Archaic knowledge. Cosmogonies, cosmologies and naturalia
Anthologica Universe Atlas / Forums / Department of Creativity / Archaic knowledge. Cosmogonies, cosmologies and naturalia

? Izambri Left of the middle
posts: 941
, Duke message
I don't know where to put this, since we have not started a thread about the kind of stuff I'm going to talk about, and it's quite a niche area of worldbuilding... So I start this new thread with a generic title that, I think, can encompass a wider set of topics.

Well, here we go, I created an article about the archaic concept of the world, this is how some of the archaic peoples of Taura viewed the world and tried to explain it. It's basically a brief description of Taura with an attempt at explaining some of its natural features (the horizon, the spherical (not yet discovered) nature of the planet, some atmospheric and astronomical phenomena, etc.) and the Underworld.
    Still a work in progress.

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? Rhetorica Your Writing System Sucks
posts: 1274
, Kelatetía: Dis, Major Belt 1
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I wouldn't say it's all that niche. Concultures, except for the implausibly agnostic, almost necessarily involve a creation myth at one stage or another. I might go so far as to say that there are several real cultures that I know little of aside from their cosmogonies. They're memorable, require no real research to design, and can leave a profound mark on the feel of a culture. It really breaks my heart when someone posts a scratchpad thread to showcase a phonetic inventory and a smattering of grammar (as I've said before), leaving us in the dark about any thoughts regarding an underlying people. And it's particularly offputting considering that the history of conlanging is basically synonymous with the history of amateur efforts to explore the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Gnostic cosmogonies, for example, seem like they might leave a mark on pronouns, or foster verb-like adjectives, or promote a noun class distinction between forms and material entities...

But I digress. I actually do have something to put here.

The Lilitai exist in a region of space which is fragmented—literally, spacetime is chopped up into bubbles, which I generally refer to as branes in the M-theory sense. These branes share a coordinate system, causal chain, and temporal ordering, so it is possible to navigate between them as if they were merely regions of adjacent space, although special equipment is required to do so. Visible light, heavily distorted, can propagate between branes, although attempting to follow it without the necessary technology to cross will result in looping back to your starting point. In topological terms, as on the 3-shell of a 4-torus.

There is strong evidence that the neighborhood of branes in which the Lilitai exist was once part of a small galaxy, and likely came from a universe with a conventional Big Bang. It is unlikely that this change occurred naturally: vehicles jumping between branes have sometimes arrived covered in what appears to be a 2D segment of a high-dimensional mass resembling neuronal dendrites, and occasionally a craft will fail to arrive at all, possibly having collided with a denser section of the same.

It is believed this substance is artificial and related to the indistinguishable-from-magic Thaumatic Manipulator Field network. The TMF can effectively grant godlike powers to a skilled user, provided they can frame their inquiry in terms of quantum physics and have a source of energy available, as the TMF does not violate thermodynamics in the hands of novices. However, not all users of the TMF are well-educated mathematicians. As the network can monitor literally anything, master users have written countless libraries and macros over the span of millions of years, and some species depend on TMF effects they don't even know exist. It is believed the builders and their descendants are all extinct.

So, that aside, some less perfect cosmologies:

The orthodox Lilitai are monist, polytheist gnostics. Like Greeks, they believe deities have a double existence as both the thing they represent and a sentient entity. Like other Greeks, they further believe that the physical universe originates from a Demiurge, and like yet other Greeks they believe the physical world is comprised of essential characters imbued into atoms by that Demiurge; there is no hard line between Platonic forms and Democritic matter.

This Demiurge is the mother-goddess Zeltetéa, She Who Truly Creates, patron deity of artists. The pattern of interlocking branes is supposed to follow the shape of a blossoming lotus flower. Her first daughter and first emanation, Tshayéa, She Who Dreams, populated this universe with stars and planets, but found it lonely. So, Zeltetéa created vanshúai (πνεῦματι, souls, life-breaths.) As the souls emanated into the material realm, bodies spontaneously coalesced around them, and these were the first people, including the favourite people of Zeltetéa and Tshayéa, the Lilitai, also known as the egrekelai, or star-people.

On the first night the Lilitai slept, dozens of other goddesses were dreamt into existence, distilled from the spectrum of needs, emotions, and states of mind that comprises the human soul. These include Neptarléa, She Who Recovers (escort of the recently deceased to the afterlife dreamscape; the opposite of the grim reaper in basically every respect), and Alestéa, She Who Cuts (a war goddess whom I've discussed elsewhere and will be talking about more due to her secessionist cult.) As the new goddesses held congress, their words became the Quills and the Winds, the forces that dictate the predictable procession of life and unpredictable twists of fate, respectively. (Most Lilitic vocabulary about hope, expectation, experience, and destiny consists of metaphors referring back to chronicles and weather phenomena.)

Interestingly, though this is the orthodox view on the origin of the cosmos, it is not the one that the great prophet Sarthía first wrote. For that, we must examine her epic poem Faltúbilis, Ítossífa!, which connects the historical Ksreskézaian hierarchy of emotion-spirits with her pantheon. (Coming soon.)
? Rhetorica Your Writing System Sucks
posts: 1274
, Kelatetía: Dis, Major Belt 1
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Most of the lore surrounding Ksreskézaian mythology has not been passed down to us. Fragments have been preserved in secondary texts, such as descriptions of the Hunt of the Roots pageant, but our primary source remains comparisons and remarks by prominent Lilitu authors, especially Sarthía and early Alestéan separatists like Súlevía Ekñedkh'lesa, Krizna Tsaklonía, and Géa il Kotlat Búterko (Gegloko I of Wanisin.) The window we are afforded by these writers into the ancient Ksreskézaian belief system reveals a very alien worldview, in which the infamously powerful emotions of the Ksreskézai are attributed almost entirely to possessions by opportunistic spirits rather being intrinsic phenomena manifested within the individual. Íntopni deklon apermos, "stranger within the mind," seems to be the alchemical term for these visitations. The Íntopni were thought of as hostile, perpetually trying to exacerbate emotional outbursts and to gorge on the resulting energy, so any feeling, positive or negative, needed to be suppressed, lest the indifferent gluttony of these instinctual beasts lead to poor judgment. Astrologers, alchemists, and other prescientific philosophers of nature made considerable profits by confabulating secrets and discoveries pertaining to them.

Aside from the Íntopni, we know only a handful of things about the ancient Ksreskézaian religion, and basically nothing of their cosmogony. However, even this basic description of the Íntopni is sufficient to examine its legacy: Sarthía's epic.

When the pre-Lilitai awoke on a dead world, the sorrow they felt at the extinction of the Ksreskézai was so powerful that many believed a massacre of the Íntopni had also occurred, leaving behind only a handful of malign emotions: Sorrow, Obsession, Anger, and Cruelty. As part of her initiative to construct a new society, Sarthía knew it would be necessary to extend this pantheon remnant into a fully-rounded cast; completely replacing it would alienate the majority of her audience. So, the story of Faltúbilis recounts a romanticized version of the events of the early years of the Lilitai, showing how each challenge they overcame resulted in the birth of a new goddess, possessed of a personality, identity, and physical manifestation utterly unique to their species. These included Self, Community, Joy, Dreams, Love, Healing, Secrecy, and new forms for the remaining old spirits. The familiar allegorical Quills and Winds were introduced in later writings.

Lilitika continues to use passive constructions for indicating emotions which reflect this underlying history; one never "feels" emotions, but instead is visited by them, burdened with them, embraced by them, and so on. This feature survives in modern Neo-Illeran, but is not found in Standard Thessian Lilitic, or Transitional/Critical Lilitic, and vanished gradually in Wanisini during the anti-Sarthian reforms of Wemnana (ruled 4107–6201 WANPO).

So, what exactly happened with the separatist cult of Alestéa... ? (To be continued.)
? Rhetorica Your Writing System Sucks
posts: 1274
, Kelatetía: Dis, Major Belt 1
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I haven't mentioned it very much here (and the documentation at memory.rhetori.ca is pretty sparse, too) but relatively early on it became apparent that the Lilitai were not destined to last as a unified people. In the early years after the exodus, their culture experienced something of a golden age, not unlike that of many beloved ancient cultures, where personal discretion was the moral core of their character, and ancient social institutions became just another current in an ocean of interacting ideas about how to move forward. After the disastrous first colony on the small, icy world of Illera, the survivors learned that many of the most conservative voices in their society were gone, and the values of Sarthía became almost universal within less than a century.

But the people who were gone had not died. Amidst the chaos of the plague, the fire cult, which had gathered around the demagogue Kona Tuktañga, fled Illera entirely in a stolen shuttle, mere days after their leader passed. Their pilgrimage to a new world would be difficult, but compared to the lifeless mountains and caves of Illera, Wanisin was paradise. It was chilly, swampy, and inhabited almost exclusively by huge swarms of insects, but it was theirs, and they wasted no time in electing an Empress from among their ranks to lead a new order.

Wanisinese Alesteanism (note that accents are not used in Wanisini) follows the basic metaphysics laid out by Kona Tuktañga, better known by the masculinized version of her original name, Kowako. Over the years, empresses and theologians have tinkered with the formula to achieve various political ends, but much is unchanged. It makes reference to the religious concepts and figures of Sarthia, such as the forces of fate and the pantheon, but the primary deity is Alestea, She Who Cuts, reimagined as a fiery war goddess. Other deities are relegated to bit roles or completely ignored; in the Alestean creation myth, Zeta and Chiya failed to create anything more than a static, motionless universe, and it was only when they had given up hope that fire came into being from the nothingness, a screaming light that challenged and defied the empty, still vacuum. This fire, or saga which is similar to early scientific beliefs pertaining to caloric and phlogiston, is identified as both thermal energy and the divine spark, inhabiting mortal, temporary bodies.

This contrast, between the living, spiritual world and the inanimate material world is the basis of Alestean dualism, and is unlike the vanshúai of Sarthia in that the sagi are fragments of Alestea herself, and hence transcendental, rather than merely being the result of the breath of the goddesses. Vanshúai are not freed by the acquisition of enlightenment, as they exist close to the mundane physical world, like minds moreso than souls.

All of this may seem like splitting hairs to a certain extent, but it does serve a greater purpose. The Wanisinese inherited an outlook best described as Nietzschean and Machiavellian, which embraces a highly structured, authoritarian monarchy, celebrates excellence, and punishes deviation. By elevating their concept of a soul, the Wanisinese obtain both a justification for the excellent—that heroes are born with superior sagi—and the possibility of entertaining an afterlife with more structure and meaning than the Lilitic Neptarlekina, which is little different from the Shades in Hades.

Kona was certain that a meaningful afterlife must exist, because she believed it was necessary to motivate good behavior in life. Modern Alesteanists argue for at least three possible outcomes: Alefa (Absolute Darkness) in which the wicked are sent beyond the event horizon of the supermassive Hava Vortex, to wait until the end of time; Kantela (Place of Purity) in which the supremely good revel with Alestea and the other honored dead until they are reborn at the end of time; and Zelgegloko (True War) where great warriors are reincarnated for a lifetime, before proceeding to Kantela, to fight alongside Alestea against the enemies of Wanisin, including Sarthians, atheists, the Hogedep, and the gods of the Hogedep.

Because I've been reading a lot of critical analyses of Dante Alighieri lately, Alefa has five rings, corresponding to the five unerasable crimes:

- Heresy: Questioning doctrine is as bad as preaching unorthodoxy. This may encompass state policies that are secular in nature. Heretics are sent to the realm nearest the edge of the event horizon, left forever within glimpse of the righteous cosmos.

- Cowardice: Desertion, declining a challenge to a duel, or refusing to serve as a scapegoat in the Empress's court. Under certain circumstances inaction can be equally bad; failure to volunteer to serve as scapegoat has at times been equally hazardous. Cowards must share an orbit with Hava's devoured sister sun, Krúkreñlakhla, unable to escape the pain and light of its gaze. (Krúkreñlakhla is a mythological construction; in all likelihood Hava has consumed hundreds of stars.)

- Avarice: Atypical of most definitions, this specifically pertains to putting one's own interest before the greater good of the cult or state. The avaricious are sent directly into the singularity, as they are thought to be the most corrupt.

- Treason: Specifically defined as being an accessory to avarice. These sinners circle closest to the singularity, forever struggling to remain outside of it, and to avoid the same fate as the avaricious.

- Whoredom: Using feminine wiles to a political end. (Promiscuity, prostitution, and lechery are non-issues, except in combination with whoredom.) The Wanisinese have an even more bizarre problem with gender, as nobles are expected to behave and appear masculine, despite the whole species being female. Whores are sent to the emptiest part of the singularity within the Schwartzschild radius, depriving them of all sensation; this mirrors the real punishment, which is generally solitary confinement.

More on Wanisin later, elsewhere.
? Izambri Left of the middle
posts: 941
, Duke, the Findible League
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Well, we can read something more on the cosmogonical and cosmological ideas of the Bredezhanean peoples, this time taken from Pamfènoe, their sacred book. It complements this.
    It's an almost finished article. Some day I'll put the part on Foundations of the Cosmos and Natural knowledge. And I need to find a way to put appendix-like information on the Maires' names in various languages, but that's not really important; perhaps in the Ebony Lodge.