Echtoanism is the world's second-largest religion and the world’s largest polytheistic religion. It focuses on recognizing that the means to spiritual success are diverse and that the number of gods to be worshiped is large. Because Echtoa beliefs are diverse, Echtoanism is often referred to as a family of religions rather than a single religion.
Echtoanism includes a range of philosophies and is linked by shared concepts, rituals, cosmology, pilgrimages, and shared textual resources. Echtoanism prescribes eternal duties such as honesty, patience, mercy, self-restraint, and compassion, among others. Prominent themes in Echtoan beliefs include ethical duty, prosperity, liberation from rebirth, and karmic cycles.
Scriptures and other Echtoan Religious Texts
"Limited as we are by the usage of time we must begin somewhere, so first I will tell you of the conflict of creation – the infinite battle between ‘x’ and ‘z’." - Githmund Extiez, The story of the origin of all and the comings and goings of the divine according to the west
Echtoan cosmology centers around dual forces that, although are together 'creators', are not worshiped or recognized rulers. These duelists, usually called 'X' and 'Z', are locked in continuous combat to consume one another. In their struggle for dominance, which can sometimes be described as total light versus complete darkness, a balance was struck accidentally. This balanced is called 'Y'. It is within 'Y' that all things exist. Thus, X and Z sustain life by their desire to ultimately consume one another.
While these forces at play have no overwhelming feeling for time, shape, or life, portions of their vastness have taken interest. These 'portions of the infinite' are the Gods, not separate entities from X or Z but compassionate parts of them removed to do their own bidding. However, most Gods choose not to remain in physical forms. Time, shape, emotion, and other traits of omtholi are inconvenient and unpleasant to those who belong to the vastness.
To adherents, Echtoanism is a way of life. All aspects of an Echtoan life are part of the “right way of living”, which includes behaviors that are deemed harmonious with the gods. This includes the religious duties, moral duties, and secular duties. Because of the many gods and variety of interpretations associated with them, Echtoa enables the pursuit of one's own nature and true calling. In Echtoanism, desire, passion, pleasure, aesthetic enjoyment, affection, or love (with or without sexual connotations) are all considered an essential and healthy goal of life when pursued without sacrificing other noble pursuits.
For Echtoans, the ultimate goal of life, referred to as liberation or iomlán, is understood in several different ways: in some schools of Echtoanism this is a goal only achievable in the ‘final death’, in others it is a goal achievable in current life as a state of bliss through self-realization, of comprehending the nature of one's soul, as the realization of one's union with God(s); as the realization of the unity of all existence; perfect unselfishness and knowledge of the Self; and as detachment from worldly desires. Such realization liberates one from omtholi, thereby ending the cycle of rebirth, sorrow, and suffering. Because Echtoans believe that the soul is indestructible, death is deemed insignificant with respect to the cosmic self.
Karma is considered the moral law of cause and effect which leads one closer (or farther) to this liberation. Karma theory is interpreted as explaining the present circumstances of an individual with reference to his or her actions in the past. These actions and their consequences may be in a person's current life or in past lives. This cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth is called omtholi. Liberation from omtholi is believed to ensure lasting happiness and peace.
The meaning of iomlán differs among the various Echtoa schools of thought. The followers of dualistic schools identify individual self as distinct from Gods but infinitesimally close, and after attaining iomlán, expect to spend eternity in a heaven. To some schools of Echtoanism, iomlán is possible in the current life as a psychological concept.
Scriptures and other Echtoan Religious Texts
There are three major types of well-known Echtoan texts. Legal texts, regarding the day-to-day aspects of living virtuously and the punishments of ignoring these behaviors, were popular in Marcwith. More common throughout the world, although rare, are texts written as reflections on Echtoan religious philosophy. The sacred scriptures of Echtoa are ancient, being one of the few items to reveal the culture of Iokeihiko in its golden age.
Contrary to popular belief, most Echtoan legal literature in Marcwith was spawned not by the ruling Deerless, but by early human and uembian authors. While the Deerless had little use for the systems that limited their workers, those lower classes found ways of self-governing through religious texts. The vast number of legal texts, written in various languages, saw the birth of the majority of the modern sects of Echtoa. Troves of these texts still exist in the deeply spiritual land of Marcwith where the destruction of religious work has been a heinous crime since the founding of Vinumera.
Much fewer texts are left of Echtoan philosophy. Githmund’s works likely included many, but because philosophy was viewed differently than religion, these books were not so lucky as to escape the many conflicts of Marcwith. Surviving volumes are now rare collector’s items. Known works include The Coming and Going of the West by Githmund Extiez (inc), The Divine Peoples of Echtoan by Sawhet Kildeer, and from Erebus, The Storm by Wuelfij Sotheq, Slavery in the Erebitic Cultures by Alvaro Ralyan, and the abstract An Argument Between Two Peers, attributed to Upera the First.
The authors of the ancient Echtoan scriptures are attributed to two sources; the Westerners in Marcwith and scholars from the Pruci Empire in Asiri Asa. The ancient scriptures of Echtoanism are in Tohu Hanga. These texts are classified into two: Chindoda and Iyanṣe. Chindoda is revealed to the seers by gods and considered the supreme mandate, while the Iyanṣe are manmade and therefore wield secondary authority. Echtoan scriptures were composed and transmitted verbally for many centuries before they were written down. Over time, sages refined the teachings and expanded the Chindoda and Iyanṣe, as well as developed the theories of the classical schools of Echtoanism.
Chindoda primarily refers to the Kuphẹkọs, which form the earliest record of Echtoan scripture. They are regarded as eternal truths revealed to ancient sages. There are four Kuphẹkọs – okukuphẹkọ, omikuphẹkọ, izwekuphẹkọ and hewakuphẹkọ. Each Kuphẹkọ has been further classified into four major types – the mantras, the rites, the meditations, and the philosophies. The philosophies of the Kuphẹkọs are the foundation of Echtoan spiritual thought and have profoundly influenced diverse traditions.
The most notable of the Iyanṣes are the Echtoan epics, although texts similar to the Kuphẹkos do exist. The epics consist of the Vyagaran and the Mahākāyokko. The Ariroha is a famous portion of the Vyagaran one of the most prevalent sacred texts of Echtoanism. These and other stories contain rich mythology and common themes of Echtoanism expounded through vivid narratives. Echtoan modernists see the Kuphẹkọs as the laws of the spiritual world, which would still exist even if they were not revealed to the sages. In devotional traditions, all texts from Iokeihiko are said to hold some spiritual significance even if they are Iyanse.
There are a vast number of Echtoan holidays celebrated as diversely as Echtoa itself. Many devout Echtoans only celebrate the holidays of most importance to them while some have become popular among secular crowds. The most popularly celebrated Ectoan holidays are relevant to the patron gods of Iokeihiko.
Remembrance, associated with Kithma Bsk, is a high holy day for Echtoans. Devout worshipers may visit family and spend time in a natural setting or a nearby temple for much of the day. During the early morning, people discard old and derelict things and concentrate on new things causing change or transformation. A bonfire is lit with logs of wood, other solid-fuels and/or wooden furniture that is no longer useful. In locations were this is not permitted; special candles and ritual parchment can be used. The disposal of neglected things is where old habits, vices, attachment to material things are sacrificed in the fire. It represents realization, transformation, and purification of the soul by imbibing and instilling virtues.
Kembitho is a holiday related to Fitheom Su. It relates to the harvest and one of her many avatars. Though Kembitho is traditionally a Echtoan festival celebrated in Southern Marcwith, contemporarily Kembitho is celebrated by the uembian diaspora across the globe. Kembitho commemorates the rule of Ntijajnituj Su, an uembian king who loved his subjects. During his rule people were happy, honest, and full of righteousness. Kembitho is the annual homecoming of the legendary king. On Kembitho people conduct special prayers in Echtoan temples. Although prayers in Echtoan temples are an important part of the festival, it is one of the few times non-Echtoans are not allowed to enter temples. The festival is also marked by various festivities, including the weaving of intricate flower carpets, elaborate banquet lunches, races, etc. These festivities make Kembitho a unique festival which is embellished by a number of cultural elements. It can be undoubtedly said that these elements constitute colorfulness, diversity, and richness not often seen in religious festivals.
The holiday celebrating Axwil Tav is called the Festival Ampdhes. According to legend, a contest was once held on the island of Iokeihiko between all the species of the island. Axwil Tov, who disliked ‘crede, did not bother to attend the friendly competition. However, as the contest reached crescendo, an Amanu Hawk decided that the ‘crede it was facing was noble and deserved to win. When Axwil Tav heard of the 'crede's victory, he became enraged. It took seven generations for both the family of ‘credes and the family of the Amanu hawk to reason with the god, playing a friendly game with one another each year. Whomever won was able to take a higher camp on Makomo Piri, until eventually the families reached the peak of the mountain. Once there, Awxil Tav forgave the families and granted them a blessing of courage. This is said to be the end of the Uncrossable Era, and it celebrated for a week with games and sports every year.
Bloat is a feast day associated with Lismdom Ir. It is a day of plentiful food, worship and dance. It is considered the most auspicious time of the Echtoan calendar and is hence the most celebrated time of the year. Although it has different names in different parts of the world, Echtoans from all regions celebrate it. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm as the creation of virtuous indulgence. Every region has its own myths and reasons to explain this. Because of these differences, it is another holiday often celebrated by secular crowds. Common practices include brewing and offering tea and hosting large familial or friendly meals.
Kol’s Melancholy, also known as the Echtoan New Year, traditionally celebrates the smiting of Drepa and Pruci. Contemporary Echtoans treat the story as an allegory; it is even celebrated in areas of modern-day Asiri Asa. In the morning, practitioners bathe in holy waters and prepare special meals for Lothes Kol. These sacrificial meals are taken in procession to a temple and given to an image, statue, or sometimes live ehlix. In the afternoon, parades of Echotans in costume representing Lothes Kol (or his avatars) and King Gaiagara celebrate in the streets with gratitude and joy for their benevolent rulers. These celebrations carry long into the night with music, dancing, reenactments, and cleansing rituals.
Most Echtoans observe religious rituals at home (although they are not mandatory). The rituals vary greatly among regions and individuals. The nature and place of rituals is an individual's choice. Some devout Echtoans perform daily rituals. Washing at certain times during the day, lighting candles or oil lamps, visiting a family shrine, or making offers to deities may all be aspects of personal religions rites. In some schools, it is common for individuals to recite from religious texts, sing hymns, practice meditation, or chant mantras. Yeksabsk rituals of fire-offering and chanting of hymns are observed on special occasions, such as an Echtoa wedding. Other major life-stage events, such as rituals after death, include the chanting of Yeksabsk mantras.
The words of the mantras are themselves sacred and do not constitute linguistic utterances. Instead, in their application in Yeksabsk rituals they become magical sounds. In the Weiwalic perspective, the sounds have their own meaning. These mantras are considered primordial rhythms of creation, preceding the forms to which they refer, and by reciting them the cosmos is regenerated. As long as the purity of the sound is preserved, the recitation of the mantras will be effective, regardless of whether their meaning is understood by living beings.
Urovamra, the loving offering of light, flowers, and water or food to the divine, is the essential ritual of Echtoanism. The word “Urovamra”, and means reverence, devotion, and veneration. Urovamra is a worship ritual performed in the morning by Echtoans to offer devotional homage and prayer to one or more deities, to host and honor a guest, or to spiritually celebrate an event. It may honor or celebrate the presence of special guests, or their memories after they die. For the worshiper, the divine is present in Urovamra, and the divinity sees the worshiper. The interaction between individual and deity is called “seeing”, which can lead to religious enthusiasm or even ecstasy.
Echtoan temples and domestic altars are important elements of worship in contemporary Echtoanism. While many visit a temple on a special occasion, most offer a brief prayer on an everyday basis at the domestic altar. This daily ritual is expressed in a domestic shrine which typically includes the images of deities or the teachers the Echtoan chooses. Home shrines can be elaborate with either a room dedicated to it or a dedicated part of the home. The devotee uses this space for daily prayers or meditation, either before breakfast or after the day's work. These daily informal prayers and meditations are referred to as errituala.
Errituala is more than ritual devotionalism, it includes practices and spiritual activities aimed at refining one's state of mind, knowing god(s), participating in god(s), and internalizing god(s). While Errituala practices are popular aspect of Echtoanism, not all Echtoans practice it. For those that do, errituala is sometimes private inside household shrines and sometimes practiced as a community. It may include Urovamra, the playing of musical instruments, and singing. Devotional verses and hymns may also be read. While the choice of the deity is at the discretion of the Echtoan, the most observed traditions of Echtoan devotionalism include Yeksabsk, Axwism, and Irsuism.
An Echtoan temple is a house of god(s). It is a space and structure designed to bring Ka'a'Crede and gods together, infused with symbolism to express the ideas and beliefs of Echtoanism. A temple incorporates all elements of Echtoan cosmology, the highest spire or dome representing Tautahi, a reminder of Iokeihiko and the center of spiritual universe, the carvings and iconography symbolically presenting noble virtues, omtholi, and karma. The layout, the motifs, the plan, and the building process recite ancient rituals, geometric symbolisms, and reflect beliefs and values innate within various schools of Echtoanism. Echtoan temples are spiritual destinations for many Echtoans, as well as landmarks for arts, annual festivals, rite of passage rituals, and community celebrations.
Echtoan temples come in many styles, diverse locations, deploy different construction methods, and are adapted to different deities and regional beliefs. Two major styles of Echtoan temples include the Kenda style and Runin style. Other styles include cave, forest, and mountain temples. Yet, despite their differences, almost all Echtoan temples share certain common architectural principles, core ideas, symbolism, and themes. Many temples feature one or more idols. The idol and shrine are positioned in the center of the temple, under the main spire, and serve as a focal point in an Echtoan temple. In larger temples, the central space typically is surrounded by an ambulatory for the devotee to walk around and ritually experience the universal essence.