|Algazi folk religion|
|Associations||Association of Algazi Temples|
|Region||Algazi Union, Letzia, Ebo Nganagam|
The traditional Algazi religion, also called Aghanism or Quuro-Argeyazic religion is a collection of syncretic beliefs and practices that serve as the ethnic religion of the Algazi people and the state religion of the Algazi Union. The religion originates from the hybridization of Argeyazic animism with Quurožarq (particularly Temyarq) and, to a lesser extent, Iovism. There is no wide consensus as to whether the religion should be classified as a continuation of ancient Argeyazic religious practices, a highly divergent denomination of Quurožarq, or a distinct faith, especially considering the wide variation in beliefs and practices.
Practitioners of Algazi religion believe in four principal deities and many minor ones, as well as malignant spirits. Most also believe in reincarnation and the spiritual life of plants and animals. There is no central organization beyond an association of temples, which serves to create a loose consistency of practice and liaise with the Algazi Ministry of Culture.
Argeyazic and Hafsighi Religion
While little is known about Proto-Argeyazic religion, some information has been pieced together through archeology and comparative work on early Algazi and Hemeshi religion and mythology. The religion was animist, contrasting higher deities (*axa) of natural forces and phenomena, such as the sky, rain, the ocean, and fire, mid-level deities or totems (referred to as "fathers" and "mothers") representing various species of plant and animal, and lower deities (*tahen) of places and geographic features. The spirits of the dead (*motyur) were believed to persist on earth, possibly in the Baredinian Desert.
In 302, the Hafsighi Kingdom under Uftar V became a tributary of the Adzamasi Empire; his successor, Jir II, adopted Quurožarq in order to please Hafsigh's patron state. This prompted a mass conversion of the royal family and the Hafsighi court. As the gesture was primarily political, however, little was done that would encourage the general populace to adopt Quurožarq. No legal privileges were granted to Quurožarq or its adherents, and the heavy investment in the construction of Quurožiri institutions and religious infrastructure in Hafsigh did not prevent the aristocracy and the state from continuing to patronize indigenous temples. Despite the lack of official promotion, however, Quurožarq did spread to some extent among the upper ranks of the commoners, particularly the educated.
The persistence of animist beliefs and practices among the Quurožiri elite and the downward percolation of Quurožarq already began to blur the boundaries of the two religions during the Yurek period; however, their formal institutions remained separate and competing, and served to maintain distinct identities and a certain degree of orthodoxy.
Following the conquest of Hafsigh by Bızigh Ankesh, Serimism was made the official religion of the Hafsighi Kingdom until Ankesh and the Yurek Dynasty were overthrown by Dareb I Sadhas. Backed by both Quurožiri and animist clergy, Dareb chose not to reinstate either as a state religion. Subsequent Sadhas rulers largely maintained this policy, practicing both faiths and attempting to balance their competing interests. This official neutrality accelerated the existing trend towards hybridization, legitimizing the already widespread simultaneous practice of both religions and hampering clerical efforts to maintain standardized, exclusive worship.
The collapse of the Hafsighi Kingdom after 1078 led to the complete breakdown of centralized religious institutions in Hafsigh. In the breakaway provincial cities, there generally remained only low-ranking clergy associated with individual temples. Without any central authority, religious beliefs and practices were increasingly defined by the general population, who had no qualms about incorporating beliefs from multiple sources, and by clergy who were closer to them. This popular mixture of two religions had largely coalesced into a single (albeit heterogeneous) religion within two centuries of the collapse of the Hafsighi Kingdom.
Though efforts at codification and standardization starting in the 18th century have been largely unsuccessful, the cultural integration of the Algazi Union and the relationship between temples and the state have created a broad consensus regarding certain core tenets of Algazi religion (largely those discussed in this article). The Association of Algazi Temples, formed in 1928, has been particularly influential in steering temples towards shared practices and teachings; the association is also responsible for certifying clergy.
The overwhelming majority of ethnic Algazis continue to practice their traditional religion, though Iovists and Serimites make up a sizeable minority. Temples remain important centers of social and cultural life both in Algazi cities and in Algazi communities abroad, associated with worship, festivals, and life events such as funerals and coming of age ceremonies. They provide very few social services, however, unlike those of many other religions; in Algazi society, these functions are traditionally handled by charities and institutions associated with aristocratic families.
The Algazi pantheon consists of four high-ranking deities (Algaz: aghan, aghan), the result of Argeyazic gods being mapped onto Quurožiri ones, and a multitude of minor spirits (Algaz: tayinan, tayinan). These are generally considered benevolent, generous, and protective, but easily angered by failure to show respect or gratitude. There is also a dead, genderless creator deity associated with the earth.
Avı (Algaz: avı, /avˈɨ/, "(The) One"; Serimite: Ëvı /əˈvɨ/), Kawghath (Algaz: kawghath, /kɔ(:)ˈɰaθ/, Serimite: Kughës /kuˈɣəs/), or simply Sahar is the genderless creator deity who destroyed themselves to create the universe as we know it. The deity combines aspects of the Argeyazic earth goddess with the genderless and dormant creator Quuros, especially as interpreted by Temyarq. As the deity is believed to be dead, they are rarely worshipped directly. In many tellings, the deity is conceived of in human terms, at least figuratively; their arms became İdjud and Delı, their legs became Rashun and Amid, their head and/or genitalia became living things, and their lifeless torso became Sahar. Others emphasize the abstract character of the deity, who contained and consisted of all life and matter and existed without form, limit, or differentiation. While the latter view has become popular among mainstream Algazis, it originates with Serimites, who believe that the creator destroyed themselves to purge themselves of evil. Serimites see their goal on Sahar to be to finish this work, with many schools seeking to ultimately return to or approximate this primeval state of unity.
İdjud (Algaz: idjud, /iˈd͡ʒud/, Serimite: Ejjıd /eʒˈʒɨd/) or Kaghne (Algaz: kaghne, /kɑ:ˈnɛ/) is the god of the sky, wind, and rain, originating as a composite of Argeyazic rain nad sky gods with the Quurožiri deity Karne. İdjud is believed to be the father of the Sun and Moon, and is associated with time, prophecy, dreaming, sleep, communication, wisdom, and learning. He is generally depicted with two faces, one awake, representing day and the past, and one asleep, representing night and the unknown future; these faces are sometimes those of a hawk, raven, or other large bird. Because of his association with time and prophecy, İdjud is perceived as the most distant or god-like of the aghan, with knowledge and perception far beyond that of mortals; though he communicates much more than the other aghan, he mostly does so cryptically or abstractly. He is associated with the north, white, and with cold and dryness.
Delı (Algaz: delı, /dɛˈlɨ/, Serimite: Dalı /daˈlɨ/), often addressed as Athir-mab (athir-mab, "Mother Ocean"), is the goddess of the sea and the mother of all bodies of water. Though largely descended from the Argeyazic sea goddess, Delı has absorbed some aspects of the Quurožiri deity Tali, whose name she bears. As the patron of the sea, she represents travel, commerce, fortune, strength, and protection. She is also associated with cleanliness, purity, redemption, and justice. Delı is the most fickle and sensitive of the aghan, bestowing great blessings on those who please her but destruction to those who anger her. However, she is also known to forgive those who repent and willingly undergo penance or punishment. Though depictions of Delı are variable, common features include very long hair and the fins or tail of a fish. She is associated with the south, blue, and with cold and wetness.
Rashun (Algaz: rashun, /ɾaˈʃun/) or Hastugh (Algaz: hastugh, /hasˈtuɰ, -uw/, Serimite: Hastıgh /hasˈtɨɣ/) is primarily the god of animals and livestock, but also represents death and reincarnation, health, fertility, sex, love, family, friendship, wealth, war, politics, and society. Despite originating as an Argeyazic goat or sheep deity, Rashun's traits and associations derive heavily from Hastur. Rashun is depicted with the head of a goat or ram, and is perceived as passionate and fiery, experiencing anger, joy, grief, lust, and other emotions at great intensity. He is widely regarded as the most approachable and "human" of the aghan, and worshippers often address him in an informal or familiar manner. He is associated with the east, red, and with heat and dryness.
Amid (Algaz: amid, /aˈmid/, Serimite: Amed /aˈmed/) is the godess of plants and agriculture, as well as beauty, wealth, health and healing, fertility, family, childbirth, reincarnation, and death. She appears to have been transposed almost completely from Quurožarq as a replacement for the Argeyazic plant deities; in addition to her name, she also largely preserves her depiction as a matronly woman with very dark brown or red skin. Amid is thought to be a devoted and caring provider, the calmest and most reliable of the aghan. She is assoicated with the west, green, and with heat and wetness.
Tayinan are minor deities, representing the Sun, Moon, stars, bodies of water, and some geographical features (mostly mountains and islands). Most Tayinan are associated with an agha, to whom they are considered subordinate. Unlike the aghan, they are bound to what they represent, as they are considered to be the object's soul. The gods of the Sun and Moon are considered to be the children of the sky god İdjud, with the stars in turn being the children of the Moon; similarly, all bodies of water are considered to be children of Delı. Tayinan associated with landforms are generally held to be children of the deceased Avı. The majority of tayinan are most likely inherited directly from Argeyazic religion, with the Sun and Moon deities having been demoted from full-fledged gods. While there are many parallels with the Quurožiri concept of nakuvah, this may have already been the case before the two religions came into extensive contact.
Worship of tayinan is generally on a small scale, except for the Sun, Moon, Ekuos River, Lake Wadan, Lake Heshov, and island of Gêlnos (home to the city of Varij). Worship of the Ekuos River, believed to be the eldest child of Delı, is particularly widespread, and largely takes the place of Delı in the northern Algazi Union. The Ekuos deity is typically conceived of as female in Tagra and male in Sedim, referred to as İkath-mab ("Mother Ekuos") in the former and İkath-bab ("Father Ekuos") in the latter; Delı is therefore known in the region as Athir-amab or Athir-mamu (maternal and paternal forms of "Grandmother Ocean"), respectively. Other bodies of water are venerated by those who depend on them. The Sun and Moon also receive substantially more direct worship than other tayinan, though they do not take the place of İdjud.
Death and Afterlife
Most Algazis believe that souls are reincarnated in a fixed cycle of lower plants, higher plants, lower animals, higher animals, and humans. This appears to be a synthesis of the Iovist concept of reincarnation with the animist tendencies of ancient Argeyazic religion, which displaced earlier beliefs regarding death and the afterlife.
Most Algazis believe that souls have an inherent drive to create and reproduce, and that those that violate this impulse (i.e. by killing for reasons other than survival) will be ripped apart instead of being reincarnated. Each of these fragments becomes a harmful spirit called a mazur, seen as being degraded and incomplete. They can no longer create or reproduce, instead causing decay, disease, and pain in living things. Originally representing the souls of all the dead, the association of mazuran with suffering, misfortune, and disorder may reflect the influence of Iovism and Pashaism.
Beliefs as to the nature and character of mazuran are diverse. Mazuran are variously seen as malicious, monstrous, tortured, or broken, all with varying degrees of intelligence and agency. Some practitioners of Algazi religion believe that mazuran exist only in a spiritual state, while others believe that they, too, experience cyclical death and reincarnation as fungi and, in recent years, viruses. Mazuran are traditionally seen as eternal; the world will inevitably decay as more and more mazuran are created and eventually consume or destroy all life. However, many, beginning with self-styled Hafsighi prophet Serīm and his millenarian sect, have adopted a Iovic-influenced belief that the world will eventually be purged of mazuran to create an earthly utopia, or that mazuran can be healed or destroyed.
Temples are found in virtually every sizeable Algazi community. Generally, temples are dedicated to a single deity and staffed by clergy of the same gender as the deity; in smaller towns or in Algazi enclaves outside the Algazi Union they may be dedicated to all four aghan, with both male and female clergy. Temples are responsible for recruiting and training their own clergy, though changing temples is not unheard of. Clerics may not marry or have children, though they are not required to remain celibate. Temples may be used by adherents for all manner of prayers and offerings, especially larger sacrifices. Temples are also where dedication, coming of age, and funeral ceremonies take place, as well as public religious festivals.
Shrines dedicated to the gods and spirits are abundant in the Algazi Union, and can be found in a variety of contexts; for example, Algazi airports typically feature shrines to İdjud and Delı for travelers to use before or after flying, while hydrological projects often include a shrine to the spirit of the body of water involved. Unlike temples, shrines are not institutions with clergy, and often consist of little more than a statue, image, or natural feature. Shrines can be created or maintained by clergy from nearby temples, property owners, local community members, or any combination of the above, and can be located in public or in homes and businesses. Worshippers use these to pray and make small offerings such as flowers, incense, wine, and sometimes food.
Each Algazi has a patron deity to whom they are dedicated at a young age. Practitioners are expected to show additional devotion to their patron deity and expect greater attention and boons in return. Traditionally, a mother and newborn spend three days in seclusion after birth, with the child brought to the temple for the dedication ceremony on the 4th day.
When a person dies, their funeral is held at a temple of their patron and their ashes left as an offering.
Parents may choose a child's patron deity based on any number of reasons. The choice may reflect aspirations or wishes for the child, either in the short or long term; sickly children are often dedicated to Amid, associated with health and healing, while parents expecting a child to carry on a family trade will dedicate them to the associated deity. Children may also be dedicated to a god as an offering when requesting the god's favor or in gratitude for a perceived blessing. Finally, the choice of patron may reflect the child's characteristics or the circumstances of their birth. For example, children with albinism are generally dedicated to Rashun, as the condition is believed to be a sign of his favor. Twins are customarily dedicated to the Sun and Moon (was proxies for İdjud); children are not otherwise dedicated to tayinan.
Coming of Age
Algazis come of age at 16, with a ceremony taking place at the temple of their patron; because it equals four times four, it is a number with particular spiritual significance. During the ceremony, a person's earlobes are pierced using traditional techniques, with the blood being offered as a symbol of the subject's connection to the deity. Traditionally, earrings were a mark of adulthood for Aglazis of all genders; from the mid 19th to late 20th Century, however, earrings fell out of favor with men, who would allow the piercing to close following the ceremony. Today, it is much more common for young men to wear earrings, though many stop later in life.
Algazis are cremated after death, and the ashes are brought to the temple of their patron and given as an offering.