One of the things that makes Ellur different from Earth (apart from magic and geography) is the presence of the leralath (singular: lerale).
I believe I’ve described the leralath as anthropomorphic personifications before, but that’s not entirely accurate. It would be better to say that some natural processes (and possibly metaphysical concepts) are sentient on Ellur. Those sentient beings are the leralath. People call them the Great Spirits sometimes. Or the Nameless.
Leralath and other sentients
The leralath exist on an entirely different level than humans and other “embodied” sentients. For the most part, they are no more interested in the others than, say, a regular human is interested in gut bacteria. Sure, there’s a constant interaction going on between them, but there are better things to think about, right?
There are, however, two situations in which the leralath do interact with others.
One—if the embodied are causing
an indigestion problems.
The biggest example of that was when the humans had just arrived in Ellur and were still trying to follow religions. Those were early humans, and their religions were mostly nature-based shamanism and ancestor worship. As it turned out, some leralath are… involved… in nature. And death.
And they didn’t appreciate being called upon and spoken for. They really, really didn’t appreciate it.
The result was that those early religions died out rather quickly and the latter-day organized religions never got a chance to evolve. Their niche was occupied by mostly-secular philosophies.
Perhaps the closest to a religion the people of Ellur ever got is belief in Fate/Destiny. However, it’s still not entirely clear whether a lerale of Fate really exists (and, if it does, whether it wouldn’t be more accurate to call it the lerale of Causation).
The second situation where a lerale might interact with the embodied is if the lerale is curious. In that case they tend to create a human-like (or elf-like, or animal-like, or fairy-like) avatar, called a manifestation, to ease the interaction. Most of them aren’t very good—or very interested—at doing that, but at least twelve have been known to try.
And there have been at least two leralath who took a very close interest in the embodied indeed, to the point of interbreeding with them and getting involved in local politics. Unfortunately, that interest turned very dangerous very quickly, and culminated in a major catastrophe that split one continent into several (hence the numbering of years Asunder).
Leralath and humans
Though in general humans try to stay away from the leralath, for safety reasons, the leralath have become a constant of their mental landscape. So some human cultures do still involve them, if indirectly.
1. Fate’s Decree
The most notorious—and direct—appeal to the leralath is the already mentioned belief in Fate.
Many people do believe that Fate controls everything that happens, and everything happens according to her will and/or design. (“Her” because on the few rare occasions Fate is reported to have manifested, it manifested as a woman).
There are whole schools of philosophy built around that belief, and perhaps the most important consequence of it is the concept of Fate’s Decree—the belief that monarchs have the right to rule because Fate says so.
Fate, if it exists, doesn’t seem to mind the responsibility. At least, not enough to manifest and put her foot down.
2. Leralath and Swearing
The other cultural role the leralath play is in taboo-based swearing.
It’s dangerous to attract the attention of a lerale, but they rarely pay attention to euphemistic names. So frustrated references to Heaven/Skies/Winds (air), Harvester/Mercy/Blackeyes (death), and Judge/Witness/Watcher (justice) are quite popular, and other leralath get mentioned as well.
The one seeming exception to the euphemism rule is the lerale of fire, who sometimes gets called by an actual name (Hyzgar/zgar). This is one of the worst things anyone can possibly say, up there with “go stab your mother”.
The reason for this exception is that, a, the lerale of fire has been completely uncommunicative for centuries, some say – dead or trapped in the planet’s core; and, b, Hyzgar is most likely a euphemism, too—in some forgotten language.
3. Leralath and Philosophy
And, finally, the leralath play an indirect but important role in philosophy—both natural philosophy and ethics.
Thing is, over time, certain leralath became associated with certain values/virtues. Not necessarily because they have them, but as a sort of symbol.
Fire, for example, is associated with courage, Water with curiosity, Death with mercy, Life with creativity, and so on.
Additionally, the twelve leralath that have manifested eventually became associated with calendar months. It’s not necessarily that those months are their domains, as such, but those months are considered to be the time to be aware of them. To remember what they are capable of. To consider one’s own place in the universe. And to reflect on the associated virtues.
Monthly Reflections Ahoy =)
So I’m thinking of starting a little game. I’ll do those monthly reflections, as blog posts. In part because it’s as good an excuse as any to think about ethics/values/virtues/psychology/what have you. And in part because it’s a fun way to do worldbuilding =)
On the Uncharred, those monthly rituals are usually done on the 15th of a month. Now, the Uncharred calendar doesn’t exactly correspond to ours, their 15th generally falls somewhere between our 2nd and 5th. But I’ll try to stick to our 15th, because it’s less confusing.
The other thing that people of the Uncharred do as a part of those monthly celebrations is reflect on art related to that month’s theme. I don’t think I’ll be able to make my own art quickly enough (at least for year one), so… do expect lots of our earthly artworks dragged in. In fact, searching for thematic art is my third reason to do this =)
This month—the one roughly corresponding to November—is the Mist-month, the time of Chaos. More on it tomorrow!