|Founder||The First Elders|
|Origin||Northern Tavari charismatic folk religion|
|Followers||109,389,053 (2021 Church estimate)|
|Denominations||Church of Akrona|
Church of Iboma
Akronism is a monotheistic religion practiced predominately in Tavaris, where it developed. It is centered on the belief in and worship of Akrona, the goddess held by the faith to be the protector of all life on Urth. Adherents of Akronism belong primarily to the Church of Akrona, the first formally established organization of the Akronist faith that now operates in most countries of the globe, including directly governing Akronists in countries such as Packilvania and Esteira. Iboma (which has the largest population of Akronists in the world) has its own separate church, the Akronist Church of Iboma, which is affiliated with the Church of Akrona. Some adherents in Karishkanov and parts of Aponivia also worship outside the formal structure of the Church of Akrona. As of 2021, the Church of Akrona counted an estimated 109,389,053 members both in good standing and not in good standing across the world. Of that number, 24,426,903 members are Tavari. The figure of 24,426,903 Tavari citizens who are members of the Church is equivalent to about 45% of the population of Tavaris as of that country's most recent census estimate. Akronism remains the largest religion in Tavaris by number of worshippers, but the figure is a plurality, not a majority of Tavari citizens.
From 1909 until 2022, Metradan had an independent Akronist church organization known as the Church of Metradan. However, on 27 March 2022, the Church of Akrona excommunicated the entirety of the Church of Metradan, which rendered the organization cut off from the global community of Akronists. This was done in response to the events of 25 March 2022, in which Akronist agents of the private security firm Androcat Zandovi held the League of Novaris hostage in an attempt to get that body to recognize Acronis instead of Tavaris as a member. Matron Vana Dandreal said in her statement announcing the excommunication: "This is not a move that we make lightly, and it is not a move done only in response to a single incident, but in response to decades of clear defiance of the values that the Goddess Akrona laid out for us to follow." The move renders Metradani Akronists unable to access any spiritual benefits such as the blessing of weddings or funerals, and also cuts off the Church of Metradan from revenue sharing from the global Church as well as Crystal Hoteliers International.
Unlike the gods of many other monotheistic religions, Akrona is not considered the creator of the universe or the creator of life on Urth. Adherents believe that Akrona entered into existence at a finite point in time after the creation of the Universe, although this exact time is unknown. The identity of the creator of the universe and the source of life are both considered "mysteries" for the faithful to consider on their own. Many Akronists do not believe there is a divine explanation behind the Universe at all, instead believing the theory the Big Bang and in evolution, neither of which are held to be in opposition to Akronist teachings. Akrona is titled "the Protector of Life" and "the Benefactor." As put by the Matron - the leading official of the Church of Akrona - in 1954, "the Goddess Akrona is not the creator of life, but she is its custodian." She is believed to see and know everything where there is life and to guide the destiny and course of life for all living things. Akrona's domain is over both animal and plant-based life.
The Church of Akrona holds that Tavaris has been particularly blessed among nations as Akrona's chosen people. While the exact date is not certain, the Church holds that sometime between 1470 and 1480 AD, Akrona appeared from the sea before a group of seven bathing women and blessed them, charging them with a mission to spread her word and her blessing. This event, known as "the Emergence," is considered to be the moment in time in which the Akronist religion began, but it is not the moment in time in which Akrona began her custodianship of life on Urth. There is a group of Akronist religious and historical scholars who have dedicated themselves to determining when this moment occurred, known as the Seekers of the Assumption. The Seekers of the Assumption were formed in 1504 and have been extant since. They have never released a report to the public.
The primary religious teaching in Akronism is thankfulness. Akronism teaches believes to be thankful to Akrona for her stewardship and protection and to express this thankfulness in everything that they do. The Church of Akrona commands that members pause their work to verbally thank the Goddess for something seven times a day. For members of the clergy, this is increased to seventy-seven times. Those who are properly thankful of Akrona, the Church teaches, will have their own work more appreciated by the Goddess.
Akronism also teaches members to respect and protect life in their own actions and words. As life is Akrona's responsibility, to act against life is to act against Akrona. As such, members of the Church are commanded not to kill any land animal for any reason, including for sustenance. Plants, while also held to be alive, can be eaten so long as they are grown specifically for the purpose of sustenance and proper rituals of thankfulness are performed upon their planting, during their harvest, and before consumption. As such, plants that grow in the wild are not considered edible. However, the Church of Akrona holds that a person who is dying of starvation may consume wild plants, or animals who have died of natural causes, in order to preserve their own life. There is one exception to the Akronist ban on eating meat: seafood. As Akrona emerged from the sea, it is believed that everything within the sea is a gift from Akrona to the people of her chosen nation. Fish, shellfish, crustaceans, and any animal that lives entirely within the water may be eaten. The commandment to respect and protect life also means that Akronists are forbidden from recreational hunting, and the death penalty, euthanasia for people and animals, and abortion are banned. The Church does allow for the termination of a pregnancy in the event that the lives of both the mother and unborn child are in mortal peril, but only with the permission of a member of the clergy.
Actions in self-defense are considered to be acceptable under the command to respect and protect life. If a person is under attack and in danger of losing their life, they may act to protect themselves with any force needed to protect their own life. However, any member of the Church who kills any person or animal in self-defense must undergo a ritual of penance that requires isolating from the outside world for a period of 28 days, spending that time fasting and praying. This doctrine is also used to justify the existence and actions of Akronist members of the Tavari Armed Forces.
Death and The Afterlife
Compared to some other world religions, Akronism says relatively little about the afterlife. Whereas the Tavari folk religions that preceded Akronism were often centered around worship of ancestors, Akronism is centered around gratitude for what exists in the present. Generally, church teaching holds that after death, a soul either ascends to exist within a "shared communion" with Akrona and all the other souls of the deceased, or is reincarnated if it is "not ready" for the eternal communion. A person who, in life, acted with disregard towards living creatures and was ungrateful of Akrona would be considered to be "not ready," but this is not generally considered to be a "punishment." There is no concept of Hell in Akronism.
Souls that have entered into the eternal communion are considered to no longer have distinct personhood or individual essence - that is, they have all merged together and with the power and consciousness of Akrona herself. The souls of the departed cannot see, know of, or have any effect on events and affairs on Urth, and communion with Akrona is permanent. The study of the eternal communion is a very esoteric subject within Akronist religious thought, and it is not particularly prominent in mainstream Akronist scholarship. Indeed, a 2011 survey indicated that 13% of Akronists did not even recognize the name of the concept at all.
A result of the Akronist relative disinterest in the afterlife is a change in burial practices in the region. Prior to Akronism becoming the majority faith in the area, the Tavari embalmed and buried the bodies of their dead in graves which also served as small shrines. As Akronism moved away from the veneration of ancestors and of death in general, cremation became the dominant practice because graves in the ground were associated with previous Tavari (now heretical) religious practice. Generally, Akronists keep the ashes of departed loved ones in the home for a period of bereavement - which can be as short or as long as they like - and then take the ashes to the ocean to be scattered. The remains of the deceased that have no one to claim them, or the remains of people whose families have no place to store them, can be kept at the local temple.
The treatment of the dead is perhaps the most prominent point of cultural contention between Akronists and non-Akronist Tavari. Cremation is generally seen as desecration under the precepts of the Tavat Avati, the collected practices of the Tavari tradition of ancestor veneration. While it is less common in current times, historically Akronists faced significant stigma and discrimination from Tavat Avati practitioners for the way they treat their dead. Many Tavari cities and townships had laws forbidding crematoriums within their jurisdiction until the mid-20th century, and their construction is still controversial among some circles.
For Akronist beliefs about the Goddess Akrona personally, see "The Goddess Akrona" below.
The primary act of worship in Akronism is to thank Akrona. Traditionally, Akronists verbally thank Akrona upon waking up in the morning, upon eating each of three meals, and upon going to sleep. The Church commands the faithful to find at least two other reasons to thank the Goddess each day, for a total of seven things.
Formal worship services are held in temples according to a lunar calendar. The day of the full moon is reserved exclusively for the worship and celebration of Akrona. It is common in areas of western Tavaris for businesses to close and work to stop on this day, except for work considered to be essential for the protection of life - such as hospitals, pharmacies, and providers of food and water. Worship services are led by a priestess at dusk on the day of the full moon at local temples all across Tavaris. These services typically involve several group prayers, the singing of religious hymns, and the priestess speaking to the attendees about how to apply the teachings of Akrona in their daily lives. For Akronists who are not in Tavaris or near a temple, they are expected to go outside at the time of dusk and say a particular prayer known as the Canticle of the Benefactor. Akronists who are not physically able to attend temple or go outside - for reasons such as physical handicap or being held against their will - are encouraged to say the Canticle wherever they can, but especially at a window or some other place they can see outside, if possible.
Texts and Edicts
Akronism does not have a single, canonical text or "holy book" containing all of the teachings and commandments of the Akronist faith. The Goddess Akrona is said to have personally spoken to the seven women she blessed only on one occasion. Her words at that moment were recorded as "I give to you and to all the people of your nation all the blessings of life in creation, and charge you with the protection and continuation of life everywhere." In addition to speaking, Akrona bestowed upon the women a vision of what she wanted the Church and the world to be like. Together, the words Akrona spoke and the vision she gave the women are called "the Mandate," which is held to be the highest doctrine of the Akronist faith.
These seven women, the only mortal beings to whom Akrona personally appeared, would become the first Elders of the Church, the first ruling body of the faith. These First Elders, over the course of their leadership of the religion during the formation of the Church, issued one hundred and three official statements called Edicts. These 103 Edicts are considered to be the "truest Edicts" because they were issued by the people with the most direct knowledge of Akrona, inspired by the words and visions of the Mandate. These first 103 Edicts have been collected into a book called The First Edicts. The First Edicts contain some of the most fundamental beliefs of the faith, including the ban on killing land animals for sustenance or sport, the rule that services are to be held on the full moon each month, and the mandate to cremate the bodies of the dead, among many others. A number of the First Edicts, usually counted as between 5 and 8 depending on differing definitions, are called "Poetic Edicts" because instead of direct rules, they are descriptions of some of the visions the First Elders saw. Edict 4 is a Poetic Edict that describes seeing the entire Akronist conception of the cycle of life - from birth to death and then reincarnation until the spirit lives a life in accordance with Akrona's wishes and enters into direct communion with the essence of Akrona herself.
The Elders, a body that continues to this day, continue to issue Edicts. Edicts are generally issued in the form of rules or advice that are binding on a particular set of people or a particular institution. Edicts can be binding upon, for example, the entire body of the faithful, or on a single person, such as the King or the Prime Minister of the day. Some Edicts have been issued to cover only a particular geographical location, and one Edict - "An Edict to Encourage Universal Amity and Respect" - was issued to the audience of "all the people of every nation on Urth." While the First Edicts are cataloged separately, all Edicts have the same legal standing, and in theory, the Elders of the day can amend or repeal any Edict. However, none of the First Edicts have ever been repealed or directly amended, as to do so would generate immense controversy among both Church leaders and the body of the faithful. New Edicts are sometimes issued to "expand upon" or "clarify" parts of the First Edicts, and there has historically been significant debate over what some things in the First Edicts mean, especially the Poetic Edicts.
There have been several texts that have been written by scholars of the Church, referred to in general as "the Conversations." These are generally commentaries on particular Edicts or enshrined beliefs or actions of the Church. Examples include the surviving personal diaries of the First Elders, or other commentaries such as "Letters to the People of Dravai," written by three priestesses in the city of Tovar to various people living in the city of Dravai in the late 16th century. At the time, Dravai was believed to be a hotbed for Akronist discontent in the country. The Letters contained various pleas to the people to come back into the fold of the faith, and in several places, offered concessions to people who raised issues with religious rules of the time. Famously, the Letters contain a phrase that is today held as a central operating tenet of the Church: "It is wrong to deny fundamental mercy and compassion to those who have chosen, with the same will granted to them by the Universe as has been granted to us, to follow a different conviction than that of thankfulness to the Benefactor." Since the Letters to the People of Dravai were enshrined by the Elders as canonical in the year 1604, this statement has been held to forbid the Church from denying respect or compassion to people who follow other faiths, or none at all. A book called "The Conversations" is published by the Church and contains all the Conversations that are considered to be canonical.
Additional texts include the Golden Hymnal, a collection of songs written by early worshippers. The Golden Hymnal is of particular interest to historians because most of its songs were written by commoners, not by religious officials, and are believed to reflect the honest, day-to-day feelings and beliefs of individual members of the church as it was being formed. In many cases, the tunes are adaptations of folk songs that already existed in the region.
Religious Governance and Clergy
Church of Akrona
The first and largest formally established body of worshipers of Akrona is the Church of Akrona. Over the course of time, some Akronist movements have drifted away from the Church of Akrona and formed independent churches. The Akronist Church of Iboma separated administratively from the Church of Akrona early in the history of the faith, but has remained closely aligned in matters of faith.
The Church of Akrona is governed by a body known as The Elders. The First Elders were the first seven women to whom Akrona appeared and personally blessed. That body has continued uninterrupted to today, always consisting of seven women. The Elders are led by a figure known as The Matron. The Matron is believed to be the singular "head of the Church" and both representative of the faithful to Akrona and representative of Akrona to the faithful, although when The Elders meet as a body to deliberate, she has only one vote the same as every other Elder. When an Elder dies, a replacement is named by the Matron to serve for life. When The Matron dies, the remaining six Elders appoint a new Matron, who may be one of their own or who may come from outside the Elders. In the case that an Elder is appointed Matron, the new Matron appoints a replacement to the seat she vacated. Other than being a woman, there is no other qualification set out under the law for someone to be selected as Matron. Akronist scholars have noted that there is not even a written requirement that an Elder be a member of the church. The Elders have never disclosed any of the factors they use in deciding who should be a Matron. In 2018, the current Matron made an unprecedented disclosure, in response to a question from a member of the church, that for purposes of selecting an Elder the definition of "woman" is any individual who identifies as and "sincerely holds themselves to be, in their whole self and spirit" a woman - meaning transgender women are eligible for the office. It is unknown if any transgender women have ever served as an Elder - although it is equally unknown if any cisgender women have ever served in the role, as no Elder has ever publicly stated one way or another.
There have been thirty-seven individual women who have served as Matron. The very first few Matrons were known only as "the Matron" and ceased using the name of their birth. As a result, the birth names of the first Matron and other early Matrons are lost to history. However, this practice faded with time, and by the time of Ilara Lendreaž, who served as Matron between 1651-1682, Matrons were known by name. The current Matron is Vana Dandreal, who was elected in 2002 and served previously as High Priestess of Zaram Province. Notably, though Matrons do use their names, traditionally Matrons (and many lay Akronists as well) do not use their Line Name, the middle name in the traditional Tavari naming system. This is due to an Akronist belief that the line system is divisive, and that thinking of all Akronists as a single united "clan" is encouraged by the Church.
Individual Elders are identified in public by the same names as the First Elders. The given names of the First Elders, not including the first Matron, were Laika, Nelat, Anda, Vreila, Nanshai, and Endi. The line names and family names of the First Elders, and the entire name of the first Matron, have been lost. Upon each of the deaths of the First Elders, the Elder appointed to replace them was known by the name of the one they replaced - for example, the Elder appointed when Anda died was also known as Anda. As such, there are six "seats" of the Elders, referred to as "the seat of Laika" or "the seat of Nanshai." To differentiate between different individual Elders, one might say "the current Laika," "the thirty-ninth Laika," or most formally, "the thirty-ninth Elder to sit upon the Seat of Laika." As Elders very rarely make individual public appearances, it is rare for their birth names to be used, but there is no Church doctrine forbidding their use.
The Elders are the supreme leaders of the Church of Akrona, and generally have the ultimate authority to decide on religious doctrine. However, the Elders generally agree to listen and give consideration to advice offered by the clergy and lay membership of the Church. A body known as the Synod, consisting of priests and members elected to represent lay members, proposes administrative and religious doctrines to the Elders, and has the authority to issue formal censures of the Elders or the Matron.
There are twelve provinces of Tavaris. Each of these, while also being a unit of civil government, is a unit of church administration. In the church, each province is led by a High Priestess, who is appointed by the Matron. Provinces are divided into parishes, of which each province may have several dozen. Each parish has one temple, and each temple is headed by a Priestess appointed by the High Priestess. In turn, Priestesses may name Accessory Priestesses to assist them in temple administration, and the lay membership of each temple elects an Administration Council to assist the Priestess in the temporal administration of each temple - such things as maintenance, staffing, and event planning.
Only women may be members of the clergy. This has been a doctrine since the very beginning of the Church, because Akrona is a woman who appeared before only women. Women are believed to hold the "sacred mandate" from Akrona to be the custodians of the Church, just as Akrona is the custodian of all life. Akronists of other genders may serve in all other positions, including being elected to the Synod as representatives of lay membership.
To be a member of the clergy, one must be a member of good standing and graduate from a seminary school. There are fourteen Church of Akrona seminaries in Tavaris. It takes seven years to complete the program, and upon graduation, new Priestesses are expected to serve as Accessory Priestesses for another seven years in a province that is not the one they grew up in before being eligible to be named as a Priestess. Members of the clergy are under no obligation to celibacy, and many get married and have children. Members of the clergy are held to a higher standard in living according to the standards of the Church, and can lose their positions if they are known, for example, to deliberately choose not to pray as required, or in one famous case, raise chickens in her backyard to consume for eggs and even meat.
Akronist Church of Iboma
The Akronist Church of Iboma (Ibomian: Limashidi l'Akronisti la'Iboma) received autocephaly from the Church of Akrona in the 17th century CE. Nevertheless, it remains in communion with the Church of Akrona i.e., rituals performed in either church and decisions taken by either church with respect to religious matters are generally regarded as valid. The Akronist Church of Iboma was formed from the Province of Iboma of the Church of Akrona. Akronism traces its history to the 16th century when missionaries from Tavaris brought the religion and converted the people. The religion spread and by the time of the signing of the Covenant of the Twelve Tribes in the mid 17th century CE, it was the largest religion in the country and was adopted as the official religion by the state. As part of her role as the secular leader of Akronism in Iboma, Queen Mujaji I was granted the title of Defender of the Faith (Ibomian: Muzvikiri mwakuKholwa) eventually applying for and receiving autocephaly later in her reign. The highest spiritual leader is technically the Matron and the Elders of the Church of Akrona continue to have a persuasive voice over the traditions and governance structures of the Ibomian church, but the daily running of the church lies squarely in the hands of the Holy Council and the High Priestess. Today, over 78% of the Ibomian population are members of the Akronist Church of Iboma. Furthermore, Iboma has the largest population of Akronists in the world at roughly 39 million people.
The Goddess Akrona
Akrona as a deity is the central defining factor of the Akronist religion.
Akronist teachings hold that Akrona, as a deity, is omnipotent and omnipresent in all areas where life exists. She is believed to have come into existence at a finite point in time some point after the beginning of the Universe, a moment known as the Birth. At some point after that, she assumed the role of custodian of all life on Urth, a moment known as the Assumption. At a definite point - a particular date and time lost to history but in the second half of the fifteenth century AD - she emerged from the sea and blessed the First Elders, a moment called the Emergence. From the Birth through the Emergence, Akrona had a finite, physical form known as a body, and had a consciousness and essence distinct from that of every other living thing on Urth. When Akrona appeared before the First Elders, she was described as a very tall orcish woman with dark blue hair - "the color of a stormy sea." Her skin was described as "pale," and she is said to have radiated light from within. The First Elder Anda in particular described her as "more beautiful in countenance than I have ever seen" and "delicate in feature, with heavy-lidded eyes, full cheeks, full lips, and a smile suggestive of infinite serenity." She was described as "in some fashion, essentially different than the people of our nation, and yet, at the same time, just the same."
The Emergence occurred near dusk on the northwestern coast of Tavaris, near the geological feature known as the Crystal Coast (from which the nearby modern city takes its' name). The Crystal Coast is a massive outcrop of quartz crystals that juts out from cliffs on the beach that are several meters high. Upon the moment of the Emergence, the crystals, normally a whitish-pink color, began to glow with a "very bright orange color." Additionally, the moon, which was full that night, also began to glow orange. The diamond symbol of the Church of Akrona is inspired by the glowing crystals.
Upon the Emergence, Akrona issued the Mandate to the First Elders, who were bathing in the sea and the only people in the area at the time. Immediately after issuing the Mandate, Akrona herself is said to have "become the light." It is unknown exactly what this means, but all seven of the First Elders used this phrase in their personal writings about the Emergence. What is known is that at that time, Akrona ceased to have a physical body and distinct consciousness. The teachings of the First Elders, and the Church of Akrona ever since, state that at that time, the Goddess Akrona became a force that exists everywhere there is life that maintains the existence of life and forms a part of all life. In this form, Akrona no longer has a body and can no longer speak to mortal beings as mortal beings speak to each other. However, in this form, Akrona has intimate knowledge of the lives of all people, animals, and plants in the universe, and can hear both the words and thoughts of all people. Upon Akrona "becoming the light," all seven of the First Elders reported being overcome with a strong feeling that they must spread the knowledge of Akrona to all the people of their nation.
Akrona and the Moon
Since the beginning of the Akronist faith, Akrona has been strongly identified with the Moon. The Moon was said to glow just as Akrona and the crystals did, and the Moon is known to have power - the tides - over the ocean from whence Akrona emerged. The Moon continues to be important to the Church of Akrona, as religious services are held on the full moon, and the Akronist religious calendar is an exclusively lunar calendar. However, Church doctrine is very clear that Akrona is not a lunar deity, and that like all parts of the physical universe, the Moon was not created by Akrona. Generally, the Church holds that Akrona "has adopted the Moon as a symbol of her power" for reasons that are known only to her.
Outside the Church, historians generally believe that the Akronist religion emerged from a charismatic folk religion in the region of the northwestern coast of Tavaris that was centered on moon worship, as opposed to the predominant religion elsewhere in the country, which was ancestor worship. The lunar worship in the northwestern region, more sparsely populated than other areas of the country, is believed to have been a holdout of ancient animist traditions that predated the traditions of ancestor worship. This lunar worship appears to have seen a resurgence in the area for unknown reasons in the 15th century, that by the second half of the century had shifted into the sort of belief structure that gave rise to the religion centered around Akrona. The word "Akrona" has an unconfirmed etymology, but the concept of the Goddess may descend from ancient personifications of the Moon - one Proto-Tavari word for which being "Krumii," which some linguists consider the linguistic origin of Akrona. Akronist religious scholars generally do not consider this information in their studies on Akrona.