THE ORIGINAL ATLANTEAN RELIGIONThe Official Atlantean Religion, whose origins go back into Juralic times was based on a very elaborate and complex series of myths and semi-historical stories about super heroes and their adventures. It was also believed that the "moods" of nature were related to the heroes - one caused storms, another rain, another sunshine, etc. Nature in its various moods had long been prayed to or appeased, especially in certain sacred parts of the countryside. Now these heroes, who became gods, could also be worshipped.
The next stage in the development of the Atlantean Religion, was that each mythical hero became characterised by a particular emotion or sort of behaviour, linked to the related mood of nature. Finally it was felt that these gods could enter into human beings and take them over - leading to the various passions and emotions which beset mankind. It seems that the original belief was that the gods often tried in this way to relive their own lives vicariously in men and women.
The earliest "churches" were sacred, open-air areas, often on top of hills, where humans would congregate to pray to or worship nature and the gods, led, by priests of the religion. These special places remained holy for centuries, long into the time of the First Empire, and many of the early churches were built on these spots. In the days before the First Empire and during its earliest years, certain priests laid down in writing a definite canon of stories and beliefs which were the basis of the true Atlantean Religion, abandoning a host of extraneous myths and stories which were not felt to be relevant or suitable to it. The following lists the chief of these "old" or "nature" gods, as they came to be called. In due course certain of them became very closely linked to aspects of the Atlantean church and state, and were given their own signs and symbols, a selection of which are shown above.
THE OLD GODS
The greatest of these, number one in the Atlantean pantheon, was the (male) South Wind, (Ris), which was also the Air, and represented the Life-Giving Force. (See the drawing above). In early times this was the sign for the Church, and the triangular blue arrowhead was erected as a statue and worshipped. It fell into desuetude after 200, and was generally replaced by the Moon image, number 6.
The second god was the male North Wind, also symbolising Death and Cold, and shown as a triangular black arrowhead pointing downwards on a white or blank background. The third, female god, the East Wind, which also stood for Hatred, was seen as being married to the North Wind, and was a deep blue arrowhead facing to the left.
Number 4 was the South Wind (Naothule), which was also Love, Joy and Marriage. This god was married to the South Wind, and the symbol was used to decorate wedding dresses.
The fifth god, represented by the sun (FolgÔens), standing for wisdom, was adopted by the Emperor as his personal symbol and that of Atlantis in the 270s. The symbol was a yellow sun on a green background - green was the "Imperial" colour of the First Empire. (The Second Empire would adopt yellow or orange, so this sign lost its green background. Later Empires and eras deliberately adopted different colours to represent themselves - these can be seen from the title-pages before each part of this history of Atlantis). This male god married the sixth god, the female Moon (Noura), who represented Magic and Mystery. This was a white crescent moon on a light blue background. It was used by the Church after the early 200s in place of the Sun god, and worn by priests on their ceremonial dress.
The seventh god was Thunder (Graohienix), symbolising War, and shown as two incurving black thunderbolts on a red background. This became the emblem of the Army after 262, and was borne on its banners. The eighth god was the Evening Star (Naohuisuyu Tincu), which stood for Peace. It was used to represent the Atlantean Peace, and after 440 the Empire, and appeared on all official documents, along with the Sun god. It appeared as a white star on a blue background.
There were a few other minor old gods - Volcanoes (Civil War, anger), Sea (god of fishes), Earth (god of animals), Ice (symbolised Envy of Hatred), and Earthquakes (Power and Ambition).
THE NEW GODS
The new gods were mythologically speaking the offspring of the old gods. In many ways they took over from the old gods in Atlantean worship, and were regarded as being closer to humans than their more remote antecedents. These new gods were the following; note that each number is linked with its corresponding old god. Each god had its own symbol.
1. God of Life - the Vital Spirit, and Supreme New god.
2. God of Death - interceded for the dead.
3. God of Venom and Hatred - prayed to for cursing one's enemies.
4a. God of Joy and Happiness.
4b. God of Love - the daughter of 4a. For lovers and married couples.
5. God of Wisdom and Understanding - the god of doctors, scientists and philosophers.
6. God of Magic and the Occult - used by priests.
7. God of Anger - used for cursing one's enemies, especially in wartime.
8. God of Peace - prayed to for lifting the curses and anger of one's enemies.
9. No corresponding new god.
10. Water-god - for childbirth and children.
11. No corresponding new god.
12. No corresponding new god.
13. God of Power and Strength - for success in business and politics.
There were also two extra gods - of Health and Travel.
By 200 a regular priesthood was in existence, which held ceremonies at which the whole population ought to attend, in temples built on propitious sites in the countryside. After about 300, new temples were built more conveniently inside towns, or on their outskirts. Nevertheless the earliest and holiest shrines remained those in the countryside, and these were used for particularly important state ceremonies. Attendance at the main state services was obligatory for all the upper and governing classes throughout the First Empire, and to a lesser extent in the Second Empire, although by then the religious meaning of the ceremonial was not taken seriously by many educated people. In any case, these ceremonies were not particularly frequent, and were linked to important historical or State occasions. Other, smaller ceremonies might be held by priests every few days in local temples, and these would be attended by ordinary people.
The Atlantean word for the priests of the "Official Religion" was"Liclon". This literally comes from the root word "Lill", meaning "White", because the priests who officiated wore white robes. As a result, the Atlantean for the "Official Religion" was "Liclebba", literally the collection or gathering of white-clad people.
Worship officially involved praying to the relevant god to help you. You would encourage the right gods to act within you and around you at certain times (e.g. to grant you peace, or success in war, plenteous harvest, many children, or also to bring disaster to your enemies). These ceremonies could be used by individuals, as well as for the state. It is particularly notable that even when individuals were praying for themselves, they had to avoid using the first person ("I"), speaking instead only in the third person, referring to themselves by their name. The same was true in all written religious language. This was because of the belief that our emotions and desires are completely under the control of the various gods, and hence it was necessary to remain so "neutral" on religious occasions that one had to refer to oneself in the third person. This practice spread to the Court and literature in general later on (see the article further on about the Atlantean language).
At the same time the stories of the heroes and heroines who were the old and new gods were very popular, aside from their religious import, and were later very heavily used and embellished by writers and dramatists.
KINSHIP WITH NATURE
What is also important is to notice how close the State Religionís ceremonies and worship were to nature and the natural world. This feeling of oneness with nature is an underlying thread throughout Atlantean history, and colours the beliefs and way of life of many Atlanteans throughout the whole history of the Empire, irrespective of particular religions or philosophies.
This meant that there were often two conflicting forces at work in Atlantean culture. One was this feeling for nature, for manís basic kinship with the whole of natural creation Ė a holistic view of life, which laid stress on faith, intuition, meditation and natural emotions. This strand lies deep in the State Religion, and more clearly in the religion of Naturism. It can be seen in the desire of all better-off Atlanteans to escape to their estates in the countryside, as was the case with the liberal elite of the Second Empire, and the Squires of the Third Empire. Sometimes, of course, it was overlaid by an equally strong urban and communitarian instinct, as shown by the Populist faith and the ideals of the Republic in the late 500s, and by the ideals of the Fourth Empire after 750.
An opposing force was that which stressed the role of Reason, Science, Individuality and the Self. Reason was important throughout Atlantean history, especially in the Classical period of the 400s, and did not necessarily clash with holistic nature-belief. But the Romanticsí faith in the individual and its need to express its own feelings in action shows this contrary tendency, as does the espousal of the scientific method after 700, and the philosophical "discovery" of the Self and subjectivity by Slerakh and others in the late 700s. The two strands are also visible in the Atlanteansí investigations into and views of the natural world and the universe, and manís place in them. Ultimately a synthesis was achieved by philosophers in the 800s. But the ultimate failure of the Atlanteans to develop their science and technology beyond the approximate equivalent in our society of the mid-nineteenth century is partly attributable to their underlying preference for a more holistic and natural view of society and the world. Their distrust of innovation, experimental science and rampant individualism is evident, too, in many periods of their history (the Second, Third and Fifth Empires particularly), and the role given to the Council of Ethics to ban the exploitation of discoveries, which might harm Atlantean culture and society.
As the First Empire developed, a number of thinkers arose within the fold of the Official Religion, who were dissatisfied with the hotchpotch collection of stories and myths that made up their faith, and wanted to organise it in a more logical and "modern" way. Back in the first century (the exact dates are completely unknown), a priest called Lir-Nahuasse - a figure who may well be mythical -supposedly extrapolated a moral code from the various lives of the gods who we have just enumerated. Certainly the Official Religion possessed this moral/ethical code, somewhat reminiscent of the Ten Commandments, which basically forbad crimes such as murder and theft, and divided the attributes of the gods into two groups, bad (e.g. hatred, anger, lust) and good (friendship, equanimity, marriage). Many others were apparently good in moderation or at certain times, and hence no black and white guidance could be given (e.g. ambition, war). It will be noted that so far as the latter cases are concerned, where areas of moral or ethical conflict are left undefined, the State was quick to take them under its jurisdiction in the third century, as part of its attempt to increase its own boundaries and limit the pretensions of the Church.
Another important early thinker was Tuondo Ramillenel (131 - 208), who standardised the stories and legends of the gods, weeded out "unsuitable" or apparently apocryphal tales, and devised the official numbering and division of the old and new gods. All this was accepted into the canon of the Official Religion. He wrote the standard account of the creation of the universe and the gods, which is given at the end of this book as an appendix, along with a translation and linguistic commentary.
During the third century, however, conflict arose between the priesthood on the one hand, and the State, as well as more radical religious thinkers and philosophers on the other. Most of the third century Emperors, though true believers, were nevertheless consistent in their aim of extending the remit of the State by means of the law, and limiting the role of the clergy to strictly religious and ceremonial functions. Philosophers had a role in this, as will be described below. But there were also heretics within the ranks of the Church itself. In particular Ciblaphu (257 - 299) was a pious but radical priest who sought the real meaning behind the chaotic and often childish confusion of myths and stories which made up the Official Religion. He decided that all the gods were merely different manifestations of a single all-powerful Deity, and thus became an advocate of monotheism, albeit in a rather tentative manner.
This doctrine, which gradually attracted other adherents, chiefly at first amongst philosophers, was bitterly opposed by the established Church, and along with all other heresies and religions was forbidden throughout much of the Third Century. Nevertheless by the Second Empire, such was the effect of free-thinking philosophers, and the greater sophistication of the era, that most of the governing and upper classes accepted monotheism - indeed agnosticism in some cases- and considered the details of Official Religion ceremonies and beliefs as wholly mythical, but needful for the lower or less intelligent classes.
Three religions were founded in this period which in later years were to play a very significant role in Atlantean history. One was Naturism, which was first adumbrated by Gestil (c179 - 239). Gestil lived in the area of the later Th.Thiss province, and was a Yalland. The Yallands' religion was in origin the same as the Atlanteans, but was less formalised, and lacked the full structure of priesthood and Church organisation. It also became infused with the beliefs of the local, indigenous tribes of the area, and in particular, the ancient beliefs of the Manralians, which were theistic in a general sense, without any feeling of a personal deity. Gestil believed and taught simple moral precepts on leading a good life, and how this would lead to happiness in an after-life. He also said that closeness to nature would lead to virtue and attunement to the cosmos as a whole (he was agnostic as regards a deity), and preached a form of reincarnation. This idea seems to have come from the South Numedeans, many of whom lived close to the Yallands, and retained some of the beliefs current during the era of the South Numedean Empire, centuries earlier. In particular, Gestil encouraged the use in his religion of the "eternal I", that is to say, a special form of the verb for speaking of oneself which indicated that one had had many reincarnations in the past. This all fell on fruitful ground in the Yalland areas, and Gestil later became revered as a saint, whose whole life was worthy of emulation. Nevertheless Naturism made little progress in Atlantean areas in this period.
The foundations of State Theism, the official religion of the Third Empire, were also laid at this time by another Yalland, this time from the inner Yall Thiss cities, Lir-Botai (221 - 264). Building on earlier beliefs, including some from the ancient religion of Manralia, Lir-Botai proclaimed a creed which again was much more personal than the Official Religion. He taught that man was basically bad; that there was an eternal cosmic conflict between Good and Evil; that there was only one God; that each individual could open himself to God's goodness, especially in natural surroundings; that there was life after death; and that all current religious structures and beliefs were nonsense. This is in fact Theism, rather than the later State Theism, which resulted from some fundamental changes and additions made much later by Phostin. Essentially he added the political links to the State; a class structure; and an insistence on faith rather than reason. In any case, again, this religion hardly touched Atlanteans till many years later.
Thirdly we should mention the basis of the Second Empire cult of Populism. This religion had its origins in the beliefs of the Phonerians and Marossans. They had a strongly practical bent - the greatest good is the improvement of society as a whole, both in practical and moral and spiritual matters. There was a priesthood, who held considerable secular power and counselled the government, and places for communal ceremonies and worship as well. This faith only really percolated into the main part of the Atlantean Empire after the middle of the 400s. It then underwent various modifications until it emerged as the inspirational, emotional and socialistic popular religion of the lower classes in the middle 500s called Populism. In this guise it became one of the main motivating forces behind the Revolutionaries in the 580s
To read the next part of this history, click on Atlantean religion- 360 - 650