Vianitá or Vianism (sometimes Vian religion) is the indigenous spirituality of Faeland and the Faelish people, synthesized from ancient native beliefs and the influence of settlers over the millenia. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, which establish a connection between present day existence, ancient ancestors, and to some extent the "future" (understood as "the will", not as prognosis). Vian practices were first recorded and codified in the written historical records of the Vhaetalic peoples, of which the earliest extant texts date from the 5th century BCE. Still, these earliest writings do not refer to a unified "Vian religion", but rather to a pluralistic folklore, identity, and methodology.
Vianism today is a term that applies to public shrines suited to various purposes such as memorials, harvest festivals, graves, and historical monuments, as well as various sectarian organizations. Practitioners express their diverse beliefs through a standard language (a strange blend of ancient Vhaetalic, old Faelish, and Latin) and practice, adopting a similar style in dress and ritual, dating from around the time just before and immediately after the arrival of the Romans.
Vians think of themselves as deeply pious, and attribute their success as a people to their collective piety (pietas) in maintaining good relations with the gods and spirits. According to legendary history, most of Faeland's religious institutions can be traced to its negotiations directly with the gods. This ancient religion is the foundation of the "the way of the ancestors" or simply "tradition", viewed as central to Vian identity.
The word Via ("Way") was adopted from Latin, meaning a philosophical path or study (originally from the Latin understanding of the native word csán). God is understood to be an amalgamation of supernatural will, manifested in numen, that are associated with many understood formats; in some cases being human-like, in others being animistic, and others being associated with more abstract "natural" forces in the world (mountains, rivers, lightning, wind, waves, trees, rocks). Numen and people are not separate; they exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity.
There are currently 5.76 million official practitioners of Vianism in Faeland, although a person who practices any manner of Vian rituals may be so counted. The vast majority of Faelish people who take part in Vian rituals also practice other religions, notably Christism (a native Christianity dating from the 19th century) and Roman Catholicism. However, unlike many monotheistic religious practices, Vianism does not require professing faith to be a believer or a practitioner, and as such it is difficult to query for exact figures based on self-identification of belief within Faeland. Due to the syncretic nature of Vianism, most "life" events are handled by Vianism and "death" or "afterlife" events are handled by Christianity— for example, it is typical in Faeland to register or celebrate a birth at a Vian shrine, and funeral arrangements are generally dictated by tradition (some with a Vian, some with a Christian rite)—although the division is not exclusive.
Over time a priesthood developed, which is now a loose organization, often called the Vian Church (not to be confused with Christian churches), and occasionally Vian Orthodoxy. The organization is composed of several self-governing priestly groups, each geographically and spiritually distinct but theologically unified. Each self-governing (or autocephalous) body, often but not always encompassing a group or class, is shepherded by a synod of "bishops" known as flamens whose duty, among other things, is to preserve and teach the ancient and patristic traditions and related practices. The priests trace their lineage back to the ancient Vhaetalic priests and have records which demonstrate this heritage.
It practices what it understands to be the original ancient traditions, believing in growth with limited change. In non-doctrinal matters the religion has occasionally shared from local Çelathi, and later Roman, traditions, among others, in turn shaping the cultural development of these groups in Faeland.
The goal of Vianism is to continually draw nearer to understanding the "universal will". This process is called gnosis by most scholars, but is unrelated to Middle Eastern gnosticism.
There is a vast corpus of literature that might be considered scripture in the Vian religion. Unlike Christianity, however, these texts are often commentary on experience and understanding of divine will, and not sources of moral codes, dogma, or material for proselytizing.
Mosaics can be found adorning the walls of temples, shrines, and often cover the inside of these structures completely, being the preferred artistic medium of the religion. Frescoes sometimes appear as well. Most Vian homes have an area set aside for family prayer, usually an entrance facing wall, often accompanied by a small altar.
Vianism is unique in that it is descended from a theocratic religion of the semi-urban Vhaetalic tribes, which was in turn partially absorbed in the local Roman state religion. With the departure of direct Roman rule and subsequent arrival of Christianity, the religion devolved into a largely folk belief system.
In Vian cosmology, there are multiple telegraphic universes which exist parallel to one another, and between which planes of existence fit, wander, and murk into one another.
It is understood that access to these dimensions is through language, in some cases likened to knowledge or gnosis, but in many ways inaccessible to others. Access to these planes does not exempt one to existence in another world, but allows a degree of "ironic distance" to be maintained, thus "freeing" the spirit, to choose which plane, and with which forms (levels, so to speak) of noumen he will choose to live among. There are thus classes of world, each with a different and more or less indirect expression of kine, or energy. They are distinguished, mostly, by the level of light they are said to "beatify" or emit. Those on more populated worlds tend to see kine transferring as light in only its most primitive forms: such as objects colliding or transmitting kinetic force through one another. The worlds cycle in rings around a core of light, which visually appears treelike: "roots" and "branches" extend like tendrils from the central pillar, but the core is only collective reflected energy, or its opposite, not a wellspring of animus in itself (no such thing exists).
The second oldest -and most complete- version of the creation myth of Vianism is recorded in a ca. 913 CE manuscript. (There is evidence that previous mythological cycles included up to 9 distinct creation myths.) It is a depiction of the events leading up to and including the creation of the Faelish Islands. There are many translations of the story with varying complexity. Since little or no details about the rest of the world's inhabitants are present, it is assumed that this myth has pre-contact origins. The creation myth tells how everything came into existence in the gap between fire and "salt-mist" (taken to mean ocean spray or seaborne rains), and how the gods shaped the homeworld of humans.
- The universe/child-god Tages and the procreative force Vegoia were called by all the myriad stars and asked to help each other to create a new land which was to become Faeland. Set adrift on an ocean planet (Earth), they were shipwrecked and used the remains of their vessel (in some stories, a whale) to fashion a "frame" for the island.
- They used a glass jar (or the whale's skull) with which they gathered "liquid rock" from the sea floor. When it was full they poured it over the frame and lit it on fire. In the ensuing eruption an island was created in the great No-Thing-ness (Ocean). At this point, Tages declared to all the inhabitants of Faeland "You are skilled in Nothing."
- They lived on this island, and created a palace on Lake Athlóa.
The secondary vision of the creation is first attested from lapidary inscriptions of the 2nd millenium BCE. Following the creation of the Faelish Islands, this cycle of stories recalls how the land was shaped, how the gods occupied the world, and the early interactions among the divine and human which led to initial human success as a species.
Beginning in media res, the story describes the descent of gods to the island. They manifested in this world as wanderers; old in appearance, they are in fact ageless and merely clothed in the bodies of old men, who believe the elderly possess wisdom.
It was hoped by those deities remaining in the sea or in the firmament that these wanderers would be able to guide the inhabitants of earth by persuasion and encouragement, not by force or fear. They were forbidden to dominate the free peoples of the islands or to possess powers equal to the gods who remained. Physically they were "real" men, and felt all the urges, pleasures and pains of the flesh and blood. Therefore, in spite of their mission and deliberate task, the wanderers were capable of human feelings. Certain wanderers, for example, felt great affection for the various peoples of the Faelish Isles, in time becoming their national gods or local protectors. They could also feel negative human emotions such as greed, jealousy, and lust for power. Although immortal, their physical bodies could be destroyed by violence. It is implied in the stories that when this happens they return to Earth in another body, meaning the death is only a human death on this particular plane.
Though the gods intervened only rarely in earthly affairs, they sent the wanderers as "emissaries" from the heavens because they had not forsaken man and his destiny. In imposing the prohibition against using force to compel the humans, the gods sought with the wanderers to avoid stealing man's free will. Thus wanderers were meant to use their great wisdom to persuade man to courses of action which would achieve man's own goals, rather than trying to dominate them, hence their power was ultimately restricted.
The first wanderers landed at the Island of the Two Ways Peninsula in the north-center of the Atlantic coast, for the gods felt that the Visenti, remnants of the first humans, had the greatest hope of success among the peoples of the islands. No Fael knew who the wanderers really were; they did not share their identities and purposes widely. Most thought they were wise men or in communion with the spirit world, or animals in human form (animals were believed to be the wisest creatures in the world); the name of the wanderer god Srothua for example, meaning "wise lynx", reflects the belief that he was an animal.
Almost nothing is known of the early history of the wanderers. After the islands were created, the god Vernigthe told his wife Savina, "the lover of things that grow," of man. She replied, "They will crack apart the earth, and the things that grow and live within the soil they will not respect. Every forest will feel the bite of their iron without pity." She appealed to him to protect the trees and plants, and they agreed that humans, too, were part of the Creation. Savina then warned Vernigthe, "Let them beware! For where shall they live without the forests? Whose fate is sealed by lust for possession?"
The wanderers told the story of creation to the first Faels:
After the gods created Faeland, it was still lifeless and had no distinct geographical features. The initial shape of the island was of two cones lit by the Two Pillars, Margt and Xrexr, collected from the mist and fog that veiled the barren ground. The gods concentrated this light and surged it upwards, illuminating the two islands below. To hold the lights aloft, the gods forged two great pillar-like mountains, Mt. Tararat in the west and Chofer in the east. Margt was set upon Tararat, who was said to be her daughter and Xrexr upon Chofer. In the middle, where the light of the lamps mingled, the gods dwelt in the middle of Lake Athlóa.
This period, known as the Spring of the Earth, was a time when the gods had ordered the world as they pleased and resided blissfully upon Center Island, and men had no reason to venture past the Walls of Sea. During this time animals first appeared, and forests started to grow. The Spring was ended when the islands crashed together, collapsing the pillars of light which sank deep into the earth once again.
Faeland was benighted, and the crash had spoiled the perfect symmetry of the two islands. New continents were created: Issip in the West, Öru in the east. At the site of the northern pillar's collapse was the inland Sea of Vhunol. At the site of the southern pillar the light froze, cracked and piled up, becoming the holy Mt. Ryan.
Following this catastrophe, a second wave of gods walked the earth to teach man the techniques to survive in this new world, lit unevenly by day and night, and in harmony with the new creatures (plants and animals) which had grown up in the cataclysm. The wanderers were sent with two missions: to teach men and protect all life. Various stories indicate that the female wanderers (goddesses) began to move farther away from the wanderers because they preferred forests and liked to let things take their natural course, while the male wanderers appeared to settle: to plant and cultivate things. The women-wanderers retreated further away to the regions that would later become the Almuhr Highlands, across the great River Aousafer, although the male wanderers visited them. The males, unlike the females, interacted with the race of men and taught them much about the art of agriculture.
Some myths describe coupling between wanderers and humans. According to the tales male wanderer-female human led to a human offspring, whereas male human-female wanderer could produce something akin to a demigod.
Over time, the female wanderers came to resemble the wild trees that they guarded (pines, poplars, etc.), but the male wanderers guarded agricultural plants, and they resembled the various agricultural plants they guarded. This is reflected in the images of the "gods" of Vianism, which are shown either as humanoid with little or no faces, or as the object which they are the god/guardian.
The male wanderers lived in peace until their farms were destroyed by the wars of men, whereupon the female wanderers themselves vowed never to descend to the lowlands. The males looked for them but never found them. Talking to the trees in the forests, they discovered that the females had taught the trees, always sentient, to speak many centuries ago. But when the world of men looked to overwhelm them, the female wanderers put down roots, and now one cannot tell a tree from a (female) wanderer.
See also: List of Vian deities
- Txaenalei - a principal deity and goddess of language, wisdom, learning, and building
- Tonans - goddess of women/mothers, an Earth mother
- Rhomos - god of stone, generation, mountains, springs/water, seed, considered numen of the Rhomines
- Savina - goddess of nostalgia
- Xåvhril - fate, chance, springs, vegetation, sex/reproduction, cruelty, uncertainty, doubt, cowardice/fear, daughter of chaos
- Osxu - god of discipline and paths
- Xhalina - goddess of courage, wounds and blood, fertility, mother of storms/volcanoes/earthquakes, lust
- Hallith - god of machines, actions, operations, processes
- Vernigthe - god of bands of men
Vianism teaches that everything contains a numen. These spirits are collectively what some might consider "god", in a henotheistic sense.
Numen are a difficult concept to translate as there is no direct similar construct in English. Numen is generally accepted to describe the innate supernatural force that is above the actions of man, the realm of the sacred, and is inclusive of gods, spirit figures, and human ancestors. All mythological creatures of the Faelish cultural tradition, and even of other faiths are considered numen for the purpose of Vian faith.
The numen reside in all things, but certain places are designated for the interface of people and numen (the common world and the sacred): sacred nature, shrines, and temples. There are natural places considered to have an unusually sacred spirit about them, and are objects of worship. They are frequently mountains, trees, unusual rocks, rivers, waterfalls, and other natural edifices. In most cases they are on or near a shrine grounds. The shrine is a building built in which to house the numen, with a separation from the "ordinary" world through sacred space with defined features based on the age and lineage of the shrine. The lararium is a home shrine (placed on a wall in the home) that is a "numen residence" that acts as a substitute for a large shrine on a daily basis. In each case the object of worship is considered a sacred space inside which the numen spirit actually dwells, being treated with the utmost respect and deference.
Within Vianism, there is a highly developed notion of space, borders, and territory, and it is important that these things are revered and understood properly to maintain harmony, especially at these points where our world and the spiritual world connect.
Types of Vianism
To distinguish between the different focuses of emphasis within Vianism, scholars feel it is important to separate Vianism into different types of religious expression. For the most part, these are not theological divides, but forms of practice.
- Temple Vianism - is the most prevalent of the types. It has always been a part of Faeland's history and constitutes the main current of tradition. Temple Vianism is associated in the popular imagination with festivals, good luck charms, making wishes, holding groundbreaking ceremonies, and showing reverence for the numen of of the island. Before the Roman period, temples were disorganized institutions. During Roman times they were usually attached to state temples. This system devolved again during the medieval period. Today the temples are again unified in a loose confederation known as the Association of Faelish Temples; with about 10,000 facilities nationwide.
- Priest Vianism or College Vianism - are the religious rites performed exclusively by the various priestly orders. It is from this class of worshipers that most theology comes about. Also, it is the most abstract form of the expression, with ancient rituals and languages that are considered vital to "national" happiness, but least accessible to the common worshiper. Often, though not necessarily, a college of priests will be attached to a specific temple or place.
- Folk Vianism/Csanimh or Disxhipulina - literally "Old Way" or "training" in the ancient religious tongue, includes the numerous but fragmented folk beliefs in deities and spirits. Practices include divination, spirit possession, and shamanic healing. Some of their practices come from pre-Roman tribes, Catholicism, and the Vian religion itself, but most come from ancient local traditions.
Vianism teaches that certain deeds create a kind of ritual impurity that one should want cleansed for one's own peace of mind and good fortune, not because impurity is wrong in and of itself. It is a very legalistic system, with precise signs and procedures to be interpreted and followed, respectively.
Purification rites are a vital part of Vianism. They are done on a daily, weekly, seasonal, lunar, and annual basis. These rituals are the lifeblood of the practice of Vianism. It is believed that without their strict and precise performance, the stasis with the spirits will be unbalanced. Such ceremonies have also been adapted to modern life. New buildings made in Faeland are frequently blessed by a priest during the groundbreaking ceremony, even vehicles and some other commodities made in Faeland have been blessed as part of the assembly process. Moreover, many Faelish businesses built outside the country have had ceremonies performed by a priest, with occasionally an annual visitation by the priest to re-purify.
Those killed without being shown gratitude for their sacrifice will hold a grudge and become a powerful and evil numen that seeks revenge (vansheen). Additionally, if anyone is injured on the grounds of a shrine or temple, the area affected must be ritually purified.
Historically, in ancient and also modern Vianism's various schools, a shrine –called a łararo- can commonly be found within the home or shop. This shrine is usually a small structure featuring a setup of pictures and/or figurines dedicated to ancestors, a deity or deities that are part of the common pantheon, or to a localized household deity. In some cases the scene is meant to evoke a myth or religious story.
Small household łararo are very common among the Vhallonesians and people from south and southwest Faeland especially, whether they be Vian or another faith or some combination thereof. Usually a small candle or oil lamp and nominal offerings are kept daily by the shrine. For example, writing prayers, wishes, votives, etc on small scrolls of paper as offerings to burn are typical of the Vian adherents along the shores of the Mor Andidh. Vian household shrines must be on a shelf above waist level or must stand directly on the floor. Many people use windowsills as convenient, ready-made shrines for these reasons.
Domestic łararo are also used as a sacred, protective depository for commonplace symbols of personal change and continuity.
In households of means, small statuettes are set into purpose-built wall-niches, sometimes tiled but often with at least a painted background. The placing of łararo in the public or semi-public parts of a house, such as its living room, engages the gods in the more outward, theatrical functions of the household religion. The most common placement, however, is in the kitchen or over fireplaces.