Religion Tradition / Ritual in Mudewei | World Anvil
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The Stenza word for religion, òrdulúɥ, shows how closely linked it is in the Stenza mind to "action" (òrdu). Belief plays a secondary role to an'o and khe'drakha, which serve to honor and pass on the stories of the gods and muhye respectively.


The overall body of Stenza beliefs about various entities has been in development for a very long time. There is evidence to suggest that among later Proto-Stenza, as they developed what appears to be a capacity for the collective knowledge or some early version of it, they may have also begun developing ideas about the spiritual inhabitants of their world. This is impossible to prove, but based on certain funerary, the scholarly consensus is that, at the very least, Jeshra was probably the oldest entity recognized and venerated in the region.   This is further backed up by certain practices and traditions of the Greater Pass Stenza, held to be the "traditional holdouts" of the Stenza more broadly. In particular, there is speculation of an etymological link between the name Jeshra and the name for Jal'sa (who are customarily held to have a special relationship with the entity).   At about this time, Iradae and Lan'tha began receiving recognition as proper deities, being the two beings held responsible for quite literally every life form on the planet and the very state of its being. This had the side-effect of placing Jeshra into a subordinate position to these two gods in particular, which influenced the later development of a god/spirit distinction that seems not to exist in other cultures in the galaxy.   Following the development of anatomically modern Stenza, specific rituals began to develop, chiefly an'o (as sacred dance) and khe'drakha (as a recounting of the deeds of the gods and spirits). Meanwhile Hunter and Migration in particular had hived off from Jeshra (who was now becoming the Snow Warrior) and began receiving their own rituals, as well. Migration is still customarily offered libation as a "guest" of sorts during migration and especially Midwinter, and Hunter began receiving gifts of symbolic organs. Typically these were the heart and lungs of a kill, along with other vital organs, following somewhat circuitous logic: by this point the Stenza were keenly aware of their own biological metabolic needs, specifically the energy requirements to keep from freezing to death, and they understood that the heart, lung, and other key organs allowed a body to function; therefore, as fair compensation for the food required to keep living, the vitals were offered to Hunter as recognition of this dynamic.   As all of this was developing (as well as attendant customs such as the takhasar in its modern form, and the earliest forms of chanting), astronomy was also being developed. Driven chiefly by a desire to understand the gods and their relationship to the wider universe better, astronomy may be one of the oldest of Stenza "hard sciences", and measurements of the movements (however subtle) of the stars, and the movements of other planets in the solar system, became highly detailed and accurate. The attributes given to Iradae and Lan'tha were extended to other stars, as well (namely, that they were divine in some way, and may also govern their own solar systems and foster life there; some of these gods also hold minimal influence over Stenza life, most notably Parevia, but are widely held to be independent entities with their own concerns).   The development of space travel, built on the back of the efforts of engineers to put the massive stasis complex containing the Stone Menace into orbit where it will be safe and any breakage has minimal impact on the Stenza overall, has radically altered the field of astronomy in particular. Subspace travel, the ability to see stars up close, and the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligent life have had incalculable effects on the understanding of the gods. What was once theoretical had become true, and not every Stenza took kindly to this. The result of this schism was The Burning of Desolation, and while Stenza society itself ultimately recovered, this rupture left a permanent mark on the galaxy and would go on to spark terror in other species even centuries later.


Stenza religion is defined almost entirely by its customs and rituals. An'o is the space by which children learn the sacred history of the Stenza and their gods, and the proper ways to honor them on festival days (such as First Sunrise and Last Sunset) or in personal significant times. The fact that it is a specific form of dance is secondary to the dance's function as prayer (chanting optional), and almost every Stenza is taught how to pray, even if in adulthood they become atheists (or more accurately, non-practicing).   The other essential practice is khe'drakha, which requires considerably more training to perfect, and is a highly formalized form of storytelling which focuses on great deeds of the gods, spirits, and significant ancestors such as Iradae the Lawgiver. In fact, khe'drakha performers are often called "keepers of deeds". The most well-known poem in this style is the Litany of Creation, which continually aims to be a recounting of the Stenza's entire history, including its mythic origins. (Because this is a substantial amount of information, much of it has been stored on the Archive of Remembered Knowledge.) Stenza also lack a belief in the afterlife, believing that whatever animating force was given to them upon emerging from the Ice Flats is returned to the wider universe upon death, so khe'drakha and more informal storytelling traditions are tied with the collective knowledge for media by which Stenza connect with past generations.   There are additional practices, only performed by experts, such as mountain climbing which is on one hand very technically and physically demanding, and on the other a doorway to certain ineffable religious mysteries. Experts also teach more basic practices (chiefly an'o and chanting) to young students (khe'drakha is passed from older performers to younger ones in a similar fashion, but is not the purview of the religious expert).   The fourth key component is the mysteries, a collection of knowledge which is gained by experience, or by putting oneself or a student in a position where such an experience is possible. These are usually taught to adolescents who are pursuing a career as a religious expert, where each experience is placed in its proper context and an older individual with experience is on hand to help explain things. Ineffable experiences can, however, occur to anyone, and by their nature force a disconnection. They may require a medical doctor to be present as quickly as possible as well as a religious expert, especially if the individual having the experience is a pup. (There are also children's mystery cults, which encompass a vast body of childlore and are also usually ineffable. They are also barred from adults, although many adults were part of one at some point in their childhood.) Besides their use as a tool to help laypeople process certain experiences, however, mysteries serve as a base fabric upon which the rest of Stenza oral history and tradition is built.


In theory, there are two key roles: the gods and spirits, and the individual.   In practice, certain Stenza devote their lives to the further understanding of the divine. Many of these are religious experts, although certain scientific disciplines also belong in this category. However, the understanding of the ineffable possessed by religious experts is unparalleled, and grants them a unique role in society.   Other roles include an'o and khe'drakha performers, although these are considerably more situational, coming out for festivals such as First Sunrise and Last Sunset and otherwise being out of the spotlight. Additionally, anyone can use an'o as a means of contacting the divine for basically any purpose; a brief chant about the matter and a well-worn dance are all that is required. (On that note, anyone can give appropriate libations to the muhye, and the rules for who traditionally does so are much looser and vary by occasion.)   There also exist children's mystery cults, which seem to serve chiefly as repositories of childlore and training grounds for future religious activity as an adult. They are very informally structured and occupy their own distinct role in society. Adults are forbidden access to them, and most knowledge about them comes from adults who grew out of them and were willing to comment on the cult's practices and beliefs (usually in ways they differed from the beliefs and practices of adults). The allowance of the latter varies greatly by region, with the Greater Pass being known for its intolerance of such "oathbreaking".


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