From CWS Planet
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Number of followers6 million

Kowut is the traditional Sanmra belief system, practiced by about 85% of the Sanmra population with a total of around 6 million practitioners worldwide. While the cosmological beliefs of Kowut are not necessarily held to be true by modern practitioners, the ritual practices are widespread and are performed by most dalar in Sanmra. Most of these beliefs center around the divide between the physical and spirit worlds, along with ancestor worship.


Within Sanmra, the religion generally isn't referred to by a name at all, due to how ubiquitous it is. Thus, "Kowut" is an exonym used primarily by foreigners. The word literally means "rituals" in Tirina.

Theology and cosmology

Kowut beliefs are remarkably varied, and many modern practitioners do not necessarily accept traditional Kowut beliefs about the origins of the world or of sentient species. That being said, most different strains of Kowut agree in broad strokes.

Creation myth

In the beginning, all was in chaos. The Nameless Spirit (or Nameless God, in the five- and one-god traditions) wandered through Chaos, seeking Beauty. Because the universe was constantly changing, the Nameless Spirit often found something beautiful, only for it to change and disappear as soon as it saw it. Dissatisfied, the Nameless Spirit decided to create beautiful things of its own, but permanent so it could return to them whenever it wanted. Thus, the Nameless Spirit created Sahar, and on it all of the people, animals, and plants. (whether or not it created anything else--and where it is now--depends on who you ask)

The Nameless Spirit then either created or merely appointed four spirits (dini) to watch over Sahar: Ani, god of the lakes and seas; Eri (or Ela), god of the hills and mountains; Iwi, goddess of forests and plains; and Oni, god of the tundra and deserts. (whether they were created or already existed before this also depends on who you ask. Also what gender they are, or if gender even applies to nature spirits.) According to the four-god tradition, only these four beings should be worshipped as gods. According to the five-god tradition, all of them plus the Unnamed God should be worshipped. And the relatively rare one-god tradition thinks only the Unnamed God should be worshipped, and the four spirits are merely assistants.

The relationship between these four gods/spirits definitely depends on who you ask, although the most common tradition states that Oni rebelled against his three siblings for getting a better deal than him. Thus, evil spirits and mental illness are usually attributed to his influence.

The origins of the sun, stars, and other planets are also murky. Some groups hold that they're separate realms created by the Nameless Spirit, just like Sahar, and are ruled over by gods of their own, and some even believe they were created by some rival or peer of the Nameless Spirit.


According to Kowut beliefs, a spirit world (dinili) exists side-by-side with the physical one. Just as physical beings inhabit this world, so too do nature spirits (dini) inhabit that one, along with the spirits of the dead. Living bodies cannot enter the spirit world, although some fringe cults hold that a person's soul (adeifo) can make the journey with the help of psychedelic drugs and meditation. The physical world also can only have little impact on the spirit world, although the spirit world can exert some influence on the physical world.

Dini and kesyed

The dini or nature spirits are the ordinary inhabitants of the spirit world. They are often associated with specific places and landforms in the physical world--not necessarily specific things (e.g. a tree or rock), but a location. Dini have some ability to affect the physical world, and thus are invoked for everything from help with exams to healing from illness. The dini are believed to be capricious, alien beings, so appealing to their morality isn't likely to get their attention. Instead, they are believed to assist people primarily out of boredom, curiosity, or friendliness. Certain particularly powerful spirits (such as Ani, Eri, and Iwi) interact with the physical world on a more regular basis, although they are "large" enough that they are not likely to notice or care about the prayers of an individual.

The kesyed or ancestral spirits are the spirits of living beings who have died and passed into the spirit world. Unlike dini, kesyed are not tied to specific locations, although they have a tendency to remain in the vicinity of their remains. Kesyed also cannot impact the physical world. However, kesyed can communicate with dini (even with the most powerful, like Ani/Eri/Iwi) and intercede on behalf of their living relatives. As a result, they are revered and prayed to on a regular basis. When directly addressed, a kesyed is usually referred to as a leardi (ghost/spirit).

Both the dini and kesyed are believed to be most active in colder months and fall asleep in the warm summer months. Strict practitioners of Kowut thus believe the Tuanmali cannot effectively worship, as their climate is simply too warm.

Great spirits

Diniato, translated as "great spirits", refers to Ani, Eri, Iwi, and Oni, the four most powerful spirits. Although many practitioners worship them through rituals, they are actually not often prayed to, because they're simply "too big" to notice. Instead, they are invoked by imploring a different, lesser spirit to convey a request or message to them.


A person can pray simply by speaking aloud, but such a prayer would not be likely to be heard by the intended recipient(s). To ensure a prayer makes it to the spirit world and comes to the attention of the dini or kesyed it is intended for, there are several steps a person can take. Traditionally, prayers are written on strips of paper that are wrapped up with a piece of the petitioner's body (e.g. a piece of hair, a drop of blood, or even a fingernail clipping), then burned. Burning the prayer destroys the physical representation of the prayer, thus allowing it to pass into the spirit world. The name or introduction to the prayer (e.g. pin leardi ni leten nue "ancestral spirit of my family") indicates to whom the prayer is directed. Finally, the piece of the petitioner's body creates a link between them and the spirit, allowing the spirit to find them.

Prayers are typically addressed to either a person's ancestors (perhaps even a specific one, such as a deceased spouse) or the spirits of a particular place (a lake, for example), but sometimes, especially when a person is very desperate, they can be addressed broadly to any spirit that will listen. Prayers intended for one of the "great" dini (such as Ani, Eri, or Iwi) are usually addressed to a lesser spirit or ancestral spirit, to be delivered to the great spirit. To increase the odds a prayer will be heard and answered, it is best to burn the prayer at a place associated with the spirit. (or, for ancestors, near their physical remains)

Differing beliefs

Although Kowut beliefs can be quite varied, they can still be grouped in broad categories based on different qualities. Individual practitioners may mix and match their beliefs, so there's an almost infinite variation of beliefs.

Number of gods

Four gods

The most common, believed by about 55% of total practitioners. The Nameless Spirit is essentially irrelevant, having moved on and no longer paying significant attention to Sahar, or at least being so huge that our actions down here are irrelevant to it. Therefore, the only beings that can be worshipped/prayed to in a practical way are the great spirits: Ani, Eri, Iwi, and Oni.

Five gods

The second-most common belief, held by about 40% of practitioners. All four great spirits are considered worthy of worship and prayer, but the Nameless Spirit is also worshipped. Often in this tradition, the Nameless Spirit is believed to be the same sort of being as the great spirits; it's just the greatest of them.

One god

Quite a rare belief, held only by about 5% of believers. The Nameless God is fully in charge (although it may or may not be paying much attention), and the great spirits are only assistants. They can still be prayed to, but shouldn't be worshipped in and of themselves, and their main role is to convey messages from mortals to the Nameless God and to then carry out the Nameless God's wishes on Sahar.

Attitude of the Nameless Spirit


Fairly common. (about 40% of practitioners) The Nameless Spirit didn't intentionally abandon Sahar, but simply moved on to other creations and forgot about it in time. Many believers in the "forgetful" tradition would believe there are other planets with life on them out there that it also created, or perhaps entire alternate universes. Often "forgetful" believers are also four-god believers (e.g. you shouldn't worship the Nameless Spirit because it's not paying attention anyway), but sometimes they're five-god believers (e.g. the Nameless Spirit is still in charge even if it's gone right now) 88% are four-god believers (35% of total practitioners) and 12% are five-god believers (5% of total practitioners).


Fairly common. (about 40% of practitioners) The Nameless Spirit abandoned Sahar because it didn't like how it turned out. In this interpretation of the creation myth, the Nameless Spirit wanted to create something permanent out of Chaos, but when it created Sahar, it realized that Sahar still went on changing, just in a more regular fashion. Dissatisfied, it left Sahar behind. "Displeased" believers are generally either five-god believers (focusing on the four great spirits, but still believing the Nameless Spirit can be invoked and is deserving of worship) or four-god believers (why would you worship a god who doesn't like you anyway?). Evenly split 50-50 between five- and four-god believers. (20% each of total practitioners)

Attentive but distant

Less common than the forgetful/displeased traditions, but not too extreme--held by about 15% of believers. The Nameless Spirit does pay attention to Sahar, but not very close attention. Usually this is associated with a five-god belief, but sometimes with a one-god belief. Believers in this would generally believe that the Nameless Spirit can only practically be communicated with through proxies, like the great spirits. 90% are five-god believers (14% of total practitioners), with the remaining 10% being one-god believers (2% of total practitioners).

Attentive and close

Pretty rare, held only by 5% of practitioners. The Nameless Spirit is close to Sahar, and takes a direct interest in events occurring here. This is generally associated with the one-god belief, in which the four great spirits are close assistants of the Nameless Spirit. 90% are one-god believers (5% of total practitioners); the remaining 10% are five-god believers (less than 1% of total practitioners).

Origin of spirits


The spirits, including the Nameless Spirit, all emerged out of primordial Chaos. The Nameless Spirit is the greatest of the spirits that have influenced Sahar, and either the greatest spirit in the universe or one of them, but didn't actually create the great spirits--only worked with them to create Sahar, or took control of them to make them Sahar's guardians. Common among four- or five-god believers.

In this tradition, celestial bodies were either created by the Nameless Spirit, or by one of its peers. Either way, they are believed to have one or more associated spirits, just like Sahar.

The Nameless Spirit as ultimate creator

In this tradition, the Nameless Spirit is the ultimate creator of everything in the universe. This may or may not include creating Chaos itself, but definitely includes creating the great spirits. Its origin is unknown, or perhaps it doesn't have one (e.g. it created itself, or it created time and therefore doesn't need an origin). Commonly linked with the one-god tradition, but not unheard of in the five-god tradition.

In this tradition, celestial bodies are generally believed to have all been created by the Nameless Spirit directly; only it has the power of true creation.

The Nameless Spirit as sub-creator

The Nameless Spirit didn't create everything in the universe, but has created a lot of it, including Sahar's great spirits. There are probably other spirits out there of the same "class" as the Nameless Spirit (i.e. going around creating stuff). A few believers say there's actually an ultimate creator out there that's even more powerful than the Nameless Spirit, but many think the Nameless Spirit simply appeared out of Chaos. Also common among four- or five-god believers.

In this tradition, celestial bodies were either created by the Nameless Spirit, or by one of its peers. Either way, they are believed to have one or more associated spirits, just like Sahar.


In this tradition, not only do we not know where the spirits came from, we can't know, and the spirits themselves might not even know. A sort of agnostic belief; believed by many different groups.

Origin of intelligent species

The traditional view is that the Nameless Spirit created all of the intelligent species. However, a more modern interpretation is that the Nameless Spirit created the world in such a way that intelligent life would evolve, or perhaps was the one who actually gave life to early cells that later would evolve into intelligent species. A rarer belief is that intelligent species were created by the great spirits, although which one was responsible for which intelligent species--or if they collaborated together to create them--is a matter of debate.

Great spirits

The relationship of worshippers to the four great spirits--and what they think of each--can be even more complex. Here are three of the more widely-familiar traditions, although any given worshipper might believe elements of all three.


By far the most common interpretation is that Ani, Eri, and Iwi are "good", while Oni is "evil". Oni was displeased with being given the tundra and deserts, and was jealous of the realms his fellow great spirits received. He tried to seize their realms from them, but was rebuffed. Evil in the world--including diseases, famine, and blight--are a result of Oni still trying to destroy the goodness of his rivals. Oni is not worshipped or prayed to, and the other three great spirits are praised for delivering everything from his influence. Sometimes Oni is invoked to lay curses on people or places, but it could easily backfire because Oni feels no loyalty.


A less common belief is that Oni's "evilness" is all just bad press; he's the same as the other three and is perfectly content with his realm. He should not be feared, and can be prayed to the same as any of the other three. However, he's still associated with disease and death, so although he's not viewed as overtly evil, he still gets invoked for curses and such.


A fringe belief that's viewed as "edgy". Oni was actually the one in the right; all four great spirits were supposed to share equally in all of Sahar, but the other three colluded to split it up between them, leaving Oni with the scraps. Oni is viewed as a righteous avenger in this tradition, while the other three are untrustworthy and capricious. In public opinion, the Pro-Oni camp is often associated with one-god beliefs, but that's not actually true in most cases--pro-Oni believers are a lot more likely to be four-god believers. (who just happen to think three out of the four are useless)

Gender and spirits

The Nameless Spirit is pretty universally accepted as genderless. However, lesser spirits may or may not be viewed as having gender. Most people believe Ani, Eri, and Oni are male while Iwi is female, but some argue that all four are genderless. A relatively small number argue that Eri and Oni are male and Iwi is female, but Ani is either genderless or genderfluid.

Patron spirits

Many practitioners of Kowut believe that one or more of the great spirits act as patrons to the various intelligent species on Sahar. However, there's not a lot of agreement of which is associated with whom (aside from Iwi, who is almost always associated with the dalar).


Iwi is pretty much universally associated with the dalar, even among pro-Oni believers. Rarely she's viewed as the patron for all intelligent species.


Ani is very commonly associated with humans, possibly because the first humans the dalar met came over the sea. Vodholk are often lumped in with them. He is sometimes associated with Fals as well.


Eri is frequently associated with Kavs and Astalvi, and sometimes Fals. Some people also associate him specifically with mountain-dwelling Mirarians.


In orthodox traditions (where Oni is viewed as a negative influence), Oni frequently isn't associated with any intelligent species at all. Some dalar with particular distaste for humans might claim him as their patron spirit, but it's not a widespread (or politically correct) belief, at least not in modern times. For dalar who don't view Oni as evil, he is sometimes associated with the Fals and possibly Vodholk.