Sheára is one of the lesser four High Gods in Aeoliran religion, along with Pariya, Arkon and Mermaria. She has power over the Element of Wind. Sheára is revered as the Goddess of Death, as Aeoliran believe that when they die, their Xán (Tharian = "essence/soul") shall be taken by her Wind to the high heavens, where they shall remain and be judged by her for Ardulá (Tharian = "rebirth/reincarnation"). Sheára is believed to control the skies, so her worshippers aim to keep her constantly appeased. The seasons are also under her control, and although influenced by the other Gods, notably Pariya, she alone has the final say. So, should she be displeased by the attitude of the people, Sheára may bestow upon them a harsh, cruel summer, which would cause people to suffer, should she be pleased, she will allow them a pleasurable summer, in which people will delight.
Picture description. The beautiful Sheára as drawn by the priests of Shearaé-Hairn, who see her mainly as the Goddess of the weather and the seasons. Image by Eratinalinfalah.
Names. Officially Sheára is the High Goddess of Death, but other names for her include Lady of the Heavens, Goddess of Justice, the Judgemistress. She is also occasionally called Goddess of Time, although this is more Léarin’s domain, some people perceive the changing of seasons as a passing of time, and hence affiliate her with it.
Sheára is never depicted as the most beautiful of beings, perhaps because what
she represents is not the most beautiful of life’s duties. That is not to say
her appearance is hideous – she is simply not what would be considered pretty
in the eyes of many.
Sheára is generally depicted with dark brown hair, sometimes ebony, about shoulder length. She has pale, almost shallow coloured skin. She possesses dark black (sometimes sunken) eyes, which are deliberately drawn in such a way that they seem to follow you, no matter how you look upon her, as if the Lady of the Heavens is constantly seeing all you do – judging your ways and actions always. Her lips are also black and generally unsmiling, not to give an evil look, but merely emphasizing her connection with death.
Her clothing is often a simple robe, black or yellow, it does not matter. Her wings are many, drawn at sharp angles, giving her a look of harshness. Also, it is not uncommon to see her wings feathered, showing Sheára's affiliation with the wind and her beloved birds. Her hands are often drawn long and bony, with pointed black nails.
The priests who serve within the sect of the Shearaé-Hairn, however, are trying to dissuade the harsh, dark image that is commonly portrayed, they feel people are beginning to forget the Sheára who brings forth the weather and seasons, and are concentrating on her duties as the Judgemistress, waiting for their Xán up in the heavens. Often these priests draw her consulting with Pariya concerning the seasons, and in a much friendlier light, giving her colour and warmth, perhaps adding a red tint to her lips and more joy to her eyes.
Popular settings for the Goddess include her being protected by the wings of her symbolic animal, the roc and also riding upon the majestic bird. A relief in her Sheáraé-Neia temple (the priests of whom are concerned with her duties of death, and so favour the harsh, traditional image of Sheára) in Shan’Thai shows her face peering from the clouds in the heavens, a bony hand pointing menacingly downwards as rocs circle below, the Xán drifting up from the mortal realm upon which she is watching.
Mythology. Sheára felt that Nakashi’s decision to rebel against the Void was a step forward, and so was convinced easily. She spends most of her time within the heavens, judging the Xán of people who have passed from their mortal life. During the creation of the world, the Lady of the Heavens blew her Wind upon the lands and spoke to it, urging it to bring forth weather and seasons.
Lore. Sheára is not one of the most popular Gods, and so has only limited stories and tales written of her. She is said to spend most of her time within the heavens, and consults only Pariya on a frequent basis. She is not confrontational though, and is said to know her place within the ten. She is not overly fond of Kashmina however, who encourages indulgence, as this will quite often taint Xán. Most tales say that she does not delight in extinguishing blackened Xán, for she is not evil, although others say that there is a smile on her lips every time a wicked person dies. She is perhaps the most ambiguous Goddess – you can see her in so many ways – one who waits for you, to judge you, or perhaps one who punishes you by allowing Pariya to let the sun burn too brightly, maybe even the mother who waits for you with open arms in the heavens.
Importance. Aeoliran believe in Ardulá ("rebirth/reincarnation"), so the importance of Sheára is quite obvious. It is she who will receive their Xán ("essence/soul"), and judge it, and ascertain whether it is pure enough for their Ardulá to be as one of the Xarnaelé ("High Faeries"), which is the ultimate goal for the Aeoliran – to become of the Xarnael means that the faithful have achieved a state of purity so high it is hard to better. However, if Sheára judges it not to be, the Xán is returned to Earth to be placed into another life – Sheára chooses, depending on the purity. However, should the Xán be so tainted, then the Lady of the Heavens will have no choice other than to destroy the Xán completely, meaning no new life will be given to it. Purity is not judged on how holy the person was during his/her life, or how often someone prayed and fasted – but how the faithful looked to do good in everything, in a way that would please the Gods.
Also, Sheára's hold over seasons and the weather is the other reason why she is so important to the Aeoliran, in such a hot country there is a fine balance that must be adhered to, if the line is crossed then crops will not grow. Many people have encountered famine in the desert continent, and wish not to repeat the experience. Consequently, she is of great importance to those who make their livelihood working the land - farmers are a classic example of a people who will worship her quite frequently.
Symbols. Sheára’s colour
is yellow (sometimes orange), a colour that represents her seasonal work, and
the importance of the sun within such
duties, although this is intertwined with black, representing the darker aspect
of the Goddesses work. All flying creatures are sacred to her, especially large,
majestic birds that many people believe help souls of the deceased on their way
to the heavens to be judged. Her symbolic animal, created for her by
Arkon, is the roc, a majestic,
giant bird that helps the souls of the deceased on their way
to the heavens. It is coloured jet-black when connected to death, and a
glorious golden shade in connection to her seasonal work. Some people however
believe it to be black underneath, when seen from the ground, when death is
approaching, and golden on top, when seen from above - when the Xán is already
on its way into the heavens or already there.
Celebrations. Unlike the other Gods, who tend to have a special day devoted to them, Sheára has days devoted to her concerning the welcoming of each season, and also various rituals that are performed for the dead or dying.
Although seasons in Aeruillin are not as clear cut or different as those in other continents, the people of this desert land are fine-tuned to the turning of them, and the coming of each is welcomed with personal family celebrations. There is nothing formally demanded on how the seasonal days should be celebrated. Often the family will visit the nearest Sheáraé-Hairn, not just to pray for the following season to be plentiful for them, but often to see how the temple had changed overnight in order to welcome the new months! Then an offering is made, often a flower, animal or vegetable that has connections to the new season.
Whilst not so much a celebration, the time when the worship of the Goddess of the Heavens is at the forefront is when a person has finally passed on, and the Harvámairn-kiéshe (Tharian literal translation is “ceremony to remember life”) must be performed. It is preferable that this is undertaken as soon as possible – within the next two days. Not just because of the practicality (Pariya’s sun is not often favourable to those who have passed on) but because the Xán needs to be released as quickly as possible. It takes place within the Sheáraé-Neia.
First the body is brought into the temple, placed upon a wooden board, so that the person is fully open to all. The deceased is clothed in his/her favourite outfit, and often clasps something that meant a great deal to him/her during their time upon the world. They are carried by close members of family, and others who wish to be there follow behind. The board is placed upon the altar, and all present gather round and spend time sharing stories with one another of the person, laughter is not uncommon. Following this, there is a time of silence, as the priest offers up prayers for the deceased to Sheára. Then, the final trip for the one who has passed on is made, they leave via the second door of the temple, to the area behind, where the board is placed into a deep pit, and the body is burnt. It is essential that this happens, as the Xán which is left within the physical body when a person dies needs to be let free, so it can travel to the heavens of Asharvéa. The family may have the ashes should they wish.
If it is not possible that a person may be burned upon death, because of circumstances that make it impossible to do so (perhaps a person dies during a journey across one of the many deserts of Aeruillin), then the person may be buried and a small piece of their body taken to one of the priests within the Sheáraé-Neia, often a finger or toe, so that they may perform a ceremony for it, in hope that the Xán of that person is allowed to become free and be judged.
Shrine/Temple Design. It is unusual for Sheára to be chosen as the personal God by a family, mainly due to her connection with death; perhaps families feel that by choosing this Goddess, they would effectively be worshipping death, and so choose not to. However, it is not unknown for families to worship Sheára following the death of a loved one, for perhaps a month, in an attempt to make sure that the family member has the best Ardulá possible. Those who do, line their shrines with black cloth (sometimes yellow is also present) and a pictoral representation of the Wind Goddess is placed within. Also, when the shrine is specifically made because of a family member passing on, an item of their clothing is burnt and the ashes scattered onto the shrine. Often, a feather will also be placed within the shrine.
Sheára is unique in that her temples are always found in twos, both of them side by side. The larger temple, or Sheáraé-Neia (literal Tharian = "Sheára’s Way") is concerned with her duties of death, and the smaller one, or Sheáraé-Hairn (literal Tharian = "Sheára’s Will") is for worship that concerns the seasons. There exist two different kinds of temples can be described as follows:
The Sheáraé-Neia ("Sheára’s Way")
The Sheáraé-Neia is quite an unspectacular sight – rectangular in shape, grey, dull, stone walls, there is often no decoration on the outside. There are two doors however, one for entering the temple, and one for exiting. They are placed centrally within the walls. Inside, it is similar, with little decoration on the walls. There is, however, a bird in a simple cage in every temple, not only as a symbol of Sheára, but to remind people who visit that their loved ones have gone to the heavens. There is a central aisle, leading from the doorway to the altar at which offerings can be made, to ensure the deceased a fair judgement. It is within these temples that the Harvámairn-kiéshe takes place. It is because of this that the temples to the Goddess are quite often found on the outskirts of a town or village, away from the sight of most citizens.
The Sheáraé-Hairn ("Sheára's Will")
The Sheáraé-Hairn is a far jollier affair. It is decorated at the start of each season, in colours of that seasonal time (i.e. during the rainy seasons it will be decked out in various shades of blue and green), and also adorned with fruits, vegetables, flowers and so forth that will be produced around the following months. It has no particular or defined shape, and is often painted brightly on the outside, quite in contrast to the large, solemn temple next to it. Inside is also full of colour, with a fairly large altar. Whilst the Sheáraé-Neia has one bird as a symbol of Sheára, the Sheáraé-Hairn has many, flying free above the heads of the worshippers who come to visit. It is a popular place of worship, especially for farmers and those who make their living from the land. Often they will leave a small offering of their latest crop/slaughter or whatever they make their living from, to thank Sheára for a good season in which they have lived well. However, the temple is also frequented when the sun in Aeruillin is somewhat too hot, or the rain a little too fierce, to pray that the conditions may be at a more acceptable level.
Priests. As there are two temples, there are also two separate priesthoods, one to carry out the duties of death, the other of seasons. There is interaction between the two – however a priest from one sect may not enter into the temple of the other. It is not known the reason for this, only that this has been the way for as long as records have been written.
Céle-Neia (Priests of Sheáraé-Neia)
Céle-Neia Priests (literal Tharian = "Of/the Way") that serve within the Sheáraé-Neia sect must truly feel called, a similar urge as to those who serve Polmaen perhaps, to the service, as it seems not to be the happiest of lives. They may be male or female, preferably older than eighteen. They may leave the service at any time they wish, should they feel that it all becomes too much for them. They wear light grey robes, and so they are not confused with the followers of Polmaen, tied with yellow cords. Often, they smear ashes upon their faces, in order to be easily recognisable, so that people may be able to identify them if needing to at any time.
Their duties are concerned with the sick, dying and the dead. They frequent the nearest towns and villages, visiting those who have not long left, and often spend time with them, performing rituals that they hope will make Sheára look favourable upon the person when she judges their Xán within the heavens of Asharvéa. An example of such a ritual is thoroughly washing the person in water blessed by the priest, symbolic that they are clean, and have nothing to hide. Another practice these priests undertake is to talk with the dying, hopefully to make them confess past misdeeds they may have made, and it is the duty of the priest to help the person atone for them. Also, these priests are responsible for conducting the Harvámairn-kiéshe (“ceremony to remember life”) after people's deaths. They are also to be available at any time to those people who wish to speak about a recently passed loved one, to help them grieve and understand that it is likely they are now within the heavens of Asharvéa, happy.
Céle-Hairn (Priests of Sheáraé-Hairn)
The Sheáraé-Hairn priests are called the Céle-Hairn (literal Tharian = "Of/the Will"). It is a different type of person who serves within the Sheáraé-Hairn. Anyone may enter this sect, the only limitation being that the person must be at least eight years of age. The priests wear colourful robes, they are always tied with a cord of black and yellow however, to show their affiliation to Sheára. This sect deals with Sheára’s affiliation with the weather and seasons.
Their main job, apart from general upkeep of the temple, is the care of the birds who live within it. Each priest will be personally responsible for two of the birds. They learn to control them through a series of whistles, and will often perform shows outside the temple with their feathered partners, much to the delight of the children watching! This is not considered to be a degradation of the holy creatures of Sheára, it is actually seen in a favourable light, that these wonderful creatures can be admired and adored. In addition to this, the priests have four strenuous nights each year, where they must change the temple decorations to mirror the changing season. Also, the priests deal with other issues, especially when the Aeruillian weather is uncharacteristically different (perhaps an extremely hot summer), they will often hold fervent prayer meetings on behalf of the people who are suffering because of it.
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Information provided by Artemis