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Hiestat began as the religion of the Pasan people in northeastern Bergonia, with antecedents with prehistoric shamanism.  In medieval times Hiestat seeped into the more "civilized" Shufrantei realms, becoming a subversive cult among the lower classes. 

Many Pasan magical practices spread throughout Bergonia, the most common being the practice of wearing magic amulets to ward off spells and disease, to treat an illness, to promote courage, and to give psychic strength.   There was a whole mystical vocabulary of symbols that were variously inscribed on the amulets, and these in both literal and distorted form became very popular in medieval decor and graphics everywhere.  Often the Shufrantei priesthood and their allies in government would crack down on the sale of amulets in the marketplaces, but there was the standing joke about how many priests wore Hiestat amulets under their robes.

Women were especially powerful among Hiestat practitioners; they dominated the priesthood and conducted most of the important "nighttime" rites that involved long bouts of dancing and chanting, which achieved a number of purposes like atonement and repentance, healing, joining together, and social cohesion.  These were always scheduled with regard to moon phases and planetary motion.

Hiestat had its own "forest tradition" of wise men who retreated into the wilderness to grow closer to the Divine, like Shufrantei and like Hinduism and Buddhism, except that they sometimes practiced esoteric magic and they sometimes ate hallucinogenic mushrooms.


The Hiestat Religion

"I shake my fists at the Gods.  How cruel, how capricious they are.   Alien and cold, they roll over us, crushing you, maiming me.  We are ants "

"If you wish too hard for gold, the Gods may give you a big chest full of gold coins, but then cut off your hands so you cannot count them."

"We live as do the flowers.  They rise to meet the holy sun, but then the holy winds fling them about and scatter the petals.  Our lives are a terrible brief beauty."

"When I slay the sheep, I see the dread and pain in its eye.  I am not different from the sheep."

"Pain, sickness and death take turns mocking pride, desire and vanity."

"Say what you will; the clouds will sail on."

"Holiness begins with thankfulness.  The flowers are thankful in rain and sun.  The starving cat who has finally made a kill is thankful."

"It is as good to worship your food as any god."

"God is the clear empty sky."  ("There is no God, only the clear empty sky.")

"God is the clear empty sky, but I have also found God in a hot meal and a cup of good tea."

"In the middle of storm and flood you will pray to God for the clear empty sky."

Pronounced "HEE-eh-stot," an ancient religion that opposed Shufrantei, and saw the universe indifferent if not completely hostile to humankind.  It included a practice of sorcery and healing, since it assumed that parts of the very heterogeneous god-force could be pinched and exploited by crafty humans.  They perceived the universe as a place where god-force swirled and flowed and manifested in a layer of capricious distant gods who descended from the creator, a layer of earthly sekelei (demons) and etelei (genies or earth-bound angels), and a layer of human and animal souls and spirits of place and plant life,

It had practitioners, rather than believers.  It had no scripture, no formal church, no doxology, no center whatsoever.  But it had oral traditions, weird vivid myths, chants, prayers, charms, lamentations, and songs.  Practitioners used a symbol of lightning, demonstrating the random, capricious power of life. 

A great deal of anger, forlornness and a sense of cosmic alienation infected Hiestat.   The Hiestat world was a great wide open place with innumerable forces and entities, appearing, combining, conflicting and dying. A universe without a center, but a chaotic, swirling stew under the vast, far-removed umbrella of an ultimate, utterly indifferent creator.  

This great cold creator was not approachable, but humankind could approach many of "the little gods" who swept forth to dominate the creation, and some of them demanded human attention.  Hiestat men and women had vastly varied, but inevitably ambivalent, feelings about the gods. Some people embraced a single god among the dispersed pantheon and gave all their devotion to it, ignoring the others, but most Hiestat believers propitiated a number of the Gods with sacrifices, charms and prayers.  In the markets of all large cities one could buy Hiestat amulets, although the Shufrantei rulers often tried to outlaw them.  Hiestat created the "angry prayer," where men and women challenged and spoke insultingly to the Gods.  Hiestat believers commonly had an individual god to love and another god to hate.

This world-view at its best, freed of superstition, engendered a noble stoicism, and a quasi-humanist sense that men and women had responsibility for their own lives within bounds set by fate. The most rarefied Hiestat attitude was one of profound thankfulness and appreciation for the slight gifts received, and a humble willingness to accept the ill with the good.  The most revered Pasan holy men and women had nothing to do with sorcery, amulets or curses, but rather meditated in thankfulness.

Though Hiestat evolved from Pasan culture, it spread throughout Shufrantei Bergonia, finding acceptance by disenfranchised, marginal people-- porters, slaves, warehousemen, wine-house proprietors, prostitutes, gamblers and criminals.  Shufrantei portrayed the world as a great harmonious system and encouraged priests and rulers to mirror the cosmic harmony in a well ordered society. Those on the fringes and at the bottom did not appreciate talk of harmony, since harmony was often achieved at their expense, and they found the world of their experience much more like the world portrayed by Hiestat.

Another Minority Religion-- the Cult of Anranapral

From ancient Kuan times there evolved a sect that worshipped a deity named Anranapral.  Over the centuries Anranapral meant different things to different generations of devotees.  Once he was portrayed with a beard, holding a trident, purple or blue in complexion, and associated with fishermen and the sea.  He protected working people, the porters, slaves, women, children, animals.  Somewhere he acquired a host of angelic servants and fighters.  

By medieval times he was portrayed as a beautiful young man.  In this version of the universe, there was a huge population of demons, angels and spirits-- the edelei-- who could serve any deity they wanted.  But most of them were attracted by Anranapral's purity, radiance and benevolence, and served him willingly.  Against a hostile and painful universe Anranapral offered succor and an after-life salvation, and his host of edelei aided his believers on earth..

Religious Persecution by Shufrantei 

Shufrantei was rather intolerant of other religions, and for most of the time that it dominated the cities of Bergonia, its adherents suppressed other religions and persecuted "heretics."  Thus, most of the time Hiestat practitioners in Shufrantei countries were severely limited.  This made Hiestat utterly hostile to Shufrantei, and many Hiestat practitioners responded to persecution by redoubling efforts to recruit believers.

The Second Ceiolaian Empire and most of the successor states in the east generally prohibited Hiestat temples and schools from operating openly.  Often the authorities knew where groups of believers were congregating, but as long as it was in barns, cellars and private homes, the authorities were more likely to tolerate them.  Hiestat preachers and practitioners could not openly practice their crafts, and Hiestat processions were prohibited from the streets.  Hiestat believers were often prohibited from holding any office, and for the most part no Hiestat practitioners were permitted among either the nobility or the officer corps of the armed forces.  But they were generally safe in their homes and tolerated by their Shufrantei neighbors.  

Perhaps the touchiest part of the Shufrantei intolerance toward Hiestat had to do with the sale of Hiestat magical amulets.  Superstitious people throughout the Shufrantei realms feared Hiestat magic, even though they could hardly be called .   

The coming of Miradi and the end of competing religions

Like Shufrantei, the Hiestat and all the other minority faiths were subsumed when Krathnami's teaching spread all over Bergonia and Miradi became the dominant religion.  

Hiestat greatly influenced Krathnami, through his wife Sesnan, a Hiestat witch.  Hiestat had always involved a more of a cosmic shrug than Shufrantei, a big rococo construct  too laden with metaphysical assumptions and prideful dogma.  Hiestat was unwilling to make many assumptions about the gods or the universe, and was more concerned with the immediate phenomenological reality faced by the individual.  

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