Unathi Religion

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Overview

While there are many beliefs that have existed on Moghes since the earliest Unathi societies, Th'akh and Sk'akh remain the primary, dominant faiths with tension and conflict between the two. 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

The most pervasive and common religion amongst Unathi. It dates back even before the First Hegemony, and as a byproduct of Unathi stubbornness has remained central to Unathi spiritualism. The basic concept of Th'akh is that all the spirits of past Unathi now reside in the spirit world that exists in tandem with the material world. These spirits exist in objects and nature - bringing either good luck or sorrow. Particularly nasty natural disasters were often attributed to particularly strong groups of spiteful spirits influencing events in the material world. They tend to paint their bodies in paint blended of berries, some shamans even going so far as to mark themselves with the name of villagers who died in his village, making him or her a walking library to add to the strong oral traditions of Tha'kh. This practice, for obvious reasons, tends to be more common in smaller villages.

The Shamans

Many tribes had their village shamans, who were elderly males - or rarely, women - seen as having a special connection to the spirit world. They consumed mind-altering herbs to enter and interact with the world of spirits, and to channel their energies into the spiritual world. Tribes would hold elaborate rituals where the village shaman would call upon the ancestors of the hunters or warriors to enter their weapons or fill the warriors with great courage and ability in battle. In modern times, this ritual is still practiced, but most Unathi now call their ancestors to fill their weapon and grant it extraordinary abilities before they enter a battle.

Shamans tended to live simply and dedicate their efforts to improve the community. They were spiritual leaders, and it was very rare that any got involved in politics. This lead to them being exploited by the Izweski nation, who drafted many into the army to make them perform rituals for the 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. Very rarely do shamans enter Guwandi, but it is not unheard of.

The Spirits

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. A spirit can change forms - becoming an Angry spirit, Vengeful spirit, or Guiding spirit. There are, of course, thousands of other forms, many of them very regionalized. Small towns might have a 'Village Spirit', maybe a dead clan-leader that used to watch over the citizens or a lost mother that manifests as a Tul every spring. Ancestral Th'akh cities might have whole spiritual 'clans' that are said to still live there, and descendants that leave the city may often become cursed in some way or form.

Possessions and supernatural physical beings are often attributed to vengeful spirits, manifesting themselves for some cause only known by those who know their tale. The spirit of a widowed woman who hides her face - however, be careful not to ask where her tail is, or else she might take yours... Every time you feel tingles across your body, commonly known as 'goose bumps' for humanity, that is the spirit of a hatchling warning you that death might take you soon... if you're not careful. Do not forget to clean the blood off your hands after eating, or worms will manifest and you will see the spirit of a chef, ready to prepare you for his meal! 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 universally understood.

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 ...

Doctrines of Note

The foundation of Th'akh belief is that soul is the true individual, while the body is a vessel that the soul inhabits. A soul is instilled within a vessel during its development in an egg as part of the creation of life.

Th'akh shamans nearly universally believe that 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.

Shamans believe that the physical body is merely a vessel for the soul. So when a person dies and is cloned, the spirit finds a new vessel to inhabit. Cloning for many shamans is a form of reincarnation. While the innovation is exclusive to Skrell and Human systems due to its extremely expensive and complicated methods, many Th'akh see very little ethical issues with cloning.

Th'akh shamans have mixed views on prosthetic limbs. Because of the consensus that synthetic parts cannot possess a soul, many feel prosthetic limbs can maim the very soul of a Unathi. 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.

Shamans have similar views on genetic augmentation. Many feel that enhancing oneself with "gene-boosting" or other methods is a form of cheating, rendering one's accomplishments meaningless. However, genetic engineering done with the intent to heal is perfectly acceptable. Th'akh shamans also have a near consensus on manipulation of a hatchling still in an egg; shamans are content with medically necessary alterations to the unborn but warn that making 'designer-hatchlings' with genetic manipulation causes the vessel to develop separate from the soul, and will lead to great spiritual dysphoria. For example, a hatchling whose spirit is one of a great musician but who was edited to be a superior fighter at the expense of musical talents would face this spiritual dysphoria. However, your mileage may vary; other shamans may very well believe that alterations to the unborn are merely tuning what already happens within nature.

Like the Sk'akh, most Th'akh shamans believe 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. That said, shamans have radically different views of what this means, so there is no common consensus save for the fact that it is important to balance self-identity with Clan, family, and society. 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 most shamans 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.

Burial rites are similar on solid ground or in space. If a person dies and is unable to be cloned then 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'akh often believe any wounds to the body will follow them through to the spirit world. 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. Individuals that die a good person join the ancestors and live with them in the realm of the spirits in tandem alongside the material world, and are very much still with the living. If someone dies wicked or evil they can be scorned by their ancestors and exiled. Their spirit, without the closure of being with their family and ancestors, can become overwhelmed by grief or spite that it takes it out on the material world, causing all sorts of ills.

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 walked across creation. These first souls were deeply alone and isolated, and when they died they entered an empty spirit plane that was also without meaning. Over time the material and spirit world filled with the living and spirits respectively. The spirits looked on the living with envy at the living. In their envy some grew resentful and became wicked, terrorizing the material world as the source of all evil and disasters, even manifesting inside the bodies of particularly evil beings to take over and live again. Seeing this, the scattered ancestors came together to in turn guide the living through these great disasters. Relatives that pass on become watchful spirits that will forever look out for their descendants for as long as they are given the proper respect.

Akhanzi Order

Portrait of Vuthix Akhandi, circa 2459.

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 to1200 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.

The Temple Shamans

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, which loosely translates to the singular term, "Spirit Wanderer". 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. Their temples are dedicated to learning as well as teaching. 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 from 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's traditional for you to provide an offering of food in a fair exchange. Temples are ancient and incredibly sacred to the Order. Defilement of the temples is an unthinkable crime.

Unfortunately these temples were razed to the ground by the Sk'akh Inquisition in May of 2460, and their archives were lost. The 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. The Order is struggling to restore fragments of its lost archives, 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 non-unathi within the system.

Notable Details

Once nearly every decade there exists in the Order a shaman of great prestige. A Shaman can be nominated by a general consensus to receive the rank of Elder Shaman, and there exists roughly a dozen Elder Shamans at any one time. This ceremonial title exists to honor a shaman who has done remarkable service in the name of the Order, and they become the face of the Akhanzi. Their exploits are obsessively written down and stored in vast temple libraries, providing a meticulous record going back hundreds of generations. The Akhandi are extremely proud of their record-keeping, and their scribes repeatedly re-copy entire canons to ensure they are preserved and not lost to time or disaster.

Akhandi believe many of the basic tenets of the classic Th'akh faith, but their secular nature and free entry based structure mean that over many years they have developed slight deviations of the classic faith due to different viewpoints from many areas. As an institution based on learning and knowledge, in some ways, as a result, its members can be more progressive than traditional Th'akh shamans - for instance, many Akhanzi members view prosthetic limbs as less a destruction of the soul and more a tool that can help the crippled, but generally look down on unathi who use prosthetic limbs as still being crippled. Attempting to use their prosthetic limbs to assert moral or physical superiority over fellow unathi is universally regarded with scorn or hostility by their fellows.

One aspect of their faith that is significantly less flexible is the viewpoint the Akhanzi have on synthetics. Following the first contact with other races and throughout and after the Contact War, there was much deliberation between the various temples about the new information they had gained from the outsiders. Between their own viewpoints on the nature of souls and how its impossible to create them artificially and the ominous whispers, the skrell told about their history, the current Elders of the Order came to the decision that synthetic life is dangerous if left unchecked. They are intensely mistrustful of any synthetic that is capable of free will, and while they will grudgingly accept them as useful tools, most members of the Akhanzi Order will call the immediate destruction of a unit that is trying to push for synthetic rights or superiority. As a result, due to their recent migration to Tau Ceti territory, they have become a minor platform for anti-synthetic agendas.

Sk'akh

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 Priesthood

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.

Once the court chaplain for the Izweski, High Priest Yizra Unzi used a cult scare in 2458 to rapidly elevate his power and centralize the Sk'akh church, becoming the official leader of the Church and commander of its militant inquisition, the Maraziite Order.

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.

Sk'akh believe that when a body is cloned that the soul is snatched out of the spirit realm and put back inside the body. So cloning is not creating a new person but a continuation of the same individual. While there remains internal debate about the ethical issues with cloning, most Sk'akh priests welcome the medical innovation.

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 Moroz Holy Tribunal

Originally viewed as heresy but now seen more as a schism from the traditional church by scholars, the Tribunal is an offshoot of the Sk'akh, followed largely by citizens of the Empire of Dominia and the majority of Unathi pirates.

Many of the Tribunals traditions align with those of the Sk'akh with some key differences: The Great Spirit is known as the "Goddess" instead of "Sk'akh" but remains gender-neutral, the three aspects of the Great Spirit are known as the Soldier, Scholar and Artisan, the Tribunal takes a much stricter view on synthetic life and mechanical augments viewing both as abomination, they are more relaxed towards same-sex relationships so long as Lust, Love and Duty are in balance, finally followers of the Tribunal believe that the "Tribunes", the heads of the religion, commune directly with the Great Spirit thus any instructions passed down to followers by the Tribunes is considered sacrosanct.

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.

The Prophet

Portrait of Juzida Si'akh in the middle of a firebrand sermon, circa 2457.

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.

Si'akh preaches that cloning does not work for Unathi, and that it only allows proper reincarnation for xenos. Being Damned means upon death the soul of a Unathi is immediately just sent back to Moghes to suffer there until reincarnation. Any new clone is not the same person but a husk possessed by a wicked demon. While clones are obviously non-existent in the poverty-stricken Wasteland, they are nevertheless hyped up as abominations.

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.

The Aut'akh Heathens

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 too the biomechanical engineers of these communes.

Aut'akh embrace an 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 a 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, much like the Th'akh religion they are based on. In addition, they also believe the weakness of the flesh also hampers the soul, and thus evil spirits can manipulate people's minds and spirits to do evil acts through the flesh. These demons 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, and 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 into 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 that, while flesh is animated by a soul, it is not strong enough for a soul to exert complete control over it. All spirits, evil or good, 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.

Aut'akh believe that when a body is cloned that the soul is snatched out of the spirit realm and put back inside the body, so cloning is not creating a new person, but a continuation of the same individual.

Shamans tend to frown on those who refuse augmentation or prosthetic limb, seeing it as embracing weakness, temptation, and vice.

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 have 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.

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. Cloning is seen as an acceptable alternative, in which case the body is simply stripped for parts after the cloning procedure.

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. Aut'akh are still capable of feeling love or lust for one another. 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 it is still maintained by a majority of Aut'akh.

Leaderless Aspirants

Aut'akh by and large are anarchist communes that preach amicability and cooperation over placement of leaders. However, even though they are considered radical by unathi 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 unathi. 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 get resources to send back to the commune. Corporations hire them still 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, though. 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.

Religious Holidays

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.