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it is currently season 1, the year 1449 NE. The continent of Tnarem balances on a precarious edge between survival and destruction. Wars rage between nations, fractures open in the Mete. The world as the Tnaremi people know it is dying and they are left with a choice: act or perish with it.
All of the information you need to become better acquainted with the world of Sergonia and its inhabitants can be found here. Anyone wishing to join the Ericourt will be able to find the essentials here.
The region of Nis does not answer to an official religion, but Yalmaanism is worshiped in nearly all of the southern and eastern parts of the nation, as well as in all major cities. Though its exact origins are murky and hopelessly tangled with the roots of other religions, Yalmaanism traces its beginnings in Tnarem back to the first Nisi colonies. The religion has changed significantly since Nis’ entrance into Tnarem, however, and is now much different from its predecessor.
Despite its inclusiveness and its core tenant of tolerance of difference, Yalmaanism is a religion that takes itself very seriously. The stories of Vhal and his wujuh are not to be mocked or portrayed in inaccurate or caricature-like ways. There is something to be learned from each parable, and among the Nisi scholars, the exact meanings to be taken from the various passages in the Yalmaa are heavily debated.
Vhal (v-EL) - the Yalmaan god
Wajju (wah-SHUU) - a "face" of Vhal, or a god
Wujuh (wuh-shuu-OON) - the faces, when referenced in whole
Yalmaa (YAHL-eh-mah) - the yalmaan holy text
Rawhb (RHUU-beh) - spirit
Rawhbi (RHUU-bee) - plural of rawhb, spirits
Qabr (CAH-bray) - mass tombs, likened to above ground catacombs
A defining aspect of Yalmaanism is its inclusion of other gods beyond its ever-growing pantheon. Each new god is included in Yalmaanism as a "face" or wajju of Vhal. Yalmaanism's belief in the singular Vhal who possesses many forms leads to the general consensus that Yalmaanism is a polytheistic religion, when in fact, it is monotheistic.
There are infinite aspects to the Many Faces; most religious deities are considered a face, and therefore valid worship of the All-God. Indeed, many of the faces of Vhal are adaptations of gods belonging to other faiths that have come in contact with a Yalmaanist and left an impression on them. When a Yalmaanist travels, it is not unusual to see them visit a nearby shrine to the Four or even a Pantheonic dom to pay their respect to the local deities through an offering or praying for protection.
The holy book of Yalmaanism, the Yalmaa is also where the belief system pulls its name from. The existence of this text and its importance to the religion dictates that all priests and priestesses of the religion are able to read and write in order to transcribe and study the divine words of Vhal and his Many Faces. The time consuming and involved process of printing a book, however, makes hard copies of the Yalmaa extremely rare, and even moreso outside of Nis. Most who have the privilege of reading the Yalmaa will usually commit its stories to memory so that they may pass on the knowledge to the less fortunate.
There is no battle between good and evil in Nisi culture, but rather the coexistence between good will and ill will. All have the propensity for both, and both are essential in a well-rounded, functional being. Every action and word is accounted for in one's overall balance, it creates their own personal energy. This energy, cumulated throughout a person's entire life, is expelled from the body upon death and becomes a spirit, or a rawhb. Rawhbi roam the world, acting much as they did in life -- some are kind, others are mischievous, others are cruel. Nisi folklore is full of particularly powerful spirits, older than the settling of Nis at times, that help or hinder mankind.
Communing with rawhbi is forbidden, no matter if you are communing with a friendly or malicious rawhb. While it is possible to communicate, to influence the events of another parallel is dangerous as it has the potential to upset the delicate balance established there. It is this belief from which Nis' dislike for witches stems.
Yalmaanism believes, in a way, in reincarnation, though the world that the reincarnated experience is parallel to the one they experienced in their first life. There are endless parallels, and when someone is reincarnated, the parallel they are reborn into depends entirely on how balanced they were in life. No matter the parallel the person ends up in, however, each is accessible to the others, and the inhabitants are able to interact with those from different parallels, though it is a grave offense to Vhal to do so. Sometimes rawhb will ignore the dangers of communicating, reaching out to those on this parallel. When this happens, Yalmaanists believe that the balance of Sergonia is upset and in turn Vhal will be angered. There exist different beliefs around why rawhbi would communicate with those on this parallel, ranging from the belief that their current parallel is extremely unbalanced to they wish to steal the energy of those on this parallel to add to their own cumulative energy.
Practices & Rituals
There is no conflict in worship in Yalmaanism. The gods are not in conflict with one another, to worship one is not to exclude or anger another, even if that other god oversees converse aspects. They are all part of a single whole, and to worship one is to worship the All-God. Yalmaanists do strive to worship in equal measures, however. All faces of Vhal are worthy of attention, as he has given them all to us.
The shrines are tended to loosely, the monks who see to them reclusive. They keep from the public, their devotion to Vhal private and secretive. With no set days of worship, and no one to guide group prayer, those who come and go from the various shrines do so of their own volition and whenever they are able. It is typical for someone to visit a nearby shrine each morning to offer a small prayer before beginning their day. Holidays often come in the form of fasting, indulging or abstaining from certain things for periods of time, or days of seclusion to meditate on the self and the state of the world; both things that the Yalmaa teaches all must be intimately familiar with.
The celebration of a birth is a subdued event. The family officially welcomes the child into the world two days after the mother gives birth, naming it only once that time has passed. The spirit has had time to settle into the body, to fill it with life, and is ready for the proper welcome. A prayer of thanks and for continued blessings is said to Vhal and the child is named. There is no need for large gatherings or for trips to a shrine. Birth is the arrival of a traveller, not the welcoming of a new resident, in the eyes of a Yalmaanist.
The emphasis during all primary events in a Yalmaamist's life is on his soul, this includes death. Because the body is worth nothing once the spirit is gone, there is little surrounding the burial practice. Bodies are stripped after death, dismembered by grave keepers, and placed in qabr, massive labyrinths where the dead are kept. Some, belonging to the longer-lived cities of Nis, have grown to be necropolis-like complexes.
While the body becomes insignificant, the passing on to a new form is not. The Nisi will spend the day of and after the death of a loved one fasting and in seclusion. This is a show of solidarity. They will not live while their loved one cannot. In Yalmaan lore, it takes two days for a person's soul to reincarnate. Once that 48 hour period has passed, the person is reborn, their energy having sorted them into the appropriate parallel. It is then that the family ends their fasting and seclusion with a celebration. A feast to which loved ones and friends are invited to partake in is held so that all may remember their loved one and wish them the best in their reincarnated form.
Vhal is the one true God of Ylamaanism. All other deities are considered expressions or "faces" of this one Spirit. Vhal in his entirety is typically demonstrated as a large man sitting cross legged. Arms crossed over his sizable chest, he shields his face behind his hands. Each fingertip bears the face of another Yalmaan deity. The gods chosen to cover Vhal’s fingers vary based on a region’s cultural influences.
There is an importance in his obscured face, as one can never know the true nature of Vhal. His intentions and self are obscured behind his wujuh, his will exacted through them, compartmentalized and distinct from one another. Casual observers would mistakenly say that it is these many wujuh that are most important to Vhal, but they would be incorrect. It is the hands to which those fingers belong that are most important, for they are the puppeteers of ill and good fortune. They are his primary wujuh, the grander inclinations of the All-God.
The primary Wujuh of Yalmaanism are Hadha (had-AH) and Akhar (al-HAR-oh), the former represented by Vhal's right hand and the latter represented by his left. The right hand governs the internal and the left governs the external, and together they direct all of Sergonia. These wujuh do not have avatars like their lessers, they are always represented at an outward facing palm of whichever hand is being referenced.
Eshab (EH-shob) is the wajju of health, humor, mischief, and luck. A swift desert hare, he is always depicted with a torn left ear and a golden earring in his right. Often, he is called upon by travelers and thieves desiring fortune in their pursuits. This plea requires no other offering but a prayer, for Eshab cannot be persuaded or bribed; instead, he plucks a hair from his coat. If it is white, he will deny the request. If it is brown, he will grant it. If a loved one is ill, families will tuck a root vegetable under the ill person’s bed to trick Eshab into visiting. If the trick is successful, it is said Eshab will grant the afflicted a healing boon.
Khor (KOH-er) is the wajju of inner strength, sacrifice, and choice. An old crone draped in white silk, she is shown holding a kopesh in one hand, her other hand missing and bleeding from the wrist. She is the guardian of soldiers, who will cut the arm of a willing compatriot and sprinkle the blood on the battlefield. Khor will smell the blood and arrive to watch over the faithful, ready to usher the souls of the fallen into their next life. This honor is not just for soldiers, but for all the Yalmaan faithful, for she is also the wajju who compares the balance of ill will and good will in a person’s energy to determine the circumstances of their next life. To communicate with rawbhi is of particular insult to her.
Nasira (na-SEE-rah) is the wajju of secrets, desire, trust, and regret. She is depicted as a woman with her body completely concealed by a colorful, brightly-patterned robe. She wears an ornate mask adorned with the feathers of a golden eagle, so that only her smile is visible. Nasira is one of the most popular of the wujuh in Nis, for it is she who listens to their prayers and keeps their most personal thoughts, dreams, and desires secret. Nasira is also the guardian of the dying, and it she who listens to their last thoughts, recording their regrets and joys on an ever-lengthening scroll. Some say that on clear nights, one can see the hazy outline of her scroll spanning the heavens, unfurled through the stars.
Qutanisa (ick-ta-NISA) is the wajju of compassion, truth, and love. A tall, sleek spotted cat, she often is painted with a human’s eyes. Seeing all, she watches over households, young couples, and mothers giving birth. Should one be seeking love, it is said that being kind to felines will help persuade Qutanisa to send a beloved to you. In times of great decision making, she can be called upon to give wisdom in dreams or times of meditation. Believers can be sure of her visit if they wake to the smell of almonds. Often, those seeking the blessing of Qutanisa will anoint themselves with almond oil before sleeping to encourage her presence.
Zalaam (veh-LEH-em) is the wajju of malice, vengeance, diplomacy, and leadership. Appearing as a hyena or a young man wearing a hyena’s pelt, he is called upon to preside over both matters of war and peace. When any civil dispute is decided, Zalaam’s presence is called for by burning a large copper bowl filled with almonds, fresh lilies, and olive oil. Upon the dispute’s resolution, the ashes from the bowl are mixed into unleavened bread and eaten by both parties to signify acceptance of the terms. Yalmaan lore dictates that breaking terms of a resolution made in this way will bring the ruthless vengeance of Zalaam upon you and your household.