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Ardavan symbol

Ardavan is a major religion that began on the continent of Ephis. First developed and practiced among the Satar, it later spread to the Accani and other peoples. The current religion is based off of a holy scripture, the Kaphaiavai, and focuses on the worship of Taleldil, a legendary ancient hero who ascended to godhood. It has a strong emphasis on martial forms and monasticism. Cultic worship of legendary Satar warriors like Arastephas and Atraxes as reborn avatars (or Scions) of Taleldil is a common facet of orthodox Vedai Ardavan, while the heterodox Zalkephic Ardavan preaches the perpetual reincarnation of a chosen prophet to purify the spirits of the people. 

DoctrineEdit

As written in the introduction to the Kaphai, "Beginning there were many gods, and none, but in the end there shall be only one." Ardavan is a henotheistic faith that acknowledges the existence of a variety of other deities besides Taleldil. Or rather, what it theologically recognizes is that what the non-Ardavani believe to be gods are in fact a number of demigods with great but non-infinite power, each struggling in the heavens and through their followers on earth to become the one supreme deity. Taleldil is considered the best among them, but his victory is by no means theologically certain. Because of this, it is imperative that the other deities be destroyed or made subject to Taleldil, mostly by conquering and converting their followers, from which practicioners believe a deity's power is derived.

Separate from the beliefs in the eschatological war and the nebulous concept of Exatas, the daily practice of Ardavan centers around mastering the Aspects that allowed Taleldil to become a deity. Major aspects include Wisdom, Piety, Justice, Tranquility, and Strength. A variety of forms to guide daily life walk the Ardavani practicioner through controlling these Aspects. Outside of the monastic institutions and the Oracular temples, most practicioners memorize only a few of these forms, which range from complicated physical combat exercises to meditative techniques, some straddling the line between the two.

The variance of forms makes Ardavan a reasonably customizable faith. Warriors practice greatly different forms from non-military individuals, and men mostly different forms from women. Most forms have a physical (kaphet) and spiritual (avet) component, so whether the form is an aggressive or passive, it includes both body movements and either chanting, singing, or meditative poses. In monastic Ardavan, the forms are often used as combat training, and those who have mastered them are said to be Aspect Masters.

Regarding the afterlife, Ardavani believe that 'the heavens' are a place of beauty but also of strife, and that life there is similar to that on earth, except that the warring gods are made manifest, and the dead believers of each religion form their armies. Death, and the heavenly struggle to come in fighting at Taleldil's side, is seen as a great reward. A common term used to describe the afterlife is the 'Second Trial,' the First Trial being human existence. How exactly the wars of earthly nations effect the wars in the heavens are matters of serious theological debate.

FestivalsEdit

The most major Ardavani festival is the Night of Reeds, to celebrate the discovery of Taleldil as a child by his adopted mother Asikel. All men and women don masks made of reeds and dance and sing throughout the entire night, then burn them in collective bonfires at dawn.

StructureEdit

Ardavan is led by two powerful figures, the High Oracle and the Redeemer. The former serves to maintain the oracular teachings (while stamping out remnant paganism and shamanism) and oversee the monasteries, and attends to the day-to-day administration of the faith. The latter is considered an Aspect Master and is the Scion of Taleldil, the human who achieves the closest approach to his divinity. This religious role is obviously secondary to the Redeemer's military and political duties. Theological interpretations on whether the Redeemer is or can be a reincarnation of Taleldil are varied. By the time of the Karapeshai, the previously close relationship between the two grew somewhat more distant, as the High Oracle relocated to Siaxis following the sack of Magha in the War of the Three Gods, far from the newfound capital of Atracta

Ardavani monasteries typically exist in isolated wilderness areas, such as the Kothai and Rahevat mountain ranges, and monastics do not typically interact with most common practicioners of the faith. They do, however, provide significant contributions of troops to the military campaigns of the Satar, as the theology of Ardavan requires the active defense of the living god. A monestary is led by a Kephali (sometimes spelled Sephali or Sephalite depending on the local dialect) and divided into martial and spiritual 'orders', each led by a Kaphet-ha and an Avet-ha. This mirrors etymologically and practically the body/spirit duality of the Kaphai and the Avai. 

Most common practitioners interact with Oracles, roving itnerant preachers who visit a number of temples in a regional circuit. Oracles serve to instruct the common believers in the worship of Taleldil, reading passages from the Kaphaiavai, providing pseudo-shamanic blessings and curses, and teaching the young their first forms. They are often originally trained in monasteries, before choosing a wandering lifestyle rather than the monastic paths. Oracles are also sometimes trained as apprentices by older Oracles. The general anti-feminism of the Satar political and religious establishment does not extend to the Oracular tradition; perhaps as a holdover from polytheistic times, women are almost universally accepted as Oracles, though the majority of Oracles (in the 9th century RM) are still men.

VariantsEdit

Practitioners of Ardavan are divided into two major sects as of the year 800 RM, Vedai and Zalkephai.

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