Nrastaism (Classical Kasshian wanrastakan) was the major religion of the Second and Third Kasshi Empires, but today is a relatively small religion. It is classified as a Major Faith within the modern Kasshi Empire. It is named after its founder, chiNrasta (a title translating as simply "the Prophetess"). It was founded in 2969 BOE
Nrastaism is, nominally, a monotheistic faith. Nrastaists believe in a single supreme Deity (tonDinau). The Deity is not seen as gendered, although the Deity is often depicted with female symbolism. For convenience, feminine pronouns will be used in English to refer to the Deity. The Deity is seen as the Creator of the universe, but is not seen as being directly involved in running it. Deity's first creations were the Divinities (tonnaDinaukanni singular tonDinaukan, literally "Children of the Deity"; note: some speakers place the Divinities in genders I-III which would make the plural sodDinaukanni), whom She created as companions.
In the Nrastaist creation myth, after creating them, Her first command to them was "Create!" Each Divinity created a different thing, and together, all their creations made the world, but at this time there were no Sapients. This was not the Deity's first creation, nor was it her last. She approved of their creation and left it in their care. She then departed into the Void and created other groups of Divinities, and other worlds. Every star, according to Nrastaist doctrine, is another Sun with another World.
After the Deity departed, some of the Divinities sought to follow the Deity's lead and create companions of their own, "beings like unto themselves, but of lesser glory" in the words of the Book of Creation. There were debates among them over whether it was proper to create sapient beings, with some arguing that only the Deity could do that. The Council split between those who supported the project of creating sapients and those who opposed it, known as the Creators and the Preservers (from their desire to preserve the world as it was). A war broke out, and in the end, the Creators won. A prison was made for the Preservers, which was Lhasta. The Creators then gathered to design their new creation. Different Divinities proposed different designs. In the end, there were several acts of creation, creating the different races of humanity, and the Pteranthropans.
The humans and the pteranthropans flourished, living in peace and harmony for a great gross years (1,728), until they became too numerous. And then they began fighting amongst themselves. The Creators attempted to bring harmony back to the world, by teaching morality and civilization to their creation, but they failed. Some began to feel that perhaps the Preservers had been right to oppose the creation of Sapients. And so, a small group of rebels freed the Preservers from their prison. They constructed a great fortress, which is Sasalh. When they were sure of their strength, they launched an invasion of the world, attempting to destroy humanity, and for this reason they became known as the Destroyers. But some among the former Preservers disagreed, and returned to the Creator side (they are known as the Redeemed). Another war broke out, and there were massive casualties among humanity and the Pteranthropans. Both species became mortal in this war, and the humans lost the power of flight which they'd previously had. The Creators captured the fortress Sasalh, but were unable to reimprison the Destroyers. The war ended in a ceasefire.
The Destroyers themselves fell into civil war, with a core group still believing in the necessity of destroying sapients, while others felt that the cost was too high, and argued that they should simply leave the world as it was. Still others argued that if sapients could not be destroyed, they could be taught morality to limit their destructiveness. Yet others renounced all concerns with sapients and entered the world as spirits unconcerned with sapients. The Creators, too, divided amongst themselves, but more peacefully, on how to heal the world after the Great Wars. In the end, the Divinities came to be divided into the five categories of Maintainers, who kept the world going and gave blessings to sapients, mostly former Creators but also a few Destroys, the Teachers, who sought to raise up sapients, and came from both of the original factions, the Powers, who were corrupted Teachers, mostly former Destroyers but some former Creators, and came to demand worship and obedience from sapients, the Neutrals who largely ignored sapients, and instead simply lived in the world as residents, sometimes helping an individual who struck their fancy, but mostly keeping to themselves, and the remaining Destroyers. The remaining Destroyers, having learned that they could not win in an open war, sought their goal through subterfuge. They created plagues and disasters, and manipulated humans into killing each other.
It is believed that one day the Deity will return and restore the world to its former glory. It is believed that at that time, she will judge sapients and choose whether to keep them and restore them, or whether to destroy them.
The soul and the afterlife
Nrastaism teaches a form of reincarnation. A person has a talli (watalli), which can be translated as "soul". The talli is divided into two trai (waftrai) singular tra (watra), or "half-soul". Upon death, the soul divides into its constituent halves. The half-souls are reincarnated separately, finding other halves, to form a new soul in a new body. The soul is short-lived, dying within 6 days if not incarnated into a new living body. It is therefore imperative to cremate the body immediately after death, to aid the soul's attempt to leave the prison of the corpse. A particularly righteous individual may achieve Preservation, by which the Divine Council clothes them in an immortal body, and gives them a place among them. The particularly wicked have their souls destroyed by being denied reincarnation.
A theological dilemma arises with this belief. What about times when there are more people dying than being born? Some theologians argue that their souls are simply lost. Others argue that those who are righteous but not so righteous as to achieve Preservation are placed in "slow-time", a state where time flows much slower, so that 6 days for the may be 6 years or 600 years for everyone else. Still another view is that they are incarnated in animals.
The half-souls were not originally perceived as having any inherent differences between them. Some schools of thought held, however, that there were two types of half-soul and that a healthy soul was formed from two half-souls of opposite types.
As Goddess herself is not involved in the world, orthodox Nrastaists pray to the Divinities as a collective, referred to as the Divine Council (wafchidinaukan) or to the High Divinity, the leader of the Council (tonDinaukanjezh, literally "Leader of the Divinities"). Many Nrastaists also worship individual Divinities, making Nrastaism effectively a polytheistic faith.
ChiNrasta wrote four books promulgating the faith, they were:
- The Book of Creation
- The Book of the Divinities (describing the various Divinities)
- The Book of the Laws
- The Book of Prophecies
Her original texts have been long lost, and a few variants exist, all claiming to be authentic copies of her original writings. A few other books were written during the Unified Faith period
- The Book of Further Prophecies
- The Book of Revelations
- The Book of the History of the Divine Wars
- The Book of Other Worlds
During chiNrasta's lifetime, the faith quickly spread throughout the mainland portions of the First Kasshi Empire, and played a role in the political split that created the Second Kasshi Empire. The faith was relatively centralized during her time, with a number of temples being established in cities, each headed by a Priestess. The temples sent out Teachers to surrounding villages. The church was thus divided into a number of territories headed by a single Priestess with assistants within the central temple and Teachers in surrounding villages. The number of Temples quickly grew, and by the time of chiNrasta's death there were several hundred.
Early post-Chinrasta period
After chiNrasta's death, there was no central organization, and the Temples became largely autonomous, drifting in their teachings, and often conflicting over jurisdictional borders. Sometimes even in the central city, a split would arise among the faithful leading to the establishment of rival temples. A number of influential priestesses became recognized as having special authority, coming to be referred to as Matriarchs, with lesser priestesses gravitating towards one or another Matriarch.
This disorganization became a frequent source of conflict, sometimes violent. As a result, Empress Chila, in 2685 BOE called together a conference of all the Matriarchs to settle various doctrinal disputes and to establish a clear organization. At this point, there were nearly 250 priestesses, and around 30 recognized Matriarchs, plus several disputed Matriarchs. The first order of business, indeed, was to determine who was and who was not a Matriarch. A distinction was drawn between Temple-Matriarchs, whose status as Matriarch was acquired by right of the Temple to which they were Priestess, and Non-Temple-Matriarchs, whose status was earned on an individual level. The Matriarchs formed a permanent Council of Matriarchs, electing one of their own as Supreme Matriarch. The position of Supreme Matriarch was not to be a permanent one, but rather, one to be chosen only in time of need. At other times, the Council as a whole would administer the church and settle disputes.
This structure survived for several centuries, until the reign of Empress Chinikan, who attempted to enact a major reform of the religion, correcting what she saw as corruptions and attempting to eliminate other religions which had been tolerated in the Empire. This culminated in her proclaiming herself Supreme Matriarch, and dismissing Matriarchs with whom she disagreed. In the end, this sparked a major civil war in the Empire, and shattered the church irrevocably. She had executed many dissenting priestesses and matriarchs, placing her own puppets in their place. After her death, her own appointments were universally rejected, but often it was unclear who the legitimate holder of those titles was. This was made worse by the civil war that broke out after her death. In the end, several churches arose with overlapping territories.
The Church never reunified. After the Empire was restored, an attempt was made to restore a unified Council of Matriarchs. All attempts failed, and the several churches began to drift relative to each other, and several themselves underwent later schisms, creating further splits. Eventually the Nrastaist churches went into decline, several completely dying out. There are still around a dozen Nrastaist churches. Within the Kasshi Empire, a Congress of Nrastaist Churches exists to provide a unified body to relate to the government which, for some purposes, treats Nrastaism as a single religion.
- Different explanations exist as to why only humans lost the power of flight, and why their lives are shorter. Some theologians believed that the Pteranthropans were inherently more righteous, and therefore could withstand the attacks of the Destroyers better. Still others held the opposite view, that they avoided the worst by collaborating with the Destroyers