The Qáritu, it may be laconically stated, worship a pantheon of sixteen deities, and recognise innumerable other spirits.
The Classical Qári “hekkaidekatheon”, however, is the end result of several millenia of theologising, syncretising and debate among the enyeru-priests, the temple-keepers and the scribes and should by no means be assumed for earlier stages of the religion. To a degree, the sixteen-god pantheon is accepted (albeit with differences in formulation, nomenclature and makeup) in all of the cities of Ukxár, both at a popular and a “priestly” level. The pantheon described below uses the names and relationships commonly accepted in the cities along the middle and lower Idéyasa.
The names of the gods are, by and large, not entirely transparent to the average illiterate Qárit (with some exceptions – see below). In Old Qári, however, the names are meaningful and transparent, and the logographic nature of the Qári script enables the literate élite to recognise the meaning of the divine names. For example, Lord Txepo’s name derives from the Old Qári Tépəx ‘digger’, and is written with a modified form of the logogram meaning “to dig”.
When referring to their gods, the Qáritu preface their names with the honorific particles té (for gods) and bá (for goddesses). I have chosen to translate these as “Lord” and “Lady” respectively, but not without some trepidation. The particles are also used as markers of respectful address to humans as well: it would not be wholly inaccurate to translate Té Itlán as Mr. Sun rather than Lord Itlán. The particles etymologically derive from the Old Qári words for “brother” and “sister” – so even Br’er Shiny would not be an inaccurate translation of Té Itlán.
The Elder Gods
The first group of gods to be woken after Lord Udo’s final orgasm were Lord Itlán, Lady Yeta, Lord Lapo and Lady Letsá. Collectively they are referred to as the Elder Gods, or the First-to-wake.
Lord Lapo is the Sleeping God, a deus otiosus. The myths have it that while Itlán, Yeta and Letsá were frolicking and exploring the unformed universe, Lapo alone noticed the sleeping forms of the other gods floating in the primeval sea. It was Lapo who woke each of the younger gods, by cutting his body with an obsidian knife and anointing the eyes and mouths of his younger siblings with his own blood. Having bled himself out, sacrificing himself to wake the other gods, he fell into a deep sleep, from which he has not woken to this day. It is generally maintained that he can only be woken when the Younger Gods return his blood to him, and when that happens he will wake and the other gods will sleep, thus ending the universe. His cultists maintain that it is his dreams that animate the universe, and they use a mixture of trance and soporific drugs to put themselves to sleep, in the hope that they can join in Lord Lapo’s dreams, thereby gaining the power to cause changes in the world by bending its very foundations. Some of his followers, however, seek to end the world and bring about the next by waking him. They do this by shedding their own blood to wake him as he woke the Younger Gods, and by extremely noisy processions which generally cause complaints from the neighbours.
Lord Itlán is (nominally) the God of the Sun, from which he takes his name. He is the god of war, warriors, strength, blood and rage. He delights in pain, and revels in the carnage of the battlefield. He is the god of butchers, wrestlers and metalsmiths. Oddly, he is also the god who tames wild animals – the mammoth-tamers hold him dear. He is also the god of bandits and murderers, which is less cool. Sacrifices to him are of blood, or burnt offerings. When humans are sacrificed to him, they are exsanguinated in his honour and their hearts ripped from their chests.
When the Younger Gods awoke, they chose Lady Utko as their leader, because she was the cleverest of the gods. Lord Itlán dissented, believing that he would be a better leader as he was older and stronger, and it was he who had killed Lord Udo, allowing the other gods to create the world from his corpse. He took himself off to explore the newly created world, only erratically allowing his light to shine in the sky and often plunging the world into darkness. This was inconvenient to the other gods, who could not sow and reap without the benefit of his light. It was Lady Letsá who took it upon herself to resolve this, and the myth will be told when her deeds are recounted.
However, even after the stars and the twin moons were set in the sky, Lord Itlán remained inconstant and capricious. This became more and more unbearable, particularly after the first humans were created. Those humans who were not chosen by the gods to receive the utatsir remained on the fringes of the world, and they looked to Lord Itlán for aid. Lord Itlán taught these disregarded humans the arts of war, and unleashed them on the gods’ chosen people, bringing them great suffering. They cried to the gods for help, and the gods themselves were displeased as their sacrifices were no longer forthcoming. The gods went to Lady Utko, and Lady Utko thought. Lord Bayu knew her thought and communicated her plans to the gods.
First, Lord Txepo built a wall around Lord Itlán, but he broke it down. Lady Yeta commanded the waters to rise up, but Lord Itlán dried them up. Lady Rangka plied him with strong drink, but he drank her brewing-vats dry. Lady Letsá went to him and offered her body, but after three days she sent him from her chambers as she was exhausted. And yet still Lord Itlán was unsated. And finally, Lord Apar and Lord Áqir went to Lord Itlán. They gave him their bodies, they took his. For three days and three nights the three disported themselves (causing various natural disasters) until Lord Itlán was finally sated. His rage cooled, the god of the sun took his place among the Sixteen and days and nights became regulated, and he taught the chosen people the arts of war as well, so that they might defend themselves against his creatures (this obviously had a bad end, but incestuous sodomy often does).
Lady Letsá is the goddess of seduction, pleasure, sensuality and hedonism (although she disapproves of drunkenness). She is the epitome of beauty, and sex for sex’s sake. She watches over prositutes and transvestites, as well as spies; however, she also holds eunuchs in disdain. She is also the cleanser, and ironically the goddess of ritual purity, with the bathhouses and hot springs her domain. She watches over weavers and cloth-dyers. Human sacrifices to her meet their end through poison.
One of her epithets is “lightbringer”: when Lord Itlán withheld his light from the world, it was Lady Letsá who procured jewels from the earth and set them into the sky as stars. The stars were too dim, however, and did not give enough light to sow and to reap. So Lady Letsá went out into the plain, and from the plain she went into the forests, where she found Lord Itlán, brooding and sulking. Eight days and eight nights she spent in the forest with Lord Itlán, praising his might and massaging his ego. On the fourth night, she lay back, inviting her brother inside her. She allowed Lord Itlán to ride on top of her until she took his seed.
Enraged, Lord Itlán beat her and called her a thief until she again praised his strength and valour until on the eighth night she cleverly lay him down and rode on top of him, taking his seed again. This time she jumped off him and fled, carrying his light inside her. Lord Itlán chased her from one end of the world to another, raging and cursing. Lady Letsá hid in a cave on top of a mountain in the farthest east, and there she gave birth to twins: Lord Apar and Lord Áqir. Their faces shone with the light of their father, and with their first cries they set fire to the circling moons.
Lady Yeta is firstly the goddess of reproduction and childbirth. However, she is also considered to be the goddess of the sea and the marshes: as such her cult tends to be emphasised more in Áksu than anywhere else. She is often depicted weeping, and she is said to comfort the bereaved by counting their grief as worship unto her. She is prayed to for fecundity and for riches, for the wealth buried in the earth is hers. Her animals are serpents and fish. She is also ruler of the otherworld: through her infinite pity she gathers together the souls of the dead to give them comfort, just as she comforts the bereft.
She is also known as the Mother of Rivers, and the great rivers of Ukxár are considered to be her daughters. It is told that Lord Txapo fell in love with Idéyasa, eldest daughter of Lady Yeta, but the goddess was against the match and sequestered her daughter in her Mountain Hall, guarded by her creatures, the snakes. Bereft of the waters, the gods called out to Lord Txapo to call off his suit, but he would not be dissuaded. He sought out his uncle Lord Itlán, but he was unhelpful. So he went to his cousin Lord Apar, who agreed to act as his second. Together, the two freed Idéyasa from Lady Yeta’s fortress, and Lord Txapo dug out channels to guide her to him. They were persued by Lady Yeta’s many-legged creatures, however, until Lord Apar cut off their legs to stop their pursuit. But alas, Idéyasa fled Lord Txapo and returned to her mother in her Marshland Hall, leaving the god distraught.