The faith and practices known collectively as Babkhan Orthodoxy were a manifestation of the High Form and Practice of Zurvanism, as carried out in the Kingdom of Babkha during the height of its hegemony over the continent of Eura, extending from the foundational period of the Kapav dynasty up until the atomic immolation of the Imperial State and Harmonious Society in the Babkhan Holocaust of 1598 AN.
Adherents of the old religion may still be found in Alalehzamin (Elluenuueq), Raspur, Sathrati, Suren, and Zeed, with orthodoxy aligned cults believed to be practising in secret in Alduria, Constancia, the Eastern Eura Trade Association, and Talenore.
Zurvan’s divine grace has blessed the Kapav, the Osmani, and the Abakhtri and these are the royal dynasties and tribes of Babkha. The spirit of divine governance Artakhshatra manifests itself in the rulers of Babkha; it has done so with Babak, it has done so with Ardashir, and it resides still within Tahmaseb. For so long as the Artakhshatra’s spirit mingles with the soul of the Shahanshah the later is subject to apotheosis and for the duration of his reign the Shahanshah is a god unto man.
The Artakhshatra is the godhead of Babkha’s collective kharenah – Zurvan’s divide grace – which goes together with the Kingdom’s existence as a political entity to form a holistic whole. The Babkhan kingdom is Zurvan’s kingdom; the Shahanshah receives the Kharenah and the Artakhshatra as gifts that enable him to reign as Zurvan’s regent on Earth. The Babkhans as part of a community united under the Shahanshah receive their communion in the reflected glow of the Shahanshah’s radiant Kharenah and Artakhshatra. Babkhan citizenship is divine manna unto its recipients! To recruit individuals into the communion is a sacred obligation – the more who are touched by the glory of the Shahanshah the more are basking in the reflected glory of Zurvan, the greater his glory the greater his power the greater power of His Kingdom! Babkhans are Zurvan’s chosen people with a duty to worship him. However even the greatest Babkhans are nothing but shadow and illusion next to the scope of Zurvan’s Will!
Be it known to the ends of the Meekras that all who so dwell within her borders shall find justice in Babkha, that under our Imperial rule the rule of law is knowingly denied to no one. Under the auspices of Artakhshatra justice is expounded and bad-faith expunged.
‘And the pre-existent souls of men saw that by omniscient wisdom they would suffer evil from the Lie and Ahriman in the material world, but because at the end they would be resurrected free from the enmity of the Aggressor, whole and immortal for ever and ever, they agreed to go into the material world for the service of the Artakhshatra’.
Just as the great god Zurvan existed long before all other things and was the creator and instigator of all that followed, so too was the Great Shah, Babak, creator of all that is wise and good in Babkha.
A great god is Ahura Mazda, who created this Meekras, who created man, who created peace for man. Artakhshatra, Shahanshah of Babkha, Tudeh Slayer, and born of Kapavid seed. Brother to the Sun and Moon, Beloved of Ahura Mazda. The Artakhshatra is the one true heir to the Great Shahanshah and is Shahanshah after his own right.
[archaic titles] Shahanshah Artakhshatra, Shah of Babkha and Báathland and Kumarastan. Lord of the Babkhans, the Báath, the Kumara, the Descobridores, the Kumaranchi, the Biacians, the Sucs, and the Yrerraentis. Patriarch of the Patriarchy of Fabon. King of Kings, ruler of Viziers and Satraps and Princes.
“The Shah's power, derives from his military power, and this can only be maintained by taxes, and all taxes in the end fall upon our farmers. It behoves us therefore to protect our farmers and treat them always with justice.”
Is the question; how to gain justice? Or how to make a neighbour move?
Overview of Zurvanism
The universe is the multiplicity of the divine one; the divine whole – Zurvan is the divine whole. All creation is nought but an appendage to Zurvan’s glory and divine grace.
Zurvan is the divine intelligence of perfect wisdom and goodness. This great god existed before creation, which was an act of his will. Yet in setting out the world and the universe he was alone. In the beginning then the Light was above, and the Darkness beneath, and between them the void and the dark sphere of the Meekras.
Zurvan is unknowable to man and his creation is layered infinitely beyond understanding. The layers, cross, over-lay and interchange with each other and all systems of the chain of creation carrying within them contradictions that only Zurvan can resolve, the contradictions within creation; of life and death, suffering and pleasure, hate and love, are the font of the schism between good and evil.
Seeing the complexities of creation, as wheels within wheels turned against each other Zurvan prepared for an ultimate sacrifice – to create out of himself a self-righting embodiment of good, and a self-destroying avatar to soak out of creation all that is evil. However Zurvan came to doubt his own wisdom in creating a perfect force of evil, from that doubt was what gave birth of Ahriman, the vile and stinking god of the Tudeh and the Lie. Zurvan wept for what he had done and from his contrition was born Ahura-Mazda, Lord of light and goodness.
Weakened by the sacrifice Zurvan exiled himself to the Void and dark sphere of Meekras. Ahura Mazda ascended up to the light while Ahriman sunk down into his dismal kingdom.
The Babkhan Orthodoxy anticipates the coming world saviour, the Mahdi-Saoshyant, an infant born from kharenah, ‘divine grace’, alone to save humanity from the evil of the Tudeh lie of Ahriman.
Ahriman is the hostile Tudeh spirit, whom, being wicked by nature attacked the civilised world by spreading the contagion of revolution. Ahriman continues to do so to this day and will continue to do so until the coming of the Mahdi-Saoshyant and Frasho-kereti (Judgement Day). Orthodox Babkhans execrate Ahriman in their opening post of the day:
“A vile Tudeh is Ahriman, damned and worthy of death are the Tudeh”
The festival of Norwuz and the reassertion of Babkhan culture and faith defeat Ahriman yearly. Defeated in the ordered world Ahriman resides instead over the Hell of the Tudeh.
The festival of Norwuz is the time of the year when Ahura Mazda presence touches upon the material universe.
The kharenah of Ahura Mazda is the seed of the Mahdi-Saoshyant who is birthed as a bull from the womb of a sea-serpent. Sacrificed by Mandorallen on an altar before the flaming disk of the sun the blood of the Bull issued forth the spirit of the Mahdi-Saoshyant who dwells in the ether awaiting the years before the Frasho-kereti whence it shall possess the body of a virgin born infant and begin the thousand year count down to the Frasho-kereti and the ascention of all Babkhans from their Kingdom on Meekras to the Court of Ahura Mazda and the Eternal Empire of Heaven.
The Secret Commonwealth of the Unholy Trinity shall unite to plot the demise of the Great One whom the loyal and true follow. Barbarians shall unite in launching ferocious assaults against an unguarded frontier. They shall be recalled by revived messengers of peace.
The onset of Spring shall bring tensions renewed within the barbarian horde. Say What is the use of running if you do not know the road you are on.
Be strong less the great wanderer of many names plays you false. Fortune favours the bold, but will someone be foolish enough to lay their hands upon the throne that is not their own?
‘When your face is hidden from me, like the moon hidden on a dark night, I shed stars of tears and yet my night remains dark in spite of all those shining stars.’
The Artakhshatra is not the Mahdi-Saoshyant who awaits Frasho-kereti but rather it is the Holy Spirit that brings divine essence into the Shah's who guide the fortunes of the Kingdom until Frasho-kereti.
Scripture, Faith & Ritual
All our Scriptures are sacred. We pray all of them in our Fire temples, before the Sacred Fire, and they have immense spiritual power, their very utterance serving to further righteousness and fight evil.
All our fire-temples and rituals of the are sacred and are necessary for the religion, such as the Nirang-din ceremony, which creates the Holy Nirang. The spiritually powerful Nirang forms the foundation of many other sacred rituals, that when performed, increase the power of good in this world and decrease the power of evil.
Dakhma-nashini is the only method of corpse-destruction for the Orthodoxy, as enjoined in the Vendidad: this is the destruction of the dead body in the stone-enclosed Dakhma, by the flesh-eating bird or the rays of the Sun, the most spiritually powerful method as commanded by Ahura Mazda and Zurvan. Dakhma-nashini is also very hygienic and ecologically-sound, because it prevents the world from being spiritually or materially polluted by decaying dead matter.
The observance of the Laws of the Vendidad is an important pillar of the religion. This includes the concept of menstrual seclusion (the woman is in a state of impurity during menstruation and must stay away from all religious objects including the household fire, and also stay away from her husband during those days) and the dreaded impure state of NASU the corpse is in after death, only touchable by the corpse-bearers who may then be purified by ritual means.
Faith, and Hope in the coming of the Mahdi-Saoshyant has sustained our religion through the centuries. We firmly hope, and pray, that Ahura Mazda sends the Mahdi-Saoshyant to the earth to defeat evil and further righteousness.
We firmly believe that when the Mahdi-Saoshyant comes, the final spiritual battle between the forces of good and evil will commence, resulting in the utter destruction of evil. Ristakhiz, the resurrection of the dead will take place - the dead will rise, by the Will of Zurvan. The world will be purged by molten metal, in which the righteous will wade as if through warm milk, and the evil will be scalded. The Final Judgement of all souls will commence, at the hands of Zurvan the Judge, and all sinners punished, then forgiven, and humanity made immortal and free from hunger, thirst, poverty, old age, disease and death. The World will be made perfect once again, as it was before the onslaught of the evil one. Such is the Frashogad, the Renovation, brought on by the Will of Zurvan.
The Clergy of Babkhan Orthodoxy
As with all facets of Babkhan society, the bureaucracy and hierarchy of Babkhan Orthodoxy is unyielding complex, filled with controversy and conspiracy and no doubt maddening to those unaccustomed to it. It has been determined through years of time consuming and often painful research lasting many generations that it is indeed the will of Zurvan that Babkhan Orthodoxy be as bureaucratic and hierarchical as his most glorious earthly Kingdom. It has been speculated that it is the will of Zurvan that all things that flow from him be unfathomably complex. From lowly Derviish to His Holy Eminence the Azaab, the structure and function of the clergy and each individual rank is convoluted and on no uncertain terms a theological mirror of the Imperial State's government. To the random observer, the clerics of Babkhan Orthodoxy and their governmental contemporaries are identical in almost every respect.
The Azaab – The Azaab (often referred to as the Patriarch by the unenlightened) is the supreme cleric of Babkhan Orthodoxy. Meaning roughly 'The Finder', it is the job of The Azaab to seek out the moral and spiritual laws laid out by Zurvan in the sacred scripture. That is, the spiritual and moral laws of Babkha are not necessarily created so much as they are "found", because the goodness and intent of Zurvan is well beyond the comprehension of mortals. His findings, opinions and decrees are issued in special documents called Fâtwa. All Fâtwa are considered binding and are usually rigidly enforced by Aqetdars.
The Aqetdar – The Aqetdar (also known as the Mobads) are high ranking clerics who assist The Azaab in scholarly pursuits, preside over mass rituals and serve as members of moral judiciaries. That is not to say, however, that they are servile clerks to His Holy Eminence. In fact it is quite the opposite with the Aqtedars often being very rich and powerful, holding much sway within the government bureaucracy of the Imperial State. But their primary duty is to assist The Azaab in scholarly pursuits, preside over mass rituals, tend to the high profile temples and serve as members of moral judiciaries. At any one time, there may be no more than 16 Aqetdar at any time, each one representing a point on the Orthodox Sun. Ascending to the rank of Aqetdar is the subject of much controversy, conspiracy and politics. Next to The Azaab himself, they're some of the most influential members of Babkhan Orthodoxy.
The Shakh-Az-Ferawera – The Shakh-Az-Ferawera are the average mid-level clerics of Babkhan Orthodoxy, filling the roles of professors and enforcers in matters of morality and spirituality. Informally, they are referred to simply as Shakhs. They study the Sacred Scripture and are often placed as the main caretakers and administrators of the majority of temples throughout Babkha. This is usually regarded as the beginning of one's journey to true Orthodox spiritualism and of course wealth. It is also the rung in the ladder that is the clergy where clerics begin to show signs of true deviousness due to their more regular exposure to Aqetdars and even The Azaab. It is also the only rank in which appointment is the only way to achieve the rank. To advance to Aqetdar, one must engage in the politics of the clergy, "waiting" for a vacancy.
The Adab – The Adab are the low level clerics of Babkhan Orthodoxy, assisting higher ranking members of the Babkhan Orthodoxy, preaching locally, directly administering punishment and any other menial task set forth by the higher ranks to them. To advance beyond the rank of Adab, one must be appointed, earning them a reputation of being sycophantic but efficient. The loyalty of an Adab is a commodity with most changing their allegiances to the highest bidder. This in itself has created a sub-culture of politics within the clergy rampant with sycophancy, ever changing allegiances, broken promises and the occasional caning.
The Derviish – The Derviish are those who aspire to enter into the priesthood and are often subject to many forms abuse, hazing and general contempt from the higher ranks. Becoming an Adab requires a certain level of endurance and sense of creativity on the part of the Derviish. The competition among the Derviish themselves is probably the most brutal. Many Derviish have perished due to extended fasting, combat for ascension and of course the general living condition of Babkha for those who are not ranking clerics, politicians and merchants.
Climbing the ranks within Babkhan Orthodoxy is no easy matter. Generally speaking each position must become vacant or having to go through some form of hazing (as with ascending beyond the rank of Derviish) for someone to rise up. The only exception is having to be appointed to the rank of Shakh-Az-Ferawera, which also has its own political nuances. Vacating a higher position has been achieved in a myriad of ways ranging from the creative and grotesque to the mundane and predictable. The majority of this kind of activity is most rampant at the lowest and highest ranks of the Orthodox clergy. While the Derviish are known to be more physically brutal and straight forward in their methods of ascension, the Shakhs and Aqetdar are noted for elaborate plots, conspiracies and cunning.
However, there lies a commonality in the underlying issue for such measures in both the upper and lower ranks of the clergy – it has come to the attention of the orchestrator that their (possible) predecessor is no longer able to provide spiritual and moral guidance to the people, which makes them dead weight in the ever expanding bureaucracy of Babkhan Orthodoxy and indeed Babkha as a whole. While it is a reason that has been used countless times, due to the nature of Babkhan Orthodoxy, no one dares question any members of the clergy to uncover ulterior motives. However, it is generally accepted that the reason is to increase their pay to better afford a more lavish lifestyle akin to the Emirs and Satraps of the Imperial State. Indeed, the Shakh-Az-Feraweras and Aqetdar could be seen as analogous to governors of the Imperial state, having many of the same mannerisms and methods as their political counterparts.
Influencing the Imperial State's government and establishing itself as a political has often been seen as a long term goal of the Orthodox clergy to ensure that truth and good prevail over evil. To ensure that the government is devoid of such influences and corruption is one of the chief concerns of the clergy. As Zurvan's earthly Kingdom, the Imperial State must remain pure, devoid of evil and homogeneous in faith, that is the ultimate duty of the clergy. Whether this is done via orthodox or unorthodox ways is entirely inconsequential as the will and intent of Zurvan transcends such earthly concepts. Derviish and even Adabs often serve as spies, assassins and even militiamen for Shakhs and Aqetdars with enough influence and power.
The clergy membership is highly restricted with only those of truly pure Babkhan blood allowed to enter into the clergy. Due to the inability for the denizens of underclass to properly administrate their own affairs, it has long since been found that only those of Babkhan blood have the strength and foresight to ensure morality and stave off evil within the Imperial Kingdom. To pollute the clergy with members of the underclass would be tantamount to allowing barbarian hordes to guide the masses on a spiritual level.
The Religious Caste System of Babkhan Orthodoxy
Much like the social castes within Babkhan society, there also exists a religious caste system which overlaps the social system. Castes within Babkhan society are considered to be eternally binding, as in those who are within a particular religious caste may never advance. However, that is not to say that they may be lowered to a lesser caste. It is also considered hereditary, whereas those born to a family within a caste are otherwise bound to that caste with only one exception (movement to the cleric caste). Although they overlapped to a significant degree, particularly with regards to the portion of the population placed outside the bounds of Zurvan's mercy and the protections of the law, the caste system advocated by the Zurvanite clergy did not map exactly to the system of categories upheld by the Imperial Government through the Harmonious Society, resulting in complexities and frictions between the two totalising systems geared towards the administration of society. There is no clear indication in the surviving records of the period as to whether this in any way contributed to the events that culminated in the atomic fires that engulfed Eura in the year 1598.
Neshan-dar – The neshan-dar are the untouchable caste within the system, with neshan-dar meaning 'marked'. This caste includes bandaka and tudeh almost exclusively in relation to the government established caste system. The name comes from the fact that those within this caste are branded using a hot iron to indicate their status. It is traditionally done on the forehead with the symbol measuring 2 centimetres by 2 centimetres and low enough on the brow to not be obstructed by any head-dress. The neshan-dar caste are not allowed to hear The Holy Name of Zurvan, attend mass or associate with clerics unless they are authorized slaves of politicians in which a cleric is in the company of. They are also not allowed to pray and must seek out a higher caste to prey for them. While being of the neshan-dar is by far one of the worst things one could be in Babkhan society, it is not the same as sheraret or 'evilness'. While it is policy to execute heretics, those who have repented and have subsequently garnered the forgiveness of The Shahanshah may be lowered to this caste.
Ewam – The ewam caste are the ordinary people of Babkha and is by far the largest caste in the Imperial state. They are not allowed to read scripture or pray directly to Zurvan but they are allowed to attend normal ritual, albeit in the lower sections of temples. The ewam may also not bear or possess religious iconography on their person or in their abodes. To do so is to claim a more personal connection with Zurvan and the Shahanshah, which is only afforded to the higher castes.
Baz'er – The baz'er caste is the caste of merchants and traders. In these modern times, this is extended to businessmen and the wealthy. In a religious context, the baz'er are placed above ewam during a mass, may pray directly to Zurvan and may keep iconography on their person, in their abode and/or place of business, but are still not permitted to read the Sacred Scripture and are still subject to be bound to fatwa. Politicians and clerics who have fallen out of favour or have simply become irrelevant are often lowered to this caste to ensure the purity and importance of the higher castes. However, this also affords them special consideration by Der-Fedel and of course Our Radiant Sun The Shahanshah.
Der-Fedel – Der-Fedel are "Those Within Grace" are those who are considered to be within the graces of Zurvan and the Shahanshah, comprising of three sub-castes of equal rank – Qara (the clergy), Arebab (the politicians and leaders of Babkha) and Mebarez (prestigious military families). The Der-Fedel may read The Sacred Scripture and pray directly to Zurvan. It is also worth noting that the sub-caste of Qara and Mebarez are bound by fatwa, while Arebab are not. For Arebab, the binding quality of a fatwa is purely optional. This is due to the spiritual nature of each caste – Qara and Mebarez are considered the more spiritual of the three sub-castes and are therefore obligated to follow the spiritual path laid down by Babkhan Orthodoxy. That being said, Arebab must be unhindered in their administration of the Imperial State and therefore it is their personal decision to be bound by fatwa.
Shahanshah – The Shahanshah, Heir of The Holy Relics and Zurvan's Reagent (etc.) is of his own caste and is the most important caste within Babkhan society both socially and religiously. As the reagent of Zurvan's Earthly Kingdom, Babkha, he is the direct line to Zurvan and the most spiritually in tune to Zurvan.
Interrelations between the castes is tightly controlled with purity and cleanliness being most important. That being said, there is a line of cleanliness or Man'e Az Khelwes (lit. barrier of purity). This line or barrier is what determines who is clean and who is impure. The ewam caste is considered the line of cleanliness for baz'er, however, for Der-Fedel the line of cleanliness is the baz'er caste. To associate below the line of cleanliness is to become unclean and taint one's self with impurity. And while this is necessary from time to time (even with the multitudes of inter-class servants afforded to both baz'er and Der-Fedel), a period of uncleanliness lasting 2 days whereby regular hourly prayer and bathing ritual is necessary to cleanse one self. There is no way in which one may forgo being tainted when dealing with lesser castes, however, the subject of servants of lesser caste is a complex matter. For servants below the line of cleanliness, it is possible for the servant owner to remain clean and pure even with those of lesser caste handing various duties. All servants must be clothed in white tunics, trousers and tagelmust with the face covered. It is also a requirement to ensure that eye contact is never made during any transactions, ensuring the cleanliness of the higher caste member. For caste's above the line of cleanliness, the higher caste member need not worry of impurity and ensure that they do not infringe upon the established standards of worship and spiritual learning for the lower caste. However, in the end it is the duty of the lesser caste member to ensure that the higher caste member does not infringe said practices by removing themselves from the premises.
To be eligible to join the clergy of Babkhan Orthodoxy, one must be in the ewam caste or greater. However, only on rare and dire occasions are those of ewam caste accepted, with the vast majority of the clergy being descendant of baz'er families. This is based upon the assumption that only those worthy of praying directly to Zurvan should be privileged enough to follow in the footsteps of his law-finders and prophets. This upward movement in the caste system is the only exception the rule of eternal binding. Neshan-dar are strictly forbidden from associating with clerics, much less become a cleric.
On the subject if inter-caste marriage, a man may seek approval to marry a woman of lesser caste above the line of cleanliness, however, a woman or man may not seek approval to marry a man or woman of higher caste. Depending upon the caste, the wedding may range from a very simple ceremony consisting of a cleric and city/tribe official declaring their marriage (as with ewam) to elaborate and fanciful ceremonies within Fire temples and ranking members of the clergy and state present. In the case of neshan-dar, the process of legalizing the marriage between two members of a caste which consists essentially of outcasts is ambiguous and convoluted at best. Because they're forbidden to associate with clergy, their marriage is considered to be strictly a legal contract which may be delivered to specially made drop boxes which ensure the hygienic and spiritual cleanliness of the documents. They're then notarised by a clerk or city official and sent back to the sender. This process is necessary because the neshan-dar are essentially excised from Babkhan Orthodoxy and therefore are not granted the privelege of having a spiritual marriage graced by Zurvan and The Shahanshah.