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The order of the cosmos, according to the Feacthengead

The Vacids’ creation story tells how the gods were formed from Light and Song, and the birth of the Fae, and how the material world came into being by the works of the five demiurge gods. Detailed within the text are the creation of all lifeforms, including sapienkind, and how living things became enemies, and how death came into being. The story concludes with the tale of the World Serpent, the daughter of Eryda, the Fire-Mother, and how Eryda took on human form to help sapienkind subdue her rogue offspring, thus making the earth round.


Here, we will explore the order of the four worlds in the spirituality of the Feacthengead, and one popular hypothesis on how the material world will cease to exist.



The Four Worlds


While most Kintaran peoples believe in multiple worlds, specifically a material world and a spiritual world (an “otherworld”), and sometimes a separate realm for the souls of the dead (an afterlife), the Vacids claim to have the most complex, most profound, and perhaps the most intimate understanding of these realities. They believe that the universe is divided into four planes instead of three: the material world (Fialath Meadhe), the dreamworld or shadow-world (Fialath Draiche), the otherworld or Fae-world (Fial-taodh-Dogól), and the realm of the Sacred Ancestors (Fial-taodh-Awla).


Vacids believe that most of sapienkind will live its entire life in the material world, though the astute of mind and spirit may ascend to Fial-taodh-Dogól, where dwell the Fae. (It is known to scholars that some classes of Fae still traverse the material world, though, since the fall of Nimvë’s kin and the banishment of the Winged Elves from Fialath Meadhe, these mostly avoid contact with sapienkind or are malignant in nature.) More difficult to access consciously is Fialath Draiche, though some tribes such as the Vraçii are known to have mastered conscious ascension into this dominion, through which they mastered the minds of the dragons in ancient times through the rituals of vala-çegul.


Most important of the realms is Fial-taodh-Awla, the afterlife, the portal to which is death. Vacids believe that this is where the Light and Song of the dead will be taken to live forever, should their deeds in the mortal world render them worthy.


Fialath Meadhe


The conscious, material world is called Fialath Meadhe (“World of the Cognizance,” or more literally, “Cognizant Sphere”), and is also sometimes known by the archaic cirield, meaning “clay-forged.”


The Vacid creation story tells of how the world was made, specifically by the demiurge gods Salion, Eryda, Greathain, and Vilenya altering the Light and Song they emanated to create a new, hard substance (Matter). It also recounts the fifth of the siblings, the god Erd, giving the kiss of life to the living things they created to inhabit that world. But among the gods, only Erd understood that all things of Matter will perish in time (though the story seems to indicate that even Erd did not fully understand the permanency of death).


Vacids see the material world as a kind of prison, and as such most Vacids take a decidedly antagonistic attitude toward the gods. Some Vacids do still revere Eryda, who originally birthed the world-serpent Naiherah but then repented after hearing sapienkind’s cries and came to their rescue, as evidenced by the fact that the seventh month of the Darian Calendar, by which Vacids abide, is known as Erydané in her honor.


Fialath Meadhe is the realm of Matter, and as such, all things of Matter must remain there, including the human bodies of sapienkind. However, things imbued with Light and with Song are not bound there forever; not only do Vacids believe that their spirits will be taken into Fial-taodh-Awla to join the Sacred Ancestors after the death of their body (should that spirit be deemed worthy) but that the spirit itself can be projected outside the mortal form, to other parts of the material world but also into the other spheres, through the practice of bieldhean, or “spirit flight.” Only very mentally astute Vacids are able to achieve this feat, mostly members of the guilds and those trained in The Twelve.


The material world is further divided into four parts, each with its own spiritual essence, these being earth (curinhé), water (ciascheal), air (arwan), and the heavens (bearnawan). Earth, air, and water were originally associated with the demiurge that created them: Salion for arwan, Vilenya for curinhé, and Greathain for ciascheal. Interestingly, the fourth natural element (fire, or tánga, associated with the goddess Eryda), is not one of these spiritual essences; this may have to do with the fact that many Vacids still revere Eryda alone among the original five demiurge gods, albeit as a very powerful Fae. Bearnawan is not associated with any deity or Fae; rather, it is seen as the boundary between the mortal realm and that of the Sacred Ancestors, the gate through which the owls pass to collect the spirits of the deceased.


No one knows the true nature of the spirits of Fialath Meadhe, and even Vacids do not claim any profound knowledge of them, but it is certain that Vacids revere these and make offerings to them instead of to the ancient gods who were associated with them. A common interpretation is that the “spirit” of each element is the Light and the Song trapped within the shell of Matter that gives each its providential (or malicious) qualities (e.g., the life-sustaining power of water).


Fialath Draiche


The most inaccessible of the planes of existence is Fialath Draiche, meaning “Mirror-Sphere” (sometimes translated “World of the Mirrors” or “World of Illusion”). While Vacids believe that their spirits are taken into the Dreamworld when they sleep, where they are sometimes shown prophecies or dooms, few even of those versed in matters of the arcane have the ability to consciously ascend there, and doing so is considered sacrilegious as it is said to be the home of the spirit-fire, the lastaí bielthé, forged by the demiurge Erd and guided by the Sacred Ancestors, that binds all living things in all the worlds together.


No beings are thought to dwell within Fialath Draiche besides the shade of Erd, who is thought to have diminished greatly in power after his self-imposed exile from the Otherworld. Rather, it is thought that the Dreamworld is the realm from which the Light and Song of all material beings emerges (as Matter itself is lifeless), and perhaps even the realm in which that spiritual force actually exists, manipulating its associated Matter form through the flame of the spirits, for an old Vacid poem states:


Here dwelleth Man his fleeting time

There dwelleth Fae ne’er to die

But there be naught in dreamlands bright

So no hand, Fae or Man, pluck the lyre


Fialath Draiche is thought to be guarded from the outside, possibly by the Sacred Ancestors, so that only the most virtuous souls can transcend there, perhaps as to safeguard the lastaí bielthé from possible interference or perhaps to prevent any powerful Fae from attempting to emanate new spheres and corrupted shades of Light and Song, as the demiurge gods did when they created the mortal world.


Though the flame of the spirits cannot be manipulated by any mortal being, the Vraçii people claim that, by entering a deep trance (usually with the aid of hallucinogens), one can channel mental or spiritual energy through the strings that bind all lifeforms together. The Vraçii used this power to usurp the minds of the dragons that wrought havoc on their lands, first to ward off attacks, then to turn the dragons on their enemies. (The Vraçii believed that a Fire-Drake was far too dangerous to mount, and a Poison-Tongue was much too small, so they never attempted to ride their dragons, preferring instead to command them through mind control.) As the Vraçii are extremely insular due to their customs and their homeland’s isolation, few if any outsiders have ever been taught their mind magic, and no Vacids are known to have ever even traveled to the Srehughul where the Vraçii make their abode, let alone study under them.


Fial-taodh-Dogól


The Otherworld, the birthplace of the Fae and dwelling place of most fairy-races, is Fial-taodh-Dogól, meaning “World-beyond-Shadow” but sometimes referred to simply as the “World-Beyond.” This was the world in which the gods dwelt, created through the confluence of their Light and Song; they only created the mortal sphere when they became bored with Fial-taodh-Dogól. The Vacid creation story confirms that Erd departed the Otherworld permanently after his creation of sapienkind, remorseful that he had condemned them to death, and that Eryda was banished from the Otherworld when she took mortal form to save sapienkind from the Great World Serpent. Whether the three remaining demiurge gods remain in the Otherworld, or have departed to another part of the cosmos altogether, is not known.


Besides being of pure Light and pure Song rather than of Matter, Fial-taodh-Dogól is said to resemble Fialath Meadhe in appearance, though much more luminous and much more serene, though the structures raised by sapienkind in the material realm are not thought to be present in the Otherworld, as they are entirely of Matter (though those built by the Fae, invisible in the mortal world unless constructed by Fae wearing the raiment of Matter, can be seen in the World-Beyond).


Ascension into Fial-taodh-Dogól is known to be much easier than into Fialath Draiche, despite (or perhaps because of) the presence of the Fae within the former, though it is still extremely mentally taxing and requires a great deal of concentration and innate skill. Practitioners often use the vapors of burning plants such as cottongrass, sometimes doused in dagól, to help them transcend the mortal sphere, as this is known to still the thoughts and help the practitioner to focus. Some Vacids capable of spirit flight have claimed that the lastaí bielthé are visible within the Otherworld, but they cannot be interfered with or used as a channel. Others who have ascended into Fial-taodh-Dogól have not witnessed the flame of the spirits. As only a small number of Vacids are able to ascend, the veracity of these claims is impossible to verify.


Fial-taodh-Awla


Upon his/her death, a Vacid hopes to be welcomed into Fial-taodh-Awla, the World beyond the Aether, by their Sacred Ancestors, where they will live forever as they were originally made, as beings of Light and Song, before the five demiurge gods corrupted those into matter. As with the other spirit-realms, Fial-taodh-Awla is believed to mimic the material world in all but that it is not of Matter; perhaps more accurately, it is a mirror of Fial-taodh-Dogól, but the Fae are not present there, as the Afterlife was given as a gift to the immortal spirits within sapienkind as reward for their suffering in the mortal realm.


No one knows how Fial-taodh-Awla came into being, though many believe that it formed as the companion of Fialath Meadhe, independent of the gods, as if the Light and Song had replicated themselves and formed into a perfected version of the corrupted material world.


While Fial-taodh-Awla is said to mirror the other worlds and exist in parallel to them, Vacids also believe that the stars in the heavens are the Light of their Sacred Ancestors. These ideas may seem contradictory, but they are not, as Light is not constrained by any other substrate, and thus the Light of a soul may simultaneously exist within the Afterlife and project down from bearnawan into the mortal realm. The stars, in Vacid lore, are the Sacred Ancestors’ reminder to sapienkind that they are still with the living, that those trapped in the mortal realm are not forsaken and will be rewarded for a life well lived.


To be accepted into Fial-taodh-Awla, a soul’s virtues must outweigh its blemishes, hence the importance of anharda and reputation in Vacid culture. The bodies of the dead are taken to the burial fields at the roots of the Dúlmeannath and laid beneath a dolmen. Vacids and Therecoi do not bury their dead but instead practice “sky burials” in which the corpse is left exposed beneath the capstone. This is done so that the owls, the messengers of the Sacred Ancestors, can carry the deceased’s spirit through the portals of bearnawan to the Afterlife. Offerings to the spirits of nature are made at the burial, both as thanks for sustaining the deceased during their time in Fialath Meadhe and as a plea to nurture the soul during its transition into the Afterlife. Ideally, the burial takes place while the corpse is still fresh; if a body is allowed to decompose before calling upon the owls, the soul is thought to escape from its Matter prison on its own, ever to wander the earth as a wraith.


Another (lesser used) name for this sphere is Fial-aína-Súilmheara, “World of Eternal Light and Song.”



Eschatology


The Vacid creation story ends with the goddess Eryda, taking the mortal form of the heroine Éataín, slaying her daughter, the great serpent Naiherah, with the broken spear of her human lover, Hamath. However, the tale of the serpent’s destruction, as recorded by Vacid scribes, concludes with the line


Some of her hardened into mountains; more still was drowned beneath the sea, where she shall sleep until her bonds are broken and all is unmade.

This seems to indicate that Eryda did not actually kill the serpent—who, being birthed by a Demiurge, is almost certainly immortal in spirit—but rather put a spell of slumber upon her, destroying her Matter form but only temporarily affecting her Light and Song. This may be a revised telling of the tale, as it is very similar to the story of the world-serpent Jildur Grömunir in the legends of the Northmen, who fell asleep with his tail in his mouth at the command of Jothan the All-Father but will awaken at the end of time, and his constriction as he swallows more and more of himself will squeeze the world until it breaks.


While no actual apocalyptic prophecy exists in mainstream Vacid literature, this seems to indicate that the great serpent will indeed awaken and be set forth upon the mortal world once more, leading to the “unmaking” of all things (it isn’t clear whether this refers to all things of Matter, or all things of Light and of Song as well). It also says nothing of how Naiherah will be released from her bonds.

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