Take this step and don't be afraid, as it is the glance into a past of wisdom and a future of possibilities.
The Vath'eran is probably the most important religious ritual of the nyr. Not only does it mark the passage from childhood to adulthood, in a unique way it is also proof and reassurment of one's own soul's immortality and rebirth, as during the ritual the participant can catch a glimpse of all the lives they lived before. From this connection with their past they can take inspiration for builidng a future - the Vath'eran marking the first step of this journey (lit. "vath" = step, "eran" = first).
The ritual was designed by Aman themself over the course of many years. During their lifetime it was already common belief that a soul was reborn into a new body, and that the body is only a vessel carrying the soul. But apart from vague occaisional dreams one might have and a priest's visions there was no certainty if these images in one's mind were only dreams or indeed memories of a past life. Many people also wondered why souls are reborn after all, and how often. Theories at the time were for example that there is no reason for rebirth, although this was the least satisfying option. Others believed that there was and "end-goal": the most devout of the nyr would one day reach a state of bliss - achieved through serving the gods and their will - that would allow their souls to forever rest in the Silent Waters at the side of the gods. This is the beliefsystem Aman grew up with, but they were convinced that there was no way to really know the will of the gods. They didn't speak to the priests, the priests only interpreted signs they attributed to certain gods. In Aman's eyes these interpretations usually had no justification, and the only way to truly understand rebirth and the gods themselves was to find a way to communicate with the gods. The latter proved definitely more of a challenge, as Aman quickly realized during their travels, so they decided to also try and find a way to understand rebirth better, by finding ways to take a better look at their own past lives. Through years of practise and meditation Aman eventually managed to self-induce a trance-like state, allowing them to retrace the steps they took in previous lives, although it was only short moments and important memories, still a mere, uncertain glimpse at what used to be. The difference was that they could induce this state at will, didn't have to wait for dreams or visions, and managed to go back to certain memories over and over again, trying to learn more and better understand what they were seeing. Naturally this was a very taxing and time-consuming task, and the effort it took almost seemed not worth the little knowledge Aman gained through it. It would take decades for them to find a more definite answer to the question of "why are we reborn". As stated above, it was already considered a fact by priests at the time (and later confirmed to be true by Aman) that after the body's death the soul enters the astral plane of the Silent Waters. There it reflects on the life that just passed and those that came before. Aman figured that it might be easier to open a door to the past by creating similar conditions as in the Silent Waters before entering the trance. While this astral plain's purpose was (and to some degree still is) nebulous, the re-creation of the conditions of the Silent Waters in a mundane setting was in theory not too difficult. Those close to the end of their lives often report of a longing of immersing themselves in the sea, tell of dreams of an endless dark ocean and swimming among the millions of souls that were before. Aman tackled this task after they had returned to Maan Garth from their pilgrimage. They experimented in a bathtub, in a lake, in the ocean itself, immersing themself and inducing the meditative trance in an attempt to reconnect with their past in an attempt to understand the reasons for rebirth. The sensory deprivation of surrounding noise and light, and the calmness of floating weightlessly in the water proved to be efficent, but it wasn't without danger. Apparently there was an occaision where a fisherman had to drag Aman out of the water because they almost drowned during this self-experiment, as they stated in one of their later diaries. This event was one of the reasons that drove them out of their solitude eventually and back to the Ivendarean Mainland. Unlocking the secrets of the universe was a task that couldn't be done alone. In the end Aman exclusively worked on the ritual together with their friends and students - not only did they offer new ideas that finally brought a breakthrough, but they were also there to help immediately in case something went wrong. The final execution of the ritual hasn't changed much back from it's first conception until this day, and Aman as well as all their followers underwent it, finally concluding a more definite answer to the "why are we reborn" question, after sharing their experiences: to grow, to learn, to strenghten their bond with this world and the gods. In their past lives many of them saw themselves repeating the same mistakes over and over again. The setting and their background was always different, but the way they acted or treated others and their surroundings was flawed in a way or another. They were reborn to be given the chance to try again, not repeat the mistakes - and knowing now what mistakes it were that they kept committing throughout their lives, they could start to change and grow into better people. Some of Aman's students, and Aman themself, saw in their past lives though that they did not always repeat the mistakes they had commited before. Their souls had lived long enough and reflected more on their pasts in the Silent Waters, leading to growth on their own. Yet not always seemed the growth go into a positive direction. One of Aman's students saw that in a previous life they suffered great tradgedy, and in the lives that followed they sunk more and more into a life of deceit, hate, and crime. Aman concluded that a particularly horrendous crime or act can echo through many lives and time, permanently harming a soul - therefore it was even more important to devote one's life to doing good and helping each other, and particularly those whose souls suffered harm in the past, to help them break the vicious circle they're trapped in. So in the end the answer to "why are we reborn" turned out to not really have much to do with serving the gods and interpreting their will - in Aman's eyes, it was much more important how to act in mundane surroundings. Shortly after finalizing the ritual Aman managed to physically speak to the gods, who seemed impressed with their will to uncover the truths about life and death. This unique event - never before had someone spoken to the gods directly - lead to the revelation of the gods true nature: none of them is truly good or truly evil, as was commonly assumed. And none of them actually interferes with the world directly, they are watchers and moral guides more than forces that destroy crops or bring rain based on what their followers do. This groundbreaking revelation led to new questions and eventually Aman's second conversation with the gods, shortly followed by their ascension and the final revelation and confirmation of the purpose of rebirth: to grow through experiences, good and bad, to learn, to thrive, and to share the experiences with others. In the end what matters is walking one's own path - either influenced by the past or not. The Vath'eran, as Aman's followers then called the ritual they had created, is the first step on this path.
The Vath'eran is a ritual traditionally conducted on a young nyr's 75th birthday and marks the end of childhood and first step into adulthood and taking responsibility for themselves and their deeds. The execution is the same all across Ivendarea, no matter one's ethnicity or social background, and the whole community usually comes together to plan and celebrate to make the occasion special. In the case of two or more young Valeethi sharing a birthday, the priests of the local temple decide whether to hold all rituals on the same day or spread them out over the days before and after the birthday as well. The ritual as such takes some preparation and can last for hours, not counting the celebrations afterwards. A certain order of tasks has to be followed for the ritual to be completed: the journey, acceptance and departure, the ascent, the step, and the emergence. The birthday child is referred to as the "traveller" during this ritual, as it represents not only their own beginning journey in life, but also Aman's life as a traveller.
The JourneyOn the early morning of the day of the ritual, the traveller and their family and friends will dress up and get ready for a long, festive march through their hometown. While their companions will dress up usually in their most festive and best garments, the traveller themself receives a very simple blue gown to wear for the ritual, symbolizing Aman's simple origins. It also has practical reasons for the later steps of the ritual, where particularly complicated or certain materials of clothing would get in the way. The traveller and their family will leave the house and walk the way to the local temple, where the ritual will be conducted. Some people chose to not celebrate their Vath'eran at a local temple but at specific temples throughout Ivendarea, the most popular one being the one of Avon Maan on Maan Garth. Not only is it one of the biggest and oldest temples of the country, it was originally located on the site where Aman ascended to godhood. In the case of celebrating at a different than the local town's or city's temple, the journey to the desired location can already be treated as part of the ritual as such. Along the streets on the day of the ritual the whole community will usually come together to greet and cheer the traveller on on this very important day in their life. The streets are usually richly decorated in the colours of the town or temple, sometimes with flowers or fruit, depending on the season. It is considered a particular blessing to have it rain on the day of the ritual, as it is a common belief that on rainy days the gods are particularly close, the plane of the Silent Waters literally spilling over with joy and celebration, which manifests as rain in this world. At the temple and the end of their journey the traveller is greeted by the priests, who welcome them and their companions to follow them inside.
Acceptance and DepartureTogether with the priests the traveller and their family will assemble around the temple basin to meditate in preparation for the following steps. What follows is most formal part of the ritual, where the high priest will give a small speech about the purpose and meaning of the ritual, and about what it means to take responsibility for oneself as an adult. They will explain the next steps, and in the end ask the traveller if they are willing and ready to commence, and also which name they would like to carry as an adult. If the traveller's chosen name is different than their birthname given to them by their parents, this will be changed in the town's resident register on the same day. Once all these formalities are completed, tea is served to the traveller that is supposed to relax the mind and body and help with inducing the required trance-like state that is necessary to connect to one's past in the next steps. The assembled will meditate and pray together once more, then the priests take the traveller on to the next step while the family remains assembled at the basin. This is the last time they see the traveller as a child, and they will return an adult. This part of the ritual usually involves an emotional farewell, despite the knowledge that the traveller of course will return shortly, but it symbolizes that it can be indeed difficult to walk one's own path, and that sometimes sacrifices need to be made to grow and move on in life. Family and friends now give advice they have to the traveller, regarding life, how to act wise and good, and offer encouragement as well. Then the traveller and the priests leave the room and ascend.
The AscentAll temples are usually decorated with stories of the past and store the memories of those members of the community that have long passed. On their way to the top of the temple, where the next part of the ritual takes place, the traveller and the priests will pass these stories and memories, and the priests remind the traveller that they are part of this history and community, and that their deeds will shape not only their own but everyone else's futures too. They also remind them that it is important to remember the past and be in tune with it, because only by remembering the past one can shape their future, grow, and learn. Good and bad experiences are to be made and a part of life, and everything they will experience will enrich their soul, even if it might seem painful or even unbearable at times. The community will always be there to help carry the burdens, if need be, and they will also be there to celebrate achievements and support them in their good endeavours. During the Ascent the priests will also talk about the journey Aman went on, about their teachings on how to life a fulfilled life, and the importance of being in tune with oneself and one's surroundings to unlock one's full potential - to make the best of this current life they're living.
The StepThis is the part of the ritual that requires the most bravery from the young traveller. The priests will lead them to a platform in considerable height, right above the water-filled basin below where there friends and family wait. Historically this part of the ritual was designed by Aman's students and while it has symbolic significance it also serves the purpose of getting the traveller's body fully-alert. At this point the tea they consumed will have influenced their mind and body into being receptive and near a trance. Now they are required to take a step off of the platform, falling into the water below. The fall and dive into the water will put their senses on high alert, increasing this receptiveness even more. Their body and mind will be in the ideal state to take in information, while the water, silence, and darkness surrounding them will prevent distractions from the surroundings. But to even take the step a lot of bravery is required, and a few more preparations to ensure the traveller's safety. The priests will weave two spells: one is to enable the traveller to breathe underwater, the other is to weigh them down and keep them underwater for however long their trance lasts. This ensures that they will have the time to fully immerse themselves into the experience of reliving the most important parts of their past lives while not fearing that they could drown while doing so. Once the spells are completed, the high priests will speak final words of encouragement:
Take this step and don't be afraid, as it is the glance into a past of wisdom and a future of possibilities.Then the traveller can take all the time they need to get ready to jump from the platform. It is something they have to do on their own and sometimes it can take a while to muster the courage. Occaisionally, when a long time has already passed but the traveller doesn't feel ready yet, they may ask the priests to give them the final push, if need be to commence, as there is no turning back without this jump. Sometimes, after all, even in life a push and support by the community is required to take important steps, so it is not a shameful thing to ask for help. The traveller will fall into the water, become fully immersed, and sink far beneath the surface as the temple basins are indeed very deep. The lights in the temple will be dimmed once the traveller is immersed. Sometimes, when the traveller carries a particularly old soul within them, with lots of memories to relive and experience, they might stay underwater for up to several hours. The same applies when they happen to carry the soul of someone who significantly changed history, as they usually experience a large portion of this past life in many details that led up to important, future-shaping decisions. The traveller's family and friends as well as the priests will patiently wait assembled around the basin and observe the scene carefully. Usually though, most travellers emerge again from the water after about 15-20 minutes. Their emergence will be announced by the basin and the lights of the temple lighting up, as the spell that kept them underwater is broken with them coming back into a conscious state and leaving the trance. The priests prepare to help them out of the water if necessary, as the traveller might be a little disoriented after staying under water and in trance for so long.
Take this step in the knowledge that you follow Aman and all of us who did as well, and we will eagerly await your return.
Take this first step into your life, [chosen name of the traveller], for only you can take responsibility for yourself.
Be brave, be wise, be yourself. Take this step to let go and live life to the fullest at once.
The EmergenceAfter leaving the water and usually being wrapped in towels and offered a drink of their choice, the traveller is now considered an adult. Depending on what they saw and experienced in their past lives, they might feel the need to talk about these memories with their family and/or the priests, in private or sitting all together next to the basin. Food and drink might be offered for everyone present during this part, as the traveller talks about their experiences. This part of the ritual is very laid back and intended for relaxation usually, for grounding themselves and connecting back to the world, and for celebrating with their loved ones. The priests might also offer guidance and historical context for the memories they saw as well as what to make of what they saw for their own future. Sometimes very strong and emotionally draining memories can be experienced, good ones, such as a birth or an immense victory, as well as horrible ones like the witnessing of a violent crime - or even one's own death in a past life. For these experiences the priests will also immediately offer support and also counseling if necessary, as horrible events in a past life in particular can lead to emotional and mental problems in this current life as well. This is another reason why the Vath'eran is considered so important: if someone is depressed or distraught for no logical reason, the Vath'eran might uncover a past trauma that can be worked through to improve the quality of life of the traveller experiencing it. When the traveller feels ready to leave and all questions they had are answered for now, they and their family will leave the temple to be greeted again by the community, and a large birthday celebration is held that will last for the rest of the day.
Components and tools
The most important component in the Vath'eran - apart from the surroundings of the local temple - is the trance-inducing tea that is served to the traveller during the Acceptance and Departure phase. It is brewed from relatively common herbs and flowers that all have relaxing effects. It can usually be purchased in well-stocked tea-shops as well and is consumed prior to meditation and prayer or also before going to bed by those who have troubles falling asleep. Aman could induce their trance without the help of tea, but they had decades of training and meditation practise behind them, which the young travellers usually don't, so this tea is a good alternative and aid.
- The Priests of the local temple - they lead the traveller and conduct the ritual, offer advice and guidance, prepare tea, food, cast spells, and generally observe that everything is going to plan
- The Traveller - the young nyr who celebrates their 75th birthday today and enters adulthood with the completion of this ritual and connection to their past lives
- The Watcher - a chosen family member who already completed their own Vath'eran - usually one of the parents, the best friend, etc. - who acts as the "leader" of the traveller's companions; they arrange the ritual with the temple and any of the celebrations around it with the town; they write invitations and also help the traveller to get ready in the morning, offer advice and so on
- The Companions - family members, friends, etc.; everyone whom the traveller wants at their side during the ritual; they are responsible for paying the temple for the conduction of the ritual and aid the Watcher however they can
A Vath'eran usually takes place on the 75th birthday of the person whom the ritual is intended for. If the date collides with other important religious celebrations the ritual might be held on the same day as well or could be postponed or held a day earlier, depending on the family's wishes and the temple's options. The same applies when more than one person share the same birthday.