The inhabitants of this world are no strangers to death. War, plague and famine are simply facts of the age in which we live. In our oldest surviving fairy tales and in The First Book, there lies a world unknown to us today, when death was a stranger and sickness was not yet given name. That world, if it ever truly existed in ages past, has passed away to the world we now know today.– “Wonders of Ages Past”, Professor Lumo Alcaño, Academia Gelgadongo. 11 Nomenia, 931 A4.
There are two major schools of thought when it comes to the subject of death: the Torian belief in passing into a spectral plane of existence and the Warathi belief that the dead become a part of the living world. There are similarities between the two belief systems, but they are primarily distinct from one another. Some areas in the world have small differences within each belief system, such as the popular belief in an underworld in some parts of the Saibhrean Isles, or reincarnation in parts of the Warathi world.
Torian “El Paraíso”
Most commonly, the Northerners of Caelon believe in a plane of existence that lies beyond the curtain of death called El Paraíso, or Paradise. The belief draws its beginnings from thousands of years ago, after the Fall of Man. Torians believe that their ruler, called El Tor, or the First Man, departed this reality as a means to secure a life after death for those faithful denizens who suddenly became acquainted with the bitter reality of death.
Torians believe that El Paraíso is a perfect recreation of the world as it first was. They believe that as they die, their spirits will find their way into and pass through the Sealed Sanctum in the White Walled City, passing over into a new, perfect life of eternal spring where they will be able to see and know firsthand the glory of the Creator.
The primary Torian belief is that those spirits who are worthy to enter through the seal to El Paraíso pass through gracefully, while others must stand within the Inner Sanctum until their sins have been absolved and they have been deemed worthy.
Underworld of the Saibhrean Isles
One of the main geographical differences within Torian belief is that, along with Paradise, there also lies a dark underworld (domhan thíos) where the dead now reside, waiting until the day comes that the Sealed Sanctum at the center of the White Walled City is opened, before the dead can find salvation. They do not believe that the dead can pass through the Sealed Sanctum until the time comes.
They believe that the seal shall one day be broken by a lost heir of El Tor, called “An Áegair”, or simply “Áegair” in local tongue, who will lead all lost souls to their final resting place. It’s worth noting this belief has not spread to the mainland of Caelon, and thus its absence could be one factor why there has not been much concerted effort for a reclamation of the Holy City now called Denegaz by its current inhabitants.
The underworld is said to have an entrance somewhere among the isles, only accessible by the spirits of the dead. Supposedly the secret of the location of the mouth of the cave is kept closely guarded by a sect of women called priests of the dead (sagairt báis), who hold vigil there once a year during a new moon, when the tide at its height.
Warathi “Duniya Mai Rai”
The Warathi teachings on the afterlife, like most of its traditions draws its roots from words of the original leader, Wa’rath the Conqueror. It is unknown whether the customs were learned by Wa’rath along his travels during the Age of Monsters, or if they were simply dictated as a new form of religion to replace the original Torian teachings. Regardless, the Warathi people now look at the teachings as scripture. The teachings on death and afterlife are some of the most notable differences between the cultural groups.
Warathi teachings specifically call out a passing on and a communion with the world around them as they depart this life. They believe that life force is a finite value, and that as life passes from a person, the spiritual essence is dissolved and spread throughout the world, a greater consciousness. While the body dies, the life force attaches and persists in everything in nature, both living and non-living.
The primary Warathi belief is that the greater in faith the dying person is, the greater their connection is with the living beings of the world. Conversely, the lesser in faith that the dead are, the more they will connect with the non-living things such as the rocks and the dirt. The intermediate level between the living and the unliving things is the water in the seas and the air in the sky. They believe that the overwhelming majority of unfaithful will end up as part of the water and the air, as they are not faithful enough to be a part of the living, but they are at least granted near-life as part of a greater force.
The Warathi believe the White Walled City’s Sealed Sanctum can be used as a conduit for communing with and controlling the spirits of the Duniya Mai Rai, and thus this is the underlying reason why the Torians were exiled from the city after the monsters of the world were vanquished.
Reincarnation (Sake Haihuwa)
A lesser practiced belief in the Warathi custom is called “Sake Haihuwa” or rebirth/reincarnation. Those who believe in Sake Haihuwa believe that the forces of Duniya Mai Rai pass collective judgment on those who die, and if it is decided that the dying person still has a mission to accomplish in the world, then they can be born to flesh once again.
There is a belief in the Warathi culture that one day the conduit contained in the Sealed Sanctum shall be fully revealed by a reincarnated Wa’rath the Conqueror, who was famously slain and devoured by wild beasts in the sands of the South, on what the Warathi call “tafiya ta ƙarshe,” or the Last Journey of the Conqueror. The people who believe in reincarnation also believe that one day Wa’rathi himself shall be reborn with the taste of death fresh in his mouth as new life from the living world flows through him, signifying that the Conqueror is reborn.
They believe that most people, when they die, will simply resign themselves to becoming part of the Duniya Mai Rai. However, there is a constant hope for those who move onto the living world before their time, such as children or men or women of great potential, that they will one day be born again as well, to continue their mission in the world.
Ancient Beliefs Lost to Time
Prior to both modern Torian and Warathi religious teachings, there was the religion of the First Men. While it is important to understand that Torian faith claims to follow the teachings of El Tor, archaelogical evidence points at artifacts that are quite foreign to the teachings in today’s Torian church. There is much scholarly debate, at the peril of the debaters since it is seen as heresy even to discuss it, about how closely the traditions of the Torian church actually follow the religion taught by The First Man himself.
Because of the difficulty of the research even to broach as a subject, a lack of texts on the matter (currently, the only known scrolls from that era are supposedly contained in a deep underground vault in the White Walled City, closed off after the departure of El Tor), and the fact that the Warathi control that city now, it is essentially considered lost knowledge, at least at this point in time. It is unsure whether that ancient literature may ever be regained, but it is certainly a point of interest for many scholars in the world.
Oh, to be able to know what secrets from a bygone age are locked away from our sight. Perhaps in those dusty scrolls lies the answers we all seek for the answer of the question of what lies beyond the curtain of death. Until then, we will each have to find out for ourselves when our day comes.