- 1 Core Principles
- 2 History
- 3 List of Temples and Shrines
- 4 The Sacraments and Ministries
- 5 Other traditions, rites and special features
There are three basic theological principles (called Shukkyubu) of the faith: (1), the idea that the Creation was not an act by a God but rather that the universe just spontaneously came into existence, (2), that the Gods and Goddesses ware representations of the most fundamental principles of nature, and, (3), the concept of veneration of events and places (and saints associated with them), especially in regards to noble human values.
Ale Shukkyubu - First Principle
The universe itself needed no cause or Creator to exist; there was no time when it did not exist, since there is no time without it. Time, space, and everything else is only restricted by the laws inside of the universe, but the universe itself does not succumb to them. It therefore just started to be. It is still under theological debate how one can imagine the infinitesimal moments approaching this "first" point in time", or whether that principle demands an infinite old universe. The scientific approach to the big bang theory in the early 20th century had a huge impact on the self perception and awareness of others about the faith, and for a short while boosted membership of the already shrinking community.
Yaére Shukkyubu - Second Principle
Gods are the spirits of certain indivisible truths (e.g. laws of nature). They each represent basic (meta)physical ideas or human values such as time, space, gravity, truth and falsehood, compassion etc. Although their number is undisputed to be finite, there is no list that claims to be comprehensive. That means, that although since over 400 years all religious text deal with the same few dozens of Higher Gods, there is the theoretical option that one day a scholar might come up with a convincing "new" fundamental idea that by it's nature needs manifestation as such a Higher God. The Higher Gods are worshipped in temples (Nekeze) built for them, even most are not believed to interfere with human life at all. These temples are usually built out of stone or similar materials.
An outstanding example for an Goddess that is linked to an event of major historical significance and her Temple is the Díkwi Nekeze in Rō. It's the highest place of worship in Symvanistic liturgy, since it's dedicated to no less event than the creation of earth (which happened much later after the creation of the universe as a whole). The Díkwi God therefore is worshipped as the Creator Guardian of Earth and humankind, and pilgrimages to the Nekeze and Rō in general are often dedicated to meditation about life as a whole and intercessions for the well-being of humanity and peace.
Yúre Shukkyubu - Third Principle
Symvanism also practises a high degree of veneration of saints and their deeds. They can be thought of as spirits, guarding the ideal they fought for, and are tied to a specific place. At these holy places, shrines (Saélbufo) are erected where the spirits of these saints can be worshipped and asked for favours. For that reason shrines are usually open to the public, while important temples often still serve only distinguished religious uses. Shrines are usually built out of wood or similar materials.
One example is the Shίwuangdō Saélbufo (Shrine of salvation by death) in Agunas-Pang, Pyingshum. Here, a hard working nun fought tirelessly for the lives of victims of a famine that no other wanted to treat, and eventually succumbed the plague herself. To this day the shrine holds up the value of self-abandonment and care for the ill, and pilgrims going there often pray for courage and determination to do the right thing, even if it means hurting themselves, and other demanding tasks such as caring for elderly family members.
Shrines can also usually be grouped into one of XX "ministries". Symvanism knows, like other religions, a number of rituals performed at special points in life, such as listed below. Each of these sacraments is associated with one ministry, and it is desirable to perform a sacrament at a shrine of the equivalent ministry. For example, the symvanist equivalent of christening is usually (if the health of the mother or child doesn't stand against it) at a shrine of the 1st ministry, which in turn usually enshrine some event related to child health, growth, or fidelity.
The origins of the Symvanist faith are difficult to pin down; it's roots can be found as early as in some tribal rites and traditions in the 2nd and 3rd century A.D. The oldest written records still in use are from the 9th century, and the centralist organised religious community can be traced back to about the same time. It is a religion without a founding figure, and scientists agree that it is the result of fusion of many older, independent believe systems.
Archaeological findings on Mt. Láyin in Rō indicate that the hill top has been a place of worship since at least three millennia. In the early 6th century the place became acknowledged by most religious groups in the wider region to be the true place of creation of earth. As a result the city quickly developed into a centre for pilgrimages and theological education. In the year 856 (some historians claim the year 858) the many loose religious organisations came together and formed the Symvanist church. Clerical regulations and spiritual consensus were consciencely kept vague and open, which can still be seen today in the wide range of rituals, high days and festivals that often retain regional characteristics. The only binding agreement was on the three principles, which where written down and approved as "universal truths" by all scholars of the time. The unified church was a very decentralised organisation, where the religious community of Rō and its leaders held a de-facto chair person like position, coordinating the efforts of all the local communities. As an in official trade-off, the Rōlese community had to bear the costs for the education of the cleric. Although the city of Yoyomi and its realm became the largest and most dominant entity in the area of modern Kojo, the much smaller Rō (which only consisted of an unfortified settlement on the yet to be terraced hill side) remained independent and positioned itself as the spiritual centre of the faith. It was and remained the only city in Kojolese history to have never been forcefully invaded.
High phase, medieval period
While up to the 9th century Symvanism was still contesting with other religions in the region, following the consolidation phase it quickly became the dominant and eventually only major faith. Following consolidation many local chiefs, princes and kings adopted Symvanism officially as their dominion's faith (especially because it didn't demand any kind of submission from the sovereigns), and the few "heathenish" areas were often struck down by coordinated warfare from the Symvanistic areas. This classical high phase went on even after Kojolese unification by Surb Rēkku from the Pyilser-krun'a Dynasty in 1668.
During the 18th century the faith played a shrinking role in people's everyday life. While nearly everyone still considered themselves to be Symvanists, scientific progress and the first vibes of the Age of Enlightenment [OGF- vers.?] softened up the the religious doctrine. With the unification of the Kojolese languages with the Pyilser-dialect with heavy Hopponese influence becoming the standard, the religious communities in the former heartland of the faith became increasingly alienated from the ancient religious texts and sermons. Also, with local rulers being replaced by the centralist government in Pyingshum, critical thoughts and philosophies weren't suppressed by those sovereigns anymore who previously had an interest in keeping their subjects in line. The weak church failed to build an organisation fitting to replace these elements. Approaching the 19th century, many people especially in the emerging urban areas didn't feel a strong connection to the faith anymore. At the time the monarchy was overthrown in 1828, religious adherence was so weak that Symvanism wasn't even explicitly mentioned as state religion in the constitution. In the redraft of the constitution of 1910, Symvanism wasn't even mentioned at all, and Freedom of faith and conscience was granted to followers of all religions.
Glimpse of hope
With the rise of the big-bang-theory in the late 1920's the small but stable community realised the potential this "scientific prove" of a core aspect of the traditional teachings had in terms of once establishing itself firmly in society. Membership numbers actually rose by about 70% in only 5 years, but the hype quickly cooled down and wasn't enough to boost the Symvanist faith anywhere near its medieval position.
Symvanist rituals are often used for marriages, funerals, spiritual pilgrimages etc. For example, about every fifth marriage ceremony includes symvanist rituals, and every second sepulchre. The religion is thought at schools as part of the national history curriculum, theological teaching only takes place at private afternoon schools offered by local communities or at university (most notably the Rō Tōchuekyana Ōnagara).
The following table gives information about the the different degrees of religiousness and their total and relative numbers:
|Very active followers||total population tbd||6%|
|Sympathizers, connected through social events etc.||total population tbd||23%|
|No notable affiliation with Symvanism||total population tbd||71%|
The 110,300 very active followers living in Rō make up 58% of the local population there.
List of Temples and Shrines
|Name||Image||Location||Date erected||dedicated to||Notes|
| Díkwi Nekeze
Creation of Earth
|Rō||since ancient times||Díkwi Afā (Creator of Earth, Guardian of Humankind)||Situated on top of Mt. Láyin, this ancient place of worship is the most important point of pilgrimage in the symvanist faith|
| Lamtyaichi Nekeze
|Pyingshum||1544||Zuraengyaichi Afā (health and convalescence)||Build upon a special water source that promises health, this temple is a place of ritual washing and praying for a quick recovery from illness|
| Ōenkī Nekeze
temple of far reaching justice
|Wenzū||1089||Maki Afā (Law and truthfulness)||Built next to the Wenzū Palace, the temple was built by XX to support his claim to be the rightful king of his realm.|
| Balbue Nekeze
temple of inertia
|Pyingshum||1973||XXX||Built in a planned city suburb from the 70's|
| Hokkishael Nekeze
Temple of spring
| Gangmi so Nekeze
Temple of the Ocean
| XXX so Nekeze
|Name||Image||Location||Date erected||Ministry, wonder/sacrifice worshipped||Notes|
| Shίwuangdō Saélbufo
Shrine of Salvation by Death
|Pyingshum||1480||xxx||Hard working nun fought tirelessly for the lives of victims of a famine that no other wanted to treat, and eventually succumbed the plague herself|
| Konsha morana'e Raccha so Saélbufo
Selfless rescuer ("Good Samaritan")'s Shrine
|Pyingshum||1978||xxx||Locality of a car accident, where a stranger jumped in and rescued two children, and as a result was hit by a car himself|
| Humenyamin so Saélbufo
Amber Shrine ("Good Samaritan")'s Shrine
|Pyingshum||1842||xxx||During the erection of Pyingshum's new government quarter after the democratic revolution, a gem merchant donate large amounts to co-finance social housing in the new area|
| Jiji-faráng Saélbufo
Fun Ceremony Shrine
|Pyingshum||1945||xxx||Dedicated to a local clergy man who was known for being great with children, especially in making them enjoy and appreciate symvanist rituals and festivals|
| Sóngka so Bari Gal so Saélbufo
Shrine of a heart warm Welcome
| Tóngjing so Saélbufo
Shrine of compassion
| Hitashi so Saélbufo
Shrine of forgiveness
| Enkēle Gaerié so Saélbufo
Shrine of the fallen Soldier
| Jaengba Maérchōn so Saélbufo
Shrine of the busy merchant
| 1633tali ní eshhae so Saélbufo
Shrine of the war of 1633
|Busakyueng||1633||xxx||Commemorated the defense of Busakyueng Castle in 1633|
| so Saélbufo
| so Saélbufo
| so Saélbufo
The Sacraments and Ministries
There are X Sacraments, each paired with one of the X Ministries (Hartolifūgen) that shrines can be associated with. These Ministries are not independent organisations, but rather tell the type of the shrine. It is desirable to perform each sacrament at a shrine of the appropriate Ministry, however that is not required and would often be impractical.
The current sacraments have been established unchanged since about 400 years; while they are in some ways used to legitimate the existence of the Symvanist Church in the symvanist world-view, they do not need to be carried out by church officials and are seen as important rituals to come closer to insight and mark major transformations in life.
Yeritatyaitchi ("Baptism"); 1st Ministry
The Yeritatyaitchi is a ceremony where the newborn is ritually washed. It is similar to a christening, however in the Symvanist rite name giving plays no role. Many shrines that fall into this 1st ministry are located at special water sources or wells, and the enshrined event is often unsurprisingly connected with washing or drinking.
Jínchō ("Confirmation"); 2nd Ministry
The confirmation is carried out on youths around the age of 14. It forms the completion of a 2 months long period of teaching about the Symvanist faith carried out by laypersons in groups of 3 - around 15. The subject is then, by their conscious decision, ritually welcomed to the Symvanist church. Shrines of the 2nd Ministry are often associated with deeds of loyalty, fidelity and faithfulness.
As outside of Rō, especially in small communities, there often times aren't enough children to justify the obligatory schooling, parents from these areas often send their kids to the holy city for that time, where they, often times the first time away from their parents, then are thought the rules, rites and history of the faith and become a full member of the church, before they return home to their families. The Kojolese school law provides for a short exception from the otherwise compulsory school attendance, as summer holidays are only around 6 to 7 weeks long. This is often a point of debate, as critics say that the secularist state should not grant benefits to the members of one religion that it doesn't grant to every other member of society.
Kōkai ("Remission"); 3rd Ministry
The Symvanist ritual of remission includes a serious meditation of the sinner, who then writes his deeds out on paper and what they did to reimburse the marred. They then proceed to burn these notes, usually in special fire places in the appropriate shrines, and hope that the Gods grant forgiveness. Such shrines are often connected to events of remission, feeling of guilt or similar. It is one of two Sacraments that are not dedicated to a specific and single point in life.
Harsanīgi ("(Family) Marriage"); 4th Ministry
Like many other religions , Symvanism places a high value on the ritualised bonding between a man and a woman. However, quite opposite to other customs, marriages need to occur after a child is born. The father and the mother then, together with their first child (later children are automatically included, although sometimes separate rituals are held for them as well), create a "family". It is important to note that every individual is only allowed to be in two of these "families" at any given time, in one as a child and, later, in an additional one as a parent and spouse. That means that for example if a woman bears a child from a second man out of wedlock, that child is technically not part of any family, although it is usually raised by the mother. When a spouse dies, the other partner then may marry another partner, who then becomes the parent of the other's children. Similarly, when an orphan lost both parents, a couple may adopt it by including it in their (or founding a new) family. These customs still reflect in modern Kojolese marriage laws, although the necessity to bear kids no longer exists.
Shrines where Symvanist weddings are held are unsurprisingly usually dedicated to events relating to close family bounds, loyalty, love, fertility, good fortune, and similar.
Arkanāl ("Wake"); 6th Ministry
The wake describes a period of customary 2 days and two nights (at least 24 hours, although there have been exceptions made for victims of epidemics to reduce the risk of spreading the disease further or in situations of war), during which the deceased is kept in a respective shrine. This time is meant to give family and friends, but also neighbours and other acquaintances the chance to bid farewell to the defunct, who is often laid into an open casket. This often proves very helpful for coping with grief, especially if the death was sudden. Shrines of the 6th Ministry are often, but not always, close to cemeteries and relate to various events connected to death, grief, ascension, communication with ancestors etc.
Barélhosutān (or since late 17th century "Chūsai") ("Intercession"); 7th Ministry
This is the second of the two Sacraments not connected to a specific point in life, and describes the formal act of sending wishes to spirits. This is done in the opposite way to remissions; instead of burning, believers soak their pieces of paper with their wishes on them in water so that they dissolve. The resulting mud is then spread on beds on the shrine's ground, and flowers or trees are planted into them. The praying may come back and water the soil to boost their request.
Though there are specific shrines dedicated to this practice, the ritual is also commonly performed at all other types of shrines (with some exceptions where there simply is no space). Many shrines of the 7th Ministry are located next to other important shrines, where the Intercession of believers to the spirit of the original shrine has been "proven" over time to be fulfilled with a high likelihood.
Other traditions, rites and special features
- Symvanism is one of few non-natural religions that don't know of large gathering places such as churches. Although Temples and Shrines are often points for religious gatherings and certain festivals, they are not used for "regular" gatherings including such things as mass prayers, sermons, or masses in general. Regular get-togethers are instead held at people's homes; one effect is that many old Kojolese houses from affluent tenants have large representative "living rooms"; in modern times this type of room is usually only build in a new house in the area around Rō.
- Compared to other, especially abrahamic [OGF-vers.?] religions, Symvanism is notably non-human-centric; for example early scholars didn't assume that the creation of earth and humans would have occured around the same time, although they still believed that humans were originally created by a God, just as all other parts of the universe. Most Gods are also believed to not be interfering with or interested in human life at all; as a result, Symvanism didn't have a concept of divine morals, that means question of moral and ethic were dealt with as a completely different topic than religion. The Kojolese schools of philosophy that developed throughout the centuries for the most part didn't even mention Symvanist Gods in their text bodies. It would be wrong to assume however that these philosophers were spelling out an early version of contemporary humanism; instead, most pieces of work were either mercilessly utilitarist or closer to a very crude form of social Darwinisms.