Alien Demographics: Priapus Prime Major Religions Picture

Here we see a full world map of Priapus Prime, the planet from my exobiology project ([link]). The perspective on it is a bit weird, because the south pole is somewhere around the middle (it's off center though, otherwise I couldn't fit the whole planet on there, which defeats the point of having a world map). To help understand this I added two black lines that represent the equator, so you can kind of imagine how the planet looks in a spherical sense if you use your imagination. I'm not going to go over their religions in great detail here, but the last few pages of the thread linked to above contain detailed information about them.

The priapans have very different religious ideas than humans. While humans believe in gods and afterlives, priapans have no concept of continued life after death (in an individual conscious manner, anyway), and rather than gods they have a concept called thoughtforms These thoughtforms are kind of metaphysical manifestations of ideas, concepts, or knowledge. They are not gods, though at first they may appear to be more or less the same thing. The difference is that gods created humans (if you believe that sort of thing), whereas either the priapans indirectly create thoughtforms with their collective beliefs, emotions, actions, etc. As Terry Pratchett might describe them, they are anthropomorphic manifestations (or in this case, priapomorphic manifestations). For instance, the thoughform of war is not the source of war, as the various gods of war of human mythologies occasionally are, but a product of priapan warfare. It is literally the physical embodiment of the entire concept of war, and exhibits traits attributed to warfare such as cunning and deceitfulness. Gods are either a part of nature, such as the Greek pantheon, or transcendent of it, such as the Judeo-Christian god Yahweh. Thoughforms are neither a part of nature nor do the transcend it, but rather they are a part of the priapans themselves.

Like gods, priapans also have no concept of souls, which is a concept found in pretty much every human religious belief system. Most priapan cultures believe that death is the end of an individual in both body and mind, and that nothing of them lives on (as in you die and you stop existing as the person you were, period). However they believe in a kind of "life force" which I call essence, which kind of takes the place of souls in most of their belief systems. Upon death this essence flows into some sort of collective stream of essence, which is different depending on what culture or religion we're talking about. The essence then enters into a new lifeform (and in some beliefs, possibly an object), allowing it to be born and live a lifespan dependent upon how much essence it took in. This also embodies a belief similar to fate in many priapan religions, as your lifespan is directly related to the amount of essence you were born with and once your time in the parking meter of life is up it's time for the essence to leave your body and find a new parking space. This could be dying from natural causes such as old age, or perhaps once you run out of essence you make the fatal mistake of ignoring the rustling in the bushes and get eaten by a predator. It's a lot like reincarnation, except the outcome is pure chance instead of karma. Now onto the actual religions, which I will summarize.

By far the most widespread religion on Priapus Prime is Ancestralism, which is Peninsular in origin and has four major sects (a lot like how Christianity is one of the biggest religions in the world, but Christians can't seem to agree on what exactly their beliefs are or how they should be practiced). The differences between them are mostly superficial, rituals and and minor beliefs can vary from region to region, but the tenants of Ancestralism are more or less the same regardless of which sect we're talking about. Thoughtforms aren't particularly worshiped in Ancestralism, but occasionally may be prayed to for assistance in specific matters; kind of like how Catholics don't worship idols, but may ask saints for help in their respective fields of expertise. Thoughtforms in Ancestralism are mostly used in stories and such as sources of moral lessons and spiritual support. As the name implies, it is the ancestors of Ancestrals that are important to the religion, and those that practice Ancestralism literally worship their ancestors. Worship is often focused at towering mausoleum-temples found in most large Peninsular settlements and at public or household shrines in smaller, more isolate communities. Priapans lack a concept of family or familial attachment, so everybody worships the ancestors of their respective community (or the home community, if they are an immigrant or moved for whatever reason). Some sects regard specific people from myths or historical events as being more important than other ancestors, while other sects believe that all ancestors, regardless of their accomplishments in life, are equally important. Ancestrals believe that essence leaves the body upon death and is drawn into the Cosmic River (the ring around their planet, which looks like a milky river of light from the surface due to the thick atmosphere).

One of the more interesting religions is the Church of the Holy Vendetta, a pseudo-monotheistic religion based in the Great Imperial Republic. The history is unique in priapan religious development, as it is a Jesus-like situation. In most Peninsular religions (and priapan religions in general) thoughforms don't interact with the priapans that worship them, but this is the most notable exception to that rule. The story goes that long ago what is today the Great Imperial Republic was a large number of tiny squabbling kingdoms and nomadic herding tribes that were slowly being conquered by a lost empire to the south. One kingdom in particular successfully repelled the first invasion and called on the other threatened states to join it in pushing this empire out of their collective lands for good. The empire struck back (no Star Wars reference intended) and devastated this kingdom, wiping out the entire scholarly class (which in Peninsular history tended to be the ruling class). Most of the time this spelled doom for the entire culture, and the people would forever be scattered into the slave markets and ghettos of their neighbors and conquerors. In this case the warrior class, usually much lower on the social ladder than scholars, rose up and united their people and then the squabbling states. They retaliated against the empire and destroyed it so thoroughly that to this day not even its name is known. After this even the united states reorganized into the Great Principate (which later became the Great Imperial Republic). During the Great Principate era a mythos developed about the war, and this mythos became the Church of the Holy Vendetta. This religion has similar beliefs regarding death as Ancestralism, but ancestors are revered rather than worshiped. Worship is limited exclusively to the Avatar of Vengeance (the thoughtform that embodies the concept of just revenge), which manifested itself into mortal form to become the first High King that united the states and destroyed the lost empire. They believe in other thoughtforms as well, but they are not worshiped and are mostly found in the same or similar stories to those used to teach moral lessons in Ancestralism. To this day the Great Imperial Republic is ruled by a High King, chosen by the highly organized and dogmatic clergy as the next Avatar of Vengeance after the death of the previous High King (kind of like the Dali Lama). The High King is more of a figurehead and religious figure, like the Emperor of Japan is; the actual official that acts as head of state is called the Hand of Vengeance and is elected by (most of) the people.

Another unique religion is Sea Worship, which originated in the North Sea Imperial Republic (NSIR for short). Unlike the Peninsula the the Island, which are covered mostly in thick canopies of skyscraper-sized tree analogs and steamy mangroves, the small island continent that makes of the NSIR is covered in temperate forests and open foothills. This is unfortunate, because Priapus Prime lacks grain analogs and most crops are somewhat fruit-like (though rather than come from flowering plants they are modified megaspores like those found on ferns and other Pteridophyta that reproduce without seeds or flowers; not really important, just kind of interesting). As such the people of the Great Isle (as the subcontinent is called) have always relied upon the sea to provide for them, as well as to protect them from frequent invasions from the mainland that were common throughout history prior to the island's unification. Their spirituality is centered around the sea, although they share many beliefs with Ancestralism (and although it isn't on the map many North Islanders practice a North Sea sect of Ancestralism), particularly their belief in essence recycling. Like the Church of the Holy Vendetta, Sea Worshipers do not worship their ancestors but instead worship the Avatar of the Sea, the Avatar of the Wind, and a sort of demi-thoughtform called the Amber Idol. Amber is very important to their religion, and it washes up on the shores of the Great Isle frequently in large amounts (it is rare everywhere else, nobody knows why so much amber comes from the North Sea while it has to be mined in small amounts at great cost everywhere else). Sea Worshipers believe that this amber is the life essence of those unfortunate enough to die at sea, which prevents their essence from flowing to the Cosmic River and being reborn as a new life. The amber is used to create religious artifacts in some cases, but most of the time it is burned to release the trapped essence in large festivals held regularly during the various amber seasons that occur each year across the nation's shores.

Cosmicism is the only truly organized religion native to the Island, and it is very different from Peninsular religions. Cosmicism can be summed up in three concepts: self-worship, death-worship, and enlightenment. Rather than believe in the thoughtforms of ideas or concepts, Cosmicists believe that a sort of personal thoughtform develops from an individual's experiences and thoughts over their lifetime. The thoughtforms of important historical and mythological figures can be revered or worshiped, but the most important thoughtform is the one developing inside you. Upon death this personal thoughtform is "born," and rises to a higher plane of the world. This personal thoughtform is not a continuation of the self, although it is similar to the person from which it was born. A good analogy to explain this would be fruit (which is actually an important symbol in Cosmicism because of this analogy): a tree (the world) produces an apple (a priapan), the apple ripens (life), falls and rots (death), and a new tree grows from the seeds within (personal thoughtform). In this sense the corporeal self is but a vessel for an even greater entity, and a person can take comfort in death knowing that their death will mean the birth of a new thoughtform that will shape the world on an even greater scale than one could in their short and meager life. The Avatars of Death and Enlightenment (both unique to Cosmicism, except for in a single case) are both worshiped as the heralds of this greater existence, which leads me to my final point regarding Cosmicism: enlightenment. A person that makes good effort to live their life free of hatred, greed, undue violence, and other negative emotions and actions achieves enlightenment as they actively and deliberately shape the developing thoughtform within them, and as such they become one with their thoughtform and through it one with the cosmos. A person that lives wickedly will create a thoughtform weighed down by their destructive actions, and it will be unable to ascend to the Cosmic River (which they call the Path of Enlightenment). It will remain stranded in the mortal plane of the world, and like an evil spirit of sorts it will spread havoc and misfortune, causing all the bad things like natural disasters or devastating accidents. Cosmicists do not believe in essence.

Naturalism is pretty straightforward compared to the other religions. It is a religion native to the Continent and focuses around the worship of nature. They accomplish this through the worship of special thoughtforms called natureforms. As the name implies, they are like thoughtforms but rather than be a metaphysical manifestation of priapan knowledge or action they are the divine embodiment of natural phenomenon, much like the Sea Worshiper's Avatars of the Sea and Wind. Naturalism isn't very organized, and it's a lot like Hinduism in the respect that it has millions of natureforms that are worshiped, but different regions and communities have different priorities regarding which ones are more important. Rather than have temples or shrines like the other religions, Natrualists worship by keeping gardens, communal farms, or even terrariums for those in urban areas with no space for the previous two. Naturalists believe that essence slowly seeps from the body as it is consumed by the earth (preferably in one of the aforementioned sacred gardens) after death and is carried away by the wind to be absorbed by new life forms.

Shamanism is another religion native to the Continent and shares a common spiritual ancestor with Naturalism. Shamanism is far less organized than Naturalism, and the term in fact refers to a wide variety of religious ideologies that share many overlapping beliefs and practices. Shamanism isn't the best description of it, because shamans are the bridges between the world of the living and the world of spirits, and for priapans there is no spirit world, just the world. In fact religion is also a bad term, as it's more akin to mysticism than an actual religious belief. Shamanism is more or less the same as Naturalism, but where Naturalism has prayers and organized worship Shamanism is more or less just "magic." They practice all sorts of strange rituals reminiscent of the practices of Wicca, Voodoo, and such (which is why it is called Shamanism) to do just about anything they could want or need done. These rituals could involve divining knowledge through geomancy or arithmancy, summoning rain with music, ending a plague or deluge (Priapus Prime is way wetter than Earth, there's no such thing as a drought there; just way too much rain and flooding) through animal or priapan sacrifice, or perhaps the use of potions or auto-cannibalism to accomplish something. Shamanism shares the same beliefs about death as Naturalism, but they leave the dead to decompose in the wilderness and believe that essence can be recycled as natural phenomenon such as rain or earthquakes (depending on the region and what particular Shamanic beliefs they have there).

North and South Avatarism are probably the most familiar to humans, and the oldest organized religions on Priapus Prime. The basic idea is that it is a lot like the ancient Greek religion: they believe in a pantheon of thoughtforms and most communities and cities worship a number of patron (or matron, although in most places on the planet thoughtforms are sexless as they don't reproduce) thoughtforms. North and South Avatarism differ mainly in the beliefs that have been introduced through cultural exchange. Having developed on the two islands on which the earliest known priapan civilizations began, they were originally a unified set of beliefs that slowly grew apart as what is now known as the Strait League expanded its early empire into the Peninsula, and the South Sea League likewise into the Continent and southern Island. The original afterlife beliefs are long forgotten, but North Avatarism now prescribes to the Ancestralism belief and South Avatarism to the Shamanic beliefs. Early Cosmicist beliefs of enlightenment (though not the Avatar of Enlightenment) also made their way into the North, while some Shamanic practices such as ritualistic auto-cannibalism and animal sacrifice made their way into the South. Other than that their rituals and practices are much the same, the only real differences being that the North includes the Avatar of Death in their pantheon and the south a few natureforms.
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