The Medarian and Offshoot Religions.

The Medarian religion arose among the Middle Kingdoms about 2300 years ago, among a mostly Sialic, non-noble class. The predominant religion in the Middle Kingdoms was a debased version of the state fertility cult of the Atalantëans. The people of the Middle Kingdoms were a mixture of Atalantëan and Sialic races, with the higher ranks of society comprising those of purer Atalantëan blood (though pure-strain Atalantëans were probably more or less non-existant). The wild festivals typical of the Atalantëans were more restrained, although the characteristic massive blood-sacrifices were still in evidence, and the riotous public copulation was now almost always confined to smaller, semi-private (and therefore socially constrained) circles. This is of course consistant with the rise of an Atalantëan-derived nobility after the disintegration of the Atalantëan Empire, since the Empire itself had no hereditary nobility. Indeed, the cause of the war between the Tyrantium of Ombudu and the principality of Mohomora was the assumption of the noble titles and the establishment of a dynasty in the latter state (aided in no small part by the large number of Sialic tribes that were prepared to swear allegiance to a family after their own traditions).

The Medarian religion was established by the mysterious "Bright One", who claimed, or was claimed by Medaria (his original convert and Oracle), to be the son of the sun. What is certain, is that Medaria, who seems to have been a simple peasant woman, suddenly displayed miraculous or sorcerous powers of the highest levels - sufficient, indeed, to counter those impressive thaumaturgeries wielded by the inheritors of the mighty Atalantëan Empire. In this, she was aided by the "Bright One" for several decades, before he disappeared (it was said that he ascended into heaven, and the morningstar became identified as his dwelling place). The new religion was a direct contrast to that then dominant in the Middle Kingdoms, stressing an omniniscient god and goddess (dwelling in the sun and moon respectively) who judged all by their earthly conduct. The concept of an afterlife in which even the poor could participate had immediate popular appeal, especially as the blood sacrifices demanded by the more rapacious priesthoods fell mostly among the poor. In its rejection of racial prejudice, those of pure Sialic blood had another attraction. The new religion was at first ignored by most authorities, but soon became capable of causing considerable disruption. Despite severe repression, the religion was only forced underground, and in some areas, not even that. The inability of the authorities to supress the religion caused an explosion in the number of its worshippers. The conversion of Gildarma, the skillful warrior-King of Nuparia, who had come to the throne over the body of his brothers, (and who was not previously noted for piety) gave the Medarians their first real power. The destruction of the old Atalantëan-style priesthood was rapid and complete, and the meddling of the priesthood of Ened-Hetet in Nuparia's affairs led to a war that rapidly became a crusade. Within two generations the Nuparians conquered all the Middle Kingdoms, though the lands lost to the proto-Eochail tribes remained outside their power. Gildarma did not survive to see his empire, but Medaria (who must have been well over 100) did, although not by many years. Her daughter, Anahatat (who was supposed to be the offspring of Medaria and the "Bright One"), married Gildarma's son Rhenrekon, and established the line of divine God-kings who ruled the Empire of the Sun until its catastrophic demise.


The tenets of the Medarian faith were simple. They worshipped a Goddess, who both gave forth all that lived, and also judged the living as they passed into the kingdom of death. She was both progenitor and consumer of all life, and passage into the afterlife was through her mouth. Only those judged worthy were reborn into paradise. Her consort was the God who ruled all that was living. He was the one who controlled the forces of nature, and the one to whom prayers were addressed for success in wordly enterprises. In other words, the Goddess ruled the spheres of creation and destruction, but all that was, was the province of the God. It was a feature of the early Medarian religion that the God and Goddess were never named, or depicted, being thought of as beyond the need for solid flesh, but referred to by a variety of euphemisms. (Certain well-informed Dymerian scholars have noted a resemblance to the early Sialic pantheistic religions based around a Sky-father/ Earth-mother and conjectured a route of descent. This is of course considered rankest heresy in Saharn).


However over the ensuing centuries, the religion underwent a number of changes. As the ruler of the life beyond life, the Goddess became the patron of sorcery, and gradually a priesthood (or more accurately, a priestesshood, since tho' both sexes participated, women held most dominant roles) arose, and finally came to hold more and more power. Through all of the centuries the Empire of the Sun existed, the line of Anahatat and Rhenrekon was unbroken, but for the last few generations their descendants were basically puppets in the hands of the vast religious organisation that for all intents and purposes ruled the Empire. The nature of the religion changed too. The God became less and less important in the Medarian religion, being eventually relegated to being the consort of a greater power. One curious fact about the Empire of the Sun is the inertness showed in the expansion of its borders - especially in comparison to the Dymerian Empire, which started its growth about the same time. This is largely due to the rediscovery of the existence of other planes of the Multiverse by the Medarian priest-witches, knowledge which had been lost or hidden since the fall of the Atalantëan Empire. The theocracy became obsessed with these other worlds, to the extent that once again blood sacrifice was offered on the ancient altars of the Atalantëans to supply the energy needed to force the gates of the worlds - although it took generations for things to reach such a pass. The final perversion of the Medarian religion came with the contacting and binding of beings of enormous extra-dimensional power. With their help, the Empire of the Sun rose almost to the level attained in forgotten Thantaya or dimly-recalled Atalantëa. World conquest was within the grasp of the theocracy at this point, but its view-point was so warped by this stage, that the feral nations outside the empire were completely disregarded. The attention of the theocracy had shifted to other things - experiments in potent necromancies not attempted since the Dark Millenium. To this end the beings at first bound to service from other planes became first guides to new knowledge, then masters doling it out, and finally living gods within desecrated temples whose foundations had been laid more than 2000 years before. The ultimate outcome was bloody civil strife between those still adhering to the Medarian religion (in a form, even among these, unrecognisable to its founders) and the Demon-worshippers. And the result of this was the total obliteration of the Empire of the Sun. According to Saharnian legend, the god was so enraged that he cursed the very land and waters, so that wells filled with grit, rivers went dry, and even the clouds rained sand, till the entire Empire disappeared beneath it. A folk tale, popular to this day in Saharn, tells of how the last virtuous man In Old Saharn, capital of the Empire, prayed to the true god from the top of the tallest tower in the city, and in response, it rained sand until the entire city was covered up to his slippers, whereupon he hopped out of the tower and ran away across the desert. The remains of the Empire of the Sun today lie beneath the Great Sandy Waste - the desert which its scattered barbarian inhabitants still call the Kingdom of the Sun.


However, the Medarian religion spawned 2 other religions still extant. The older of the two was founded by "The Seven Sages" - who led a breakaway sect into the barbarian lands of the west. They left, or were forced out, due to their resistance to that section of the priesthood who were actively releasing and dealing with creatures that they considered Demons, and for blaspheming the worship of the Goddess. According to their records, they wandered through the wilderness for 32 years, before finally establishing the city-state of Sade. This generation of wandering, and the final fate of the Empire of the Sun, in those years of struggle when Sade was being built, led to a rapid alteration of their religion. This was further hardened by conflict with the unnatural creatures that escaped from the Empire of the Sun in its latter years, to a doctrine that the Sadites were a pure and chosen people. The society that built Sade was always surrounded by more numerous enemies, and thus prized war-like ability above all. The "Seven Sages" were in fact 4 women and 3 men, and despite this more than usual balance, the religion that emerged from the exodus became female-dominated within a single generation. The Sadite creed, while still adhering to the principle of the twin Goddess and God, blamed the inclusion of men within the Goddess cult for the disaster that befell the Empire of the Sun. Although the devastation was unleashed from the temples of the Goddess, the Hierophant at the time was in fact a man, an unusually gifted sorceror, and even more unusual, one who had been born a foreigner. It was thereafter decreed that only women should be priestesses of the Goddess, and only men priests of the God, though either sex could serve in other capacities. However, the worship of the God was at a low ebb anyway, and his priesthood rapidly became a minor faction within the worship of the Goddess. Ambitious men turned instead to the military, which had a status comparable to the temple among the embattled Sadites. The Priestesshood held the prime place in Sadite society, although the nobility dominated the military, which in turn created and supported a King. Any possibilty of conflict between palace and temple was dampened by their interdependance and the constant threats from the outside. For one other change became wrought into the fabric of Sadite society, that of a total and enduring xenophobia. If the people of Sade were pure, then all else was impure - the dreaded "abomination". The glimpses of other races and other cultures seen across the planes and the fate of the Empire of the Sun added impetus to this. In the end, the Temple controlled the tiniest details of life in an attempt to enforce purity and root out abomination. Difference from the norm was abomination, heresy was abomination, and practice of unsanctioned sorcery was very definately abomination. By arrogating all thaumaturgy to itself, the Temple became very powerful, until this monopoly was broken by a schism in the temple itself, due to those priests and priestesses who served the Cyberian (qv.). Today sorcery is just as constrained, taught only under licence, and only to tortuous, archaic, officially-approved patterns among the servants of the Cyberian and the temples. The worship of the Goddess continues, although her different aspects have almost taken on the separateness of different deities, and the worship of the God is continued as a habit - his temples are small, few and impoverished. The common people, who made up the bulk of his worshippers now save their offerings as gifts for the servants of the Cyberian.


The other offshoot of the Medarian religion has changed even more. The people who fled the wreckage of the Empire of the Sun had little love for the priests and priestesses of the Goddess, and during the years of struggle when they attempted to rebuild their civilisation, temples had little place at all. Where religion was maintained, it was the servants of the God who were most successful - being less powerful than the temples of the Goddess and therefore less able to contract with the powerful beings from the abyss, the temple of the God did not fall as low in the terrible years that climaxed with the great destruction. The fact that some of the priests of the God had even spoken out against uncontrolled contact with other planes gave them further credibility. In time, these priests came to lay the blame for the death of the empire squarely on the neglect of the worship of the God, and it is this tenet that is the central pillar of the modern religion of Saharn. Today the Great God is undisputed ruler of the Saharnian cosmology. The worship of the Goddess, tainted with ancient memories of demon cults is officially described as a horrid deviation, and the fall of Old Saharn as a lesson in loose and licentious acceptance of foreign ways. The Saharnian religion is as orthodox and uncompromising as the culture it rules. The great God is worshipped to be sure, but he must also be propitiated, since in the destruction of the Empire of the Sun he showed that he is a god of stern justice. The solar orb, long associated with the God (as the moon was with the Goddess) is now seen as his burning eye - seeing all that passes below, and judging accordingly. The moon by night is also the eye of the God, but by night it brings retribution, and night is the traditional time that malefactors are brought to justice, and courts are in session. The Saharnian creed is a simple one, that the Great God created the world and everything in it, that in return humans should worship him at the appropriate times -sunrise, sunset and full noon. At death, people are judged on their piety, and either admitted to paradise, or dropped into the pit of flames to burn forever. The God is as capable of sending harm to his worshippers as good - to him, the distinction is of little importance - thus the need to propitiate him, and the strain of fatalism which runs through Saharnian life. This simple religion has now, however, been overlaid by a complex web of customs and laws, mostly dealing with ensuring religious purity and codes of behaviour acceptable to the Great God. Saharnian tolerance for other religions is completely absent. Failure to render the great God his due is tantamount to the worship of false gods, the sin for which the Empire of the Sun was laid low, even though it had been founded by his own son. The issue of an omnipresent, omnipotent being having a son is a thorny one in Saharn. The generally accepted position is that the Great God infused his chosen one, Medaria, with his essence and that the "Bright one" was her son. The "bright one" is said to have established the empire, before ascending into heaven to reunite with the Great God, of whom he was in truth only an extension. Really the temple of the Great God would prefer to forget Medaria altogether. The corruption of the Empire of the Sun is attributed in part to the presence of women in the priesthood. The priesthood of the great God is exclusively and aggressively male, a fair reflection on the state of women in Saharn. The priesthood controls the Empire of New Saharn with a grip of iron. All law is administered by the priests, all sorcery is taught to and by the priests, and the priesthood includes a large quasi-military force which serves as both the police force and the core of the army. All commerce, artistic expression and scholarship is subject to examination of its religious purity by the priests.


There are two major differences from the orthodox position preached, although these are regarded as heresies rather than religions. The first is that there are in fact two deities in the universe, an evil devil-figure as well as the stern but basically benevolent Great god, rather than a neutral god impartially dealing out woe and weal in equal parts. This vision has a number of followers, since the idea of a good god on whom one can rely for help is comforting. In addition it is nice to have an evil figure on which to blame ill luck. The second heresy is similar but holds that the two deities are of equal power, and are locked constantly in a struggle for the universe. The second heresy (Manaiism, after Manai, the supposed name of the evil god) is treated most seriously by the priesthood. Even worse from their point of view is that many Manaiists worship the evil god - performing foul acts in his name in the hope of attracting his aid to gain power and wealth. In the Manaiist cosmos, Manai is the ruler of the fiery pit, and his faithful servants might hope for succour there. Other Manaiists of course, may be devoted to Chosrases (the good god) or attempt to placate both of them. Even the fact of giving deities names is rankest sacrilige to good religious Saharnians, but in the east and south of the country, Manaiism has quite a strong, if covert, following.