Thursday, November 2, 2017

Divine Mask Symbolism and Ceremonies

Annifem Lithe Symoblism

Annifem Lithe pretends to be a cohesive system, but it might be better described as a cataloging of various systems with a rough attempt at creating a grand unified theory that underlies them. As such, it necessarily encompasses many systems that have few similarities in symbolism or ceremonies. Thus, one cannot completely describe all possible symbols or ceremonies for Anala. Instead, this documents some of the most common symbols.



The Lithian Language

The word “Ranathim” refers to those who speak the language of God. That is to say, the Ranathim hold their language in high regard! Most texts detailing Annifem Lithe are written in Lithian, and almost all ceremonies are spoken in Lithian. A sure sign one faces a Zathan is that he begins chanting in Lithian as he hurls his psionic powers at you.

One can learn Annifem Lithe without learning Lithian, but so much of the structure of philosophy is buried in the Lithian language that most instructors consider it necessary to learn.

When Lithian is used in Annifem Lithe, it’s practitioners use it repetitively, in mantras spoken over and over again to gain a trance-like state, in which they can better channel the divine.

Masks and Idols

Monkey Spirit Idol Room by parkurtommo
The term Annifem Lithe translates as “the Divine Masks,” and the Ranathim do not mean this metaphorically. Many nachiva channel the power of their chosen archetype directly, entering an avatar state. When they do so, they are said to have “Donned the mask of the divine,” and they usually wear a literal mask bearing the symbolism and imagery of that archetype (as seen by that particular domen, or “cult.”) Some of the most powerful relics that arise from Annifem Lithe are these masks, infused with centuries of worship and contact with Communion.

The practitioners of Annifem Lithe like to manifest their gods in more than just masks. The masks often derive from larger idols, sometimes as small as a statue on can carry in hand, but sometimes huge statues large enough to dominate a vast temple complex. The ruins of such idols can be found sprinkled across the expanse once ruled by the Ranathim. The Ranathim believe these statues act as vessels for their gods and as such, centuries of worship have turned many into powerful relics. (Un)holy sites spring up around them, most often, but some have even reported idols coming alive when their temples come under attack, to destroy the interlopers with their divine wrath.

Most believers in Annifem Lithe will keep at least one such small idol in a niche in their home, so that they may pray to it in times of need.

Communion Symoblism

Anala may argue that Communion is fundamentally unknowable, but the Ranathim have been cataloging what works and what doesn’t for centuries. Annifem Lithe extensively documents Path symbolism, and all forms of Anala make use of that symbolism in one form or another throughout it occult practices or its worship of the divine. Sometimes, that symbolism is obscure, but where they can use it, they do! They’ll even suggest modifications to native religions based on their understanding of the connection between their Gods and those of the natives, allowing them to empower their own ceremonies with Communion imagery, with surprising success!

Oaths and Divine Wrath

While Annifem Lithe encourages all sorts of hedonism and decadence, it does believe in sin, but the nature of sin is particular. Sin is not “doing evil” but violating the will of the divine. Practitioners of Annifem Lithe believe that one can create a pact between god and mortal via a cakhin, or solemn oath.” Each divinity has its own particular laws and oaths that His followers can swear. Those who swear become His chiva or “cultists.” This grants them greater access to His favor and power, but subject them to His divine wrath.

Annifem Lithe doesn’t generally believe in the universal applicability of divine wrath. That is, they do not see the need to “convert people to save them.” Divine wrath only falls upon those who violate their sacred oaths, or who profane the sanctuaries of the divine, or those the divine have sworn to protect.

Stars

Lithe, “divine” and Litha, “star” have very close roots because, at the dawn of their religion, the Ranathim conflated the two. For them, the stars were gods. As a star-faring civilization, this no longer holds true. Nonetheless, the Ranathim enjoy the poetry of finding a star they once worshiped, settling it, and building a temple to that particular God on a planet circling that world.

Annifem Lithe Ceremonies

As with symbolism, Annifem Lithe has too many ceremonies to count, but the following ceremonies represent common ceremonies found throughout Anala that many cults, or even nazathan might practice.

Prayer

Anala argues that the divine do intercede in the lives of others, but only if asked. Thus, many believers and practitioners pray to the divine. To pray, one must first placate the divinity with a posture of humility: going to one’s knees is a minimum, but most will kowtow before an idol (most believers keep a small idol in a niche in their house for this purpose; those who seek to suppress Anala usually start by gathering up all Annifem Lithe idols and destroying them). Then, they repeat a simple prayer over and over again, like a mantra. The preferred mantra and purpose of prayer varies from cult to cult, but the specific practice is remarkable consistent across all cults.

Prayers have no special mechanics, other than the usual +1 for calling upon Communion.

Sacrifice

Sacrifice - Final Step by Groznez
The Ranathim tend to focus their worship most intently on the archetypes of Dark Communion, which means their Gods are as hungry as the Ranathim! Annifem Lithe practitioners often offer sacrifices to show the depth of their commitment. The most common sacrifice is personal: they personally cut themselves to spill blood, usually at least one HP worth. The Ranathim themselves can infuse their blood with their own psionic power, losing a point of energy reserve along with their HP. Some darker cults sacrifice animals or even fellow sapients.

Cults that practice sacrifice often have perks that allow the sacrifice bonus from Thaumatology page 246 to be added to either psionic skill rolls, or Communion rolls.

Swearing an Oath

Those who wish to become chiva or if a zathan wishes to broker a deal with one of the divinities, they swear an oath. This must be done at an appropriate sacred space, before an idol of the archetype, in the presence of other nachiva. The oath-taker kneels before the idol, with the chivaga, or high priestess standing in for the God (often wearing an appropriate mask) and other nachiva surrounding them both, acting as a chorus for the chivaga and witnesses for the oath-taker. The chivaga will ask the oath-taker who she is, why she thinks she is worthy to approach this God, and if she is willing to swear an oath of service to her new God, and the nachiva repeat each question. The oath-taker answers each question; if her answers are satisfactory, she is given the oath, which she must repeat, and then most cults require a blood sacrifice to seal the oath, offered from the oath-takers hand, and accepted by the chivaga. Then the chivaga pronounces the oath made, and the nachiva celebrate (shout, sing, wail, dance, etc).

The Ecstatic Trance

Channeling the Divine is key to the entire exercise of Annifem Lithe. Most Anala worship turns on placing the worshiper in a higher state of consciousness, so that they may experience the divine directly. This is a deep trance, generally gained via body discipline (dance is most common) with some sort of intoxicant and a repetitive mantra to assist achieving the trance state. An example of such a ceremony might be a swirling, wild dance before the idol of the god worshiped while the air fills with some hallucinogenic incense and the dancers constantly repeat the same Lithian words over and over again until they begin to collapse in a state of writhing ecstasy and achieve Dark Communion while the chivaga presides over them.
Mask by Ookalarnik

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