Ssaelism is the monotheistic religion of approximately half of Alderode, and is the second largest religion in Kasslyne after the enormously more prevalent Gefendur faith. The Ssaelit [zae̯ˈlit] worship the one god Ssael [zaˈel], a transcended human man who supposedly won his position by confronting and slaying the four Gefendur gods in a bloody cosmic battle.
The Ssaelit faith began at least 1500 years ago in northwest Alderode during a time of great cultural and political unrest in that country. Centuries of civil war had resulted in a tenuous Aldish monarchy maintained by treasures and technology (including pymary) recently stolen from the Tainish people. Although largely slaughtered, the remnants of the Tains were kept pacified by the efforts of the Aldish king's Tainish arch-wright, a charismatic man called Sonum Ssael. A converted Gefendur worshipper, Ssael purportedly received direct revelation from the Youngest Sister Tirna that turned him against the rest of the Twins. To the great displeasure of the king, Ssael began preaching against the Gefendur faith and its place in Alderode's young government. Abandoning his station and his privileges, Ssael fled to the west coast with his followers and hid for decades from royal persecution. During this time he wrote many, many works on a vast range of topics, from poetry to philosophy to wondrous theoretical pymary. When he was an old man, he was betrayed by his grandson, and slain by Gefendur knights and their lion companions.
Ssael's followers continued in secret for centuries, slowly gaining in power. During the great war that abolished the monarchy and established Vits council, the Ssaelit appeared in great number to take advantage of the fractured Gefendur forces and wipe out entire provinces of knights and believers. When Vits' foundations were laid, such were the Ssaelit accomplishments that they earned equal legal footing with the Gefendur in the Aldish constitution, and now enjoy identical rights and privileges. This relationship between the Ssaelit and Gefendur religions is known as The Great Compromise in Alderode, and its existence unites Aldishmen in solidarity against Cresce.
According to Ssaelit tradition, Ssael rejected the Twins' mechanisms after his death, and could not be subdued by the workings of the khert, which strip the dead of their memories and place them in new bodies for rebirth. Instead Ssael wandered the khert until he reached its end, and there confronted the Twins. Along with an amassed army of unsatisfied dead, Ssael slew the deities and took control of their power and of the world itself. Ssaelit believe that any human can join Ssael and claim a piece of the world for themselves from him, but it takes great strength of heart and mind, and many lifetimes of struggle.
A passage relating the journey of Ssael to the edge of the khert, the Silver Wood.
“Neither stern of countenance nor abrasive of manner were the gold-limned attendants of the Dammakhert’s halls. In judgement they surrounded Ssael, kissing but not biting, and then molested Him no further. Diaphanous as sunbeams became they. Ssael passed through them into rich chambers thrumming with life contained. Beyond beckoned an argent horizon which, shimmering, Ssael mistook for a frozen sea. Ssael walked for a thousand years or a thousand seconds until He reached it. Not a sea, He found, but a deep silver wood, the tree boughs twinkling musically as heavy-pawed beasts prowled their closely crowded trunks and roots. Ssael knew He would brave this wood and be devoured, or He would brave this wood and emerge from its far side, Outside, to scream our grievances to the waiting tyrants.”
In contrast to the Gefendur who believe humans are inferior to the gods and to the senet beasts, and that the world and natural systems are all sanctified and perfect, the Ssaelit believe humans are the greatest of all creations but they exist in a deeply flawed world. Only humans are able to overcome their intrinsic flaws and awaken to the revelation of Ssael. They must do this through charity, sacrifice, impeccable integrity of character, study, and devotion to Alderode, their family, and their comrades.
The Ssaelit abhor many natural processes and see them as beneath the dignity of mankind. The most reviled process is that of natural decomposition, and it's for this reason that Ssaelit dead are cremated before the body can begin to rot. It's also for this reason that plods are specifically damned and outlawed in Ssaelit scripture, making them illegal throughout all of Alderode.
In addition to worshipping Ssael, Ssaelit hold a special reverence for the khert, and see it as Ssael's advocate and tool. Because the ocean contains no khert lines, the Ssaelit consider the ocean a place of wickedness, and commonly believe that the hells lay at the bottom. Orthodox Ssaelit will not eat seafood nor bathe in the ocean, and are exempt from naval service. Ssaelit scripture warns that drowning in the ocean will remove a soul forever from the khert and the reincarnation cycle.
The Ssaelit place great emphasis on gender roles. Women are not allowed in the clergy, and most activities that take them outside of the home - particularly without a male escort - are frowned upon. A proper woman assists her husband, raises her children, and studies the writings of Ssael. Ssaelit also practice pube trimming.
The predominant language among Ssaelit is New Tainish. Ssaelit children growing up in Gefendur provinces (and hence speaking Continental predominately) must attend lessons to learn Tainish so they may properly read Ssaelit scriptures and understand Ssaelit services. Likewise is it encouraged for all Ssaelit to visit one of the two Temples at least once a year, for these are holy sites where Ssael speaks directly to those who are seeking him.
The priesthood is open to all Ssaelit males born of orthodox Ssaelit parents. Prospective young men must spend a number of years in one of several seminaries. Unlike similar Gefendur institutions, these seminaries instruct young men in pymary and martial pursuits, as it is expected that a responsible Ssaelit be able to protect his family, his parishioners, his faith, and his honour. Once anointed, clerics are typically appointed to parishes across the country or sent to serve at one of the two primary Temples. Clerics are encouraged to marry and have children but often must find secondary employment as it is forbidden for Ssaelit to give money directly to the Temple or for the Temple to distribute funds to priests. Because of this, most clerics come from the independently wealthy noble class where they can be assured of finding a titled and wealthy wife.
There are two Ssaelit temples - the Temple of the Winds in Tain and the Temple of Song in Durlyne. These two massive complexes are centres of Ssaelit belief and worship and each house one of the two divisions of the Ssaelit army. Each temple is overseen by a hierarchy of priests and knights, and is led by one of the two Ssaelit Shadwe, the highest spiritual leaders of the faith. Each Shadwe is advised by two Amadwe and eight Motadwe. Each temple also boasts a number of Rectors who run day-to-day dealings including temple provisions, security, and scheduling of rituals and services.