colleagues affirming a belief in the hundreds of gods worshipped under their guidance, to say nothing of the thousand strange superstitions of the people; he will speak instead of Enäron as the personification of the divine, of the eternal truths communicated under the guise of myth, of the moral lessons, the valuable disciplines, and the spiritual insight to be found in Caďinorian tradition.

Official status [To Index]

The 'old worship' is the established religion in most Caďinorian countries (outside the Eärdur valley, of course). It had this status in Verduria until the reign of the Eleďi, who separated temple and state, or to be precise made the temple organization independent of the Sash, lessened government involvement in temple affairs and vice versa, and gave official recognition to the Eleďi. Mëranac Abolineron restored royal patronage of the 'old worship', but was unable to subordinate the temple leadership to his command, much less remove the privileges already granted to Eleďi.

What does this semi-official status amount to? In Verduria, Caďinorian clergy (but also Eleďi priests) are entitled to a number of seats in the Esčambra; many of their seminaries and monasteries are subsidized by the state; and of course the king and his family are followers of Enäron; the royal family patronizes the major festivals, and Caďinorian clerics bless a number of government functions, such as the investitures of kings, or the opening of the Esčambra. There are also numerous laws which favor Caďinorian religion, or the activity of priests or monks, with the effect for instance that the distillation of liquor is virtually a monopoly of the monasteries.

(There is even a law against the Aďivro being printed by any but pagan printers. Even the University was denied permission to publish a scholarly edition, with linguistic and theological commentary.)

Education in Verduria is not a state but a religious function. Children attend school at their church or temple, and of course learn doctrine and morals alongside Verdurian, mathematics, music, and their other subjects. And even at the University of Verduria, which has an independent administration, students are required to attend religion classes, although (since the Eleďe dynasty) they may choose which religion to study.

Organization [To Index]

For the organization of the official hierarchy, see The Kingdom of Verduria.

The numerous offshoots of paganism (usually called the řami, the cults) may stand in almost any relationship to the hierarchy. The Řemuris imlebul ("Reformed Worship"), for instance, maintains a duplicate hierarchy and its own temples and seminaries (some of them no more than storefronts), maintaining that it is the true Caďinorian worship, untouched by modern liberal corruptions. The Brothers of the Land (the former Polnekadi), once radicals, are now a religious order with their own vacuran, chosen by the order but "submitted" to the First Patriarch. The Araš-Calto cult, which attempts to combine worship of Eleď with that of the most popular Caďinorian god, Calto, completely ignores the hierarchy. The Imfáti Mëranacei or Sons of Mëranac, are completely democratic in structure, the worshippers choosing their priests, who may or may not consider themselves in any relationship with the local Caďinorian altcliďu. And so on.

Beliefs [To Index]

I will describe in this section prototypical Caďinorian paganism: the naive popular form of the religion, as practiced in Ctésifon and Verduria. Significant offshoots, such as the magical and philosophical schools, will be described in the next section.

It must be emphasized that Caďinorian paganism, unlike Cuzeian monotheism or Endajué, does not have a set of doctrines to which all its followers must subscribe. Significant variations will be found between regions, between cletani, even between classes.

And what is believed is not believed in the same way as in the doctrinal religions. A man might die for the right to worship his gods, and he might kill those who worship alien gods; but he will not sacrifice himself for the details of one particular myth of festival, nor massacre those who understand the common Caďinorian tradition in another way.

Caďinorian paganism, like all religions, seeks to explain the world; but in a way satisfying to the imagination and the spirit, and not to the rational mind. If we are told that the winter is Išira's wrath, and yet Išira is the loving patroness of marriage and the family, we do not ask questions. Or, to be precise, if you want logical analysis, you become a philosopher.

The gods [To Index]

At the center of Caďinorian religion are the aďi, the gods. They are supernatural powers, at the same time man's protectors, responsible for the way the world is, and in some sense fellow inhabitants of the world, with their own lives, personalities, and preoccupations.

The relationship between men and gods betrays a suspicious resemblance to that between the people and their rulers. The gods rule the world, set laws to be followed, supply man with gifts and favors, from sunlight and rain to healings or spouses, and demand in return sacrifice, thanksgiving, and obedience.

("We are fortunate," comments a Verdurian (Eleďe) humorist, "that besides those we give them, the gods have no other supply of entrails.")

(They do not demand worship in the Christian sense-- adoration and praise; although some cults influenced by Cuzeian religion do address hymns of praise to Enäron.)

On a deeper level, the gods offer comfort. One feels not quite so alone in the world with a god on one's side. They explain the universe; they offer hope that the world works, that there is hope for change, prosperity, and justice. And they help build Caďinorian solidarity: there is a community between all those who worship a particular god; and it is comforting to know that the local lord, though he rules his little realm absolutely, is only a minor vassal of the incomparably more powerful gods.

Although the very name of tësaďát speaks of "many gods," many Caďinorians only worship two or three gods; often, the god traditionally worshipped in their family, or village, or profession. In ancient times, these devotions were not immutable-- if one god didn't satisfy, you turned to another. In modern times loyalty to a particular god is a matter of long tradition, and not easily broken.

Throughout the history of Caďinorian religion we see a tension between the desire to respect the gods, and the desire to approach them. There seems to be a deep-seated conviction that the most powerful gods are too high above ordinary men to take notice of them, or to suffer their impositions; but there is also a need for more friendly supernatural beings, who can be spoken to and who will take one's side. In early popular forms of the religion, this is clearly seen in the division between aďi and fanti; and in more modern times some gods, such as Enäron and Išira, are only properly approached by kings and high priests, while others, such as Caloton or Vlerë, are more friendly to man. Or for those (particularly in Ctésifon) for whom all the gods are boisterously familiar figures, the First Age pantheon and the shadowy figure of the Creator fulfill the function of remote and respected archdeities.

Descriptions of the major gods follow. It should be understood that their precise attributes and portfolios may differ by region. Most of the gods have two attendants, which can be considered allegorical figures contributing to the image of a god, rather than objects of worship-- though in the unrejecting ambiance of tësaďát devotions can be offered even to them.

Enäron (ENDAURON), Ruler of the Gods, god of air, weather, the sky, wielder of thunder and storm; special protector of kings and fathers. Law is his, and he expedites all judgments, both earthly and heavenly. He is portrayed as a strong and fearsome master, just but wrathful. In art he is shown as an old but robust man, with a long white beard. His only weakness is his wife, Išira, who alone may joke and toy with him.

His attendants are Rafát and Guríš (Justice and Wrath); his messenger is Vereon, and his cupbearer Kutro. He is also attended by the Four Winds, by Thunder, Rain, and Snow, and by Onoale (Rainbow), a gloriously beautiful maiden in multicolored raiment.

Išira (ISCIRA), Queen of the Gods, goddess of light, the stars, navigation, and marriage. Weddings are conducted in her temple, and she is also (being herself the mother of many gods) the patroness of motherhood and birth. She is portrayed as a beautiful older woman, haughty and dignified, but with a quick temper.

In ancient stories, Enäron was unfaithful to her, copulating with Řavcaëna, goddess of the Earth (as the sky fertilizes the earth with rain); Night and Winter are Išira's wrathful punishment of Řavcaëna for this betrayal. Later stories somewhat inconsistently picture Išira and Enäron as a happily married couple, and the modern Išira is austere but not malevolent, the Margaret Dumont of the gods.

The brightest of the planets is named for Išira. It is a morning and evening planet (and thus closer to the sun than Almea).

Her attendants are Fréa and Selta (Faith and Light); her messenger is Imiri, and her maid, Vësi. The minor goddesses Čurata (Hearth) and Ofóriza (Fertility) are also her servants.

Caloton (CALOTEON), the sun god, patron of Day and Summer, called the Druk Uestuë, the Friend of Man. Though Enäron is the Lord of the gods, Caloton-- familiarly, Calto-- is undoubtedly the most popular. The three largest temples in a Caďinorian city will be those of Enäron, Išira, and Caloton; and his will be the best attended.

His disposition is befittingly sunny: he is always cheerful, optimistic, merry, somewhat lazy; friendly to man, delighting in the sun-washed white walls of Verdurian cities and the fields of farmers; so friendly to man that he searches out the tiniest crack in a roof beam to shine his light through (and for the same reason, said to be penetrating in his judgments). He is also the patron of travellers (due perhaps to their preference for sunny days). He is the husband of Fidra. Children born in his month, Calo, will share his pleasant disposition. He is portrayed as a Californian blond, tanned and fit.

His attendants are Solial and Crefu (Dawn and Dusk); minor gods in his service are Olašu, the god of beginnings, Neméria, goddess of hot muggy summer afternoons, and Ceräk, god of the Road.

Fidra (FIDORA), goddess of Night, the moons Iliažë and Iliacáš, and Winter; wife of Caloton. Her personality is the opposite of his: she is quiet and subtle, gentle and cool; the patronness of lonely, quiet places, of springs and moonlit nights. In ancient times she seems to have been a more minor goddess, perhaps even an attribute of Išira; her role as the inevitable counterpart to Caloton may have increased her popularity. She is depicted as a quiet, dark-skinned brunette.

Her attendants are Šoru and Sonž (Darkness and Dreams); it is the latter who gives dreams to men. Minor gods in her service include Ubli (Forgetfulness), Belnear (the Forest), and Ařomba (goddess of Endings).

Oruseon (ORONTEION), god of Wisdom and of Autumn; husband of Řavcaëna. Portrayed as a majestic, wizened old man, known for his immense knowledge, including the healing arts, philosophy, and language; patron also of old age. Presiding over the autumnal death of the year, there is always a melancholy about him.

His attendants are Šrifta and Curaya (Knowledge and Reason). Nesina, the goddess of birth, is in his service (as the god of healing).

Řavcaëna (KRAVCAENA), goddess of the earth and of growing things, of agriculture and of Spring; wife of Oruseon. She must of course be placated to ensure a large harvest, and thus has a large cult, though of course all the cult activities occur in the spring or just before. She should not be confused with wild nature goddesses. She is above all the patroness of cultivated nature; a wild waste belongs to no god. She is depicted as fat and cheerful, with flowers in her hair, and a garden hoe in her hand.

Worshipped along with her are Buheda, goddess of grain, and Syetnor, god of wine, whose personality is not unlike Steve Moca's. As can be expected, the feast day of Syetnor (12 cuéndimar) is avidly celebrated.

Nečeron (NECŤERUON), the god of Craft, trade and the marketplace; husband of Eši. Skillful and busy, he is the particular patron of craftsmen and merchants. Néronden, the market day, is named for him.

His attendants are Opon and Bosa (Wealth and Luck); minor gods in his service include Urdelan, god of trade; and Deutaya, goddess of cities (there is a statue of her somewhere in every large town; she is portrayed as a strong, civilized young woman, sporting the Annie Hall look).

Eši (ESCIS), goddess of Art, wife of Nečeron; lover of all that is made for beauty's sake; patroness of art and poetry, of song, and of homosexuals. She is depicted as a lovely and enchanting maiden, but with a flashing temper; and those dominated by her create beautiful things, but often share her fieriness.

Her attendants are Munifa and Bélua (Splendor and Beauty). The various arts, such as Dance, Music, and Leuletánia, goddess of Mixed Media, are personified as beautiful goddesses in her service.

Boďneay (BOĎNEHAIS), god of War, of horses and heroism, protector of soldiers, and lord of those killed in battle. He has a willful and sullen disposition; he is a mighty warrior, but no good at small talk, and shy with women. He is also known as the patron of the hunt and of gymnastics.

His attendants are Nkaš and Gnušeo (Fear and Loathing).

Ažirei (AGIREIS), goddess of the Sea, mistress of storm and calm and wind at sea; guide of the dead; a moody, inscrutable and wild maiden. She is depicted with her long brown hair flying in the wind, and wearing wet clingy clothing; she is fierce and vindictive, yet capable of surpassing calm and beauty. Not surprisingly, she is a much more important goddess in Verduria than in Ctésifon.

Her attendants are Oraž (Storm) and Želea (Calm). Mišicama, the Ocean, is personified as a goddess in her service, and there are goddesses for the rivers and lakes as well.

Mëranac (MIERANAC), god of Fire and the afterworld (išária); patron also of smiths and metalworkers. He is a terrifying figure, masked, dressed in grey, imposing, sepulchral, as immovable and unanswerable as rock. In all the cosmos there is nothing more terrible than the quiet, deadly wrath of Mëranac. Not even Enäron can overrule his judgments.

His attendants are Për and Parnahireo (Rock and Earthquake); the many spirits of the išária are also in his service, including the Ovnelaďi, the Judging Gods, and Ďic, his master of arms, charged with keeping the dead apart from the living.

Vlerë (VEHARIES), the goddess of Love and Beauty, the mere sight of whom was said to drive men mad. (Indeed, when a man has fallen madly in love, it's said that "he has seen Vlerë.") She is depicted as a sweet and gentle maiden, with short black hair, prone to laughter and mischief, but caring and understanding with all. She is the special protector of maidens, and when one is harmed, she is said to strap on bow and arrow and hunt the offender to his death. Her cult is very strong, particularly in the South; Zeir is also specially dedicated to her.

Her attendants are Suléa and Zula (Youth and Joy). Romantic love among humans is generally the work of the boy-god Fifel; or occasionally his demented sister Tolura, goddess of unnatural acts.

Other spirits [To Index]

In addition to the major and minor gods, there are various other supernatural spirits:

The vyoži are primal spirits, spirits of the basic elements clay, rock, water, wood, metal, fire, and air. Magic is accomplished by calling on vyoži. The vyoži of air are of particular importance, since only they can freely travel between heaven and earth; they are therefore messengers of the spirit world and valuable acquaintances to have. The vyoži have evil counterparts, the monsters called ftaci.

The fanti (Caďinor fantit) are ancestors, heroes, and archetypal figures, essential intermediaries between men and gods. The ancient rites of fant-possession are no more; but there are still godspeakers and witches who will communicate with fanti, vyoži, or directly with the gods.

The single god of the elcari (Khemthu-Nôr) finds himself made into a minor Caďinorian godling, Kentunór, patron of the elcari. There is similarly a god to watch over the ilii, Salenie.

The forest-dwelling icëlani and the sea-dwelling šipomi are numinous figures in Caďinorian tales, with something of the feel of our elves and mermaids. They are however real races. The icëlani are smaller than men, and extremely primitive in culture; the šipomi are non-sapient, and are the closest Almean equivalent to the terrestrial monkeys.

Other notable beings include Lago, a mischievous sprite, the patron of clowns and jesters, something like our Puck; Meconso, the Keeper of Knowledge, the gods' librarian; the legendary hero Maranh; and the mysterious watcher, Kibo.

Then there are the kezonuli or demons, identified with the gods of Munkhâsh and Dhekhnam, and dedicated to causing evil to Enäron's creatures. The chief demons are Kezul and his mate Zukde. Other major demons are simply personifications of various evils: Akčascuro (despair), Altuát (tyranny), Arafát (terror), Beřotá (bad taste), Bünor (violence), Cišura (decay), Čüma (plague), Dis (hate), Imbünát (the violence inherent in the system), Köřeon (cowardice), Kunvulea (greed), Malcoli (discord), Moči (rot), Ryot (ice), Řozadi (pointlessness), Řum (head colds), Sunmünmún (fanaticism), Traesa (treachery), Ulgaš (chaos), and Zučuy (perversion). There are also mythical monsters such as Okron, the sea monster, the Azuri Köbi or Blue Mean Ones, and the clonholi.

Life and afterlife [To Index]

There are three fates, or gaiei, that determine the shape (eidolo) of a human being's life. Midei determines the time and circumstances of birth; Bunori allots the opportunities that will be encountered, and distributes and redistributes wealth and fame; and Šustana determines the time of death. The gaiei have become important literary symbols, even for non-pagans; one speaks for instance of one's midei or station in life; one's bunori is one's good fortune; a malbundrul is a ne'er-do-well, a schlimazel; things that are šustanë are deadly, attracting the notice of Šustana.

The gaiei are depicted as old women, shaping lives like pots on a wheel. Their position in Caďinorian thought varies; sometimes it is downplayed, individual will and the actions of the gods being determinative; other times it is brought to the center, and even the gods are said to be subject to the dictates of the gaiei. The gaiei are notoriously deaf to human (and even divine) pleas. Verdurians speak of "haggling with Šustana" as we speak of ploughing the sea or commanding the tides to heel.

There is an afterlife; at death all men come to the išária, 'the Sought Realm', and stand before the ovnelaďi, the Judging Gods. Those who have served gods and emperor and lived their lives rightly will live in the eternal joy of the išária.

There is a place of punishment, Čel Šorui, the Place of Darkness, for the worst evildoers. However, most people can look forward to a mixed afterlife. "Each shall be rewarded as he has served the gods and earthly rulers, and shall suffer as he has disobeyed them, unto the cessation of days," says the Aďivro. The conception that the same man may be rewarded and also punished is a peculiarity of tësaďat; a recognition that human nature is both good and bad.

Mythology has populated the išária with a geography and a cast of characters-- heroes, villains, and monsters; there, Ervëa eternally rules, Genremos forever teaches, and Maranh continually undertakes feats of strength. Such beliefs are however probably more literary than religious. The ordinary believer places a greater store on reunion with the dead.

What exactly the dead would be doing was always a bit vague. The myths show them sometimes enjoying a life of pleasure and ease, sometimes reenacting their earthly gifts, sometimes simply toiling away (farmers farming, weavers weaving-- a picture offering more comfort to the leisured classes than to farmers and weavers, no doubt). Popular belief spoke more often of simple 'rest'. The dead apparently retained some sort of body, but not a very satisfactory one; when they wanted to act upon the earth, they either had to possess a living soul, or be content with a shadowy experience-- able to penetrate walls, speak, and grant visions, but able to influence physical objects only with great clumsiness.

(The dead also had trouble with metal. If one was troubled by ghosts, one was well advised to wear a heavy iron amulet around one's neck, or to sleep within a square of iron rods.)

On the other hand, ancestors were believed to have great powers over one's life, and one was well advised to propitiate them with thanks, memorials, and frequent small sacrifices (such as a glass of wine-- unlike gods, ancestors couldn't be foisted off with entrails). In some regions, the worship of ancestors was more important than that even of the gods.

The soul [To Index]

In the most ancient Caďinorian thought, the entire body was the seat of the soul, and different physical organs were the locus of particular spiritual functions: the will was located in the heart, for instance, understanding in the eyes, frustration in the stomach, and fear in the bowels. The philosophers rationalized this into the doctrine of the quadripartite soul (itian partore), at a time when philosophers and priests were still speaking; the doctrine was incorporated into the Aďivro, although traces of the earlier, looser conception survive in many passages.

The four parts of the soul were:

Itian was also the name for the soul as a whole.

Priests spoke of domination (řucor) by one part or another of the soul. It was best to be dominated by the heart, which could strike the best balance between intellect, compassion, and the passions, but of course one could be dominated by brain or by guts instead. One could also have a weakness (bumušë) of one part of the soul; one who lacked leria was unobservant and slow of understanding; one with a weak itian was wishy-washy and foolish.

Personalities could also be described by assigning them to one dominant ftacon (element) or another. The basic temperaments (iscreniori) were:

ur clay men down to earth, practical
mey water ilii benevolent, wise, happy, playful
ďumë stone elcari strong, determined, patient
endi wood icëlani quiet, shy, timid
gent metal gdeoni strong, powerful, brave
tšur fire ktuvoks fiery, fierce, energetic
šalea air vyoži intellectual, unworldly

As shown, the intelligent races were also assigned to ftaconi; this did not prevent a man (whose 'racial' character was urise, 'of clay, mortal') from having any of the seven temperaments; indeed, it lets Verdurians describe a personality type as 'like a giant' or 'like an icëlan' and be readily understood.

Matter [To Index]

Modern terrestrials often assume that the pagan world was happy and sensual, and spoiled by Christianity. In fact pagan holy men and philosophers usually despised the material world, and Judaism and Christianity were unusual for declaring that matter was good.

Caďinorian attitudes toward matter and the body have greatly varied, but asceticism has been greatly admired and widely practiced, and godspeakers and philosophers both have taken pains to underline the unimportance of the physical world in relation to that of the spiritual realm.

Through imperial times, Caďinorian religion was unswervingly practical. Metaphysical speculation and excessive interest in personal enlightenment contributed nothing to the effort against Munkhâsh or to the later Empire. The authorities saw the religion chiefly as a means of enforcing order and reinforcing duty; the people themselves called on the gods for practical ends, asking for good harvests, relief from drought, petitioning for a child or a healing or the chastisement of a neighbor.

Particularly absent from Caďinorian belief was any romanticism about nature. The gods had made Almea for the benefit of man, and the regions unsuitable for men-- deserts, high mountains, jungles, oceans-- were not seen (as the Cuzeians had seen them) as beautiful, but as ugly and terrifying, and probably inhabited by monsters. Even the night sky frightened the Caďinorians; the moons had been put there, after all, to banish some of its terrors.

Pleasure and comfort were not seen as evil, but they were vulgar; the supreme virtues were duty (superiors must be obeyed; inferiors must be taken care of), respect, hard work, friendship, social harmony. Romantic love was of little interest to the moral teachers; it had no religious significance.

In the medieval period, it was increasingly taught that matter was itself bad, and ascetic disciplines enjoyed huge favor. No doubt it was comforting to think that the omnipresent suffering of the times was merely material. There was also a hope that a spiritual reform, marked by spiritual zeal and the adherance to strict disciplines, would win back the lost favor of the gods.

In modern times, while philosophy has maintained its bias towards the spiritual, much less hostility has been shown toward matter, and toward nature. Modern Verdurians still do not call jungles and deserts beautiful (beluan), they call them ďarim ('wild'); but this is now a compliment. It is not coincidental that modern rationalistic philosophies advocate the close study of nature, and modern ethics allows the glad acceptance, rather than distrust, of material pleasure.

Verdurian society is practical, but not so insistently as ancient Caďinas. The unworldliness of the medieval monks, the slow separation of temple and state, and the breadth of modern religious alternatives, all play a part in this. A Verdurian scientist may be mocked for pursuing studies of no apparent practical value (such as the reconstruction of protolanguages, or the theory of evolution), but he will no longer be stripped and covered with horse dung-- an occasional imperial punishment for idle philosophers. And no one would think any longer to criticize a poet for having her head in the clouds.

The ages of Almea [To Index]

Caďinorian religion divides time into three Ages (cii). We give below an account of the three Ages, as it is told in the Aďivro; other sources give somewhat different stories.

The First Age [To Index]

At the beginning of time, all was chaos. No form, no being rose out of the primordial night; no light shone through the mists shrouding the world. The unknowable spirit of the Creator long contemplated the roiling chaos, and then began its work.

(Like most religions, tësaďát cannot bring itself to teach creation ex nihilo. Even at the beginning of all things, there must have been something that everything else was made out of. In magical philosophy, some of this primordial substance (ftacon iseléaky) is believed to still exist, and since it can be changed into any other element, it is highly sought after.)

The Creator has two aspects, Aranotu, the Maker, and Leanota, the Shaper. Aranotu would create the essence of a thing, and Leanota would give it its properties and its name-- not its ordinary name, but its magical Name, which if known gives complete power over the thing. Aranotu created the basic ftaconi or elements, and Leanota gave them their properties; he created the earth (Almea), sun (Ënomai), and the stars (curulî), and she gave them their detailed appearance.

They created the world with all its seas and mountains, plants and animals, and the First Pantheon to rule over them, and then departed from the world. The Creator is utterly unapproachable, and is never worshipped or addressed by men; and none know if it disappeared once its task was done, or returned to effect the transformations of the Ages, or went on to create new worlds.

According to legend (not repeated in the Aďivro), the gods arose out of Lake Como near Aránicer; it has always, therefore, been the holiest ground in the Plain.

The gods were these:

Aežon AECTON Lord of the Gods, God of the Heavens
Aelëa AELILEA Queen of the Earth, wife of Aežon
Kezon KAEDUN god of Fire
Bečínd BETCINDOS god of Earth
Peravon PERABRON god of Iron
Dúrion DURREON god of Rock
Éšena AESCENA goddess of Water, wife of Kezon
Calërea CALIEREA goddess of Life, wife of Beneton
Uricira URIKIRA goddess of Light, wife of Peravon
Áneve ANDEVAR goddess of the Spirit, wife of Dúrion

(The epithets given are the modern ones, and reflect a certain abstraction, suitable for such remote times. (They are obviously related to the basic elements, though the list differs slightly from the normal Caďinorian lineup.) These gods were of course taken over from Arániceri religion, which in turn may have simply been an adaptation of Meťaiun worship; and in ancient times these gods were somewhat more practical. Éšena, for instance, was particularly associated with the Svetla, the source of life; Calërea was the patronness of agriculture; Peravon, the god of war; Áneve, the goddess of love. )

For 200,000 years the gods lived in harmony, ruling over Almea from the peace and serenity of Aďunac, the dwelling of the Gods, which is described variously as a great mountain, or an island, or a spiritual replica of the Plain. Grand were its halls, and tall its spires. There Calërea would whip them up a quiche, and Ándevar would dance, such that all who watched would be entranced with wonder; and Dúrion god of Rock, he of the heavy rhythm section, would accompany her on a Yamaha CS-80.

But Kezon, god of Fire, was prideful and insolent, and arrogant of manner, and had sharp nasty teeth, and he challenged Aežon, seeking to become Lord of the Gods. And Aežon was wroth, and cast him down out of Aďunac.

Kezon took for himself the East of Almea, Aežon the West; and Kezon created the Seven Archdemons: Kabedor, Škagon, Azedun, Kotoškad, Küiza (wife of Kezon), Kregna (wife of Škagon), and Letnüme (general wanton).

For 30,000 years were the two sides in combat, across the length and breadth of Almea. Each god and demon fought using his or own intrinsic weapons and powers. For long years the outcome was in doubt. Kezon, lord of fire, was one of the most powerful of the gods, and in direct combat could be repulsed only by Aežon or by his former wife, Éšena, goddess of water (for since Kezon's great betrayal, water has been the great enemy of fire). But though he could be pushed back, it seemed impossible to defeat him.

Toward the end of the war, Aežon created the first intelligent race, the ilii, creating Iriam Pere-iliu (Iriam First-iliu) and Aläna Sorežna (Aläna the Fair). And he hid them in the great ocean, to hide them from the demons and protect them from the fire demon; this is why the ilii still live most of their lives underwater.

At the end of thirty thousand years of war, Kezon the archdemon conquered all Almea and destroyed Aďunac, and claimed the cosmos as his own; for the gods, being devoted to peace and love, were never gifted in warfare. But at the very moment when Kezon was proclaiming his victory over the gods, he was slain by Iriam Pere-iliu, with the sword Celamë, which had been forged in the heart of Kezon's own birthplace, the fires of Čomolunma. For the iliu was too small to attract the notice of the demon, and climbed up on the demon's back, unperceived, till he could drive his sword into the demon's brain.

Thus the victory of the demons turned into defeat, as the gods scattered them and slew them, except for Škagon and Kregna, who found it propitious to escape, in the form of vapors, and were not found, though the most advanced divine forensic techniques were deployed.

But the gods wearied of the earth; Aďunac was destroyed, and it was not insured; and Almea was ravaged by long battle. They therefore bestowed their powers on the Hežaďi, the Guardians of the world, to watch over Almea, and they departed. And no man and no iliu can say where they did go; though sometimes there is mentioned the name of a place named Cancún.

The Second Age [To Index]

The Second Age, lasting 50,000 years, was that of the Ilii.

The ilii, bequeathed the world after the hasty departure of the First Gods, were faced with the task of making Almea fair again. This they did, tending the fields and the forests, and watching over the seas and rivers. They could speak the language of animals, and walk under the sea as easily as a man walks on land. Some of the animals and plants of the world had been corrupted by the demons, and these the ilii banished to the mountains or the jungles, or the deepest part of the sea, where they still remain. They also tamed fire for the making of food and of useful tools; some fire could not be tamed, being still in the service of demons, and it was confined to deep mountain clefts.

In those days the ilii did not confine themselves to the sea and to small enclaves of coast, but inhabited all Almea. There were no deserts or tundra in those days; all of Almea was merry with life. They built great cities, and perfected their arts, which were themselves creations of such subtlety that a man could not tell them from nature itself. They suffered no disease and no evil; they were merry and yet valorous. Their women were as beautiful as Vlerë, and their men gifted with suitable sexual prowess.

After a time Škagon and Kregna reappeared in the East, and their glowing red eyes and studded black jackets showed that their essential nature had not changed. And indeed they sought to reestablish their old dominion. To counter the ilii they created the ktuvoks from the mud of the swamps, and they waged war on the ilii. The battle raged for thousands of years, weapon against weapon, magic against magic. Škagon liberated the fire of the mountains, and sent it to burn down the forests and the cities of the ilii; and the ilii retaliated with floods and storms.

And Škagon forged for himself, the Përecai, the Fellrock, to increase his power, and he placed it on his head. To make it he sacrificed his wife Kregna, whose spirit and power were consumed in his making. The Fellrock was invisible, for light, being divine, would not touch it; it appeared to observers as a distortion, a wave in space like a knot in old glass. Where Škagon walked, fear paralyzed his opponents; living things died, water froze, and property values plummeted.

The ilii fell back before Škagon, armed with this new evil; and there ensued the last, desperate battle of the age. The ilii fought for their lives, putting aside the lyre for the sword, and the anvil for the lorebook. But Škagon, sowing destruction behind him, seemed unstoppable.

The Last Battle was fought in Eretald itself, in the land known as Kara, between the ilii and the ktuvoks, with Škagon at their head. Iriam himself perished, as well as many other ilian lords, and Škagon seemed about to prevail.

Évetel, son of Iriam, had been sent to plead for the help of the Guardians. They would not intervene, but instructed him that neither weapons nor sorcery would avail against the demons, but only the spirits of the ilii. Evetel pondered this, but did not understand, and despaired, knowing not what to report to the ilii who had sent him.

As he rested, returning from his pilgrimage to the Hežaďi, his eye fell on a cat, who was stalking a bird; and he thought to frighten the cat away. But then he saw that the bird had seen the cat, and was twittering away in alarm, and flying down at its head; and the other birds also sang out their alarm cries, and mobbed the head of the intruder; and the cat fled, pursued by flying birds. And Évetel understood the counsel of the Guardians.

He returned to the field of battle, and advanced singing toward where Škagon stood. He sang merrily, joyfully, as the ilii had not done in years; and yet in some new and powerful way; and the other ilii joined in his song. And the ktuvoks, who had great horror of joy and goodness, were discountenanced and maddened. They charged upon the ilii, who seemed to fall back, but only led their enemies into traps and illusions, creations of their art, which the enraged ktuvoks mistook for real things. And the battle turned, till the ktuvoks were fleeing before the singing ilii.

At last Évetel, still singing, stood before Škagon. "What madness is this, godspawn?" cried the demon. "You will not defeat the power of the Fellrock with songs!" And he struck the iliu with demonic power, so that Évetel collapsed before him, wounded unto death. The demon advanced on him. "I will finish you off, only cease singing," said Škagon. And he aimed his power at the iliu; and to his surprise the iliu was unharmed. For with his art Évetel had hidden the place where he was, and the demon had wasted his power on the empty ground.

And Évetel stopped his song, and said, pointing at the Përecai, "This shall be no more." There was a sound of a thousand thunders, and the Fellrock exploded. And Škagon crumpled, melting back into vapor, destroyed by the power he himself had made. And Évetel also, grievously wounded, but seeing the death of his enemy, smiled, and gave up his spirit.

Thus the Third Age ended. The ilii drove back the ktuvoks, and began to repair the world. But the world was growing old, and they knew that their age was past; and that the world they were preparing was no longer theirs.

The ilii did not remake all the world; the great battlefields of the war they left as deserts and wilderness, as a memorial to the ten thousand years' war against Škagon and his ktuvoks. Within the Plain, the land of Kara has remained a desert to this day.

The Third Age [To Index]

This is the age of Men, and of the Second Pantheon.

The main account we have been following, that of the Aďivro, states that the Second Gods were summoned to Almea by the Hežaďi, at the beginning of the Third Age-- from where, we do not know, except that the gods were observed to be well tanned. This story is obviously a fixup, a transition created to paper over the gaps in cosmology created by the absorption of Arániceri tales of the First Pantheon, and of accounts derived from the Cuzeians of the wars of ilii and ktuvoks.

In the earliest non-Arániceri myths, Enäron is himself the Creator. Beretos, for instance, reports the belief that Enäron created the earth in the form of a drinking bowl, as a gift to his wife Iscira; but she dropped it, and it broke. The clay of the bowl became the Plain; the mountains on either side of it are the handles; and the seas and rivers are the spilled wine.

In yet another tradition, still told in some cults, the world was created by Kezon, who was a horrible tyrant; Enäron was his son, defeated and killed him, and assumed his place as the lord of the universe. He married his sister Išira, and the other gods were his children.

There are also remnants, even in the Aďivro, of the tradition that Enäron, god of the heavens, copulates with Řavcaëna, goddess of the earth, and fertilizes her, bringing forth the life-giving grain; and that Išira, angry at this betrayal, punishes the earth by bringing night and winter upon it.

In any case, Enäron is credited with the creation of the remaining intelligent races, and assigned regions of Almea to live in to each of them. He made men (uesti) from clay, and gave them the plains as their dwelling; the elcari from rock, and set them to live in the mountains; the forest-dwelling icëlani from wood; the desert-living gdeoni (giants) from metal, and the vyoži (spirits of air) from the air, which is also their habitation. The creation of the sea-dwelling ilii from water, and the creation of ktuvoks (who live in the swamps) from fire, are also sometimes attributed, anachronistically, to Enäron.

(Various other mythological monsters are sometimes derived from other substances (e.g. dragons from gold, murtani from dust), although this spoils the neat equation of the seven basic ftaconi (elements) with intelligent races.)

As in the first age, the Gods struggle against demons (kezonuli), headed by Kezul and Zukde. The demons, of course, corrupted the men of Munkhâsh and later Dhekhnam, who worship Kezul under the name of Gelalh. They are the authors of all the great evils of the world, from plague and earthquake to war and other human misery; and they still hope to wrest control of the world from Enäron.

(In medieval times the distinction between kezonuli and ktuvoks was not remembered, the latter becoming merely another name for the demons.)

Here, of course, the story of the Third Age merges into legend, and then history. Surprisingly perhaps, the Easterners' invasion of the Plain is not recorded in legend (as it was in Cuzei): the Plain, Eretald, was always the home of the Caďinorians. The rise of Caďinas itself was however richly mythologized. The gods (unlike the rest of the world) took a deep interest in the early history of the Šaenošaei, the founders of Ctésifon, and established each of the lineages of Caďinorian emperors. The legendary hero Maranh wandered the world in the early days of Caďinas, and did his part to help establish the Empire.

The demons, envying the divine favor shown to the Caďinorians, caused the Munkhâshi to invade the Plain; whereupon gods and demons fought in a celestrial struggle echoing that of the Caďinorians and their foes. And of course the rise of Ervëa, and his great defeat of Munkhâsh, were ordained by the gods, and are commemorated to this day with religious observances.

There are also shadowy predictions of the End Time, in which the affairs of the world will be concluded. Some say that another great war of gods and demons will begin, perhaps leading to a Fourth Age; others, that the demons will be destroyed once for all, leading to a time of endless peace and prosperity on earth; yet others, that the world will be ended, and all men will live in the Išária, with the gods, and reunited with their ancestors. But these things play no great role in the worship or the ritual of the 'old worship', and need not be further considered.

Practices [To Index]

Feasts and celebrations [To Index]

The Verdurian year is itself a monument to the gods. Each of the months is dedicated to one of the gods; in addition, there is a feast day at or near the beginning of each month.

For the calendar of holidays, see The Kingdom of Verduria.

Since ancient times each of these festivals has been celebrated by the priests, at the temple of the appropriate god. Sacrifices are made, to implore the gods' favor. The local lord will supply the greatest sacrifice (it is customary in the north, for instance, for the king to offer a white bull to be slain on the steps of the Temple of Enäron at the Investiture of Spring); but the lowliest peasant will attempt to find a rabbit or a pigeon or a handful of grain to offer.

Eating and drinking is involved, as well. Small villages eat communally on the feast days; in town, the feasts are organized by clans, by guilds, or by neighborhoods. The local lord, in partial recompense for feudalism, is expected to supply meat and beer for all.

Most of the days of the week are also dedicated to particular gods:

scúreden (scuri, the country)
sširden Išira
fidren Fidra
calten Caloton
zëden Ažirei (zëi, the sea)
néronden Nečeron (market day)
ceďnare ceďue Enäronei, feast of Enäron

Birth, marriage, death [To Index]

The major passages of life must be given religious sanction.

When a child is born, its family is expected to invite the local priest (and as many family, neighbors, and well-wishers as it can afford to entertain) for a meal, the nesčena. The priest blesses the baby and pricks it with a pin, an act which is intended to protect it from the attention of evil spirits (the logic is presumably to preempt their attentions by getting in the first shot), and which amuses believers in rival religions endlessly. The second nesčena is traditionally the largest.

One may congratulate someone on the anniversary of his nesčena, but birthdays are not celebrated in our fashion.

At the age of fourteen, a young boy becomes a man, through the nacuyát or manhood ceremony. This involves the recitation at a feast of large amounts of Caďinor memorized from the Aďivro, as well as surviving an ordeal (raženi). These days, this is likely to be no more than a skipped meal and a long run or similar athletic feat; in ancient times the raženi was likely to be some more or less severe sort of self-mortification, such as partial removal of the foreskin; scarification of the chest; piercing of an ear; or ingestion of mokan, a hallucinogen which causes nightmarish visions. These activities are nowadays condemned as barbaric, but even their memory serves to make devotees of the 'old worship' feel that their religion is a particularly manly one.

The girls' equivalent is the redel, which begins when she starts to menstruate. (The Verdurian word for 'woman', redelcë, means simply 'one who has completed the redel.') In primitive times, girls were sequestered for three to six months at this time, and given instructions by mothers or aunts in how to fulfill the role of a woman. This was reduced to just a week in classical times; and in the modern era, to just two days. At the end of the second day the family gives a feast (whose former purpose, that of introducing the girl as a potential bride, has become one of simply introducing the girl to society). In many parts of the Plain it is customary for the girl to create some form of handicraft as part of her preparation for the redel.

A wedding (nos), in Caďinorian terms, is not simply a personal event, but the linking of two families, culminating months of negotiations, and creating a whole series of new relationships and obligations. Both families must give each other gifts, hold a feast for the other, and have the event solemnized by its priest. (The expectation is that two priests will be involved; noble families would always have had one of their own, and peasant boys often married a girl from the next town.) The groom is expected to pay a bride-price (the noscado), as a token of his ability to support a wife. The acceptable noscadoi for diffent levels of society are laid out in the Aďivro, and are fairly steep-- a yearling calf, for the average peasant, for instance-- which tends to ensure that a boy must work for some years before he can think of matrimony.

After all this, divorce is almost unthinkable; it would lead virtually to war between the two families. If a couple finds it impossible to live together, and intervention by both families has failed, they will live apart, maintaining the marriage in name only.

(In classical times divorce was allowed for four reasons: the woman bears another man's child; the man abandons the woman; the woman bears a noble house no children; the woman departs, and her sister is willing to live with the man in her place. The latter two grounds were removed by the Aďivro, but another was added: marrying a girl who had not had her redel. In medieval times it was surprising how many childless unions were discovered to be with un-redel-ed women. Today divorce is a bit more common, though nowhere near as much so as in terrestrial society.)

Finally, there is the řeveg or funeral. It is marked by a fast rather than a feast. The Caďinorians have traditionally cremated their dead, this being accompanied by speeches praising the deceased, and by priestly rituals intended to facilitate the dead person's passage into the išária.

Personal piety [To Index]

The 'old worship' is very much a public religion. The ordinances of the Aďivro all have to deal with festivals, fasts, sacrifices, and priestly teachings, or with the details of the priestly life. This emphasis dates back to the Occupation; as part of the dedication of every aspect of life to the struggle against the Munkhâshi, religious life was made entirely community- and even empire-oriented. (The marriage service includes a repetition of the emperor's appeal to raise godly soldiers to fight the demons.)

Nonetheless there remain some private aspects of tësaďát. First, there are one's own devotions to the gods-- private sacrifices, prayers for private needs, thanksgiving for favors received. In cases of great need, such as the sickness of a child or spouse, or a drought or a flood, one will visit a godspeaker for a cure, or to find and neutralize the source of a curse.

One has one's own ancestors to attend to. One pours a glass of wine for the ancestors at the ceďnare feast (no one drinks it; it is poured out on the ground at the end of the meal); or fulfills some eccentric request of a dying man: wearing a blue dress on grandfather's wedding day; building a boat far from the river, and selling it to the first Viminian who passes; baking the old boy's ashes into a brick, to be used as the cornerstone of a new house. Such odd wishes are an old Caďinorian custom; their purpose is to cause the ancestor to be remembered among the living, and for this purpose the odder the request the better.

Feats of strength for men, and of service for women, are sanctioned by Caďinorian thought. A Caďinorian man may therefore embark on a program of exercise, or master one of the fighting arts, as an act of devotion, and to win favor from the gods; and a woman may give alms to the poor, or create a garden in her house, or make a tapestry for the house of the local priest.

Finally, there are of course the commandments of the gods to fulfill. A short summary from the Aďivro, the Sués suliruli or 'Six sentences,' was repeated at most festivals, "that the people forget it not."

"Do no violence against another man, nor steal away what is his.

"Stray not from your wife, and abstain from sexual perversion, which offends Enäron, and leads to corruption of the spirit.

"Obey your lord as a faithful son, and heark to the words of the Emperor as to those of Enäron himself.

"Revere the old, and care for them, and do not oppress the weak and the poor.

"Work well at the tasks Bunori has given you; be not lazy, or boastful, or a drunken and worthless man.

"Be as kind to the stranger as if he were your own brother; and expedite the way of those who serve your lord or Emperor."

(For 'emperor' modern editions of the Aďivro substitute dalu 'king'.)

What Caďinorians considered sexual perversion will be considered below; the only other of the sentences that requires comment is the last one. To Caďinorians, hospitality (donculë) has always been one of the greatest of virtues. Řošriftul e aď kašul, says an old Verdurian proverb: "A stranger is a god in disguise." A stranger must never be turned away from one's door, but invited in, given food and drink, and offered a night's lodging, no matter what his condition or origin.

In the big cities, it takes a bit more than merely showing up in town to warrant this sort of treatment; but it still doesn't take much-- drinking beer together at an inn, a pleasant conversation held during a business encounter-- to get yourself invited into a Verdurian home, even in Verdúria-mažtana.

Family life [To Index]

By contrast with American society, Verduria is highly family-centered and family-conscious. It can be said that where America longs for 'family values', Verduria actually possesses them.

'Family' (ženát) in Verdurian still largely refers to the extended, not the nuclear family. Most Verdurians live not far from their parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and all these are available not only for family celebrations, but for business contacts, babysitting, emotional support, religious observance, and financial assistance. Significantly, Verdurian has two words for 'orphan': sampire, used for those without parents, and samženate for the more serious condition of not having a family.

The extended family is not always available for support, of course. Families may be devastated by war, by disease, by poverty, or even by religious differences; one may move to the city to seek a better life, or to escape a particularly tyrannous family patriarch. However, these are the exceptions rather than the norm; and indeed, when migrating to the city, Verdurians prefer to take a brother or two along.

The Verdurian looks to the family for many of the functions which may be provided in American society by the state, such as moral instruction, loans, disaster relief, support in old age, and even the resolution of grievances. Especially among the poor, one goes for assistance after a robbery, a beating, or a rape not to a policeman but to a brother or cousin.

Marriage [To Index]

Like the Cuzeians, the Caďinorians have long been torn between marriage by arrangement and marriage for love (neatly distinguished in Verdurian as marriages of Išira or of Fifel).

The imperial nobility were heavily influenced by Cuzeian practice-- marriages of alliance, which in no way prevented dalliances for love on the side-- although their own religion offered no support either for romance or for coelīras. The Caďinorian moralists periodically upbraid the nobles for their dissipation, not least because of the supposedly depraving effect of such behavior on the masses.

Present-day rural customs are believed to date back to Caďinorian times. Peasant marriages are normally suggested, but not dictated, by the parents. The peasant view of marriage is as practical as any aristocrat's: marriage is an economic partnership and the source of children. As such it is to be graced by affection (rasfolže), not romance (fsora), which is left to youngsters and aristocrats. You can turn down your parents' choice of a spouse because you can't stand the person, then, but certainly not because you love someone else.

Many if not most marriages work the same way in the city; but there one finds much greater acceptance, in all classes, of marrying for love. The supply of moralists has not declined since ancient times, and the modern variety often decry this development. Their claim-- true, as far as we know-- is that the new notion of marrying for love has led to a great increase in fornication: lovers will have sex before marriage, and those who did not marry for love will be contaminated by their example, and fall into adulteries, like the lecherous Cuzeians of old.

As in so many areas of life, the middle class may be the most conservative-- perhaps because for the bourgeois, marriage is often a means of social advancement. For the lower classes, marrying up is not usually a possibility, and so arranged marriage is merely a convenience; while the upper classes, now deprived of real power, freely indulge in love matches. But for the bourgeois parents, finding good matches for their children is more important than their own success.

Sexism [To Index]

An American feminist would find little to like in Caďinorian society. The domination of men is assured both by custom and doctrine; most avenues of real power are closed to women; double standards abound; sex roles are stereotyped-- and enforced.

One's ideology must not allow us to paint the picture bleaker than it appears, however. Verduria is friendlier to women than almost any terrestrial society of its technological level. Women (including married women) can own property, have recourse to the courts, and have the vote (though the property requirement for a women to vote is higher than that for a man). They also have a range of economic and political options which were unavailable (say) to women of the Victorian era.

Both the Verdurian nobility and kingship are open to women. There is the proviso that women inherit a title only when they have no brothers. However, rules of inheritance can be superseded by explicit designations; the present King, Alric, has designated his daughter Tilye the Crown Princess, rather than his son Velto, perhaps because of the ten years' difference in age between them.

We often judge earlier societies' sexism by the standards of Victorian times, which were however rather a low point for women. The Industrial Revolution began by transferring an entire industry-- clothing-- from women to men; and proceeded to relegate women and children to the factories. None of these developments have (so far) occurred in Verduria. Women have important economic roles, both in the country and the city. They have the chief responsibility for raising children; but boys spend much of their time in the company of their fathers, learning their work; and the fathers almost always work at home, not far away in an office or factory. Moreover, the extended family is available to help with the children.

Women are not legally excluded from medicine, or law, or government, though they are rare there. They are excluded from the the priesthood but not from the monastic orders of tësaďat; the result is the existence of some significant female-run institutions, the convents. Scholars may also be of both sexes, and perhaps the freest and most influential non-noble women in Verduria are writers, artists, and professors.

(Eleďát excludes female priests as well; but this is not true of Irreanism, Endajué, and some of the more radical Caďinorian cults. One, the Daughters of Gescai, has an all-female priesthood.)

They are naturally not expected to serve in the wars; but they are not actually prevented from doing so. The epic heroine Koleva, from the days of the Occupation, is widely revered in Caďinorian lands; and throughout history there have been women who served as warriors. (Most were daughters of nobles, and served as officers.)

Sex [To Index]

The Caďinorian tradition approaches sex with a minimum of mysticism. The result is likely to strike the American as appallingly blunt, if not vulgar. The purposes of sex are procreation and pleasure.

The first corollary is a level-headed and firm insistence on female chastity. Women are supposed to produce the husband's offspring-- not those of some other man. They are therefore expected to be virgins upon marriage, and to remain faithful to their husbands after it.

Men, by contrast, find themselves in a sort of sexual neutral ground. Caďinorian morality does not enjoin them to chastity. However, who can they fool around with? Most women are unavailable, and going to harlots is disapproved of.

Verdurian literature is full of creative evasions of these strictures, of course. In real life we may also expect a certain amount of noncompliance; but the reader must not expect the orgies of ancient Rome. Once again, there are those extended families to reckon with: fool around with a girl, and there will be hell to pay with her brothers and uncles and cousins.

The emphasis on childrearing is not allowed to be any more repressive than it has to be. To the Caďinorians sex is pleasure, to be enjoyed by both parties without guilt. It is perhaps significant that Verdurian, unlike most terrestrial languages, provides a transitive verb, without negative connotations, for the sexual act. Rašir is something a woman does to a man as well as a man to a woman.

Adolescent outlets. It is a commonplace in the Plain-- though not, unfortunately, in American society-- that extreme sexual restrictions hinder rather than foster chastity. Redelcë acotula raše so kaltén, say the Verdurians: "The sequestered woman makes love to the thief."

For this reason, perhaps, only intercourse is forbidden to adolescents. In general there are no social prohibitions against masturbation, kissing, fondling, even oral sex. Nor do Verdurians make the assumption-- often a self-fulfilling prophecy-- that a boy and a girl left alone together will necessarily have sex.

To be sure, getting alone together may not be easy. Few Verdurian adolescents have their own rooms. For that matter, there is no "youth culture" in Verduria, except perhaps among the upper class. Teenagers spend most of their time working or studying or both, and relaxation is likely to be with the family rather than with other teenagers. The best that can usually be managed is an hour or two of making out, late at night, with candles out and parents asleep, but a little brother or sister or two watching from the next bed.

(Those little siblings may be as effective a contraceptive in modern Verdurian society as uciro was for the Cuzeians. The Empire seems to have waged a little War on Uciro, as part of a campaign against Cuzeian immorality (which was certainly very pervasive in late, decadent Cuzeian society). The result is that even today, except in the western mountains, the contraceptive powers of uciro are considered to be mythical.)

Homosexuality. Verdurians disapprove of male homosexuality (but do not persecute it legally). In the largest cities, such as Verduria and Aránicer, open homosexuals (denii) may be found. Teenagers, particularly in single-sex schools, may experiment with it; it is also found as a means of humiliation in prisons, gangs, and in wartime.

Lesbians who act like men or who seek pleasure only with other women (poni) are similarly disapproved of. Again, some open lesbians can be found in the big cities.

However, lesbian lovemaking is not considered a sin if heterosexual women engage in it. The reason is not hard to find: Caďinorian men, though sexist, do not find lesbianism threatening, unless the woman rejects all men. Schoolgirls engage in it freely, especially in the private boarding schools, where it is a common sight to see girls strolling hand in hand, or kissing, and few girls go through their school years without making deep romantic connections with their classmates, who often remain close friends for life. If anything the authorities approve of the situation, reasoning that it keeps the girls' minds off boys, and safeguards their virginity.

The Verdurian language reflects these judgments. Lovemaking between women (ďumpalel) is not considered a form of raša (sex); the Verdurian explanation would be that it does not involve penetration, but only fondling (if this were strictly true it would seem to reflect a lack of imagination on the part of the women involved. In fact the lack of imagination is of course that of male writers and moralists); and that it is a matter of affection and friendship, devoid of the passion and import of heterosexual love. Among poni (mannish or exclusive lesbians), however, raša is used for lesbian sex.

Caďinorian philosophy [To Index]

Almost all of the Caďinorian philosophers carefully distinguish their systems from the "superstitions" of the masses, toward which their attitude ranges from bemused tolerance, to embarrassed disgust, to complete indifference. Our only justification for placing them in this chapter, indeed, is the historical link to paganism.

Caďinorian philosophy (ripriroda 'looking at nature', or more precisely, at 'what is real') come in all flavors and varieties. Early sages spoke of the Seven Elements and the flat earth; modern philosophers speak of the Infinite Absolute and the Instinctual Ethos. Some confine themselves to the utterance of wise proverbs and arresting parables; others preach systems of disarming simplicity, such as that all is one and all must be accepted; yet others construct entire cosmologies, not to mention epistemologies and ethical systems. To some the gods are holy; to others they are allegorical; to yet others they are dangerous illusion.

If there are any common threads, they are skepticism and pantheism. Philosophers are often at great pains to underline the untrustworthiness of the senses, of human reason, of all doctrinal systems. Though this attitude can be taken to an extreme (e.g. long lists of phenomena, from rainbows to mirages to distant mountains, which can deceive the eyes), it has led in some quarters to a healthy rationalism: analysis of the common logical errors; understanding of the deceptions of rhetoric; a demand for solid arguments, based in fact.

As for pantheism, someone is always concluding that Nature is God, or Man is God, or everything is God. (Valentine Michael Smith would have a hard time shocking anyone on Almea.) This tendency of the Verdurian philosopher is so pronounced that it has become a staple of comic acting; the stage philosopher is always speaking of the Divine, whether contemplating the cosmos or his lunch.

We cannot give even the major schools the space they deserve; but we will glance over the teachings of the two greatest philosophers of antiquity; two important modern figures; and the school of the Natural Philosophers.

Genremos [To Index]

Genremos (V. Žendrom), who lived in the time of the emperor Benoras (Bendra, reigned 1392-1424), is perhaps best known today for being one of the first to insist on empirical tests to determine the nature of the world. He seems to have reached this important conclusion by comparing his fellow philosophers' writings on medicine and the body with those of physicians . Though scarcely less superstitious than the philosophers, and quick on the draw with a post hoc propter hoc, the physicians did reject some traditional remedies, because they didn't work. Genremos urged this simple principle on all rational discourse: test your ideas against history and science, devising tests if necessary, and reject them if they fail. The contemporary attitude against which he was arguing-- which has not unfortunately died out-- was to judge truth by standards of elegance, and to cultivate an amused disdain for those who truck with mere brutish matter, rather than relying on pure reason, the gift of the gods.

In theology he warned of the dangers of anthropomorphism; men and even ilii were insignificant creatures, unlikely to interest or to resemble God; he suggested that theology be based on the study of astronomical phenomena. He postulated a sheerly inhuman "Absolute Deity", to which he allowed Enäron might be a humanized approximation, and gave him a rather mechanistic universe to run.

He was also interested in affairs of state; he was a friend of the Emperor, and to him, among other legal innovations, is owed the replacement of traditional hereditary posts with appointments based on merit.

His great work is the Amrabi, or Laws, divided into tracts on the laws of men and those of nature. His Eta elut er dobre, "On the dual nature of the Good", categorizes morality into community and individual components, famously considering the plight of the spiritually perfected person in a wholly corrupt society, and that of a completely amoral person in an entirely just one. Also of note are his Eta Aďát "On Godhead", in which he develops his theological ideas; and a number of scientific works ("Medicinal Herbs", "The life of animals", "The movement of the planets"), considered authoritative in medieval times, merely steps in the right direction today.

Ilcorea [To Index]

Ilcorea, born during the reign of Ervëa, attracted controversy by his agnosticism. Many philosphers have disbelieved in the popular gods, and this has been no bother; if they looked with disdain on the superstitious masses, the people laughed at the pedantic old greybeards. But Ilcorea took the objectionable step of preaching his agnosticism in the marketplace, and interfering with the temple sacrifices; and eventually (1715) he was executed by the state.

Ilcorea was an idealist and a builder of utopias, who never ceased to be angry at the world for not being what it should be. His Eta dalua cumpogula, "On the perfect state", contained not only a description of the ideal state (well-ordered and religious, and free of the great crimes: frivolity and unreason), but a proposed series of edicts by means of which an enlightened emperor might transform Caďinas into the ideal.

He is best known, however, for his books on theology. His masterpiece, Aď ab razumán, "God viewed with Reason", reveals his conviction that order, goodness, and reason stand behind the world, but declares his ignorance of their source. "The ideal of perfection within me convinces me that God must exist," he wrote. "How could it be that imagination, by which I conceive of perfection, contains something grander and purer than reality? We perceive shoddily, and think dully; we are weak creatures, and soon gone from the world. Our ideals cannot be the exception to this rule; if we can have such an idea within our minds, reality must contain something greater still,must contain God."

His Eta Itian, "On the Soul", is an elegant criticism of Genremos' materialism; while So Razum uestuë, "The Human Mind", investigates the way men think, and differs enough from any modern conceptions to be worth reading.

The natural philosophers [To Index]

An old pastime of the philosophers was to divide the world into categories and subcategories. For them this no mere linguistic game, for the link between names and things was sacred, and to name and organize all the kinds of things in the world was to enter into the secrets of creation.

Now, to list the kinds (kesti) of plants and animals in the world is already to write an elementary descriptive biology. To learn the kestora, the "categories", was to learn something about the world. Kestora, then, became the Verdurian term for scientific knowledge or natural philosophy.

(A very similar semantic shift occurred in Greek: phusis 'kind' --> phusikos 'physics'.)

Today kestora (which of course goes beyond mere cataloguing; Verdurian science is fairly advanced, especially biology) can be divided into the study of plants (veživiso), animals (dascoviso), chemical mixtures (mecliviso), rocks and soils (susoviso), movement (beživiso), and matter and energy (čikariviso). Astronomy (syeleviso) is a separate (because older) field, as is daroveviso (medicine, herblore, and alchemy). The scientific curriculum is rounded out by plešcura (history, law, economics, and political science) and ripriroda (philosophy, including logic, mathematics, and ethics). Ripriroda "philosophy" also remains the name for what we would call "science" as a whole.

Older philosophy tended to be heavily aprioristic; but in recent centuries natural philosophers have emphasized, as the only path to sure knowledge, close observation of nature (araste beďo, literally, observation marked by spiderlike attention to detail), and demanded that all the facts be accounted for (ptaleio beďelië, "covering of the facts", much like our medieval concept of "saving the appearances"). And even more recently, in the last century, Verdurian scholars have begun to undertake careful experiments; this approach is known as soa žuyse onteca "practical demonstration."

It may seem strange to discuss these things in a chapter on paganism; but it should be emphasized that Verdurian science derives from the Caďinorian tradition, in the same way that terrestrial science derives from medieval theology. As our theologians, believing in the rationality of God, sought for order in nature, the Caďinorian philosophers, eager to reject superstition, learning from Genremos to pay attention to the world as it is, and convinced by Ilcorea of the rationality of the creator, and in their own tradition respecters of reason, distrustful of rhetoric, and skilled at disputation, arrived at a similar conception of a rational and understandable universe.

This is not to say that the 'old worship' had anything to do directly with the žuyse onteca (on the contrary, the high priests have grown increasingly hostile to a movement which threatens to explain too much); or that members of other religions have not contributed to its development. But the tradition of the philosophers does descend from Caďinorian religion, and Verdurian science can be seen as one of the glories of Caďinorian civilization.

(There are Eleďi scientists; but the Eleďi, being a newer religion, are less open to rationalism than was medieval Catholicism. Irreanists are often excellent scientists. And in the south, the mainly Jippirasti and Endajué Belšainese have welcomed the žuyse onteca.)

Cistile [To Index]

Perhaps the most influential of the modern Verdurian philosophers is Kaimel Cistile, a descendant of the noble houses who dedicated himself to what he called ripriroda abcuraynë, "rationalistic philosophy," during the realm of Mëranac Abolineron. His goal was nothing less than to solve the remaining problems of Caďinorian philosophy.

By this time the natural philosophers had already cast doubt on the traditional doctrine of the quadripartite soul, for which there was no physical evidence, and which led to biological conundrums; for instance, all animals from rabbits to coyotes had eyes, brains, hearts, and guts, and no physical differences in these organs could explain their differences in character, much less tell why they were not as rational as men. Caďinorians, like terrestrial philosophers, also had trouble understanding how spirit and matter could influence each other.

Cistile declared that the time was right to found a new science (kestora) of the soul, based on araste beďo, and fully rejecting superstition and aprioristic philosophical notions. He started from the one physical observation that seemed to support the old Caďinorian doctrines, namely that the more clever the animal, the larger (in proportion) the brain, and concluded that itian or soul was seated solely in the brain, all other organs having only physical functions. "The heart is only a pump," he declared-- a pronouncement that caught the fancy of the public, which distorted it into an epithet for the uncompassionate ("I love that man, but his heart is only a pump").

For the problem of spirit and matter, Cistile relied on the distinction between matter (deyon) and energy (čikara) already made by Verdurian physicists. A moving arrow was identical in physical composition to a stationary one, but had the additional property of čikara, energetic movement or heat. In the same way, Cistile taught, a living man was physically identical to a corpse, but had the additional property of itian. And as with matter and energy, there were strict laws on the interaction of matter and spirit-- or more precisely, spirit and energy, for it was Cistile's belief that itian acted directly only on čikara, which in turn acted on deyon; this was why living men but not corpses were warm.

Cistile, though not a physician himself, interested himself deeply in medicine; and (having conversed at length with the physicians at mental hospitals, and even observed a number of dissections) he was the first philosopher to make a connection between brain disease and mental illness; he concluded that the physical deterioration of the brain must inevitably lead to wasted or diverted energy, and eventually loss of connection to the driving itian. (An insane person thus had a healthy itian but a malfunctioning apparatus for expressing it.)

From a terrestrial perspective, Cistile may not seem as free of aprioristic prejudice as he hoped to be; but for the Verdurians his analysis was masterful and almost unanswerable. The natural philosophers themselves were glad to have a framework into which to place their own work, and which seemed to answer so many questions, from why men were different from animals to why the brain was so copiously supplied with blood. If there was opposition to Cistile, it was not from materialists (rare in Verduria) but from the other side: more traditional philosophers who preferred the traditional four-part soul, or who resented the rationalistic approach to the sacred mysteries of human reason.

Cistile finished his five-volume Eta itian, deyon, er čikara and his two-volume Cervo er itian ("Brain and spirit") before he was forty; and devoted the remainder of his long career to another unresolved philosophical problem-- the nature of God. His writings on theology, notably Hecu Aďei "The nature of God", are notable for their penetration, their careful reasoning, and their scientific erudition, but are not considered to have broken much new ground; his God was something like the Freudian superego, nagging the itian on to greater rationality and righteousness. Perhaps his most striking suggestion was that the "popular" religious movements, from the 'old worship' to Eleďát, were all inspired by the "true, unknown God".

Čurmey [To Index]

Dašcor Čurmey is a contemporary philosopher, and proof that the sophisticated tolerance of Verdurian society only goes so far; he has been imprisoned, or his works banned, more than once; some have even called for him to be put to death.

Čurmey is the first of the philosophers to deny the rationality and goodness of the universe; influenced by the brutality and ignorance inherent in the affairs of men, as well as the savagery of nature (other philosophers prefer to speak of its exhilarating ďarimát, wildness), he maintains that the realities of human nature are power, lust, and greed, and ridicules rationality as "the fireside dreamings of airy (šaleme) souls protected from meeting reality by the mocking power of others' swords."

He is a ferocious satirist, who would not outrage so much if he were not also widely and eagerly read, or if his mastery of the language and his broad knowledge of the philosophers he reviles were less. He is not afraid to make nobles, newly rich bourgeois, and even the King his targets, and this is the source of some of the hatred directed against him.

Another source, however, is his personal life, whose own lack of dedication to traditional virtue he has not attempted to hide. Claiming to admire the "carefree savages" of Téllinor, he lives a life of dissipation-- drinking, gambling, fornication with women and men. All this provides evidence to his enemies of the corrupting effect of his philosophy-- though the more level-headed have noted that Čurmey thrives on shock more than on debauchery itself; he describes and exalts the dissipated life more than he actually gives himself up to it.

His philosophical importance is so far not great (although his dissections of some traditional arguments for the existence of God or of divine justice in the world have caused some consternation); but he has had a certain influence among young noblemen, artists, and journalists. He has also bitterly attacked the Eleďi, whom he considers ridiculous moralizers; and they have returned his attacks, attempting to portray him (quite unfairly) as typical of the degradation of pagan philosophy.

Magic [To Index]

Beside the priests and philophers stands a third figure in Caďinorian belief, that of the magician. He is perhaps the most feared of all, for magic (alcedla) works on Almea.

A magician is not an ordinary man. He is learned, solitary, and somber. He is never a fat and jolly man; magic seems to consume a man even as it extends his lifespan. Above all, he has made himself something other than human in the pursuit of his secret art. He has lost some of his human sympathy and innocence; certainly his joy.

The Caďinorian magician is not a worldly figure, like Niven's Warlock; he is beyond merely material desires. Nor are there dabblers in magic, knowing a few cantrips and nothing more. It requires long years and great and terrible sacrifices to become a magician; few follow this dread path. The Eleďi claim that it involves selling one's soul to the devil. The pagans do not agree; but they do not like to associate with magicians, and are slow to demand their services, even in times of need. Most men agree with the old proverb: "A little magic is a good thing."

To the magicians, magic is a science as well as a faith. They have mapped out the supernatural world for their purposes (which never include mere curiosity). It rarely encourages them in the mythology of the masses, but it makes them mystical, and a magician is never an atheist. "Enäron exists," insists one magical writer. "Yet He is not as you conceive. Shall I tell you of what nature He is? Do I dare speak? Do you dare listen?"

To the extent that magicians have deigned to explain the philosophy of their craft, it is not a matter of natural law, an alternative čikara to be exploited by anyone who has knowledge of it. It is a matter of a relationship with unseen spirits, called vyoži, and they are not there for man's exploitation. They have their own wants, their own agenda, and it is only in bending to their will, and making themselves pleasing to them, that magicians can accomplish their own goals.

Magic is therefore immune to the rationalizing impulse; there will never be a science of magic. No two magicians have the same powers or the same teachings; the same spell need not work twice the same way. Magic operates according to the will or whim of the vyoži. They will accomplish prodigies on behalf of their favorites, the alcedlomi who have dedicated themselves to the magical art; but they exact a price; the alcedlom must increasingly devote himself to the disciplines demanded of him by the vyoži, and it is said that they finally draw him into their own world, and he dies in this.

Some magicians are too easily dominated, and become little more than worshippers of the vyoži, living in isolation and (in the world's eyes) madness. The strongest magicians are those with a strong will of their own, gifted with great intuition and skills of negotiation, who approach the vyoži-- certainly not as equals, but with tact and dignity.

What powers do the magicians have? According to one school, what can be done with magic is what could be done with a team of invisible, incredibly fast, but not highly technological workers. Thus, one can build a bridge or a mansion, divert a river, fetch items from far off, defeat an army; but not cure a plague, light a room, read a man's mind, walk through walls, or make gold from lead. This rule of thumb does seem to cover most reliable reports of magic (there are plenty of wild exaggerations), although it does not explain why magicians can also fly through the air, and are protected from illness. It may explain why magicians, despite their great powers, are not gifted with any supernatural strength, and can be killed with knife or sword like any other man-- if you can get close to them.

Alcedla may seem to have little relationship to the 'old worship'; but its practices do descend from early paganism, there are points of agreement between the magical and the mythical worlds. Magicians are often, in their own way, religious men (and women; most magicians are male, but the craft is by no means closed to women).

Another type of magic entirely is zobát. The zobomi, who can be men or women, often associated with pantheistic forms of paganism, or with exclusive worship of Řavcaena, the earth goddess, believe in sympathetic magic: substances and parts of things have the properties of the objects they compose. A bird's feather, if we but know how to use it, has the power to grant flight; fish scales can be used to walk underwater.

The zobomi have a reputation for being less successful the higher their pretensions; they are most reliable as herblorists, and their typical function is to cure diseases, to interpret dreams, or to apply or lift curses. In a sense they fulfil the function of the old godspeakers, now that Caďinorian priests dedicate themselves more to ritual and teaching than to intercession with fantit.

The zobomi, though often standoffish and eccentric, are much more approachable than the alcedlomi. There is likely to be one in walking distance of any rural town. There are fewer of them in the cities, where the natural materials they need are harder to obtain.

There are many other schools of magic. It is a field of secrets; almost every magician has his own methods, and few will write down their philosophies or make them part of public knowledge. We may be sure that many of them are charlatans; but we must certainly expect to find at least the range of magical beliefs found in terrestrial cultures, and more besides, since at least some of them do have a reliable practical effect.


© 1998 by Mark Rosenfelder

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