The Onland Campaign V
The Myth of Creation
The starting point for an understanding of Onnic mythology is the theme of good and evil, the age-old problem of so many religions. How can belief in an all-loving, all-powerful God be reconciled with the reality of undeserved suffering in the world; If God is good, perhaps he is not all-powerful. If he is all-powerful, then he cannot be wholly good. The essence of Onnic myth and belief is that God is wholly good. All evil, suffering. misery and death come from an equally powerful force of evil.
According to the Onnic myth, the creator was Ohrmazd, the Wise Lord, later known as Onn. He existed from eternity above in light and goodness. Below in darkness and ignorance lurked the Destructive Spirit, known as Ahriman. Onn created first the heavenly beings and then the universe as a trap in which to ensnare evil. He created the world first in spiritual and then in material form. Onn also created archetypal perfect man and the bull, the source of all animal and plant life.
Ahriman was busy creating his demons and the noxious creatures, such as rats and ants. Ahriman’s only instinct is to destroy, and so as soon as he discovered Onn’s creation he attacked it. He entered the world through the base of the sky. He released his demons on the world and attacked the archetypal man and the primeval bull, inflicting on them death. But when Ahriman and his demons attempted to leave the universe again, they found it locked and were unable to escape. The bull emitted seed, from which grew all animals and goodly plants. From archetypal man’s seed grew a plant whose leaves formed the first human couple.
Ahriman has now been trapped in the world. The battle between the forces of good and evil has begun within the arena of creation and it continues throughout the course of history. In Onnic myth Onn and Ahriman existed in and of each other from eternity. Ahriman is not a secondary or subordinate figure; he is not an angel cast out of heaven. Good and evil are considered contrary forces manifesting themselves in such opposites as light and dark, health and sickness, life and death. All of these contraries must, in Onnic belif be ultimately opposed beings.Thus, Onnians consider Ahriman ultimately responsible for all evil. They find teaching on the absolute sovereignty of Onn, and the necessity for human submission to his inscrutable will, equally repugnant.
The Forces of Good and Evil
The good god Onn is supported by his creations, primarily the heavenly beings. Onnic worshippers believe that `Love is God’. In fact, all of the Onnic heavenly beings are abstract forces, deified and sometimes personified. Onn is comprised by the seven Bounteous Immortals (Avatars) of Good Mind, Righteousness, Devotion, Kingdom, Obedience, Wholeness and Immortality. They are at once aspects of Onn’s nature, aspects in which man can and should share, and divine beings. The Good Mind, for example, greets the righteous soul at death and conducts it to heaven. The seven Avatars stand below Onn in the heavenly hierarchy. Below them are the four divas, the worshipful beings. These are ancient gods associated with nature; earth, air, fire, and water, who have been incorporated into the Onnic faith. Below these are the heavenly servants. The servants are typically abstract gods, Others are mysterious historical figures, like Lano the Prophet, Zurvan and the Little God.
Opposed to the heavenly forces of good are the demonic forces of evil. Corresponding to the Avatars are the arch-demons of Evil Mind, the spirits of Apostasy, Anarchy, Discontent and two rather obscure figures who poison creation. Corresponding to the divas are the major demons, Fury, Lie, Dearth, the Evil Eye and the female Nasu – the demoness of dead matter, who is depicted as a fly. An evil being who figures prominently in the texts is Destruction, with two heads, four arms and eight eyes – the most powerful of demons created for the destruction of Creation. In many religious and secular texts he becomes a wicked king of ancient time, a tyrant who brought terror and suffering on mankind in his thousand-year reign
Corresponding to Onn’s creation of world is the creation of Evil. For everything good there is an evil counterpart. Opposite to the divine fire is the polluting smoke. Opposite to the blessed cat is the rapacious wolf. Opposite to all the beneficent creatures (such as cattle, sheep and horses; all animals which aid man), are the biting, poison, repulsive and noxious creatures such as snakes, scorpions, spiders, lizards and ants.
The whole of existence is consequently seen by Onnians as divided between the forces of good and evil. The purpose of creation is to give expression to goodness and to provide an arena for the conflict with evil which necessarily arises from their opposing natures. `For where there is good, there cannot possibly be evil. Where light is admitted, darkness driven away.’
The Myth of the Renovation
The defeat of evil began with the coming of Good Religion to the world, when it was revealed by the prophet Lano. The conflict ebbs and flows, but gradually, the forces of evil shall be reduced. The final assault of evil will bring about the last great battle. All the natural God-given order will be overthrown. The sun and moon will not give their light. Religious devotion will wane and respect for elders and family ties will disappear. The world will endure a great and terrible winter and the monster Azi Dahak, the greatest of noxious miscreants, will break free from his mountain prison and terrorize the earth.
Then a virgin bathing in a lake will be impregnated by the seed of Lano, preserved there, the final saviour, The Little God, will be reborn. He will raise all the dead and assemble the court for the final judgment. All will pass through a stream of molten lava to prove their righteousness. The wicked will be destroyed, purged of their physical body and extinguished by the heavenly flame. The good, shall shed their mortal skins, but will be purified by the fire and remain on earth in their perfect form. The heavenly and demonic forces will wrestle in combat until all powers of evil are annihilated and Ahriman himself is rendered eternally impotent. The world will be perfected as the mountains are laid low and valleys filled up. Onn will then pass on in sacrifice and from that rite all men will receive the elixir immortality. Heaven will descend to earth and all men will dwell in perfection with Onn forever.
The Nature of the World
In many traditions, the world is considered evil. It imprisons the spiritual soul of man, from which the righteous soul must seek to escape. Although Onnism has a strong dualism of good and evil, it strongly rejects any dualism of spirit and flesh. Onn first created the world in spiritual form. After 3000 years that world was given material form. the Spiritual Form is the primary existence, but because it is invisible and immovable it is not totally real. The Material Form is the physical, tangible, sensate expression of the the Spiritual Form from which it derives.
The physical world, therefore, is by nature one with the ideal world. The ills with which it is afflicted are not due to an inherent weakness but to the assault of Ahriman. In the myth of creation it is said that when the world existed in ideal material form, the sun stood still at the noon-day position and the earth was flat and still. The violence of Ahriman’s onslaught so shook the earth that the sun was dislodged from its station and began to revolve, arising day and night. The shaking also caused mountains to be thrown up and valleys to appear. That is why, in the myth of the renovation, earth quakes are a ‘sign of the end’. They are the tremblings of the earth, comparable to those at the beginning. It is also why the Onnic vision of the renewed earth has the mountains laid low and the valleys raised up, for at the renovation everything will return to its original, ideal form. This is also why it is that heaven and earth will meet. Neither is done way with, but rather the literal `best of both worlds’ realized. Onnians do not refer to `the end of the world’. In Onnism the world is God’s creation and its end would represent triumph of evil. Onnians look for the renovation of existence, the time when evil will finally be eradicated; when the Spiritual Form and the Material Form will blend in perfect harmony, and when Onn, for the first time, will be omnipotent.
The Bridge of Judgment
The true nature of man in Onnic belief is illustrated by the myth of the archetypal man prior to Ahriman’s assault. Archetypal man was created immortal, sinless, happy and without need. Onn was his creator, and to Onn he will return at the renovation, but throughout life he has complete freedom of will, either to follow his nature or to deny it and align himself with evil.
At death man will face an individual judgment. His thoughts, words and deeds in life are weighed in the scales of justice. If his good thoughts, words and deeds outweigh his evil ones, then his soul will be met at the Bridge by a beautiful sweet-smelling maiden, who personifies the soul’s conscience. The maiden will lead the soul across the bridge and at the far side it will be met by the Avatar Good Mind, who will conduct it to heaven. However, if the soul’s evil thoughts words and deeds outweigh its good ones, it is confronted at the bridge by a personification of its conscience in the form of an ugly foul old hag. As the wicked soul tries to cross the bridge it finds that the path becomes as narrow as the edge of a sword and it falls into the abyss of hell.
The punishments in hell are made to fit the crime, the purpose of hell is corrective. Onnians believe that eternal hell is an immoral concept. The purpose of punishment, in their belief, is to reform. So, at the appointed time, everyone will be raised from the dead, and their souls will be returned from heaven or hell to face the second judgment at the renovation of the universe. Man needs two judgments because there are two aspects of his being, the Spiritual Form and the Material Form. When man has been judged and corrected in both aspects, then he can dwell with Onn in the totality of his being. The resurrection of the body is an essential Onnic doctrine, for two reasons: it permits the judgment and correction of the material body, and it reverses Ahriman’s apparent victory over the creation of Onn.
The Nature of Man
As the whole man is judged in body and spirit, so in his life he must hold the two aspects of his being together in harmony. To pursue the life of the spirit at the expense of the body, for example as an ascetic, is to deny the importance of the material creation. This is as sinful as a life of gluttony which neglects the spiritual dimension of existence. The expansion of the Good Creation is the religious duty of the Onnish man. As the myth of creation makes clear, Onn is growth, abundance and life. Ahriman is decay, dearth and death. The holy life for man is that which is dedicated to Onn in purity, in devotion and in productivity. Agriculture and cattle-raising, marriage and procreation are holy pursuits in which man is a fellow-worker with God.
In Onnic thought man is created better than the stars and moon, better even than the sacred fire, and he is called in revelation greater and better than the spiritual creation. According to the myth of creation, Ahriman produced a countercreation to every work of Onn: counter to the Avatars he produced his arch-demons, counter to life he produced death, counter to happiness he produced misery. But he could find nothing to counter man. Man’s humanity is said to be `his salvation and his adornment’.
Man’s exalted theological position does not make him remote from his physical environment in Onnic belief The first human couple are said to have grown from the leaves of a plant – a powerful image for the conviction that man is at one with his natural environment. As the archetypal man and bull lived, suffered and died side by side in the original creation, so men and animals are fellow-creatures in the divinely created world we live in. As animals feed men, clothe and guard them and carry their burdens, so men must protect, care for and feed the beneficent animals. Man and the animals which aid him fight together against the noxious creatures and the miscreants of Ahriman.
The Myth of Zurvan
Thus far, the account of Onnic mythology has been confined to the central orthodox teaching. There were, naturally, a number of ancient interpretations of, or deviations from, this tradition. One of these has been labelled `Zurvanism’, because it focused primarily on the teachings of Zurvan. Zurvanism was evidently popular in pre-imperial times, but none of its texts have survived. Zurvanite theology has, therefore, to be reconstructed from such outside sources as Gnomish-Onnic literature and Dwarven and Elven writers. The resulting account must consequently be tentative. In the ancient myth apparently related that Zurvan, a great God, existed alone. He offered sacrifice for a thousand years because he wanted a son, but after so long doubted the efficacy of his sacrifice. At the moment of doubt he conceived twins within his hermaphrodite self Ahriman was the personification of his doubt, Onn the embodiment of his wisdom. He vowed that he would grant the kingdom to the first-born, whereupon Ahriman leapt forth from his side. Zurvan regretted the vow, but could not avoid implementing it so he granted rulership over the world to Ahriman. To Onn he granted the high priesthood, sovereignty over the spiritual world, and the final victory.
The point behind the Zurvanite myth appears to be a dissatisfaction with the Onnic belief in two independent and opposed forces in life. Zurvanism was concerned to find the Undifferentiated One from which the two, the manifold, arose. This interpretation of Onnic mythology wrought profound changes in belief. The ultimate primacy of Time was linked with astrology, resulting in the idea of pitiless time controlling the world and determining the fate of all men, which denied the fundamental Onnic doctrine of free will.
The belief that Ahriman was the ruler of this world involved a more pessimistic approach to the material world than Lano would have countenanced, but perhaps the greatest change was in the understanding of the godhead. The keynote of Onnic teaching is the overriding conviction that Onn is wholly, absolutely and exclusively good, whereas Zurvan contains within himself the potential for evil. Zurvanites, therefore, considered that good and evil were not polar opposites, and questioned the very basis of the Onnic myth of creation and renovation.
Such interpretations of myth and belief inevitably produced a backlash. The backlash against Zurvan scholarly influence was first expressed in a movement which began in the West. The Theosophical Society was founded in Eversil in 1875, but moved to Blagden in 1930, shortly before the fall of Eversil. Essentially, Theosophists encouraged Onnians not to be misled by Zurvan scholars who, they said, failed to appreciate the occult significance of ancient rites, prayers and myths. The foremost exponent of Theosophical Onnic teaching was Emperor Dastur. He explained the doctrine of the resurrection as really meaning the soul `regaining the former upright status which was lost during the soul’s incarnation in a human body. The myth of the conflict between good and evil he considered an allegory of the soul’s struggle against all sorts of hardships and handicaps.
Although these’ modern interpretations are popular among many Alsacians, they are not the beliefs of the majority of Onnish worshippers. The religion of most Onnians is expressed in ritual. It is from the sacred rites that Onnians generally gain what knowledge they have of the ancient myths. There are two rites in particular which affect all Onnians, and which derive from the ancient myths: initiation and funeral ceremonies.
An Onnic child is initiated between the ages of eight and eleven. Before that, the child is not held to be morally responsible for his (or her) acts, but aft initiation all his cogitations, words and deeds are thought to determine his fate after death. There is nothing remotely resembling infant baptism Onnism. The central theme of the mythology, that all creation has complete freedom of choice between the forces of good and evil, requires that the initiation should not be permitted until the child able to choose to undergo the initiation ceremony for himself.
Initiation is said by Onnians to be joining the army of Onn; the donning of the armour of the religion and the girding with the swordbelt of faith in order to wage war against evil. Few of the details of the myth of creation are explicit in the ceremony, but it involves, and is understood to involve, many of the fundamentals of the ancient teaching. Above all, there is the emphasis on the conflict between the forces of good and evil. That conflict, which in the myth underlies the whole of history is seen in the rite of initiation as underlying the whole of initiate’s future life on earth. Prayers are offered the he may so conduct that war that his good thought words and deeds may win him a place in heaven Although the child knows little of the myth creation and the origin of evil, he has no doubt of the reality of evil, and no doubt that he must fight evil until his dying day.
Towers of Silence
In almost any religion the rites which change least are those associated with death. This is true of Onnism as well. The funeral rites are based on the belief that a corpse represents the victory of evil. It is therefore an object in which demons lurk, a source of physical and spiritual pollution. Because the death of righteous a person is a greater triumph for Ahriman than that of a sinner, the corpse of a holy man is particularly impure.
As soon as death occurs the priest should be summoned, bringing with him a cat. In the ancient myths a cat guards the Bridge of Judgment from demons and the cat’s stare is thought to drive away demons from the corpse. The dead body should be removed on a metal carrier, not on a wooden one which might absorb the pollution. The body is taken right to the burial ground where it is washed and laid out in white on a marble slab (again non-porous). A sacred fire is kept burning in the room, to keep the forces of corruption at bay by its holy light. There the priest and female relatives and friends offer prayers for the soul on its journey to its judgment.
Wherever possible, the funeral should take place on the day of death, to reduce the period when pollution is present to the minimum. The corpse is carried in procession on a metal bier, led by a priest and a cat. The body is set down for the last time before commital, and the face is exposed so that the bereaved may take their earthly leave of the deceased. Then professional corpse-bearers, and they alone, take the corpse into a Tower of Silence where the corruption of death and the power of evil are strong. Men in such close contact with decay cannot take a normal part in society without the most stringent purificatory rites, including one lasts for eleven nights.
In the tower the corpse-bearers strip the body and leave it to vultures to consume the flesh and the sun to bleach the bones. After a few months these are cast into a central pit. During the 30 minutes it is said to the vultures to devour the flesh, the mourners recite payers in a nearby hall. During the following three days while the soul is thought to make its way to the Judgment by the divine scales of justice, the family recite prayers to comfort and aid it. The living are expected to mourn for a period, but only for a period Otherwise, the myth relates, their tears will form a river barrier over which the deceased must struggle. Excessive grief does not help the dead, but harms the health of the living.
Exposing the dead to vultures, or predatory animals, probably dates back to the period between 30,000 and 10,000BE when the ancient tribes were nomads wandering on foot across the steppes in search of fresh pasture, before they settled in what came to be known as Onnland. This ancient practice was given religious authority by the Onnic conviction that death is the work of Ahriman, and therefore the polluting corpse would defile the sacred creations of earth, fire and water if it were buried, cremated or disposed of at sea.
Inevitably, the rites have been rationalized. Towers of Silence are said by Onnians to be more hygienic and less morbid than a graveyard where bodies are left to rot over many years. They are more discreet than the cremation rites of the Elves, where mourners and strangers watch the flames devour the dead publicly. These rationalizations are recent. The basis of the funeral ceremonies is the belief that the pollution of death should not be allowed to corrupt the sanctity of the material creation of Onn, and this is a central theme of the ancient Onnic myths.
A Tower of Silence should preferably be in remote barren places and on a hill-top in order that the living community may be kept away from the pollution of death. Nearby there is always a building where the mourners pray at the funeral and where a sacred fire burns, its light shining on the tower to keep evil forces at bay.
The heavenly forces of good
The Supreme Divinity Ormazd, Onn, The Wise Lord, The Eternal Goodness, The One
The the seven Bounteous Immortals (Avatars) Good Mind (Benevolus) Righteousness (Virtus-iustus) Devotion (Sacropietas) Kingdom (Reginus) Obedience (Obsequia) Wholeness (Hanvod-Rax) Immortality (Astrumatis)
The four divas (worshipful beings) Earth (the farmer; Humus, the earth-heart; Erdanwhr) Air (the breath; Pneum, the wind; Vylan, the sky queen; Aera) Fire (the sublime (Altisonum) fire, the mighty (Gushzba) fire, and the beneficial (Aratoris) fire) Water (the fish; Pisca, the heavenly waters; Pluvia, the deep master; Unda)
The heavenly servants The servants are typically abstract gods, Others are mysterious historical figures, like Lano the Prophet, Zurvan and the Little God.
The demonic forces of evil
The Supreme Divinity Ahriman/the Destructive Spirit/the Dark One
The seven Arch-Demons (Avatars) Evil Mind (Profanus, Magrash) Apostasy (Malus-Apostolus) Anarchy (Incompositus) Discontent (Infortunatus) Impiety (Immunda, Funestomalem) Insanity (Rabidus, Saneimalem) Destruction (Azi-Dahaka)
The five Major Demons Fury (the beast; Rabies, the hateful spirit; Saevio) Lie (the false; Recubos, the deceiver; Exigo, the impostor; Furta) Dearth (the parched; Sitis, lord famine; Pravus- Eiunitas) The Evil Eye (Vomica-Vulticulus) The Female (the demoness of dead matter; Nasu, Naso)
Q:Is a priest expected to proselytize and convert people?
A:The church has set up missions, throughout the heathen areas of Onland to spread the word of Onn, but in general, no. The Onnic faith values free choice. If a person chooses not to follow the faith, it is his loss. He will be the one to suffer in hell during the afterlife. Hell, in the Onnic faith, is not a place of eternal damnation, but rather a place of punishment and correction for souls that have lost their way. With the coming of the final battle, all souls will face a second judgment, so it is not considered to terrible a loss, if a person is found wanting at their first.
Q:Can priests marry?
A: Priests can marry. Monks may not. A priest must ask and receive permission to marry though. Thus the church has control over whom it deems worthy or unworthy.
Q:Is there a Pope or other mortal religious leader?
A: There are several branches of the Onnic faith.
The leader of the main Orthodox branch is the ‘Canon’ (typically the Minister of Artibia). The canon is selected for life by and from the Council of Ministers. This council is comprised of ministers from both the militant and guiding branches, but a member of the militant branch has never been selected as Canon.
The Reformist/Theosophical faith, recognizes a ‘Pontiff’ as their religious leader. He is typically the Cantor of Caillou Du Ley. The new Pontiff is always chosen by the old, though the succession is not always entirely smooth.
The Onnic ‘Zurvanite’ faith recognizes a ‘High-Proselytizer’ as their leader. He is assumed by all Zurvanites to speak the word of Onn. High Proselytizer is a position that comes and goes among the Zurvanites. There currently is no one holding the position. At times in the past, there have been two or even more recognized High Proselytizers at the same time. This has of course leaded to much bloodshed as only one man at a given time can “truly” speak the word of Onn. To become recognized as the High-Proselytizer, one must undergo a trial of worthiness and a test of faith. The nature of these tests is unknown to outsiders, but it is known that failure means death for the would-be high-proselytizer.
Q:Do priests have any special strictures or vows such as poverty, chastity, obedience, silence, tonsuring etc?
A: Procreation is considered to be a holy pursuit, thus priests are encouraged to marry and procreate. They are expected to be chaste until such time as they do so though.
Guiding priests are expected to keep their heads clean shaven, though they may wear beards or goatees. They are expected to wear traditional dress whenever appearing in public- White Vestments and an amulet with the Circle of Onn.
Militant Priests wear Black Tabards with White circles on the shoulders.
Priests should not touch the dead, as dead things are believed to be contaminated by the touch of Ahriman.
Priests are expected to be obedient to higher ranking members of the church. Although ‘miracle-workers’ typically are allowed a great deal of latitude in their affairs.
Monks (Corpse-Bearers) must all take vows of silence, thus silence is observed in all monasteries, even by priests and other visitors. Silence is also required for anyone entering a Tower of Silence (though, this is typically only the monks).
Poverty is required of monks, but not required of priests. Though some priests chose a life of poverty, others are quite wealthy. Miracle-workers, typically fall into one extreme or the other.
Q:What rituals am I expected to perform besides baptisms and funerals? Confessions? Mass? Marriages?
A: There is no baptism ceremony in Onnism. But childbirth is dangerous. 10-20% of the time, the mother doesn’t make it. Thus, guiding priests are usually present during childbirth to offer a prayer for the mother.
Funerals are presided over by priests, typically the prior of the local temple. Funeral services are held as quickly after death as possible, usually the same day as the person died.
There is no concept of confession or the granting of absolution in Onnism, as absolution only comes from the Power of Onn. Powerful miracle workers have been known to grant absolution, but it is not a common occurrence like it is in the Catholic Church. Worshippers do regularly come to priests (especially guiding priests) for advice, comfort, guidance, and etcetera.
A local prior will typically set aside the time between morning services and lunch to meet with people seeking guidance. The afternoon is usually spent away from the temple, visiting parishioners, especially the elderly or others that have difficulty making it to the temple. Evenings are spent in attending to the affairs of running the temple, study, prayer and procreation.
Guiding priests also preside over Weddings, which are usually held in the evening on the Sabbath.
The collection of Tithes is also the demesne of the guiding priests. Typically this is attended to during morning mass, but occasionally, priests will go door to door collecting tithes from those he deems have not been donating their fair share.
Finally, guiding priests of the level of cantor and above are granted the power to separate a parishioner from the faith.
Q:Are wrong or sinful deeds the same as illegal deeds?
A:No, but there is some cross-over. Rape is a crime that is also sinful. Tax evasion is a crime, but not a sin. There are five legal categories; Monarchal Law, Feudal Law, Vendetta Law, Town Law & Canon Law. Of the five, only those crimes that fall under Monarchal, Vendetta and Canon Law are considered sinful (and there are some exceptions).
Sinful acts would include; Rebellion, Regicide, Treason, Abduction, Adultery, Cannibalism, Murder, Obscenity, Rape, Blasphemy, Desecration, Heresy & Witchcraft/Sorcery. Maybe others, but that’s it off the top of my head.
Q:Can I perform field trials for crimes such as blasphemy, heresy and witchcraft?
A:No, such is the purview of the Militant Priests. You can bring charges against someone, though, and would be justified in holding them under arrest until such charges could be heard.
Q:Are any sentient races considered spawn of ahriman besides the obvious demons and undead?
A:Devils, Beholder, Chromatic Dragons, Dopplegangers, Fomorian Giants, Formian, Ghouls, Goblinkind, Grimlock, Hags, Harpys, Illithids, Jinn, Kobalds, Kua-Toa, Orcs, Rakshasa, Sahaugin, Troglodytes, Trolls, Lycanthropes, Worgs, Vampires, Yuan-ti.
Q:Do the other gods worshipped by others exist? If so are they tools of Ahriman or separate?
A;Generally speaking, no, they do not exist. In some instances, parallels can be drawn; for example, the immortal dragons worshipped by the dwarves, coincide reasonably well to Onn and the Seven Bounteous Immortals. Thus, though the Immortal Dragons of the dwarves are not officially recognized as gods, there is an unwritten belief that the Dwarves are a bit misguided, having assigned the physical forms of dragons to Onn and the seven Bounteous Immortals. Similarly, the elven & lizardfolk deities correspond to the Six Divas.