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Congregation of the Ascended

The Wheel


  Life in the Congregation revolves around the Aspects, eternal archetypes undergirding the sensual world. Their cryptic will is interpreted by the Tellers, spiritual leaders of the Church skilled in reading sacred Signs and decoding them for the faithful masses who strive towards the goal of Ascension, a perfected state in which one one’s fated purpose is revealed. The religion’s dominion is vast, but holds strongest sway across the continent of Rela with its holy capital, the Tabernacle of the Wheel, gracing the city of Enribellis, in Draksineon.  


  Members of the Congregation swear an oath to uphold three main articles of faith: Belief in the Aspects, honour for the Exemplars, and dedication to walk the path of Ascension.  
by Midjourney


  Ascended belief places not gods but impersonal forces at its hub, known collectively as the Aspects. Aspects are more than mere philosophical principles as adherents view them as distinct and living entities, but are far less relatable than the deities of neighbouring pantheons. They do not intercede in the workings of the world, nor physically belong to it. The universe is a passive reflection of their truth, not a willed creation, as a shadow cast unintentionally by beaming light. They have no minds or personalities, no cares or caprices. Each Aspect is an eternal pillar of reality, nothing more or less.   Yet this devilish opacity gives way to tractable glimmers of their natures, known as Signs - a physical manifestation of an Aspect, which can assume a predictable form or appear out of the blue. Heavenly bodies are the best understood and most stable forms a Sign may take, and the movements of stars and planets let the trained ear hear what an Aspect would say if its mode of being lent itself to words. Astronomy parses the grammar of the gods.   Abstract celestial speech also writes itself into the flesh of conscious beings. (The Church denies animals true consciousness, so humans are the unique recipients of starry blessings.) The Aspect presiding over the heavens at the place and time of one's worldly emergence shapes the contours of both one's personality and those of future life paths. The ceremony of First Ascension bestows a child with the power of this Aspect, known as one's Major Card (Ghbyzati), after the ritual deck of images it is drawn from (the Ghbyz). Second and Third Ascension ceremonies reveal subtler Aspects, though these rites must be sought intentionally when the child is grown and in a position to formally commit to the Congregation.  
by Midjourney
  Aside from attending weekly services and celebrating feast days, self-examination with respect to one’s ruling Aspects is considered central to worship. Those most fervently pursuing Ascension dwell on these elements to draw closer to the divine. The Tellers play a critical role in this process, given their authority to read and interpret the Signs that appear along an individual’s path. The faithful thus are strictly reliant upon the clergy for making spiritual progress.   Individual Aspects and their descriptions are listed here.    


  Complex birth calculations are hopelessly mystical, but fortunately, the tradition also yields concrete models for those without the stomach for philosophy: these are the Exemplars, men and women of the past who have cleaved especially closely to their fated path and gained Ascension in doing so. Their stories fill the pages of the Ogial Shrul. or Record of the Lives. Outsiders have labelled the book a hagiography, but remarkably, stories of the Ogial tend not to embellish its characters' fantastic qualities, focusing instead on real world details and the simple, ethical choices Exemplars faced. While the brunt of Church literature is written in a dead language and inaccessible to a largely illiterate public, tales from the Ogial are read in Tabernacles across Rela in local vernacular to stoke inspiration in common folk and help them to see spiritual goals as achievable. Exemplars are the frequent subject of song and legend, and the most popular possess a dedicated iconography in Church art.    


  To Ascend is to grow closer in likeness to one’s governing Aspects. On the earthly plane, one does this by observing three pillars: Dazeli (“Worship”, i.e. attending services), Astaste (“Watchfulness” for Signs), and Noloni (“Willingness” to put what is learned into practice). Taken together, these elements lead one upwards towards a state of increasing fulfillment and clarity of purpose.   Ascension breaks down into several discrete stages, beginning with First Ascension, the ritual introduction to one’s dominant Aspect. The Second Ascension ceremony acts as a formal acknowledgement of the Church’s central doctrines as true. During Third Ascension - the grade required to begin making real spiritual progress - one is finally pronounced “Ascended to the Congregation” and thereby becomes a full member to the Church; the mantle “Ascended”, as contained in the religion’s name, refers to this occurrence.   Once these three course grades have been overcome, one continues to make progress, but through subtler stages of development. Set levels of Ascension can be retroactively attributed to great saints and Tellers of the past, but in general, the level of living beings after Third is held to be unknowable; the matter, privately negotiated in the depths of the heart. Death is called Final Ascension. It is the moment in which the sum of one’s life decisions is compared against the true “shape” of a person’s ruling Aspects. A positive match means immortality in the world beyond. Misalignment carries a number of consequences, rebirth being the most frequent. The soul must strive endlessly to realize its true nature and bring its long journey to a close.   The Church’s detractors maintain that the path of Ascension fails to develop consistent or intelligible virtues in the aspirant. Aspects represent the full spectrum of existence, each necessary in its own way to the universe's function. Thus, there is no strict differentiation between someone who follows a positive, community-focused Aspect, and another pursuing a much grimmer one - all paths are equal. While it is true in theory that the religion makes space for sincere darkness, in practice, extreme views are rare. That the world is here rather than nothingness attests to the basically creative nature of the Aspects, a fact the Tellers say should centrally inform one's conduct. Moreover, the diversity of the Aspects and their forms of worship is not only tolerated, but celebrated - a direct parallel to the widely held view in Drakoyan culture that outsiders and difference should be embraced rather than shunned. And this is a virtue in itself.  




  Weekly services (onized) form the backbone of Ascended religious practice. They are conducted on the first day of the Hazatien week (Apparan) on sanctified grounds, typically a Tabernacle. Tellers intone from the Sancur Sunda (the Writ of Stars). The verses they read are specific to current celestial conditions, and intended to heighten the potency of Ascension efforts made by gathered members of the Congregation. Ceremonies are in Nagul, the ancient language of the Drakoya, which few if any peasants speak as the use of Nagul, especially its script, is restricted to Tellers under Church law. However, the language is held to possess a near-magic quality which benefits all who hear it, understood or no.  
by Midjourney
  Large enough Tabernacles, such as found in cities, are divided into sections to denote the class of their attendees. High Mass (Canul) caters to nobles and occurs first thing in the morning...making many a noble grumpy. Nobles sit closest to the altar. Following this service is Common Mass (Legginscal), aimed at non-nobles. Pews for the nobility are cordoned off during Common Mass, leaving two sections open: one for the mercantile class, another for commoners. Ceremonial structure is different for each version of the Mass. Smaller and more rural Tabernacles have only one key section, and a single morning service, given greater social commonality among their members.   The average serf attends weekly onized out of rote, and happily returns to till her fields. The noble is little different, save for more book learning on the faith. It is the rare soul that cares to pledge his or herself wholeheartedly to the cause of Ascension - although this is hardly surprising, considering the complex ritual apparatus standing between the individual and spiritual achievement, which the Tellers control. This control, however, slackens measurably in the context of Grand Festivals.    


  Four Grand Festivals dot the Hazatien year, each corresponding to the cycle of the seasons, turning as upon an endless wheel. In their original context, the festivals marked the literal movements of the Drahayakoi tribes from one area to another, and, in microcosm, the movement of a single life through prescribed rites of passage. Despite drastic changes in the culture since then, the Festivals endure as profound touchstones for modern meditation on life’s unceasing themes.  These are: Eterri (Spring / Fertility), Essocilla (Summer / Pilgrimage), Inoryi (Fall / Family), and Mindal (Winter / Death).   For a detailed description of each Festival, see here.  
by Midjourney
Taharjin's Flame: The World and Surrounding Planets, as found in the Sancur Sunda

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