Tharan is an old religion, arising in southern Torthalon almost two thousand years ago. It is rather widespread today both within the Ashuran Empire (where it is the state religion) and in other lands beyond those borders. The religion emphasizes a harmonious relationship with Nature, and ultimately with Ulaan (God), who gathered together the stuff of Chaos and wrought from it the world of men. It is also heavily oriented towards strong communities and an orderly, if not too strict, society. Ulaan is a distant being, who created the world and retreated from it.
Modern Tharan is a tapestry of several strong influences. The mystical and beautiful poetry of Lurana Kayni; the fatalism of Hindaban; the joyful mockery of death of Hathan bel-Kor. Religious schools teach subjects of importance to Tharani culture, while in Ashura they also serve as the primary source of education, and a forum through which promising candidates for the priesthood can be identified.
The religion was founded long ago by a man named simply Hathan, remembered as the First Veyshaa (prophet or seer). While traveling in the hot summer, shortly after the fall of Alindor (circa 25-35 AS) Hathan became lost, and wandered in the wilderness for days in search of food and water. A series of miracles saved him: firstly, a brightly coloured bird led him to water; then a tree grew from nothing to feed him; and finally a whispering spirit led him to an ancient cave in which he had a vision of Ulaan and was given instructions on how the faithful should conduct themselves with each other. Hathan later wrote these instructions down, and over the course of his life expanded them with commentary. By the end of his life Tharan had begun to take hold in Hathan's homeland, Ashar, counting thousands among its adherents. Towards the end of his life the Veyshaa promised his followers that more prophets would come, and reveal more of the will of Ulaan and its desires for its people.
Veshyaar (main article Veshyaar)
Since Hathan's death five other Veshyaar have come, each recognized by miraculous signs that accompanied their births and fulfilled prophecies, identifying them to the community. Each left a written text behind exploring a new relationship between the faithful and another sphere of existence. For example, the second Veyshaa taught the community how to conduct themselves agriculturally and with regards to the plant kingdom, to live harmoniously with the natural world. The third taught of mysticism and the inner quest for Ulaan and the fourth the world of animals, both wild and domestic, and containing many parables and allegories involving them. The fifth wrote of the spirit world and hints at the distant future. Gathered together these texts are known as the Salarashara and have become the central text of the religion. The Salarashara is venerated as the advice of Ulaan as expressed through the Veshyaar. It is viewed as the best teachings from the best of previous generations; as something to be studied and internalized by the reader. For those who grow up in a Tharani community this is relatively easy; the folk tales, heroes, mythical figures and so forth of Tharan tend to absorb and integrate those of local cultures. The surface aspects of the religion can vary place to place, taking on local flavour, but always firmly rooted in the religion's essentials.
Part of the life of all Tharani, from lay follower to priest, is the observation of the melekareh, or obligations. The first four of them were laid down by Hathan bel-Kor during his lifetime; the other two were added by later prophets.
First, all Tharani are required to render service to their religious community each month. Charitable works, donations, and caring for the poor or infirm are examples. This serves to help bind the community together in shared compassion.
Second, all Tharani perform three prayers each day--at dawn, noon and dusk. They never pray at midnight--that is the "sunless time", and the heart of the night.
Third, all Tharani gather twice a month whenever possible, every second week, for collective worship, which includes group prayer, sermons and so on.
Fourth, the faithful are required to donate to their time and / or money to communal betterment, especially in improving the lot of the poorest.
The fifth obligation was added by Tymar, the second of the Veshyaar. He required all the faithful to learn Hathan's language, Shabaati, as best as possible. In so doing he was able to avoid requiring translations of the Salarashara, and ensured a common form of communication across the entire body of the faithful.
The sixth, and so far, final, obligation was added to the younger members of the community, and to converts--a period of service to the faith, lasting one year, is required as part of the coming of age rituals of the religion. This year of service is often undertaken during adolescence. This period, combined with the language requirement and collective worship has led to the founding of religious schools which also teach lessons on the Salarashara, literature, naturalism and so forth. Within the Ashuran Empire these schools are also used to find those students with the most potential, subsequently offering them additional training and governmental positions.
Type: Monotheistic. Tharan teaches that there is but one god, Ulaan. Many believe that others exist, but there are merely imperfect or completely faulty attempts at understanding the Divine unity. It is a Tharani teaching that the unity of the community of the faithful reflects the unity of Ulaan; therefore polytheism represents a spiritual breaking of unity. While powerful spirits exist they are not divine. They are merely another form of Ulaan's creation.
Gods: Ulaan, the one god and creator of all things. Tharani believe that other gods are at best misguided attempts at understanding a facet of Ulaan and at worst false, manipulative ideas. There is generally no hatred extended to non-Tharani; they may be considered uncivilized or spiritually immature, but not often evil for this reason alone.
Symbol: A solar disc on which is sometimes superimposed an ear of grain. The color gold is also sacred to the faith an is frequently used in decoration and regalia.
Texts?: The Salarashara.
Divine Interaction: Direct intervention is rare. However in recent centuries Tharan has become more fatalistic, and the all-powerful nature of Ulaan has been emphasized. This fatalism has given rise to a deep discussion of theodicy that continues within the faith today.
Afterlife: Tharan teaches that, after death, one enters the spiritual world to live in the unity of Ulaan. The most faithful lose their individuality completely and become one with Ulaan. Others will exist closer to him, in eternal bliss. Tharan does not believe in a hell of torment and suffering. Rather, as-yet-unenlightened souls remain far from Ulaan, in the dim shadows between the worlds, until such time as they come closer to the Divine.
Supernatural: The Salarashara contains stories of spirits, angelic and demonic, but declares nothing divine except Ulaan. The Otherworld exists, but is not the afterlife. It is simply another aspect of creation. Ulaan turns his face to and fro between the two worlds. When his face is turned fully to Aralath, it is Endless Day. When turned fully to the Otherworld, Longest Night.
Society: Tharani communities tend to be tight-knit, even when they are minorities within a larger religious milieu. A strong sense of family accompanies Tharani identity and there are few distinctions made due to race, class, gender or age. Legal and economic conduct is generally according to the principles in the Salarashara; when Tharani are in the minority they will still adhere to these codes amongst themselves. Clergy members are respected for their wisdom and experience; within the Ashuran Empire the clergy is organized into a hierarchy and is essentially an arm of the government. Beyond the Empire, members of the clergy are treated more like the village wiseman or wisewoman.
Worship: Basic daily rituals include greeting the rising sun with lifted arms, a short prayer and blessing at noon, and a prostrate prayer with the head covered at sunset. Twice a month, on the days coinciding with the full and new moons, there is a gathering at which collective prayers and ceremonies are performed. These gatherings occur in enclosed courtyards called mahazi; the point of where the sun rises on the Summer Solstice is marked, as is its counterpart from the Winter Solstice. The space between them is called the aleenta, or 'sun beam' and in this direction are prayers directed. Each Tharani home contains a small shrine oriented to catch the rising sun. Small offerings are made there frequently; family worship is usually led by the women in the evening and the men in the morning.
Holidays: There are several holy days throughout the year. The date Hathan had his first vision is celebrated on Endless Day; the Feast of the Veshyaar occurs 40 days later. The Last Harvest is celebrated in honour of Ulaan, but its timing varies from place to place each year according to local conditions. Longest Night is the night when Ulaan is furthest from the world, his face turned fully to the Otherworld. It is therefore a time full of risk, and danger, when his watchful eye is, for a night, turned away.
Clergy: Priest/esses are devoted to the study of the Salarashara and the veneration of UIaan. They are known as Aberan (sing. Abyr (m) or Abyru (f)).
Clergy Function: scriptural interpretation, communal rituals, spiritual advice and communion. Within the Ashuran Empire they also serve as judges, educators and bureaucrats.
Clergy Lifestyle: as normal for followers in their region.
Clergy Family: as per local custom; celibacy is not an aspect of the Tharani priesthood.
Creation Myth: Ulaan gathered together the material of primal chaos and brought order and light to it, allowing all things to flourish. Humans and other living things were made from sunlight and rich soil. The world is two-fold; there is the world we perceive (Aralath) and the Otherworld. Ulaan is master of both, and both will one day be unified before all things become one with Ulaan.
Major Myths / Symbols: Divine power, divine mercy, the sun / seasons, losing and finding
Major Sins: disloyalty, falsehood, falseness, murder, adultery
Major Virtues: selflessness, wisdom, humility, bravery, cleverness, devotion
Coming of Age: 14
Marriage: Tharan does not concern itself with monogamy or polygamy; such cultural practices vary across its sphere of influence. However marriage is seen as a union, and polygamous unions require the willing consent of all parties. Marriage is also considered a life-long commitment. Children are considered a blessing as they are the result of a union.
Death: Bodies are buried within a day of death; funeral customs include burying wheat, fruit and other foods as well as water with the corpse.