Wiaraja is a unique faith in Aloria, with a robust mythology full of details and stories told from generation to generation of faithful Wiaraites, with few to little changes. This standardization is almost unbelievable until one considers how isolated this faith has been from outside influences, and how the Zvorun put such an emphasis on tradition. Many outsiders see it as warped Estel worship, or some offshoot of Oldt Fayth, but the truth is likely deeper than that. Sadly, the origins of this faith are lost to time, just like the early history of the Zvorun. Still, the faith remains strong in their homeland of Zvoria, even if it cannot and has not grown a following anywhere else in all of Aloria.
The beliefs of Wiaraja are shrouded in mystery as to their origin. All that is certain is that the beliefs are likely as old as the Zvorun themselves, and their own origins are also mysterious. There is also little sign of religious developments in their society, suggesting that either from the outset they crafted a robust and complex belief, or that if any such developments were made, no records remain to show them, nor are any alive today to testify to them in this day and age. What can be ascertained is that unlike other faiths, which are often open to outsiders, Wiaraja is not, and initiates must go through several trials to ensure their devotion. As a result, the faith has remained small and exclusively within Zvoria, unable to expand out to wider Aloria. This is likely to remain the case for some time, given the antagonism the region routinely suffers at the hands of Greater Calemberg.
Wiaraja has a set of unique beliefs that in the eyes of many rest somewhere between the Faith of Estel, the Old Faiths, and Ceardian paganism. At the core of their Religion is the Tree of Eternity, which sprouted from the darkness of Kres, a nothingness now existing at the furthest depths of the Tree of Eternity. As it grew, so too did worlds and great beings who were born upon flowers that bloomed into existence. These elder gods are known as the Goraviriesi, and their dominance of the worlds which bloomed and rested within the branches of Wiaraja was not only long, but cold. They were not evil gods, but they cared little for the smaller things that lived within the tree, nor for the early life that emerged within the bloomed worlds, but then came the rebirth. Like all trees, the Tree of Eternity soon began to lose its leaves and ultimately, the worlds all died. But then came rebirth, and the Eternal Cycle began. Over the coming eons of time, the Tree of Eternity would bloom new life, thrive, begin to wither, and then die, only to be reborn and grow even larger every time. It was when the Eternal Cycle began that the Duzyviriesi emerged, new gods, shorter and less wild than the Goraviriesi. Additionally, it was this new group of gods who came to care for mortal lives, for plants, animals, and various Races who fell under their guidance. As a result, this caused frequent wars between the gods, but they always found peace and returned to normal for the sake of the Tree of Eternity, which they all play a role in helping tend to and mind. As for the role that Ailor play in this grand story, it is said that they were found in deep forests by Žvoronna, the goddess of the hunt, when she scouted for the gods to explore a new blossom on the Tree of Eternity. Žvoronna pitied the Ailor, crude and lacking refinement, and so she worked to uplift them to the status of other Races that had existed in the blossom worlds. Thus, the Duzyviriesi each gave the Ailor a gift, and when that was insufficient, the Goraviriesi were coerced into giving their own. In thanks, these Ailor named themselves for the goddess who had found them, and many returned to their blossom world, promising to forever remember her and her kind. Said blossom emerged in the most recent Eternal Cycle, and represents the current world that is Aloria in the eyes of the Zvorun, though they call it “Światesta”.
Wiaraja also has the concept of multiple worlds and Races that populate them. The Zvorun consider Światesta to be special, as one of the most developed and unique worlds in the Tree of Eternity thanks to the gifts that the gods gave to the Ailor Race. As a result though, several Races from other worlds grew jealous, and some of them snuck into Światesta, serving as an explanation for the various other Races in Aloria (though the Zvorun refer to the Elves as a collective single Race and not the unique varieties known today). However, there are other Races that also exist which are not in Światesta, known as the “Elder Races” since they are some of the oldest of the Tree of Eternity. There are the Kentauras, a Race with the lower bodies of horses and the upper bodies of humanoids with a fierce disposition. Then, the Juo-Paukšt, a species of flying birdmen with black feathers. Finally, there are the Angiskariai, a reptilian group similar to the Allar and Slizzar. Many of these Elder Races are joined by various spirits and mythical creatures who inhabit the Tree of Eternity, from the fairy-like Šilšvi to the insectoid Daugżo. All of these creatures and characters play a role in the Eternal Cycle, feeding on the tree, healing the tree, helping to grow the tree, and pruning the tree. When there is a war between the gods, most do not choose sides and instead carry out their tasks while the gods properly fight it out. However, the Elder Races are often swayed to one side or another by the manipulation of the gods.
With all of this as mythological background, the actual beliefs of Wiaraja are remarkably clear and simple. Their religion is organized, with an individual known as the Wiaracilvek in charge, who is generally a man in his older years, and one elected by a majority vote of the Council of Elders after the previous one has died. His role was once more ceremonial, but over the years he has gradually evolved into his current role as a master of the religion’s stories and practices out of necessity to keep the traditions of the faith alive. He is also the only person who can authorize the writing of religious texts, which he once did personally, but over the years, a small cabal of young scribes have also come into existence to help him. His other duty is that he helps to oversee the Strzecticiba, who are quasi guard-priests responsible with keeping the Wiaracilvek alive, and also enforcing his will, supporting his ideas with their own theological knowledge. They number about 100 at any given time, are selected from Zvoria’s most pious soldiers by the Wiaracilvek, and also represent the majority of the various village groups across the Lordship.
- The Goraviriesi:
- The Goraviriesi are the elder gods of the Wiaraja faith. They are routinely characterized as rougher, wilder, and more ferocious than the gods that came later, the Duzyviriesi. Both sexes appear big-boned, with large amounts of hair though for female Duzyviriesi, this takes the form of huge manes of thick dark heads of hair rather than excessive body hair. For males, it is often a wild and expansive beard, dark, but streaked with grey, if not entirely greyed (depending on the time period of the story being told). They also wield cruder, more natural weapons, such as clubs formed from the twisting roots of the Tree of Eternity. They number nine in total, and are described below.
- Jūlijs, male god of order and prosperity, and often prayed to and honored at times of harvest or to help individuals make good decisions. He is considered the eldest of the Goraviriesi, with a fearsome appearance of thick grey hair and huge masses of broad muscle. He is wed to Gimdyziny.
- Gimdyziny, goddess of mothers, pregnancy, and good health, often prayed to for the safety of mothers in childbirth and for the health of infants. She is the second oldest god, and often appears quite similar to her husband, with her grey hair in braids long enough to brush the floor. She is wed to Jūlijs.
- Vandenyn, male god of oceans, often prayed to for safety for those abroad in distant lands. He is best known for having two faces and being able to rotate his head to switch between the two to represent his two natures. He is also one of the least involved in the mythological struggles between the different gods. He is married to Žiemė.
- Žiemė, goddess of earth and stone, often prayed to to prevent landslides and with the hope that crops will grow properly. She is often seen to possess stony hands and feet, making her one of the best climbers of the Tree of Eternity, but also a formidable fighter as a result. She is married to Vandenyn.
- Paneibo, god of the sky, heavens and starlight, often prayed to for appeasement during celestial events where he is perceived to be stopping the functions of the sky. He once juggled the sun and the moon to the enjoyment of the older gods, before the Duzyviriesi twins Rożek and Rajan stole them away. Now, he is only left in charge of the sky and the stars, which are believed to be members of all the Races, old and new, which he has placed into the heavens. He is married to Vėiatr.
- Vėiatr, goddess of wind, often prayed to help calm her brother Vandenyn when his face is twisted into his visage of rage, essentially asking her to help calm waters and protect sailors everywhere. She is one of the most dangerous Goraviriesi due to being one of the few able of swaying her brother, but also because her powerful winds can blast the Duzyviriesi away in battle. She is wed to Paneibo.
- Szałtas, former god of plantlife, current god of the blind and the mad, often prayed to for help in caring for the blind, mad, and generally all disabled people. In the first war between the two species of gods, the Goraviriesi sent Szałtas in alone thinking that the task of defeating the Duzyviriesi would be easy. Instead, these new gods blinded him, and Głosas drove him mad with one blast from his Lugaka. Szałtas then fell from the Tree of Eternity, into its deep and stretching roots. He emerges from the roots every few hundred years, is cared for often dually by both sets of gods, before he snaps and rushes off into the roots once again.
- Mēness, goddess of word, speech, sound, diplomacy, often prayed to for success in deal-making and music making. She was the last born of the Goraviriesi, and is the most civilized of them all, teaching all the others how to speak and communicate. She was married to Szałtas, but after his madness they are no longer considered wed.
- Śmiertis, genderless diety of death, trickery, and shadows, often prayed to for success in betrayal, trechery, or deadly acts. This creature is said to not have been born with the Goraviriesi, but rather formed after the beginning of the Eternal Cycle. This creature is often characterized as a grey horse or black serpent, and has been the catalyst for several of the wars between the two sets of gods. However, the gods have also united several times to descend into the roots of the Tree of Eternity to enter the Kres, it's dark realm at the very edges of those same roots. It cannot be killed, though it has been trapped several times and forced to endure punishment or pain as a result.
- The Duzyviriesi:
- The Duzyviriesi are the younger gods of the Wiaraja faith. They are routinely characterized as far more beautiful and civilized than the Goraviriesi, with their chief distinguishing feature being the possession of wings. While the elder gods need to climb the Tree of Eternity with their hands and feet, a task they are quite skilled at, the Duzyviriesi can flit around with ease on a pair of wings attached to their backs. They are also physically smaller than the Goraviriesi, often described as being only a third as tall, even for their tallest members. They wield more refined weapons, benefitting from contact to the upper, more complex blossom worlds of the Tree of Eternity in comparison to the Goraviriesi and the primal, old worlds within easiest reach of their climbing abilities.
- Hukaudra, god of storms, lightning, and war, often prayed to for strength in fighting but also to help prevent destruction from rain and thunderstorms. He was the first Duzyviriesi to bloom, and emerged as their leader in the war against the Goraviriesi that followed. He has white, broad wings and is married to Miłość.
- Miłość, goddess of love, romance, and pleasure, often prayed to for success in romantic endeavors and for a strong marriage. She was one of the last Duzyviriesi to emerge, but is universally accepted as the most beautiful. She had been abducted by the Goraviriesi several times, but has always been saved before her beauty was marred. She has white, fluffy wings and is wed to Hukaudra, though for several Eternal Cycles she was married to no one.
- Džiaugs, god of joy, happiness, festivals, and drink, often prayed to to stave off drunkenness, but also for success in hosting large events. He is the least warrior-like of the Duzyviriesi and exists to help them celebrate their victories and the ending of their wars with peace. He has grand red wings and is wed to Zaliony, who helps him to make his spirits, but he also has a “companion” in the form of Głosas. His relationship with this fellow god is never outright spelled out, but the impliction in many myths is that it is a homosexual one.
- Zaliony, goddess of plantlife, crops, and oddly enough, the law, meaning that she is often prayed to by both humble farmers and Zvorun nobility for success in their activities. Her role as lawkeeper comes from her participation during the first war of the gods. After Szałtas fell, and the wider war ended, Zaliony as the one who had pushed him last was entrusted with his former responsibilities, but also it was she who set up the rules for combat going forward, wanting to avoid a future situation like Szałtas. She has sleek blue wings and is married to Džiaugs.
- Głosas, god of music and herding, often prayed to for keen eyesight, success in musical endeavors, and out of hope that one’s music will terrify or madden an enemy. It was Głosas who brought music to the world after an early, one-off meeting with Mēness when the two sets of gods were just beginning to become aware of each other. He was also the one who drove Szałtas mad with the music from his Lugaka. He has the smallest wings of any god, and they are a light blue color. He is not wed to anyone, but due to his frequent appearance at Džiaugs’ parties and based on other hints in mythology, their relationship is implied to be homosexual.
- Rożek, goddess of the moon and Rajan, god of the sun, often prayed to for luck for twins and for success in escaping the clutches of Paneibo during celestial phenomena. They stole the sun and moon away from him, causing another war as a result. In the end, they were granted control over them much to that elder god’s annoyance. They both have narrow orange and black-colored wings, the patterning of which is reversed on each. They are married to no one, though Rajan was often an paramore of Miłość before she married Hukaudra.
- Paržvirinti, god of healing, magic, and knowledge, often prayed to for success in alchemy, the use of Magic, and for success in writing or in understanding written content. He was a major combatant of the earlier wars between the gods, but then his legs were crushed by Jūlij's club. The weapon was poisoned with aid from Śmiertis, and so while Paržvirinti had wings, he could not walk among the gods and feel the earth again. Thus, he turned to the study of magic and science to save him. To help him walk, the Duzyviriesi united their powers together and formed for him legs of plant matter and metal powered by energy from Hukaudra’s lightning. Ever since then, he had worked tirelessly, scouring the knowledge of all the worlds and travelling through each personally, seeking a way to restore himself to proper wholeness. He had tired black wings, and sometimes allows his heart and search to be softened by Žvoronna.
- Žvoronna, goddess of hunting, archery, and wild animals, often prayed to exclusively in thanks for helping uplift the Zvorun and giving them all of their gifts. Her marksmanship is such that she never misses a target (except once, when she was tricked and humbled by Vėiatr). She has brown, silent wings and has an on and off relationship with Paržvirinti.
- The Tkacze, goddesses of fate, destiny, prophecy, weaving, and surgery, often prayed to for luck, good fates for people, success when weaving, but also success when performing surgery on the human body. The Tkacze are the strangest out of all the Duzyviriesi, a collective of three sisters named Au, Dė, and Jai all born from the same blossom. They are also the only young gods to appear old, even older than the Goraviries, with wrinkles and missing teeth. It was they who helped the gods to weave the magical fabric of Paržvirinti’s legs, as they are the “weavers of flesh”. They know the makeup of all the characteristics of every Race, for they have weaved their fates into the “fabric” of the Tree of Eternity, hence why they are also revered for help in surgery. They have smooth grey wings, and ignore all of the other gods, uninvolved in conflict in the wake of the first war between the two groups of gods, where they did play a brief combat role.
- The Tree of Eternity:
- Pretty much the core feature of Wiaraja, the Tree of Eternity is a vast and cosmic force in their mythology. It is the connector of all life in the universe, and has spread out massively over the 17 Eternal Cycles it has undergone. Each time a Cycle is complete, the Tree grows five new branches, while the old ones which blossomed into existence in its cradling grasp remain where they are, but are “dead”. They don’t cease existing, but they become memories rather than real places, with events that are unchangeable and only observable by the gods and creatures that reside in the Tree. As a result, when each Cycle occurs, the old worlds have populations who flee into the protection of the gods, where they can then survive and live in the wider ecosystem of the tree. Should a new world have no Races within it, they can then go and populate these worlds if they so choose to. Additionally, over the past few Cycles, the worlds being made have become increasingly complex and beautiful. At the base of the tree, in the original five branches, worlds of only ice and snow, sand and wastes, water and swamps, earth and mountains, and sky and clouds exist, long dead but considered the base elements from which all other worlds are formed from.
To the surprise of many, the faith doesn’t have a proper priesthood, but instead has stories, traditions and practices so ingrained into Zvorun society that any man or woman may lead ceremonies very well. These vary widely based on the time of year, the year itself, as well as the particular region that the festivity takes place in.
- Amžina Świeatła:
- The most significant religious practice in Wiaraja is the creation and upkeep of Amžina Świeatła which are located near the simple stout wood and stone temples of the Zvorun. Roughly translatable as “Eternal Light”, it is thought that these small cairns with a flame on top represents the life force of the world, and will serve as a signal for when the Eternal Cycle will happen. However, they are not “eternally” lit as outsiders derisively snort at, instead only being lit once a month as a quick check by the population to see if the Eternal Cycle is repeating itself soon. At these cairn lightings, the faithful offer prayers as one, moving around the cairn, each one filing past the “front” of the cairn where they might leave their offerings.
- Sacred Groves:
- Additionally, Wiaraja professes the existence of sacred groves, which often grow near their simple temples. These groves are often a circle of smaller trees around a larger one, which is seen as the tip of a branch of the Tree of Eternity. They are therefore revered, and are sites of worship at various times of the year, and are fiercely protected by the Wiaraja populace. Specifics of what offerings are left at these groves matters again, on the god or gods being honored, as well as the time of year.
- Wiaraja is a very war-focused faith. While it is easy to point to the two sets of gods warring together, far more emphasis is placed on those few times that they teamed up to go defeat Śmiertis or some other larger, beastly threat that crawls forth from one of the other blossom worlds. In that way, the gods are a reflection of the Zvorun way of life. In the past, like the gods, they quarreled amongst each other, but when outsiders or darker evils came, they teamed up. As a result, the faith has emphasized that war is an ultimate constant to life, and everyone doing their part is essential in mimicry of all the gods. While some are less active, they have all gotten involved at least once in their interspecies conflict. Therefore, pacifists and those who advocate for peace with the enemy are often immediately seen as traitors to the faith, and are harshly rejected by wider Zvorun society. This is why conversion by Unionism has failed in their lands, as while the Zvorun tolerate this different faith, its links and attempts to establish peace against the great enemies of the Vladno and the New Regalians are absolutely heretical.
- Even though they have homosexual gods, Wiaraja is unofficially against homosexuality. Generally though, in reflection of the gods, the only appropriate time to explore such feelings is during or after a major festival or party.
- Despite the independent goddesses of their faith, patriarchy is a heavy aspect of their Culture. Only at festivals to such deities are women allowed some level of freedom, helping to lead worship of them.
- In some of the stories involving Śmiertis, he is incubating a death for the gods within an egg while in his serpent form. To save themselves, the gods therefore destroy the egg.