by Max Barry

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Religious Beliefs of the Shakti People

The traditional spirituälity of the Shakti has often been labelled as "shamanism" or "animism" (Coscivian: Śamanrisė, Kelvrearisė), but new research by Alastur P.D.E. Heron, Professor of Comparative Religion at the Orthodox University of Kiravia, criticises this label as "entirely baseless, drawn from the assumption that all nomadic forest peoples have the same type of religious beliefs, which is clearly refuted by Kastrian's unpublished notes and the Orthodox University's new research."

Heron's study, based on interviews with Shakti elders from three different bands and evidence from Kastrian's unpublished notes on Shakti mythology, reveals that the Shakti have a unique belief system with an unorthodox cosmology. While most traditional cosmologies are vertically oriented (the inhabited world in the middle, above an often dark "Hell" analogue below and an ethereal, spiritual realm above, often the domain of the deļt(y, ies)), the Shakti view of the universe is horizontally oriented: The Earth is viewed as either flat or as a curved manifold, depending on the believer. The South and East are viewed as the spiritual, ethereal end of a horizontal spectrum, from whence all life, abundance, light, and goodness come, while the North and West are viewed as the direction that approaches death, desperation, and darkness.

The Shakti believe that the physical world was created by higher beļngs, but do not believe that said beļngs intervene in their creation. They believe in spirits and noncorporeal beļngs that inhabit this world, but do not equate them with deļties. They are simply another part of creation and are bound to this world like all else. Similarly, while the Shakti believe in a soul, they believe that the souls of the dead remain in this world as invisible spirits, yet are not bound by physical laws (According to one elder "They are shapeless, timeless, can walk the skies, can be in all places at once, in two places at once).

Contrary to original Coscivian assumptions, the Shakti belif system is not animistic, because it does not hold that natural objects (save for humans and animals) have spiritual properties.

The Shakti religion is practiced by most of the ethnic group, although the Federal Census - Community Data Report found that 26% also declared themselves to be adherents of Coscivian Monotheļsm or Christianity. Most missionary work has been undertaken by the Northern Lęstorian Liturgical Union (Lęstorianism), which has many adherents among Tęgalon's Coscivian colonists, and by the Archepiscopal Church of Kiravia. Archepiscopal missions have not been successful, but two Shakti villages in the South now have Lęstorian darumę. Most monotheļsts are Shakti that have joined Coscivian settlements.

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