|Six White Sky Dragons|
Sihai Religion is centered around the worship of the White Sky Dragons, also known as the Loong or Long Dragons among the Sihai, and is officially called Loong Virtue among the Sihai. These terms are all used interchangeably, but because White Sky Dragons is a wieldy term, the term Loong is most often used. Sihai religion is unique in the world in that it sort-of recognizes the existence of Dragon Worship as a sub-sect of its own main religion, though it changes the relation of the various Dragons around. While in standard Dragon Worship, the Five Primaries are considered roughly equal, the Sihai believe that the White Sky Primary deserves more direct worship due to the personal relationship they have had with the Loong Dragons for the longest amount of time. They do acknowledge the divinity of the other Dragon Primaries and even secondaries, but hardly if ever bring actual worship to them, and may only bring reverence to their name in passing or when it comes up in conversation. Dragons of all types are worthy of respect, but only the Loong are worthy of worship to the Sihai. Sihai conversions away from Loong Worship are rare if not nonexistent, because the Sihai can point to many occasions in history where the Loong saved them from calamity, or protected them like their own children, or presented proof of if not their godhood, at least their worthiness to be worshipped. It would as such make no sense for a Loong Virtue to start believing in any other religion, with lack of providence to their truth and validity. For as long as Sihai religion has existed, the Sihai have stories of the Loong interacting with their people, choosing their champions and emissaries from among the Sihai people, and passing their knowledge down to them, and encouraging them to progress and prosper. It is as such strictly important to state that the Loong never demanded worship, but did strictly demand obedience or at the very least adherence to their decrees and wishes, which eventually became worship. Further providence is given in that the Loong actually protected and continue to protect the Sihai from outside harmful influences, and have always physically been present to guide the Sihai through the ages.
Additionally, while standard Dragon worship acknowledges only Saaima, the leader of the White Sky Dragons as the main primary to worship, the Sihai worship all of the White Sky Dragons, attributing each of them to a landmass they represent, with attached virtues based on their personalities. These Dragons have also become the patron deity of a variety of societal and career occupations, thus making very specific sects of worship for each of them. The Sihai religion is also distinctly unique from other religions in that their gods and goddesses are actually physical, and can even be visited by Sihai on pilgrimage albeit in their sleeping form. The Loong Dragons, following the Great Protection, entered a phase called the Great Slumber. It was proclaimed by the Loong Dragons that in order to protect the Sihai and freeze the oceans that formed the Jade Wall, the Loong Dragons had to enter a deep slumber, though occasionally the Loong Dragons do reach out to the Sihai through visions in their dreams. Dreaming is in fact a very important activity to the Sihai, and unlike other races, every time a Sihai goes to sleep, they dream the most vivid dreams that they can always remember to the finest detail the next day. The sleeping Loong Dragons are still being tended to by the Divine Dreamers, who wash their scales and keep their lairs clean while also offering services to the pilgrims.
Loong Virtue has a structured priesthood that sits somewhere in between the disorganized nature of the Old Gods clergy, and the Unionist religious hierarchy bound clergy. There are official schools of religious teaching, but there are also more ad-hoc ways of becoming religious figures without official recognition that can be just as valuable to Sihai society. The primary form of Priesthood among the Sihai is the College of Divine Dreams, where Sihai wishing to become Loong Priests enter a 10 year service to learn to commune with the Loong Dragons and interpret the dreams of others as guidance from their Gods and Goddesses. These priests are called Divine Dreamers, and are usually backed by the Zhong Kingdoms as officials. They might also appear in the west as diplomats and ambassadors, as all Divine Dreamers are Beian Sihai, and thus also excellent diplomats. Occasionally, a Divine Dreamer may also roam the western lands on a religious mission, having received some kind of vision to acquire some object or bring a specific chosen person to the temples in the Beian Kingdom, or to assist a specific person with their tasks in the west of great importance to the religion (for any such dreams to be declared Canon, it is recommended to communicate with Lore Staff through tickets).
A step below the Divine Dreamers are the River Guards. River Guards are like the Sihai holy warriors and protector monks who spend a great deal of time in contemplation and meditation, and are always warriors, though not exclusively from Beian or Huo-Chang. River Guards are usually Primal Mages or some other form of Primal Afflicted who charge themselves with protecting the religious sites of the Loong and the Loong Temples in the Beian Kingdom. River Guards have been known to venture west on occasion also, as due to the extension of Dragon Worship, the River Guards should technically also defend western Dragon Temples and sites. Among the River Guards however, being sent west (usually by method of a Loong Dream telling them to) is culturally seen as a punishment or road for redemption and greater religious communion, as they believe the western shrines and sites are of lesser value than the great mountain temples of the Loong themselves. The lowest step of Loong Virtue clergy are called the White Sky Speakers. The White Sky Speakers are very similar to Unionist missionaries in that they spread the wishes of the Loong Dragons and encourage others to enter the service of either Loong Virtue or Dragon Worship. The White Sky Speakers don’t see much of a difference in that regard between Loong Virtue and Dragon Worship, and will in fact opt to convert others to Dragon Worship in the west as opposed to Loong Virtue, as they consider that religion unique to the Sihai. White Sky Speakers are almost exclusively found in the west, as the Sihai homelands are homogeneously Loong Virtue worshipers.
The White Sky Dragons
Each of the Loong or White Sky Dragons has a name, and each of them has a specific patronage of a particular segment of Sihai (and by extension, other races) society. It is important to note that the Sihai are fanatic when it comes to the concept that the Loong must above all never be awoken, or given reason to awaken. They believe that their entire future security depends on the Loong continuing the Great Slumber, as waking from it would cause the Jade Wall to fall, and Sihai civilization quickly after as the Akula would rampage across the Zhong Kingdoms and then invade the Sheng Empire. Furthermore, it is important to note that while the Zhong Kingdoms have very specific patron deities, these do not necessarily count for the people. The patron deity is more seen as a protector of the land, not necessarily the people that live on it. The principle of worship here, is that as part of a subrace, the Sihai worship the patron Dragon of their land to a lesser degree, while worshiping their own patron to a greater degree, and then bringing offerings to all other White Sky Dragons, while respecting the other non-White Sky Dragons. Sihai may also change their patron Loong at any point in life, depending on the hardships they face, or the ambitions they aspire to.
Saaima, the Mother
Saaima is the leader of the White Sky Dragons and the mother of all Sihai. It is believed by the Sihai that it was Saaima who created them, and gave them the breath of life. She created all the living things in the Sheng Empire, and all the creatures in the eastern seas and the middle lands, and even Dexai despite its proximity to Farah’deen. Saaima is the Dragon of tolerance, kindness, and self-sacrifice, kindling in her followers to be kind and loyal to one another, and to seek not to do unto others what they would not have done unto themselves. Saaima is the largest of the White Sky Dragons, but is sometimes also depicted as an elderly Sihai woman with long flowing white hair that is three times the length of her body and drags behind her like a veil. Saaima prayer occurs with a small shrine with a depiction of her, flanked by incense and a porcelain or ivory bowl filled with wine, upon which a single white Goose feather floats. Saaima worshipers believe that the goose feather drifts, where the direction distinguishes Saaima’s will. The feather floating towards her statue means her approval of the wish or prayer, it floating away from her meaning disapproval. This principle is mostly also shared by western Dragon Worship, but the Sihai also engage in a more personal act of Moon-Cake baking, a pastry made of layered dough with a lotus-seed paste filling that has well-wishes printed onto the pastry dough. These Moon-Cakes are preserved and left out on a shrine, before they are consumed together with the family on Full-Moon nights, or gifted to friends as means of wishing good fortune for them. Saaima is traditionally the patron of the Sheng Empire, though it has resided in the Temple of White Light in the Beian Kingdom since Cataclysm.
Nishiliu, the Pathfinder
Nishiliu is the second White Sky Dragon that the Sihai believe created the landscape of the Sihai, by coiling around the land and contracting the earth and dirt into valleys and hills and mountains. Nishiliu is the Dragon of perseverance, energy, never surrendering, and optimism, kindling his followers to remain always mobile and active, and always looking forward and never dwelling on the past or past mistakes. Nishiliu is the smallest of the White Sky Dragons, but also the most hyperactive and the one most seen by the Sihai before he entered the Great Slumber. Nishiliu worship is performed by filling a bowl or area with white sand or crushed Jade crystal sand, and dragging a stick or a rod through the material, circling and tracing earlier lines to produce an intricate and trance-inducing pattern in the substance that emulates the rolling of waves and the landscape. The Sihai believe that by tracing the pathways of Nishiliu, they encourage the good possible futures of their life to manifest, and also encourage themselves to always look forward by keeping the flow of the material going, and never stopping. Another act they engage in is sand-art, where they produce pieces of art and depictions in sand, before wiping them out, to remind themselves that nothing lasts forever, and that even when beauty is destroyed and ruined, one must always move on and make new things. As such, Nishiliu is also a Dragon of detachment, and letting go of things that are hard to let go of. Nishiliu resides in the Temple of Great Formations, which sits at the highest peak of the Beian Kingdom.
Beishén, the Allseer
Beishén is the third White Sky Dragon that the Sihai believe gave the Sihai the Ability to dream and is as such also sometimes called the Dream Maker. Beishenén was the least seen Dragon before Cataclysm, but is also the most outspoken Dragon after Cataclysm, though the dreams evoked among the Divine Dreamers. It is most often Beishén who sends visions to the Sihai, together with Saaima or independently. Beishén is the Dragon of contemplation, inner-peace, self-awareness, self-exploration and forgiveness. She represents the will of the Sihai to live in peace with all other things on the world, but also the desire of the Sihai to remain separate of the world around them, and proposes that inner-peace can only ever be achieved by defying and denying the turmoil caused by accepting things that are “other” into one’s own being. Beishén worship is more often than not done by simply dreaming or meditating, and creating vivid hallucinations, sometimes with trance, sometimes with opiates, and sometimes with hypnosis. Because of Beishén’s nature to be talkative in dreams, she is actually the least chosen patron Dragon, as she happens to speak to anyone, even the ones who chose different patrons. Beishén slumbers in the Temple of Deep Understanding, which unlike the other mountain monasteries, is actually in a cave in a deep crater in the Beian Kingdom, the only Dragon to not be slumbering in a mountain monastery.
Ao-Jin, the Futureteller
Ao-Jin is the fourth White Sky Dragon that the Sihai believe holds the threads of fate. This steps into Sihai philosophy, where the Sihai believe that any given moment in time, a person exists on a fated thread, and that any decision or acting forward leads them onto another fated thread, but also that other fated threads exist on different planes of mirror-realities, each playing out their different possible futures in infinite computations. Ao-Jin supposedly holds all these infinite-billions of fated threads in his hands, passing them to the living, and making sure that time itself always keeps moving forward. Ao-jin stands for contemplation, decision making, knowledge, and foresight and planning. Worship to Ao-jin is done through the act of weaving silken fabrics with intricate thread patterns, or by tapestry weaving where acts, moments, and decisions in a person’s life are metaphorically displayed with golden threads running through the fabric to showcase their life story. To produce things with weaving and thread is generally seen as virtuous to Ao-jin, and thus weavers have a particularly important role in the Heiyan Kingdom. Ao-Jin sleeps in the Fated Temple, a series of mountain monasteries connected by thin silk-spun rope bridges, connecting the various peaks together.
Liu-Xing, the Skyfury
Liu-Xing is the fifth White Sky Dragon that the Sihai believe gives strength and willpower to the Sihai, while also protecting them as they go to battle. Liu-Xing is a bit unique among the White Sky Dragons, as while the others are uniquely positive, Liu-Xing’s disfavor of a person may actually give them bad luck, or worse, ensure their demise in battle. As such, Liu-Xing is not only worshiped, but more often than not appeased to avoid drawing his wrath and ire. Liu-Xing is the Dragon of battle, honor, glory, victory and crushing one’s enemies. Liu-Xing worship is done by invoking his name before battle and praying to his name for blessings. After battle, it is always important for the Sihai to clean their weapons immediately, as any blood that stains their weapons beyond battle is considered bad luck, and sure to draw the ire of Liu-Xing for taking war off the battlefield and bringing it into the home. As a result of this in fact, the Sihai are painstakingly observant that no blood is spilled inside their own home, as the saying goes that all blood that is spilled in the home is blood equally lost in war. This is also the reason why houses where Sihai are murdered are often condemned or abandoned as haunted houses, with bad fortune for their next inhabitants being a particular risk to living there. Liu-Xing’s Temple is the Temple of Fire Branding, which also doubles as a teaching school for River Guards and other Primal Mages. The Temple of Fire Branding itself is considered a fairly poor Temple that is in ill repair, due to the general lack of pilgrims. The Sihai believe that to visit the actual sleeping body of Liu-Xing curses the pilgrim unless they are a glorious warrior (in which case they are blessed instead). But because the majority of the Sihai are not warriors, the Temple lacks the donations that the other Temples receive, and has mostly gone unrepaired in the last five hundred years, having vast sections that are barely held together with support beams and crumbling foundations. On occasion, a whole section of the Temple is condemned and slides into the abyss below.
Xin-Shidai, the Welcomer
Xin-Shidai is the final and sixth White Sky Dragon that the Sihai believe gave them language and the means to communicate thoughts and ideas and art to each other. Xin-Shidai is sometimes also called the Dragon of Inspiration, as the Sihai believe that any unique idea that comes to them is inspired by Xin-Shidai’s ever creative influence on the people. It should as such come as no surprise that Xin-Shidai is the Dragon of creative pursuits, art, music, dance, theatre, and the welcoming of others into one’s own home. Xin-Shidai worship is done through hosting parties and get togethers at one’s own home, and bringing a toast to his name. In more private and intimate settings, the tea ceremonies and private drinks sharing are also considered a worship to him, whatever creates connections between people and fosters love and friendship. Xin-Shidai is invoked when Sihai are married, and when children are born to welcome new family members into the family. Xin-Shidai sleeps in the Temple of Young Spirit at the very heart of a mountain around which the capital of Dexai is built, which also doubles as the Sihai lands biggest orphanage where orphans are sent to, and adopted by parents who cannot have children. It is also incredibly common however for Sihai pilgrims to take an orphaned child home with them from the Temple of Young Spirit as a means of dedication to Xin-Shidai. This has caused a great deal of Dexai families to have biological children, as well as adopted children, who are treated as if they were biological nonetheless.