Looking from the outside we
can say that Murmillions have
two Gods in which they believe but they only worship one. We said "looking from
the outside", because a Murmillion
scholar will always argue with you on this matter, as one of these Gods has a
very problematic status. This God is invested with the "task" of creating the
world, but he is thought of being absent and even more than that: a
Murmillion would be capable to
tell you (in their specific paradoxical formulations) that this God actually
doesn't exist, but nevertheless he created the world and he keeps standing as a
reason for which this world exists. Thus we may consider this God more as an
abstract principle, though still a God we could say...
The God that Murmillions are actually worshiping is called Mari. This one usually is invested with a feminine form and is thought of having many different manifestations. For almost each of these manifestations, Murmillions have dedicated a special Cult and almost entirely through these Cults their social and cultural life is regulated.
The Cults of Mari are not opposing each
believe that each individual has a special way of relating with
Mari. The Cults are meant to meet each and
everyone's needs. As long as a Cult has a sizeable enough number of adepts it
can gain the official recognition from the other Cults. Also if a Cult runs out
of adepts, it may be canceled (though its records are to be kept in the Book of
Organization. All the Cults have the same pyramidal organizational structure. On the top of the "pyramid" stands the high-priest, the ultimate authority inside that Cult, the Kunran (as Murmillions are naming them).
Under the direct authority of the Kunran, we find the four Masters entrusted with organizing the different activities of a Cult. Thus we have a Sermon Master - who deals with everything that relates to the sermons, a Master Librarian - who keeps the Cult's Library and leads the glyphwritings and researches of the Cult, a Master Healer - who deals with health issues but he also has as subordinates the Teachers, and we have also a Master of Iron - responsible of the Cult's workshops.
A Cult building is usually structured in six wings: a sermon hall, a library, a school, a workshop, the clerical apartments and the clerical offices. Healers never work in these buildings, as the Cults assigns them in other locations. Also many Cults have decided to assign their healers in the same place, and thus, to work together.
Each Cult is sponsored by one or more Families (the larger and most powerfull of those Families granting the Cult with the location for their main building, in that Family's drak), therefore each Cult represents a certain political interest.
The main decisions regarding the general theological issues are taken by a Council of the Cults (where each Cult is sending its representatives - be that the Kunran or just a trusted person). This Council though has also another role, which can affect Murmillion life directly: it has the power to elect the Murmillion King/Queen. When a King/Queen dies, each Family or group of Families propose one person to be the King/Queen, and thus the Cult Representatives (officially, they take this decision by theological considerations) have the power to proclaim one of these persons as King or Queen for life.
The task of organizing this Council and keeping the track of its works and decisions is given to a special organization, named The Arkhaeon Guild.
Worship. Generally Murmillions believe that one should relate to Mari mainly on a personal level, the Cults though have added some other activities that are now considered to be ways of worship too. Thus there are three forms of worship according to the Cults: interpretation of glyphs, smithing and attending the Sermons.
Interpretation of Glyphs
Murmillions use two kinds of writing. A non-phonetical writing style, the so called "glyphs" and a normal, human, phonetical writing (horizontally from left to right). The Glyphwriting is used only for special texts - mostly those that are considered to be sacred and the normal writing is used for common utilitarian texts and as well for the interpretation of the texts written in glyphs.
The glyphs are abstract symbols that stand for ideas/concepts, their origin is lost in time so now we can consider that more or less they are arbitrary signs. The closest resemblance to these glyphs may be the Styrásh symbols.
Glyphtexts are written in vertical rows and they always contain just statements. The arguments for these statements (or even against them), as well as the explanations/interpretations are written in the normal alphabet and they are considered to be a form of worship.
Apart from scholars and smiths, every Murmillion nobleman must learn this art of glyphwriting. This is because glyphs are considered to be a sacred magical act, through their abstract essence one can contact the World of Dreams - where Mari is the one that walks.
Of course, there are many ways in which one can translate a glyphtext and Murmillion Librarians do a perpetual hermeneutical work on the glyphtexts, but only the Council of the Cults is invested with the power to decide for an official interpretation.
For instance, the "Sermons of Mari" is written half in glyphs, half in normal writing. The part that is written in glyphs never changes, but the part written in normal text (translation of the glyphs actually) is edited after periodical Council meetings. So let's use this fragment:
"Blind me with your emptyness.
Close my eyes and
Take me to my Mistress."
- The Sermons of Mari ("Ressurection of Menemronn")
Let's say this is the latest edition. But in an earlier edition (few hundred years early) this fragment would look like this:
"Take away this world from me
And drown it into nothingness,
As I will open up my eyes inside
And I will meet my Mistress..."
So the glyph version of this fragment would have to comprise the following symbols:
- a glyph for blindness/exterior withdrawal/nightfall/fading away(of things)
- a glyph for hole/nothingness/void/(or that-which-has-no-name)
- a glyph for subject/first person
- a glyph for slumber/imagination/gate to a dream or to the World of Mari/beginning of a dream
- a glyph for binary relation
- a glyph for Mari
Both these writing styles were known to Murmillions since their very first times. No one can tell for sure now how exactly they came to use them, as Murmillions have a really long history - they are one of the oldest "tribes" of Nybelmar. What is commonly agreed upon is that the Glyphs were initially used by Menemronn himself. And I must say that even if Kyras the Dark was the one that forged their Kingdom, this Kingdom still follows the legacy of Menemronn. It is Menemronn the one that Murmillions are seeing as a bringer of redemption. Menemronn is their Forefather and their Teacher. He showed them the way to Mari, he showed them the way to salvation. There are a number of glyphtexts that are attributed to him, no one can prove this for sure, but what is certain is that these scrolls and inscriptions are forming the base of Murmillion religion.
In time Murmillions themselves learned to produce such glyphtexts, but they are even now, viewing this special writing style as a tool to reach for eternity. Glyphs are symbols which stand for thoughts, thus they cannot be tainted by the subjective views. Nevertheless they are the means for reaching the subjective enlightenment that every Murmillion is searching.
Reinterpreting the glyphs (which can be seen as a re-writing) can bring quite very different views, but without such a constant work on glyphs, these symbols would simply die. One needs to "speak" the glyphs constantly and only thus, this "gift of Mari" can be properly used.
The Mastery of Iron is also a very important part of Murmillion life. They are excellent smiths and their craftsmanship is renowned throughout all east Nybelmar. The Mastery of Iron represents their belief that Nature should be conquered and set at their disposal. Nature is part of the World of Exile, the world in which Murmillions believe they are "thrown" to prove themselves for Mari. Through smithing they believe that they are accomplishing a sacred magical act, that's why the workshops are always under a Cult's direct orders. All smiths must know also the art of glyphwriting because almost all their artifacts must be engraved with different glyphs (as this is supposed to offer them a magical property - which works only for the one for which the artifact was made).
The Sermons are the form of worship which everyone can attend (as smithing and glyphwriting are not so accessible for the commoners). Each Cult is dedicated to a certain "manifestation" of Mari, and to a certain way of relating to her. Therefore each Cult has its own Sermon. All the active Cults together with their Sermons are described in one of the Murmillions sacred Books, "The Sermons of Mari" (the inactive Cults, meaning those that have no adepts anymore, have their records kept in the other sacred writing, "The Book of Dreams").
Main Cults. Below the three most important Cults are summarized:
The Cult of Moth
...who sees in this nocturnal butterfly's behaviour a sign from Mari, a Gate to her World; critics say that they are almost granting the moth with divine attributes, although the Cult's Kunrans have always tried to underline the fact that it's Mari the one that they see in a moth and not some other pagan God.
The Ressurection of Menemronn
...is a Cult who emphasize Murmillion belief that Menemronn was not at all defeated but in fact, he was the First One to reach his essence and prove himself to Mari and thus he was able to leave the World of Exile and transcend into the World of Dreams, to join Mari in her walk; Menemronn is seen as a primordial hero, who showed us the true path towards redemption.
The Cult of Fire
...is the Cult which gathers most of the commoners as adepts; they emphasize the image of Mari as a beautiful woman with fire wings and they see fire as the most obvious means to master the nature and own the nights; they also have a rather strange perception of the sun, as they see it as "impure fire", a means of deception and illusion "as only the fire which comes from us", they say, "can clear our path into this place of Exile".
Without exception, all the Cults are preaching a disregarding attitude towards death. But strangely again, they do not preach an after-life. There is no "after-life" for Murmillions, they believe that each individual has an essence but this essence is something that must be reached. When it is, there can be no more issue of death (as Menemronn showed them). Dying before reaching the essence resembles to what we may call a "second chance". Death means the encounter with the Dark One, the Unspoken, death means denial. But through this denial the conditions for their existence are again fulfilled and thus they think they get a "second chance". Though (and this is what is strange) they see no link between past individuals and present individuals. They are manifestations of the same essence, yet completely different individuals. This is a quite complicated issue and maybe requires a separate analysis - for the one that really wants to completely understand the Murmillion way. Nevertheless I can draw one worrying conclusion out of this: the more beaten/defeated or unhappy Murmillions are, the more they become open towards an aggressive warlike attitude and seemingly insane fanatical acts.
Information provided by Smith in Exile