Native Avnatran religions
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The island of Avnatra in the Gulf of Northwest Gondwana is home to two currently extant religions that developed there: Akronism and the Tavat Avati faith, also called “Tavari traditionionalism.” A third native Avnatran religion, that of the First Va people of what is now western Vaklori, has no living adherents but is attested in some historical records. It is the current academic consensus that all three faiths descend from the same source, namely an animist tradition practiced by Orcish neolithic hunter-gatherers who lived on the island prior to the arrival of the Tavari. However, political and social tension between Akronists and Tavari traditionalists at various points in history have affected how people view the two traditions, and at times identifying connections and similarities between the religions has been considered rude, controversial, and even blasphemous.
Sapient habitation on the island of Avnatra has been dated to as early as 350,000 years before present, given its location near the region of northern Alaria (western Gondwana) where anatomically modern orcs evolved. At various points during recent geologic history, with a total duration in the tens of thousands of years, the island was connected to the mainland of Gondwana across a land bridge that crossed the modern King’s Island to what is now New Rania. (In these periods, the Strait of Vaklori is properly known as the Gulf of Vaklori.) As such, the island has almost certainly seen multiple different waves of migration as well as considerable back-and-forth interchange with the mainland during periods of low sea level. The land bridge was last submerged approximately 7,000 years before present when the Avotro glacier completed melting, raising sea levels in the region by dozens of meters.
First Va people
Two different historical groups are known as “the Va people” in Staynish-Codexian: a group of semi-nomadic tribal agriculturalists directly descended from paleolithic orcish hunter-gatherers on the island, and the ethnically Reiktic people who invaded the first group in the 12th century CE and adopted the name and culture of the land they conquered, as well as their descendants. To differentiate them when needed, these two groups are also known as the “First Va” and the “Second Va” peoples, respectively.
The First Va emerged in northeast Avnatra around 2000 BCE when the hunter-gatherers of the island independently developed agriculture. Compared to the relatively dense rainforests of the south, the north of the island contains savannah grasslands and even steppes, making it much better suited for agriculture, especially after the extirpation of the last megafauna from the northern steppes in around 4000 BCE. Evidence of formalized religious practice has been found in most of the oldest First Va sites, including shrines kept in the home with items of sentimental or ritualistic importance similar both conceptually and visually to the home shrines of the modern Tavat Avati faith.
By 1000 BCE, the First Va had reached as far south on the island as Eštakai, where a large First Va building complex is still partially standing (though it was incorrectly identified as proto-Tavari until the 21st century), though for uncertain reasons they almost entirely retreated back north and east of the Ranat Plateau within 500 years. It is believed that there was a non-zero, but very small, population of First Va people in central and southern Avnatra when the pre-Tavari arrived.
The First Va were highly decentralized and no single leader of the First Va has ever been identified. The various sites discovered so far are believed to have been largely independent and self-sufficient. It is unknown with what term they named themselves; in the time of the First Va, “Va” was a geographical descriptor (referring either to the entire island or to the northern portions), not an ethnic one. The Second Va people in the 12th century were the ones to begin using the word to describe themselves, in addition to adopting the First Va language and culture. They, however, would be conquered by the Asendavians less than two centuries later. Though relatively brief, the time of the Second Va is sometimes called the “Va Golden Age” and is noted for surviving records using written Reiktic as a court language that record and describe the traditional First Va religion in great detail.
The history of the Tavari people is customarily divided into three eras: pre-Tavari, proto-Tavari, and [Modern] Tavari. The pre-Tavari era covers the era of the migration to Avnatra and is traditionally considered to have ended when the pre-Tavari reached the Tears of the Moon, an event that is not conclusively dated. The whole migration of pre-Tavari people to Avnatra has been most conclusively dated to between 500 BCE and 300 CE, with recent groundbreaking discoveries likely dating the beginning of the migration to precisely 504 BCE. Should the Danvrean evidence hold up against academic scrutiny, it would prove untrue the common Tavari folk story that says the meteor impact event of 1 CE is what first inspired the Tavari to leave their land of origin.
Until recently, consensus had long been that the pre-Tavari first arrived on King’s Island and then moved northward, the so-called “Up from Nuvo Theory.” In this theory, the pre-Tavari were believed to have been related to the Raonites. However, scholarship had begun to coalesce around a “West from the Danvreas Theory” as recent as 1999, postulating that the pre-Tavari originated in the Danvreas and leaving either during or shortly after its unification war in the 7th century BC. The lack of observed influence of the traditional Raonite religion on the Avnatran religions—predicted by 19th century archaeologists and sapientologists but never proven—has been cited as a reason for the shift in consensus.
Very little is known of the culture the pre-Tavari brought with them, as the pre-Tavari were not literate and left no written records. The language the pre-Tavari spoke is also unknown, and may not even be related to the modern Tavari language. It is believed, however, that some of the religious beliefs the pre-Tavari had are the basis for some factors of the Tavat Avati faith that do not exist in other Avnatran religious traditions. Most famously is the concept translated as “hell” (in Tavari: narasq), in which the spirits of those who were sinful in life experience an afterlife of eternal pain, which stands in stark contrast to the documented Va belief that all souls remain in the physical world after death, a defining feature to the faith that the Tavat Avati retains for virtuous souls.
The proto-Tavari era is customarily dated to between 200 CE and 900 CE, with the starting point being the Tavari reaching the Tears of the Moon and the ending point being the adoption of written language. However, exact estimates of the time these events occurred vary, and modern sapientologists tend to discount the proto-Tavari era as a distinct cultural era, instead considering it only a “customary measurement of time” similar to the three-age system in use by many academics who study ancient civilizations. The proto-Tavari era is the era in which the Tavat Avati faith began to take shape, affected most crucially by interactions with the First Va and their tradition of animism. However, by the time the modern Tavari era begins with the first written Tavari records, it is believed there was no longer regular contact between the Tavari and the First Va. Therefore, the Tavat Avati faith began to diverge from its origin—a process that would continue until the tenets of the faith were formalized in 1304 by King Utor I. In particular, the First Va belief that all things in nature possess a living spirit gradually morphed into the Tavari belief of living spirits within just people.
Certain factors of Akronism also date to the proto-Tavari era, although the degree to which these factors affect the modern religion is debated. The deity Akrona’s association with the Moon has been theorized to be a partial retention of the First Va veneration of things within nature and that Akrona descends directly from a First Va spirit of the Moon that proto-Tavari particular in the more distant and less populated west venerated in particular. Western Avnatra has always been distant from centers of political power on the island and somewhat isolated, leading to the development of a strong regional identity and differing cultural practices—proponents of the theory argue that the people in Western Tavaris chose to hold on to more familiar, older beliefs even while the political elites in the south moved away from First Va traditions. This same process would repeat again in western Avnatra with Akronism itself in the late 15th century.
In the context of historical studies, the “Modern Era” of Tavari history refers to anything after 900 BCE. However, the modern Tavari language did not emerge until the 14th century; the first written Tavari records were in Old Tavari and used the Old Tavari script. The time between the beginning of the modern era and the unification of Tavaris in 1304 is sometimes known as the “Classical Tavari period.” By the year 900, the religion of most Tavari people would be recognizable to modern day traditionalists as the Tavat Avati faith, though practitioners in different communities often had different festival days and differing cultural taboos until the standardization of the faith.
In the Classical Tavari period, governance was highly decentralized and the Line system was essentially already in place. The number of chiefs was constantly changing, and there was almost always at least one violent conflict occurring between Lines somewhere on the island at any given time. The common religious faith and common language were the primary factors determining Tavari identity and linking the various Lines together—in many cases, these were the only things that some Lines shared with others. This decentralization is cited as the primary reason why the divergent beliefs of western Tavari were able to continue without much attention, as aside from the class of traditionalist shrine masters there was no overarching authority to respond.
Main article: see Akronism