So without further ado --
The Cult of the Remembered Dead
Spolite Cult Keyword
Note! This is a fan contribution and a work in progress. The information WILL be contradicted by official material.
"Death is a certainty: yet with dedication and the correct rites, even death can be mitigated."
The inhabitants of Spol have long suffered under oppressors - both Carmanian and Dara Happan. Among the Spolite folk many cults have flourished, and many strange beliefs have come to be accepted as part of the Spolite Way, and many are defined in opposition to the beliefs of the conquerors who have swept threough the nation. the national obsession with Death and Darkness reflects the grim heritage of a people who have suffered, and the bloody mutilations and sacrifices of the Temples of Gerra evoke fear and disgust in outsiders, just as the Spolite Darkness Witches are considered accursed by many in other lands. Spolite religion contains many beliefs and practices, yet one of the most curious is among the most little known. The Cult of the Remembered Dead arose in reaction not to foreign oppression, but rather in response to a set of philosophical questions about death, the individual, and their role in the Cosmos. While officially tolerated, their ideas are one of those rare things, a heresy even against the inclusivesness of Lunar religion, and while they are accepted by the Lunars, their beliefs are an attempt to "cheat the Cosmos", and a denial, or attempt to deny, that "We are all One". It is a sinister, macabre death cult, but with a very specific purpose, which defies the very laws of the cosmos.
The problem of the One and the Many, or the relationship of the individual to Society and to the Cosmos is a pernnial issue in philosophy, and one that has certainly absorbed many sages of the Lunar, Dara Happan and Carmanian ways. Like the question "What happens when we die?" these issues have long since been thought through by scholars and mystics, and explored by philosophers and heroquesters. To understand the Cult of the Remebered Dead, one must first understand how the individual atman (soul/spirit/essence) fares after death. In most religions, the atman is judged, enters an afterlife appropraite to their deeds, and then loses its individuality: it becomes part of the "ancestors", forgetting it's tales of woe and joy, all the things that made it distinctive in life. Eventually it returns to Earth, there to reincarnate and live again, previous lives forgotten. There are of course exceptions - some lunars have managed to recall previous lives, just as some Heroes never return, but live on in the afterlife as immortals. The majority of atman however return, and live in an endless cycle of life, afterlife, and rebirth. They are not wicked enough for eternal destruction, nor heroic enough for immortality, and their lives are forgotten while the atman endures.
The Cult of the Remembered Dead arose from Spolites who saw another way. Heroes after all manage to rise above this cycle, and by worship they create a cult which endures, and persist, having created for themselves a place in the Other Worlds. DerNatalla was a Spolite kitchen maid who spent many years puzzling over the issues of life after death, while passionately embracing life and the Three Foreign Lovers, each of whom brought her a new insight. She found such joy in life she was unwilling to relinquish it - as she asked her disciples, "if the memory of this life fades, yet my atman endures, how is that atman DerNatalla?". This was the First Question. Her reply was that it was not: that which made her her was her memory of past events, and the continous story of her life. She therefore resolved never to lose that knowledge of Self: rather than surrender to the void, to fight to persist, and maintain her identity even in the afterlife. Such an achievement would require a huge effort, as it defied the usual rules of energy exchange between the worlds. Yet Spolite religion seemed to offer one possibility - the Cult of JagaNatha - the Goddess of Balance. JagaNatha uses her powers to bring life or death, light or darkness, good or evil, into the world as necessary. Banished eons ago, returned to take a throne among the gods on Mount Jernotius. JagaNatha largely receives propitiatory sacrifice in Spolite culture - DerNatalla however realised a HeroQuest to establish her path would be confronted by, and possibly defeated by this Goddess. She therefore joined the cult, and served as a Fate Priestess in a humble shrine by the wood shed in the yard behind her master house. TinRan the cobbler was her only convert, and for seven years he listened to her philosophize. The odd couple sought no magics, and accepted the ways of fate and the balance, meeting whatever life brought with equanimity and a strange joy. Even when the Three Foreign Lovers rejected and mocked her, DerNatalla just shrugged.
Then arose the second question: "if I live in a body, and my atman is seperated from my body, how can I still be me?" My body has flaws, yet it is still me. When I leave it, it still is: the Foreign Lovers experienced the body, not the atman. So DerNatalla said that the body must be preserved, and she set her mind to funereal rites. As a kitchen maid she knew much of preserving meat through Dark Season and Storm season, and her knowledge of salt, herbs and preservatives came to mind. She wrote the great "Recipe for the Enduring Flesh", and instructed TinRan in it's secrets. Her common magic used in the larder was turned to a bizarre use: preserving human corpses! No worm would taste her flesh. She would endure, and survive...
As she grew old she realised that her life was drawing to an end. All things must dies, and the third question arose. "When I am gone, and my identity lost, yet there may be those who weep for me?". TinRan assurerd her it was so, and with a small group of death fearers she saw her path - the tears shed for her by the living would allow her to live on. And so she took her savings, and the wealth offered by her friends, and prepared a great tomb, of black stone carved with strange symbols, and then she lay upon her bier, and as her friends mourned she prepared to die - and as death approached, went on her great HeroQuest. The secrets of her HeeroQuest are greatly guarded, but her life had been a preparation for this moment, and she knew the secret words to defeat the psychopompic guardians. She journed for seven days through the lands of death, and none could bind her. Finally she came to JagaNatha, the Godess of the Balance, and was told that such things could not be, and that she must die, or return, for she was not a hero, and immortlity was not so lightly given. And then she spoke the Three Truths of Death, and how the one could prevail over the many, and she passed beyond JagaNatha, who stood aside. Yet some say even in this JagaNatha simply maintained the balance: the many may be forgotten, but some must endure, and where there is union, there must remain the individual. Only TinRan, and her initiated devotees, understand that mystery.
The Cult of the Remebered Dead is a peculiar Spolite practice who claim that it is possible to live on beyond death in perpetuity, and by preserving the body and tomb, that the Chosen Dead may return from the other side to talk with and advise the living. Their knowledge is limited to what they knew in life, and they often show great bitterness against the living, if the sacrifices and rites of mourning are not observed, for if there personal cult worship is disrupted they are lost forever, as surely as an atheist is. While born out of the worship of JagaNatha the Cult of the Remembered Dead worships the demigodess DerNatalla, and the individual ancestor whose memory is honoured to preserve their existence in death as a distinct individual. Constant care of the corpses to preserve them as far as possible against decay, sacrifices and daily chanting of funereal rites and names of the dead are an essential part of this Cult, whose dead are usuaully buried in elaborate crypts beneath the family home, or within great necropolis within the city walls. Many lie interred in the Catacombs of Zern, though those of other Spolite faiths can be found there as well.
The High Holy Day of the Cult is in Dark Season, and on that day the cadavers of the dead devotees rise and walk mindlessly through the streets to the shrines of DerNatalla, where they are honoured and their relatives tell their stories and burn incences, before painting them in bright herbal coats of magical preservatives, and garland them with the black flower known as the egronyma, whose petals are a deadly poison if properly prepared. They then return to their tombs for private devotions and the whispering of secrets from the past, as their ghosts appear to talk with their worshippers and demand appropriate sacrifices. In exchange they gain two specific unaffiliated affinities which reflect their interests and personality in life, and the thing for which they are most remembered. These are highly specific to each of the loved dead. Initiates are often also paraded through the streets in their coffins.
Curiously the funerals of the cult are usually very loud, joyful and public events, with food and drink distributed to all who attend, and a great celebration of the lives of the deceased, and their continuation on the other side. Such events actually serves as a community support for the deads journey past the guardians towards the Refuge on the other side, so can be hazardous to all participants.
The Refuge of the Loved Dead, in the Underworld hold the spirits of the cults dead. There they feast on the sacrifices offered to them, and drink of the tears of those who mourn and remember them.
DerNatalla, She Who Defied Rebirth
Entry Requirements: The worshipper must reject all other gods and magic, and have afith only in themselves and their ability to stand against nature and the ways of the cosmos.
Abilities: Sing Lament, Preserve Corpse, Herbalism, Mourn [Individual], Philosophy of DerNatalla, Worship [Individual], Vocal Grief, Call on Ghosts.
Virtues: Mournful, Exuberant, Macabre, Patriotic, Headstrong
Affinities and Feats
Secret: the Secret of DerNatalla is the ability to persist even in the afterlife, and grant magic ot mourners. Few achieve this, many try. Aplayer character who joined this grim cult might remisn with their colleagues of their coffin was carried in a cortege, bearing their carefully preserved body.
May 5th 2007
Powered by hypermail