The people across the Western Peaks and Shenvah are polytheistic, believing in the existence of many goddesses and gods. The people may choose to focus their favor on one god in particular, or, most commonly, they spread their practice in the honor of many deities.
In general, while the peoples of the Western Peaks pay respect to the deities, it is mostly out of the knowledge that the deities are so much greater, larger, and more powerful than they are. That is where their respect lies. The peoples typically do not hold high devotion or worship to the deities, but are just as often to grumble and complain about the goddesses and gods.
It is said that the goddesses and gods were once all part of one being, sometimes called “Tahluu” in mythology. Tahluu ruled over every existing thing in absolute – the entire universe, the sun, the stars, the moon, the earth, and every soul. However, the deity Tahluu chose to separate itself in two, forming an “offspring” of lesser power. Tahluu, in turn, lost some power by the division.
The goddesses and gods continued to divide themselves, in this way giving themselves “sons and daughters.” The more the goddesses and gods divided, the less powerful they became, and the smaller in size they became. Whereas once Tahluu could hold planets in the palm of his hand, now many of the deities of the earth are small enough they themselves can roam the earth; they can throw mountains and continents, but nothing greater.
Because Tahluu became divided, the resulting deities found strength within certain values and materials of certain physical make. For example, the god Taranvor is the god of strength, bravery, fire, and light; Hazhrahael is the goddess of compassion, acceptance, and water.
Known deities Edit
Hazhrahael is the goddess of compassion, acceptance, and water. She presides over the afterworld known as the Reef of Souls, and she accepts all those human souls who have been rejected by the other gods. Those who have traveled to the ocean would recognize her form as being similar to that of an enormous whale.
Hazhrahael is a goddess who holds unprecedented compassion and interest in human souls – all human souls, regardless of whether or not they lived a commendable life. She regards them as her children, in need of love and protection. That said, Hazhrahael is also snappish and sassy goddess who knows when to chastise or punish her followers. She is short of temper and quick to instill justice. Hazhrahael will suffer her followers questioning her ways to some extent, but will nevertheless point out to them the fault, folly, and dangers of their ways.
Worship to Hazhrahahel has declined since the Fractured Sovereignty Period, during which devotion toward her was widespread throughout the Vahim Regaad. Because the majority of the souls Hazhrahael accepts into her afterworld are decrepit, loathsome criminals, and because her afterworld justly chains these souls forever in a floating underwater prison, perception of Hazhrahael has changed from that of a benevolent goddess to one of cruelty and horrors. Tarans in the Contemporary Sovereignty Period believe that Hazhrahael is the most fearsome of the deities, and the one to avoid at all costs.
The few followers who seek after Hazhrahael now tend to be interested in the morbid, completely clueless as to the true nature of the goddess.
Shenevezhah is the goddess of living creatures, specifically non-human creatures and the corporal form. Her form is that of a giant yak.
Shivezhah is the goddess of infants, loyalty, protection, and air. She watches over the youngest human souls, and will take them into her Cloud of Souls if they die before toddlerhood. Though she commends loyalty – especially loyalty to family – and protection over the youth, she does not take the souls of those who demonstrate these traits into her afterworld.
Afterlives and afterworlds Edit
After death, a human’s soul (zi) is taken into the custody of one of the goddesses or gods, whereby the soul is henceforth controlled by that deity. Control of that soul may be as absolute or lenient as the deity desires. Since acquisition of a soul lends strength and power to that god, providing extra spiritual energy by which to grant their magic breadth and strength, most deities choose to store the souls in an afterworld (naati rozi zhe zhiehuk, “land of souls after death”, or simply naati rozhi, “land of souls”; sometimes also called natsurr rotahluu), where they may feed off the energy as will. As a result, goddesses and gods like Shivezhah, Shenevezhah, Taranvor, Hazhrahael, and Xhavaemaret have all created their own afterworld where they house their share of souls.
Within the afterlife, these souls may eternally exist in the form of humans, still feeling and perceiving as though they have a physical body with physical limitations. The “age” of the body depends on “how old” the soul perceives itself in the afterlife, meaning that youths may appear old or the elderly young again. It is said that these souls could return with their spiritual bodies to the earth if the goddesses and gods opened up portals from their afterworld to the land of the living, but this was done only once with the war of the gods in 1063 NS, when Taranvor sent his armies out from the Field of Suns under the command of Donaz ra Sarkaf. Through millennia of practice, the gods do not allow the souls in their afterworlds to walk back to earth.
Other deities allow a soul to return directly to the world of the living, either through reincarnation into a new body, or by simply depositing the soul into the earth to exist as an immortal demon. In reincarnation, practiced to varying extents by Venaeramor, Hazhrahael, Shivezhah, and Taranvor, the soul is reborn as an infant. Though the soul’s personality traits will remain more or less constant, the human will live a new life with no memories of previous existences. Since reincarnation severs a deity’s power over that soul, only Vanaeramor practices reincarnation in total. This stands in contrast to the demonic afterlife instituted by Xhoudaki, known as “the life after living” (zhe zhiehlarr), in which the god may instill control over the demon’s actions and spiritual essence as needed. Demons also lack a body to call their own, and must bind their immortal spirit to some sort of nonliving or living object.
The gods in antiquity created a pact determining the distribution of souls amongst the deities. Two main criteria determine which deity gains custody over the soul of a newly deceased human. First and foremost, human souls are distributed based upon their loyalty to a specific goddess or god. While the people live within a polytheistic society that worship and recognize many goddesses and gods in tandem, an individual’s greater devotion toward one specific deity determines which afterlife or afterworld system takes them. Devotion toward a goddess or god involves focusing upon that deity’s specific attributes, philosophies, and ideals. For instance, followers of Taranvor are instructed to be brave, courageous warriors; if one does not pursue these ideals well enough in life, than Taranvor might not accept that human soul after death. For those individuals who do not follow a specific god, or do not sufficiently uphold the values of their chosen deity, they will be given the afterlife which best circumscribes to their own values and actions in life. In this manner, the first criteria for soul distribution is deity loyalty; the second is personal characteristics and attributes the soul demonstrated when they were a living human.
Animal afterlife Edit
The goddess Shenevezhah’s afterworld is understood perhaps least of all the deities’. Some claim that she takes control of all non-human souls, including fish, birds, mammals, insects, and nedan. Others believe no animals contain souls, and that the afterlife is dedicated to those who bond closely to animals, especially cockatrices. These accounts hold that wanderers who fly through the skies, seeking truth and meaning, are the individuals whose souls are reaped by Shenevezhah. In this account, some Tarans believe that Sirit ra Daraan Shatexh, the man who first rode a cockatrice in the Vahim Regaad, entered the Animal Afterlife.
Though there is little understanding of any afterworld, Shenevezhah’s world is known least of all. Many claim her world is unknowable since they believe it is closed to humankind. Nevertheless, even under that believe, legend tells of one adventurer (variably named Shisaaq ra’Zhul, Zhul ra Shisaaq, Shesaak, or Sherasaak) entering a portal and coming across an ever-living forest.
Cloud of Souls Edit
The goddess Shivezhah accepts the souls of all infants. She takes these unformed souls into her care, where they join together into a buzzing cloud of souls. The souls remain unformed and do not grow into maturity; they are conscious, but do not contain self-awareness as do “adult souls”. Shivezhah will frequently watch over these souls and store them until they can be reborn into a new body on earth. Once a child reaches self-awareness, they cannot access the Cloud of Souls.
Field of Suns Edit
Taranvor rules over the Field of Suns, an afterworld consisting of an endless, uninterrupted plain. Two suns constantly beam down over the land, never moving, creating unending day. Only the brave and strong enter the Field of Suns; Taranvor places special emphasis particularly on warriors. In the Field of Suns, people constantly practice battle strategy in preparation of the day Taranvor plans to take over the entire afterlife system.
Souls who have entered the Field of Suns include Donaz ra Sarkaf, Shioka Kai-ri, and ra’Xedou Shataar the First.
Reef of Souls Edit
Hazhrahael accepts all souls who are rejected by the other gods. A goddess of compassion, she presides over even the worst of human souls. She reincarnates people with potential to provide them a second, third, fourth, or fifth chance on earth. For those souls whose actions are particularly vile, she will store them permanently in the Reef of Souls.
The Reef of Souls appears to be a vast ocean. The only objects which float in the reef are chains, human souls, and Hazhrahael herself. Souls are chained together in long lines, growing up from the sea like plants. Every soul is chained to the lines of chain in a unique respect; some will have a chain run through their hand or foot, while others may find themselves in a more horrifying bondage, chains running through their entire body or through their head. The manner in which the chain runs through the soul is in proportion to the wrongdoings they committed; thieves may find chains running through the center of each of their palms, while a murderer who strangled their victims could find the chain through their throat. Those who commit worse crimes are also further down in the depths of the ocean, where it is darkest. Yet other masses of people may find themselves chained and wound into an enormous ball which drifts through the waters.
In general, the souls float in stasis, unconscious apart from occasionally waking up. They feel no physical pain and are generally numbed.
Because Hazhrahael’s realm accepts the worst of humanity, and because of its terrifying appearance, few living humans actively seek out this afterlife – unless they believe this is their only chance for redemption and reincarnation.
Individuals who have entered the Reef of Souls include Rashurah Xhemi, Xhadou ra Tazharr the First, Xhadou da Farih, Xhadou ra Zhokurr, and Hlenis ro Sengurr Rashurr.
Demon Form Edit
Main article for demons.
Followers of Xhoukadi do not enter a unique afterworld, but they are granted an unending existence on earth in the form of a demon (dena). Demons are spirits bound to any earthly object, most commonly some stationary object like a stone or tree. They are not free to move about, though they can transfuse to new objects with some effort.
Some Southern Vahim Regaad villages who revere Xhoukadi as their primary god will lay stones on their dead relatives’ body in funeral, allowing their lost ones to fuse with that rock. These rocks are then placed in household shrines, where they can continue to interact with their living relatives. In general, though, demons remain in the wilds of the world, fused to rocks, undisturbed by living humans. They will remain unmoving but fully conscious for hundreds of years, during which they lose their sense of humanity and grow into a characteristic demonic restlessness.
After hundreds of years of dormancy, wild demons may occasionally find the opportunity to enter a human host. Entering a human host requires either a willing subject, or a battle between wills. If the demon loses the contest of wills, the demon cannot enter the body, but if it succeeds in overpowering the human mind, it can enter and control the body for as long as it lasts. The human soul will remain conscious, and can even mentally communicate with the demon. Nevertheless, the host will be completely unable to control their body unless the demon grants them control, a powerful magician succeeds in exorcism, or the host mentally overpowers the mind of the demon. It is rare for any of these instances to occur; typically, once the demon gains control of a human host.
Because demons typically exist in the earth for hundreds of years before they possess a human, they rarely exercise compassion on their host. They have lost the ability to hold compassion over the years of solitude, and wish to exert their control to experience sensations they have missed for centuries. To maintain control, demons frequently subject their host to mental torture. Demons may onslaught the human soul with verbal abuse, or they may cause the soul to experience physical pain or undergo realistic, horrifying hallucinations. For instance, the demon Nalaagura, upon taking control of Tiy Xhadouk ra Garet Rangar, forced him to experience hallucinated repeated incidences of his wife and children dying gruesomely, as well as exempted him to experiences of extreme physical pain and psychological torment. Instead of feeling guilt for subjecting the hosts to these pains, demons usually find the incidences amusing.
In addition to abusing their host, demons will wreak havoc upon the human world once they contain a human form. They create chaos wherever they run. Having lived dormant and motionless for so long, the demons take to their moving form with great exhilaration and act with a notable lack of inhibition and conscience. The presence of a demon in a land can be a region-wide problem, if not a national one.
Demons contain enhanced magical abilities; inside a host, they are able to manipulate magic in far more potent manners than humans ever can. Demons do not need to ingest materials and evoke an incantation action in order to use magic. Their use of magic in a host allows them to heal the body they are in; some demons have been known to possess corpses and use their powers to prevent the body from decaying.
Usually, a host’s consciousness fades the longer a demon remains in the body. If the demon suppresses the human will long enough, the soul will detach from the body and be sent to one of the afterworlds. However, demons cannot remain in a host body long without consequent.
The longer a demon remains in a body, the more it fuses with it. Demons are unfettered human souls, but human souls by nature fuse with human bodies. Therefore, over time, a demon’s magic powers may wane inside the host. On rare occasions a demon remains so long in the body that it fuses completely with the body; the soul of the host and the soul of the demon fuse into one consciousness, and the demon (dena) becomes a creature known as the neden. Neden can also be formed if a human soul consciously accepts a contract and fusing with a demon, though these instances are extremely rare in occurrence, little more than legend.
Neden contain a long lifespan but are mortal; they will die after 250-300 years and be sent to Shenevezhah’s afterworld. They are more magically powerful than humans, but less powerful than an unfused dena. Most demons avoid becoming neden, and the process will happen accidentally. On rare occasions of need, they may consciously become neden, such as is the case with Nalaagura when she fuses with the corpse of Shioka Kai-ri.
The majority of goddesses and gods have evoked reincarnation sometime, though some practice it more than others. Hazhrahael and Shivezhah regularly reincarnate souls into new bodies at birth. Taranvor typically reincarnates a heroic figure only in times of pressing need, and uses it as a reward to his most successful souls. Only the god Venaeramor practices reincarnation in absolute; he sends all souls who follow him back into new infantile bodies to live anew on the earth.