Angjao

Angjao is the traditional religion of the Hingen people of Liang.   Angjao has a long history, and it has in some form been an intrinsic part of Liang's society for thousands of years. The religion has no founder, and evolved fluidly alongside the culture and people of the island empire. It's form today is a product of this long process, wherein it adapted to social and governmental demands.  

Beliefs

Angjao effects many parts of Hingen culture. The core beliefs of Angjao are informal, and there is no holy book.   Various scriptures and poems attributed to ancient priests or the words of spirits are interpreted at the will of priests and believers. It is a religion that places innate spiritual qualities in all things.

The sun, the moon, the grass below our feet, the water we drink. Give thanks for the deer you eat, and the grain that grows for you. These things are given to us by the Peh.

  Spirits called Peh (p-eh) inhabit most things. Trees, rocks, grass, waterways, and items of importance (generally antiques). Gods (Pele) are the most important of the Peh, determined somewhat abstractly based on popularity and the importance of their aspect.   The religion is formally led by the Shen, who is also the head of state of Liang. He has little oversight over actual worship, but acts as the chief priest of the worshipers of Ochino, the Pele of the island and most important figure in Angjao religion.  

Reincarnation

Reincarnation is an important tenet of Angjao belief system. A pyramid of reincarnation is followed by the Angjao's believers. Charitable and good people will rise up as they reincarnate, living as more important people in their next life, usually their own descendants.   The evil are the result individual failing, and the bad people in life will remain static, unable to progress or go backwards. To overcome a history of static upwards mobility in your family is considered a great achievement. Therein, upwards social mobility is the ultimate goal of a well lived life. Due to this, the Shen is considered the pinnacle of achievement as a mortal. Yet to be Shen is not the end goal; a good Shen, who lives wisely and rules well, may reincarnate into a spirits or magical creatures who will watch over the Liang state.   Death is the slow sapping of your soul to the next generation, the soul moving into your children or descendants as they grow old. A long life with many children means a powerful soul.  

Taboos

There are not particularly many taboos in Angjao belief. Among them are insulting a Peh or Pele and praying to your Peh in the temple of another Peh. Discussing sex, marriage, or bodily functions within a temple's grounds is also forbidden. It is tradition to leave foot and head coverings at the door of a temple, as a mark of respect.   Outside of in relation to temple etiquette, Angjao believers generally hold to codes of conduct that may be set by their local priesthood. This means that taboos are often deeply regional, and rooted in ancient times. The shrine of a small farming village may forbid the harming of beasts of burden, or the shrine of a fisher Pele may forbid sailing during storms. Sometimes, these may sound practical and the root reason be easy to understand, but over time, some have become obscured in tradition and changed till their original purpose was lost.  

Angjao shrine

Worship

The shrines of Angjao are often informal. Shinres will be dedicated to a local god or spirit/Peh, usually a manifestation of significant local features (a mountain spirit in an alpine village, a sea god in a fishing village). The priests of these temples are employed by offerings from the local area.   In small villages, a shrine may be maintained only by a part-time volunteer priest, who has another profession, or be maintained by a village widow or elder. Priests may marry, and sometimes shrines become a family legacy, with generations continuing to maintain it.

  Towns of a notable size may have many shrines of varying size, and cities may be overflowing with shrines on every street, ranging from great temples patronized by the nobility, to humble shrines.   There is no requirement to be a priest, except the approval of whatever priest acts as chiefcustodian of a particular temple. Yet the largest may have dozens or even hundreds of priests dedicated full time to their maintenance, and form entire organizations, with formal training and subsidiary shrines.   In addition, many homes may have a small shrine to gods relevant to the family, such as a spirit of craft in the home of a weaver, and merchants may keep a statue of a spirit of luck or wealth in their shops.  

Choosing your Peh

Each believer is generally considered to belong to one Peh. This is not to say that thanks can't be given to any other Peh, but there is one Peh to whom each soul owes their greatest worship, and in return receives guardianship from. Peh are usually familial or related to one's career or talents. Generally, until leaving home to find work, worshipers follow the Peh of their parents, or mother if they vary. Yet upon joining a workplace, the worshiper will traditionally adopt the Peh of their profession.   Where professions are not particularly organised, a worshiper may chose a Peh due to where they live or stay with their families Peh. Later in life, individuals generally drift to Peh that hold importance to their life be it philosophical concepts, important beliefs, their work, family, living place or other aspect.   In prayer, one will usually pay respect to their own Peh, the minor spirits of household objects and the Peh of their parents, as well as any Pele particular to a prayer they be making - be it love, wealth, healing or good luck. If someone is traveling, they will always pay respects to the Peh of where they are staying, for fear of offending the local spirits.  

Festivals

Peh may sometimes be honoured with a festival in their honour. These festivals exist for a number of purposes and on many occasions. They are usually extremely local, and may take place any time in the year. They generally mark important occasions, such as the construction of a shrine, the end of a conflict, or the harvest.   Festivals vary in shape and size. The smallest may be a simple gathering at a shrine, with good food and alcohol and oratory readings. Large and important shrines may host parades, performances, decorate towns, speeches and parties.   Generally, the one connecting aspect of a shrine is the time when the statue of the local Peh is taken out and escorted around the village or city, and then returned to the shrine, where believers leave food and monetary offerings for it, and make requests of the Peh or Pele.  

Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage is a notable aspect of the Angjao religion. Believers may make pilgrimages to the greatest temples of their Pele for many reasons. The nobility generally hold that as a rite of passage, young men should travel for a year to many of the important temples of Liang, and learn humility by volunteering with the priesthoods of many beliefs. Others make pilgrimages for reasons besides these. The ill may make pilgrimages to the temple of the Pele of Medicine Kozue in Naizen, the shrines of their ancestors Peh, or to local central shrines for regional Peh.   Pilgrimage has become a significant commercial industry in the modern era. Temples market themselves as pilgrimage destinations, hotels are constructed in vicinity of temples to capitalise on pilgrims, and in some cases historical temples have been demolished and expanded to accommodate the influx of pilgrims. The tradition of leaving offerings of money makes this a lucrative prospect for important temples.

From the pond she came forth. Her hair as if reeds, and her skin as if a reflection shimmered. She called to the hunter, and he fell under her charm.
— The story of the Pond Maiden
 

Glossary

  • Peh - A spirit, generally of a natural feature or important object
  • Pele - A spirit who has graduated to godhood
  • Aho Kara - Pele of Magic
  • Ochino - Pele of Liang
  • Shen - Head of the Angjao religion and ruler of Liang
 

Notable Temples

  • Blue Shrine of Dien Chien
  • Old Cat Shrine of Maja
  • Naizen's Great Temple in Naizen
  • Yazhu Shrine in Xun
Related Ethnicities

Additional Content

Symbology

Tokens of spirits may be kept on ones person, to give your thanks to a Peh, and show your allegiance to your home shrine. They are common among regular travelers, such as merchants and seamen. These tokens are usually some symbol of the Peh, crafted in many forms - from leather to metal - or an item from the grounds of their shrine, such as a polished pebble.  

Ceremonies

Angjao concerns the land, people and objects of the land of Liang. As a result, very few ceremonies are considered under the jurisdiction of its spirits or priests. These ceremonies are usually secular. However, there remains traditions related to them, such as making offer to a Pele of luck or love before a wedding, and leaving a food offering to the local Peh after a burial to ask they guard the body until the soul leaves.  

Mages

Mages are among some of the most devout worshipers of Angjao. They are raised in the Shen's Wuzin, itself run by the priesthood of the Pele of Magic, Aho Kara. Most mages follow both Aho Kara and the Peh of their area of residence. It is considered shameful and even taboo for a mage not to be a devoted worshiper, for it is considered one of the principle disciplines through which they must maintain their connection to society.  

Related articles

Liang
Organization | Dec 21, 2018

Liang Imperiacy, an ancient island nation of the west.


Comments

Please Login in order to comment!
17 Dec, 2018 15:47

I like this religion as a whole. Seems like Shinto and Chinese myth as well as a hint of Buddhism, Are the mthein factor. Am I wrong? Are there any holy men and women? Saints almost?

17 Dec, 2018 21:46

I love the amount of detail in this. I do enjoy a good reincarnation religion in general, but I really love the thought in the soul & social mobility aspects here :)

18 Dec, 2018 10:04

Out of curiosity, why is it taboo to not remove head or feet coverings?

18 Dec, 2018 00:10

Very interesting, I always like to see other mythologies, and this is a pretty well-thought out one. I do note a few grammar issues here and there, but nothing too bad. Great job!

18 Dec, 2018 17:34

Isaac, as always, an outstanding article. It's possible to get a feel for the entire culture just based upon this article. I imagine myself wandering into a village during one of the festivals and getting caught up in the dancing and singing. Very nicely captured.   One really nice feature is how you include a glossary in the sidebar. That's a nice touch that I plan on ~~stealing for~~ using in my articles.

 

Three Questions

1) You mention that believers are reincarnated as their own descendants. That seems to imply that if you are a peasant, you're pretty much destined for a succession of lives as a peasant. Are the Hingen so satisfied with their existance that they don't aspire to higher things?

2) Is there only one shrine per community? If not, how do the followers of one Peh interact with the followers of another? Are there any combinations of Pehs that are particularly toxic? (Yes, I know that's more than one question, but it's one idea.)

3) What life ceremonies take place at shrines? For example: weddings, funerals, naming ceremonies, etc.

 

Sideways Observation

You mention that a Pele is a Peh who has "graduated" to godhood. I am envisioning something like the sainthood process for the Roman Catholic church, where a number of miracles of sufficient magnitude must be recorded. Even for a people like the Hingen, this seems to potentially have "political" aspects to it, as the shrines of Peles are probably more prestigious. Towns that have a shrine to a Pele probably attract worshipers from the area, which can't hurt business, etc.   It would be interesting to see that aspect discussed.

18 Dec, 2018 18:05

Thank you Hepheastus. I have expanded the article to cover all the points you made. They were great feedback and I super appreciate it. <3   I'm not sure about Peh that would be in conflict with each other. I did think of expanding on 'evil' spirits, but then I think it'd be too similar to Yokai. I need to think on that.   Angjao isn't "true", yet a lot of its philosophy is based on the real nature of things, just misinterpreted. Given I imagine many Peh are actual spirits misrepresenting themselves, I doubt many would show themselves as evil.