Wednesday, August 8, 2018

DIY 30 #8: the Mourners -- Cult of the Dead God

To the east and south, on a peninsula far and away where the tribes of the Druugii, Dravidians, Aldacians, and Cassites now dwell in dominion under the Cytherean Kingdom, the Good God himself once stepped down to the world, incarnated in flesh, to teach mortals how to love one another.

Born to a virgin shepherd-girl, Tumuzid was raised as a shepherd himself, and his childhood was marked with the little miracles of enlightenment that usually accompany miraculous births; but it was not until his full manhood that he was called to the wilderness to dwell in a cave as an anchorite, from thence to return to civilization revealed in his glory as the Good God made flesh.

He wandered the wilderness and the little towns, preaching love and simplicity and mortification of the flesh to turn to higher virtues, and crowds gathered round him, and many miracles were performed by him and his followers. And in the cities, he disputed with the priests of the Lawful city cults, the priests of Bel, the philosophers of Zalmoxis, and the priestesses of Cytherea, and too rebuked the Snake-Handlers for their evil ways.

But all this earned Tumuzid the hatred and envy of the priestly sects, and they complained to the Four Kings that the shepherd-prophet was slandering the gods and teaching people to turn away from anything but their own selfish salvation, and refusing to give money for the liturgies of the city-gods. So Tumuzid was arrested by the Four Kings; each questioned him, and disputed with him as to the nature of virtue, and he bested each in his knowledge and personal piety. But though the other Kings would have released him, the King of the Druugii was ashamed of his failure, and acting alone without the consent of the others of the Four Kings, he had Tumuzid scourged at a pillar and crucified in the wilderness.

Then all the land was aggrieved; calamities were reported for and wide, of storms suddenly blown up, of the earth cracking open, of plagues descending on cities. The followers of Tumuzid took down his body and washed him and buried him, and prayed for his return--but he did not return. He lay dead in his tomb, cold and unmoving.

So this is how the cult of Mourning sprang up; the followers of Tumuzid, who saw that the Good God was dead, put on their mourning black, cut their hair and flagellated themselves in anguish, and refused to touch good things to eat or wine to drink. They held a funeral game for Tumuzid, in which the most wretched among them took up swords and in pairs plunged the blade into their partners' bellies to die alongside the Dead God. And though is is not mete for the mourning period for a mortal to last more than a year, the Mourners did not put off their black cloaks, and still refused good things even after thirty years, still waiting for the return of their god.

Two major sects arose out of this Mourning: 1) those who believed that because the divine Good had died, then mortals must perforce resurrect the Good in themselves; and 2) those who believed that because the divine Good had died, that all Goodness was gone, and that therefore all moral strictures and boundaries are henceforth broken. Needless to say, there is much bad blood between these two sects ...

Unfortunately, for those not well versed in the intricacies of Mourning theodicy, the two sects can be difficult to distinguish. Both go about in robes and cloaks of black, shave their hair, and mutilate their flesh, all in accordance with public displays of mourning. They are to be found in their places of worship keening and wailing, and each sect holds regular funereal games in which men and women are encouraged to kill one another. And both sects advocate the abandonment of the traditional city-cults--though the former because they wish for people to turn toward righteousness and salvation, while the latter ridicule the other gods as upholding a meaningless facade of "order".

The clearest distinction between sects is whether they allow the drinking of wine or not--those who seek righteousness tend to abstain completely from any wine, preferring milk as it is the traditional libation for the dead. Those who flout strictures, however, prefer wine at their funereal games.

And the games themselves are another way to distinguish the Good sect from the Evil sect, for the Mourners of the former hold austere games with sober food, simple wrestling-matches, and simultaneous dispatch of the death-seekers. The latter, meanwhile, often throw elaborate games that for all intents and purposes resemble great gladiatorial games, sometimes with slaves forced to fight one another, sometimes with trained gladiators dueling in earnest before the assembled Mourners (and perhaps other citizens attracted to the sport of blood ...).

Because of their excessive mourning practices and because of the unclear mingling of Good and Evil philosophies, the Mourners are often reviled by other cults, and must practice their cult on the outskirts of civilization. Nevertheless, many slaves and others who are downtrodden are attracted to the philosophies, be it the promise of salvation for all men, regardless of status--or the promised transgression of the boundaries established by Lawful and aristocratic elites.

As a final note, the cult of Tumuzid the Dead God is often confused with the cult of the God of Shepherds, Aristios, who also performed miracles for herdsmen and rustics, and who also died. But Aristios died because he gave himself up as a sacrifice, and when he died his gut split open with good crops and good things to eat, given of himself for the people; and in the hollow breast of his corpse, a tribe of bees built their hive, and from the honeycomb of the bees, Aristios himself was reborn, to walk the earth again.

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