Mountain Climbing Tradition / Ritual in Mudewei | World Anvil
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Mountain Climbing

Mountain climbing is a physical and spiritual discipline taught to religious experts as part of their training. It includes physical aspects such as the mitigation or avoidance of hazards like avalanches, as well as the complex spiritual processes underway during the ordeal. Many of the latter are poorly understood by outsiders, if they are known at all, and help to differentiate religious experts from the lay population.

History

Archaeological records indicate that Stenza have been climbing the mountains around the Ice Flats for at least as long as they have built settlements, and perhaps longer. Oral tradition indicates that this was chiefly done for ritual purposes: to remove oneself from their ordinary surroundings and facilitate better communication with the gods. (It's even sometimes said that the gods can be met there in person; Lan'tha in particular is known to disguise herself as a pup for various reasons.)   While it is unsure when this development happened, gradually it became common knowledge that those who climbed the mountains and found the gods there knew more about them than those who did not, and those people were looked to for knowledge. Over time the role of the religious expert began to include teaching history and religion to the clan's young people, and the act of mountain climbing became further and further entangled with the idea of religious mystery.   Then the Stone Menace crashed out of the sky and the foothills and bases of the mountains offered a tactical advantage as the high ground. The entire ensuing struggle offered radical changes to religious thought, from the childhood mystery cults of the Greater Pass Stenza all the way through more "mainline" understanding of the cosmos. For one thing, this was arguably the first time any Stenza was forced to entertain the idea of life from off-world, which carried with it the implication that other gods were progenitors, and not just Iradae and Lan'tha. (Tradition held that the gods were by and large distant beings tangentially involved in Stenza life, and took some effort to reach. The implication and subsequent discovery of life on another planet, despite logically holding together, still caused incensed reactions from many Stenza and influenced the way they deal with extraterrestrial civilizations, and it arguably originated with the stone creature.)   While the warriors and elders were busy with matters pertaining to the Unified Stenza Clans, the religious experts were clearing out debris on the lower elevations and foothills. The waste was disposed of, and key artifacts were returned to their clans of origin for deposit in the Clan Museum. It is unclear to outsiders the effect this has had on the way mountain climbing is performed and experienced as a spiritual practice, but it is known that ever since, a handful more supplies have been allowed, just in case.

Execution

Mountain climbing takes many years of study and practice to fully learn. Many of the lessons are about the use of harnesses, picks, and so on, about hazards to asuch as avalanches), and what to do when one gets lost. Other lessons, however, are spiritual in nature, and chiefly pertain to the gods and muhye. It is reportedly by this means that many stories about these entities are passed down outside of Khe'drakha.   The actual endeavor of climbing a mountain takes several days to a few weeks and is therefore only undertaken for significant occasions or emergencies. The whole process begins when supplies are packed: food, water, picks, harnesses, rope, and other basic items. The goal is to pack light while also accounting for a long stretch of being away from the "creature comforts" of civilization. This separation seems designed to bring an individual (or student and teacher) out of the mundane world and force them to focus on something else, which is where the gods and muhye come in. The processes at play are not known to lay people, but are said to subtly but irrevocably transform whomever undergoes them.   It is not uncommon for pups to attempt to accompany climbers on their voyage, chiefly out of curiosity (and if they experience or understand the mysteries, they aren't telling). Extra provisions are typically packed for this eventuality. However, a distinction is made between pups who make the journey up the slope and pups who are met at the summit (who may possibly be muhye or Lan'tha in disguise, as it's frequently unknown how they got up there). The latter case may be read as an omen and affects the actions taken. Pups at the summit may require food, drink, shelter or physical contact, and may interact with any pups who accompanied the climber(s).   If there are no pups at the summit, however, then the next action undertaken by religious experts and/or their trainees is to pray. The specific an'o forms are, as with much else, unknown to outsiders, and are only employed in this specific setting. The trainees first learn these forms in secret and piecewise, before they are all put in proper order at the summit. Again, this is thought by lay people as a powerfully transformative experience. People may come away from it with a message for others, or greater understanding that can be put to use at a later date (such as to help Third and Fourth Officers to vet claimed religious experiences or messages).   Following this is the descent back to the Ice Flats and surrounding basin. The descent may also contain further mysteries but seems by and large to be a time to process what had occurred before that point. This is a time of interpretation, and where it benefits a student most to talk about what had occurred with a mentor. It's impossible to fully express whatever occurs over the journey with words, and ill-advised to try, except with another religious expert, who may be able to offer key insights.

Components and tools

Persons preparing for mountain climbing must pack a supply of food and drink sufficient to last the duration of the journey as well as some extra, to account for pups found at any point along the journey, as well as a harness, a pick, and other safety gear as per the climber's discretion (based on knowledge of the terrain of the local mountains, as well as pertinent weather conditions at the time of the expedition).

Participants

Mountain climbing is a solitary activity, chiefly undertaken by one religious expert on the rare occasions it is deemed appropriate. When an expert has a student in deeper religious mysteries, they will take their student on a small number of training expeditions, so that the student learns the appropriate mysteries and has a higher likelihood of being exposed to every common (and several uncommon) eventuality.
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