Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Mythology and Religion on the Ilvenworld

All cultures have a mythology, even if they have no religion.  The ilvenworld is no different.  Mythology and religion add depth and colour to any fantasy world, yet is often glossed over or pushed aside in many books.

Of course, fantasy writers need to be cautious; religion can be a deeply divisive issue and there are pitfalls.  Unless they have something to say on the subject, writers need to take care to avoid offence, which will clearly alienate readers.  There is no point in basing your religion on one already established to accuse it of being the root of all evil, or that it is dangerous and eccentric.  You will upset somebody and unnecessarily; remember that a fantasy writer's job is to entertain.

Although the ilvenworld's mythology and religion is introduced below, please note that this does not necessarily represent my religious or philosophical beliefs.

Cosmogony
Scholars on the ilvenworld mostly agree that everything in the universe was originally condensed into one stable egg.  There was no light, movement or time.  The Creator destroyed this stable pre-existence in a huge explosion that created the universe.  Pieces of the egg flew outwards in an ever expanding circle of light and matter, parts of which later coelesced to form the stars and worlds.  At the moment of creation, two equal and opposing forces also came into being: the Benefic and Malefic Sephiroths.

This cosmogony - believed on the ilvenworld to be true - the religion followed by most humans and sylphs is founded.

Religion
The two sephiroths are perfectly balanced.  Neither is stronger, nor holds any inherent advantage, although the balance of power constantly shifts between them.  The Benefic Sephiroth applauds the Creator's action and wishes to preserve it; the Malefic Sephiroth accepts the Creator's action - without it, there would be no Malefic Sephiroth - but wants to amend it to fit its own image.

It is a core belief on the ilvenworld that both sephiroths are involved in creating life and driving evolution, which is why most species display a mix of good and evil.  Scholars have noted some species display a greater affinity towards one or other of the sephiroths; more advanced species, such as humans or sylphs, can choose which sephiroth they wish to serve.

Despite the balance of strength, both sephiroths constantly struggle for supremacy.  Stealth is the key weapon, resulting in continuous swings from one sephiroth to the other.  The universe is governed by neither most of the time, but one sometimes holds an advantage for a little time.  Little is subjective: it could be aeons for humans.  This war will never be won and the universe will never cheer a victor.

This struggle uses humans and other species as surrogate warriors.  Ranked gods do not fight each other directly; benefic and malefic spirits avoid each other where possible.  The exceptions to this rule are the ilven (see below).

Life-bearing worlds rarely see any evidence of this permanent struggle.  Centuries or even millennia of increased or decreased warfare are barely noticed because few civilisations last long enough to see any cycle.  Sentient species evolve out of existence or even wipe themselves out long before the pendulum's swing can be measured.

However, on worlds shared with ilven - benefic or malefic - this battle is very obvious.  Contrary to popular belief, ilven are not pacific creatures and often invade the opposing sephiroth's ilvenworlds.  Benefic and malefic ilven fight over all life-bearing worlds.  Since the creation of the universe, thousands of worlds - including ilvenworlds - have fallen to the warring sephiroths.

Our ilvenworld [the one featured in my books] is a female benefic ilvenworld.  The deity worshipped by most sentient creatures is Siranva.  When humans and sylphs were refugees from a dying world, he allowed them to stay on the ilvenworld, provided his daughters were left in peace.

When they original civilisation collapsed, Siranva was sometimes forgotten, and the malefic sephiroth has been quick to exploit this new weakness.

Although worship is regarded as a private matter by the three main sentient species, humans have a heirarchy of priests and often gather in temples to worship together.

The continuity of the religion on the ilvenworld, as well as its universality, rare on life-bearing worlds, is thanks to the presence of the ilven themselves.  I will deal with ilven in greater depth in the next posting.

Until then, be well all.

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