Inventing a Religion

10 01 2012

My Writing Process™ strongly tends towards the free-form and whimsical. (God, is that the worst sentence I’ve ever written or what? LOL! I’m LEAVING it.)

Here’s a ‘for instance’ for your edification. The other day I was thinking about Naweetan, one of the Umgonnan characters in my Nanowrimo fantasy book. He is a warrior/defender/career military guy… single, in mid-life, childless. He becomes a pivotal character in the book when he falls in love. I was in the shower, thinking about his motivations.

“Whirling Dervish”, said the muse.

“What the heck? Whirling dervish?”

I have no idea where that came from, but I’m willing to consider it. Umgonnan are dragon-like proto-birds, living 55 million years ago, some 10 million years after the Cretaceous extinction which wiped out their cousins, the dinosaurs, and they fly, so ‘whirling’ makes some sense. I’m soaping up my hair, thinking about Umgonnan religion.

I’d been mulling over Umgonnan religion for a while. At this time their major religion is rather Taoist, something to help these newly-sentient beings remain rooted in their natural world. There is a ‘goddess’ of sorts, who may be a ‘demon’ of sorts to other Umgonnan tribes, but I’m not married to that thought yet. I hadn’t considered that there could be another religion, which could be completely different.

My musings led me to Mithraism and the worship of Mithras (I thought that he was worshipped by military men only, the link doesn’t confirm that). I started wondering about some kind of officially-forbidden military cult worship that Naweetan would be involved in. It would not resemble Mithraism at all, except that it would be a cult for military men only.

At that notion, I happily jumped into writing a nighttime scene around this, and it failed miserably, a waste of time. Actually, not a waste of time, because I figured out that I needed more background before I could write anything about his religion.

So tonight my meditation is this:

What needs would a Umgonnan Defender have? And…

How could a spirituality/religion meet these needs?

Umgonnan fight using three weapons – teeth, claws, and breathing fire – they have no spears/shields/arrows. So any battles would likely be fought tactically, avoiding clashing armies, because hand-to-hand fighting would result in severe injuries and death… and none of the Umgonnan tribes are heavily populated. However, his people’s sworn enemies, the Rodannerra Umgonnan, are primitive by comparison, and more likely to go all ‘Brave Heart’ on the Udunoa (Naweetan’s people).

That suggests that rituals/spells for protection, for concealment, for confusing the enemy would be useful. Perhaps veneration of a militarily talented ancestor, invoking his/her help. Even some sort of ritualized cannibalism – eating the heart or brain (why am I thinking entrails? Must be important!) – which could account for the religion being banned. Then there’s also the Whirling Dervish meme – perhaps some kind of ritual practice that puts the warrior into an altered state before going into battle? Which gives him access to telepathic communication with the fore-mentioned ancestor?

I like most of the above – nice to add meat to the story  – a source of conflict between Naweetan and his lady-love… and his boss, the Qingann (Qi is pronounced ‘Chi’, as in Pinyin. Why? Because I like it that way!). Tomorrow I’ll break out the notecards and plot!

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