Bharatan is the traditional religion of Elves. It focuses on the moon goddess Bharata, Mistress of the Dance and Lady of the Underworld. The religion warns against overweening ambition, and preaches a wandering lifestyle free of attachments. Meditation and dance are taught as ways to accept and thereby overcome death.
Although Elves are often scorned throughout the Empire, their religion does garner respect in some intellectual circles. It has been an influence on Atmahan, Thauma-Virun, and Tathatan, as well as on various martial arts such as Water Wheel Style. The figure of the meditative sage is thought to derive from ancient Elven models. Today there are intellectuals of various races that give up their possessions to wander according to the Bharatan way.
The follower of Bharatan endeavors to live without overweening ambition, which leads one to fall out of balance with nature. Establishing oneself in one place and amassing many possessions creates a rigid, defensive, and covetous heart. Only by foregoing wealth, status, and political power, and wandering where the wind blows, can one maintain the flexibility necessary to live in tune with nature. The rigid, towering tree is uprooted by the wind, but the supple blade of grass bends and weathers through the storm.
Followers of Bharatan lead a simple life close to friends and family. One wanders from place to place, working only enough to feed oneself and one’s kin, without amassing many possessions. The rest of the time is spent meditating, practicing various arts and crafts, studying nature, and enjoying the company of one’s fellows. There is also a vast lore of traditional omens and superstitions, especially pertaining to lunar phenomena.
While other religions frantically try to forestall or ward against the end of the world, Bharatan meets it with the same teaching that it meets all turns of fortune: bend in tune with the will of nature, and even the strongest wind will be as a breath upon the nape of the neck.
Despite being held in low regard, followers of Bharatan are popular among many races as wedding musicians.
There are no Bharatan temples. Instead, followers gather in the wilderness each full moon for music, dance, divination, and communication with the dead.
Myths and High Days
The Dance Upon the Back of Atmah tells of a time after the first Regent of Wu-Yu, the world-encircling serpent Atmah, sank into the ocean to contemplate eternity. Without a regent, the world was left in chaos. Death appeared for the first time. At that time there lived an Elf woman whose name is now forbidden to speak, but whom we call Bharata, “she who devours.” This Bharata traveled the world learning the dances of all the living species, but there was one she did not learn: the dance of life itself. With all creatures dying about her, she gave up in despair and resolved to paddle her canoe out into the ocean to die. After three days, she ran aground on a mysterious archipelago of ten thousand islands. There she danced the nine-thousand nine-hundred ninety-nine dances of life, one on each island. But in the middle of the last dance, a sea otter rose from beneath the waves and startled her. She forgot the dance. Then there was a rumbling and the archipelago began to rise. Atmah himself, with each island being in truth one of the spikes along his spine, rose from the sea. He said he was pleased by her dances. She received the great serpent’s blessing and became the new Regent of Wu-Yu. Bharata then returned to her people and taught them the nine-thousand nine-hundred ninety-nine dances, and creatures lived long. But because the dances were not completed, Atmah did not teach her the final dance, that of life itself, and that is why death awaits all creatures today.
The Departure of Bharata is the story of how the Mistress of the Dance left the world. The Elf tribes had prospered by the magic of the wu dances she had taught them, so much so that they began to settle, build cities, and amass wealth. The noise of their hustling and bustling disturbed the sleep of Maha-Meng, the Great Dreamer, whose dream is the world. So he went to them disguised as a sea otter, and asked why such a powerful people, with all their achievements, must die. The people were disturbed by the question. They blamed Bharata for their mortality, and decided to banish her. Then Bharata contrived to go to each tribe in its own land and offer a golden acorn for the repeal of her banishment. But before her went the sea otter, telling each tribe that they would be offered a treasure, and by refusing they would receive an even greater treasure. So Bharata wandered from tribe to tribe, and not one accepted her gift. Finally, the Mistress of the Dance accepted her banishment and withdrew to the moon to learn the dance of reincarnation. Before she left, she placed a curse on the tribes: they would forever wander as she had wandered. But soon they realized that the curse was also a blessing, for those who wandered in her steps would be liberated from the fear of death.
The high day of Bharatan is the first full moon after the autumn equinox, when the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest and ghosts walk the earth. It is called the Laneera, an ancient name whose meaning is lost to time.
|Primary Deity||Titles and Epithets||Archetypes||Followers|
|Bharata||Lady of the Underworld, Mistress of the Dance, Lady of Mystery, Ancestor of Elf-kind||Moon Goddess, Night Goddess, Underworld Goddess, Ruling Deity||Elves, wanderers, intellectuals|
|Other Revered Deities||Enemy Deities/Religions||High Days||Typical worship acts|
|Atmah the World-serprent, Maha-Meng, consort of Bharata||-||The Laneera (first full moon after autumn equinox||Meditation, dance, song, divination|
|Ethos||Virtues||Cult Skills||Holy Symbol|
|Bend in tune with nature; forego wealth, status, and power; wander where the wind blows; enjoy life and family; overcome death by accepting it||Non-attachment, non-ambition, filial piety, good cheer||Artistic Expression, Dance, Lore(Animal), Lore(Arcane), Lore(Plant), Lore(World), Play Instrument, Sing||Crescent moon from which purple, orange, and green streamers or beads are strung|