Taghlishen is the national religion of Çeridgul and of its inhabitants, the Çerid. It would, perhaps, be a stretch to call it their official religion, as no law requires its adoption and no commandment punishes what they call "refusers", but it is culturally ingrained to such a degree that it is assumed that any Çer with a functioning brain practices it. Those who do not risk spurning the spirit world in a way that, depending on how one views it, is either monumentally confident or spectacularly suicidal, and the bulk of the population take a macabre interest in refuser-watching to see what misfortunes befall them.
In the Place That Was, the Çerid were a desert people, but the movements of the skies were quite different; the Burning Eye took a much longer time to move around the sky, and the Gentle Eye remained in place, "opening" at night and "closing" during the day but never actually moving (suggesting that their homeworld was somehow tidally locked to its moon). The lengthy days frequently became unbearably hot, and the Burning Eye was therefore the eye with which Taghli scoured the world of those evil influences She could reach; its light was fundamentally good, but harsh, unable to avoid innocent mortals in its search for wicked things. The Gentle Eye, by contrast, was the provider of light-without-burning, the eye that merely watched over mortals during a time when they could go about their business in comfort.
Taghli's eyes, therefore, are a reflection of Her dual nature: always acting out of care and love for her creation, but engaging in both kindness and brutality in doing so. She spares mortals where She can, but will destroy them if She cannot avoid it, much as one might amputate a limb to save a life - or, perhaps, as one might be unable to move among ants without stepping on a few. This sense has apparently become more emphasized since the arrival of the Çerid on Micras, whose sun and moon both move at what, to them, originally seemed a bewildering pace, and leaving nights where there is no Eye open in the sky to watch over them.
Taghli has left no commandments, and indeed rarely communicates with mortals at all. She does not bring law, but judgment, and has the power to enforce it.
Because of her remoteness from mortal affairs, the Çerid revere Taghli but rarely pray to Her, feeling Her direct intervention to be a risky proposition at best. For aid - or avoidance - in their daily lives, there are instead a wide array of incorporeal beings that are felt to be able to intercede in the affairs of mortals.
The haçkeshid are the ancestral spirits of the Çerid.
In Çer culture, one's lineage is reckoned entirely through the female line; for females and unwed males, their ancestors are their mother (and her husbands), her mother (and her husbands), her mother (and her husbands), and so on. (Married males are spiritually "gifted" to their wife's lineage as part of the wedding). It is believed that, after death, the souls of these ancestors do not pass out of the world, but remain within it and join with those of the lineage who have gone before. These accumulate into a collective spirit of one's ancestry, the haçkesh.
While neither universally good nor evil in the strictest sense, haçkeshid are generally seen as the most overtly helpful and friendly. Naturally having an interest in the welfare of their living descendants, who will one day join with and strengthen them, they will provide aid and advice to them out of the familial bond. The quantity and efficacy of this aid is held to be dependent on what kind of a reputation one has in their eyes; at a bare minimum one is expected to know, and be able to recite, one's lineage, but one can honor or dishonor that lineage through great or heinous deeds.
A haçkesh actively watches its descendants, and therefore does not need to be summoned to be communicated with. However, having in one's possession, and treating with respect, an item known to be associated with one's ancestor is considered a great boost to its favor.
The zerenid are the spirits of place, or genii loci.
Notable places generate their own awareness, which can be communicated with in relation to events at or around that place. Unlike haçkeshid, a zeren generally has no particular interest in mortals' welfare except to the extent that their place is improved or degraded by their activity. While this means that unsolicited action from a zeren is only offered as a response to some unintended action, it is also possible to bargain with zerenid by offering them either gifts or alterations to their place, either temporary or permanent; coercing them through threats is also theoretically possible but considered highly ill-advised. A zeren's power is limited by range but potentially very powerful within that range, and they can be deadly enemies... or good allies, for the right price.
A zeren is inherent to the natural shape of a place, rather than anything done to it - there is no zeren of a city, only of the place where the city is. As a result, it is vitally important that any sort of landscaping or building is done while in contact with the place's zeren and in a way that pleases it. For this reason, the Çerid make a point of trying to make their built works aesthetically pleasing, and of burying refuse and waste out of sight. Most settlements and homesteads have at least one shrine to the local zeren; this is often a rock face or tree painted in colorful patterns, but in parts of the desert the shrine is made by patterns in the arrangements of rocks. In the absence of other suitable surfaces or terrain, a pole will be erected and carved and painted.
The kathid are the spirits of moods, feelings, and aptitudes.
Bodiless on their own, kathid wander freely throughout the world - although they are most comfortable in and around large bodies of water, they can be found anywhere and everywhere. Like haçkeshid, they have an obsessive interest in mortal affairs and follow around those who interest them, but like zerenid, they act either for or against a target. Unlike either, a kath, while it has its own volition, is not an entirely outside force who one must appease or weather; kathid are spiritual symbiotes, who must work from inside a host who, in turn, permits them to work. Ultimately one's habitation by a kath is considered an act of will, or at least of purposeful lack of it: a kath ultimately only comes, or departs, if a Çer fails to fight it off. They tempt mortals to take them in, but in accepting one, the fault, if any, is ultimately that of the mortal.
That said, there are methods that can be employed to help attract a desired kath or repel an unwanted one - never enough on its own, but capable of improving one's odds. Kathid are highly individual, with their own names and their own likes or dislikes in material objects, which can be used to fashion talismans aimed at altering their behavior; children are taught the names and attributes of the most basic kathid, but the profession of kathdaltin, an expert in kath-lore, is a difficult and highly respected one.
Among the known kathid are:
- Setur. The kath of cowardice. Properly speaking, his influence also covers what might simply be called fear, but since Çerid prefer not to admit to or to show fear, it is only when a Çer is pushed to do something to make their fear visible - which, by definition, is cowardice - that Setur's presence can be noted by others. He is one of the few kathid whose attractants are things beyond the ability of mortals to control the presence of, but is held to be repelled by reflective surfaces, particularly polished metals and crystals such as quartz.
- Odri. The kath embodying intimate desire and performance. Inevitably, she is popular with a wide segment of the adolescent and adult population, who look to her for aid and relief in their private lives. She is said to be drawn by arrays of bright colors, flowers, and bedchambers, and repelled by grays and browns, and by dirt, dust, and plain stone.
- Baksh. The embodiment of the ability to kill another sapient being; Baksh provides no assistance in mere hunting, nor in any peaceful contest of skill, but is invaluable for those who need to kill a person, regardless of whether one is a warrior in equal combat, a murderer dealing with a victim, or an executioner delivering the final punishment. This evenhandedness makes it dangerous to accept his influence lightly. He is drawn by glossy blacks and dark reds, and by sharp objects - obsidian edges are especially dear to him, and those about to deal death for righteous purposes will often carry an obsidian blade somewhere on their person, even if they do not intend to use it as their actual weapon. He is repelled by strong winds and breaths, by the sound of running water or rain, and by strips of tree bark - someone carrying around large amounts of the latter without the apparent intent to write on them is likely to be the focus of many nervous stares.
- The Abyssal. One of the most powerful and terrifying of the kathid, said to be so dangerous that Taghli Herself took away Its name to keep It from being summoned in that fashion. The Abyssal is the embodiment of yearning turned to madness and despair, of want and hunger too deep to be satiated. Only those who are denied their heart's desire, and have nothing else to lose, allow the Abyssal into their souls. It is said to make Its home in the deepest parts of the sea, and to devour those who travel upon its surface. It is repelled by bright artificial lights, white or other light colors, and dry cloth; the knowledge of those things that attract It are not taught, or learned, by the kathdaltinid, but are rumored to include matte black, cold temperatures, and stagnant water.
The jekaçt are the evil spirits, the primary supernatural enemy of mortals; they are the closest equivalent of the demons of other cultures.
Jekaçt are, in many ways, the counterparts of the haçkeshid and resemble them in several respects. They are what results when those who have done the darkest deeds, those who have most foully insulted their lineage and people, are dissevered from their ancestors as a result. After death, they do not join the haçkesh to which they would normally belong, but wander in misery until they locate those other dark souls most like them. These, in a twisted parody of a haçkesh, join together in a dark spirit, bound by a lineage of sin and corruption: a jekaçt.
While the kathid may cause ill to befall a mortal, they do not do so out of a desire to cause ill; they exist to act out their nature through the mortal mind and body, and can do nothing else. The jekaçt, by contrast, act out of willful malice and disdain for mortalkind. They work eternally to inflict torment and death; the most direct ones act by causing physical misfortune, but others trick the mind and soul with hallucinations or delusions, attempting to lure their victim into accepting a negative or destructive kath.
Where the gaze of Taghli's Burning Eye scours the land, it does so in search of jekaçt, to burn them away and destroy them. That of the Gentle Eye, while it does not destroy them, watches over the Çerid and deters the jekaçt from them during respite from the day. Therefore, the jekaçt are fond of the deepest shadows and darkest caves, and remain in them until ready to strike. In many ways, Micras is a fertile breeding ground for them, as there are nights when neither Eye is in the sky to drive them away and they are free to roam without fear; the Çerid are therefore superstitious about moonless nights and, even though they have excellent night vision, will keep lights burning around them at those times if at all possible.