|Type||Indigenous Irkawan religion|
|Unofficial Leader||Saksoure IX|
|Region||Cobura, Hawu Mumenhes, Talmoria|
|Denominations||Arkhē Mumenhes, Arkhē Laboi, Tūtism|
|Liturgical language||Ancient Irkawan|
|Number of followers||13,000,000|
|Other name(s)||Irkawan Polytheism|
Arkhē is a polytheistic religion originating in Irkawa that focuses on the worship of a pantheon of gods and goddesses who are said to control the forces of nature. Worshipers believe keeping the gods pleased through rituals and offerings is necessary is to gain their favor and maintain order in the universe. Arkhē is the native religion of the Irkawan people, and has been practiced continuously among some communities in Irkawa since 2500 BCE, making it one of the oldest religions in Terra.
Arkhē is a word of Irkawan origin meaning foundation, referring to the Arkhēan belief that the religion is the foundation of stability in Irkawa and Cobura. The religion originated as the separate prehistoric tribes of Irkawa were united by early nomarchs, resulting in fusions of their respective belief systems. When all the tribes of Irkawa were united into the Kingdom of Irkawa in approximately 2000 BCE, the Neb (Luthori: Lord) of Irkawa promoted himself as a descendant of the gods. The Neb and the royal court were primarily responsible for performing the rituals and governmental actions necessary for maintaining Taphmēi. These duties gave the royal court legitimacy among the laypeople, whose worship was more concerned with personal matters, such as performing rituals to a god in hopes of a good harvest or visiting priests to heal the sick. The popularity of certain deities varied depending on the specific dynasty in power, but the religion remained generally stable until the Augustan Invasion.
After Augustus the Great conquered the Kingdom of Irkawa in 402, he proceeded to execute the royal family and declare himself the ruler of Irkawa. With the royal court's numbers severely diminished, the elite form of Arkhē changed radically, as knowledge of the many rituals reserved to the nobility was lost. Priests of individual deities were now the most powerful religious leaders and became responsible for the rituals previously assigned to the court. Despite the royal family's death, Arkhē survived in the early Augustan Empire and remained the majority religion among Irkawans. As a result, the religion became much more decentralized, with individual regions uplifting their patron deity to the status of supreme god.
In 509, Augustan Emperor Alexius I's conversion to Hosianism would spell the end for Arkhē's status as the majority religion of the Irkawan people. The vast majority of Coburans converted to Hosianism, save for a group of rural communities on the border of Lower Irkawa and northwestern Domale. These Arkhē communities were located near the cult center of the snake goddess Ajōrē, the goddess of the sun and the upholder of Taphmēi. As the largest surviving center of the religion, Ajōrē became the primary deity. In 3527, their 1,000,000 followers were reported in the Coburan census as "other." In 3828, the Koinonia Enouro controlled People's Assembly declared Arkhē an official religion of the Federal Democratic Republic of Cobura.
Upon the establishment of the Kingdom of Cobura in 3856, the religion experienced a surge in popularity due to its promotion by the government and its official funding of independent temples.
Gods and goddesses are usually represented in the form of an animal or human, however, these are not their true forms. These representations are used to help identify the deity with a specific concept, as their true forms are said to be mysterious and unknowable.
Throughout its history, Arkhē has had a large pantheon of up to 2,000 deities, some major, worshiped by all Arkhē followers, while others are only worshiped by obscure cults, people of certain occupations, or specific towns. This can be attributed to the many diverse beliefs that were incorporated into the religion when the warring tribes of Irkawa were united under the Irkawan Kingdom. In additions, foreign dynasties, such as the Mallans, who ruled over Irkawa often incorporated their own deities into the pantheon. As a result, relationships between the deities are complex, with deities often representing multiple concepts, and the domains of deities often overlapping. These relationships are not thought to be contradictory but complementary, with variations of the myths representing different aspects of the cosmic truth. Gods and goddesses who represent similar concepts are often presented in pairs as spouses, but even these pairings vary depending on the source of the age of the text. However, almost all Arkhē followers recognize the deities listed below.
- Ajōrē is considered the supreme goddess of Arkhē. She takes the form of a cobra and is the goddess of truth and justice. She is also the goddess of protection and likewise, the patron goddess of Cobura. She is known as the Queen of the Gods. She is said to coil around the sun aiding its trip across the sky. When the sun sets, Ajōrē must defend the sun from a serpent demon known as Pethoou. Her consort is Hboui, the god of knowledge, represented by an ibis- headed man. He directs the motion of celestial bodies and is considered the inventor of intellectual pursuits.
- Pethōou is an evil serpent demon who represents the opposition to Taphmei. When the sun sets every night, he attempts to destroy the world by consuming the sun. He is killed every night by Ajōrē and Kharabai, but is resurrected every day.
- Baši is the god of the underworld, death, life, and resurrection. He takes the form of a mummified Irkawan king. He is responsible for judgement of the dead. As the underworld is seen as the source of sprouting agriculture and vegetation, he is viewed as the source of all life. His consort is Nefre, the goddess of motherhood and health, who is depicted as a woman with a throne headdress.
- Nošep is a god of the sky and war. He takes the form of a falcon-headed man. His consort is Ehe, a goddess of joy and motherhood. She takes the form of a cow or a woman wearing a horn headdress.
- Hamše is a god of creation and of craftsmen who takes the form of a mummified man standing upon the symbol of Taphmēi, a foundation block, holding a staff. He is said to have created the world by thinking it into existence. His consorts are Tiounof, the goddess of cats and love, who takes the form of a cat-headed woman, and Laboi, the goddess of war, fire, and vengeance, who takes the form of a lioness-headed woman.
- Kharabai is the god of violence, war, and chaos, taking the form of an unusual canine creature. While he is destructive, he protects Ajōrē and must be brought along nightly in the trip to the underworld in order to kill Pethōou. His consort is Thmesie, the violent patron goddess of childbirth who takes the form of a hippo, representing protective motherhood.
- Ap'ōt is a deity of ancient Mallan origin who was originally the patron deity of the Torino and Welsh rivers, necessary for Mallan agriculture. He is now the god of all rivers. He takes the form of a crocodile and is sometimes associated with Noshep for his warlike characteristics. His consort, Eleon, is also of Mallan origin. Another fertility goddess, she grants every person their ka, or life force, at birth.
- Mumenhes is a hermaphroditic creator god who emerged from the primordial waters to create the the other gods by mating with himself. He is an anthropomorphic human with the head of a hawk. Mumenhes was an obscure god during modern Cobura's Arkhē revival with his worship largely confined within the royal family. He came to prominence when he was elevated to the monotheistic god of Hawu Mumenhes after Coburan Prince Remptahhu became king of that country. Mumenhes's consort is Eye of Mumenhes, a sun disk encircled by one or more cobras. The Eye is an extension of Mumenhes's power but it also behaves as an independent entity. The Eye is often personified as other gods including Ajōrē. The Eye is Mumenhes's partner in the creative cycle in which Mumenhes begets the renewed form of himself reborn daily at dawn. The Eye's violent aspect defends Mumenhes against the agents of disorder that threaten his rule. This dangerous aspect of the Eye goddess is often represented by a lioness or by the uraeus, a symbol of protection and royal authority. The disastrous effects when the Eye goddess rampages out of control and the efforts of the gods to return her to a benign state are a prominent motif in Arkhē. The Eye of Mumenhes represents many of the same aspects as the Eye of Nošep.
- Atēm is a creator god whose name means "complete" or "finished." He is thus considered the finisher of the world which he returns to watery chaos at the end of each creation cycle. Atēm is said to be the most basic fundamental substance of all matter, and all gods, living things, and objects are thought to be made of his body and aboui (soul). When a king or queen is entombed, Atēm is believed to lift the dead monarch's aboui from their necropolis to heaven. Due to his association with kingship, Atēm is often depicted as a man wearing royal crowns. Atēm is sometimes considered a sun god -- the evening setting sun counterpart to Mumenhes who is the rising sun.
- Sewehneb is the god of calm and pacification. His name means "wind," leading to some depictions of him as the atmosphere or air separating Terra from the sky. However, he is most commonly depicted as a man carrying an ankh and wearing one or more feathers in his wig to symbolize his role as the animating element or "breath" in living things and thus a key figure in maintaining Taphmēi. Sewehneb's consort and twin sister is Sepseymawo, a goddess of moisture, dew, and rain. The sibling-spouses were created by their father Mumenhes through masturbation. After ejaculating, Mumenhes placed the semen into his mouth, then spat out Sewehneb and Sepseymawo. In Arkhē mythology, this mixture of semen, water (saliva), and breath (spitting or blowing out) is believed to have given rise to the centrality of procreation (semen fertilizing a water-filled placenta or egg) and oxygen in living things.
- Tut is a god of reproduction and creation whose cult originated early in Ancient Irkawa's predynastic era. Tut is represented as a human with an erect penis which he grips in his left hand while holding a flail aloft. Tut is always depicted with pitch black skin as an indication of procreation's association with the infinite universe, life's emergence from the Primordial Waters, and the life-giving enrichment of humanity by the Sun God Mumenhes, except in rare instances when Tut is depicted in gold of which gods' flesh and body are thought to be made in Arkhē theology. Tut is considered the aboiu "soul" of Mumenhes due to his focus on fertility and reproduction. The two gods are often merged together as Tutmumenhes , in which state they are jointly referred to with the epithet, "The Maker of Gods and Men." Tutmumenhes can be just as easily divided again, after which Mumenhes is considered to retain his focus as Lord of the Universe, having temporarily set aside the ba or "vessel" of Tut's body which Mumenhes had inhabited during the procreative act. The cyclical recombination and division of Tut and Mumenhes is heavily associated with kingship and royal family, as it is thought essential for the monarch to become possessed by the spirit of Tutmumenhes during sexual intercourse with royal consorts so that any child conceived will be a Son of God or Daughter of God, and therefore inherit the right and character of rulership. In the underworld, Tut takes the form of a judgement god called Tūt who punishes homosexuals for their subversion of procreative processes.
The central belief of Arkhē is Taphmēi, the concept of truth, justice, fairness, and their role in the order of the universe. Truth, justice, fairness, and order are said to be the natural states of all things. Arkhē asserts that while Taphmēi is the natural state in Terra, it is constantly under threat by evil forces who wish to destroy it. Maintaining Taphmēi requires acting justly and morally in the daily aspects of one's life, as well as gaining the gods' favor though ritual so that they may avert chaos, All followers of Arkhē are expected to show reverence to the principles of Taphmēi in order not to disrupt the cosmic order. As all things are said to be interconnected, maintaining piety in all aspects of life is a necessity of Arkhē.
Wisdom literature has traditionally been the source for followers wishing to adhere to the spirit of Taphmēi. These texts, first written by the Pharaohs of Irkawa and later by independent priests, emphasize adherence to tradition, impartiality, and giving aid to the downtrodden. Arkhē's concept of fairness, influenced by the suffering and oppression of its followers, has led to a belief in social justice as a property of Taphmēi. Followers are often expected to donate to charity and assist the poor. However, there are no universal doctrines, and morality is somewhat flexible and based on pragmatism, rather than on strict rules or doctrines.
There is a distinction between the worship practices of the elites of the religion and the common folk, although less so than in the ancient Kingdom of Irkawa. In general, the devotional practices of the elites are centered around maintaining the order in the universe and preventing Cobura and Terra from falling into chaos.These practices involve making offerings to the gods and reenacting mythology through rituals. These activites tend to take place in secluded temples The popular form of the religion is more self-centered. Individuals pray to the gods and make offerings in hope of assistance in their everyday lives. Personal piety is an essential element in the popular religion, due to the necessity of acting justly in gaining admission to the afterlife.
These two forms of worship sometimes intersect, as the common folk donate offerings to the priests so that they may perform their rituals, and priests often pray to the gods for their own benefit as well.
Afterlife and Burial PracticesEdit
Arkhē states that there are five essences to an individual, the ka and the hortf. The ka, the life force of the individual, is breathed into a person upon their birth by the goddess Eleon and leaves the body after death. In life, the ka is sustained by food and drink, while in the afterlife, relatives sustain the deceased's ka through burial offerings. The hortf, the person's spirit, is said to stay in their body after death. Irkawans developed a complex mummificaton ritual necessary to extract the hortf from the body to reunite it with the ka, as well as preserve the body. If the ritual is performed incorrectly or the body is destroyed, the person's hortf will also be destroyed. After extraction from the body, in order to reach the afterlife, the hortf must journey through the underworld, known as khemc, fighting off evil spirits and demons. If the hortf makes it through the underworld, their heart is weighed against the feather of Taphmēi to determine whether they have acted justly throughout their life. If they are determined to be just of heart, the two essences are reunited and the person will live on as a šišem, a ghostly being that can influence the world of the living.