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|Factions||Izweski Nation · Aut'akh · Unathi Guilds · Grim Compact · The Wasteland|
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|Society and Culture||Unathi · Unathi Religion · Unathi Honor · Unathi Military Structure · Skalamar University Of Medicine|
While there are many beliefs that have existed on Moghes since the earliest Unathite societies, Th'akh and Sk'akh remain the primary, dominant faiths with tension and conflict between the two being normal. Sk'akh enjoys dominance due to it being the state religion of the Hegemony. There are additional sects, heresies, and distinctive faiths amongst Unathi, all of which share communal elements and a focus on the spirit.
Th’akh, literally translated to ‘ancestor devotion’ in Sinta’Azaziba, is the oldest and most pervasive religion among Unathi. Dating back before even the First Hegemony, Th’akh has been a mainstaying belief across almost every culture on Moghes for centuries, even millenia, partially due to Unathite stubbornness. Th’akh’s core tenet is simple: worship the spirits so that they may smile on you, reward your devotion, and you may join the Spirit World and avoid reincarnation. The spirits are a multitude that exist within nature, whether alive or inanimate, and are varying in power, from small impish devils to ancient and powerful spirit-gods. Particularly nasty natural disasters, plagues, and misfortunes were often attributed to particularly strong groups of spiteful spirits or even evil spirit-gods influencing events in the material world. In order to stave off these ills, Th’akh worshippers believe in almost paganistic ritualism; however, the wide-spread nature of the religion (and the various interpretations of spirits and spirit-gods) means that two believers could have an entirely different set of practices. It is claimed that the short lifespan of Unathi leant to the credence of the religion, yet it is speculation at best. Monks that practice oral tradition; aquatic Sinta that revere the sea; a nation devoted to an ancient god-king: Th’akh is as diverse as the stars in the sky.
Bloodlines, Spirits, and Spirit-Gods
To many Unathi, spirits have a natural place in their life. Appeasing the spirits is said to bring good luck, and angering them brings you anything from bowel issues to natural disasters. Some spirits can change forms, becoming an Angry spirit, Vengeful spirit, or Guiding spirit depending on the situation. These wandering spirits, known as ‘kyula,’ linger in the Spirit World until they are able to be reincarnated. It is widely recognized that some spirits have an immutable form that is either evil or good, one that is the result of how they lived and died. Resident spirits as they are called, or ‘zo’zyola’, are rarely able to reincarnate and thus become permanent beings within the Spirit World. The longer a spirit remains in the realm of the dead, the more power it accrues as it masters the powers of the realm. These spirit-gods, the Zyola, are the most powerful and revered among Th’akh spirits and typically the most ancient as well. Due to the nuance of Th’akh, there are thousands of other spirit forms regionalized to different cultures and customs that are not mentioned.
The Spirit World
Another dimension layered over our own, the Spirit World is believed to resemble the Material World in many aspects. However, its connection to the Material World is not uniform; in some places, there are stronger presences of the Spiritual World than others. This realm of the dead harbors all spirits, and only the strongest may cross over into our plane without any sort of special help. Certain times of year (often celebrated in Unathite culture) are some of the few times more ordinary spirits can cross over into our realm, and places with a stronger connection to the Spirit World can make it easier for a spirit to cross over— whether strong conviction for their ideal or a personal vendetta to fulfill. In myth and history, the Spirit World is said to have an effect on the Material, and similarly, the Material World has an effect on the Spiritual. This means pollution, weather, and buildings would all affect the world of the spirits, which leads Th'akh believers to respect their environment and give the spirits a clean afterlife as a result.
Scientifically, it is strongly believed by Th'akh scientists to be the strange otherworld known as Bluespace, although human and Sk'akh scholars have laughed that off. It would at least explain some anomalous events that have occurred and why Unathi are so religious if this phenomena has occurred throughout their history, yet without concrete evidence, this is merely a foolish thought entertained by those supposedly “enlightened” by the advances of humans and skrell.
The Spirit World is ruled by the Zyola, a pantheon of beings that are among some of the first spirits to have been created. Each of these Zyola do not necessarily adhere to a single ideal because they are powerful enough to flip between them depending on their attitude. Some Zyola , however, are rarely flipped by their mood. Due to the widespread nature of Th’akh, the beings that comprise this pantheon of Spirit-Gods and how powerful they truly are is up to interpretation. The most common ones include the Dumos Clan, the Court of Stars; the Ocean Den, Guardians of the Deep; and the Eight-Pointed Cross, the Scalemates of the Burning Mother.
The Dumos Clan, the Court of Stars
Zyola in a vast amount, the beliefs of those that follow the Dumos Clan adhere generally to the ideals of good and evil spirits. The Court of Stars gets its name because the stars and constellations in Moghes’ sky were named after beings within this pantheon. There are almost innumerable tales, myths, and parables regarding this sect of the religion (so feel free to get creative with them!), and every one attempts to explain the natural world or tell a merely amusing, disgusting, or sorrowful story. Below are some of the most notable Zyola and their stories.
Sa’par, the Solstice King— generally respected as the most powerful Zyola, Sa’par was the one to organize the god-spirits against the masses of zo’zyola terrorizing the Material. A great many stories depict this spirit as committing acts both wrong and right. Depicted as a large Unathi noble, the only deviance from the typical Sinta is his additional set of arms which he uses to push apart the Material and Spirit Worlds. His domains are cosmos, power, and leadership, though more minor aspects include balance, judgement, and knowledge.
Cresi, the Blessed Matriarch— the spirit that assumes stewardship over all others and tends to spirits that are injured or weakened by their conflicts with others. She is naturally kind, yet wicked to those that cross her. Her form is unique in that her tail is said to span miles, and when she is angered, her tail stomps with thunderous force to cause earthquakes. She shares the same domains as Sa’par, but hers regard female interpretations of the domains in Unathite society.
Gruzz, the Vile Trickster— Gruzz is the most notable god-spirit that is usually evil, only committing to good acts when it is in their best interest. From harmless pranks to terrible catastrophes, most evil in the world is sworn to their name. They notably do not have a gender, and most stories tend to depict them as being either. Their domains are trickery, chaos, and misfortune.
Jakali, the Hermetic Winged Serpent— the obvious feature that differentiates this god-spirit from the rest is their form. They are a giant azure arbek with three pairs of wings; he is the final arbiter in a lot of stories as Jakali is believed to be inherently impartial due to his remote residence in the sky. He is often seen as a deliverer of omens, hence why the view of azures can be overtly negative or positive in some cultures. His domains are judgement, balance, and travel.
Tiserse, the Timely Fisherman— a fisher of remarkable talent, she is one to never stray from routine and is one of the more reliable— and fickle— spirit-gods in the pantheon. She upholds the world and its cycles by continuing to make it spin; it is said that, should she deviate from her routine for any reason, the world would fall into chaos. Her domains are the seasons, bounty, and harvests.
Galzifrax, the Raucous Sailor— generally regarded as a bastard among seafolk. Galzifrax is a naturally bored god-spirit, finding the suffering of mortals by his hand of creating storms and disasters to be amusing to him. He does not care what people think of him, so long as they respect him— and offer interesting treasures and stories from their sailing. His domains are oceans, storms, and stories.
Archozmi, the Watchful Lorekeeper— the reclusive spirit-god that records histories of the galaxy. Everything that has ever happened, she writes in her endless Book of Time, and to meet this demand, a vast number of zo’zyola get recruited to help her. Answers to any problem are said to lie in its pages; a great deal of stories involve Archozmi merely due to the other Zyolas’ jealousy of her possession of this book. Her domains are time, lore, and judgement.
Dalskso, the Decaying Earth— Dalskso is unique due to being a collection of powerful zo’zyola that banded together and betrayed their kind. In a sort of karmic fate, their attempt to fuse together failed horribly, resulting in them becoming an amalgamation of spirits. They fled shortly underground and exercise their power from there, usually to malicious pursuits. Their domains are death, decay (which tends to include illness and injury), and greed.
Aosr, the Vibrant Druid— this spirit-god is one of the few to remain near-permanently cheerful. In numerous tales, despite hardship inflicted by the other Zyola or some zo’zyola, Aosr is an example of fun and revelry. His natural talents include being able to turn into animals, and some claim that the odd behavior of livestock or a pet saving its owner is Aosr’s doing. The only time his wrath is incurred is on those that heavily destroy nature; stories about him and the Contact War are often bleak. His domains are nature, life, and revelry.
Riz’dabari, the War Hero— Riz’dabari is a hot-headed yet valiant warrior. His involvement in stories often plays on his fierce temper, which the other god-spirits use to their advantage in varying conflicts. His most notable depiction includes him with two tails, each of which are prehensile enough to wield a weapon apiece: a mace and a shortsword. His hands are reserved for a shield and a greatsword, which Riz’dabari is able to wield with one hand due to his massive strength. His domains are war, honor, and emotions.
Usually, a soul returning to the Spirit World becomes a wandering spirit, a kyula. Only those that were extremely benevolent or cruel in life become resident spirits: zo’zyola. Reincarnation remains an option for kyula until they come to lean heavily towards an ideal, at which point they become a zo’zyola. It is said that the time leading up to someone becoming a resident spirit are simply trials to temper them in the meanwhile.
Most clans believe strongly that ancestors are more likely to be reborn into their clan as a hatchling. Bloodlines thus considered extremely important to many as a result, so much so that pairings incapable of reproducing children are encouraged to find a surrogate within the clan. However, ancestors can be of any range, from powerful warriors to wicked tricksters. Each zo’zyola embodies an “ideal,” and these sets of ideals can vary depending on a Unathi’s upbringing and their own view of Th’akh.
Evil and Good
The most prevalent set of ideals, evil and good are a simple enough pair of beliefs for the many to cling onto. Evil and good zo’zyola represent just that: evil residents are responsible for the ills, woes, and misfortunes of those that are living, while good zo’zyola pass their blessings and favor onto those that worship them. Each spirit demands respect and gifts, lest you get on their bad side. It is said that, with the ideals of evil and good, rarely a zo’zyola may be allowed to reincarnate to preserve the balance between these conflicting sides. In times of great despair, a lost hero may return to the Material; conversely, prosperous times do not last forever as an infamous criminal is often born again. It is a stark way of painting the world with little room for grey areas. Most stories about these spirits tend to be dramatic and teach about cultural ideas— with some often painting other cultures or peoples as evil zo’zyola.
Zo’zyola of these ideals are stark rivals, always competing to get the upper hand for however long. Their story is cyclical, and even in the darkest hours and brightest times throughout history, neither side will fully exist without the other.
Decay, Energy, Growth, and Time
Another set of ideals, these four do not paint the world as being black and white and instead offer a different perspective: nuance exists everywhere. The zo’zyola here can be described less as cosmic forces, but more as processes. Like evil and good resident spirits, there are parallels here: growth spirits are those that foster life as it continues along to maturity, while decay follows maturity to the point of death; similarly, residents of energy give motion and power to creatures of the world, while spirits of time decide how long something may be in this world. In this context, “maturity” is a poor translation— this term is not a set age or physical development, but rather the peak of life within someone. It may be when a Unathi becomes three years old or after they have become a Saa at the long age of 40.
Resident spirits of this variety are forced to cooperate and compromise in various ways. Time zo’zyola find that everything has a natural end, and they merely choose when a being’s end will be— extending something’s “time” is in their best interest, as a premature end requires more energy from them. Energy spirits, conversely, are best seen as explosively powerful; fostering a being along for a shorter amount of time means less power is needed to give it life. Growth and decay zo’zyola always butt heads about how far along maturity should happen in a being’s time. Most of the parables about these spirits are diverse and exemplify universally good values.
None of these spirits are explicitly evil or good, and as such, one can only begin to imagine if they will become a zo’zyola after they pass. Instead of rivals, these zo’zyola teach that harmony must be present for life to flourish, yet avoid the harsh truth that making peace with your enemies is sometimes an impossible task.
Worshipping Lingering Souls
Lingering spirits can be any sort of spirit, whether a traveling kyula or powerful Zyola. They are spirits that have a reason to stick to a specific area, whether to protect their loved ones or wreak havoc on those that wronged them. Small towns might have a ‘village spirit’— this is usually a legend to the townsfolk, a hero that performed many deeds, or someone who died under nebulous circumstances. Ancestral Th’akh settlements are sometimes said to be blessed by developing the land, yet cursed for those who forsake it; Unathi that stray from it for too long or leave entirely often become cursed in some way or form.
Lingering spirits that face scorn, not enough worship and recognition, or have some agenda from when they were alive are known as angered spirits. Angered spirits can be of any variety; evil spirits might seek to cause destruction just for the fun of it, while a good spirit may become angry due to an injustice taking place. Objects and supernatural beings are the common attributes for angered spirits, manifesting themselves for a cause known only to those that know their tale. These spirits can often be associated or likened to horror myths and similar tales found in humanity. A widowed woman who hides her face— be careful not to ask where her tail is, or else she might take yours; bristling scales as they flare up for no apparent reason may be the spirit of a hatchling warning you that danger is on the horizon; committing dishonorable acts summons a ghastly apparition of a warrior, one that will correct your misgivings by the harsh edge of their blade! Localized spirits like these all have their history, and although not all Unathi know the individual stories of each spirit, the morals they teach are usually universally understood among Sinta.
A curse is one of the worst things to happen to a living Unathi— even worse if this curse were to follow you into your death, as those spirits who have cursed you may finally come to you in the spirit world for final vengeance...
Not all spirits remain angry forever, though. Offerings of gifts, prayers of thanks (or warding), and activities to please can quell an angered spirit to appease them. Appeased spirits are docile at worst and helpful at best. Just like angered spirits, appeased ones can be of any variety with their motivations all different depending on their ideal. Miracles that are not scientifically explainable, sudden changes of luck or fortune, and ghastly specters guiding Unathi away from harm are all examples of an appeased spirit’s manifestation. To properly give worship to the spirits, an effigy or totem is devoted to a specific clan, ancestor, or spiritual concept. These items of worship are traditionally crafted by a shaman or by the individual paying respect. They are usually crafted out of natural materials like bone or wood and shaped into whatever represents the being of worship. The item of worship should be brought with the worshiper wherever they go or be set up as a small shrine in a home or workplace. On Moghes and abroad, Sk'akh worshippers have stereotyped Th'akh effigies as items of blood magic. The traditional way to pay respects to clan effigies was to shed a single drop of related blood, which in theory strengthens the ancestral connection between the spiritual and the living. Clans in the Izweski Hegemony have been extremely looked down upon for this practice, and it is viewed as heretical. To the traditional spirit worshiper, however, it is a moment of reflection and deep memory.
Nearly every settlement has a village shaman: an elderly person, typically a man, with a special connection to the Spirit World. Practices inevitably vary between them, but there are a couple of constants among most. Shamans consume mind-altering herbs to interact with the realm of spirits and channel their energies into the Material. Clans and even as far back to the time of tribes— a shaman calls upon the spirits to imbibe and bless weaponry and Sinta with their powers and blessings. Markings to pair on these blades and bodies supposedly fill a Unathi with great courage and superior strength. In modern times, due to the scarcity of shamans and the spread-out nature of Unathi, a complex rune or hilt adornment that is blessed and sanctified is utilized instead, touched (supposedly) by a notable ancestor of the wielder.
A shaman’s duties in a clan varied, but any important event, such as marriage, birth, a death in the community, a disaster: all of these would see the shaman’s involvement in some way. The spirits are seen to interact with the world in a myriad of ways, and as such, a shaman’s chief duty would be to assuage damage done by them and curry their favor whenever possible. Besides this, these small village priests often lead community projects to better the village, such as gardens, community activities, and education on new situations or for a hatchling’s betterment.
Shamans tend towards a simple life and naturally dedicate their efforts to lead their community. Spiritual leaders first and foremost, they often avoid the trifling conflict that comes with politics. The Izweski Nation exploited this, however; they drafted many into the army to make them perform rituals for soldiers, often under duress. After the war ended with the nuclear devastation, the shamans began to be discriminated against by the government, and many are leaving the Izweski nation as traveling shamans or even leaving Moghes entirely.
The Th’akh shaman’s wear of choice is most indelibly the maxtlatl, a loan word from Basic, but the closest encompassing term for the robe in a native tongue is a zlukti, or 'spirit garb'. Some tribes have a differing honorific for the garments, though each outfit had unifying similarities. Popular adornments include dried and pressed grass, although feathers and studded stones are common too. Each adornment on the chestpiece, whether feathers, stones, or metals, is made by another shaman who has passed away: the more colorful the attire, the older it is. The headgear of the Th'akhist ensemble has a more special component to it. Besides the emulated frills made with straw or feathers, the authentic Unathite skull is from the bones of the previous owner, the deceased shaman that came before. Other cultures see it as barbaric: Unathi believe that this enables shamans to call upon their predecessors' wisdom as spirits to empower them. Interestingly enough, wristguards as a part of the maxtatl did not become prevalent until much later in Th'akh tradition. As time passed and garb was passed down from shaman to shaman, attire became cluttered with adornments. Bracers were designed as a method of adding more charms to remember previous shamans without an outfit becoming too noisy— despite its eye-popping and loud nature.
The foundation of Th'akh belief is the spirit is the true individual while the body is a vessel that the spirit inhabits. A kyula is instilled within a vessel from the Spirit World during its development in an egg as part of the creation of life and reincarnation process. After death, it either returns to the realm of the dead as a traveling spirit or evolves into a zo’zyola, eventually becoming a Zyola if it stays there long enough.
Th'akh shamans near-universally believe synthetics cannot possess a soul and do not even count as living things. No matter how expertly a synthetic may imitate life, it remains a tool; an extremely convincing computer with text-to-speech. Shamans in the extremely small minority who disagree are often shunned by their colleagues and communities.
Th'akh shamans have somewhat mixed views on prosthetic limbs. The belief is that they damage the soul. The said “phantom pains” (supposedly feeling a “ghost limb” after it has been removed in some way, like an amputated arm) led most to believe that, despite physical injury, a creature retains its prior shape after passing away. Due to this, and because of the consensus that synthetic parts cannot possess a soul, many feel prosthetic limbs can maim the very soul of a Unathi— once the limb is replaced with a prosthesis, that part of the soul is lost. In contrast, other shamans feel prosthetic limbs are completely normal and necessary. Because of the decentralized nature of the faith, results may vary when consulting different shamans. There is an overwhelming tendency for shamans to still view those with prosthetics as disabled still, even if they do not view prostheses as a negative thing. Regarding this, Aut’akh are not viewed as inherently evil by Th’akh, but still frowned upon for being heretics and led astray.
Some Th’akh shamans and societies believe in a third type of role: the fisherman. The fisherman is more of a role dedicated to trades and skills, such as blacksmithing, sailing, tailoring, and so forth. It is thought that some societies revered these roles so much that, like the Izweski, they carved out a niche in society for this gender. Despite this belief, most cultures did not go as far as the Izweski Nation regarding stratification based on someone’s sex. The Izweski and those that believe Sk’akh tend to believe these people are merely causing trouble by not fitting into the neat roles society has provided for them. Due to odd translation to Basic, someone with the soul of a fisherman typically goes by neutral pronouns.
Th’akh shamans also believe that, due to reincarnation, it is possible for a soul to be placed into an egg that does not match its sex. When this occurs, a Unathi may claim the soul of a different sex than their own; however, recanting this can be seen as extremely dishonorable due to lying, and even claiming this fact about one’s self without a shaman’s agreement may lead to doubt from their clan and peers. Sk’akh does not believe in reincarnation, and thus believes that this is not possible.
Non-traditional relationships are frowned on by most Th'akh shamans because of the cultural importance of arranged marriage and one's duty to continue a clan's bloodline. Because of the eternal nature of existence in this life and the afterlife, shamans heavily stress the importance of monogamous relationships— eventually, the ghosts of past-scorned lovers can cause problems in their jealousy, or their ancestors could become frustrated with the continued lack of grandchildren! Relationships for shamans are taught as combining three aspects: lust, or physical desire; love, or romantic desire; and duty, or proper desire. The more these three are balanced, the longer and healthier the relationship is for the couple and the entire Clan. With that said, a same-sex couple is not seen as a proper end-goal for Th’akhist Unathi because their duty to carry on the bloodline is impossible to fulfill. This view varies wildly with shamans with some being completely accepting of the concept of same-sex couples being eternal, but most shamans caution against non-traditional relationships in general. Marriage is usually a traditional political contract between two clans to combine their dynasty for Sk’akh and the Hegemony; despite this, there are still no mechanisms in place for same-sex marriages in the Th’akh faith with marriage being viewed as symbolic of continuing both clans through a new, stronger bloodline.
Items of Power
Th’akh universally believes items can be imbibed with power if a soul becomes attached to it. This has a myriad of applications: a sword can be enchanted by the soul of a hero to bless the wielder with a greater warrior’s resolve; an item that is said to bring good luck may be attached to the spirit of an ancestor; a doll may be hexed by a malicious banshee to allow a warlock to curse another creature. It is part of the more superstitious sets of beliefs under Th’akh, and even more casual worshippers buy into mystical believes and folk lore set by their predecessors.
Unlike Aut’akh, Th’akh believes that a soul cannot inhabit items, only bond to them. Aut’akh take this Th’akh belief a step further with its doctrines and radical execution of the Th’akh faith.
Burial rites are similar on solid ground or in space. If a person dies and is unable to be cloned, the body must be tended to and made as presentable as possible in order to appease the passing spirit, which can often become upset and therefore malicious if they see their former body being defaced. The corpse should have any open incisions cauterized and all wounds should be sealed and treated with gauze or an advanced trauma pack to stop any bleeding. The corpse should then be dressed in a white uniform or the uniform the person died in— whichever is more respectable or available. The funeral should be communal with the shaman overseeing the viewing and encouraging people to share stories of how the person lived a good life. Once this is done, the body should be buried, stored away, or left in a crypt or tomb as Th'akhists often believe any wounds to the body will follow them through to the Spirit World.
The creation myth for Th'akh follows that after the universe was birthed, it was cold and dark and empty, without any value. Over time, the first living things were born before they were birthed and walked across creation. These first souls were deeply alone and isolated, and when they died, they became spirits that could not interact with it to the same degree as their mortal counterparts. Over time though, this world filled with the living and spirits respectively. Some of the newer resident spirits, some zo’zyola, looked on the living with envy; in their envy, some even grew resentful and became the source of all evil and disasters to the point of manifesting inside the bodies of hatchlings to live again. Seeing this, descendants of all Unathi, the Zyola, took the reins to restore order by separating the universe into two halves: the Material World and Spirit World. Relatives that pass on become watchful spirits that will forever lookout for their descendants so long as they are given proper respect.
The oldest recorded written work depicting a version of Th'akhist spiritualism dates back to 100 BC with bonework totems and other artifacts that would have been carried with nomadic tribes of Unathi on the backs of community leaders. This culture evolved over time into the creation of the first shamans, who were the most experienced Unathi of the tribe. Over thousands of years, the belief in spirits has endured. Even through Iron Crusades from the Sk'akh faith, resulting in attempts at aggressive conversion, worship of clan ancestors and the god-spirits has endured.
The Akhanzi Order
The Akhanzi Order is the oldest known Th'akh religious group on Moghes. Akhanzi itself translates to "Spirit Wanderers" in the general sense. Historical sites of the Order go all the way back to 1200 BCE, over a thousand years before Unathi ended their nomadic lifestyles and built the first towns. The Akhanzi built their temples in secluded mountainous areas where they were insulated from the greater outside world and able to practice their faiths, nearly unchanged, for thousands of years. The Order focuses on inward perfection of the self with its philosophies stressing the importance of understanding the world (reimagined as 'the universe' in contemporary times) and the wishes of their ancestors. They are highly dedicated to knowledge and the preservation of knowledge.
Each temple of the Order has a commune of male and female shamans that are dedicated to its maintenance and preservation. When they join the Order, they renounce their Clan name and all ties to their family and other organizations before taking on the title of Akhandi. New recruits serve as acolytes and can be promoted at any time, but by tradition, it usually requires the approval of multiple shamans within the same temple. Temples are dedicated to learning as well as teaching. It is not uncommon for Unathi to pick up the tradition of storytelling, a pursuit honored and revered among Th’akhists. Some Akhanzi shamans even memorize entire books from cover to cover in dedication to the knowledge it contains and to cite its wisdom to others.
The shamans live in a symbiotic relationship with their local communities; the people of a village or town bring the temple offerings of food, water, or other material goods. In exchange for being provided for, the shamans, in turn, use their temples as places of learning for all Unathi that ask in fields such as astronomy, history, mathematics, and philosophy. There are also several sections of the Order which teach more physical pursuits, such as martial arts, farming, fishing, or ranching. While technically they will offer lessons to any Unathi that asks, it is traditional for you to provide an offering of food or supplies in a fair exchange.
Temples are ancient and incredibly sacred to the Akhanzi Order. Defilement of the temples is an unthinkable crime. Unfortunately, many of these temples were razed to the ground by the Sk'akh Inquisition in May of 2460, and their archives were lost. Some survivors of the crusade have fled to space and many are congregating in Tau Ceti. There they maintain large community centers that act as libraries, colleges, and living areas for the shamans and to help support the communities in poverty that reside there. The Order is still struggling to restore fragments of its lost archives while having to rely on the memory of the older members who committed texts to memory. Now, they serve as important facilities of education for both Unathi and others within Tau Ceti.
Emerging from the hatred of former warriors, the Aut’akh are a religious commune of cybernetic-augmented Unathi. In the relative safety of their communes scattered across various towns, planets, and systems, they know a remarkably satisfying life. They have yet to truly attain their perfect leaderless society as their own supposedly defeated prejudice still runs in quiet circles within communes; meanwhile, society often rebukes and ridicules these fanatical trans-speciests. Their lives are gently guided by the shamans or "paradigms," which act as the religious advisors and sometimes roboticists of these communes.
Aut'akh embrace the old, forbidden magic of Mador with new, progressive technology to create a hybrid philosophy, reinforcing their burning drive to adapt with any circumstance while holding as true as possible to their ideals and the mystic arts. Mador is millennium-old magic that was long forgotten. Thought to be the religion of heretics in the northern pole of Moghes, this ancient practice was revitalized when a relic of the dead faith was supposedly found on Ouerea. This claim has yet to be properly substantiated, though.
The Aut'akh believe that spirits inhabit all things and can reincarnate in various ways, much like the Th'akh religion they are based on. They also believe in the common ideals of spirits (usually evil and good, or some hybrid of multiple) and the differing Zyola pantheons. However, they also believe the weakness of the flesh also hampers the soul, and thus evil spirits can manipulate people's minds and souls to do evil acts through the flesh. These zo’zyola are given power within a being when the person succumbs to greed, anger, or other emotional vices. Aut'akh preach that the Contact War was the result of Sinta being so consumed by the demons within them that they brought the world to ruin. Unlike Si’akh, the Aut’akh believe power is the source of evil within the world, not ourselves, and that all powers, whether that of a government, major religion, or corporation, are inherently corrupt due to the influence of evil spirits.
Aut'akh say the spirit must be kept pure to ensure virtue is maintained and the soul within is kept happy and pure. They claim the body is tainted and imperfect as it is easily maimed or given in to temptations of the flesh. As a result, all Aut'akh strive to augment and enhance their bodies with technology, which they say is the perfect vessel for the spirit within. A Unathi who augments their body only strengthens the bond between their body, mind, and spirit.
Doctrines of Note
As with other Unathi religions, the foundation for Aut'akh belief is that the body is only a vessel for the soul. However, where they differ is that the Aut'akh believe— while flesh is animated by a soul, it is not strong enough for a soul to exert complete control over it. All spirits become stronger when their bodies pass. To combat this weakness, Aut'akh believe that proper augmentation not only appeases the soul, but allows more strength of willpower and resolve. Magic is a force that strong souls can use to turn opinions or even force events to give an outcome in their favor through Mador.
For robotics, the Aut'akh doctrine takes a hard turn away from orthodox Unathi beliefs. It holds the spirit is happier within a stronger vessel in which it has more control. They also believe that without their original body, they can more easily resist temptations of the flesh.
Shamans tend to frown on those who refuse augmentation or prosthetic limb, seeing it as embracing weakness, temptation, and vice. Burial rites involve a funeral, during which friends and loved ones offer stories of good times with the departed to help the soul retain its form and ward off evil spirits. Afterwards, a body is stripped for useful parts, though this is frowned upon by more conservative Aut'akh.
Unlike other religions, Aut'akh believe souls do not have the same limitations and labels Unathi do. As a result, it is not uncommon for Aut'akh to identify with gender similar to how humans and Skrell do. Similar to the other major religions, however, this means that a female soul can be born into a male body and vice versa. Aut'akh bodies tend to be so augmented that it's almost impossible to visually distinguish the gender of an Aut'akh anyway. Despite these views, stubborn Unathi conservatism lingers in that Aut'akh still face patronizing behavior from their peers should they try to break conformity.
Non-traditional relationships are basically irrelevant to the Aut'akh because the clan-less and leaderless communes prevent anyone to hold real power, and a dutiful and honorable relationship is simply one that both people agree on and stick to. There are still mechanisms for marriage, with two or more engaged members ceremoniously gathering the commune for a day of festivities. In a rebuke to feudal customs, there are no laws mandating that the parents must be asked permission before courting their son or daughter, but some few still continue this practice.
Aut'akh by and large are anarchist communes that preach amicability and cooperation over the placement of leaders. However, even though they are considered radical by Sinta standards, like all religions, most Aut'akh are not extremists and do not automatically resort to violence. Violence is actually frowned upon by the majority for a couple of valid reasons. Firstly, Aut'akh, who are already ostracized and despised Unathi already, would certainly be lynched if they were caught harming or killing another Sinta. Secondly, most shamans believe that giving into violence will only empower evil spirits and thus should be avoided when possible.
Aut'akh, though opposed to the power of mega-corporations, are not entirely uncommon among them. Zealots often see working for them not only as an opportunity to indoctrinate others but also to obtain resources to send back to the commune. Corporations still hire them since Aut'akh are seen as a niche, powerless cult due to lacking a leader, and a lack of experience with human society makes them more exploitable. Unfortunately for them, this can only reinforce an Aut'akh's radical beliefs or give fuel for recruiting others.
Shamans of Magic and Tech
The engineers and founders of the religion are by and large the shamans or "paradigms" of this religion. Each one to a degree helps with guiding individuals on religious matters, hosting any important rituals, fitting prosthetics for Aut'akh, and even recruiting new members. Shamans are usually recognized only by individual communes, though some prominent founders of the religion enjoy recognition by most if not all the Aut'akh societies.
The only formal process for becoming an Aut'akh shaman is by a Consensus. Only a majority of four out of five Sinta or more allows for someone to become a commune shaman. Those that are inducted into the clergy of this spread-out religion are quickly taught the secrets of the rituals for Mador, as most of their time will be needed to learn the engineering aspect for robotic limb and organ creation, repair, and maintenance.
The second most common religion, which is followed more by Unathi from the Izweski nation and enjoys a status as its unofficial state religion. It still follows the ancestor worship of Th'akh, but with a major notable difference. The spirits of all Unathi who die become part of Sk'akh, the Great Spirit. Sk'akh is a gender-neutral God, being called 'he' or 'she' interchangeably to represent that Ska'kh is a collection of all Unathi, so it becomes a matter of preference. She is often called Three of One because the spirits combine into three minor aspects that are all part of Ska'kh: the Warrior, the Healer, the Fisherman. These three spirits are personifications of the most important aspects of Unathi society. It is said that all three are equally important and that disasters are caused by an imbalance in the Great Three. Priests often stress the importance of balance, both in matters of the spirit as well as in society and personal life.
The Sk'akh Church has seen power increasingly centralized into a handful of influential priests in the last few decades, with the High Priest being a mere honorary title for a priest that oversaw ceremonial rituals for the Hegemony's royal family. This status quo came to a surprising head in 2458. High Priest Yizra Unzi used a moral panic on Moghes over alleged cultist infiltration to solidify his own power base and begin an inquisition across the Hegemony. After a dramatic confrontation with the Izweski family itself, the resulting negotiations created an agreement that reformed the Sk'akh church. Now the entire Church is overseen by the High Priest, who has authority over the church and its dogma.
Sk'akh priests tend to try to embody one of the Great Three. They become warrior priests, doctors or surgeons, or aquatic farmers. Warrior Priests of Sk'akh are near-universally highly respected, and form a small, elite fighting force that is on par with the War Riders. They go into battle with intricate runes drawn across their armored plates, chanting to Sk'akh for her blessing in the battle. Regular worship is communal, with Unathi clans or villages coming together for feasts or festivals to give thanks to their ancestors and Sk'akh for good tidings, or to ask for favors or assistance in life, with a priest to guide the service or provide interpretation of Sk'akhs intentions or assistance in contacting ancestors.
Sk'akh priests universally consider synthetics to be devoid of a soul, and thus they cannot be considered living beings. In December of 2457 the Council of Teht was held, in which an assembly of Sk'akh priests mandated this as doctrine for the faith. While a minority of priests argued against this, they were overruled by the majority.
Typically to become a priest you must seek and obtain a Master in Sacred Theology in a major Moghean university. The degree usually takes 3 - 4 years to obtain.
Doctrines of Note
One of the foundations for Sk'akh beliefs is that the soul is the actual person, and the body is a vessel it inhabits. The Great Spirit instills a newly created soul within a hatchling as it develops within the egg.
For robotics, Sk'akh doctrine goes farther than the Th'akh generally do, believing even full-body cyborgs to be without spirit. To ardent Sk'akh the concept of borgification is to have your soul sent to oblivion.
Priests typically frown on prosthetic limbs and augments, believing them to be unnatural.
Sk'akh priests take a hard stance against biological augmentation. The Church posits that any "gene-boosting" utterly obliterates the person to have any claim to pride or glory and that they should instead be mocked as insecure and boastful. However, the Church accepts any genetic engineering done for only medically necessary reasons. The Church also condemns manipulation of a hatchling still within an egg for anything that is not medically necessary. A 'designer-hatchling' is a profane act against Sk'akh. It is a profound arrogance for any person to claim to know the path of an unborn Sinta better than the one Sk'akh had laid out for them.
Burial rites require the body to be treated with respect and any open wounds sealed or cauterized. A priest oversees a funeral process and gives a sermon on the individual, which are traditionally communal affairs, assuring the attendees that the individual in question will join their ancestors in the Great Spirit after the ceremony. The funeral ceremony finally begins by placing valuables onto the body, and then the body is offered to Sk'akh through violent and roaring ritual flames. The spirit may eventually find its way out of the body, however cremation will assist the spirit in the process. If a person dies and is cloned then the former body is simply an empty, rather useless vessel, and should be disposed of as soon as possible. If someone dies a good person, they join Sk'akh and become a part of the Great Spirit. If someone dies an evil or wicked person they are barred from joining Sk'akh, doomed to wander the world as an exiled spirit - made a Guwan after death. These wandering spirits tend to become malicious and hateful and are easily manipulated by the daemonic forces of that stalk the realm of the dead to engage in evil acts against the material world.
Because the soul is separate from the vessel that is the physical body, it is accepted that a soul could have been given a body of the different sex when developing in an egg. This means that a particularly strong-willed female with aspirations to enter a traditionally masculine field could be said to have the soul of a man trapped in a woman's body in a mindset that is both surprisingly progressive to outsiders but also extremely patronizing. This does not change the low status that women have in society, and Priests have historically only pointed out that this phenomenon exists. Thanks to the medical technology provided by humanity, Unathi with the financial capacity have the option to return their bodies to sync with their soul, which is a practice approved by the Church as ideal for balance between the physical body and spiritual soul. After the unification of the soul with the new body, the Unathi in question has the demand of their Clan and wider society to conform to the expectations of their sex.
The creation myth for Sk'akh follows that after the universe was birthed, it was cold and dark and empty, without any value. Over time the first living things walked across creation. These first souls were deeply alone and isolated, and when they died they entered an empty spirit plane with nothing to guide them. In both life and death creation was chaotic and without meaning. Eventually, even the stars, without purpose and order, fell from the sky and began to burn creation to cinders. Three wise elders, the first fisherman, the first healer, and the first warrior came together in the spirit realm and declared that order must reign in a chaotic universe. Merging their souls together they formed Sk'akh, who became the custodian of creation. Sk'akh is the source of duty and purpose. It is by His command that the stars remain in the sky, that the rivers flow, and arrow flies. This myth makes Sk'akh followers scornful of the Th'akh, who they see as encouraging the chaos that came before Sk'akh. Beings that defy the demands of order in the universe are scorned by Sk'akh and their spirit is left to eternally wander isolated and alone, eventually becoming forgotten or even becoming an evil entity.
The Maraziite Order
Also known simply as The Order, the Mariziite Order is a military order under the command of the High Priest with the right to bear arms and dispense justice against spiritual threats to the Hegemony, following the revelation that a secretive religious cult had infiltrated the Hegemony government. In its short existence, it has arrested several hundred individuals and seized many tomes and documents that Mariziite authorities claim are evidence of cult involvement.
Maraziite's are commanded by the High Priest of the Hegemony, directly overseeing a small council of Guildmasters appointed by himself.
The Guildmasters form an elite council under the High Priest and advise him on the day to day matters of the Order. They also command the overall operations of the Order through their subordinates, the Chapter Masters.
Chapter Masters run individual Chapters of the Order in their specific settlement or City. They oversee the Maraziite officers and are responsible for the efficient running of their Chapter.
Individuals officers are merely referred to as Maraziites. The officers are often called the Iron Masks because of their tendency to wear iron masks while on patrol.
Qualifications to become a Maraziite are, outside the obvious need of being a Sk'akh, is to have at least minor experience in law enforcement, military experience, the priesthood of the church, or a completed Apprenticeship in a university. After applying a Hopeful is put under a quick, extensive interview and investigation. Upon completion they are assigned to a Chapter and sent to enforce the law of the Great Spirit upon the souls of the Hegemony.
The Si'akh Heresy
Born from the fires of the Contact War on 2439, Si'akh has rapidly spread across the Wasteland. It is lead by charismatic former Sk'akh priest Juzida Si'akh, who claims to be the Messiah for Unathi. It is a radical Sk'akh heresy that claims the Contact War to have been Final Judgement for the Unathi species caused by their innate wickedness. He claims that all Unathi that died in the 'cleansing fire' of the atomic weapons were given salvation, and that all Unathi that survived are damned to remain trapped on the Hell of Moghes unless the species and Moghes are rapidly purified. The movement has nearly a hundred thousand followers and it has come into immediate conflict with the orthodox Sk'akh church due to Si'akh claiming it to be completely illegitimate. Its followers are ruthlessly hunted down by the Maraziite Order and many of its followers are fleeing into human space as they try to find personal salvation. It is treated as a Sk'akh heresy or a fanatical doomsday cult by orthodox Unathi.
Born Juzida Aizahi, the now Notable Unathi Juzida Si'akh was born on 2409 and was rather unassuming as a priest until the Contact War brought nuclear devastation to his village. Si'akh was the sole survivor in his village after a nearby nuclear blast flattened the entire area. He emerged to the blasted hellscape and saw Sk'akh in the distant mushroom cloud, who spoke to him and gave him divine inspiration, declaring him the Final Prophet: the messiah and last hope for Unathi. Since that day he has been a firebrand preacher, traveling the Wasteland and giving incredibly intense and passionate sermons. He claims to have a direct connection with Sk'akh which gives him supernatural powers. He claims he can bring salvation to Unathi with a simple touch. He travels the wasteland wearing simple robes, typically with nothing but his walking stick and his journal. He is an extremely charismatic leader and has spawned a cult of personality around himself. His formal title is the Final Prophet Born of the Purifying Flames.
The Fire Priests
The church organization is decentralized due to its nature as a radical heresy constantly hunted by the established Sk'akh Church. However beneath Juzida there are his Speakers of the Purifying Flames, or Fire Priests that spread his message across the Wasteland. Named in reference to both the cleansing fire of the atomic weapons that swept across Moghes, it is also in reference to the firebrand sermons given by their messiah. Flame Priests tend to be former Sk'akh priests that embraced Juzida's radical messages. However in the past Juzida decreed that anyone with a determination to spread the message can become a Flame Priest, but it is a rite of passage to first come before him and recite all of his sermons from memory. Radically, even a female can become a Flame Priestess, which is something even his most ardent followers must come to terms with.
Doctrines of Note
The primary, overriding belief of Si'akh is that the nuclear conflict of the Contact war was Judgement Day and that all Unathi that live after it are Damned. They believe that upon death their soul is unable to join Sk'akh, instead doomed to reincarnate on the hellish wasteland of Moghes. The only method of achieving salvation is through being personally forgiven by Si'akh or by following his doctrines and gaining enough favor with Sk'akh to be forgiven after death and join the ancestors. Si'akh believes that evil and selfish behavior transform the souls of Unathi into literal demons who then perform evil on the world. Fighting back against one's innate wickedness is the primary goal of all Si'akh.
Like the traditional Church, Si'akh believe that the soul is the true individual, and that the body is a vessel. However, the relationship between the vessel and the soul is given a radically different relationship. The body and soul both fight temptation and the influences of daemonic forces. They also believe that the soul was in the past instilled within a vessel during its development within the egg by the Great Spirit, but with the Damnation facing the species, all unborn are instilled with the reincarnated souls of the Sinta barred from joining the Great Spirit in death.
The second primary belief of the faith is that Juzida Si'akh is the Messiah. Sk'akh has personally granted Juzida the objective of helping the Unathi species find redemption. His followers accept him to be an immortal with supernatural powers. If he is successful Si'akh will then rule Moghes as a literal heavenly paradise for 10,000 years.
Si'akh are forbidden from eating anything but raw food and drinking anything but water. This is to purify the soul and train followers in self-restraint.
Like all Unathi religions, followers are taught that even xeno's have souls that join Sk'akh upon death. But Unathi are given the unique curse of being banished entirely until they can find redemption.
Prosthetic limbs and augments are scorned by Si'akh, who condemns them for maiming the soul. Possessing augments or prosthetic limbs marks as soul as irreparably damned and unable to ever join Sk'akh.
Biological augmentation is not available to the majority of Si'akh followers, but the Prophet still warns that they are tools of temptation. Falling to the temptation of augmenting your body in such a way is to face a defeat by the daemonic forces within all Sinta'Unathi. He preaches that it is necessary for us to accept our weaknesses, as it requires us to seek help from others and strengthen the bonds between ourselves. Even most medical conditions that could be treated by advanced human medicines, if not causing overt suffering or pain, should not be augmented away for the same reasons of accepting the trials and tribulations placed before every individual. 'Designer-babies' are something that Si'akh has rarely had need to discuss, but in the few circumstances he declared the act of a parent 'scheming' their unborn is to have them be completely consumed by the daemonic evil, no different from those that brought ruin to Moghes.
Si'akh demands strict burial rights in the form of a body being cremated. Anyone that knew the Unathi that passed is expected to attend the cremation and beg for the soul to be forgiven by Sk'akh, expressing all the good the person did in life in order to curry favor with Sk'akh. Anyone that dies having followed the path laid out by Juzida can be redeemed and embraced by Sk'akh, joining them in the afterlife. Those that die failing in their duties to resist temptation and vice remained damned, forced to reincarnate into a new body. However, some souls can become completely overtaken by daemonic influence through temptation and vice, causing them to become literal daemons in the afterlife. These particularly damned souls prey on the living, filling them with the temptation to create even more of their kind.
Because the soul is its own entity separate from the body, it is accepted that a soul could have been given a body of the different sex when developing in an egg. Si'akh has not preached on these matters heavily, only acknowledging that all Unathi born are equally damned regardless of their circumstances and must seek salvation equally.
Relationships in general are touched on heavily by Si'akh. He completely throws out the orthodox definitions of relationships of being a mix of Duty, Love, and Lust, saying that relationships are a question of duty and duty only. Marriages are framed in a survival sense, with new generations of hatchlings being reincarnated souls of the Damned unable to join Sk'akh. These 'second try' souls must be raised to participate in Si'akh's grand vision in order to achieve salvation. Notably, Si'akh forbids divorce and demands that any relationship be a lifelong act of monogamy.
The Reavers of the Flame
Being situated in the incredibly dangerous Wasteland, and coupled with ruthless oppression from the Maraziite Order, Si'akh early in his days as messiah created a fanatical militant holy order answerable only to him. Its members are called Reavers, and they are charged with the protection of Si'akh and all of his followers. Based in Wasteland forts they guard pilgrims who travel for miles to follow the traveling Si'akh, sheltering them from bandits. They are frequently attacked by the Maraziite Order, and have taken to arming themselves with crude ballistic weapons and antiquated steel spears. Using welders Reavers are required to burn off their horns when joining the Order, giving them a strange appearance compared to typical Unathi. Joining the Order is a fast track to salvation. Additional, more in-depth information can be added to Si'akh's Notable Unathi entry.
While some holidays do not have a religious bearing, most festivals pertaining to the spirits or some variant are shared by most religions, merely celebrated in different and conflicting ways.
The Keeping of Memories
The Keeping of Memories is a holiday that marks the true beginning of Travakh, the Season of Ancestors, though for the Intergalactic Standard, it is traditionally observed on December 7th. A basic festivity in premise, the Keeping of Memories festival is one for Unathi to celebrate their ancestors and the realm that houses them: the spirit world. Though it has been a recorded celebration for centuries, the exact origins of the event have been lost to the contact war, with only fables and stories from each religion giving guesswork as to where it originated.
Traditionally, the day is full of close-knit celebrations to citywide parades, and a majority of Unathi remain unproductive from sunrise to sunset. Feasts are common during this day as one larger meal is prepared in the morning to be enjoyed, allowing the rest of daylight hours to be devoted towards other activities. When food is prepared, portions of it are reserved in remembrance for ancestors who have recently passed, while some food is saved for revered ancestors of note, like clan heroes, renowned warriors, and powerful healers. Food is served to empty seats as Unathi believe the spirits of those lost sit with them on this spiritually-charged occasion.
In preparation for the day, Unathi will often decorate their bodies with paint, though with what often depends on the religion. Th’akh (and, by extension, Aut’akh) often choose symbols or names of those in their clan that no longer walk the lands they do. Children usually receive paintings of fables and stories of old that represent virtues they aspire for. Sk’akh and Si’akh are more uniform; emblematic and larger symbols are drawn along the back, chest, or most of their body. These can represent aspects of the Goddess, common prayers, or blessings, all things the receiving Unathi hope to gain by showing favor with the Goddess. Si’akh recently will specifically show somewhat violent depictions of how they view reincarnation and often go for flames as body paintings.
Celebrations themselves can vary widely from city to city, clan to clan. Parades themselves often include lively music as a centerpiece, with dancing and song from attendees being commonplace. Unathi tend to do this with other observed holidays outside of Hegemony space, which leads to weird looks and strange gazes from other species. Customs of a clan regarding the Keeping of Memories rarely change, though, and it is a chance for the clan elders to remind and teach the young of their own clan’s history and the significance of their traditions.
The holy men of the day remain extraordinarily busy, as one can imagine. Th’akh shamans often anoint clan elders with a blessing of spiritual power so that, in their stead, these Unathi may perform ceremonies and even reach out to the spirit world. Keeping of Memories celebrations lead to the spirit world’s boundaries weakening, Unathi say, and so reaching out to specific ancestors becomes easier to do, with the right offerings and preparation. However, Sk’akh priests do not believe the power they wield can be ‘lent’ as Th’akh does. As a result, these priests are needed in the flesh to perform ceremonies, and to prevent being overworked, a handsome tithe from the entire clan is required to be given to the Sk’akh Church.
Despite this, all Unathi share one concrete aspect of the holiday: the retelling of stories. Whether Sk’akh parables, notable memories of ancestors, or ancient fables of healer-shamans and warrior-heroes, Unathi take the occasion to tell stories with one another. It is appropriate for Unathi to share these stories with those they know and people they have never met, for a person never truly dies if their memories live on.
Credit to ShutUpBecca for the painting of High Priest Unzi.