Week 20: Tell us about … religion in your book
Okay, so I thought long and hard about this because the religion of the book ties intimately with the meta-story of all the books set on my fictional world of Delka but it’s also linked deeply with the setting of this book, Umbra, and its sequel. To understand religion’s spread you have to zoom out a bit.
There are two goddesses, Venus and Artelia, that effectively govern the world of Delka. They were assigned a task by their father to look out after it in his absence. Since the dawn of time, the goddesses and their ilk have battled with their opposites, entities now known as Zekk. The goddesses dealt with the creation energy Mana while the Zekk dealt with an energy that at its heart is deconstruction of existing stuff, Umbra. Neither the goddesses nor the Zekk can dominate as it would cause chaos for the universe, but the Zekk don’t care and want to rule. A finely tuned balance between the two is mitigated by dragons which are celestial beings in this universe. They curb either’s powers with the third and final energy Balance, or sometimes Spirit. The short version of this story is that the goddesses make a deal with the dragons to help them stop the destruction-loving Zekk and seal them away. The result of this comes at a price: Venus must give up her eyes and Artelia must have dominion over the Umbra to maintain the balance of the universe.
In the Three Kingdoms, the story goes that essentially Artelia ate the Zekk to gain their power and overthrow her sister Venus and become the dominant force in the universe. In the process, Venus lost her eyes. Artelia was thwarted and cast down to service the “impure” Umbra as a result. This feeds into the culture of the Three Kingdoms from idioms/curses “Artelia take your eyes” for expression of extreme distaste, right the way up to their perception of other cultures. The subtitle of Umbra is “The War of the Twins”, which refers to the twin goddesses. The Three Kingdoms (colloquially known as “Volgorian” because that is the language they speak, though they have no official demonym) worship Venus, while the Anzori Empire to the south worship Artelia. Both view the other as “savage” because of their worship of the opposite goddess. The most abundant energy type there is Mana, while Anzor’s most abundant energy source is Umbra.
In Anzori faith, Artelia is the wronged heroine of the tale who was banished by her sister who was jealous of her gifts, claiming that Artelia was conspiring with the Zekk for dominion. So shamed was Venus of her crimes, she could not bear to see it and her eyes failed as a result. Dominion over the Umbra means responsibility of dead things and the afterlife. Anzori culture almost uniformly has a deep respect for the dead and the ritual for the dead. Life is suffering, Artelia suffers to see people suffer, but to maintain balance she must not interfere directly. But that does not mean she can do nothing. The way they see it, their restless souls need to be guided to the Undying Lands where Artelia resides who will watch over them eternally.
A priest of Artelia’s religion believes that because of our souls were part made by Venus, the “Tyrant Goddess”, they know restlessness and wickedness. They must devote themselves to guiding their souls to the Undying Lands peacefully without the turmoil, else they cannot be admitted and will wander forever. Many different cultures across the Empire represent faith differently but many express it through hair and ornamentation: men and women both tend to grow their hair long, wear beads, and feathers. Death rites are commonplace services a priest would offer as well as to follow the precept of seeing good in all. They see their mission in putting people on a righteous path. Some might need more help than others. Unfortunately, I have done a great disservice to the Anzori Empire and this religion as of yet is unnamed. You can mark this down as something to flesh out in the redraft. I was speaking with my friend about how underdeveloped religion is and I mean to do it justice, especially with future books.
The Three Kingdoms’ dominant religion is Seinism. Its origin is not commonly known to the average denizen there. The names of most of the countries derive from the major tribe/clan/ethnicity/delete as necessary that lived in the landmass to the north, Volgoria. So Onzarians are descended from the clan of Onza, Tymbroians from the Tymbros, etc., etc. Seinism derives its name similarly. Their clan was a minority and often looked down upon.
A cruel queen, Veena the Unjust, did not like their traditions and banished them to the lands south of Volgoria. The lands south (modern day Three Kingdoms) were supposed to be barren and uninhabited so her ambition was to ship them away and let the emptiness of that land do the job of ridding them of the Seins once and for all. She gave them little food and many starved or jumped overboard to give the others a chance. The few survivors were shipwrecked on the northern shore of modern day Delaria in the northeast of the Three Kingdoms, and brought to their capital at the foot of a mountain. It turns out a flourishing culture already existed, one of abundance. The prominent members of the clan were asked about their home but they decided not to speak of it, calling it a foul and ungrateful land* instead electing to speak only of their own traditions and teachings. These were well-received by the locals and the Seins, these strangers from the north, were viewed as very special, prophets from heaven. Their message spread orally but soon people began to scribe down these teachings and Seinism was formed. That’s about as far as I’ll go as this is getting on a bit. Seinism actually has a much darker underbelly to it that I won’t go into. But yeah. The theme of the series is about perspective and how culture shapes your beliefs. Building a robust religion and culture will be integral in selling this idea.
*Their desire for vengeance would see this foreign nation, known as Erebia, stretch out to the southern tip of Volgoria, but not much further than that.