Saturday, June 17, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: Religion in the Valley -- overview and Yasivan

The faith of the Valley Kingdoms is a complicated one, accreted over many centuries by the influx of various peoples and cultures to the Valley. The earliest settlers, Sangaegrun from the desert, brought with them the faith of the Thingatha Empire. The Thingatha faith, known as Yafaba (the Light of the Fire), was focused on the worship of Ya, a principle representing light, flame, goodness, and creation. Ya was inevitably the creator of Yibrum, the Darkness, to whom he was immortally opposed. This dualism has marked faith in the Valley permanently.

A Note About Unity: Most faiths of the valley are unified under the worship of Ya. That is, priests of Ya serve as the general priesthood of the valley and specialized priesthoods often serve under them. The center of most faiths resides in Engen, the Holy Island, in Medenva, the City of the Fire, within the great Palace of the Priesthood overlooking that city. The Unification of the Temples happened under the Empire of the Throne, as part of a bid to reduce the political strength of many of the great temples.

As a result, the most powerful religions were subjugated beneath a single religious leader. This so-called Archpriest is the final authority on the Unified Faiths of Sivanism (see below).

A Note About Localism: The deities of the Valley are believed to be extremely local gods. That is, though they are very powerful deific beings, their spheres of influence do not extend outside of the Valley. Yasivan and Yibrum are the twin creative forces that gave birth not to the world, but to the Valley. The gods of the outside are unknown here, and the gods of the Valley have no power against those alien deities of the land beyond the mountains.

Yasivan, the Living Fire. Ya stands at the apex of Valley theology. Since the early Migration Age and the time of the Thingatha Empire, however, Ya has since been identified as an androgyne rather than a masculine principle. Her counterpart, Yibrum, is also utterly without fixed gender. Unlike the ancient Thingatha faith, Ya is not the first principle; rather, that distinction now belongs to Yibrum, the Dark. Yibrum is depicted as prior to, and not necessitated by, the existence of Ya.

YA is also called Yasivan, the Living Fire. The majority faith of the Valley is commonly referred to as Sivanism, that is the Faith of the Living. Yasivan altars are cylindrical in shape, and always contain a vessel (sometimes of bronze, copper, gold, or other precious metal, sometimes of stone) in which a fire is set to burn. The feeding of this fire is one of the chief duties of the Sivan priesthood.

Ancient Thingathi Yafaban Altar
Modern Sivan Fire Altar

When the early Sangaegrun priesthood entered the Valley, they carried with them a brand of the original Yafaban flame from the Grand Temple of Thingatha. This flame was placed into early Sangaegrun temples and legend claims that it fed the Sacral Fire on Engan, which burns to this day.

WORSHIP: Yasivan, the Living Fire, is worshipped in thousands of different ways, but the most common is the destruction by fire of various objects. It is not uncommon to burn small effigies of precious wood or clay. The fires are usually fed with incense and other fuming substances, and the priests of Yasivan are well known as manipulators of fire—that is, they carry with them many fuming incenses or powders to cause the flames to redouble, or swell, or change color.

Almost all towns have one temple of the Faith. Large cities have many more. These temples serve other gods besides Ya, as well, but generally at the bare minimum they will possess a few priests (called Attendants) to tend the Temple Flame, which is meant never to go out. If a Temple Flame is extinguished, it must be relit by the Flame of the next-largest temple, with the grandest temples only able to be rekindled by the Fire at Engen.

STRUCTURE: Priests of Ya adhere to a strict hierarchical structure, with the Attendants and Novices at the bottom.

Larger temples generally have a number of novices and attendants in service to a Divine Speaker, who will themselves be subordinate to the Lightbearer, or chief priest of that temple. In very large temples, there is a council of nine Lightbearers (nine being a sacred number). Lightbearers are subordinate to the High Divine of their region, which is a priest elected to the leadership of a large temple, usually one located in a major city. The High Divines answer none but the Archpriest himself.

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