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The Prayer for Sunrise and Sunset 


Lord Arcan, Father Sun,

Father of us all,

Giver of Law,

Name us in your holy writ

And guide us to serve your will.


Lord Icotesi, Night Mother

Mother of us all,

Maker of the Law,

Cleanse us of folly

And give us strength for right.  


The Shufrantei Religion

The ancient faith of myth and ritual,
dominant in Bergonia for over 1200 years.

The Shufrantei universe was an unstable, changing, churning place, with things birthing, growing, dying in a kaleidoscopic dance, all according to, and within, a grand harmonic structure.  This universe was the realm of 64 quarrelsome, pushing, shoving, loving and dancing gods and goddesses-- their interplay creates the dangerousness and randomness of change.  But this universe was created by Arkan & Icotesi, Lord God and Goddess, the parents & grandparents to all the other gods, and the architects of the grand structure.

The aphorism of "too many cooks spoiling the cake," applies here, with too many Gods participating in the making of the first man and woman, resulting in imbalances and flaws in human nature, the result being pride, excessive desire, greed, frustration and anxiety.

It was in every respect a religion of submission to greater power, acceptance of mystery, tragedy and suffering, thanksgiving for the blessings of life, and devotion to a righteous way of living, self-discipline and self-improvement, and ultimately a religion about union with God.    


Arcan & Icotesi, the Dual God-Goddess Couple -- The primordial couple.  In their dancing the world was spun into being.   Also see the 64 Gods.

The Shifting, Changing World  -- The only thing certain is impermanence.  There was nothing Aristotelian about this worldview.

The Doctrine of Change

The Shufrantei Afterlife -- many souls survive to live in the Mansions of Heaven, other souls do not survive death and disappear into the Abyss.

The Human Condition  

The Lamentations

Spiritual Sustenance

Spiritual Pollution -- pollution spread upon the soul, like slow poison, when .

Purification -- purification of the soul to dispel pollution.

Ritual -- abetting proper prayerful focus and summoning the Gods for spiritual communion.

Liturgical Calendar

Cremation --- And how burial is a frightful sacrilege.

The Prophet Ierecina who told the myths, prescribed all ritual, founded the faith, and launched the armies.


The Prophet Ierecina founded the faith by reciting the stories of the Gods and how they created the world.  If a Shufrantei priest were called upon to explain the faith, he would repeat Ierecina's version of the myths.  Ierecina's telling described how each of the Gods came into being, and then how the Gods created the world, the oceans and earth and all the plants and animals, and then humankind-- with plenty of drama along the way.  In this way, a Bergonian typically answers a metaphysical inquiry with a story, a myth, a metaphor.   

From the Prophet we learn these things:  

Unlike the unified Christian cosmos well-ordered by a single dictator God, the Shufrantei cosmos is a varied, dynamic open place where the 64 grandchildren gods danced and swirled, sometimes in violent opposition to each other.  The myths told how gods died tragically and stupidly (though dead gods invariably appeared again).  In such a world, nothing lasted, everything shifted, and everything had its time of prominence and its time of decline and demise.  It was a place of struggle, pain, momentary glory, death, change and transformation.  Superficially the universe looks random and sometimes very frightening, but an enlightened mind can see that underlying the churning forms rests a great dynamic unity.  

Arcan and Icotesi together generated the world from their creative power. All the sky gods and earth gods were actually their children and grandchildren deities. There was no "spirit" in the way understood by Christianity and other Eurasian religions-- matter was animated by "life," an idea that encompassed and equated both energy in the physical world and spirit. In the traditional view, when a person died, the life-force departed the body and commenced a long arduous journey from this world through the void to the Mansions of Heaven, a series of material afterlives. While here in this life, the life-force/soul either got stronger through purification or weaker though deviance. The energy generated ever-changing patterns and forms, which meant that the world was unstable, full of surprises, and a little frightening. 

In this perhaps-flawed, forever-incomplete universe, it is not surprising that humans are flawed in nature too.  And the fact of this flaw is the central issue in Shufrantei.  The Gods fought and elbowed each other at the time of man's creation (verifying the adage, "too many cooks spoil the broth"), leaving Arkan himself to remark (in one of the myths), "Our one great mistake."  

"'Look at that crack in its head,' says Icotesi when the doll came out of the oven."  

Our souls are so fragile that if a person weakens his soul through dissolute living, his soul will not survive the time of death.  But a person who lives in harmony with the law will develop a strong soul, strong enough to survive the time of death and transfer to "the Mansions" for an afterlife of blessings.  The peasant understood the faith often in authoritarian terms: the gods have fashioned a law, and failure to obey the law would result in annihilation, while obedience would earn an afterlife.  More learned and enlightened people understood the process in a more sublime, almost scientific way, seeing the process as a functioning of natural law.  But every person true to the faith, whether rich or poor, found that the faith opened his eyes to the world and allowed him to join in the world-dance-- on the cosmic dance floor the adept attains union with the holy..

The attitude that best strengthens the soul is conscious regard, freedom from earthly attachments, stoic acceptance, and devoted submission.   "Living in harmony with the law" ultimately meant self-discipline.


From the priest's stories we learn this about the universe:

In the very beginning a proto-spirit appeared in the darkness, and then divided into two.  This created the first dichotomy.  One of these two gods died and the other god laid him out to become the earth.  This was the earth, described as a platform, a stage, of dry chthonic material. 

The surviving god fell down upon the earth-corpse of his twin, and split in two, and there emerged the holy couple, Arkan the male and Icotesi the female, a new set of twins.  

Arkan and Icotesi "spoke love to one another, and then made love to each other," and then the Holy Couple spun the universe out of their love, with words as well as with light and fire. 

"Their lovemaking generated fire, light, heat, steam, wind, breath and word"-- all the various essences of the universe.  At this first level of creation (or "emanation," as many theologians have translated the Minidun and Nacateca words) emerge diverse elements, or essences.  The essences are complimentary, various, diverse, dynamic in their mutual relationships.  No one essence could exist without the others, and each takes its nature solely in contrast to the others.  The essences originated from (or manifested as) the Children and Grandchildren Gods, and as various spirits, all of whom in myth were begat by the Holy Couple.  While the lesser gods and spirits have certain powers, they exercise them at Arkan's and Icotesi's sufferance. 

Arkan & Icotesi poured out of themselves "fire and water," which rained down upon the earth.  "Fire and water" is a metaphor for the animating spirit, that which fills and infuses matter and makes it move and come alive.  Without "fire and water" the earth lies unchanging, but with "fire and water," everything leaps to life, and changes.  Each of the children and grandchildren gods appear and manifest in "the dance of fire and water," giving the world all its various essences.  

Like the thunderous storm, she approaches.

Like soft spring showers, she comes.

Like mist curling through the trees and saplings, she comes.

Like the first smell of lilacs, she arrives.  

Arkan & Icotesi spoke in the darkness--or rather sang-- and the words they sang formed the Law, and the Law's operation put everything into motion.  Their word became the music for the dance.   Thus, the essences, concurring as parts of a unity in relative, engage in a never-ending dance, constantly changing proportions.  The world is therefore vital and perpetually changing.  Never will the world exist statically.  Time is the resulting process, time as an emanation from change.  The ancient Bergonians collected fossils, and marveled at the implications.

With the initial clash and mix of essences, the dance commenced.  Arkan and Icotesi stand at the center of the dance as the pure essence.  Arkan & Icotesi govern the universe as a harmonious system where everything and every creature occupies its niche.  As long as their creatures obey the Law-- that is, the expectations that Arkan and Icotesi have of them-- then Arkan's and Icotesi's universe will provide for them in its appropriate measure.  Thus, every creature must submit to the pre-ordained pattern and their defined role.  

It is misleading to say that the Gods "created" the world the same way a Christian would say that Jehovah created it.  The universe is an expression of the Gods; it emanates from the Gods as thoughts stream forth from the mind of a man, as words spring from his lips, or as light emanates from fire, thus the world is of God, not by God and separate from God.  This is a pantheistic religion.


In Pre-Shufrantei times (before 300 BC) all the various peoples of western & northern Bergonia entertained belief in many gods, all roughly co-equivalent and each fairly autonomous.  Arkan and Icotesi were worshipped, but as two gods out of the cluttered pantheon, not as supreme deities.  The people of Ceiolai and Amota in the east believed in the "Novenity," the Nine Gods, who together functioned as a corporate body.  The Great Prophet Ierecina came and changed all this disorganized polytheism.  In his myth-telling he taught that only the two Gods, the male Arcan and the female Icotesi, existed autonomously   He portrayed them as co-dependent upon one another ("'I created you and you created me,' said Arkan to Icotesi."), each forming a complimentary aspect of the other, together providing two different faces of a single ultimate reality ("I am the right eye, you are the left").  

In order to enter Ierecina's fold, prospective converts had to either disavow all other Gods altogether or else attribute the other Gods to Arkan and Icotesi as their subordinate children or grandchildren.  Any God who existed apart from Arkan and Icotesi was either a false god-- a human fantasy-- or a true Enemy God, one deserving of approbation and a wide berth.  Mature Shufrantei theology in the medieval period dismissed the Enemy Gods as mere metaphorical material of the human mind (but still useful and potent images which could aid the pursuit of true vision).  Since Arkan and Icotesi were absolute, nothing, not even other gods, could logically exist apart from them.

But the sixty-four gods were each recognized, and most of the sixty-four had their own cult with temples dedicated to them.  The sixty-four were seen as emblematic, the cause of or manifestations of the essences.  It is a universe where the sixty-four gods and goddesses roll, collide, dance, romp, sleep and take turns opposing each other, sexualizing with each other and transforming into each other.  

Christianity makes the dialogue between God and Man as the main drama of the universe, while Bergonian religion gave mankind a far less important place in the universe. The Arcan-Icotesi godhead was far less personal, far more indifferent and ambivalent, than the Christian God, but Arcan-Icotesi (through the sixty-four grandchildren gods) is (are?) very immanent in the material world.  The myths contain numerous incidents where Icotesi sweeps men and women aside in order to protect a particularly favored hive of bees, grove of trees or family of foxes--even an attractive stone or beloved pool of water.  The Gods manifested themselves in natural, immediate processes, and sometimes in violently conflicting ways.  Rather than separating the universe into the sacred or spiritual, and the profane, material, natural, id, the Bergonians thought that the visible, tangible world that we see was the direct manifestation of the Gods.


The grand historical  religions of Eurasia—Christianity, Islam  and Buddhism-- have condemned materiality and sensuality (including sexuality) as profane, dangerously associated with sinfulness. To the contrary, Bergonian religion (which tends toward the pantheistic) cannot recognize any dichotomy between sacred and profane, and hardly between the "spiritual" and "material," since the former informs and infuses the latter. Though Shufrantei and Miradi recognize the existence of both "polluting" and "purifying" influences in the universe, their concepts hardly correlate with the Eurasian distinction between "sacred" and "profane."  Sensuality, which for the Christian was debasing, may for the Miradi be either purifying and polluting. 

One important result of the Bergonian view is the ability to see sacredness in sexuality and all other forms of sensuality, things that in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition belongs utterly to the realm of the profane.  Bergonians see Arcan and Icotesi as the father and mother of the universe and imagine that their sexual synthesis provides the generative power that produces everything in the world. Thus, the Bergonian sees the world as a thoroughly sexual place.

When a religion views the two components of the godhead as differing from one another  by virtue of their sex and nothing else, the religion would in all likelihood view all creation as replete with sexual essence and sexual difference. This view of the godhead almost certainly  grew out of a primitive observation that since both humankind and animals reproduce sexually, then sexuality is the essence of the universe's creative as well as reproductive dynamic. Many cultures throughout the world assign anthropomorphic characteristics to deities. Certainly the Greeks and Romans honored a supreme God and Goddess (along with a plethora of other, rather disagreeable divine personalities). But the Bergonians went much farther in imagining that the sexual characteristics of the gods had a crucial role in the creation and regeneration of the universe.

Arcan and Icotesi created the things of the universe by their sexual union.  Neither could do anything  without  the other and, like a man and a woman, a husband and a wife, neither had any completeness without the other.

"The God caresses the Goddess' skin.

She sighs happily.

The winds of late Winter race over the plains.

The God and Goddess press their lips in passion

They clutch, one the other,

The rays of the early Spring sun warm the soil.

The Goddess presses up against the God.

He kisses her arching neck.

Lightening flashes across the evening sky.

The God touches the Goddess' heaving breast.

Her nipples harden.

The winds change and bring bulging clouds.

The God and Goddess meet in rhythm 

on the edge of darkness and light.

Loudly both cry out.

Distant thunder pounds.

The God moves against the Goddess in violent exaltation.

They move closely, together in rhythm.

Rain pours upon the waiting earth."

No other modern religion would ever use such metaphors for the creative act.  But the world's other religions have occasionally permitted indirect sexual references. For example, the use of love poetry to analogize devotion for the holy, e.g. Old Testament's Song of Solomon uses the love of man and woman to metaphorically express the love between God and Church.  Many archaic cultures indulged in sexual rituals to stimulate vegetative growth.  Section 118 of  Frazier's prodigious work on mythology, The Golden Bough, discusses archaic rites among peasant and primitive peoples which simulate the "sacred marriage."  The Whitsuntide marriage between the May King and May Queen in pre-modern Britain worked a magical rite for the stimulation of forest growth. 

Many cultures throughout the world have engaged in mock sexual rites, believing that a sympathetic relation exists between sexual activity and the fertility of the earth. Indeed, in pre-Shufrantei Bergonia certain rituals involved actual sexual union in order to stimulate the annual growth of the crops. But all such rituals disappeared in Shufrantei religion.  Shufrantei permitted not even simulated sexual acts, although simulated sex acts occurred among the peasants of Europe. In the Ukraine on St. George's Day (23 April) the priest and his acolytes go forth into the fields  and blesses the sprouts. Then the young married people lie in couple and roll several times in the sown fields. In parts of Russia the women roll the priest himself on the sown fields. In England young couples rolled down slopes together on May Day. 

Nevertheless, by the time Ierecina and his disciples had purged all such rituals from religious practice, the bigger idea of the link between sexuality and fecundity had found expression in the belief that the anthropomorphic gods created the world and all things in it by sexual union.

Shufrantei held that everything in the universe have a male or female essence or, more to the point, that each thing had a male and a female essence, one dominating and the other recessive. This conception bears similarity with Carl Jung's notion of the animus/ male and the anima/ female elements present in all personalities.

As this view applied to common morality, the Bergonians accepted sex between men and women as natural and proper, but recognized all manner of taboos.  A healthy sex life for the mutual pleasure of both sexes seemed wholly appropriate in light of the dynamic between Arcan and Icotesi. Sexual relations between single men and women did not incur serious reproach (unless certain rules of etiquette and propriety were violated).  All throughout the Shufrantei Era there has been plenty of sensuous/soft-porn love poetry, as well as almost-routine sexual innuendoes in the comedies performed in theaters, and explicit manuals in the "arts of love and romance."  But adultery was a crime as well as a sin, and brought on stern and sometimes very violent and lethal punishment.  A man who broke up another man's marriage was sometimes subject to religiously condoned revenge.  Moreover clan incest (any sex between any two people of the same clan) was regarded as a horribly vile crime.  Although the relationship between the clan clan system and Shufrantei doctrine was never explicit, it was assumed by everyone that the clan system's exogamy rules were ordained directly by Arcan & Icotesi.  Such clan exogamy (requiring men and women to marry outside their clan, tribe or class) was practiced by many archaic pre-civilized peoples, but this is the only instance of such sexual taboos surviving stringently into a human civilization.  Everyone did understand as second-nature that sexual energy was powerful and required clan-based channeling and control.  There was the ancient story of the libertine city named -- (parallel to Sodom & Gomorrah) where the clan system didn't exist.  Everyone had sex indiscriminately; with no rules of decency whatsoever.  It was a way of saying that all sexual mores were integrally tied up with the clan system, and that both preceded from the Father and Mother of the Universe.

The figures of Arcan & Icotesi implied sexuality, but sexuality (in the glow of the Eternal Couple, the eternal husband and wife) culminated and was sublimely perfected in the partnership of marriage. The devotees called Arcan's & Icotesi's co-dominion over the universe the Over-Arching Marriage, portrayed by the couple standing under an arching bower, decorated with climbing vines & flowers. They called the birth of the universe the Cosmic Nuptial.  Since the universe and all generation therein was sexual (at the very least analogously) in nature, the Bergonians not surprisingly saw great power inherent in sexuality, and recognized from the myths themselves (with so many cautionary tales about incautious gods & goddesses) that such power could be misused and abused.  (In several tales, inappropriate liaisons between gods & goddesses led respectively to the birth of an insect-faced demon, a race of goblins, a vicious attacking hawk-deity, and a deformed child, all reinforcing the ancient Berg folk belief that adulterous pregnancies resulted in abnormal births)  "Everyone enjoys the wine, but a drunkard is no one's friend," went one aphorism, and in the same way they judged libertines and condemned habitual sexual looseness as abusive of the "sexual gifts."

The relationship between Arcan and Icotesi was by nature harmonious (no jealously or discord as between Zeus and Hera), which was fortunate since the order of the entire universe depended on the stability of their relationship. Myth says that in the dawn of time they sanctified their relationship with the first marriage.  Any deviation from this marriage by either Arcan and Icotesi went far beyond the scope of the conceivable. In an analogous vein a number of primitive cultures entertain the belief that illicit sex can disturb the natural order of things, resulting in bad crops and famine.

The Shifting, Changing World

The fundamental truth here is that Arkan's and Icotesi's world is not stable, not very dependable, always shifting and changing.  In a universe where everything changes sooner or later and nothing lasts, death is the only thing guaranteed.  One Shufrantei theory holds that the Gods in the beginning created a static world, with everything in good proportion, and then "released" or "turned on" the world, setting all the proportional parts into motion which would continue until (depending on the theoretical variation one preferred) either the essences at some future point would resume the original proportions, or until the Gods chose to stop the changing pattern to form a new static state, or until the changing pattern found and settled into a new static state on its own.

Time occurs as a function of change, meaning that change does not exist as a set of phenomena occurring within time's flow, but rather as a property, an attribute, of time.  It is just a step away to say that the Bergonian world constantly evolves.  Bergonians cannot accept the Western classical, Aristotelian idea of a static world.

The harmony consists of the essences (the "Hands of the Sixty-Four Gods") working in concert according to defined processes, some sublime and gradual and others abrupt and violent. 

The harmonies do not center on human lives, and neither do the attentions of the Gods, so holy forces sometimes roll over men and women with disastrous effects.   "The Gods care more for the shape of clouds than for the lives of men and women," says an old Ancita text.  "They care more for the hummingbirds and the bees."

Another says, "To preserve a nest of sparrows a God will break an empire of men in order."  Indeed medieval legend holds that Arcan destroyed the Second Ceiolaian Empire as a favor to Icotesi in order to preserve a nest of nightingales.  Had the empire not fallen, the emperors would have conquered the northern land of Zilsi, where the favored nightingales lived, and their road building would have taken their tree.  In medieval times someone erected a small pillar along the main road north of Zilsi, and carved into it an inscription that extols the nightingales.  Tourists to this day stop to view it, though one can hardly read any of the faded inscription.

A third says, "Sparrows, lizards, dogs and people, all the same to Arcan."   A fourth: "A man who marches might step on an ant; a God who marches might step on a man."   And, "When one god goes to sleep, another god arrives."

This underlies the indifferent, sometimes hostile nature of the universe, described by the hero Peslar's advance out into the world by himself:

"He went out across the land, alone and exposed.  The sky glowered above him, indifferent to him, offering him no help or sympathy.  The earth underfoot was offended by him, and resented him, and offered him no comfort.  Over the land and through the sky roamed the deities and spirits, with heavy, thunderous steps and with the hard beating of wings upon the air.  The dead and dying lay sprawled across the land and the living, having finished their meal, retreated to their lairs and holes.  The land was vast and he was small upon its face." 

 The Doctrine of Change

In ancient times the various Bergonian religions, including the ancient Kuans and Ceiolaians, and also the original religion of the Ancita people, perceived a world neatly and deliberately ordered, with permanence, like the well-ordered Aristotelian universe, or the finely ordered universes of the Chinese, the Ancient Egyptians and Medieval Christianity.  The Kuans and the later Nine-God worshipers of the Ceiolaian Empire, the star worshipers of Anramapral, and the unctuous Occlusionists of the Cuecha whom Ierecina disparaged and ultimately destroyed-- all held to the sentiment expressed by this Kuan litany: 

I will walk the path

Through the shadow of the great mountain,

The towering mountain everlasting,

And I gaze upward at it in awe.  

It is the still base.

It is God's unchanging throne.

If all prior religion had roots in a belief in the hard and fast, then all prior religion believed that only the firm and the permanent could be considered true.  The laws of these religions in order to preserve credibility, had to be immutable.  Those beings or forces who circumvented the law or who flouted it forfeited permanence and became subject to destruction.  These religions, like so many religions arising out of Eurasia and America, rely fundamentally upon the "eternal."  

Ierecina busted up the "still base," and brought down the edifice of the everlasting.  He cast away the permanence of a solid rigid universe.  He gazed upon the mountain and wondered how long it would take for the winds and the rains to erode it away, or whether some greater thing might be able to destroy it.  

"Nothing in this world is guaranteed anything other than death and dissolution.  The great will be brought low, and the mountains will wash away.  Under the Gods, all things that come will certainly someday go." 

His far vision into the mutability of all things allowed him to cast new seed of doubt and insecurity into the thinking of the men of his time:

Last year no rain fell.

My stomach screamed in pain.

This year I take my family to seek the high dry ground.

Where can we safely stand?

Surely, even if I found a [safe] place, my family would still someday scatter my ashes across it, 

And all would pass like a dream.

No one remains safe forever.

Change, he concluded, is the essence of life and existence, which for his age was something revolutionary.  He preached that nothing in the universe lasted, except Arkan and Icotesi themselves.  Nothing, save the holy couple in their pure essence, was eternal.  Some things would never come to an outright end, but sooner or later they changed.  

This was the essence of the Law, and the Law itself was the mandate and the process of change, which meant that the Law decreed death and change.  "Change or die" was truly the moral of his story.   Ierecina taught that the very essence of the Law required change and impermanence, and that the interstices of the law defined and regulated the processes of change.   The Heavenly Law delineates the processes and cycles of change and passage.  

The idea of natural law was not original to Ierecina, but his teachings radically altered the whole character of the Law.  Instead of assuring continuity, the law now told men that they could depend only on change.  Man could now expect that things would shift and change in their qualities and ultimately come to an absolute end.   Utter destruction was now imaginable, even for the believer himself.  Ierecina quite explicitly expressed his awareness of how drastic a change his new doctrine made.

Long did I sit in the temple receiving instruction from the learned ones. Long did I sit and hear the priests' assurances.  They sought to assure me that the Gods held all lives close to their hearts. They tried to tell me that all things traveled in the order in which the Gods laid them out.

So I left the temple to go observe this order.  And this is what I saw: 

I saw a woman who once possessed powerful beauty, now with wrinkles and a bloated stomach, withered by work, childbirth and worry. 

I saw children whipping a dog, encouraged by their drunken fathers.  

I saw a man lay hands on his own daughter. 

I saw a storm sweep away a woman on the day after she married the love of her life. I saw our tieri (chief) lying in a puddle of blood.  I saw families cut low by the swords of the feticinai.  

And all that I saw filled my ears resoundingly with the word, "No."   Now I looked about in trepidation, and all things seems transparent.  The words of my prayers fall empty through the air.  The reply from Arkan and Icotesi was faint: I strained to hear, and finally understood: "Only on death may you depend, so make yourself ready for the absolute."

Ierecina's preaching implied that humankind could never fully understand the nature of change, the heavenly law, or the nature of truth.  Man has difficulty in obtaining genuine knowledge of the truth.  If human life and all things pertaining to it are transitory, then how can one possess any real knowledge about what is beyond human experience, about the real essence of either the Gods or the created universe.  The priests and thinkers could readily conceive of an inexorable law of truth, arching far over their heads, far beyond their stilted human vision, accessible only by means of speculation, meditation, occasional visions and the second hand revelation of Ierecina and the other prophets.  But the prophets and the priests had the same eyes, ears and fingers as the unlearned peasants who knew nothing of metaphysics.   Those things perceivable by the five senses were all frighteningly fragile, and could be destroyed at the slightest vagaries of the Gods.

Indeed, the Shufrantei did not see Arkan and Icotesi as loving or even particularly sympathetic toward humankind.  Every Shufrantei believer acutely understood the Gods' capricious natures, and received the Gods, at least a few of them, with a terror equal to that which Yahweh inspired in the ancient Hebrews.  The seeming ambivalence of the Gods had so much to do with the fact that ushe (humans) were only one of many species and entities of their creation and concern.  

Life is suffering, inflicted by malevolent gods, and no matter what we do we are all ashes.  (a) But some gods love us, and offer us gifts of grace.   (b) And we can, with power, focus and right intention, and their aid, attain deliverance, spiritual sustenance, and peace.  

The anatomy of the Soul and Mind

Shufrantei commonly believed in a segmented soul, consisting of:  

(a) catre, the soul manifest to us as consciousness, the "light-soul," the "identity-soul," this is the part of soul that transmigrates to the afterlife.

(b) esle, the "heavy" soul, the "fire-soul," the energetic soul, the soul that animates the body; where emotions are intense.    This part of the soul remains attracted to the body after death, and sometimes devolves into either a ghost or, much worse, a tluca (a Bergonian zombie).  Preferably this part of the soul dissipated upon death, and nearly always did so upon the final resolution of the flesh (as distinct from the bone). 

(c) seraithere, the "star-soul," the "soul in the sky," the "mirror soul," a "personal star" or guardian angel in the heavens, connected ethereally to the catre, and drawing the catre heavenward, both in life and upon death.

Shufrantei philosophers and theologians ( to the Bergonian no difference exists between the two) engage in endless speculation about the precise anatomy of the human spiritual and mental organism.  It would do little good to recount those anatomical descriptions since the wise men themselves conceded that their arguments were actually about matters they could not know.  

But in general nearly all Shufrantei thinkers agreed that the mind consisted of at least two parts: 

a) the "point of consciousness", called shuefeloi (literally meaning "candle-lit" which was sometimes "extinguished," "covered" or "re-lit."), which was part of or otherwise related to the catre portion of the soul.  The most important aspects of the "point of consciousness" are:  

(i) Immediate consciousness of the product of the senses.  Shuefeloi is connected to the outside world by the physical body, especially the all-important senses.  

(ii) This facility includes consciousness of the self, capable of reflection and introspection, including conscious reflection of the content of the mind (see below).  

(iii) The "point of consciousness" includes the will, the capacity of forming intent, making "conscious decisions." Here in turn the shuefeloi acts upon the world through the body willed into action and deeds.

(iv)  Consciousness is variable in strength, coherence, clarity and freedom from distortion.  An individual's degree and quality of consciousness are affected by temperament, disability, intoxicants, stimulants, willful concentration, and self-discipline. The belief in the variability of consciousness, and in the entire soul, is fundamental to the Shufrantei conception of the soul.

b) the "content" of the mind-- including the things we call "memory," "information," "conditioning," "learning," "skills," and "beliefs," including the substantial residue of emotions, beliefs and images accumulated from experience, called the kefei, a word that also connotes "a house with many rooms."  Kefei most importantly includes a heavily edited record of the sense impressions received by the shuefeloi from the senses, which was notable for its incompleteness.  Many writings assume and take for granted that kefei, the content itself, consists of certain pre-established structures ("rooms") that made certain kinds of mental or emotional activity, image associations and actions impossible, and others quite likely to occur, notwithstanding a particular individual's environment or experiences.  This uniform structure is what provides all humans with their basic commonality of spirit and mind.  

The operation of the mind is therefore analogous to a man with a lamp walking around in a vast dark mansion of memory.  The outside world acted upon shuefeloi and filled kefei by means of the senses.  ( Priests and priestesses referred to the "gross senses" (sight, sound, hearing, taste and touch.) and the "fine senses" of the gut, the heart and the spirit.  

Through the medium of the physical senses and conscoiusness, i.e. shuefeloi, the spirit receives and depends upon experiences like the body receives and depends upon food. 

Experience, known as opiesei (lit. "eye bread"), provide the "spiritual sustenance" necessary to the nourishment of the soul.  The soul, after all, is a living thing, and all living things require sustenance. The experiences of the soul are every bit as essential as food to the physical body.  

A total lack thereof would certainly destroy the soul, resulting in its permanent extinction, if such a total lack were possible. Shufrantei devotees were familiar with the ways of sensory deprivation, and to them such deprivation bore the risk of eternal death, but they also believed in fasting as a means of cleansing the body, and concomitantly determined that controlled, disciplined sensory deprivation could cleanse the soul and, in effect, heal and rest it.  

The real risk of eternal death, as the Shufrantei saw it, came not from sensory deprivation or experiential starvation, since the essentially continuous nature of sensory input made such virtually impossible.   The real risk came from poisonous experiences.  The soul was always receiving some kind of experiential sustenance, but the critical question was whether the chosen food promoted the soul's health.  Bad experiences might cause the soul to weaken so much as to prompt premature death of the soul-body union.  The living soul sustained the physical body, but if the soul weakened then so did the body.   

Spiritual Sustenance -- Moute

Spiritual sustenance, known to the Nacatecas as moute, pronounced "mow'-teh."

One obtains spiritual sustenance through acts of conformity with the Law as it applies to humankind.  Specifically, this obedience to the law includes a first step of repentance, a confession of sin, which the faithful ritually repeats throughout his life, and subsequent steps of correct attitude and correct behavior.   

The Shufrantei look upon the attainment of moute as something that happens rather mechanically, as compared to the personal decision of grace in Christianity-- where God decides to extend grace. 

The Shufrantei prophets and priests identified as moute those experiences which were: (a) otale ("healthful", such as proper diet), (b) shretae  ("purifying", such as ritual absolution or honest confession or apology), (c) purle ("wise", such as studying scripture, philosophical education, or meditation), and (d) uesle ("devotional", such as charity).  

Spiritual Pollution -- Chucaoti

In the lives of most people, illness or old age ate away at the body, but the soul remained strong.  For most people the body's weakening caused the soul-body link to wither, but the soul retained the vitality necessary to survive the end of the soul-body link.  However, the Shufrantei believed that a bad man's bad experiences could cause a withering of the soul so complete that it lost the vitality to survive the demise of the soul-body link.  Then the soul would either expire right along with the body.  In other cases, the soul was able to maintain the health of the body until the occurrence of a natural physical death, but the soul itself became so deformed and twisted and shriveled that it could not survive the journey  from the pyre to the Mansions of Heaven, and it would disappear into the Abyss from which nothing ever returned.  A few souls became ghosts and stayed on earth.

Such were the effects of poisonous experience, which the Shufrantei referred to as chucaoti, "pollution" or "filth", the exact opposite of moute.

This idea of the susceptibility of the soul to pollution by chucaoti shows the inherent weakness of the human soul.  The Bergonians considered the human soul as very fragile.  This fragility and weakness came about because of the deformity in the creation of humankind, as the Tanteli-Lacori origin myth seeks to explain.  Had not Tanteli interfered in the creation of humankind, the result would have been different.  Therefore, the Tanteli-Lacori origin myth resembles the story of Satan in the Garden of Eden. 

The Afterlife

Say the Analects: "The spirit in the body, which is the body's animating and thinking force, is of "fire and water" which return to the heavens when the body dies, but life in the body has infused this spirit, either strengthening it so it can survive to fly to Mara's Gate, or weakening it so much that it dissolves into the Abyss."

 The afterlife was perceived as where Arkan and Icotesi "wreaked fearsome power of love and judgment" upon humankind.  There was a godly capriciousness about the operation of the universe in both this life and the hereafter.  Mankind suffered from bad luck and was blessed by good.   One labored through all his spiritual life fearful of the twists and turns of luck.  This of course was exactly as the Gods would have it, for they made it clear that they operated it for their own purposes which they weren’t required to make clear to man.   Thus man often found himself suffering, knowing in the process that he was drinking the bitter cup because it in some way served the purposes of the Gods.  Shufrantei requires that man give his faith and trust to the Gods, a trust they felt was justified by the revealed message of the Gods, given to the prophets on earth as compensation to humankind for his dumbass suffering.   The message is the balm that comforts the suffering.  It offers to suffer hapless humankind the path to personal and collective salvation.  Because the Gods' creation entails suffering for humankind, the Gods never promise to man that their suffering will ever cease.  In fact, Ierecina promises "lives of perpetual suffering."  The compensation comes in the afterlife.  

The Soul's Journey to the Afterlife

When a man dies his catre, the light-soul," ascends from his body to commence the journey to the other world.  The usual conception is a flight through the darkest night.  The weak, desiccated souls of evil people do not survive, and they fall into the endless Abyss, the realm of non-existence.  The strong, well-equipped souls arrive at the gate to Mara's Realm, which lies on the edge of the universe, one side facing the Abyss.  She greets the newly arrived soul and succors it.  

Another version says that the soul goes before the Judge, the grim black-faced figure who evaluates the soul's ratio of chuncaoti.  In some versions the Judge subjects the soul to trial by ordeal, another way of saying that the weak souls do not survive death.  Mara, however, is present to succor the soul in its moment of truth.  The judge sends many, but not most, into the Abyss where they are extinguished like dying fireflys in the blackness of the night.  The judge sent most of the souls (78% according to the calculations of a congress of priests of the Blue Band, which provoked uncontrollable laughter among other sects) went to the Mansions of Heaven.  This is where the Gods dispensed rewards to those who lived within the harmonies.  

The Mansions of Heaven

The Shufrantei priesthood transmitted to the mass of believers many detailed descriptions of the Mansions.  Common art portrayed imagined scenes from the Mansions.  Most were very pastoral, like sitting in a great garden with the animals lying placidly about amidst a profusion of flowers, with songbirds perched on every limb.

Some were scenes inside large palatial rooms.  Many involve scenes of happy work, abundant crops and fruit.  Many were scenes of musicians, carvers, painters, toolmakers, and writers.   All the scenes were done in a hyper-colorful style.  All the colors were so bright as to appear luminescent and bathed in the light of the heavens.  The mansions were popularly envisioned as great and huge palaces that ran on forever, surrounding gigantic gardens, pools and forests where the spirit-animals lived.   The souls were allocated among the various mansions, which differed greatly from one another, according to the decisions of the Judge.  Mara is the intercessor the one who pleads with her parents, Arkan and Icotesi, for the souls who pass through her doorway.   The souls then leave her realm for the various destinations.  Some of the mansions involve atonement, whereby pain and suffering is inflicted, but always with the assuring light and balm of the gods close by.  

Shufrantei ideas about death resemble the idea of judgment held by Christianity and many of the other great and not- so- great Eurasian religions in one respect: Shufantrei holds that one's individual post-death fate depends upon one's moral worth.  But Shufrantei is unique among all the religions of the world for its belief that some souls survive death while others do not.  Since the cutting edge was a matter of moral judgment, albeit by the natural almost mechanical workings of "soul dietetics" and their inevitable consequences rather than by a conscious judge capable of mercy or sternness, the Bergonians were assured among themselves that the charitable heart would enjoy a wonderful life after death while the murderer, the thief, the liar, the obsessively self-indulgent, and the mean-spirited would become extinct upon dying.

"The Gods cast their empty souls away, out into the endless void," is the way one of the Minor Prophets put it.   

 Shufrantei and all other Bergonian religion rejects any idea of a single, era-ending time of judgment.  To the Bergonian, there is no Judgment Day, no Chastisement of the Tomb, no millennium. 

A look at the Eurasian religious views upon the nature of the human soul and human existence is in order, to more sharply contrast Shufrantei and Eurasian conceptions of the afterlife.  Eurasian religions embraced two different dominant traditions concerning human nature.  These have supposedly provided the basic assumptions upon which religious eschatology has been built.  The first of these entails a unitary view of the human creature.  The individual person is seen to be a psychophysical creature, of which both material and nonmaterial, or spiritual, components are essential to a properly integrated personal existence, wherein the material is in complete without the spiritual and the spiritual is incomplete without the physical.  Death shatters the unity and disjoins the spiritual from the material, thereby ending personal existence.  The body becomes lifeless and the spiritual is loosened from the physical world.  This view has influenced ancient Egyptian religion and has gone on to shape the conceptions about death held by the Jews, the Zoroastrians, the Christians and the Muslims.  Such a view means that if there is to be any real personal afterlife then there must be a resurrection of the body so that the psychophysical creature may be restored.  The passage of many centuries has seen an abandonment of the idea of a literal physical resurrection at least by some.

The second view sees the spiritual part of the personality as the only true part, the body playing more the part of a vessel.  The soul is complete without the body and it existed before the body was ever formed.  In fact, it may have existed incarnate in other bodies in different lives, transmigrating from one to another upon death.  This is the theory of reincarnation, resplendent in Hinduism and in Buddhism, whereby judgment is in the form of rebirth.

The Shufrantei view resembles the second of the two Eurasian views in that it looks upon the body as a vessel, not as something integral to the personal human existence, though the Shufrantei do not deny that the state of incarnation in the human physical form places quite profound qualitative colorations to the life of the soul.  Nevertheless, the soul may live independent of the body in a future post-death existence.  God does not require any resurrection of the body in order for the soul to enjoy an afterlife.

However, Shufrantei do not regard the soul as being necessarily immortal and enduring beyond the pale.  Indeed, under certain circumstances the Shufrantei expect that an individual's soul will be extinguished, thoroughly obliterated, upon human death.

To the Shufrantei, the human soul is an organism of the spirit composed, like any other organism, of interdependent functional parts that must work in concord in order for the soul to maintain health.  This spiritual organism is joined to the host body and is very much dependent thereon for its health, But while the soul has the capacity for surviving the death of the body, the body is absolutely dependent upon the health of the soul for its own coherent existence and its death and dissolution come only from such disease or injury which assaults and disrupts its own vital functioning or the functioning interdependence between it and the soul.  

The Balance of Sustenance & Pollution

Of course, whether an experience was moute or chucaoti was something always discerned in light of the Heavenly Law of Arkan and Icotesi.  Therefore, it was generally assumed that human behavior and thought which was in accord with the Divine Law created sustenance for the soul.  Behavior and thought that directly contravene the Law stain the soul with chucaoti, enough of which would result in death of the soul.  A steady diet of otale sretae, purle, or uesle guaranteed eternal life.  

The preachers of Shufrantei often employed the metaphor of growing plants to describe moute and chucaoti.  They explained that if a plant gets plenty of sunshine and rain it will grow tall and full, while a plant which grows in a shadow or without water will grow stunted and small.  The latter will not long survive while the former will survive adversity such as late season drought, hail, and bugs.  In a like manner the strong soul will weather adversity in this life and then survive death.  

For integrating with the universal harmony, the devoted received their reward from the integration itself.  "Holiness," they said, "rewards itself."  The integration sustains the soul, so that in Shufrantei terminology "soul food" has great theological significance.  Likewise the failure to integrate results in a lack of proper spiritual sustenance. 

Thus, the chief sin consists of resistance against the harmony of the world.  If a man indulges in this sin, then he cuts himself off from the spiritual sustenance, and their soul  then sickens and, upon death, is extinguished and enjoys no afterlife whatsoever. Refusal to conform to the law results in a natural lapse into isolation.  A person can reach a degree of isolation that continues past the vale of death and directs the soul into the ultimate form of isolation-- the Abyss.  There the soul suffers a painful disintegration, and after all memory ceases only the point of consciousness survives, and in total isolation suffers madness-- horribly likened to "burying a poor soul in a box."

The difference for many-- if not most-- people in setting balance in favor of moute is the rite of purification, an act of grace by Arcan and Icotesi to cleanse chucaoti from the soul.


What translates into English as "purification" the Bergonians called maficorei in the Nacateca, maficu in the Minidun.

The Purification Rite:   It was a mandatory rite for all Shufrantei, and was in fact the only mandatory rite.  It, like Christian baptism and so many rites in so many other religions, uses water to cleanse the devotee of pollution.  If a devotee performs the rite in a mood of contrition and submission, he will become absolved.  It takes the blemishes off the soul.  By the analogous act of washing oneself with water one achieves the ultimate self-renewal in spirit. Like the Eucharist and other forms of sympathetic magic, it employs a physical metaphor to participate in the spiritual 

Some of the ancient Ancita performed a water purification rite.  The rites differed a great deal between the ancient sects.  The Lasa however had a simple, periodically mandatory water rite in counterpoint with a regular fire rite.  Ierecina probably was imitating the Lawa when he ordained a simple, periodically mandatory rite for his own followers.  

Surviving inscriptions and texts suggest that the Lasa performed their water rite every seven days.  Ierecina prescribed that the rite be performed every six days at the temple.  The sixth day in the Shufrantei calendar was called arei.  Priests and priestesses performed the rite, or at least an abbreviated form of it, every morning. 

The rite involves distinct steps.  First, the priest & priestess bless the water to be used in the rite.  Second, the priest & priestess lead the faithful in an admission of sin, everyone chanting the admission together.  Then the faithful rinse their hands at a font, and then they drink water from a large cup.  Finally the priest and priestess led the faithful in chanting a prayer of thanskgiving.  On special occasions, such as weddings, child-namings, initiations, oath-takings, the devotees washed their faces with wet cloths, then dried, then washed their hands with a cloth and then dried. 

The purification includes ritual fasting before the actual visit to the temple for the rite.  The faithful do not eat food, save for bread, on the morning before they go to the temple.   After they leave the temple they engage in what is called the "thanksgiving meal," the weekly feast in which the family gathers.  There they usually pig out.

Specifically, he insisted that his followers take baths before they attended the temple service, which occurred usually every sixth day.  Often, the wealthier among the more devout followers acquired the habit of bathing more often.  In the subsequent centuries Shufrantei society enshrined personal cleanliness among its values.  Shufrantei cities and towns had public and semi-public bathes.  Men and women had separate baths.  In some of the larger cities clans maintained their own baths for the use of all their members in a particular locale.  Within  time even  the most remote peasant village had a bath house.  The homes of the rich had  baths and sinks.   The obsession for cleanliness produced a demand for water that resulted in the construction of aqueducts and reservoirs and an acute interest in plumbing.  Centuries later, when the Europeans came, the Bergonians who still kept the habits of personal hygiene found the dirty Europeans repulsive.  The Europeans themselves regarded bathing an unhealthful practice 

The faithful abet their purification by adopting habits of good personal hygiene.  Ierecina, without possibly realizing it, shaped an entire culture's essential lifestyle by insisting on personal cleanliness.  The doctrinal basis for the relationship between spiritual purification and personal hygiene is hazy at best, and maybe nothing more than a metaphorical relationship, but since Ierecina insisted on it, all his followers abided in it.   

The theory behind purification: 

The Gods created all the life in the universe.  All life lives in their great law, except the human race, which suffers from defects of passion and perception, and which turns from the True Gods.  When men and women turn away from god, they deprive themselves of moute and become polluted. In order to become right, one had to come into the sight of the Gods cleansed of pollution.

Submission to the Heavenly Law requires ritual confession, ritual prayers of thanks, a personal prayer life, occasional ritual fasting, adherence to some dietary laws, and laws of cleanliness, austerity and charity.  These rituals strengthen, cleanse and purify the soul.  The cleansing of the soul can come from external sources, such as ritual, because Shufrantei held that either purification or pollution is generated as a consequence of experience.  

The explanation for purification and pollution then is especially psychological, and does not depend on any concept of spiritual force or mana.  The soul consists of a quantity of various essences, wrapped together in a balanced whole.  Experience is recorded in the soul.  Opponents of this view have argued, "as water reflects the sky, as metal reflects the firelight, so does the soul reflect experiences, but neither the sky, the metal nor the soul are affected."   But proponents said,  "as the eye sees, so does the hand write" (referring to the written record of actual experience).  Each experience alters the arrangement of the elemental essences within the soul, and from moment to moment, as another experience occurs, the combination of soul essences becomes slightly different, one essence getting stronger ("getting fed," the Bergonians would say), and over time, more complex.  The experiences sometimes transform some essences into others.  (One God removes his mask revealing himself to be another). 

It stands to reason that certain types of experience render certain essences, and this rather basic; obvious determines why a person had better seek out the best experiences.   

The conscious mind has direct access to these essences, even as they change, as memories.  In this way Shufrantei has explained the phenomena of memory.

Many practitioners believed that purification also requires a psychological exercise-- the willing abandonment of bad memories, which meant a conscious refusal to dwell on bad things, and also sanctioned denial.  They spoke of "liberation" from bad memories, and a cleansing of the __.   The soul, as it becomes more purified, simply refuses to return to the bad recollections.

It is too much to say that the Gods actually expect men and women to conform to the lawful arrangement.   Analogies exist between the Shufrantei concept of defect and Christian original sin.  But the Shufrantei attitude toward those who failed to conform to the law was more tolerant than the Christian, who deplored all sinfulness.  The Shufrantei cared little if another man polluted himself-- it was his choice-- but the Shufrantei did have compassion for the defective, and tried to instruct humankind into better practices which would result in purification. 

The survival of the individual spirit after death is not Shufrantei's only concern.   Shufrantei's model of health through conformity to the harmonies applies to physical health and (in a sense very foreign to Christianity) the health of communities.  The Shufrantei community must abide by the harmonies; otherwise it will become weak.  Members of the sickened community would themselves stand a diminished chance of acquiring healthy attitudes.  Members of a sickened society would stand a greater chance of ending up in the Abyss.

Spirits and men can directly act to perform Arkan and Icotesi's will upon the earth.  Men can so act by acts of charity or by performing priestly duties.  Men can also affect their will by acting well in politics and government, by spreading the faith, by serving in the military of the priestly state, and by enforcing a civil law that conforms to the Heavenly Law.  

The idea of sexual generation was central to the Shufrantei concepts of cosmic power, and so there developed over time an attitude that sex could be holy.  Couples made love with the Holy Couple’s own cosmic love-making in mind.  A certain blessedness enhanced lovemaking when couples sought to emulate Arkan and Icotesi.  Purification had significance to this practice because the lovemaking began with the man and the woman washing each other's naked bodies.  

The human condition:

The first fact about humankind is the tragic limitation of animal life, the life of flesh, made possible only by consumption of other life, a dance of eating and dying and eternal death.  Thus comes the twofold truth of the flesh, of life on earth: it is a life of suffering,  and a life of death, but it is a life that includes moments of satiation and completion, a possibility of full stomachs  and blooming.  

Humankind was made defective, and he is made miserable by his defect.  One way of explaining the defect is to say that it is a defect in perception.  Man could perceive the tragedy of change but is too often blind to the underlying beauty.  We have eyes to see, but do not because we are so anguished by our physical pains and our mortal fears.  We are cursed with knowledge, including the knowledge of the future and the ability to anticipate, so while the animals peaceably are rooted in the present, we have certain knowledge of our deaths, and the helplessness we feel anguishes us.  Our spirits are thus utterly afflicted by the vulnerabilities of the flesh.  

This defect is a central fact of Shufrantei psychology and ontology.  Especially paradoxical is that the defect itself is a mystery.  And so it becomes obvious that the defect at least includes a defect in the human capacity of perception.  How can men not be conscious of that which they lack?  Humans see too much in some respects  (more than animals), and not enough in other respects-- they cannot see the Gods.   

 Emotional states are essences of spirit, which are reflected in the body.  For example, love as an essence infuses both the spiritual, the energy and the physical aspect of the person.  So as an essence does anger infuse the entire person, except that anger is destructive to the spirit.  Likewise so does uetle, the emotion state we describe variously as attachment, obsession, desire, lust, hunger.    

Pollution manifests in consciousness as memory of past bad experiences and actions, and also as bad desire.  It is like a stain on the spirit.


The Ancita people long had a tradition of singing psalms of lamentation, reflecting on the tragedy of life.  This became part of the Shufrantei tradition, and in time people all over Bergonia were singing psalms of lamentation.  They were regarded crucial to cultivating the proper Shufrantei ideal of submission and acceptance.

Icotesi, do you hear my cry?

The evening advances; I hear only the crickets and frogs, 

But still I cry out to you, to the stars, to the void over my head. 

The legends and rites do not comfort me.

My troubled mind stirs, like the graying sky before a storm.

My dreams are violent and consuming,

For I fear the blackness of Death.

Everywhere I sense it, and I tremble with terror.


I fear the black stillness, deeper than sleep.

I cannot conceive of it, except for its horror.

I hear the rattling approach of Mara's bony minions.

They hunt for me in their leisure.  I cannot hide.

I tremble, even though the priest tries to soothe me with his tales.

Icotesi, you are cruel!


Am I so insignificant?

That the sky will still glow blue after my passing?

That the sun will shine radiantly after my death?

That the cattle will peaceably graze on the hillside?

That the women in the plaza will still sing?


What do I leave behind me to mark my passing through?

"Nothing," intones the cold night wind, "nothing at all."  


The sun ignores me, the flowers giggle, and the cold rain hurls insults.

I am a fair guest.  I take off my shoes.

I don't carve marks in the wood.

But it matters not; the children of my grandchildren 

will never know of me.

I am insignificant, like a crumbling leaf.

I do not believe the commands of my senses.

Does anything endure?  Is anything dependable?


Do I not wake from my sleep only to begin dreaming?

Our lives are like the distant mountains seen through shimmering hot summer air. 

Our lives pass like the milkweed and the dandelion set aloft by capricious winds.

Events turn and loved ones disappear without warning. 

Nothing has roots in the ground.


I have trod in the shadows and kept to the safe regions.

I have followed the ancient precepts and have built a foundation with my own hands. 

But quakes have shattered my foundations and the safe regions are now the haunts of wild beasts. 

Horror pervades the shadows where I once found shelter, and I have lost all I once grasped in my hands.


Please hear my tale.  Take pity.

I stored up grain, but rats and locusts found it.

I raised sheep, but thieves rustled them.

I took a wife to my heart, but Mara snatched her away.

I rose children along the right path,

But in adolescence they fled for faint promises 

and called my love contemptible.



Now I stand alone, tottering, with nothing in my grasp 

save for the dry air. 

Despair surrounds me on all sides with nothing in my hands save for dust. 

Arkan, Mighty One, Just One,

Is this my reward?  



Most of the ancient Bergonian religions, including the eastern Nine-God Worship, distinguished between the Good Gods and the Enemy Gods.  All Bergonian religions shared in the same dawn-time history, as recorded in the Meiowaithi, in which the Good Gods vanquished the Enemy Gods in a primordial conflict that caused most of the Catlantian continent to sink below the ocean.   The Prophet Ierecina told the story of how Arkan and Icotesi had defeated the Enemy Gods in the dawn- times, though he meant in a far more cosmic, spiritual way.  He referred to Catlantia but did not ever mention the flood or the sinking of the land.  

By 300 BC the ancient civilization of Eastern Bergonia grew into a ripe, autumn phase-- the era of the (First) Ceiolaian Empire, with many large cities, a large and very literate upper class, and a distinctly cosmopolitan culture.  For the first time there were sophisticated critics of traditional religion.  The new rationalists questioned everything, including religion and superstition, and applied reason to the discovery of truth.  These men, typically literati-librarians, philosopher-teachers and languid aristocrats, debated and doubted all things, even the existence of the Gods.  They questioned the soundness of the doctrine that permitted the existence of evil spirits independent of the forces of the God who presumably made the Universe.  Ierecina possibly had this debate in mind when he proclaimed that the Enemy Gods were among the children of Arkan and Icotesi who had gone astray.  For him this was not a radical step, since ancient Ancita religion had always taught that the evil god Tanteli was the son of Sun God Arkan and Moon God Icotesi.  

Many have tried to compare Tanteli with the Christian-Eurasian figure of Satan, and the comparison will walk for a while, but Tanteli is after all an aspect and a face of God, and as such he often cavorts with the other gods & goddesses and even occasionally does good for humankind.  To Bergonians Christians make too much of the distinction between that which God begat and that which God created, and also to the distinction between good and evil..  Of course, only Christ is begotten of the Father, while Satan and the other angels were creations, like man.  In Shufrantei, all life and all things ultimately spring forth from the union of Arkan and Icotesi, as shown by the mythological tales of all their eight little god-children, which included Tanteli.  Some have reacted with horror and other with fascination at the notion of an "Evil Christ" who does battle with Lacori, a Christ-like being, but this configuration would make Shufrantei analogous with Zoroasterism, where the good god battles the dark god.  In fact, Tanteli compares as much to the Trickster of Amerindian lore as to Satan, and he also incorporates a bit of Shiva, the destroyer god of Hinduism.  

While Satan's ultimate offense is rebellion and insubordination, Tanteli's ultimate offense is that of gluttony and a lack of discipline.  Tanteli was above all the progenitor of excess, consumptive greed, and obsession; he was the consumer of things, ravenous, of limitless appetite, the insatiability of human desire, like fire out of control.  This particular attribution to Tanteli provides a Bergonian answer to the very disturbing question that has afflicted and motivated much religious thinking, which is simply, what is the source of evil and impurity.  Ierecina stated that all of the pluralistic, changing dance of elements was good, because everything was in balance, and because all the elements prospered from it.  When humankind lived in accord with the great dance of balance, humankind prospered.  But humankind was susceptible to evil and pollution, all caused by the seductions and interferences of Tanteli, who plied upon man's defective nature, the incompleteness that required and sought attachment to some Other.  The desire for attachment is what makes men and women loyal to their families and communities, and also what sometimes impels people toward the holy, but sometimes the desire warps into self-destructive obsessions, fixations and excesses.  Here is Tanteli at work. 

Pre-Shufrantei explanations of evil was based primarily upon the operation of either the actions of Evil Gods, of whom Tanteli was one, or the voluntary desires and actions of people in response to their solicitations and temptations to perform Evil, and the struggle occurred across the face of the earth.  Ancita mythology portrayed humankind as the result of an experiment based on dubious promises, and then further damaged because of Tanteli's mischievous meddling-- in other words, a defective creature which shouldn't have been.   Thus the struggle became internal to man's mind, heart and spirit.

The ancients knew that evil was afoot and even could dominate a personality, a community or even the whole world.  

Obsessiveness, they knew, drove most petty desire and all great evil, like vampirism, which the subject could hardly help, like an addiction.  (Present-day Bergonians love vampire movies & books.)  And so Tanteli, inasmuch as he involved the abrogation of will, of self-control, personified a lot of what we call madness or insanity, and here Bergonians saw Tanteli and his progeny of demons as capable of attaching themselves to individuals, not as dominating and debilitating as the demons possessing afflicted people that Jesus cast out, but more like subtle parasites.  

The ancients were often rationalist, and it did not escape their notice that dogs, monkeys, parrots and other animals sometimes became obsessive in captivity, but the willfulness of evil intent was seen as the exclusive province of humankind.  The original act of willful sin in the Shufrantei creation story was deceit, and so deceit was seen as the core of evil.   

“It seems certain that every virtue and every good has a capacity for evil excess,” said the Analects.

The final level of evil was the denigration of the enemy, where the victim becomes an enemy deserving of denigration.  Here the perpetrator sees the sensibilities, the rights and the status of the victim as cheap, and so he is willing to expend more for his obsessive quest.  He no longer needs to deceive, and can resort to the openness of violence.  This is a matter of utterly depraved will.

Tanteli was correlated to chiefiniene, pollution.

Evil was a sublime thing to Ierecina.  What was important to him was the idea of chefiniene, ("chyeh-fi-nyeh'-ne") a sort of visceral, congenial evil, common and inevitable to all of us.  Chefiniene was the idea that man was tragically fated  by his own evil to fail, that despite his best intentions he would permeate the world with evil.  His evil would shine like a black light into the good world, and then reflect back onto men, giving the appearance of an evil world.  This is somewhat parallel to the Freudian defense mechanism called projection.

Evil in the Bergonian worldview has always strongly associated with excessive appetite of all types and forms, which includes excesses of eating, lust, accumulation, wanting and having more and more.  Mere lust hardly qualifies as evil to a Bergonian,  but excess lust which unseats all other considerations is where evil appears.

("Every living creature eats; every living creature is subject to being eaten."   This is the basic subject-object relationship in animal life, and to a certain extent in human life.  Humankind has a "bigger eye" than any animal and therefore has awareness of the future so that he has knowledge of the certainty of being-eaten, that is to say knowledge of death and its inevitability, and is driven mad by it.  He reacts by eating compulsively, that is to say consuming other life and stuff.  He becomes "monstrous" that is deformed, and his soul dies.   Shufrantei uses metaphors such as men who become too fat or become addicted to a drug, or stuck in the treasure hole, or blinded.  The metaphor for the afterlife: get ready for the arduous journey, prepare, strengthen yourself, like warriors training for battle.) 


Ierecina by example prescribed two basic personal observances for all his followers, including the "Day & Night Prayer" and the weekly rite of Purification. 

The "Day and Night" Prayer.  Twice a day every day, at sunrise and sundown, all the faithful prayed to Arkan and Icotesi this prayer:

Lord Arkan, Sun Father,

Father of us all,

Giver of Law,

Name us in your holy writ

And let us serve your will.


Lord Icotesi, Night Mother

Mother of us all,

Maker of the Law,

Cleanse us of folly

And give us strength for right.

In the morning the believer prays the verse to Arkan while he faces the east and he prays the verse to Icotesi while he faces the west.  In the evening he reverse the directions.  This way, the believer prays to Arkan while facing the rising and the setting sun, and he prays to Icotesi while he faces the coming and going night.

The Weekly Rite of Purification: 

Ierecina also prescribed the believers to go to the temple every sixth day, the day of the week that he called Areteli.  He defined Peshlue, the ritual singing of prayer for purification, which swiftly became the staple of Shufrantei worship.  The believers all went to the temple and entered a sanctuary.   

The Shufrantei faithful were summoned by a priest to the temple with either a trumpet or bugle-type horn.  One major dissident, the Satraoli,  sect used a bell, and in the manner of people who extol form over substance, the other sects denounced them and prosecuted them. "Heretical bells" they shouted.

In the front of the sanctuary was either a mural, a relief or statues portraying Arkan & Icotesi. The service involved distinct elements in this order:   (a)  A hymn of praise, (b) A common confession of sins, (c) Telling or dramatic reenactment of a myth, (d) a rite of purification with hand-washing, (e) A prayer of thanksgiving.

The system of rites:

The fourth of the Minor Prophets, named Chuslera, systematized all the essential rituals of the Shufrantei faith.  He defined all the other major and minor rituals than had come into being.  Most of the rituals predated Ierecina, and Ancita priests and laypeople had practiced variations of many of them for centuries.  Now Chuslera examined each one in turn and either included it in his canonical list or rejected it, claiming that he did so in reliance upon his study of Ierecina's teachings, his own  prayer and meditation, and the resulting revelation.  Priests had differed in how they performed many of the rituals, and some of the differences blew up into serious disputes, but Chuslera attempted to settle them.  He personally performed each  one, which his personal disciples observed and recorded.   

The result was the Book of Rites, a prescription for the eighty  major rites of Shufrantei.  This book became part of the Shufrantei canon, along with the Book of Anger, the Book of Methods, the Analects, and the Disciples' Recollections.  He laid down in a standardized written liturgy a single system of Shufrantei rites, a system consisting of standard short rites with discrete purposes, and then combined like building blocks according to functional need to produce complex ceremonial rituals.  

Chuslera defined eight primary rites, the eight building blocks for all other rites. 

1.  Peshlue, ritual purification, consisting of a sequence of ritual confession of transgression, a declaration of faith, the washing of hands and the drinking of water.  This rite resulted in the purification of the spirit.  It made people ritually pure to commence with some of the other basic rites, and thus people had to purify before they could proceed to the other rites. 

2.  In the "sealing prayer" the believer wrote a prayer or promise on a piece of paper, lit the paper with a blessed candle, and placed it in a ceremonial bronze bowl to burn.  The smoke deliver the words of the prayer or promotion to the heavens.  One took an oath with a "sealing prayer."  The fire in the bowl paralleled the funeral pyre, where the soul was transported on a waft of smoke to heaven.  You could not perform a sealing prayer without forest performing purification.

3.   A high rite reserved for special occasions was the "regeneration dance."  This too required purification on the part of all the participants.   Regeneration was a ritual reenactment of the holy marriage of Arkan and Icotesi.  A  priest and priestess  dance together.   They enter the dance floor from opposite sides and began dancing distant  from one another,  slowly  approaching  each other.  They tease and dance around each other.   Finally they touch hands and dance in a circular high step.  They end in an embrace and a ceremonial kiss.   No words are spoken during the dance, though sometimes there is clapping, hooting and cheering-- the dance is itself the rite, a magically potent imitation of the Holy Couple's lovemaking.  While the priest and  priestess dance the other priests in attendance provide musical accompaniment, always a drumbeat and usually a  flute. 

Depending on the occasion the people in attendance chanted or sang.  Depending on the occasion it was either a raucous celebration or a restrained solemnity.   After the priest and priestess kissed the two joined hands, and with a altogether new, formal and slower pace, they joined two candles together to light a series of candles, usually eight, sometimes nine, and then poured  libations each from a separate chalice.  The lighting of the candles and the  pouring  of the  libation  was  symbolic of creation which the now-joined Gods  animated.  The  Shufrantei marriage  rite  grew  out of regeneration and mimics and parallels  it.   Lacori's  dancing rite, performed  on his feast day, to commemorate his victory over Tanteli in myth, also paralleled the regeneration.

4.  Akin to the regeneration rite was the mutuality rite, in which two or several people confirmed their relationship with a binding holy force.  The rite formally commenced a relation which Shufrantei believers called Airshei, often translated as "fraternity, more recently translated rather amorphously as "mutuality."   Airshei was more than contracting or agreement, although the parties often do enter into promises of mutual aid.  Airshei meant a voluntary sort of consanguinity, surpassing friendship, like "blood brothers, with mutual good will, affection and preference.  It may've involved an agreement for specific exchange of goods or favors, but more than just a contract, it necessarily entailed an implicit exchange of pledges of good will. 

 Airshei was more than what a European would call an "alliance" between two parties, because  it was more  brotherly,  more  heartfelt.  But it necessarily implied everything encompassed by  "alliance."   Since was the subject of a Shufrantei rite, it followed Shufrantei endorsed and  included it as a holy process.  Devotees-- particularly the members of a clan lodge or panitei lodge-- entered into with a temple, as in ancient times the feticinai swore oaths of devotion  to the temples.  

The rite itself allowed two people to mimic Arkan and Icotesi.   The parties  do  not  dance-- primarily because not many people danced well enough--  but instead walked toward each other across the floor from opposite sides and exchanged something of their own choosing-- flowers, bread, written statements, special stones, wood carvings.  They then prayed aloud together and shared a libation.  Usually but not always purification preceded this rite.   Because the rite evoked the holy creative dance between the two great gods, it revealed that was akin to the Gods' generative process-- which is to say that the good relationships between people  produced  the same good creative energy that powers the good energies in the natural world.  In this respect mutuality was akin to regeneration.

5.  There was also the "exhortation," a chanting prayer.    There were two kinds of chants, a basic level which anyone could perform at anytime, and then "high" chants which were reserved for the temple.  The former included general invocation for strength and righteousness, declarations of devotion, and laments and sorrowing.  The latter included direct prayer to individual children and grandchildren gods including listing of their singular attributes.  Some of these were full strength prayers connected to the telling of a myth by a priestly storyteller.  These high prayers usually required purification, although there were "prelude chants" that devotees said before commencement of the purification rites, and also "campaign chants" good for in processions, parades and marches.

6.  Ritual "observances of the gods," linked to moments on the calendar cycle, including the equinoxes and solstices, and the appearances of full moons and new crescent moons.  The observances were intended to enhance and partake of the universal harmony.   The most basic of these was the greeting to the sun in the morning and greeting of the night at sunset.   The most arcane was the ceremonial sowing of the first seed.

7.  There were specialized ritual acts performed for individuals to mark important life passages and transitions, such as births ("the naming"), initiations of young people (14th birthday), weddings, and cremations.  These also included warrior and state rituals to mark transitions such as a new soveriegn or governments, and going to war. There were sanctified versions of the panitei's ritual combat in the medium of dance that fell into this category. 

8.   Finally  there was the ritual "telling" of myth and story, dramatic presentations of the myths, sometimes with elaborate costuming, settings and music.  This usually included a narrator who related the essence of the story line, plus chanters and singers, and in the more elaborate tellings the narrator provided only the transitional voice between dramatic scenes where actors portrayed the gods and other mythical figures.  All the major ceremonies of the year climaxed in a dramatic presentation of myths, sometimes conducted in the temple, sometimes presented on a temporary stage in the open plaza.

The common temple service held every consisted of three of the standard rites pasted together:  the telling of a myth by a priest, the prayer chant, purification, and then a high prayer.  In the high temple services or for special, dedicated purposes (such as kicking off a campaign or a petition during drought) purification was followed by a either regeneration or burning paper.  For a complex example of how the priesthood combined these  modular rites, we can look at the Shufrantei equinox ceremonies-- the spring dedicated to the Arkan and the fall  to Icotesi.

Arkan owned the spring and summer half of the year when the sun was at its maximum shine, and Icotesi owned the other half of the year when the night was longest.  Typically, corn grew during the summer half of the year and wheat grew during the winter half.  Corn (perhaps of the phallic aspect, as well as the summer) was a manifestation of Arkan's force, while wheat expressed Icotesi's. 

  The equinox rite strung the small particle rites together, like gems on a  necklace string, as follows:  The ceremony leads off with an enactment of the story about  corn or wheat.  Then comes the greeting to the son or moon, a prayer rite, purification, and regeneration, then a ritual action related to the told story, ending with a high prayer.


Songbirds provided many useful symbols in the Bergonian worldview.  Bergonians revered music almost as much as they revered the written word, and every religious rite entailed singing and music.  The popular superstition held that the birds carried hidden messages from the Gods to the other creatures of the world, including humankind.   Of course they flew into the sky where they could draw closer to Arkan and Icotesi than any other animal.  Music was a holy thing of the gods and not of earth, and Star-City was full of music.  The birds who visited Star-City heard the music and so learned how to sing.  Then, after the creation of men and women, the songbirds transmitted to humankind the gift of music.  They taught women to sing, and women in turn taught men to sing.  


The Day of Night falls on the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice.  No one works.  People fast, confess their sins and sit somberly.  All institutions are closed.  Armies refrained from marching and fighting, even in the midst of a war.  Then, in the middle of the night, bonfires were lit, and people danced.  The nighttime festivities culminated in a greeting of the sun at dawn. 

Then comes the Festival of Light, which lasted for five days, full of theater presentations, for five days the people relive the full ritual explanation of life and the cosmos.  It was when people get reassured in the orderliness of life.  On the fifth day it culminates in a splendid rite of purification, with four repeated purifications for each worshipper. 

Arkan's Feast comes at the spring equinox, and Icotesi's Feast at the autumn equinox, days to celebrate the generative fecundity of the earth.  These were Shufrantei's nature holidays, and commemorated sowing and harvest.  In Bergonia corn grows in the lowlands during the summer, and wheat grows in the highlands during the winter.  Corn belongs more to Arkan, and is personified by Nacen, one of the 64 Grandchildren Gods, the Golden Man.  Wheat belongs to Icotesi, and is personified by Grandchild Purosi, the Silver Gown.  


Shufrantei mandated cremation of the body.  Although the faithful regard the body as nothing more than a vessel, they worry that the soul seeks to remain with it.  When death occurs, the soul remains viscerally attached to the body and must be propelled toward the next life.   If the soul stays attached to the dead body, it endures the experience of the flesh rotting, an experience so horrible that a lifetime of accumulated moute can be ruined, and the soul itself will extinguish with the rotting flesh.  The living can help the dead and save it from this hideous fate by promptly destroying the corpse.  

Most other cultures have believed in preserving the body by burial.  But the Shufrantei wanted to destroy it, particularly the flesh, in order to liberate the soul, and accomplished this by cremation.  The pyre's flame propels the soul up into the sky.  The soul rides the smoke upward and finds Mara's minions in the sky to receive it and guide it onward.  Thus all Shufrantei promoted cremation aggressively, or any other expeditious way of disposing of the flesh on the bones; even exposing the body for the birds was preferable to burial..  

Shufrantei law provided that, in circumstances making cremation impossible or impracticable, believers should expose corpses to the elements and let the carrion eater have its way with it.  Traditionally they did this by leaving the body in an open place, visible to the birds, and surrounded it with markers to warn any travelers away from it.  The Shufrantei concern for disposing of the body did not extend to the bones, and once either fire or exposure disposed of the flesh they felt they had successful "thrown the soul upward."  The bones they deposited in excarnations or ossuaries, tombs for bones, or ground into powder and scattered.

Wherever the Shufrantei conquerors went they build crematoriums.   In fact, when Subanei warriors conquered a new town the very first thing they established was a crematorium, even before establishing a temple.  Typically, to show their exaltation (and also to disperse the foul smelling odor) they sited the crematorium on a high place outside the town.   In the flat regions they often built towers of stone or earthen mounds on which they conduct cremations.   The great pyramids built in the frenzy of Subanei expansion were for the most part intended as huge crematoriums for the devoted.  The Shufrantei selected their sites in part to take advantage of large forests from which they would get the necessary wood.  Devout believers carried the bodies of their dead to these great centers for cremation at a rite presided over by high priests.

As an aside, a Shufrantei believer would describe the most venal of men as the "death cheats."  These men, so evil that they themselves acknowledge their souls will expire upon death, arrange for their own corpses to be buried, preferring the gruesome soul-life as a corpse to utter extinction.  Some such men used black magic to steal the bodies of good men and try to transfer their souls into these healthy bodies.  The result was a zombie-vampire-like creature that ate lives flesh and led an abominable life.  The arcane magic these men used trapped the good man’s soul in his body and, by a hideous parasitic process, the transplanted fed off the good soul and use the good soul's body.  These creatures were called tucla and populated many frightening tales.  The tuclas often succeeded in masquerading as normal men and woman, fooling the friends and the families of the victim.  Bergonians told a tale in which even Tanteli denounced such men as ghastly, and then he aided other Gods in trying to defeat a pack of tuclas who broke into Star-City.   



The idea of the imperfection of mankind occurs in nearly all Eurasian religions, as does the idea of war over the soul of mankind between the competing forces of good and evil.  Nowhere is this more explicitly spelled out than in Zorarastrism.  Islam, being a third "Religion of the Book," shares the Eden story and belief in Satan with Judaism and Christianity.  Hinduism and Buddhism also address the flawed nature of man and the accumulation of bad influenced similar to chucaoti, which create Karma.  

[rev 14 feb 03]


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