The Old Religion
The ancient religion of the Al’ Farai tribes was once widely practiced throughout all the Alabic Nations. In recent decades, its influence has severely dwindled within the Al’ Badian cities, as its devotees have converted to the beliefs of Ja’Ilam. Yet among most Al’ Farai tribes, the worship of the Ancient Ones is still dominant, and, even in the cities, the occasional worshipper can be found (usually hiding his or her true beliefs lest the fanatics of Ja’Ilam turn violent).
The primary deities of the Old Religion are Ahuramazda, the sun god, and Fatima, his wife. Their four children are the principal entities identified with the forces of nature: Anlil, the god of wind; Sin, the goddess of fire; Enhidu, the bitter and weeping god of water and Pavti, the goddess of the earth. The four natural elements (fire, air, water, and earth) are each given honor as part of the creation of a human body – fire for the heat, blood as water, flesh as earth, and the breath is given by the wind. Without these four, humanity would not exist, and only by the birth of the human soul through the workings of Fatima, the soul-maker, do mortals live.
Fatima is also the moon goddess and the keeper of all mortal souls. Her name means, “the Creator.” She is also given such titles as “Source of the Sun”, “Tree of Paradise”, the Moon, and Fate. Is it said that Fatima existed from the beginning of the material world, and that Ahuramazda did not create her so much as he discovered her among the stars and brought her upward into the heavens to be his bride.
A member of the Old Religion regards the physical world as a battlefield and sees himself or herself as a soldier under the chieftainship of Ahuramazda. A person’s ultimate goal is not one of this world; it is to do battle against the forces of Darkness and to right wrongs. Devotees of the Old Religion seek to be in tune with the world around them, to explore every possibility, and to be a source of joy, Because it is a religion of nature and one developed by the nomadic Al’ Farai, it is integral to live in temperance and moderation. When one over-exploits the bounties of nature, one kills one’s self as well. Life depends on the bounties of the earth. Thus, one must live in balance with them so that they are not destroyed.
According to the beliefs of the Old Religion, a person’s soul remains within the precincts of this world for three nights after death. During those nights, the soul is guided and protected by an angel known as Dastagire Ravaan. The angel will eventually lead the soul into Heaven if the person has been good or to oblivion if evil. Heaven is known as the land of Behest, and oblivion is called the Land of Dozakh. During the three days, the angel and the person visit parts of his or her life, discussing the meaning of the contributions he or she has made to the world.
A person is judged based on his or her dedication to the gods and to the world around him or her. The virtues of this religion are simplicity, frugality, and honesty and all are tied up in a person’s word.
Children of Fatima
Everyone knows that there are foul monsters in the vastness of the Alabic deserts. Creatures that are half-human and half-animal, or worse, terrible dragons and beasts that seek nothing other than to appease their hunger and cause pain. Legends say that Fatima was beautiful but barren. She could bear no children for Ahuramazda, and their marriage was broken. She sought any way to fulfill her wifely duties, but, in the end, the only person who could help her was an old Al’ Farai Fuqara named Mehanstra. She begged Fatima not to undertake the ritual necessary to become pregnant because she knew that all things must have balance in the world, but Fatima was resolute. She would give her husband children no matter what the cost.
So, deep in the desert, the two women performed the ceremony, and although it resulted in the birth of Fatima’s four godly children, it also heralded the dawn of monsters throughout the desert sands. These beasts were brought to life due to Fatima’s stubbornness, for there must be balance between good and evil. To bring forth the four children of Fatima and Ahuramazda, the entire world suffered a plague of evil, and, even today, the price is still paid in blood as these fiends seek flesh to feed upon.
Thus, the monsters of the Alabic wilds are often called the Children of Fatima since it was her arrogance and pride that caused them to exist. Consequently, Ahuramazda turned away from his wife after this cataclysm, and that is the reason the sun and moon no longer share the sky by day. Ahuramazda, eager for more children, has taken a number of mortal concubines and sired many half-god children (or at least, many who claim to be). Fatima hates all such rivals to her own blood and often attempts to destroy or humiliate the mortal progeny of Ahuramazda.
The Old Religion has numerous ceremonies and holy days, but it is essentially a simple religion for the common people. Worshipping Ahuramazda or the pantheon of the Old Religion requires the faithful to send their prayers at various times of the day: Ahuramazda is worshipped at dawn while Fatima is revered at dusk. The Four are always offered tribute at noon when the heat of the sun is at its fullest.
Offerings of grain are the primary gifts, and prayers to the Old Religion are almost always accompanied by soft singing, clapping, or reverent whispers. It is a joyous faith, and those who follow it are encouraged to let the gods know that they are pleased with the gods’ creation – the world – and appreciate their beneficent power (or, in Fatima’s case, that one is respectful and fearful of her strength).
Festivals and Holy Days
When members of the Old Religion meet, they say to one another, “Ushta-te,” or “may you find happiness.”
Traditionally, such people gather six times a year for the festivals, or gahambars, that celebrate the turning of the seasons. These gahambars are celebrated in honor of the Sun, the Moon, the Four, and then the lesser celebrations of plants, cattle and humanity. Traditionally each of these gahambars lasts for five days, and the festivities include much food, merriment, and complex rituals and prayers.
The Al’ Farai welcome visitors to five of their six rituals, banning them only from the Gahambar of the Moon, which is a celebration of death rather than one of life. The Al’ Farai refer to this gahambar as Fatima Muktad, or the “Moon’s Favor,” and believe that, during the festival, the spirits and souls of the dead are ritually invited by the living into this world. The priests perform special rites over cooked food, fruits, and fresh flowers during which the spirits of the departed are invoked in order to seek their protection and blessings. Throughout the celebration, the living must keep their homes extra clean and be in a state of heightened consciousness so as to experience the presence of the spiritual world.
The alternate festival, celebrating the Sun, is known as Noruz. This marks the most important day of the year and is recognized to be the crowning festival, both of the Sun and of the Sheikhs or tribal leaders of the Old Religion. Noruz bridges the old year to the New Year with the advent of spring. The resurgence of life takes place during this period with the symbolic victory of the forces of light over darkness. It is customary to exchange gifts, wear new clothes, settle disputes and go to the Temple of the Sun in order to reaffirm this day to be one of renewal, hope and joy.
Imam of Ahuramazda
The priests of Ahuramazda make up most of the imam of the Old Religion. The imam of Ahuramazda are famous for wearing the god’s icon – a plain golden disc – even in the cities where they must hide their true faith. Often, the symbol of Ahuramazda is also tattooed over the heart in intricate patterns, indicating that their bodies are temples to the King of the Sun. Ahuramazda watches over all the free people of the land, but he has a special fondness for maidens and brave warriors. He is said to take concubines from unwed mortal women, and several rajahs and sheikhs claim to be descended from Ahuramazda’s half-mortal children.
Imam of Fatima
The majority of Fatima’s imam are female and they make up the second largest percentage of priests of the Old Religion. Fatima’s imam are tolerated in the Al’ Farai tribes because Fatima is very powerful. She must be pacified, or she will take great vengeance on those who deny her. Still, they are not seen as favorable or friendly priests, and their worship is reviled and destroyed within the cities of the Al’ Baid. Fatima’s servants wear dark clothing and bear the symbol of the Lady’s Hand tattooed upon their body. Their holy symbol is a woman’s palm covered in dark tattoos.
Imam of Anlil, Sin, Elthidu or Pavti
There are four lesser gods of the Old Religion, whose priests are now nearly eradicated from the Alabic lands. Some, however, still cling to their worship among the Al’ Farai tribes, but to find a true priest of the Four is difficult. The Four are: Anlil, the god of wind; Sin, the goddess of fire; Enhidu, the bitter and weeping god of water and Pavti, goddess of the earth.
Clerics of the Old Religion
Ahuramazda is associated with the Domains of Sun, Desert, Fire, and Healing. His Clerics must be of Good Alignment. His favored weapon is the sun-headed mace.
The Domains with which Fatima is associated are Evil, Trickery, Protection, and Travel. All imam of Fatima must be Evil in Alignment. Her favored weapon is the three-headed flail.
The priests of the Four share the following Domains: Luck, Desert, and Animal. Each offers a fourth according to his or her element. Anlil grants Air Domain spells, and Sin offers Fire Domain. Enhidu provides Water Domain spells, and Pavti grants access to the Domain of Earth.
All imam of the Four must be of Chaotic Alignment.
Their favored weapon is the quarterstaff.