INTRODUCTION TO TARTEISM
Tarteists call their religion Tartelacha, the Tarte Faith. Scholars more often refer to it as Tarteshemprisglar, Tarteism (lit. Tarte-firstness).
The Tarteist flag, originally the banner of the Unity forces in the Eluca theater
Incudean comparative religionists (chototunlachatureth) in Sinduin’s universe adduce that any and all faiths belong to one of a few major worship categories: 1) Founder cults (where a people worship their founder/originator); 2) Alien cults (where a people worship an alien figure, or even an entire race, like gryphons or Dolens); 3) Elemental worship (Fire and Water being by far the most popular, with blood cults subsumed under the sign of water); and 4) Syncretist cults. Following this scheme, Tarteism can be easily defined as the predominant founder cult of the Incudean civilization.
Traditionally, Tarteism shares the playing field of Incudean devotion with the cult of Holy Fire. The Salbakion System (Salbakion proper, Naxis) is solidly in the pyrodule camp. Akash and Ikrilath present a ready mixture of Tarte and Fire worship (the latter directly due to influence from Salbakion). It is fair to say that Fire has the advantage in Ikrilath, whereas Tarte has it over Akash. The remaining populous systems are generally Tarteist. Glowgem is riddled with heresies, including the alien worship of the Two-Eyed and Three Worldism, but also Ransainism and a trinity cult of Tarte-Taroth-Taus, this latter being officially permitted though privately disparaged. Eluca has its own founder cult (Luca) though locals have claimed since before the Space Age that Luca was and is an avatar or child of Tarte. The Revo System has a locally influential Water cult (Dread Water, ikui monkar), a remnant of Revon influence, and tends toward syncretism overall. Ishdodeth worships Tarte, but the ceremonies for doing so are so elaborate and full of rules (without doubt an echo of Dolentian practices) that some scholars consider the goddess thus worshipped something different from Tarte. Ishdodetians call her Palun Taus, which they claim to be Tarte’s true name. Deriders call her Tarte randaia, “Textual Tarte,” due to the many esoteric books connected to her cult.
The Golden Age of Tarteism ends abruptly in 11,010 BC, with Filboin’s announcement of the discovery of a fifth element, against all mythologies and on the heels of a series of mathematical elucidations that shook Gorgon society to its roots. The Silver Age can be said to extend all the way to the Unity War (5555-5530 BC), after which the religion of politics and conquest takes center stage. Since then the faith has suffered a long and corrosive Bronze Age, though Tarteist authorities sometimes speak of a new golden age since the rapprochement of the major sects around the turn of the sixth century AD (mid-seventy-fourth century in Flayer Reckoning).
For millennia now, atheism has been on the rise, and it is fair to say that most Inculae, especially those beyond the Near Systems, are only Tarteist or pyrodulous in a cultural sense.
Tarte is the Great Goddess, uncreated creatrix of the universe. Along with her friend, helper and lover Galriatolmar (also known as Goltol), she is responsible for all that was, is and will be. Throughout the ages her most prized possession is the Incudean nation, whose members each resemble her both physically and mentally, though in diminished degrees of strength and capacity, except for one detail: the Goddess is missing one of her legs. With the onset of Time and the progress of things, she withdraws from the universe. Galriatolmar embraces creation, watching over it like a merciful mother who knows that her children will only reach maturity if they are allowed to flourish according to their own wills. Morality is simply a matter of attuning oneself to the order preëstablished by Tarte and supported by Galriatolmar, while withstanding the onslaught of the archvillain Chaos.
The creed is straightforward, though a number of mysteries lurk within it.
The Mystery of Galriatolmar
The second goddess’ origins are as obscure to scholars as they are to the faithful. The famous dictum “No Goltol without Tarte,” enforced, for example, in the building of temples, suggests that Tarte created Galriatolmar. However, there are no myths to this effect. (As will be seen below, Goltol is reborn at one point, and her second self is indeed directly engendered by Tarte.)
The Mystery of Tarte
Tarte’s origins and role are overtly explained in countless tales and traditions. The mystery here is the meaning of the missing leg. The oldest explanation might be that the leg of the goddess is the universe itself. Tarte is missing a leg because she used it to fashion the universe, and this very fact proves how mighty she is. There is also the (slightly) less crude notion that Tarte must have one leg because the Great Goddess can only have one foundation. Two legs bespeak weakness under this view. Earthlings should understand that an Odinic or a Christian theory, such as that the leg was given up as a sacrifice in exchange for self-knowledge or the salvation of others, has never been offered, and would very likely sound sacrilegious to Tarteist ears.
The mystery surrounding the missing leg motif has not stopped its use in ritual. A temple near Pito in Glowgem used to house “Tarte’s Leg,” a gigantic monstrosity to all but the faithful. To this day, there are rites in Notun that will allow one to receive an instantiation of Tarte’s missing leg, for aid in difficult situations (even for winning races at games). The idea there is that Tarte’s leg is not at all missing, but roaming the universe, disembodying and reembodying itself wherever it is needed. A superhero of sorts.
The Mystery of Chaos
This creature, never called a god except among some of the heretics, is mostly known from sophisticated texts and is virtually absent from ritual. Its full name is Chaos-Necessity (Kardeltizi) and some scholars believe it is but a reification of immorality, a straw deity, as it were. Comparative religionists also point out that this entity turns up in many of the vassal religions, albeit with a diverse array of ranks and roles.
In Sinduin’s time, an independent Tarteist morality is effectively dead, its teachings sucked dry by two interlocked tendencies: taxification and imperialization (see below). We can list the key elements of Tarteist morality before its demise as follows:
- Preoccupation with order. Order is imposed by Tarte, upheld by Galriatolmar, and embodied by all good creatures. Tarteism resembles Indian Vedism in its conservatism and its simplicity: one should do what one was born to do. It is dissimilar to Vedism insofar as no Brahmin caste ever arose to dictate precisely what each group had to, or indeed who should belong in each group. Although Inculae were from antiquity split into Highborn and Lowborn, Tarteist priestesses were never able to navigate the divide between the two, and the issue was only resolved through external secular forces. To the priestesses, all were bound to the same principles and norms.
- High view of materiality. The elements are explained as the congealing of her divine thoughts. This congealing (praundoma) means specifically: freezing of a fluid, whereby what was free-flowing and indistinct becomes distinct, coagulated, in separate forms (souls are made from the uncongealed fluid). Since everything derives from Tarte, there is no fear of or contempt for the body.
- Disparagement of pride. It is said that Tarte feels no pride (Tarte doch pezom keltur). Therefore the logic of the religion demands that no mere creature do either. That said, vanity (ivai) is praised. This conception gradually falls away as the Empire’s fortune rise, and is all but dead at the hands of the Benefactresses and Ransain. Perhaps as a substitute to this, the Lodonye variety of Tarteism will adopt the Teivan doctrine of voluntarism and speak more and more, not of Tarte’s lack of pride, but of her fullness of will.
It has been argued that Tarteist morality begins its decline with the rise of a professional priestess class —of Inculae who dedicate themselves solely to religion. The class requires economic support from the laity in order to survive. The relationship between the goddess and the believer was of old a personal one: an Incula would pray for a boon, and then offer something to the goddess in exchange. Support of the priestesses becomes popular, not as a duty (the idea that the divine relationship is ultimately personal remains), but as a substitute, as coin, for one’s own wishes to be granted. The idea is that each priestess has a personal duty to Tarte, just as I have a personal duty to Tarte, and if I support the priestess in her duty, I can ask of Tarte a boon. And of course, the priestesses’ work earns points for the general population.
In the pre-Unity War era, the commodification of prayers and offerings escalates along with the development of communications between the Near Systems. The different Tarteist sects soon draw up tables “converting” deeds and offerings from one temple to another. From there to the taxification of prayerful activities is but a simple step. After the Unity War, Silver-led Incudea imposes a global tax on all. The priesthood of Elomara soon devises a tax of its own, which if paid yearly exempts the faithful from doing anything above and beyond the minimal requirements of the religion. What an Incula must and must not do becomes reduced to what is legal and illegal according to the Commonwealth of Sisters. What she may or may not do (for further benefits) is subsumed into payment of coin for the expansion of Incudea. This is the so-called imperialization of morality. During the Dolentian Wars, a number of sects urge their followers to support the nation in its time of need, with the religious taxes going directly into Incudean coffers. In 2993 BC, finally, Incudea, Elomara and Teiva agree to pool their taxes together permanently. In effect, the general Incudean tax rises and even non-believers are made to pay more for the difference. Since then, the great sects have relied on other sources of income, including, as could be expected, the imperial coffers.
This historical evisceration of a specifically Tarteist ethics did not go uncontested. In particular, the fourth High Priestess of Elomara, Otenro, whose presidency spanned the Unity War, tried to stem the tide in this field as in so many others. Below is the famous text called Chains, where she set forth a new analysis of ethics that did not rely on commodification (this text can be found in the Okamiakesh).
Chains (first part)
There is right action (kuma chuglar senyisam). There is right intention (daivo chuglar senyisam). There is right personhood (lirioglar chuglar senyisam). Rites (holjonis) may or may not demand these qualities for their perfection. Thus, rights which do not demand right action, nor right intention, not right personhood, are called A rites (holjonis ho). Rites which solely demand right action are called B rites. Rites which solely demand right intention are called C rites. Rites which solely demand right personhood are called D rites. Rites which demand right action and right intention, but not right personhood, are called E rites. Rites which demand right action and right personhood, but not right intention, are called F rites. Rites which demand right intention and right personhood, but not right action, are called G rites. Rites which demand all three qualities are called H rites (holjonis jo). This is the all-important typology (nombeihampur) of rites. Listen (selum sui).
The purpose of the piece, never explicitly stated, is that any rites that can be quantified and traded beyond Elomara fall under the A rubric, and that the truly important rites are always the H rites. Otenro thus opens a theoretical chasm between superficial and profound gestures of devotion, but her successors only included this document in the Okamiakesh, and not the exposition of it given elsewhere, therefore opening the door to new, more lenient interpretations. Elomara as a collective has always been both resourceful and flexible.
Chains (second part)
Long ago, it was said by our august predecessor (taulun dozeniamir): “The ships soar while the minds plummet.” (shai praijakins: momba trosem ha iatar laim.) We still live in these modern times (shichi konunkluchamand), if this can be called a life. No one calls at port, no one seeks the mountain, no one pierces themselves. They think it a time to relax, but I say it is the time to tense up. The corridor is narrower than in the ancient past, and we shall make it narrower still, and in doing so pressure more souls to fall, or die in the attempt.
The august predecessor is none other than the first High Priestess, Granzon (d. 6346 BC). The quote is from her inauguration speech, which is recorded as not having been well taken by the audiences at hand in Harsh Gorgon. The term translated as “modern” here literally means “measureless,” and is pejorative. Calling at port means worshipping Galriatolmar, seeking the mountain means worshipping Tarte, and piercing oneself means seeing the divine truth. A fallen soul is a saved soul, according to the cosmogeography of the faith. Who dies, whether it is the souls or those tasked with saving them, or both, is left undetermined.
Chains (last part)
This taxonomy is inviolable doctrine (jusparta doglapanglaiglari). It always existed, but in an unenforced state (u deintalatunkarte). The time for force has come. Elomara has spoken, and Elomara shall speak still. My tongue is Tarte’s and my chains are lighter than drinking water (lubatumikui). Drink lest it accumulates and becomes heavy indeed.
The turbulent presidency of Shozunro (held by six different individual before its end) saw another attempt to revive rites and mores along the principles set down by Otenro. With the triumph over Dolentis, and to some extent as backlash against unearthed manipulation of Elomara by the Merciless Myriad, the last Shozunro was pressured into the final taxification and imperialization. Subsequent attempts to deepen the practice or attract more followers have had to resort to other routes.
The Heart of Tarte
While the rituals, prescriptions and even stories of Tarteism can generally be qualified as simple, especially when compared to other cults, the figure of Tarte herself is very complex, at times almost embarrassingly so, and it is no accident that practically all of the heresies are literally theological and begin and end with speculative ideas regarding the great goddess.
Tarte is One and the paragon of unity, yet she is also Two. In the myths she appears in these dyadic forms as often as in her unitary form. The multiplicity is not very similar to the Christian Trinity since it is stressed in both myth and commentary that each of these dyadic forms is missing something from the other, although it is also stressed adamantly that we mere mortals would not be able to notice such a lack.
At first sight, a natural explanation for the split presents itself: the dyad is useful because it allows for creation to be portrayed as requiring nobody else, since Tarte (viewed Inculomorphically) can copulate with herself and produce creation. The religion’s high view of materiality precludes the more ethereal solutions provided by Earth’s largest creeds, and Galriatolmar would only be able to fill the role of partner if she was the equal of Tarte’s, which proposition is heresy. The problem with this view is that one is hard pressed to find creation myths involving the dyadic forms explicitly. It seems more accurate to say that the dyad’s relationship is consistently presented as leading to enjoyment and pleasure instead of procreation, barring certain hollow expressions employed. Whether this is a later development and there was in fact a stage in which it was taught that the dyad created the universe by way of couplings is unknown to us.
Closer to the mark perhaps is the idea that the dyadic forms function to bring Tarte closer to the universe. The Two are more relatable to creatures than the One. The Great Goddess is aloof and inscrutable; we come to know more about her by way of her dyadic forms.